Investing has become a lot more accessible over the past decade — thanks largely to investing apps. These apps have helped connect millions of families to investing, such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
As a parent to a three-year-old and an uncle many times over, this feels like a key answer to a big problem — how do we build wealth to safeguard the financial future of our kids?
But not all investing apps for kids are created equal. Each app has its own set of pros and cons, and the right investing app for me and my family might not work for you and yours.
That’s why I thought it’d be helpful to share my own experience in hunting for the best investing apps for the kids in my life. This guide will explain what an investing app is, what sort of features you should be looking for, and information on the best investing app I’ve used.
Simply put, an investment app is a mobile or in-browser app that lets you invest in financial markets. You can use these apps to purchase investments, such as stocks (shares of a company) or exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Then, you can manage those investments on your phone, tablet, laptop, or just about anywhere else.
Many years ago, you had to call a stockbroker to make trades for you. That took time, involved middlemen, and was costly. Thanks to investing apps, you can simply unlock your smartphone, tap your screen a couple of times, and instantly buy, sell, or trade investments.
Investing apps have surged in popularity over the last three years — due in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, there were roughly 61.9 million users of investing apps. In 2021, that figure is said to have doubled to 150 million.
So, why are people flocking to investing apps?
Investing apps are easy to use — and that’s the major benefit of getting started on an investment app. You don’t need any sort of advanced college degree, nor any certifications, to figure out how to use them. The best-designed investing apps are simple, and a lot of them feature quick explainers that'll guide you along the way.
When I first started checking out investing apps for my kid, I already knew what individual stocks and bonds were. But if you don’t, make sure you select a service that will walk you through your options.
A good investing app makes saving as straightforward as placing an order on Amazon (with a bit more risk, of course).
Just like Amazon, investing apps are also fast. With an app, you can turn cash into an investment almost instantly. You’re not waiting on hold for a stockbroker. You’re in the driver’s seat, so you can generally buy, sell, or trade when you want to.
Finally, investment apps are affordable. You’re not paying brokers huge commissions to press a button for you. In fact, some investing apps don’t take a commission at all — and even the ones that do are fairly low-cost.
There are a lot of investing apps out there. But not every app is going to be the perfect fit for you and the kids in your life. I probably wasted weeks downloading different investing apps, playing with them for a few days, and then deleting them because they were too tricky to use or didn’t accomplish what I needed.
That’s why it’s important to do your research and understand how each app works before you start investing. Here's what I learned from all of my app fails — and one success.
I’ve already talked about ease of use a lot — but I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. If you’re like me, then you’re already busy enough keeping up with your kids. Investing for your kids shouldn’t have to be difficult and time consuming. You work, keep your kids busy, and have a few hours each week to yourself. Do you really want to spend those hours fiddling around with an investing app trying to make one simple transaction?
I certainly don’t. That’s why I quickly gave up on some popular investing apps — and ultimately settled on EarlyBird (we’ll get to them in a minute). If you value your time like I do, you should only be considering investment apps that are easy to use and understand.
There’s nothing worse than downloading an investment app thinking you’re going to start building a nest egg for your kids, only to find that the app you’ve chosen doesn’t let you invest the way you want to.
Some apps out there have strict limits on what you can invest in or only offer one or two investment options. For many of us, these limited options won’t fit our risk tolerance, nor our planned return on investment.
That’s why you should focus your search on apps that let you make different investment decisions based on your own long-term investing strategy.
When I started looking for the best investing app for my son, cost turned out to be way more of an issue than I thought it'd be. Some apps charge a large fee, even on small trades. Others pressure you to upgrade to premium packages with monthly maintenance fees greater than the cost of most streaming services.
Fortunately, not all apps are like this. After lots of digging, I found a couple of apps with cheaper trading fees and more simplified pricing structures — and almost no maintenance fees. Do yourself a favor and don’t spend more money than you have to. Choose an investing app with affordable costs and no hidden fees.
After trying and testing about a dozen investing apps, there’s one that ticked pretty much every box I had — EarlyBird. Let me explain why.
EarlyBird is a good-looking app that specializes in UGMA custodial accounts. UGMA custodial accounts are investment accounts that let you invest and hold assets for your kids until they become adults.
As the adult custodian of a UGMA, you’ve got to appoint a child beneficiary. You’re responsible for managing assets in the account until your kid reaches the “age of majority” — which is usually either 18 or 21, depending on the state.
After the child reaches that age, they can spend (or continue to hold) the investments you’ve been saving however they want. But one of the key benefits of a UGMA account is that the assets you invest become the legal property of the child. That means you both stand to save a lot of money thanks to the Internal Revenue Service’s Kiddie Tax (upwards of thousands of dollars).
Custodial accounts also have no contribution limits and flexible withdrawal rules, which I found preferable to 529 plans and custodial retirement plans. My boy is only three, so it feels pretty early to be deciding whether he’ll be going to college or planning for his retirement! With a custodial account, I don’t have to worry about those big life decisions right now — we have enough on our plate.
Unlike some other investing apps, EarlyBird gives you a choice between five fixed portfolios so that you can find one that fits your investment goals. These range from conservative (100% bond-based ETFs) to aggressive (100% equity-based ETFs), depending on your risk appetite, investment horizon, financial goals, and any other things that matter to you.
What really sold me was the ease-of-use element, though. Anybody can set up an EarlyBird account in just a few minutes, and managing the account is a simple process — done right in the app. It’s intuitive and well-organized. But just as importantly, gifting to an EarlyBird account is also easy.
With EarlyBird, literally anyone can contribute directly to a child’s EarlyBird account instantly. Other apps I tested required a relative to give money to me so that I could invest it on my son’s behalf. With EarlyBird, my brother-in-law, aunt, mom, and dad can all invest directly in my kid’s EarlyBird account without me lifting a finger.
They can then personalize those gifts, which I know my son will love when he gets older. Each time you make a gift, you can add a photo or a video message — letting them know why you’ve done it and your hopes for their future.
But what really sealed the deal was the cost. EarlyBird has the easiest pricing structure I could find. It only costs $1 per month as a subscription for each child and a $2 processing fee if family and friends want to send your kid a gift. That’s it — which means more money to invest in your kids, right?
If you’re looking for a fast, easy, and low-cost way to invest for minors, using an investment app is definitely worth exploring. There are a lot of investing apps for minors out there. But not every app is going to be the perfect fit for you and the kids in your life. That’s why it’s important to understand how different apps work before you start investing.
If you’re looking for a flexible, easy-to-use, and personalized investing app that helps you to build a nest egg for your kids, EarlyBird is generally going to be your best bet — it certainly worked for me.
So, are you ready to start investing for the future? Download the EarlyBird app today.
Author: Marshall Hargrave
Marshall Hargrave is a former investment advisor with experience covering investing and corporate governance topics for the likes of Fortune Magazine, Yahoo! Finance, and TheStreet. As a serial entrepreneur, he’s advised startups across the world, from Hawaii to Italy. He has a 3-year-old son and lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he now specializes in writing about personal finance and entrepreneurship. When he’s not writing in his favorite coffee shop, Marshall spends time as a disc golf, dodgeball, and electric bike enthusiast.