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Intro to Micro-Investing: Small Investments Made Easy

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.

If you’re new to the world of investing, it can be intimidating and kind of scary. The word “investing” may conjure up images of wealthy people in suits managing millions (or billions) of dollars. When you have just a few dollars (or less!), joining that world might seem impossible.Micro-investing can help level the playing field. Rather than needing to come up with a fortune, you can get started by investing with just your spare change. Sound too good to be true? Learn how micro-investing works and determine whether or not it’s a smart bet for you.

What is micro-investing?

Many banks and financial institutions offer a number of ways to invest. However, their accounts often have high minimums to get started. For example, if you want to open an IRA with Vanguard, you’ll need at least $1,000 in cash. A number of Vanguard mutual funds actually require a minimum initial investment of $3,000. For many, coming up with that kind of money in one lump sum isn’t realistic.

For people with a small income or who don’t have much money in savings, micro-investing is a gateway to the stock market. Micro-investing is when you invest tiny sums of money on a regular basis, rather than investing hundreds — or even thousands — of dollars at once.

Micro-investing apps typically work by investing your extra money, often in the form of spare change. Your app account is synced with your debit or credit cards. Every time you make a purchase, such as groceries or your morning coffee, the app rounds the purchase price up to the next full dollar and invests the difference.

For example, if you bought $36.15 worth of groceries, micro-investing apps would round your purchase up to $37 and invest the extra 85 cents for you. While the invested amounts are negligible — you may not even notice the difference — these small amounts can add up over time, helping you build a nest egg.

Why micro-investing is so popular

It’s easy to see the appeal of micro-investing. According to Karl Kaufman, founder and CEO of American Dream Investing, micro-investing is an easy way for young investors to get started.

“A lot of self-starting millennials know they need to get started investing somehow,” he said. “Micro-investing apps are very easy, the apps are right on your phone, and you can check on your account at any time.”

And for beginning investors who are overwhelmed by the stock market, micro-investing apps can make it simple and effective.

“[Most apps use] good exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that are set up by professionals,” says Kaufman. “There are different portfolios available based on risk assessments that are helpful for first-time investors.”

Micro-investing apps often allow you to buy a fractional (or partial) share, rather than needing to save enough to buy a whole share on your own. That allows you to start investing — and start earning — sooner. Plus, you can set it and forget it. Once you sign up for an account and sync it with your bank or credit cards, the app will automatically invest your money for you.

5 popular micro-investing apps

If you’re interested in getting started with micro-investing, there are several options available to you. Here are five of the most popular micro-investing apps and services.

Acorns

With Acorns, the app links to your debit or credit card. Whenever you complete a transaction, the app rounds up the amount and deposits your change into a portfolio (of ETFs).

Depending on your risk tolerance, there are different portfolios available, from conservative to aggressive. If you don’t know which portfolio is right for you, Acorns will provide recommendations based on your age, target retirement date, and risk tolerance.

There are no minimum account balances or commission fees, and you can start investing with as little as $5. However, there is a monthly $1 fee and a management fee of 0.5%.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is an app that offers zero-commission stock trading. It has a simple and easy to use design that allows you to sync it with your bank account and make recurring deposits.

You can shop for stocks and sell shares directly through the app. Each day, the app will show you how much your investments have grown or decreased. When you’re ready to withdraw money from your investment account, you can easily transfer the funds to your bank.

Stash

Like Acorns, Stash allows you to start investing with just $5. You can set up regular transfers, and the app will even track your spending habits, helping you find extra money to invest.

Stash guides you through a series of questions about your financial goals and risk tolerance to determine what ETFs might make sense for you.

However, you should know that Stash charges a $1 monthly fee for regular investment accounts and $2 per month for retirement accounts with balances under $5,000.

If your account has over $5,000 on it, you’ll be charged a fee that is 0.25% of your monthly average balance.

