182 comments

Personal Capital: The Investor’s Version of Mint?

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In the quest to become wealthy on a finite income, your savings rate dominates all other factors. Because of that, this blog tends to fixate on living happily and efficiently, and the oddly magical lifestyle changes that allow you to drop your spending dramatically even while improving every area of your life.

However, this can lead to a one-sided perspective.

Case A: The Badass Cash-Hoarder

“I can Save like a Madwoman, but I’m afraid to Invest. I have been leading a very efficient lifestyle for most the past eight years, and I’ve mastered the year-round bike commute and the year-round garden. My house is paid off and I have $125,000 in CDs yielding 1% right now and another $150k in the savings account. Is it really a good idea to dump all this into investments that I know nothing about?

Case B: The High-Earning Sensible but Oblivious Guy

“My profession pays well, and I have always lived at less lavish standards than my coworkers. Because of this, we’ve saved up a comfortable nest egg of just over $1 million, invested in a mixture of 401(k), IRA, and taxable account Vanguard index funds. The problem is, I have no idea if this is enough to see us through retirement.

 

These people have got the savings rate thing down, and thus they are able to accumulate money. But each one is missing one of the key nuts and bolts of wealth and early retirement:

  • You must know how much you are spending
  • You should have a good idea of your net financial worth
  • You must invest your savings productively, rather than just stuffing them under the virtual mattress of a 1% savings account or certificate of deposit.

For several months, I’ve been using a new service called Personal Capital that addresses all of these things in a fairly motivating manner. Somewhat similar to Mint at first glance, this is one of those smooth and glossy programs that automatically collects all your account balances, investments, and spending in one place. You can then log in very quickly and review all your financial transactions at both the high and low levels, to see what you’ve been earning and spending.

I find both Mint and Personal Capital to be significant life simplifiers, because they make things automatic. Instead of keeping track of 10 passwords and trying to make the rounds of every financial account on a regular basis, I now just tap the Personal Capital icon on my phone, enter a numerical PIN, and begin scrolling through the colorful graphs and pie charts of the family’s financial details. Net worth, every spending transaction, and investment allocation and performance.

I already liked Mint and have been recommending it for years, so I was initially skeptical when Personal Capital joined the scene and asked me if I would try out their product. What’s the competitive edge? Is it worth switching from Mint or using both? What is the company’s revenue model and is it aligned with the best interests of the potential customers? I did a bit of research and noticed everyone else had already tried out the company and written reviews. So I decided the best way to verify everything was to throw myself into the system as a customer and soak up the experience for a few months.

Over time, I have come to appreciate what the product and the company offers. My visit to their site (or the phone app) has become a favorite stop on my weekly roundup of the MMM household finances, and thus I figured it is worth sharing a few notes here, in case it motivates any new readers to become more active in tracking their own spending and freeing money from the mattress.

 The Interface

The desktop version of Personal capital has the most features and is the easiest to use. Linking in all your accounts is particularly smooth: click the ‘+’ button, fill out the credentials boxes, and click done. Vanguard, Capital One 360, Lending Club, Your 401(k), your mortgage. Everything updates instantaneously and within a few minutes you have a full picture of your net worth. You are then presented with your “Dashboard”, a screen that gives you your Net Worth, Cash Flow, Portfolio Balances,  looks something like this:

Sample image from personalcapital.com

Sample image from personalcapital.com

Your accounts are down the left, income and spending are front and center, and clicking on anything lets you zoom in on the details of what makes up that category.

For example, when confronted my own dashboard screen like the one above, I was shocked to see $9000 of income and only $854 of spending in the past 30 days. This is an unusual performance even by MMM household standards. However, zooming in I was able to see the rare events that caused this anomaly (a check came in from the business, I spent 11 days in Ecuador and thus the hungriest member of the family was not at home consuming groceries, and we just happened to buy no products or gasoline last month).

When comparing to Mint, Personal Capital gets the nod for the most useful starting screen. Mint opens with a busy text page – the left column is the same with all your accounts. But the right is “Alerts”, “Advice”, “Bills”, “Budgets”, “Goals”, and other things that may be useful to people other than me.

mint_overview

The battle of screenshots could take up several articles in itself, and each company has its advantages. Mint has a better graph of “spending over time” and nicer-looking pie charts in some areas. Personal capital does a more detailed analysis of your investments, identifying the amount you lose to fees each year, and how the assets are allocated compared to their version of an ideal portfolio.  I’m particularly fond of the “Investment Checkup” feature:

My own allocation at the time of update (Aug 2015)

In my case, I get reasonable marks because I do keep most money invested at all times in a mostly-stock portfolio. But I have slightly too much cash because I recently sold a rental house and haven’t finished investing the proceeds. I also prefer a lower bond allocation than most people, because volatility doesn’t bother me at all. However, Personal Capital’s allocation guidelines are solid and if you just follow the recommendations you will probably do better than most of the investing public.

