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Acorns Review 2021: Is This the Best Micro-Investing App?

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Acorns is a financial technology (fintech) company that specializes in providing automated passive-investing services (along with other features) to retail investors in the United States, giving them the opportunity to build an investment portfolio regardless of the amount of capital they have.

Acorns was launched in 2012, and the company was founded by Walter Wemple Cruttenden III and Jeffrey James Cruttenden. As of 2019, the firm oversaw a total of $1.2B in assets for investors and had nearly 5 million users registered with the platform.

If you want to know more about Acorns, how it operates, and how much they charge for their services,  along with other interesting details,  keep reading.

Acorns Logo
4.4
4.4/5

on Acorns’ website

Quick Summary: Acorns can be categorized as a one-stop-shop for all things personal finance. They offer a wide variety of financial products related to banking, retirement planning, and investment management for as low as $1 per month.

Pros:

Cons:

What is Acorns?

Acorns could be categorized as a one-stop-shop for all things personal finance. The firm offers a wide variety of financial products and services related to banking, retirement planning, and investment management, allowing individuals and households to optimize the way they spend, invest, and plan for their futures through a set of technological tools.

Acorns’ investment management services work through a robo-advisor, which is a system that follows predefined algorithms to build investment portfolios based on a person’s financial goals, income, employment situation, risk profile, and other characteristics.

These algorithms use a time-tested investment methodology known as passive investing, which seeks to produce fairly predictable returns over long-term holding periods. Statistics show that volatility is generally lower for long-term portfolios. 

With Acorns, users can open an account without a deposit, although the firm requires a minimum deposit of $5 to start investing.

Acorns operates as a subscription-based service, with the basic (“Lite”) package starting at just $1 per month

How Does Acorns Work

See Also: 12 Best Online Brokers for Stock Trading

How Does Acorns Work?

The technology behind Acorns is simple, yet powerful, and there are a few account types to choose from.

Investing Account Types

Acorns currently supports the following types of accounts for its investors:

  • Individual taxable account
  • Joint taxable account
  • Traditional IRA
  • Roth IRA
  • SEP IRA
  • 401(k) rollovers.

Opening an Account

Opening an account with Acorns is easy. It only takes a few minutes and can be done completely online.

The process starts with clicking the “Get Started” button on the top right corner of Acorns’ official website. Then, the user will be prompted to provide an email and a password to begin the registration process.

After that, the user will have to provide some personal and banking information to synchronize the account. They will also need to fill out a questionnaire that aims to gather relevant information regarding the investor’s financial situation, employment status, goals, and risk profile, among other information.

A government-issued ID is also required to verify identity as part of the enrollment process.

Once this process is completed, the user can decide how much to deposit into the investment account. 

Depending on the investor’s financial goals and risk tolerance, the robo-advisor will suggest a certain portfolio allocation and will set the path that the investor will follow to achieve the desired goals. The service will provide details like the required monthly contribution and the forecasted contribution of the proceeds to the portfolio.

Acorns Features

Acorns is best known for being a micro investing or micro savings app, but it has many other features worth checking out.

Minimum Investment $0
Fees $1 per month (Lite), $3 per month (Personal) and $5 per month (Family)
Inactivity Fee $0
Investment Types Stocks and ETFs
Account Types Individual Taxable, Roth IRA, SEP IRA, Traditional IRA and Custodial Account
Platform Mobile (iOS and Android)
Assets Under Management Over $1.2 billion
Advice Automated
Promotion Get $5 when you sign up
Socially Responsible Investing
Fractional Shares
Portfolio Rebalancing
Tax-Loss Harvesting
Support Live Chat and Phone

Acorns Invest

Acorns Invest is the firm’s investment management service, which works as a robo-advisor. 

Based on the investor’s financial goals, the robo-advisor will recommend a certain portfolio allocation that aims to generate steady returns over the course of multiple years, following a time-tested investment methodology that was built by the firm with the assistance of Nobel prize winner economist Harry Markowitz, the mind behind Model Portfolio Theory (MPT).

The investment account can be set up in only a few minutes, and the portfolio will be built using low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that cover multiple asset classes, including stocks and bonds and their respective subclasses.

