Personal Capital: The Investor’s Version of Mint?


In the quest to become wealthy on a finite income, your savings rate dominates all other factors. Because of that, this blog tends to fixate on living happily and efficiently, and the oddly magical lifestyle changes that allow you to drop your spending dramatically even while improving every area of your life.

However, this can lead to a one-sided perspective.

Case A: The Badass Cash-Hoarder

“I can Save like a Madwoman, but I’m afraid to Invest. I have been leading a very efficient lifestyle for most the past eight years, and I’ve mastered the year-round bike commute and the year-round garden. My house is paid off and I have $125,000 in CDs yielding 1% right now and another $150k in the savings account. Is it really a good idea to dump all this into investments that I know nothing about?

Case B: The High-Earning Sensible but Oblivious Guy

“My profession pays well, and I have always lived at less lavish standards than my coworkers. Because of this, we’ve saved up a comfortable nest egg of just over $1 million, invested in a mixture of 401(k), IRA, and taxable account Vanguard index funds. The problem is, I have no idea if this is enough to see us through retirement.

These people have got the savings rate thing down, and thus they are able to accumulate money. But each one is missing one of the key nuts and bolts of wealth and early retirement:

  • You must know how much you are spending
  • You should have a good idea of your net financial worth
  • You must invest your savings productively, rather than just stuffing them under the virtual mattress of a 1% savings account or certificate of deposit.

For several months, I’ve been using a new service called Personal Capital that addresses all of these things in a fairly motivating manner. Somewhat similar to Mint at first glance, this is one of those smooth and glossy programs that automatically collects all your account balances, investments, and spending in one place. You can then log in very quickly and review all your financial transactions at both the high and low levels, to see what you’ve been earning and spending.

I find both Mint and Personal Capital to be significant life simplifiers, because they make things automatic. Instead of keeping track of 10 passwords and trying to make the rounds of every financial account on a regular basis, I now just tap the Personal Capital icon on my phone, enter a numerical PIN, and begin scrolling through the colorful graphs and pie charts of the family’s financial details. Net worth, every spending transaction, and investment allocation and performance.

I already liked Mint and have been recommending it for years, so I was initially skeptical when Personal Capital joined the scene and asked me if I would try out their product. What’s the competitive edge? Is it worth switching from Mint or using both? What is the company’s revenue model and is it aligned with the best interests of the potential customers? I did a bit of research and noticed everyone else had already tried out the company and written reviews. So I decided the best way to verify everything was to throw myself into the system as a customer and soak up the experience for a few months.

Over time, I have come to appreciate what the product and the company offers. My visit to their site (or the phone app) has become a favorite stop on my weekly roundup of the MMM household finances, and thus I figured it is worth sharing a few notes here, in case it motivates any new readers to become more active in tracking their own spending and freeing money from the mattress.

 The Interface

The desktop version of Personal capital has the most features and is the easiest to use. Linking in all your accounts is particularly smooth: click the ‘+’ button, fill out the credentials boxes, and click done. Vanguard, Capital One 360, Lending Club, Your 401(k), your mortgage. Everything updates instantaneously and within a few minutes you have a full picture of your net worth. You are then presented with your “Dashboard”, a screen that gives you your Net Worth, Cash Flow, Portfolio Balances,  looks something like this:

Sample image from personalcapital.com

Sample image from personalcapital.com

Your accounts are down the left, income and spending are front and center, and clicking on anything lets you zoom in on the details of what makes up that category.

For example, when confronted my own dashboard screen like the one above, I was shocked to see $9000 of income and only $854 of spending in the past 30 days. This is an unusual performance even by MMM household standards. However, zooming in I was able to see the rare events that caused this anomaly (a check came in from the business, I spent 11 days in Ecuador and thus the hungriest member of the family was not at home consuming groceries, and we just happened to buy no products or gasoline last month).

When comparing to Mint, Personal Capital gets the nod for the most useful starting screen. Mint opens with a busy text page – the left column is the same with all your accounts. But the right is “Alerts”, “Advice”, “Bills”, “Budgets”, “Goals”, and other things that may be useful to people other than me.


The battle of screenshots could take up several articles in itself, and each company has its advantages. Mint has a better graph of “spending over time” and nicer-looking pie charts in some areas. Personal capital does a more detailed analysis of your investments, identifying the amount you lose to fees each year, and how the assets are allocated compared to their version of an ideal portfolio.  I’m particularly fond of the “Investment Checkup” feature:

My own allocation at the time of update (Aug 2015)

In my case, I get reasonable marks because I do keep most money invested at all times in a mostly-stock portfolio. But I have slightly too much cash because I recently sold a rental house and haven’t finished investing the proceeds. I also prefer a lower bond allocation than most people, because volatility doesn’t bother me at all. However, Personal Capital’s allocation guidelines are solid and if you just follow the recommendations you will probably do better than most of the investing public.

Newer to the scene is their 401k Fee Analyzer. If you link your retirement accounts with other banks, Personal Capital figures out funds you are holding and how much fees they are charging you. Since most people have old 401(k) plans kicking around from previous jobs, the results here will generally be stunning because most company 401k plans invest in terrible, high-fee funds. Luckily this is not the case for me, as I’ve always been a low-fee index investor:

0.09% which is 80% lower than the benchmark, baby

0.09% which is 80% lower than the benchmark, baby

If you do get yourself an account, the final feature worth exploring is the “retirement planner” – a tool that allows you to project how well off you’ll be in retirement based on your current spending and savings rate. I can’t generate a great screenshot for that since I retired ten years ago, but I can vouch that their predictions are realistic as long as you verify that the target spending value is reasonable for you.

All of these differences in focus between Mint and Personal capital are deliberate, and they are caused by the differences of the underlying business model of the two companies.

Mint is a free service, and it earns its money by advertising financial products that may be relevant to you based on your life situation. Credit cards, savings and investment accounts, insurance, and other stuff. Although the product links are noticeable, they are generally relevant and quite possibly useful to Mint users, so they do not bother me.

Personal Capital is also free to use, and has no ads and pushes no products. Instead, they are hoping to build enough trust that you will hire them to manage your investments for you, in exchange for a fixed-percentage fee of about 0.89% of your managed assets (this percentage drops if you have over $1M under management). The only sales pitch is a call or email one of their advisers will send to you after you first set up your account and link in your various funds. And this offer only comes if you have over $25,000 of assets available to manage. Note that you can opt out of future contact as well.

This all sounded pretty mysterious to me, so I decided to dig a little deeper over the summer.

  • On the one side of the argument, I feel that low fees are essential to investment returns – my own investments are in Vanguard funds where the expense ratio is typically about 0.1%. Mutual funds with management fees over 1%, and hedge funds, are generally very poor bets.
  • On the other hand, money that people leave uninvested like the cash-hoarder above is completely unproductive and an even worse bet than a high-fee mutual fund.
  • And the Wild Western investment style that many beginners play with (“I bought some Apple, Netflix, Tesla, and a few penny stocks but I jumped out of them and went to Gold when I heard there would be a government shutdown“), is an even more disastrous approach.

If you add in their understanding of tax strategy and asset allocation, it is easy to imagine how an advisory service like Personal Capital could much more than pay for the ~0.9% that they would charge if you add that option on to the otherwise-free service. But if you are like me and love managing your own investments, you will stick with a little basket of Vanguard admiral funds and watch over them yourself, rebalancing occasionally.

And Personal capital is far from the only manager out there. For example, after I first published this article, many readers came out with favorable reviews for Betterment (automatic investment in existing index funds with lower management fees, in exchange for less personalized service), so do your research before signing up with any paid financial management service.

But instead of turning down the offer, I followed through with the adviser. Through a series of calls and emails, I got to speak with a very knowledgeable financial guy around my age, who happened to be located in PC’s Denver office. After politely grilling him with a long list of somewhat skeptical questions, I learned that Personal follows a relatively passive, index-based strategy. They maintain their own mostly-passive portfolio of stocks representing the US and international economies.

But their twist on investment philosophy is that indices like the S&P 500 are capitalization weighted, so you’ll get a lot more Wal-mart than Whole Foods, and become heavily weighted in tech stocks when Apple is flying high. So instead, they allocate your assets more evenly across sectors and sizes, which effectively makes you buy stocks lower and sell higher.

