Acorns App Review
  • Commissions and Fees
  • Ease of Use
  • Investment Options
  • Performance
  • Support
3.9

Summary

Acorns App is a micro-investing platform perfect for the age of millennial traders. Do you want the option to micro-invest right from your phone? Read this in-depth review to find out if Acorns App is the app your trading has been waiting for.

About Acorns App

Acorns is a micro-investing platform that specializes in gathering and investing your spare change automatically from everyday credit and debit card purchases. Like the proverbial squirrel diligently stockpiling away little acorns, the app enables users to stockpile their spare change to grow wealth through algorithm-based investing. This product is marketed to new investors and Millennials getting started with the concept of passive investing and robo-advisor services.

Acorns App History

Acorns was launched August 2014 by father-and-son founders Walter and Jeff Cruttenden to promote passive and incremental saving and investing for young adults and newbie investors. The Irvine, CA fintech hired the ‘father’ of Modern Portfolio Theory Dr. Harry Markowitz to integrate the strategies into the optimization algorithms. Acorns surpassed 3.7 million investment accounts managing over $1 billion with a target of reaching 100 million accounts, as per CEO Noah Kerner. The fintech also received a $50 million investment from BlackRock in 2018 as a strong validation of its growing brand.

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Acorns Dashboard

How Acorns App Works

Convenience and access is the theme. The Acorns app automatically rounds up purchases on linked debit and credit cards to the nearest dollar and deposits them into the user’s Acorns account. From there, the funds are invested according to the user’s portfolio type selections. The robo-advisor automatically rebalances portfolios and reinvests dividends in the background, so users can simply ‘set it and forget it’.

Acorns enables micro-investing with literally nickels and dimes, which wouldn’t be possible with a traditional retail broker as transaction costs alone would be cost prohibitive. Users can also schedule recurring investments and earn cash back rewards through the Found Money feature that automatically invests the proceeds.

Account Requirements

The minimum starting balance is $5, making Acorns one of the cheapest robo-advisors to get started with. However, it’s wise to consider starting with a larger deposit as the fee payments can erode performance tremendously. The app is for U.S. residents of at least 18-years of age.

Acorns App Pricing and Fees

Acorns offers three types of payment plans costing $1, $2 and $3-per month for accounts under $1-million. College students that have a .edu e-mail address and student status qualify for free access for up to four-years. Plan fees are withdrawn from funding source rather than from the portfolio so as not to hurt performance.

The $1-per month plan consists of the Acorns Core service which provides access to the basic features including Automated Investing, Smart Portfolios, Found Money, Grow Magazine and customer support consisting of an over 150+ person support team spread out through Irvine, Portland and New York.

The $2-per month plan consists of Acorns Core + Acorns Later.  Acorns Later caters to retirement portfolio management with assisted rollovers for IRAs and 401k plans, recurring contributions, and optimized portfolios suitable for retirement goal plans.

The $3-per month plan consists of Acorns Core + Acorns Later + Acorns Spend. Acorns Spend is an FDIC-protected checking account with real-time round-ups, mobile deposits and check spending, no overdraft or minimum balance fees, free back-to-bank transfers and access to network of free ATMs. It also enables additional Found Money up to 10% from participating partners.

Acorns Pricing

Indirect Fees

Acorns’ algorithms integrate Modern Portfolio Theory which centers around portfolio diversification. The robo-advisor optimizes portfolios by adjusting allocations, based on user preferences, into seven passively managed index ETF funds representing Large Caps, Small Caps, Developed Markets, Emerging Markets, Real Estate, Corporate Bonds and Government Bonds through Vanguard and iShares.

It is worth noting that index ETFs still incur management fees which can affect performance. For example, the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF has an expense ratio of 0.04%, which is relatively cheap.

Acorns Fund Details

Acorns App Platform

Acorns operates via desktop and mobile devices using iOS and Android. It’s also available on the Apple Watch. Portability and convenience are key benefits derived from the mobile app. The interface is simple as it walks users through a series of menu-driven questions that can be completed in less than five-minutes to set-up an account.

Acorns App Investing Tools

Acorns provides exclusive articles and educational content through their Grow magazine tab to help new users start their journey into the world of investing.