Stockpile

Stockpile allows you to choose from more than 1,000 stocks and ETFs. There’s no minimum contributions or monthly fees, and each trade is just $0.99. Stockpile allows you to buy fractional shares, so you can get high-priced stocks like Amazon without having to save enough to buy a whole share. That perk allows you to own pieces of valuable stocks with only a small cost.

Clink

With Clink, the app sets aside a fixed percentage of your recreational expenses by tracking your credit card transactions. The extra money it identifies is invested in low-risk portfolios. You can also decide to contribute a certain amount of money each month to boost your investments.

If your balance is under $5,000, it costs $1 a month to use Clink. Balances over $5,000 cost 0.25% a month, so make sure you account for those fees before you sign up.

Is micro-investing worth it?

Micro-investing can be a good way for beginners to enter the stock market.

“It’s better than nothing,” said Kaufman. “If you’re going to leave cash in a savings account getting 0.01% interest or if you haven’t invested at all, micro-investing is a good place to start. It’s a good way to teach people and get them excited about investing money.”

However, Kaufman doesn’t think micro-investing should make up your long-term investing plans. Once you’re comfortable with the basics of investing and the ebbs and flows of the stock market, Kaufman recommends working with a brokerage account or other investment vehicle.

“Investing just your spare change in ETFs, you’re not going to get the returns you want,” he said. “Save your money in a more traditional fashion and then buy shares as appropriate.”

By switching to a brokerage account, you can get more control over your investments, and get higher returns. Plus, most micro-investing apps are individual investment accounts, rather than retirement plans. That means you miss out on the benefits that many tax-advantaged plans, like a 401(k), offer.

Investing for your future

If you’re overwhelmed by investing or crave convenience, micro-investing can be a smart way to learn about the process and start building up your investments. Over time, as you become more knowledgeable and comfortable with the stock market, you can graduate to the next step and open a separate investing account with a brokerage firm, many of which offer the same user-friendly features of micro-investing apps.

If you’re not sure how to get started with investing, check out these 10 ways to invest outside of your 401(k).

Any fee information mentioned is accurate as of the date of publishing. Be sure to visit the company’s website for up-to-date fee information.

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.

Kat Tretina
Kat Tretina |

Kat Tretina is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kat here

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Wealthsimple 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.

Wealthsimple may not be the largest robo-advisor in the U.S. — though it is the largest in Canada and made the leap south of the border in 2017 — but it should be counted among the best. It’s especially valuable for newer investors, even though its fees are higher than some rivals’. For that higher fee, clients receive a portfolio review from an actual human and an all-inclusive package without additional fees, which may cost extra at other robo-advisors. Clients also have access to socially responsible portfolios and at least one other unusual perk. Altogether, Wealthsimple is the complete package for beginners to not-so-beginners.

Wealthsimple
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The bottom line: Though it’s on the expensive side, Wealthsimple delivers an investor-friendly product that’s great for newer investors.

  • Free portfolio review and no extra fees
  • Access to financial planners
  • Higher account management fee

Who should consider Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple is a great choice for investors who are looking for a few more perks from their robo-advisor and who don’t mind paying a bit more for that privilege. It’s also a solid choice for those looking to get into socially engaged investing or halal investing and those who need basic access to financial planners. In these respects, it’s a good choice for beginners who need more guidance. Finally, for those with larger accounts, Wealthsimple provides expanded access to planners as well as special airport lounge access.

Wealthsimple fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $0
Management fees
  • 0.5% (less than $100K deposited)
  • 0.4% ($100K+ deposited)
Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)
  • $0 annual fee
  • $0 full account transfer fee
  • $0 partial account transfer fee
  • $0 inactivity fee
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Joint taxable
  • Rollover IRA
  • Rollover Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • SEP IRA
  • Trust
Portfolio
  • ETFs cover 10 asset classes.
Automatic rebalancing
Tax loss harvesting
Tax loss harvesting detailTax loss harvesting is automatically activated for Wealthsimple Black clients; it is available to all Wealthsimple clients.
Offers fractional shares
Ease of use
Mobile appiOS, Android
Customer supportPhone, Email

