There are a few options if you want to start tracking your spending and investments. You could always write things down on paper or start an Excel spreadsheet and track everything manually. However, this method has its complications.
- First of all, it is very time-consuming,
- secondly, it is too easy to forget things,
- and lastly, you then need to constantly update it manually if you want to keep an accurate representation.
Even if you get everything right and don’t forget anything, you will need to go back to it every month just to keep it up to date. I can easily think of better things to do with my time and I am sure you can too!
You can easily see how this can get out of hand…
They offer similar services, but they each specialize in key areas. On one hand, Mint offers great budgeting tools, automatically tracks your expenses pretty accurately. It can help you track all your accounts under one simple dashboard.
On the other hand, Personal Capital offers hyper-accurate expense and income tracking and aggregates all of your accounts on one page but also offers one of the best retirement calculator and tracking tool available, focuses on investments with top-of-the-line portfolio management tools, and offers advisory and wealth management services. Another huge plus is that, although both services are absolutely free to use, Personal Capital does not run on ads.
Personal Capital vs Mint
Mint is a free web service to aggregate all of your financial accounts, including bank accounts, investment accounts, credit cards and other loans.
Once you completed the integration, Mint will automatically track your income and expenses and alert you when things are out of your normal activity. They offer a great tool to see your entire financial situation in one glance.
The sign-up process is extremely simple, all you need is a valid email address and a strong password and you are up and going! You can then link your bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts, and then they will update in real time.
Their bill reminders are pretty useful and email alerts let you stay on top of your finances. Alerts will be sent when there is a large purchase, an upcoming bill payment, late fees, loan rate changes, and when you may be in danger of going over your budget.
Mint.com`s strong suit is their budgeting platform. Once you sync your accounts and transactions, it will automatically sort them into appropriate categories going forward. Below, you can see how our transactions automatically got assigned to specific categories. This gets really useful once you want to create a budget or simply track your spending.
For any transaction which does not get sorted properly (which can happen a lot with Mint) you can go select the proper category manually. Personal Capital offers the same thing, however, it has much fewer reported synchronization issues. They use a different aggregator (Yodlee) and it runs much smoother.
Once all of your transactions are properly categorized, you can then budget (planning future expenses). Another option is to look at your spending trends (looking into the past expenses). We prefer looking at trends to discover where we can do better rather than imagining a budget and trying to follow it.
It is never fun to plan a budget and see how miserably
you failed only halfway through the month…
Another useful tool on the Mint application is goal-setting. This can include saving money for specific purposes like college, retirement, a vacation, or paying off debt. Personal Capital also offers a goal-setting tool which goes even more in depth.
Mint’s business model is to recommend new products and, hopefully, make you save on credit cards, investing, insurance and loans. However, we have found these suggestions to be irrelevant to our situation and clearly just advertising.
Other cool features Mint offers are credit score monitoring and bill payments. You can pay bills directly in the app and never be late on a payment again. What is nice about their credit score monitoring service is that it even shows you the impacting factors, and how to use them to improve your score.
Pluses of Personal Capital
Personal Capital offers free tools to aggregate your finances and help you track and master your money. Once you have signed-up, simply link your investing, savings, checking, credit cards and other loan accounts and let it do its magic.
Where Mint excels at budgets, Personal Capital excels at wealth management tools. Their focus on investments is what makes them, according to the many awards they have won, one of the best financial tools currently on the market.
The sign-up process for Personal Capital is free and super simple. All you need is a valid email address and a strong password and you are up and going! You can then link your bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts, and then they will update in real time. However, they do not offer tools for Canadian yet.
They have a growing community and their support staff is very responsive. Unlike Mint, Personal Capital offers quick responses to any questions you might have. They are very responsive and usually fixes issues under 24h.
Just like with Mint, you can easily track your income and expenses with Personal Capital and create a budget. Their spending tool allows you to monitor your spending habits and adjust your lifestyle to achieve your goals.
On that note, their goal setting tool is great to forecast planned spending events. The functionalities are pretty similar to Mint but they go more in-depth in the execution. Their array of tools actually guide you towards your goals rather than simply tracking them.
Made by investors, for investors
Unlike Mint, they analyze your investments and can tell if you are on track. Using their retirement planner, for example, helps determine your ideal asset allocation and lets you play around with different scenarios.
Using real data and Monte Carlo simulations they estimate realistic financial scenarios for your retirement. If you have a 401(k), they can also analyze it to make sure you are not overpaying in fees and that you are in line with your risk tolerance.
Personal Capital determines your risk tolerance, life’s goals and personal preferences to determine how much risk to incorporate into your investment portfolio.
One of our favorite features is their fee analyzer which helps you look at your portfolio holistically. This makes is much easier to see if you are overpaying.