Indexing purists like me  raise an eyebrow at any strategy that suggests it might beat the market, but at least their principles are sound and I would not expect this strategy to differ much from overall market returns. Their slogans of “We don’t look for home runs”, and “You can’t beat the market by picking stocks”, are very reassuring in this regard. While their own statistics show their funds outperforming the market slightly in recent years, I generally need to see at least a 20-year graph that includes both booms and busts before I will agree that any given strategy is giving the overall index a run for its money.


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. Plus, it is still a fun way to track your spending and net worth, and even the paid asset management is worth considering for people who aren’t naturally interested in managing their own investments. Especially if you would prefer to have a real person around to consult with on financial matters, rather than a collection of books and websites with graphs as oddball engineers like myself choose.

After all, you must understand your spending and you must invest your money, so removing any roadblocks to those goals is important.

If you decide to add this financial tool to your own belt, you can do so using the image below (which will benefit this blog, and thanks!)


And if you have your own experiences to share in the Personal Capital vs. Mint battle, please share them in the comments.

New and Improved: The article above was updated in June 2021 and Personal Capital continues to (slowly) improve, so I still use it almost daily to check net worth and recent investment transactions. The original review was written in October 2013 and my testing started earlier that year, so in total I’ve now been a user for about 8 years.

  • Miss Growing Green October 11, 2013, 2:08 pm

    Great post! I have tried Personal Capital in the past and lost interest because I had a hard time linking a few of my assets. Namely my bank, which is a small, local Credit Union.

    Is there a way to designate certain assets, and their associated income and expenses (i.e. a rental property) without maintaining a separate bank account for the rental?

    I like your point about paying 0.9% to have someone manage your money if you’re currently paralyzed and hoarding savings in CDs @ 1%. For those people, I wonder if they realize they are actually losing money each year since they aren’t even keeping up with inflation. Fear is a powerful thing.

    • retirebyforty October 12, 2013, 3:05 pm

      They are much better now at linking to various accounts. Last year was hit and miss, but now I can link to all my accounts.

    • Jim Wang September 22, 2015, 4:43 am

      I’d check it out again – not sure if they’ll have your local Credit Union but should be an easy check now if you’ve already set most of it up.

      It’s hard to recognize a loss in purchasing power because the number keeps going up. :)

  • Joel Farris October 11, 2013, 2:10 pm

    I love reading that you gave a topic “five months of skepticism and trial” before writing its post. I wonder which posts you’re secretly prepping for now.

    Speaking of financial services, have any of y’all tried out Simple? (simple.com) I’ve been testing it for about a year and I quite like it!

    • Not sold on Simple yet June 29, 2014, 11:56 pm

      I had used simple and up until recently, they would hold money for 10 days if I wanted to transfer in or out. 10 days was far, far too ridiculous for me to consider using it for anything, as my strategy involves occasionally shuffling money about. I wasn’t willing to wait 10 days though. Recently, they changed this to 2-3 days. Which is more standard, but confidence has been hurt. On the plus side, I do appreciate that they send me a notification everytime I use the card. It makes me take a solid second look at the money I just spent, after leaving the store.

  • epowers October 11, 2013, 2:12 pm

    Case A sounds like my mother. She’s afraid of online banking too though, so I’m not sure Personal Capital would really help her.

  • LMaS October 11, 2013, 2:15 pm

    I would totally click your link if I didn’t already use Personal Capital. Why can’t they just merge with Mint for a totally awesome check-up in one place. Mint can’t seem to handle investments, investment income, cost basis, or asset allocation information to save their life. Like you said, I use Mint almost entirely for the “Trends”, and mostly the net income trend at that. I must admit I definitely ignored the calls from the PC asset managers, 0.9%? I’ll stick with the low cost index funds for now…

    Also, because this is certainly the best place to air my grievances with PC, a good 10% of my funds are apparently un-categorizable, why can’t I just categorize them myself?

    • Jim October 11, 2013, 2:27 pm

      We allow for editing of tickers for holdings, so you can go into the account details for your investment account, holdings tab and then edit the tickers for individual holdings.

      Adding in the ability to edit individual holdings and assign an allocation to them is in the roadmap, probably not until Q1 of next year. If you send the fund details to your support staff, we do spend time classifying funds.

      Also on Trends, why do you find Mint’s trends feature more useful than our cash flow feature? We can show income vs spending over time, by category, by payee, and show you your net savings or spending per month.

      • Scooze October 12, 2013, 7:30 am

        If we have a pc rep with us…. I use pc and love it with just a couple frustrations. First, when will tradeking be linked? The second is also about allocation. Index funds are counted as mutual funds but that’s not really how its they’re used. It makes my portfolio look out of whack.

      • LMaS October 13, 2013, 4:51 pm

        Thanks for the response! I probably said I prefer some of Mint’s stuff just because I’ve been using it a lot longer and am just comfortable sticking with what I’m used to, but I’ll give the PC tools a closer look.

    • sobezen September 11, 2014, 4:18 pm

      Mint won’t merge with Personal Capital because they want you to use their own investment platform called Future Adviser. https://www.futureadvisor.com/pricing

      This has become increasing obvious since Mint deleted investments from the budget category. This has forced users to do asinine work arounds. Feel free to read more on Mint’s community where plenty of users are livid by Mints decision to remove investments.

      • like.liberation February 10, 2015, 7:01 pm

        FutureAdvisor (one word, ‘o’ at the end) does not belong to Mint. Mint recommends FutureAdvisor, like it recommends many other services. One reason why is because FutureAdvisor gives you concrete recommendations for your brokerage and retirement accounts for free. Personal Capital doesn’t do that. It’s just an account aggregator. Moreover, PC has a minimum of $100,000 and charges 0.95% at that level. FutureAdvisor’s minimum, for free advice, is $10,000. Lower than that and you should just sock your assets in a low-fee index fund at Vanguard for 0.04 percent.

        • David Robarts July 23, 2015, 12:17 pm

          Just picking a nit, but below $10,000, you can’t get Vanguard Admiral Shares, so the best you can do at that level in a personal account (taxable or IRA) is about 0.17% for Investor Shares of a Target Retirement Fund or Total Stock Market Fund (a few of the more conservative/income focused indexes have slightly lower expense ratios).

  • FinancialFairway October 11, 2013, 2:24 pm

    I think .9% is much too high for asset management fee. The platform is cool, but you could get lower asset management fees elsewhere. Burton Malkiel is involved with a new online asset management website where they charge .25% (wealthfront.com)

    However, this article is a breath of fresh air to me. I get a little sick of the Bogleheads who are only concerned with cost in absence of value. Solid, objective advice is needed in a bad way by most people and is worth the fee as long as it is reasonable. William Bernstein (long proponent of low cost investing) even said that he thinks only about 1% of people are actually capable of managing their own assets.

    I work at a fee-only financial planning firm charging 1% up to $2mm that does comprehensive planning on top of asset management (low cost Dimension Funds). Either this asset management service at Personal Capital is overcharging or we are under charging…and I don’t think we are undercharging.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 11, 2013, 3:07 pm

      Personal Capital does the whole strategic/lifestyle/comprehensive thing too. It’s basically like having a full-time money mogul on speed-dial. “James, we’re thinking about buying an island next year, and Junior will need a 529 savings plan for Harvard. Can you arrange the assets such as to make that happen while minimizing taxes?”.

      • FinancialFairway October 11, 2013, 5:31 pm

        Well that’s better than I thought! I still think that charging .9% for an adviser that you can’t meet with in person is a little bit steep. I also would hope that the “adviser” is a CFP and not just some series 7 broker carrying around that title.

      • Richard Garand October 11, 2013, 9:40 pm

        It sounds like they do a variation of fundamental indexing. There’s a book with a fairly good history of past (theoretical) returns as well as an explanation of why it should work, written by Rob Arnott. If that’s what they’re doing and it works as well as the back-tests shows, then even from the perspective of investment returns alone that fee may be worthwhile. Fundamental ETFs are usually around a 0.7% fee and they typically have a slight outperformance, though not convincing. Emerging market fundamental indexes have shown a very large outperformance since they were first created.

        Unlike many other “market beating” strategies, fundamental indexes don’t seem as vulnerable to traders who figure out what they’re up to. Anything that could seriously degrade the performance of a broad-based fundamental index would also affect a regular index. So at worst it seems like their performance will be around the same as other indexes, and at best it may be significantly better.

