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Acorns Review App – Is Acorns Worth It?

Acorns Review – Turn Your Spare Change into an Investment Portfolio

Columnist, Kevin Mercadante

Acorns App Expert Review

Acorns apps round-ups - find out if Acorns is worth it

If you’ve had difficulty saving money in the past, Acorns could be the app you’ve been waiting for. Not only does it help non-savers become savers, but it also turns those savings into investments. And as it does, Acorns manages those investments for you.

That’s because Acorns is both a micro-savings app, and a robo-advisor investment platform all in one.

It enables you to save money by collecting what it refers to as virtual spare change. It does this by rounding up your purchases to even numbers, and then moving the change into your investment account. Once there, your account is invested in a professionally managed portfolio of funds that represent thousands of individual securities.

Acorns is a simple app that enables you to both save money and invest for the future, even if you’ve never been able to save money in the past.

Acorns Investment Review – Robo Advising Features at a Glance

OverviewAutomated investment management robo-advisor that invests your “spare change” in a portfolio of exchange traded funds (ETFs).
Minimum Investment AmountThere is no minimum investment amount required.
Fee Structure$1 per month for account balances below $5,000; 0.25% of the balance on accounts that exceed $5,000.
Top FeaturesApp allows you to save and invest money while you spend on everyday expenses; Acorns partners add to your account.
Free ServicesThe savings app is free to use, even if you don’t invest through the platform. Students with .edu email pay no mgt. fees.
Contact & Investing AdviceAvailable by on-site email or by phone, 6:00 AM – 5:00 PM PST, Monday through Friday.
Investment FundsLow-cost, commission-free ETFs from Vanguard, Blackrock & iShares.
Accounts AvailableTaxable brokerage accounts; No IRAs.
Promotionsn/a

What Differentiates Acorns Robo Investing From Competitors

Acorns has many of the same investment qualities that other robo-advisors have. But where Acorns differs from other robo-advisor investment apps is to save the money that goes into the investment account. As a robo-advisor platform, Acorns provides you with completely passive investing. At the same time, the Round-Up feature (see below) of the app enables you to passively save money, as well.

Acorns isn’t the only app that allows you to invest spare change. But unlike similar apps, Acorns gives you the ability to link an unlimited number of debit and credit cards. That means that you can have change moving into your investment account from multiple sources, accelerating the savings process.

The Acorns app is also completely free for college students with a valid .edu email address. They will have up to four years from the date of registration to use the app for free.

Who Benefits from the Acorns Financial Advisor Robo?

Acorns can be the perfect investment platform for the new investor and the person who has been unable to save money in the past. The automatic savings feature makes saving money effortless. All you have to do is go about your normal spending routines, and money will automatically find its way into your investment account.

It’s also perfect for college students, as a way to get themselves into the habit of saving and investing money early. The kickstart they get from the platform can set them up for a lifetime of saving and investing money.

Acorns App Review Drill Down

Acorns Round-Ups

If you purchase an item for $3.27, the app rounds the purchase up to $4.00 even, then moves $.73 into your designated checking account. This is a process that is referred to as Round-Ups.

Each time a Round-Up reaches $5, the money is transferred into your investment account. (Savings accounts are not used for this purpose, since federal law prohibits more than six outgoing transfers per month, and you’ll likely exceed that limit.)

Since you make dozens of purchases in the course of a month, the amount that is actually transferred into your investment account can be substantial. For example, 100 purchases with an average of $.50 in change can amount to $50 going into your investment account for that month.

You can also set the Round-Up threshold higher, and increase the amount of money that’s flowing into your investment account. If you set the Round-Up to $10 increments, a charge of $7.55 will send $2.45 to your investment account. This is a smart strategy for super-charging your investing.

Acorns Found Money

Acorns has several business partners who will contribute additional cash back to your investment account. That’s in addition to your normal Round-Ups. This can quickly up your savings and investment contributions.

Partners include Walmart, Zip Cars, Apple, Blue Apron, AirBNB, Hulu, Dollar Shave Club and Direct TV. You can determine exactly who the current business partners are once you sign up for the app.

Acorns App Security

All of your data is protected with 256-bit encryption and is never stored on your phone, tablet or computer. Acorns Securities, LLC is also a member of the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) which protects customers of its members for up to $500,000.

Acorns Investment Mix

Acorns investment methodology is similar to other Robo advisors, in that your portfolio is based on modern portfolio theory (MPT). That investment theory considers diversification among asset classes to be the primary investment objective.

Acorns invests your portfolio exclusively in exchange traded funds (ETFs). Not only does this provide broad diversification across a very large number of stocks, but it also does so at minimal cost. Acorns does not permit investment in non-ETF investments, such as individual stocks and bonds.