Newer to the scene is their 401k Fee Analyzer. If you link your retirement accounts with other banks, Personal Capital figures out funds you are holding and how much fees they are charging you. Since most people have old 401(k) plans kicking around from previous jobs, the results here will generally be stunning because most company 401k plans invest in terrible, high-fee funds. Luckily this is not the case for me, as I’ve always been a low-fee index investor:

0.09% which is 80% lower than the benchmark, baby

0.09% which is 80% lower than the benchmark, baby

If you do get yourself an account, the final feature worth exploring is the “retirement planner” – a tool that allows you to project how well off you’ll be in retirement based on your current spending and savings rate. I can’t generate a great screenshot for that since I retired ten years ago, but I can vouch that their predictions are realistic as long as you verify that the target spending value is reasonable for you.

All of these differences in focus between Mint and Personal capital are deliberate, and they are caused by the differences of the underlying business model of the two companies.

Mint is a free service, and it earns its money by advertising financial products that may be relevant to you based on your life situation. Credit cards, savings and investment accounts, insurance, and other stuff. Although the product links are noticeable, they are generally relevant and quite possibly useful to Mint users, so they do not bother me.

Personal Capital is also free to use, and has no ads and pushes no products. Instead, they are hoping to build enough trust that you will hire them to manage your investments for you, in exchange for a fixed-percentage fee of about 0.89% of your managed assets (this percentage drops if you have over $1M under management). The only sales pitch is a call or email one of their advisers will send to you after you first set up your account and link in your various funds. And this offer only comes if you have over $25,000 of assets available to manage. Note that you can opt out of future contact as well.

This all sounded pretty mysterious to me, so I decided to dig a little deeper over the summer.

  • On the one side of the argument, I feel that low fees are essential to investment returns – my own investments are in Vanguard funds where the expense ratio is typically about 0.1%. Mutual funds with management fees over 1%, and hedge funds, are generally very poor bets.
  • On the other hand, money that people leave uninvested like the cash-hoarder above is completely unproductive and an even worse bet than a high-fee mutual fund.
  • And the Wild Western investment style that many beginners play with (“I bought some Apple, Netflix, Tesla, and a few penny stocks but I jumped out of them and went to Gold when I heard there would be a government shutdown“), is an even more disastrous approach.

If you add in their understanding of tax strategy and asset allocation, it is easy to imagine how an advisory service like Personal Capital could much more than pay for the ~0.9% that they would charge if you add that option on to the otherwise-free service. But if you are like me and love managing your own investments, you will stick with a little basket of Vanguard admiral funds and watch over them yourself, rebalancing occasionally.

And Personal capital is far from the only manager out there. For example, after I first published this article, many readers came out with favorable reviews for Betterment (automatic investment in existing index funds with lower management fees, in exchange for less personalized service), so do your research before signing up with any paid financial management service.

But instead of turning down the offer, I followed through with the adviser. Through a series of calls and emails, I got to speak with a very knowledgeable financial guy around my age, who happened to be located in PC’s Denver office. After politely grilling him with a long list of somewhat skeptical questions, I learned that Personal follows a relatively passive, index-based strategy. They maintain their own mostly-passive portfolio of stocks representing the US and international economies.

But their twist on investment philosophy is that indices like the S&P 500 are capitalization weighted, so you’ll get a lot more Wal-mart than Whole Foods, and become heavily weighted in tech stocks when Apple is flying high. So instead, they allocate your assets more evenly across sectors and sizes, which effectively makes you buy stocks lower and sell higher.

Indexing purists like me  raise an eyebrow at any strategy that suggests it might beat the market, but at least their principles are sound and I would not expect this strategy to differ much from overall market returns. Their slogans of “We don’t look for home runs”, and “You can’t beat the market by picking stocks”, are very reassuring in this regard. While their own statistics show their funds outperforming the market slightly in recent years, I generally need to see at least a 20-year graph that includes both booms and busts before I will agree that any given strategy is giving the overall index a run for its money.

Summary:

After five months of skepticism and trial, I have to reluctantly admit that this company is a worthwhile addition to the modern financial landscape. While not a clear win over Mint in all areas, I feel that Personal Capital is a much better investment monitor, and works as an interactive teacher in that area as well. Plus, it is still a fun way to track your spending and net worth, and even the paid asset management is worth considering for people who aren’t naturally interested in managing their own investments. Especially if you would prefer to have a real person around to consult with on financial matters, rather than a collection of books and websites with graphs as oddball engineers like myself choose.

After all, you must understand your spending and you must invest your money, so removing any roadblocks to those goals is important.

If you decide to add this financial tool to your own belt, you can do so using the image below (which will benefit this blog, and thanks!)

 

And if you have your own experiences to share in the Personal Capital vs. Mint battle, please share them in the comments.

New and Improved: The article above was updated in August 2015 to reflect some new Personal Capital features. The original review was written in October 2013 and my testing started earlier that year, so in total I’ve now been a user for about 2.5 years.

