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Motif InvestingMotif Investing takes investing and revolutionizes it. If revolution and investing sounds like a strange mix, this Motif Investing review will help you see how their approach simplifies investing for beginners and veterans alike.

Motif Investing opened for business in 2010 with two missions – to help investors find ideas to invest in by using a theme-based approach and to cut the amount of money they pay to invest.

I’ve personally had an account with Motif Investing for several years and enjoy using the platform. They have had a number of changes recently – thus want to provide a few updates for 2016. With that out of the way, let’s get on with the review of Motif Investing.

How Motif Investing is Different

Motif Investing was started by Hardeep Walia, who is a former Microsoft executive. He left the tech industry to start Motif as a way to help individuals manage their investing needs. Motif Investing takes an outside the box approach to investing in the stock market. Following are some of the ways Motif Investing is different:

  • Motif offers a theme-based approach to investing through a motif. A motif is a bucket of up to 30 stocks or Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs). What you’re essentially doing is creating your own index fund.
  • These motifs can be in specialized areas like tech companies to companies run by certain political parties to pharmaceutical companies about to lose a patent on a given drug. You can also create classic motifs like one tracking a certain index or high dividend-paying stocks.
  • Motif Investing now also allows single stock trading. This is a new feature they added last year for those who want something beyond their standard motif. The commission is a very competitive $4.95 per trade – which is the same price you’d see at TradeKing. This makes Motif one of cheapest options for investing in stocks.
  • If you don’t have a given area you’d like to focus on then Motif Investing takes the heavy lifting out of it for you. Motif currently offers at least 150 different pre-made motifs you can choose from if you’d rather take that approach.
  • Motif Investing now offers trading alerts. This isn’t all that unique, as other brokers offer them but Motif allows you to set up either on an individual security or motif level basis. This allows you to set up an alert so you can make a trading decision on a specific security or buy/get out of a motif altogether.
  • You can now invest in IPOs through Motif. This is thanks to a partnership with J.P. Morgan. If J.P. Morgan has access to an IPO you can get them through Motif Investing for as little as $250. There are considerable risks associated with IPO investing though this is another way Motif is helping democratize the investing landscape for the masses.
  • Motif Investing has an extensive social media presence that allows you to share your investing ideas with others. Honestly, Motif is ahead of the curve when it comes to other online brokers in this area.
  • All that said, what sets Motif Investing apart is their allowance of a specialized focus when it comes to investing. I spoke with investors all the time who wanted to have a specific focus, like socially conscious companies, but had little in terms of options. Motif Investing helps broaden those options and make it possible for retail investors to have access to that.

What’s Needed to Open

There is no industry standard when it comes to what is required to start investing. Some brokerages allow you to open accounts with nothing and others require at least $2,500 to open an account. That is not the case here as you can open an account with Motif Investing for as little as $250!

You read that right, you can start investing in a motif with as little as $250. This is great for the individual who wants to start investing with $1,000 or less and wants a way to grow his or her money. They also offer the usual IRA and non-IRA account options.


Motif Investing


I hate investment fees as they directly impact your return.  Motif Investing does not have any hidden fees. There’s no inactivity fees, account maintenance fees or anything else like that.

The cost of trading a motif is relatively low at $9.95. That gets you access to investing in up to 30 stocks and ETFs. If you want to trade out specific stocks or ETFs from your motif, Motif does charge $4.95 per trade out. They also allow an option for active rebalancing which comes at a $9.95 charge. But, since you’d likely only be doing that once per year it would only be something you’d see then which is relatively cheap to do.

I will add that if you believe you’d like to change out several of the stocks within a pre-made motif that’ll be cheaper to simply create your own motif without those specific stocks so as to not run into the $4.95 charge.

Investment Options

As I touched on earlier, Motif Investing essentially allows you to create your own index fund. With that in mind your options are fairly endless, at least in the case that you create the motif yourself.

If you’re going for the pre-made route, Motif Investing has many options to consider. If you’re uncertain of a certain industry or niche you’d want to consider they also allow you to search by specific companies to see what motifs they’re in.

