Money at 30: Why I Quit Using Acorns
A few months ago I came across Jon’s review of Acorns — an investment app that collects your digital loose change automatically from credit and debit card transactions. Like him I had heard rumblings about the application beforehand but, after reading that review, I decided to finally jump on board. For the first few months I absolutely loved using the app, watching my balance grow, and celebrating milestones like surpassing $100 in my account. Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I’ve now officially punched out altogether.
So what changed? It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the Acorns platform as much as I feel I must not have used it to its full potential. With that, here’s why I’ve personally quit Acorns but why I still like the idea of it overall.
Before I left
In case you aren’t familiar, Acorns is a mobile app meant to make investing simple. To achieve this goal, user’s can link their debit and credit cards to the app and have it “round up” transactions and invest the change. For example, if you spent $27.27 at Target, Acorns would take 73 cents and place it into your account. More accurately that 73 cents would be tallied until you reached over $5 and then the funds would be debited from your bank account. Not only did this arrangement make it easy to build up a balance without even really thinking about but it also made me feel good once I realized how well I was doing.
Another aspect I really liked was the ability to tailor my investing to my tolerance for risk. After a few weeks of leaving it on the most conservative setting, I ended up bumping it up one notch for the rest of the time on the app. After doing so I did see a lot more volatility but, overall, I’d say my returns were better, thanks in part to the extra dividends I was earning due to holding greater stock positions.
While I was still trending positive when I cashed out, there were certainly days when I was down. Obviously this is not the fault of Acorns but it does bring the reality of what investing is all about to the app. However what really stung was when the $1 a month service fee would hit. Look, it would be silly to expect Acorns or any other company to be able to provide this type of service without charging something and, in the grand scheme of things, $1 a month is really not that bad at all. The problem was that, on the 29th I may be excited about being up 79 cents for the month, only to realize that that would turn into negative 21 cents a day or two later.
This fee frustration coupled with the promising returns I was seeing from my Discover Bank savings account eventually convinced me that my balance would likely suit me better over there. Thus I requested to sell my positions and the money I had stored on Acorns was transferred to my bank account soon after. Furthermore I turned off the automatic round-ups ensuring that Acorns would no longer be adding to my account.
In the time since
While I felt justified in my decision to ditch Acorns, lately I’ve been wondering if I was a bit premature in doing so. For one I completely missed the stock market rally that’s been going on since November, which surely would have netted me some more positive results. With that in mind I can’t help but wonder if I just managed to jump in and out at a bad time.
Another nagging bit of second guessing I’ve had relates to those different risk options. Just as I saw a significant change between the first two settings, would things have been different had I at least played the middle ground? In the short term it seems that would almost certainly have allowed me to at least out net my service fee.
Lastly one more error I likely made was not updating my account to include all of my credit cards. Originally I started with just my debit card before adding my wife’s Visa to the mix. Unfortunately both of those started seeing less action once I obtained my Discover It card, meaning fewer round-ups were being added to my account. This too could likely have contributed to my diminishing returns.
For those reasons I haven’t completely ruled out a return to Acorns. Although my account is effectively disabled, jumping back in is easily doable. In fact perhaps a second chance is in order and a second review will be forthcoming…
While my experience with Acorns wasn’t the best, I do have to say that the idea for the app and its execution are both stellar. For that reason I’d still recommend that those who are interested in investing but aren’t quite ready to navigate that world on their own should at least give the app a try. Just keep in mind that patience is a virtue and the various options the app offers are there for a reason.