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Investing

7 Places to Find Free (or Almost Free) Investing Courses

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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When it comes to investing success, you need a little luck and lot of know-how. While we can’t help with your luck, there are options aplenty when it comes to learning the ins and outs of investing.

7 low-cost investing courses you can take online

Whether you are the DIY type and want to manage your own investments or you want to better understand what a professional advisor is doing with your money, there are many low-cost classes and tools to help you build a brighter financial future. Even better, most of them can be completed online, on your own time and without leaving your house. Here are seven sources for free (or nearly free) investment courses.

1. Your broker

Let your broker help you if you have one. Many brokers offer online courses and educational tools to their customers. Some provide access to those resources even if you aren’t a customer.

For example, Fidelity offers a host of webinars, courses and coaching sessions to customers who want to be more actively involved in their investment decisions. Noncustomers can sign up for a free 30-day guest account, which provides access to some of those offerings as well.

TD Ameritrade also has a robust education page with free options for clients, including an immersive curriculum, videos and webcasts. For clients and nonclients alike, it offers free in-person educational seminars, but you’ll have to leave your house for those.

2. Morningstar

It’s amazing how much information is out there for the taking once you know where to look. For example, Morningstar provides a host of investment information options, including breaking news about the markets and advice on the best picks. It’s the Investing Classroom, however, that lets you really dig in. It offers 172 free online classes that cover stocks, bonds and more as well as tools to help you track your progress as you complete them.

You can register to take quizzes and earn rewards, such as free access to Morningstar’s premium service. Most of the classes consist of reading the course material and then taking a quiz to make sure you’ve absorbed it. How quickly you read will determine how quickly you’re able to complete the courses.

3. Udemy

Udemy offers online video courses that cover topics including everything from photography to marketing, but it has a strong selection of personal finance classes as well. There’s a fee for classes, but most are quite affordable. For example, well-rated courses such as “Easy Market Profits: 3 Step Stock Investing Strategy” and “Investing for Busybees” each cost about $20 (or less if you purchase them on sale).

You can search for courses by topic, by the ratings of others who have taken the courses, or by the number of hours the courses take to complete. Courses range from one to 17 hours and include on-demand video instruction, e-books, quizzes and more.

4. iTunes U

You can find free courses on almost anything you can think of, including investing, through iTunes U. They come from some of the top schools and leaders in the industry, and they’re all free. For access, just download the iTunes U app on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch and then scroll through the vast course offerings.

You can search by term, such as “stock market,” and download a course on financial theory from Yale University, which includes video instruction, reading materials and more. It provides access to almost everything you’d get if you were sitting in the classroom (except an invite to that big campus kegger).

5. Online college courses

For a top-notch education on investing, you don’t have to head off to campus or pay a pricey tuition bill, as many colleges and universities offer free online access to courses, including those on finance.

For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OpenCourseWare program offers online access to an array of courses, including video and audio lectures, assignments, exams, and more. You can take a course on investments, see the lectures, read the materials and take all the tests. Some are translated into other languages as well. You don’t even have to register. Just click, and access to an abundance of education is yours.

Other institutions of higher learning offer free online courses at edX. There, you’ll be able to glean the same information you would have if you’d attended a school like Harvard University, the University of California, Berkeley or the University of Texas. You can search for courses by topic and either choose to pay a fee to receive a certificate of completion or absorb the knowledge for free. For example, a verified certificate for the eight-week course on long-term financial management offered by the University System of Maryland costs $249, but you can complete the course at no cost if you don’t want or need the certificate.

6. eXtension

A comprehensive home study course on investing is available through eXtension. It’s offered as a collaboration between Rutgers Cooperative Extension, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, and Financial Security for All. The free course consists of 11 units, including “Finding Money to Invest,” “Investing Small Dollar Amounts” and “Investment Fraud.”

All the materials are written, so you can read at your own pace. They’re also free, and in some cases, you may be able to get continuing education credit for completing a posttest.