These portfolios are designed in a way that achieves the highest-possible return for a certain level of risk, which is determined by assessing the client’s profile and financial goals.

The percentage allocated to each asset class will vary depending on the client’s risk tolerance. The following are the five types of portfolios currently supported by Acorns:

  • Conservative – 100% bonds.
  • Moderately Conservative – 60% bonds, 40% stocks.
  • Moderate – 40% bonds, 60% stocks.
  • Moderately Aggressive – 80% stocks, 20% bonds. 
  • Aggressive – 100% stocks.

The type of bonds and stocks incorporated in each portfolio vary for each of these five portfolios.

Acorns Invest can be accessed with all the subscription plans offered by the firm, although certain features are only available for premium tiers.

Additionally, Acorns incorporates an innovative feature known as Round-Ups, which uses the spare change that’s left after making a purchase with the firm’s Visa™ debit card or any other linked card.

Round-Ups can help investors progressively add money to their portfolios. The firm states that, on average, its users add $30 per month to their accounts with this feature.

Moreover, users can employ what the firm calls  a Round-Up multiplier, which increases the amount that will be ultimately added to a user’s investment account by multiplying the spare change by a certain number of times.

Round-Ups are transferred to an investment account and allocated once a minimum amount of $5 worth of Round-Ups has been reached.

Acorns Investing Portfolios

As stated above, Acorns offers a selection of five different portfolios designed to fit users’ different levels of risk tolerance. 

Here’s a detailed overview of how much will be allocated on each asset class depending on the portfolio that the robo-advisor recommends for the user.

  • Conservative 
    • 40% short-term government bonds.
    • 40% ultra short-term corporate bonds.
    • 20% ultra short-term government bonds.
  • Moderately Conservative 
    • 60% government & corporate bonds.
    • 24% large-cap stocks.
    • 4% mid-cap stocks.
    • 12% international stocks.
  • Moderate
    • 40% government & corporate bonds.
    • 35% large-cap stocks.
    • 5% mid-cap stocks.
    • 2% small-cap stocks.
    • 12% international stocks.
  • Moderately Aggressive
    • 20% government & corporate bonds.
    • 47% large-cap stocks.
    • 6% mid-cap stocks.
    • 3% small-cap stocks.
    • 24% international stocks.
  • Aggressive 
    • 55% large-cap stocks.
    • 10% mid-cap stocks.
    • 5% small-cap stocks.
    • 30% international stocks.

Acorns Investing Methodology 

Acorns’ investment methodology is founded in Harry Markowitz’s Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT).  The MPT approach aims to find the optimal combination of different asset classes to achieve the highest possible return, given a certain level of risk.

MPT proposes that in the absence of trading costs (a situation that has come closer to reality as brokerage firms keep slashing their fees), most asset classes will generate fairly predictable returns and volatility levels over long periods.

Using these returns as a reference, a graph combining different asset classes can be created that incorporates the different levels of returns and risk realized by the investor. 

With this graph, investors can determine which combination of asset classes (also known as optimal portfolio mix)  offers the highest level of return for a given level of risk.

Using historical data, Acorns has built an investment methodology founded on these principles, and the robo-advisor’s algorithms have been designed to determine the optimal allocation for each investor based on their risk tolerance.

To incorporate all the asset classes required to build portfolios recommended by Acorn’s robo-advisor, low-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs) are provided by well-reputed firms like Vanguard and Blackrock, which charge only a small annual percentage in operating fees, allowing investors to maximize their returns by also minimizing the fees they pay to third parties.

ETFs are designed to hold a basket of different securities (whether stocks or bonds), and they incorporate diversification into the user’s portfolio.

Acorns Review

See Also: 12 Best Robo-Advisors: Automate Your Investments

Acorns Later

Acorns Later is the firm’s retirement-planning solution. It is offered to investors who sign up for either the Personal ($3 per month) or the Family ($5 per month) package.

A retirement account can be opened with as little as $5, and investors can choose between opening an IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP IRA account. The firm also accepts 401(k) rollovers.

The retirement account works similarly to the taxable investment account, allowing the investor to sign up for Round-Ups. An investor can also set up automated recurring contributions to keep their retirement account growing as planned.

