How to Get Started With Personal Capital Budgeting & Financial Tools

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Anyone can open a Personal Capital account for free. Start by linking all your accounts to see your entire financial life in one place. You don’t have to log in to each account separately.

With Personal Capital, you can link your:

  • Bank accounts (checking, savings, CDs)
  • Credit cards
  • Investments including individual stocks, ETFs and mutual funds
  • Employer-sponsored retirement plans
  • Mortgages
  • Loans

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Step 2: Connect and Sync Accounts

Once your account is set up and complete, you’ll need to link all of your financial accounts, including checking, savings and investments. Personal Capital syncs with thousands of popular financial institutions, so yours should be easy to find.

If you can’t find your bank, simply enter the name in the search bar. Personal Capital is adding new financial institutions all the time, so don’t get discouraged if your bank isn’t on the list.

Find your financial institution to sync up with.
Find your financial institution to sync up with.

About Personal Capital

Founded in 2009 and headquartered in Redwood Shores, California, Personal Capital is one of the original “FinTech” companies and was purchased by retirement services provider Empower Retirement in June of 2020.

With more than $14 billion in assets for thousands of clients, they aim to bridge the gap between the latest in technology and the human touch.

              Personal Capital               Price

Personal Capital Price: Free Personal Capital is my personal favorite for managing my passive income cash flows, investments and retirement accounts. With their free net worth tracker and retirement planner, I can manage my money in less than 10 minutes per month. JOIN FOR FREE

As they say, “Personal Capital continues to blend cutting edge technology with objective financial advice from real human advisors”

Step 4: Set Up a Monthly Budget

Once your account is linked you can set a monthly budget. Either scroll down on the dashboard or click on “Budgeting” under the “Banking” tab. From there you can see all of your account transactions. 

You can see all of your transactions from the last month, last 90 days, last year, or enter a unique date. You can also view all of your accounts at one time or choose the specific account you wish to view. You’ll see a graph on the right-hand side that shows how much you spent over the time period selected, while below the graphs you’ll see a detailed list of all your transactions. You can even search the transactions if you need to remember the amount of a specific purchase. 

But the best part is the budgeting tool. On the right-hand side you will see a circle chart that shows your spending versus your monthly spending budget. Click on the number in the middle and you can edit it to be whichever amount you want to set as your goal. 

You can also view and track bills that are currently due by clicking the “Banking” tab and choosing “Bills.” If you have a credit card or other bill due, you should be able to click the link directly and head to the account website to make a payment.

Net Worth Tracking

One of the most powerful ways to use Personal Capital is to see and monitor your net worth.

When you click on the net worth tab, you’ll see all your bank, credit, investments, and retirement accounts information with what you owe subtracted from what you have.

It lets you easily see your true financial picture. Once your account is set up, you’ll be able to see your net worth as it changes over time. This will let you know if you are spending more than you are saving and, hopefully, see your net worth grow over time.

When you click on the net worth tab you’ll see your net worth for the past 30 days. It will also show you how your net worth has changed over the last 30 days and for today.

You can change the time frame in the top right-hand corner by changing settings to this month, last month, 90 days, 1 year, this year, and last year or set a specific date range. 

You can also use the menu at the top to view specific information on cash, investment, credit, loans, mortgage, and other. 

Availability and ratings

The Personal Capital budgeting app is available in the App Store (for iOS) and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Apple Watch. It is also available on Google Play (for Android).

Rating in App Store at time of writing: 4.7 out of 5 (over 29,000 ratings)

Rating on Google Play at time of writing: 4.5 out of 5 (over 14,000 ratings)

My experience usingPersonalCapital

Impressive app

For the most part, the Personal Capital user experience is good. I’ve done most of my exploring on my laptop because the richness of their graphical reports lends itself to a bigger than four-inch screen. As a result, their iPad app is also slick.

Good security

Like any app that has access to sensitive financial information, security is important. Personal Capital has two-factor authentication, meaning that whenever you log in from an unknown device (or clear your cookies), you’ll be required to get a text message or phone call with a PIN that you must enter along with your password.

