New to investing? These apps and services make it a breeze

Do your future self a favor: Download one of these ultra-simple investment apps

With much publicized stocks like Beyond Meat goosing the market beyond anyone’s wildest expectations, it’s easy to see how many people would be salivating at the opportunity to invest in the stock market. But where should you start?

According to financial advisers, stocks — shares of ownership in public companies — should be a part of most people’s portfolio of investments and assets. Fortunately, all it takes to get started these days is a few dollars and an internet connection.

Right now, there are a more than a dozen discount online brokerages that charge less than $7 per trade. They also offer research and allow you to do all the monitoring and trading without the need for a personal broker. Online brokerages range from relative newcomers like Web-based banker Ally to traditionalists like Charles Schwab. The best online brokerages are not only full service accounts, with alerts and company data, but they also will let you set up retirement savings and even offer banking services, including in some cases ATM withdrawals and free bill pay.

Here are our choices for the best reputable online brokers, plus a bonus for socially conscious investors:

TD Ameritrade

Best for: All levels of investors
Fees: $6.95 per trade

TD Ameritrade Mobile Trader
TD Ameritrade

Offering one of the widest arrays of options and features, TD Ameritrade delivers a lot in terms of viewing and analyzing your portfolio (if anything, too many options and too many menus). Customers looking to expand their knowledge base will find helpful videos, webcasts and tutorials aimed at both novice traders and experienced investors who want to deepen their knowledge or narrow their focus. There’s no required minimum and the features offered allow you to start as a novice and grow, all the way up to becoming a day trader, with customizable options, right down to the colors on-screen and a real-time dashboard.

TD Ameritrade also has a very flexible platform from which to launch your purchases and sales, allowing you to keep it simple or expand it to include custom alerts, stock picks based on criteria you select, and technical research from hundreds of providers. Want to test your stock-picking skills? TD includes paperMoney, a simulation for practicing trades without losing your shirt. The brokerage also offers some social media integration via Facebook and Twitter for connecting with the service, although we recommend you eschew any such connections for security reasons.

E*Trade

Best for: All-in-One Investors
Fees: $6.95 per trade

Power E*TRADE app

E*Trade has been around since the dawn of the internet, and in some ways it looks it. But it’s also one of the most stable online brokerages with a raft of services that will satisfy young, middle-age, and mature investors. The brokerage’s free mobile app is also a godsend. On the stock side, E*Trade includes all the usual options and a variety of ways to look at your investments, including a research platform that gives you quick access to consensus rankings and technical analysis.

There are also plenty of mutual fund options, as well as exchange-traded funds. Prudential investors can also open a IRA easily here, and those looking to have all their funds in one central place will find E*Trade offers savings and checking accounts, as well as associated online bill pay. It’s an all-around package of convenience that’s difficult to beat.

For stock investing only, E*Trade is on the pricier side, but heavy traders (more than 30 trades in a quarter) will see the fee drop to $4.95 per trade. Should you find you’re a whiz at investing (the site offers some tutorials and advice) and want more, E*Trade an automated robotic advisor, but you need to have $5,000 or more in your account.

Fidelity

Best for: New & novice investors
Fees: $4.95 per trade

Just because something is easy to use, doesn’t mean it’s not deep. Exhibit A is Fidelity, which should appeal to those just starting out, as well as more experienced investors who enjoy doing research. Fidelity is also something of a bargain; there’s no minimum opening balance, and trades are under $5. Most mutual funds, however, require an initial $2,500 investment. Still, with thousands of mutual funds and nearly 100 commission-free exchange-traded funds, there’s plenty of variety and investment options here even if you don’t like researching and picking individual stocks.

For those who do, Fidelity offers professional research reports from nearly 2 dozen firms, and the ETF research portal includes tools that will tell you what stocks comprise each fund. You can look for stocks on your own, based on up to 140 criteria, and create watch lists on the Web site that can also be viewed on mobile devices. In fact, Fidelity’s well-rounded app includes

the full range of trading options succinctly for buying and selling on your phone, as well as managing your accounts. You can check balances, read up on research, get push alerts, and tap into live prices.

Extra dividend: Investing for a good cause

For many people, investing isn’t just about making money, it’s about meaning. Indeed, there’s a growing group of investors who want to put their money where their mouth is by supporting companies that align with their values on issues like sustainability, income equality, and renewable energy. It’s a noble idea, but investigating and vetting every single company you’re interested in can be a vexing task. Fortunately, there are several specialized indexes and trading firms catering to so-called “impact investors.”

