Knowing how to invest with little money is crucial. For one, it will get you earning compound interest sooner rather than later. You’ll also start forming good habits that will benefit you in ways far beyond personal finance.
You don’t need $5,000 or even $50. You can get started with as little as $1. By the end of this article, you’ll see how.
And no, these small investment ideas aren’t get-rich-quick schemes. Rather, they’ll help you build your wealth slowly but surely through legitimate assets such as real estate and stocks. Yes, you read that correctly. You can invest with little money even if you’re interested in assets people traditionally think of as “expensive.”
If you’re completely new to investing, check out this guide to understand the very basics. Once you’re ready, let’s dive in.
How to invest with little money: 18 smart strategies you can start today
Note: This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an Amazon link in this post, I’ll receive a small commission. This helps me keep ads on the site to a minimum.
1. Pay off debt
Money needed: Whatever you can afford.
You may not think of repaying debt as an investment. However, one could build a very strong case for it being such based on the financial benefits that getting out from underneath high-interest obligations can provide. You see, investing generally only makes sense if the gains you’d receive outweigh the interest you’re accruing on your debt.
Say you have major credit card bills. For an investment to be advantageous over paying off that debt, its return would have to exceed your interest rate. That’s impractical, given that the stock market produces an average annual return of about 10% over the long haul while average credit card interest rates are 19.02%.
Another way to think of this is that paying off such a credit card secures an immediate and guaranteed 19.02% return on your money. This is why people like Mark Cuban describe paying off credit card debt as the best investment you can make.
- Often the smart thing to do, economically speaking
- Can help relieve the stress of high-interest debt
- Can force you to confront poor spending habits and make you more financially stable overall
- May feel boring compared to investing in stocks and other assets
- Confronting poor financial habits can be daunting, even embarrassing, despite being for the best
How to get started
Have a licensed advisor review your financial situation and ask them which types of debt would make sense to pay off prior to investing. Some advisors will recommend that you accelerate payment towards credit cards and other high-interest loans until your only significant debt is your mortgage, which typically comes with a relatively low single-digit interest rate. It all depends on your situation, though, so make sure to get one-on-one advice.
Not sure where to find a financial advisor? Your bank is a good place to start as most major institutions offer these services to clients.
Additionally, there are two great books that I recommend on this topic. The first is Dave Ramsey’s acclaimed Total Money Makeover. If Dave’s persona intimidates you, check out I Will Teach You to be Rich by Ramit Sethi, which covers much of the same information but in a more casual tone.
Money needed: As little as $1 depending on which provider you choose.
Professional money managers can be expensive, both in terms of fees and minimum initial investments. A robo-advisor, on the other hand, is much more accessible. You’ll answer a few questions about your financial situation and an algorithm will build you a diversified portfolio of assets such as stocks, bonds, and ETFs. The software will also handle rebalancing your portfolio periodically to keep you on track as the market fluctuates.
Robo-advisors are relatively new, having been popularized after the financial crisis of 2008. They’ve come a long way since then, with their competitive fees and performance pulling even those with lots of money away from traditional fund managers.
Popular robo-advisors include:
- SoFi Automated Investing
- Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios
- Axos Invest
- Low fees
- Low/no minimum initial investment
- Fully automated, hassle-free investing
- Based on Nobel Prize-winning theories
- Increasingly customizable
- Often lacking the personal touch
- Fees are low but still not the cheapest out there
- You won’t be able to choose your own individual assets
How to invest with little money via a robo-advisor
Look for a robo-advisor whose reviews, track record, and onboarding process instill confidence in you. Personally, I like Wealthsimple. You can get started with as little as $1, fees are just 0.5%, and human staff is readily available for one-on-one guidance.
Whichever robo-advisor you choose, getting started is as simple as setting up an account and making your first deposit.
3. Exchange-traded funds (ETFs)
Money needed: Enough to purchase one share and cover commissions.
You can think of ETFs as “bundles” of stocks that fit a particular theme. For example, there are ETFs containing stocks in the S&P 500, an index tracking the performance of 500 large companies in the United States. There are also industry-specific ETFs, such as those tracking the technology sector.
With an ETF, your minimum investment is merely whatever it costs to purchase a single share and cover brokerage commissions. ETFs vary wildly in price, with some costing well under $100 and others costing $300 and more. Brokerages that charge commissions typically price them at $10 or less per trade. However, brokerages are increasingly switching to no-fee trading for stocks and ETFs.
