Once upon a time, getting started in investing used to be complicated. You needed to put down a huge deposit to open a brokerage account, investing education was not easily accessible, and if you wanted professional portfolio management, it would cost you a good chunk of your profits.
Now, apps like Acorns have turned the world of investing on its head, removing roadblocks for the average person and opening it up to anyone with a couple of dollars to spare.
That’s right, you can start investing with the Acorns app with only a few dollars. But that’s not all you can do with it. If we’ve piqued your interest, read on. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about this app, including what kind of investments are available, portfolio options, and other financial services it provides. This really is one of the best investing platforms out there for lazy investors (and we mean that as an absolute compliment) and we are going to show you why.
Table Of Contents
What Is Acorns?
Launched in 2012, Acorns is a robo-advising and micro-investing platform that takes a nuanced approach to saving loose change with its “Round-Ups” feature, which is aimed at making it easier to start investing. The app rounds up purchases made with a linked credit card, debit card, or linked PayPal account (you can connect multiple cards and accounts) to the nearest dollar and the difference gets deposited into your Acorns investing account. Every time you save $5, the app automatically invests the money for you in fractional shares of exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which are made up of stocks and bonds, to build you a diverse portfolio based on your investment goals and risk comfort level. You can also set up recurring daily, weekly and monthly, or one-time investment deposits to your Acorns account.
As a robo-advisor, the app provides five pre-made portfolio options — all of which were developed with the help of Nobel prize-winning economist, Dr. Harry Markowitz — and it will recommend one based on your answers to a series of questions it asks you during sign up to understand your financial situation and goals. Acorns also provides automatic portfolio rebalancing to help keep your investments on track over time.
Beyond that, Acorns is basically an all-in-one app for financial wellness, offering custodial brokerage accounts, IRAs, and even banking with cash back rewards.
Acorns has more than 8.5 million users who have invested more than $2 billion using the app, so it has a proven track record with investors.
Acorns In A Nutshell: Where It Shines
Micro-Investing And Found Money: Acorns loose change investing method and Found Money feature is a major step as far as democratizing investing goes. By automating the saving and contribution process, investors can come up with a little bit of money they can put to use immediately to start building their investment portfolio. Meanwhile, Found Money gives your investment accounts a funding boost you might not be able to come to on your own. These two features alone make the app appealing and will be extremely helpful to anyone looking to start investing on a tight budget.
Acorns’ Portfolios: This isn’t a pro for people who are interested in stock picking themselves. However, if you have ever said the words “I don’t know what I am doing” when it comes to investing, and that’s been the reason you’ve put off starting, Acorns’ expertly curated portfolios are a huge plus. The app is doing the heavy lifting of picking investments for you, allowing beginner investors to have confidence in where they are building their money. These portfolios are yet another way that Acorns is making starting to invest easy.
Referral Program: Every Acorns investor gets a personalized referral link that they can share with as many people as they like. For every person that uses your link to sign up for Acorns, you and that person earn $5 once their account has been successfully approved and they make their first investment of $5. You can earn up to $500 with your referral link. This is more free money so, if you do sign up for Acorns, make sure to share that link everywhere!
Investing Educational Resources & News: Acorns has a comprehensive library of educational content called Acorns Grow that investors can tap into whenever, wherever. Acorns Grow contains articles written by financial experts, covering financial advice like money-saving hacks and ways to earn more, to controversial topics like the ethics of student loans, and other economic news. Though the app may do all of the heavy lifting for you, it’s good to stay in the know about what is going on in the world of finance and Acorns does a great job of curating content for its investors.
Early Investing For Kids: Unlike a 529 Plan, which is limited to raising money that goes towards education costs, the two custodial account types that Acorns provides — UTMA and UGMA — allows parents and relatives to save and invest money on a child’s behalf to be used however the child wants when the child reaches a certain age. This enables parents and relatives to transfer financial assets without the complicated process of setting up a trust. Though these accounts may not have the same tax benefits as 529 plans, they do give a child more financial freedom with their earnings.
Acorns Early accounts can also be used as an opportunity for parents to teach their kids the power of investing while they’re young. Investing is one of those things that the sooner you start doing it, the better off you’ll be for it.
