Acorns Review: Is Micro Investing the Way to Go?

John Parker - June 18, 2020

acorns review

Thanks to smartphones and apps, it is easier than ever to get into the world of investing. The past few years have seen tons of investing apps designed to allow you to trade stock on the go on your mobile device. Investment apps have become extremely popular because they offer accessible and inexpensive savings options. They’re especially well-suited for beginner investors. Today, our Acorns review will break down this popular investing app and tell you whether it’s really worth your time. 

Acorns’ approach centers on “micro-investments” or investments lower than $1. When you sign up for Acorns, the app rounds up your debit card purchase to the nearest dollar and uses the spare change to fund your brokerage account. It’s a great way to automatically build your savings account in small increments.

Micro investing sounds pretty cool, but is it worth it? In this Acorns review, we’ll cover the pros and cons of this investing app. 

Acorns Review: Overview

Acorns launched in 2012 with a simple mission: help people build their savings and prepare for retirement. It started out as an investment app, but it has since expanded into more traditional bank services like checking accounts. 

Since launching, Acorns has raised over $100 million in funding and built its base to over 7 million users. The company currently holds an estimated $1.2 billion in customer assets.

Acorns’ flagship feature is round-up micro-investing, but it also includes robo-advisor investment options. Users must connect a debit or credit card to Acorns when they sign up. Then, Acorns rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the spare change into your savings account. 

Here is an example: Say you buy your daily coffee for $2.50. Acorns will round that charge up to $3 total, and put the extra $0.50 into your brokerage account. You can automatically round-up all purchases or choose each round-up manually for maximum control. 

This approach helps you save without making a conscious effort. It’s a great way to build your savings on a day-to-day basis. If you have trouble keeping up with your savings goals, Acorns micro-investing could be the perfect option. If you’re not into the round-ups, you can always turn them off and make lump-sum contributions instead.  

>> Ready to start building your nest egg? Click here to start saving with Acorns Now <<

Acorns Reviewed: How It Works

Acorns is a bit different from typical trading apps. Users can’t invest in individual stocks. Instead, your holdings are spread across a handful of hand-picked ETFs. The round-up feature is Acorns’ hallmark, but you also have the option to deposit money from your bank account. Acorns also offers IRA accounts and other traditional banking services. 

Acorns robo-advisor can automatically allocate your investments according to your savings goals. When you open an Acorns account, the app asks several questions about your investment goals. Then, it uses your responses to create a customized portfolio of specially-suited ETFs. 

Users are not required to maintain a minimum account balance, but you have to invest at least $5 to open your account. 

Users can choose from five different portfolios. Each option is based on risk and investment goals. Here are the profiles and the allocation percentages for each:

Conservative:

  • Short-Term Government Bonds: 40%
  • Ultra-Short Term Corporate Bonds: 40%
  • Ultra Short Term Government Bonds: 20%

Moderately Conservative:

  • Large Co. Stocks: 24%
  • Small Company Stocks: 4%
  • Real Estate Stocks: 4%
  • Government Bonds: 30%
  • Corporate Bonds: 30%
  • International Large Co. Stocks: 8%

Moderate:

  • Large Co. Stocks: 29%
  • Small Company Stocks: 10%
  • Emerging Market Stocks: 3%
  • Real Estate Stocks: 6%
  • Government Bonds: 20%
  • Corporate Bonds: 20%
  • International large Co. Stocks: 12%

Moderately Aggressive:

  • Large Co. Stocks: 38%
  • Small Company Stocks: 14%
  • Emerging Market Stocks: 4%
  • Real Estate Stocks: 8%
  • Corporate Bonds: 10%
  • Government Bonds: 10%
  • International Large Co. Stocks: 16%

Aggressive:

  • Large Co. Stocks: 40%
  • Small Company Stocks: 20%
  • Emerging Market Stocks: 10%
  • Real Estate Stocks: 10%
  • International Large Co. Stocks: 20%

Each portfolio consists of varying blends of seven different ETFs. The sector-based funds focus on different types of investments, including REITs, bonds, domestic equities, and emerging markets. According to Acorns’ prospectus, they’re currently using these seven ETFs to build their portfolios:

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

As you can see, the available portfolio selections span from very tightlipped investing with only bonds to a stock-heavy investment strategy with the Aggressive portfolio. Portfolios are constructed by pros, including Nobel prize winner Harry Markowitz, known for his highly influential modern portfolio theory. 

Best of all, Acorns automatically tracks the allocations and rebalances them as necessary. This feature makes the app very well-suited for novice investors.

Once you select your portfolio, your investments are on auto-pilot. You can always make changes to your account later through the app. 

>> Get started with Acorns no-stress investing options right now << 

Acorns Fees Explained

Acorns charges $1/mo for standard brokerage accounts, $2/mo for IRA accounts, and $3 a month for checking and debit accounts.