Motif Investing recently introduced something they call their Horizon funds. The Motif Horizon funds are motifs that are made up of low fee index funds. Motif Investing could easily charge a fee on top of this, but they don’t. This is something that sets Motif Investing apart from someone like Betterment who would charge an additional administrative fee on top of what the selected index funds charge.


Motif Investing

Motif Investing Review – My Take

I believe that for the right individual Motif Investing is a great option to consider. I see Motif as a viable option for two different individuals. The first is someone who is just starting to invest and has little money to begin with. At $250 as the barrier to entry, that is something many should be able to meet. The second individual is someone who may already doing quite well with his or her investing but is looking for a secondary option to invest a small (5-10%) of their portfolio in to see what they can do with it.

The one thing you do want to be careful about with Motif Investing is the changing out of individual stocks. Since Motif charges $4.95 per event it can be easy to rack up the cost. The other potential issue is with the rebalancing. I love that they offer active rebalancing. However, if you do that in a non-IRA account that will result in a taxable event. Of course, that is something you’d want to speak with a tax advisor on, but is something you would want to be careful of.

I believe Motif Investing is a solid option to consider especially if you’re new to investing and are looking for a way to grow your money and build a solid base or focus on a specialized niche.


What do you think of this kind of investing? Is there a specific niche or industry you’d like to invest in but have had challenges finding a way to do so?


Open an account with Motif Investing today and get up to $150 cash back!



Related: Frugal Rules’ Motif Review and Debt Roundup’s Motif Review





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TradekingTradeKing is a good low-cost discount broker that has been in business over a decade. This TradeKing review will help you determine if they’re worth looking at to manage your investments. There are many things to consider when you invest in the stock market – especially when it comes to the fees you pay.

If price is high on your list TradeKing, is worth a serious consideration. This TradeKing review will go below the surface of the low-cost to see what they have to offer you as an investor. I dealt with TradeKing extensively during my days in the online brokerage industry and was always impressed with their service as well as their platform.

If you’ve not heard of TradeKing, they have risen in popularity after their acquisition of Zecco in 2012 that brought on a fuller range of investment offerings. TradeKing is also widely known as having the cheapest commission schedule in the industry at a flat $4.95 per stock trade and $.65 per option contract – both of which are very tough to beat. With that all out of the way let’s get on with the review of TradeKing.

How TradeKing Is Different

TradeKing has been in business for a little over ten years and during that time they’ve managed to make a good name for themselves. Of course, TradeKing has some things you’d find at any other brokerage though following are some of their unique traits:

  • TradeKing has killer pricing. At a flat $4.95 per trade and an additional $.65 per option contract they are the market leader in price. Again, this makes them the cheapest brokerage in the space, along with Motif Investing and Optionshouse.
  • TradeKing offers forex trading. This feature is available as a result of their merger with Zecco. A number of brokerages offer forex, though certainly not all. There is no commission associated with forex trading at TradeKing as they’re compensated on the bid/ask spread. If you want to get your feet wet with forex trading, TradeKing offers a free $50,000 virtual forex trading account to get you started.
  • TradeKing Advisors Program. This is a new feature TradeKing launched in late 2014 as a way to better help individuals manage their investing needs. The program essentially acts as a robo-advisor that uses portfolios modeled by Ibottson (which is a subsidiary of Morningstar) consisting of low-cost index funds. You can open a TradeKing Advisors account for as little as $500, and this service is free of fees in its first year! This makes TradeKing able to offer a wider range of investment options, including those who want a managed account.
  • Like Motif Investing, TradeKing is active on their site with both social media and various forums. I love to see this as it provides a way to get real time support when you need it.
  • TradeKing offers more than 12,000 mutual funds. If you like to invest in mutual funds, you’ll notice that this puts TradeKing in the highest tier of what brokerages offer. As a result, you shouldn’t have much of an issue locating the mutual funds you like at TradeKing.


What’s Needed To Open A TradeKing Account?

This is likely my favorite feature of TradeKing. TradeKing does not have a minimum account opening balance requirement. Few brokerages offer that, which is a shame in my opinion. If you want to start investing with $1,000 or less, this makes TradeKing a brokerage you’d want to look at right away.

