5 Websites That Help You Invest Smarter

Investing in the stock market can be a very lucrative endeavor. With a lot of knowledge and a little luck you can, as the old saying goes, put your money to work for you. The stock market has been compared to a farm where your money is like livestock you hope to multiply. It's been compared to a garden where your money is considered a seed that you can plant and watch grow. I'd compare it more to highway where you have an on ramp of your savings, an off ramp of your financial goal and in between are tons of rules, regulations and well hidden dangers to contend with.

All of these metaphors have a few key factors in common. If you don't know how to farm, garden, or drive, you will fail at all three. But no one started out a master farmer. Green thumbs are learned, not painted on, and getting your driver's license takes a bit of education itself. Similarly, with a little education and assistance, anyone can learn to invest their money with the least risk and the greatest potential reward.

If you're not already an investor it's probably for one of two reasons: Either you don't have much money to invest or it seems too risky. Indeed, the money you put into the stock market will be locked there for a little while. And you may not get it back. But these days there are a number of mobile apps and websites that aim to minimize the risk and give you, me and everyone other amateur the chance to invest.

Here are five mobile apps that put investing within everyone's reach, either by making it easier to pursue, simplifying your choices, offering great advice, or just making it inexpensive enough that you don't have to risk too much money. In fact, one of these sites lets you learn with play money, just to learn the ropes. Intrigued?

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5 5: Motif

Motif is a very interesting app that simplifies the professional investment strategy of investing in a theme, as opposed to a specific company, to the point where anyone with a smart phone can participate. The idea of investing in a group of companies within a theme is sort of limited diversification. Say you believe that the value of tomato sauce is going to go up and you want to get in on it. You have $100 to invest, and you face a decision: Will I invest in Hunts, Prego, or Heinz, or will I go supply-side and invest in the largest tomato farm in America? When you invest in a Motif, you don't have that decision to make. You split your $100 among all four options.

The Motif app analyzes economic trends and presents portfolios of up to 30 individual stocks. They have about 100 of these portfolios. You pick one, invest at least $250 and pay a fee of $9.95. Once you've done that you can customize the portfolio as much as you like.

4 4: Fidelity.com

Fidelity investments' website is useful for the absolute investing novice and the veteran. It's an excellent stock rating and education resource, as well as a dashboard for all your trades and research. It's never a good idea to get all your stock advice from one source, but that's easy to forget when you begin to access to wealth of information in the Fidelity knowledge center.

What sets Fidelity's website apart – besides their relatively low-cost trades for such a full website – is its rating system, which gives the opinions of many different advisers for each stock. Again, it's never a good idea to get all your information from one source.

3 3: Robinhood

The Robinhood app hasn't been released yet but it is very exciting and rightfully causing quite a buzz. What makes this app so special? One word: Nothing. Robinhood is the first app to offer $0 stock trading. You can buy and sell stocks absolutely commission free. This is unprecedented in the history of stock trading. Is it any wonder that there are legions of people awaiting Robinhood's release with excitement or fear?

Robinhood plans to make money by licensing its platforms to others and offering premium services at a fee. But, at the moment, it is the only planned way to trade for free and with no minimum balance. Seems that the Robinhood team takes their name seriously, putting wealth building in the hands of the everyman.

2 2: Sharebuilder.com

Capital One's Sharebuilder.com is on this list because, until Robinhood is released to the general public, it is the cheapest fully functional investment trading website available. It's a rather bare bones website, but that doesn't detract from its utility. Making a trade on Sharebuilder is quick, easy, and costs only $6.95.

Sharebuilder.com also allows you to easily set up a system whereby your trading account draws from a savings account. This simplifies transfers and makes it even easier to invest. Be warned, though; if you are a novice that also makes it easier to accidentally spend your money.

1 1: Wallstreetsurvivor.com

Successfully investing takes luck. But it also takes experience and education. How are you supposed to get that education without losing money on the stock market? Easy – by investing with play money on Wallstreetsurvivor.com.

The best way to describe wallstreetsurvivor.com is to call it a stock investment dojo. First you study their articles and videos, then you practice it with fake money just like a Karate student fights with pads on. And, just like a junior Karateka, as you advance you earn badges of honor. Unlike a martial artist these aren't belts. They're more like merit badges, displaying your literacy in a specific field of investing.

Unless you've got a personal fortune to invest it's best to start with fake money and take it seriously. Wallstreetsurvivor gives you that opportunity, and I suggest you take it.

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