Their focus on investments really makes it the best platform available for DIY investors like us. It even automatically analyzes your current portfolio and compares it to an ideal target allocation designed to maximize your returns while minimizing risk. Pairing this with their fee analyzer is a great way to build a strong portfolio in line with your goals.
For a quicker view, their dashboard is a great way to glance at your portfolio and follow your asset allocation.
Using all these free tools, you can manage the risk and fees of your portfolio but if you are looking for a more hands-off approach Personal Capital’s Wealth Management program can take direct control of your investment portfolio and an investment advisor can actively manage everything for you.
They mainly invest in broadly-diversified ETFs supplemented by a portfolio of stocks to benefit from tax loss harvesting strategies to minimize the negative impact of income taxes.
Personal Capital is in line with our values
Personal Capital recently announced a new service that caught my eye. If you are using their robo-advisor, you can now choose their Socially Responsible Personal Strategy® portfolio which focuses on sustainable investments.
There has been a surge of investor interest in aligning their money with their values. – Craig Birk, Executive Vice President of Portfolio Management at Personal Capital.
Their investment methodology screens U.S. equity holdings based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors to find best-in-class companies in each domestic peer group. Ratings are provided by Sustainalytics, a global leader in ESG and corporate governance research with a history spanning 25 years.
Just like with any of their portfolios, the socially responsible component of Personal Strategy® portfolios will be managed with automation and investing tools including; tax loss harvesting, tax location, rebalancing and fully transparent reporting.
You can even exclude any stock or sector you do not want to hold and customize your automatic portfolio. This is a really cool feature if you want to exclude certain companies that might be green or ethical but still not in line with your values. We explored this topic before and having this customizable portfolio really helps.
We’re excited to give our clients the ability to select a personalized socially responsible investment strategy with our signature promise of a single flat fee as an alternative to paying high fees for an actively-managed portfolio or a tax-inefficient mutual fund. – Craig Birk
What others are saying about Personal Capital
Business Insider calls it; “an excellent robo advisor for its target audience of high net worth investors.”
Sam from the Financial Samurai shares; “It’s my belief that Personal Capital is hands down the best free financial tools you can find online to help manage your finances and achieve a more secure retirement. I’ve tried everything from Excel, to Mint, a plethora of other financial apps, and nothing comes close to Personal Capital’s tools.”
Pete from Mr. Money Mustache tried it and admitted; “After five months of skepticism and trial, I have to reluctantly admit that this company is a worthwhile addition to the modern financial landscape.
While not a clear win over Mint in all areas, I feel that Personal Capital is a much better investment monitor, and works as an interactive teacher in that area as well.”
Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents compares Mint to Personal Capital and mentions; “if your primary emphasis is on budgeting and monitoring your credit, then Mint is the clear winner. But if you’re looking primarily for investment expertise and management, then Personal Capital should get the nod. This is especially true for high net worth individuals, who may be particularly interested in wealth management, private banking services, tax optimization and estate planning.”
J. Money over at Budgets Are Sexy shares;
“I stumbled into this amazing tool over a year ago and I find myself using it almost every day.”
The Mad Fientist says; “For years, I’ve used Mint.com to track and categorize my spending. Since Mint is primarily a budgeting tool, it works great for those purposes but it isn’t as great for portfolio management. I’ve been searching for a better investment management tool for a long time and a few weeks ago, I finally found one – Personal Capital”
Jim Wang over at Wallet Hacks agrees with us that; “Personal Capital is better than Mint if you are focused more on investing than budgeting. If you’re looking for a budgeting tool, Mint is better. [..] Personal Capital was built as a tool to facilitate long-term planning and investing, with budgeting tools added later.”
David Weliver from Money Under 30 mentions; “Over the years, I’ve used and tested dozens of different personal finance apps, but most lose their novelty after a while. I keep coming back to Personal Capital because it’s the one program I’ve found that gives me insight into my entire investing portfolio, which is spread across several different brokers.”
Jeremy from Go Curry Cracker shares; “After 20+ years of practice and experience, I now rely primarily on Personal Capital to do it all for me. It does everything that my old spreadsheet did in a fraction of the time. It’s great… plus, you know… free.”
Joe from Retire by 40 says; “They are bringing financial planning to the masses through their website.” And thinks; “this will help many regular people who are unsure about financial advisors to understand financial planning better. The main website and portfolio analysis tools are free which is awesome for most of us.”
“Personal Capital targets high-balance clients by offering a service that combines robo-advisor algorithms with human advisors. [..] Separate from its managed accounts service, Personal Capital also offers a slew of financial and investment planning tools that are completely free. Users can link their existing accounts and track spending, net worth, portfolio performance, retirement progress and fees.”
All-in-all, we think Personal Capital is everything we could have dreamed of. They do offer pretty much the same features as Mint, but with the investment tools cranked up to the max. On a fun-to-boring scale, their service is right up there with ice cream and hula-hoops.
OK, maybe not that fun but give it a try, it’s free!