Fees I’m no fan of investment fees as they eat away at your portfolio. TradeKing does not have any hidden fees, though they do have an inactivity fee. At first glance, I don’t like it but you need to dig a little deeper to see if it would impact you. If not, you can ignore it as you’ll never be charged the fee. TradeKing’s inactivity fee is $50 per calendar year if your combined account values are under $2,500 and/or you don’t have a commissionable stock trade in the past 12 months. However, if you meet one of those qualifications it’s not something that applies to you and have nothing to worry about.

Investment Options I would rate the investment options available at TradeKing as relatively competitive, especially as you compare them against other lower cost brokerages. TradeKing offers the following investment options beyond the standard stocks, EFTs/mutual funds and options:

  • Forex trading
  • Bonds
  • AutoTrade – which is a feature that allows you to automate trading based on the recommendation of specified investment newsletters


What helps TradeKing stand out from the pack is the introduction of the Advisors program. This allows TradeKing to be more than just a low-cost brokerage but a firm that can manage accounts for you. Add that to an intuitive platform and a healthy self-directed offering, and it  puts TradeKing on the higher end for investment offerings.

TradeKing Review – My Take

I think for many, TradeKing, is a great brokerage to consider. The pricing at TradeKing is difficult to beat and they have a growing offering of investment options. TradeKing is also consistently recognized as having the best customer service available among online brokers which, having worked in the industry myself, is saying a lot. I know the inactivity fee can be hard to swallow.

However, if you wouldn’t be impacted by it then it is of no concern as you would not be charged it. If it were something you’d be hit by then I might look elsewhere, but if not don’t let it hold you back from considering them. If you are considering opening an account with TradeKing, make sure to be on the look out for a promotion.

Their best current promotion allows for $1,000 in free commissions when you deposit $5,000. In order to qualify, make sure to deposit funds within the first 30 days of account opening and use the promo code “FREE1000.”

You can also potentially qualify for up to $150 in transfer fees to be reimbursed in addition to the free commissions. If you’re going to bring them your business, it makes sense to earn a little something back for it. 🙂


Where do you manage your investment accounts? What are you paying for commissions? Do you like to manage investments on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

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ScottradeScottrade is a well-known player in the online brokerage space. My wife and I do a majority of our investing through Scottrade, leading me to do a Scottrade review to discuss what makes them different and how they can help grow your wealth.

In my Motif Investing review I discussed how I appreciated that they think outside the box when it comes to helping them meet their clients’ investing needs. The difference you’ll see in my Scottrade review is they’re more traditional in their offerings and services. Both are needed so investors can have the selection they need in order to find the best online broker for them. With that in mind, let’s get on with our Scottrade review.

How Scottrade is Different

Scottrade is considered one of the bigger online brokers. I have dealt with them both as a client as well as on the business side as a stockbroker. My interaction with them, overall, has been a positive one over the long-term. When deciding on an online brokerage you need to look at what makes them unique. Below are some of the things that sets Scottrade apart from the crowd:

  • Scottrade is known for their flat $7 stock trades. That puts them right in the middle of the competitive range for pricing. Some are cheaper, like Motif, but others are more expensive. The flat rate is a big winner in my book as you can count on that regardless of the number of shares you’re trading.
  • Scottrade has an extensive national branch network. They have over 500 branches throughout the country, which to my knowledge is the most in the industry.
  • Scottrade is an older online brokerage as they started business in 1980. Due to that, they are able to offer quite a number of products and services.
  • Scottrade offers access to over 14,500 mutual funds, of which more than 3,000 are no-fee mutual funds. This is more than any other online brokerage, that I know of, and if you invest in mutual funds you know how pricey they can get, with many charging upwards of $50 to trade.
  • For many years Scottrade did not offer dividend reinvestment. They changed that several years ago with the introduction of Scottrade FRIP. FRIP stands for ‘Flexible Reinvestment Program.’ Scottrade allows you to pool eligible securities to reinvest in up to five different stocks. I love this feature as it allows you to direct how you want to reinvest dividends – for free.

