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!
Tax Season 2019 Start Date
It’s that time of the year again. No, it’s not the holidays. It’s not back to school. It’s tax filing season! Tax filing season can be a good or bad thing depending on who you are. It’s a good thing if you’re entitled to a sizable refund, but it’s probably not such a good thing if you owe the taxman a chunk of change.
In this article we’ll look at when the 2019 tax season starts, why you might want to file your taxes early and different options for filing your taxes.
Monday, January 27, 2020 marked the official start of the 2019 tax season. Starting on January 27th, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has started accepting and processing income tax returns for the 2019 tax season. This is the third straight year that tax filers have to wait until the last week of January to file. There was some speculation that the start date of tax season may be sooner this year, since there isn’t any major tax reform and the government isn’t threatening to shut down, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. The IRS decided to go with January 27th to ensure its security was ready as well as its tax processing systems.
January 27, 2020 is one important date to be aware of, but another important date to be aware of is Wednesday, April 15, 2020. You’ll have until April 15th to file your 2019 tax return and pay any taxes you have owing. The IRS is expecting over 150 million personal tax returns to be filed for the 2019 tax season, many coming in just before the April deadline.
Why You Might Want to File Your Taxes Early
Every April, many tax filers wait until the eleventh hours to file their tax return. Despite the urge to leave filing your taxes until the last minute, there are plenty of good reasons to file your taxes early. Here are some of the benefits.
1. Get Your Tax Refund Sooner
Perhaps the most common reason we file our taxes early is to get our tax refund sooner. If you’re owed a big, fat, juicy refund check, that’s even more incentive to file your taxes as soon as you can. By filing your taxes electronically and choosing direct deposit, you can have the funds deposited into your bank account even sooner.
2. More Time to Pay Your Taxes
Do you have a balance owing to the IRS? It might just make sense to file your taxes early. That way you’ll know exactly how much you owe the taxman, instead of stressing about it until the tax deadline. By filing your taxes early, you’ll have until mid-April to pay the IRS the money you owe them.
3. Obtain Tax Information
If you’re anticipating a major life change, buying your first home or going back to school, filing your tax return early can help you get important tax information that you need. If you’re going back to school, the information found on Form 1040 can help you apply for financial aid. Likewise, if you’re applying for a mortgage, by filing your taxes early, you can use it for mortgage qualification purposes.
4. Avoid the Hassle of Requesting a Tax Extension
By not filing your tax return at the last minute, you won’t have to go through the hassle of requesting a tax extension. Even better, if your tax return is simple enough, you can file it yourself and avoid the expense of hiring a tax preparer to do it for you. (Not to mention you can avoid paying penalties and interest for not paying the amount you owe on time.)
Different Options for Filing Your Taxes
There are three main methods for filing your tax return: doing them yourself, using a tax service or using your financial planner or institution.
1. Doing Your Taxes Yourself
If your taxes are pretty straightforward, you might choose to do your own taxes. The biggest benefit to doing your own taxes is that you can save money. Learn how to file your own taxes.
The simplest way to do your own taxes is to use tax preparation software. There are many software programs out there; among the most popular are H&R Block and TurboTax.
If you’re "old school" and prefer not to use technology, you might choose to file your tax return using pen and paper. You can do that by manually completing Form 1040 and mailing your tax return to the IRS along with any money you have owing.
2. Using a Tax Service
If your taxes are more complicated or you’re pressed for time, you might choose to use a tax service like H&R Block or TurboTax. H&R Block and TurboTax both offer different levels of service: you can choose the most basic by having someone review your tax return right up to having the company complete and file your tax return for you.
Although these services cost money, it’s money well spent if your taxes are complicated. The last thing you want is to make a mistake on your tax return and end up in hot water with the taxman.
3. Using Your Financial Planner or Institution
If you have an accountant that you regularly use or your taxes are ultra-complicated, you might choose to use a financial planner or institution to help you do your taxes. The advantage of using either is that an accountant or tax planner should be familiar with your tax situation, and they can use this to their advantage to help maximize your tax refund.
Financial planners and institutions typically offer a higher level of service than tax services. If you’re looking for the total package, it’s usually best to go with this tax filing option.
Tips on Making the Process as Easy and Stress Free as Possible
Looking to make the tax filing process stress free this year? Here are our top three tips for making filing your taxes easy.
1. Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute to File
If you’re in the habit of procrastinating and waiting until the last minute to file your taxes, it’s time to change. If you’re anything like me, a lot of the stress comes from completing your taxes and seeing how much you owe. But once you get started, it’s not so bad.
While you don’t have to file your taxes at the end of January, by aiming to file them by the end of February at the latest, you can breathe a sigh of relief as you cross a big item off your to do list.
2. Get Organized
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of tax slips you receive? Instead of letting your tax slips pile up on the coffee table, a far better approach is to get organized and stay organized. You can do that by creating a file folder for your tax slips and filing them away as soon as they arrive. Compare your tax slips from this year to last year to make sure nothing is missing. You can then file your taxes with confidence knowing you have everything, instead of stressing about a tax slip you might be missing.
3. File Electronically
If you aren’t already, you should be filing your tax return online. Not only does filing your tax return online help you avoid simple math errors, you should receive your tax refund sooner, too. You can expect to receive your tax refund in three weeks when filing electronically, whereas it can take you several weeks longer if you file using a paper return.