Low interest rates combined with inflation makes your savings account a poor place to hold your long-term savings. It's almost necessary to invest if you want to grow your wealth. But with so many options out there, starting to invest can be daunting. We list the best apps through which Belgians can start investing, and assess them based on their pros and cons. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to choose which type of investing suits you best.
Why investing your savings is important
The financial future of young Europeans, millennials and Gen-Z, is under threat. In Belgium and across Europe there’s been a strong reliance on the state to fund our retirement. However, our state-funded pension systems are under increasing pressure due to changing demographics. And our political leaders are not doing what is necessary to prevent a pension crisis.
We need to make our savings work for us in order to set ourselves up for the future and take control of our retirement. We also know that saving accounts are not sufficient and interest rates are at historic lows. With inflation being above interest rates since 2008, this means that every year, we lose money if it’s not put to work.
The solution is to take matters into your own hands by investing your savings.
The best ways to invest in Belgium
There are many ways you can invest your money, going from stocks, to wine, real-estate, art and even digital art through NFTs. But not all are equally good. Many are too risky, or do not yield sufficient returns. When investing for your future and over the long-term, it's important you make a rational and well-thought out decision.
We will show you the 6 different ways that we think are most interesting for Belgians to put their money to work:
- Invest in stocks through a broker: for the thrill-seekers who don't mind spending a lot of time on their investments
- Invest in ETFs through a broker: for the rational investors who want to be responsible for their own investments
- Managed ETF investing through Curvo: the easiest way to guarantee long-term success
- Peer-to-peer lending: invest in local projects that can make a difference and provide you with a small return on your investment
- Crypto: the promising technology that has yet to realise its potential
- Real estate: required on any list of investment apps for Belgians 🧱
We highlight the best apps in each category. Let’s get into it!
Invest in stocks through a broker
For many, stocks are the first entry point to investing. A stock represents partial ownership of a company. Companies issue stock to raise money in order to grow their business. As an investor, your stocks become more valuable as the company grows. On top of that, most companies share part of their profit with you through dividends.
The best broker apps to invest in stocks
Stocks are purchased on stock exchanges. And to trade on those, you need to use a middleman called a broker. There are many options available in Belgium and it can be hard to pick the best for you. It depends on your expectations when it comes to price, safety, and ease of use. We highlighted three popular apps for you where you can buy your favourite stocks:
- BUX Zero. Although based in the Netherlands, they have a version tailored to the Belgian market. At €1.50 to buy or sell a stock, it's one of the cheapest brokers out there. You also earn some shares for free when you sign up!
- Re=Bel. If you’re a customer with Belfius, you have access to the Re=Bel app within the Belfius app. It offers a smooth process to buy stocks. And you pay €3 for all transactions under €2,500 for stocks traded on the Euronext Brussels exchange.
- Bolero. Owned by Belgium’s largest bank KBC, Bolero is a brokerage platform with a good reputation. It’s one of the most expensive broker apps though, as it costs €7.50 per transaction when buying stocks on any Euronext exchange.
Pros and cons of investing in stocks
✅ Potentially high returns: if you had bought Microsoft stock twenty years ago, you would have made a lot of money.
✅ Exciting: it’s fun to trade and watch your stocks value go up.
✅ Invest in companies you love: you also get to follow their journey more closely.
✅ Tax-optimised for Belgians: there is no capital gains tax on stocks which makes it an attractive investment.
❌ Competing with the best: you are essentially up against all the other investors in the world who are looking for cheap stocks to buy. This includes top analysts from large investment firms and hedge funds. What’s your edge?
❌ Even experts can’t beat the market: it’s been proven that, year after year, stock picking doesn’t beat a passive strategy of investing through ETFs or index funds (the topic of the next section).
❌ It takes a lot of time and work to do it well: you have to research the company you’re investing in to convince yourself that it’s a good investment.
❌ It’s an emotional rollercoaster: it’s fun when you’re winning but when a stock drops massively, it can be difficult to withstand the loss.