What’s Needed to Open a Scottrade Account

Whereas you can open an account at Motif Investing for as little as $250, you need at least $2,500 to open an account with Scottrade. If that amount is a bit too much for you, Scottrade has a $500 minimum requirement for retirement accounts.

This would make Scottrade a viable option for those who’re investing with $1,000 or less. Scottrade offers a wide variety of accounts from the standard IRA and non-IRA to Trust accounts, business accounts and more. If a minimum balance requirement is a concern for you, you can also check out TradeKing, as they do not have a minimum balance requirement and are at a level similar to Scottrade, not to mention with a cheaper commission.


I hate investment fees. There’s no reason why you should have to pay an exorbitant amount to do your investing and Scottrade does generally well in this area. Beyond the flat $7 trades, they do not have any hidden fees, account maintenance fees or anything like that.

This doesn’t fall under the fees category, but one thing that does stand out is that they offer a higher platform for those who have more than $25,000 invested in one account. That is their Scottrade Elite platform which offers increased charting and more tools than the standard Scottrade platform.

Honestly, I wish they offered this to all of their clients, but this is unfortunately a common trend within the industry. That being said, if you’re not an active trader then it won’t make much difference to you anyway.

Investment Options

One thing I do like about Scottrade is they offer a broad range of products. They, of course offer stock trading, along with mutual funds, options and the like. But, they also offer things such as:

  • Bonds
  • CDs
  • Treasuries
  • International trading in over 20 countries

The one area Scottrade is a little lacking in is their options trading offerings. As long as you only trade covered calls or buying a call or a put then you’re going to be just fine. If you want anything more advanced than that you have to open a second account through OptionsFirst, which is a sister company to them.

This brings a second account you must log in to which is sort of a hassle in my opinion. If you don’t trade options this is of no concern. If you do like to trade options and want one place to go for your investing then I would recommend looking at TradeKing instead.

Scottrade Review – My Take

I believe for many Scottrade is a great fit. They have a solid history and a wide range of investment options. I also like that they have their local branch network as it makes it easy to deal with someone face to face in the event you have any account related questions. I love their platform as it’s very intuitive and straightforward to use while also offering many of the tools most would need to manage their investment needs.

Honestly, I’m not a fan of requiring a certain account balance to get access to more tools or the increase in minimum needed to open a non-IRA account. I believe they should be available to all clients, but it’s the nature of the beast in this industry – money talks. I would also say the same thing about their options trading capability, though if you don’t trade them, it’s a moot point.

I have seen Scottrade work great for beginning investors and seasoned investors alike. If you’re more of a buy and hold type of investor and trade minimally throughout the year then Scottrade could be a solid option to consider.


Get up to $2,000 cash back with a new Scottrade account today!



Where do you handle your investing? How much do you pay for your trades? Are you more inclined to invest with a broker that gives you the ability to meet with someone face to face?



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etradeIf you’ve not heard of E*TRADE they’re a well-known online brokerage that has been in business for well over 30 years. Investing is a vital part to growing wealth, so I thought an E*TRADE review would be helpful for those looking to get started investing in the stock market or simply looking for a new broker.

I’ve had extensive experience working with E*TRADE while I was a stock broker. I’ve also used the Etrade platform quite a bit. My experience with E*TRADE was always a positive one and have found their platform to be intuitive. With that being said, there are certainly other brokerages you can consider and you can check out some of those below:

What Sets E*TRADE Apart

Having been in business for over 30 years, E*TRADE has a wide range of offerings. Meaning, it would be justifiable to handle all of your investment needs through them as they offer a number of things other brokerages do. I’ll touch on some of those later, but following are some of the things that set E*TRADE apart:

  • E*TRADE offers both futures and forex trading. A handful of brokerages offer this, though few offer both. E*TRADE charges $2.99 for futures and is compensated on the bid-ask spread for forex.
  • E*TRADE offers access to international markets. Very few brokerages offer this, so this really helps set them apart. At E*TRADE you can invest directly through exchanges in Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and the UK. The pricing differs from country to country, so keep that in mind.
  • The customer service at E*TRADE is open 24/7. Surprisingly, this is not that common in the industry.
  • Etrade offers access to over 8,000 mutual funds, of which 1,500 or so have no transaction fees. The commission comes in at $19.95, whereas many other brokerages charge $50 or more.
  • Like Scottrade, E*TRADE has a national branch presence, albeit smaller. Etrade has roughly three dozen branches you can do business with nationwide.
  • Etrade offers over 100 commission free ETFs. Other brokerages offer similar programs, though few offer this many options.
  • Finally, the commission at E*TRADE comes in at a competitive $9.99 and an additional $.75 for options.

