5 ways to invest in 2018 in 5 minutes or less

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5 ways to invest in 2018 in 5 minutes or less

Investing. For many Americans — millennials in particular — it seems confusing, time-consuming and risky. That's not a totally unfair assessment. There's certainly a learning curve. (No one knows what an ETF is until they, you know, look up what an ETF is.) And the stock market is, by nature, unpredictable.

But that doesn't mean you should avoid investing. A solid portfolio is critical for building wealth (even if just to retire at a reasonable age). While you can't snap your fingers and turn into Warren Buffett, there are some quick — and not so risky — ways to diversify in the new year.

Here are five ways to start investing in 2018 in five minutes or less.

1. Boost your 401(k) contributions

Employer-sponsored retirement accounts totally count as investments. While employers generally limit when you can open a new 401(k), you can usually contribute to an existing account any time. Now's the time to log into your account and boost your contributions, even just by 1%. If you can't figure out how, contact human resources to see how and when you can make an adjustment.

2. Invest your spare change with Acorns

You won't get rich via Acorns, an app that encourages you to invest spare change. But for people who are anxious, tight on time or enrolled in college (students with a valid .edu address are eligible for a free account), there's no simpler way to dip a toe in the investing pool. You download an app, link a credit card or debit card account, pick one of five different computer-managed portfolios (ranked by risk) and let the change roll in. However, you'll want to invest more than nickels and dimes to make its fees worthwhile.

3. 'Hire' a robo-adviser or digital broker

If you've got a little more time, money and tolerance for risk, there are reputable investment apps that offer more robust services. Automated financial advisers Betterment and Wealthfront, let you easily set up an individual retirement account (traditional, Roth, Simplified Employee Pension plan or rollover) or trust, while touting lower fees than actively managed investment portfolios. Meanwhile, online brokers like Robinhood or Stash let you test out playing the stock market. There are pros and cons associated with each route, but you can get a better idea of which one is right for you in our comparison roundup here.

4. Open an IRA online

You can do everything digitally these days, including open an individual retirement account. Vanguard, Fidelity and most major banks, for instance, let you do so via your desktop or smartphone in a few clicks. Signing up for an IRA crosses two items off your 2018 financial checklist: Saving more for retirement (yay!) and potentially securing a last-minute 2017 tax break.

5. Open an online high-yield savings account

OK, so high-yield savings accounts aren't as exciting as stocks and bonds. And interest rates aren't exactly through the roof. But they're an effective way to save, especially when you open an account with an online bank. Why? Online banks offer higher rates than brick-and-mortar financial institutions. Plus, withdrawals typically take longer. Your aim is to earn more interest, sure, but you also want to make it harder to spend the money. Consider this: If you were to put $5,000 into an online savings account with a 1.45% annual percentage yield and add $50 a month each month, you'd wind up with nearly $8,500 after five years.

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