        I like the idea of a fundamental index and it seems fairly well researched, but not quite as thoroughly proven as traditional indexes. I’m considering adding them as a portion of my portfolio in the near future.

        • WER October 18, 2013, 11:09 am

          Look at ticker RSP. 0.4% expense ratio w/ significant out-performance relative to the S&P (since 2003, when RSP launched). It’s an ETF than essentially does the same thing as Personal Capital. My opinion is Personal Capital’s strategy is sound – value investors know that equal weighting an index will outperform market cap-weighting. That’s been established in numerous studies and is importantly backed up by common sense. Their fee is slightly higher than RSP’s fee, but you get other services and more diversification (w/ international component). I don’t use the service personally.

      • sdpinaz October 13, 2013, 8:10 am

        …..And don’t forget that the Management fee of .9% is on top of the internal mutual fund fees of whatever they pick for your portfolio. so the fees the customer pays are anywhere from 1.25-2.00% based on what your portfolio composition is made of. .9% is toward the higher end of the industry….. most large, well established asset management companies charge on a sliding scale:
        first 2 million= .75-.85%
        2mill-4mill= .55-.65%
        over 4 mill= .35-.45%

        I am on the board of a small foundation that has its portfolio professionally managed. Total assets of 3.7 million. The total fee structure turns out to be just around 1% with a management fee of .62% for fiscal year 2012. The portfolio managers are all CFA’s (I think actually everyone who works for this firm nation-wide are CFA’s no small feat!) and while the company is nation-wide, the specific portfolio managers and administrator are in Phoenix and the the foundation is in Santa Barbara, they are always available on the phone and those of us on the financial comittee talk frequently with them, and they fly to santa barbara several times per year to present to the entire board, paid for by the management company, so we do see them face to face as often as we need to….

    • Jim October 11, 2013, 3:40 pm

      We use individual stocks for domestic equities, without passing trading, or custodian, costs to clients, and ETF’s for other asset classes. Clients pay management fees and the underlying cost of ETF’s when we can’t use individual securities.

      A fee only advisor charging 1% up to 2 million using DFA funds would be about .25 – .50% more than an equivalent Personal Capital portfolio, not taking into account fees charged by the custodian and any other account or trading fees.

      Wealthfront and Betterment are great for a simple lower cost automated solution.

      • FinancialFairway October 11, 2013, 5:37 pm

        This is not true. Our 80% stock 20% bond DFA model portfolio has a 22bp expense ratio. So that’s 1.22% all in for comprehensive financial planning (tax planning, education, debt, estate planning, etc.) and asset management.

    • rjack October 11, 2013, 5:14 pm

      I think FinancialFairway brings up some good points. I look at the whole investment management and asset allocation thing as a spectrum of possible choices depending on the individual:

      1) Self-manage (cheapest)
      2) Web-based management (wealthfront, Personal Capital, etc.)
      3) Face-to-face financial planner (most expensive)

      Personally, I’m very comfortabe self-managing, but I used to work at a bank and I have an MBA. Others would be smart to use Face-To-Face if they are very nervous during market downturns.

      • FinancialFairway October 11, 2013, 5:47 pm

        Very well said. If you have the time, energy, interest, and discipline you should without a doubt manage your own assets and save the 1% advisory fee.

      • sdpinaz October 13, 2013, 8:26 am

        I think you will find that a face to face financial planner usually doesn’t cost more than the web-based management if you find the right company, and there a lot of them… I am NOT talking about EdwardJOnes or Scchwab or your local bank, but a large well established financial firm that charges less than .85-1.00%…….

        • FinancialFairway October 14, 2013, 7:16 am

          I think you are correct, you shouldn’t have trouble finding a CFP designated fee-only financial planner to meet in-person with for the same price as the Personal Capital advisors. I don’t think you will find many comprehensive financial planners who charge less than 1% if you have assets under $500k though. Our fees are 1% up to $2mm, .75% $2-5mm, .5% $5-10mm, and .25% for $10mm plus. Now if you strictly want investment management (for a foundation or corporation) then fees should be way lower. We have a $40mm institutional client that gets charged .10%.

          Fees all depend on what you are getting i.e. cost vs. value. Fee percentage should go down as asset level increases, you should get charged significantly less for investment management without financial planning.

    • Paul F. October 11, 2013, 5:15 pm

      How are you “fee only” if you charge a percent of assets?

      • FinancialFairway October 11, 2013, 5:54 pm

        You may be confusing “Fee-Only” with “Fixed Fee.” Fee-Only is characterized by not accepting commissioned based on the investment recommendations and only a fee from the client in order to deliver objective advice. “Fixed-Fee” are those that charge a one-off fee for “financial plans” rather than an ongoing service. You might see fixed fee with people who have a very small amount of investable assets. Both however mean no commissions unlike most “financial advisers.”

  • mollyjade October 11, 2013, 2:30 pm

    I really really like the way personal capital presents information. It makes a lot more sense to me than my current excel calculations. However, my husband, who works in cloud computing, thinks that it isn’t secure enough. I wish there were a similar product that I could buy and install on my computer so I don’t have to give out my passwords.

  • John Dough October 11, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Just a minor point;
    With mint.com as with Facebook we are not the customers, we are the product.
    The advertisers are their customers.

  • Mrs PoP October 11, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Admittedly, I have a mint bias, having been a mint user since they opened their beta testing to the public. But I did give PC a shot after Mr 1500 wrote about it a while back.
    While I did find the fee analysis of personal capital interesting, it definitely didn’t feel like a one-stop-shop for our financial needs. Perhaps when more of our income is coming from investments I’ll revisit the decision to largely set it aside, but for now I much prefer mint.
    Maybe it’s just me, but one of the main aspects of personal capital that I didn’t much care for was how PC structured its weekly email. Where mint’s weekly email is more about “where your money went” with balances secondary, PC’s was all about “your portfolio is up/down” and here’s how it stacks up to NASDAQ and S&P500. I find it harder to stay zen about the weekly movements of the market the more I get poked and reminded about the movement of our balances. (My answer to this was to auto-filter all of PC’s emails to a subfolder, but as a result I never look at any of them and virtually never sign into PC.)

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 11, 2013, 2:59 pm

      This is a good point Mrs. Pop – I found those weekly emails to be silly – the wise investor does not benefit from getting a weekly update on how the random market fluctuations affected their portfolio balance.

      But you can turn them off under settings -> email preferences. I turned mine off as soon as I noticed the mails.

      On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind an email with a summary of my weekly spending.

      • cl October 11, 2013, 4:22 pm

        I read my financial summary from Mint.com on every Friday. Sometimes I writhe in shame, but most times I’m happy with the money I’ve spent. :)

      • Leah October 11, 2013, 11:10 pm

        Those weekly Mint emails were super useful when I was in India on my honeymoon this summer and didn’t want to log into my banks’ websites in sketchy internet cafes! That said, I’ve been using PC exclusively for 3 months and I like it a lot, all the Mint adds were extremely off-putting, and they wouldn’t let me manually add student loans they didn’t recognize, wtf? Not useful when trying to really examine net worth.

    • Jim October 11, 2013, 3:23 pm

      Good point and we’ve had the same discussions internally on balancing most customers desires to know what’s going on in the market vs how unwise it is to have short time horizon thinking. We are going to be redoing the daily email (which is focused on spending transactions) and the weekly email in the coming months, so would love to hear more about what people would like to see in those.

      • Scooze October 12, 2013, 7:36 am

        Also, can bonds be broken out differently
        than stocks? I haven’t calculated it but it seems as tho the entire portfolio is compared to the markets’ performance.

      • Justin October 12, 2013, 11:30 am

        Speaking of “short term horizon thinking”, I don’t know if you can get much shorter than the idea of a “You Index”… this appears to just be an index that tells you how well your portfolio did during the last trading day… meaning it sits at 0% all day, then when the market closes, tells you how well your portfolio did relative to a few other metrics that day. How is this useful, and why is this the only thing available to show with a widget on Android? I suspect the answer is “privacy”, since this widget only shows the funds and share price that you’ve invested in, and not the amount of each fund that you have, but I’m not sure what that information gets me, other than warm fuzzies when it’s green, and joyous greed when it turns red right before one of my automated investments goes through.

