Simplest Way to Manage Investments, Spending, And Income: Personal Capital

Personal Capital

I decided to take the plunge into the world of all-in-one personal finance and investing software.  Some folks use Quicken, Mint, or Wealthfront.  I looked at all of those, and tried some but they didn’t quite do what I wanted to do.  They were either too clunky, cumbersome and time consuming to use, or they didn’t get the investment management part done correctly.

Enter Personal Capital.  This is a slick web site that makes managing your finances and investments quicker, easier, and prettier.  All your credit cards, checking, banking, investments, 401k’s, IRA’s, and other accounts are in one place, conveniently summarized.

The online investment and personal finance tracking services at Personal Capital are totally free, no strings attached.  They also offer a financial advisory service for accounts over $25,000 in value, however they do charge a fee for the professional advisory services.  But you can use the investment and personal finance management engine free of charge forever.

 

My First Time Using Personal Capital

After putting in my username and password, Personal Capital got down to business by asking me to put in all my financial accounts.  In about 5 minutes I added:

  • Three accounts at investment firms (1 Vanguard and his and hers accounts at Fidelity).  This includes 2 brokerage accounts, 8 IRA’s, and 1 HSA
  • Two 401k accounts (his and hers) and a 457b account
  • 3 savings and 1 checking account at our credit union
  • A mortgage loan with a different credit union
  • College 529 savings accounts for our 3 kids
  • 3 credit card accounts

This process was amazingly easy to get all those accounts consolidated into one place.

To finish linking all of my accounts, I spent another 5 minutes verifying super secret security questions on a few accounts like what’s my dog’s favorite hobby and which tooth did my second grade bestie lose first.

I expected glitches when I was importing my accounts.  We have 25 different financial accounts spread across ten different companies or login ID’s.  Zero glitches.  Everything imported cleanly and accurately on the first try.  So far, Personal Capital is doing what it is supposed to – streamline my personal finances and investments.

I tweaked the descriptions of a few similar accounts like our his and hers Vanguard traditional IRA’s.  I added my name or Mrs. RootofGood’s name (so I can keep them straight).  Editing these descriptions and names is simple – click the little edit button, change your description, click save.  Done.

I deleted a few duplicate accounts where they appeared both on my Fidelity login and Mrs. RootofGood’s Fidelity login so that these accounts only show up once on Personal Capital‘s display.  Easy again.  This step is where I have had problems in the past with Money or Quicken – getting all the accounts to show up once, and only once (and one reason why I never used them).

I manually add in my cash balance pension fund, and another cash balance retirement account (an ESOP).  The ESOP account balance will have to be updated annually by me when I receive the statement from the plan sponsor.  That’s about the only manual update required since Personal Capital automatically pulls transactions and balances from your myriad financial accounts.

In about 20 minutes I have taken our household’s relatively complicated financial life (27accounts total) and displayed everything on one screen.  With pretty, interactive graphs and charts.

After getting all the accounts into Personal Capital, I wanted to play around and explore the different features and displays.  Income, spending, cash flow, cash balances, portfolio allocation, overview of investment fees – all easily accessible from the Personal Capital web page.  Before using Personal Capital, I had to manually go to all of my investment accounts and credit cards and download then copy/paste the transactions and balances into my own spreadsheets to check on what I was spending or manage my investment portfolio.

 

Income

My monthy income is right there, categorized and summarized in a colorful graph.  Before using Personal Capital, I always knew roughly what we had coming in each month, but this really puts it in perspective with exact numbers and categories.  I was surprised our investment income was over $2,500 for the month.  I never added it up before, and it is surprisingly large.   Now that I’m retired, Personal Capital is going to be a great tool to help me keep track of cash flow and available cash in my accounts.

Income Summary

Root of Good’s Personal Income. The “Deposits” included a large payout of my accrued vacation time (I wish that was what we earned each month!)

 

Expenses

Expenses are as cleanly presented as income.  No surprises here.  Our mortgage is the highest expense, and groceries are the next highest.  The childcare expense is gone now that I’m retired (which also makes me a stay at home dad).

Root of Good's Monthly Expense for September 2013

Root of Good’s Monthly Expense for September 2013

 

Investment Asset Allocation

The way my investment portfolio’s asset allocation is presented is probably the coolest part of Personal Capital.  I try to keep my US investments roughly equal to my international investments, and the graphic makes it easy to tell that I’m within a percent of hitting that goal.

