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How to Invest With (Almost) No Money

By Daniel B. Kline - Oct 16, 2017 at 6:31PM

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Every penny matters when it comes to saving for your future.

If you're broke, or just barely getting by, the idea of investing seems implausible. In reality, it's more possible than you think to invest even when you feel like you have no money.

Of course there's no such thing as a free lunch, and you can't literally turn nothing into an investment. What you can do is find ways to set aside even tiny bits, while maximizing every opportunity available to you.

A piggy bank sits on a calculator.

You may have money to invest even though you think you don't. Image source: Getty Images.

Does your job offer a 401(k)?

Many employers offer a match of employee contributions to a 401(k). This is literally free money that you only get if you put in your share. The numbers vary, but a typical offer might be that the employer matches your contribution, for up to 3% of your income.

If you take that offer, you immediately grow your income by 3%. You also get to dip a toe into the investing world by contributing money before it even hits your bank account.

Round up savings

Some people simply set aside their metal change and eventually bank that money for use in investments. Now there are apps like Acorns, which lets you round up every transaction you make, putting the extra into an investment account. If you buy a latte for $2.76, then you also add $0.24 to your investment account in a pain-free way.

Understand your income

There are many Americans who must devote nearly every penny to food, clothing, and shelter. In some cases, there's simply no fat to cut off the budget, and no money for investing or anything that's not an immediate need.

For many of us, though, not having any money to invest is a product of the choices we make. It's cliche to talk about how much money you'd have over time if you forgo a $4 latte each day and invest that amount instead, but the numbers don't lie.

It's worth skipping a trip, downgrading your car, or going without a non-necessity to put yourself on a path toward an easier future. Making sacrifices now to invest for tomorrow may hurt, but it's the right way to take care of yourself in the long term.

It starts with one share

If you want to invest in individual shares, the cost of making a trade, even at a discount brokerage, can be daunting. However, there are services that offer very low-cost trades, and in some cases, online brokers will offer free trades as a sign-up bonus. This is a situation where the best deals may not be advertised, so ask about the best sign-up offer you can get. And look at emerging services seeking to build market share by democratizing trading.

Money plus time equals success

If you find that what you thought was "no money" is actually "not that much money" and that you can invest, remember that historically, over time, the stock market has gone up. Don't worry about your portfolio's performance today, next week, or even next month: Over time, pennies become nickels, nickels become dimes, and eventually, you'll have dollars.

If you have little money to spare, one surefire way to make that not always be the case is to find a way to invest. Start small, but start. Seeing your money grow should provide inspiration to invest even more.

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