With that... here are the other 4 faves on my Top 5 list, plus a bonus picked up from my first few weeks of experimenting with becoming a beginner investor using the Stash app.
#2. Investing as much or as little as I want at any given moment.
Pretty straightforward here: investing in the stock market through the Stash app lets me decide how much I’m investing. That’s part of how technology like this is making investing so much more accessible these days.
Now, if you spend any time reading up on investment advice online, you’ll see comment threads from stock market snobs saying "this is obvious" and "everybody knows this" and "if you don’t know this by now, you might as well not even bother." And that’s really, really sad.
The thing is, not everybody knows this. I didn't know this. I had no idea how companies like Stash have been empowering people for wealth-building til I happened to see a TV commercial about it on January 1st of this year. And crappy, exclusionary attitudes like those expressed above are the kinds of attitudes that discourage people from learning or exploring anything new.
That's why I'm sharing my experiences as a beginner investor through The Serenity Project—an experiment in winning the wealth-building game. You see, I'm a reasonably intelligent, resourceful, self-made woman who grew up in generational poverty, and I had no idea access to individual investing through apps like Stash was even a thing. And if I didn't know, there's a chance you didn't know, either. So let's try it together and see what happens.
My point here is, unlike olden times, when it was necessary to buy whole shares to get started—which could cost a few hundred or even a few thousand dollars per share, just to get your foot in the door—apps like Stash, Acorns, Robinhood, and others allow us to invest in “fractional shares,” or fractions of a share in a company. In fact, using the Stash app, it’s possible to spend as little as $.01 or $.05 per investment… and the sky’s the limit from there.
For a lower-wage earner like me, the freedom to invest in fractional shares has made all the difference in the world between being able to invest and not being able to invest. Since setting out on this adventure at the beginning of January, I've branched out from Stash to experiment with a few other investing apps, and I've learned that not all online brokerages allow users to buy fractional shares. TD Ameritrade, for instance, is one that only allows purchases by the share, not by the dollar. This means if a stock is priced at $15 per share, and I only have $10 available to invest at the moment, I'm out of luck here til I come up with the rest of the full share price. With apps like Stash, Robinhood, Webull, Acorns, or even big-name Fidelity, though, I can bring that same $10 and buy $10 worth of stock—whether that's one share, half a share, or some tenth of a share.
So, whether you make a one-time purchase using a connected external checking account or the free in-app Stash banking feature, it’s simple and easy to specify the amount you want to invest at any given time. (It’s worth mentioning that transactions process a lot faster when Stash banking balances are selected for in-app purchases vs. an external checking account, which processes via ACH… but I’ll get into that some more another day.)
So, you wanna buy $15 of Amazon? Do it. How about $1.25 of Apple? Go for it. You can also plan ahead for scheduled amounts to transfer or invest automatically, which brings us to #3 on my list of top five faves about using the Stash app...
#3. Automating money to help with leaving it alone and letting it grow.
It has been said, "Investing is one of the few fields where the less you do the better you’ll likely perform." One area where the Stash app really shines is in its several options to "set it and forget it." In just a little over a month, I was already seeing that the less time I spend looking at daily ups and downs, or second-guessing my allocations, the better things will turn out in the long haul.
And that’s part of The Stash Way. This tool isn’t meant for the kind of cutthroat, get-rich-quick day trading that happened recently over GameStop and other overhyped stock. Stash is about empowering as many people as possible, not sticking it to the man. In fact, Stash doesn’t even allow same-day trading, or other risky/irresponsible investing behaviors that could get people who are new to the stock market into a whole lot of trouble. (That's good news for people like me, who have no idea what they're doing yet.)
Instead, Stash supports the “buy and hold” approach of deliberate, long-term investing. In line with that philosophy, using Stash's banking and investing features, you can schedule transfers in advance and automate investments to keep adding up for you over time. Whether you watch the market like a hawk, or if you never check the stocks another day in your life til you're ready to retire, your money goes to work for you over the long haul.
Extra handy is the ability to go stock by stock through your whole portfolio, scheduling specified amounts for each one. Say I want to buy $5 of ASML and $10 of NVIDIA each week; I can set my investment schedule to do that for me, and then I don’t have to give it a second thought. That combined amount will simply transfer in from my linked checking account each week on payday, and my investing strategy will run itself.
As the psychology of saving money tells us, "with automatic transfers and payments, your money is allocated where it is needed as soon as it arrives, without having to grapple with difficult spending decisions. In other words, your money is on ‘autopilot’, making it a lot easier to make the responsible choices with your money. Not only should this reduce stress levels and time devoted to managing your money, but evidence from psychological studies suggests you will actually save greater amounts over the long term."
Automated investments work the same way. When that pre-decided amount is already factored out of my paycheck each week, I don’t have to agonize over the temptation to spend it elsewhere or use it differently. As far as my budget goes, my investment money is already "gone" before I get paid, making a non-issue about whether to invest it this week or not.
Additionally, the Stash app has some other exciting features to help automate investments, such as my #1 fave: a round-up option which allows spare change from debit card purchases to be automatically invested in a stock of choice. Another option is to automatically reinvest dividends, so when companies in your portfolio pay out, that money goes right back into buying more fractional shares of those companies, which will also earn dividends. (I'll be sharing a whole lot more about my adventures in becoming a dividend investor along the way.) Again, every little bit counts, and Stash has all kinds of neat little features that help put every penny to work!