Users are limited to investments in just the seven index ETFs. This limited and conservative approach helps to keep newbies from blowing out their accounts. Users can adjust the Round-Ups to selective types of purchases, recurring dollar amounts or even use a multiplier to increase investment amounts. Once Round-Ups reach a selected total amount, it will be invested into selected Portfolios.

Acorns Grow Magazine

Portfolios

After answering a set of questions through the sign-up process pertaining to income, net worth and investment goals the algorithms recommend which type of portfolio best suits your profile. There are five types of risk-adjusted Portfolios ranging from Conservative to Aggressive based on allocation percentages in three main financial asset categories composed of stocks, bonds and real estate. The optimized allocation percentages into a combination of the seven index ETFs is the secret sauce behind the Portfolios. Algorithms will adjust allocations and reinvest dividends seamlessly. For newbies, this takes most of the legwork out of researching, filtering and managing a portfolio therefore making the barrier to entry very low into the world of investing.

Acorns Portfolio

Performance

Individual performance will vary based on cost basis, compounding and allocations. While the amplitude of long positions is adjusted, for the most part, robo-advisors are long-term bullish oriented, which can cause some real problems during bear markets and recessions. How well they can perform under those circumstances remains to be seen. Acorns performs well in bull markets and tends to track the S&P 500 performance-wise with most of the portfolio settings.

Acorns Performance

Rebalancing

Additionally, Acorns rebalances portfolios quarterly and adjusts allocations where more investment may be needed to meet to portfolio model specifications. When portions of your portfolio diverge by more than 5%, Acorns will rebalance it with incoming contributions. The size of your account is important since Acorns monthly fees will have a larger impact on smaller account balances. For example, the $1-per month fee on a $100 account results in – 12% right off the bat. Although Acorns doesn’t deduct fees from your account, instead from the funding source (IE: checking account).

Acorns App Comparisons

Acorns falls under the micro-investing robo-advisor category of fintech apps. The closest competitor is the Stash app. While Stash has many more investing categories and ETFs, Acorns is unique with it’s Found Money feature that enables users to reinvest cash back bonuses with over 100 participating vendors. The monthly fees certainly look cheap, but if you are a self-directed investor who wants more independence and selection, then Robinhood’s commission-free app is more suitable since it doesn’t have a monthly fee.

Key Differentiators

Acorns is suited for new investors and marketed mostly towards tech-savvy Millennials getting their foot in the door with saving and investing. It’s a gateway robo-advisor that presents limited investment choices but is structured in a way to alleviate confusion, borders to entry and keep users out of trouble. Even the Aggressive Portfolio is less risk than taking individual stocks, especially for newbies. The Round-Up and Found Money features are the two winning differentiators that makes Acorns the top player in the spare-change category. The rollout of the Acorns debit card will make it even more convenient for quicker Round-Ups to be applied. The intuitive and self-explanatory dashboard and options with an easy set-up process makes it painless and seamless to get started within minutes.

Acorns Found Money

Acorns App Trustworthiness

Acorns deposits are FDIC-insured. This is solid and trustworthy. However, the investments and portfolios can result in loss of principal based on performance. It has yet to be truly tested in a bear market, so users should be aware of this moving forward.

Who is Acorns App Best Suited For?

Millennials and newbie investors interested in starting their journey into the world of investing best suited for this gateway robo-advisor app. Learn by watching the robo-advisor execute is a great way to get acclimated. The app helps to pique interest and provides the content to expand on the concepts of diversification and planning to grow long-term wealth on a micro-scale. Acorns’ user base is predominantly small investors with average balances around $500. As users grow their money, there are plenty of other apps that can be considered to diversify opportunities into different markets, asset classes and options.

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Pros

  • Automatically rounds up spare change and deposits and invests
  • Great gateway app for young adults new to investing
  • Found Money feature re-invests special cash back offers from over 100 vendors
  • College students pay no monthly fees
  • Structured risk with seven types of asset classes only
  • Creator of Modern Portfolio Theory Dr. Harry Markowitz part of the team
  • Simple, intuitive, seamless and convenient describe the Acorns app

Cons

  • Monthly fees can have a bigger effect on smaller account balances 
  • Limited selection of investment vehicles may hinder more experienced investors