I have no hands-on experience with Acorns, but losing money is likely a combination of three things:
1) First and foremost, the timing of your contributions/investments and the size of those contributions. If I remember correctly, Acorns rounds your purchases up to the next dollar and then invests that amount. In this case, the size factor doesn't make much difference, but the timing certainly can. If the price movement of what your investing in is volatile, then you may be buying high or buying low depending on when your contribution is made.
2) What you're invested in. When investors are in a contribution phase of their portfolio instead of a withdrawal phase they can typically take on riskier, more volatile asset allocations. This directly relates to the above item. Whether you're using Acorns or something else, the investment experience will be similar if you own the same investments.
3) Costs. Acorns charges a management fee which will always drag on the performance of your investments. In some cases this management fee seems justified (when investments are performing well) and in other times it seems burdensome (when investments aren't performing well). I'm unfamiliar with whether or not you're also paying trading commissions, but that could have a negative effect on your account value as well.
I'd try to look at Acorns as a savings app rather than an investing app. If you think it's worth it to use their service to save little sums at a time, then the costs associated with the service adds some value to your situation. I like this approach for those who may struggle to save money... However, if you're a disciplined saver then you could simply open up a custodial account at Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Scottrade, Fidelity, etc. and set up automatic deposits to this account that essentially replace the savings trick that's embedded in Acorns. Then the investment selection would be up to you or a professional adviser you may eventually choose to work with.
Adam C. Harding, CFP®
For informational purposes only. Not to be considered investment advice.
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