A common misbelief is that one must be rich to invest. It’s easy to invest with little money in a variety of assets and save for your goals. More platforms let you “micro invest” and purchase small amounts of expensive assets.
Even if you only invest a few dollars each month, that money can start building wealth.
Consistently investing small amounts can be more effective than waiting to accumulate a lump sum because you can earn compound interest.
Some people may never invest because they don’t think they have enough money.
Best Ways to Start Investing with Little Money
It’s possible to invest as little as $5 at a time and diversify your portfolio. As your financial situation improves, you can increase your monthly investments and try more ideas.
1. Invest in Index Funds
Investing in index funds can be the best option to start investing small amounts of money.
First, index funds let you invest in hundreds of companies with a single investment to quickly diversify your portfolio and minimize risk.
Second, most index funds have low investing fees and expense ratios. For example, a fund with a 0.03% expense ratio costs 30 cents in annual fees.
Most brokers don’t charge trade commissions to buy or sell index funds. Paying fewer fees means you can invest more cash.
Some of the types of index funds you can invest in include:
- US stocks
- International stocks
- Emerging markets
- Corporate bonds
- Government bonds
- Real estate investment trusts (REITs)
The various online stock brokers offer stock and bond index exchange-traded funds (ETFs). These funds trade like individual stocks. The share price fluctuates during the market day and you can buy shares at any time.
Your 401k provider likely offers index mutual funds. The investing strategy is the same except the share price updates once a day after the stock market closes.
Most online brokers offer index funds and don’t charge any trade commissions. However, some can be easier to invest with when you have little money.
Minimum Investment: $5 (varies by broker)
Using a robo-advisor like Betterment can be one of the easiest ways to invest in index funds. This fully-automated investing app automatically rebalances your portfolio to maintain your target asset allocation.
You can also enable tax-loss harvesting to minimize your taxable investment income by selling investment losses to offset your investment gains.
You will answer several questions about your age, investment goals and risk tolerance to recommend an investment portfolio of stock and bond index ETFs.
As you grow older, Betterment shifts your portfolio to a more conservative allocation.
Not having to manage your portfolio is one advantage of using a robo-advisor when you don’t have the time or desire to self-manage your investments.
Betterment also offers fractional investing so you can buy partial shares of funds to instantly diversify your portfolio.
Other brokers may require you to buy whole shares which makes buying multiple funds at once difficult if you have limited funds.
You can create a portfolio with $0 and start investing with a $10 initial deposit. The annual account fee for Betterment is 0.25% of your portfolio value.
Another unique way to invest in index funds is by using Acorns. This micro-investing app invests your spare change by rounding up your debit and credit card purchases.
You can choose to invest in a premade portfolio of stocks and bonds with different risk levels.
Acorns buys fractional shares of index ETFs when with as little as $5. Taxable and retirement investment accounts are available along with an online checking account.
Monthly plan fees range between $1 and $5 per month.
2. Workplace Retirement Accounts
A workplace retirement account such as a 401k, 403b or a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), this can be the best place to start investing with little money. See if your employer offers matching contributions. If so, invest enough each month to earn the full match and invest “free money.”
If your workplace doesn’t offer a retirement plan or matching contributions, you can open an individual retirement account (IRA). Most brokers offer IRAs with no account fees or minimum initial deposits. You have multiple investment options.
One perk of investing with a retirement account is the tax benefits. You only pay taxes once. Traditional contributions reduce your current annual income, grow tax-deferred and you pay income taxes when you make a withdrawal. Roth contributions require you to pay income taxes upfront but your withdrawals are tax-free.
Your workplace retirement account investment options can include:
- Stock index mutual funds
- Bond index mutual funds
- Target date funds
- Company stock
The investment options are different for each employer yet most plans offer target date funds. Choosing a target date fund that’s nearest to your planned retirement year can be a good option. The fund invests in stocks and bonds and adjusts to a conservative risk tolerance as retirement approaches.
If you only decide to invest in a target date fund, you won’t have to rebalance your asset allocation. However, you should monitor the target date fund performance. You may also decide to self-manage your portfolio by buying index funds to reduce your investment fees.
You can invest as little as $1 at a time into each fund. If you’re uncomfortable managing your own retirement account, Blooom can provide a free portfolio analysis and recommend a portfolio allocation.
Minimum investment: $1
3. Individual Stocks
After establishing an index fund portfolio, you may decide to buy stock in individual companies. There are many online brokers to choose from and most don’t charge account fees or trade commissions to buy or sell shares.