Strengths of Wealthsimple

  • Free portfolio review: Wealthsimple offers a free portfolio review as a way to get its foot in the door, much like FutureAdvisor does. With Wealthsimple, you provide your personal details, upload your financial statements and make an appointment with one of the company’s financial planners. The review includes an assessment not only of your investments but also of your debts and how much you’re paying for the funds or investments you currently have. It also includes plans to minimize your taxes and sets up your financial goals — so you know where you’re going. The entire process is led by a Wealthsimple financial planner, who has a fiduciary duty to act in your best interest. Even if you don’t opt for Wealthsimple, it’s a free review of your whole financial life by a professional, so it’s hard to go wrong there.
  • Expanded access to financial planners: While everyone at Wealthsimple has some access to financial planners, those enrolled in Wealthsimple Black (for accounts of more than $100,000) receive more access. This includes a formalized financial plan, which features a strategy for generating retirement income and a goals-based investing plan for retirement or for those big purchases in life. This access is one of the larger perks of the service and should be a draw for those who need this kind of planning and advice.
  • No extra fees and access to some unusual perks: Even if Wealthsimple does charge one of the higher account management fees, it doesn’t nickel-and-dime you on other fees like many other robo-advisors do. A transfer-out fee that might run you $75 at a rival is free here. And tax loss harvesting and portfolio rebalancing are included as a standard part of the management fee.Wealthsimple also allows you to purchase fractional shares, which is a nice bonus for beginning investors who may not have enough money to buy a full share of a fund with a high price tag. That ability allows you to purchase the full range of funds recommended for you and fully diversify even smaller cash deposits immediately — getting you in the game more quickly.Finally, the most unusual perk offered by Wealthsimple has nothing to do with investing. If you have more than $100,000 with the robo-advisor, you’ll become part of Wealthsimple Black, the firm’s upgraded service that offers access to more than 1,000 airline lounges in over 400 cities. If you’re a frequent traveler, that’s a nice perk.
  • Socially engaged investing: Looking to build a portfolio filled with socially responsible companies? Wealthsimple can help you do that, investing in six exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that support major socially engaged themes, such as low carbon, gender diversity and affordable housing. The company builds three types of portfolios using these investments depending on your risk tolerance: conservative, balanced and growth.Wealthsimple also offers Shariah-compliant halal investing, which is in accord with Islamic law. All investments avoid profiting from gambling, tobacco, arms or other industries that violate Islamic law. The diversified portfolio consists of 50 Stocks that have been vetted by a third-party committee of Shariah scholars. Because the portfolio is all Stocks, it’s riskier than more balanced portfolios that include Bonds (which are forbidden under the investment mandate).

Drawbacks of Wealthsimple

  • Account management fee: The account management fee — clocking in at 0.5% (less than $100K deposited) for basic accounts — is probably the biggest drawback at Wealthsimple. Basic accounts at other major rivals are around 0.25%. But it’s not always an apples-to-apples comparison, as Wealthsimple clients have some access to financial planners as well as the other free services above. And Wealthsimple manages the first $5,000 for a year for free, so that helps newer investors get started with their nest egg.Clients who deposit more than $100,000 will automatically join Wealthsimple Black, reducing their management fee to 0.4% and gaining more extensive access to a financial planner. Still, this reduced fee remains above those of rivals offering access to financial planners, including Schwab Intelligent Advisory (at 0.28% and a minimum of just $25,000) and Vanguard Personal Advisor Services (0.30% and a $50,000 minimum). These options beat Wealthsimple on the minimum for the higher tier of service too.
  • Customer support: Wealthsimple provides adequate customer service, and you can call in to have your account or investing questions answered by a professional. But the hours feel somewhat limited: Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. EST. You also can drop Wealthsimple a line via email, but don’t expect an online chat or off-hour responses.

Is Wealthsimple safe?

Wealthsimple manages more than $2 billion in client assets, so it’s a trusted name in the industry. Client assets — which technically are held by the company’s broker, Apex Clearing, and not Wealthsimple itself — are safeguarded by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). This ensures that in the event of a bankruptcy, customers’ assets are insured to at least $500,000 (including $250,000 in cash only). That doesn’t protect you against the market falling or other risks of investing, but it should give you peace of mind about Wealthsimple.