        This is one area that Mint definitely beats out PC, the Mint widget allows me to show all my recent transactions right on my home screen, making it super useful to check what’s happening with my accounts at a glance.

  • Just-Some-guy October 11, 2013, 2:34 pm

    Thanks – that looks cool. I saw an earlier article of yours about Mint as well, and read the debate about the wisdom of using Mint.com from a security standpoint. I’m a software developer, and I’ve recently been studying software security. I was in some security sessions in a software conference where the presenter showed some pretty eye-opening/scary stuff. The gist is that there is no real security, despite all the encryption algorithms in place. Judging by some of his remarks, it is laughably obvious (to him) that using mint.com or anything like it is incredibly foolish. Other software security ‘experts’ seem to have the same opinion. To paraphrase, “You really want to give someone all your usernames and passwords just for the convenience of seeing pretty graphs and all your info in one place?” The more reasoned argument is that, as a basic principle of security, you should only give out just enough information that some ‘worker’ needs to do the job for you. Giving mint.com all my financial usernames and passwords, with all the power that comes along with it, is probably just asking for trouble. I’m not saying Intuit will abuse their user’s trust directly (though they could), but they might be attacked. “Hackers” effectively shutdown Iran’s nuclear operations. It is not unlikely that mint.com could be compromised.
    I wish there was some way to give Mint.com and others like it a read-only username and password. That would be much more secure, I’d think. What if it were some standard that banking institutions provided. Maybe you could set up your read-only account yourself – you could specify exactly what information is available to it, what operations, etc… You could shut it down completely, without affecting your normal user account with the banking institution.
    Until something like that becomes available, I think I’ll stop using Mint and just buy Quicken.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 11, 2013, 2:50 pm

      Good point, and I am interested in the same thing as most of my own software career was spent in areas related to encryption and information security.

      My own philosophy is that in the financial world we rely on “The Safety of the Herd”.

      Sure, 128-bit encryption itself is infinitely secure for practical purposes, and nobody will guess your password using a brute force approach because there is no way to test millions of combinations through a slow web interface which allows only 3-10 mistakes before locking the account. But our financial data is spread out among dozens of companies with transient staff and occasional security holes. Accidents will occasionally happen and you read about them in the news frequently.

      The only reason I feel reasonably safe is that the probability of actual un-recoverable theft on a per-person basis is very rare. Multiplying the expected loss by the probability of it happening yields an expected value in the pennies or low dollars depending on your assumptions. Since my benefit from these tools (and from using credit cards) is considerably higher, I happily place my bet.

      The whole financial system is built on trust rather than true security, and this is just another example where you have to grin and throw yourself in.

      But if you’re considering quicken, you should definitely look at You Need a Budget first: http://www.youneedabudget.com/

      • Brian October 11, 2013, 5:05 pm

        I know banks advise against sharing passwords and account info – I wonder if using these services void any sort of bank “warranty” if your bank account is compromised (for any reason)?

      • Sir Osis of DeLiver October 12, 2013, 12:17 pm

        I’m in software security, and I tend to share your view about the expected value of potentially losses. When my family asks, I just encourage them to make sure that they spread large amounts of money or investments across a few different institutions so that all their eggs aren’t in one basket. (And that’s not just to protect against hackers, but because individual institutions can fail — tying up your assets even if they’re eventually covered by insurance — or have non-security-related problems with their systems, etc.)

        One caveat to your characterization, though: The bigger risk than brute-force attacks via a Web interface is that the hackers manage to get hold of the actual user database with passwords in it. Then they can, at their leisure, apply unlimited power to cracking the passwords, which will be fruitful especially if people use weak passwords or if the implementation is not correct (e.g. passwords are stored encrypted but unsalted).

        This is one important reason not to reuse passwords across different high-value services. If your credentials to, say, your favorite Web forum are compromised (which is much more likely than your bank itself being successfully attacked), and you use the same username and password for your financial accounts, that could be bad.

        Anyway, though, I don’t encourage paranoia. And what’s the alternative, keep your money under your mattress? No thanks.

      • WageSlave October 12, 2013, 9:23 pm

        Another suggestion for a similar offline tool, if you’re concerned about online security: GnuCash. Free/open source. Doesn’t look as pretty as PC, and doesn’t auto-download account info. A bit of a learning curve, but you come away having a basic understanding of fundamental accounting principles.

      • Herr Handlebar October 13, 2013, 7:54 am

        I am a software developer with a focus on software application security.

        I use Mint and have considered checking out Personal Capital but I continue to have grave concerns about the security of these service. It continues to shock me that I can more securely share my Facebook status updates than I can my banking information. The fact that these financial analysis sites have to escrow my credentials for all of my vital banking and investment accounts seems insane to me. Regardless of how these credentials are stored they must at some point be available to the application that collects data from my various financial institutions. There will always be a significant point of vulnerability with this scheme. Why on earth can’t banks empower investors to securely leverage these tools using authorization technologies like OAuth?

        As a result I have begun interacting differently with these tools. I allow them to update my data at the beginning of each month and then I log into each of my most sensitive accounts (my credit union, brokerage account, etc.) and I change my passwords. For a month the account linkages are broken. It is more labor intensive but given what is at stake I think it is a reasonable balance between enabling insight into my financial status and securing these valuable resources.

        I do not find any comfort in the safety of the herd which I find to be a form of security through obscurity. The risk here is that one of these enterprises could be thoroughly compromised akin to the 2005 compromise of Card Systems Solution, the 2007 compromise of TJ Maxx, the the 2011 compromise of the Sony Play Station Network or the recent compromise of Adobe. In this situation there is the potential for all banking credentials of all active users to fall into the hands of criminals. Your savings accounts and brokerage accounts are very much unlike a credit card account. You cannot guarantee your losses will be returned to you. Compromise of my banking credentials is an incredibly unlikely event with potentially devastating consequences. It is a high impact event with a low likelihood.

        I can afford to take a few minutes (rotating my banking credentials) every month to ensure my peace of mind.

      • anom October 15, 2013, 11:08 am

        In Canada, the banks have made it clear that if you share your password with services like these and your account is compromised (in any way), you are SOL. Whereas if you use the bank’s own online banking system, and there is a security breach, etc., the bank is liable.

        While I do find services like Mint useful, the risk is very different between using online banking in general and using these aggregation services, at least in Canada.

      • Saskia October 17, 2013, 8:38 am

        More life-changing info from MMM–thank you! I’d never heard of YNAB before. We downloaded it after reading your comment and I can already tell it will really help us kick a few lingering, anti-mustachian spending habits. You’re the best, MMM!

    • Jim October 11, 2013, 3:05 pm

      Obviously since I work on financial software and have been building and supporting aggregation solutions for years, I’m of a different opinion. I find more value in being able to spot fraudulent transactions, identify service charges and fees, and see everything in one place than in the potential downside of having a third party company, in this instance Yodlee, that provides account aggregation to financial institutions have access to credentials.

      Quicken uses the same connectivity as Mint for connecting to probably 60% of the financial institutions it covers, so your credentials are stored in the cloud there as well.

      • Tim October 11, 2013, 4:05 pm

        Jim, perhaps you’re using a different version of Quicken than I am, or you have it set up differently. My version of Quicken requires me to enter my password each time it retrieves information from a financial institution. It most definitely does not store my credentials in the cloud.

        • Jim October 11, 2013, 5:14 pm

          It’s detailed in the Quicken End User License Agreement

          Section 3.1 subsection a. in the 2014 version

          This has been the case since Quicken 2006

          • Tim October 11, 2013, 5:21 pm

            That section is specifically about the Quicken Connected Service for your mobile device.

            My version has no language for storing passwords.

    • Mike October 11, 2013, 7:02 pm

      Capital one 360 / share builder both have read-only passwords specifically for use in these tools. I wish more companies did this!

    • sara October 14, 2013, 11:50 am

      So, I tried Mint briefly and just didn’t find it useful. In terms of the security issues folks flagged: If I terminate my Mint account, will all my linked data still stay there in the cloud, or is there a way to cut off the account that would also disconnect the information?

      If so, can any of you smart tech-y people here advise me on the steps to take to end the account in a way that also disconnects the data?

