Acorns Review: Is it Worth It?

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Acorns

Overall Rating

9.7

Bottom Line

With its game changing spare change round up feature, Acorns has made it easier to automate your investments. As it turns out your spare change actually adds up quickly and so will your savings. But what's most exciting is how Acorns continues to evolve its services and mobile experience, adding new features to its best in class mobile app to help you make money in your sleep.

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • Flexibility
  • Innovative new features
  • Free for college students
  • Automates your investing

Cons

  • Limited Investment options
  • Flat fee skews high on low balances

Features

10.0

Fee

9.0

Mobile Experience

10.0

Investment Options

9.0

Customer Service

9.5

Acorns has a clear mission: To simplify investing for millennials and other young adults.

The investment app accomplishes this mission in two ways: First, it lets you invest small amounts of money. Second, it does the legwork so you don’t have to become an expert to open an investment account.

For experienced investors, Acorns may be too simple, though it can still be fun. For beginners, Acorns offers just what you need to start your life as an investor.

Let’s take a closer look and answer some key questions.

Acorns at a Glance

Minimum Deposit $0 ($5 to start investing)
Acorns Fee $1 a month under $1,000,000
Acorns Apps iOS and Android
Best For Beginning Investors

How Does Acorns Work?

In a nutshell, here’s how Acorns works:

1. Acorns Collects Your Spare Change

When you open an Acorns account you connect your credit card or debit card — ideally the card you use for everyday purchases. Each time you make a purchase using the card, Acorns will round up the transaction to the nearest dollar.

If you used your connected debit card to buy a $3.75 espresso, you’d actually pay $4, and Acorns would save the additional 25 cents so you could invest it later.

2. Acorns Invests Your Savings

At first, Acorns will simply save your change, but when your investment account’s balance reaches $5, you could start investing the money. Acorns uses a computer algorithm to invest your money in Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) based on Modern Portfolio Theory.

This sounds complex, but it’s not. You get to decide how aggressively Acorns invests your money from five different tiers of investing strategies. You can also choose to invest for retirement savings or in a taxable account.

3. You Can Withdraw Money

When your invested spare change has accumulated value and you’d like to spend some of the money, you can transfer funds from Acorns into your bank account. This transfer may take up to a week to complete.

Or, if you want instant access to your money, you could open an Acorns Spend account which is part of the Acorns Personal package, which costs $3 a month.

Acorns Spend is a checking account that automatically rounds up your purchases when you use its tungsten debit card. (That’s right, the card really is made out of metal.)

This built-in checking account also lets you round up transactions in real time instead of on a delay which means you can invest sooner.

Is Acorns A Good Investment?

So, is signing up for Acorns a good idea? There’s no doubt this is a cool product. It’s safe and secure and easy to use. Your minimum investment is low, at $5. And there’s no account minimum to get started.

But this platform will not be a perfect fit for everyone. If you’d like to decide quickly, here’s the quickest way I know to decide who should and who shouldn’t open an account:

  • Start an Acorns Account If: You probably wouldn’t invest without the kind of service Acorns provides. Acorns will be a good way for you to start investing. Once you see how much fun it can be to invest, you’ll want to learn more.
  • Find a Different App If: You want a broad variety of investment options — and a lower fee rate on smaller balances. You might like Wealthfront or Betterment better than Acorns.

Does Acorns Actually Make You Money?

Acorns puts your money in a variety of Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) which tend to be safer than individual stocks. Acorns ETFs are from Vanguard so you’re getting a quality product.

Why are ETFs safer? Because each tradeable share of an ETF is comprised of many different securities rather than just one. ETFs offer a fast track to a diversified portfolio.

You get to decide how aggressively or how conservatively Acorns invests your cash by choosing one of the app’s five tiers.

The Aggressive tier has the most potential for earnings but it also has the most potential for uncertainty. The Conservative tier won’t lead to rapid growth in your net worth, but it’s also the most stable option.

Either way, you should expect your money in Acorns to grow over the long term, but you should also know your invested money isn’t guaranteed to grow. It’s always possible to lose invested money. Your tier should match your risk tolerance.

Acorns 5 Investment Tiers

Your spare change and other deposits you invest with Acorns can find their way into six different asset classes: real estate, government bonds, corporate bonds, emerging market stocks, large-company stocks, and stocks in small companies.

