Investing is a vital way to earn passive income since most savings accounts have near-zero interest rates. However, you may think investing isn’t for you if you don’t have a lot of money to get started. Investing in stocks with little money was impossible a few years ago, but Acorns Investing has solved this problem.
The Acorns app allows people to invest a few dollars at a time, making it possible for anyone to start investing. With premade portfolios that offer instant diversification and no required investing knowledge, the platform is one of the best investing apps for beginners.
Acorns makes it easy to find money to invest thanks to online shopping partners as well as the option to round up your debit card purchases. You can also open an online checking account and create investment accounts for your children.
- 1 Acorns Review
- 1.1 What is Acorns?
- 1.2 How Does the Micro-Investing App Work?
- 1.3 Investing Options
- 1.4 Acorns Spend and Found Money
- 1.5 Other Features
- 1.6 Is Acorns Safe and Worth It?
- 1.7 Pros and Cons
- 1.8 Top Alternatives
- 2 Summary
Micro-investing apps are relatively new but popular because of their low fees. For instance, Acorns reports that they have over seven million members.
Acorns first launched in August 2014 with taxable investing accounts. They now offer retirement accounts and an FDIC-insured checking account.
It’s easier to start investing today than several years ago. In the past, brokers required hundreds or even thousands of dollars to buy a single position. These high entry costs stopped people with little money from investing and building wealth.
Acorns differs from most investing apps in several ways. For instance, you can invest with purchase round-ups and cash rewards by shopping with over 350 brands.
What is Acorns?
The Acorns app uses micro-investing to invest as little as $5 into stock and bond index ETFs that are managed by Vanguard and BlackRock.
You can buy fractional shares of the same index funds that other online brokers require you to buy an entire share of to invest.
For example, Vanguard requires you to buy whole shares of the same ETFs Acorns offers. Some of these Vanguard ETFs can cost over $150 per share!
Most investing platforms have the same ETFs as Acorns but require you to build your own portfolio. Acorns is like a robo-advisor since they recommend a portfolio that models your investment goals.
The app will also automatically rebalance your asset allocation.
You can fund your Acorns investing app by:
- Transferring money directly from your bank account or Acorns Spend checking account
- Rounding up credit card and debit card purchases
- Shopping at “Found Money” online shopping partners
Investing your purchase round-ups is one of the most exciting reasons to use the app. For example, the platform rounds up a $2.13 purchase to $3.00 and invests the $0.87 difference.
These modest round-ups can turn into a small fortune if you make several daily purchases.
There are no trade fees to buy or sell index ETFs, but you do pay a flat monthly plan fee. You don’t start paying the monthly fee until you make your first investment.
The initial minimum investment is $5 for the taxable Acorns Investing. This minimum also applies to an Acorns Later traditional or Roth IRA.
Below are the current Acorns monthly plans:
- Lite ($1/month). An entry-level plan that only offers a taxable account. You can round up purchases and shop at online partners.
- Personal ($3/month). The mid-tier plan with taxable and retirement accounts. You can also open an Acorns Spend checking account with no account fees.
- Family ($5/month). This gives you access to all of the above account types. You can also open an investment account for your children.
The fees can be a nuisance if you don’t invest frequently. However, the spending round-ups make it easy to offset the monthly fee and invest often.
According to Acorns, the average user invests $30 in purchase round-ups each month.
How Does the Micro-Investing App Work?
The app invests in stock and bond index ETFs when your investing account balance is at least $5. Acorns buys fractional shares of the ETFs in your portfolio and automatically rebalances your portfolio with subsequent investments.
Investing apps with micro-investing may require you to decide how many shares to buy with each trade. Having to manually rebalance your portfolio requires extra effort and can be frustrating if you don’t know what to invest in.
You can open an Acorns investing account with $0 and choose which one of the Acorns portfolios best fit your investment goals. The service recommends a portfolio after you answer some questions.
Currently, the available portfolios invest in stock and bond index ETFs with various degrees of risk tolerance. As you will see, the “Conservative” portfolio only invests in bonds while the “Aggressive” portfolio only holds stocks. The “moderate” portfolios invest in stocks and bonds.
Here are the five portfolios you can invest in:
- Conservative (100 percent bonds)
- 40 percent short-term government bonds
- 40 percent ultra short-term corporate bonds
- 20 percent ultra short-term government bonds
- Moderately Conservative (40 percent stocks and 60 percent bonds)
- 24 percent US large company stocks
- 4 percent US small company stocks
- 8 percent foreign large company stocks
- 4 percent real estate stocks
- 30 percent government bonds
- 30 percent corporate bonds
- Moderate (60 percent stocks and 40 percent bonds)
- 29 percent US large company stocks
- 10 percent US small company stocks
- 12 percent foreign large company stocks
- 3 percent emerging market stocks
- 6 percent real estate stocks
- 20 percent government bonds
- 20 percent corporate bonds
- Moderately Aggressive (80 percent stocks and 20 percent bonds)
- 38 percent US large company stocks
- 14 percent US small company stocks
- 16 percent foreign large company stocks
- 4 percent emerging market stocks
- 8 percent real estate stocks
- 10 percent corporate bonds
- 10 percent government bonds
- Aggressive (100 percent stocks)
- 55 percent US large company stocks
- 10 percent US medium company stocks
- 5 percent US small company stocks
- 30 percent foreign company stocks
Younger investors might choose more aggressive portfolios because stocks have more long-term growth potential than bonds. You can shift to conservative portfolios as you near retirement to lower your risk.
The target asset allocations are similar to other robo-advisor investing apps with risk-based ETF portfolios.
This investment strategy uses the Nobel Prize-winning Modern Portfolio Theory to minimize risk while letting you invest in multiple asset classes.
You can open multiple taxable Acorns Investing and retirement accounts for different investing goals. Remember that you must choose the Personal plan ($3/month) to open an IRA.
Keep in mind that Acorns doesn’t trade individual stocks or ETFs like investing services that cater to DIY investors.
Acorns Spend and Found Money
There are two add-on perks that can make it easier to get more cash to invest.
Acorns Spend is an optional fee-free checking account available with the Personal and Family plan tiers.
The checking account benefits include:
- A debit card
- No minimum account balance or overdraft fees
- Free bank-to-bank transfers and direct deposit
- Unlimited ATM fee reimbursements nationwide
- Up to $250,000 in FDIC insurance
You can use your debit card to invest your purchase round-ups. The app can round up your linked credit card and debit card purchases as well.
One perk available to every account is the “Found Money” online shopping portal.
This cash back app partners with over 350 online and local stores to invest at least one percent of your purchase. Some of the brands include Walmart, Chevron, and Blue Apron.
The cash rewards take between 60 and 120 days to deposit into your investing account. You can earn rewards by using your debit card, another linked payment card, and the iOS or Android Acorns app.
You can also start shopping from the Acorns website or Google Chrome extension.
Acorns seems to roll out new features each year. Original users only had access to a taxable investing account. Now, users have retirement accounts, custodial accounts, and a host of banking and shopping perks.
Here are some of the other features you can use besides a personal investment account.
One of the newest Acorns features is Acorns Early with the Family plan tier ($5/month). You can open a custodial investment account for each of your children.
Unlike a 529 college savings plan, your child has the freedom to use these funds for non-education expenses in adulthood.
You will find a “Money Basics” section within the app. This features educational articles to help you learn how to invest.
Few micro-investing platforms have similar in-depth resources since they only offer free trades and barebones research tools.
Grow is a free online platform with articles and videos from Acorns and CNBC.
You can keep up with current events and improve your money skills on topics like:
- Making money
- Saving money
- Spending wisely
Being able to visualize your future net worth can motivate you to invest more often. This tool calculates your potential portfolio based on your current contribution amount.
You can also visualize how increasing your recurring investments will help your portfolio grow faster.
You can round up your purchases and invest your spare change.
To supercharge your investments, you can also multiply your round-up amount by two times, three times or ten times. The round-up amount plus the multiplier comes from your linked bank account.
If you are looking for a unique gift idea, you can buy gift cards that your friends and family can redeem to invest on Acorns.
Is Acorns Safe and Worth It?
The Acorns app uses bank-level 256-bit security to protect your data and money. While the service isn’t hack-proof, other reputable investing apps use similar security metrics.
Also, your investing accounts have up to $500,000 in SIPC insurance if the broker closes. Be aware this insurance doesn’t reimburse you for normal investment losses. Your Spend checking accounts are FDIC-insured up to $250,000.
Investing with Acorns can be worth it if you use the spending round-ups, Found Money shopping partners, and you like the premade portfolios.
Investing in stock and bond index funds gives you a diversified portfolio that can be less volatile than making your own portfolio.
The fees might not be worth it if you only plan on funding your account with regular bank transfers or you don’t want to schedule recurring transactions.
Other micro-investing platforms have similar investing options and may charge lower fees for small account balances.
Pros and Cons
As with any investing platform you use, it’s important to evaluate the pros and cons before signing up. Here is a rundown on the pros and cons of Acorns Investing.
- Can invest spending round-ups
- Invest in low-fee index fund ETFs
- Minimum $5 investment to buy fractional ETF shares
- Taxable, retirement, and custodial investment accounts
- Open an account with $0 to choose an investment strategy
- Monthly fee of either $1, $3, or $5
- Cannot invest in individual stocks or sector ETFs
- No tax-loss harvesting
Acorns makes it easy to invest your spare change and earn passive income. New investors may appreciate the simple investing strategy. Current investors might use the app to supplement their current investment portfolio.
If you want more flexible investment options, these other investment apps like Acorns may be a better fit for you.
Betterment is a robo-advisor that invests in stock and bond index ETFs with asset allocations similar to Acorns. Advanced investing strategies focusing on low volatility or socially responsible investing are also available.
You can join for Betterment free and start investing with a $10 balance.
Instead of paying a flat monthly fee, Betterment charges a 0.25 percent annual account fee. You can have multiple taxable and retirement accounts. This fee can be cheaper if you have a tiny account balance.
Check out our Betterment review to learn more about how robo-investing works.
Robinhood is one of the best free investing apps for DIY investors. You can buy fractional shares of stocks and ETFs with a $5 trade minimum.
Unlike Acorns, there are no premade ETF baskets. However, you can copy the portfolios if you’re comfortable managing your own portfolio so you can avoid the monthly Acorns fee.
Stash Invest has similar pricing to Acorns as you pay $1, $3, or $9 per month. However, there are some differences in the plan features.
Stash lets you buy individual stocks and ETFs with a minimum $1 investment while Acorns only offers five risk-based ETF portfolios.
Stash has spending round-ups and a fee-free banking account. The Stash Stock-Back feature gives you partial stock shares when you shop at certain online stores.
Purchases at non-participating stores go into an S&P 500 index ETF.
Read our Stash Invest review to learn more about how micro-investing works.
Investing small amounts of money is easier with Acorns since you can find several ways to invest spare change. Small and frequent investments can turn into a large nest egg.
If you want to start investing with little money, join Acorns today for free and get a $5 bonus.
Do you use micro-investing apps already? Are you going to invest your purchase round-ups?
Josh uses his personal experience to write about saving money and getting out of debt. After getting out of debt, Josh switched careers in 2015 and took a 60% salary cut. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and three young children or reading books. You can catch more of Josh’s story at his blog, MoneyBuffalo.com.