Personal Capital Review: Investment Portfolio Management Tool

Supposedly, the next big thing in financial tools is automated portfolio management – getting a little slice of the billions of dollars sitting in people’s IRAs using mostly computer-generated guidance and less human hand-holding. A recent Slate article discussed three start-ups in this niche: MarketRiders, Betterment, and Personal Capital.

Personal Capital attracted me most because it first lets you become comfortable with them with a nice free “Dashboard” tool that aggregates all your investments in one place. It’s rather like Mint.com, but with more of a focus on investments and asset allocation and less on bank accounts and budgets. The idea is to provide a “holistic” view of your money by letting you see how your money is distributed across all your banks and brokerage accounts.

The tool does provide some nice charts based on your investments. There is a nice visualization that breaks down the different asset classes inside mutual funds, a Checkup tool lists all the fees and expense ratios that you’re paying via ETFs and mutual funds, and you can also add in employee stock options.


(Click to enlarge)

On top of that, Personal Capital is a Registered Investment Advisor. This means they can legally offer investment advice, and also that they must act as a fiduciary and keep your interests ahead of their own. I noticed that they say that if you have over $100,000 in linked accounts, they will assign you a “complimentary personal Financial Advisor”. I haven’t had any contact with one yet, so I’m not sure what kind of limited advice you’d get in a free capacity.

If you decide to hire them to handle your portfolio, you’ll be charged a wrap free that includes the cost of investment advice and all trade commissions. The tiered fee schedule is 0.95% for the first $250,000 and goes down slightly as you increase your assets under management. Even though the Slate article says this is less than what other advisors pay, I would not consider it cheap. If you decide to hold mutual funds, their fees would still be on top of mutual fund expense ratios. They point out that because they rebalance for you, you’ll save money on taxes. I still think it’s too expensive for my DIY sensibilities.

I do like the free portfolio analysis charts though, and I would say currently Personal Capital is definitely better than Mint for tracking investments. But as with similar sites, you’ll need to provide them with your logins and passwords to sync unless you want to do manual imports.

Comments

  1. Has anyone looked at futureadvisor yet? Looks free, unless you want one or more video chats with an advisor

  2. Out of curiosity, why 10% of your net worth in international bonds and what investment vehicle do you use for it?

    AFAIK there are no attractive (expense ratio of under 0.20%/year) international bond vehicles in existence for US investors. The high expenses wipe out whatever yield premium there may be and all you have left is exposure to currency risk with no expected reward. I would simply increase the proportion of international exposure on equity side and make bonds all US domestic where we have some good lowest expense options.

  3. To be “better than Mint” is hardly praise.

    I have had a Mint account for about two years and in that time, I would estimate that the total amount of time that they have had investment tracking working error-free for my account is about nine months, in increments. (Right now, they cannot connect with my TIAA-CREF accounts properly, which has worked in the past. In an email exchange, they admit that they have a back-end process issue with automatic updates – this has been five months now). If you cruise through the Mint online help forums, you will see a lot of this.

    Granted, Mint is free. However, based on this experience I would never purchase a Quicken product.

  4. Do they offer the charts for free? And do they offer any other charts? I’m looking for a site that gives a simple chart showing total contributions, total gain, and IRR on total portfolio (and subsets of portfolios). Yodlee does not currently have much in terms of investment besides tracking account balances (which it seems to be doing accurately again).

  5. I’m trying it out using your link.

  6. I registered using your link and added few accounts. But site seems pretty slow in email sending. i got registration email after an hour . and also i dont see details about when or where or how they send 10$ after i registered

  7. hi jonathan, i came across another product which is similar to this called sigfig. wondering if you have had the chance to use it yet. you can signup by invite only and i am waiting on it.
    let me know what your thoughts are regarding that. also i just hooked up personal capital to my 401k but most of my allocation is coming up as unclassified. how to go about getting that updated.

  8. I used your link. Enjoy the $10. :)

  9. Thanks for the review. To clarify we don’t put individuals into mutual funds, we use a combination of individual stocks and ETF’s. All trading and custodian costs are included in the management fee, so when you take that into account and compare it to a traditional adviser we are significantly less expensive. Our iPad app is also available and most of the functionality from the website is available.