Investors can track the progress they have made toward their retirement goals using Acorn’s mobile app or by logging into their accounts through the firm’s official website.

Acorns Spend

Acorns Spend is a checking account offered by Acorns, and it is included in the Personal and Family plans.

Acorns Spend is provided by Lincoln Savings Bank, a member of the FDIC, which entitles the holder to a protection of up to $250,000 on any funds deposited within the account. 

This checking account comes with a tungsten metal Visa™ debit card with a green finish.  Customers can set up the Round-Ups feature with this card as a way to  deposit money into their Acorns investment account.

The account does not charge any fees, and account holders can withdraw money for free within a network of more than 55,000 ATMs both in and outside the United States.

Acorns Early

Acorns Early is designed to help parents save for their children’s futures. It offers flexibility because it works both as a savings and an investment account. The funds within an Early account are invested in Acorns’ Aggressive portfolio (comprising 100% stocks), making the most of children’s long-term investment horizon.

With Acorns, parents can set up Early accounts online for their kids,  and they can set daily, weekly, or monthly deposits  to be automatically debited from the designated account. The deposits are automatically invested into  the connected portfolio. Minimum deposits are just $5.

There is no limit to the number of accounts that can be opened, and Early accounts are UTMA/UGMA accounts, which are tax-deferred accounts that can be used not just to pay for a child’s education, but also to cover expenses that contribute to their wellbeing.

Money can be transferred to the child once they have reached a certain minimum age (also known as the “age of transfer”), with the exact age varying depending on the child’s state of residency.

Acorns Earn (Cash Forward Partners)

Acorns Earn is a rewards program that allows account holders to earn money from purchases they make with 350+ different brands partnered with the firm.

Using the debit or credit card linked to their Acorns account, investors can earn varying cash back rewards that will be deposited directly into their investment account within 60 to 120 days after the purchase is completed. 

The different rewards offered by each provider can be found within Acorns’ mobile app, or users can also install an extension in their Chrome web browser that will allow them to see this information. 

As examples, Disney+ currently offers a $5 reward when a user pays for a subscription with an Acorns linked card; Chevron offers a $0.25 reward per refill of $20 or higher.

Platform and Mobile Apps

The Acorns mobile app is available for both iOS and Android devices. Users can also access their accounts and features by logging into the Acorns  official website.

The Acorns app currently has a 4.7 rating in the Apple App Store, compiled from almost 650,000 user reviews, and a 4.5 rating in the Android Play Store from over 129,000 users.

How Does Acorns Later Work

See Also: 12 Best Investment Apps: For Beginners & Pros

Acorns Pricing & Fees

Acorns currently offers three different subscription plans that allow investors to access different features and services provided by the firm. These are:

Acorns Lite – $1 per month

The Lite package allows the user to enjoy the firm’s investment management service.   Round-Ups can also be set up by linking a third-party debit or credit card. Additionally, the Acorns Earn program is accessible to Lite subscribers.

Acorns Personal – $3 per month

The Personal package may be the most complete for individuals or couples with no children. It entitles the account holder to all the services offered by the Lite package, along with a checking account and a retirement account. 

Acorns Family – $5 per month

The Family package comes with all the features provided by the previous two plans, but adds the opportunity to enroll the investor’s children  in Acorns’ Early program, an account offering a savings option and an investment portfolio. 

All of these packages and subsequent subscription fees are available for investors with a balance lower than $1 million. For clients with a higher balance, a higher advisory fee may apply.

Acorns does not charge trading fees for the purchase or sale of the securities that comprise their portfolios, but the individual ETFs may charge a certain annual expense. However, it should be noted that these fees tend to be very low.

Acorns Pros

  • Acorns is a regulated investment management firm that oversees more than $1B in assets for over 4 million users.
  • The firm’s pricing structure is fixed and fairly inexpensive for investors with over $15,000 in assets to invest.
  • Acorns offers a user-friendly, web-based, and mobile platform through which investors can track the progress of their investment and retirement accounts based on the goals set when they first enrolled.
  • The firm relies on a time-tested investment methodology that aims to produce steady returns with little volatility over a long-term holding period.
  • Acorns offers innovative alternatives for other money management needs, such as their Early accounts, which are used to build wealth for kids at an early stage of their lives.
  • Acorns’ vast network of partners and affiliated brands offer interesting rewards that are deposited directly to the investment account.
  • The Round-Ups feature allows investors to progressively save seemingly unimportant spare change that can turn into interesting amounts when invested over time.

