Written by: Nick Shoemaker
It is now easier than ever for the individual to start actively investing in the stock market. Apps such as Acorns and Robinhood have made the process significantly easier and quicker than ever. The account minimums for these investment apps are either next to nothing ($5 for Acorns), or actually nothing in Robinhood’s case. This means that a high school senior with a minimum wage job and a smartphone has the power to start growing their money, and does not need to get a financial advisor involved. The new wave of investors that these apps have recruited has led to major changes in people’s account balances, both drastically positive and negative.
There are entire online communities, such as subreddit r/wallstreetbets, that are dedicated to posting both success and horror stories of individual’s risky investment positions. These often young investors either win big, win big and then lose all their gains by reinvesting into equally risky investments, or lose everything entirely. Due to this, there have been calls for more regulation for apps such as Robinhood. However, is this the only solution?
More regulation on investing apps means the less opportunity for people with lower income to grow their wealth through the stock market, which does not benefit anybody. Taking away accessibility is not the only option to protect people.
The best way to protect new investors is through education. Many young people are seeking financial education, but are finding they are not learning these skills in their traditional schooling. Teaching the basics of finance, including the stock market, in the American education system will not only prevent the short-term losses we are seeing currently, but create a financially savvy person throughout all of life.
Though a lot of responsibility of education should be within the school system, investment apps targeted at people with lower income can and should do more to educate within their own apps. Financial education content within the app itself would further improve financial literacy within the younger demographic.
Regulating investing apps to provide less investing options and increase account minimums does nothing but gatekeep the stock market from lower income individuals. Providing more financial education will give more people the tools they need to become financially sound.
Nick Shoemaker is a registered representative of and securities offered through First Palladium, LLC, Member FINRA and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ash Brokerage, LLC. Supervising office located at 888 S. Harrison Street, Suite 900, Fort Wayne, IN 46802. 800-589-3000.
Let’s take a poll. Do you have an iPhone (or other smartphone if you’ve somehow survived without biting into the Apple)? Do you want to make more money? I hope you’ve answered yes to both of these questions. (If not, who are you and ARE YOU OKAY?) Here are 5 apps to help you make (and save) a few extra cents:
Stash is an app built for investing newbies. In fact, 86% of the app’s users are first-time investors. Stash is basically the Planet Fitness of investing platforms — a Judgement-Free Zone where users are provided basic investing education in an easy-to-understand way without some of the complexities of other robo-advising platforms. The app allows you to create an account and begin investing with as little as $5. Investment choices include individual stocks and ETFs, categorized by features like market capitalization or social responsibility. Currently, three different subscription plan options are available, based on your investing goals: Beginner, Growth, and Stash Plus. The Beginner Plan ($1/month) allows you to open your own taxable brokerage account, receive financial education, and use the Stash debit card with Stock-Back (earn stock as a reward for shopping at certain companies, like Amazon or Starbucks). The Growth Plan ($3/month) offers all previous benefits, plus tax-advantaged retirement accounts such as a Traditional or Roth IRA. Finally, the Stash Plus plan ($9/month) adds the features of a UTMA/UGMA accounts (savings for children), double Stock-Back rewards, and monthly market insight reports. (Disclaimer: Stash is an investing platform. If you choose to invest, you will be subject to market risk and could lose money. Also, Face The Fear is not sponsored by Stash. We just genuinely like the app and think you will, too).
Ever find yourself binging Netflix with ice cream tub in hand, wondering when you lost your motivation to workout and where you’re going to find it again? Achievement is here to help. For some people (aka me), the idea of strutting my “beach body” next summer isn’t enough to get me off the couch. Achievement knows money is a big motivator for many people, so it rewards you in cash for being active. The app synchronizes with various fitness apps you may already have on your phone, such as Apple Health, My Fitness Pal, Fitbit, Garmin, and even Twitter. You’ll earn points by completing exercises, logging food, measuring your heart rate, tweeting about your health, and reading health-related articles. Once you reach 10,000 points, you can “cash in” your points for a $10 reward sent to your PayPal, personal bank account, or a charity of your choice. Good for your health. Good for your wallet.
You spend money. I spend money. We all spend money. That’s a fact of life. Why not earn cash back on the money you’re already spending? Add an extra “drop” or two to the savings bucket, per say? Meet Drop – the cash back app. Drop allows you to link your credit or debit cards to the app, then gives you cash back points on purchases you make everyday at retailers such as Target, Starbucks, Lyft, AT&T, Apple, and more. You can also shop at certain retailers through the app to receive additional discounts on purchases you make and earn “boosted” cash back points. Once you’ve collected at least 5,000 cash back points, you can redeem them for gift cards to restaurants, movie theaters, clothing stores, airlines, and more. It’s an easy way to put some money back in your pocket without even thinking about it. (P.S. Drop is my personal favorite cash back app, due to ease of use and retailer options. However, if Drop doesn’t tickle your fancy, here are a few other highly-rated cash back apps you might enjoy: Rakuten, Ibotta, and Dosh).
