Whereas purchasing stock once meant figuring out how many shares you could afford, “now you can pay whatever you’re willing to spend, even if that amounts to pocket change,” according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.
According to the article, this move toward “fractional trading” represents a “dramatic shift in the world of personal finance” that poses both new opportunities and new risks. While advocates of the change say it will help democratize access to the stock market, others argue that the strategy “could encourage risky speculation” that will end in losses for investors. “Thinking in dollars, some worry, will distance new investors from their investments or inhibit their greater understanding of market moves.”
The article cites Robinhood, the free app founded in 2013 that it describes as “one of the biggest beneficiaries of this shift,” now touting 13 million users with a median age of 31. Investors can start with as little as $1 and participate in a recurring investment feature for $10 a week.
For James Evans, a 29-year-old bar manager in England, fractional trading offers freedom to diversify his portfolio and demystifies the investing process: “Especially when you’re dollar-cost-averaging, “he said, “it’s a lot harder with whole shares…If you can’t do fractionals, you have to just buy one share, which could be, you know, $100. Then you have to make sure you time it so that it fits your investing time frame.”