  • Nauseus Hilarius October 13, 2013, 5:57 pm

    Great article MMM, and as a long time user of Mint myself, I have become frustrated by their lack of support for investments. With two years of data in there, it is difficult to drop that and switch to something else, but from February through July of this year, I gave PC a shot. Mint has its issues, but PC was alot more work to tweak every month, and had the following frustrations and missing features:
    LOGINS
    Keeps wanting me to re-register my PC. Made logins using lastpass very cumbersome.

    BANK TRANSACTION REGISTER
    Can’t split transactions
    Can’t add transactions ahead of time
    Can’t search by check number
    Can’t tab to next field in transaction entry, have to use mouse
    Does not do auto complete
    Cannot export transactions to Excel
    For some reason, PC takes perfeclty legitimate payees and renames them.
    Odd renaming: State Farm -> State Farm Bank
    Odd Renaming: Charles Schwab -> Charles Schwab Bank

    CREDIT CARD TRANSACTION REGISTER
    Odd Renaming: Castle Orthopedics -> The Castle
    Odd Renaming: Courtyard Flowers -> Courtyard by Marriot

    INVESTMENT TRANSACTION REGISTER
    ST and LT Capital Gains Distributions are marked as “Cash In” and categorized as Securities Trades, instead of Investment Income
    Cannot export transactions to Excel

    Reply
  • Walt October 13, 2013, 7:47 pm

    My problem with all of these sites I’ve played with is that none of them cover all of my accounts.

    The biggest part of my net worth is in my company’s 401(k), which is accessed through a Hewitt web site.

    There’s also options at Merrill Lynch, savings at American Express Personal Savings (which is different than American Express Bank) and my “normal” bank is a small local bank.

    Noboday handles Hewitt, and they’re all missing at least one of the others too.

    Reply
    • Nathaniel G October 14, 2013, 9:40 am

      I have a 401k accessed through Hewitt I was able to get it working with PC and Mint. There is a employer code associated with your 401k you need to add that to the end of your user name i.e. username = johnsmith-01234 where 01234 is your employer code. It’s annoying to figure out and setup but it should work.

      Reply
    • Mom October 14, 2013, 10:59 am

      My husband has a 401(k) through Hewitt, and both Mint and Personal Capital brought it in just fine. I had to use Hewitt Aon if I remember (he left the company and we rolled it over elsewhere)

      Reply
    • Ultros October 14, 2013, 5:40 pm

      In response to Walt and others who’ve had a hard time getting accounts to appear in Mint:

      My wife and I have had a lot of success contacting Mint about accounts that won’t load. It’s sometimes taken some back-and-forth with their customer service, but we’ve loaded all our accounts in there, including some weird pension funds that I’ve contributed to.

      Given how many people have indicated here that they’ve stopped using one or the other of these services due to accounts not linking, it’s not surprising to me that they bend over backwards to fix this stuff if you bring it to their attention.

      Reply
  • Luke October 13, 2013, 8:29 pm

    I have been working for the financial services industry for the past year and a half. I acknowledge the many benefits of tax planning and proper allocation but find charging a percentage of assets under management unmustachian. I ran the numbers and on $500k of assets (an achievable goal for all mustachians) over 30 years the 0.90% fee assuming 8% growth is approximately $1.2 million in fees. A good video that has recently come out discussing fees is “The Retirement Gamble” in which Mr. Bogle is interviewed. Here is a link http://video.pbs.org/video/2365000843/. Keep up the good work with the blog!

    Reply
    • David Robarts July 23, 2015, 2:14 pm

      I’d double check your numbers – I get about $450k as the 30 year total for a 0.9% annual fee on $500k growing 8% per year.

      Reply
      • Glen September 1, 2016, 9:58 pm

        Well I guess if it’s only $450,000 you are losing, that’s nothing to worry about. Sign me up!

        Reply
  • Dividend Gamer October 13, 2013, 10:56 pm

    Personal Capital is a fantastic service, I recently switched to it from Mint.

    I enjoy it more because it provides a better presentation for my investments and overall portfolio.

    I still feel that Mint is better at a lot of the budgeting fields, but that is not much of a concern for me presently.

    Reply
  • MoneyAhoy October 14, 2013, 6:23 am

    The Personal Capital Investment Checkup looks pretty interesting and helpful. I’ll have to check this out! I think I’d go the self directed vs. paying the 0.9% fee though – that’s really high comparatively…

    Reply
  • Spoonman. October 14, 2013, 7:16 am

    Here’s one thing I don’t get with Personal Capital: it doesn’t seem to count my house (owned free and clear) in my portfolio. I expected it to say “you’re over-exposed in real estate” since my home value is higher than the rest of my investments combined by a factor of two, but instead it says that I don’t have any “alternative” investments. What’s the point of putting my home value in there if it doesn’t take it into account?

