For US investors only, a new bread of intermediaries grows in popularity by the day. Acorns, a specialist in micro-investing, makes it possible to save and invest early, with a little-to-no cost, while gaining financial markets knowledge and exposure.
The first thing that strikes the eye at Acorns is the slick website design – modern, simple, attractive. On top of that, the team behind the firm benefits from the trust of renowned investors as well as advice of Nobel laureates. If these account for building trust at whatever stage, Acorns went the extra mile to achieve that.
With eight years of experience, Acorns started on a mission to help anyone save and invest. In earnest, Acorns is a robo-advisor, offering management services, but digitally. More importantly, anyone can invest at a fraction of the cost when doing the same with a traditional broker.
The beauty of using a robo-advisor is that it constructs an individual portfolio for each client. Based on what the answer to a questionnaire are the robot assigns the invested amount (no matter how much) to various products. Put it simple, every dollar invested is automatically spread over more than 7,000 stocks and bonds, due to fractional share ownership.
On Acorns Secure Website
How Acorns Works?
Robo-advisory services increased in popularity in the last years. As digitalization takes over our lives, it conquered financial markets too.
Acorns services seem simple and intuitive. Compared with the traditional investing competitors, accessibility is the number one reason why investors choose to use Acorns instead of a traditional brokerage house. And yes, Acorns is a broker, as it intermediates the access to financial markets, albeit it does so for a ridiculously small fee due to extremely low operational costs. One cannot compare the costs of, say, Schwab, one of the largest brokerages in the United States, with Acorns. Hence, the difference in the costs is seen in the fees paid for accessing the market.
Besides accessibility given by the low entry costs, Acorns shines at the simplicity of its products. After all, there are only five portfolios to choose from, based on how much risk the investors are willing to take. By offering much more products to choose from (e.g. options trading, mutual funds), the traditional investment industry makes it difficult for individual investors to pick the right strategy for their portfolio.
Therefore, a robo-advisor like Acorns does not need to invest in trading education as it is its job to calibrate the portfolios and to allocate the investments accordingly – not the job of each individual client. This brings us to the biggest advantage of a robo-advisory firm in comparison with traditional investment services – there is no need to do anything, but send money in every day, week, or month. This is what attracts people scared of dealing with classic brokerage houses either due to lack of knowledge or to high costs.
How Does Acorns Work?
Ironically, the traditional investment industry does not consider robo-advisory firms much of a competition. Limited product offering (in Acorns case only ETFs tracking shares and bonds), poor customer service, unwillingness to invest in educating your customers, are viewed as elements that differentiate the two services completely. Yet, judging by the success of Acorns and other similar companies, small retail investors may account for a big chunk of a broker’s revenues.
Fractional investing, pioneered by companies like Robinhood, quickly grew in popularity especially among young American investors. When you present things as simple as Acorns does, it appeals to many to use the services if only out of curiosity. After all, at such a low cost, there is not much to lose.
The big threat for the traditional investment industry is the growing number of investors opting for simpler ways to invest. As baby boomers retire, a new generation of traders comes to the market, looking for a cheaper way to get exposure to financial markets. The issue is what happens in the future – if these investors like what they get from robo-advisory firms or similar ones in terms of transaction costs, it will be difficult to convince them to switch to traditional investing later.
On the other hand, robo-advisory firms like Acorns limit the investment horizon to a small part of the financial markets’ horizon. Investors willing to make this compromise, may, after all, not be the clients the traditional investing industry is looking for.
As a robo-advisor, Acorns is not your regular brokerage house. While offering exposure to various asset classes, it does that by automatically assigning your investment to the different portfolios it has to offer. Depending on how risk-averse a client is, Acorns recommends a portfolio.
Developed with the help of Nobel Prize winner and economist Harry Markowitz, Acorn’s portfolios range from conservative to aggressive, based on how the robo-advisor spreads the investment over various asset classes.
A quick look at the five portfolio types reveals that the risk decreases with the decrease in government bond’s share and increases when a bigger share is invested in the stock market. Nothing new so far, although some diversification benefits can be obtained by further diversification withing the asset class. However, that is limited.
Who Can Invest?
One of the innovations at Acorns is that it has split its offering smartly. The five types of portfolios are built in such a way to appeal to all investors:
1. Invest in your future – suitable for any adult US citizen
2. Later – save for retirement with Acorns:
- Recurring contributions
- Recommended IRA portfolio
- Individual retirement accounts: Traditional IRAs / Simplified employee pension IRAs / Roth IRAs
3. Early – investment account for kids
Naturally, depending on each individual’s life stage, at one point in time a portfolio makes sense more than another. Younger people may favor aggressive investment, while older ones may favor stability, conservatism. Acorns has something for everyone.
