Personal Capital Review 2021: Pros, Cons and How It Compares

Personal Capital offers access to human advisors for a management fee that starts at 0.89% and a minimum balance of $100,000.
Alana BensonOct 6, 2021

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Our Take

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

The bottom line: Personal Capital’s fees are on the higher end, but anyone can use the robust free tools. All clients have access to a team of financial advisors; those with at least $200,000 invested get two dedicated financial advisors.

Personal Capital

on Personal Capital's website

on Personal Capital's website

Fees

0.49% - 0.89%

management fee

Account Minimum

$100,000

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Individual securities available.
  • Free, comprehensive investment management tools.
  • Dedicated financial advisors.
  • Advanced tax optimization strategy.

Cons

  • $100,000 account minimum.
  • High management fee.

Compare to Other Advisors

Personal Capital
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Zoe Financial
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
NerdWallet rating 
Fees

0.49% - 0.89%

management fee

Fees

0.30%

management fee

Fees

Varies by advisor

Account Minimum

$100,000

Account Minimum

$50,000

Account Minimum

$100,000

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

Promotion

None

no promotion available at this time

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Full Review

Where Personal Capital shines

Free tools: Personal Capital offers free, comprehensive investment management tools — you don’t even have to be a member to use them.

Advisor access: Personal Capital gives you access to either a team of advisors or two dedicated advisors depending on your account balance.

Where Personal Capital falls short

High minimum and fees: Personal Capital’s account minimum and management fee are on the higher end compared to some competitors.


Personal Capital is best for:

  • High-net-worth investors.

  • Hands-off investors.

  • Tax optimization.

  • Free financial management tools.

  • Access to human financial advisors.

Personal Capital at a glance

Account minimum

$100,000.

Account management, planning or subscription fee

Tiered fee depends on account balance:

  • First $1 million: 0.89%.

  • Up to $3 million: 0.79%.

  • Up to $5 million: 0.69%.

  • Up to $10 million: 0.59%.

  • Over $10 million: 0.49%.

Account fees

None.

Setup or onboarding fee

None.

Advisor access and credentials

All clients have access to a team of advisors. Clients with $200,000 or more have two dedicated advisors. Advisors have a range of credentials but certified financial planners are available upon request.

Clients are given a direct phone line to their advisors. Advisors are available via phone, email or video chat Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm MST (or where the advisor is located).

Financial planning services

Can advise on a majority of situations covered by full-service financial planning firms; estate planning available with a $1 million account balance.

Investment expense ratios

Average 0.08%.

Portfolio construction

12 portfolio allocations, individual client customizations considering their holistic financial life and specific financial goals. Socially responsible portfolios are available. Retirement paycheck feature is available as a paid service and recommends tax-optimized retirement-withdrawal strategies.

Brokerage options

Clients must move money to Personal Capital's custodian, Pershing Advisor Solutions.

Accounts supported

  • Nonretirement accounts.

  • Roth, traditional, rollover and SEP IRAs.

  • Trusts.

  • Cash account (not charged management fees).

Personal Capital will advise on 401(k) and 529 plan allocations, but does not directly manage those accounts.

Tax strategy

Tax-loss harvesting on portfolios that hold ETFs and individual stocks. Retirement paycheck feature recommends tax-optimized retirement-withdrawal strategies.

Customer support options (includes how easy it is to find key details on the website)

Customer service is available through the app and by phone Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific. Questions can be submitted after hours through the Dashboard or support portal.

More details about Personal Capital's ratings

Account minimum: 3 out of 5 stars

Personal Capital has a $100,000 minimum, which puts the wealth management service out of reach for many customers. Other online financial advisors offer services with far lower minimums, and some even have $0 minimums. However, compared to a traditional in-person financial advisor, $100,000 is reasonable.

Account management, planning or subscription fee: 2 out of 5 stars

Personal Capital investors with under $1 million will pay 0.89% of assets managed. Compared with similar online financial advisor Vanguard Personal Advisor Services, Personal Capital is more expensive: Vanguard charges 0.30% for that offering (up to $5 million). Betterment Premium, Betterment's answer to the hybrid model, charges 0.40% for unlimited phone access to advisors.

