Anyone looking for a digital wealth management tool has probably come across Personal Capital.
It’s one of the most popular tools available today, and with its hybrid model of financial aggregation services, robo-advisor algorithms, and real human financial advisors offering personalized advice, it appears — on paper, at least — like a money management tool that offers something for everyone.
But what’s likely to really catch the eye of any budget-conscious potential customer is that it’s “free.”
While it is true that Personal Capital offers both free and paid features, many potential users have asked the same question: How can Personal Capital really offer anything at no cost to me?
As the age-old wisdom goes, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
You might not pay any money to use Personal Capital’s free tier, but you will pay in other ways — like with your personal data. And, if your online privacy is something you’re concerned about, you may find that using the free version of Personal Capital costs you quite a bit.
In this article, we’ll start by making sure you know everything you need to know about the high cost of free financial tracking apps like Personal Capital.
Then, we’ll introduce you to the only personal balance sheet platform that still promises to respect your privacy and security without skimping on the features — or the savings.
Personal Capital Review
At the free tier, Personal Capital — available via desktop and mobile app — is a pretty standard wealth management platform.
Users can plug in their bank and savings accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, and other mainstream financial accounts. Once connected, they are able to take advantage of money management features like a net worth tracker, an automatic budgeting tool, a savings planner, a 30-day cash flow overview, and more.
For users who need longer-term wealth management, the Personal Capital dashboard offers financial planning tools including a retirement planner, a calculator to help see how much you’d need to save to meet certain financial goals, and a very handy fee analyzer to help you see if you’re paying any hidden management fees.
Once a user has $100,000 in assets in their account, access to Personal Capital’s advisory services becomes available to them — for a fee, of course. And a steep-ish one at that.
At this tier, users can tap into highly-personalized investment services such as investment checkups, investment advice, investment strategy coaching, retirement planning, tax optimization and tax-loss harvesting, portfolio allocation and target allocation guidance, and similar.
For these hands-on services, Personal Capital charges .49% to .89% of the value of assets under management. Compare that to Vanguard’s .30%.
So while the free version of Personal Capital definitely isn’t as stacked with investment tools as a paid account would be, on paper, it still looks like a great deal. But unfortunately, there’s something every potential user needs to know: Personal Capital isn’t really free, even if you only use the services it advertises as unpaid.
Pssst: Are you Canadian — or outside North America? Then Personal Capital probably won’t work for you, but these wealth management tools for Canada and beyond might!
3 Facts That Show How Personal Capital Isn’t Really Free
So is Personal Capital actually free to use? Not really. Here’s why.
Personal Capital’s Sales Team Will Hound You For-ev-er
The first reason is that once you sign up for the app’s free tools, you’ll be hit with pretty aggressive marketing and upselling. Paid features, like the personal financial advice Personal Capital is known for giving, are marketed extremely heavily to those who sign up to use services in the free tier — often for years on end.
But if you’re thinking that you can handle a little upselling and some sales pressure in exchange for getting some high-quality wealth management services for free, there’s even more you should know.
Person Capital Advisors Probably Have Access to Your Account — Paid or Not
“I used the free tool for the past year and found it really beneficial to see things like my market allocation. However, I went on one of their complimentary wealth management calls and realized that without me giving explicit permission the Personal Capital Wealth Advisor had complete and unrestricted access to my account.
“I immediately deleted my account and am not going to use them going forward.”
That story comes straight from someone who was using the free tier of Personal Capital.
Despite the fiduciary duties Personal Capital’s investment advisors surely stick to, this still gives us the ick. And, chances are that most people using the free tier of any financial service don’t expect its workers to be digging around inside their investment portfolio — especially when it’s just to try to sell you something (again)!
If the sanctity and security of the info you put into your wealth tracker is at all important to you, violations like this are something to be aware of with Personal Capital.
Personal Capital Uses Your Private Information to Market Paid Products
We certainly appreciate that they’re careful about making sure identifiable and sensitive user information never leaves their gates. However, this is where we think the biggest red flag about Personal Capital’s “free” personal finance tools comes into play — and the biggest reason we don’t consider it to be free at all.
This lifts the veil on an even more insidious way that Personal Capital makes money off its free users, even though they don’t directly pay for services. The platform uses their personal wealth and financial information to try to sell them on other products and services offered by the app’s parent company, Empower Retirement.
In simpler terms, any data that you share with them will be used to sell you products and services they think you need, based on your wealth and financial information. This is just as big of a concern for privacy-minded users as it is for most of today’s internet users, who report that advertisers are one of the things they want to avoid the most when they’re online.
This right here is the heart of the problem with any free financial service: It has to make money somehow. If it’s not doing so through user fees, it will find another way.
If you want complete control over the privacy of your financial information, you’re much better off using a paid service that supports itself with fees, instead of using your data to drive revenue.
Paid Services Are Sometimes the Better Choice
No, we’re not saying that all you have to do is choose a paid investment management tool and you can rest easy, knowing your data is safe, secure, and within your control.
Personal Capital is a perfect example of why it’s so important to do your research and read all the fine print, especially when you’re considering digital tools that will have access to your financial data.
A paid service is likely to be a better choice, because paid services can earn their revenue through fees and don’t need to sell or use your data to make a profit. But it’s still important to carefully examine the terms and conditions before signing up for any financial tool.
The key is to look for a wealth tracker that gives you absolute and total control over your own data and privacy.
And there’s one tool that respects your privacy while providing the features you need — Kubera.
Choose Kubera: We Will Never Sell Your Personal Data
Kubera is different from other digital wealth management tools in a lot of ways, but first things first: We will never sell your personal data for marketing.
Kubera is made by a small, independent company with one goal: Create a complete, modern solution for tracking wealth.
By design, that means Kubera is totally privacy-friendly. We charge for a simple subscription — no hidden fees here — so we can support our platform without ever selling user data to third parties, unless it’s explicitly required for them to provide their service.
And, we’re security obsessed. We don’t access your financial credentials at all, we take care to make sure any identifiable info is masked even from our own team, and we’re always looking for ways to increase safety by adding functionality like two-factor authentication and running security audits.
Kubera has a responsibility to store and protect your most sensitive data, and we clearly take it seriously.
But there are also lots of fun reasons Kubera is the best choice in the sea of digital wealth management tools!
It’s simple to use, and can be linked to pretty much any investment accounts and financial institutions you throw at it. Really, check out just a few hundred of the banks, brokerage firms, crypto exchanges, and other financial institutions we integrate with.
Because of our deep integrability, you can monitor and manage almost any traditional or alternative asset you can think of. Of course you can track bank accounts and individual stocks (and in real-time!), but there are also all the interesting investable assets — crypto, domains, cash from around the globe, precious metals, NFTs, artwork, vehicles, real estate, and even those family heirlooms you keep in the attic!
Kubera is the only wealth management tool available today that can track the wide variety of digital assets that modern investors own.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t stop at just tracking it.
Kubera also comes loaded with a beneficiary management feature for making sure your retirement savings never fall into the wrong hands, a recap screen that enables you to see asset allocation and net worth changes from daily to yearly, and a calculator that can automatically find IRR for investments for you.
The cherry on top is that our price is one simple, annual fee that gives you access to all of our awesome features and tools. Financial advisors, wealth managers, and other pros can use Kubera with their private clients through our white-label ready offering.
No, Kubera isn’t free. But we’re proud of that. In the world of digital wealth management, “free” hardly ever means without cost.