Acorns App Makes it Easy to Save and Invest
We’ve all 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:
What is the Acorns App?
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).
Investment portfolio options
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 seven categories your money will be invested in: large company stocks, small company stocks, emerging market stocks, international large company stocks, real estate stocks, government bonds, and corporate bonds. More specifically each of these categories corresponds to a fund such as the Vanguard S&P 500 ETF (VOO) for large company stocks, the iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) for small company stocks, among others. You can tap on each of these funds to view additional details on each and can view prospectus information for each on Acorns’ site.
Making additional deposits and “Earn”
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 “Earn” (formerly known as Found Money). Akin to other cashback sites and apps like Rakuten (Ebates) or Dosh, Eans 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 4% back from Uber Eats, up to 1.8% on Airbnb bookings, $75 back when they buy a Casper mattress, and much more. These Earn offers can be an easy way to grow your investment balance, although I’ve found it best to compare these offers to Rakuten and others, as it’s hard to know for sure which platform will have the best deal.
Acorns Subscription Plans and Pricing
Over the past few years, Acorns has expanded its offering to include retirement accounts, a debit card, and even a child-centric account. In turn, the app has bundled these services into two service tiers: Personal, and Family. Here’s a quick look at each plan and price point.
The Personal plan offers a well-rounded (no pun intended) collection of features to help customers get the most out of Acorns. First, Personal customers will have the core product Acorns Invest, including round-ups, Earns offers, and more. Then, in addition to your Invest account, you’ll also have access to Acorns Later — the app’s IRA account option. According to the Acorns Later FAQ, “We’ll automatically select the right type of IRA for your lifestyle and goals, each offering distinct tax advantages and eligibility.”
On top of your Invest and Later accounts, Acorns Personal also includes a Spend account. This debit card product enables Real-Time Round-Ups in addition to its more typical digital banking features. For what it’s worth, the card is also tungsten metal, giving it a unique look and feel.
Currently, the Personal plan costs $3 per month.
The Family plan includes everything featured in the Personal plan but adds Acorns Early. This account option helps users save and invest for their child’s (or children’s) future(s). Additionally, with Early offering UTMA/UGMA accounts, funds can be transferred to the children when they’re no longer minors.
Acorns’ Family plan currently costs $5 a month.
What happened to Lite?
Previously, Acorns offered what they called the Lite plan. This featured the Acorns Invest account and little else. However, in summer 2021, Acorns discontinued this option. Thus, the minimum fee for the app jumped from $1 (which is what Lite previously cost) to $3 (which is what Personal costs). While this change is definitely disappointing for some, the Personal plan had already been more popular and does have a better mix of features. Still, those who wanted just the core functionality of “Acorns Classic” are now out of luck.
My Experience with Acorns
Acorns’ Round Up feature is insanely clever and works well for “set it and forget it” saving. Incidentally the brilliance is confirmed by the fact that several other apps have now borrowed the concept and implemented it in different ways. In any case, the functionality has allowed me to amass a fair amount without even truly realizing it.
One of the things I like most about Acorns is the amount of data available to you at any given moment. This includes an actual breakdown of how much of your money has gone towards each one of their seven investment categories and how many shares you 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, as mentioned above, their service plans start at $3 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 fee 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 long-term option such as an IRA.
Final Thoughts on Acorns
I’ve been impressed with the premise of Acorns for some time and I’ve been equally as impressed with the platform overall. 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 real downside is the price, which can eat into your earnings — especially if you aren’t setting much aside. Plus, with the app discontinuing the Lite option, it’s worth running the math on the Personal and Family plans ($3 a month and $5 a month, respectively) to see if they make sense for you. If they do, I’d still recommend that users make the most of their monthly fee, selecting as many transactions as they can for Round Ups and depositing additional funds when possible.
Ultimately, as your balance and investment knowledge grows, users may even consider taking their money to other investment apps such as SoFi Invest and Robinhood that offer a more hands-on investing experience. Additionally you may find that online savings accounts or traditional retirement accounts may be better long-term homes for your money.
With all that said, if you’re looking for an easy and unintimidating way to start learning about investing, Acorns could certainly be the right option for you.
Also published on Medium.