How to Invest $1,000: Buy Fractional Shares (of Great Companies)

If a single share of a pricey stock seems out of reach, programs from Schwab, Fidelity and Robinhood can get you access to just a slice.

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Fractional shares, increasingly available at online brokers including Schwab, Fidelity and Robinhood, allow you to buy a portion of a stock you might not otherwise be able to afford. You can even put together a portfolio of stock snippets, giving you a diversified ownership stake in the best of corporate America, even if you're just starting out and your budget is limited.

Say you had $1,000 to invest and wanted to buy stock in NVR (NVR), a homebuilder recently rated Strong Buy by investment research firm CFRA. You'd be out of luck, considering the shares recently traded for about $4,200 a pop. But at Schwab, for example, you'd be able to buy what the company calls a Stock Slice – a single slice or up to 30 slices at a time of any S&P 500 stock for as little as $5 per slice, commission-free. With Fidelity's Stocks by the Slice program, you can access more than 7,000 U.S. stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) for as little as $1.

You can also trade fractional shares at Robinhood and InteractiveBrokers, each with programs starting at $1. Eligible stocks and ETFs at Robinhood trade for more than $1 per share and have a market value of more than $25 million. InteractiveBrokers allows trading in U.S. and European stocks and ETFs. Vanguard is testing fractional trading of Vanguard ETFs for launch later this year. The rules and eligible investments for fractional share-buying differ by broker, so be sure to compare options.

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Investing by dollar amount rather than by number of shares makes it easy to dollar cost average – a strategy of investing a set amount at regular intervals which ensures that you buy more shares (or a bigger fraction of a share) when prices are low than when they are high. The process also helps to take the emotion out of investing.

You'll receive dividends on a pro-rated basis, but as a partial shareowner, you typically have no voting rights. And although you can sell anytime you want, you likely won't be able to transfer fractional shares to a new brokerage.

In the latest Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine, our editors offer advice on how to spend, save and invest $1,000. Get other smart tips:

Anne Kates Smith
Executive Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Anne Kates Smith brings Wall Street to Main Street, with decades of experience covering investments and personal finance for real people trying to navigate fast-changing markets, preserve financial security or plan for the future. She oversees the magazine's investing coverage,  authors Kiplinger’s biannual stock-market outlooks and writes the "Your Mind and Your Money" column, a take on behavioral finance and how investors can get out of their own way. Smith began her journalism career as a writer and columnist for USA Today. Prior to joining Kiplinger, she was a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and a contributing columnist for TheStreet. Smith is a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., the third-oldest college in America.