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The combination of apps and automation has made so many of our routine tasks so much more efficient.

When it comes to personal investment, they’ve also enabled us to enjoy a wealth of opportunities to fit any situation. This is especially the case with access to purchasing fractional shares on Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), which themselves are experiencing a surge of innovation.

Apps have made high-priced shares of Amazon.com (AMZN) or Facebook (FB) more accessible through micro-investing. They usually charge an account fee that covers most trading and administrative costs. Of course, investors should read the fine print before using an app, as a là carte charges may include commissions or other fees for advisors or broker-dealers.

We reviewed the Acorns app in a separate article. Now, presented for information purposes only, here are four handy personal investment apps that you may want to consider:

1. SigFig

This robo-investing platform acts like a middleman between investors, third-party brokerage accounts, and SigFig advisors.

SigFig offers a registered investment advisory service while your account is held at a brokerage, such as Charles Schwab, Fidelity or TD Ameritrade.

There are two services:

  • a free portfolio tracker, and
  • a managed account.

While both come with live phone and chat support, only the managed account includes automatic rebalancing, reinvesting, tax-loss harvesting, and access to a financial advisor. Although the annual fee generally covers trading costs, tax-loss harvesting may trigger a separate trade fee from the brokerage.

Account Fee: 0.25% annually for managed accounts with $10,000 or more
Account minimum: $2000 for managed accounts

2. Stash

Broker-dealer Stash Invest offers more than 30 themed investments that can be narrowed down by risk tolerance and preference.

Stash likes to give quirky names to investments, probably as a distinction or maybe as a mnemonic. For example, the Schwab USA Dividend Equity ETF (SCHD) is called Delicious Dividends.

Almost all their themes are ETFs, except Roll with Buffett, which is stock in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway class B shares (BRK.B).

Account Fee: $1 per month for balances below $5000; 0.25% per year for $5000 or more
Account minimum: $5

3. Robinhood

The broker-dealer Robinhood app offers free trading for self-directed individual cash or margin brokerage accounts that trade USA-listed securities via mobile devices.

Be sure to check the itemized costs, such as the $50 per-trade fee for foreign-listed securities or $10 for a broker-assisted trade.

Most Nasdaq stocks can be traded free. By adding a stock to your watch list, you’ll receive notifications about dates for earnings reports and whether the share price has moved up or down.

The biggest downside is that newly released initial public offerings require a two-to-three-hour waiting period before purchasing, which is a problem if the stock is hot.

Also, no over-the-counter stocks are available for trading.

Account Fee: None, but again, watch for itemized costs
Account minimum: None

4. Swell Investing

Technically, this isn’t an app but a mobile investing platform backed by Pacific Life Insurance.

Swell features portfolios based on six United Nations sustainable development goals:

  • renewable energy,
  • green tech,
  • clean water,
  • zero waste,
  • healthy living, and
  • disease eradication.

Assets for each portfolio are rebalanced and reviewed every quarter to ensure they support the respective UN goal.

Folio — a broker-dealer and custodian service — manages the portfolios, and the flat fee covers both brokerage and advisory services.

One of Swell’s biggest advantages is it works with taxable accounts or an individual retirement account, with options for a traditional, Roth or SEP IRA.

Because Swell only permits investing in stocks and not ETFs, there are no expense ratios.

The downside is that most investments are small-cap stocks, which can make for volatile portfolios.

Account Fee: 0.75% per year for all accounts
Account minimum: $50

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