What’s Needed To Open An E*TRADE Account

Brokerages vary in terms of what’s needed to open an account with them. E*TRADE makes it relatively painless requiring only $500 to open an account – if it’s a retirement account there is no minimum balance at all.

This makes E*TRADE a good option for someone investing with $1,000 or less as you don’t need much to get started. E*TRADE has a full spectrum of account options from IRAs to business accounts so you should be able to find what you need with them.

Hidden Fees

Investment fees can be a drain on your investing and you need to avoid them if possible. You can check out this handy article from the SEC detailing how much they can cost you over the life of a portfolio. Thankfully, with E-trade you’re not going to have to deal with any hidden fees or account maintenance fees – which is unfortunately not all that common in the online brokerage space.

With that being said, there is one thing I don’t like about Etrade that you may want to consider with relation to pricing. Their commission is a flat $9.99, which is competitive though it’s a tiered system. If you trade at least 30 times per quarter you qualify for a more advanced platform –E*TRADE Pro. They also offer a lower commission schedule for more regular trading. These are all fairly common with online brokers, so it’s not uncommon though I’d rather not see it. However, if you’re not impacted by that or are a buy and hold investor then it really is a moot point.

What Can You Invest In?

As I mentioned earlier, one benefit to investing with E*TRADE is you get access to a wider range of investment products. Beyond the typical stocks, options and mutual funds you also get access to some of the following:

These are all in addition to the futures/forex trading availability Etrade offers.

E*TRADE Review – My Take

I think for many E*TRADE is a great option to look at. They offer a full range of investment products and an easy to use platform, plus the usual cast of investment tools and free courses found at other brokerages. This really helps E*TRADE stand out amongst other mainstream brokers. I’m honestly not a fan of the tiered commission structure/more advanced platform E*TRADE offers to more active traders but that’s the nature of the industry – money talks. If you’re not going to be trading much then it really becomes a moot point largely depending on what your needs are as an investor.

The other thing I really like about E*TRADE is they offer some good promotions – namely the ability to get up to $600 cash back for a new account as well as the ability to trade free for 60 days. Both are quality promotions in my book. This is in addition to the quality customer service Etrade offers – they’ve regularly received a 5 star rating by Kiplinger’s for their service.

Opening an E*TRADE account is fairly easy and only takes about 10 minutes. Just make sure to see if you qualify for a promotion when opening the account. 🙂


Open an account with E*TRADE today and get up to $600 cash back!



Where do you handle your investing? What do you look for in a broker? How much does commission matter to you?



Photo courtesy of: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures

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Best investing booksA common question I’ve received over the years is, ‘What are the best investing books for beginners?’ It’s an understandable question as we unfortunately don’t champion investing education in our society. Added to that all the information that’s out there on investing in the stock market and it can be difficult to know where to get reputable information.

While I’d like to think that some of the investing education in the personal finance space is good, many want to go beyond that and are looking for the best investing books to start reading. That said, if you’re new to investing in the stock market, or investing with $1,000 or less, education is vital as you want to make sure you’re making educated decisions.

With that in mind, I thought it would be good to cover some of the top investing books out there, whether you are a beginner or not. As a disclaimer, I have read the majority of the books on the list and the one or two I haven’t, I’ve read major chunks of. This is also not to be meant an exhaustive list, but merely a sampling of my picks for best books on investing.


If you’re looking for a nice gift for the reader in your life, Amazon has a great limited time deal with Kindles starting at $79 and Kindle Fires starting at $99!


A Random Walk Down Wall Street

If you are looking for one book to read on investing, then A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel is one you should choose. What makes Random Walk one of the best investing books? Quite simply, Malkiel takes some very heady information and makes it so anyone can read and understand it – which can be very difficult to do.