Asset Allocation Summary

Root of Good’s Asset Allocation

 

You can drill down into any specific area in your asset allocation.  I wanted to take a detailed look at my US Stock allocation, to see whether I’m sticking with my goal of maintaining a tilt toward small cap and value investments.

US Stock Allocations

Root of Good’s US Stock Allocation

I’m doing pretty good.  The mid cap and small cap bands together are bigger than the large cap, which is what I want.  The value boxes on the left are bigger than the growth boxes on the right.  I’m on track.

I also took a peek at cash sitting around in my investment portfolio.  Looking at the summary made me realize I have been slightly negligent in investing my cash.  I try to stay fully invested.  I just discovered I have over $15,000 sitting in a money market account (ticker VMMXX) in my IRA from a recent retirement fund rollover.  I also discovered $1,407 sitting in the FDIC-Insured Deposit Sweep, which is our HSA’s cash account.  I thought I was pretty diligent in managing my investments, but staring at these cash balances sitting there earning nothing makes me realize I have a little work to do.  At least now I have a tool to draw attention to lazy cash sitting around!  Let’s get that money making more money!

Cash Summary

Quick look at cash in my investment portfolio. I just found $17,000 in cash sitting around in my portfolio doing nothing!

 

Personal Capital also has apps on Apple Itunes and Google Play Market (for Android).  The apps look awesome, but I haven’t tried them on a phone or tablet yet.

Give Personal Capital a shot and see how you like the look and feel.  I love the interface so far, and it will save me hours each month managing my personal finances and investments.

 

Let me know your experiences with Personal Capital if you try it out!  Anything I’m missing?

39 comments

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  • I love Personal Capital. They’ve came a long way since they started. Two years ago, they couldn’t find a lot of accounts, but now everything is running smoothly.
    You have a lot of international stocks. Are you happy with that decision in 2013?

  • I was really amazed that all my accounts imported correctly on the first try. Even my accounts with my former employer’s 401k and 457 from an insurance company. The 401k and 457 hold (crappy) proprietary funds, but they still managed to pull in the names, expense ratios, turnover ratio, and asset class, just like those funds had ticker symbols.

    I’m ok with my allocations to international (target is 50%). We are at 16.3% return for Jan 1 – Sep 30, 2013 versus 20.4% for S&P 500. I just accept that my portfolio will perform differently than the S&P 500.

    I don’t actually look that closely at investment performance. I’ll pull together a summary quarterly, and then at year end compare how I did versus Vanguard funds in different asset classes. Paying too much attention short term can mess you up long term if you make emotional trading decisions.

  • Interesting … it looks good.

    Also, with $24076 in cash comprising 2.22% of your portfolio, that suggests a total portfolio value of approximately $1.08 million. That’s pretty great for someone at 33.

  • I can’t say enough good things about Personal Capital. I’ve been using them for a few months now and love everything about them. I log onto my account daily just to see net worth updates. The 401(k) fee analyzer is an eye-opener too.

    • Thanks for stopping by Jon!

      I have been pretty excited too. I’m going to run my spreadsheets in parallel with Personal Capital just to make sure they are coming up with the same results. Tracking expenses looks much easier in Personal Capital. Once you categorize an expense type, it appears PC learns to automatically classify that transaction in the future.

  • I’m going to be trying it soon. I’ve been holding off until I get my real estate money reallocated since my analysis would look rather silly right now.

  • Thanks for all your insights, Justin. I’ve been using Mint for a few years and am generally happy with it, so I was wondering if you or others could chime in on what Personal Capital offers that Mint does not?

    • I haven’t used Mint in many years. When I did use it, I had trouble importing accounts and getting transactions to import correctly. I have heard those issues have been ironed out now.

      As for what does Personal Capital offer that Mint does not? It’s hard for me to say for sure, since I’m not very familiar with Mint. From reading reviews about Mint and Personal Capital, it seems Personal Capital is better than Mint on the investments side. More powerful tools, better summaries and displays of holdings, balances, expenses, asset allocation, etc.

      The setup at Personal Capital was pretty easy, and I was amazed that I had zero problems importing all my different accounts. I could see it being useful just for investment accounts if you didn’t care to put in credit cards and checking accounts to manage expenses and cash flow.