That can be an inconvenient extra step at times but provides peace of mind that somebody who happens to swipe your login can’t view your entire financial picture.

Always coming up with new tools

One of the great things about working with the Personal Capital team is learning about their continuous evolution and introduction of new tools to help you manage your finances. They’ve built out countless calculators, budget managers, projection tools, and more. They even have an education planner to help you navigate the cost of education for yourself or children down the road.

There are many more tools to check out, and Personal Capital continues to add and innovate their already incredible platform.

Monitor Your Net Worth Over Time

It’s good to know your net worth, which is generally defined as assets (things you own) minus liabilities (things you owe). Personal Capital will automatically calculate your net worth each time you log in to your account. The software will log in to all your accounts and update your most recent information. Then it will add the assets and subtract your liabilities, leaving you with your net worth. The final number is a measurement of your financial health.

Some people get wrapped up in their overall net worth number. I think it is good to know, but I don’t think it’s the most important metric for financial health (cash flow, human capital and other metrics can be more important in some situations).

Knowing your net worth is a good relative metric, which can show you how your financial health is changing over time. Depending on how many accounts you have, calculating your net worth can be a time-consuming task. Then tracking and analyzing that information over time can add another layer of fun (or hassle). Personal Capital tracks your net worth automatically.

Honest Recommendation

As highly rated as Personal Capital is, it is my feeling that this is a service designed primarily for people who are floating somewhere in the middle of the financial spectrum.

I say that because while the platform offers valuable free financial tools, which are certainly a benefit to small investors, you’ll need at least $100,000 to take advantage of the wealth management service, and $200,000 to have unlimited access to financial advisors. If you have investable assets in this amount, Personal Capital can work well. It will give you services comparable to traditional, human-guided investment services, but at a much lower annual fee.

But if you have less than $100,000, you’ll be better served by using one of the robo-advisor services, like Betterment or Wealthfront, which require little or no money to invest, and charge an annual management fee that’s only a fraction of what Personal Capital charges.

Also, if you’re looking primarily for a budgeting app, Personal Capital offers only limited capabilities. The better option will be to use a dedicated budgeting service, like YNAB, Quicken, or Mint.

How We Tested the Product

We tested Personal Capital by doing a thorough review not only of the company website, but also third-party sources, like the Better Business Bureau and TrustPilot. We also considered reviews conducted by competing websites to make sure our evaluation of Personal Capitals capabilities are accurate and comprehensive.

And naturally, we’ve compared Personal Capital with competing products, such as the robo-advisors and budgeting apps listed in this review. After all, any product or service can only reliably be evaluated against its competition.

We determined that, when compared to traditional, human-guided investment management services, Personal Capital comes up strong. But we feel that for the majority of consumers and investors, the better choice will be to use a combination of lower-cost robo-advisors and one of the dedicated budgeting apps.

Personal Capital Banking

I’m surprised at how much I use the banking features of Personal Capital. The primary features that I rely on are the Cash Flow and Budgeting functions. Specifically, the tool shows me how much investment income we generate each month (interest and dividends). The budget tool shows me how much we spent and on what by category.

Cash Flow

Cash flow shows both your income and expenses at a transaction level. Expenses are automatically categorized. You can easily drill down into income or expenses to look at the details.

You can also select which accounts to include in the report. I use this account selection feature to look at just my business expenses (I’ve connected by business checking and credit card accounts). I also use it to look at income just from my investment accounts. This allows me to quickly see all dividends and interest earned in my portfolio.

Budgeting

Budgeting

The budgeting feature is not a traditional budgeting app. You can set an overall monthly spending goal, but you can’t set goals by category. If that’s what you need, I highly recommend YNAB (You Need a Budget).

What Personal Capital does well is give you visibility into how you’ve spent your money by category. It automatically imports all spending from each linked account and categorizes the spending. You can customize the categories. I’ve found Personal Capital to do a reasonably good job of getting the categories right, although I do spend about 5 minutes a month correcting some transactions.

Tip: In addition to categories, you can tag transactions, too. I use a limited number of categories, and than tag transactions as needed. For example, we have a home maintenance category. For work on our pool, I tag those transactions as “pool” so I can see how much we spend on the pool without need to create a separate categori.

