The bull market of fall 2021 is long gone, but at least there’s a silver lining — Fidelity’s $100 sign-up bonus is back.
After the S&P 500 officially entered a bear market in June — meaning it’s down more than 20% from its previous high — the stock market has rallied and fallen several times but ultimately struggled to recover completely. Between a string of rate hikes from the Federal Reserve, the ongoing war in Ukraine, high inflation at home, and GDP numbers showing signs of a recession, experts predict that volatility will be the name of the stock market game for the second half of 2022.
Experienced investors should know that market volatility is normal and the best strategy right now is the same basic strategy in any market — keep calm and ignore the turbulence, continue to buy and hold a diversified portfolio of index funds for the long term, and wait for the market to recover like it always does, as history has repeatedly shown. But for new investors, the thought of jumping into the stock market right now might be intimidating.
Brokerages know this too, and some of them are sweetening the deal with free money.
Right now, Fidelity — one of NextAdvisor’s top picks for online brokers — will give you $100 if you open an eligible investment account using the offer link and promo code, and deposit at least $50. NextAdvisor first reported on this offer in October 2021, and now it’s back for a limited amount of time starting July 20, 2022.
A $100 bonus might not seem like much, but you could also look at it as a guaranteed 200% return on investment — before you even actually invest any of that money. The deal is even more valuable if you consider how the money will grow if you invest it long-term. Consider how this initial investment of $150 ($50 deposit + $100 bonus) will grow over 40 years with a 10% average annual rate of return:
Growth of a $150 initial investment at a 10% annual rate of return over 40 years. According to CNBC, the average annualized total return over the past 90 years for the S&P 500, a popular index fund that tracks the biggest companies on the stock market, is 9.8%.
In 40 years, you could have $6,789 in cash — all from an initial investment of $150, without any additional deposits. But more importantly, you’ll have a good foundation to start investing now, which can grow your wealth for years to come.
Here’s how to get the bonus, plus the best strategy to get started with investing.
Offer Details: How to Get Free Money
Fidelity is one of NextAdvisor’s affiliate advertising partners. Our evaluation of its products is not influenced by compensation.
Right now, you can get $100 when you sign up for a new eligible account through Fidelity’s offer page using the promo code FIDELITY100 and deposit $50 or more within 15 days after opening your account. Accounts eligible for this offer are the Fidelity Starter Pack (which includes both The Fidelity Account and the Fidelity Cash Management Account), The Fidelity Account (a taxable brokerage account), Cash Management Account, Roth IRA, or traditional IRA. After you open and fund a new eligible account, Fidelity will add $100 to your account within 25 days of opening.
Even if you’re an existing Fidelity customer, you can still take advantage of this offer if you open a new eligible account and meet the requirements. However, you cannot receive the bonus on an existing account. You also can’t receive a bonus if you’ve previously taken advantage of Fidelity’s $50 for $100 cash offer (such as when the offer first launched last year).
The current iteration of this offer began on July 20, 2022, and no official end date is listed in the terms and conditions. However, the fine print does say, “Fidelity reserves the right to modify these terms and conditions or terminate this offer at any time.” You can see the full terms and conditions of this offer here. (Fidelity is one of NextAdvisor’s affiliate advertising partners. Our evaluation of its products is not influenced by compensation.)
Unlike other brokerage sign-up bonuses, this $100 bonus is comparatively large and requires a relatively small initial deposit. In comparison, the sign-up bonuses currently offered by Ally Invest and E*TRADE (both among NextAdvisor’s top brokerage picks) require a minimum deposit of $10,000 and $5,000, respectively, to receive a bonus. Because of this, the Fidelity offer can be a great opportunity for new investors who want to start investing with one of our top recommended brokerages but don’t have a lot of cash on hand. Fidelity offers commission-free trading on U.S. stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, and US Treasury bonds.