Invest in ETFs through a broker
Rather than picking individual stocks such as Amazon or Microsoft, index funds are a way to buy the whole market, across all sectors and regions of the world. The most famous index is the S&P 500, which contains the 500 biggest American companies. Large companies such as Apple, Alphabet or Tesla are represented in the S&P 500. This is offered to investors through an instrument called an ETF. Essentially you own a small portion of thousands of companies throughout the world. Instead of betting on a particular company, you are placing a bet on the global economy. Your investments are diversified, have a lower risk and a more consistent return than when picking stocks individually.
The best broker apps to invest in ETFs
Just like regular stocks, ETFs are traded on stock exchanges. So you need an account with a broker to buy ETFs. Some of the best brokerage apps available to Belgians for ETFs are:
- DEGIRO. The Dutch/German DEGIRO charges some of the lowest fees on the market. They also have a large selection of free ETFs as part of their “kernselectie” (Dutch for "core selection"). For ETFs that are not part of the free selection, DEGIRO charges a fee that depends on the stock exchange you buy it on, for instance on Euronext Amsterdam, or XETRA, or Euronext Paris. It’s a foreign broker so you’ll have to declare your account to the National Bank of Belgium and on your subsequent tax forms.
- Lynx. A broker for more advanced investors becaues it’s not the most user-friendly app. Once your account is set up, you’ll be able to buy thousands of different ETFs. For most ETFs, the price is €6 per transaction.
- MEXEM. Another fairly easy and affordable app to buy ETFs from. Mexem’s fee is €2.40 per transaction which makes it attractive for Belgian investors. It’s easy to set up an account and the minimum deposit is €100.
We wrote an in-depth article that looks at the best brokers in Belgium to buy ETFs. But if you’re struggling to choose a broker, you can also use our broker comparison tool to find out the fees charged for different ETFs. This may help you decide!
Pros and cons of investing in ETFs
✅ Follow the market returns: you’re invested in thousands of companies in one go rather than a select few.
✅ Suited for the long-term: the effect of compounding leads to substantial returns in the long run.
✅ Diversified: by investing in thousands of companies, you’re minimising risk and you’re benefiting from the growth of the best performing companies.
✅ No edge required: no need to pick winners from individual stocks, you’re aware that diversification wins in the long run!
✅ Tax optimised for Belgians: capital gains on stock ETFs are not taxed in Belgium!
❌ (Potentially) lower returns: if you had bought Apple stock twenty years ago, you would have made a lot of money. However, would you have held on? ETFs are more diversified and less risky.
❌ No control over the companies you invest in: when you invest in an ETF, the index provider chooses the stocks in the fund. You don’t have any say in the makeup of the ETF.
❌ It’s a boring way to invest: we see it as a smart thing though. Good investing is boring!
Managed ETF investing through an app
Why we think passive investing is the best way for young Belgians to invest
We believe that investing your savings passively through ETFs and index funds is the easiest way to invest for your future:
- it requires little expertise
- it offers diversification across the globe in a large variety of companies
- you become part owner of the world economy
- it’s affordable and you can start investing from €50
- it’s a "liquid" investment, meaning you can enter and pull out whenever you want
- it's tax-advantageous in Belgium because capital gains aren't taxed
The challenges of investing through a broker
We believe passive investing in ETFs is such a powerful tool to improve our financial future. But when we started investing, we realised the difficulties of investing well through a broker ourselves.
You have to figure out your own portfolio
You have to choose the ETFs and set up your portfolios of different funds to match your goals and level of risk. Are you just going to have stocks in your portfolio or allocate some space to bonds? How do you decide?
Figure out tax implications
You need to do your homework and understand how Belgian taxes work, especially when it comes to choosing the right ETFs.
Learn to rebalance
A well-balanced portfolio built for the long term is usually composed of several ETFs. Over time, as the funds in the portfolio evolve differently, the allocation will stray and the portfolio will need a rebalancing. When do you do this? Quarterly, yearly? What happens if there’s a market drop?
