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Money Monday - Get Your Investing Right

According to Forbes, the average brokerage is giving its investors a 7.6% rate of return on investments. If you're merely socking money away into a savings account, you're likely topping out at a 1.3% APY. While having money in a savings account is a smart financial plan, so is diversifying your investments. This helps prevent against loss, but also helps you reap the benefits of an increased rate of return. Investing can be intimidating, or in some cases, costly. These 3 apps will help you start your investing journey.

1) Best for Beginners - Acorns.  Acorns allows you to invest in a managed set of stocks and bonds based on your risk level. You can select whether you want to invest conservatively, moderate conservative, moderate, moderate aggressive, or aggressive. Essentially Acorns will invest your money in a set of stocks and bonds based on how comfortable you are with risk. The best part is that Acorns investing is automatic. You link your debit or credit card(s) to your Acorns account and Acorns will automatically round the purchase up to the next dollar. The difference is set aside until you reach $5, then Acorns pulls the change out of your linked checking or savings accounts and invests the dollar amount.This takes the act of investing off of your plate and makes it automatic. You can turn off the automatic investing at any time if money starts to get tight. You can also make one time contributions if you find your self with some leftover change at the end of the month. Let's say you swipe your card 40 times a month. You'll invest around $20 a month on average, or $240 a year. If you keep that rate up over 10 years, you'll end up with $3,512.00 without even thinking about it. This assumes a 7.5% annual growth rate. Accounts with less than $5,000 in balances are charged a $1 monthly fee. Accounts over $5,000 are charged 0.25% annually.

2) Best for Intermediate Users - Betterment. Whether you're saving for retirement, to buy a home, or you're not really sure what you are saving for, Betterment has a plan for you. Betterment specializes in developing a savings plan that meets your goals, financial situation, and risk level. There's no minimum to get started. Pick your savings plan, set-up your investment account, and you're off. Betterment uses robo-investing technology to automatically re-balance your account to maximize returns. They claim their service can help to add a return of 2.66% more per year to your balances than a self managed account. Betterment also provides a somewhat complicated tax loss harvesting service free of charge that will help reduce your tax bill by selling some stock at a loss, and purchasing a similar stock with the funds. This keeps your portfolio balanced, but also helps reduce the taxes you may have to pay on earnings. Betterment charges a flat .25% annual fee.

3) Best for Advanced Users - Robinhood. Robinhood is a self-managed investing application. You can invest in individual stocks at your own pace. It's up to you to research what stocks to buy and where to invest. What Robinhood offers is a free platform. You can execute trades commission fee. Other online brokers like E*trade will charge between $5 - $10 a trade. Robinhood is a great way to get your feet wet without cost, if you are open to risk and putting in the effort to research companies before buying.

These 3 apps will help you start your investing journey, at a comfort level that matches your style. Just remember that no stock/EFT has guaranteed returns. When you start investing, you always open yourself up for loss. Only invest what you can reasonably afford to lose, but balance that risk knowing that you are diversifying your savings, and helping to set your future self up for financial success. Also, gambling on the stock market is probably a safer bet than that fantasy football team you've been working on at the office.