It’s time to get a firm grip on your finances, learn how to save more money, and simply become a savvier investor.
Imagine what your life will look like when you have a better handle on your money and can enjoy the freedom that financial security brings.
While this may seem like a fantasy for some, Personal Capital can do it for you.
Read my full review of Personal Capital below to discover all the foolproof ways this amazingly free service will strengthen your financial health and pave your path to long-term financial stability and retirement.
Before I explain how Personal Capital will help you reach your financial goals and my full review of their free service, I want tell you how it has made a positive impact on my financial life.
Searching For Answers
I’ll be the first to admit it, I’m a finance nerd. Anything related to the stock market gets my attention immediately. Years ago when I was living with my best friend, we would tune into Fox News Channel on Saturday mornings to watch of all the investment shows. In fact, we jokingly referred to them as our Saturday morning cartoons.
Even in the early days of my adventures in finance, I knew the importance of keeping tabs tabs on my investments. I wanted to monitor my returns and see graphs and charts showing everything imaginable.
And if we're being honest, I really enjoyed it.
Just ask my wife and she will tell you that for our net worth statement, I have at least 3 graphs and charts showing different information. I can’t help it. It’s one of my guilty pleasures.
Back in the day, I used Microsoft Money for my budgeting and to review my investments. It was nice for what it did, but then Microsoft decided to kill it off. For years, I aimlessly wandered, looking for something to help me review my investments. Everything I came across focused on budgeting and not investments.
Even programs like Quicken, which worked well didn’t meet my needs. And then there is Mint. With this tool you can add your investments, but you can’t track them in-depth.
I was about to give up hope. Then Personal Capital came into my life. Since it was free, I opened up an account and the rest is history.
It has allowed me to look at my money in ways I never thought was possible. From the Personal Capital dashboard I can see everything I need and I make smarter financial decisions because of it.
For example, I can gain insight into the following:
- my current net worth
- my current investment balances
- if I am on track to reach my retirement goals
- how much I am paying in fees
- how healthy my finances are
Thanks to Personal Capital, my wife and I are miles ahead financially than where we would be if we didn’t use their free service. In fact, just a few short years ago I was over my head in debt, and I couldn't imagine early retirement was possible.
That is the powerful impact Personal Capital has had on my life. And I am certain it will have a powerful effect on your money when you open an account.
Here is my detailed review of Personal Capital highlighting all the key features of this amazing free service.
Personal Capital Review Summary
- Overall Rating For Personal Capital
- Tools & Analysis
- Customer Service
- Ease of Use
Personal Capital is a must have tool for anyone looking to take control of their money. You get insights into your net worth, spending and investments for free. You even get advice and access to an interactive tool to help you retire. Learn more about how this awesome tool can help you reach your financial goals!
What Is Personal Capital?
At it's most basic, Personal Capital is an account aggregator and registered investment advisor.
The company was started by Bill Harris back in 2009. He was also CEO at PayPal and Intuit, so you know he comes from a financial tech background. It's also worth nothing that Personal Capital has been awarded CNBC’s Disruptor 50 two years in a row.
So what the heck do they do?
Essentially, Personal Capital is two companies in one.
On the one hand, you have a free service similar to Mint, except Personal Capital works much better. You link your financial accounts to Personal Capital and they will update your balances, net worth, cash flow and retirement plan for you.
As of this writing, Personal Capital has over 1.6 million users linking their accounts and over $300 billion tracked by their aggregator.
The other side of their business is an investment advisor. If you want some help with your investments, Personal Capital will help for a small fee. The advisor side of the business has over $3.5 billion in assets under management. I’ll talk a little more about this later.
But for now, this post is going to show you why you need to open the free account they offer.
Hint: it will help you reach your financial goals.
- IntroDUCTION Video
- single login
- LINK ACCOUNTs VIDEO
Here is a quick intro video
to learn more about Personal Capital:
When you log into your Personal Capital account, all of your accounts are updated in real time and you get a complete picture of your finances all in one place. The accounts you can link include:
- Banking (Checking and Savings)
- Investment Accounts
- Credit Card Accounts
- Loans (Mortgage, Auto, Student Loan, etc.)
I linked up over 25 accounts in total, including bank accounts, investment accounts, my credit card and my mortgage. It took me all of 10 minutes to complete. I was worried that I was going to get errors or face other issues but all of the accounts linked without issue.
