Lemonade stand money can go a long way with fractional shares
Traditionally, most brokerage firms required you to buy full shares of any stock you wanted to purchase. So if you wanted to buy into Berkshire Hathaway to get Buffett as your fund manager, you’d need about $260,000 to buy Class A shares or $174 to buy Class B shares (as of May 19, 2020). And if you wanted to buy one of Buffett’s top stocks, Apple, you’d need about $316.
Now, however, an increasing number of brokers allow you to buy partial shares of publicly traded stocks. Starting June 9, Schwab will allow you to invest as little as $5 to buy a portion of a share of any company on the S&P 500. Fidelity already allows you to buy fractional shares — you can purchase any quantity down to $0.001 of a share as long as your order comes to at least $0.01. And most brokers that offer fractional shares allow you to buy them commission-free.
When you purchase a fractional share, you can get started investing with just a few dollars and buy Berkshire or Apple — or pretty much any stock Buffett or other billionaires buy. You don’t have to limit yourself to bargain stocks that cost a few dollars per share or, worse, to penny stocks that tend to be very high-risk.
If you have $50 to invest, for example, you could buy around 0.28 of a B share of Berkshire Hathaway stock. Or you could buy around a 0.16th stake in an Apple share. Even with such a small portion of a share, you’d make the same percentage gain as Buffett, or any investor who’d purchased hundreds or even thousands of full shares. The difference is that you could get started with a whole lot less cash.
How fractional shares let you invest like Buffett
When you buy fractional shares, you can afford expensive stocks with very little seed capital and/or buy smaller stakes in a bunch of different companies to build a diversified portfolio, even with almost no money.
You could use some of your limited investment dollars to buy into Berkshire Hathaway, or could spread your cash around and buy a small share in some of Buffett’s favorite stocks.
Say, for example, you split your $50 between Apple and Bank of America. While you could buy around 1.14 shares of the bank stock, you’d be able to buy only about 0.08 of a share of Apple. Still, if you’d put $25 into each of these two stocks five years ago, you’d have turned your $50 into about $103. You’d have more than doubled your money. And if you can take any spare $50 you get your hands on and buy partial shares of high-quality companies, soon you’ll turn your lemonade stand money into a sizable investment portfolio.
You could also take Buffett’s advice and buy index funds if you don’t know how to pick individual stocks. And fractional shares help you there too, since many brokers allow you to buy partial shares in Exchange Traded Funds.
If you were buying full shares, you could end up sinking almost $300 into a single ETF such as SPDR S&P 500 to invest in large caps. And then add in another $191 to buy, say, the iShares Russell 2000 Growth ETF to get exposure to small-cap growth stocks. Of course, you’d need around $500, and still wouldn’t have exposure to emerging markets or real estate.
Or you could put down $5 to buy a fractional share of each of those two ETFs, another $5 to buy fractional shares of Vanguard FTSE Emerging Markets, and round out your portfolio with a $5 purchase of the Vanguard Real Estate Index Fund. You’d have a pretty diversified portfolio for just $20.
Don’t wait to start investing like Buffett
With most major brokers offering fractional shares and commission-free trading, there is little excuse not to invest. If you have even a few dollars, you can get your money into the market.
Just remember, if you want to invest like Buffett, you’ll only buy stocks you understand, you’ll purchase companies that offer long-term value, or you’ll invest in index funds if you don’t want to take the time to learn the intricacies of picking individual stocks to buy.
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