Personal Capital by Empower is the rare example of a company that sells a range of paid consulting services, but also offers a useful free component. Web-based tools and apps provide high-level financial snapshots and tracking, but don’t go far enough for specific activities like budgeting and savings.
Right off the bat, you won’t confuse Personal Capital, part of Empower Retirement’s range of financial services, with anything other than a wealth management advisor. In fact, its website makes it difficult to separate the noise of its paid services from the value offered by the company’s free services, and even those free services seem to be at surface level. Once inside, however, you have access to tracking and investing tools and a simple approach to budgeting and saving. However, as our Personal Capital review will show, it lacks a few things found in the best budgeting apps.
Personal capital: cost
Personal Capital has a free account to view your net worth, build a budget, and plan savings. Where the company makes its money is if you sign up for its wealth management advisory services, which cost a percentage of the money they will manage. the costs are expensive and start at 0.89% for clients with a minimum of $100,000 (and up to $1 million) to manage. This fee gives you access to Personal Capital’s portfolio funds and a team of financial advisors (a portfolio over $200,000 gets you two dedicated advisors) who will guide you through your financial journey.
Personal Capital Review: Features
At the heart of Personal Capital’s free services is its Dashboard view of your synced bank and investment accounts, a convenient way to get an overview of your financial health and cash flow. The Savings Planner helps you start saving for retirement or an emergency fund, while its Investment Report will analyze your portfolio allocation and compare it to Personal Capital recommendations.
The Fee Analyzer looks for hidden or high fees in your linked investment accounts, and the Retirement Planner gives you an idea of what’s possible. Make no mistake, all roads lead to trying bigger and better personal capital services. For example, after simulating our retirement scenario, we were asked to schedule a free 30-minute call with an advisor.
The inclusion of a basic level of monthly spending budget helps flesh out the financial perspective of the service, and the investment tools can complement or confirm what your own investment brokerage already offers.
Personal Capital Review: Help Available
Given that the service is more aggregation-focused and less action-focused, it’s no surprise that written support is thin. A contextual help bot resides at the bottom of each screen; you can also leave a message for an agent.
Personal Capital review: Ease of use
To create a free account, simply enter a username and email. The free account gives you access to the Personal Capital Dashboard and all of its tools, including views of your net worth and transactions, sorted by account type.
Next, you’ll answer a few questions about yourself, which the service would use to fill out retirement and savings recommendations (we skipped that). Next, we added Accounts, a simple process of selecting your institution and logging into that institution to authenticate your account information. We liked how Personal Capital was explicitly clear about what information it was accessing from each institution.
Once in the service, you can also add the value of a home (via a Zillow integration), your wallet, and other assets, including cryptocurrency and car loans, and non-digital assets that you can track manually – including art, jewelry and money. . Investment and planning advice depends on the amount of links and shares, of course.
We liked the clean and logical structure of Personal Capital. The right side of the page defaults to a sliding side panel that displays your net worth, assets, liabilities, and accounts all in one place. The rest of the page is divided into different blocks of widgets that display snapshots of different aspects of your account and the market. Personal Capital was the only service to offer a daily account update upon login (and you can email it).
The Personal Capital budgeting feature is listed under the Bank tab and is visible on the dashboard page as a widget. The tool is very limited, but it’s valuable if you want to break down your budget in simple terms. As in “I want to spend X amount per month”. Nothing more. The monthly budget is the only amount you can edit. Everything else is automatically categorized and imported from your transaction data. It shows your spending for the past 30 days and compares it to the previous month.
The savings planner works differently from other services. In Personal Capital, the savings planner targets your investments for retirement, saving for an emergency fund, and paying off debt. But that doesn’t help you with planned savings for vacations or other life events or desires.
Review of Personal Capital: Mobile
The mobile app provides visual snapshots, but it’s not built where you have a lot of actionable stuff. We could view our monthly budget and spending by category, and change our spending goal for the month, but that’s about it for budgeting. In other words, the same functionality as on the web browser, just a slightly different visual presentation. You can also view cash flow, transactions, your net worth, and view your portfolio.
Personal Capital Review: Verdict
Personal Capital has an attractive veneer and some useful tools for viewing your assets, but it’s no substitute for more DIY personal finance packages like Mint or Simplifi, or dedicated budgeting software like YNAB. Any of these three plans will do a better job of determining where your money is going and how much you are spending per week. All Personal Capital does is give you an overall total to budget for transaction expenses in any given month. This is a far cry from YNAB’s active approach, where you allocate every available dollar to a trade or future trade.
Adding accounts was a seamless experience, with the clearest explanations we’ve seen of what you’re granting access to and getting in return. And the dashboard provides a functional and clean view of your finances and cash flow. But ultimately, we found that Personal Capital is big on showing you glamorous graphics, but light on actionable features.