Review: Empower Retirement Planner


Empower dashboard


If you have come here, read through the Stock Series and decided the simple low-cost approach described makes sense, you are now faced with the problem of how do you get from where you are to where you want to be. That is, what do you do with all the investments you already have? How, exactly, do you move from point “A” to point “B”?

If you are like many readers, you’ve come to this blog having already spent years, maybe even decades, investing. You very likely have a wide range of stocks and/or funds that seemed like a good idea at the time but now, maybe not so much. In my next post we’ll talk about how to unload those unwanted stocks and funds.

But the first order of business is to get a grasp on exactly what you currently own, what it is costing you in fees and how/if it might fit into your new and future plans.

You may already have this well organized and at your fingertips. If so, well done and you can skip ahead to the post How to unload your unwanted stocks and funds.

If not, you’ll probably want to use one of the on-line tools out there. Empower (previously Personal Capital) is the coolest I’ve seen and one of the easiest to use. Plus, it is FREE.

For those reasons, it is the one I recommend and it is one of only four affiliates I’ve accepted here on the blog. What that means is, if you choose to use it, this blog will earn a commission.

To use Empower‘s free tools, click on the link and log in. Next you’ll enter your investments and bank accounts. While I don’t use Mint, some of my FI friends tell me entering your data into PC is even easier.

Once your info is entered, you’ll be able to keep track of all your accounts and the data will be updated automatically. You can even enter any paintings, antiques, jewelry and/or any other valuables you might own. Of course with those you’ll have to decide on their value and it won’t be automatically updated.

Your PC dashboard then automates your net worth calculation and updates every time you log in on your desktop, phone or tablet.

Once you are done, assuming you’ve entered everything correctly, you’ll have complete handle on your financial situation:

Net Worth

Empower net worth

Fees on your funds

Empower fee analyzer

Empower retirement fee analyzer

Your current allocations

Empower investment allocation

Cash Flow

PC cash flow

Retirement Planning

Empower retirement planner

Note: The above illustrations are all courtesy of Empower, from their website and are not from an actual client account.

At a glance now you’ll see what’s working and what you might want to change. As I say, very cool.

So what’s the catch?

Skeptic that you are (or should be) right about now you’re thinking:

“If this is all free, how do they make their money?”

Boy howdy! You sound like me!

This is a lot of cool and sophisticated stuff to provide for free and around here we know even we can be conned. When offered free stuff, it always pays to understand how the money flows. While my pals had already filled me in, this still was one of the key questions I had when I met with them at FinCon (see Sidebar below). Nothing like hearing it personally.

Turns out they are also financial advisors and several buttons on their site will direct you to this service. So what is happening here is, by offering these tools, they are also collecting data and in the process cultivating a very clean prospect list for their services. If your assets are large enough they will reach out to you and offer to sign you up.

My independent sources who have experienced this assure me it is very low key and low pressure. They don’t want to alienate anyone. The thinking is that as people get used to using their tools over the years, should they ever decide to engage professional guidance, Empower will be the first in mind and the “go to” place. Seems a smart approach to me.

Meanwhile you can happily use the free tools and ignore the advisory service for as long as you like.

So should you use their advisory service?

Well, the the annual fees are:

.89% for portfolios up to $1 million and then…

  • .79% for the first $3 million
  • .69% for the next $2 million
  • .59% for the next $5 million
  • .49% over $10 million

Let’s look at it this way:

  1. If you are coming from a traditional advisor and paying upwards of 1% a year, Empower looks very good and is worth your serious consideration. Especially if you find value in personal attention.
  2. If you just want some guidance setting your asset allocation and rebalancing it automatically, Betterment is a less expensive option and worth a look.
  3. If you have read the Stock Series here and are comfortable with what you’ve learned, you should be able to handle this yourself. Go directly to Vanguard and their low-cost index funds. This is your least expensive option and at a million plus invested you’ll even qualify for their Flagship Service and some personal guidance.



