Acorns App 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:
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 Vanguard Small-Cap ETF (VB) for small company stocks, among others. You can tap on each of these funds to view additional details on each, such as historical performance and year-to-date return.
Making additional deposits and earning Found Money
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, 1.8% on Airbnb bookings, $100 back when they buy a Casper mattress, 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.
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.
Acorns App Fees
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 long-term option such as an IRA.
Acorns Later and Acorns Spends
While we’re on the topic 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 up, 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. Reportedly the first 100,000 cards were snapped up months ago started shipping near the end of 2018, but current users can still pre-order the card at this time. The Acorns Spend card comes with a few interesting benefits but one of my favorites is Real-Time Round-ups. 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 either. Instead Acorns Core, Acorns Later, and Acorns Spend will come as a packaged deal priced at $3 a month. Because of that, unless you plan on making good use of all three products, it might not be worth the cost. Perhaps after the Acorns Spend card rolls out completely the company might reconsider this bundled approach and offer the card and Core account without the Later product — but, to be clear, there’s been no indication of such a plan.
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. That’s why I’d 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. Plus, as I mentioned early, I’d definitely run the math on the $3 a month bundle deal before being tempted by the Acorns Spend cards’ perks.
Ultimately, as your balance and investment knowledge grows, users may even consider taking their money to other investment apps such as 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 un-intimidating way to start learning about investing, Acorns could certainly be the right option for you.
Also published on Medium.