Have you ever spent hours online trying to book a flight, searching for the cheapest option available, and finally purchased the tickets – only to find out prices decreased a few days or weeks later? Same. That’s when I found Hopper. Hopper is a free app designed to solve this problem and – from personal experience – it works wonders. The app allows you to choose a departure and destination location, as well as preferred dates for your travels. It then tracks those flights, analyzes travel trends, and tells you the best time to buy the tickets at the cheapest price possible. When I recently used Hopper to book a flight to Bogota, Colombia, it suggested that I wait to purchase the tickets, because it predicted a better price in the future. In the meantime, Hopper tracked the flight over several weeks, notifying me when the prices increased or decreased. However, even when there was a decrease in ticket price, Hopper would tell me if the prices were expected to continue decreasing in the coming weeks (so I should keep waiting) or if this is the lowest predicted price (so I should purchase the flights now). I followed Hopper’s advice and secured the cheapest tickets possible before they jumped up in price again. If you’re a frequent flyer, Hopper will easily save you hundreds of dollars (and hours of stress) a year.
If you’ve been a Face The Fear follower for a while, you KNOW how we feel about Mint. Budgeting is tough. Keeping track of every penny that leaves your wallet can be tedious and time consuming. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was a little accountant living in your phone, keeping track of your budget for you, cheering you on when your credit score increases, and letting you know when you need to cool it on your spending habits? Say hello to Mint – the free budgeting app that keeps tabs on your cash money all in one place. Mint allows you to sync your accounts to the app – everything from your checking and savings, credit cards, 401(k) and HSA, internet service, car payment, investments, and more. By consolidating all of your assets (what you own) and liabilities (what you owe) in one place, it becomes much easier to assess your complete financial picture and determine if you are on track to reach your financial goals. You can create your own custom monthly budget, and Mint will let you know if you’re close to exceeding your budget in a particular category. It will also remind you when you have a bill due soon, and it will congratulate you when you’ve paid off debt. While Mint is really a one-stop-shop budgeting tool, it is most effective when credit/debit cards are your primary payment methods (vs. cash) and when you actually sync as many accounts as possible to provide a holistic financial picture. If you still frequently use cash for purchases or don’t want to bother connecting all of your accounts, Mint might not be the best fit for you. Overall, however, it’s an excellent resource to keep track of your finances in the palm of your hand (without becoming an Excel budgeting wizard – unless that’s your thing – then, you do you booboo).
We hope you’ll find these 5 apps helpful to budget, save, and grow your cash money. Let us know your favorite money-saving or money-making apps in the comments below!
Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien
Earlier this week, we talked about 5 simple ways to get your financial sh*t together in 2019. If you’re looking for that article, here it is! If you have been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting eagerly for the 5 MORE ideas to tackle your finances in the new year…well, my friend, you need to get a life. (Just kidding! You’re my favorite). Wait no longer. Here are 5 MORE ideas to show your finances who’s boss in 2019:
- Start that Side Hustle
Everybody’s got a knack for something. Whether it’s photography, writing, event planning, car-fixing, baking, nannying, or playing music, your “knack” can be turned into a side-hustle money maker. The New Year is an excellent time to begin monetizing your skill set.
Think you don’t have any valuable skills that can translate into a profitable business? Think again. Can you drive a car? (Think: Uber and Lyft). Can you put together a piece of IKEA furniture faster than your mom can say, “Honey, make sure you read the instructions”? (Think: TaskRabbit) Can you speak English? (I hope so if you’re reading this article. Think: Teaching English online through VIPKID). Can you take a BuzzFeed survey to find out what your spirit animal is? (Think: SwagBucks). Can you walk someone else’s dog? (Woof! Think: Rover).
I prove my point. It’s easier than you may think to pick up a few extra dollars here and there. You just need to dedicate a little time and energy to get it started. Ultimately, those extra bucks could jumpstart your emergency fund or pay down a credit card faster. Score!
2. Find a Financial Mentor
If you’re interested in seeing a financial advisor, but aren’t sure where to start looking or don’t feel like it’s the right time yet, finding a financial mentor may be the perfect first step.