    Reply
    • Justin October 14, 2013, 11:02 am

      I suspect they consider your house as an “asset” and not an “investment”. Whether that’s how you want to consider is another matter entirely, and it would be great if they allowed you flexibility in determining that.

      Reply
  • Mark Abner A. October 14, 2013, 7:30 am

    Thanks for doing the research and reporting but I’ve heard enough already that I’m not touching it. .9% is an unsustainably high fee (for any vendor in wealth-creation) when you can accomplish the same thing with .05% Vanguard index funds, a $60 YNAB spreadsheet purchase and paper and pencil. I use YNAB because it is very hands on rather than linked to all of your accounts, which forces you to actually look up each transaction and think about it as you’re entering it. And their webinars, podcasts, etc. can provide a real education. I also don’t know what purpose it serves to have your net worth at your finger tips at all times and it might encourage short term trading psychologically. My own style is to add up all my accounts a couple times per year and keep track of the total growing net worth in a plain old notebook. Again, thanks for the post though.

    Reply
  • Liz T October 14, 2013, 8:43 am

    I still use MS Money to balance checking & savings statements and track upcoming bills, but not for investments. I’ve also been using Mint for over a year, and it’s a love/hate thing. I like the convenience of seeing everything updated at once, and I like using it to categorize expenditures. However, I have had multiple problems with different accounts, and though most eventually get resolved, I absolutely HATE the problems it has with my investment accounts. I’ve given up even trying to get some of them fixed.

    I might try PC to track just my investment accounts. I wouldn’t pay for their advice, but like MMM said, for people who are too afraid to take any steps on their own (like I was 5 years ago) it would be well worth the 0.9% fee to get at least some guidance. Out of desperation I ended up paying almost 2% in a program for very hands-on management, which I have discovered I don’t like at all. I’m now slowly disengaging myself from that and am taking the reins into my own hands. I *wish* PC had been around 5 years ago!

    Reply
  • Mr. 1500 October 14, 2013, 9:43 am

    I’ve been on Personal Capital for a while now. I really dig the whole site, but the 401k Fee Analyzer blew my mind. I’m 39 now and the Fee Analyzer told me that if I stayed in my current funds, I’d pay over $600,000 in fees by the time I turn 65. Holy fee hell Mutual Fund Manager Man!!

    I reallocated to save a bunch of money. The greatest savings though will come when I leave my job and roll my money into even more reasonable choices.

    Reply
  • Anne October 14, 2013, 10:36 am

    Interesting post. I see how it could be useful, especially as Mint is great for budgeting but quite poor for investment analysis, I really only use it to see the balances on a regular basis. However having all my taxable investments and Roth IRA at Vanguard, it’s easy enough to keep an eye on my allocation with them directly since it isn’t something to tinker with more than once a year or so.

    Reply
  • Mom October 14, 2013, 11:02 am

    I really enjoy Personal Capital – it doesn’t bring in all of my accounts (my 401(k) is through ingplans.com and PC only supports some of those – mint doesn’t support it either), but I can enter it as manual holdings – wouldn’t matter anyway, it’s in a hedge fund :(

    My beef about it is that you can’t just “disable” accounts – so if you stop using an account, if you delete it, you lose all of the back history, and if you don’t delete it, it keeps trying to update itself. Mint supports that, which I like.

    I use YNAB for budgeting, so I rarely log into mint, but I log into Personal Capital at least once a week.

    Reply
  • Greenbeard October 14, 2013, 12:19 pm

    Timely post. I just started using Personal Capital. I decided immediately that it gives me a much better overview of my investments than Finance Works, which I’ve been using for years.

    However for, tracking spending I find Finance Works easier for me. So I’m using both now.

    I also started using SigFig today. Which so far looks nice, but not as straightforward as Person Capital.

    I also was contacted by an adviser. I politely declined. He was polite also. No follow ups.

    Glad to hear more from you about their approach so I don’t have to listen to their pitch myself.

    Reply
  • Brenton October 14, 2013, 12:56 pm

    You know what my first thought was when reading this?

    Canyonero…..

    Reply
  • Hawkity October 14, 2013, 1:55 pm

    Hi,

    Good article. I think that before people get into the online tools they need to keep on top of things in Excel. Whether that be a model that you build from scratch or one you download and tweak.

    I built a model from scratch and must have spent days on the thing; but the point is I know my finances inside out. Every bill, every line I know it.

    Online tools are for the financial mature that have a very good understanding of their net worth. IMO I believe that understanding comes from living in the detail for some time.

    cheers
    Hawk

    Reply
  • Jacob October 14, 2013, 2:40 pm

    I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t give it a ton of time to test. I have Mint.com as my main budgeting tool (with Excel as a supplement) and was hoping for better portfolio layout/management. Maybe I’m too much of a newb at investing, but I actually enjoyed Mint.com’s investing layout better, showing me the movement day to day and giving my my return on investment in real time. I am partial to line graphs, so maybe that’s it. And I have not jumped into Personal Capital’s budgeting features, but they seemed to be sorely lacking from what I remember.