You need confidence in yourself
You need to have the discipline to stay the course and a confidence in your decisions for long-term success.
Brokers want you to trade
The majority of brokers make money on you trading so a buy-and-hold strategy through ETFs isn’t in their best interest.
The best app for ETF investing: Curvo
We built Curvo to solve these complexities and to make good investing accessible to all Belgians. We do the work for you and make good investing easy and accessible to all:
- Portfolio of index funds tailored to you. We ask you a few questions at the start to learn about you and your goals. Based on your answers, we match you with the best portfolio of index funds for you. No need to choose which ETFs to buy.
- Proven investment strategies. Curvo’s portfolios are built to stand the test of time. Each portfolio invests only in assets that are widely understood and that, through decades of research and usage, are predicted to earn significant returns over the decades to come. Concretely, this means index funds of stocks and bonds!
- Diversification. We firmly believe in the power of diversification to lower risk and seek investment returns. Each Curvo portfolio consists of over 7,500 companies, diversified across many sectors and countries.
- Invest sustainably. Curvo focuses on one guiding principle: we don’t invest in companies that are considered destructive to the planet. This means that sectors like non-renewable energy, vice products, weapons and controversial companies are all excluded.
- We take care of the taxes. We make sure all taxes and administration are handled properly. Plus, the funds in the Curvo portfolios aren’t liable for the Belgian transaction tax (also known as the "TOB"). This saves you between 0.12% and 1.32% every time you buy or sell.
- Rebalancing done for you. No need to worry about keeping your portfolio in balance, Curvo handles this for you.
- Fractional shares. All your money is invested. There’s no cash left sitting on the side.
- Automated investments. Using direct debit, you can set up a savings plan where an amount you choose is automatically debited from your bank account and invested for you. Saving becomes easy when it's automated!
- Start from €50. No need for a large amount to start.
- Partnership with itsme. Security is vital and that's why we work with itsme to keep your data secure.
- Project your savings into the future. Through Curvo you can see how much your portfolio is expected to be worth in the future. You can answer questions like “how will increasing my monthly contribution by €50, €100 or €200 affect my long-term savings?” to give a concrete idea for the “future you”.
- Withdraw anytime. There’s no long-term contract or exit fees if you wish to stop investing with Curvo.
- Overseen by the financial regulators. Your investments are secure and regulated by the Dutch (AFM) and Belgian (FSMA) regulators.
Learn more about how Curvo can help you grow your wealth.
Pros and cons of passive investing through Curvo
✅ Easy to get started: sign up with itsme, answer a short questionnaire and put your money to work.
✅ Built for our generation: Curvo was launched to solve all the complexities of good investing, and it's all done through an app. And your investments do not contribute to the destruction of our planet!
✅ Automation at the core: sit back and relax while your money works for you. Through fractional shares, all your money is invested!
✅ Everything taken care of: the best portfolio for you and your goals and no need to worry about taxes!
❌ Price: it’s more expensive than doing it yourself through a broker. But the 1% yearly fee covers all costs, and there aren’t any withdrawal fees or transaction costs.
❌ Quick buck: Curvo is not suited for those that wish to make a short-term investment.
❌ You can’t choose what to invest in: Curvo is not for you if you wish to actively pick what’s in your portfolio.
Peer-to-peer lending (P2P lending), also called crowdlending, has been growing in popularity over the years. You lend money directly to other individuals or businesses, cutting out the bank as a middleman. The interests on the loan will earn you a higher return than leaving your money in your savings account. But it comes with risks that need to be considered.
Best Belgian app for peer-to-peer lending: Mozzeno
Mozzeno is a regulated Belgian platform that has enjoyed the recent success of P2P lending. As an investor, you loan money to other Belgian other individuals and professionals. In return, you are paid an interest as the loan is paid back.