Acorns Investment Options
Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what you can expect from Acorns. Acorns offers a few different investment account options depending on your needs. So whether you are looking to save for retirement, or to help your children invest for their future Acorns has an account for you.
Of note, Acorns only has ETF offerings, so this is not an app to use to buy individual stocks or bonds. Or to invest in options, cryptocurrency, or any other kind of investment.
This is Acorns’ micro-investing brokerage account that allows you to save and invest loose change from transactions. You can also invest lump sums manually or set up recurring deposits on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
So how does this work exactly? Let’s say you made a trip to CVS and spent something like $10.13. Acorns would round that up to $11 and the extra 87 cents would be transferred into your Acorns Invest account. And, as mentioned above, once you hit a balance of $5 from these round-ups, that money will automatically be invested into your Acorns Invest account portfolio.
You can supercharge the power of Round-Ups with multipliers, meaning you can multiply your Round-Ups by 2x ( nearest $2), 3x (nearest $3) and 10x (nearest $10) — whichever you decide works best for achieving your investing goals. And when you make a transaction that’s an even dollar amount, you can still choose to have up to $1 transferred into your Acorns account.
Round-Ups can be set as automatic for all transactions made with your linked card or PayPal account, or you can select which transactions through the app that you would like to have Round-Ups applied to (Acorns tracks your purchases to make manual selection possible, however, you can opt-out of this).
Another super cool thing about Acorns Invest — and something users should definitely take advantage of — is “Found Money.” Anytime you use a linked credit or debit card to shop at any of more than 350 partnering retailers, like Apple, Walmart, Walgreens, Nike, Sephora and Stitch Fix, you can earn up to 10% in cash back towards your Acorns Invest and Acorns Later accounts.
Investing with a combination of money that Acorns is helping you save on auto-pilot and money from cash back from shopping is pretty revolutionary, and a huge asset to anyone who has trouble saving money for investing.
As for how Acorns actually invests your money, there are five portfolio options to choose from. Keep in mind, Acorns won’t be investing your money in individual stocks, but rather in a group of ETFs it has selected.
Here is a breakdown of the portfolio options the app offers:
- 40% short term government bonds
- 40% ultra short term corporate bonds
- 20% ultra short term government bonds
- 24% large company stocks
- 4% medium company stocks
- 12% international stocks
- 60% government corporate bonds
- 35% large company stocks
- 5% medium company stocks
- 2% small company stocks
- 18% international stocks
- 40% government corporate bonds
- 47% large company stocks
- 6% medium company stocks
- 3% small company stocks
- 24% international stocks
- 20% government corporate bonds
- 55% large companies stocks
- 10% medium company stocks
- 5% small company stocks
- 30% International company stocks
Acorns Later is the app’s retirement offering and it has Traditional, ROTH and SEP IRAs. These are tax-advantaged investment accounts, which is why investing in them is so valuable. Based on your financial situation, lifestyle, retirement goals and risk comfort, an IRA account type will automatically be selected for you. You can contact Acorns support to change the account type, but this is another way Acorns helps its users figure out how to start investing.
You can set up recurring contributions to your IRA account and the Round-Ups feature is available for this account, too.
You’ll get portfolio management with this account as well, with automatic rebalancing that will lead your investments to take an increasingly conservative approach as you grow closer 59.5 years of age — the cusp of retirement age according to the IRS. Again, this is an area where Acorns shines because you don’t have to do the work. Acorns will do it for you.
This is Acorns’ custodial account for people who want to invest on the behalf of the children they love. Acorns offer two types of custodial accounts: UTMA and UGMA accounts. These accounts are held in the name of the minor but controlled by a parent or relative. UGMA accounts are restricted to financial assets like cash, stocks, mutual funds, bonds, other securities and insurance policies. A UTMA account can hold any form of property, including real property and real estate.
Acorns Spend is the all-digital checking account the app offers and it comes with a tungsten metal Visa debit card (more durable than plastic ones) that automatically has real-time Round-Ups enabled. You can set up direct deposit, and by doing that, you can set aside a portion of your paycheck for your Acorns Invest or Acorns Later accounts. It also offers check sending.
With Acorns Spend, you don’t have to worry about annoying hidden fees eating your money and you get access to more than 55,000 fee-free ATMs in the U.S. and abroad. Money in this checking account is FDIC-insured up to $250,000, plus you get fraud protection and digital card lock capabilities.
