Acorns is a robo-advisor app that wants to make investing as easy as saving your spare change. It does this by “rounding up” your everyday purchases and putting the extra money in a portfolio the service has designed for you.
Everything about Acorns is incredibly simple and streamlined. That includes the pricing model, which has three flat-rate tiers, at $1, $2, and $3 per month. But although this app is geared toward newbie investors, if you have a small portfolio, that pricing structure could cost you more than other robo-advisors.
In this Acorns review, we’ll take a look at this robo-advisor/microsavings hybrid to help you decide if it’s a good fit for both your portfolio and your wallet.
When it comes to Commissions & Fees, Acorns could end up costing you too much. Its flat-rate pricing scheme is easy to understand, but if your portfolio has less than $5,000 in it, you’ll end up paying more than what you’d pay for most other robo advisors. Plus, you run the risk of paying more in fees than you earn in returns. However, if you’re new to investing, you’ll be pleased with the Account Options, especially since Acorns now offers IRAs. As for Investment Options & Asset Allocation, experienced investors might be frustrated with the lack of customization and the limited selection of ETFs. However, it’s fine for someone who wants to set-it-and-forget-it. Acorns offers plenty of Tools & Resources that make investing fun and easy. And the Website / App / Ease of Use earns high marks for that very reason. You can reach Customer Service by phone 24/7.
|Commissions & Fees||$1-3/Month|
|Types of Investments||Stock and Bond Funds|
|Types of Accounts||Individual, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA|
|Asset Allocation||Managed Portfolios|
|Automatic Portfolio Rebalancing||Yes, As Needed|
|Human Advisor Availability||None|
|Banking Services||Checking Accounts|
|App Availability||iOS, Android, Mobile Optimized Website|
|Customer Service||Phone, Live Chat|
|FINRA CRD Number||#165926|
|SEC Registration Number||#801-78602|
- Round-Ups. Whenever you make a purchase with a linked credit or debit card, Acorns will round it up to either the nearest dollar or a prespecified amount. It will then invest that money into your portfolio.
- Found Money. Making purchases at one of Acorns’s more than 200 Found Money partners, which include Airbnb, Groupon, and Walmart, will earn you extra money to invest.
- Acorns Gift Cards. You can purchase a $25 Acorns gift card online or at a participating brick-and-mortar retailer.
- “Potential” Tool. This feature lets you see how your investments would grow over time with certain given parameters.
What Is Acorns?
Acorns was launched as a microsavings app in 2014 by a father-and-son duo, Walter and Jeffery Cruttenden. Walter is no stranger to financial startups; he’s also the founder of investment banking firm Roth Capital and the founder and CEO of E*TRADE’s investment banking division.
Acorns’s current CEO is Noah Kerner, who has attracted a number of celebrity investors in the firm, including Jennifer Lopez, Bono, and Ashton Kutcher. BlackRock, PayPal, and NBCUniversal are also Acorns stakeholders.
More than 6.8 million people use the Acorns app, and the company reports that more than $1 billion has been invested through the service.
Since its founding, Acorns has grown beyond simple microsavings. The company also offers online checking accounts and IRAs. We’ll discuss how you can add both of those features in just a bit.
How Does Acorns Work?
Like most robo advisors, Acorns uses Modern Portfolio Theory, which holds that a portfolio’s total risk and return profile is more critical than that of any one investment. That means it’s crucial for investors to have diversified portfolios in order to maximize returns and limit risk. In fact, it’s worth pointing out that the originator of Modern Portfolio Theory, Harry Markowitz, is an investment committee advisor for Acorns.
Acorns works by rounding up money from every purchase you make with a connected debit or credit card. You can choose to round up to the nearest dollar or a greater amount that you’ve specified using the Round-Up Multiplier tool. You can then instruct Acorns to invest that money into your portfolio.
In addition to Round-Ups, you can also make manual investments into your portfolio or even set up a recurring direct deposit of as little as $5.
For an extra monthly fee, you can choose to have your money invested in either a traditional or a Roth IRA. Both kinds of retirement account scan help you save money while taking advantage of tax savings.