What I particularly like about Malkiel’s work is that he basically holds to a buy and hold approach to investing. Stock picking might be considered “fun,” but by and large, most investors are going to be better served by a long term approach to investing that is focused on passively managed index funds that will track the market. That alone is one major reason why I consider Random Walk one of the best investing books for beginners.

The Intelligent Investor

As the title communicates, The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham, is for someone who wants to be wise about his or her investing. The Intelligent Investor was written by Graham back in 1934, but much of his thoughts on investing still hold true today.

One of the reasons why I believe Investor is one of the best books on investing is that he teaches you to minimize losses and find the real value of a company. Essentially, he argues how to limit risk in the light of long term investing. If that’s not enough to convince you, Graham was Warren Buffett’s mentor.

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

More experienced investors will notice The Little Book of Common Sense Investing as it is written by the founder of Vanguard – John Bogle. What I believe makes Common Sense of the best investing books is that it’s clear and straightforward. One would think that would be easy to find when it comes to books on investing, but unfortunately it’s not.

The book, in my opinion, is summed up by a quote by Bogle – “Investing is all about common sense.” That quote is simple, yet powerful. We often make investing out to be difficult or follow some silly fad when it really doesn’t have to be any of that. Bogle, argues for straight-forward investing, made up largely of index funds that have a long term view…not following the herd.

The Essays of Warren Buffett

What makes The Essays of Warren Buffett, one of the best investing books is that, well, it’s written by Buffett! Anyone who follows Warren Buffett or Berkshire Hathaway is well aware of his annual shareholder letters. The editor, Lawrence Cunnigham, has taken much of Buffett’s writing and collated it, by topic, so it’s easy to read and follow.

What I appreciate about Essays is that it allows you as an investor insight as to what Buffett looks for in a company. As Buffett has aptly stated, his holding period is forever so if you’re more into active trading then this book may not be for you. But, if you want to read more into the foolishness of investing with the trends and the wisdom in long-term investing then this book is for you.

One Up on Wall Street

The last book on my best investing books is One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch. Lynch is known by more savvy investors as he was a higher up at Fidelity and then led the popular Magellan Fund. As with the other books listed here, Lynch discusses how to analyze the merit of a company and investing for the long term…notice a trend here?

What I appreciate about Lynch is that he says “normal” investors can do quite well for themselves when it comes to investing. As opposed to following the hot trends, Lynch encourages investors to invest in what’s right in front of them or what they know. This is all taken with the long-term approach that is meant to build wealth.

If you noticed a trend with my best books on investing, there is. The idea that investing needs to be difficult or that it has to be “sexy” is one that is a fool’s errand for many, especially for those new to investing. Instead of trying to beat the market or follow the latest fad, you’re much better served by making investing as simple as can be for yourself.

While not exciting, I’d much rather be with the market and watch my portfolio grow over time…because that is sexy to me! If you’re new to investing or looking for some resources to help start the education process hopefully one of these books will get you started in the right direction.


Do you have any books that you would add to the best investing books list? How did you teach yourself as you started investing? Which is sexier to you – following the hot trend or watching your portfolio grow?


Additional resource: If you’re looking for an online broker to start investing but have limited funds check out our favorite brokerage – Motif Investing. You can open an account for as little as $250. I invest with them as they provide instant diversification and make it easy to invest in what you know.

Open an account with Motif Investing today and get up to $150 cash back!


Photo courtesy of:

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TradeMonsterTradeMONSTER is an online brokerage that has risen quickly in popularity since their inception in 2008. Since we like to talk about ways to make money and invest in the stock market here at Sprout Wealth we thought a TradeMONSTER review would be helpful for those looking to get started investing or for those looking to switch brokerages.

First, we’ll give a brief background on TradeMONSTER. TradeMONSTER was started during the middle of the market decline in 2008 by Peter Najarian. Najarian has held numerous high profile positions within the financial world, focusing specifically on options trading. TradeMONSTER recently made news by cutting their commission price from an already competitive $7.50 per trade to $4.95 per trade.