Bills

The bills feature is another reason to link your credit cards, mortgage, and other loans. Personal Capital keeps track of when bills are due with your linked accounts. This helps you avoid missed or late payments, and it helps with planning throughout the month.

Try Personal Capital

Commissions Fees

Personal Capital’s money management software is available for free and is well worth checking out.

Personal Capital Advisors charges a declining fee schedule, based on assets under management. There are no commissions or transaction fees. 

$100,000 to $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 AUM fees are higher than most competitors with financial advisors like Betterment, Schwab Intelligent Advisors Premium, and Vanguard Personal Advisors.

Category Fee Management fees for $5,000 account N/A Management fees for $25,000 account N/A Management fees for $100,000 account $890.00 AUM per year Termination fees Unknown Expense ratios  0.08% average ETF expense ratio Mutual funds N/A

Improve Your Investing

Managing multiple financial accounts can be tricky. You should view all your investments as one giant portfolio. There are certain factors you should also consider, such as which investments to put into retirement accounts, and which should be in taxable accounts. But they should all be viewed together when it comes to asset allocation.

Balancing your investment portfolio can be easy if you only have one or two accounts. Say a Thrift Savings Plan account and an IRA. But when my wife and I were married we each had both of those accounts, so we already had four investment accounts to look at when balancing our portfolio. Within two years of marriage, I had two more 401(k) plans and a pension to add to the mix, and my wife had a civil service TSP account. Managing eight investment accounts is substantially more difficult than managing four accounts!

The problem with managing multiple investment accounts is not always understanding how all your investments work together. Is your portfolio diversified? Do you have too much weight in any one type of fund? Personal Capital makes it easy to see how all your investments work as one investment portfolio.

You will no longer have to guess what your total asset allocation is for each sector. Personal Capital does it for you automatically, as well as shows you how much you are spending on asset management fees. This makes it easy for you to see where your portfolio is in balance, and where it needs attention. You can then use this information to make informed decisions, such as rebalancing your portfolio, selling assets in certain classes, buying others, etc.

Tools Personal Capital offers

Portfolio analysis

In the allocation tool, the colored rectangles show the percentage of your portfolio in each asset class: Cash, international stocks and bonds, US individual stocks or bonds, and alternatives.

Personal Capital lets you explore your entire investment portfolio visually, regardless of where you hold the investment assets (Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, your 401k, etc.). I’ve found this valuable for managing my own overall asset allocation.

For example, in the recent stock market rally, the percentage of stocks I own compared to bonds has ballooned. Personal Capital lets me see just how much and identify the accounts in which I should sell some stocks and pick up alternative assets. Of course, that’s a basic example – Personal Capital can break down your portfolio by industry, market cap, and a host of other variables.

Fee analyzer

With Personal Capital’s retirement planner tool, the fee analyzer, you can see how your retirement account fees are impacting your retirement date. They’ll also show you any hidden fees in your mutual funds.

Cash flow

Personal Capital includes a full-featured “personal finance manager” (similar to Mint) that automatically aggregates your income and expenses, then displays your cash flow data in easy-to-read charts.

Net worth


What good is a financial app if it doesn’t provide a clear summary of your financial position?

The Personal Capital net worth report puts your balances, cash flow, and investment holdings in one place. It also integrates with the real estate website Zillow to provide daily updates on your property values.

Read more: Net Worth Is Your Most Vital Financial Stat – Do You Know Yours?

Budgeting

Personal Capital includes a budgeting tool, so you can have all your personal finance tools in one app. With the budgeting app you can:

  • Set a monthly spending target and track your spending
  • See your spending and savings by date, category or merchant

To get a better handle on your money, open a Personal Capital account today!