Popular ETFs include:
- SPDR S&P 500 ETF
- Financial Select Sector SPDR Fund
- Invesco QQQ
- ProShares UltraPro QQQ
- Technology Select Sector SPDR Fund
- Very competitive average historical performance compared to other types of funds
- Low fees
- An increasing number of brokerages are offering commission-free ETF buys
- Maintaining a portfolio of more than a few ETFs can be cumbersome
- Requires some knowledge of trading to get started
- Self-directed investing can be nerve-wracking for beginners as it lacks professional guidance
How to invest with little money via ETFs
Read more about the types of investment accounts in America here. Note that the names of these accounts differ between the United States and Canada but generally fall into the same buckets (retirement, tax-free investing, educational savings, etc), with similar rules.
I highly recommend that you speak to an advisor before choosing an account since it’s not always easy to switch later on. Once you know what type of account you need, find a brokerage that offers a self-directed version of it, which will allow you to purchase ETFs on your own.
Popular options include:
Make sure to inquire about the brokerage’s minimum balance rules. Many brokerages (including Charles Schwab and Wealthsimple Trade) allow you to open an account with less than $100 but it’s good to be sure before you complete all the paperwork.
Next, select the ETF(s) you’d like to purchase and place your first order. The exact process will vary depending on the brokerage but it’s generally very simple.
4. Automatic mutual fund deposits
Money needed: $100 or less, depending on which fund you choose.
Mutual funds have much in common with ETFs. The key difference is that they generally attempt to beat the market through active management while ETFs track it via passive management. Learn more about what that means (as well as other differences between ETFs and mutual funds) here.
Minimal initial investments in mutual funds can range from $500 all the way up to $5,000. However, some funds lower this minimum dramatically if you set up automatic contributions.
Popular examples include:
- TIAA-CREF (minimum drops to $100 if you invest automatically each month)
- BNY Mellon Mutual Funds (same as above)
- T. Rowe Price’s Automatic Asset Builder (same as above)
- Nationwide Mutual Funds (minimum drops to $50 if you contribute monthly)
- Enjoy the reassurance of holding America’s most popular investment
- Contributing is easy, requiring little to no technical expertise
- Better customer service than other types of funds
- Management expense ratios (MERs) are higher than with other funds
- Active management tends to underperform passive funds, making mutual funds generally less profitable
How to invest with little money via automatic mutual fund deposits
Your first step is to choose a mutual fund. If you bank with a major institution, they’ll typically have advisors available for you to speak with about your options.
Once you know which fund you’d like to invest in, that same advisor can guide you through the onboarding process. Generally, expect to sign some paperwork and review the fund’s documentation before setting up your monthly deposits.
5. Spare change investing
Money needed: $5 or less, depending on the app.
Spare change investing apps work by rounding your purchases up to the nearest dollar and automatically investing the spare change in whatever portfolio or savings account you select. For example, say you spend $1.75 on a cup of coffee. The app will round your purchase up to $2.00 and automatically invest 25 cents.
This has many advantages. One is that it requires almost no willpower. You may not even miss the money at the end of the month, unlike with other investment strategies requiring manual, more substantial deposits. For those wondering how to invest with little money and little commitment, this is an interesting proposition.
Popular spare change/round-up investing apps include:
- Automation makes these investments hands-free
- Contributions are so small you may not even notice them
- Saving through these apps may not be enough, depending on your goals
- Lack of choice in specific investments
- While fees are low, they may still be enough to eat into your savings given how small your deposits will be
How to invest with little money via spare change apps
First, you’ll need to choose an app. Be sure to read reviews of the various options and research what they invest in. Most apps out there invest your spare change in some combination of ETFs. However, if you’re looking to set the money aside in a savings account, you’ll want to look for that feature specifically.
Next, after you’ve chosen an app, the process is relatively simple. Proceed through its onboarding process and you’ll be ready to go.
6. Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
Money needed: Enough to cover the cost of one share and trade commissions.
We’ve now given you a few tips on how to invest with little money if you’re interested in the stock market. But what about real estate? That’s where REITs come in.
REITs are companies that invest in real estate on behalf of shareholders. The major benefit is that REITs allow you to reap the rewards of real estate markets without having to put up the large sums required for purchasing physical properties.
As with ETFs, your minimum initial investment with a REIT is simply the cost of one share plus any commissions. You can find REITs priced at well below $100.