      My advice would be to give it 10 minutes and sign up for Personal Capital (links in the blog post above) and put your investment accounts in, then give it a test drive to see if you like it more than Mint or if it has any additional features. I’m curious about your experiences if you give Personal Capital a try.

      For new users, it sounds like Personal Capital is the way to go if you want to manage your investments using their tools.

      • After years with Mint, I just started Personal Capital and will stay with it because, unlike Mint, it can login to my new employer’s JPMorgan 401(k) account. I’ll keep the Mint account, though, for legacy information and in case they solve the JPMorgan 401(k) issue.

        I’m still looking for a financial aggregator that can login to the Banana Republic Credit Card.

        • I was surprised all my accounts loaded so easily into Personal Capital. Very seamless. I somehow never tried Mint to have any comparison, but I heard that they had problems initially with many accounts not linking, and over time they worked it out so that most accounts would link properly.

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  • I’ve been using Mint for years, and Personal Capital (PC) since last November.

    Pros for PC:
    — when I had a question, I got a quick email response
    — they are tied into the same back end as banks and credit card companies, so my accounts update reliably
    — their newsletter has substantive articles and timely commentary. They recently started a series of profiles of “everyday millionaires” with real life summaries of how they got there and how they manage their finances
    — easy setup
    — detailed analysis/charts etc for investment accounts

    Cons for PC:
    — a dealbreaker for me is that you CANNOT DOWNLOAD TRANSACTIONS! Hard to believe, for a supposedly more “professional” site, but so far you can only look but not touch your data. On Mint, you can download ALL transactions. (From PC’s help pages: “Personal Capital currently does not allow you to export or print reports from the application. However, we are working on a feature that will allow users to print or export their reports. In the meantime, we request that you take screenshots of the reports and print that for your records.”)
    — PC won’t link to our local bank where we have several accounts, Mint does
    — they may contact you personally to pitch their financial management services…this could also be considered a plus, if you’re interested in hiring them.

    Pros for Mint:
    — ability to download transactions — at the bottom of the transaction page, it says “Download 4573 transactions?” I say, Yes please!
    — keeps long term history of net worth etc
    — more user-friendly interface IMO

    Cons for Mint:
    — the reason I sought out an alternative (PC) was frustration with too much link maintenance…accounts wouldn’t update and required me to tinker with passwords etc to re-establish connections (so far PC has been solid on this score)
    — lots of “suggestions” for various financial products, but hey, they gotta pay their bills too…and the “suggestions” are unobtrusive

    Overall, Mint feels like a good place to start out learning to budget, save etc; PC feels like a place to take finances more seriously.

    If I had to choose only one, I’d probably go with Mint because I want to download, manipulate and archive my data. But I don’t have to choose, so for now I’m using both. Compared to the bad old days of aggregating all the data myself, I’m grateful such tools exist at all!

    • Thanks for commenting, Steve.

      Agreed on the lack of download really hampering the value. I really wish they had that functionality, and believe me I have asked them. I figured out a workaround of copy/pasting all the investment account holdings into my “portfolio re-allocation tool” spreadsheet. It took a little work to transpose the data from a long single column of data into the data array format I needed for my spreadsheet. But now I have all my investments consolidated in one place, so checking or rebalancing my portfolio takes 2 minutes.

      I haven’t used mint since its early days, so it’s hard to compare. But what I have seen suggests PC is overall “better” if you have (or plan to have) significant investments and don’t need hard core budgeting tools. Which is who I figure will end up enjoying Root of Good the most!

      After using the Personal Capital investment tools, I realize I was living in the age of the dinosaurs with my old manual log in/copy account data/paste data/manipulate data for 10 different accounts instead of doing it for 1 account (the PC consolidated screen) and not needing to manipulate anything.

  • I agree that download ability is a must. There are also 2 more “cons” with PC that need to be addressed:

    Con
    – no ability to add notes to transactions (like “this is a business expense”, or “tickets to Nationals game”)
    – no ability to add/modify categories for transactions (I need to add some specific items like “Car Share” but can’t do it.

    Both can be done in mint.

