Stash was founded in 2015 with a mission to help everyday Americans invest and grow wealth. The all-digital experience focuses on helping younger investors manage their money effectively so they can be set up for future financial success. To further this mission, Stash has built its platform centered around educating users on a wide variety of investment and financial topics. Stash is also free from complicated financial jargon while preserving investment flexibility by allowing you to either select the investments yourself or choose the fully automated Smart Portfolio option. We’ll explore Stash in more detail so you can determine if this platform is the right fit for you.

Key Takeaways

  • Stash is geared towards beginner investors looking for an all-digital experience.
  • Users can select from three different subscription models to match their needs.
  • Stash’s education content is easy to understand and covers a wide variety of topics.
  • Stash’s portfolio management automation tools are limited.
Pros
  • No account minimum

  • Extensive and readily accessible educational material

  • Innovative Stock-Back card pairs spending with stock rewards

  • Investment customization includes DIY option for all accounts

Cons
  • No tax-loss harvesting or other tax optimization strategies

  • No automated IRA portfolio management

  • No human financial advisors

Company Overview

Account Minimum $0 ($5 for Smart Portfolio) 
Fees Monthly subscription tiers at $1, $3, $9
Goal Setting Retirement, Wealth Building, Money Management, Rainy Day
Available Assets Stocks, ETFs, REITs, Crypto
Interest Paid on Cash Balances 0%
Customizable Portfolio Yes
View Portfolio before Funding Yes
Customer Service Chatbot, Email, Phone M-F 8:30am - 6:30pm EST
Financial Advisor Available No
Cash Management Banking, Stock-Back Card, Early Payday
Tax-Loss Harvesting No
External Account Sync/Consolidation No
Mobile App Android, iOS

Account Setup

Stash makes the account signup process simple and straightforward. As you begin onboarding, you’ll enter personal information and have the opportunity to select the first stock you’d like to invest in from a menu. You also have flexibility to save the investment selection until later in the process. When selecting goals, Stash provides six options including retirement, budgeting, saving for the unexpected, building wealth, earning stock rewards, and financial advice. Once goals are selected you’ll be prompted to pick the subscription plan and add a credit card to enroll. 

Stash’s subscription-based model is rare within the robo-advisor industry as most providers charge a fee percentage for the assets held on the platform. Stash offers three subscription options; Beginner, Growth, and Stash+. The Beginner tier is priced at $1 per month and includes digital advice tailored towards new investors, a personal investment account, stock-back card access, and the option to utilize early payday.  Stash Growth is a $3 monthly subscription that includes all the Beginner options plus digital advice for personal finances, a smart portfolio, and a retirement portfolio. Stash+ is the premier tier for $9 per month that includes everything on the prior tiers supplemented with digital advice for family finances, market insights, and two kids portfolios. All tiers include life insurance but the coverage is not significant. 

The subscription plan determines which accounts you can open. Overall, Stash offers a relatively limited number of investment account types which include personal brokerage, traditional individual retirement account (IRA), Roth IRA, and custodial accounts. After you’ve chosen the subscription plan, you can link your bank account to invest with Stash. Before your funds are invested, you’ll be able to view your allocation to ensure you’re comfortable with the portfolio. Stash also provides a diversification analysis tool which evaluates how well your self selected investments are diversified on the platform.

Goal Planning

Stash provides several goal planning options to choose from such as:

  • Retirement
  • Building Wealth
  • Saving for the Unexpected
  • Budgeting
  • Earn Stock Rewards

Once you’ve selected your goals, Stash generally lacks financial calculators and tools that help you assess your goal planning progress. However, You can educate yourself about a variety of goal planning best practices through Stash’s Learn portal which covers a broad range of investment and financial planning topics. This information isn’t specific to your financial situation but many of the articles may generally be relevant to your goal profile.

