In 2023, nonprofit Commonwealth, with support from the Nasdaq Foundation, launched a groundbreaking research program and pilot with fintech partners, including Stash, to gain insight into how the development of an investor identity can act as a key enabler for beginner investors to overcome initial feelings of doubt and develop a sense of belonging in the investing community. 

The following research blog post is part of the Transforming Investor Identity Project in partnership with Commonwealth. The project was made possible with support from the Nasdaq Foundation. This blog post is also published by Commonwealth; you can find the complete research report here.


Recent developments in the retail investing space, including the widespread adoption of commission-free trading and better UI on mobile and desktop platforms, have made it easier than ever to become an investor. Despite increased accessibility, significant gaps remain between a widespread desire to invest among households living on low and moderate incomes (LMI)—particularly Black, Latinx, and women-led households—and taking advantage of this key wealth-building opportunity.

In this post, we explore some of the highlights from this critical research and look at the ways in which Stash’s investing platform is contributing to a more inclusive investing ecosystem. We will also look at some of the ways in which Commonwealth’s research provides insight into how these choices support beginner investors living on LMI. If you’d like to know more, check out Commonwealth’s full report on this research, as well as the toolkit designed to provide actionable guidance for providers looking to help make investing for everyone. 

Investor Identity Insights


  • Even incremental increases in investor identity are associated with positive action such as investing more funds and recommending investing to friends: Higher investor identity scores were associated with higher ratings of participants’ experience, higher rates of planning to add funds to their investing account, and higher likelihood of recommending investing to friends, indicating that even small increases in identity can have significant impact on investing behaviors. Platforms that are able to cultivate identity effectively for new customers can see direct benefits through increases in deposits and net promoter scores. 
  • Investor identity “clicks” after 6 months: Overall, average investor identity scores for participants grew during the first year. Most of this increase happened during the second six months of participation, highlighting a dynamic in which early experiences eventually start to “click” and translate into changing perceptions of oneself as an investor over the course of the first year. For providers, this means that the initial phase of laying the foundation for beginner investors should be understood to extend beyond onboarding, with the first six months a critical incubation period when the elements that give rise to investor identity are cultivated. 
  • Perceptions of investing change during the first year for most participants: 71% of participants agreed that investing was easier than they had initially thought. The amount of money people thought was needed to be considered an investor declined during the pilot period, indicating a more inclusive understanding of who investors are. For many beginner investors, the biggest hurdle is getting started so that they can see that it is not as difficult as they imagined. Tools like seed funding or other promotions are critical for getting them in the door so that they can develop a more informed understanding of what investing entails. 
  • Emergency savings matters more than income for retaining new investors: 45% of participants that started with less than $500 in emergency savings ended up withdrawing from the program before it ended, while just 28% of participants with more than $500 saved withdrew. The most common reason cited for withdrawal was financial need. This difference highlights the important role resources play in individual agency as an investor, and the opportunity that exists for integrating low-risk savings products into the investing experience. 

  • Representation matters: Participants who did not feel represented in investing messaging and advertising reported a lower sense of belonging in the investing community; 73% of participants who felt represented reported that they felt a sense of belonging, compared to just 44% of participants who did not feel represented. Women were half as likely as men to feel represented in investing messaging and advertising. We also found that representation was perceived along a variety of axes, including race, gender, age, and income. These communications are many investors’ first impression of platforms, and can play a large role in the decision to get started. 

Active learning is an important part of investor identity development

One key finding from this research has been that learning is a major contributor to a sense of belonging and was the most commonly cited driver of feelings of belonging in the investing community by participants. Participants who developed a sense of belonging in the investing community were 21 percentage points more likely to have used on-platform learning features. Conversely, a lack of understanding how to make good investing decisions was the second most commonly cited reason for not feeling a sense of belonging. We also found that participants who engaged with learning tools and features ended up with significantly higher average investor identity scores than those who did not.

Stash has successfully embedded learning tools and opportunities into the retail investing experience. The variety of options they have available and their accessibility resulted in 89% of research participants on Stash using one or more learning features

In addition to educational content such as articles, webinars, and videos, Stash has also embedded learning opportunities into the investing experience itself, erasing boundaries between learning and doing. This embedded learning provides a channel not just for sharing relevant information but also for seamlessly integrating financial guidance and advice from Stash into the investing experience to help beginner investors navigate the first steps of their investing journey. 

Features such as embedded icons that provide instant context for investing options, diversification score analysis, automated saving and investing, expert portfolio management, Stock-Back Rewards1, and jargon-free terminology make it easier than ever for beginner investors to make the most of their investing experience by learning as they go with less reliance on separate educational content. This is particularly important for new and smaller-balance investors who are able to access context-relevant learning opportunities without being overwhelmed by information as they get started, increasing their comfort and building their confidence as investors. 

Emergency savings matters more than income for retaining beginner investors

Commonwealth’s research has identified emergency savings as a more important retention factor than income for investors living on low and moderate incomes. 45% of participants who started the research program with less than $500 in emergency savings (not including investing accounts) ended up withdrawing from the program before it ended, while just 28% of participants with more than $500 saved withdrew. The most common reason cited for withdrawal was financial need. This difference highlights the important role resources play in individual agency as an investor, and the opportunity that exists for integrating low-risk savings products into the investing experience. 

Stash offers an example for providers looking to help new and smaller-balance investors build the savings they need to build consistent investing habits through integrated banking services, allowing them to create stable savings pockets alongside their investing activities. By including features such as investing for both short- and long-term goals and automated saving & investing tools, Stash is helping to support investors at all income levels to create the financial foundation that supports consistent investing and wealth-building habits over time.


Stash has been a champion for inclusive investing both through partnering with Commonwealth on this critical research and acting as an industry leader in designing a platform that welcomes beginner investors, including those living on LMI, to take advantage of the wealth-building opportunities afforded by digital retail investing. For a complete analysis of this research, check out our comprehensive final report from this Transforming Investor Identity project. This project is also accompanied by an action-oriented toolkit with practical guidance for providers looking to implement more inclusive design and cultivate investor identity. 

This is not intended to be personal financial advice or a product endorsement and is shared for informational and educational purposes only.

If you would like to be involved in this research and in the broader project of building a more inclusive investing system, please reach out to us at

Investment advisory services offered by Stash Investments LLC, an SEC registered investment adviser. Investing involves risk and investments may lose value.

1 All rewards earned through use of the Stash Stock-Back® Debit Mastercard® will be fulfilled by Stash Investments LLC and are subject to Terms and Conditions. You will bear the standard fees and expenses reflected in the pricing of the investments that you earn, plus fees for various ancillary services charged by Stash. In order to earn stock in the program, the Stash Stock-Back® Debit Mastercard must be used to make a qualifying purchase. Stock rewards that are paid to participating customers via the Stash Stock Back program, are Not FDIC Insured, Not Bank Guaranteed, and May Lose Value.

Keep up with Stash
in real-time.