This was Part I of a post that originally included two parts, the second being on how to unload your unwanted stocks and funds. Since they both deserve an update and second look, and since I thought them more useful separated, here you are. If you are interested, this is the original.


Addendum: May 9, 2018

In the comments on the original post, reader Dave provides an excellent update mini-review on Empower


From Firecracker in the comments below…

Subscribe to JL’s Newsletter

Important Resources

  • Talent Stacker is a resource that I learned about through my work with Jonathan and Brad at ChooseFI, and first heard about Salesforce as a career option in an episode where they featured Bradley Rice on the Podcast. In that episode, Bradley shared how he reached FI quickly thanks to his huge paychecks and discipline in keeping his expenses low. Jonathan teamed up with Bradley to build Talent Stacker, and they have helped more than 1,000 students from all walks of life complete the program and land jobs like clockwork, earning double or even triple their old salaries using a Salesforce certification to break into a no-code tech career.
  • Credit Cards are like chain saws. Incredibly useful. Incredibly dangerous. Resolve to pay in full each month and never carry a balance. Do that and they can be great tools. Here are some of the very best for travel hacking, cash back and small business rewards.
  • Empower is a free tool to manage and evaluate your investments. With great visuals you can track your net worth, asset allocation, and portfolio performance, including costs. At a glance you'll see what's working and what you might want to change. Here's my full review.
  • Betterment is my recommendation for hands-off investors who prefer a DIFM (Do It For Me) approach. It is also a great tool for reaching short-term savings goals. Here is my Betterment Review
  • NewRetirement offers cool tools to help guide you in answering the question: Do I have enough money to retire? And getting started is free. Sign up and you will be offered two paths into their retirement planner. I was also on their podcast and you can check that out here:Video version, Podcast version.
  • Tuft & Needle (T&N) helps me sleep at night. They are a very cool company with a great product. Here’s my review of what we are currently sleeping on: Our Walnut Frame and Mint Mattress.


  1. Alex says

    JL Collin’s clearly recommends Vanguard funds over these other options, but doesn’t compare the expense ratios side-by-side so you can see how terrible PC’s expense ratios really are.

    VTSAX’s (Vanguard Total Market) expense ratio is 0.04%
    vs. 0.89% for Personal Capital on $1m is a huge difference. That’s $400 vs. $8,900 of fees on $1m on the first year alone. Compounding that is mind-boggling (even if PC’s fees decrease ever so slowly on additional balances).

    The $/hour benefit for folks to read through his Stock Series and DIY via Vanguard funds beats almost anything else you can do with your time.

      • Dylan says

        And probably still worth it! I read through the Stock Series a year ago but just picked up The Simple Path to Wealth. The written flow of the book is great. And, I’m old fashioned and like to feel the pages. Halfway done in 1 week and it will soon be a gift to my younger brother. Thanks Jim, you’re a great writer!

          • Dylan says

            And I’m officially through the book. Loved the “Final Thoughts on Risk” in the Addendum, what a great way to tie up all the ideas.

            One thing I’m not clear on after reading, is if there is any advantage to holding one’s assets in, or just buying the VTI / VTSAX somewhere else (e.g We use this bank for checking and they seem to offer these options. Sorry, probably not the right place for this question, feel free to point me elsewhere if this as been addressed already. Cheers Jim!

          • jlcollinsnh says

            Personally, I prefer not to have another organization the potential for more fees between me and Vanguard. No upside I can see.

      • Alex says

        For what it’s worth, I have checked your book out from the library, bought another for a member of my family, and encouraged two others to buy it. Several others have read the series online.

    • MaxWard says

      I went with Personal Capital a couple of years ago when I was just starting to get a handle on my retirement investments. (I was seriously even afraid to understand my position, even though it was OK… sigh) I knew of index investing, but didn’t have enough information to pull the all vanguard trigger yet. (Simple Path to Wealth wasn’t out yet, and I didn’t know of the Stock Series)

      So far my returns have tracked comparably to my Vanguard investments, even with the higher expense ratio. I think that’s mostly luck of good market times though.