When you sign up for an Acorns account, you’ll be asked about your investing goals and time horizon, as well as your income. That’s typical of any robo advisor. Acorns will then recommend one of five pre-built portfolios.
Acorns’s portfolios are comprised of exchange-traded funds, or ETFs. These are made up of either stocks or bonds. Acorns uses five to seven ETFs that represent asset classes such as real estate, emerging markets, government bonds, and large or small companies.
Here’s a breakdown of the five portfolios Acorns recommends:
- Short Term Government Bonds: 40%
- Ultra Short Term Corporate Bonds: 40%
- Ultra Short Term Government Bonds: 20%
- Government Bonds: 30%
- Corporate Bonds: 30%
- Large Company Stocks: 24%
- International Large Company Stocks: 8%
- Small Company Stocks: 4%
- Real Estate Stocks: 4%
- Large Company Stocks: 29%
- Government Bonds: 20%
- Corporate Bonds: 20%
- International Large Company Stocks: 12%
- Small Company Stocks: 10%
- Real Estate Stocks: 6%
- Emerging Market Stocks: 3%
- Large Company Stocks: 38%
- International Large Company Stocks: 16%
- Small Company Stocks: 14%
- Corporate Bonds: 10%
- Government Bonds: 10%
- Real Estate Stocks: 8%
- Emerging Market Stocks: 4%
- Large Company Stocks: 40%
- Small Company Stocks: 20%
- International Large Company Stocks: 20%
- Emerging Market Stocks: 10%
- Real Estate Stocks: 10%
Unlike some other robo advisors, such as Betterment, Acorns doesn’t let users mess around with their portfolios. So if you’re at all a DIY investor, you probably won’t enjoy the experience here. You might also find the short list of five to seven ETFs that Acorns uses a bit limited and restrictive. (In fact, an online broker might be a better fit for you.
However, if you’d rather let a robo advisor do all the work, Acorns could be a good fit. And although there aren’t a bazillion ETFs in an Acorns portfolio, there’s enough diversification to please the father of Modern Portfolio Theory!
Here’s where we feel Acorns falls short. Typically, robo advisors base their fees on a percentage – usually from 0.25% to 0.35% annually. Acorns has chosen a simpler approach, with three pricing tiers ranging from $1 to $3 per month.
Although that sounds inexpensive, consider that a $1 fee on a portfolio of only $100 translates to 12% annually. That’s much more than what you’d pay at Betterment or Wealthfront.
At its very cheapest tier, you’d need an Acorns portfolio of $5,000 or more to pay 0.24% in fees annually. If you’re investing that much money, you might prefer a more robust robo advisor.
Still, the maximum amount you could spend at Acorns is $36 per year. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a tiny amount, and many newbie investors will find the service well worth the cost.
Just be careful that your fees don’t negate any investment returns your portfolio earns.
Here are the pricing tiers for Acorns.
|Basic||Round-Up investing app||$1/month|
|Plus||Round-Up investing app|
Traditional or Roth IRA
|Premium||Round-Up investing app|
Traditional or Roth IRA
Acorns Pros & Cons
- Easy to Use. Investing with Acorns is truly a no-brainer. The app makes rounding up your purchases and saving your change simple and even fun to do.
- Checking Accounts. If you love Acorns and want a one-stop-shop for all of your money needs, you’ll be a fan of the company’s checking account.
- Found Money. This program can reward you with more money to invest whenever you shop at some of the most popular online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
- $5 Minimum Investment. There’s no required minimum to open an account, but you need only $5 to start investing.
- Steep Fees. Relatively speaking, Acorns’s simple fixed-rate pricing could end up costing you more than other robo advisors and even eating into your returns.
- No Tax-Loss Harvesting. Tax-loss harvesting can help you save money at tax time by factoring in your investment losses. Many other robo advisors offer this service.
If you have no idea where to begin when it comes to investing, Acorns could be a great fit. It makes saving and investing extremely easy. You’ll start building your portfolio without even thinking about it.
On the flip side, if you have any urge to DIY, you’ll be disappointed by Acorns’s relatively high pricing and lack of customization.
Still, we all have to start somewhere, and this fun robo-advisor app could be an excellent place to test the waters of investing.