How $5 and the Stash App Turned Me Into an Investor

Super-low minimums and smartphone accessibility make it easy for young investors to learn the ropes.

(Image credit: Pannawat)

Five bucks, a smartphone, and boom: I'm an instant investor. With the Stash app, the investing world suddenly became more accessible and less intimidating to me.

I’ve only been a Stash user for a few weeks, but I’m impressed so far. The minimum investment—you only need $5 to get started—initially attracted me. Because I’m a first-time investor, the larger amounts required to open a traditional brokerage account put investing somewhat out of reach. But with Stash, I’m learning about markets and trading, along with learning about my tolerance for risk, without putting too much money on the line. I’m hoping these lessons will pay off down the road when I have a bigger nest egg to invest. In the meantime, there’s no excuse not to try the Stash app because my phone is always a few inches from me.

The key to Stash's success is that it narrows your investment choices to just a few suitable options, rather than leaving it up to you to pick from the many thousands of stocks, bonds and funds available to individual investors. How does it work? When I signed up for the app, I answered questions about my age, employment status, investment goals, risk tolerance, time horizon and so on. Based on that information, Stash assigned me a risk level, which helps determine the investment choices I have. Stash says I have a "moderate" risk level, when it comes to investing; other risk levels are "conservative" and "aggressive."

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The Stash app scores points for creativity by serving up investment choices in three relatable categories: I Believe, I Like and I Want. As the name suggests, the I Believe category lets you invest in your convictions, from clean energy to workplace equality. The I Like category offers investments in the things you, well, might like, from social media to shopping. The I Want category emphasizes choices that align with your investing goals, in particular your risk tolerance and time horizon, to make sure you will actually be able to get what you want.

Despite the monthly fee, I'm willing to stick with Stash once the free trial expires. I see the app as a way to build my investing chops and figure out who I am as an investor. I'm learning how to ride the market at the expense of a few soy lattes at Starbucks – calories I can do without anyway.

Rivan V. Stinson
Ex-staff writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher. She is currently assistant editor, personal finance at The Washington Post.