The Best Investment Apps for 2019

Mar 9, 2019

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Gone are the days of having to take care of important financial business over the phone or in a face-to-face meeting. Thanks to a slew of helpful apps, you can manage your investment strategy right on your smartphone.

Have you been letting your retirement investment goals sit on the back burner because of a busy schedule? The popular investment apps below may take away that excuse. In fact, some of these apps are so easy to use, they can almost put your investment strategy on autopilot.

Here we take a look at the pros and cons of five investment apps to help you find the perfect tool to simplify your retirement plan.

Acorns

(Photo courtesy of Acorns: Invest Spare Change/iTunes)
(Photo courtesy of Acorns: Invest Spare Change/iTunes)

Are you new to the world of investing or retirement savings? If so, Acorns offers a simple solution to help you get started.

Acorns allows you a unique way to save toward your goals by rounding purchases from your debit and credit cards to the next dollar amount. The app then invests the “extra change” for you based on the preferences you set up. The money is redirected toward an investment portfolio that matches risk with your comfort level.

Logan Allec, CPA and owner of Money Done Right, likes investment apps like Acorn because “apps make investing simple and easy for young people in ways that traditional brokerage accounts don’t.”

Acorns in particular can work great for younger workers with higher levels of debt. Allec explains, “It might be unrealistic to ask a 25-year-old making $40,000 a year with $32,000 of student loan debt to deposit an extra $100 a month into to a traditional brokerage account. But can she invest the spare change left over from her morning coffee? Yup! And just like that, she’s a stock market investor without even trying.”

What you might like:

Here are some of the advantages of using Acorns to manage your savings and investment goals:

  • Low fees ($1-$3 per month)
  • Free for college students (valid .edu email required)
  • Automatically save and invest (just link your credit and debit cards to the app)
  • $0 account minimum

What you might not like:

There’s isn’t much not to like about Acorns. The app, however, might not be a good fit if you’re currently sitting on a bunch of credit card debt.

Although Acorns may only have you investing pennies on every purchase you make, if you aren’t paying your credit card balance off in full each month, you will be charged interest on those round-ups.

If you decide to use Acorns, you probably shouldn’t connect any credit card accounts to the app until you’ve gotten a handle on paying off your credit cards in full each month.

Want to learn more about how the Acorns app works? Check out this review.

Robinhood

Does the idea of free investing appeal to you? If so, Robinhood might be right up your alley.

(Photo courtesy of Robinhood: Invest. Buy. Trade./iTunes)
(Photo courtesy of Robinhood: Invest. Buy. Trade./iTunes)

 

What you might like:

Here are some of the other features of the Robinhood app you might appreciate:

  • No commissions or trade fees
  • Features tools for newcomers and advanced traders

What you might not like:

Robinhood won’t give you access to a full range of investments like mutual funds. Instead, your choices will be limited to Exchange-traded funds (ETFs), stocks, options and cryptocurrencies.

Kyle Kroeger, former investment banker and Founder of MillionaireMob.com, believes the app is a useful tool. Kroeger, who writes about investing on a daily basis, recommends combining the Robinhood app with M1 Finance (more on that below).

“I think people should use both, not one or the other,” Kroeger says. “Both apps are completely free and have slick, easy-to-use interfaces. I recommend that users turn to Robinhood for an actively managed portfolio of stocks and M1 Finance for long-term investing and retirement accounts.”

M1 Finance

Jon Dulin, Personal Finance Expert at MoneySmartGuides.com, is a big fan of the M1 Finance app. Dulin explains, “M1 Finance lets me build a completely customized stock dividend portfolio and buy fractional shares, all at zero cost to me. The app shows me everything I need at a glance. I don’t waste time searching.”