      Once some other life and financial crap settles down, I’ll probably pull the trigger and convert PC to Vanguard.

  2. David says

    You rock, Jim! Thanks for your continued posts…please continue! We’ll especially need your guidance & reassurance when the next recession happens for sure. I believe most folks have more aggressive allocations than their natural risk tolerance due to this long running bull market…so we’ll need your voice when the tides turn!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks David….

      But many of the posts here already address the inevitable. Market drops are a normal part of the process. Like snow in winter. 😉

  3. The Moneysaurus says

    Hi Jim. Love the blog AND the book!

    The biggest issue I see with using Personal Capital et al as net worth tracking tools is that — in most cases — you’re required to hand over your investment account credentials so that the service can slurp in your data. This is something I wrote about extensively on my own failed blog. You’re essentially handing over full access to your account, and regardless of how much you may trust said service it does create risk. How are they storing your username and password? Is that data properly encrypted?

    2-factor authentication, a security feature we should all be leveraging on our financial accounts, often doesn’t play nicely with these services either. So the question can become “Do I disable 2-factor authentication in order to see this account in Personal Capital?”… The answer should always be “no”, but I can’t imagine we all the foresight — read “healthy paranoia” — to know that.

    Some financial companies, such as Capital One and Betterment solve this issue by creating read-only access tokens that can be used to grant Personal Capital or Mint or whatever read-only access to your account. This allows the service to pull in your data while greatly reducing risk. If more companies followed suit, than I wouldn’t need to write this comment!

    In short, Personal Capital and Mint are great tools.. but be careful. Unless your financial accounts offer read-only access tokens, perhaps stay away.

    – The Moneysaurus

    • Blues says

      I agree entirely! I signed up for PC based on Jim’s recommendation on this blog. But I refuse to hand over they keys to my money. Their customer support is good – they walked me through entering individual securities, rather than entire accounts. But that becomes a very static snapshot; they obviously can’t update their picture of your assets. As a result, I took a quick look at the allocations once, and haven’t been back to the site since.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      This has also been a concern of mine.

      I have been assured that it is OK and, of course, Mint and PC and others routinely handle this for huge customer bases without apparent issue.

      But, still…

      …it is well worth careful consideration before pulling the trigger.

    • Robert says

      This consideration is actually why I stopped using Personal Capital and changed all of my passwords. Just not worth the risk.

  4. Accidental FIRE says

    Thanks for the transparency on Personal Capital Jim, didn’t know that they reach out for advising services.

    I use an excel sheet that I’ve had for over 20 years. I don’t trust services like Personal Capital or Mint from a security perspective. I have quite a few very smart “ethical hacker” friends in the tech community and they tell me constant horror stories of things they’re easily able to hack into. So giving one site like that all of my account usernames and passwords is just out of my comfort zone. But those sites look handy and I can see why people use them.

    I’m probably too paranoid but my excel sheet works great anyway.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks for the acknowledgement of the transparency here, AF…

      …it is important to me.

      See the conversation immediately above for others who share your concern.

      Like you, I personally use spreadsheets I created in 1989 and I have continually updated them since then. Certainly not as slick and comprehensive as PC, but very simple and they meet my needs.

      I just always figured this was a function of my being an old guy behind the times. 🙂

      • bex says

        What’s tracked in your spreadsheet? I keep twiddling with mine, but have realized I need to just get the baseline pieces. I can’t decide what should stay or go though as everything seems to have a reason if I search long enough …

  5. TJ says

    Hi Jim,

    As always, love your content.

    It’s fun watching what I want to track in Personal Capital. I don’t pay them to manage my portfolio and do like their recommendations.

