App name: Acorns
Available on: iOS, Android and Fire OS
What’s it supposed to do? Acorns helps you invest by rounding up purchases you make to the nearest dollar and investing that change into a portfolio.
Ease of use (4/5): It takes just a few minutes to get started with Acorns. You have to sync a credit card or debit card, and then a checking account. Then, answer some questions about yourself — age, investment horizon, risk tolerance, etc. Acorns will then recommend a portfolio for you.
Features (4/5): The main way to contribute funds to your portfolio is through rounding up transactions. So if you buy something at a store for $5.45 and swipe your linked card, Acorns will round that transaction up to $6 and invest 55 cents. But Acorns also allows you to add or withdraw lump sums and set up automatic deposits.
The app invests your money in exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, across six sectors: small-cap stocks, large-cap stocks, emerging market stocks, real estate stocks, government bonds and corporate bonds. Acorns recommends a portfolio based on your personal information, but you can choose to invest in any portfolio you like; they range from conservative to aggressive.
Acorns charges a fee of $1 per month for accounts with more than zero dollars and less than $5,000. For accounts with $5,000 or more, it charges 0.25 percent per year.
Effectiveness (3/5): Acorns provides a way to dip your toes into the investing waters. It’s easy to use and allows you to effortlessly invest your spare change. You can set it and forget it.
Value (2/5): However, there are two big problems with Acorns: Your account is taxable, and the monthly fees are outrageous. Chances are you’re not going to make a lump-sum deposit of more than $5,000, so you’re most likely going to be paying $1 per month in fees. That’s insane, especially when you’re investing such small amounts of money. Instead, park your money in a tax-advantaged account that invests in a fund with a low expense ratio.
Verdict (13/20): Pass. If the fees weren’t so high, then I’d say go for it — after you’ve maxed out your tax-advantaged accounts. Even then, I’d recommend investing in a taxable account with a brokerage firm where you have a better selection of investment options.