The Best Way to Track Your Investments Online (and it’s Free!)

The internet has done wonders in the world of money management. With websites like Mint and now Power Wallet, tracking your finances for free online is a snap. But one thing that’s been missing is a robust tool to automatically track your investments.

Sites like Mint do allow you to link your investment accounts. But they don’t help you understand your asset allocation or investing expenses in any meaningful way. And that brings me to a site I’ve recently starting using called Personal Capital.

Personal Capital is the best investment tracking tool that I’ve ever used. It solves several problems for me:

  1. It automatically links to my investment accounts, keeping my holdings updated throughout the trading day;
  2. It tracks the fees I’m paying for each mutual fund and ETF I own;
  3. It provides detailed asset allocation data for my investments, much like the X-Ray feature of Morningstar; and
  4. It alerts me when my asset allocation is over or under-weighted as compared to a target asset allocation model determined based on my age and tolerance for risk.
  5. I’ve enjoyed the tool so much, that I thought a detailed review was in order.

    Getting Started

    Personal Capital is a free tool. To get started, you simply create an account with your email address and password. Once you have access to the site, you can connect just about all of your bank and investment accounts into Personal Capital.

    Visit Personal Capital to Get Started

    I had no trouble connecting accounts from Citi, Capital One 360, Vanguard, Scottrade and Fidelity. And once all of your accounts are connected, the fun begins.

    The Dashboard

    Personal Capital Dashboard

    The Dashboard is the one place you’ll find high level information about all your finances. While I use Personal Capital primarily for my investments, you can also track your checking and savings accounts. In fact, they offer what is called a Cash Manager that let’s you see all of your spending in one place.

    Cash Manager

    But as I said, Personal Capital really stands out because of its investment tools.

    Investment Tracking

    Personal Capital does a great job of tracking investments real-time. And just as importantly, the layout of the site and the way in which information about your investments is displayed is the best I’ve seen (note, the image is not of my personal investments):

    My Investments in Personal Capital

    What you can’t see from the above screen shot is what happen as you roll the cursor over parts of the screen. On the graph at the top left, you’ll see your investment balance by date. And as you roll the cursor over the colored ring top right, you’ll see details about each of your investment accounts.

    And what’s really cool is when you click on an individual account in the list at the bottom. As you can see from the screenshot above, the graph highlights the portion of your total attributed to that account, and the colored ring breaks out the portion of the circle related to the selected account.

    Now the truth is that while the above is really cool, it’s just information. It doesn’t really give you any analysis that you can actually use. But the next few features do.

    Mutual Fund and ETF Expenses

    As I’ve said many times, keeping investment expenses low is one of the most important factors for successful investing. And Personal Capital gives you two tools to help you. The first is a breakdown of your investment costs by mutual fund or ETF:

    Investment Cost Graph

    In my case, total investment costs are a real eye-opener. Beyond the screenshot above, Personal Capital breaks down the cost by fund or ETF, so that you can focus your analysis and determine whether you need to make any changes. Through using the tool, it became clear to me that there are a couple of funds I need to dump for less expensive alternatives.

    401(k) Fee Analyzer

    The second tool to help fight the high cost of investing is revolutionary. It’s called the 401k Fee Analyzer.

    401k Fee Analyzer

    The first time you run this tool, it will base its analysis on data not specific to your retirement funds. But you can get additional data on 401k expenses from your employer or broker to get more accurate results.

    What’s so great about the analyzer is that it doesn’t stop with just the expense ratios of the funds and ETFs you own. That part’s easy. It also looks at the costs funds charge you for trading, which aren’t reflected in the expense ratio. And it looks at administrative costs charged to run the 401k, which are often passed down to employees.

    If you have a 401k, this tool by itself makes it worth checking out Personal Capital. And it’s a good reminder as to why most folks should transfer their 401k to a rollover IRA when they leave their employer.

    Asset Allocation Tools

    The next handy tool is its asset allocation feature. The first thing it does is breaks down all of your investments by their asset class. And if a single fund or ETF contains investments that span more than one asset class, as most do, Personal Capital slices and dices the fund to apportion your account into each relevant asset class.

    Investments View

    You can click on each investment in the box chart at the top or the list at the bottom to get details of your asset classes. This is extremely helpful when it comes to rebalancing your portfolio.

    Investment Checkup

    Finally, with the click of a button Personal Capital will analyze your investments. It compares your actual asset allocation with your target allocation, and flags asset classes in which you are over or under-weighted. It’s an easy way to see if you need to rebalance.

    Target Asset Allocation
    Note that in the above screenshot heading is a reference to my “target allocation.” You can set this by entering your name, how many years to retirement, and your investing style (e.g., aggressive, conservative). It takes all of 10 seconds, and Personal Capital then generates a target allocation for you.

    So what’s not to like?

    Frankly, not much. One thing I haven’t mentioned is that an advisor is available for a call or a live chat. When you log into your account, you’ll see a picture of your advisor, his or her name, and telephone number. And even better, they don’t hound you. I’ve not heard from my advisor, and that’s how I want it. If I need to speak to him, I’ll give him a call. But it’s good to know that’s an option.