Choosing an Account
You can get the bonus if you sign up for any one of four eligible accounts: The Fidelity Account (a taxable brokerage account), a Cash Management Account, a Roth IRA, or a traditional IRA. You can also sign up for the Fidelity Starter Pack, which lets you open The Fidelity Account and a Cash Management Account simultaneously. Each account has its unique advantages and disadvantages that might make them a better or worse fit for certain investors. Here’s a rundown of each account and who they might be good for:
- Taxable brokerage account: The most basic account for buying and selling investments, a taxable brokerage account brings no tax benefits to the table, but it doesn’t come with any limitations in terms of contributions or withdrawals either. With this account, you can deposit and withdraw your money at any time, but you’ll pay taxes on the profits you make from selling any investments. The tax rate is different depending on your tax bracket and whether you’ve held the sold investments for more or less than a year. A brokerage account could be a good choice if you’ve already maxed out your retirement account contributions but are still looking to invest, or if you plan on using the money before retirement age.
- Cash management account: A cash management account works much like a traditional checking account. You can deposit, withdraw, and move money easily, and have access to features like bill pay and check writing. You’ll also get access to an ATM/debit card. Your cash balances are FDIC-insured and earn interest. Generally, this type of account is best for your everyday cash management needs rather than long-term investing. However, you do have access to some short-term investment options like certificates of deposit (CDs) if you want to grow your money while keeping it in this account.
- Roth IRA: One of the best ways to save for retirement, Roth IRAs let you invest with after-tax dollars and withdraw the money — both the principal and any earnings — after age 59 ½ without paying taxes. Your investments will grow tax-free in this account, which is what makes it a favorite among NextAdvisor’s contributors. However, be aware that there’s an annual contribution limit, shared across all your traditional and Roth IRA accounts. For 2022, the limit is $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re age 50 or older. And, barring certain exceptions, you’ll pay taxes and an early withdrawal penalty if you withdraw your earnings before age 59 ½.
- Traditional IRA: Like a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA is a retirement account that comes with tax benefits but also certain limitations. The difference is that while your money grows tax-free with a Roth IRA, your money grows tax-deferred with a traditional IRA. This means you’ll fund the account with pre-tax dollars — and claim a tax deduction upfront — but pay taxes when you withdraw the money. Like a Roth IRA, there’s an annual contribution limit as well as rules about when you can withdraw your money without penalty.
In general, a Roth IRA is better for those who think they’ll be in a higher tax bracket when they retire — for example, young professionals who are just starting their career and aren’t earning much now. A traditional IRA is better for those who plan to be in a lower tax bracket than their current one when they retire, and would benefit more from the tax break today.
How to Invest Your Deposit and Bonus in a Bear Market
Once your initial deposit and sign-up bonus are in your account, you’ll need to pick some investments so that your money can grow. While it’s true that the stock market is volatile right now, as long as your portfolio is appropriately diversified and you have a long enough time horizon, the peaks and troughs of today’s market will be mere blips in the long term.
NextAdvisor recommends buying and holding low-cost index funds for the long term, to maximize returns and minimize risks no matter if we’re in a bear or bull market.
Like how a chocolate sampler provides a quick gift with lots of different items inside, an index fund lets you easily diversify your portfolio by allowing you to buy many different stocks in a single “bundle.”
There are many types of index funds with varying degrees of specificity. Some, like the S&P 500, include 500 large companies on the stock exchange and thus serve as a good way to have your investments track the growth of a stock market as a whole. Others, like the Vanguard Information Technology Index Fund ETF or the Vanguard Health Care Index Fund, track specific industry sectors and include stocks of a variety of companies in that industry.
You can also consider target-date funds, which are based around a set date that you plan to withdraw the money — for most people, this would be around their desired retirement date. Many of these funds are actively managed and rebalanced as necessary, especially as the target date approaches. Target-date funds can be an easy and hands-off way to save for retirement, which is why they’re a favorite of veteran investor Jeremy Schneider.
By diversifying your portfolio with index funds, you’ll be able to spread out the risk so you won’t lose all of your savings if one particular stock does poorly. And, by buying and holding these stocks long-term, you’ll be less susceptible to the day-to-day fluctuations, since the stock market almost always sees overall positive growth over the long term.
Be sure to also look at the expense ratio, which is the administrative fee charged by an index fund. The lower the expense ratio, the more earnings you’ll keep.