(Photo courtesy of M1 Finance - No Fee Investing/iTunes)
(Photo courtesy of M1 Finance — No Fee Investing/iTunes)

 

What you might like:

M1 Finance has a number of appealing features, including:

  • Commission-free investing
  • Automatic deposits
  • Easy tax reporting (integrates with H & R Block and TurboTax)
  • Free consultation with a product specialist

What you might not like:

If you’re interested in tax loss harvesting, M1 doesn’t offer this feature. Tax loss harvesting occurs when you sell a stock or fund at a loss and then purchase a similar stock or fund in exchange. The result is that your portfolio mix doesn’t undergo much change. Any losses you incur can be used as a write off to offset investment gains (and up to $3,000 of your standard income).

However, M1 does feature include a “tax minimization” feature which aims to help users reduce the amount of taxes they owe when they sell securities.

Betterment

(Photo courtesy of Betterment: Invest and Save/iTunes)
(Photo courtesy of Betterment: Invest and Save/iTunes)

Riley Adams, licensed CPA and Founder of Young and the Invested, personally uses Betterment to manage his investment objectives.

“A year ago, I changed from Vanguard to Betterment, a robo-advisor. Betterment uses scientific research to optimize which ETFs you hold based on your investing objectives. Additionally, the service automatically rebalances your holdings across time as you make contributions, take withdrawals or near your investing objectives,” he said.

Betterment offers tax-efficient investing strategies to minimize the amount of taxes you pay on realized gains, he added. If your accounts aren’t tax-advantaged (e.g., 401(k) or IRA), harvesting these tax losses can increase your returns by minimizing your capital gains each year.

What you might like:

Here are a few of Betterment’s popular features:

  • Commission-free investing
  • Automatic deposits
  • Customized experience (e.g. new investor, hands-off investor or hands-on investor)

What you might not like:

If you’re trying to find a fee-free investing option, Betterment isn’t it. Annual fees for the service range from 0.25% — 0.40% of your account balance.

Do you want to save money on investment fees, but you prefer a little guidance along the way? As a robo-advisor, Betterment can represent a nice hybrid between do-it-yourself investing and hiring a financial planner.

Mint

Mint doesn’t quite qualify as an investment app. It can help you monitor your investments, though, so it’s worth mentioning.

Money Coach Cody Berman of FlyToFI.com says that, in addition to tracking investments, Mint is one of his favorite budgeting apps. “The software automatically captures my spending data and displays it in an easy-to-digest manner. Budgeting has never been easier.”

(Photo courtesy of Mint: Personal Finance & Money/iTunes)
(Photo courtesy of Mint: Personal Finance & Money/iTunes)

 

What you might like:

Here are a few features of Mint that you might appreciate:

  • Free account
  • Managing your investment portfolio and finances in one app
  • Asset allocation tracking across all your investment accounts (IRAs, 401(k)s, mutual funds, brokerage accounts, etc.)
  • Identifying unnecessary investment fees you’re paying

What you might not like:

Mint does not facilitate investing or stock trading itself. While the app will offer you some basic investment recommendations, it’s more of a tracking tool to monitor your overall financial picture in one location.

Should you trust investment management to an app?

Successfully investing your money for retirement is an important goal to achieve. When you retire, you don’t want to have free time without any money to make the best of it.

Yet the truth is that investing can be risky as well. Investing doesn’t come with a manual. There are no guarantees and there are many aspects of the process which are out of your control.

Still, there are some things you can control. You can control whether you want to pay a professional to guide you and manage your investments. Or, you can choose to minimize investment fees and take a do-it-yourself approach.

So how do you decide?

According to the US Securities and Exchange Commission says if you’re the type of person who will read as much as possible about potential investments and ask questions, you might not need investment advice. If, on the other hand, you’re busy with your job, family or just life in general and feel uncomfortable investing on your own, professional help might be your best choice.

Here’s the bottom line. Only you can decide which option is best for you. If you’re ready to give investing on your own a try, one of the apps above might make the process a lot easier to manage.

Featured photo by Yura Fresh/Unsplash.

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