Popular examples of REITs and ETFs holding them include:
- Real Estate Select Sector SPDR Fund
- iShares Cohen & Steers REIT ETF
- Agree Realty Corp
- Extra Space Storage Inc
- Low-cost investment in residential, commercial, industrial, and other real estate sectors
- Competitive performance relative to stocks
- Large dividend payouts
- Dividends are taxed like income rather than capital gains
- Homeowners may not benefit from adding more real estate exposure to their portfolios
How to invest with little money via REITs
Do some research on the various types of REITs out there. Then, refer to the brokerages and types of investment accounts referenced in the ETFs section of this article. Once you’ve opened up an account with your brokerage of choice, you can place your first order for whatever REIT you’ve determined (with the help of an advisor) is appropriate for you.
Money needed: Enough to cover trading commissions.
When learning how to invest with little money, you’ll eventually run into a very common issue. Say you’ve identified Amazon as an appropriate investment for your portfolio but you only have $1,000 to start with and shares cost more than $2,500 as of writing. What do you do?
Well, you could wait until you’ve saved up more money. But what if Amazon’s stock keeps climbing out of reach or you’re tempted to spend the cash? You could also just find a cheaper stock to buy. But that’d be an unhealthy compromise if your analysis indicates Amazon is truly the investment you need.
That’s where fractional shares come in. Certain apps and brokerages allow you to purchase less than a whole share, which substantially lowers your barrier to entry.
Popular fractional share apps and brokerages include:
- Invest in companies even if you don’t have enough to buy a whole share
- Create the exact asset allocation you need, even with limited funds
- Relatively low commissions and monthly fees
- Not all stocks can be traded fractionally
- There are often hidden built-in fees to cover the added expenses of facilitating fractional trading
When it comes to learning how to invest with little money, this is among the most beginner-friendly ideas. First, choose an app whose fees and stock offerings appeal to you. After you make your first deposit, you’ll be able to start trading fractional shares of stocks that you and your advisor have identified as good investments.
8. Direct stock purchase plans (DSPPs)
Money needed: As little as $25 plus enough to cover setup and trading fees (both of which are usually quite low).
Some companies offer DSPPs as a means of selling their shares to investors – you guessed it – directly. Buying a company’s stock through its DSPP allows you to accumulate fractional shares. DSPPs are also generally structured to encourage automatic monthly buys, with lower fees than you’d find at a brokerage. These advantages have made DSPPs historically popular among those looking to buy stock with little money.
Major companies that offer DSPPs include:
Most companies offering these plans require that you enroll online with an intermediary known as a transfer agent. Computershare is a popular transfer agent for American and Canadian companies.
- Generally lower fees than brokerages
- Highly conducive to investing small amounts of money, with minimums often waived if you set up automatic monthly deposits
- No flexibility in terms of what stocks you can buy without signing up for another DSPP; plans are company-specific
- Seller’s fees make DSPPs unsuitable for short-term trading
- A portfolio of DSPPs can be hard to track as each plan will send its own statements
How to invest with little money via DSPPs
Your first step should be to determine which company is the right investment for you. There are a number of ways to go about this but, as a general rule, you should choose a company with solid historical returns that you believe will remain strong for years to come.
Then, make sure it offers a DSPP and go through the enrollment process (typically outlined on the company’s investor relations website). In most cases, you’ll enroll with a transfer agent like Computershare but some companies allow you to enroll directly with them.
Once you’re enrolled and have paid any setup fees (which, again, are typically quite low), contribute at least the monthly minimum and you’ll be on your way!
9. U.S. Treasury Securities
Money needed: $100
Investing for beginners with little money can be daunting. While investments like ETFs and stocks generally appreciate in value over the long haul, they can also dip drastically in the short term.
U.S. Treasury Securities are worth considering if you’re looking to avoid this and achieve stability. As Investopedia points out, many analysts consider U.S. Treasury Securities “risk-free” since the federal government has always been able to uphold its end of the deal with these assets.
You see, when you purchase a U.S. Treasury Security, you’re lending the government money with the understanding that you’ll be repaid on a certain date and receive interest at a specified rate. There’s no historical precedent in the United States for you losing money unless you decide to sell your investment early.
You can invest directly with the U.S. government through TreasuryDirect. Alternatively, you can use a brokerage. You’ll recall that I identified several popular brokerages in the “Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs)” section.
