Today, it is an accepted fact that the best way to ensure lasting wealth is to invest. Traditionally, investing has been the domain of those who already have large reserves available to them, with the working population effectively denied their share of the economy they drive. In recent years, though, many discount brokerages have appeared, appealing to the upper middle-class, those nearing retirement, and experienced investors. One exception is ING Group's Sharebuilder.com.
Sharebuilder.com is a discount investment service targeted at people with limited assets and those who are new to investing. The innovative tools, low fees, and straightforward language that ING is known for make this site an attractive alternative to higher priced, more complex brokerages such as TD Ameritrade or Merrill Lynch, who tend to cater to more experienced clients with more assets.
To build a portfolio with Sharebuilder, a prospective client will first need a bank account with ABA routing number, a social security number, and her employer's contact information. After navigating to sharebuilder.com, the client should select "Open an Account" at the bottom of the page, and choose which type of investment product she wishes to open. Once the application is finalized and the new investment account is opened, the investor will proceed to choosing a pricing program.
Sharebuilder offers three pricing tiers, each with advantages and disadvantages. The "Basic" tier is a functional package of features, with no subscription fees. However, there is a $4 commission for every trade the investor performs. The "Standard" tier comes with a $12 per month subscription fee, but offers six free trades per month, with each additional costing $2. Sharebuilder's "Advantage" tier costs $20 per month and offers 20 free trades, each additional trade costing $1. The new investor should here chose the plan that will provide the best value based on the volume of trading she expects.
Once the new Sharebuilder client has chosen her fee schedule, she then navigates to the PortfolioBuilder service. PortfolioBuilder provides personalized investment advice to consumers based on individual finances and goals, and uses the Automated Transfer Service to fund the chosen investments. After answering the interview questions, Sharebuilder will give her a "suggested portfolio" that she can either accept or reject. If the client rejects PortfolioBuilder's suggestion, she will have to re-evaluate her interview responses. Should she accept, she will then move on to creating an investment schedule. She will then choose how much to allocate, the frequency of deposits, and whether the funds are automatically or manually transferred. Once she has finished, the only thing left to do is input her checking/savings account information, choose how much to transfer to Sharebuilder, and how often. Once the investor authorizes the transfer, she is able to research stocks and funds, and execute real-time trades.