In the very early days of investing, most people wouldn’t even consider it. It was too expensive to get started, and much, much too complicated.
Thankfully, both of those issues are being addressed by investing services such as Stash. These apps and sites allow you to not only invest small amounts of money; they also educate you along the way.
The result is that investing is no longer reserved for those who already have money (and already know about investing).
That is undoubtedly a huge win for everyday investors. But is Stash the right investing app for you? Let’s find out.
What is Stash?
Stash is a simple investing app which, according to its website, “unites investing, banking, saving, and learning into one seamless experience.”
Now, before we go further into the details, it’s worth noting that you won’t necessarily get investing, banking, and saving features with Stash. That depends upon which plan you choose–more on that later.
Indeed, depending on your plan, you may not have access to all these features. But what you will have is access to thousands of stocks and ETFs with no trading commissions.
And because Stash is tailored to beginner investors, it will initially take you through a series of questions to help tailor your portfolio.
Stash is a little different from other beginner-friendly investing apps, though. Other investing apps, such as Betterment, come with automatic rebalancing, you’ll have to manage your own portfolio with Stash.
That isn’t necessarily a bad thing–perhaps you prefer to be more in control. Nevertheless, it something to keep in mind.
All in all, Stash provides a positive experience for beginner investors. The app is beautifully designed and sets users on the right path to start growing their wealth.
While investing is probably the focus of Stash, it offers more than just that with its plans. If you so choose, it’s possible to do your saving, investing, and checking all in one place with Stash.
That’s good news if convenience is important to you. But how do the rest of its features stack up?
Stash has a number of nice features that make it easy to save your extra cash. It accomplishes this with tools such as Set Schedule, Round-Ups, and Smart-Stash.
Set Schedule is straightforward. It moves a set amount of cash into your savings account on a given date.
Round-Ups have become a popular feature as well. Any time you make a purchase with your linked debit card, Stash will round your purchase up to the nearest whole dollar amount. Once you have $5 worth of spare change saved, it will transfer it to your account; you can then invest it.
Smart-Stash, as its name implies, is a more advanced, algorithmic savings tool. The short synopsis is that it analyzes your spending patterns and automatically determines how much you can afford to save. Then, it will automatically transfer money into Stash when you have enough saved up.
Investing is the bread and butter of Stash and key to building wealth in general. As such, this is where we would look for it to really stand out.
Fractional shares are available, which is great for new investors. In some cases, you can buy fractional shares for just pennies.
And there are a few things it does in a somewhat unique way when it comes to investing. As mentioned earlier, it asks new users a few questions to help tailor their portfolio.
After answer the initial questions, Stash will recommend ETFs based on your responses. It suggests ETFs based on typical investing factors, such as your risk tolerance and time horizon.
Where it does things a little differently though is that it helps you to invest based on what’s important to you. It does so by breaking its list of both stock and ETFs into categories.
For example, on the stocks side, you’ll find categories for things like finance, health care, real estate, and tech.
Its ETF categories are where things get a little more interesting. Since ETFs contain a bundle of stocks, they can be grouped together by type.
For example, there are Alpha Seekers for those looking to maximize returns, Diversified Mixes tailored to your risk tolerance, Missions and Causes for those who prefer value-based investing, and Technology and Innovation.
Within these categories, you’ll find some very interesting funds. Defending America lets you invest in the US military. Gamers FTW invests in video game companies. And Corporate Cannabis invests in, well, cannabis (the ticker is MJ – yes, really).
As you can see, investing in what matters to you is probably Stash’s greatest asset (pun intended).
Stash offers a decent checking account that is available for all of its plans. It’s not the best I’ve seen, but it’s not bad, either.
You’ll get a debit card, mobile deposit, recurring transfers, and analysis of your spending habits. You can get paid via direct deposit up to 2 days early with Stash.
There are also no overdraft fees, no monthly fees, no minimum balances, and access to 19,000 fee-free-ATMs.
And there are some interesting features, too. One feature you won’t typically find else is Stash’s Stock-Back program.
Here’s how it works: every time you spend money at a publicly-traded company (i.e. Wal-Mart or Starbucks), a small percentage of the purchase price will be matched with a stock purchase in that company.
For Stash’s low- and mid-tier plans, that percentage is 0.125%. For Stash+, it increases to 0.25%.
So, for example, if you spend $100 at Wal-Mart and you have one of the lower two plans, you’ll get 12 and a half cents ($0.125) of Wal-Mart stock. Stash+ nets you 25 cents of stock.
Stash also has rotating Stock-Back bonuses which allow you to earn between 1% and 5% of stock on your purchases.
Note that it will take quite a while to earn a significant amount of stock, as evidenced by the 12 and a half cents on $100.
Stash’s higher-tier plans do have some additional features that may interest you, such as custodial accounts (investing account for up to 2 children), IRA accounts, and a monthly insight report.
The only other premium benefit is that you get a metal debit card with Stash+.
All in all, Stash banking is pretty good, though the one thing that’s missing is the ability to earn interest on your cash.
Stash Pricing & Fees
Stash offers three pricing tiers: Beginner, Growth, and Stash+. These plans are all subscription-based at a cost of $1, $3, and $9/month, respectively.
Those fees may not sound like that much, but they can be steep for someone who is just starting out.
For example, if you decide to invest $500 and opt for Stash+, you are effectively paying a 2.16% annual fee on your money. ((9/500)*12).
Even its expense ratios (fees to manage ETFs) are a bit high. The average comes in at 0.23%; compare that to Betterment which averages 0.11%.
However, Stash is not a robo-advisor and thus doesn’t use AI to manage its funds, so a slightly higher expense ratio should be expected.
Add that to the fact that Stash gives you more freedom in terms of exactly how you want to invest your money and its ER starts to look a little better.
Pros & Cons
Stash has its fair share of pros and cons. For some investors, it isn’t a bad way to get started investing. It also lets people invest in the things they care about, which is a plus.
That said, its relatively high fees on investing and lack of interest earned on savings hold it back, especially for more advanced savers and investors.
Is Stash Right For You?
Stash is best for newer investors and for those who are looking to invest their money in certain causes and industries. It also gives you an ecosystem where you can hold all of your money in one place.
However, its fees are somewhat high–other investing platforms have no monthly fees and its ETF expense ratios are somewhat high, too. You also earn no interest on your cash balance.
More advanced investors may want to look elsewhere, but for those first starting out, Stash is worth a look.