One of the more attractive upstarts in this area is Swell Investing. Swell doesn’t charge for trades. Instead, it levies an annual management fee based on a percentage of your total investment, which works out to be $7.50 per $1,000. There’s also a minimum investment of $50, but you don’t have to have thousands to own shares even in the more expensive companies. Swell aggregates shares so that investors have a direct, fractional ownership in the companies, according to Arianna Savant, who heads up product management at Swell.

What you get for the annual management fee is regular vetting of all the companies. There’s an Impactful 400 group you can participate in, or smaller more focused portfolios ranging from green tech to zero waste companies. Savant says Swell re-balances the offerings twice a year, examining how the companies align with the UN’s sustainable goals, how the company conducts itself, and whether there are any new controversies. You can even check on them yourself because Swell gives you an exact breakdown of each and every company (plus basic information) in the all impactful portfolios. If you’re looking to join, you can do so online or use the company’s iOS app, which launches later this month.

Computing

Facebook’s crypto isn’t a new Bitcoin, it’s Disney Dollars for a new world order

Facebook has already secured tens of millions in investments for its new cryptocurrency for Facebook known as Libra. The platform is still being developed, but has already brought in backing from Visa, Mastercard and PayPal.
Mobile

Protect and style your Samsung Galaxy S10 with the best cases and covers

If you've splashed the cash for a shiny new Samsung Galaxy S10, then you'll want to take steps to protect your investment. With a metal frame and glass curves, the S10 needs some cover. Check out the best Samsung Galaxy S10 cases.
Computing

Forget Facebook: These are the 5 weirdest cryptocurrencies you can buy today

Though cryptocurrency may sound like a big and serious topic, a few of its implementations are actually fun. From Shiba Inus to feline coins and everything in between, we've rounded up the most eccentric digital coins.
Computing

PowerPoint is easier than ever with Microsoft’s new A.I. tools

Microsoft's new A.I. tools for Office 365 users make mastering PowerPoint presentations easier than ever. The tools help you create stunning layouts, deliver data with impact, and brush up your delivery skills with smart coaching.
Photography

Sandmarc crams cinematic video flare into a tiny iPhone anamorphic lens

Looking for some unique flare for your iPhone videos? The Sandmarc iPhone Anamorphic lens captures a wider aspect ratio, oval bokeh, and horizontal flare. The new iPhone lens, designed for video, uses a clip or case-style attachment.
Computing

Want a PC you can reach out and touch? These are the best touchscreen laptops

The best touchscreen laptops aren't locked to 2-in-1s and convertibles, but include clamshell designs too. We pick the best touchscreen clamshells you can find in 2018, ranging from Windows 10 PCs to Chromebooks.
Photography

The 2019 class of camera phones is great, and we tested them to find the best

It's the middle of the year, which means it's time for a mid-year camera shootout to find the best among our top phones of 2019. We pit six phones against each other, including the OnePlus 7 Pro, Pixel 3a, and Galaxy S10 Plus.
Mobile

Ebook readers are more than just Kindles. Here are all the best options

If you're a bookworm, an ebook reader can be an important part of your life, one that allows you to read your books whenever and wherever you like. But which should you get? Here are the best ebook readers available.
Mobile

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Tesla Special Edition turns out to be a beautiful dream

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 may not be far away now, but there are still surprises in store. One that will not happen is a team-up with Tesla. A post on Weibo referenced what turns out to be an imaginative high-concept render by a YouTuber.
Cars

What is Apple CarPlay? Here's all you need to know about iOS in your dashboard

CarPlay is one of two major infotainment systems currently vying for your car's dash. Here's everything you need to know about the system, including its feature set and host of third-party apps.
Mobile

Crowdsourced interactive mapping app Waze gives you the lowdown on traffic

Waze is a free, ad-supported interactive navigation app with benefits. It calculates routes using social media crowdsourcing to alert you to current traffic conditions. Wazers act as the road's eyes and ears to alert other travelers.
Mobile

FedEx mistakenly rejects shipment of a Huawei phone to the U.S.

There has been confusion about what exactly the placement of Huawei on the U.S. Entity List means for private customers. Recently a tech writer who tried to ship a Huawei phone to the U.S. was surprised when the phone was returned to him.
Mobile

From true crime to comedy, here's our list of the best podcasts around

When you aren’t in the music mood, podcasts can be your ear candy. Whether you love to stay up-to-date on the latest news or want to know what’s happening in sports, you’ll find something on our must-listen-to podcast roundup.
Movies & TV

Netflix hack day project adds phone vibrations to every on-screen explosion

One of the highlights of the most recent Netflix hack day is Project Rumble Pak, which adds vibrations to the streaming service's smartphone app. The project seeks to improve the viewing experience by synchronizing haptics to content.