Acorns Cons

  • Acorns does not offer the possibility to trade  securities actively through their platform, which is a downside for investors who prefer to have control over at least a portion of their portfolios.
  • Acorns’ monthly subscription fees can be quite expensive for investors with small amounts of capital. For example, $1,000 invested when subscribing to the Personal plan means that the investor will pay 3.6% in advisory fees, which is 2.6% higher than the industry average.

Acorns Alternatives

Before deciding whether or not Acorns is for you, you may want to consider other alternatives. 

Stash

Stash offers almost the same services as Acorns, but they charge higher subscription fees. Their fees start at $1, but go as high as $9 per month.

Stash’s service also provides less hand-holding to investors as they recommend pre-designed portfolios rather than offering customized portfolios.

Check out our Stash review to learn more.

M1 Finance

M1 Finance is also a robo-advisor, and it offers similar investment management services to Acorns. However, they have an edge — they don’t charge any fees for building their investment portfolios.

Additionally, the firm lets users build customized portfolios, allowing a user to trade stocks and ETFs using their platform, although trades are executed in one or two specific time windows during the day.

Moreover, M1 Finance offers the possibility to take out loans backed by the investment portfolio, a feature that is not offered by Acorns.

That said, M1 Finance lacks some of the services offered by Acorns, such as the firm’s “Early” program for kids.

Check out our M1 Finance review to learn more.

Acorns Logo
4.4
4.4/5

Minimum Investment

$0

Fees

$1 to $5 per month

Promotions

None

Advice

None

Tax-Loss Harvesting

Fractional Shares

Portfolio Rebalancing

Assets Under Management

$1.2 billion

Stash Logo
4.1
4.1/5

Minimum Investment

$1

Fees

$1 to $9 per month

Promotions

Advice

None

Tax-Loss Harvesting

Fractional Shares

Portfolio Rebalancing

Assets Under Management

$1 billion

M1 Finance
4.4
4.4/5

Minimum Investment

$0

Fees

$0

Promotions

None

Advice

Automated

Tax-Loss Harvesting

Fractional Shares

Portfolio Rebalancing

Assets Under Management

$1 billion

Who Should Get/Avoid Acorns

Acorns is a great alternative for investors who prefer to let professionals manage their investments. 

The firm charges relatively low subscription fees for their services, although they have to be compared with other providers who charge a percentage-based fee — especially if the investor has a small account balance.

In this regard, Acorns’ services can be quite expensive for portfolios with less than $15,000.

It should be stated that Acorns is not a suitable provider for investors who want a say in how their money is invested (they do not allow self-directed trading).

Summary

  • Account Minimum: $0
  • Fees: $1 per month (Lite), $3 per month (Personal) and $5 per month (Family)
  • Promotion: None at this moment

Acorns FAQ

The following are some of the most frequently asked questions with regards to Acorns and its functionality.

How Much Does Acorns Cost?

Acorns charges a subscription-based fee per month. Fees start at $1 per month for the Lite plan and go as high as $5 per month for the Family plan. These fees are only applicable to clients with an account balance lower than $1 million.

Is Acorns Secure, and How Do They Protect My Money?

Acorns’ group of companies and subsidiaries are all regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the United States. The firm is also a member of SIPC, which means investors’ accounts are protected for up to $500,000.

Additionally, the bank accounts offered by Acorns enjoy a protection of up to $250,000 from the FDIC.

Final Thoughts

Acorns is a great robo-advisor that offers a wide range of services that cover banking, investment management, and retirement planning.

Yet, even though the subscription-based fees seem inexpensive at first glance, investors with less than $15,000 may find other providers that charge percentage-based fees to be less expensive than Acorns.

That said, the firm’s Earn and Round-Ups features are very appealing, although they are not good enough to justify paying twice what other equally good providers like Betterment or Wealthfront offer.

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