Of course, if you’re anything like me, you tune out when you hear a message about investing. You roll your eyes and assume it’ll be too complicated or too expensive or it’s a scam or you need money now, not later, or life’s too stacked against you or some other automatic excuse you've given yourself to get out of looking into it. That’s what I thought, too. Why would I want to play some old rich-guy game when I’m just a small-town gal living paycheck to paycheck, struggling to get by?
The following is based on personal opinions and personal experiences, and should not, under any circumstances, be considered professional investment advice. Always do your own research before making financial decisions. Please note none of my views or opinions are endorsed by any other party mentioned. (I doubt they even know I exist.) On that note, this post contains referral/affiliate links which may save or earn both you and me some moola on products/services, or provide me with a small commission that doesn’t cost you anything, as a way of supporting one another in winning the wealth-building game. Deal?
At the beginning of the year, out of the blue (or thanks be to God), the Stash app grabbed my attention. That was really peculiar, since I've never had the slightest interest in learning about the stock market. You see, my family's hillbilly upbringing produced in me a self-defeating sort of reverse pride that declared whole-hearted, foul-mouthed disdain for the world of wealth and finance, bitterly convinced the rich are out to rob from the poor and no matter what, a normal person can't ever catch a break.
But… "Stash was built with a simple philosophy: everyone should have access to investing."
Everyone should have access. Something about that simple philosophy struck a chord in my spirit that’s been ringing ever since. And I’m not talking about the anti-establishment kind of "sticking it to the man" that recently took place in the Reddit vs. Wall Street saga over GameStop stock, which saw millions of social media crusaders deliberately out to assassinate the profits of seasoned hedge fund managers. Even people who couldn’t care less about stock market news were watching that hot mess play out earlier this year.
No, I’m hearing the call of a far subtler revolution… one not dependent on robbing from anyone, rich or poor, but on empowering more people… building and sharing better investment education for the average joe (like me)... equipping the non-elite to open up a wealth-building win-win all around, for all of us to benefit, together.
I heard about Stash on January 1st. Within the first couple weeks of 2021, I'd become a beginner investor already seeing world-changing potential. And that turned into The Serenity Project—an experiment in winning the wealth-building game.
Imagine lower-wage earners learning to utilize long-term investing to leverage spending, savings, and returns, effectively using the stock market to start correcting the inequity around the stock market. Imagine us average joes picking up the tool set for building generational wealth, passing along financial literacy gains that will turn the tides for our children and their children and then their children to come. Imagine capitalist principles actually helping to level out our problems with capitalism, elevating humanity to alleviate poverty and empower people for real life change. Sounds crazy, I know… and that’s what I like about it.
Before we go any further, I know the burning thought on your mind: Yeah, that's nice, but how much does it cost?
So here you go. Stash offers three plans: 1) Beginner for $1/month, 2) Growth for $3/month, or 3) Stash+ for $9/month. Not exactly breaking the bank.
You can go read about the different plan features for yourself; for my purposes, the Beginner plan is all I need for now. And I mean, if all else fails, I'm reasonably confident I can manage to spare a buck a month for basically unlimited wealth-building potential, okay?
That said, it’s worth being aware that some reviewers do consider a $1/month fee to be rather high for an investing app. But setting up the free Stash banking option changes that assessment… which I’ll explain in a minute. (Plus, by following #StashStockParty on Twitter, the stock rewards are more than paying for my monthly subscription so far.)
Anyhoo, after experimenting with the Stash app for a few weeks, I've already come up with my top five favorite aspects about using this app to begin investing in the stock market in 2021. This post is dedicated to my #1 fave because this one is actually a twofer... two amazing approaches for using your ordinary activities to build up an investment portfolio with the money that's already coming and going from your account.
Intrigued? Me, too. Read on...
Fave #1. Earning stock rewards and saving for investments by making normal debit card purchases.
Stash currently offers two different debit-card approaches I'm wildly excited about, as far as "greater access for more people to discover investing capabilities" goes.
First of all... the Stash app includes a free banking option with "stock rewards."
Why does this matter? Well... Stash banking lets you connect your investing activity to a Stock-Back® Card, otherwise called a Stash Visa Debit Card. Your Stash banking can be funded by 1) transferring in money from an existing checking account, or 2) setting up a direct deposit for all or part of your income to go into your Stash account.
Either way, when you use the Stash debit card to make purchases—like the normal, everyday purchases you’re making anyway—you earn “stock rewards.” What does this mean? It means that instead of the points or cash-back perks offered by most credit cards, each of your Stash debit card purchases earns you a fractional share in companies you’re buying from anyway… a fractional share that grows in value when the company’s stock grows in value.