Another way to evaluate your goal progress is through Stash’s diversification analysis tool, which gives you further insight into your portfolio allocation and the opportunity to receive investment recommendations based on your portfolio makeup. There are also “Potential” and “Idea” sections of your account that allow you to adjust a few financial levers to explore potential outcomes. Stash is purely digital, so there are no human financial advisors to assist with planning. 

Account Services

Stash provides bank services that can help you to more effectively manage your money in one place. One of the unique features of Stash’s bank account is a Stock-Back card that gives you a percentage of your spending back in the form of stock instead of the more standard cash back option. This allows you to set aside further funds for investing without more money coming out of your pocket. 

Stash also supports auto deposits and round-up transfers through their Auto-Stash tool. You’ll be able to use these funds to place trades for stocks and ETFs in four daily trading windows. As mentioned, advice is digitally delivered throughout the product in the form of educational articles curated from information you share on the platform. Human advisors are not available for consultations. Since Stash is built for uncomplicated investing, margin accounts are also not offered as part of the platform.

Cash Management

Within Stash’s Smart Portfolio, automatic sweeps into the portfolio occur once cash exceeds $1. Money market funds are not offered, and this makes sense as the balance of cash will never be large enough to generate much in terms of interest given the active sweep into the market portfolio. As part of the banking product, Stash gives you more control over your cash flow by offering bill pay, mobile deposits, check writing, and budgeting tools. You’ll also have access to the early payday feature for your paycheck, which creates more financial flexibility by being able to manage these funds up to two business days ahead of when you might normally expect to receive the money.

Portfolio Construction

Stash provides both the option to select your own investments or to use their fully managed service, Smart Portfolio. If you’re looking to create your own allocation you’ll find that the investment catalog is larger than most robo-advisors by allowing you to choose from over 4,000 stocks, ETFs, and real estate investment trusts (REITs). You can also take advantage of fractional share investing to give yourself more investment options. Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) options are available for self directed investors but are not included as part of the fully managed Smart Portfolio.

The Smart Portfolio is built by Stash’s investment research team and generally follows a passive, risk optimized approach to building wealth. The portfolio features a sliding scale to adjust the risk level to your preferences, goals, and financial situation. The asset allocation is invested in ETFs and is broadly invested across domestic, international, and bond holdings. In January 2022, Stash added crypto as part of their Smart Portfolio diversification strategy.

Available Assets

Individual Stocks Yes
Mutual Funds No
Fixed Income No
REITs Yes
Socially Responsible or ESG Options Yes
ETFs Yes
Non-Proprietary ETFs Yes
Private Equity No
Crypto, Forex  Crypto

Portfolio Customization

Stash gives you the option to have complete control over your portfolio creation, a unique feature compared to other robo-advisor offerings. However, this flexibility comes with minimal portfolio management options compared to the Smart Portfolio. The latter is fully managed without the option to adjust the allocation outside of changing the overall risk level.

Portfolio Management

Stash’s approach to portfolio management depends on whether you build the allocation yourself or you utilize the Smart Portfolio option. While you’re afforded a lot of flexibility if you pick your own investments, Stash effectively leaves the ongoing portfolio management up to you. There’s no automatic rebalancing that occurs for this portion of your money. The diversification analysis tool can suggest ways to improve your allocation but the decision on whether to take action will be up to you. If you are using Stash in this way, it is essentially just a normal brokerage account rather than an automated portfolio offering from a robo-advisor. 

The Smart Portfolio is the fully automated investment strategy where you turn over the management to Stash. Stash reviews your account on a quarterly basis for rebalancing opportunities and further ensures your portfolio is weighted properly when withdrawals or contributions take place. No tax-loss harvesting or other tax optimization features are available.

It is important to note that the Smart Portfolio is only available for use within your personal brokerage account. This is a meaningful limitation of the platform, especially considering that most other robo-advisor offerings provide this functionality specifically for retirement and other longer term accounts. Stash also doesn’t support account aggregation with external investments, so you won’t be able to see how the allocation fits in with your larger portfolio picture.