    Now, from a planning and asset allocation standpoint, Mint has nothing compared to Personal Capital. But for me, i just log into Vanguard.com and take a look at where I am and re-balance if needed. I’m relatively young (27), so I just I’m 90% stock index funds, and I’m just keep it simple with a Boglehead approach. Personal capital might be more fun if I was more actively managing my investments, but for now, I didn’t get much from it.

    For my situation, Mint.com does the job. But as I grow in wisdom and maybe get a bit more hands on with my investing, I may give it another shot.

    Reply
  • TheGoyWonder October 14, 2013, 3:29 pm

    To advocate the devil about index funds…is it true that they tend to be strictly large-cap, and miss out on the bargains in rapidly-growing companies?

    Been toying with the idea of going solo and picking stocks based on something like Magic Formula Investing…would cost me .8% in fees, with $8 fees investing $2000 chunks. Great idea, or a loser’s game?

    Reply
  • Cathy October 14, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Beginner at this end – Could someone let me know if I can use MINT or PC in Australia, before I go explore.
    Cheers
    Cathy

    Reply
  • Bando October 15, 2013, 5:46 am

    I don’t quite understand how paying a 0.9% fee to have Personal Capital manage investments could be considered permissible. Maybe it’s a better option than letting money sit in a savings account. Paying somebody to mow the lawn is better than letting it grow into a jungle, and paying somebody to clean the house is better than letting it decay into a pigsty and using a bedpan/catheter while sitting on the couch is better than shitting my pants but MMM does not normally permit any of these things and I am confused why he would allow payment of too-expensive investment fees

    Reply
  • GP October 15, 2013, 6:39 am

    Heads up for Canadians: Doesn’t seem to support any of Canada’s banks.

    Reply
    • Christine October 16, 2013, 10:14 am

      Yeah I immediately signed up but found out it doesn’t support Canadian banks as of yet. However Mint keeps adding more Canadian banks.. maybe they are too new.

      QUESTION!
      Is there any Canadian equivalent to Personal Capital right now?

      Reply
      • Sarah October 21, 2014, 1:35 pm

        There is moneystrands, but they suspended their aggregation service indefinitely. Not sure when they’ll pick it up again. :(

        Reply
  • Brazilian Libertarian semi-Mustachian October 15, 2013, 2:02 pm

    Great website, been reading some time, and I alreay planned to reach financial indepence with a frugal living, since before knowing you I was already a reader of the brazilian financial blogsphere.

    Have to say i totally disagree on your polithical view, as you probably have learned on my commenter name.

    As an ideia for a future posting, the brazilian financia blogspere has been talking about a lot of living in a small town (5k population). JUst the ammount of money you save from the house you’ll live in is ridiculous.
    I don’t know what are the differences in US market, but in Brazil, for a 3 bedroom in my city (beach city with 500k-1kk population) you’ll pay something around 700k-1kk (reais, divide by 2 two know the dollar value), For a 3 bedroom apartament, somewhere around 300k reais(considering old apartament building) to 600k reais (new non luxuorious apartament building).

    In a small town, you buy the same house for around 60k reais.

    ALso all the living costas are lower, lower taxes, etc.

    Of course it MAY BE hard to find a wel paying job there, that can be argued, but this option can be viewed as a way to retire earlier by having to have less cash to retire.

    ALso, note the ridicularity of this prices are even higher, since our minimum wage is around 300 US dollars and the averege per capita GDP is surelly much lower than US standards.

    Reply
  • Greg October 15, 2013, 6:47 pm

    I love mint but it limits you to only US accounts. Those of us living overseas would then need to still track everything else separately.

    I’ll have to check if Personal Capital can accommodate.

    Reply
    • Stuart October 16, 2013, 3:15 am

      Any joy? I’m UK based and would love to be using a service like this

      Reply
      • Mathieu Veillette October 19, 2013, 4:29 am

        http://www.moneydashboard.com – for the UK. It’s not that good, however. And you cannot track your investment, only bank account balances…

        Reply
  • Miles dividend MD October 16, 2013, 12:19 am

    I love personalcapital.com for its website.

    Particularly useful for the sections that deal with the expenses of all the funds. As well as the breakdown of asset allocation.

    I do disagree with the sales pitch that accompanies the service. As I see it The one percent charged to manage money is all cost and no gain.

    I think a better recommendation for people who don’t enjoy investing would be betterment.com. The fees are much lower. There’s a nice asset allocation mix. They have a great interface that honestly displays how much you have invested how much you’ve made and what your returns are.

    Reply
    • chris October 20, 2013, 9:05 am

      Totally agree. Might be value in getting some insight into how the money is managing but as for the cost of the service….Was actually really surprised there was even a modest sales pitch for the services given the relatively high cost compared to options like Betterment.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache October 20, 2013, 3:19 pm

        I definitely agree, Chris – this article brought out a bunch of other options including Betterment, and I need to check them out so I can write more. For now, I will add that detail to the article, since I did not intend to put a “sales pitch” into any post!

