Latest posts by R.J. Weiss, CFP®
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If you’re serious about your finances and want to find tools that will make money management and tracking easier, you shouldn’t overlook personal finance apps.
Can you handle your finances without apps? Sure, but they can bring a lot of value to what you’re trying to do. Apps are designed to be helpful and streamline things – and that can be incredibly useful when you’re dealing with finances.
But before you sign up for the first free financial app you see, you should spend some time looking at which one might be best for you and your particular situation. Make sure to pick one you can envision staying with in the long term. The longer you track your information, such as your net worth, the more complete of a picture you’ll see.
When comparing finance tracking apps — no search can’t be complete without looking at Personal Capital vs. Mint.
I’ve now used both apps extensively and have a good handle on their pros and cons.
Which app is right for you? Here’s what you need to know.
Personal Capital vs. Mint: What Both Apps Have To Offer
One of the first things to look at before deciding on an app is their business model.
Both Personal Capital and Mint are free to use. But keep in mind, both these apps are profitable companies. So, while they give you free tools to track you’re money, each does earn revenue.
With Mint, they make money by referrals they make to various companies, by products they promote, or through credit cards. For example, they may see your financial situation and recommend a certain credit card.
Although Personal Capital is free for all users, it offers to manage the money of its clients who have a larger net worth and more assets. For that service, they take a fee. The larger your portfolio, the smaller the fee percentage gets. If your portfolio is under $1 million, Personal Capital charges .89 percent, but when that number bumps up to a range of $1 million to $3 million, it drops down to .79 percent.
I say this first because it’s important to understand as you go through the key benefits and features of the apps.
Personal Capital vs. Mint: Where Mint Is Different
One of my favorite things about Mint is how easy it is to use. The sign-up process is simple, and it just takes a minute to add in new accounts. Spending just five or ten minutes inputting information will have you ready to roll. You can throw credit card accounts on there, as well as loans, investments, and your bank accounts.
Mint then does all the tedious tracking and examines your budget. It gives you useful charts to help you get a quick breakdown of everything. You can set up alerts that let you know when you’ve gone over budget in any category you’ve set up.
Mint is also useful when it comes to setting goals – and that’s important because goal setting makes you more likely to succeed when it comes to finances.
With Mint, you can pick a goal or create your own. For example, let’s say your goal was to pay off a loan. Using my own account, here’s how Mint’s goal setting feature works.
Step # 1 – Choosing a Goal
From the goals tab, I click on the goal to pay off a loan.
Step # 2 – Fill out accurate information
Mint automatically pulls up my only loan, which is my mortgage. In addition, since Mint syncs to this account, it pulls up the information. If not, I’ll enter it here.
Step # 3 – Use the calculator
I then get a calculator I can play around with that helps me figure out how much additional principal I’d have to pay in order to pay off my mortgage by a certain date. For example, say I was able to put $5,000 to my mortgage every month compared to my current payment of $1,900. Here’s what I’ll get:
Another nice feature is the two-factor authentication the app uses. You log in with the password you’ve set up, but then you have to use another method of identity validation before you can access it. You can do that through your email or through your cell phone.
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Personal Capital vs. Mint: Where Personal Capital Is Different
When looking at Personal Capital vs. Mint, you’ll notice one big advantage to using Personal Capital is that Mint is quite weak when it comes to helping you make better financial decisions. Personal Capital, on the other hand, excels at that.
With tools to help you make decisions, mostly in the investing space, Personal Capital is a more advanced way to handle your finances.
Here’s some of the free tools Personal Capital has to offer:
- Keep track of your income, spending, and net worth. Similar to Mint, Personal Capital allows you to sync all of your financial accounts – from your 401(k) and other investments to checking, savings, mortgage and credit cards. This allows you to keep track of cash flow, budgets, track your net worth, and more.
- Give your portfolio a checkup. With the free “Investment Checkup” tool, you can learn whether your investments (401K, IRAs, taxable accounts) are optimized to the ideal target allocation designed to minimize risk and maximize return.
- 401(k) Fee Analyzer. This tool can analyze your 401(k) plan and make recommendations for your asset allocation. That can help you grow your money for the future.
- Know exactly where you stand relative to your retirement goals. With the “Retirement Planner” tool, you discover how prepared you are for retirement based on your ideal target retirement date. Plus, learn the impact of life events – such as paying for college, selling a home and increasing your savings rate has on your retirement.
The tool I find most helpful is the Retirement Planner. This is the most accurate and easy to use calculator to track your retirement out of the dozens I’ve tried.
Here’s what I like about the tool.
- Uses Real Data. Pulls your actual income, expenses, and current portfolio–not your estimates. This can help avoid some wishful thinking, e.g. I can easily cut my expenses by 30% once I’m in retirement.
- Monte Carlo Simulation. It runs over 5,000 simulations from different time horizons. It then gives you a percentage of the likelihood of a successful retirement, that is you won’t run out of money. This is much more powerful and accurate than assuming a certain steady 7% rate of return–as we all know, this isn’t how the market works.
- Customization. Not all financial independence calculators allow you to insert variables such as college savings, retirement income and social security. You could test hundreds of different scenarios with Personal Capital’s Retirement Income Planner, e.g. what if I increase my savings by 10% a year or what if I take a part-time job that pays $15,000 per year in retirement.
To help you get an idea of the tool, after inserting my information within the app, here’s what I learn about my own financial situation with the Retirement Planner tool..
This is incredibly helpful to know today and even more helpful to track overtime.
Personal Capital Quick Summary
- Free analytics tools to show you where you stand relative to your goals
- Named best financial app by MacWorld
- Sign up in seconds
Mint vs. Personal Capital: Which Route To Go?
Before deciding which app to use, check them both out and see which feels the most comfortable for you to use. Then look at the bigger picture – which one has the most useful tools for you to use?
Instead of choosing between Personal Capital vs. Mint, you might find yourself wanting to use both. They both are valuable in their own way.
In my opinion, Mint is a great app for beginners or those mainly looking at their budgets and setting simple goals. To see what is available to you when using Mint, click here.
Personal Capital is hard to beat when it comes to improving your investments, planning for retirement, and tracking your net worth. If that’s the area you could use some help in, visit Personal Capital’s website here.
Related Reading on The Ways to Wealth
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- Betterment vs. Personal Capital: A Robo-Advisor Showdown
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