Key Portfolio Management Features

Automatic Rebalancing Quarterly, Deposits, Withdrawals (Smart Portfolio Only)
Reporting Features Tax Reporting, Statements, Performance
Tax-Loss Harvesting No
External Account Syncing/Consolidation No

User Experience

Desktop Experience

Stash is generally geared towards newer investors and the desktop experience reflects this focus. The site provides simple, straightforward navigation with engaging material, prompts, and functionality. Email communication is also timely and informative providing updates on market conditions, deposit activity, or financial topics tailored to you. Overall, you’ll find Stash’s desktop platform intuitive and easy to use.

Mobile Experience

The mobile experience is built for both iOS and Android users and provides easy navigation, transacting ability, and functionality. You’ll be able to use the app to manage all aspects of your account without needing to use a computer. 

Stash was originally created as a mobile experience with desktop functionality added later. While the experiences are now similar, some users may prefer the mobile option given the ease of use and functionality that is a bit more robust (such as debit card support).

Customer Service

  • Phone line: Available Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. ET.
  • Email
  • Chatbot
  • Support via Social Media
  • Informative FAQ Site 
  • No Financial Advisor Support

Stash is primarily a digital-only experience and the support options reflect this aspect. You’ll be able to get in touch with a human support team via phone line and email. Otherwise, the online chatbot and FAQ site will be able to address a broad range of questions. Since Stash doesn’t provide human guidance, no financial advisor consultations are available.

Security

  • Two-factor authentication
  • 256 bit encryption
  • Biometric entry (fingerprint scanner or face recognition)
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) coverage
  • Debit Card Locking/Unlocking

Stash has robust security features in place to ensure your data and information remain safe. Encryption, two-factor authentication, and biometric entry are just a few of the security options in place on your account. Standard FDIC and SIPC coverage is also applied to all account holders.

Education

Stash prides itself in providing outstanding education content to help new investors better understand investing and financial topics. The “Learn” section of the dashboard contains a wide variety of articles that are engaging and easy to understand. Since Stash users tend to be younger or newer investors, much of the content is curated towards this audience. The quality of the material and ease of use gives Stash users the opportunity to meaningfully improve their investment knowledge.

Commissions and Fees

As mentioned, Stash’s subscription-based model is uncommon in the robo-advisor industry where a percentage fee for assets under management (AUM) is the usual approach. For investors with larger deposit amounts, the fee savings are significant compared to the AUM model. However, investors with smaller deposits see their effective fee rate higher than other robo advisors that use a flat fee percentage. 

The expense ratios in ETFs are relatively low on average which puts more money in your pocket to invest. Stash’s banking service also lets you avoid paying hidden fees typically seen in traditional bank institutions. There are some miscellaneous fees such as transferring your account out of Stash, but the large majority of fees are covered by the monthly subscription cost.

Category Fee
Management fees Monthly subscription tiers at $1, $3, $9
Termination fees $75 transfer out fee
Expense ratios  Less than 0.06% average for smart portfolio

Final Verdict

Stash is a great option for new investors who would like to learn about investing while having the flexibility to create their own portfolio or utilize an automated portfolio management service. The educational content is excellent and easy to understand. The banking product also gives users more control over their financial lives in one place. Overall, Stash is a strong option to help newer and younger investors manage money effectively and the subscription model means it gets cheaper in real terms as your investment account balance grows. 

That being said, experienced investors who prefer more robust portfolio management or people who value human advice will not find a match in Stash. There are also some key limitations in that you can only deploy the robo-advisory part of Stash inside taxable investment accounts with no tax optimization. Your tax-protected retirement accounts cannot be enrolled in Smart Portfolios. If you are looking to have a robo-advisor look after an IRA, you will have to keep looking.

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With the individual investor in mind, we’ve designed a comprehensive ranking methodology to find the best overall robo-advisors and the best robo-advisors across nine key categories. Each advisor is then scored across multiple variables to rate performance in every applicable category. The score for the overall award is a weighted average of the categories.

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