App Review: Acorns Makes it Easy to Save and Invest
We’ve all probably heard it said that the key to building wealth is investing. Unfortunately, especially among those of a younger generation, getting started with investing can seem intimidating, preventing many from even trying. Enter Acorns — a mobile app that looks to make investing not only easy but also painless and automatic. As a result the platform and its micro-investing idea have grown tremendously in recent years.
So how does it work? Let’s take a closer look at Acorns, how it lets you invest your digital spare change, and more:
How it works
Acorn’s main functionality is depositing what they call “round ups” into various investment portfolios. Round ups are calculated by linking debit or credit cards and either automatically or manually selecting which transactions should be rounded up to the nearest dollar. For example, if you spent $2.74 on a cup of coffee, Acorns would add $.26 to your account which would then be invested once you reach at least $5. You can also have different settings for different cards or even deselect round ups before they actually get deposited (like transactions that end in .00 that add $1 to your investment account).
While you can’t choose exactly what stocks you’re investing in, you can choose between five different settings ranging from conservative to aggressive. This comes complete with projections based on a basic monthly contribution and target dates. You can also see the breakdown of the six categories your money will be invested in: large company stocks, small company stocks, emerging market stocks, real estate stocks, government bonds, and corporate bonds. As you’d expect, selecting a conservative portfolio has a much higher percentage of things like government bonds (40%) whereas emerging market stocks make up a greater chunk of your portfolio as you select more aggressive options (topping at 20%).
In addition to round ups, Acorns also allows you to add extra funds whenever you want or even schedule additional deposits consistently. The app also offers a feature called Found Money Akin to other cash back sites and apps like Ebates or Dosh, Found Money allows users to shop offers from various retailers and have a portion of their purchases added to their Acorns balance. For example Acorns users can currently earn 5% back from Macy’s, 1.2% back on certain Apple products, $30 back from joining Blue Apron, and much more. These Found Money offers can be an easy way to grow your investment balance, although I’ve found it best to compare these offers to Ebates and others as it’s hard to know for sure which platform will have the best deal.
Acorns’ round up feature is insanely clever and works well for “set it and forget it” saving. As a result I’ve been able to amass a fair amount without even truly realizing it. That said, one of the things I like most about Acorns is the amount of data available to you at any given moment, including an actual breakdown of how much of your money has gone towards each one of their six investment categories and how many shares your own in each. Speaking of shares, it’s also nice when your Acorns investments pay dividends, which are then automatically added to your balance.
The one downside of Acorns is that the service is not free. Instead, their Acorns Core service comes at the price of $1 a month. It used to be that this fee was deducted from your investment balance but the app has since changed this policy and now pulls its monthly buck straight from your bank account. On the one hand, this switch means you aren’t robbing your funds — and thus your investment growth potential — but, on the other hand, it does make it more difficult to assess whether you’re actually increasing your earnings with Acorns or squandering your returns on fees.
Finally, it must be noted that, should you need to pull your money from Acorns for any reason, the app does make it easy to withdraw and have the money transferred back to your bank account. Personally I’ve tested this functionality and saw the funds transferred within a few business days. This not only gives me peace of mind about trusting my money to Acorns but is also helpful to know in case you choose to move your funds to a potentially more lucrative and long-term option such as an IRA.
Acorns Later and Acorns Spends
Speaking of IRAs, Acorns has begun expanding their slate of services, introducing options for retirement savings as well as unveiling their own debit card product. First, Acorns Later is the company’s IRA product. In addition to the tax benefits that come with IRAs, Acorns Later creates age-based portfolios for investors to get the most out of their savings. Eligible users can join Acorns Later and bundle it with the regular Acorns service for a total of $2 a month.
As mentioned, Acorns is also set to introduce their Acorns Spend debit card later this year. With the first 100,000 cards already spoken for, current users can still pre-order this card that comes with a few interesting benefits such as Real-Time Round-ups — something that I see as being a pretty cool upgrade. The card will also have no minimum balance requirement and will entitle cardholders to unlimited fee-reimbursed ATMs withdrawals nationwide. Unfortunately access to this debit card won’t come free as Acorns Core, Acorns Later, and Acorns Spend will come as a packaged deal priced at $3 a month.
The bottom line
While I’ve been impressed with the premise of Acorns for some time I can now say that I am impressed with the platform as well. Like many FinTech companies, Acorns helps break down some of the barriers that prevent average consumers from doing smart things with their money, such as investing. By making it easy for anyone to start saving and investing their spare change, Acorns makes something big out of something so small (hence the name).
The only downside is the price, which can eat into your earnings, especially if you aren’t setting much aside. Because of this, as your balance and investment knowledge grows, you may want to consider taking your money to other investment apps such as Robinhood or saving for the long-run by moving your money to a traditional retirement account. Still, if you’re looking for an easy and un-intimidating way to start learning about investing, Acorns could be the right option for you.
Also published on Medium.