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Updated on Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Personal Capital is a hybrid of a traditional brokerage and a robo-advisor. It offers portfolio design via algorithm—like many competing robo-advisors—and also lets you buy individual stocks, design portfolios and access human financial advisors. In fact, the company dislikes the term robo-advisor, and prefers to call itself a “digital wealth manager.”
Be advised that the minimum balance requirement is $100,000, meaning that Personal Capital is only a viable choice for investors who have already accumulated a sizable nest egg. It’s not a product for beginners, although it is a great choice for people who have sufficient funds.
Founded in 2009 by a former CEO of PayPal and Intuit, the company claims that it offers “full financial planning at no additional cost.” It charges an asset management fee of 0.89%, which is on the low side for personal financial planning, but it’s on the high side for robo-advisors, most of whom charge less than 0.50% per year. The fee drops as low as 0.49% for high-balance investors, but need a balance of more than $10 million to qualify for the lower rate.
Who should consider Personal Capital
Personal Capital is best suited to high-balance investors looking for a less expensive and more hands-off strategy than working with a full-service investment firm. The initial phone consultation with an advisor can help users evaluate their financial position and what they need to do to hit their goals.
The minimum balance required to begin investing with Personal Capital is $100,000, and you need at least $200,000 in investable assets to unlock the ability to customize a portfolio with individual stocks. This level also earns you recommendations and support from two dedicated financial advisors.
Note that anyone can take advantage of the site’s free account aggregation and monitoring tools, which let you test retirement and savings assumptions and make sure your plan will help you achieve your goals.
If you are a socially conscious investor, Personal Capital offers an investment strategy that restricts certain businesses or industries based on their ESG rankings.
Personal Capital fees and features
|Amount minimum to open account|
|Account fees (annual, transfer, inactivity)|
|Mobile app||iOS, Android|
|Customer support||Phone, 24/7 live support, Email, 5 branch locations|
Fee tiers and wealth management options
Personal Capital charges variable annual management fees depending on your total account balance:
- Up to $1 million: 0.89%
- First $3 million: 0.79%
- Next $2 million: 0.69%
- Next $5 million: 0.59%
- Over $10 million: 0.49%
It offers three levels of wealth management services, depending on your total account balance:
- Investment Service: Balances of $100,000 to $200,000 get access to a team of financial advisors and an actively managed portfolio of ETFs.
- Wealth Management: Account balances of $200,000 to $1 million unlock access to two dedicated financial advisors, specialists in real estate and stock options and a customized portfolio with regular reviews, as well as enhanced tax optimization.
- Private Client: When your account balance includes more than $1 million, you get two dedicated financial advisors; priority access to specialists and the firm’s investment committee; in-depth support for retirement, wealth and estate planning; and private equity investment options.
If your balance is below $200,000, you can invest in ETFs but you cannot customize your portfolio. Personal Capital will recommend a target allocation that’s based on the profile questions you answered during the sign-up process, plus other financial information you’ve provided. While you can choose from among different target allocations, you won’t be able to create a custom allocation.
That said, Personal Capital does offer an ESG-optimized portfolio for users interested in socially responsible investing. In addition to limiting exposure to fossil fuels, the company’s ESG basket filters out companies with material exposure to things like adult entertainment, gambling, tobacco, military contracting and guns.
Tax optimization is available at all portfolio levels. Personal Capital “tax optimizes” by making sure people put the right investments in the right accounts (i.e. taxable accounts versus retirement accounts) and by tax loss harvesting, which means realizing losses to offset gains. All levels of service also offer portfolio rebalancing. Accounts are reviewed daily for tax-efficient rebalancing opportunities.
All accounts above $200,000 can invest in individual stocks and customize portfolios. Certain accounts with assets over $1 million may be able to invest in individual bonds. With assets over $5 million invested with Personal Capital, users may gain access to private equity investments.
Personal Capital Cash
Personal Capital recently launched a cash management account, Personal Capital Cash. The account earns 0.05% APY for people without a Personal Capital advisory account, and 0.10% APY for customers with an advisory account. Personal Capital Cash pays slightly less than other similar high-yield savings accounts, but there’s also no minimum balance and there are no fees associated with it.
Personal Capital partners with UMB Bank, which holds Personal Capital Cash deposits in a network of different banks. The account offers up to $1,500,000 in FDIC insurance coverage, well above the standard limit of $250,000 per deposit account. That’s because Personal Capital works with UMB bank to distribute your money among accounts at different partner banks. When one account reaches the FDIC limit, another account with a different bank will be opened for you. This is done up to six times, providing a FDIC deposit insurance total of up to $1,500,000.
