Acorns vs Stash - Investment Apps Comparison

Acorns vs Stash - Investment Apps Comparison

In this article, I'm going to pit Acorns vs Stash - a head to head matchup between two of the most popular millennial investment apps.

Acorns is a hands-off type investment app which "rounds up" any linked bank account transactions and invests them. Let's say you spend $1.50 on a soda. Acorns will take the remaining $0.50, rounding the transaction up to $2 and invest the difference.

Stash is more like a robo-adviser. That means the app takes a bit more of a personalized approach to managing your investments. It starts by helping you identify with certain philosophies (techie, trendsetter, etc.) and then chooses investments for you.

There are tons of features I want to compare as we put Acorns against Stash, so let's get into it!

Acorns VS Stash

Features we're going to compare are:

  • Accessibility
  • Ease of Use
  • Investment Choices
  • Expenses

Let's get right to it!

Accessibility

Accessibility Rating

Acorns

Available on both Android and Apple devices, there's full functionality here. It looks good, performs flawlessly, and gives you access to everything you need to buy, sell, or change portfolios.

You can add or remove money on the fly, from your phone.

Acorns just made a flawlessly easy to use, easy to understand, and quick to learn app. It's sleek, effective, and elegant. I can't say the same about Stash.

But is there desktop PC support? The answer is yes!

Acorns fully supports desktop use, which I think is critical. Phone support is nice, and most users are young techies anyways. But in today's fully plugged in world, it's practically a sin not to have full cross-platform support.

The web-based PC interface is smooth, functional, and works great! I usually end up just using that.

Stash

Stash is fully supported on both Android and Apple devices. The app looks and performs well on both devices. There doesn't seem to be a bias toward one or the other.

There's really no excuse for an app not to be fully cross-supported on both platforms today. Especially since you're paying to use it. So hats off to them!

However, I must say that Acorns has them beat on accessibility for mobile devices. Why?

Becuase the Acorns app is much quicker to pick up than stash. Acorns is simple, it flows perfectly, and it's quick and intuitive to operate.

Stash is more clunky and has a higher learning curve. The app is just not as well designed, although it is functional.

Where Stash really falls flat on its face is failing to offer PC support. There is a basic website with general information, but no account or app access.

This is honestly unforgivable, particularly because I already don't like their mobile app. That means I have nothing to fall back on and ultimately just don't like the way the Stash app works.

Ease of Use

Ease of Use Rating

Acorns

Acorns starts with a simple premise.

You link your bank accounts. Acorns does the rest.

You choose from one of 5 easy to understand investment portfolios.

  1. Conservative
  2. Moderately Conservative
  3. Moderate
  4. Moderately Aggressive
  5. Aggressive

Then you simply watch it do the work. Investment contributions come out in small $5 increments and you barely even notice that you're saving and investing!

For more advanced users, you can dig into each type of investment portfolio. Acorns fully discloses the allocation and contents of each portfolio and you can research them further.

For basic users, the portfolio names are easy enough to intuitively understand and choose. No need for technical stock market mumbo jumbo.

Overall, I think Acorns does a good job of keeping the premise simple while still offering enough information to make sure investors get what they need.

Stash

Stash operates on a more complex, though not by much, platform.

You essentially choose a "group" or philosophy that you identify with. This is usually known as Impact Investing and is a small offshoot of socially responsible investing. The idea is to not only make money with your investments but also invest in companies that will change the world toward your morals.

In this way, Stash makes it simple. They offer groups like "trendsetter" or "globetrotter".

However, the portfolio of investments behind each of these groups is a bit confusing and, may I say, misleading. We'll talk about that later in more detail. However, this is a big negative against "ease of use" since I believe every investor should be able to fully understand what they're invested in.

You can set up monthly contributions to your account. If you want to put $100 or $1,000 in each month you can. It's totally automated and can be a "set and forget".

The investments are automatically integrated and allocated into your choice of funds so it's pretty hands off.

One small negative for me is the account creation and management. When limited only to phone use I find it to be a bit more cumbersome than using my desktop to do the setup, although not entirely bad.

Overall I think it takes more time and effort to really get your head around how Stash works and what makes it unique. That's not really a good thing in a world where app users and investors have increasingly short attention spans.

Investment Choices

Investment Choices Rating

Acorns

With Acorns your money is going into one of the 5 portfolios we discussed above. I think this is a great system as it's aimed at keeping the whole process simplified, yet refuses to sacrifice intelligent portfolio decisions.

Take this example of the aggressive Acorns portfolio. With Large Cap, Small Cap, Emerging Market Stocks, Real Estate, and International Large Cap there is definitely a spread of aggressive ETF investments.

If you want to know more, it's simple. For instance, "Which large cap stocks do I own, exactly?"

Just scroll down and you'll see that the 20% large cap allocation is in (VOO). Then it's just a matter of heading over to Morningstar.com, typing in VOO, and analyzing its holdings which you can find right here.

As for each of the portfolio types, I think Acorns has nailed it with the allocations. There are many ways to build a "moderate" portfolio consisting of ETFs. Acorns built one that I think can fit just about anyone's need.