I love the fact that I can see all of our investments including 401k, IRA, and taxable accounts, which are at various brokers on one screen, in total.
No more logging into 5 websites just to see how everything is doing. It is all right on one screen. Talk about convenience!
Here is a quick video that shows you how easy it is to link up your accounts.
Gain Complete Control Of Your Finances
1.6 million users trust Personal Capital's free reporting service
Digging Into Personal Capital
I know at the beginning of this post I mentioned that I am a finance nerd. You might be thinking that Personal Capital is going to be too much for you, since you aren’t a finance nerd like me.
Rest easy, because Personal Capital isn’t just for finance nerds. It’s for everyone that wants to get a complete and detailed picture of their finances in one place. The analysis and tools that Personal Capital offers are hands down, the best out there. You learn so much about your finances.
You can go as deep as you want in to your investments. But even if you just scratch the surface, it will tell you all about your financial health or lack thereof.
When you link up your accounts and log on, you are presented with your Personal Capital dashboard. You will see the following here:
- Net worth: how much you are worth
- Investable cash: how much cash you have to invest
- Cash flow: a look at your income and expenses over the month
- Budgeting: see if your budget is on track or keep an eye on certain categories that you track
- Portfolio balance: the current balance of your investments
- Retirement savings: a monthly look at how much you need to save to hit your annual goal
- Market movers: various stock indices and the You Index (which I will explain in detail later)
On the left hand side of the screen, you will see your net worth broken down by account. You can expand or collapse this menu to see exactly what you want.
Along the top of the page are the categories where you can explore and learn more about your finances. These include the following:
- Overview: takes you to your net worth and your transactions
- Banking: takes you to your cash flow and bills
- Investing: takes you to your holdings, balances, allocation, performance and sectors
- Planning: takes you to the retirement planner, an investment checkup and fee analyzer
- Advice: allows you to reach out to a financial advisor if interested
The Personal Capital dashboard gives you a quick, complete picture of your financial standing at a glance.
For example, when you click on the Net Worth category, you get to see your overall net worth, but you can also break that out and only look at your investments, loans, mortgage or credit balances and see how they have changed over time.
One important note, make sure you include your home equity when looking at your net worth. Personal Capital makes this easy as it pulls data from Zillow.
Of course, some people think Zillow isn’t the most accurate. No worries, you can manually enter your home equity too.
Look At Your Finances In A New Light
The intuitive dashboard of Personal Capital will present your finances in an eye-opening way so you can make smarter decisions from day one.
Personal Capital Budgeting
When Personal Capital first came onto the scene, it was all about investments. You could link up your bank accounts, but you couldn’t really budget. You had to use another service if you wanted to budget your money.
Over time many people let Personal Capital know that they wanted the ability to budget their money too. So Personal Capital went ahead and updated this feature. Welcome to Personal Capital budgeting.
When setting up your budget, you can select the accounts you want to include and track a budget for the month, year, or a custom period of time, say weekly for example.
In previous versions of Personal Capital's software you were restricted to a set of pre-defined transaction categories. But updated have been made and you can now create custom categories. This helps you to make the budgeting feature truly personal.
Two key features features that I like are the ability to photograph and file receipts for tax purposes and a tool that allows you to track and plan for upcoming bills. It’s nice to see what bills are due and when in one place as I sometimes forget.
So if you are looking for a straightforward way to review your budget, Personal Capital’s budget is a useful tool to accomplish this.
I’ve mentioned that the investments side is what Personal Capital does best. Let’s look at all the reasons why they excel in this area. When you first look at the investing reporting of Personal Capital, you will notice a little thing called the “Personal Capital You Index”.
When I first saw this, I had no clue what the Personal Capital You Index was. After a little research, I learned that the You Index is this:
The ‘You Index’ is the performance of all of your current stock, ETF, and mutual fund holdings for which we are able to retrieve a current price on a public market, extrapolated backward. It does not include your cash, money market funds, individual bonds, options, or other alternative [investments].
In other words, it is basically how your portfolio performs against other benchmarks. The standard comparison that Personal Capital uses against the You Index is the S&P 500. The great thing is that you can change this, along with other things as well.
- Want to see how you compare to other indexes like the Dow or 10 Year US Bond Index? You can do that!
