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How to invest your spare change with Acorns

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Turn your spare change into an investment with a financial service that rounds up your purchases.

Investments are an essential part of a sound financial plan, but it can be hard to figure out where and when to begin. Acorns is a micro-investing tool that offers a unique way to grow your wealth by allocating your virtual spare change to stocks and fixed income securities in a personalized investment portfolio.

Think of it this way: If your morning coffee costs $2.29, by the end of the year, Acorns will have invested $259.15. Imagine if you drank two cups a day!

How does Acorns work?

As mentioned above, Acorns is a micro-investing tool. Its process is comprehensively explained on their website, but below is a simplified explanation for when you create an account with Acorns (explained further on in the article):

1. Choose an investment option

When you sign up, you’ll choose a portfolio that meets your investment preferences. There are five diversified portfolios available, each consisting of a mix of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) quoted on the S&P 500 or Dow Jones Industrial Average. These diversified portfolios are constructed by an investment committee that is assisted by Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. Harry Markowitz.

2. Make purchases

The unique benefit of Acorns is a feature called Round-ups that allocates and invests your spare change automatically. Anytime you make a purchase, your transaction is rounded up to the nearest dollar and the change you would have had is added to your Acorn account to be invested.

3. Withdraw or deposit at will

You can set your methods for investing, withdrawing or depositing money from your account at any time. Plus, with Acorns Grow, you can even set up recurring deposits to help your account grow faster. Any activity within your account, like withdrawals or deposits, will start corresponding transactions that work to automatically rebalance your account so that it stays within the risk tolerance of your chosen portfolio.

4. Sit back and watch your account grow

After you’ve set up your account according to your preferences, you can simply sit back and watch your money grow. All eligible transactions will be rounded up to the nearest dollar and invested, and Acorns will balance the ETF’s according to market fluctuations. Plus, your money is kept safe as it grows with bank-level security and up to $500,000 in coverage by SIPC deposit insurance.

5. Take advantage of perks

Best of all, every Acorns account comes with extra perks. Grow by Acorns is a comprehensive personal finance blog and magazine that provides tips, stories and other relevant info. On top of that, members will get access to the Found Money program, which gives you cash back for your investment portfolio when you make a purchase at over 100 participating companies.

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Why should I invest with Acorns?

Acorns is passionate about making it simple to invest from a young age without having to spend years saving for a hefty minimum deposit. And not only will the financial service invest your spare change, but it can also invest lump sums in recurring weekly or monthly amounts to help your account grow faster.

Many companies make it possible to start investing from a young age, but it’s not every day that you find a product that does this by saving and investing your spare change. Acorns will automatically invest your spare change into a diversified mix of Exchange Traded Funds (ETF’s), each representing a different asset class.

What are the benefits of Acorns?

While there are a handful of micro-investing tools out there, Acorns is one of the more popular ones for a number of reasons:

  • Easy to save. There’s no minimum balance to open an account, so you can start saving no matter how much money you have. You’ll need $5 to start investing, but that’s much lower than most similar services require.
  • Three plans. Choose between Core, the basic micro-investing tool, Later, which includes core plus other ways to save for sure future and Spend, which includes the first two plus a checking account
  • Personalized investments. Choose from five diversified portfolios constructed by industry experts under the guidance of Nobel Prize winning economist, Dr. Harry Markowitz. They’re constructed to reach targets that speak to different financial goals and circumstances.
  • Flexibility. You can withdraw and deposit money whenever you wish and there are no limits to the number of withdrawals and deposits you can make.
  • Fractional investing. One of the most powerful benefits of Acorns is that you can allocate fractional interests in ETF Units to individual investors.
  • Security. Accounts are protected by bank-level security, multi-factor account authentication processes and are covered by SIPC deposit insurance for up to $500,000.
  • Convenience. You can get started with Acorns in minutes and easily manage your account from your computer or mobile phone.
  • Low fees. Compared to many of its competitors, Acorns charges extremely low fees. Plus, it’s free for four years if you’re a college student.