Personal Capital Fees and Costs

All of that work doesn’t come free. Personal Capital offers three service tiers, with varying fees and minimum balances:

  • Investment Services. For balances between $100,000 and $200,000, you pay an 0.89% fee for a portfolio of managed ETFs and help from one financial advisor.
  • Wealth Management. For balances of $200,000 to $1 million, you pay the same 0.89% fee, but you’ll have access to two financial advisors and a portfolio that will include individual stocks, when appropriate.
  • Private Clients. For balances above $1 million, you start to see a decrease in fees, all the way down to 0.49% once you hit $10 million. This nets you access to Personal Capital’s Investment committee, two financial advisors, extra love for your retirement planning and even private equity investment options.

The typical expense ratio charged for those in the Investment Services tier is about 0.10%, according to a Personal Capital spokesperson, while those in the highest tiers pay about 0.07%. In either case, you’ll be put in ETFs offered by Vanguard, Schwab and iShares, among others.

There is no minimum or fee involved with the budgeting, spending and portfolio management tools mentioned above, nor for Personal Capital Cash, which is the company’s checking account.

However you feel about Personal Capital’s offerings, these prices are steep. If you start with $150,000 invested, contribute an additional $10,000 each year and earn a ho-hum 7% return for 15 years, you’ll end up paying nearly $70,000 in fees with Personal Capital, compared to only $20,000 with Wealthfront.

Account Services

Personal Capital offers banking with no minimum amount and Personal Capital Advisors provides all the services available at a full-service financial planning firm. Automated deposits are available and encouraged. While margin is not available, two revolving lines of credit can be accessed. These loans have no setup or closing costs, and they offer competitive interest rates. 

The Financial Roadmap is unique to Personal Capital Advisors and takes your account and loan information to create a customized “to do” list of financial tasks. Topics might include items like insurance analysis, retirement cash flow planning, employer plan analysis, debt management review, and more. The list evolves along with your individual situation. 

Personal Capital’s financial planning software is available to anyone who signs up for the platform, whether they use the Advisory services or not. There is no minimum required to sync your accounts and use all of the tools.

Calculators and tools include:

  • Net Worth Tracker
  • Savings Planner
  • Budgeting
  • Cash Flow
  • Retirement Planner
  • Investment Check up
  • Fee Analyzer
  • Education Planner

The fee analyzer assesses whether you could be saving money on investment fees, while the investment check up analyzes your asset allocation and suggests ways to increase returns and lower risks. The retirement planner allows you to adjust inputs and investigate the success of various retirement scenarios. We found the calculators and tools to be incredibly helpful and, thanks to account syncing, they provided very individualized and actionable insights.

Cash Management

Personal Capital Cash is a free savings product with no minimums. The program is administered through UMB Bank. After opening an account, your money is placed in participating member banks. The account is FDIC insured up to an aggregate of $1.25 million, well above the standard $250,000 a single bank offers. 

Available features include:

  • High yield interest bearing savings account
  • Individual and joint accounts
  • Bill pay by linking to your checking account
  • Direct deposit
  • Unlimited deposits and withdrawals

Get access to free financial tools

  • See all your money, all in one place.
  • Stay on track with our Retirement Planner.
  • Get up to date with our Investment Checkup.

Pros: Where Personal Capital stands out

Three tiers of high-touch service

Personal Capital offers three (somewhat confusingly named) tiers of service, depending on how much you bring to the table, with a lower management fee and more perks at each level. Here are some of the highlights at each tier: 

  • Investment Service – The entry-level plan includes access to a team of financial advisors that can aid with financial planning and review your investments. You’ll receive a personalized portfolio using only ETFs, tax optimization (more below) and rebalancing. For accounts from $100,000-$200,000. 
  • Wealth Management – In addition to the features in the first tier, the middle tier substitutes two dedicated advisors for the team of advisors and gives you access to specialists who can help with further decisions (such as insurance, stock options and compensation). Your portfolio can also include some individual stocks in place of ETFs. For accounts from $200,000-$1 million. 
  • Private Client – Besides the features in prior tiers, you’ll have access to further wealth planning services (such as for estate and tax issues), access to private banking, and may have your portfolio constructed with individual bonds and private equity investments, subject to enough assets. For accounts starting at $1 million and up. 

This range of services, especially at the high end, is typically not offered at other robo-advisors. In fact, not very many robo-advisors offer access to human advisors as part of their standard package. But that’s part of the reason they’re called robo-advisors. They also don’t usually have such a large minimum to get started, and more typically require zero or just a few hundred dollars.