Managing your investments with a traditional financial advisor can cost significantly more than working with Personal Capital; the average advisor charges more than 1% of assets managed. At higher balances with its private client service, Personal Capital drops its fee further, ranging from 0.79% on your first $3 million to as low as 0.49% over $10 million.

Other account fees: 5 out of 5 stars

Personal Capital does not charge any other account fees.

Setup or onboarding fee: 5 out of 5 stars

Personal Capital’s annual fee is all-inclusive, meaning there is no setup or onboarding fee.

Advisor access and credentials: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Those with balances of $200,000 or more get access to two dedicated financial advisors who can answer questions about a wide range of issues, including retirement planning, estate planning, taxes and home financing. Clients with $100,000 to $200,000 invested have access to a team of advisors, all of whom have a fiduciary duty to clients. These advisors are available via phone, email or video chat. Advisors aren't always certified financial planners, but CFPs are available upon request. All clients have a direct phone number for their assigned advisor.

Financial planning services: 4 out of 5 stars

Personal Capital offers a variety of free and comprehensive tools, including an investment checkup, a 401(k) fee analyzer and a spending tracker. Though you must create Personal Capital login credentials to use them, you don't need to be enrolled in the company’s advisory service. The Personal Capital dashboard, part of the free offering, lets you view your entire financial picture in one place. You can easily view aspects such as net worth, cash flow, portfolio balances and portfolio allocation. A holdings module shows you how all of your investments are performing, and lets you view them by percentage of your portfolio, dollar amount and whether they’re "gainers" or "losers."

Personal Capital also offers spending analysis, a look at your cash flow that divides expenses into categories such as groceries, health care, clothing and restaurants. The tool tracks income sources and bills due for linked accounts as well.

» Want to compare options? See our full roundup of the best online financial advisors

The retirement planner analyzes your investment accounts to forecast whether you’ll meet your self-determined income needs in retirement. You can adjust those needs, as well as your expected Social Security income and the tax, life expectancy and investment return assumptions made by the calculator. The tool pulls real-time data from your Personal Capital account and incorporates day-to-day financial activity, updating estimates of retirement spending based on current spending figures.

The tools and services available increase along with the assets managed to include college savings planning; financial decisions support that covers insurance, home financing, stock options and compensation; private banking services; and estate, tax or legacy portfolio construction.

Investment expense ratios: 5 out of 5 stars

Like with most financial advisors, clients have to pay the expense ratios of the exchange-traded funds included in the portfolio in addition to the management fee. At Personal Capital those fees are fairly low, averaging only 0.08%.

Portfolio construction: 4 out of 5 stars

  • Clients with $100,000 to $200,000 in assets are invested in a portfolio of ETFs that carry that weighted average expense ratio of 0.08% and are designed to be tax-efficient.

  • Clients with $200,000 to $1 million in assets receive all the benefits above, as well as the ability to customize a portfolio that includes individual stocks and ETFs.

  • Clients with $1 million or more in assets receive the services above and the ability to invest in individual bonds.

Personal Capital's personalized approach takes a holistic view of a client's financial picture — not just the assets it manages. The company uses a portfolio selection process it calls Smart Weighting, which invests equally in all sectors, rather than mimicking an index like the S&P 500.

Personal Capital also has socially responsible strategies, which screen U.S. equities based on environmental, social and governance factors.

Brokerage options: 2 out of 5 stars

Some financial advisors allow you to keep your money at any major brokerage, which can save you money if your past or future broker charges any kind of fees. Unfortunately Personal Capital only manages money at their custodian, Pershing Advisor Solutions.

Accounts supported: 4 out of 5 stars

Personal Capital manages nonretirement accounts, Roth, traditional, rollover and SEP IRAs and trusts. Personal Capital will advise on 401(k) and 529 plan allocations, but does not directly manage those accounts.

In addition to its investment accounts, Personal Capital offers the Personal Capital Cash Management Account with a 0.05% interest rate. If you’re also a Personal Capital Advisory client, your interest rate will be bumped up.