  10. Ah, finally! After several efforts at quicken, spreadsheets and mint (and similar) finally a tool that does what I wanted. I have assets across multiple brokerage/banks and multiple investment vehicles. I have been trying to find a good solution to view and track asset allocation.

    My experience with PerCap: Little sluggish in pulling account info (might get better with more servers). Lack of manual control in some places (e.g. modifying target allocation).

    Overall beats the hell out of all other options I was trying to track asset allocation.

    I got a financial advisor, but I doubt will use him.

  11. @Long Term Returns – That’s not my actual allocation. But the international bonds appear to be inside the huge PIMCO Total Return Fund which is at 0.71% expense ratio, and the only bond fund available in my 401k.

    @Ron – I know what you mean, my asset allocation according to Mint is predominantly “unknown” and “currencies” (I have no currency investments) even though Personal Capital has it figured out. Account aggregation is always going to be imperfect though, it’s like herding cats that you don’t own.

    @Brian – Yes the charts are free. I don’t think they do IRR, but they do have more than other tools I’ve tried.

    @KP – Thanks!

    @nandi – Adding accounts is fast sometimes and slow sometimes, not sure why. The $10 is sent to you via paypal to your registered e-mail address.

    @umair – Haven’t tried SigFig yet. Personal Capital seems to have some problems if your funds don’t have real ticker symbols.

    @Frank – Thanks!

    @Jim – Thanks for the clarification, although ETFs are basically the same idea as I assume your fees are in addition to underlying ETF expenses.

  12. Like the first commenter TedF said, have you tried FutureAdvisor. I just came across this recently based on an article published in Techcrunch. FutureAdvisor does give a good insite into your portfolio across multiple brokerage account as well as give you some recommendations based on your risk profile.

    You might want to check it out.

  13. We have a back end process that cleans up unclassified, it usually takes 24-48 hours to get it resolved. All of your unclassified should be resolved now.

    On the fee front, we try to use individual securities wherever we can, but you are correct, there are fees for when you are in an ETF. Vs a traditional adviser we are significantly less expensive especially for the service we are providing, going straight low cost ETF and doing the balancing yourself is the least expensive option.

  14. @Jim Del Favero – True enough, the unclassified portion has now been classified. Very nice!

  15. Hm, first you pay them to manage your investment and then they invest into mutual fonds which again keep platoons of highly-paid fonds managers. So everyone makes money except you. I prefer companies like MarketRiders or yavalu. They are much more straight forward, transparent and honest about their pricing.

  16. Thank you very much for your information. I have a quick question. As I have no PAYPAL account, will they send me the $10 bonus by check?

  17. @Jim: Don’t know if you’re still monitoring this, but I tried to add my 401(k) account (www.miretirement.com) and it wasn’t listed. I saw that several other M&I sites are listed, but not the retirement site. Is this going to be added? Thanks.

  18. M&I is in the hopper but at least 1-2 months out.

  19. @frank, I asked our marketing person to look into it and make sure you get paid. Thanks

  20. As with any service, be sure you are comfortable with Personal Capital’s privacy policy before giving them the keys to your financial kingdom: “We will share your personal information for our affiliates to market to you. If you would like to limit this sharing, you will not be able to use our services.”

    https://www.personalcapital.com/content/docs/Personal_Capital_Privacy_Policy.pdf

  21. @Peter – Jim Del Favero will probably comment, but I did see that the definition of “affiliate” as “companies related by common ownership or control.” The policy lists no sharing of information with “non-affiliated” companies.

  22. I signed up to check it out.
    The bummer is that the site is entirely in flash.

    I think FutureAdvisor is better (at least from the time I’ve spent on both).

  23. @Eli, I agree – flash is really a turnoff for me as well. The site was unusable with the Chrome browser (Linux). I was able to use the site via Firefox, but it really gives me a “sketchy” feeling when a page won’t load properly in standards-compliant browsers.