- Extremely stable
- Investment terms range from months to decades, allowing for flexibility
- Receive higher interest than with a savings account
- Bonds are low risk, low reward; don’t expect to get rich
- If you need your money sooner than expected, you may lose some of your initial investment
How to invest with little money via U.S. Treasury Bonds
Create an account on Treasury Direct or with your brokerage of choice. Then, research the available bond options and discuss them with your advisor. Make sure you know what you’re getting into before investing in bonds with decades-long terms. If you need to sell the bond before it matures, you may lose money or suffer other unexpected consequences.
Once you’ve identified a suitable bond, place your order.
10. Certificates of deposit (CDs)
Money needed: Typically between $500 and $1,000.
Certificates of deposit (CDs) are another stable and virtually risk-free investment. Here’s how they work. You agree to hold your money at a bank for a set period. In return, the institution will pay you interest at a fixed rate, allowing you to precisely calculate how much money you’ll receive when the CD reaches maturity. The bank will then use your money to earn profits for itself at a higher interest rate than they’re offering you. For example, they may issue loans with it.
To the bank, it’s very important that you uphold your end of the deal by keeping your money with them for the full term. As such, withdrawing early is difficult and you’ll typically pay a hefty fee.
Thankfully, CDs come with different terms (i.e. one-year, three-year, and five-year) to attract investors with different timelines. Generally speaking, longer terms offer better interest rates.
- Stability and security
- As with bonds, receive higher interest than you would via a savings account
- Your money will be tied up for the whole term, at risk of early withdrawal penalties
- Similar risk-reward profile as that of bonds; don’t expect to make lots of money
How to invest small amounts of money via CDs
Most major banks in America offer CDs. The same goes for major Canadian banks, which offer virtually identical assets known as Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs). Banks in many other developed countries have some equivalent.
Getting started is as simple as finding a CD or GIC at your bank that offers a suitable interest rate and deposit term. It’s important that you look at your overall financial situation with an advisor before locking up substantial amounts of money in a long-term CD or GIC. If you require liquidity or greater returns to meet your financial goals, your advisor may recommend other types of investments on this list.
11. High-interest savings accounts
Money needed: No minimum, in most cases.
If you’re looking to park your money somewhere stable while still keeping it accessible at a moment’s notice, high-interest savings accounts are worth considering. The premise is pretty simple; you deposit money in the account and receive interest on it every month. While the payouts won’t blow your socks off (or even beat inflation), you’ll still fare better than if you kept your money in a 0% interest checking account.
Popular institutions offering high-interest savings accounts with no minimum deposit requirements include the following.
- Earn predictable, safe returns
- Benefit from compound interest
- Easy withdrawals
- Very convenient for holding cash in the short term until you’re ready to invest elsewhere or make a purchase
- The security can be misleading; inflation will still chip away at your money’s purchasing power over time since the interest rate won’t be enough to keep pace
- Interest rates can change drastically based on factors like government policy
How to invest with little money via high-interest savings accounts
The process of opening a high-interest savings account is quite simple; just select the bank whose offering meets your needs, fill out some forms, and make your first deposit.
Before you do all of that, however, carefully consider some of the higher-return options on this list with the help of an advisor. Save for a few specific circumstances (i.e. you plan on withdrawing your funds within the next few months), even the best savings account is not going to offer very impressive returns, especially if you’re starting with little money.
12. Employer-sponsored retirement plans
Money needed: Varies by plan but can be quite low if you sign up for automatic contributions via payroll.
When you make contributions to this type of plan, its provider (i.e. Edward Jones, ADP, Betterment for Business, Merrill Edge, etc) will invest your money in the right mix of assets based on what you and/or your company selects. That typically includes stocks, bonds, or a combination of these and other assets.
One major advantage of investing towards retirement in a registered account is that you’re able to deduct contributions from your taxable income for that year, up to a certain limit. For example, if you make $80,000 and contribute $10,000 to your registered retirement plan, your income tax for that year will be calculated as if you made $70,000.
Additionally, your investments will grow tax-free until you withdraw money in retirement. This lets compound interest work its magic for decades, which is quite powerful.