    Personal Capital also has mobile versions of its site for iPhone, iPad and Android. I use the iPad app and have had no issues. I’ve not had any issues with linking accounts. Occasionally I have to provide or confirm my login credentials for certain accounts. But that’s it.

    But there are three things that could be improved:

    1. You can’t enter your own target asset allocation model. Personal Capital creates one for you based on your age, time to retirement, and investing style. This is probably fine for the majority of investors, but a custom option would be nice.
    2. The daily updates on stock and bond prices is a bit slow. As compared to Wikinvest, another tool I’ve used before, Personal Capital could be faster
    3. It does not include the cost basis of your investments, which would be nice.


    So there you have it. It’s an excellent tool. If you want to give it a try, visit the Personal Capital website. And please leave a comment below to share your thoughts on the tool.

Published or Updated: September 8, 2014
About Rob Berger

Rob founded the Dough Roller in 2007. A litigation attorney in the securities industry, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife, their two teenagers, and the family mascot, a shih tzu named Sophie.

Comments

  1. Rob says:

    Tried three times to log into Personal Capital, linking to my Fidelity account. All three times, I got the same message about how further action is required on my part and I had to log into Fidelity first. Gave up after the third try.

  2. Joe says:
  3. Jonathan says:

    I’ve been using Mint for awhile, I’ll have to check out personal capital so I can see which one is better.

  4. Jim says:

    I just read the article, and I haven’t tried it yet. But the first thing occurred to me while I was reading the article is: is it safe for our investment accounts if Personal Capital know our online investment accounts? Sounds like it is too good (if free) to be true.

  5. R C says:

    I have same thought as Jim. How safe it is to link all accounts to one site?
    Also what is the revenue model for Personal capital if they are giving such service free?

    • Rob Berger says:

      Jim and RC, what I can tell you on security is that sites like Personal Capital use the same type of security that banks use and I’ve never had a problem. In terms of a revenue model, Personal Capital answers that very question. If you go to the site and click on the link How it Works, you’ll see a page on how they offer the service for free. The short answer is that they offer personal portfolio management for a few, for those customers that want it.

  6. Nice review. It looks like Personal Capital has lots of nice features that could come in handy and save me some quite a bit of time. I especially like the fee tracking. I just re-balanced my 401k for this very reason!

  7. I have been used Mint. It is the best money management website that I used so far. However, I am interested to use Personal Capital as well. I hope, it will provide better options than Mint.

  8. Steve says:

    Sounds a bit scary to link all of your financial accounts to a single site (server). The link from PC to your accounts is secure, same as any account with a secure link/encyption. What happens if the PC server is compromised…. I would think that this is a huge target for hackers/criminals… if they hack in, they have access to everyone’s funds in all their accounts.
    I have different passwords for each account I have for a reason….
    I do like what PC can do for you to help organize your finances..
    Just thinking out loud.. :)

  9. Kanti says:

    Seems interesting. I have not used any tools before.
    I may try it.

  10. Topher says:

    I’ve been using their website and apps for about a year. Pretty nice service. I’ll be changing jobs soon, and I’ve been considering using their advisor services for my old 401K.

    • Rob Berger says:

      Topher, thanks for sharing your experience with us. When you change jobs, have you considered rolling over your 401k to an IRA?

  11. KB says:

    How can it be useful enough if it doesn’t provide the cost basis? I would expect a tool such as this to let me know how I’m performing and compare it to benchmarks such as the S&P500… just my two cents. I know Mint has that functionality. The Fee tracker is certainly useful and might itself make it worthwhile.

    Also, does the tool pull in history or just starts collecting data on a go forward basis?

  12. Sudeep says:

    Hello Rob,
    Great Job! Thanks. Have a question? Have you heard of the website SigFig? Any comparisons b/w SigFig and Personal capital, like pros and cons will be very welcome.
    Thanks
    - Sudeep

    • Rob Berger says:

      Sudeep, I am familiar with SigFig and having been using it over the last few days. So far I much prefer Personal Capital. I’ll complete my review and publish a comparison.

  13. Jim says:

    Hi Rob, will Personal Capitol work on portfolios outside of 401ks? Such as LPL account’s. Jim

    • Rob Berger says:

      Jim, I’m not sure what an LPL account is, but yes, Personal Capital works with just about any account. I use it for my 401ks, IRAs, and taxable accounts. I even have my credit cards and mortgage synced with Personal Capital.

  14. Larr y says:

    Does Personal Capital keep up with dividends, interest, splits, etc.?

    • Rob Berger says:

      Yes. The import the data directly from your brokers, which tracks all of that information. Actually, Personal Capital is great to see how much in dividends you’ve earned over a given period of time. Much better than logging into various accounts one at a time.

  15. Larry says:

    I used Mint some time back, but gave up because it did not recognize my credit union. There may have been other financial institutions that it did not recognize also, not sure. Does Personal Capital have any problems like that?

Speak Your Mind

*