To access one or all of the sections mentioned in the previous paragraphs, investors have three account options. The investment options grow exponentially, from the simple to the most complex one, with restrictions for each category.
|Personal||Lite + Later + Spend|
|Family||Lite + Personal + Early|
The only thing not mentioned so far is the Spend account – a checking account backed by a Visa debit card. Besides that, Acorns offers a Grow option, that enables users to get some cash back if they shop with a card previously linked to their Acorns account.
Commissions and Fees
Besides the fees seen above, other ones apply, albeit regular fees seen at traditional brokerage houses, such as:
- Domestic wire transfers – $40
- Paper-mailed confirmations – $15/month
A brokerage house from Chicago, United States, Zacks Trade serves traders for more than four decades. It offers the U.S. and international traders access to over 91 exchanges in 19 countries, and it is renowned for its reputable research department that helps traders finding opportunities in the market.
A global broker, Zacks Trade charges no inactivity or maintenance fee, and trading starts with as low as $1 in commissions or fees. Zacks Trade is an online broker dedicated to traders and investors from all over the world that emphasizes stocks and options trading.
Having an account with Zacks Trade gives you the possibility to trade on U.S., European, Asian and Australian markets, with competitive rates and decent execution.
Step 1: Visit the Acorns homepage and click “get started”. This takes you to the next page where you can fill in your personal details such as your Names, birthday, citizenship, etc.
Step 2: Next is your address; fill in all the details and click “Next.” Here, you choose a security question and an answer and select “Next.”
Step 3: This takes you to your finances and goals, answer accordingly. You are done! A confirmation email will be sent to you.
Acorns built an educational blog that addresses investing aspects related to earning, saving, borrowing, or spending, but that is pretty much it. It is far from being even considered an education section – if anything, it is blog-looking like section where a few articles describe some investing terms.
An FAQ section answers plenty of questions, albeit it is difficult to find on the website. Moreover, the customer service is limited to contact by email only.
Here are our 3 choices of brokers which can use as a great alternative to Acorns:
SoFi invest is NOT just another brokerage house into the niche of fractional shares investing. Instead, it is a non-bank extending its services into the investing world.
SoFi is a good broker for those that do not afford trading with a regular, traditional investing house. High transaction costs and other barriers to entry (e.g., high minimum initial deposit) keep many wannabe investors aside – investors that just cannot afford the services but are willing to take a chance.
For such investors, SoFi is the ideal choice. No commissions or fees for transactions, easy-to-understand products (crypto, stocks, ETFs), one account to trade them all from, a friendly app, and the ability to start investing with as little as $1.
On the other hand, it signals a lack of expertise. It only shows how easy it is to enter the brokerage industry should one has the funds to meet all the compliance required by the SEC. And SoFi does have the funds from the other businesses that generate more cash flow.
Robinhood has been around for over a decade, and as the name suggests, the overall aim was to democratize finance for all, slashing the cost of trading stocks for U.S. residents.
Today, Robinhood is one of the most popular brokerage platforms. It is also due to expand its services to the U.K. in the near future. With its introduction of fractional shares, Robinhood caters to traders who are cost sensitive. The company also offers access to cryptocurrency markets.
The target client for this company is the younger generation. This brokerage house is challenging the traditional broker, making waves in the industry. Robinhood understands that while traditional brokers have more account types and cover more markets, they lack the ability for quick responses to customer changes. So, they aim to give clients the power to participate without the bulk from the traditional industry.
Although it has caused a great deal of damage to lots of businesses, Robinhood has enjoyed additional business. With little to no sporting events for people to bet on, newbie investors have turned to Robinhood. This is a sure indication that over the coming years, Robinhood will continue to grow.
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E-Trade is a complete financial advisor and brokerage service for residents in the USA.
Both the desktop and mobile trading platforms offer in house assistance and tutorials. The E-Trade knowledge center covers most investment services and can be an invaluable resource for newbies who need an introduction into the world of financial market investments.
E-Trade’s Brokerage Account, its flagship account, allows members to reach an abundance of markets, providing superb diversification potential. However, regardless of whether you’re an individual trader, self employed, future retiree, or small company, E-Trade has something to offer everyone. This company has made investing transparent and diversified.
This platform suits active and passive investors. Active traders are likely to welcome the commission structure. E-Trade offers commission free trading on most stocks, mutual funds and ETFs, and low commission on options and futures. Passive investors will appreciate the variety of managed portfolios, as the advisory arm is one of E-Trade’s core strengths. E-Trade also has excellent retirement planning assistance, creating an ideal environment for beginners, particularly those new to the stock market.