My Experience with Personal Capital

I'm kind of a sucker for pretty user interfaces...
I’m kind of a sucker for pretty user interfaces…

Personal Capital is another of the great personal money management websites out there. It pulls information from all connected bank, investment, and credit card accounts to give you an easy-to-digest summary of all your financial activity. I just started using it two weeks ago, deciding whether to switch to it from Mint, and wanted to write a little about my experience with the tool. Being able to visualize the distribution of your money in colorful graphs–whether that’s income, spending, or investments–is a fantastic experience that will help make managing your money easier and more intuitive. With a great companion mobile app, Personal Capital could be a great option for you… but not for everyone!

The Highlight Reel

Some of the best things about Personal Capital are:

  • Much less clunky feeling than Mint (even after I tried to improve my Mint experience with Mojito)
    • Accounts seem to update more regularly without “spinning” forever like Mint always seems to
    • Mobile app isn’t cluttered with crap I don’t care about. I hate the new Mint mobile app organization, I just want to see my accounts, I don’t need the annoying ad(vice)s and alerts.
    • Web interface is relatively ad-free, aside from recommendations that you work with one of their advisors.
  • Very visually appealing graphs
  • Available spending categories are appropriate and sufficient
  • Much, much better tracking of investments. If you have any investments at all, such as your 401k, IRA, or ESPP shares, this will help you keep much better track of them.
    • Analyses and tracks your holdings within a single account, and does it well. By contrast, Mint has the allocations in my 401k all lumped under one “Not Sure” category
    • Easy way to figure out how you’re comparing to the S&P 500 Index via their “You Index” which tracks the performance of your holdings
  • Much more focus on net worth and investment growth, which is good for someone who’s a little more mature in the handling of their finances (by which I mean, has already learned to save and budget responsibly)

The Downsides

  • I can’t manually edit my freaking transactions and it’s driving me crazy.
    • Unlike Mint, I can’t just directly edit amounts, split transactions, add transactions, or even delete transactions!
    • Makes it incredibly hard if you ever pay for anything in cash to track your spending
    • If you pay for a group dinner and have others reimburse you, there is no way to indicate that so it’ll look like you totally blew your budget for the month
  • No budgets or goals
    • No way to set budgets, or alerts when your spending in a given category is too high
    • No way to set goals and watch your progress, even for something investment focused like retirement savings! There is an “Investment Checkup” tool available, but it’s not as front-and-center as I’d like.
  • Mildly annoying encouragement to utilize one of their financial advisors
    • Seriously you probably really don’t need an advisor
    • …but I understand that’s how the service earns its money and I prefer that to annoying ads in Mint.

Summary

If you feel like you still need to learn to watch every dollar and spend sparingly, this is not the tool for you. If you’re already pretty good at handling your money, Personal Capital could be a great addition to your arsenal of financial tools. It will definitely give you a hand in tracking your investments and give you a better picture of your overall net worth than Mint all through a beautiful, mostly ad-free interface. That said, it is decidedly lacking in some basic budgeting and transaction monitoring features which I find infuriating considering how simple they would seemingly be to implement. I feel like I’ll probably keep using Personal Capital, but still need Mint for more day-to-day monitoring.

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