Make Investing Simple Whether you’re putting away your first $1,000 or have been saving for the future for years, you’re going to want to consider investing your funds at some point. Doing so will allow you to maximize returns and exponentially grow your savings. Unfortunately, the investment process can be pretty intimidating, especially if you are starting out on your own. It’s hard to know how to begin, where to invest, how to balance your portfolio and even what sort of fees you should expect to pay along the way. That’s where the convenience and ease of today’s best investment apps can come into play. What Are Investment Apps? Once upon a time, your only choice for investing was to pick up the phone and call your stock broker to initiate a trade. You were charged for the service, either based on commission or as a flat fee per transaction. While stock brokers are still an option, you can take investing into your own hands these days, without ever needing to talk to another human. And it’s all thanks to investment apps and platforms. Today’s apps offer a range of services and features. With them, users can: Research funds and individual stocks View fees and expenses related to investment choices Invest funds on-the-go, and even automate regular contributions Automatically reinvest earnings on current investments Adjust portfolio for personal risk tolerance View performance projections Choose funds or individual stocks that align with personal beliefs, through portfolios based on socially-responsible missions The best part? Investing through trusted apps is usually cheaper, faster and you’ll have instant access to your portfolio/reports at any time of day. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to set your investment risk tolerance, rebalance your portfolio and even reinvest earnings automatically. Who Are Investment Apps Designed For? Whether you’ve been playing the market for ages or are ready to invest your first $100, the right investment app is worth considering. For those new to the stock market, apps will simplify the process and put the power of investing at your fingertips… literally. From your phone or computer, you can easily see portfolio recommendations based on your own goals, savings plans and even risk tolerances. The right app will tell you up front how much you can expect to spend in fees throughout the year, and can even allow you to automate many of the more confusing aspects, such as picking well-performing stocks or even rebalancing. While investment apps are ideal for beginners, newbies aren’t the only ones who will see the benefits. Even seasoned investors will find the process easy to use, and may even learn that these platforms can maximize returns (and save them money in fees) along the way. Not to mention, many investment apps offer additional insight into specific funds, so you can choose to invest in companies that align with your own passions and beliefs. Now that you know why you should consider using an investment app for your own savings, let’s take a look at some of the best ones available today. Best Investment Apps Great for Beginners: Acorns Fees and Expenses: For investors with less than $1 million invested, fees are between $1-3 per month depending on the account option you choose. Acorns is also free for college students. Beginning Investment Requirement: At least $5 to start Types of Investments Available: ETFs (exchange-traded funds) Portfolio Options: Conservative, Moderately Conservative, Moderate, Moderately Aggressive, Aggressive Automatic Investing?: Yes Automatic Reinvesting?: Yes Automatic Rebalancing?: Yes If you want an easy, hands-off approach to investing that won’t leave your head spinning, Acorns is a great first choice. This app not only simplifies investing for beginners, but allows investors to completely automate the process from start to finish. After connecting the app to your debit card, the app will “round up” each of your daily purchases, putting the savings into an investment holding account. Once you reach the minimum required, Acorns will invest this money on your behalf, based on your account preferences. The app will also reinvest your earnings, as well as rebalance your portfolio when necessary. [youmaylike] Great for Truly Free Investing: Robinhood Fees and Expenses: Robinhood is a free investment platform in every sense of the word, pledging to never charge company fees or commissions to customers. Beginning Investment Requirement: You’ll need $2,000 to get started Types of Investments Available: ETFs, stocks, cryptocurrency and options Portfolio Options: Interest-based options such as Fashion ETF, Tech ETF and Energy ETF, as well as a standard S&P 500 ETF, all with personal risk tolerance settings. You’ll also find “collections,” which are individual stocks grouped according to specific interests — such as companies with female CEOs or that are in the social media sector. Automatic Investing?: No Automatic Reinvesting?: No Automatic Rebalancing?: Yes A great option for beginners and experienced investors alike, Robinhood makes the process both easy and affordable. How affordable? Well, it’s entirely free. By offering a truly free experience, Robinhood saves investors some serious cash over time. Additionally, the platform makes it easy to choose individual stocks or ETFs based on personal interests. If you want to invest in cryptocurrency or options, you can also do so through Robinhood. One of the biggest limitations of the platform, though, is its automation. While you can set up automatic deposits into your account, you will need to manually invest those funds and then reinvest (or withdraw) your dividends. Stash Fees and Expenses: $1 per month fee for those with less than $5,000 invested, or $2 per month for retirement accounts with less than $5,000. For users under 25, fees on retirement accounts are waived. If you have more than $5,000 invested, your fee will be 0.25% annually. Beginning Investment Requirement: You’ll need at least $5 to begin investing (fractional shares are available) Types of Investments Available: ETFs (exchange-traded funds) and fractional stock shares Portfolio Options: Too many to name, ranging from things you Want (portfolios that are conservative to aggressive mixes), things you Believe (such as groups of companies that believe in clean energy, LGBT rights, etc.), and things you Like (tech, retail and social media companies). Automatic Investing?: Yes Automatic Reinvesting?: No Automatic Rebalancing?: No The closest competitor to Acorns, Stash seeks to make investing easy for everyone, regardless of your goals and passions. They have three account options to choose from, allowing you to manage your investment and retirement accounts, or even a child’s education savings through custodial accounts. With Auto-Stash, you can set any number of automatic investment options and transfers. However, Stash will not rebalance your portfolio for you, nor will they reinvest dividends on your behalf. Wealthfront Fees and Expenses: 0.25% annually Beginning Investment Requirement: $500 minimum initial investment