- Make contributions directly from your paycheck
- Possibility of an employer match
- Many types of plans to choose from
- Receive tax benefits on contribution amounts (including deferred taxes on deposits and capital gains)
- Begin saving for retirement
- Strict rules and penalties around early withdrawals
- You must begin withdrawing at a certain age, even if you don’t need/want to
- Relative lack of control over your portfolio’s holdings
- Not an option if your employer doesn’t offer it
How to invest with little money via employer-sponsored retirement plans
Speak with your company’s HR representative to find out if they offer a sponsored retirement plan. If so, getting started is generally as simple as filling out some paperwork. Your range of options will depend on your company’s arrangement. Many employers simply set you up with a 401(k) that invests in a mutual fund designed to meet the average worker’s needs. Others offer choices in terms of accounts and investments.
Whatever the case may be, speak with an advisor to determine what percentage of your paycheck can comfortably be directed towards your retirement portfolio. You don’t have to start off big. Even just 1% can get the ball rolling. As you get more comfortable with investing, you may decide to bump that percentage up every now and again.
13. Your own retirement plan
Money needed: Once again, varies by plan but generally quite low if you contribute automatically each month.
Wondering how to invest with little money and effort if you’re self-employed or your company doesn’t offer a retirement plan? Well, you can set up your own retirement plan and receive many of the same benefits.
Depending on which self-directed plan you choose, you may also enjoy greater control over your portfolio. With a traditional individual retirement account (IRA), for example, you can invest in stocks, ETFs, bonds, CDs, and other assets of your choosing. There’s also an account known as a self-directed IRA, which allows you to invest in everything from cryptocurrencies to real estate.
Canada’s Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) aren’t as flexible as self-directed IRAs but can still hold a decent range of assets and are comparable to a traditional IRA.
Many of the brokerages we’ve discussed in previous sections offer retirement accounts. Other options include the following.
- Choose between self-directed and more rigidly-structured accounts based on your style and needs
- Receive the same tax benefits as with an employer-sponsored retirement account
- Begin saving for retirement
- No employer matches
- Strict rules surrounding withdrawals
- Not suitable for short-term investing
How to invest with little money via your own retirement account
Your first step is to select a retirement account that meets your needs. You’d be very wise to speak with an advisor before settling on any particular account. The rules surrounding retirement accounts in Canada and the United States are very strict and have major implications on what you can invest in, when you’re allowed to withdraw, and other key points.
One especially important thing to discuss with your advisor is whether you should choose a retirement account that allows you to choose your own assets or one that is professionally managed. Both have their pros and cons and are suited to different types of investors.
Once you’ve chosen your account and opened it, you can begin making deposits. If your account allows it, you can then begin purchasing investments of your choosing. Otherwise, the account provider will invest your money in assets based on the preferences you indicated in your onboarding process.
14. Education investment accounts
Money needed: You can find accounts with no minimums, especially if you make automatic monthly contributions.
Education savings accounts are worth considering if you’re investing to put your child (or another young family member) through school.
Americans have access to what’s known as a 529 plan, which encompasses two account types: education savings plans and prepaid tuition plans. The former can hold a variety of assets (stock, ETFs, bonds, etc) that may grow in value tax-free as long as the beneficiary uses the funds to cover qualifying educational costs. Meanwhile, the latter allows you to lock in current tuition rates for your child, even if they won’t be attending school for years to come.
All states offer some type of 529 plan, although education savings plans are by far the most common. Only a few states still offer prepaid tuition plans.
Canadians can use Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) to access benefits similar (but not identical) to those of an American education savings plan. One notable difference between RESPs and 529 plans is that withdrawals of gains are taxed but at the student’s (typically quite low) income tax rate.
American 529 plans are sponsored at the state level. For example, Illinois has the Bright Start 529 Plan while Ohio and Virginia offer CollegeAdvantage and Invest529, respectively. You can also invest in a state-sponsored plan through an institution like Wells Fargo or Merrill Edge.
- Tax advantages
- Can help hedge against rapidly-rising tuition costs
- Choose from a variety of plans and providers to suit your needs
- Rules surrounding withdrawals and qualifying uses are very strict
How to invest with little money via education investment accounts
This is another small investment idea you’d be wise to consult an advisor about before making a decision. There are many, many options (particularly in the United States), and choosing the wrong one could cost you down the road.
Particularly, ask your advisor whether you should choose a self-directed plan (where you choose the investments) or one that invests your money in a professionally-crafted portfolio (i.e. age-based funds).
Once you’ve identified the right plan, enroll and consider setting up automatic monthly contributions. Many providers will waive their minimum investment requirements (if there are any in the first place) when you do.
15. Online businesses
Money needed: Varies wildly but can be $100 or less depending on what type of business you start.
