Stash and Acorns are both great robo-advisor options for entry-level investors. Both apps offer just enough functionality for someone without a lot of cash to put away and who might need simplified investment options and a little guidance. They allow beginners to get into the game with a small opening deposit, and both offer straightforward fee structures and some financial education.
That said, Stash and Acorns arenâ€™t identical, and they differ greatly in the range of investment options available. The best robo-advisor choice depends on your needs and personal preferences. Letâ€™s figure out whether Stash or Acorns fits your needs.
Stash works like a traditional investment account, helping you to build a portfolio of exchange-traded funds and individual stocks. The app asks new users a series of questions to gauge their financial situation, financial goals and risk tolerance, then suggests stocks and ETFs that meet their needs. You get to choose which ETFs and stocks to include in your portfolio, and the appâ€™s Stash Coach feature guides your choices.
Portfolio overview screenshots for Stash and Acorns
Acorns takes a hybrid approach that combines automatic savings with investing, and the process is much more hands-off than with Stash. You begin by linking your checking account and credit cards with the Acorns app, which then tracks your spending and rounds up all purchases to the nearest dollar, placing the difference into your account. Once you have at least $5 saved, it automatically invests in ETFs. In addition to this round-up function, you can also schedule recurring deposits as small as $5 into your Acorns account on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Both Acorns and Stash let users put money into various tax-deferred individual retirement accounts (IRAs), in addition to their basic taxable investment accounts. Acorns also offers a checking account, called Acorns Spend. It features unlimited free or reimbursed ATM withdrawals nationwide, free ACH transfers, direct deposit, and mobile check deposits.
|Management fee||$1 per month for accounts with less than $5,000 deposited;
0.25% annual fee for accounts with $5,000 or more deposited;
$2 per month for retirement accounts, or 0.25% annual fee for retirement accounts with $10,000 or more deposited
|$1/month for basic Acorns functionality;
$2/month for basic Acorns + IRA account;
$3/month for basic Acorns + IRA account + Acorns checking account
|Average ETF expense ratio||0.29%||0.03% – 0.15%|
|Account minimum||5||$0, although your Round-Ups or one-time investments must be at least $5|
|Human advisors||Access to customer service via phone and email||Customer service via email only|
|Tax loss harvesting||No||No|
|College savings options||Yes||No|
|Investment account types||Individual taxable, Traditional IRA,Roth IRA, UGMA/UTMA||Individual taxable, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP IRA|
|Savings account option||No||No|
|Ease of use||5 stars||5.00000 stars|
As management fees go, the structure for both companies is pretty simple, however Stash gets more expensive as your balance grows, while Acorns fixed cost becomes less expensive as your balance grows. Both Stash and Acorns charge $1 a month for basic services. Once youâ€™ve built up an account balance of $5,000 or more with Stash, the management fee switches to 0.25% of your total account balance.
Both robo-advisors charge extra fees for additional features. Adding IRA retirement accounts costs you $2 a month with Stash, or 0.25% of the retirement account balance once itâ€™s above $10,000. Acorns charges $2 a month for itâ€™s basic service plus IRA accounts. If you add the Acorn Spend checking account, Acorns charges $3 a month
Hereâ€™s how total management fees compare for different balances utilizing only the basic taxable-account investing component of each app:
|Account Balance||Annual Cost for Stash||Annual Cost for Acorns|
$12 or 2.4%
$12 or 2.4%
$12 or 1.2%
$12 or 1.2%
$12.50 or 0.25%
$12 or 0.24%
$25 or 0.25%
$12 or 0.12%
$62.50 or 0.25%
$12 or 0.05%
$125 or 0.25%
$12 or 0.02%
And hereâ€™s how those fees compare if you opened a retirement account at Stash or used all three of Acornsâ€™ offerings (investing account, retirement account, and checking account):
|Account Balance||Annual Cost of Retirement Account Only at Stash||Annual Cost for Investing and Retirement Account at Acorns||Annual Cost for Investing, Retirement and Checking Account at Acorns|
|$500||$24 or 4.8%||$24 or 4.8%||$36 or 7.2%|
|$1,000||$24 or 2.4%||$24 or 2.4%||$36 or 3.6%|
|$5,000||$24 or 0.48%||$24 or 0.48%||$36 or 0.72%|
|$10,000||$25 or 0.25%||$24 or 0.24%||$36 or 0.36%|
|$25,000||$62.50 or 0.25%||$24 or 0.10%||$36 or 0.14%|
|$50,000||$125 or 0.25%||$24 or 0.05%||$36 or 0.07%|
Management fees arenâ€™t the only expense. Investments have their own expense ratios â€” the amount charged by third party companies to manage ETFs in which the apps invest your money. Although Stash offers a number of stocks and low-cost ETFs, the average ETF expense ratio is 0.29%, which is a little high for the category. Acorns, on the other hand, offers ETFs expense ratios that range from 0.03% to 0.15%.
Both of these robo-advisors offer solid features and low startup requirements. For tax-deferred retirement accounts, both Stash and Acorns offer traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. Acorns has the advantage of offering an SEP IRA for the self-employed, which Stash doesnâ€™t offer. Stash, on the other hand, offers custodial UTMA and UGMA accounts for college savings, but parents looking for a 529 account will have to go elsewhere.
There are some differences when it comes to style. While both advisors encourage easing into investing with small amounts of money, Stash suggests setting up auto deposits (what it calls â€śAuto-Stashâ€ť) where you add small amounts on a regular schedule to grow your account over time. Acorns, on the other hand, highlights round-ups, but if youâ€™re only depositing your spare change, it will take a long time to build a substantial balance.
There are also differences in how many investment choices you have. Stash offers nearly 200 single stocks to choose from and dozens of ETF combinations, while Acorns offers only five ETF-based portfolios that range from conservative to aggressive.
Both of these robo-advisors are reasonable options for the novice investor, but theyâ€™ll appeal to different people. Stash is a good option for someone who has a small amount to invest and whoâ€™d like to steer their portfolio a bit by choosing some stocks and ETF combinations from Stashâ€™s offerings.
Acorns is also a good choice for the small-cash investor, but better for someone who doesnâ€™t mind being limited to the five portfolios the advisor offers based on risk tolerance, and who may feel they donâ€™t have the discipline to save and invest. That said, the fees on small-balance portfolios could eat into your earnings over time, since theyâ€™re a disproportionately large percentage of the total. If you save up a substantial sum at either advisor, you may be better off moving to another robo-advisor with lower fees and more account options.
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