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!
Make Things Easier When Tax Season Comes Around
Business taxes can be very complicated. However, keeping all of the documents you need and having them ready when you need them can make the process run much more smoothly.
If you keep up with reporting and tracking throughout the year, you will have all of the information you need to fill out your annual income tax return for your business.
Preparing for Tax Season as a Business
If you are a business owner, you likely have enough daily demands on your time. You do not want to make tax time any more difficult than it has to be. You can avoid turning tax preparation into a huge time commitment by taking steps to prepare for tax season throughout the year. Use the following tips to get ready for tax season as a business.
Be Aware of Your Tax Deadlines
Your business’s tax return must be filed no later than either April 15 or March 15 every year, depending on the type of business that you have. Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs that use Schedule C on an individual tax return coincide with the personal filing deadline of April 15.
Otherwise, all other businesses must file by March 15.
Businesses have various deadlines throughout the year as well. Payment of estimated taxes occurs on a quarterly basis, for example. The IRS provides a helpful tax calendar for small businesses and self-employed individuals to help keep track of these deadlines throughout the year. Staying on top of these will reduce costs for penalties and interest that may accrue if these deadlines are missed.
Collect Your Records and Track Your Financials Regularly
It is a good idea to hang on to your records throughout the year. Store them in a location that is easy to pull out when tax time rolls around.
Examples of items to keep include:
- Bank records
- Credit card statements and receipts
- Canceled checks
- Any invoices that have been paid
- Petty cash slips
- Receipts for subscriptions and memberships
- Professional service fees
- Any other expenses that have been incurred throughout the year
- Income information (evidenced by invoices, copies of checks, or additional notes)
You must also keep these records long after your taxes are prepared, so having a filing system will help keep you organized and efficient.
It may also be a good idea to summarize the information you have on a regular basis by putting it into a spreadsheet or another tracking mechanism. Summarizing your data on a monthly or quarterly basis will make tax preparation easier. It also gives you an idea of how your business is doing throughout the year.
Keeping track of all of this information can be a hassle to do by hand. You may want to consider using automated software to help you keep tabs on your expenses and income. Having this type of software will make tax preparation very easy because tracking software will often have the ability to generate income and expense reports that you can use to input all of your data into your tax return.
Track and Update Contact Information for Employees and Independent Contractors
Remember that as part of filing your income tax return for your business, you also need to send out tax forms to certain employees and independent contractors. You need to have updated information for these individuals, so you know where to send these forms, if necessary.
- W2s: Every employee should get a W2. This document will describe the employee’s total income and how much was withheld for various items, including taxes and many benefit programs. You should also have (and keep) a copy of this employee’s W4 for as long as they are employed by you.
- 1099s: Your independent contractors should get Form 1099 from you if they made more than $600 throughout the year. Be sure you have a W9 from each of these individuals as well.
Failing to properly provide this type of documentation to your workers can lead to fines and other penalties down the road. It is important that you do this and keep copies of these documents to prove that you provided them, in case the IRS asks at any point.
Reconcile Your Bank Accounts Every Month
Some businesses realize that their bank made a mistake or that they are missing information at tax time. By then, however, the error could have already been affecting you for months.
Take the time to go through your bank statements when you receive them each month. It is easier to spot errors and problem areas if you go through this process regularly.
Helpful Deductions for Businesses
Businesses are entitled to deductions for tax purposes, just like individuals. However, some companies do not take full advantage of their deductions — but they should! Deductions decrease a company’s overall tax burden, which is certainly helpful for your bottom line.
As you are preparing for tax season, you should think about potential deductions that you can use and try to work those in throughout the year. Some common examples include:
Businesses can deduct contributions to charity just like an individual. However, companies actually have even more incentive to give because this deduction is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in a business’s taxable income if it meets certain qualifications.
Benefits and Bonuses
Your employees’ salaries are deductible business expenses. If you provide your workers with an end-of-the-year bonus, that can decrease your company’s tax obligations as well. The cost of benefits, sometimes including a holiday party, can also be considered a deductible employee benefit as well.
Depreciation and Capital Cost Allowance
The equipment your business uses certainly will not last forever. Unless it is land, virtually every asset your company holds will depreciate in value over time. That depreciation is a business expense that is sometimes overlooked by small businesses. However, depreciation can be a huge cost savings for companies that hold equipment, vehicles, computers and other assets.
If your company has financing, you can deduct the interest costs of that financing as a business expense as well. In fact, any bank expense or related financial expense is considered a normal business expense that should be included in your costs of doing business.
There are many deductions that businesses can take, but they all have certain qualifications and limitations. You can learn more about those by reviewing the IRS’s helpful guide to business deductions here.
How to File Your Business Taxes
Like individuals, businesses need to file income tax returns. If you have a sole proprietorship or single-member LLC, you will simply include your business income and expenses on your individual Form 1040. However, other business types require that you use different forms to file your return. The information that the IRS needs for a company varies a great deal compared to information for an individual, so the IRS has developed different forms for this purpose.
Businesses can often file electronically by using an IRS-approved provider. You can also prepare your tax forms and mail them in. Many professional tax preparation services have their own e-filing options that they can use for you, too.
Business taxes can be daunting, but tracking expenses and income throughout the year and staying organized can be very beneficial. It will also help you take full advantage of all of the deductions that your business is entitled to receive and spot additional areas for potential savings. Being proactive will not only save you time, but it can also save you money at tax time.