Do you have enough money to invest? Yes, I believe you do.
According to a survey by GoBankingRates of non-investors, when asked why they weren’t investing, 55% of the respondents indicated that they do not invest because they didn’t think they earn enough money to do.
At one time that may have been true as brokerage firms required higher minimum balances to set up an investment account. increasingly, emerging firms like Acorns are making it easier to start investing with smaller amounts.
Investing creates the best path to building wealth. Acorns allows you to start with small increments through passive investments. You can meet your financial goals by turning your savings and spending as levers into your investment and retirement accounts.
Launched in 2012, Acorns looks after the up and coming, and empowers them with its micro-investing app. Philosopher and author Matshona Dhilwayo said, “An Oaktree is a daily reminder that great things often have small beginnings.”
The Acorns micro-investing app can help you grow your wealth little by little. Micro-investing allows users to save and invest in small amounts, and through rounding up your purchases to the next dollar, you can fund your investments. Our Acorns review will cover its plans, product features, what we like best and what could be better.
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Table of Contents
What Is Acorns?
You can easily open an account on its website or through its app and link your debit and credit cards. Acorns targets new and young investors, families, or those who want to participate in investing without having to commit a great deal of money.
Acorns doesn’t require a minimum balance and provides a simple solution to save and invest. Users aren’t trading but rather building smart diversified portfolios. Having a set-it-and-forget-it mentality rewards long-term diversified investors who can better handle interim market volatility, beating those who panic flee downturns.
Acorns’ investment philosophy focuses on long-term passive investing through exchange-traded funds or ETFs favoring portfolio diversification and automation. They are a Robo-advising fintech company that has more than 9 million users with over $3 billion in assets under management. They have the backing and endorsement of Nobel Prize winners, economists, CNBC, and Blackrock, among others.
Acorns Has Two Monthly Plans
Acorns uses flat monthly fees rather than the investment fees used by other Robo-advisors. At one time, college students were able to set up free accounts until age 24, but its website says there are no student discounts.
Acorns Personal Tier is $3/month consists of:
- The Acorns Invest unlocks an automated investment account with SIPC protection based on index fund investing capabilities.
- Round-Ups use the spare change rounds up to the next dollar from shopping on linked debit and credit cards.
- Access to Acorns Checking FDIC-insured account that includes personalized checks, mobile deposit, free access to over 55,000 ATMs nationwide, and a bank or VISA debit card made of hard metal.
- Acorns Later is a tax-advantaged retirement account, ranging from traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP Ira, and 401K Rollover.
Acorns Family Tier $5/month adds to the Personal Tier:
- Acorns Early adds access to investment accounts for multiple kids in your family or custodial accounts through UGMA and UTMA for each child to begin investing as a minor.
Are These Reasonable Costs?
These flat monthly plans are reasonable and will cost $36 and $60 annually. At first blush, these offerings which may spur you to save and invest more are a bargain in comparison to subscribing to a streaming service. It depends on how you use their service, and if you save and invest more due to their excellent features like rounding up the spare change and setting recurring investments.
On a purely mathematical basis, comparing fees as a percentage of assets under management, you may feel Acorns is robbing you. Other Robo-advisors tend to charge fees as a percentage of assets under management in a range of 0.25% to 0.40%.
If you only have $100 in your Acorns investment then you are paying $36 annually, or a 36% fee to Acorns. That’s steep! On the other hand, at $1,000, your fee drops to 3.6%, and at $10,000, your fee at 0.36% is more in line with other providers. Plus, you are getting more ways to build your balance with Acorns.
The $36 annual amount is well-spent money if you develop better financial habits and gain investor confidence. Acorns are best for those people who are beginners, want to learn to better save and invest and turn their money into an Oak tree.
Acorns At A Glance
- No minimum balances to start or maintain.
- Automated features, Round-Ups, and recurring accounts promote incremental savings and investments.
- Earn cash back rewards from hundreds of retailers.
- Investing made easy, not intimidating.
- Reasonably priced plans.
- Excellent financial education resources.
- Flat monthly pricing is costly for small balances.
- High transfer fees for ETFs.
- Missing tax optimization strategies that can be beneficial.
The Acorns App Is Best For:
- New, young investors who prefer passive investing through ETFs.
- Families with kids who want to invest and access to custodial accounts.
- Anyone who wants to save more.
How To Open An Acorns Account
Acorns has an excellent website, and instructions to open an account are easy. Once you download the app, they will ask for:
- A valid email address.
- Your online banking log in information to link your accounts to Round-Up spare change and to fund your investments.