You can choose the way Acorns spreads your money across the different asset classes by choosing one of five tiers:

  1. Conservative: Acorns will place most of your money in government bonds and corporate bonds which do not gain value quickly but are least likely to lose value.
  2. Moderately Conservative: Along with bonds, a sizable chunk of your money will go into large company stock-fueled ETFs which are stable.
  3. Moderate: Bonds and large company stocks will comprise about two-thirds of your portfolio; the remaining third includes new company stocks, real estate stocks, small company stocks, and international stocks.
  4. Moderately Aggressive: Bonds comprise only 20 percent of your portfolio. The rest includes mostly large and small company stocks with real estate and emerging market stocks mixed in.
  5. Aggressive: This level invests none of your money in bonds. About 10 percent of your investments will go toward emerging market stocks and 20 percent toward international stocks. The rest will be invested in more established stocks and real estate.

Under The Hood of Acorns Investing

New investors often want to know exactly where their money will go. This is a smart habit to get into. The Acorns app currently invests funds across the following ETFs:

  • (LQD) – iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF.
  • (SHY) – iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF.
  • (VB) – Vanguard Small-Cap Index Fund ETF Shares.
  • (VNQ) – Vanguard REIT Index Fund ETF Shares.
  • (VOO) – Vanguard 500 Index Fund ETF Shares.
  • (VWO) – Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund ETF Shares.
  • (VEA) – Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets Index Fund ETF Shares.

Rebalancing Your Portfolio

Acorns periodically rebalances your portfolio to ensure your preferred asset allocation stays on target. Over time, and if left unbalanced, parts of your investment portfolio will outweigh the other parts because funds perform differently.

If your stock-fueled ETFs perform better than expected because of a rally in the stock market, for example, your asset allocation could become too stock heavy. Acorns would sell off part of your stock-based portfolio and buy shares in bond funds.

Acorns normally rebalances portfolios quarterly, but your portfolio could get attention any time you withdraw or deposit funds.

How Much Does Acorns Cost?

If you’re aged 23 or younger, you can use the Acorns core investment app at no charge for up to four years if you have an edu email address which indicates you’re in college.

When you’re 24 or older, Acorns has a simple price structure:

Acorns Lite

Acorns Lite costs $1 a month: It’s the platform’s simplest investing plan which sweeps up and invests your spare change, partners with Found Money for cash back at about 350 retailers, and includes access to the Acorns knowledge base online.

There’s no minimum balance requirement but you can’t invest until you have at least $5. If you got super successful and reached an account balance of $1 million, the app would start charging you 0.25 percent of your portfolio annually. Otherwise, it’s just $1 a month.

Acorns Personal

Acorns Personal costs $3 a month: It includes the investment app just like the Lite plan but also includes Acorns Later (an IRA account) and Acorns Spend (a checking account).

This plan’s individual retirement accounts have tax advantages either now or after you’ve retired. Acorns has Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs. You could also open a SEP IRA.

The checking account has a debit card with roundups automatically in effect every time you shop. Since Acorns has no ATM machines, you’d have to use another bank’s ATM.

But you’d get reimbursed for all ATM fees the other banks charge you. This checking account does not charge overdraft fees, but the account would freeze your debit card until you fixed the overdraft.

You could also set up your direct deposit from work to send a percentage of your paycheck into your investment account. Acorns calls this new feature Smart Deposit. It’s a great idea if you’d rather invest a lump sum every time you get paid instead of spare change every day.

Optional Features

Acorns is always adding to its list of services and features.

Newer Options Include:

  • Bigger Round-Ups: rather than rounding to the next dollar, you can set your account to round your purchases to the next $10. An $8 fast food meal would result in a $10 charge and $2 saved. You can also set your account to round to the next even number or the next multiple of 3.
  • Found Money: Acorns’ Found Money program works with leading retailers including Apple, Macy’s, Blue Apron, Barnes & Noble, Lyft, and Walmart. These retailers will match part of your rounded-up deposits as cash back when you shop with a credit card or debit card connected to your Acorns account.
  • Scheduled Deposits: Along with money generated from rounding up transactions, you can schedule regular deposits from your checking account into your investment account. Scheduling deposits usually boosts your investment portfolio more quickly than simply rounding up loose change.
  • Acorns Potential: This service lets you experiment with hypothetical scenarios that can help you make better investment decisions. It can be a lot of fun — and educational — to play out different scenarios.
  • Gift Cards: Acorns even has gift cards. If you’d like to give the gift of investing, this is a great way to do it. Especially at graduation time.