    • You can edit the “description” field of each item to add notes. Instead of leaving the description as “Walmart”, you can change it to “Walmart – 2 qts motor oil for Accord” for example. For me that’s the same thing as adding a note although I assume there is a character limit for the description field (haven’t encountered it yet).

      As for categories, that’s a good point. I make do well enough and shoe horn all my expenses into the default categories. So far it hasn’t really presented a problem. If you want infinite customizability, PC won’t get you that today.

      • sadly, that’s not good enough for me. The comments are important for me as a separate item in a spreadsheet. Sure, it’s a decent workaround but the usability factor is a big one. I also noticed that I can’t do things like edit items in a group. Once again, I can do it one at a time but the convenience factor adds up. In Mint, when I decide that I want all of the “enterprise” items to be listed in the “carshare” group (which I can’t create in PC – see above), I would search for all of them and change them all at once in Mint.

        That said, I have more faith in PC already. Mint has gone YEARS – multiple YEARS – without a decent feature upgrade, even to fix some glaring bugs that are several years old. PC’s interface is just not there yet, and for me it makes a difference.

        For my business, I use categories, like “business/office equipment” (oh, sub categorization is another thing I can’t do in PC, point Mint) and add notes to most of the transactions to keep track of what each expense was, then I export it all at the end of the year and import it into my taxes spreadsheet to easily track business expenses. All three of those steps (sub-categorization, notes, and export) can’t be done in PC. I hope they add these features and actually be a competitor to Mint, whereas for now I don’t think PC can replace Mint for my purposes. Hopefully that will change soon because I’m dying to get away from Mint.

        • Yeah, if you have a big need for customization and flexibility, it sounds like Mint is the place to go. Or a custom spreadsheet.

          Have you tried Quicken? I know lots of folks use it if they want to get data-intensive and especially if they run a business.

          For me, I don’t really budget in the traditional sense, and I mostly just want to know the totals of what I’m spending (the “big picture”) and PC works great for that level of detail.

          You mentioned editing items in a group – double check to see what PC can do in that area. There’s a way to change a bunch of items at once (like recategorize multiple transactions), but I’m not sure if that would suit your needs. (edit: I see you commented that you saw that option to batch edit. I’ve never actually used the batch edit feature.)

          I really like the investment part of PC as much as the expense tracking/cash flow parts. Everything is right there in one screen and I can quickly see how I’ve done for the day/week/month. I don’t check on it that often, but it’s reassuring to see I’ve “only” lost $10k-20k on a really ugly day in the market since I usually fear the worst (and it’s hardly ever as bad as I guess).

          • Yeah, I like the PC way – I’m actually paying them to fund manage for the time being (trying it out to see if it’s worth the fee). As I said, I really want to get away from Mint because of all of the buggy issues, but it works well for my needs, especially keeping track of business expenses through the year (I have a separate account for business only) and it’s super easy to export all of my data at the end of the year. PC has some promise, if they can add the features to the web interface.

            • I have asked for a download ability (like “export to csv file” or similar). You should bug them about it too, and maybe when they hear the request from enough people, they will implement the option. 🙂

              I’ve contacted PC about a couple of issues specific to my bank and 401k provider, and they fixed those issues for me. They are still young and fixing things, and adding features all the time. Hopefully they can beef up the budget/expense tracking side of the application for power users like you.

          • Yeah, I’ve already submitted some feature requests:
            – create custom categories
            – create sub-categories
            – edit/create tags
            – sort by tag (not working)
            – “select all” in batch edit
            – export csv files

            on the phone, they said they were working on it, but of course they didn’t give any time schedule.

          • maybe they’re reading. 🙂 Thanks for the blog post. Great one.

      • update: I did figure out how to edit multiple items although it’s a big clunky. I have to click each one individually – no way to “select all”

  • I started using PC and have sat through their investment advisory services pitches, the last one going for an hour with PP charts, virtual meeting, etc. I think their fees are very competitive (.87% for my portfolio).

    What I think are flaws in the free site are – no allowing for calculating in other income (e.g. pension, social security) for future incomes streams, no budgeting, no transaction downloads (as other have pointed out). Mostly, I’d really like the ability to have their models consider future income. I think it’s a big flaw. Also, if you use their advisory service, say goodbye to Vanguard, Fidelity or whatever brokerage you use now. It all goes into the custodian they’ve chosen – Pershing. A very reliable and good company, but I have a real attachment to my Fidelity accounts. Probably stupid reason but …

    That said, I’m very seriously considering their advisory service. No mutual funds, just passive index ETF’s, high quality short term corporate bond holdings, and individual equities. They actively manage that in terms of not just time-based but also condition-based rebalancing. It’s better, more involved and cheaper than what Fidelity’s similar service would cost.