        Reply
  • Rabia Aziz October 17, 2013, 12:31 am

    I have looked at the mint website. It is very useful in managing finances. at first I did not understand but I go through all the information and it start making sense. I am not into 401 k plan and into other investments yet. However, for future this mint web site can help me with my finances.

    Reply
  • Dan October 20, 2013, 10:37 am

    Glad to see you finally tried out PC. I skipped Mint.com and went directly to PC after reading reviews of both about a year ago. There are a couple of drawbacks to PC. It cannot track my pension account nor track the market value of the real estate I own. PC also cannot link with computershare.com.

    I turned off the weekly email summary from PC since email is not secure. I did not want my information floating through the Internet unencrypted.

    If you are ever passing back through Chicago, I would like to meet a fellow software engineer that thinks about money like I do.

    Reply
  • umair October 22, 2013, 9:52 am

    Been using PC for 6 months and definitely recommend it over Mint for its ease of use and better investment tracking.

    Using PC can save you money by catching wrong withdrawals.. but can also cost you money, i.e. I just noticed a misplaced deposit for over $2000 more in my last paycheck from a part-time job. I would’ve never seen that and enjoyed my ignorance otherwise :(

    Reply
  • Hugo Cavalcante October 23, 2013, 5:24 am

    None of them seems to be available outside USA and Canada… Anybody knows an alternative? I live in Germany.

    Reply
  • Tom November 1, 2013, 4:51 am

    As someone wh specializes in computer attack/defense for the government, I will say that as convenient as this service is, linking all your financial accounts to one source is a VERY, VERY, VERY, BAD IDEA.

    Reply
  • Victor November 3, 2013, 7:11 am

    Hey MMM, been reading for years and this is the first comment I have made. I just really appreciate how you are always on the lookout for cool new software to simplify life, make money, etc. Lending club has done well for me, and that is just the most recent example I can think of. You have been a major part of my spending reduction, and my adoption of new tools (might want to check out basecamp.com for project management, even home projects..its cool). Keep up the great work man. On a side note, you don’t cost your readers a dime and don’t even push for donations (because you took the time to figure out the advertising world), just a class act! I hope to continue becoming less lazy, one day i might not even need a punch in the face anymore. Thanks!!

    Reply
  • Baughman November 5, 2013, 6:05 pm

    So on MMM’s recommendation, I took 1.5 hours (over the course of 2 phone calls) with personal capital. The first phone call consisted of them looking at my 200k net worth allocated 100% in equities and then asking me “on a scale of 1 to 10, are you risk averse or risk tolerant.” Kind of an insulting question given the allocation, but I get why they ask the question. It’s because it’s in the script.

    On the follow-on phone call, they provided a “personalized” investment plan for me. Basically, they’re into “smart” indexing, which is far removed from traditional indexing. They claim that indexing is problematic because it overweights companies and sectors that are bigger. My adviser said that the fact that Apple and Exxon and Walmart constitute a large portion of the S&P is problematic. I don’t quite see it that way. I’d rather have more weight in Walmart and Apple than Bob’s taco stand.

    They also recommend a 3:1 split on domestic vs international equities. Odd, given that the world market weight is 1:1. So they are recommending a substantial “home country bias.”

    Another enlightening thing is that they don’t believe in sector funds. So they believe in equal weighting across the 10 most common sectors (tech, utilities, etc). But within these sectors, they only hold 6 stocks. Weird, given that you can accomplish what they advise with a low-cost sector fund.

    Ironically, they don’t do this on the international side. On the international side, they hold funds. When I asked my adviser to explain the contradiction to the domestic strategy of stock picking he gave me an unsatisfactory answer saying that it’s too hard to buy individual securities abroad.

    Management fees are 0.95%. When I said that they seemed high and ate away at the purported benefits to “smart” indexing, the adviser came up with some mediocre response.

    Where I did see them adding value to the lay-person was through tax advising. They recommend simple (and powerfully tax advantageous) tax loss harvesting techniques. For the person too lazy to sell low to purchase a “not substantially similar” security, this will help you out. Of course this only matters if you have a good chunk of assets in taxable accounts.

    So I agree that these guys are better than 95% of the advisers out there, but at a 0.95% fee, people ought to run like hell away from these guys unless you need the financial handholding. Additionally, their core philosophy of outgessing the market capitalization is unsettling. Additionally, if I were to deviate from the conventional indexing approach, I’d deviate in the direction that academic research says is profitable, such as momentum and value strategies. Instead, Personal Capital relies on backwards engineered and arbitrary equal weighting strategies. If you want me to outperform the index, I can create a near infinite amount of strategies that will do so through simple backwards engineering. “Hold companies that start with the letter A on Mondays of March, Hold companies that start with the letter B on Tuesday of October, etc.”