I will give the disclaimer that neither Grayson nor I have accounts with TradeMONSTER. However, I dealt with them extensively during my career in the online brokerage industry and have worked with their platform quite a bit and have been impressed by both their service and their platform. With that out of the way, let’s get on with the TradeMONSTER review.

How TradeMONSTER Is Different

Even though TradeMONSTER is a newer player in the online brokerage scene, they have managed to carve out a relatively good niche for themselves. While they have some features that are common to most other brokerages they do have some pretty unique features such as:

  • TradeMONSTER offers killer pricing. As mentioned previously, the commission at TradeMONSTER is $4.95 per trade. That is only slightly higher than the lowest bigger brokerage out there – Optionshouse which is at $4.75. If you trade options, TradeMONSTER charges a max of $.50 which is very competitive as well.
  • TradeMONSTER offers Futures trading. Futures can be incredibly risky, especially if you’re not versed in how they work. Their commission comes in at $1.50 per trade which is half the price you’ll find at Etrade.
  • TradeMONSTER is one of the few online brokers that offers paper trading accounts. This allows you to invest and try different things out without fear of losing your shirt in a virtual environment. If you open an account with TradeMONSTER you immediately get access to a virtual account with $100,000.
  • TradeMONSTER offers stellar online support. Like Motif Investing, they have made social media a serious part of their strategy to help investors. TradeMONSTER also has numerous blogs and real-time online support to help you when you have the need. This, unfortunately, is not the standard within the industry.
  • TradeMONSTER heavily targets those interested in options trading. There are a few other brokerages out there, like Optionshouse and TradeStation which do the same thing. However, TradeMONSTER is regularly recognized as having the best option trading platform in the industry. Add that to the price and they’re hard to beat.



What’s Needed to Open A TradeMONSTER Account?

We’re big fans of brokerages that make it easy for you to start investing and TradeMONSTER does that. With that in mind, there is no minimum opening balance required by TradeMONSTER. This is great if you’re looking to start investing with under $1,000. The point is if you want to start with $500, you can most certainly do that.


As I’ve written before, I hate investment fees. TradeMONSTER holds the same philosophy as there are no account maintenance fees, annual fees or anything like that. Beyond the $4.95 stock commission, and the option price if you trade options, there are no hidden fees to deal with.

Investment Options

Largely due to their age, there is not a whole lot beyond the typical stocks and mutual funds you would find at a larger brokerage like Scottrade. Besides stocks (including ETFs of course) and options, TradeMONSTER also offers the following other investment options:

  • Mutual funds
  • Bonds
  • Futures

The one thing I will point out about TradeMONSTER is their platform is on the more difficult side to master. A lot of this goes back to their target niche of active/options traders. There is nothing wrong with that, as it is regularly considered one of the top platforms out there by Barron’s. TradeMONSTER does offer live training and resources to learn how to use the platform so that does help. Don’t allow the advanced level to hold you back, but please be aware of it going into your decision.

TradeMONSTER Review – My Take

I think for the right individual TradeMONSTER would be a great option to consider for your investing needs. This is especially the case if you would consider yourself an active trader or if you like options trading. If that is not your cup of tea, I still think it could be a good fit, given their incredibly competitive commission structure. If you’re a buy and hold investor who only invests in index funds then TradeMONSTER may not be the best option out there for you. But, if you like to invest in some individual stocks or do some options trading then TradeMONSTER is definitely worth considering.

I will also mention that TradeMONSTER regularly has promotions like the ability to trade free for 60 days or getting up to $250 in transfer fees credited back, so make sure to take advantage of what fits you best if you do choose to open an account with TradeMONSTER. Sign up now and trade free for 60 days with TradeMONSTER.


Where do you manage your investment accounts? What are you paying for commissions? Do you like to manage investments on your own or pay someone to do it for you?




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Hawaiian Airlines credit cardIf you’re looking to go to Hawaii, then the Hawaiian Airlines credit card could be a great way for you to get there for relatively cheap. Both Grayson and I love to travel and part of maximizing your finances is using credit cards wisely so you can earn rewards. What we like about the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is that it can get you one free ticket to the islands. That’s not bad in my book.

