Personal Capital – The Easiest Way to Manage Your Finances

I write this Personal Capital review as a long-time user. I’ve used Personal Capital for several years to track our income, expenses, and net worth. 

Personal Capital is best described as a “financial account aggregator.” After connecting your various financial accounts, the free service will summarize your financial situation and offer free personal financial planning guidance.

Personal Capital is similar to Mint’s online budgeting service, but much more comprehensive. Like Mint, Personal Capital provides a comprehensive budgeting solution. Unlike Mint, Personal Capital provides a robust set of tools and resources to help you manage your investment portfolio, asset allocation, and retirement planning. All of these services are provided free of charge.

More than 2,400,000 users are now using the free Personal Capital platform to reach their financial goals. In addition to the excellent free financial tools, Personal Capital is a Registered Investment Adviser (RIA) with more than $12 Billion in assets under management.

Here is a brief introduction to Personal Capital:

Your Personal Capital Dashboard

After opening a free account, you link your financial accounts to the online dashboard. This involves authorizing each account within Personal Capital. I found this to be extremely easy and efficient on the desktop version of the program. You simply click a small plus arrow, specify the type of account, and fill in the online credentials.

After linking your accounts, they remain linked until you unlink them or change any of the account information. Each day, your account information is automatically updated in real time.

The site then aggregates all of your information into a colorful series of charts and graphs to help you make sense of your income, expenses, and investments, allowing you to better understand your financial situation.

The Personal Capital online dashboard provides information about your:

  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Budgeting
  • Net Worth
  • Asset Allocation
  • Retirement Savings
  • Investment Portfolio

Within each category, you can explore all of the nitty, gritty details.

Personal Capital Budgeting

Personal Capital allows you to easily create a budget, set a monthly spending target, and view your progress in real-time.

If you select your income profile within the Personal Capital dashboard, you can see all forms of income broken down by date and source. If you have multiple bank accounts, you can see the deposit information for each account, as well as the aggregate total income.

Similarly, you can track your spending down to the penny. Every credit card swipe. Every debit card swipe. Every bank transaction. All can be viewed on your account dashboard in real-time. You can also analyze each expense by date, merchant, and category.

Personal Capital also allows you to stay on track of bill payments. You can view previous payments made and upcoming bills that are due, as well as the minimum payment required and the total balance outstanding.

These different features all blend seamlessly into an excellent user experience. Because of the robust set of features, I now prefer Personal Capital’s cash flow management and budgeting tools over those provided by or Quicken.

Retirement Planner

Personal Capital recently updated their retirement planning tool, which allows you to know exactly where you stand relative to your retirement goals. Now you can build, manage, and forecast your retirement plan in one convenient location.

The tool pulls in your actual financial data from the accounts you’ve linked to Personal Capital and lets you add personal information and expected life events. Using this information, the retirement planning tool estimates the following information for you:

Expected Income – The Retirement Planner automatically calculates your expected monthly income and projected Social Security benefits. You can easily add in other sources of income such as rental income, pensions, inheritances or other windfalls.

Upcoming Goals – Planning to move? Buying a new home? Getting married? Adopting a child? The Retirement Planner will help you evaluate and decide if you can afford these large expenses and still stay on track for retirement.

Retirement Readiness – Using your target retirement date, goals, income, and expenses, Personal Capital will summarize your entire financial situation and explain how prepared you are for retirement.

*New* Scenario Analysis –  Take the guesswork out of important financial decisions by creating multiple retirement scenarios. Perhaps you would like to know if going back to work will improve your ability to retire early. Or, maybe you’re wondering if you can afford a home renovation or large charitable donation without sacrificing your retirement preparedness.

You can now compare all of these scenarios, and more, directly from your Personal Capital dashboard. Best of all, you can save custom scenarios and compare the impact of different financial decisions on your overall retirement readiness over time.

Investment Checkup Tools

Personal Capital also includes several investment-related features that can help you better manage your investment portfolio. After completing a basic risk questionnaire and a few other questions about your investment goals, Personal Capital presents several charts and graphs displaying your current portfolio, asset allocation, and historical investment performance.