- Depending on who you bank with, you may need your checking account number and routing number.
- Provide your physical address.
- Social Security Number.
- Share your general profile information like your financial goals, age, occupation, and earnings. This information helps Acorns recommend the right portfolio for you.
Key Products Of Acorns
We’ll review how users fund their investments through Round-Ups and recurring investments. The company’s key products are:
The most notable feature that distinguishes Acorns is its Round-Ups. Users will link all their credit and debit cards, including the Acorns Visa Debit Card, so automatic Round-Ups will round up your spare change from everyday purchases like gas and groceries.
As users accumulate increments of $5, the money will automatically go into your investment portfolio to grow on a compounding basis. The average Acorns user invests about $30 per month into their portfolio based on Round-Ups, an excellent way to make their savings work for them.
Acorns Round-Up Multiplier
Over time, users can grow their investments. Spare change can add up as contributions to your investments, but if you want to accelerate your contributions you can change your settings to enable the Round-Up Multiplier to increase 2x, 3x, or 10X.
For example, if you bought groceries amounting to $9.70, thirty cents would be added to your account. Enabling the Round-Up Multiplier to 2X you would get sixty cents, but if set it to 10x, your contribution would be more significant at $3.00.
Besides Round-Ups, you can set recurring investments on a periodic basis to add to your investments, such as adding $5 per day, week, or month to bolster your investment account. The company uses dollar-cost averaging for incremental investment added to your portfolio.
Dollar-cost averaging is continuously investing regardless of fluctuating price levels. Many investors take this approach. It removes emotions from the investing equation which can cause mistakes, especially in volatile markets. This feature works with your investment and retirement accounts.
Investing is central to the Acorns program. When users first sign up for a taxable investment account, they provide background information and their money goals. The recommended smart diversified portfolios are composed of exchange-traded funds or ETFs selected by experts like economists Harry Markowitz, Richard Thaler, and Shlomo Benartzi who built the recommended portfolios.
The portfolios incorporate your age, income, time horizon, and risk tolerance expressed in your investor profile. The portfolios will rebalance automatically. Rather than individual stock picking, Acorns favor a mix of ETFs largely from Vanguard and Blackrock that replicate asset classes in compositions of various stocks, government, and corporate bonds.
Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO)
For example, most of the portfolios use Vanguard S&P 500 ETF, one of the best ETFs for beginners and experienced investors. This ETF represents 500 of the largest US companies, mirroring the S&P 500 index commonly referred to as the market proxy. This proxy tends to grow an average of 10% return over the long term and tends to rise and fall more sharply than bonds.
Portfolios of the most conservative investors would have higher percentages of bonds than stocks and aggressive investors would essentially have all stocks in their portfolios. The company has five established portfolio types:
Conservative Portfolio is for someone with low-risk tolerance and potentially a shorter time frame to retirement. Acorns’ website reflects a sample conservative portfolio as follows:
- UltraShort Term Government Bonds (BIL) 20%
- UltraShort Term Corporate Bonds (JPST) 20%
- UltraShort Term Corporate Bonds (ICSH) 20%
- Short Term Government Bonds (GBIL) 20%
- Short Term Government Bonds (SHV) 20%
Moderately Conservative Portfolio
Moderately Conservative is less conservative but still reflects low-risk tolerance:
- Large Company Stocks (VOO) 24%
- Medium Company Stocks (IJH) 4%
- International Company Stocks (IXUS) 12%
- Short Term USD Bonds (ISTB) 18%
- US Aggregate Bonds (AGG) 42%
Moderate is balanced midway between conservative and aggressive investors and its sample portfolio:
- Large Company Stocks (VOO) 35%
- Medium Company Stocks (IJH) 5%
- Small Company Stocks (IJR) 2%
- International Company Stocks (IXUS) 18%
- Short Term USD Bonds (ISTB) 12%
- US Aggregate Bonds (AGG) 28%
Moderately Aggressive Portfolio
Moderately Aggressive leans towards more aggressive investing, higher risk tolerance, and a longer time horizon. Acorns website indicated these compositions:
- Large Company Stocks 38%
- Small Company Stocks 14%
- Emerging Market Stocks 4%
- Real Estate Stocks 8%
- Government Bonds 10%
- Corporate Bonds 10%
- International Large Company Stocks 16%
The Aggressive portfolio is an all-stocks portfolio designed for aggressive investors who are typically younger with longer-term horizons and tolerate high risk for high returns.
