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Personal Investment Apps Are Booming – Is There a Downside?

Investing apps have been becoming increasingly popular for some time. But since the pandemic struck, their popularity has boomed even more. With many individuals working from home or in lockdown, the opportunity to explore these investing apps has increased. This is especially true for college students and young adults who traditional may not be as interested. The ease of use of these platforms are attracting millions who might normally not invest. And as a result, the number of financial apps has grown significantly.

While this level of investment activity is exciting in many ways, there are some concerns. There are risks of investing no matter what type of platform is being used. Likewise, a lack of knowledge, experience and market information can undermine any potential success. Particularly for the beginner investor, these pitfalls are real and could result in financial losses. In addition, a bad experience now using investing apps could deter long-term commitments to saving and investment in general.

“Whatever channel you use to select, buy or sell investments, you still need to have clarity on your saving/investing objectives, timeframes, and level of risk that you can tolerate.” – Nan J. Morrison, President and CEO of the Council for Economic Education

Trendy Investing Apps and the Risks of Investing

A number of investing apps have been available for years, so this concept is not new necessarily. Companies like E*Trade, Charles Schwab, TD Ameritrade and others have well-recognized mobile platforms. Likewise, these have high ratings by consumer reviews and offer a number of different financial products from which to choose. For the seasoned investor, these are solid considerations for managing a financial portfolio. But for whatever reason, they are not as social trendy as others. A number of new startups offering financial apps now exist and are appealing to younger individuals.

Someone doing some personal investing on an app
Regardless of what personal investment app you use, the fact is, their popularity is on the rise.

One of the most popular investing apps today is one called Robinhood. Since the first quarter of 2020, Robinhood has gained over 3.1 million users to its platform. In addition, over half of these new users are beginners in terms of investing. And with a median age of 31 years, they are not as savvy in knowing the risks of investing. This is evident in Reddit forums and other social media chats where college students discuss their investment habits. In fact, Robinhood received notable press for a student who lost over $730,000 in options and subsequently committed suicide.

Other trendy investing apps also exist that rival Robinhood for recent popularity. For example, Acorns is a micro-investing app that allows small investments for a fixed monthly fee of $1-$5 a month. This platform allows investors to link their account to a credit or debit card. Once linked, purchases are rounded up to the nearest whole dollar amount, and the “change” is invested. Acorns also addresses concerns about the risks of investing by letting users choose their level of risk tolerance. Acorns also has a number of products including ETFs from which to choose. This allows immediate diversification without the hassle of managing individual stocks.

For the environmentally conscious investors, Stash is another one of the newer investing apps of interest. It is also a micro-investing app platform, and it too allows users to deposit “change” from purchases into their account. However, Stash offers products that allow investors to choose “green and clean” stocks and funds. This is appealing to many younger investors as well as others. But the risks of investing may not be well recognized in the process. Also, like Acorns, Stash charges a set monthly fee, which can definitely undermine earnings.

“These [newer trendy] apps make money from your invested cash, payment from order flow, and more expensive ‘upgrades’ like leverage and out of hours trading. Since that’s how they make money, these apps are often designed to encourage you to react emotionally to your investments. Their interfaces maximize the emotional impact of seeing the number on-screen—almost like being in Las Vegas—and that can encourage reckless behavior.” – Dan Egan, Betterment Investing App

Information to Reduce the Risks of Investing

The risks of investing on these newer investing apps are twofold. One, the platforms’ models tend to encourage emotionally-based reactions instead of logic-based decisions. Also, some fail to provide tools to assist users in advancing their investment knowledge. As a result, users of investing apps like Robinhood, Stash and Acorns turn to social media for guidance. And this is where the risks of investing can climb significantly. Numerous reports describe many beginner investors making unwise choices that turned out badly. And a few bad experiences can definitely leave a sour taste in your mouth.

In addition to investing apps, however, other investment information apps are making headlines. Commonstock, a San Francisco startup, has received $9.7 million in seed money for its platform development. Commonstock creates a mobile forum where users have access to experts, market news, and targeted investors. But it also allows a social component where groups can chat and share insights. In fact, Commonstock allows friends to invest together, copy one another’s investments, or receive friend investment alerts. All of these features are designed to reduce the risks of investing. And while Commonstock will eventually go to a subscription model, it is currently free for users.

“We are at the start of a massive explosion of investing. Investing has gone fully mainstream, but now I want to make sure the knowledge part of investing explodes along with it.” – David McDonough, Commonstock App

A Balanced Approach to Mobile Investing

Without question, investing apps that streamline financial opportunities is both exciting and intriguing. These have the potential to introduce a wide array of investors into the market. But at the same time, some caution must be used. Beginner investors need both guidance and knowledge to reduce the risks and investing. These types of experiences will encourage continued investing behaviors into the future rather than deter them. Certainly, many investing apps provide these supports as does companies like Commonstock. Thus, it’s important to select a financial platform wisely. Trends are worth noting and exploring, but ultimately, investing apps that offer comprehensive advice and products are likely to best.

 

Finance is an important Pillar in living a Bold Life. For more on the Seven Pillars, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.