      • Herr Handlebar October 14, 2013, 11:48 pm

        While it is likely both services would make claims about deleting your stored banking credentials the only way to be certain is to change your passwords and security questions at your financial institutions.

  • Josh October 11, 2013, 2:35 pm

    I’ve been using personal capital for a few months now and like MMM have been using Mint for years. At first both seemed very similar, and I’m supportive of both business approaches.

    Personal capital for me seems to have a much cleaner UI. Although I have to admit I’ve fallen into the tried and true Mint. I guess old habits are hard to quit. On the plus side for personal capital I’ve been able to add my mortgage holder, that for whatever reason I was unable to add in Mint.

  • Insourcelife October 11, 2013, 2:39 pm

    Good review as I was curious if PC had any advantages over Mint for me. I use Mint and have no zero complaints. Some of the PC features are nice but there is not enough to warrant a switch from Mint or – even worse – using both. BTW, how are they about auto categorizing transactions? That took a while on Mint but now it’s working very well!

    • Justin October 12, 2013, 11:38 am

      I just started using PC in addition to Mint… oddly enough, they’re good at auto categorizing *different* transactions well… some Mint catches automatically and categorizes correctly, but PC misses entirely, others PC gets right and Mint misses out on. I haven’t found a way in PC to make “rules” yet, so I’m unsure if it learns over time based on how you manually categorize or not…

  • Questioner October 11, 2013, 2:49 pm

    Are you getting anything from Personal Capital in exchange for this positive review? I’ve been seeing a lot of bloggers suddenly post about this website from out of nowhere. Financial Samurai is another blogger who out of the blue started selling their services like crazy. I just think it’s fair for your readers to know. You were a bit vague in the post.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 11, 2013, 3:18 pm

      Yes, Questioner. Although there will never be any sponsored posts on this blog, as I mentioned they do pay a referral fee if someone signs up using the link at the bottom of the article.

      The presence of all the other positive reviews in the blogosphere is the main thing that made me waffle for five months before deciding to write this post – I hate the thought of becoming a marketing mouthpiece for any company so I’m less likely to write about something if I hear about it from the company itself instead of a friend.

      But in the end, it proved useful enough to warrant this post in my judgement, especially as a way of reminding people to get in the investing and tracking habit.

      • Another Questioner October 12, 2013, 7:58 am

        I give you permission to collect referral fees using your own site, and your ambivalent review doesn’t call into question your objectivity. However, the defensive comments from Jim do make this post seem like part of an orchestrated social media campaign to generate cross-platform buzz across the blogosphere or something. What’s up with that?

        • Mr. Money Mustache October 12, 2013, 10:15 am

          You’re sort of right about that: younger companies like Personal Capital, Lending Club, Republic Wireless, Treehouse, etc. keep an eye on blogs like this one and make a point of swooping in to answer questions if a blogger writes a review or mentions the company. It’s not orchestrated on my part, but when the webmaster of personalcapital.com sees a bunch of visitors stopping by from mrmoneymustache.com, they of course tell their coworkers and some will come over to check it out.

          You’ll even see it in the reviews section of products on Amazon.com It’s a reasonable approach for these companies to use: taking the customer support out to the people. But it takes a trained hand not to appear defensive, since sometimes a critical review will feel like an attack to someone who designed a product or started a company.

  • Ottawa October 11, 2013, 2:56 pm

    Sadly, I don’t believe it works for folks outside the US. :-(

  • Albie October 11, 2013, 3:16 pm

    I’ve used Quicken for well over a decade and it doesn’t display my income and expense report as well as it used to in previous versions. It includes transfers from different accounts as income and it skews the numbers badly. PC or Mint sound good but I physically can’t make myself reveal my passwords and IDs to a totally strange entity. Am I too paranoid?

    • Ryan October 11, 2013, 10:26 pm

      Albie – You should be able to modify your reports to account for transfers appropriately, or how ever you want to track things really. In the “customize” dialogue in any spending type report, you have to be mindful of (1) which accounts you have selected on the accounts tab, (2) which categories you have selected or de-selected on the categories tab, and (3) make sure to set the drop-down box on the advanced tab to “exclude internal” for transfers. I think you need to make sure you don’t have the relevant bank/investment/credit card accounts checked as a category for tracking; otherwise, the report will show (for example) a payment from your checking account to the credit card account as an additional “expense,” when really the expense was incurred and already tracked in the credit card account itself (i.e., is now double-counted in the report).

      Hope that helps. I’ve used Quicken for many years, but it took me FOREVER to get my configuration setup the way I like it (and I’m an accountant).

      • Albie October 15, 2013, 4:13 pm

        Thanks Ryan, that worked beautifully.

    • Kellen October 12, 2013, 9:39 am

      Mint has a similar problem – for example, I use paypal and bill me later, and it frequently records duplicate or triplicate transactions when I buy something will bill me later, since it shows up on both statements.

  • Micro October 11, 2013, 3:19 pm

    I have used both account but I am a bit more biased towards Mint for two reasons. One is just because I’ve had the account with them longer so I have more data to play with. That isn’t really a knock on Personal Capitol, it’s just more so timing. The other factor though is I’m more interested in tracking spending and debt payments than I am analyzing my portfolio. Once I knock out my debt, maybe Personal Capitol will be used more to track my investments. Of course, if either of them actually figures out how to properly track Lending Club, they will have my allegiance.

  • Passivization October 11, 2013, 3:58 pm

    I am currently looking for a better way to track my finance, I am using spreadsheets…. The issue is that Mint looks like orientated specifically to USA, I am living in Ireland and I can’t link my account and use many of those great features, do you know of a more generic alternative??

  • Stephanie October 11, 2013, 4:00 pm

    We’ve been using Mint for years and love it. Since we are in the thick of paying off serious law school debt, we’ll stick with Mint for now. In three years, when we have no debt, our savings rate will be awesome… then we’ll check out Personal Capital!

  • Gaming Your Finances October 11, 2013, 4:02 pm

    Financial services like Mint and Personal Capital provide a wealth of customer information for these companies. How do you feel about the idea that they could sell your information in the future? They could also target customer groups with scary accuracy and efficiency.

    For now we’ve chosen not to use these free tools. We have an investment and savings plan that we revisit three times per year. While its not as fancy as the services above we do feel that it gives us a good balance between efficiency and control, plus we keep our own data.

    • Weirdo October 12, 2013, 3:28 am

      Wise decision to ignore these “services”. As John Dough already pointed out, you would be the product (read: victim), not the customer. And that’s not a minor point. Like medical records, financial details reveal much of your personal life and once they fall into the wrong hands you stand baby-ass naked. And falling into the wrong hands (of an e.g. disgruntled employee or the cold hands of the NSA) is easy today.
      That’s why you need to keep this stuff out of the Internet as much as possible. I can’t see why anyone would be so dumb and offer these businesses some of their most private details for free in return for intransparent “advice”. How dumb can you be ?
      Get a decent spreadsheet, retain control and you’re done.

      • Mr. Money Mustache October 12, 2013, 10:32 am

        That’ll work too. Just make sure your defensive stance doesn’t creep into other areas of your life, as it’s a poorer way to live in general:


        For every time you get burned from trusting too much, you get rewards that are several times greater by being more trustful. Of course, the trust is best invested in people or reputable organizations, not multilevel marketing or Internet get-rich-quickly schemes.

        I take more risks now partly because I’m in a less fragile position, and because any burns I receive would make a great story on this blog, which could in turn help prevent other people from repeating the mistake.

        • Justin October 12, 2013, 11:53 am

          Additionally, using these services can actually help you catch a number of financial issues. I know Mint has already saved me a $2 monthly “paper statement” fee from one of my new accounts that I didn’t realize I was paying, and a close friend found out that he has been paying for a gym membership for 2 years in a town he no longer lives in!

          The statistical likelihood of someone hacking Mint and getting access to all the accounts (and then quickly acting on it on all accounts simultaneously before anyone notices and sends out emergency alerts) is far lower than the likelihood that you’ll be autosubscribed to something you didn’t realize, or have a fraudulent charge to your debit card. Especially when you think about how restrictive most financial institutions are… my bank sends out a notice via email whenever I connect a new account to transfer to, Vanguard does the same, and it takes like a week to actually get any money out of it.