- Want to see your 401k or IRA compared to the S&P 500 instead of all of your investments? You can do that!
- You can even look at various time periods like the last 30 days, last 60 days, this year or last year?
The Allocation tab on Personal Capital contains a wealth of useful information. The first thing you see is a nice colorful box at the top of the page. This box breaks out your allocation by percentage and dollar amount. But it gets even better.
Click on the “cash” allocation and you get a breakdown of the cash you hold. But not just the actual cash you have, you also see the cash that is in each holding you have. For example, if you are invested in the Vanguard 500 Fund, 100% of the fund isn’t invested at all times. There is a small portion of cash. Personal Capital shows you how much cash you have in that fund based on your balance!
If you click on the “US Stocks” area, Personal Capital breaks things down to large cap value, small cap growth, etc. along with your balance and percentage of that holding. This helps you to see if you are invested too heavily in one sector.
If you think that is cool, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Investment Checkup Review
Click on the Investment Checkup tab and wait a few seconds. You will be provided with an in-depth assessment of your investments. The assessment includes a look at your:
- Target Allocation
- Historical Performance
- Future Projections
- Risk & Return
- Allocation Comparison
Below is a snapshot of the assessment I recently ran on my account.
Why am I so amazed at this assessment?
I used to work for a high net worth investment advisor. We dealt with clients that had over $2 million to invest and we charged them a management fee to handle their investments. The assessment that Personal Capital gives you is essentially the same assessment we would provide to our clients!
In other words, Personal Capital gives you a free assessment that investors with millions of dollars usually pay for.
To get this assessment, and all of the information it provides for free is amazing to me. It shows you whether you are on track, where you will be, and what changes you can make to better your situation. In other words, it helps you to be a better investor.
As much as I love the investment checkup, the Fee Analysis that Personal Capital provides is priceless. I would bet 99% of investors out there have no clue how much they are paying in fees. With 401k plans in particular, many charge fees that investors are completely unaware of.
These “silent fees” are what is killing your dream of retirement. Personal Capital shows you just how much you are paying and will pay in fees. Brace yourself it can be shocking.
For example, when I worked for a financial planning firm, we were targeting a small business 401k plan to bring under our management. When I was completing the analysis of the plan, I found that the average worker who invested in this plan was paying over 5% a year in fees. That is $5,000 a year on a 401k plan with a balance of $100,000.
Over 20 years, that is $100,000 more you could have! Luckily you don’t have to manually figure out your plan fees. Personal Capital does it for you.
Below is a snapshot of my 401k plan. The first thing I want you to focus on is the upper right corner that shows the plan’s annual fees. As you can see, I am paying 0.07% in fees annually for the investments I am holding. This fee isn’t to a manager or anything like that. These are fees that the investments themselves charge me to invest in their funds.
Now I want you to look below that and see that because of fees, I am losing 1 year of retirement income. Overall, I will pay over $6,681 in fees in my retirement account. If you don’t know how much you are paying in investment fees, you have to find out. It can be costing you a big chunk of your retirement.
Below the graph, you can vary how much you contribute to your 401k each year, how much your employer matches, the annual growth rate of the account and any additional fees you pay. Changing these assumptions will change the graph and will update the numbers for you.
While the 401k Fee Analyzer goes in-depth with your investment fees, you can also see the fees you pay in your other accounts as well. In these cases, Personal Capital will show you how much you are paying in fees per holding, per year.
This has been a recent update to the service that Personal Capital offers. And trust me, it is incredible! When you create your free account, you have access to their retirement planning tool, which is essentially a monte carlo simulation. Did I just lose you?
A monte carlo simulation runs 1,000 or more different simulations of what the stock market can do over a period of time. It then takes all of this data and your investments and goals and sees how they all end up in the future. Based on the confidence of the results, you have an expectation of what will happen.
I know that explanation can still be a little confusing, so let me put it this way. When I was working for a high net worth advisor we used a monte carlo simulation. I would input the client’s income, spending, investments, retirement age, and tax bracket into the tool. It would then tell me what percent of success the client had at having a certain amount of money at a certain age.
In our case, we were looking for an 80% success rate. It would tell me at 95 years old, there is an 80% chance this client will have $500,000. This is what Personal Capital’s retirement planner is telling you.