After summarizing your existing investments, Personal Capital then offers a series of recommendations to help improve your portfolio. You can compare the recommendations to your current investments to observe any differences in asset allocation, performance, and overall risk. 

In addition, Personal Capital’s retirement fee analyzer explains the various fees that accompany your existing investments. This feature is supposed to calculate hidden fees that are often overlooked, as well as management fees and expenses.

Personal Capital Fees

All of the services I’ve just described are completely free, but Personal Capital does offer an optional asset management service.

Personal Capital is a registered investment advisor providing free services to attract more affluent site users – particularly those with investable assets of at least $100,000. If a user has $100,000 or more, Personal Capital offers professional financial advice and the ability to work with a financial advisor (typically well trained with credentials). Personal Capital makes money by taking a percentage of the assets under management, or AUM.

The annual fees for their investment services are as follows:

  • $0 – $1,000,000: 0.89% of account balance
  • For clients that invest $1 Million or more:
    • First $3 Million: 0.79% of account balance
    • Next $2 Million: 0.69% of account balance
    • Next $5 Million: 0.59% of account balance
    • Over $10 Million: 0.49% of account balance

There is no obligation to pay for this service, and there are quality alternatives on the market providing asset management services for 0.25% annually.

If you are a self-directed investor, consider M1 Finance (see my review), which allows you to trade any stock or ETF for free.

Personal Capital Security

The security is very good overall, with numerous protections in place to protect your financial accounts.

Personal Capital requires you to register each electronic device that you use. They will send you an email or call your cell phone to register each device. After registering a device, there is another layer of security that is used when linking financial accounts to your Personal Capital account. You must sign in and verify the original online account in addition to your Personal Capital login. Data is encrypted with AES-256 with multi-layer key management, including rotating user-specific keys and salts.

There are also strict internal access controls. The account information you enter within Personal Capital isn’t stored in plain text, and no individual at Personal Capital has access to your credentials. Your bank and brokerage credentials are encrypted and stored at Yodlee (a financial technology veteran), not in Personal Capital’s database. All information is encrypted as read-only, which prevents anyone from accessing your full accounts and initiating any withdrawals or transfers from within Personal Capital’s service.

Personal Capital operates under SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) jurisdiction and is audited for compliance with SEC cybersecurity regulations. Furthermore, Personal Capital’s website encryption is rated “A” by the independent Qualys SSL Labs (a stronger rating than most major banks or brokerages).

The Good

Comprehensive Service – Personal Capital allows you to easily manage your entire financial life using one secure interface. You can calculate your net worth, set a budget, manage investment accounts, and plan for retirement.

Friendly Reminders – Personal Capital includes an automated email feature that summarizes weekly changes in your net worth. You can choose to receive other alerts and bill payments reminders as well.

Valuable Tools – At no additional cost, Personal Capital provides numerous tools to help you make better financial decisions. These tools can help reduce your taxable income, improve your asset allocation, lower your investment fees, and track your investment performance over time.

Technology  – The interface is very intuitive and Personal Capital can be used on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. The Personal Capital app integrates seamlessly, making it easy to check your accounts on the go.

Ease of Use – Getting started and syncing accounts is incredibly easy with Personal Capital. In addition, the graphs and charts provide valuable financial information that is easy to read and understand.

The Bad

Investment Management Fees – Their investment management service isn’t horribly priced, but it’s higher than other online competitors. 

Bugs and Glitches – Early on, Personal Capital had some technical issues on the site that made the user experience a little bit irritating. However, over the last 2-3 years, they have improved the interface and usability. Since ironing out the early bugs, I have not witnessed technical issues when linking or managing my accounts. Some users still report issues when linking certain financial accounts, but this is becoming increasingly rare with each update.

The Cash Cow Conclusion

I love all of the free services provided by Personal Capital. There is nothing else on the market that offers comparable value for the low price of $0.00.

I don’t pay for their investment advice, but I know a few members of the Cash Cow Community are happy with the service. The management fees are comparable to many other financial advisors, so I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Bottom line – grab a free account today and get started. You won’t be sorry.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any of the companies mentioned, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone.