- Ease of Use
- Investment Options
Are you into investing but prefer using small amounts of money? Then Acorns may be the investment platform you’ve been looking for. Acorns is a micro-investment platform made for millennials. So, does Acorns really have what you need for? Read our review to learn more.
- 1 What is Acorns?
- 2 About the Company
- 3 How Does Acorns Work?
- 4 Account Requirements
- 5 How Much Does Acorns Cost?
- 6 The Acorns App
- 7 Performance and Returns
- 8 Comparison to Alternative Investments
- 9 Key Differentiators
- 10 Can You Trust Acorns With Your Money?
- 11 Who Is Acorns Best For?
- 12 Conclusion
What is Acorns?
Acorns is a micro-investment platform targeted at Millennials to help them automatically invest small amounts of money. Acorns makes it easy to set and forget investments since the platform will automatically rebalance users’ portfolios as your assets grow. Plus, the ETFs that Acorns invests users’ money in are among the lowest cost ETFs available, ensuring that small investments won’t be siphoned away by fees and commissions.
About the Company
Acorns was founded in 2014 by Walter and Jeff Crutenden and is now headed by CEO Noah Kerner. The company has grown rapidly, now managing over $1 billion in user assets and receiving backing from major corporations including PayPal, Blackrock, and Bain Capital. On top of that, Acorns has numerous big-name investors, such as Richard Thaler and Joanna Lambert, as advisors and board members.
How Does Acorns Work?
Acorns was one of the first micro-investment platforms, allowing users to invest small sums of money – in many cases, just a few dollars. Users begin with Acorn by choosing whether they want a more conservative or more aggressive investment portfolio, and then Acorn automatically invests money into a variety of ETFs that reflect the chosen investment style. In contrast to other micro-investment platforms like Stash, which offer the ability to choose from hundreds of ETFs and individual stocks, Acorns instead focuses users investments on a select handful of low-cost ETFs from Blackrock and Vanguard for its offerings.
The feature that most sets Acorns apart from the competition is the “round up” function. After setting up an Acorns account, users are prompted to link their credit and debit cards to their account. Every time a user makes a purchase, the transaction amount is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the “spare change” leftover is automatically transferred into their Acorns investment account. This is akin to an electronic, automatic version of keeping a spare change jar at home and investing that money over time.
On top of that, Acorns allows users multiply their round ups. Multipliers work by simply increasing the amount of money that is transferred during each round up. For example, a transaction that leaves 42 cents leftover to the nearest dollar could be multiplied by two so that 84 cents is transferred to Acorns.
Of course, users can also directly transfer money to acorns for investment directly from their bank accounts. Acorns makes it simple to set daily, weekly, or monthly automatic transfers.
As users’ portfolios grow and ETF values change, Acorns automatically rebalances portfolios to remain in line with the conservative or aggressive investment approach that users desire.
Acorns doesn’t require a minimum investment to open an account, but any money you put in the account won’t actually be invested until it adds up to at least $5.
Acorns is currently only available to residents of the US and Australia.
How Much Does Acorns Cost?
Acorn has three different tiers of service that cost $1, $2, and $3 per month, respectively. Acorns Core, at $1 per month, includes all of the essential features of Acorn for a standard investment account. For $2 per month, users can get both a standard investment account and an IRA account – what Acorns refers to as Acorns Later – plus support for rolling over existing retirement accounts to Acorns. For $3 per month, users can add Acorns Spend, a digital checking account with a debit card that enables real-time round up transfers to an Acorns investment account.
While the $1 per month fee for Acorns Core is relatively low, this can add up for users who are only investing with round ups. Depending on spending habits, round ups may add up to only a handful of dollars per month – so a monthly fee of $1 can take a big chunk out of that. This fee is especially painful when comparing Acorns to M1 Finance, another micro-investment platform that has no monthly fee.
That said, Acorns has an excellent offer for college students. Users under the age of 24 who sign up with a .edu email address can get access to Acorns Core for free for up to four years. In that case, there’s almost no downside to using Acorns.
The upside to Acorns’ pricing and fee structure is that all investments are made in extremely low-cost Blackrock and Vanguard ETFs. This keeps the management fees associated with invested money quite low compared to services like Stash, which offers much higher fee ETFs. In addition, Acorns does not charge any transaction fees when you move money into or out of an Acorns account.
The Acorns App
Acorns is available as both a mobile app (iOS and Android) and as a web platform. However, most new features are rolled out in the mobile apps first, so the web platform still lacks settings to change things like round up multipliers.