Considering I spent the first two weeks of 2021 scheduling, adjusting, tweaking, and rescheduling about a dozen times a day, while I researched, added to, diversified, and second-guessed my beginner portfolio, I know I'm one of those people who need to "do less" as an investor. Looking ahead for the long term, the tools for automating my investments will be a blessing to me, now that I've reached a point where I'm ready to start leaving it alone and letting it grow. Meanwhile, I'm thoroughly enjoying the freedom of choice provided by my next fave...
#4. Being able to access any stock I can think of so far (and then some).
Until this year, I've never directly invested in the stock market before, much less used any individual investing technology, so it wouldn't have occurred to me that this next feature is even a feature, if I hadn't read of other platforms limiting their users' portfolio choices to as few as five. But as far as I can tell, Stash places no such limits on how many different stocks, ETFs, or bonds you can add to the mix.
Clearly, Stash is not the only investing app out there. However, from what I’ve seen, it boasts the ability to build a portfolio from a much larger variety of investment opportunities, compared to some other apps that apparently only allow users to invest in a set number—or choose your investments for you, which I'm not wild about at all. I mean, with literally thousands of stocks to choose from, I have yet to go looking for a company that didn't turn up in Stash as an available investment.
That’s a good thing, since the most valuable investment advice I’m finding so far is coming from the Motley Fool Stock Advisor, run by brothers Tom and David Gardner, who recommend a portfolio that includes at least 15 of their stock picks, held for at least 5 years. This recommended long-term mix, I gather, ought to be in addition to one’s safely diversified ETFs and bonds, which should theoretically provide some stabilization to balance out the possible risks of higher-stakes stocks.
So my point here is that, if I’d stumbled cluelessly into one of those investing apps that limit users' selections, I’d already be frustrated, as a beginner, by running into barriers to wealth-building potential. Stash does not come with that issue, thankfully, and that allowed me to build a diversified portfolio of 40 different investments from the outset, while experimenting to see what happens and refining my wealth-building strategy along the way. Some of this might seem obvious, but hey, as a newbie, I'm still impressed with basic functionality such as...
#5. Seeing performance data shifting with market mood swings.
Perhaps this is a given for more experienced traders—but I’ve made no secret of the fact that I started out knowing nothing about investing. So that said, I was pleasantly surprised to find the in-app data automatically updates about every 20 minutes throughout the day, reflecting stocks’ current performance.
This might sound dumb, but you see, my only previous experience with watching portfolio performance was back in the spring of 2020, watching the value of an old 401(k) plummeting under the onslaught of bad COVID-19 news from March through May. Online data about how that 401(k) was doing only updated once a day, after the close of trading… which meant I spent a lot of long, long hours worrying myself sick before I could see the latest disaster of the moment.
Based on that experience, I’m really pleased to see the Stash app updates a lot more frequently. As is true with investing in fractional shares in general, it’s the little things that count. Which brings me to my bonus fave...
Bonus: Participating in #StashStockParty opportunities.
This one’s just plain fun, and I didn't even know it was a thing til it happened the first time. In a nut shell, about once a week or so now, I’ve received an email notification letting me know a #StashStockParty was about to begin. Okay, what's that? Basically, this is a periodic limited-time social media push, shared and re-shared all over Twitter, to get as many people as possible to sign up within the given timeframe to split a pot of bonus stock at the end.
The more people who sign up for the party, the bigger the stock reward (a fractional share in a well-known brand) each partier receives when it’s over. In other words, it’s just a quick, fun way to put a little extra stock in users’ portfolios… can we say "free money"?
After participating in couple of months’ worth of #StashStockParty opportunities so far, I now have between $.50-$1 each invested in FedEx, Zillow, Nike, Nintendo, Colgate-Palmolive, and several others, on top of the stocks I’ve chosen to buy from week to week. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed looking forward to this each week, as Stash works to encourage diversification by offering a shot at various fractional shares I wouldn’t have come by otherwise. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, being a beginner account subscriber, what I’m receiving in stock rewards each month so far is more than paying for the cost of my $1/month subscription. Win-win.
So, if you’re curious about checking it out, what better time to start? Take a moment to follow Stash on Twitter, or just visit their profile next week to see what’s going on and when. Watch for the #StashStockParty link to sign up, and claim some stock as a gift to you, from them. (I don’t earn any commissions if you become a Stash user through this method, by the way... I'm just telling you about it because I think it's freaking awesome.)
Sure, it won’t make any of us a millionaire overnight, but if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million times more… every little bit counts.
In the year ahead, I plan to continue writing about my experiences as a beginner investor, using the Stash app to build a portfolio in the stock market. I’m not saying you should do it, too—I’m just gonna try it myself and let you know what happens. I’m learning as I go, so if you’d like to come along for the ride, we’ll be learning together, hopefully doing our small part to turn the tables and win the wealth-building game, for the good of greater society.
Does that sound overly ambitious to you? Maybe we just haven't allowed ourselves to think big enough before.
If you like anything you read here, please share this post with your social media networks to get more people thinking about how we can all start winning the wealth-building game together. Like to connect? Drop me a line or visit on Twitter.