Tax strategy: 4 out of 5 stars

Personal Capital utilizes asset location (putting investments into the most tax-efficient accounts), tax-loss harvesting (a strategy where you sell investments at a loss to offset capital gains tax) and tax efficiency (investing with stocks and ETFs over mutual funds) to help you minimize your tax bill.

Customer support options: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Customer service is available through the app and by phone Monday to Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Pacific time. Questions can be submitted after hours through the Dashboard or support portal. Some of Personal Capital's competitors offer more comprehensive customer support, such as 24/7 phone support, holiday hours or video chat support.

Is Personal Capital right for you?

Personal Capital should appeal to two main kinds of investors who fall on opposite ends of the spectrum: DIY investors who can use the company’s free and comprehensive tools to gain valuable insight into their portfolios, and high-net-worth investors who can deposit enough with the service to gain access to dedicated financial advisors and the services you'd get from working with a traditional human advisor.

Investors who fall in that $100,000 to $200,000 range, which only offers access to a team of financial advisors, can find a similar level of service for less at competitors such as Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.

How do we review online financial advisors?

NerdWallet's comprehensive review process evaluates and ranks U.S. firms that either provide financial planning services online or connect users with a financial advisor, using a multifaceted and iterative approach. This process does not cover wealth management services offered by brokerages or banks. It does include several robo-advisors that offer clients access to human advisors as a premium upgrade. Our aim is to provide an independent assessment of providers to help arm you with information to make sound, informed judgements on which ones will best meet your needs.

DATA COLLECTION AND REVIEW PROCESS

We collect data directly from providers, and conduct first-hand testing and observation through provider demonstrations. Our process starts by sending detailed questionnaires to providers to complete. The questionnaires are structured to equally elicit both favorable and unfavorable responses from providers. They are not designed or prepared to produce any predetermined results. The questionnaire answers, combined with product demonstrations, interviews of personnel at the providers and our specialists’ hands-on research, fuel our proprietary assessment process that scores each provider’s performance across more than 20 factors. The final output produces star ratings from poor (one star) to excellent (five stars). Ratings are rounded to the nearest half-star.

RATING FACTORS

Evaluations vary by provider type, but in each case are based upon the weighted averages of factors that include but are not limited to: advisory and account fees, account minimums and types, investment selection, investment expense ratios, trading costs, access to human financial advisors, educational resources and tools, rebalancing and tax minimization options, and customer support including branch access, user-facing technology and mobile platforms.

Each factor can involve evaluating various sub-factors. For instance, when gauging the investment selections offered by robo-advisors, 80% of the score is based on the potential for diversification (how well-diversified a resulting portfolio of investments could be) combined with the availability of specialty portfolios and level of customization for investors. Expense ratios form an additional 10% of the score, and low or no management fee the remaining 10%.

FACTOR WEIGHTINGS

The weighting of each factor is based on our team’s assessment of which features are the most important to consumers and which ones impact the consumer experience in the most meaningful way. The factors considered, and how those factors are weighted, change depending upon the category of providers reviewed.

INFORMATION UPDATES

Writers and editors conduct our broker reviews on an annual basis but continually make updates throughout the year. We maintain frequent contact with providers and highlight any changes in offerings.

THE REVIEW TEAM

The review team comprises seasoned writers, researchers and editors who cover stocks, bonds, mutual funds, index funds, exchange-traded funds, alternative investments, socially responsible investing, financial advisors, retirement and investment strategy on a daily basis. In addition to NerdWallet, the work of our team members has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Forbes, USA Today, Bloomberg News, Nasdaq, MSN, MarketWatch, Yahoo! Finance and other national and regional media outlets.

The combined expertise of our Investing team is infused into our review process to ensure thoughtful evaluations of provider products and services from the customer perspective. Our writers and editors combine to have more than 70 years of deep experience in finance, ranging from a former Wall Street Journal reporter to a former senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

While NerdWallet does have partnerships with many of the reviewed providers, we manage potential conflicts of interest by maintaining a wall between our content and business operations. This wall is designed to prevent our writers and the review process from being influenced or impacted by our business partnerships. This way, all reviews can provide an unbiased review that serves the interests of our users. For more information, see NerdWallet’s editorial guidelines.

on Personal Capital's website