One of my biggest goals as the founder of CNA Finance was for my website to help people learn more about and truly get to understand how money works, what makes money move, and how to make money work for you; and, the process has been going pretty well so far. One topic that I don’t discuss enough however is the availability of tools designed to help you do everything mentioned in the goal above. So, today, we’re going to talk about one of my favorites; Personal Capital.
What/Who Is Personal Capital?
Personal Capital is a Registered Investment Adviser that offers free web-based application designed to help net worth savvy consumers not only manage money, but maximize the potential of their investing dollars. Founded in 2009, the company’s application quickly took the personal finance and investing world by storm. Today, the platform is one of the most widely used money management apps; with over 750,000 active users who manage more than $120 billion of their personal funds with the help of Personal Capital. On January 20th, 2015, the company hit a new milestone; they now have more than $1 billion in client assets under management.
Signing Up & Setting Up
When I tested the Personal Capital application, I found the sign up process to be much less cumbersome than I expected. In fact, it was pretty simple. As with any other application, it all starts with email address, choosing your password, and entering in your mobile phone number (Used for security and alerts).
Once you’ve submitted basic data, you’ll be directed to a page designed to learn more about you, your investing ability and your risk tolerance. On this page, you’ll be asked for your first name, birth date, total amount of investable assets, level of comfort with regard to risk, and at what age you plan to retire. This page is optional; however, I strongly suggest providing the information. All of the information you provide will be used to help generate a clear map for the direction you should go with your money.
From there, it’s time to start adding in your account details. On this page, you’ll see several tabs; each titled with a different account type. The account types include Investment, Credit, Cash, Loan, and Mortgage. Simply click the tabs that correspond with your assets and search for your broker or lender. Once you’ve found the company you have your account with, adding it to your account is as simple as logging into your account from your personal finance dashboard. Simply enter your user name and password and log in to connect the account.
Once you’ve added all of your financial accounts into your dashboard, Personal Capital does the rest. Until you make changes, the application will log into your accounts every day to pull the latest data analyze that data to help you decide how to make your money work harder for you.
What Happens Next?
Once you’ve signed up and submitted your information, personal capital will create a series of graphs designed to help you better understand and manage your money as well as provides spending trackers and investing tools. The graphs and tools generated by the application include…
- Net Worth – Front and center is your most important graph; your net worth graph. This graph tracks the growth in your net worth, showing your growth each step of the way!
- Income Reports – Personal Capital combines all of your income sources to give you an overall view of all of your income in one place. The income reports are incredibly detailed and show exactly where you’re making the brunt of your money.
- Account Balances – The account balances area includes information on all of your accounts including an investment accounts, bank accounts, credit cards, loans, mortgages, and any other financial account you carry; making it one of my favorite tools! This is pretty much of complete snapshot of your entire financial picture on one screen!
- Spending Reports – I’ve also found the spending reports to be incredibly useful. The system breaks down where your money is going; giving you the opportunity to dig into the data and find opportunities for saving.
- Asset Allocation – Asset allocation is incredibly important when it comes to managing risk with regard to your investments. One of the reasons the application asks about your comfort with risk in the beginning of the sign up process is to ensure that accurate suggestions are provided on this page. Here, Personal Capital will show you where your invested assets are and provide useful tips with regard to where they should be.
- Projected Investment Fees – No matter what you hear, no investment is free; every broker charges a fee. Another feature that I really enjoyed about personal capital is their projected investment fees report. While it costs money to make money, it’s also important to minimize exposure to fees if you’d like to keep the majority of your returns. This is a great tool for doing so.
- Investment Returns – Finally, Personal Capital provides a detailed analysis of your investment returns as well as comparison data to see how well your returns are really stacking up!
How Personal Capital Makes Money
We all know that any business is in business to make money. While everything mentioned above is 100% free, it’s also important to remember that Personal Capital is an Registered Investment Adviser. So, their money is in the investing space. Users with $100,000 or more in total investable assets have the opportunity to sign up for investment services from Personal Capital. By signing up for these services, investors have the opportunity to work with a licensed financial advisor. In return, they charge a fee by taking a percentage of the assets under management, known in the investing world as AUM. The fee is an annual fee that’s prorated throughout the year and depends on the amount of assets under management you have in your account. Here’s how the scale works…
- Up To $1,000,000 – 0.89%
- More Than $1,000,000 – 0.79% charged on the first $3 million, 0.69% charged on the next $2 million, 0.59% on the next $5 million, and 0.49% on any amount in excess of $10 million.
I’m a huge security buff when it comes to any financial application or service. After all, if anyone gets a hold of your financial data, the result could be devastating. With that said, not only is their security good, it’s far above par. As you’ll see with any application like this, Personal Capital uses SSL security and employs several strategies in house to keep your data safe. However, unlike most financial applications, they require you to register every computer you use. So, if someone tries to access your data from any remote machine; they’re not going to be able to!
Personal Capital Pros
- Easy to use.
- All of your accounts in one place.
- Valuable insights on spending and saving.
- Valuable insights on investing returns and fees.
- Incredible customer service.
Personal Capital Cons
The only negative I could find about the system revolves around the investing fees. While the fees aren’t too high, they’re not the lowest either. However, with the higher returns generally seen when investing with Personal Capital, paying a slightly higher fee is well worth it in my opinion.
Overall, I’m incredibly impressed with Personal Capital. The system is incredibly user friendly and should prove to be beneficial to just about everyone. On top of that it’s free, so giving it a try isn’t going to hurt by any means! Sign up for Personal Capital here!