An Overview of Personal Capital’s Free Financial Tools

It’s no secret that if you want to take control of your finances and work towards specific goals, you need to know your overall financial picture and how much you are spending vs. saving each month. It can be overwhelming and difficult to manage if you are just getting started. Finding informative and automated tools to manage your personal finances is key to staying on track.

Personal Capital is one of my favorite personal finance tools for tracking net worth, income, expenses and investments. They also have a nifty retirement planner that allows you to tweak a number of factors and simulate your projected retirement portfolio. The best part? Their tools are 100% free to use and easy to manage. They do offer professional wealth management services for a fee for investors who are interested.

To get started, sign up for a free Personal Capital account and start linking savings, checking, retirement, investment and credit card accounts. They will import your data and start building your personalized financial summary. A unique feature offered by Personal Capital is the ability to manually add “other assets” that cannot be automatically linked or accounted for, such as house value, manual investments and other assets/liabilities.

As accounts are successfully imported or manually added, the dashboard portal and in-depth analyses will become populated. There are a LOT of features available, so take time to explore and dig into the various attributes. Historical information is not automatically imported in many cases and I have found Personal Capital’s tool to be even more useful when used for an extended period and the historical information/trends are available.

 

Budgeting Tools:

The budgeting tools are some of the features I use most often. Income and expenses are automatically imported from checking accounts and credit cards. The default is to view “this month” expenses versus “last month” expenses, but you can modify the time period as desired. Transactions are automatically categorized based on how you last set that type of expenditure and can be revised at any time. They have a number of preset categories and allow you to add your own custom categories.

 

 

If you click on a category summary, it will drill into the specific expenses. Again, you can select whatever time period you desire.

 

 

Investment Portfolio Tools:

On the investment side, Personal Capital offers several tools for evaluating your portfolio. I love the fact that I can view several investment accounts all in one place, including retirement accounts. You can select if you want to view information on all accounts together (to see your total investment picture) or a specific subset.

 

Investment Strategy Advice:

Personal Capital also evaluates your investments and offers advice on how to better diversify your portfolio for the best mix of risk versus rewards.

 

Curious how much you are paying in fees and expense ratios across your various investment accounts? They’ll show you that too.

 

Retirement Planning Tool:

This is by far one of my favorite tools to play with – especially in planning for financial independence and early retirement. I do not want to admit how many hours I’ve spent simulating different scenarios… Personal Capital allows you to input a whole slew of variables and it will calculate retirement projections based on your current and future (projected) situation. You can add in spending goals and income events, tweak inflation rates, tax rates, risk tolerance, etc. Everything is calculated in today’s dollars and takes inflation into account. They simulate results based on an “average market” and “poor market” returns.

Note, that the items laid out above are only a subset of the tools offered by Personal Capital. If you create your own account, you’ll have the opportunity to explore and see which tools are the most useful for your situation. Personal Capital is still growing and continually looking for ways to improve their personal finance tool sets. I’ve reached out to their customer service for explanations on how a few items are calculated and I’ve always received very detailed and informative responses.

I’ve been a very satisfied user for several months now, so if you have any questions, let me know!

2 comments

  1. I keep hearing about PC’s tools, but I haven’t seen visuals until now. Looks promising. At the moment, I’m using a clunky Excel spreadsheet to do all this, but now that I’ve read your post, I’m tempted to give PC a try. In the past, I’ve used Mint – but I became impatient with it when it miscategorized certain expenses and failed to incorporate all of our accounts, thereby providing us with an incomplete overview of our finances. Have you encountered similar issues with PC? Anything that you’d like to see be improved?

    1. PC is way way better than manually entering transactions from multiple accounts. Believe me – been there done that 🙂

      PC will categorize an expense based on how you categorized it last time. If it’s a new type of expense, they will guess and yes, sometimes you have to correct it. I’d like to see a way to “split” expenses into multiple categories (ie we buy food + random stuff at Costco and would like to split the charge into 50% groceries, 50% general merchandise). They are continually upgrading their toolsets, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they incorporate a feature like that in the future.

      Highly recommend checking them out! It’s definitely more useful for seeing trends once you’ve had a few months to build up history. I really like being able to view my entire year and seeing how much we’ve spent in each category.

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