7. Skillshare

If you can think of something you want to learn, Skillshare probably has an online course on it, and investing is no exception. Skillshare offers access to more than 25,000 online classes, and its investing course offerings are vast, including “Investing Basics for Millennials” and “Demystifying Cryptocurrency: Understanding Bitcoin and Beyond.”

The instructional videos range from a few minutes to several hours, and they’re taught by industry professionals. There are a significant number of free offerings, though some require a premium membership, which runs about $99 a year. It currently is offering a three-month premium membership trial for 99 cents, which may be a bargain if you’re good at cramming.

Investing information is there for the taking. It’s up to you just how deep you want to dig and how much time you want to spend. While education is always a valuable undertaking, when it comes to educating yourself about investing, it can pay off quite literally.

Looking for more help? Check out five places to get free financial advice.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Julie Ryan Evans
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Julie Ryan Evans is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Julie here

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Investing

Early Withdrawals From a Roth IRA: How to Avoid Penalties

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

A Roth IRA is a handy investment tool that lets you contribute pre-taxed funds to the account, allowing your money to grow over time. Taxed contributions mean you won’t pay any taxes when you’re ready to withdraw your money in retirement. In 2019, you can contribute up to $6,000 into a Roth IRA annually if you’re under age 50. It bumps up to $7,000 if you’re over the age of 50 (although income limits apply).

But the other benefit of a Roth IRA is that you don’t have to wait until retirement to take money out. When you use the funds the right way — such as a down payment on a house or to pay for college — you can take an early withdrawal from your Roth IRA without paying any penalties.

“When we’re talking about how to save money and where to put it aside, we’re looking now at the idea that using a Roth is almost a surrogate savings account and college fund and retirement fund,” said Dennis Nolte, a financial planner in Winter Park, Fla.

Understanding earnings vs. contributions

One of the key things to understand about a Roth IRA is that there are two parts to the money within the account: There’s the money you put in (contributions) and the money that grows in the account via investing (earnings). So, if you open a Roth with $5,000 and after two years the money has grown to $6,000, you have $5,000 in contributions and $1,000 in earnings.

It’s important to understand the difference between the two because you can only avoid taxes and penalties by withdrawing your contributions — and not earnings — before the age of 59 and a half. “You can take the principal out tomorrow because it’s already been taxed,” said Nolte.

Withdrawing from contributions

You can essentially take out contributions from your Roth IRA at any point without incurring taxes or a Roth IRA early withdrawal penalty. If you contribute $1,000 to a Roth today, you can withdraw $1,000 from the Roth tomorrow (although that’s not a sound savings strategy) because you’ve already paid taxes on that money.

Withdrawing from earnings

Earnings in a Roth IRA must be left in the account for at least five years or until the account holder reached the age of 59 and a half — whichever is longer. If you withdraw earnings early, you’ll owe taxes on the money and a 10% penalty.

The five-year waiting period begins on January 1 of the year you made your first contribution. As long as your withdrawal is five years from January 1 of the first year you contributed and you’re at least 59 and a half years of age, you’re in the clear. This rule applies to each Roth you may have.

You may be able to withdraw from earnings without paying taxes and penalties if you’ve had the Roth IRA for at least five years and one of the following applies:

  • The money was used for a first-time home purchase, up to a $10,000 lifetime limit.
  • You are permanently disabled.
  • You died, and your heirs received the money after your death.

You may also be eligible for early withdrawals from your earnings without incurring the 10% penalty, but you’ll still owe income taxes. Early distributions from a Roth IRA that qualify for this rule are as follows:

  • You have reached the age of 59 and a half.
  • You are permanently disabled.
  • You are the beneficiary of a deceased IRA owner.
  • You use the money to buy, build or remodel a first-time home.
  • The distributions are part of a series of substantially equal payments.
  • You have unreimbursed medical expenses that are more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the year.
  • You’re paying medical insurance premiums while unemployed.
  • The distributions aren’t more than your qualified higher education expenses.
  • The distribution is due to an IRS levy of the qualified plan.
  • It’s a qualified reservist distribution.