You can play with the data, your savings rate, retirement age, etc., and it will predict your odds of having enough money for retirement. Their simulator runs 5,000 different scenarios to help you make smart retirement planning decisions.
Here is what the output looks like:
As you can see, based on the information I entered, we have a 95% chance of success that we will be able to retire at 55, spend $50,000 a year and not run out of money. And here is where you can edit the various data points:
One new feature that is part of the retirement planner is the education planner. With this tool, you can see the impact that paying for college has on your retirement goals. You can specify the dates when you will be paying tuition and Personal Capital will crunch the numbers to let you know how much it will cost. You can even specify the college or university or get a general estimate.
As cool as that is, the education planner does even more. It will keep track of your education saving so you can see how you are progressing towards your goal of paying for college.
Personal Capital Wishlist
No tool is perfect, so below is a wish list of features that I feel would make Personal Capital even better than it currently is.
- I wish the budgeting aspect was more customizable. As it stands now, I use Personal Capital for my investments and to watch a couple of spending categories. But for my overall budget, I still use a separate spreadsheet.
- I wish there were customizable tags with the Personal Capital budgeting feature. While you can use custom categories, it would be great if you could tag certain expenses as well.
- I wish the fee analysis was more in-depth for non 401k holdings. Seeing how much you are paying in fees is a real eye opener. But I understand it is hard to estimate as people tend to sell out of investments in taxable accounts as opposed to holding onto it long term like retirement accounts.
- I wish the fees to manage your money were lower with regards to the advisor side of the business. I’ll talk about this more below. I personally cannot justify 0.89% when I can do it myself for no cost other than my time. But the fee is competitive and if I weren’t so involved in our investments, I would consider letting them manage our investments.
- The asset allocation is not customizable. So you may have the perfect allocation for your situation, but Personal Capital might flag it as an issue when you run the Investment Checkup.
Other Important Information About Personal Capital
With the formal review of the Personal Capital aggregator service complete, there are just a few loose ends to tie up. In no particular order:
Email Updates: You can choose to get daily or weekly emails that contain activity on your accounts. I chose to get the weekly email. When I receive it, right there in the subject line is how much my portfolio was up or down for the week. You can also get alerts for weekly changes in your net worth or even bill reminders. Of course, you can turn this off too and not receive any emails.
How Much Does Personal Capital Cost: It is free to link your accounts and see everything that I talked about above. That’s right, it is completely free to use Personal Capital. And if you sign up, you are under no obligation to invest your money with the advisor side of the business.
How Does Personal Capital Make Money: The other business of Personal Capital is a registered investment advisor (RIA). This means that they charge customers to manage their money for them. If you sign up for the account aggregation that this post is all about and have at least $100,000 in investable assets, Personal Capital will reach out to you. They are not annoying or overbearing.
When they called me, I didn’t know the number so I didn’t answer. They left a voicemail telling me who they were and why they were calling. They also sent me an email. They then called again a few days later. I politely told them I wasn’t interested and I haven’t heard from them since.
Ready to Try Personal Capital?
If you are curious how much Personal Capital charges, here is their current fee structure:
- First $1 Million: 0.89%
- First $3 Million: 0.79%
- Next $2 Million: 0.69%
- Next $5 Million: 0.59%
- Over $10 Million: 0.49%
The fee structure is very competitive with other RIAs. However, the fee you pay Personal Capital to manage your money is the only fee you pay. With some investment advisors, you pay the annual management fee, plus commissions and other trading fees. So in reality, Personal Capital is less expensive than most RIAs.
Their target clients are those who have between $100,000 and $2 million to invest, which is a group that most traditional financial planners overlook. In order to open an investment account with Personal Capital, you need a minimum of $25,000.
To open a free account to track your finances, there is no minimum. To learn more about Personal Capital’s investment philosophy, you can read their FAQs here.
How Safe Is Your Data With Personal Capital
Personal Capital takes numerous measures to protect your data. For starters, they use four processes to make sure your personal information is safe. You can read their Security Policy here.
Secure Authentication. We use two-factor authentication when you sign in to our site, (1) verifying your password and (2) identifying the computer you’re using. If someone steals your password and tried to use it from a different computer, they cannot get in. When you sign in from a different computer, we use an “out-of-band” verification to your email or your phone to make sure it’s really you.