You may decide to buy dividend-paying stocks to earn consistent passive income. Another option is holding companies with strong growth potential that can beat the stock market but may not pay a dividend.
M1 Finance is one of the best free investing apps. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and ETFs with a minimum $25 investment. There are also premade ETF portfolios that can make it easier to diversify. As you invest new money, M1 rebalances your asset allocation.
The minimum initial deposit is $100 for taxable accounts and $500 for retirement accounts to start using M1 Finance.
You can also consider investing with Charles Schwab. You can buy fractional stock slices as small as $5 for many stocks and there are no trade fees or account minimums. But, you will need to self-manage your investment portfolio.
Minimum investment: $5
Tip: Using one of the top investment sites can make it easier to research stocks.
4. Crowdfunded Real Estate
Real estate is a longstanding way to earn passive income without relying on the stock market. However, owning investment properties is expensive and can be time-consuming.
Thanks to real estate crowdfunding, you can invest small amounts of money into commercial and multi-family real estate. These properties have multiple tenants and can provide a more stable income than a single-family rental property. A property manager screens the tenants, collects rent and makes repairs.
You can earn recurring dividends from monthly rent payments. It’s also possible to make money when a property sells for a higher value than the original purchase price.
DiversyFund is one of the best crowdfunding platforms. You can start investing as little as $500. The Growth REIT lets you invest in multifamily apartments across the United States.
One downside of crowdfunded real estate is the multi-year investment commitment. Most platforms require a five-year investment to avoid early redemption fees. As a tradeoff for the long-term commitment, you can earn annual returns that compete with the historical S&P 500 average return of 7% per year.
Minimum investment: $500
5. Small Business Bonds
The bond index funds you invest in hold corporate and government debt. Investing in small business bonds can help you earn a higher yield. Worthy Bonds yield 5% per year and let you invest as little as $10 at a time.
Each bond matures in 36 months but you can sell your position sooner with no early withdrawal penalty.
Read our Worthy Bonds review to learn more.
Minimum investment: $10
6. High-Yield Savings Accounts
It’s wise to keep cash that you need instant access to in a high-yield savings account. Banks are a low-risk way to earn passive income but your returns are not as high.
You might consider keeping your emergency fund in a high-yield savings account that doesn’t charge any account fees. Also, consider opening separate “sinking fund” accounts for various savings goals to avoid borrowing money. A savings account can also be a good place to park cash until you decide where to invest it and earn a higher potential return.
Ally Bank has a competitive interest rate for the high-yield savings account. There are no account fees or minimum balance requirements. The Surprise Savings booster tool can help you calculate a “safe-to-spend” amount and transfer your extra cash into savings.
Minimum investment: $1
7. Certificates of Deposit
Investing in stocks and bonds can provide higher investment returns but carry more risk. A bank certificate of deposit locks in a specific interest rate for the investment term. For example, a 12-month term CD has the same interest rate for the next 12 months.
Instead of keeping your free cash in an interest-bearing savings account, consider opening a bank CD with a similar or higher interest rate.
If the savings account interest rate drops, the CD can earn more interest until the CD matures. Most CDs have early redemption penalties if you withdraw the cash before the term ends. At the end of the term, you can redeem your CD balance penalty-free or renew the CD at the then-current term.
Some banks, including CIT Bank, offer no-penalty CDs. These CDs don’t charge an early withdrawal penalty but may offer lower yields than a term CD.
As bank interest rates are low, the passive income you earn from CDs can be lower than the inflation rate. But earning some interest income can be better than nothing.
Minimum investment: $100
8. Peer-to-Peer Investing
You earn income from savings accounts and bank CDs as the bank lends your money at a higher interest rate. Peer-to-peer lending platforms let you earn a higher rate as you lend directly to the borrower and bypass the bank.
Prosper lets you invest in crowdfunded personal loans with a three-year or five-year repayment term. Borrowers make monthly payments and you make money from the interest payment, minus a 1% service fee. The historical annual returns are between 3.5% and 7.6%.
You can lose money if the borrower defaults on the loan. To avoid losing money, Prosper lets you buy notes in $25 increments and recommends a $2,500 initial investment to properly diversify. You can invest in multiple loans to diversify your portfolio.
Prosper also assigns each borrower a risk rating and you can see basic credit profile details. There’s also an auto-invest feature that spreads your investment across multiple risk ratings. You might be able to easily diversify your portfolio by auto-investing and avoid investing in too many risky loans.