Types of Investments Available: ETFs (exchange-traded funds), individual stocks, retirement accounts (401k, IRA), 529 savings plans, trusts Portfolio Options: 11 asset classes to choose from, including natural resources and real estate Automatic Investing?: Yes Automatic Reinvesting?: Yes Automatic Rebalancing?: Yes Wealthfront’s investment platform is designed to be friendly for users of all experience levels. If you’re a seasoned investor, you’ll enjoy all of the options available to you, including the ability to manage your retirement accounts, education savings, and even non-profits or trusts. If you’re a newbie, their free financial expertise center is the perfect place to learn all about investing and your future. TD Ameritrade Fees and Expenses: The managed, automatic portfolio investment option (called Essential Portfolios) is available with a 0.30% advisory fee Beginning Investment Requirement: $5,000 minimum for managed portfolios (no minimum requirement for traditional trading) Types of Investments Available: Stocks, ETFs, options, mutual funds, futures, bonds/CDs, Forex, cryptocurrency Portfolio Options: Essential Portfolios (EP) offer investors a range of options from Conservative to Aggressive, based on your individual passions, preferences and tolerances Automatic Investing?: Yes, with EP Automatic Reinvesting?: Yes Automatic Rebalancing?: Yes A more traditional brokerage app, TD Ameritrade is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. You can easily educate yourself on all things financial, thanks to their free videos and posts. If you want a traditional experience, you can choose your trades and pay per transaction. Prefer a more streamlined, automated approach? Opt for their Essential Portfolios, a hands-off investment option (robo-advisor) that charges a flat monthly fee and requires little-to-no oversight from you. Plus, their app makes the investing process easier than ever with a user-friendly interface, price alerts and no minimum to get started. If you prefer a desktop experience, this is also available to you through TD Ameritrade. Bottom Line Getting started with investing can be intimidating. With all of the terminology and account options out there, it’s easy to want to run and hide. Thanks to some of today’s best investment apps, though, you can not only get started with your first portfolio but also watch your money quickly grow… no matter how much of a beginner you may be! It’s important to choose an app that offers you the portfolio options and features you want most, with fees and deposit minimums that match your financial needs. The five apps above are our favorites for beginners, making that first foray into investing easier than ever before. The hardest part will be choosing the one you love most!
IRS Debt Relief
Tax time is stressful for many Americans who end up owing money to the IRS. Tax debt is nearly impossible to discharge in bankruptcy court. The IRS can attempt to collect this type of debt for ten years after the date of assessment. In the meantime, you may have your wages garnished, your bank accounts seized, and your credit ruined.
Fortunately, IRS debt relief is a viable option for many people who owe back taxes. Many tax debt relief companies make big promises. These companies may charge hefty fees, take ages to get your tax problems solved, or simply fail to do what they said they'd do.
What is Tax Debt Relief?
If you can't afford to pay the taxes you owe the federal government, you have a few good options for IRS debt relief. You may be eligible for a payment plan or even a debt settlement (called an offer in compromise) that could protect you from wage garnishment and other aggressive collection tactics.
The faster you act, the more options you have for IRS debt relief. Even if your tax debt is years old, don't give up. You may have to pay penalties and interest, but it's better to face the problem head-on and avoid the problems that come with having your bank account frozen or your credit wrecked.
The IRS can also legally put a lien on your property, preventing you from selling it before you pay your tax debt.
Penalties for Paying Taxes Late
The IRS charges several types of penalties and late fees if you fail to pay your taxes on time. Here are some reasons that the IRS may attach penalties to your tax bill:
- Failure to pay: If you don't pay your taxes in full by April 15 of the year you file
- Failure to file: If you don't file your tax return by April 15 and you don't ask for and receive an extension
- Failure to pay proper estimated tax: If you expect to owe more than $1,000 in taxes and you don't pay your taxes through withholding or you don't pay your quarterly tax estimates throughout the year
Penalties and interest rates vary. For example, if you fail to pay your taxes on time, you can expect a penalty of 0.5% of your total tax bill each month until your debt is paid in full.
If you fail to file your taxes on time, you'll be charged 5% of your unpaid taxes every month for up to five months, plus a late filing penalty of $100 to $435, depending on when the tax return was due.
If you fail to pay proper estimated taxes, you'll be assessed quarterly penalties calculated using the formula in Publication 505.
Reducing the Total Amount of Money Owed to the IRS
You may be able to reduce your total tax debt by contacting the IRS and asking for an offer in compromise. This allows you to settle your debt for less than the total amount owed. Many tax debt relief companies offer this service for a fee, but it's something you can do on your own with just a phone call.
If you choose to make an offer in compromise, you'll be charged an application fee of $205. You may not have to pay the fee if you qualify for a low-income certification or if you submit paperwork stating that you dispute your liability for the debt.
Before you can get approved for an offer in compromise, you must be up to date with your yearly tax filing and any required estimated tax payments. To see if you are eligible, use the offer in compromise worksheet from the IRS.
If you want to submit an offer to the IRS to settle your debt in full, you can do so by submitting your offer using IRS Form 656-B.
Setting Up a Payment Plan with the IRS
The IRS may allow you to pay off your tax debt over time with a payment plan. They must approve the agreement, though. You can request a long-term payment plan by applying online if you owe less than $50,000 in tax, penalties, and interest and you've filed all of your required tax returns.
There's a $31 setup fee unless you meet the low-income requirements. If approved, you'll pay monthly through automatic withdrawals from your checking account. If you want to make monthly payments that aren't automatically withdrawn, your setup fee is $149.
If you have tax debt, it's smart to handle the problem as quickly as possible to avoid fees and penalties. You don't need to hire a tax relief company to handle the problem for you.
In most cases, tax relief agencies make phone calls and fill out forms that an individual could handle on their own through the IRS for free.