There’s one other exception to this rule: If you withdraw your contributions and earnings from a Roth IRA by the tax deadline for the year in which you made that contribution, the IRS treats your contribution as though it had never happened. However, you must claim any earnings as income for that year on your tax return.

Withdrawing from a Roth conversion

The rules are slightly different if you convert a traditional IRA to a Roth: you must wait at least five years before you withdraw from that IRA. The five-year clock starts on January 1 of the year you made the conversion. You’ll owe income taxes and a 10% penalty for early withdrawals.

Reporting Roth IRA withdrawals

You’ll need to file a Form 8606 when it’s time to file your taxes in the year that you take withdrawals from your Roth IRA. Be sure to inform your tax professional or advisor so they can help you stay on top of your finances.

Bottom line

A Roth IRA is a great way to diversify your retirement savings, particularly if you think you’ll be in a lower tax bracket in retirement. You have limited options if you want to take money out of your Roth before retirement. Be sure to educate yourself on all the rules to prevent getting hit with penalties that will only erode your nest egg.

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Kate Ashford
Kate Ashford |

Kate Ashford is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kate at kateashford@magnifymoney.com

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Investing, Reviews

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios Review 2019

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided or commissioned by any financial institution. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, statements or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios is a robo-advisor option from a trusted online-only financial institution.

It can make managing your money simple: Just answer a few basic questions about your goals and risk tolerance and your funds are invested for you. However, you’ll need a big chunk of change to get started thanks to a high minimum balance requirement. And, while fees are competitive, they aren’t the lowest among other robo-advisors’ offerings.

If you have the $2,500 minimum deposit necessary to open an Ally Invest Managed Portfolio, you don’t mind not getting a bonus for opening the account, and you want to take a hands-off approach to building wealth, Ally Invest may be a good option.

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios
Visit AllySecuredon Ally Invest Managed Portfolios’s secure site
The Bottom Line: Ally Invest Managed Portfolios is a decent robo-advisor that’s competitive with other managed portfolios online. But its high minimum balance, lack of tax-loss harvesting, and fees that slightly exceed competitors may prompt you to look elsewhere if you’re not already an Ally customer.

  • The minimum deposit to invest in Ally Invest Managed Portfolios is $2,500
  • The management fee is 0.30%, no matter how high your account balance
  • Customer service is available 24/7, but there are no local branches to visit

Who should consider Ally Invest Managed Portfolios?

If you’re looking for a robo-advisor that allows you to build a diversified portfolio without a lot of advanced knowledge about investing, Ally Invest Managed Portfolios has you covered.

You’ll answer a few questions about your age; timeline for investing and risk tolerance; and whether you’re investing for retirement, wealth-building or a big purchase. Then, Ally Invest comes back with a recommended portfolio you can accept or tweak.

You can open a joint, custodial or individual taxable account with Ally Invest Managed Portfolios, or can opt for a traditional IRA, Roth IRA or rollover IRA. Unfortunately, unlike with Ally Invest’s self-directed accounts, there’s no promotion or bonus for transferring funds into a managed portfolio. And, you’ll need quite a bit of money to get started — more than many competitors in the robo-advisor industry require.

Still, if you don’t mind a bigger initial deposit or a lack of physical branches, Ally Invest is a worthy competitor to consider when looking for help managing your money.

