4 Apps to Begin Investing from Your Smartphone

You can do anything on your phone these days, so it shouldn’t surprise you that investment apps are changing the way people invest and save money. Already, people have invested hundreds of millions of dollars through their smartphones. People of all levels of financial acumen are using these apps, from Harvard Business grads to landscape architects. And you don’t need a hedge fund manager’s bank account to get started. Most are free and don’t take commissions, so you no longer have an excuse to keep your savings in your mattress.

Apps may be a great diversion while you wait at the DMV, letting you explore mythical realms or look at what your friend had for lunch, but your smartphone can be a valuable investment tool. Here are some of the best financial apps that will forever change how you spend your lunch breaks.

  1. Acorns

Acorns is the most popular investment app amongst millennials. It’s 600,000 members have already saved $25 million. That’s a lot of acorns. For young people that are usually gun shy around investing, the helpful interface makes it easy to save small change from debit card or credit card purchases. Acorns rounds up your spare change to the next dollar, and once you save $5, it invests it in a personalized stock portfolio. You answer questions that determine your investment goals and risk preferences, and the app will provide a portfolio for you.

  1. Robin Hood

Robin Hood is a zero-commission smartphone app. But how do they make money? Robin Hood makes money on the money you have on deposit and if you borrow to trade. Borrowing money to trade, or “buying on margin”, works out great for many, but be careful. Think of it as gambling and using your car as collateral.

  1. Stash

Stash is another ETF (exchange-traded fund). That means it owns underlying assets, (like stocks, bonds, oil futures, gold) and divides ownership of those assets into shares. For only $5, you can buy a fraction of a share and watch how the fund performs. Stash makes its money by charging $1 a month for balances under $5,000. So if you truly are a small investor, your money will get eaten up pretty quickly. But it’s a quick and easy introduction to the stock market, so when you’re ready, you can move on to more advanced trading.

  1. eToro

eToro’s most popular feature is trade copying. As the name implies, trade copying automatically copies the trades of someone else. So even if you know nothing about market forces, your portfolio will perform like you do! You can start off with a $10,000 demo account to practice while you learn the interface, and eventually people will be copying your expert trades.

Whatever your level of financial expertise or income, you can begin investing. Knowledge is power when it comes to money. For other questions about credit, homeownership, and avoiding foreclosure, United Financial Counselors can help. They aren’t available on your smartphone, but host frequent seminars and are available by phone or in-person. Whether it’s using an app to trade stocks, or talking to an expert about homeownership, the tools to take control of your financial future are close at hand.

Gentrification

The financial crisis may be waning, but a new crisis has arisen. Across the country, cities are facing a housing crisis. As property values and rents rise, many residents are forced out of their homes and further from the city. The term “gentrification” may arouse feelings of both fear and excitement. For some, gentrification means higher returns on property investments and better services. For others, gentrification means being priced out of the neighborhoods they love. Whatever your financial situation is, these are a few tips to benefit from the “G-word” and avoid its pitfalls.

Renters Beware

Gentrification has changed the face of cities like New York and San Francisco, and Miami has certainly seen its fair share of new yoga studios and artisanal dog food shops. As developers and landlords start seeing these symptoms of gentrification, they will be tempted to raise rents and evict longtime residents. Your landlord may use dubious, if not downright illegal tactics to oust older tenants and bring in a new wave of high-paying gentrifiers. Even if your landlord is a genuinely nice guy, it’s vital to know your rights as a tenent.

1. Pay your rent on time. Even if the landlord has been lenient in the past, a late payment is enough of an excuse for a landlord to begin eviction.

2. Document any out of line behavior. Saving emails may save you.

3. Landlords must give notice before performing inspections or performing repairs. Put repair requests in writing. If a landlord balks at having to repair a leaky faucet, the law says it’s his job to foot the bill.

If you are worried about being evicted, United Financial Counselors, a non profit organization, specializes in avoiding FED (Forced Entry and Detainment) warrants and the eviction process altogether. Their experts can help resolve any landlord/tenant disputes.

Stake Your Claim

It may seem obvious that property adjacent to a booming part of town will also likely increase in value. Little Havana, a neighborhood next to gentrification ground zero, Brickell, has seen home prices increase as much as 50% since last year. Gentrification in Little Havana may seem inevitable, but it may not be as widespread as you’d think. The high rises in Brickell have concentrated the influx of urban hipsters who pass over other neighborhoods. Don’t expect to triple your home’s value in a year. Jason Walowitz (NMLS #991649), owner of United Financial Counselors warns against the gentrification bug. “Buying a house as an investment is great, but if you plan to make the home your primary residence, think about livability above an expected, but not guaranteed, financial gain.”

It’s Not All Bad

Many decry the scourge of gentrification, and for good reason. Longtime residents are displaced; neighborhoods lose their authentic patina. But for many members of the community, gentrification is a welcome relief. Gentrification means safer streets, more walkable cities and better access to education and other services. Studies suggest that gentrification actually causes residents with houses to remain in a community longer, instead of moving away to greener pastures.

People who own property in a neighborhood that’s gentrifying always think the change is fantastic, while those who are renting or looking for new housing think that it’s terrible. Companies like United Financial Counselors help residents avoid foreclosure, modify their mortgages, and ultimately stick around long enough to be able to enjoy some of the benefits of the dreaded “G-word”.