          I don’t like to take unnecessary risks with my money, but in this case, the rate of return on using these services is high enough, and the risk low enough, that I’m fine with the risk. Especially if the alternative is manually logging into a bunch of different sites to verify that everything “looks fine” on a daily basis. The opportunity cost of your time should definitely be considered (as well as the risk that your manual scan will miss an errant charge, human beings aren’t great at parsing row after row of financial transactions)!

        • Another Questioner October 12, 2013, 2:34 pm

          Trust is good inside your monkeysphere (and a little bit outside it), but we specks in a database are so far outside PC’s management’s monkeysphere that more than a little skepticism is in order…


    • Leslie October 13, 2013, 11:45 am

      Money Dance is free as it is an open source program–although it doesn’t have the pleasing interface of Personal Capital. We just set up automated direct deposits twice monthly into our Vanguard investment accounts through our credit union.

  • Mad Fientist October 11, 2013, 5:41 pm

    I always found the investment management side of Mint to be underwhelming so I had been searching for a replacement for quite a while. I just came across Personal Capital about a month ago and have really enjoyed using it so far.

    The software is beautifully designed and I love the fact that the first thing I see when I log in is my net worth and an income/spending comparison.

    I plan on keeping Mint around for spending categorization purposes but Personal Capital is definitely my go-to now for anything portfolio related.

  • Chris October 11, 2013, 6:53 pm

    Can anyone tell me whether Personal Capital allows 2 people with shared joint accounts and individual accounts (IRA, 401K etc) to set up a household profile to track net worth? Last time I checked mint does not support this and it is a feature I would love in a product like this. Thanks…

    • Justin October 12, 2013, 11:41 am

      I see no such option… other than actually creating an entirely separate account on the site that you only added your joint accounts to, but Mint would support that as well.

      • Geek October 13, 2013, 11:30 am

        I got their standard >100k investor mail and tried asking this question.


        Ah well, Mr. Geek and I just put all our accounts in one spot and share.

      • donster October 13, 2013, 10:26 pm

        I’ve been using Mint for the past 2.5 years, but the main difficulty I’ve had with it when the rare bank takeover occurrs, you’d have to hide the former bank from Mint and access your new account. Regrettably, I didn’t read the fine print and deleted the old account when RBC Bank was taken over by PNC Bank, and I lost all of my past net worth info. A similarly related botch in Mint is when your financial advisor moves your investments from one custodian to another. Remember to use hide, or better yet, simply don’t delete accounts to maintain an accurate net worth statement.

    • Kat October 15, 2013, 7:32 am

      Hi – I set up PC and was able to add accounts for the assets under DH’s name as well as mine. I just had to know the logins. HTH.

  • Another Reader October 11, 2013, 7:14 pm

    I have been using Yodlee-based systems for years. Mint started out with Yodlee and moved to proprietary software when they were bought by Intuit. Right now I use My Portfolio at Bank of America and My Spending Report at Wells Fargo. For the heck of it, I opened a Personal Capital account and spent most of the afternoon inputting and fixing things. Sure hope it learns how to classify transactions and does not decide I spent $14k on clothing and shoes every month. Wells Fargo has the ability to make a rule for a company or a dollar amount. That really reduces the time spent hunting for classification errors.

    The income classification does not have a category for rental income. I had a choice of other income or investment income. Jim, please consider adding that. Also, you have to understand the difference between deposits and transfers, or you will not calculate your income correctly.

    The interface is nice, and I like the portfolio analysis tool. It is not as detailed as I would like, and because I have a complicated portfolio, the program crashed on me several times. I dumped Mint in part because I felt it treated users like 5 year old kids. There’s no hand slapping admonishment for having spent that $14k on clothing and shoes.

    Like the others, there are some financial companies that just don’t play well with Yodlee. Prudential is one. All three Yodlee programs need to add the new GE Capital Bank, which is different than GE Capital Retail Bank.

    I think the program has a lot of potential and I will be interested to see where you take it from here. Despite the hacking risk, I’m going to keep my account open and see how it works for my situation.

  • 1winedude October 11, 2013, 7:34 pm

    I loved PCs interface, but has far more issues updating accounts with PC than with Mint (& I’m not using accounts at places that are obscure, either). What soured me most to PC was the call from the adviser. Nice guy (looks like the same one you had signed in those screen shots), but I couldn’t get behind the idea of “improving”on indexing. Actually, I should say that I couldn’t get behind the idea of using a method that was not yet time tested to potentially improve on something that has decades of incontrovertible evidence supporting its superiority over every other method that’s been meant to improve on it (& any method that is attempting to beat the market is theoretically simply trying to improve on indexing… OK, that was too deep, but you get the idea). No way I’m ready to pay for that. But the software as a tool for tracking net worth is great.

    Finally, I’d add that the transfer money option scared me a little bit. I know their security is tight, but I liked the fact that Mint is only ever read only access to the accounts.

    Anyway, nice write up!

    • Steve March 18, 2014, 2:28 pm

      Behind the scenes both PC and Mint use the same intermediary service to pull your data. PC is no more nor no less “read only” than Mint. Which is to say, just because their web site is a read only view of the account, does not mean much. A hacker is not going to try and hack your Mint account. What they want to do is get access to your bank username and password that Mint (or PC or Yodlee) is storing, and use that to log into your bank’s web site directly and initiate transactions there.

  • Bryan October 11, 2013, 7:41 pm

    Knowledge is power, so thanks for the post MMM. I wasn’t familiar with Personal Capital, so I’ll look into it. I like the array of data and the interface you showed in your screenshots. I think the struggle they will have involves the high switching cost of customers shifting over…..not in terms of cost of course, but hassle, time, and trust. I know in my case I am very slow to change banks or brokers.

    Mint is one hell of a tool, which is also something to consider…..so I liked the idea another poster had about them merging. Anyway, thanks for the information. Isn’t it crazy to think our parents had no choice but to pay high brokerage and management fees.

  • Jake October 11, 2013, 8:39 pm

    I’m always trying new apps and things especially ones that have to do with personal finance, so I tried PC a while back. It wasn’t any good back then so I went back to Mint.. But I’ll give it a try now that it’s been updated… And as everyone has pointed out Mint is no good with investments.

    Btw I’ve been a reader since I came across your blog back in April (thanks to the mention on WaPo) and have been hungrily making my way through all the posts BUT this is my first time commenting.. So I gotta say Thanks Pete. I love what you’re doing with this blog. Thanks to your advice I’ve made our household’s spending leaner and more effiecient…
    Started biking, downgraded from a 2010 Ford Fusion to a 2005 Prius (recovering $5k in the process).

    I was the type to keep close watch of my expenses for a while now, but reading through your posts has made me much better at reducing my spending.

    I look forward to learning more and growing my own badass Money Mustache :)

  • Ellen October 12, 2013, 5:28 am

    Does anyone know of services like this or like Mint working in other countries? I am still sticking to a home made excelsheet for my spending because I haven’t found anything else working properly in the Netherlands. It is usually only available for the US and Canada.

    • Michiel November 19, 2013, 11:50 pm

      I asked the Nibud about this, and they said that there are several online and offline solutions in the Netherlands. They specifically named Afas (online) and Cashflow (offline). If you enter “digitaal huishoudboekje” or a related term into your search engine of choice, you can probably find others. I’ll certainly be taking a look around, myself!

  • Nitin October 12, 2013, 6:01 am

    As a Canadian with both Canadian and US accounts, Mint (US) serves my purpose the best since I am able to link both US and Canadian accounts in one place.

  • Michelle October 12, 2013, 6:30 am

    I just tried Personal Capital to see if it could show me the amounts in a couple of retirement and bank accounts that Mint is unable to show. It could. That may be worth the switch for me.

  • Jay October 12, 2013, 7:19 am

    I’m a user of Mint and big fan of MMM. A little surprised you would recommend the service part of this tool though, given the high fees compared to low cost index funds. I’m more a fan of J Collins and John Bogle on this point – keep it simple and low cost. MMM – Dont go too commercial on us. :)

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 12, 2013, 10:24 am

      Exactly – I recommend a management service like this for people who would otherwise be afraid to or who are not interested in learning enough about investment, accounts, and taxes. Just as I don’t advise EVERYONE to build their own showerpans from scratch.