Acorns vs Stash

Acorns isn’t the only option for micro-investing apps. Another one of our best investment apps offering a similar service at a comparable price point is Stash. Here are some of the key differences between the two:

Free Access for College Students

College students get free access to Acorns but would pay the $1 a month fee for Stash.

Fee Structure Threshold

Stash switches your account to a percentage-based fee when you reach $5,000. At that point, you’d begin paying 0.25 percent a year in fees rather than a flat $12 a year ($1 a month).

On a balance of $5,000, 0.25 percent would equal $12.50. On a balance of $10,000, you’d pay $25 a year, and so on.

With Acorns, you’d keep paying $12 a year ($1 a month) until your account reached $1 million which can lead to significant savings the larger your account grows.

Minimum Balance Required

There’s not much difference here. You can open an Acorns account with no minimum balance, but you can’t invest until your account balance reaches $5.

With Stash, you’d need to deposit $5 in order to open an account.

Stash Has More Options

Stash offers a wider variety of investment opportunities, including individual stocks.

But Stash doesn’t actually manage your investments. The service simply advises you and offers connections to investment opportunities.

Stash does let you start up to two custodial accounts ($9 a month) for your children.

Continue Reading:

Is Acorns Federally Insured?

Money in Acorns Spend and Acorns Later (checking and IRA accounts) is FDIC insured up to $250,000 just like it would be in any other checking or savings account at an FDIC member bank.

Invested money is, of course, not protected by the FDIC. But Acorns is a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corp. (SIPC) which protects your non-invested money in case Acorns failed for some reason.

The SIPC does not protect you from losing money because an ETF you’d invested in lost value; it simply protects the non-invested balance in your investment account.

Is Acorns Worth It?

A dollar a month seems reasonable enough. If you’re just starting to learn about investing and you enjoy the Acorns app’s spare-change approach, paying this fee will probably be worthwhile for you.

But the actual value you get in exchange for this fee will depend directly on how much you invest.

If you connect Acorns to a credit card you seldom use and invest only $10 a month, this $1 fee will most likely cost more than you earn on your investment. You’d be losing money with such a high fee.

But the more you invest, the less this $1 should impact your earnings — that’s the beauty of a flat rate fee.

Still, when compared to a robo-advisor like M1 Finance which does not charge user fees, Acorns’ $1 a month is expensive.

Most other robo-advisors charge annual fees based on a percentage of your account

Acorns Management Fee In Perspective

So let’s translate Acorns’ dollar-a-month fee, or $12 annual fee, into a percentage so we can more easily compare it with other robo-advisors’ fees.

Betterment, for example, charges an annual fee equal to 0.25 percent of your average account size throughout the year. How would that compare to Acorns’ flat $12 annual fee?

On an Account Balance of $1,000

  • Betterment would charge $2.50 on this balance because $2.50 is 0.25 percent of $1,000.
  • Acorns would charge you $12 on this balance because it charges a $12 flat fee on accounts under $1 million.

On an Account Balance of $4,800

  • Betterment would charge $12 on this balance because $12 is 0.25 percent of $4,800.
  • Acorns would charge you $12 on this balance because it charges a $12 flat fee on accounts under $1 million.

On an Account Balance of $10,000

  • Betterment would charge $25 on this balance because $25 is 0.25 percent of $10,000.
  • Acorns would charge you $12 on this balance because it charges a $12 flat fee on accounts under $1 million.

So, as you can see, on balances over $4,800, Acorns is your best value. Smaller balances skew Acorns’ flat fee upward. I couldn’t write an Acorns review without pointing that out.

But, still, a dollar a month for a service you like — there’s nothing wrong with that, right?

If you like Acorns’ ease of use and its ability to integrate investing into your everyday life, you’ll most likely find Acorns to be a good deal.

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  • Hayden Redwood says:

    Hello Grant. I live in New Zealand and tried to join acorn but says it not available in new Zealand.

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