Financial dashboard tools
One of Personal Capital’s strengths is that it offers financial tools to help you understand and track your entire financial life. These tools are free and available to anyone who downloads the app. You may register and link all your financial accounts to Personal Capital, such as bank accounts, brokerage accounts, loans and credit cards. Once they are linked to the app, your personalized financial dashboard gives you a view of your:
- Net worth: You can see your current net worth for the past 30 days, including the change in this measure over the last 30 days and today’s change.
- Cash flow: The dashboard offers a graphic representation of your cash inflows and outflows for the past 30 days, arranged by category (paychecks and deposits on the inflow side, mortgage and other expenses on the outflow side). Click on any category to dive into the detailed transactions there, or click the whole category to compare this month’s spending to last month’s spending and see transactions by category.
- Portfolio balances: You’ll see the value of your investment accounts for the past 30 days, along with change values over the past month and today’s value.
- Portfolio allocation: This is a top-down view of your investments across all asset classes—although only if your assets are invested with Personal Capital. If you’ve linked outside investment accounts, their value will be included in your portfolio balance, but the site doesn’t include those assets among your allocation.
- Gainers and losers: If you’ve got individual stocks in your portfolio — which would make you a higher-level investor—you’ll see how they’re performing versus the S&P 500.
- Retirement savings: The dashboard recommends how much you should be saving toward retirement each year and how much you’ve saved to date this year. It can also predict whether your retirement portfolio will support your retirement spending.
- Emergency fund: You’ll see how much cash you’ve got stashed away. If the dashboard feels you could be investing part of that for greater return, it will recommend moving some money around.
Strengths of Personal Capital
- Access to financial advisors. At all levels of investing, users have access to financial planners who can answer questions and offer advice on saving and investing. In fact, the company requires you to schedule a (free) chat with a financial advisor in order to set up your financial dashboard.
- Big picture planning. Because Personal Capital advisors will professionally review your whole financial picture, you’ll receive recommendations based not only on your answers to questions about risk and goals, or what you have invested at Personal Capital, but also what you have in your 401(k) and other retirement accounts. They’ll also offer advice on college savings plans and estate planning strategies, although estate planning is only available with investable assets of $1 million or more.
- Free financial tools. Even if you don’t invest with Personal Capital, you can still access a wealth of free financial tools that will analyze your net worth, cash flow, retirement and savings situation and make recommendations. You also get one free phone call with a Personal Capital advisor.
Drawbacks of Personal Capital
- High minimum balance. To open an account with Personal Capital, you’ll need at least $100,000 in invested assets, which is the highest of most robo-advisors on the market. Compare this to Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, which requires a $50,000 account minimum, and to Charles Schwab Intelligent Portfolios Premium, which requires a $25,000 buy-in. And some robo-advisors, such as Wealthfront, require as little as $500.
- High management fees. Personal Capital charges an asset management fee of 0.89% for portfolios between $100,000 and $1 million, which is also among the highest fees charged by robo-advisors. By comparison, Vanguard charges just 0.30% and Wealthfront charges 0.25%. When you top $1 million in assets, the management fee goes down, but just to 0.79% for $1 million to $3 million, and 0.69% for $3 million to $5 million, and so on. Once you get over $10 million, you’ll pay 0.49% in asset management fees, which is still higher than most competitors.
- Non-customizable portfolios for beginners. Until you reach an asset level of $200,000 and up, you can’t alter your investment mix, and you’re limited to ETF investing only.
Is Personal Capital safe?
Most fintech users are comfortable linking their financial accounts to an investment platform, and Personal Capital’s safeguards are in line with standards. They partner with financial tech industry veteran Yodlee to facilitate account aggregation, and user bank and brokerage credentials are only stored at Yodlee.
The site uses two-factor authentication when you sign in and encrypts your credentials and personal data with military-grade encryption algorithms. The company protects its data centers with various systems designed to prevent hacking and monitor for suspicious activity, and the data centers follow stringent financial and international security standards protocol.
Personal Capital also helps you keep an eye on things by sending an (optional) daily email with every transaction that occurred during the previous 24 hours in all your linked accounts, including your bank, broker and credit cards. Keep an eye on the activity and make sure you recognize all the transactions.
As far as insurance, all investment securities are held by an SIPC member broker custodian, protecting your securities up to $500,000, and Personal Capital Cash is FDIC insured up to $1,500,000.
Final thoughts on Personal Capital
Personal Capital is worth considering if you have $100,000 or more to invest on this platform. Though lower-level users can’t customize their portfolios, asset allocation models seem to outperform comparative benchmarks much of the time.
Investors should carefully consider whether they’d like more control over their investments or whether they’re willing to pay higher-than-average fees for the services Personal Capital offers. In the meantime, the financial planning tools and initial consultation will give the average investor some insight into how they’re doing and where they’d like to go.