If you’re new to investing, there are a lot of services that bill themselves as beginner-friendly. Two of our favorites are Stash and Acorns, which take two very different approaches to helping you invest your money for the future.
Stash enables you to build your own custom portfolio with tools that go above and beyond a standard brokerage. Acorns, on the other hand, offers ready-to-go portfolios and features to help keep your investments on track.
We’ll compare Stash vs. Acorns head to head to help you decide which is best for you.
About Stash And Acorns
Stash launched in 2015 as a new style of online broker, one built for first-time investors. The company now has over 5 million users and over $1 billion in assets under management. Stash offers fractional investing in stocks and ETFs, along with a wide selection of custom-made thematic ETFs.
Acorns is somewhat older and larger than Stash. This company launched in 2012 and has since accumulated 8.2 million users and $3 billion in assets under management. Acorns offers a handful of pre-made portfolios and banking services that integrate seamlessly with your investing accounts.
Stash vs. Acorns: Account Types
Both Stash and Acorns have personal investing accounts as well as traditional and Roth IRAs for retirement investing. Acorns also offers a SEP IRA, which Stash does not. If you want to invest on behalf of your children, you can open a trust account with either platform.
In addition, both platforms have basic banking capabilities. You can open a no-interest checking account and receive a debit card to spend your money. However, neither Stash nor Acorns offers a savings account.
Stash vs. Acorns: Portfolios And Customization
Where Stash and Acorns differ most is in how they approach building a portfolio.
Acorns offers the easiest solution for first-time investors or those who want to create a portfolio and then forget about it. You can choose between five different portfolios that range from conservative to aggressive. The portfolios contain ETFs that invest to varying degrees in stocks and bonds.
Acorns automatically keeps the portfolios balanced on your behalf, so you never have to worry about managing your investment after you pick a portfolio. However, you also don’t have the freedom to make changes to the contents of your portfolio (although you can switch from one premade allocation to another).
Stash gives you a lot more leeway to build a custom portfolio. You can invest in whole or fractional shares of thousands of US stocks with as little as $1. Stash also has hundreds of ETFs, including a large number of thematic ETFs that cover specific market sectors. There are built-in screening tools to help you sort ETFs by risk level, and the Stash Coach feature helps you analyze your current portfolio for missing sectors or potential overexposure.
The upside to this approach is that you can invest in hot companies or completely customize the risk level of your portfolio. The downside is that it can take a significant amount of work. After all, while Stash suggests ETFs to help you get started, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what funds or individual stocks are right for you.
Stash vs. Acorns: Automated Investing
Both Stash and Acorns offer options to help you automatically invest money over time. For example, you can link your debit card to either service and have all your purchases rounded up to the nearest dollar. The spare change is then swept into your investment account and automatically invested into your current portfolio.
Stash also has the SmartStash tool, which analyzes your bank account to get a sense of your monthly budget. If it finds extra money at the end of the month, you’ll get an alert asking if you want to move that cash into your investing account.
Acorns offers recurring transfers from your bank account to your investing accounts on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Stash vs. Acorns: Pricing
Stash and Acorns both charge monthly subscription fees, which can be expensive if you have only a small amount invested.
Stash offers three plans: Beginner ($1 per month), Growth ($3 per month), and Stash+ ($9 per month). The Growth plan includes retirement investing accounts, whereas the Beginner plan only includes personal investing accounts. The Stash+ plan adds trust accounts for your children and a $10,000 life insurance policy from Avibra.
Acorns also has three plans: Lite ($1 per month), Personal ($3 per month), and Family ($5 per month). The Lite plan only includes a personal investing account. If you want retirement investing accounts or access to Acorn’s banking services, you’ll need the Personal plan. The Family plan adds trust accounts for your children.
It’s also worth noting that the ETFs that Stash and Acorns invest in have management fees. For Stash’s thematic ETFs, the management fees are typically around 0.25% per year. Acorns doesn’t specify what funds it invests in, but the management fee is likely to be cheaper since the ETFs track major stock indices.
Which Service Is Better?
Both Stash and Acorns have a lot to offer if you’re looking to build a new portfolio. However, which one is better for you will likely come down to how you want to approach investing.
Prefer a hands-off approach that’s quick to set up and doesn’t require much attention? Then Acorns is likely the best option for you. You can invest in a ready-made portfolio in minutes, and the platform will keep it balanced for you over time. Once you set up your account and automatic transfers, there’s little else you’ll need to do to manage your investment.
Want more control over your investment or to invest in individual stocks? Then Stash is the better choice. Creating a balanced portfolio with Stash takes more work initially, but the advantage is that you can completely customize your investment. You’ll also need to monitor your portfolio over time to make sure it doesn’t drift out of balance as stock and ETF prices change.
Alternatives To Stash And Acorns
If neither Stash nor Acorns offers exactly what you need, we recommend taking a look at Wealthfront. Wealthfront automatically invests your money in pre-made portfolios, similar to Acorns. However, it charges a 0.25% account fee that’s significantly cheaper than either Acorns or Stash if you have a small amount to invest. One thing to keep in mind is that Wealthfront has a $500 minimum investment.
If you like the freedom that Stash affords but don’t like the fees, consider a commission-free and subscription-free brokerage like Robinhood. You won’t find thematic ETFs or an investment advisor, but you can easily discover thousands of ETFs to invest in. Note that Robinhood doesn’t offer retirement investing accounts.
Conclusion: Stash vs. Acorns
Stash and Acorns are two top robo-advisors for new investors. While they can be pricey, both platforms make it easy to set up a new investment account and help you figure out what to invest in. Acorns offers a more hands-off approach that involves investing in premade portfolios. Stash requires choosing individual stocks and ETFs to invest in to build a custom portfolio that suits your goals. If you’re still on the fence, make sure to check out our full review of Stash and our full review of Acorns.