Acorns starts by determining your investor profile. This is comprised of a variety of factors, including your age, investment goals, time horizon, income and your risk tolerance. Once this is determined, you will be categorized into one of the five following investor profiles:

  • Conservative
  • Moderately Conservative
  • Moderate
  • Moderately Aggressive
  • Aggressive

Which category you fall into will determine the asset allocations within your portfolio. Your portfolio is invested in six broad asset classes that include:

  • Large companies
  • Small companies
  • Emerging markets
  • Government bonds
  • Corporate bonds
  • Real estate stocks

Each asset class is represented by a single ETF. With just six ETF’s, your money will be invested across literally thousands of individual securities. The current lineup of ETFs used by Acorns includes the following funds:

  • iShares IBoxx $ Investment Grade Corp Bond Fund (LQD)
  • iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (SHY)
  • Vanguard REIT Index Fund ETF Shares (VNQ)
  • Vanguard Emerging Markets Stock Index Fund ETF Shares (VWO)
  • Vanguard 500 Index Fund ETF Shares (VOO)
  • Vanguard Small-Cap Index Fund ETF Shares (VB)

How much of each fund you will be invested in is determined by which investor profile you fall into. For example, if you are an Aggressive investor, then 100% of your portfolio will be invested in stock ETF’s. If you are considered conservative, then only 40% will be in stocks, with the remainder in bonds. Each investor profile has its own unique allocation.

An advantage of investing with Acorns that you have the option to change your investor profile. For example, if you want attempt to improve long-term investment returns, you can change your profile from Moderate to Moderately Aggressive. Of course, greater risk or investment volatility accompanies a more aggressive portfolio.

Once your portfolio is established, Acorns provides automatic rebalancing, to make sure that your portfolio percentages remain within the recommended allocations.

Acorns Review App – Sign-up Process

The Acorns app is available at either the App Store or Google Play, and is free to install. One of the advantages is that once you sign up for the app, you can link as many spending accounts as you like.

You must be at least 18 years old, and you’ll need to provide the following information and documentation:

  • A valid email address
  • Your online banking login information to link your account to Round-Up spare change and to fund your investments.
  • Your checking account and routing numbers.
  • Your physical address (no P.O. boxes or business addresses are allowed).
  • Your Social Security Number.
  • General Profile Information to determine your investor profile – includes your financial goals, time horizon, occupation and earnings.
  • Upload a photo of your government-issued ID or other documentation to verify your identity.

Once you’re signed up, you can link your checking account and as many debit and credit cards as you like. As you spend money, your investment account will gradually be funded. But you are also able to fund your Acorns investment account with direct contributions, the way you would any other investment account.

Acorns Investment Review - Acorns Fees + Features

Acorns Fees

Acorns is actually a free app, if you’re using it just to save money. But there are fees attached to the robo-advisor investment service. How much you will pay for that service is determined by the size of your portfolio.

If your portfolio balance is below $5,000, you will pay a fee of $1 per month. There is no investment fee if your investment portfolio has a zero balance.

On portfolios of $5,000 or higher, there is an annual fee of 0.25%, which is charged monthly on a prorated basis.

However, if you’re a college student, the investment service is completely free. In order to get his benefit, you must have a .edu email address.

Acorns App Review Pros and Cons

Acorns Robo Advising Pros

  • Acorns offers a truly passive way to save money. This can be a critical strategy in turning non-savers into regular savers. Since you can save money by spending money, no special effort is required on your part.
  • The annual management fee of 0.25% is comparable to Betterment and Wealthfront, each of which also charges a 0.25% annual fee. Although Wealthfront investors pay zero fees for the first $10,000 under management. And Wisebanyan charges zero fees and has no required minimum balance for their basic service.
  • Acorns app requires zero minimum account balance. This is perfect for new and small investors. Once your account is opened, you can fund it with “spare change”, lump sum deposits or automatic deposits.
  • There’s no limit on the number of accounts and cards that you can link to the app. That means that you will have multiple spending accounts from which you can contribute money into your Acorns account.
  • For college students, the Acorns allure is great as there are zero management fees for students with an .edu email app.

Acorns Robo Advising Cons

  • No IRA accounts available.
  • No tax-loss harvesting (TLH). Many investors have come to expect TLH from robo-advisors, making its absence a potential negative. However, since the typical Acorns investor is more interested in building an investment portfolio from the ground up, this isn’t really a big deal.
  • Customer service is available only during regular business hours. This may not be a deal-breaker, but new and small investors may prefer more generous customer contact.
  • No advisory service. Robo-advisors are light on person-to-person advice, but more are beginning to offer it. Acorns hasn’t, at least not yet.
  • For small investors, the $1 per month fee can be a great percentage of assets managed (AUM). With a $2,500 account the $12 annual fee equates to 0.48% of AUM. Although WiseBanyan doesn’t offer round ups it is less expensive to use than Acorns App.

Acorns Robo-Advisor Review Wrap Up

Acorns is well-suited to college students, young adults, and older adults weho haven’t been able to master the process of saving money regularly. Acorns makes that process automatic, and provides just the incentive that you need to become a committed saver.

And not only is saving money automatic with the app, but so is investing. It’s perfect for the new investor too, since your portfolio is professionally designed and managed. Acorns handles the entire process for you. And the Grow online magazine by Acorns offers top-notch financial advice.

With the emphasis on new and small savers and investors, Acorns is not a preferred investment platform for seasoned investors who may be looking for more sophisticated investment options.

Kevin Mercadante is professional personal finance blogger, and the owner of his own personal finance blog, OutOfYourRut.com. He has backgrounds in both accounting and the mortgage industry. He lives in New Hampshire and can be followed on Twitter at @OutOfYourRut.

Disclosure: Please note that this article may contain affiliate links which means that – at zero cost to you – I might earn a commission if you sign up through the affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally believe is valuable.

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