The small investment ideas we’ve discussed so far are great in that they require relatively little work. When buying stocks with little money, for example, you’re relying on the brilliant ideas of CEOs and other executives to grow your investment.
If you have a brilliant idea of your own, however, using your money to get it off the ground could produce greater returns than you’d ever achieve elsewhere. Of course, starting a business requires much more than money. You’ll also have to invest lots of time and energy. Perhaps you’ll need to pick up a new skill or two. But starting your own business can be an incredibly fulfilling experience – especially if you succeed.
While there are businesses you can start in the physical world with little money (i.e. mowing grass or shoveling snow), your options online are endless. Popular ideas include:
- Publishing eBooks
- Dropshipping via Shopify
- Reselling thrift store items on eBay
- Selling your skills as a service, such as:
- Web development
- Graphic design
- Freelance writing
- The right idea, executed well, can grow your investment to degrees not possible with stocks, ETFs, or mutual funds
- Can be incredibly satisfying
- Requires lots of effort
- Success can take years to achieve
- It’s not uncommon to lose your initial investment on a failed idea
How to invest with little money via your own online business
It’s worth pointing out that this is among the riskiest small investment ideas. As such, carefully consider whether you can afford to lose those funds entirely. Most online businesses fail and even entrepreneurs that succeed don’t always do so on their first attempt.
You can improve your odds somewhat by carefully researching your business idea before spending even a dime. Is there a market for it? Are you up against competitors that have been dominating the space for years? What will set your solution apart?
It can be tough to slow down and ask these questions when you’re convinced you’ve got the next Amazon up your sleeve. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache by doing so, however.
Your path forward beyond this point will vary based on the type of business you’re starting. As a general tip, research how people running similar businesses have gotten started. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel if you don’t have to.
16. Online courses
Money needed: Basic courses are typically $50 or less per month. Full-fledged certificate programs from major universities can cost $2,000 or more.
Starting a business isn’t for everyone. Thankfully, there are other methods of investing in yourself that could improve your financial situation more rapidly than relying on economic markets alone.
Say, for example, that you paid $2,000 for an online certificate program in software engineering and then subsequently landed a job that pays $80,000 per year. That’d represent an astronomical return on your investment, particularly as you continue to develop in your new career.
This is a path worth considering if you’re unhappy with your current career situation. If you can gain skills that help you upgrade your income by shattering roadblocks in your industry – or switching paths altogether – you won’t be limited to pursuing small investment ideas for very long.
Schools like Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offer short online courses through a site called GetSmarter. If you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend, though, check out LinkedIn Learning, which costs $300 per year or $30 if you pay monthly. Udemy is another popular option, with courses starting at less than $20 each.
- Earn substantial returns on your investment if your course leads to higher income
- Receive the satisfaction of developing personally and professionally
- Many courses are low-commitment and self-paced
- Your company may help pay for your course if your new skills would benefit them
- Accredited university courses offering certifications typically cost $2,000 or more
- Returning to an educational environment can be tough (but by no means impossible) if you’ve been out of school for decades
How to invest with little money via online courses
Your first step should be to find a course that will help you progress towards a fulfilling and well-paying job with decent prospects for growth. Some of the most in-demand fields include software, healthcare, engineering, finance, and human resources but there are many others.
Once you’ve found a course that interests you, getting started is as simple as signing up, paying your tuition, and proceeding with your studies. If the skills you’ll be learning will make you more adept at your current company, it’s worth inquiring as to whether they’ll contribute money towards the program.
Money needed: Typically less than $30.
Books are a great option for gaining knowledge without the time commitment of courses. They can offer insights into the minds of the most brilliant people on earth, helping shift your worldview in advantageous ways.
The best part? You can find a book about anything. Lately, I’ve been enjoying economic history books such as:
- Capitalism in America by Alan Greenspan
- Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
- The Big Short by Michael Lewis
- Stress Test by Tim Geithner
These books have shaped my perspectives on financial crises in ways that I feel have made me a more informed investor. Particularly, I found that they helped me weather the 2020 stock market crash quite well because they offered insights that may not have been obvious to anyone who hadn’t studied previous crashes. In this situation alone, the ROI on those books was in the tens of thousands of dollars, as of writing (I expect it to be much more than that when all is said and done). Not bad, considering those books collectively cost me less than $200.
