September 29, 2020

How to invest $100: Small steps that can put you on the right path

Investing $100 has power! We're here to help you figure out options, including ETFs, stocks, no-fees, and more.

Money Stock Photo 2

$100 isn’t a huge investment, but successful investing is all about taking small steps on the right path. Let’s take a look at how to invest $100, if that’s all you’ve got to start.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

How to make your $100 investment go far

With the right investment strategy, your $100 can do some work. But the first goal for investing your $100, in whatever manner you choose, is to avoid fees.

It’s all too common to pay a fee for a service. For example, if you’re paying a $10 commission to buy stock on the stock market through a broker, you’ve immediately lost 10% in fees. Not good. When you’re investing $10,000 with a $10 commission, that’s acceptable: it’s just 0.1%. So at the $100 level, investing needs to be ultra-cost-effective.

First things first: no fees. At the $100 level, investing needs to be ultra-cost-effective.

We’ll, therefore, focus on free or lower-cost brokers and investment accounts, and work through other ideas. There may be viable other options. Even just keeping it in the bank means you’ll live to invest another day. But here are some considerations taken from advice from the investment community.

Oh, and hey, that $100 can be invested into yourself. Think education, tech, and experience. Good books and resources can take you further, keep you sharper, and help you avoid mistakes that might cost a lot more than $100.

Investing is hard, don’t be fooled. Some of the world’s best investors almost never sell their stocks, preferring to hold forever. Long-term plans based on research and education may be better than dipping your toe in with $100, so do take note of this option.

Tips for investing $100:

  1. ETFs
  2. Stocks
  3. Less common investments
  4. Education: investing in yourself
  5. Investing $100 techniques

1. Investing $100 in ETFs

ETFs are exchange-traded funds, also known as index funds, that allow you to take a broad investment in many shares at once. They are useful ways to invest in the market without needing to pick good stocks: ETFs just follow a selected index (like the entire S&P 500) in a single share.

ETFs: simple, powerful, low fees. They’re worth taking the time to understand.

ETFs have power because while they can follow trillion-dollar markets, individual shares may be very low. For instance, Vanguard’s Total World Stock ETF is listed as VWOB and is at the time of writing $80 on the NYSE. That means you can buy one share of it today, and save the $20 or so leftover for your next investment.

Another ETF, Vanguard’s best-performing ETF over the last 10 years in the US stock market ETF list is MGK, at a cost of $180 now. That’s more than $100, but gives you an idea of what $100 or thereabouts can get you.

Neither of these ETFs are provided as investment advice, just as examples of what big ETFs can be bought for around $100.

Why Vanguard? Well, not just Vanguard. But Vanguard is well-known, reputable, has no commission on its investment account for most ETFs, and its ETFs have competitive expense ratios. You’ll need a Vanguard Brokerage Account, which involves signing-up, proving your identity, and so on. But that’s the same everywhere. Blackrock has similar super-low fee ETFs under the brand iShares, but those go through Fidelity for commission-free trading. It’s your decision.

Finally, free brokerage apps like Robinhood or Charles Schwab will also let you buy some ETFs without commissions. Again, you’ll need to sign up, get the app or account, and go from there.

2. Investing $100 in stock

Robin Hood app on smartphone with money on background stock photo

Maybe you want to buy a single stock. While ETFs are like stocks, maybe you want to be a stock picker and buy stock in your direct choice. For example, Apple, Google (Alphabet), or Amazon, or Netflix. But! One share in Apple is $450 (ahead of a stock split). Google is $1,500. Amazon is $3,100. Your $100 can’t buy a single stock!

Now, you can buy cheaper stocks like, say, Starbucks for $8 a share, but again, if you really want to buy a share that costs more than your budget, there are ways to do so.

Buying one share or buying many fractional shares: new options open up the market.

You can buy these more expensive shares using fractional shares, which is an option offered by some brokers like Robinhood, M1 Finance, Betterment, Stockpile, and others.

What is a fractional share? It’s a piece or a fraction of a share, and they can be absolutely tiny, as small as one-thousandth of a share.

