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Contents

10 Safe Investments to Protect Your Money

All safe investments come with a catch. They, alone, will never make you Bezos billions. They can, however, earn a little while serving another purpose such as being fairly liquid or balancing a portfolio. This roundup of safe investments explains their pros and cons to help you determine which investments best fit your needs. For even more detailed information, you may want to consult a financial advisor.

In investing, safe is a relative term. Except for savings instruments backed by the government or its agencies, there is always a the possibility of losing money. So investments deemed safe simply carry less risk than stocks. The tradeoff, of course, is lower returns.

Yet even people who can tolerate a lot of risk may want to put some of their money in safe investments. Perhaps it’s the money for a down payment they need to access soon. Or maybe it’s a windfall or bonus they are temporarily parking till they find a better place for it. Whatever the reason for prioritizing safety over return, there are plenty of good places to allocate your cash and grow it steadily. Check out these 10 investments that offer peace of mind.

1. FDIC-Insured Savings Accounts

No one offers more protection on up to $250,000 than a bank. That is, a bank covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Pros: The minimum balance to avoid a monthly fee is relatively low and you can link your checking account, providing easy access to your money.

Cons: This option offers a very low rate of return. Recently, banks have been paying less than 1% interest. Also, there may be fees for making more withdrawals or transfers than the allowed number. Compare bank rates and look for banks with high-yield savings accounts.

2. Money Market Accounts

Not to be confused with money market funds, money market accounts combine the convenience of a checking account with a slightly higher return than a savings account. Make sure you’re considering the best money market accounts at the best banks in America.

Pros: You can write checks against money market accounts and possibly make withdrawals with an ATM card.

Cons: You may have to maintain a higher balance than with a savings account to avoid a monthly fee and you may incur fees for making more withdrawals or transfers than the allowed number.

3. FDIC-Insured Certificates of Deposit (CDs)

Certificates of deposit (CDs) are like loans you make to a bank. It will pay interest periodically over the term of the CD and return the full amount at the end. In exchange, you agree not to move the money for the term of the CD or pay a penalty if you do. CD terms typically range from six months to six years.

Pros: With the best CD rates, you are getting a higher rate that you would in most savings accounts. And the CD amount may count toward your bank balance to help you avoid the monthly fee.

Cons: You’re locking in your money at a fixed interest rate that may seem less acceptable if rates improve. Also, the best rates often require large minimums and long time frames.

4. Money Market Funds

These are mutual funds that invest in short-term instruments like CDs and U.S. Treasuries. For years, they were considered as safe as money in the bank. But then Lehman Brothers went bankrupt in 2008, leading to a run on the Reserve Fund that caused its share price to go under $1 (normally money market fund shares hold steady at $1). Still, money market funds are considered very low risk. Consider consulting with a fiduciary financial advisor as you determine whether money market funds should be a part of your financial profile.

Pros: You can earn an interest rate comparable to CDs but without locking in your money.

Cons: You have to open an account with a mutual fund company, which doesn’t have local branches like banks, and you may have to maintain a specified balance in order to avoid monthly fees. There’s also the slight risk of the share price falling under $1.

5. U.S. Savings Bonds Series EE

While CDs can be thought of as loans to banks, U.S. savings bonds are like 30-year loans to the government. Some people would add free loans, since the interest rate is quite low. With Series EE, the interest rate is based on yields of 5-year Treasuries and resets every six months.

Pros: Interest compounds semiannually, there are tax benefits and the minimum is $25.

Cons: The rate has been below 1% for years, you will pay a penalty if you withdraw your money before five years and only online accounts are available via TreasuryDirect.gov.

6. U.S. Savings Bonds Series I

Series I bonds are just like Series EE, except for the interest rate. With Series I, you earn a fixed rate plus an inflation rate, which is based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In other words, you may get a little more return with Series I than Series EE.

Pros: The same as Series EE, plus you can buy these bonds as paper with your tax refund.

Cons: Even with the inflation adjustment, the return is still low.

7. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS)

As their name suggests, TIPS hinge on the CPI. When the index goes up, your security principal goes up, and when there is deflation, your principal goes down. This movement affects how much interest you earn. When the security matures (it can be for five, 10 or 30 years), you get either the original principal back or the adjusted amount, whichever is larger.

Pros: These are marketable securities, which means you can sell them for more (or less) than you paid in the secondary market. You can also buy them through banks and brokers as well as directly from the Treasury.

Cons: You buy TIPS at auction with either a competitive or non-competitive bid. Which is all to say that investing in them is a bit more involved than the previous options and takes research and skill.

8. U.S. Treasury Bills, Bonds and Notes

T-bills are basically short-term loans to the government, ranging from four to 52 weeks. Usually, you pay less than face value for them, and when they mature, the difference between what you paid and the face value is your interest. Bonds, on the other hand, are issued for 30 years and interest is compounded semiannually, while notes are issued for two, three, five, seven and 10 years.

Pros: You can buy Treasuries from banks and brokers as well as the government. The market is large, so you can easily sell them if you need to cash out.

Cons: Again, trading in them profitably takes some skill and know-how. If you’re relying on a broker, you’ll have additional fees.

9. Municipal and High-Quality Corporate Bonds

Municipal bonds are issued by cities, states and other authorities seeking to fund public works. They are backed by the government body or the revenue from a service (say, tolls from a new bridge). Corporate bonds are as good as the financial strength of the company that issues them. High-quality bonds range from AAA to A.

Pros: These bonds tend to pay a higher interest rate than treasuries.

Cons: They have more risk of default, require some research and come with fees if you are using a broker.

10. Bond Funds

If you don’t have the time or inclination to learn enough about bonds to make money with them, you can buy them through a mutual fund. There are funds for every kind of bond: long-term, short-term, tax-efficient, corporate, municipal and treasury.

Pros: You earn interest plus you can profit from the share prices going up. Bond funds spread your exposure among many different bonds.

Cons: You can lose money if you have to sell when prices are below what you paid. You also have to pay the mutual fund company’s fees.

The Takeaway

Safe investments are largely some kind of loan to a bank, government or corporation. Often, the longer the loan, the higher the interest rate. Though that isn’t always the case. Some loans (or bonds) can be sold in a secondary market, offering another way to increase the return. Always be sure to enlist the help of a financial planner or financial advisor.

Ally Invest Review: Pros and Cons

Ally Invest (formerly TradeKing) offers free trades for stocks and ETFs, but is it good? Read this review to learn the pros and cons and see comparisons with other online brokers.

Overall Score

Stock Trading

Options Trading

Banking

Mobile App

Commissions and Fees

Ease of Use

Online Community

Research

Trading Platform

4.0

5-point scale

Pros and Cons

  • Low commission for stock trades
  • No account minimums
  • Ally platform
  • No physical locations

Bottom Line

Good low-price discount stock broker for savvy investors

Though not as well-known as competitors (such as E*TRADE and TD Ameritrade), Ally Invest can certainly hold its own against the big boys. It consistently ranks near the top of customer satisfaction ratings and in most Ally Invest reviews.

And best of all, its trade fees are among the lowest of any online brokerage around.

But there are some drawbacks you’ll want to know before opening an account. Read on to find out:

About Ally Invest

Ally’s long history goes back to 1919, when it was founded as GMAC (the financial sector of General Motors). It slowly expanded its financial services and was rebranded as Ally Bank in 2009, offering online banking with high interest rates and minimal fees.

In 2020, Ally Financial acquired TradeKing, which became Ally Invest. New name, new site, and new mobile app. But the same low prices and same trading features.

  • Self-directed or managed options
  • Investments offered: Stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options, fixed income securities, penny stocks, Forex.
  • Account types: Individual taxable, joint, custodial, IRAs, Coverdell, and entity accounts.

Who Ally Invest Works Best For

© CreditDonkey

Ally Invest is a good choice for:

    Casual traders who want a simple online brokerage account and have a basic understanding of markets and security types.