What should I watch out for?

Acorns’ hands-off approach to investing makes it a great choice for young people and beginner investors, but there are a few things to watch out for:

  • Lack of investment options. Your money is invested in pre-selected ETFs, meaning you won’t get to choose the stocks, bonds and other assets you invest in.
  • No tax benefits. Like most investments, you might need to pay taxes on your profits. While some other micro-investing services offer tax benefits and ways to reduce the amount you’ll pay, Acorns does not.
  • Market volatility. While some round-up services keep your money safe in a savings account, your investment portfolio with Acorns could be subject to fluctuations in value.

How much does Acorns cost?

The financial service offers a flat-fee for usage. For accounts under $5,000, there will be no account fee and only a maintenance fee of $1.00. If your balance is equal to or exceeds $5,000, you will not pay a maintenance fee for the month but you will pay a yearly account fee of 0.25% (charged monthly, computed daily).

Compared to other micro-investing companies, Acorns’ pricing is quite reasonable. However, keep in mind that the $1 fee will account for a higher percentage of your contributions if you’re making only making a few transactions per month. For example, if you make 10 transactions with an average round up of 25c, you’ll only be investing $2.50, so that $1 fee is effectively 40%. However, if you were to make 100 transactions with an average round up of 25c, that $1 fee is only 4% of your overall contribution that month.

How do I get started with Acorns?

  1. Go to the Acorns website and click get started to create an account.
  2. Enter your email, create a password and agree to the terms and conditions.
  3. Link your debit or credit card for the Round-Up feature.
  4. Connect or create a funding account that will invest your allocated money.
  5. Add more about yourself and adjust your investment preferences for a better user experience

Eligibility

In order to sign up for an Acorns account, you’ll need to meet a few eligibility requirements:

  • Be a US citizen and resident
  • Valid social security number or tax identification number
  • Have a valid bank account or credit card
  • Be over the age of 18
  • State-issued ID

Required information

When you sign up for an account, you’ll be asked for the following information:

  • Email address
  • First and last name
  • Online banking information
  • Address
  • Social security number or tax identification number
  • Financial goals
  • Occupation and earnings

How do I contact Acorns?

The financial service offers dedicated support through email and phone at: (855) 739-2859, available between 6:00 am-5:00 pm PST, Monday- Friday. You can also contact the team through their Twitter, @Acorns.

I’ve signed up, now what?

Now that your account is all set up, you’re ready to start investing. Here’s how to get the most out of your Acorns account:

  • Adjust your investment preferences. Make sure your money is being invested according to your risk tolerance, financial goals and other preferences.
  • Monitor your progress. Log in to your account or open the mobile app to manage your account and monitor progress as your investment grows.
  • Set up recurring deposits. Set up recurring deposits on the mobile app or website to help your account grow faster.
  • Make purchases. Simply making purchases will contribute more money to your portfolio, helping you reach your financial goals sooner.
  • Sign up for Acorns Later. If you’re looking to save for the future, consider signing up for Acorns Later to open an IRA or other retirement investment vehicle.
  • Sign up for Acorns Spend. If you’re in the market for a new checking account, consider Acorns Spend, a low-cost checking account that integrates with other Acorns products.
  • Speak with your accountant or financial advisor. If you need investment or tax advice, consider speaking with your accountant or financial advisor.

Bottom line

If you’re interested in investing but don’t know where to start, Acorns might be right for you. This low-cost micro-investment service rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar and invests the spare change in a personalized portfolio. You’ll get to choose from five portfolio options to find an investment strategy that meets your goals and risk tolerance, and you can even set up recurring deposits to grow your account faster. It might not be the right service if you’re looking for a more hands-on approach to investing, but you should compare your options anyways to find a product that suits your needs.

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Kyle Morgan

Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.

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