As I was researching for this article I found that the average ticket price to Hawaii was just over $600, as of 2012. My completely unscientific research of flying from our home airport of Omaha came back to being around $800 per ticket. That is something I’d want to avoid altogether. So, if you’re looking to travel to Hawaii hopefully our Hawaiian Airlines credit card review will show how you can get there for considerably less.

Before I start though, I will give the disclaimer that if you’re struggling with paying off debt or are tempted to overspend then churning credit cards is not for you. No free trip or cash back is worth it – plain and simple. With that out of the way let’s get on with the review of the Hawaiian Airlines card.

What I Like About the Hawaiian Airlines Credit Card

Low minimum spend. I love this feature about the Hawaiian Airlines credit card. You need to spend $1,000 within the first 90 days to get the bonus miles. Whereas you need to spend $3,000 on the Barclaycard Arrival, you only need the $1,000 on the Barclays Hawaiian card. That should be fairly simple for most to reach.

You Earn 35,000 bonus miles. By meeting the minimum spend on the Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard® you earn 35,000 bonus miles. A coach ticket to Hawaii requires 40,000 miles, but as a cardholder you get a 5,000 mile discount. Thus, you get a free coach ticket to Hawaii!

You can get double the miles. Say what? The Hawaiian Airlines credit card comes both in a personal and business version. The benefits are exactly the same and if you own a legitimate business you can apply for both and get double the miles. I don’t have a link for the business version, but it’s available all the same. 🙂

One time 50% off ticket. With the Hawaiian Airlines credit card you get a one-time 50% off companion ticket. This is a pretty sweet deal as you can fly yourself and a partner to Hawaii for basically half the price of one ticket.

First checked bag is free. This is pretty self-explanatory. You can check one bag, for yourself, for free. This is a savings of $50 instead of spending it on a crazy fee. Please keep in mind you must purchase the ticket directly from Hawaiian Air to qualify for this.

$100 off companion ticket. With each anniversary date of having the Hawaiian Air credit card you get a free $100 off companion ticket. This is a nice little feature to have.

You earn 2X miles on all Hawaiian Air purchases. This is honestly pretty standard, but you earn double miles on all Hawaiian Air purchases and 1X miles on all other purchases.

Chip and Signature technology. This is being added to more cards, but the Hawaiian Airlines credit card has chip and signature technology that will help if you travel internationally.

You can earn even more. The final thing I love about the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard is that you can earn up to 10X points with selected partners. You can find those partnerships here.

What I Don’t Like About the Hawaiian Airlines Mastercard

No credit card is perfect and the Hawaiian Airlines credit card is no different. There are a few things I wish I could change about the card, such as:

There is an annual fee. The Hawaiian Airlines card carries an annual fee of $89. This annual fee is not waived the first year either. I don’t like annual fees, but when taking a look at the value received I believe the card is worth it. The other thing to consider is the $100 off companion ticket offered at each anniversary. That basically negates the fees in my opinion.

You only qualify for one free ticket. I know, I’m being greedy here but I’d love it if the Hawaiian Air credit card were to offer two free tickets. I guess I can’t complain too much, especially as you do get the one-time 50% off companion ticket.

Who Should Get the Hawaiian Air Credit Card

Now that we’ve taken a somewhat balanced view of the Hawaiian Airlines credit card, who should get it? Whereas other rewards cards may just be for generic travel, this is for a specific destination or area as they also fly to numerous Asian cities. With that in mind, I think the Hawaiian Airlines credit card is perfect for those looking to travel to Hawaii and looking to do so for relatively nothing.

The other nice thing about the card is that miles can also be transferred to the Hilton Honors program with a 1 to 1.5 payout. If you’re really looking to maximize your points you could work it to even further reduce the cost of your trip by also using the companion pass. Regardless of how you try to work the points, the Hawaiian Airlines credit card can be a great card to churn if you’re looking to travel to Hawaii in the near future.

Have you ever been or are you now looking to go to Hawaii? What credit cards are you currently churning? We want to know!



Photo courtesy of: Aero Icarus