Active traders who can take advantage of the $0 commissions.

Advanced traders who wish to invest in Forex and/or options.

  • Beginner investors who want completely hands-off easy investing with Ally Invest Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolios.
  • If any of the above sound like you, Ally Invest is a great, low-cost alternative to some of the more popular and widely advertised online brokers like E-Trade and TD Ameritrade.

    Pros & Cons

    • $0 online stock and ETF trades
    • No account minimum to open
    • Wide variety of investment options
    • Strong Forex platform
    • Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolios option for no advisory fees
    • Customer support by phone and live chat
    • Thorough FAQ and education section
    • Also has full online banking services, so you can invest and bank at the same place
    • Check out Ally Invest here >>
    • Purely an online broker with no physical locations
    • No practice trading platform (not good for beginners)
    • No transaction-fee-free mutual funds
    • Research and tools not as extensive as other brokerages
    • Fee for transferring or closing IRAs

    Get Up to $3,500 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    We’ll explain more below. But first, let’s highlight the current Ally Invest promotions.

    Ally Invest Promotional Codes 2020

    Get Up to $3,500 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Commission-Free Stock Trades

    With no minimum account balance and no minimum trade activity

    Get $50 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only with $10,000 minimum opening deposit. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Get $200 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only with $25,000 minimum opening deposit. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Get $300 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only with $100,000 minimum opening deposit. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Get $600 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only with $250,000 minimum opening deposit. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Get $1,200 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only with $500,000 minimum opening deposit. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Get $2,500 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only with $1,000,000 minimum opening deposit. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Get $3,500 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only with $2,000,000 minimum opening deposit. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    Open an Ally Invest account

    OPENING AN ACCOUNT

    © CreditDonkey

    To open an Ally Invest account, you must be a US citizen or legal permanent resident, and have a US address. You can get started two ways:

      A self-directed account.
      If you’re comfortable investing on your own, you can manage your own investment portfolio.

    There is no no account minimum to open a self-directed account. And there are no annual fee, no maintenance, and no inactivity fee.

    A managed account.
    If you’re a beginner or don’t have the time to self manage, the automated Cash-Enhanced managed portfolio offers an easy solution. This is a robo-advisor that will automatically invest and manage your portfolio for you based on your goals.

    You need an account minimum of $100 to open. There are no advisory fees for Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio.

    You can fund your account via electronic transfer from your bank, wire transfer, or by mailing in a check.

    Wire transfer will be the fastest method, while an electronic bank transfer can take 3 business days.

    Once you’re into your account, the platform is pretty simple to use. You’ll see menu options across the top of the page. The Dashboard is an overview of your activities and links to other parts of the platform.

    You’ll do all your buying and selling in the Trading tab. The Research tab is where you’ll find Ally’s news and research for markets, stocks, and options.

    TYPES OF ACCOUNTS

    Ally Invest supports the following accounts for self-directed trading:

    • Individual taxable
    • Joint
    • Custodial
    • IRAs (Traditional, Roth, Rollover, SEP, SIMPLE)
    • Coverdell

    Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolios support:

    • Individual and joint taxable
    • IRAs (Traditional, Roth, Rollover)
    • Custodial

    Ally Invest Fees & Commissions

    Ally Invest always had one of the lowest fees on the market. And in October 2020, it announced that there will no longer be any commission fees on U.S. listed stocks, ETFs, and options trades.

    • Stock and ETFs: $0 per trade
    • Options: $0 per trade plus $0.50 per contract
    • Mutual funds: $9.95 to buy or sell no-load mutual funds
    • Penny stocks: Additional $0.01 per share for stocks under $2
    • Bonds: $1 per bond (minimum $10)
    • Forex: No commission
    • Broker assisted trades: $20 + regular commission

    All new accounts (no matter your opening amount) will get commission-free stock trading. But note that option trades still cost 50 cents per contract. This is lower than the standard 65 cents that most other online brokers charge.

    Ally Invest also offers a bonus up to $3,500 to new users.