Minimum investment: $25
9. Physical Gold
Precious metals such as physical gold and silver are a popular alternative asset. Unless you invest in gold royalty stocks, you won’t earn dividend income. You make money by selling your precious metal investments above your purchase price.
Buying gold coins and bars can be one of the best ways to invest in gold. Physical gold is expensive and you may not be able to buy an entire ounce or gram at once.
Vaulted lets you buy fractional shares of physical gold bars. Your stash is held at the Royal Canadian Mint. Once your balance is high enough, you can request FedEx delivery to receive your physical gold. There is a 1.8% transaction fee to buy or sell and a 0.4% annual maintenance fee.
It’s also possible to invest in gold trust ETFs that trade on the stock market. Most investing apps let you trade these funds. The share price mimics the price of physical gold.
But most gold ETFs don’t offer physical delivery as the fund family owns the bullion.
Minimum investment: $10
When you’re deciding what to invest in first, cryptocurrency probably isn’t going to be at the top of the list. After all, this digital asset is highly volatile and doesn’t earn interest.
Many people who buy crypto do so as an alternative to stocks and gold.
For example, you might buy cryptocurrency as a way to diversify once you hold a sufficient amount of stocks, index funds and gold.
The most popular cryptocurrency is Bitcoin. This cryptocoin has the best name recognition and more merchants accept it as payment instead of paper currency.
There are other “alt-coins” like Ethereum that can also be worth owning if you believe in the long-term potential of cryptocurrency.
It has been fairly difficult to buy cryptocurrency but more platforms are making it easy to buy cryptocurrency. PayPal and Square let you buy Bitcoin and use it to pay for purchases.
However, you won’t be able to move your Bitcoin balance off of their platform.
Another easy way to buy cryptocurrency is through an online broker like eToro. You can trade cryptocurrency futures after a minimum $50 initial deposit.
EToro also lets you copy the investment portfolios of experienced cryptocurrency investors which can improve your income potential.
A third way to buy cryptocurrency is using a digital currency exchange such as Coinbase. Buying directly from an exchange lets you own real Bitcoin and alt-coins. You can transfer them to a cryptocurrency wallet for added security from hackers.
No matter where you decide to buy cryptocurrency, you can buy fractional shares of Bitcoin and other coins. Investment minimums and transaction fees vary by platform.
Minimum investment: $2 (varies by platform)
11. Treasury Bonds
Most investors get exposure to government bonds by holding bond index funds in their brokerage account or 401k workplace retirement plan.
As bonds can be pricey and confusing to buy, bond funds make it easy to earn passive income.
You can have more control over which bonds you own by buying U.S. Treasury bonds. You can choose the maturity date. Each Treasury bond has a $100 minimum investment with a maturity date of up to 30 years.
It’s also possible to buy Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPs) as a hedge against future inflation.
Another option is purchasing Series I or Series EE Savings Bonds. Both types of savings bonds have a $25 minimum investment.
You can buy Treasury bonds from TreasuryDirect.
Minimum investment: $100 for Treasury notes and bonds ($25 for savings bonds)
12. Fine Wine
A long-term investing idea is owning fine wine. You can open a standard portfolio at Vinovest with a $1,000 minimum initial investment.
Vinovest automatically builds your wine portfolio making it easy to start if you’re unfamiliar with wine investing.
Each bottle in your portfolio remains in climate-controlled cellars across the world and is insured against damages. You decide when to sell your wine. It’s possible to request delivery if you want to open a bottle.
Collectible wine can increase in value as it ages and the scarcity of unopened bottles increases. Wine investing is like owning physical gold and doesn’t earn dividend income.
It can take up to 30 years to earn the best value before you sell a bottle.
Minimum investment: $1,000
13. Fine Art
Another unique investment option is investing in fine art. Masterworks lets you buy shares in classic and modern pieces with a $1,000 minimum investment.
The holding period for most pieces is between three and ten years. You earn a profit if the piece sells for a profit.
Due to the relatively high initial minimum investment and waiting years to earn income, you may invest small amounts of money in other ideas first to make money fast.
Minimum investments: $1,000
There are many ways to start investing little money today and earn recurring income. Many platforms have small minimum investments which make it easy to try several ideas and diversify your portfolio.
As you increase your income, you can boost your monthly investment.
How do you invest your money? Which idea are you going to try first?
Josh is a personal finance writer and Founder of MoneyBuffalo.com. He has been featured in publications like Student Loan Hero, Well Kept Wallet and the US News and World Report.