It was a revelation – all this data at my fingertips. All these pretty charts.
It had little categorization headaches but for a free app, it was awesome.
Until then, I was saving all of my receipts and recording all my expenses into an Excel spreadsheet. I'm as much of a spreadsheet junkie as you can get but manually entering expenses was a chore.
When Mint came along, and this was the days before Intuit bought them, it saved me a ton of time. It was magnificent.
Over the years, Mint has done a fine job but I needed more. I need something better than Mint. Tracking expenses is just one side of the equation of achieving wealth. My savings were going into investments but Mint did a great job of budgeting and expenses but when it came to investments it… lacking.
So I turned to another completely free tool – Personal Capital.
What is Personal Capital?
It's a free-to-use service, much like Mint, that acts as your financial dashboard. It's more than a way to track expenses and budget for savings. It also tracks your investments and has integration with a litany of brokerages.
It's free to use because they also offer optional financial advisory services. If you want to, you can talk with a financial advisor or just rely on their suite of free tools that analyze your investments and offer automated advice.
You can even use them for wealth management, meaning you give them your money and they invest it for you. Again, optional and I don't use it (my money is with Vanguard in low-cost mutual funds).
How Are They Similar?
The key similarity between Mint and Personal Capital is how they automate your financial life. They both offer the ability to link up your accounts to a financial dashboard, which can save you a TON of time and simplify your life.
How many financial accounts do you have? I have a handful of credit cards (I mainly use three), a few bank accounts, and two brokerage accounts. If I had to manually go into them to review my expenses, check my balances, and go over my investments… it would be a lot of time. I'd be less likely to do it.
But since both tools offer a dashboard, I can get a snapshot in seconds. You can also get email notifications for all kinds of things, like your spending.
When Is Personal Capital Better Than Mint?
With Mint, you only budget. You see what you spend, you try to spend less, and you stop there. If you want to track investments, it's not that good.
All of my banks, brokerages, and investments are tracked in one place. My income and expenses are tracked too.
Here's a look at some of the investment screens (none of my money is with Personal Capital, this is data they pulled from my other accounts:
And with their tools, you can get advice on what my investment should be (according to what I tell them my risk tolerance and age is):
If you have investments and want a tool that does that AND tracks expenses, give this a try.
I asked readers of the blog about their favorite personal finance app and this one comment resonated with me — “Mint I use to see where my money has gone and Personal Capital I use to see where my money should go.” Very well put.
Personal Capital planning tools can help you do everything from analyze the fees you're paying in your 401(k) to see if you are saving enough for retirement. You can set how much you expect to spend, your saving rates, and it'll help figure out if you will end up with enough.
If you have multiple brokerage accounts, link them up and now you can see how your asset allocation is distributed across those accounts. That's much harder to do manually. These are all tools available for free too so if that interests you, definitely check them out.
When Is Mint Better Than Personal Capital?
When it comes to budgeting, Mint is better. They've had a longer period to develop their tools and so they are more robust. The reports are easier to understand, the categorization is more intuitive, and the notifications are better designed.
Heck, Personal Capital can't create a budget. You can monitor your spending but that's about it.
Mint will also, which is part of their business model, recommend ways for you to save money. This includes promoting different products, like credit cards and insurance, but that's how they pay for the budgeting tools.
There's a good reason why Intuit acquired Mint and then sold off Quicken! Mint is one of the best budgeting tools available but where they suffer is in the area of investments. If you don't need any kind of portfolio management tools, then you'll be very happy with Mint.
You Can Use Them Together
Let's say you have years of Mint data, you're used to how they do things, it's categorized your transactions perfectly, and you're just not ready to jump ship after the countless hours you put into it.
I felt the same way. I kind of like having all those months of charts and graphs.
So I used the two together for a while.
Mint doesn't have the investing tools you need to get to the next level. Personal Capital does, so start tracking that aspect of your financial life today until you reach the point that the years of historical data are less valuable to you.
Plus they're both free so you're not double paying (or even single paying!) for a service and they're both automated so you're not doing double work.
OK, that was my last-ditch effort to try to get you to try a free service I use every month. 🙂