What Is Stash Invest?
Stash Invest is an Android/iOS app the lets you invest in, buy and sell more than 30 funds with a low monthly fee of $1 for balances under $5,000 and 0.25% for balances of $5,000 or higher.
Stash differs from automated robo-advisors (apps that put your money in funds and regularly tinker with your portfolio to help you earn more) in that it doesn’t use algorithms to maintain your account.
You select your exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and follow their performance through the app. Also, Stash lets you buy and sell ETFs, a feature some robo-advisors don’t let you do.
Consumers who are interested in the idea of using robo-advisors like Betterment, WealthFront or Acorns may be drawn to Stash because of the freedom they have to choose their own mix of ETFs rather than letting a robo-advisor do it for them.
Deciding the best fit for you is a matter of understanding who the company is, what their app offers, what it charges and what other people are saying about it.
We’ll cover each of those topics in the next few sections of our review.
Who is Stash Invest?
According to an Oct. 2016 article from CNBC, the pair wanted to make investing available to everyone and not just the upper-income types we normally associate with investing.
“We started asking everyday people outside in Midtown, ‘Do you invest,’” Krieg told reporter Kathleen Elkins. “And we kept hearing the same answers over and over again: ‘No, but I really want to — I just find it confusing.’ Or, ‘No, but I’ll do it later, when I'm rich.’”
As of Nov. 2016, the app had between 500,000 and 1 million downloads in the Google Play store.
How Does Stash Invest Work? Is Stash Invest Safe?
To understand where your money goes when you use Stash, we have to walk you through the basics of investing.
When you download the app and start the sign-up process, Stash will ask you what type of investing you want to do: low-, medium- and high-risk are the typical options.
Stash Invest will also want to know how old you are, how much money you make and how long you want to invest. These questions are common with robo-advisors and financial advisors, too.
Once you answer those questions, Stash will let you choose between more than 30 ETFs, which is a collection of different types of investments (stocks, bonds, currency, etc.) that are often the investment of choice for robo-advisors and DIY investment apps like Stash.
The Varying Levels of Risk
Low-risk ETF’s are made up of a combination of factors that will, most likely, remain steady and bring you low returns. Experts say low-risk investments are good if you plan on investing for a long time. The returns are steady and there don’t tend to be any wild fluctuations in prices.
From there, you can choose to take on moderate risk or high risk ETFs, each presenting the prospect of higher returns.
“Risk is absolutely fundamental to investing,” Investopedia wrote. “The trouble for new investors, though, is figuring out just where the risk really lies and what the differences are between low risk and high risk.”
Check out their article on investment risk if you want to learn more. Now, let’s get back to the Stash Investment app.
You Make Deposits From Your Bank Account
In order to invest with Stash, you have to select a “funding account”, which is the bank account from which you’ll withdraw funds to deposit to your investment account.
Stash Invest doesn’t allow you to make deposits via a credit card, nor will they let you make automatic deposits from your bank account.
No Credit Check
Before you can open your account, you’ll have to provide Stash Invest with your social security number so they can confirm your identity. Stash won’t do a hard check on your credit, which means opening an account won’t affect your credit.
Investments Are Insured
Your money is insured under the provisions of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). This federal organization protects up to $500,000 of your investments should the holdings company behind Stash, Apex Clearing, go out of business.
Who is Apex Clearing?
Every time you make buy or sell ETFs through Stash Invest, your money heads to Apex Clearing, a company that holds on to your money to make sure the transaction is safe and legitimate.
Once they “clear” the trade, your money is sent to Stash and you receive your investment. The process takes about a day, which means if you buy/sell on a Monday, the transaction won’t post until the following day (in most cases).
We ran Apex Clearing’s name through Broker Check, a tool provided by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. We found that Apex has had 40 different disclosures. Disclosures are times when FINRA fines a financial services company for breaking the rules.
We checked Apex’s first 10 disclosures and found that FINRA hit them with more than $600,000 in fines.
The Fees Stash Charges You to Invest With Them
Stash charges you $1 a month for balances under $5,000 and 0.25% a month for balances of $5,000 and higher.
The company will also charge you something called an investment expense ratio, which is basically a service fee they take from your account to pay for the overall administration and cost of running their more than 30 ETF’s. Those fees will range from 0.1% to 0.7% percent a year.
Stash Invest Reviews: What Other People are Saying About Stash
One of the ways we like to verify the usefulness and overall excellence of a product or service is to read what experts and consumers are saying about it.
For Stash, we turned to a series of reviews by personal finance sites as well as the app’s Google Play and iTunes pages.
What the Experts Say
Our basic impression from the experts is they like the app because it’s easy to use and you can start investing right away. However, it doesn’t offer enough features to attract more serious investors.
“Stash Invest is a convenient app for helping less experienced investors get their money into investment funds quickly, while also providing simple tools to watch and manage funds,” PCMag’s Jill Duffy wrote. “More experienced investors will find the service light on features.”
What the Users Say
The Stash app’s Google Play page has plenty of feedback from users, who give it 3.9 stars from a total of 1,977 reviews.
Several of the most recent reviewers said they like how easy it is to use Stash Invest, but there were a few complaints about the app being buggy.
Two reviewers said their anti-virus software recognized Stash as malware, one user said the app wasn’t letting her log in even though she was using the right password, while several other reviewers noted weird quirks.
On the iTunes side of things, more than 600 customers give the app 3.5 stars. A few reviewers complained about having log-in problems, while others said they’ve enjoyed the Stash experience so far.
Our Conclusions About Stash Invest
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Stash is a robo-advisor like Betterment, WealthFront or Acorns. Those apps use mathematical equations to tinker with your investment portfolio so you continue to earn money (rebalancing) and avoid paying too much in taxes on your investment (tax-loss harvesting).
Think of Stash as a simple way to invest money in a variety of ETFs selected for you based on your age, income, investment goals, and risk tolerance.
This investing app might be a great fit for you if you’re the kind of person who wants enough freedom to choose your own investments, but not the responsibility of choosing individual stocks.
However, if you don’t know much about stocks and just want an investment app that takes your money and does all the work, you might want to think about using Betterment, WealthFront or Acorns.
They provide you with rebalancing and tax-loss harvesting, ensuring that you maximize your money without having to do anything.
While Stash’s connection to Apex Clearing gives us pause because of the fines the clearing firm has received over the past few years, we think Apex’s reputation does get a boost because they work with Betterment, WealthFront and Acorns.
However, if you have any hesitations, speak with a Stash Invest representative and ask them about Apex.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about robo-advisors, check out our beginner’s guide to robo-advisors. We tell you why robo-advisors came into being, how they work and why they might be a good fit for you.