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Over the past year, the pandemic has completely changed the world — not only from a global health standpoint, but also economically as well. The market dropped to the lowest percentage it has ever been, thousands of businesses went under, and millions of people lost their jobs. If you're a college student, trying to make money coming out of the pandemic (especially if you are looking for a job) may sound far-fetched, but it turns out it is possible. As we gear up for the new school year, what better way to spend the days than by investing in stocks and making some money with a few buttons and a little market research? 

Learning about stocks may sound intimidating, so to help, I spoke with AJ*, who has been investing for the past two years and is a member of an investment social group with a portfolio of more than $5 million. AJ provided me with his suggestions for the best apps on the market right now that can help you reach your financial goals. If you're interested in learning more for yourself, here are the four best apps for investing in stocks.

Related: 6 Things the Pandemic Taught Me about Investing

If you're new to investing, know that you do not have to be an expert on stocks — or a lot of money — to start the process. According to AJ*, you can start with $100 and allow that number to grow over time. Focus on the rate of return which, as defined by Investopedia, is the net gain or loss of an investment over a specified time period, expressed as a percentage of the investment’s initial cost. By looking at the number as a percentage rather than focusing on the value you currently have, you are less likely to feel like your investing is ineffective. For example, if you invest $100 and only get $20 in return, it’s not for nothing — that means you received 20 percent of a return on your investment, which is fantastic!

However, be wary of getting excited too fast as soon as you start making money and trading. Marketing news might be exciting especially if the news says the market is high for a specific firm or market, however, that stock could crash in an instant, so play it safe. Never trade immediately when the trading hours open because anything could happen; stocks could rise or crash as soon as the hours open. Give it a 20-to-30-minute wait post opening bell and closing hours, and trust your better judgment.

If you feel lost, you may want to join a trading group and find someone who you can discuss the market with. This is great for more knowledge about the market and for beginners. Now, on to the apps!

Robinhood

If you are just starting to invest, you likely don't want to deal with a monthly fee for using a platform, or deal with companies charging you a lot of money. Robinhood is a great app for beginners because it doesn’t require a fee to begin investing in stocks, unlike some others! As someone who actually uses the app, it was easy to start with investing $100 and allowing my initial investment to grow over time with only a few stocks.

E*Trade

Another app that's popular among stock investors is E*Trade. According to AJ, E*trade “is the most simple app and the easiest to navigate.” The app is great because it has an unlimited $0 commission, meaning you won’t be charged a commission on whatever you earn as you are investing.

E*Trade also provides a number of free resources to help you understand how to invest and shares articles about what companies might be good to invest in. They also provide great customer service, which is definitely a plus if you're a beginner!

TD Ameritrade

According to AJ, the TD Ameritrade app is the next best investment app after E*Trade. There isn’t much of a difference between the two in terms of function; they both have unlimited $0 commissions and provide a lot of great free resources for market research. In the stock world, E*Trade and TD Ameritrade are commonly pitted against each other for how similar both are and what they offer. 

Two key differences are that TD Ameritrade offers more options for investing in mutual funds, as well as the ability to invest in cryptocurrencies. Without overwhelming you, mutual funds are funds where multiple investors come together to “mutually” pool all of their money into buying more stocks (and it's often a less risky option). Other than that, they are quite similar, so it’s up to the user to determine their preference. 

Acorns

A final suggestion is the Acorns app, another trading platform similar to Robinhood that's great for beginners. By connecting your bank account and credit or debit card to Acorn, you can earn money towards your investments. And for every purchase you make, the app rounds your purchase up to the nearest dollar and that difference is invested into investment accounts of your choosing.

You can even schedule deposits and allocate a portion of your paycheck to go into your investment accounts with Acorns Spend. It’s a great option for those who want to invest money little by little!

Investing in stocks can seem extremely intimidating at first, especially because the market is so complex and takes some time to truly understand. Investing is unpredictable in so many ways, but investing just a little bit to start — and allowing your money to grow over time — can help you build up cash in the long run. So, if you're a college student who wants to hit new financial goals this season, check out these apps to get started.

Loralyn Narvaez is a California Native who previously attended UWB. Although she currently lives back in California, she served as Head Writer for the chapter publishing articles and writing her own. She recently graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications and a Business minor and was Campus Correspondent for HC UCSD. She is currently attending CSU Fullerton pursuing her Master's Degree in Communications. Her interests include cosmetics, fashion, food, literature, linguistics, and Asian culture.
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