      I’ve met quite a few people this year who are great at making gobs of money, but just not motivated to do anything with it. They are very different from me in their approach to money, and for those people a 0.9% fee for good management is actually a good thing.

      I did verify that you can fire them at any time – there is no contract, and you can still keep the allocation. So they are hoping that people will stay subscribed based on actually being pleased with the service.

      It’s hard for Mr. Money Mustache to admit that not everyone has exactly the same interests and skills, but this is one example of it :-)

  • Plex Luthor October 12, 2013, 7:32 am

    Hi MMM –

    You might be interested in my testing of PC. I LOVE their website, and decided I’d pay their fee as a thank-you and to get some data on how well their investing is.

    I’ve been letting PC manage just over $100k for me since early February, in a similar try-before-I-buy scenario. I set up a comparison account at my regular brokerage that contains a full copy of my asset allocation (normally I different classes in different accounts for tax minimization). I worked the FA assigned to me to match risk as best as possible, by telling them my allocation into equities/bonds, US/int’l, etc. 8 months is too short to say, but so far they don’t seem more or less risky, looking at the month-to-month swings.

    I have had to re-balance my account once. They re-balance in an on-going way, and they try to minimize taxes. Pre-tax, I’m up 7.35%, and they’re up 4.45%. Post-tax I’m up about 7.25%, and they’re up 4.55%, but I’m in a very low tax bracket, so the tax-sensitivity at PC might be more valuable to others. I also compare the returns on paper of using fundamentals-based index funds (using mutual funds that track the Russell Fundamentals indexes), and that paper account is up 7.11% pre-tax. I expected them to under-perform by their fee (1%), which would cost me $1k per year. So far it has cost me an extra ~$2k, but the FA keeps telling me to wait a full business cycle (up to 5 years) to see their advantage.

    If you’re interested, I’ll ping you with results as we get further into the comparison.

    • Mr. Money Mustache October 12, 2013, 10:20 am

      Excellent data Mr. Luthor! I am glad to hear from someone actually using the management, and I like your Science Experiment approach to testing it. I’d love to see the comparison in more detail if you want to email me with the contact form above.

      PC’s published benchmarks show their standard allocation beating the market in the current up cycle, so you must have a different allocation.

      • Plex Luthor October 12, 2013, 2:23 pm

        Yes, my allocation is Schwab’s “Moderate” which is 35% US-Large, 10% US-small, 15% Int’l, 35% fixed income, and 5% cash. PC tried to match that, but couldn’t match it perfectly, since my stuff has no int’l bonds, REITs, or commodities, and PC really want to hold those.

        If you don’t mind hopping over to Reddit, I posted return details here:


        I know a lot of the r/PF’ers read your blog, and while I wholeheartedly recommend PC’s website as a Mint alternative (especially for folks with accounts Mint won’t handle but PC will), I wanted to warn them off of the investment side. In general I agree with you that PC is better than letting your money sit idle, but index investing is pretty simple, so that’s what we recommend over there.

    • Neo October 13, 2013, 10:05 pm

      This is getting away from the 4% withdrawal rate and 25 * expenses to a now 4.9% withdrawal rate , how much larger will your stash have to be and how many more years will you need to work to build it ?

      The PC guys will tell you that their performance will make up for the cost just like all the other fund managers do, except we know 80% fail to beat the index.

      0.9% fees that’s crazy talk :)

  • Frugal Bugg October 12, 2013, 7:45 am

    I thought the Personal Capital app was available for the iPad but when I click “get the app” from their link it comes up with a blank white box in the App Store… Anyone have any success with the app or does everyone use the desktop version?

  • Kellen October 12, 2013, 9:41 am

    I am having some trouble with the affiliate link – had to delete the s from https:// to get it to work. Don’t know if you can update that so it’ll link through cleanly.

  • Sir Osis of DeLiver October 12, 2013, 11:56 am

    With regard to index funds being capitalization-weighted, it’s worth noting that there are “equal-weight” S&P 500 index funds like RSP, the Rydex Equal-Weight S&P 500 index fund. I believe there are also equal-weighted S&P 500 ETFs. No need to engage a company like PC to help you buy these.

    I haven’t invested in RSP or similar funds personally, but my impression is that they do provide the benefits of indexing, without the capitalization bias, at low management fees (well under 1%), and thus might be an interesting alternative to a traditional index funds.

    More information on Investopedia here:

  • Justin October 12, 2013, 12:04 pm

    One thing that gets me, and I know this is just a business model decision, is that they claim to have a better model for Index Funds but then they don’t create a low-fund Index Fund using their “better” model.

    I shouldn’t need to pay them .9% management fee unless I want “active management” of my portfolio or a “custom allocation balance”, there’s no reason they couldn’t create a generic stock market Index Fund using their model with a lower fee that I could invest in.

    (The other thing that gets me is their Investment Analysis page warns me about how my investment in mutual funds could be costing me due to “high fees”, but my mutual funds are index funds… I’m paying .05% right now on those funds, but they’d like me to pay 18x that mount to have my account managed.)

  • Jen October 12, 2013, 12:16 pm

    Hey MMM loved the post, very informative. My question is can I use Personal capital with a Canadian account? I see I can do that with Mint with a simple search so Im going with Mint for now.

  • Green Money Stream October 12, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Thanks for the informative review. I’ve been using mint and have been happy so far. I like that PC seems to offer more to an investor, especially keeping track of the fees I am paying, that sounds like a useful feature. Maybe I will check them out, but I have to admit that I am also one who is a little nervous about handing over all of my login information for every account in one place. But I guess you can’t fight progress…

  • Dollar Flipper October 12, 2013, 12:24 pm

    I know there’s a lot of haters of YNAB around here since it’s a pay for service (one time fee) and it’s manual, but man does it help myself and my wife. We used mint for years but got no actual action out of it. Individually entering your purchases makes you think about it a lot more than if you just look back at how you spent money. Whatever works for each person though!

    • sobezen September 11, 2014, 4:32 pm

      I actually like YNAB and feel it is another budgeting tool. However, much like MMM I feel if you are already mindful of your spending and savings, you probably already have plans in place to reduce debts and save too and do not need to a strict budget.

      I feel YNAB is budgets on training wheels and certainly can help people who need the guidance and feel the concepts help. But, the pay yourself first and assign a job for every dollar are not new concepts. So if you already understand and adhere to a frugal Mustachian lifestyle, odds are your savings are in the 30%+ range while your debts are rapidly plumetting too. You may or may not even need YNAB to keep your budget in-check.

      Lastly, sometimes I find it helps to look at things holistically and understand how I treat money first and my own financials values/goals. I’ve made changes just based on those analysis and my budget/savings has drastically improved. Just my ten cents.

  • Evan Lynch October 12, 2013, 2:08 pm

    I tend to be pretty reluctant to use these personal finance sites just because I don’t know what they’re doing with my financial information beyond just giving me advice. Just because a company like Personal Capital isn’t advertising to its user now doesn’t mean they won’t in the future.

    My secret weapon for keeping track of my investments: Vanguard’s outside account feature. In Vanguard, you can enter the amount of shares you have in non-Vanguard funds, and by doing so, it’ll give you a better representation of your total allocation, and it’ll tell you about rises and falls in the value of those funds. It means I no longer have to log into other accounts to tell what their value is, I can login to Vanguard to tell how all my investments are doing in one place. The only downside is that it isn’t smart enough to adjust the number of shares upwards when I get dividends in those funds, but it’s easy enough to change that share number.

    This may sound like I’m being contradictory, saying that I’m not willing to give Personal Capital my financial information, but then explaining how I do so with other companies. It’s a matter of trust for me, really, Vanguard’s a really well established financial company and I trust them with my financial information more than a relatively new company.

    • IK October 15, 2013, 6:19 pm

      Thanks for this tip! I’ve been actually using PC this way – I inputted all of my bank info manually. Doing your way will at least automate part of it, without any loss of privacy, though.

    • Amber Bee September 2, 2016, 11:56 am

      I am doing the exact same thing to track my total asset allocation, and 401 Fee analysis! However, it doesn’t give you the spending analyzer, which IMO, Personal Capital did a good job at. My credit card offers the same spending analyzer in PDF form, but Personal Capital allows you to re-categorize transactions if incorrect. To get a overall picture of spending analysis, asset allocation, and associated tax efficiency, Personal Capital really offers that convenience. My husband has trust issues, though, so we are not fully integration with the real big picture, and I guess I just trust that Personal Capital won’t sell my info to any 3rd party.