For example: one Saturday morning, when I used my Stash debit card to buy a couple of McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches on my drive home, I also earned a few cents' worth of McDonald’s stock at the same time. Another day, when I stopped by Starbucks to treat myself with a latte after working closing shifts every night for two weeks, I earned a few cents' worth of Starbucks, too.
A few cents might not seem like much, but think about how much money you spend in a year. Pretty much all of it, right?! Now imagine a percentage of your annual spending that adds up, year after year, which has the potential to multiply exponentially over time, based on the growth of companies sustained by the purchases of people like you and me, who buy there regularly and contribute to the growth and prosperity of said companies.
In the long haul, considering the normal spending habits of everyday Americans, it's a game changer. After all, even broke people still buy gas, groceries, and other necessities in the normal course of life… often from large companies that perform well in their market sectors, year after year.
In other words, by sparing just $1/month, you can use the Stash debit card to start taking ownership with every purchase you make, investing in companies you're buying from anyway. Even if you never put a dollar into manually buying company stock, your hard-earned money can go to work for you regardless, gradually earning fractional shares that can add up and grow over time.
This is a case of "every little bit counts," in a big way. It's the unique way Stash creates access for almost anyone with a smartphone and a way to make a deposit to begin investing at any income level and any stage of life. From what I’ve seen so far, this is what sets Stash apart from other investing apps—and reviewers who know a whole lot more about personal finance than I do agree. Do some Googling and read for yourself.
For accounts with small balances, the $1/month Stash subscription fee is comparatively expensive (since it’ll take some time for your fractional shares to add up to more than that, if the Stash card is your only strategy for investing). But in the great scheme of things, this feature opens doors to beginners who might not think they can afford to buy stock at all. In the long run, that could be a really, really big deal.
If, on the other hand, you can afford to let the spare change from your normal purchases add up into cash to invest, then you'll see progress a whole lot faster. Keep reading!
Even more exciting... the Stash app offers an automatic "round up" feature.
This, instead of requiring you to open a Stash banking account, can allow you to invest your spare change from your everyday debit card activity, through an existing checking account you already have.
Why is this such an exciting feature? Well... here, you can link your existing checking account to "round up" purchases to the nearest dollar. What happens to the difference? With a little internet-enabled fintech wizardry, your spare change gets tallied up for you. Then, once your round-up balance reaches $5, that $5 will automatically transfer in to your Stash "cash to invest" and become available for you to buy any stock you want to buy through the app.
Can it possibly be any easier to save and invest? As explained in this post about "Auto-Stash" features...
Imagine you had collected all of your loose change over the years from all your daily purchases—all of the sodas, coffees, meals out—you name it. You’d likely have a good amount of money saved up. Well, that’s the idea behind Round-Ups... Every time you spend with the debit card associated with your linked bank account, Stash will round up your purchases to the nearest dollar."
There goes most of your paycheck for the week, but you've also just squirreled away another $1.80, already bringing you to a total of $2.15 that can go toward investing for your future.
Again, a couple of bucks might not seem like much, but think about how much money you spend in a year. I don't know if you've ever paid attention to how quickly spare change from normal purchases can add up. I'm not an extravagant spender, by any means, but within the first week of activating Stash's round-up feature, I'd accumulated $9.11 to invest, without feeling like I was "missing" any money from my account.
Where my Stock-Back® Card has accrued like $.16 in stock rewards from companies I've used it with so far, the Stash round-ups have saved more like $25 in the same time span—which I've immediately invested into dividend-yielding stocks and ETFs that will keep adding to themselves, to infinity and beyond. (I'll have a whole lot more to say about dividends in other posts in weeks to come.)
At the end of the day, I gotta tell ya, watching those random cents adding up in my round-up balance, which I can check on my smartphone any time I want to see it, is seriously the most motivating money-saving activity I have ever experienced. And say you're using Stash round-ups to fund your picks through Stash's "Get Recommendations" feature, or even just claiming free stock from the weekly #StashStockParty... you could technically build an entire portfolio without ever even researching new positions on your own. That's pretty significant.
Personally, my little nerd brain is on a roll with this whole learning adventure, but you don't have to be super analytical (or analytical at all) to start investing with the support and capabilities Stash provides here. If you just want to go on with your life as usual, and simply let Stash reward you with stock behind the scenes or suggest which ETFs to buy with your spare debit card change, you can still be on your way as a beginner investor—even if you never want to learn anything else about investing again.
I don't know about you, but this was the part that sold me on giving this app a try back on January 1st. I figured even if I never did anything else with investing, I might as well save my pennies with Stash, a little here and a little there... And then, within the first two weeks of the New Year, I was realizing what a really, really big deal this is for my life.
Next time, I’ll share four more of my top faves about investing with the Stash app, plus a bonus that’s just plain fun. So stay tuned...
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.