Final thoughts

Wealthsimple should be an attractive candidate for any new investor looking to understand how to build a portfolio. The firm provides access to its financial planners for all investors, though clients in the higher service tier will receive more extensive time with them. The free portfolio review also is a solid service for beginning investors, and those looking to build a socially engaged portfolio should consider Wealthsimple.

Beginning investors who are focused primarily on fees (and need less access to education and advice) might consider shifting to Wealthfront or Betterment. Those who need more advice and can bring more than a little coin to their accounts also might want to consider Vanguard Personal Advisor Services or Schwab Intelligent Advisory. But Wealthsimple will be a solid fit for most.

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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.

James F. Royal, Ph.D.
James F. Royal, Ph.D. |

James F. Royal, Ph.D. is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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YieldStreet 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.

YieldStreet is the type of fintech company that the internet makes possible: The investment manager, founded in 2015, connects borrowers with investors in alternative assets, taking a fee from each deal it completes. These alternative investments include short-term loans that might traditionally have gone to well-connected investors, such as placements in real estate, litigation finance, and marine vessel acquisition and deconstruction.

The appeal for investors (who must be accredited) is the high yields offered on the deals, and YieldStreet has engineered financings worth more than a half-billion dollars. Also of interest is what YieldStreet claims is its investments’ low correlation to the stock market, meaning these assets won’t zag when the market does. That provides diversification away from publicly traded companies and offers greater safety to an investor’s overall portfolio.

YieldStreet
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The bottom line: YieldStreet provides high yields on illiquid real estate and alternative investments, albeit with high fees.

  • Clearly explains the benefits and risks of individual investments
  • Offers a variety of investment types
  • Charges pricey management fees

Who should consider YieldStreet

The prospect of high interest on a limited-term loan can be enticing, but you’re invited to the club only if you’re an accredited investor. That means you’ll need to have at least $200,000 in income for the past two years as an individual, or $300,000 if joint. Alternatively, you need at least $1 million in assets, not including your primary residence. So YieldStreet is not for casual investors who decide they want to invest in real estate loans.

Another factor: As an investor, you’ll need to analyze the prospectuses of various loans, which the company will provide you. While YieldStreet outlines many of the risks, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what to invest in, and that requires more work than simply buying an index fund and kicking back. These are illiquid investments, so if you need the money soon, you’re better off elsewhere.

YieldStreet fees and features

Amount minimum to open account
  • $10,000 (possibly higher for specific offerings)
Commission1% to 4% management fee on all offerings
Account types
  • Individual taxable
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • Custodial Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA)/Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA)
  • Solo 401(k) (for small businesses)
  • Trust
Customer supportPhone, Email

Strengths of YieldStreet

  • High yields and easy-to-make investments: YieldStreet couldn’t really make it any easier, technically, to select potential investments. It’s easy to allocate a certain amount of your capital to each loan, and the prominent details of each are presented in an easy-to-read summary. You’ll read sections on the investment’s positives and negatives, and you can download further information too. It’s easy to go by what YieldStreet says, but investors will want to investigate and analyze each investment themselves.And those high yields? The company is targeting 8% to 20% annual returns, a level that would make almost any investor’s mouth water. The company projects that already-financed investments are on track for a 12.6% annual return.
  • High interest on cash account: Investors can fund their investments from the YieldStreet Wallet, which allows users — even unaccredited investors — to earn 2% on the cash in their account. It’s like an online bank account, and it’s backed by a real bank, Evolve Bank & Trust. That’s an attractive rate for investors looking to stash their cash while waiting on their next YieldStreet investment or even for average investors to stockpile their money at an above-average yield.
  • No principal loss on prior investments: YieldStreet really wants you to know upfront that investors have lost no principal on their investments. It’s one of the first things the company’s website highlights. Each investment is asset-based — that is, backed by collateral — meaning it’s supported by an asset such as real estate or a legal settlement. Collateral provides greater safety to the loans that are on offer. If a loan does go sour, YieldStreet works with the loan’s originator to recoup as much of the principal and outstanding interest as possible, potentially through legal action. While the track record has been good so far, it can turn at any time.