Robinhood offers fractional shares, stating that its aim is to open financial services to anyone, not matter the starting investment amount. Therefore, that service will let you buy a few fractions of Google or Amazon with your $100. And if Google goes up 10%, so will your fractions.

There are some minor differences that you should know: for example, owning regular stock gives you shareholder rights and the ability to attend meetings. However, for most people, while the downsides of fractional shares are real, it’s still a great way to get started as you upgrade towards buying a whole share of normal stock.

3. $100 in less common investments: Peer-to-peer lending, cryptocurrency (tread carefully)

Want to lend your money to someone else and earn some interest? That’s a form of investing, and it’s called peer-to-peer lending. This is a platform that lets you get started with only a small investment like $100 being lent out to someone that needs a loan.

Sound risky? It’s not perfect. Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is risky: people go broke all the time! That puts your $100 at more risk than keeping it in the bank, without any doubt. But you do get access to higher-yields than bank interest at a cost of around 1% or so. Not all P2P lenders let you get started with $100. Prosper is one option that lets you start with as little as $25.

Cryptocurrency is an area of investing that is extremely volatile and difficult to really trust

Cryptocurrency is an area of investing that is extremely volatile and difficult to really trust. That said, you can invest as little as a few dollars into an asset like Bitcoin. You don’t have to buy one whole Bitcoin! Bitcoin is hovering at well over $11,000 at the time of writing, but you can buy fractions. So, you can buy a few fractions of a Bitcoin up to $100 and you’ll be building your portfolio. You’ll need to jump through a few hoops if you sign up with the likes of Coinbase or other crypto providers or apps, but this is a necessary step to get your Bitcoin back into hard currency, so it’s worth the hassle.

Should you invest your money in P2P or crypto? Is it a good idea? We cannot give advice. These are just examples of less-conventional investments that can be made with $100.

4. Education: Investing in yourself

An image of books on a shelf with a brick wall behind them.

Now we come down to a bigger idea: investing that $100 into yourself. Books and resources that provide you with learning opportunities and help you avoid common mistakes will help.

Other ideas: Get yourself a pair of headphones to listen to regular finance and money podcasts to boost your understanding. Get your phone sorted out if it’s not reliable: get the battery life improved or battery fixed so you can focus, or fix the screen to make it readable. These are small things but they’re low-cost or free.

Not all education costs! There are free resources, too. Here’s a list.

Subreddits:

  • r/personalfinance — a big, busy subreddit covering budgeting to investing. Personal but always interesting.  Tip: Using this filter will limit topics to investing topics only.
  • r/investing — a focused subreddit but with investing news and views too. This list of FAQs is a great point to start, and come back to.
  • r/bogleheads — a small subreddit devoted to long-haul, passive investing champion John Bogle, founder of Vanguard.

Books:

Podcasts:

Apps:

Here’s a list of the best investing and finance apps, which include Acorns, Robinhood, Investing.com,  M1 Finance, JStock, MyStocks, and StockTwits.

5. $100 investment techniques: Dollar-cost averaging

Finally, this isn’t an idea for how to invest $100, but a technique for how to invest $100 regularly.

Dollar-cost averaging is where you invest in the markets at a regular interval with the same amount of money. Invest each week or each month. Why? The power is in regular investing. You aren’t trying to strike the best price, but you’re investing. It’s called DCA and it works. Here’s a Reddit discussion on the matter.

And, here’s an example:

  • You invest $100 every month on the 14th: September 14, October 14, November 14, etc. The day is the same, the amount is the same, and usually the investment choice (ETF, or stocks, and so on) is the same.
  • After 12 months, a year, you have invested $1200.
  • Each time your approach has bought a different number of shares in a stock, due to price fluctuations.
  • This way you aren’t attempting to time the market, but get more of your money into the market for a longer time, rather than waiting.

Dollar-cost averaging is a long-term approach and the very opposite of day trading. It’s not recommended by all, but it is a strategy that makes sense for many.