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A new year brings new goals and if you’re struggling to get hold of your finances or just want to be able to track them more easily, check out our review of Personal Capital.
I have discussed before the importance of tracking your finances and being consistently aware of key indicators. The basic stats you should know are your savings rate, interest rate on any debts, and your overall net worth.
How can you easily track these with up to date information?
An online aggregator
Personal Capital is similar to Mint in that it aggregates all your account information to show an up to date snapshot on your financial health. You connect all accounts from savings, checking, credit cards, loans, and investments and the interface analyzes your standing.
I used Mint prior to Personal Capital for about 6 years but made the jump to Personal Capital about a year ago.
Why the switch?
Mint was great when I was starting out straight out of college and needed assistance in understanding budgeting and my overall financial health. It helped me pinpoint where I was overspending and where to cut back.
Now, being more established, my goals are more complex. Mint is a more elementary financial aggregator for those learning budgeting and paying off debt. Personal Capital is more complex and involves investment analysis, which Mint does not.
At first, it took a couple weeks to really learn everything Personal Capital has to offer but at this point I am head over heels with the program and highly recommend it. One of the annoyances I had before I left Mint was that some of the connections to my accounts would be down occasionally. Most of the time they were back up with 48 hours or so, but there were a few instances where I had accounts down for weeks. At one point, my checking account was down almost 2 months. I have noticed connections down only twice with Personal Capital since I have been on it and both times it was back up with a day.
Personal Capital is free, has a stunning interface, and an app to check my goals wherever I am.
Top Free Personal Capital Features
- Investment Checkup – I found this tool most helpful. Prior to switching to Personal Capital, I was investing in my 401(k) and different stock purchases here and there but I didn’t have a strategy. Using these analyzers really opened my eyes to my overall portfolio. My asset allocation was shown to be too aggressive and it was suggested I add international stocks to my portfolio. I had never taken the time before to notice my asset allocation. I had 77.4% in US Stocks and only 5.6% in International. It recommended taking these percentages to 60.2% and 25.8%, respectively. Additionally, even though my portfolio was highly aggressive, it showed me that my index was actually slightly lower than the S&P and Dow. Thanks to this, I know I have some work to do.
- Cash Flow Analyzer – This shows your spending habits over time increments and helps pinpoint where you can cut back. I find these tools helpful because some months you may feel like you’ve done well budgeting, but the numbers are more insightful. Are you breaking even or able to save?
- Retirement Planner and Fee Analyzer – If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’ve heard of FIRE blogs, the sector of personal finance blogging that touts retiring early. Not many people would choose to work 9-5 until 65 if they don’t have to. If your dream is to retire early, are you on the right track or will it simply be a dream that can’t come true? The earlier you are aware and tracking your progress, the more likely you can reach your goals.
Are there paid services?
The functionalities above are all totally free. Once you hit $100k in investable assets, you have the option of using Personal Capital for advisory services. I have not personally used any of the paid services.
How do I get started?
Click here to sign up for Personal Capital. You can then begin adding all of your financial accounts using your user name and password for those sites. This often brings up the question of security. I have my own in-house computer security consultant, who doubles as my husband, that reviewed this. He gave the OK for us but you can read more about their protocol here.
Basically, this program is read only. Meaning you cannot perform withdrawals or deposits, it is simply for display so it does not have access to make transactions through your accounts.
Take your time becoming familiar with the various tools. I will admit, it may seem overwhelming at first. Once you learn the system you will realize it is a treasure trove of information to help you navigate your way to financial security.