    INVESTMENT OFFERINGS

    Ally Invest offers a wide assortment of investment options:

    Mutual Funds: Ally offers thousands of choices, but it doesn’t have any no-transaction-fee funds.

    ETFs: Ally offers 500+ commission-free exchange traded funds from Vanguard, GlobalX, WisdomTree, iShares and more.

    Fixed Income Securities: Corporate, agency, treasuries, municipals, strips & zeros, CDs, and new issues.

    Options (equity & index): Ally’s platform offers very strong tools for options traders, such as options chains and profit/loss calculator.

    Penny Stocks: Also known as pink sheets or over-the-counter bulletin board. These are very high-risk if you don’t know what you’re doing.

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  • Forex (Foreign Exchange): Ally offers a robust Forex trading platform for investors, plus a practice account. You need a minimum deposit of $250. Read more about it in detail below.
  • Get Up to $3,500 Cash Bonus

    New Ally Invest customers only. Account must be funded for at least 60 days to be eligible for cash bonus.

    PLATFORM AND TOOLS

    Ally’s investment platform – called Ally LIVE – is available for free for anyone who opens an account.

    It offers trading tools such as:

    • Customizable dashboard. You can drag/remove modules however you want.
    • Streaming charts. 8 chart types (such as candlestick, bar, mountain, and line) with 117 chart studies and 36 drawing tools.
    • Alerts. Add alerts to your charts
    • Watchlists. Create customized watchlists.
    • Research data. See market stats, charts, company quotes, high/low prices, and peer performance comparisons.
    • Free tools by Recognia.

    Ally Invest offers robust tools for options. Options traders will especially find that the platform is well-developed to help you make informed decisions for these risky trades. Options tools include:

    • Profit/loss graph: Understand a trade’s potential before placing it.
    • Probability calculator: Uses implied volatility to help you estimate the likelihood of hitting your targets.
    • Options chains: Easily see what’s available and place trades.

    Here are some screenshots:

    Markets Overview Options Chains and Probability Calculator

    Ally’s platform is obviously looking to bat with the big brokers. But it’s still lacking in some trading tools, such as heatmaps.

    It’s constantly listening to feedback and making improvements based on customer needs, so hopefully even more tools will come in the future.

    Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio

    © CreditDonkey

    If you’re a beginner or just wants to be hands-off, Ally Invest offers a robo-advisor called Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio.

    Ally will automatically build a portfolio for you based on your goals and risk tolerance. Your portfolio will be professionally managed so you don’t have to worry about maintaining it.

    Some features include:

    • Diversified portfolio of ETFs
    • Automatic rebalancing
    • 4 portfolio options: core, income, tax-optimized, and socially responsible

    You just need to invest a minimum of $100 to start. Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio is free of advisory fees.This is lower than other robo-advisors like Betterment. However, the catch is that 30% of your portfolio will be held in cash. Read more about it in our detailed review.

    Cash-Enhanced Managed Portfolio lacks tax loss harvesting, which is a feature offered by many other robo-advisors.

    • Are new to investing and don’t feel confident to make choices
    • Want completely easy hands-off investing
    • Don’t have time to invest and manage their own portfolios

    Custom Investment Plans Created for You

    ALLY INVEST FOREX

    For Forex traders, you must sign up for an entirely separate platform and mobile app. Ally Invest Forex is a separate, but affiliated, company from Ally Invest.

    Forex is the most popular traded market in the world. In a nutshell, Forex is traded in pairs: you’re buying one currency while selling another. There’s a fair amount of risk involved.

    The platform features include:

      Customized layout. You can choose from pre-set layouts or create your own to your preferences.

    Advanced charting. Includes more than 80 technical indicators, drawing tools, and integrated order management features. You can overlay technical studies and flip between charts and trade setups. You can even track, trade and modify orders directly on the charts.

    Automation. You can create a custom trading strategy and automate it for real-time buy and sell signals.

    Research. Stay on top of the market with streaming updates, forecasted results, and potential impacts.

