While student debt is causing millennials to delay major milestones like home ownership and marriage, at least one industry is making it possible for those on tight budgets to get in the game: finance.
That may seem counterintuitive — how can you get into finance when you’re finances are slim?
But different investment opportunities — from the stock market to real estate — are springing up to address just this.
It’s called micro-investing.
“Micro investing allows you to regularly invest small sums of money,” said Jennifer Barrett, Chief Education Officer at Acorns — one of the leading apps in the space. “You don’t need to wait until you’ve saved up a big sum.”
Traditional investment opportunities often require a minimum investment that can be untenable for many millennials who are still working their way out of student debt. Micro-investing allows individuals with small amounts of capital to eschew traditional investment methods and look for opportunities to multiply their cash.
Because the initial investment is small, the payout can be small — but even an extra couple hundred dollars at the end of the year can create wiggle room in your budget as you’re paying your student loans.
You don’t have to resign yourself to a “one day in the future” mentality when it comes to developing an investment portfolio, you can get started right now.
How To Start Micro-Investing
Here are some micro-investing resources.
Acorns is a platform that helps you invest using your spare change. To sign up, connect your cards to your Acorns account and after every purchase the program will round up to the nearest dollar, adding that change to your account.
They have five different portfolios available based on how aggressive you want to be and will start investing automatically for you when your balance hits $5.
They also have a “found money” deal with many brands such as Nike, AirBnB, Birchbox, Expedia, and Walmart. It’s kind of like getting cash back, but instead brands deposit spare change, rounded up to the nearest dollar, into your Acorns account.
There is no minimum to begin but you pay a monthly fee of $1 for the service.
“By being able to invest small amounts at a time in stocks and bonds,” said Barrett, “and being able to do it regularly and automatically through your mobile phone, we make it simple to start investing in your future.”
Stash is a platform designed to make the process of investing in ETFs — exchange-traded funds — beginner-friendly.
They’ll teach you how to build a portfolio and then bundle different ETFs to help you invest in what you’re passionate about — be it tech, activism, or even travel.
The minimum investment is $5 and you can turn on their auto feature if you’d like to invest regularly, on schedule. This gets you a fraction of an ETF that Stash has purchased.
Stash costs $1 a month for balances under $5,000 — but your first month is free if you want to try it out.
Clink is a free, micro-savings app that prides themselves on a “set it and forget it” style.
The program saves a small percentage from each of your purchases — you decide how much you’d like to save, and how often. Then, the service invests this money into ETFs.
Depending on how aggressive you are, Clink will choose a portfolio based off the “Modern Portfolio Theory,” which basically relies on diversifying low-risk investments for maximum reward.
To create an account, download their app and link your checking account.
Although there’s no minimum investment required, the lowest the scheduler can be set to daily is $1, which is deposited every five business days as a $5 lump sum.
4. Robin Hood
Robin Hood is a fully digital stock brokerage with over 2 million users. It allows you to buy and sell your own stock, as often as you like, straight from your phone, with no commission. There’s no minimum account balance.
Through their app you can search for U.S. traded stocks and ETFs that fit within your price range and they provide a DIY experience where you’re in charge of all your transactions. They’ll highlight popular stock, but for the most part you’re on your own.
They earn revenue by collecting interest on the cash in your account, link a bank. To get started, you can sign up on their website, or download their app.
5. Charles Schwab
Their index funds are among the lowest cost in the industry and there is no minimum investment required to get started. You can also invest in their no-load, no transaction fee mutual funds for as little as $100 which allow you to buy and sell mutual funds without running up against a commission.
Using a traditional name like Schwab could have its benefits — as your assets grow, you can develop a knowledge base of their offerings and move up to some of their bigger products.
Microventures is a solution for crowdfunding startups that helps raise equity. They also provide education on the tech sphere and opportunities for purchasing late stage private stock.
Their platform is similar to Kickstarter and a minimum investment is usually $100. You might recognize some bigger names in their portfolio like Dropbox, Pinterest, Lyft, Snapchat, and Spotify.
These micro-investment opportunities can help you invest in tech even if you don’t have much cash flow.
7. Crowd Real Estate Investing
Due to recent legislation changes, crowdfunded real estate investments — where multiple investors contribute smaller sums to purchase one property — are rising.
“The rules, I thought, were really unfair,” said Marshall Saunders, a former real estate broker who sold his brokerage and focuses solely on crowdfunded investing. “Ninety-seven percent of the wealth building activities in the U.S. are only opened to 2 percent of the population who are considered accredited investors.”
But that’s all changed as a result of the hard work Saunders put in to have laws rewritten, allowing smaller investors to pool their resources.
“Before I did crowdfunding,” said Ian Ippolito, the internet’s recognized authority on the subject because he runs the only website reviewing different opportunities, “I invested the old fashioned way. The biggest problem is that it takes a lot of money to do it.”
His site ranks the top 100 opportunities for non-accredited investors, using criteria like high transparency, low fees, and bankruptcy protection.
It can be tricky knowing how to get into some of these opportunities but platform that makes it easy is Fundrise — which recently crowdfunded a billion dollar property. They provide detailed investment education on their site and boast average annualized returns of 10.88 percent in quarter two of 2017. A minimum investment through the platform is $500.
This specifically Canadian solution allows you to link your cards through a mobile app. Spend like normal and the service will round up to invest your spare change. Mylo also analyzes your purchases to help you make better decisions — they’ll find you better insurance deals, help you lower your interest payments and show you how you can maximize your travel points. It comes at a cost of $1 per month and you can withdraw any money you make instantly.
Developing your portfolio
Although traditional investment opportunities might be out of reach, micro-investing is a thriving new pathway that has been opening doors for new investors to start their portfolios.
You’re just clicks away from participating in your investments — even if you only have $5 to spare you can still get started.