Acorns is not a free service, however, its fees are on the less expensive side when you consider that financial advisors and brokerage firms can charge hundreds to thousands of dollars in fees. With Acorns, you only pay between $1 to $5 a month for any of its subscription plans.
Here is a break down of all three Acorns subscription plans:
- Acorns Lite ($1/month) – This comes with just the Acorns Invest account, which includes Round-Ups, bonus investments from more than 350 brands when you shop with a linked card, and access to Acorns Grow — the app’s’ educational library of resources with hundreds of articles from financial experts.
- Acorns Personal ($3/month) – This comes with an Acorns Invest, Acorns Later, and Acorns Spend accounts, plus bonus investments, money advice, and more.
- Acorns Family ($5/month) – This plan comes with all four account types — Invest, Spend, Later and Early. It also comes with exclusive bonus investments, family financial advice and more.
Signing Up & Navigating The App
Acorns is available for both iOS and Android devices, and signing up for it only takes a few minutes.
Step 1: Provide an email address and create a password.
Step 2: You’ll be asked to link a bank account (but you can skip this step if you want to come back to it later).
Step 3: Provide your legal first and last name, birthday and social security number, address, phone number and check a box confirming that you are a U.S. citizen. All of this information is needed to confirm your identity, avoid fraud and for tax reporting purposes.
Step 4: Pick security questions and answer them, and then choose your desired subscription plan.
Step 5: To help provide you with a personalized portfolio pick and tips, you’ll be asked a series of questions regarding your employment info, net worth, income, and investment goals — the app gives your five pre-written answers to choose from for investment goals — and more.
Step 6: There are some U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) questions that require an answer. This step is a lot less painful than it sounds and these questions are always asked when someone is opening a brokerage account. If any apply, select them. If they don’t apply to you, check off the option that says “None of these apply to me.”
Step 7: The app will analyze the info you’ve provided and generate your portfolio recommendation, at which point you’ll be able to view the details of it. From there, the app will tell you you’re ready to start investing and tell you your three options for funding your accounts — Round-Ups, recurring investments and one-time investments. If you haven’t linked a bank account yet, you’ll be prompted to do so again, but again, you can skip this step if you would like to do it later.
Step 8: The final step is signing your Acorns investor certificate.
Once you’re all set up and on the homepage of the app, you’ll see tabs for the different account types available through Acorns. The tab for the account type you have will have an account balance visible to you. The other tabs will have an explore button you can tap on to learn more about them and to sign up for if you decide to. Underneath that is a tab that says “Earn more money” and on it, you’ll be able to see your cash back earnings balance from shopping at partner retailers. If you click on the tab, you can explore the different cash back opportunities Acorns partner retailers are offering. And just below the “Earn more money” tab, you’ll see your total invested cash balance from the last 30 days. At the bottom of the home page is a section titled “Grow Your Knowledge,” which provides answers to frequently asked questions.
In the top right corner of the app is a graph. When you click on it, you’ll be able to see a chart of your investment account’s growth potential and you can adjust your recurring transfers and Round-Ups here. In the top, left corner of the home page will be a user profile icon. Click on that to see your account set up completion percentage, access your personalized referral link (you can earn up to $500 with it), access the app’s settings, and you can get help with any questions or concerns you may have via email or phone call.
Of note, if you have a different subscription plan, you’ll likely be able to see much more in your user dashboard. This is just the set up for Acorns Lite, which only comes with an Acorns Invest account.
Is Acorns The Best Investment App For You?
Between the all-in-one approach to personal finance, its automated savings tool and inexpensive professional portfolio management, Acorns has a lot to offer investors, particularly beginner investors. The app is also just a great option for anyone who knows investing is important, but doesn’t want to do the heavy lifting of investigating investment options, as well as those who feel like they don’t have the expertise needed to start investing.
We’ve mentioned this a few times, but it is important to note that Acorns only has ETF offerings, so if you’re looking to buy individual stocks or bonds, or want to invest in options, cryptocurrency, or any other kind of investment, this is not the app for you. You are also limited to the types of stocks and bonds Acorns chooses for you according to your specific portfolio type.
Overall The App Is Best For:
- Hands-off investors
- Anyone looking to start investing on a tight budget
- Anyone looking to save on professional portfolio management