Managing Money Today’s Go-to Investing Tool? Your Smartphone

by the editorial team at Citi | March 13, 2020

Do you remember life before smartphones? Probably not.

They’re used for almost everything these days. They order groceries, track workouts and pretty much answer all questions.

More importantly, mobile devices now help manage money. A large number of tech-savvy market-watchers have turned to low-cost digital investing products for help planting the seeds of their financial future. Today, many financial institutions and brokers offer a mobile app to make the process smooth, educational and sometimes fun.

The benefits of having a tool like this in your pocket are numerous, including quick, immediate, on-the-go access to information about your investments, and the control to make changes to your portfolio on your own.

Ready to jump in? Understanding how to get started with mobile investing — from defining your goals to placing your first trade — will increase your chances of success.

Before diving in, check up on your finances

Ahead of downloading an app and placing trades, you should get into the habit of making informed money decisions. Start by giving yourself a head-to-toe financial exam. Consider your monthly income, regular expenses and potential financial goals for the near future. Does your income cover your expenses? Are you on track to reach your goals? Your answers to these questions will help shape your budget and, in turn, answer the question of how much money you have that can be put toward a portfolio.

You can’t plan for everything, though; holding some money as cash in an emergency fund can help cover any unexpected expenses without having to affect your investments.

Woman using smart phone outside

Do your homework

A quick search for “investing” in your mobile phone’s app store reveals more than a dozen options to choose from. With so many available investing apps — many of which offer a similar suite of services — it can be easy to get lost in the sea of sameness. Here are some pointers about what to look out for as you get started.

  • Clean and easy-to-use interface. The beauty of most apps is that it makes signing up painless from the first touch. Investing apps should be no different. For many first-time investors, just opening an account can be a daunting task, so most apps need to offer clean user interfaces with clear step-by-step instructions.


  • Available data and content. How are the markets moving today? How is your portfolio allocated across various asset classes? Apps that pipe in this kind of data better equip you to make informed decisions about how to manage your investments. The ability to create watch lists of equities and funds you are interested in tracking is another important plus.


  • Low costs and minimum balances. You don’t need to make a lot of money to start investing. Some of today’s mobile apps strive to make the process effortless and accessible to everyone, thanks to low minimum required balances as well as commissions ranging from zero to just a few dollars per trade, depending on the type of investment vehicle.
  • Connectivity to your other finances. When choosing the right mobile platform for your portfolio, be sure to consider the value and efficiency of having one holistic view of your banking and investments. A financial institution that offers banking and brokerage services may be able to provide this bundled set of tools and allow for more seamless transfers between accounts as you look to redirect money toward building up your holdings.


  • Other features. Beyond the basics of buying and selling stocks, the most attractive mobile apps also help take the headaches out of investing by offering automations and advisory as part of the relationship. These may include robo-advisors – where an algorithm helps manage your portfolio based on your financial goals – and automatic dividend reinvestment.

Consider talking to a financial advisor

Do-it-yourself investing, represented by low-cost mobile apps, doesn’t exclude you from talking to an advisor, too. An advisor can develop a strategy and portfolio for your specific needs. What’s more, an advisor is typically well versed in investing minutiae like rebalancing, risk management and asset allocation.

Meanwhile, your mobile app is there to help manage the buying and selling, tracking and other more tactical tasks. In fact, the two work well together.