Tech vs. COVID-19: The Coronavirus Breathalyzer Test and Other Diagnostic Innovations

From the beginning, the ability to provide efficient and adequate COVID testing in this pandemic has been a challenge. Initially, too few testing options were available. Likewise, those that have since been developed are often uncomfortable and associated with significant lag times in results. This has not only led to frustrations, but it has also caused delays in detection. These delays increase the risk that an asymptomatic person may spread the coronavirus infection unknowingly for days. This is why the development of easier COVID testing is needed that can provide near-immediate results to the masses.

Fortunately, innovative businesses around the glob are involved in these pursuits. From COVID breathalyzer machines to gargle-and-spit tests, technology is fighting back. While nasal and pharyngeal swabs remain the currently favored method of COVID testing, others may soon take over. And while this may not cure an existing infection, breathalyzer machines and other new approaches can reduce spread. The potential for these innovations is quite promising. In all likelihood, the COVID testing landscape will look much different in a few months.

“[The breathalyzer test] may serve as a base for technology that would lead to a reduction in number of unneeded confirmatory tests and lower the burden on the hospitals, while allowing individuals a screening solution that can be performed in PoC [point of care] facilities.” – Hossam Hiack, M.D., Chief Technology Officer at Nanose Medical

The Challenges of Current COVID Testing

The existing problems with COVID testing have been well publicized. In essence, they fall into three main categories. The nasal swab tests are uncomfortable and require both time and precautions to administer. Secondly, these tests require a significant number of accessories. In addition to swabs, individuals conducting the tests need gloves and persona protective equipment. Finally, most COVID tests being performed among larger populations are taking 48 hours or more before results are received. None of these are ideal, which is why COVID-19 is catalyzing new healthcare discoveries.

Someone is apparently positive for COVID-19
COVID testing will make great strides once a coronavirus breathalyzer is fully developed.

These reason current tests have these challenges relate to the way the testing is being performed. Nasal swab specimens are required to perform the PCR tests being conductive. The PCR tests then must look for viral RNA in the sample, convert it to DNA, and then amplify its quantity. This allows the reagents to then detect whether or not the coronavirus is present. Rapid antigen COVID testing exists that can provide results within a few minutes. In the U.S. Abbott’s ID NOW COVID 19 test provides this service. However, it is not capable of being employed for mass testing. For these reasons, news of a breathalyzer test has attracted significant excitement.

“Our [breathalyzer] system has the potential to drastically reduce the time it takes for diagnosis and makes it easier to perform tests at the point of use…It could allow us to mass test people returning from abroad on flights or on entering schools to ensure the continued safety of the general population.” – Linda Pomeroy, M.D., CEO of ANCON

Breathalyzer Tests Offer New Excitement

The concept of a breathalyzer is not new ever since law enforcement began using them to detect drivers under the influence. But in recent years, technology companies have been exploring breathalyzer methods to detect the presence of lung cancer. With the growing pandemic, these same companies are now exploring a COVID breathalyzer test. In essence, these machines may be able to detect breath patterns that confirm the presence or absence of COVID. And not only are these easy to use, but they offer results in seconds without the need to additional equipment.

Two major investigations are ongoing in terms of these breathalyzer tests. Researchers in Israel and China recently tests a COVID breathalyzer test in 140 patients. Some had known coronavirus, others did not, and others had other lung infections. The results showed the breathalyzer correctly identified all 49 cases with COVID in addition to seven false positives. Its overall accuracy was touted to be 92 percent. The Nanose device uses a gold nanoparticle linked to a molecule that changes when exposed to COVID particles. Through machine learning, it is able to delineate a COVID change in the molecule from other changes.

Nanose is not the only breathalyzer being developed for COVID testing. ANCON Medical is a firm in the UK that is also testing this type of innovative technology. Like Nanose, ANCON’s device also uses nanotechnology to analyze chemicals in one’s breath that indicate a coronavirus infection. Likewise, the results are available within seconds. ANCON’s breathalyzer is currently undergoing trials involving 200 patients to evaluate its potential. Either of these COVID testing measures could be used to tremendously expand mass screenings in as little as six months.

“This [COVID testing] system is very rapid, cheap, and is looking reliable. It’s suitable for mass screening, as well as airport screening, screening at nursing homes, and even screening at home.” – Eli Schwartz, Researcher at Sheba’s Center for Geographic Medicine, Israel

An Evolving Technology Landscape for COVID Testing

While breathalyzer testing looks like a promising COVID testing advance, it is not the only active area of research. Another new coronavirus test created at Sheba Hospital in Israel uses a gargle-and-spit test to look for positive cases. Individuals gargle with a special mouthwash and then spit into a small ashtray-sized dish. Nanotechnology is then used to evaluate the light spectrum the fluid emits. If the pattern matches those from other samples with COVID, the test is deemed positive. Not only is this test inexpensive and fast with immediate results, but it has a 95 percent accuracy rate.

At this point in time, everyone is hoping a coronavirus vaccine will be around the corner. But it remains unclear if this is the case or if any degree of longstanding immunity can be achieved. Therefore, the ability to develop rapid and inexpensive COVID testing protocols for mass populations is essential. Measures like breathalyzer testing, oral rinses, and others are therefore needed to prevent unnecessary spread of the virus. At least at this moment in time, these technologies are just as important in our battle with COVID.

 

COVID-19 is certainly a challenge and society is rising to the occasion. To read more about those who have turned obstacles into opportunities, check out Ed Kopko’s PROJECT BOLD LIFE: The Proven Formula to Take on Challenges and Achieve Happiness and Success.