  • Practice platform. You get a $50,000 virtual practice account with full access to the platforms and tools for 30 days. This practice account is free, and you’ll have over 50 pairs of currency to choose from.
  • You need at least $250 to open an Ally Forex account. But it’s recommended to start with at least $2,500 so you have more flexibility and better risk management.

    MOBILE APP

    Ally Invest offers trading on-the-go with its iPhone and Android apps – Ally Mobile. It’s the same app as the Ally online banking. So if you use the banking services as well, you can bank and invest under one roof. Ally Mobile app has a average 4.8 star rating on the App Store. It provides investors with single access to your banking and investing life. The reviews tend to highlight the ease of use.

    The app offers a simplified version of the desktop platform. The functions are limited, but they have most of the core abilities, such as:

    • Buy and sell stocks and options from your phone
    • Get real time streaming quotes, chart positions, and current news
    • Use charting tools
    • View your watch lists
    • Monitor your investments and check balances

    Invest EX Review: Is Investex.site Safe? Read Details!

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    Stash Review: Pros, Cons, and How It Compares to Other Micro Investing Apps

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    In this Stash Review, we’ll cover the pros and cons of the Stash Invest app and help you decide if this tool deserves a spot in your investment plan.

    Almost everyone knows that they should be investing in their future. The problem is that many people have trouble finding extra money to stash away. Even the people that do have the cash to spare aren’t sure how to invest their money or are scared that their investments could lose value.

    While it’s true that all investing is subject to risk, you’re taking a risk by not investing, too. Money in your savings account could lose value thanks to inflation, so doing your best to invest and earn a return on your money is essential to making sure you have enough money in the future.

    Stash is an app that aims to make investing easier, less scary, and more fun. You can get started with just a little bit of money and add to your balance over time. You can also choose to invest in just the industries that you’re interested in, giving you more incentive to keep up on your investments.

    What is Stash?

    Stash is one of many investment apps available for modern smartphones. It gives you quick and easy access to your investment portfolio from your phone.

    Stash Banking

    The app originally launched in October of 2020 and it has grown quickly in the past few years. Since its launch, Stash has amassed more than 4 million users and added support for retirement and custodial accounts. Stash also offers an online banking account.

    Stash keeps things as simple as it possibly can for its users. You can link your bank account or debit card to the Stash app and transfer money to your investment accounts on demand. You can also set up automatic investment plans to save more without having to manually make transfers.

    Stash Review: How It Works

    Stash is an easy-to-use investment app perfect for beginners. Here’s what you need to know before setting up your account.

    To get started with Stash, the first thing that you have to do is download the Stash app. Stash also offers its services through its website, but the app is the primary way that you’ll interact with your account.

    Stash login

    When you open the app for the first time, you’ll be prompted to make an account. Provide an e-mail address and password as well as a few personal details in order for Stash to confirm your identity. You’ll also be prompted to enter information for the account you’ll use to fund your investments. Save your Stash login information in a safe place.

    Once you’ve handled the administrative bits, answer some questions to set up your investment account. The Stash questionnaire displays a variety of the investment options available through Stash as well as information about them, their potential benefits, and their risks. It also asks questions to help assess your goals and risk tolerance.

    Best investments on Stash

    Based on your answers, Stash will show you a list of investment options. These options are broken down into three broad categories: conservative, moderate, and aggressive. Choose the best investment on Stash that matches your future goals.

    The categories correspond to the expected risk-reward ratio of each investment and are designated as your risk profile. Once you select the style of investment you want, you can choose from a number of themes that focus on specific sectors, such as technology, clean energy, or other business divisions that you’re passionate about.

    Investing with Stash

    After you’ve set up your account and chosen your investments, the only thing left to do is to actually add money to your account. Deposit at least $5 to get started. After that, you can add money at any time.

    Stash makes saving fun with a variety of goals and milestones to work toward. If you start by putting $5 in your account, Stash might challenge you to get your balance to $50 or $100. When you meet that goal, Stash will come up with a new one.