    So that’s that. When I told the adviser that I wasn’t interested, it turned awkward. Kind of like I just called his wife fat and ugly.

    So that’s that. Baughman’s take on Personal Capital. Clearly the world needs to read this blog and not bother with financial planners in the first place.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 21, 2013, 1:46 pm

      A solid analysis, Baughman. I agree with you that it is never wise to claim you will beat the market. But I also agree that the tax knowledge could make up for most or all of the costs.

      The biggest thing you overlooked, however, is that you are a relatively advanced and confident investor. Not everyone here is, and my argument was just that if it makes the difference between investing and not investing, or investing and speculating, you are far better off purchasing some solid handholding, than buying and selling Tesla shares and IPOs, or sticking your money in a savings account.

      Reply
  • Robert ILC January 9, 2014, 12:07 pm

    I really like Personal Capital’s UI. It is clean and easy to use. Much better than mint.com. I also agree that the way it presents information about assets etc is very valuable. But there are four reason why I ended up using Mint ( I have not deleted my Personal Capital account because I hope they fix these four issues).

    1. When categorizing transactions, you cannot create custom categories. Or if you can it is not as easy to do. If you can I hope some one can tell me how.

    2. You cannot spit transactions. When categorizing a purchase, frequently you want to split a transaction. For example, if I have a $100 transaction, maybe I would like to categorize $74 as general merchandise and $26 as groceries.

    3. You cannot export data. Some times websites disappear for various reasons. They get bought out by another firm that shuts down the service (like lala.com), they go out of business, etc. I would like to have a backup of my data. There is no way that I could see to do that. At least at mint.com you can export your transactions and categorizations to a csv file. Another format would be better but at least I wouldn’t lose my data at mint.com.

    4. Budgeting. Mint makes it easy to set up budgets. Personal Capital’s budgeting features are difficult to use at best.

    Like I said, I hope these four items change in the future. I suspect they will because they are basic features that a site like this should have.

    Reply
  • Steve W January 29, 2014, 11:41 am

    Tried PC three days ago, gave them the login to my largest banking and investment account, and today got the phone call.
    Pro: the online trial quickly showed me that I was paying too much – 1.04% – for an in-house mutual fund at the bank.
    Con: I asked the caller and was told my data could not be exported. That’s a deal-killer for me. It’s bad enough with Quicken locking me into their product literally for 20 years; you can see a list of criticisms of Quicken on Wikipedia. But at least I can export Quicken data and import it to a spreadsheet for further massage. It definitely is worth the hassle for the value I get, but I’m always looking for an alternative, which is why I tried PC.
    Incidentally, I learned from Wikipedia that Intuit (Quicken) bought Mint 5 years ago, but still does not offer a way for Quicken and Mint to interact. Haven’t tried Mint yet.

    Reply
  • Dan February 14, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Just signed up to Personal Capital through your link.
    Thank you so much for doing the testrun for me and writing this review and awesome blog!!!

    Reply
  • Hattie February 21, 2014, 6:59 am

    I am trying Mint for the first time. I previously used HSBC Easyview (Yodlee). I am lukewarm so far. The iPhone / iPad apps are great, but I have not yet found a way to set up custom categorisation rules…even on the full web version. Anyone out there know if I can do that with Mint?
    I have also been pretty disappointed in the ability to add / change / delete categories.

    Reply
  • jen April 5, 2014, 4:30 pm

    Meh. I was unimpressed. I already knew my fees were low, and have specific reasons for my asset allocation. It was nice to see them laid out in a nice column, but I will only change one thing based on the info. The financial planning seems overpriced.

    The dealbreaker, however, was the complete inaccuracy of the “spending” diagram. I transferred money from one account to another, and it’s listed as a “cash withdrawal.” Seriously? Their fancy software can’t do better than that? As a dollar-cost-averager, this means huge inaccuracies every month.

    Not sure what the point of this is, and the inaccuracies are frustrating. I want kudos for my fabulous saving,not an inaccurate statement saying I spend all the money I am so proud of having saved!!

    Reply
  • dave April 9, 2014, 7:31 pm

    I signed up and gave it a try. Sadly, their tool doesn’t work. Probably not their fault, but most of the banks or financial institutions I use have multi layer security…..so it is NEVER synced on the Personal Capital site. I have tried and tried. It simply won’t work unless you have just a few accounts at banks that have simple security.

    But what is the point if you only have a few accounts anyway

    Reply
  • Pun November 25, 2014, 5:25 pm

    MMM – I’m trying to benefit your blog but there’s no image or link to the personal capital website. I swear it was there when i originally read this article a while back. (Just trying to benefit your blog by using the link!)

    -Pun

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache November 25, 2014, 6:39 pm

      I just checked it and it still appears works for me – right near the end of the article. Do you have adblock on or anything like that?

      No worries either way – thanks and enjoy the app!