Sophisticated portfolio construction

Personal Capital constructs portfolios using ETFs, its own selection of individual stocks, and at higher service tiers, bonds and private equity investments. The access to private equity is restricted to portfolios with more than $5 million in them, however, and it’s a novel feature among robo-advisors. 

Regardless of which tier you’re in, you’ll get access to what Personal Capital calls Smart Weighting. Think of this feature as a way to re-weight the holdings in your portfolio so that they deliver more return without taking on more risk. For example, in many traditional ETFs, the largest companies are weighted heavily, while small or medium companies are weighted less. This means you may be “over-indexed” (i.e. overexposed) to the largest stocks in the fund. 

So Personal Capital re-weights your portfolio to eliminate some of this overexposure that may not drive higher returns. It looks at your holdings by industry, style (growth vs. value investing, for example) and the size of the companies in the portfolio. Smart Weighting more equally weights these three factors to deliver better risk-adjusted returns, says Personal Capital.

Personal Capital creates socially responsible portfolios using the same methodology, too, and avoids the relatively pricey ETFs offering similar products. To create them, the robo-advisor analyzes rankings on ESG factors (environmental, social and governance) from third-party evaluator Sustainalytics. It picks the top scorers and then weights them according to its proprietary methodology, and then this basket is used for a portion of the U.S. stocks allocation. 

A range of useful tools

Personal Capital offers a large selection of tools to help you analyze your portfolio, see how much you might need in the future for a given expense, figure your net worth and many more. It’s great for anyone to check out, because even if you don’t become a client, you can use many of the tools, though Personal Capital does offer other tools exclusively to clients. 

Some of the tools available include a net worth calculator, which pulls in data from your linked financial accounts, as well as a savings planner and a budgeting tool. You’ll also have tools for retirement planning, education expenses, and calculating fees on your mutual funds.

If you’re a client, you’ll have a few extras, including a financial roadmap and personal strategy tools. You’ll also be able to analyze your employer-sponsored plan such as a 401(k) to see how it aligns with your personal strategy developed by the robo-advisor.

Access to human financial advisors

One of Personal Capital’s strongest selling points is the access to financial advisors, and here you’ll have a team or two dedicated advisors (depending on your service tier). Together, you’ll develop a personalized financial plan, with the advisor acting as your ongoing point of contact, answering your routine and not-so-routine questions.

A financial advisor is valuable, in particular, for two major reasons: the ability to answer those non-routine questions and concerns, and the ability to get you to stick to your financial plan when times get tough in the market. And these are the issues that Personal Capital focuses on. In fact, its advisors are trained in behavioral coaching to help you maintain your discipline. 

If a real coach can keep you to your plan during the hard times – when many investors sell their investments to avoid further loss and ultimately cost themselves gains later – then you may make back Personal Capital’s hefty management fee and then some. 

Multi-pronged tax strategy

Personal Capital uses three strategies to maximize your total returns: asset location, tax-loss harvesting and using tax-efficient securities. 

By placing assets in the most tax-efficient location – taxable accounts versus tax-advantaged accounts such as an IRA – Personal Capital estimates that it might increase returns about 0.3 percent annually through this strategy. 

Tax-loss harvesting is the practice of selling losing investments to offset the gains in others. It’s a smart way to lower your tax bill, and Personal Capital estimates that you could add 0.2 – 0.4 percent to your annual returns. 

Personal Capital also uses more tax-efficient securities, with ETFs instead of mutual funds. That’s not novel among robo-advisors, but what is notable is that Personal Capital may use at least dozens of individual stocks in portfolios at its higher service tiers. The use of stocks allows tax-loss harvesting to generate more savings, or what’s called stock-level tax-loss harvesting. 

Stock-level tax-loss harvesting is a prominent feature of Wealthfront’s robo-advisor service, too. 

Financial Planning & Wealth Management with Personal Capital

Get a holistic view of customers’ entire financial picture with Personal Capital, from day-to-day spending to tracking portfolio performance.

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