Founded in 2012, Acorns was created by a father-son duo to cater to individuals who wanted a simpler way to place trades. The brokerage firm takes the complicated and intimidating landscape of the market and makes it much simpler to handle. It allows users to invest in securities with their spare change and demystifies the process along the way.
Acorns is known as the first mobile investment application that allows its users to open an account and trade on their phones. The brokerage firm uses the modern portfolio theory to recommend different types of portfolios to their users, depending on their clients' needs and long-term investment plans. The brokerage firm's mission is to make investing easy by hiding all of the complex details and removing the anxiety that comes with investing. In doing so, it hopes to encourage young users to become regular investors.
Acorns distinguishes itself from other brokerage firms by allowing its users to invest their spare change into the market. Investors can do so by simply linking their bank accounts to the Acorns mobile app, which will allow them to invest any change they've accumulated from their daily purchases. This Round Up model is ideal for clients who want to invest small amounts of change, without needing to trade large amounts of funds. It's a great starting point for anyone interested in dipping their feet into the investing world without incurring major losses in the process.
After creating an account with Acorns' mobile app and connecting their checking accounts, users will need to create an investment account. This will require answering some standard questions and then providing employment information, income, and reasons for investing. The app will then use the answers provided to offer a customized, recommended portfolio.
This portfolio will have ideas on how to invest and advice to manage trades. Users can see changes in projected value over time by dragging the portfolio graph's icon right or left to change the amount of money being invested each month. If users want to change their portfolio, they can do so by simply browsing the different types of portfolios and selecting one. This portfolio feature is a great tool, especially for novice investors who need extra assistance before placing trades. Another nice feature is that when your portfolio moves with the market, Acorns will rebalance it to stay on track.
The app also allows users to select which of their daily purchases should be included by the app when it implements its Round Up program. For users who don't want to put much effort into the app, they can opt for automated scheduling so the app automatically calculates, collects, and invests change accordingly.
Acorns' pricing structure is also remarkable in that it's very affordable and simple. Many traders are familiar with the steep fees and commission rates charged by many brokerage firms. Acorns’ does away with this model and offers customers three simple subscription plans to choose from. It does not have a minimum dollar amount to sign up or hidden trade fees.
While it does not have a minimum to sign up, Acorns does have minimums to invest, save for retirement, or use its spend smarter savings program. You can do this through Round-Ups, where it automatically invests your spare change, or with an easy One-Time Investment of just $5, or by setting an automatic Recurring Investment, starting at just $5 a day, week or month.
The company offers the following three plans:
Acorns was developed to help novice investors grow their investment portfolios, savings, and wealth. The company has put together a lot of helpful information including key term definitions such as what an ETF is, how an IRA works, and which one to choose. It also publishes Grow, an online personal finance site geared towards millennials that is packed with financial advice. Grow content can be accessed in the Acorns app and also publishes a newsletter.
Since advanced trading tools like charting mechanisms and volatility indicators are usually found on desktop trading platforms, this means the brokerage firm doesn't offer advanced trading features. Without these tools, the firm lacks critical features to help educate and better inform their investors so they turn out to be skilled and experienced traders.
One of the app's tools, its projected value graphing tool that shows how much its users will make in x-amount of years, has been known to exaggerate its numbers. Many users argue that their savings end up being much lower or are non-existent when compared to their projected earned savings. This can be incredibly frustrating for novice investors who feel they've been promised one thing and yet receive fewer funds than expected, or worse, end up with a negative account balance.
Other users have also complained about the app needing improvements. While the app is easy to use and makes the investing process a painless one, users still want to see a more detailed, transparent history of their transactions instead of the graph they receive of their past 30 days.
Acorns’ subscription fees appear low, and for many users they will be; however, if you have a very small account balance then these monthly fees will actually comprise a large percent of your assets. If you decide to only make round up contributions to your account then you could hover at a small balance and therefore a high management fee ratio for quite some time.
It will be important for you to consider your account balance and then calculate how Acorns’ fees factor as an annual percentage of those assets. For example, if you have a $100 account balance and you enroll in the mid-range Personal plan for $3 per month, or $36 a year, the annual fees would take up 36 percent of your assets. Obviously with a higher account balance, the percent would fall drastically. But if you have a smaller balance, you should be aware that the annual subscription fee could wipe out most or all of your investment returns.
Many of Acorns competitors do not charge with this subscription fee model and instead charge a percentage, some as low as 0.25 percent. This set percentage fee model could prove to be more affordable.