Here are some more good non-fiction books that I found helpful for progressing career-wise and personally:
- The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini
- Gain insights from the world’s most brilliant minds for a very modest amount of money
- Requires less time and effort than taking a full course would
- There aren’t any major cons to speak of; just make sure you choose books from reputable authors that fact-check their work
How to invest small amounts of money via books
All of the small investment ideas we’ve covered so far have come with the recommendation that you do as much research as possible and consult an advisor before proceeding. Books require pretty much none of that.
Personally, if I get even the slightest inkling that a book might be a good investment, I buy it. The times I’ve been correct have led to many thousands of dollars in indirect benefits. When I’ve been wrong, I at least got to sharpen my critical thinking skills.
You really can’t go wrong, though, as long as you do some preliminary research to ensure the author knows what they’re talking about.
18. Peer-to-peer lending
Money needed: Ranges from $25 to $1,000 depending on the platform.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending involves you as an investor issuing loans to parties who can’t or don’t want to borrow from a traditional lender. You’ll receive interest ranging from about 6% all the way up to 35% and beyond depending on factors such as the borrower’s credit rating and length of the loan term.
P2P lending is facilitated by privately-owned websites such as:
Now, in the interest of transparency, you should know that many investors (including me) aren’t huge fans of P2P lending. Your pool of available borrowers is dictated by whatever policies your website of choice has adopted, which may not always be in your best interest. Check out this article from TechCrunch to learn more about some of the pitfalls P2P lenders have faced in other parts of the world.
All of this being said, P2P lending is something that inevitably comes up in discussions about how to invest with little money. As such, it’s worth mentioning. You and your advisor can decide whether it’s right for you.
- Earn high interest
- Many platforms allow early withdrawals as long as another investor is willing to take your place
- Generally-loose regulations leave you with little recourse against borrowers who can’t repay
- Your investment is generally not protected by deposit insurance, which can be disastrous if the P2P website goes bankrupt
How to invest with little money via peer-to-peer lending
If you’ve spoken with an advisor, done your research, and are certain that P2P lending is a suitable small investment for you, start by signing up with a reputable platform. Then, look at the various loans available for you to fund. P2P investors often find success in creating a portfolio of several different loans to mitigate the risk of losing all their money due to a handful of defaults.
Investments and schemes to avoid when you have little money
Now that you know about some of the best ways to invest small amounts of money, let’s discuss assets and schemes that no advisor in their right mind would recommend. These are all tempting when you’re investing with little money but can lead to disastrous consequences, especially if you’re brand new to markets.
1. Pyramid schemes masquerading as “trading algorithms”
This is a very common scam I’ve witnessed in stock, forex, and cryptocurrency markets alike. It grinds my gears because the scammers grossly mislead new investors as to the nature of markets.
Here’s how it works.
A company will claim to have some revolutionary “trading algorithm” or “system” that produces absurd returns – and it’s all yours for a few hundred bucks. Plus, they say, if you convince a certain number of people to sign up with you, you’ll climb through the ranks and be making many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in no time.
Here’s a fun fact. Everything that comes after “plus” is what the scam is really all about. The “algorithm” is just bait. Its underlying code almost certainly doesn’t do much of anything impressive.
Read more about pyramid schemes via this post from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Most, if not all, of the pyramid scheme hallmarks in that article apply to this type of “trading algorithm” scam.
What to do instead
First, come to terms with the fact that no algorithm is going to generate returns of 100% or more for you per year in any reliable way (which is what these scams typically promise). Even the best investors on earth struggle to match the overall U.S. stock market’s performance of around 8%. Do you really think they’re dumber than some webinar vulture pushing software that looks like it hasn’t been updated since 2008?
Plus, no legitimate brokerage on earth is going to promise you riches through its affiliate program.
With all of that in mind, remember that you can achieve decent hands-off returns using a robo-advisor, which we discussed earlier in this article. You won’t become rich overnight – but you also won’t get scammed out of your money, either.
2. Anything involving substantial leverage
In simple terms, leverage involves using a loan to boost your potential investment returns.
Mortgages are a classic example of leverage. You combine your downpayment with a loan from the bank to purchase an asset you couldn’t otherwise afford. But what often seems like a great opportunity can become a nightmare when things go south. That’s the very abridged version of what happened in 2008 when millions of homeowners defaulted on mortgages they really shouldn’t have had in the first place. Banks went bust and families lost everything. Not fun.