      Reply
      • Pun November 25, 2014, 8:31 pm

        Oooooooops! You were right, Ad Block was actually on and I’m good now. Personal Capital is awesome! Embarrassed to say I’m in IT and do portal and app testing for a living! Good thing my wife and I are all about your bad ass blog, so won’t have to depend on my “skills” in corporate for too long!

        Thanks for all the inspiration!
        – Pun

        Reply
  • Brad August 23, 2015, 8:08 am

    What happens when that hacker gets the database for the credentials you and thousands of others have stored on their site to all of your financial institutions? That’s the bigger risk IMO.

    I’ve searched a lot to try and find the truth about this, and unless someone points me to the facts (or I call my banking institutions to confirm/deny they will or won’t protect against a PC hack), I will not continue to use this or any type of site like it.

    I ran the 401K fee calculator, understood where I was at, and got the hell out of there and changed all of my passwords and closed my PC account.

    This is much bigger of a deal than what my web searches seem to yield, or what people assume. Why aren’t more people concerned by this? I actually felt really dumb when I signed up to PC and linked my accounts w/o thinking of this first. Seems like only 1% of folks are actually concerned with this fact, and that’s scary.

    Who cares how much security the site claims to have; if my financial companies won’t pay out or protect me in the event PC gets hacked and my accounts are compromised, then to me its not worth it. Am I missing something?

    Information is more valuable than $ to hackers; think about the information they would have by hacking PC. 5min after the hack my bank accounts are at 0! I’ll call my banks and they will say ‘Oh, you used a 3rd party aggregator and you gave them your credentials? Sorry, that voids your protection/reimbursement.’

    Why would anyone with half a brain take on that kind of risk (assuming my assumptions are correct)? This service has promise, but not until it gets the backing from the institutions I use and I’m guaranteed protection.

    People, process and technology – that’s what security is all about. People and process break down all the time…look at how the Target breach happened…it was due to people and lack of process; the technology was in place (as I’m sure it is at PC) Sorry, I can’t trust my nest egg with good intentions.

    If someone can share the absolute truth about the liability or risk of voiding my banking institutions protection by using PC, I’d love to hear it.

    Reply
  • phil September 17, 2015, 12:07 pm

    Anyone know is personal capital can be used outside of the US? Im UK based with UK brokers etc..?

    Reply
  • Ted Shepherd October 10, 2015, 6:42 pm

    I quit reading when I got to the advice “Adding bonds would benefit your diversification.” Maybe so, but the fixed income part of my retirement stash includes the present value of my corporate pension and social security, and the fair rental value of my debt-free house. With that kind of tunnel vision, the adviser thinks I would be better off if I took a large mortgage on my house and bought bonds with the proceeds. That, of course, would be highly detrimental to me. The mortgage interest is much higher than the bond interest would cover. The notion that the fair-rental value of myh house doesn’t count somehow because it isn’t cash. It saves me the cash of paying rent. Isn’t that good enough? Further, the fair rental value of owner occupied houses counts as part of Gross National Product. So, have I been unfair to the adviser I quoted above? Here’s a kicker: Zillow tells me the fair rental value of my house, and it turns out to be 6% a year of Zillow’s estimate of the fair sales price of my house. So, with bonds at 2%, I need triple the capital in bonds, rather than in my house, to cover my housing costs. Boooo!

    Reply
  • Bob October 17, 2015, 5:07 pm

    I don’t have a problem with paying the .9% , with the exception of this year we have done well. I have dividend paying stocks that automatically deposit the same monthly amount. I get more growth off the lower dividend paying stocks and a comfort level with the ones paying higher dividends, all my stocks have strong balance sheets. We keep the amounts about the same for each stock, and sell off as they increase in value to purchase new dividend paying stock. It works for me. I would rather play golf all week, living the dream.

    Reply
  • Stephen March 31, 2016, 10:34 am

    Just signed up for it. I am one of those that is a late bloomer and just starting the journey. It was astounding to see the cash flow to say the least. Definitely going to cut back on the eating out, I didn’t realize it was happening that much.

    Now where to put that extra money from. I don’t have any investment accounts or retirement accounts. All new as this type of stuff isn’t really taught. You basically got to get out there and learn. I would rather learn the easy way, now so I don’t mess up anything further.

    Reply
  • Mike April 25, 2018, 7:01 am

    Hi,

    I am a federal employee. I also work for the State college, as a part time instructor.

    I have a TSP
    A 403b, 457, and an IRA.
    I turn 50 soon, so I can really start to build up my nest egg. What are the limits on contributing to ALL these chapter shelters? I want to maximize my contribution to them all to see if I can do it. But the tax code limits aren’t clear when you have so many to utilize, some seem to overlap.

    Reply
  • Angelo May 12, 2019, 11:23 am

    Any one has any suggestion for other program instead of personal capital?
    I’m Italian and I can’t have because doesn’t work here.
    Thanks

    Reply

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