    • They sound promising for you!

      I haven’t played with the future income forecasting features too much. I like cFIREsim and firecalc a lot for detailed retirement spending/number crunching and running alternative scenarios.

  • Is anyone concerned about privacy or security with Mint or PC? Enjoying the blog, thanks.

    • I’ve looked into it, and I’m not too concerned. That’s not to say there isn’t any risk. There’s always risk. I was explaining how the system worked to a friend and after learning they ask for usernames and passwords and they are “in the internet” he decided he didn’t want that (so didn’t sign up for the service).

      Personal Capital has a good explanation of their site security here: https://www.personalcapital.com/safety-and-security Worth a read if you’re concerned. From the sign in screens with dual authentication to encryption, they have industry standard security measures in place.

      • So I have to provide PC with my logon credentials to my financial institutions just like Mint requires? If so, that is a huge concern for me. If PC were to become compromised, and someone gained access to my bank/investment accounts, where does the liability fall? Will my financial institutions refuse to cover me because it be like giving someone my credit/debit card? Would PC pay back my losses? There are just so many unanswered questions and untested scenarios.

        I really want to give PC a try, but am reluctant to hand over the keys to my nest egg to a third party. I really wish companies like Mind and PC would work with financial institutions to come up with a “read only” logon that I could safely provide to third parties, without worrying that they could use that credential to withdraw or modify my balances.

        • I understand that completely. I decided it was worth the risk since most (all?) of my financial companies also have safeguards in place to protect me against someone cleaning out my account. Theoretically there’s a risk there but it was worth it to have data all in one place for me.

          Here’s a bit on their security protocols at PC: https://www.personalcapital.com/safety-and-security

          • I decided to throw caution to the wind and sign up with PC for an aggregated look at my wealth. I discussed PC’s security situation with an advisor, and to be honest, I still feel a bit uneasy. However, I went ahead and took advantage of their free portfolio evaluation. After two hour-long discussions with a PC advisor, I decided I would prefer to manage my money myself. But it really was an eye-opening experience. It was cool to see my portfolio sliced and diced in many different ways. Heading into early retirement, it’s just nice to have someone to talk with about this new beginning I’m embarking on. I may end up leaving PC due to my security concerns but I believe their tool is a really helpful in keeping you on the financial straight and narrow.

            • I enjoyed the discussion with the financial planner but also decided to stick with my own investment management. You’re right – seeing your portfolio sliced and analyzed many different ways is very interesting.

  • How about safety? My wife is opposed to “putting our bank passwords out there on the internet” Is anyone else worried about this?

    • I mentioned the safety aspects briefly here in other comments.

      Basically, yes there are concerns but not any more than using online banking in general (ie you could have your account hacked or PWs intercepted any time you are online). I think they know if they have a security breach, they will get roasted and lose a lot of business. 🙂

  • Can I have this Excel template file per email? This file that you used to illustrate your post. I trying to manage to do the same. Thank you in advance.

  • The sharing of sign-in credentials is unfortunately necessary for most institutions. Fortunately some institutions have access codes to allow tools like Mint and Personal Capital access to your data without sharing your sign-in credentials. I know that Mint uses access codes for Capital One 360 (I assume PC would too). When I first signed up for Mint, I was put off by the sign-in credential sharing, so I only linked my Capital One 360 account. Unfortunately not all institutions use such access codes.

    Eventually I decided that Intuit has too much to lose to not provide top notch security with Mint, so I linked all my accounts. While it’s nowhere near perfect, I still find Mint useful for tracking spending.

    Cons for Mint:
    No manual accounts – either Mint links it or it doesn’t exist in Mint.
    Very poor investment tools.
    Unreliable categorization.

    I still haven’t tried PC. I understand it has much better investing tools; however, I’m more concerned with budgeting/expense tracking than investment tracking. For retirement savings, I only have a pension system and Vanguard accounts, so PC’s investment tools wouldn’t provide me much benefit.

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