  • Chris B October 12, 2013, 2:09 pm

    I ignored the PC call MMM but I still have them monitoring my accounts.

    Have you checked out Future Advisor though? I prefer their layout and their support is very responsive. They gave me a spreadsheet of funds that I can use to meet allocation rather than ETFs and I don’t pay them anything yet.

    Their fees are fixed though; not a percentage.

    I prefer funds since I can autopilot them at vanguard. If I do ETF I have to transfer from the sweep fund. :(

  • sunny October 12, 2013, 2:43 pm

    Oh is this timely. I am person in scenario A. No mortgage, over $300k in money markets funds . I have my emergency fund in savings. I am investing 20 percent of our income ( 410k) and another 10k in IRA’s but feel like it is a crap shoot since no mater the trying my mind doesn’t grasp investing well. Oh how I have tried. I have about $65k in the market at this moment.

    I have met with two different investment firms and got a lot of ” honey, it’s ok if you don’t get it. I won’t steer you wrong.” No thanks!! I don’t know much but I do know better than that!

    It sounds like this might be just what I need.

    • chris boyd October 18, 2013, 9:58 pm

      This post was my “kick in the pants” to also get out of Scenario A too. I have my 457b, the 403b, the Roth IRA in “when do you retire” funds. My personal stuff….sitting there doing nothing that was productive and would allow for any life-work adjustments. The PC stuff is way beyond where I am at. I looked at Betterment.com and that seemed relatively simple, straight forward way to dip my toe in.

  • Eric October 12, 2013, 4:33 pm

    I recently found a site called FutureAdvisor. It sounds very similar, but the cost of them managing is a fixed monthly rate of either $9 or $19 depending on assets, which can be a lot lower than 0.9%. I haven’t played around with it too much and I’m not trying their management, but another product to consider. I found it off of Mint.com, they have a partnership with them.

    To repeat, I do not have much experience with them yet, so I cannot recommend them from personal use (yet).

  • Mr. Darcy October 12, 2013, 5:44 pm

    For those who commented that they don’t want to use online money tracking software (or don’t have online choices in their country), I’d point out there is also GnuCash, a free open source program (very mustachian). It is based on the double-entry accounting concept, which I find is the best system once you get used to it. You can download your transactions to quicken or csv format and import them into GnuCash. It has decent reports for net worth, expense bar charts etc. I’ve used it for years and have been happy with it. Maybe not as polished looking as these online choices, but it gets the job done.

  • Diana October 12, 2013, 6:32 pm

    Did you have a chance to probe the security of Personal Capital? I have a brokerage account which requires that I use a token for added security. So when I used Personal Capital, I would enter my password, and then the token #. Eventually I found that the brokerage was locking my token, apparently due to unauthorized attempts to access my accountl. The brokerage firm told me Personal Capital was likely holding my passwords and then attempting to access the account (that’s how they update so nicely). Which is great for convenience, but not so great for security – having one company that can access all your accounts whenever they want to. Just a thought – would be interested in any insights you may have on this.

    • Steve March 18, 2014, 2:30 pm

      What brokerage? That is exactly how these aggregators work. There are a few financial institutions that allow (or even require) the use of secondary, read-only passwords for aggregator access. However, they are sadly few and far between.

  • J Federline October 12, 2013, 6:41 pm

    Battle? No, complimentary. I use mint and PC, with my own YNAB-like budget. All very complimentary. Don’t choose!

  • Jian October 12, 2013, 7:06 pm

    Mr. MM,

    Just wanted to add one point about Vanguard funds – looks like most of their mutual funds have a version of even lower EP of .05% (which they named “Admiral …”), if you keep a balance of min. $10k.

    Just read you and Mr. Collins’ blog articles on Vanguard funds and am in the process of moving old 401k and Roth accounts over there. But I made sure to buy the Admiral version of the Total Stock Market Fund (VTSAX), so I enjoy the low low fee at only .05%!

    Thanks for sharing your product experiences here.

  • Steve October 12, 2013, 8:52 pm

    Any yodlee.com users out there? As a yodlee user, I found mint.com to be fluff. With yodlee moneycenter I get all the information I need. Any reason to think that PC is better? My initial experience is that it gets things wrong and has pretty but not-to-useful graphs that obscure the real data.

    • Buck October 13, 2013, 6:21 pm

      Hi Steve – I use both Yodlee’s Moneycenter and PC. Yodlee is much more flexible budgeting especially since you can re-categorize and make your own spending buckets (and create sub-buckets). I also like how I can easily export stuff into Excel using Yodlee. PC does not allow for any of that – you are stuck with their ‘out-of-the-box’ spending buckets. PC, however, is more powerful when it comes to reporting on investments you may have. It quickly shows graphs related to asset allocation, fees being incurred, etc. It also more intuitively reports on cash flows and net worth. I’ll continue to use both for the time being. If PC could enhance its spending categorization functionality (and overall budgeting functions) like Yodlee, I’d probably use it exclusively.

      • Steve October 14, 2013, 12:01 pm

        Thanks for the reply Buck. I don’t think Yodlee quite meets my investing needs either, but for now I am using a Google docs spreadsheet with formulas that fetch Google finance prices in order to do my asset allocation.

  • Justin October 12, 2013, 9:18 pm

    I recently became a Personal Capital convert. The interface is beautiful and the ease of signing up and linking a couple dozen accounts couldn’t have been easier. It isn’t perfect but way better than my old way of manually updating spreadsheets once in a blue moon to see my total portfolio value, asset allocation, and net worth. Now it takes 2 seconds to log in and see the bottom line numbers. Not that I do anything with the portfolio, but it’s neat in a “yep, it’s all still there!” kind of way.

  • Francisco N October 12, 2013, 11:27 pm

    It’d be really cool if you could compare their service to say something like Betterment which costs about .25% for <100k and .15% for investments over 100k.

    They also do the whole tax efficient thing too.

    And also, have you used SigFig, how does it compare?

  • Brooklyn Money October 13, 2013, 8:18 am

    For investment tracking, I signed up for SigFig. I used Learnvest to help me develop a financial plan/asset allocation. Although I admit I have had trouble actually implementing what they tell me because I am waiting for a dip in the market to put my money in. I know you can’t time the market, but I don’t want to buy at the top again (a la 2007) and have to wait forever to get back just to even.

  • n00z October 13, 2013, 8:19 am

    PC is great. I love the graphical layout, it makes viewing what is going on w your personal finances very easy. 1 thing I did notice in the spending area was when I first signed up it had a lot of transactions placed in a “uncatagorized” category. If you spend some time re-categorizing those line items you will get better/clearer results in the pie charts and graphs.

    I’m a hardcore Quicken user as well and love the power of categorizing spending and income so I can make detailed reports to share w my family. Certainly helps with our family-team approach for keeping our savings rate high. The one thing I really love about PF software like Quicken is you can “pre-enter” transactions. I’ve gone back years in my spread sheet and taken notice of trends and use that info to enter everything we will be spending and saving/investing a year or more in advance. I dig how these pieces of software can show you your financial past, but equally love how they can help you plan ahead.

  • Stuart S October 13, 2013, 10:03 am

    I’ve been using Personal Capital for a few months now too, and have been pleased with it. I found the “Investment Checkup” the most illuminating aspect of the site- I had no idea how heavily invested I am in mutual funds and their high fees. I’ve been investing through the family financial adviser for about 10 years and it has always been an opaque affair. But my nest egg grows gradually so I’ve never questioned what the adviser is doing with my money. But now thanks to Personal Capital I know that the annual fees on all these mutual funds add up to more than the cash amount I pay into the investment account! (I also read Bernstein’s “Four Pillars”* this summer which opened my eyes to how the financial services industry works.)

    So I know now that I need to move my money away from the adviser which will be hard because the whole family is invested through her and they like her. But I think she has given me some bad advice, (e.g. “Make the lowest payments possible on your student loans, never pay them off!”) and I need to take control of my finances. I’ve been looking for advice on how to get investment accounts away from financial advisers so if you have any tips I would be most grateful!

    *Most relevant quote from The Four Pillars of Investment: “Performance comes and goes but expenses are forever.”


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