Ease of Use
If you are in the investment world you may have heard of the investment platform, Stash. Boasting over 2 million users, stash caters to younger investors with allowing as little as $5 to invest. Read here to learn if Stash really has what your investing needs.
Stash was founded in 2015 as a mobile investment app by Brandon Krieg and Ed Robinson. The app has expanded into an online desktop platform and has attracted more than two million users in the years since. While Stash does not disclose its total portfolio value, the company was named as a “Tech Company to Watch” by the Wall Street Journal in 2018.
How Does Stash Work
Stash is designed to cater to young – particularly Millennial – investors by allowing people to invest as little as $5. The platform is heavy on user experience, with highly streamlined mobile and browser-based desktop applications that walk users through the process of creating a portfolio and investing in specific industries.
Stash’s investment strategy allows users to invest in a variety of stocks and custom ETFs. Users interested in purchasing stock in individual companies can purchase fractions of shares, which is advantageous for people who only want to invest small amounts of money in high-value stocks like Amazon. The ETFs are designed to cater to a younger audience with relatively little investment experience by offering plain-language explanations of what they represent. ETF categories are focused around specific emerging and well-established industries, such as clean energy, cyber security, and healthcare, as well as around specific investing strategies like aggressive growth and investing in blue chip stocks.
This investment structure is very popular because it gives users the ability to choose the broad strokes of what they invest in, as well as the ability to invest in individual companies. This control over investments is much the same as that offered by traditional brokerage firms, but Stash’s applications are significantly more user friendly and appeal directly to the aesthetic of Millennial investors.
Stash has four different types of accounts available. Most investors will open a standard investment account, which is subject to capital and long-term gains taxes as ETFs and stocks are traded or as Stash makes trades within ETFs. Starting in 2017, Stash began offering retirement accounts – users can open traditional IRA investment accounts or Roth IRA investment accounts with Stash. Finally, Stash offers custodial accounts that allow parents to open investment accounts on behalf of a child who is under the age of 18.
The advantage to Stash is that users only need to invest $5 to start, no matter what type of account is opened. That is far below the minimum investment requirements imposed by many standard brokerages and competing portfolio management services.
Currently, Stash is only available in the US.
Stash Pricing and Fees
Stash investment accounts carry a $1 per month subscription fee, and retirement accounts carry a $2 per month fee. It’s important to understand that while these fees are quite low, they can represent a significant percentage of an investment portfolio for users who are taking advantage of Stash’s low account minimum. For example, users investing just $100 with stash will spend 12% or 24% of their portfolio on the subscription fee in the first year. It is also worth noting that there are several competitors to Stash, including M1 Finance and Acorns, that have no subscription fees for standard investment accounts.
On top of that, the other downside to Stash is that the service’s custom ETFs have surprisingly high expense ratios – typically over 0.5%. Compared to ETFs available from most traditional brokerages, Stash’s ETF expense ratios are roughly five to ten times more expensive. Here, users who are investing larger amounts of money with Stash and who are not bothered by the $12 per year subscription fee may begin to notice significant costs to using the platform.
In addition, keep in mind that investment accounts with more than $5,000 invested or retirement accounts with more than $10,000 invested will be charged an additional 0.25% fee.
That said, there are no additional fees for investing in individual stocks. While the subscription fee still puts Stash behind Robinhood, which offers completely free trading, this is a major advantage over standard brokerages.
Stash Platform and Tools
Stash started as a mobile application, but has since launched a browser-based desktop application as well. Both applications are extremely well designed and place an emphasis on user experience. All ETFs are illustrated with images and short, to-the-point descriptions that make it clear what you’ll be investing in. On top of that, both ETFs and individual stocks can be organized according to industry category or according to investment style.
Better yet, Stash offers portfolio suggestion tools for investors who don’t know where to start. For example, a Mad Libs-style tool allows users to fill in what they’re saving for and how they feel about different investments. From that information, Stash will suggest a combination of individual stocks and ETFs, and then make it easy for users to direct money into them.
To make the user experience even easier, Stash integrates seamlessly with most bank accounts. Users can transfer money quickly with no transfer fees, or take advantage of Stash’s auto-investing option to continuously save and invest money over time.
Finally, Stash places an emphasis on educating its users about basic investment and savings strategies. The mobile and desktop apps include access to a wealth of articles and short, illustrated videos that teach users about how to invest wisely and how to save for retirement and other financial goals.
Most of Stash’s ETFs are relatively young – a few years old or less. That makes it relatively difficult to gauge historical performance, especially given the recent volatility of the stock market.
What can be said is that the majority of Stash’s ETFs have yielded returns of 10-20% in the past one to two years, during a period of strong bullish activity in the market. Note that there have been ups and downs, so not all investors have seen these high returns. All of Stash’s ETFs have ticker symbols and are linked to pages on Yahoo Finance and MarketWatch so that investors can get more information about potential returns and risk.
How Does Stash Compare?
Stash is not alone in offering diverse ETFs and fractional investments in stocks. In fact, direct competitors M1 Finance and Stockpile offer very similar services with no monthly subscription fee. Stash is also more expensive than traditional brokerages for investors who take advantage of the platform’s ETFs, since Stash has extraordinarily high expense ratios. Stash focuses on its user-friendly platform and $5 account minimum to entice users to ignore the added expense of the platform.
Stash Key Differentiators
The main thing that sets Stash apart is the diversity of ETF options and the ability to invest as little as $5 in an account. In addition, what captures many users and keeps them with Stash is the company’s exceptionally user-friendly application. The combination of Millennial-oriented tools and aesthetics makes it easy for users to choose Stash over its competitors, since it simply looks and feels more straightforward to use. On top of that, Stash is one of the few fractional investment options to offer retirement accounts and custodial accounts.
Stash boasts over two million users and has a strong history of expansion since the platform launched in 2015. In addition, it has been favorably reviewed by a number of trustworthy financial news outlets, such as CNBC. The company is relatively transparent and makes it easy to get in touch with their technical support as well.
With all that in mind, there is no reason for investors not to trust Stash with managing their money. However, investors should be wary of Stash’s high expense ratios – and may need to keep an eye on whether these expense ratios creep even higher after their initial investment.
Who is Stash Best For?
Stash is best for Millennial investors who can take advantage of the platform’s extremely low account minimum and seamless integration with most banks. Users who set up automatic transfers to Stash for continuous investment are likely to see the most savings from using Stash. In addition, Stash’s diversity of ETFs and helpful tools for determining where to invest money can be a major advantage for investors who don’t know where to start with investing money.
That said, users who are planning to invest sums larger than a few thousand dollars are likely to reduce their expenses by switching to a traditional brokerage or to a lower-cost portfolio management platform.
Stash is a rapidly growing portfolio management platforms that boasts low account minimums and an extremely user-friendly mobile and desktop application. Stash’s ETFs are succinctly explained and seamless bank integration allows users to set up recurring investments. However, Stash has a somewhat costly subscription fee for a microinvestment platform and the expense ratios on its ETFs are surprisingly high.
- Incredible user experience on mobile and desktop applications
- Low account minimum of just $5
- Seamless integration with most banks
- Retirement and custodial account options available
- Commission-free investing in individual stocks
- Wide diversity of ETFs, sorted by industry category and investing style
- Excellent tools for mapping a portfolio and learning about investing
- Very high expense ratio for most ETFs
- Subscription fee can be high for users investing small amounts of money