  24. @Frank – Send me your email address and we’ll be sure you get paid for the referral. It’s my first name @personalcapital.com.

  25. Till date, not received the $10 bonus. I registered with the same email as my paypal, nothing yet.

  26. We issue referral rewards weekly on Fridays.

    @Ashwin you should receive your $10 on Friday of this week.

    Thanks.

  27. Peter posted Personal Capital’s privacy policy question on March 31st, 2012 and Jim Del Favero who was actively adding his comments here hasn’t responded to Personal Capital’s privacy policy inquiry as of today, june 2,012.

  28. Jiim del Favero says:

    We updated our privacy policy since march to be clearer. The affiliate language was in there because since we have an RIA component.

  29. susan dennis says:

    I’ve been using Personal Capital daily for a couple of months now. I’ve been using Mint for several years. I have 16 accounts to get info from. Each site gets only 15 – and the missing one is different on each site. I’d love to find something that gets them all.

    But, the main reason why Personal Capital is going to get dropped soon, probably, is the flash. I do no use Apple products. I do use Chrome. So I can’t get an unobstructed view of my Personal Capital accounts. (I could swear this problem is new – that when I first started using Personal Capital, it was fine in Chrome but it sure is not now.)

    I do like Personal Capital charts and reporting much better but not being able to see the 25 pixels at the far left is really a deal breaker. Sigh.

  30. Jim Del Favero says:

    Are you on the Chrome beta builds or the production track? The beta versions have been having some issues with flash.

    We are moving away from Flash and have been slowly replacing it, the account listing on the left of the page is html and has been for a few months, the dashboard is next.

    Please feel free to email me and see if I can help with your issue.

    Thanks,
    -jim jim at personalcapital.com

  31. susan dennis says:

    No beta Chrome here. Pure production version. The same far right hand 25 pixels are chopped off from every page.

    Thanks for the offer of email but I used your handy feedback button and just heard from Caesar who requested a screenshot and I sent him one.

    I’m delighted to hear you are moving away from flash. Thank you!

  32. susan dennis says:

    My issue was *MINE*… I was working with a broken Chrome. I hit other issues on other sites and finally figured it out. New Chrome and Personal Capital is now looking FINE again!!

    Plus, I just got a note that my missing account is being looked into. I’m very hopeful.

    I really do love the way Personal Capital slices and dices my info.

  33. Jim – is there a way to add gold holdings or zillow zestimates? Thanks!

    Mike

  34. We allow manual portfolios so you could create a manual portfolio and enter your gold holdings as a manual holding and price it yourself. If there is a ticker that represents the current price of gold you could give that holding that ticker so it automatically prices.

    We’ve had other requests for physical gold tracking and pricing so we’re looking at it.

    On Zillow estimates, nothing so far, we are redesigning our manual account setup and including zillow as part of that effort, so likely Feb before it makes it in.

  35. Rwhrampton says:

    Ive been using personal capital for about a month now. I like it alot and have been referring alot of friends. I posted the referral i to my Facebook and to my blog and a web site I’ve created. It shows how many clicks i have but it does not show any sign ups. I know several of my family and friends signed up over Christmas break. How long does it take for this to show on the personal capital website? How long does it take to get the $10 PayPal sign up and referral bonuses?

    Thanks

  36. No doubt that Personal Capital does the investing side of personal finance better than other aggregators like Mint. But I don’t think they’ll make you give up other services you’re using for a more complete personal finance picture.

    Don’t get me wrong: I also dig the interactive and visual nature of their whole site and Apple/Android apps. The drill-downs are nice, but the flexibility is lacking without granular control over transaction categories and tags like Quicken has.

    Fair warning: the utility of the free Personal Capital services relies heavily on linking most (if not all) of your financial accounts. Because tools like their Investment Checkup aren’t useful unless they have a full view of your financial life. I covered this nuance and a number of other angles in my Personal Capital review, which makes a great supplement to the good stuff you have here, Jonathan. It’s over at Value of Simple if you find it helpful: http://valueofsimple.com/personal-capital-review/

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