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios fees and features

Account minimum
  • $2,500
Management fees
  • 0.30%
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $50 full account transfer fee
  • $50 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gift to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfer to Minors Act (UTMA)
Portfolio
  • Ally managed portfolios cover 3 asset classes and 9 major market segments
Automatic rebalancing
Tax loss harvesting
Tax loss harvesting detailNo tax-optimized portfolios are currently offered but Ally plans to roll out tax loss harvesting in 2019.
Offers fractional shares
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android, Windows Phone
Customer supportPhone, 24/7 live support, Chat, Email

Strengths of Ally Invest Managed Portfolios

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios has some significant advantages worth considering:

  • Investing in a diversified portfolio is easy. You’ll answer basic questions about your investment goals and Ally Invest will suggest a portfolio with an appropriate mix of U.S. and foreign bonds, international and U.S. stocks, and cash. You can also tweak the suggestions Ally Invest Managed Portfolios makes, so you take on more or less risk based on your comfort level.
  • Ally Invest Managed Portfolios offers a full-featured online website. You can view all your accounts with Ally under one login—- although managed and self-directed portfolios are kept separate. And Ally’s online goal tracker makes it easy to monitor progress so you can see how successful you are at hitting investment goals.
  • Ally Invest Managed Portfolios offers automatic portfolio rebalancing. This helps to ensure you remain invested in the right mix of assets if certain investments under- or over-perform.
  • Customer service. Ally Invest offers phone, email, and chat support. Customer service agents are available 24/7 with little or no wait. Agents will do their best to provide answers, although it may take a little time if your questions are technical since you may need to be transferred to an investment advisor.

Drawbacks of Ally Invest Managed Portfolios

You’ll also want to consider the potential downsides of choosing Ally Invest Managed Portfolios.

  • You need a $2,500 minimum deposit to open your account. This is pretty high for a robo-advisor, especially as competitors such as Betterment have no minimum deposit requirements at all. Of course, $2,500 isn’t the highest in the industry either. E-Trade’s Core Portfolios, for example, requires a $5,000 minimum deposit.
  • Ally Invest Managed Portfolios charges fees that are slightly higher than several competitors. You’ll pay .30% for Ally’s robo-advisor service, compared with .25% for Betterment’s digital account or for Wealthfront.
  • Ally Invest Managed Portfolios currently does not offer tax loss harvesting, which involves selling investments at a loss to offset taxable gains. Competitors such as Betterment do offer this feature. However, Ally representatives indicate tax loss harvesting is expected to be rolled out in 2019 and investors with managed portfolios will be able to transition their accounts into a portfolio with tax loss harvesting.
  • No physical branches. If you’d prefer to go into a branch for local customer support, you’ll need to look elsewhere, such as E-Trade, which has more than 30 branches across the country.
  • Mobile apps aren’t very advanced. While Ally Invest allows you to use mobile apps on iPhone and Android phones to access basic account information, the offered apps aren’t as feature-rich as competitors such as Betterment.

Is Ally Invest Managed Portfolios safe?

Whenever you invest your money, there’s a risk you may lose some or all of it. This is no different with Ally Invest Managed Portfolios. The assets your robo-advisor invests you in could decline in value and your portfolio could lose money.

But Ally Invest is as safe as any trusted online brokerage, and there’s little risk of losing assets if the investment firm goes bankrupt. Ally Invest is in compliance with regulatory requirements according to FINRA’s Broker Check tool. Ally Invest is also a member of the FDIC and SIPC, both of which ensure cash in bank and brokerage accounts respectively.

Final thoughts

Ally Invest Managed Portfolios is a viable choice for investors looking for an easy, hands-off way to invest and seeking responsive customer service. But the $2,500 minimum balance requirement, lack of a promotional offer, higher management fees, and the fact tax loss harvesting isn’t currently offered makes Ally a less-than-ideal option for investors looking for the most affordable way to build a diversified portfolio. If you want a lower-cost option that does offer tax-loss harvesting, consider robo-advisors such as Betterment or Wealthfront.

Open an Ally Invest Managed Portfolios accountSecured
on Ally Invest Managed Portfolios’s secure website

Advertiser Disclosure: The products that appear on this site may be from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all financial institutions or all products offered available in the marketplace.

Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy |

Christy Rakoczy is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Christy here

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