Apps for Saving, Investment, and Retirement

As a former police officer and an attorney who regularly represents police officers and other public servants, I have a good idea of what financial life is like for police officers and other public servants. It can be tough. It often means that police officers work a combination of overtime and off-duty details that would make working two jobs seem inviting. Add a family and that challenge just gets more difficult.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that police need a search warrant to look through someone’s smart phone. Why? Because, these days, we have the most intimate details of our lives stored on our phones — the type of information that should be protected. Some of that information is financial information.

I have made a few posts of Facebook and Twitter, but it is a little disjointed and hard to make sense of in that format. So, I thought I would put it here, together. I am going to share my experience with 3 apps: Acorns, Robin Hood, and Stash. A little disclaimer — I do use these 3 apps and clicking on the links I provide will give me and the clicker (you) a $5 bonus for signing up. While I did not write this to hustle $5 bonuses, who would turn down a free $5? The point is that the $5 is not my motivation.

Acorns

Acorns takes a unique approach to saving and investing. When you set up Acorns, you tell the app what level of risk you are willing to undertake. For example, you can set up the investments as conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive, or aggressive. Acorns invests your money in one of five funds that invest in things that fit the appropriate risk profile. You link your bank account and/or credit card accounts to Acorns. As you spend money, Acorns rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar. When the rounded up change reaches $5, it transfers the money to your Acorns account and invests it in the appropriate fund. It essentially invests yours spare change for you.

You can also tell Acorns you want to invest a lump sum each month in addition to the spare change it invests it on a regular basis. Finally, you can ask Acorns to transfer funds as needed. You can withdraw funds from Acorns pretty easily using the app. It takes 3-5 business days before you see the funds appear in your account, but the funds do appear in your account.

You can also open a debit account and a retirement account with Acorns. The money grows without having to pay any attention to it. I transfer my spare change and $100 extra per month set at moderately aggressive and my account has returned 1.88%. So, not the greatest return, but it is certainly better than any savings account.

The fee is $1/month or .002% for balances over $10,000.

Acorns is intended to be used through an app on your phone, but you can access your account through the Acorns website.

Click here to download Acorns.

Stash

Stash may be my favorite. Stash is a cross somewhere between Acorns (it does not invest spare change like Acorns) and Robin Hood (which will be next, but is more like traditional investing). Stash links to your bank account and you can set an “auto-stash” or you can manually transfer funds to invest. Once you transfer the funds you have to choose your own investment vehicles.

Stash has a number of funds that are organized by the types of companies the funds invest in. The funds are categorized into “I Believe,” “I Want,” and “I Like.” The categories are supposed to represent things you might believe in, want, or like. For example, one of the funds in I Believe is called Clean & Green and invests in companies that use or produce clean energy sources such as wind and solar. Another is Defending America which invests in America’s military suppliers. Women Who Lead invests in companies lead in the area of gender equality. I’m not sure what the I Want category is supposed to be. I mean, I could guess, but I don’t know that I would be right. It has a fund called Corporate Cannabis. I am sure you can guess what that is about. There are also funds that describe the risk level – Aggressive Mix, Conservative Mix, Long-Term Mix, etc. The funds in I Like are things you might be interested in, I guess. They have names such as American Innovators (Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.), BLOK (companies working on the block chain), and On Cloud Nine (companies developing cloud computing). Finally, there are a selection of companies you can invest in directly.

The list of companies you can invest in directly include such companies as Alphabet (Google), Amazon, General Dynamics, Boeing, Facebook, Netflix, and others. The beauty of this is that you can invest however much you would like. For example, if you were to buy Amazon (AMZN) from your stock broker, each share would cost you more than $1,500 ($1,691 as I write this). Alphabet (Google – GOOGL) is $1,092.18 per share as I write this. With Stash, you can invest $50.00 in Amazon and own approximately .003 shares. Now, you won’t be controlling the voting at Board meetings, but if 1 share of Amazon goes up by 5%, 1000 shares go up by 5% and .003 shares goes up by 5%. If your goal is a hostile takeover of Mr. Bezo’s empire, you should choose another vehicle. If your goal is similar to mine — saving some money that earns more than what savings accounts are paying in interest — then this may be a good option for you. I think Amazon is a good investment. Amazon is into everything these days and the companies it does not own have to use Amazon services to make money. It would cost me $169,100 to buy 100 shares and I don’t have that sitting around ready to invest. I can, however, find $50 to invest in Amazon. You could tell Stash to invest $5/week in Amazon. Or you tell Stash to invest $5/week in Amazon and $15/week in the fund composed of companies picked by IBM’s Watson.

One of the things I really like about Stash is that it allows you to open custodial accounts for your minor children. The custodial accounts work just like the main accounts. Stash also has a debit account and a retirement account option available.

The fee is $1/month or .002% if your balance is over $10,000 — the same as Acorns.

You can download Stash here.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is more like a traditional investment account. You buy shares of companies at the prices everyone else buys shares of stock. If you had $169,100 in your Robin Hood account, you could buy 100 shares of AMZN. There is not a limited number of companies. You can also buy and sell options and Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

There are no fees (account fees or trading fees) associated with Robin Hood unless you borrow money from them using Robin Hood Gold (margin trading). The company also earns interest on the un-invested cash in your account.

You can download Robin Hood here.

I hope this information is helpful to everyone who reads this. It is important to take a minute to plan for the future. If it is fun, you may be more likely to do it. So, do your research. There are other articles on these apps. There is another called Betterment which I don’t have any experience with. However, there are numerous articles online that compare and contrast Acorns, Stash, Robin Hood, and Betterment. Maybe we can both get $5 out of the deal.

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