As you dive deeper into investing, you’ll run into more complex (and potentially more disastrous) types of leverage. Short selling (betting that a stock will decline) is a great example. In knowledgeable hands, it can generate massive returns. If you don’t know what you’re doing, though, you can easily end up owing many multiples of your initial investment. This happens all the time (here’s a story about someone who ended up owing $106,000) yet people continue to ignore the warning signs and get caught up in greed.
What to do instead
In my opinion, avoiding a leveraging nightmare all comes down to being realistic about your goals and expectations. If you set out to turn $1,000 into $100,000 overnight or something crazy like that, there’s a high probability that you’re going to get burned.
All that said, if you want the best shot at growing your small investment rapidly, speak with an advisor about the U.S. stock market. It won’t make you rich overnight but it is among the best-performing asset classes in the world. Putting your own money into it can be rewarding and substantially less stressful than gambling with money that’s not yours.
3. Overly speculative assets
Speculation, in the investing sense, involves attempting to predict and profit from an asset’s price fluctuations without accounting for its fundamental value (or lack thereof). This behavior can be very tempting because it offers the prospect of turning a little money into a lot overnight. However, speculation also comes with substantially greater risk since it encourages investors to ignore potential warning signs.
For example, cryptocurrency speculators in the late 2010s ignored the sector’s many glaring red flags and poured money into assets that had no discernible value based on anything other than price. The ensuing speculative bubble saw cryptocurrency’s market capitalization (the market value of all assets in the sector) climb to $800 billion by early 2018. By the end of the year, it had fallen below $100 billion. Some people (including myself, for full transparency) made lots of money selling these assets at their peak. Others lost their entire life savings.
At the time, that situation drew many comparisons to the tulip mania of the 1630s, often considered the first recorded speculative bubble in history. The flower became highly sought-after in Western Europe, with some willing to pay as much as $750,000 for the best examples. As you can imagine, this attracted investors, who began leveraging themselves to buy bulbs en masse. This quickly turned disastrous when tulip bulbs declined in value and heavily-indebted investors were unable to sell their tulips for even a fraction of what they paid.
The old investing adage of “past performance is no guarantee of future results” tends to be ignored by those looking to get rich amid speculative bubbles like these two.
What to do instead
There’s nothing wrong with hoping that an asset you purchase will become worth more later on. In fact, that’s the basis of investing. Things can go off the rails when you get greedy and try to turn quick, massive profits with investments you choose solely based on the hype surrounding their price fluctuations. Again, sometimes it works out – but the odds aren’t in your favor.
If you’re looking to grow your money quickly, work with an advisor to assemble an appropriate portfolio of stocks. You might be surprised at how quickly your portfolio grows when you regularly make even small contributions. Plus, your portfolio’s performance will be much more stable than you’d find with purely speculative assets.
Frequently asked questions
You have a few options. Robo-advisors are among the most popular since they do most of the work and often allow you to get started with as little as $1. If you want to be more involved in selecting assets, you can sign up with a discount brokerage and purchase low-priced or fractional stocks and ETFs. Lastly, you can invest in low-minimum mutual funds, either on your own or through an employer-sponsored retirement account.
This is a difficult question to answer since every investor’s situation is unique. The best stock for you will depend on your goals, investing timeline, risk tolerance, and several other factors. That said, Warren Buffett – the world’s most famous investor – has gone on record as saying that S&P 500 index funds are the best investment for most people. The S&P 500 is a collection of America’s 500 largest publicly-traded companies.
While the answer depends on your situation, popular options include savings accounts, CDs, and short-term U.S. government bonds. You should also consider investing in yourself by taking an online course that can help you progress career-wise.
First things first, you’re not going to pull this off in the stock market unless you’re an incredibly prodigious stock picker. Personally, if I was going to attempt this, I’d start an online business selling a product with high-profit margins. My second choice would be to take a short online course that might lead to a $1,000 per month raise or promotion.
Savings accounts, CDs, and U.S. bonds are three very safe options. It’s highly unlikely that you’d lose money in any of those three as long as you follow the rules.
This is a very popular question, especially among people who have limited funds and are nervous about getting started.
In terms of the market’s condition, many professionals warn against trying to time your entry by waiting for a “better” price point. The market could easily continue to rise while you sit with your money on the sidelines.
What you might consider instead is dollar-cost-averaging. This involves regularly investing smaller chunks of money at regular intervals (say, when you get paid every two weeks) to account for market fluctuations.
Now, whether it’s the right time for you to invest is a different question altogether. You should speak with an advisor about your financial situation, including any debt you may have, before making a decision.