Like most mentors, a financial mentor is someone who has walked the path before you, achieved success with managing their own finances, and can help illuminate your way. This person could be a parent, coworker, friend, teacher, pastor — really anyone who you admire for their practical, disciplined, and knowledgeable approach to money. The purpose of this mentorship is simply to establish a relationship with someone who can provide constructive advice, hold you accountable to your financial goals, and even recommend a financial advisor who’s a good fit for you. Ideally, your financial mentor will be someone who you know, trust, and feel comfortable discussing finances with — and who isn’t afraid to call you out on your BS and give you some tough love when needed.
BUT, remember: a financial mentor is not a replacement for a financial advisor. While it may be tempting to imitate every financial decision your mentor has ever made in hopes of achieving the same success, your mentor’s approach may not be suitable for your unique circumstances. Take all advice given as a mere suggestion and make sure to run it past a financial professional first. Your mentor cannot be held liable for a poor investment suggestion or financial strategy that went sideways. (Sorry ’bout your luck).
3. Face the Fear of Money Talk
Asking a coworker how much money they make? GASP! I would never. Pestering my parents to purchase life insurance, long-term care, or write a will? No way. Too uncomfortable. Touching the topic of student loan debt on a first date? WOAH. Now that is just too far!
As a society, we have become afraid of talking about money, and all of this secrecy is ultimately hurting our finances. Why?
Consider this. You just received a job offer in a brand new city. YASSSS! After your initial excitement settles, you realize that #1, you have no idea what a reasonable job offer may be for this position and #2, you have no idea what a reasonable apartment costs in this new city. Thankfully, you have tools like Glass Door and Apartments.com to assist with these decisions. However, can you imagine how much more straightforward it would be to simply ask someone in that position what they are being paid or ask someone in the city how much they are paying for their apartment? For whatever reason, money has become a taboo topic that most Americans feel uncomfortable discussing. It’s time to change that — for everyone’s benefit.
Here’s a New Year’s challenge to spark up these conversations at least once in 2019. (But remember, these are still sensitive conversation topics for some, so please use tact. And if you’re going to ask the question, be willing to answer it yourself):
- Ask a coworker how much they’re making. (Just in case you asked yourself, “But, is that even legal??” Yes, it is.)
- Ask your boss if there are opportunities for promotion and set up a plan to get you there.
- Ask a friend how much they are paying for their apartment.
- Ask your parents if they have life insurance, long-term care, and have written a will. (P.S. These are hugely important topics that no one ever talks about until it’s too late. Don’t be that person).
- Ask your significant other how much personal debt they have (credit cards, student loans, car loan, etc).
- Ask your kids if they have any questions about money, (such as how much you make, how much it costs to buy a car or a house, how much a college education costs, etc). Talking openly and honestly with your kids about money could be the single most influential way to improve the financial habits of the next generation.
- For the ULTIMATE challenge-seekers: Ask a stranger if they feel financially stable. Their response could be eye-opening, and it may spark a life-changing conversation unlike any you’ve experienced before. (Or they may just say, “Nope!” and walk away. Who knows).
4. Make Your Money Do The Work For You
Investing. You’ve heard about it. You know you should probably do it. And you’ve watched The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, so you’re basically an expert.
OK, pump the breaks. You may not be an expert, but you definitely don’t need to be one to start putting your money to work for you.
If you have a retirement account such as a 401(k), 403(b), or IRA, you’re probably participating in the stock market already through the mutual funds inside these accounts. In other words, you’re halfway to being the next Warren Buffett. (Just kidding. But dream big, kids).
So, how do you start investing when you’ve only got a few dollars to spare and your current investment knowledge is limited to binge-watching Shark Tank?
The most old-school, yet time-tested method is to begin working with a financial advisor who is a Registered Representative with FINRA. (How do you know if an individual is registered with FINRA? Check here). This professional can evaluate your current financial situation, assess your risk tolerance, and pair you with suitable investments that both align with your goals and your personal values. Fortunately, we will be speaking with one of these fantastic professionals on our February Face the Fear Podcast episode! Make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss it.
An alternative is investing through robo-advisors and investment apps. While you’re missing out on the face-to-face interaction and personal relationship built with a financial advisor, these online tools can be a beneficial and inexpensive option for beginners who don’t have billions of dollars to invest (yet).
As per usual, here’s a quick disclaimer. Investing is one method of wealth accumulation that should be accessible to everyone, regardless of net worth or investment experience. However, investing does involve risks along with it’s rewards. So, make sure you are fully aware of these risks and have received all required informational materials (such as a prospectus) PRIOR to chucking all of your pretty pennies into an investment. Also, here is a Beginner’s Guide to Investing published by the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission — an independent federal agency established to protect investors). You’re welcome.
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Written By: Kaitlyn Duchien (@ktaylor1395)
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