    Stash also places a major emphasis on education. When you view your current balance and your goals, Stash will show how your money might grow over the next 5 or 10 years and how changing your savings patterns will influence your earnings.

    Stash also allows automatic investment. Set up a weekly or monthly transfer to add more money to your investment account and grow your balance even faster.

    Retirement accounts

    Investing is a waiting game. The old adage that time in the market trumps timing the market still holds true. If you’re thinking about the long-term, you might want to take advantage of Stash Retirement. This feature offers the same investment services that the standard Stash Invest service does, but with retirement accounts.

    You can open either a Traditional or Roth IRA through Stash and use them to save for the future¹. Just remember the restrictions for each account. Once you deposit money, you can’t take it out until you turn 59½ without incurring a penalty. Roth IRA contributions, but not earnings, can be withdrawn penalty-free at any time.

    Paying fees

    Nothing in life is free, which means that you don’t get all of the benefits of Stash without a cost.

    The Stash app has three subscription plan options, with each plan offering its own unique features. All options are available to all customers, regardless of their account balance.

    Here’s a quick glance at Stash’s fee structure.

    *Clients may incur ancillary fees charged by Stash and/or its custodian.

    Keep in mind that the fees charged directly by Stash aren’t the only fees you’ll pay. Stash invests your money in Exchange Traded Funds, which hold a variety of stocks and bonds. ETFs also charge management fees, which can range from .05% to 1% or more of your balance per year.

    The ETFs Stash offers charge fees between .20% and .40%, so you could wind up paying .5% or more of your balance each year to use the service.

    Stash App FAQ

    Investing is complicated, so it’s no wonder that an app designed to help people invest would be a little complicated itself. Here are some common questions about Stash and its services.

    Is investing with Stash a good idea?

    Many companies and advisors require that you commit thousands of dollars or more before you’re allowed to invest. Stash lets you get started with $5 by giving you ownership of a fractional share of a stock or ETF.

    Consider this example: ABC Company costs $100 per share. You and 19 other people sign up for Stash and you each invest $5 in ABC Company. Stash pools your money to buy one share, and then assigns ownership of 1/20 th of the share to each person. In this way, you can own less than a full share.

    How does Stash make money?

    Stash makes money by charging a monthly fee (regardless of account balance) for its services. You pay either $1 per month (STASH Beginner), $3 per month (STASH Growth), or $9 per month (STASH+) to use Stash².

    Is Stash safe?

    Yes, Stash is safe to use. Even if Stash goes bankrupt, your investments will be safe and will still belong to you.

    Stash works with a company called Apex Clearing Corporation to hold the investments it purchases for its customers. The investments are held in a federally regulated broker-dealer (Apex), and this company acts as a custodian for Stash.

    Apex is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC). Under SIPC, cash is returned up to $250,000 and up to $500,000 for non-cash investments.

    This protection only applies if the companies holding investments on your behalf close. That said, don’t expect to be reimbursed if your investments lose value. Remember, investing involves risk.

    Who should use Stash?

    Stash was designed with beginner investors in mind, and it shows. While it’s a great way for people to get started, and it offers valuable educational tools, its fee structure and inability to take full control of your investments make it a poor choice for people with more money to commit or a desire to be more hands-on.

    Stash vs. Acorns

    Stash and Acorns both provide a decent opportunity for brand new investors to build a portfolio.

    Read our full Acorns review to choose which investment app is best for you.

    Stash Review at a Glance

    Pros

    • Start investing with as little as $5
    • Choose from 250+ investment themes and single stocks
    • Support for taxable and tax-advantaged accounts
    • Full access to educational content
    • Personalized investment coaching

    Cons

    • Monthly pricing structure (plans starting at $1/month) to keep your money invested
    • Can only purchase securities from a set list of ETFs and stocks.
    • Missing features, like tax-loss harvesting, offered by robo-advisors

    Best for: Stash is a good choice for young people who just want to get their feet wet with investing. More serious investors who want a hands-on experience or someone who has more money to commit to a full-fledged robo-advisor can get a better deal elsewhere.

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