Same goes with each of their portfolios. They fit their respective investment style and are appropriately allocated choices.

Good work, Acorns team!

Stash

I wish I could say the same praises about Stash when it comes to investment choices. Unfortunately, their portfolios are allocated in a way that I might expect a baboon to do, were you to give that baboon a book about fishing, a keyboard covered in duct tape, and a truckload of bananas.

That is to say, some of their portfolio allocations just straight up don't make sense.

After I created an account and filled out my profile (I'm 26, a knowledgeable investor, with an aggressive appetite for volatility) it suggested the following investment:

  • Conservative Mix

Um... what? I don't see how it came up with this, so I looked deeper.

As it turns out, the Stash Invest Convservative Mix is literally just (AOK). It's just one iShares fund with 10 underlying holdings, a market cap of just over $300 million, and low daily volume.

So I looked even deeper... it's a fund of funds ETF. That essentially means that AOK simply buys and holds shares of other funds. Those other funds actually buy and sell underlying securities. I'll show you the holdings of AOK:

I HATE fund of funds type ETFs. Why? Because a two-year-old could buy a bunch of ETFs, stick 'em in a basket, and then resell it to other investors. That's what a fund of funds does.

On top of that, each underlying fund charges fees on all money that goes into them. Then the fund of funds charges you another fee for managing all the funds it bought. THEN STASH CHARGES YOU A FEE FOR SELLING YOU THE FUND OF FUNDS.

That's three levels of fee-ception. No one has ever gone three levels deep before...

Just kidding, Wall Street loves to layer fees and hide investments inside other investments. In fact. doing so was one of the key catalysts to the Great Recession of 2009. Huh...

All that said and done, Stash did a terrible job of assessing my investor risk and recommending an investment. Plus, even if they had, I wouldn't invest in a fund of funds anyways (for myself at this time). On top of all that, there's no way I'm going to pay them a fee to sell me an ETF I could just go buy through a free brokerage such as (my favorite) M1 Finance.

Pile on top of all of that, these seemingly ignorant statements that pervade Stash such as this statement in The Techie portfolio:

Aggressive Mix

  • Total Bond ETF
  • S&P 500 ETF
  • US Treasuries ETF

Um... hello, Stash? Has anyone told you lately that a portfolio of 2/3 bonds and treasuries is NOT AGGRESSIVE? 

Ah well, at least they did manage to toss in the idea of an S&P 500 ETF.

Note: Technically Stash may have a few wider options for investments with ETFs compared to Acorns. However, if having access to more funds is your goal, just go with a full featured broker like E*Trade or a commission free stocks, ETFs, and Mutual Funds automated platform like M1 Finance.

Expenses

There's no need to compare here. When it comes to Acorns vs Stash they use exactly the same pricing model.

Each app will cost you $1 per month every month. If your account is larger than $5,000 then they will instead charge you 0.25% of your total assets per year.

While this seems simple, it's really not so straightforward. Monthly fees can actually be quite a bit more expensive than traditional advisor AUM models.

When you only have $60 in your account, $12 per year is the equivalent of a 20% charge.

To put that into perspective, most human financial advisors only charge about 2% per year.

Cost of Acorns & Stash VS Human Adviser

X Axis = Account Size | Y Axis = Cost Per Year

You can see that Acorns and Stash become more affordable than a human adviser when your account exceeds $600 in size.

Of course, the human adviser is charging for much more thorough and robust investment planning services than Stash or Acorns could ever hope to provide.

 I 100% encourage you to speak with and consider working with an adviser at some point in your savings and investing planning process.

When we compare the costs of Acorns and Stash against the costs of some other popular investment apps, we really have something to go off of. Let's compare Acorns and Stash against M1 Finance - my personal favorite for many reasons.

M1 Finance VS Stash & Acorns (Fees Compared)

As you can see in the chart, M1 Finance has lower fees on any account size up to $5,000. All three apps - M1 Finance, Acorns, and Stash - are equal up to $100,000. Then M1 Finance drops to a 0.15% compared to Acorns and Stash at 0.25%. M1 Finance remains less expensive for any large account value.

Acorns VS Stash Conclusion

Overall I feel that Acorns takes the cake against Stash. Stash just can't keep up with its poor investment choices, moderate app, and lack of PC access. Honestly, I just feel that Stash lacks a true value proposition. What is it providing that we don't already have, or can't do better?

Acorns is the true winner and if you were trying to decide between the two, your mind should be made up now. Acorns is great for hands-off investors who want to take advantage of the round ups. I like the roundups feature because it helps me squirrel away more cash and I love creating pockets of financial stability for myself!

If you're looking for access to a broader range of investments, automated investing, and the ability to customize your portfolios, I honestly recommend M1 Finance. Learn more about what M1 Finance has to offer over other apps.

Creating a Portfolio Allocation That Beats The Market

Creating a Portfolio Allocation That Beats The Market

Investing 101 PDF - A Guide to Investment Book PDFs

Investing 101 PDF - A Guide to Investment Book PDFs