The platform is simple to use and guides users seamlessly through the process of setting up an account and choosing an investment strategy. In many ways, the relative lack of choices about what to invest in makes Acorns even easier to use. On top of that, linking credit and debit card accounts and setting up automatic investments from a bank account are extremely straightforward and users can easily change settings later. For example, the recurring investment tool looks like a simple number pad with the only option being the time period for recurrence.
It’s also worth noting that Acorns puts a premium on education through Acorns Grow. This is available from the mobile app, but is somewhat easier to view and navigate on the Acorns web platform. Acorns Grow includes articles on basic investing techniques, managing student debt, and growing a nest egg.
Performance and Returns
Acorns invests users’ money in tried and true ETFs from Blackrock and Vanguard, such as the iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF for conservative investors and the Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund ETF for aggressive investors. All of the ETFs that Acorns invests in have positive returns over five- and 10-year horizons, although the returns can be relatively low – just a few percent per year – compared to more diverse and aggressive ETFs.
Keep in mind also that since Acorns will automatically rebalance users’ portfolios as ETFs grow and change, users could find that their investments are rebalanced to be more conservative during times when the stock market is making large gains.
Comparison to Alternative Investments
Acorns has advantages and disadvantages compared to other micro-investment platforms depending on what users are looking for in an investment platform.
On the one hand, Acorns is ideal for people who want to set their investments and forget about them since it offers automatic transfers and round ups, as well as automatic portfolio rebalancing. On the other hand, Acorns is a somewhat expensive for micro-investing. While Acorns keeps costs somewhat low for its users by investing in low-cost ETFs, the $1 per month account fee can quickly eat into round up money. The fee seems especially high when considering that M1 Finance offers a comparable micro-investment service with no monthly fee whatsoever.
That said, Acorns is cheaper than options like Stash for users who don’t mind the limited array of investing options. Overall, Acorns’ lack of options makes it easier for users to get started, but can be frustrating for people who want to invest in specific industry sectors or in specific assets like Stash allows users to do.
When comparing Acorns to a standard brokerage account, it’s easy to see why Acorns would be favored by many investors. Even though investing options are limited to a select few ETFs, there are no transaction fees or visible commissions on trades and no account minimums. Plus, Acorns’ web and mobile apps are much easier to navigate and understand than those of most brokerages.
The most important thing that differentiates Acorns from competitors like M1 Finance is its round up feature. This alone can justify the monthly fee for many users, since it means they never have to think about investing – it simply happens every time they make a purchase. Along those lines, the ease of setting recurring transfers to Acorns from a bank account is another big draw for the platform.
The other thing that can divide people who love Acorns and those who hate it is the relative lack of investment options. For some users, this lack of options means simplicity in investing, while for others, it can be frustrating to have very little control over how their money is being invested.
Can You Trust Acorns With Your Money?
Casual investors should feel good about trusting Acorns with their money. To start, Acorns invests in just a handful of ETFs from Blackrock and Vanguard – two institutions with long histories of high-performing, low-cost ETFs. On top of that, Acorns’ growth over the past five years offers the promise that the company will continue to introduce new features and make the user experience even better. On top of that, users can easily withdraw their money from Acorns at any time with no transaction fees.
Who Is Acorns Best For?
Acorns is best for younger investors who want to start investing small amounts of money, without having to actively think about investing after setting up their account. In this vein, Acorns specifically targets college students with a free account for up to four years, and is also good for high school students and anyone who has not yet started their professional careers. Again, keep in mind that Acorns will be best suited for investors who don’t want to have to modify their investment preferences after setting them up – users who like having many options and want to pick and choose what they invest in will find themselves frustrated with Acorns.
Acorns has the potential to grow with users as their money grows, but this does to some extent rely on users taking advantage of the automatic transfers feature to continually put more money into Acorns investments. Otherwise, round ups will likely not end up investing enough money for professionals who are earning larger sums of money. In this case, though, Acorns could be used as a broad, conservative investment tool, while a standard brokerage account could be in conjunction to make more aggressive, targeted investments.
Acorns is an extremely simple robo-investor platform designed for people who want to set up recurring investments and forget about them. While Acorns has very limited investment options, this is a major part of the appeal of the platform for users who want simplicity in investing. Although Acorns charges a monthly fee that can eat into small investment accounts, the ETFs that Acorns offers are low-cost compared to those from competing platforms like Stash.
- Simple to set and forget investment preferences
- Automatic round ups and daily, weekly, or monthly transfers for investing
- Multipliers on round ups can be used to increase automatic investing
- Invests in low-cost Blackrock and Vanguard ETFs
- Easily links to credit and debit cards and most bank accounts
- No transaction fees on transfers
- Monthly fees can eat into small investments from round ups
- Very little choice in ETFs or investment strategies
- Round ups will not “grow” with users as the amount of money they need to invest grows