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What are micro-investing apps?

Traditionally, investing in the stock market was reserved for those with sufficient capital to cover the minimum investment levels, market research and trading costs associated with buying and selling shares. The restrictions of traditional trading platforms tend to eliminate those who simply don't have enough cash to get started.

However, the launch of various micro-investing apps opens the door for those who only have small amounts to spend.

Using the 'coin-jar' philosophy of using small change to build up your savings, micro-investing allows would-be-investors to get started in share-based investments – with as little as $5.

Micro-investing apps are designed to be entry-level investment products. They're ideal for those who don't have a large sum of money and they allow investors to bypass the hassle of brokers, the cost of brokerage fees, and the time spent on market research.

The majority of micro-investing apps available encourage members to invest even the smallest amounts of money or commit to small, regular deposits that can be invested into a portfolio on their behalf.

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Best micro-investing apps

Here are our top three micro-investing apps that can make investing accessible to everyone.

Betterment

In an effort to make investing more accessible to a wider range of people, Betterment developed a micro-investing app that lets investors take small steps toward building their investment savings. The app is also ideal for simplifying the investment process.

Betterment claims their approach to long-term investing can help Betterment customers earn 2.66% more per year than a typical investor.

Acorns

Acorns is another micro-investing app that encourages members to invest their spare change automatically. The app rounds up your everyday purchases to the nearest dollar and then invests your spare change automatically into a diversified portfolio.

Members are also able to set recurring daily, weekly or monthly investment deposit amounts to help grow their portfolios faster.  The minimum amount you need to start investing is $5, so for the price of a cheap lunch it's possible to begin building an investment portfolio.

More: How to grow your money with Acorns

Robinhood

If you're feeling a little more confident about choosing where your spare cash is invested, Robinhood provides DIY investors with a solution. Robinhood offers a trading platform that doesn't charge trading fees.

There is no initial cost to get started, and you're able to invest small sums of money as you're able to afford it.

Stash

Stash works by allowing you to invest in fractional shares of big-name companies for $5 or less. Again, it's great for beginners thanks to an intuitive mobile platform designed to make investing quick and stress-free.

To get started, answer a few questions about your risk tolerance, then Stash will give you personalized suggestions on which stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to add to your portfolio.

DIY investing isn't for everyone

Not everyone is happy to dive into the world of micro-investing. In fact, when given the challenge of finding ways to grow $5, some people may choose to take a more entrepreneurial approach.

Tina Sellig, the executive director of the Standord Technology Ventures Program, gave her students the same challenge. The students were asked what they would do to earn money if all they had was $5 and two hours. Some of the more successful teams chose to use the $5 as seed money to buy a few supplies or materials to start a small entrepreneurial enterprise, such as a car wash or lemonade stand. The intention was to operate the micro-business and potentially grow the initial $5 startup cost.

Yet the teams who made the most money didn't use their original $5 at all. Instead, they chose to tackle the challenge based on making money beginning with absolutely nothing.  They made the most of their most valuable assets, leveraged their limited resources, identified opportunities and used innovative thinking to come up with creative solutions.

The winning teams save an average return on their initial $5 investment of 4,000 percent. There were also teams on the challenge that didn't use their funds at all, so their financial returns were infinite.

Yes, $5 may not seem like a lot of money to get started in investing. Yet it doesn't matter whether you prefer to start investing with your spare change or to think outside the box and build a flourishing new business on a shoe-string budget, it's possible to grow even small sums of money into healthy nest egg for your future.

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Lee Masterson Freelance Contributor

Lee Masterson is a freelance contributor to Moneywise.

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