Over 10,000 investors are on Mozzeno and the platform has delivered an average return of 2.76% net. It's not the best return compared to some of the other investments we’ve listed here, but it’s still better than keeping your money in a savings account to grow your wealth. What’s nice about using Mozzeno is that you're supporting fellow Belgian individuals and businesses!
Pros and cons of peer-to-peer lending
✅ Invest locally: there’s something to be said about helping small businesses in your area, or else individuals who need a helping hand and aren’t able to receive support from their bank. You can make a difference!
✅ Choose what you invest in: you get the flexibility to choose what companies or individuals to lend your money to. Naturally, there are much fewer projects available on Mozzeno than the amount of stocks or ETFs you can buy through a broker.
✅ Start with low amounts: you can invest from €500.
❌ Little diversification: as you’re lending money to only a few companies or individuals, you’re not exactly diversified.
❌ Focused on Belgium: you can lend money only to Belgian companies and individuals. This is not great for diversification, as you're exposing yourself just to one country.
❌ Risky: you could lose your entire investment if the company or person that you’re lending money to defaults.
❌ Low returns: 2.76% is still better than a savings account, but the returns for P2P lending are low considering the risk involved.
❌ Fiscally not optimal: the Belgian state levies a 30% tax on income from interests.
❌ Difficult to get money out: you will need to wait until the loan has been paid back to get your money back with the interest. You can’t just withdraw your funds at any time.
Invest in crypto
Investing in crypto has been a wild ride since Bitcoin was introduced in 2009. It has literally turned some early investors into billionaires. An initial investment of €1,000 in 2011 would have resulted in over €3.5 million today. We’re talking about a growth rate of 110% a year:
However, as the graph shows, the fluctuations have been extreme as well compared to stocks or ETFs. For instance, if you had invested in Bitcoin in 2021, your investment would have dropped by 50% in the space of a few weeks. And there have been many similar drops in the short history of cryptocurrencies.
Because of the wild volatility, there are lots of risks associated with investing in crypto. Applications of blockchain technologies have increased, but they haven't gotten mainstream yet. The valuations of the various cryptocurrencies and tokens remain largely on potential and speculation, rather than intrinsic value.
Also, the crypto industry has been plagued with scams, Ponzi schemes and financial frauds, resulting in investors losing a lot of money. Institutions in the traditional finance system are strictly regulated by laws that protect individual investors such as yourself. But such regulations do not exist in the crypto industry. This makes it much easier for scammers and fraudsters to set up and continue their activities.
If you want to start investing in crypto, there are a few apps available like Coinbase, Revolut, BitPanda or Binance.
Best app for crypto: Coinbase
When it comes to your life savings, it’s vital to choose a provider that you can trust. As the crypto space is unregulated, it makes it even harder to choose an app. The lack of regulatory protection means you can lose all your money if the company declares bankruptcy or shuts down operations.
There are so many companies registered in dubious countries like the Bahamas (FTX anyone?), so it's good to know that Coinbase is a recognised exchange from the US. They also offer recurrent investing, meaning that you can automatically invest weekly or monthly. Adopting good saving habits is easy when it's automated.
The downside of Coinbase is that it’s among the more expensive players. They charge between 0.05% and 0.60% per transaction.
Pros and cons of investing in crypto
✅ Potential high returns. Once-in-a-lifetime investment returns have been made in crypto. There's a possibility this will repeat itself.
❌ Very risky. In the traditional financial industry, there are strict regulations to protect individual investors. For instance, your investments with Curvo are tightly overseen by the Dutch (AFM) and Belgian (FSMA) regulators. A debacle like the downfall of FTX, where millions of customers were defrauded off their deposits, could hardly have happened to a traditional investment company that is regulated in the EU.
❌ Unclear long-term value. Blockchain technologies underlying crypto are promising. They promise decentralisation and the disappearance of national borders for transferring money. But so far, this has not yet materialised into widespread adoption. So it's hard to know if the current valuations for cryptocurrencies are justified.
