You can do just about anything with a smartphone these days, including keeping an eye on how well your investments are doing. When you’re still learning the nuances of the market, it helps to choose an app that’s both comprehensive and user-friendly.
For 20-somethings who aren’t as experienced with investing, a simple approach usually works best. Personal Capital combines a wide-ranging array of features with a wealth of investment advice that’s won’t leave you scratching your head about what the difference is between stocks and bonds. We’ve got the lowdown on how Personal Capital works and why it’s an excellent investment management tool for millennials.
What it does
Personal Capital lets you organize all of your different investment accounts in one place so you can gauge their performance at any given time. You can access Personal Capital through your PC or download the mobile app for free on Amazon, Google Play or the Apple Store. Once you’ve created an account, you can link your retirement accounts, investments, bank accounts, credit cards and mortgage accounts using your individual login information.
From there, you can start using the app’s many features, which include a net worth calculator, a portfolio tracker, a 401(k) fee analyzer, a mutual fund analyzer and a cash flow tool. Since all of your account information is synced and updated automatically, you’ll be able to see at a glance which investments are pulling in the best returns, how much your 401(k) is costing you and where your money’s going each month.
Why it’s a good choice for first-time investors
As an investment management tool, Personal Capital offers a lot of appeal for the 20-something crowd. It’s compatible with most smartphones, allowing tech-savvy millennials to keep an eye on their investments on the go. Its straightforward design is also attractive, especially for young adults who are making their first foray into investing. You don’t have to know a lot about the market to use the app and the different tools provide some guidance in an easy-to-understand format.
Personal Capital can also help you to save money on your investments, which is big for millennials who are trying to squeeze the most out of every dollar. For example, the mutual fund analyzer lets you compare how much each fund is costing you in fees and it also makes suggestions about which funds are less expensive. You can also do the same with your 401(k) investments and the app breaks it down according to how many years of retirement you could be losing just by paying higher fees.
Comparing Personal Capital to Mint
Personal Capital has been compared to Mint, and while the two do have certain things in common, there are some key differences to be aware of. As far as the similarities go, both apps let you track your spending and break down your expenses into specific categories. Mint, however, has the added advantage of allowing you to create budgets based on how you spend. Since Personal Capital is primarily meant to be a tool for managing investments, that’s not something millennial users are likely to hold against it.
As far as keeping your accounts up-to-date, Personal Capital appears to have the edge based on complaints from Mint users about unreliability with its syncing process. The app uses a security interface that’s similar to Mint but takes it a step further by requiring users to register each device they access their account through. You’ll have to verify your account before access is granted, via email or an automated call.
While Mint is mainly marketed as a budgeting app, it does have some investment tracking features. When you compare it Personal Capital, however, it’s clear to see which is the winner. Whereas one offers a basic summary of where your investments stand and what kind of fees you’re paying, the other lets you delve more deeply into how your individual assets are doing and what steps to take next with your investment strategy. It’s the perfect solution for money-minded millennials who want expert advice on a shoestring budget.
Weighing the drawbacks
There are definitely some major benefits for 20-something investors who use Personal Capital, but there are a few potential downsides to keep in mind. While signing up for an account is free, you’ll pay a fee if you decide to take advantage of the company’s wealth management services. The fee schedule is calculated as a percentage of the value of your portfolio and they’re higher at the outset. If you don’t have a lot of cash to work with, you could end up shelling out more than you would if you hired an outside financial advisor.
When you create your investment profile, Personal Capital automatically shows you a target allocation model that’s appropriate to your financial situation. While that’s meant to take some of the guesswork out of choosing your investments, you don’t have the option of customizing it based on your specific preferences. If a particular stock or mutual fund isn’t included in the model, you won’t be able to project performance compared to the rest of your portfolio. On the other hand, if you’re not super picky, that might seem like a small thing compared to everything else the app allows you to do.
Rebecca is a writer for MyBankTracker.com. She is an expert in consumer banking products, saving and money psychology. She has contributed to numerous online outlets, including U.S. News & World Report, and more.