Drawbacks of YieldStreet

  • Pricey management fees: The company clearly outlines that it takes a 1% to 4% management fee on all offerings on its financed deals, and that isn’t cheap. For each deal, the company highlights the expected net investment return, and it would be all too easy to bury the management fee in the fine print. But it does disclose the fees on its summary page for each deal (and not in illegible legalese either), so kudos for that.Still, those fees are expensive, especially as management fees on index funds of publicly traded companies are quickly plummeting. Of course, the appeal of YieldStreet is the access to traditionally inaccessible deals, and the company is charging a premium for that access.
  • Illiquid investments: Another downside to these investments, relative to traditional stock and bond investments, is that they are tied up completely for the life of the project and are illiquid. The company clearly spells out how long each project should last, and projects may run for just a few months to several years. If you can’t keep your money in that long and need access to it, this kind of investing won’t be for you.
  • Ongoing fees: It’s not just the management fee that comes out of your account but also an ongoing fee for each investment, and this fee depends on the type of legal structure set up to house the investment. This fee pays for such things as an annual audit and filing fees with the SEC. Depending on the specific type of structure, first-year fees run $100 to $150, while subsequent years cost $30 to $70.That can be more pricey than you think and can really ding your returns, especially if you’re investing smaller amounts. For instance, if you invested the minimum in each deal — $10,000 — and earned a 9% return, a $150 fee would eat up one-sixth of your first-year interest and as much as one-twelfth of your interest in subsequent years. That’s no trivial fee, and it encourages you to invest more in each deal, which may or may not be prudent.
  • Uncertain risks and an unproven business model: The company does provide key details of each deal, a useful guide for what to watch out for and a prospectus. However, there may be further or unknown risks investors must ascertain for themselves (just as there are in publicly traded investments). That means investors in YieldStreet really need to be able to analyze these potential investments effectively and perhaps even have some background conducting such analysis. There’s no one who’s going to do this work for you, so if you’re not comfortable doing it, YieldStreet may not be for you.In addition, the quality of YieldStreet’s investments is still untested by a significant recession — remember that the company was founded in 2015 — and such a test will prove how viable this model is longer term. The returns on offer here imply high risk, and risky investments often perform poorly during tough times. Of course, this is not a prediction but something prudent investors will want to analyze for themselves.

Is YieldStreet safe?

The biggest risk at YieldStreet is the investments themselves, and that varies on a case-by-case basis. That said, the company boasts that investors have had $0 loss of principal while enjoying (or slated to enjoy) an annual return of 12.6%. Each investment fund is held in a separate company whose sole purpose is keeping the investment secure, and in the event of YieldStreet going bankrupt, a new manager could be appointed for the funds.

The company’s YieldStreet Wallet, which pays interest on cash balances, is held by the FDIC-backed Evolve Bank & Trust, meaning that any cash deposits are insured up to $250,000. None of this protection, however, means that your at-risk investments at YieldStreet won’t lose money.

Final thoughts

YieldStreet is an interesting investment offering enabled by the connective power of the internet, and it’s allowing investors and borrowers to come together in new ways. The potential for high returns is there for investors, but these returns also imply high risk. While the track record is favorable so far, YieldStreet is too young to have gone through a recession. With high-risk investments, things can change quickly, so investors should invest accordingly.

Accredited investors who find the risk and fee structure a bit too much also may turn to publicly traded stocks, where fees are moving ever lower. While such investments don’t offer the low correlation to stock markets, they offer a time-tested model and potential exposure to the world’s best businesses (and you can even invest in real estate if you want).

Open a YieldStreet accountSecured
on YieldStreet’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.

James F. Royal, Ph.D.
James F. Royal, Ph.D. |

James F. Royal, Ph.D. is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email James here

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