Most investment apps charge a percentage of assets under management. $1-$2 a month sounds reasonably cheap. Still, that seemingly small fee will probably make up a substantial percentage of your initial investments.  

Even $1 can be a pretty big chunk of a smaller account. For example, let’s say you have $100 in your account. With Acorns, the $1 fee is equivalent to a comparable AUM fee of 12%. Traditional investment apps only charge a 0.25% AUM fee.

However, flat fees become less of an issue as your account grows. Once your account becomes large enough, they can actually become more affordable than AUM-based fees.

acorns reviewed

Acorns Review: Additional Features

Aside from the ETF portfolios, Acorns offers traditional banking services such as debit accounts and IRA accounts. Keep in mind that Acorns is NOT a financial advisory service, so they don’t provide investment advice. Acorns has no physical branches either, so you have to manage your accounts entirely through the app.

There is also the found money feature, which functions as a cash-back service. Acorns offers cash-back for qualifying purchases from roughly 350 participating vendors. Investing with your own money is great, but it’s definitely nice to get a little bonus every now and then. 

Acorns Review: Pros

Acorns has many notable benefits. Most of them are centered around micro-investing and robo-advising. Here are a couple of our favorite Acorns features: 

Round-up Investing 

Saving your spare change can help you build your investment account without any conscious thought. Round-ups turn everyday purchases into nest egg contributions. Acorns’ emphasis on small investments trains makes it easy to build your savings. It’s an excellent feature for undisciplined savers and cash-strapped investors. 

General and IRA Accounts 

Acorns allows users to create general taxable investment accounts and tax-deferred IRA accounts. Acorns used to only offer regular savings accounts, so it’s good to see it’s expanding its services.

Robo-Advising

Although its ETF options are limited, Acorns portfolios cover most of the essential investment sectors. Acorns’ ETFs also have relatively low expense ratios, so they’re pretty affordable. The app also automatically manages portfolio allocations, so you don’t have to worry about rebalancing your portfolio. 

No Minimum Balances: 

Unlike a lot of investment amounts, Acorns’ has no minimum account balances. You need $5 to open an account, but you’re under no obligation to maintain a minimum balance after that. 

Cash Back 

“Found Money” offers cash-back on qualifying purchases from roughly 350 participating companies. You can use this feature to pad your savings account when you make everyday purchases. Most people already buy stuff from the participating vendors, so you can probably earn extra money from buying things you were already purchasing. 

Simple Interface 

Acorns’ interface is very user-friendly. It has a clean design and easy-to-navigate menus. You can easily access your accounts, change settings, and check your investments with a few clicks. 

Resources

Acorns has a library of educational resources, including “Grow Magazine”. “Grow” is a financial advice magazine aimed at millennials and other young investors. 

>> Does hands-off savings sound like the perfect option for you? Click here to start saving now! <<

Acorns Review: Cons

Our Acorns review found a few drawbacks. Here are some of the most notable:

Account Fees

As we mentioned earlier, Acorns charges a $1 flat monthly rate on all standard brokerage accounts. This amount seems small, but it adds up when you’re only investing small amounts. Even one dollar can amount to a large chunk of your profits. However, Acorns’ flat fees become less problematic as your account grows.

Small Portfolio Selection

Acorns’ users can’t invest in individual stocks, and they can only choose from seven ETFs. However, these ETFs cover most basic investing needs, so this is an appropriate feature for automatic investing. However, it can ultimately become a hindrance if you want to take a more active role in choosing your investments. 

No Advisory Services

Acorns is primarily an investment app, not an advisory service. However, this might not be a significant issue if you’re focused on passive investing. 

Who Should Use Acorns? Is It Right for Me?

Acorns is a natural option for beginning investors, but it’s also an excellent choice for hands-off saving.  The round-up feature can help you maximize your savings, even if you’re investing on a budget. Conversely, Acorns can be a great option to manage funds passively if you already have some built-up wealth. 

Acorns Review: Final Verdict

We think Acorns is an excellent option for novice investors. The round-up feature is a natural fit for small-budget savers. Combine round-ups with Acorns’ easy-to-use portfolio options, and you have a fantastic app for beginners.  It has an easy-to-use interface, no account minimums, a decent selection of pre-built portfolios. Plus, special features like round-up purchases and ‘Found Money’ rewards sweeten the pot even more. Acorns is primarily geared towards beginners, but advanced investors can also benefit from its simplified features. All and all, Acorns is a stand-out option for hands-off saving and easy investing. 

>> That’s it for our Acorns review. Ready to get started?  Open an account with Acorns now and start turning your spare change into major savings! << 

John Parker is a finance writer and journalist based in the Outer Banks, NC.

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