❌ If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The lack of regulations have brought a lot of scammers to the space, promising significant returns over a short period of time. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Do your homework and don't fall for it.
❌ High fees. In general, the fees for trading cryptocurrencies are much higher than for trading traditional stocks or ETFs.
Invest in real estate
There's a saying that goes: "Belgians are born with a brick in their stomach". While many Belgians consider real estate a safe and sound investment, at Curvo we realised that it isn’t easy to do well. Location is key but you also need to understand what type of property you wish to invest in. On top that, fees and taxes are high. There are recording rights to cover of 10% to 12.5% as well as the notary fees (roughly 1.3%), and the VAT of 21% for new buildings. And renovations are costly if the property needs a lot of work.
Best real estate investing app in Belgium: Scargo
As you can tell, there are a lot of considerations when it comes to investing in real estate. So we're pleased that Scargo launched to make it accessible for all, by taking care of many of the complications of real estate investing. Their app allows you to start investing from €100 in property projects in Belgium. You then get dividends from the rentals you’ve invested in.
Pros and cons of real estate investing
✅ Boost your returns with leverage. One of the main benefits of real estate investing is that you can invest with borrowed money through a mortgage. This is called "leverage" in finance speak, and it's a powerful tool to increase your returns.
✅ Rental income is tax-advantageous. Rental income isn’t taxed in Belgium. You can deduct mortgage interest payments from your own tax bill too.
❌ Focused on Belgium. You’re most likely investing only in Belgian property. But diversification is important to reduce risk when investing your life savings.
❌ Requires knowledge. It's tough to assess whether a property is a bargain.
❌ Real estate represents only a small part of the economy. There are many more industries that can offer better returns.
❌ Expensive. You need starting capital to make an initial purchase. And even if you choose to use a product like Scargo, the fees add up: there’s a 10% fee on the purchase of the property and then a 1% per year management fee.
❌ The investment climate changes quickly. Investing in real estate is more subject to micro events such as changes in taxes. This is especially true in a country like Belgium that is known for its fiscal uncertainties!
With the low interest rates and inflation, the savings account is not the best place to grow your wealth. We think good investing is important to prepare for your financial future. We discussed six of the better ways that Belgians can invest. Out of these, we believe that passive investing in ETFs and index funds offers the best means for most people to invest: it's less risky because it's highly diversified, it has a proven track record, and you can start investing from low amounts. But managing your own portfolios of ETFs through a broker can be challenging. So we built Curvo as the easiest way to get started.
Questions you may have
What's the easiest way beginners can start investing?
We built Curvo as the most beginner-friendly way for good investing in Belgium. So there's a good chance that Curvo will suit your needs.
But if you have the motivation, interest and time to go through the learning curve of managing your own investments, we recommend opening an account with a broker to invest in ETFs. Feel free to use our resources to help you on your investment journey.
What are the cheapest investments?
Investing in stocks and ETFs through a broker is the cheapest way to invest. It's also one that requires the most knowledge and time to do well, so make sure you understand what you're getting into! Our resources can help you on your way.
What investments are safe?
Investments in stocks, ETFs, peer-to-peer lending and real estate are all regulated by laws that protect individual investors. These significantly reduce the risk of losing your money due to a scam or fraud. Be careful when investing in crypto though, as there's very little regulatory oversight for most platforms.
Aside from that, any investment that delivers a return carries risk. Risk and return are always linked. So unfortunately, the investments that are the least risky are also the ones that are the least likely to offer a good return.
When you invest with Curvo, you are matched with the portfolio of index funds that suits your goals and appetite for risk. If you are risk-averse, your portfolio will have more bonds and less stocks. Bonds are less risky and their role is to stabilise your portfolio.
What is the best broker in Belgium?
The answer is: it depends on your expectations! Brokers vary in terms of convenience, safety and price. We suggest you go through our list of best brokers in Belgium.