This portfolio has:
- Large Company Stocks 40%
- Small Company Stocks 20%
- Emerging Market Stocks 10%
- Real Estate Stocks 10%
- International Large Company Stocks 20%
Acorns’ automated tools of Round-Ups and recurring investments work for setting up tax-advantaged retirement accounts with as little as $5 in Acorns Later. Users can either set up a new retirement account or roll over their existing retirement accounts, including a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, SEP-IRA, or a 401 K plan. For young investors, saving for retirement early is essential.
Acorns want users to grow their money in various ways. Acorns Earn is its Found Money rewards program that will add bonus cash when you spend money with your linked card at more than 350 top brands from Acorn’s partners.
Another way users can earn money is by referring at least three friends to Acorns. The user can earn a $600 bonus for its investment account and make their friends happy.
Acorns have a partnership with ZipRecruiter, a leading online job board, enabling users to seek employment.
Acorns’ family tier provides Acorns Early which works like its Invest and Later products. Parents, guardians, or family members may set up custodial accounts, notably Uniform Gifts to Minors Act (UGMA) and Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) for saving and investing for their young children.
Funding of these accounts is through after-tax dollars for children who will get access to the money when they reach the age of majority or 18 years old. Young adults can use the custodial money for anything they want, including things against parental advice.
Custodial accounts differ from 529 college savings plans. The 529 college savings plans have tax benefits, similar to 401K plans, and the proceeds are for educational expenses like tuition or book costs. It is disappointing that Acorns doesn’t appear to offer 529 plans as of yet.
Acorns Bank is all digital banking and is FDIC-insured up to $250,000 per banking account plus fraud detection and all digital card lock. Upon signing on with Acorns, users get personal checking and a heavy metal Visa Debit Card custom-engraved and link all your debit and credit cards to your accounts.
You can set up a direct deposit and get paid two days early. The account includes a mobile check deposit and can send out payments. Smart Deposit is a built-in feature so users can automatically save and invest money before they have a chance to spend it.
Through the Acorns App, you open investment and retirement accounts and use Round-Ups and recurring investments to fund these accounts.
Acorns Security Features
No entity can provide you with 100% guaranteed security. Acorns security features and protections are as follows:
Each bank account is FDIC-insured up to $250,000 while each investment account has SIPC protection up to $500,000.
Users will have account safeguards including multi-factor authentication and other measures to prevent unauthorized access.
Acorns’ website and app are secured by 256 encryption.
They use bank-level security for their servers and are verified by physical security.
Acorns Financial Education
I was pleased to see that Acorns provides many educational articles and videos on all financial literacy topics: saving, spending, investments, retirement, housing, and more. The articles explain complex terminologies and trends in simple digestible ways to please beginner and experienced investors alike.
What We Most Like About Acorns
No Minimums To Participate. No account minimum balances, all0ws Acorns to serve those who may not have the opportunity to participate on an investment platform.
Round-Ups of Spare Change. By automatically rounding up your spare change to the nearest dollar from your purchases or setting recurring amounts, users can meaningfully contribute to their savings and investment accounts.
Earn Cash Back Rewards. There are many features to contribute more money into your investment and retirement amounts, including earning cash back awards from everyday shopping.
Investing Made Simple. The company provides excellent ways for investors to invest passively through quality ETFs designed by experts based on their profile and preferences. The addition of sustainable investing with ESG is a plus for many who want this mix in their portfolios.
Attractive Pricing For Larger Balances. Its monthly plans are reasonably priced if users take advantage of each respective package, saving and investing more.
Financial Education Resources Are Plentiful. Helpful educational content should help beginners build knowledge and confidence, and better learn the investor ropes.
What Acorns Could Do Better
Flat Monthly Fees May Seem Excessive For Small Investors. Acorns downplay the lack of fees they charge but compared to its Robo-advisor peers, its monthly plans can exceed the percentages of assets rather than a flat fee.
Higher Transfer Fees For ETFs. Transfers of each ETF are costly for users who want to leave Acorns. They charge $50 per ETF and there are five ETFs for each portfolio (e.g., Conservative ) so that could amount to a stiff $250 penalty and is high compared to its peers. For example, Robinhood charges a flat $75 for a partial or full transfer of your account.
Provide 529 College Savings Plans. I’d like to see Acorns add 529 college savings plans to its custodial accounts in its Family package.
Acorns has a major role to play in the world of beginning investors who want a path to build wealth. Acorns’ platform and features have a lot to offer without minimum balance requirements that intimidate many people. Starting small and consistently can amount to meaningful portfolios built by experts.
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With a passion for investing and personal finance, I began The Cents of Money to help and teach others. My experience as an equity analyst, professor, and mom provide me with unique insights about money and wealth creation and a desire to share with you.