Note: right now Personal Capital’s running a promotion where they’ll give us each a free $20 Amazon gift card if you set up an account and link one or more investment accounts to it for tracking purposes only. See how you like Personal Capital, get free money, and help me keep this blog going. Thanks!
If you’re serious about FI/ER you need the right financial management system.
I’m hoping I can save you some time & trouble finding it. In the twenty-five years since I started the FI/ER journey, I’ve spent a gadzilious number of hours testing and using most of the systems out there.
The TL;DR of this post is that compared to Excel, Quicken, and Mint, I chose Personal Capital for form/function, reliability, and accuracy. It’s simply the best financial management system out there. And it’s free! Click here to test-drive it today.
The ideal financial management system should keep you on the right side of the form/function tradeoff–i.e., you shouldn’t have to make too many compromises in how you work. I’m also heavily into system reliability. My fuse is about this long [holds thumb and fingertip an eentsy bit apart] for having to screw around with software bugs. And above all, I need accuracy.
In the time I’ve been using Personal Capital I haven’t had to tweak it one bit to get it to do what I want, and its information updates quickly and is highly accurate.
I’ll take it.
Personal Capital‘s user interface at first might look stripped down, but you’ll find there’s a great deal of detail accessible within two or three clicks. The design is no-nonsense and built around the “show up and get to work” principle.
When you open Personal Capital you go straight to your Investment screen; a tip-off thatPersonal Capital‘s meant for people who are relatively more knowledgeable about investing than average, and who have a longer planning horizon than the next few paychecks or even the next few years.
Note, for instance, that the term “Cash Flow” is being used on the front page.
Also note the complete lack of ads, although I should point out thatPersonal Capital is in effect ITSELF an ad. Sign up and link your accounts, and within a few days you’ll be getting a low-pressure sales call from a Personal Capital advisor about buying the company’s investment management services. If you should turn these services down you’ll still be welcome to use Personal Capital for free, but I recommend having a conversation or two with the advisor if for no other reason than to get a second pair of eyes on your portfolio. I mean, seriously. I sat there and chatted with the guy for two hours without ever intending to hire them, and we both knew it the whole time.
Personal Capital‘s Transactions page resembles a checkbook register. Slice-n-dice buttons right at the top, and the lack of scadzillions of ads–like you’ll find in Mint–makes for a better experience.
The Portfolio menu gives you a number of functions; ones that in my experience are on par with if not superior to the tools available from my broker’s app. This is a huge plus to me: no need to jump around from website to website depending on which one best suits your needs at that moment.
Summary, Transactions, and Portfolio are your near-term functions, but for long-term financial management I’m impressed withPersonal Capital‘s Advisor Tools feature…particularly Retirement Planning.
Much like FIRECalc and other such calculators, edit your assumptions and Personal Capital will evaluate your retirement outlook with a proprietary Monte Carlo-style model. I like this a lot: we’re looking at the Big Picture here, and the fact that all the elements of my financial situation are gathered in one place makes it extremely easy to calculate and keep a constant eye on things.
To sum up, I think anybody who’s committed to FI/ER needs a tool that’s at least as suited to long-term planning as it is to day-to-day money management, and in this respect I thinkPersonal Capital leaves Mint and Quicken and custom spreadsheet models in the shade.
So check it out, man…create a Personal Capital account link your assets and liabilities to it, then play around for a while. There’s a good shot it’ll streamline your money management approach, and save you some time in the process.