Firewalls and Perimeter Security. Our data centers are protected with numerous perimeter and internal systems designed to prevent penetration and monitor for suspicious activity. These data centers operate under stringent financial and international security standards, including payment card industry compliance (PCI DSS Level 1) and ISO 27001 certification, placing information security under explicit management control.
Data Encryption. We encrypt your credentials and personal data with military-grade encryption algorithms – 256-bit AES, to be specific. Even if someone could penetrate the data center, your data would remain secure.
Continuous Monitoring. And not only do we persistently monitor activity, we let you do so as well. We’ll send you a daily email containing every transaction during the last 24 hours in all your linked accounts – bank, broker and credit card accounts. Every morning just take a quick peek and confirm that all the activity was yours. It’s a great way to catch any problems – like bogus credit card charges – right away.
Personal Capital Security Breach: As of this writing, there have not been any Personal Capital security breaches, so you can rest assured your information is safe. As mentioned above, they use two-factor authentication making it very difficult for anyone to gain access to your accounts. The bottom line is that Personal Capital is safe. You need not worry about your information getting compromised.
Where Can You Use Personal Capital: You can access Personal Capital from your desktop, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Note that some features are not available on all devices. As of this writing, you need to log into your account from a desktop/laptop in order to:
Customer Support: Personal Capital offers a detailed Help Section with a search function that will often yield the results you are looking for. In the off chance the search function doesn’t answer your questions, you can call or email for help. In both cases, the representatives are very polite and are able to answer just about every question.
Personal Capital vs. Mint vs. Quicken
Many of you may be stuck on the decision to choose Personal Capital over Mint or Quicken. If you are also looking into those two, here is a quick summary of why I feel Personal Capital excels over Mint and Quicken.
More Reliable: The synchronization Mint and Quicken use breaks. A lot. I would get frustrated re-entering my username and passwords all of the time because my accounts wouldn't sync. I never encounter this with Personal Capital.
Ad Free: Mint makes their money by placing ads throughout the site/app targeted to you. In other words, they are selling your personal data to advertisers so that they can specifically target you. With Personal Capital, there are zero ads. You log in and can see your banking and investing information without having to worry about ads. There are also zero ads with Quicken, but you have to pay close to $40 on a recurring basis to get some of the same information Personal Capital gives you for free.
Customer Service: With Mint, there is zero customer service. If you have a problem, your best bet is doing an online search and hoping to find an answer. Personal Capital on the other hand does have customer service and they are very good at getting back to you, usually in less than a day. When I had an issue recently, they were very helpful and responsive. With Quicken, they have support forums and the time to reply to your issue varies.
Investments: Personal Capital outshines Mint hands down here. If Personal Capital only offered the fee analysis and the retirement planner, they still would win hands down. Quicken has a powerful investment summary and reporting option. The catch is you have to buy a higher priced version of Quicken to get these features.
Security: Both Personal Capital and Mint take advantage of two-factor authentication to protect your information. With Quicken, you save the program to your computer, so you are secure using this service.
Budgeting: This is one area where Mint and Quicken may have a slight edge with their options for customization. With Personal Capital you can budget, but you can’t fine-tune it as much as you can with the other two.
$40 and UP
I highly recommend signing up for Personal Capital. When you sign up, you will learn a lot about your finances and investments. Plus, you will be able to take actionable steps to put yourself in a better financial situation. You may even realize you need to find a new, low cost broker. All of this will lead to better financial health and increase the likelihood of reaching your goals.
I log into my account daily and love playing with the graphs and charts. But again, I’m a finance nerd. My wife, who is the complete opposite of a finance nerd, also loves Personal Capital because she can view our investment on a clear dashboard. She can see our net worth grow each month and the progress that we’re making.
The intuitive layout of the dashboard will give a clear snapshot of your finances without overwhelming, complicated, or confusing data. Everything that you need to know is arranged on a clean and easy to read display.
The retirement planning tool is particularly helpful and really allows Personal Capital to rise above the competitors. It will turn an abstract idea like retirement into an achievable goal. It is genuinely rewarding to see progress being made towards retirement. You can simply look at that summary and see that you’re on track. It’s really that simple!
As I mentioned above, Personal Capital is 100% free to use. When you sign up, there is no obligation to use their management services. I’ve been using the free analysis for 4 years now and manage our investments myself.
I’m sure that when you try it out, you will be hooked too!