    My most recent allocation (80% VTSAX) isn’t what they recommend and I’m working toward their more conservative recommendation. After reading your recent article “Sleeping soundly thru a market crash:” I might even go more conservative than PC recommends. It gives me something to do on the long slow road to official FI. I’m spending much less than I bring in (saving around 40%) most months and already retired so I’m happy with the direction I’m heading, I’m not in the breakneck urgency phase I was when I started researching FI three years ago. I came at things sideways and was forced to retire before I was officially FI but have learned so much now it’s only a matter of increasing my cushion. That will come with time.

    Got a good laugh from the “Just for Fun” video. It’s so true. If I would have known then what I know now, things could have been so different. All I can do is look to the future today. Things won’t be as good as they could have been, and thanks to your stock series, all the other posts and all the other bloggers, things will be good enough.

    Thank you.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi TJ…

      I think that’s the right way to approach PC: Use it to the level useful and leave the rest on the shelf. 😉

      Glad you enjoyed the video. I figure we can all relate. 🙂

  6. IR says

    So, I tried personal capital and as soon as I signed up they called me to schedule a session to discuss my options etc. I told them that I hadn’t even finished putting in all my data, so they said ok, let’s do that later. Then they kept calling and sending emails about when I want to talk to them. I decided then that I didn’t need that kind of pressure and never went back to the website. Is that what they usually do or was that just my experience?

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Very sorry to hear this, IR,,,

      …and I’ll be interested to see if others weigh in with similar experiences.

      So far, my sense is that this in uncommon. I hope so.

      If not, it is a serious strategic mistake on their part.

      • Chris Mildebrandt says

        My experience was pretty close to the same. It was a high-pressured sales call after I was using the free site for a while. The person on the other end would not take no for an answer, asking if “next month was better” or “let’s just setup an appointment and see if you like it”. I finally told him outright that I didn’t appreciate the sales tactics and would be closing my account. That was three years ago. I was considering coming back to try them again this year. If I do, I’ll provide an update.

      • Chris Mildebrandt says

        I should clarify, I don’t fault them for trying to make money from the hard work they’ve done in building good tools. For those that don’t mind the sales calls, it’s great that they do offer them for free. The free tools just weren’t worth the sales calls for me. I’d pay $20-$30 per year for good tools if they stopped the sales outreach. I already do for my password manager.

        • jlcollinsnh says


          Nobody should be faulted for seeking to get paid for their work and services.

          But it sounds like they have evolved into a harder sales approach. I think they, and most, would be better served with a softer touch.

          Thanks for sharing your experience.

  7. Felipe says

    A concern, doesn’t Vanguard’s fraud policy state that sharing your login information with a tracking site like this removes their liability in the case of fraud?

  8. Dragon Guy says

    My experience with Personal Capital is that they were a bit more “aggressive” in the beginning with trying to set up the initial consultation (felt like almost weekly in the beginning). I ignored the calls and emails because I am going the index fund route. Now they only contact maybe once a quarter, possibly less. Although I have noticed that if I spend a bit more time on their website, they might reach out to me soon after. Although I have my accounts linked up to Personal Capital, I don’t use their website a ton as I don’t like their cost tracking tools.

    • TJ says

      I would imagine my experience with Personal Capital has been about the same as Dragon Guy’s. The calls appear to be linked to how often I visit the site or what I do there (love their planning/investment planner). When they call I simply say “no thank you” and that is it. The calls don’t bother me and it’s easy enough to take a pass.

      • Dennis Schuman says

        This has been my experience as well. They were persistent in the beginning but as of the last month or two no more calls.. just occasional emails trying to get me to talk with my personal advisor… I am an Excel user and would love it if Jim or any of the others who have spreadsheets that we might like would share them with us? Thanks…

        • jlcollinsnh says

          Mine could not be more simple (as you would expect 🙂 )

          The vertical column lists our holdings, grouped by my IRAs, my wife’s IRAs and our joint accounts. Each sub-totals, and there is a grand total.

          Across the horizontal is each year going back to 1989.

          I update the current year column numbers whenever the spirit moves me and at the end of the year for that year’s total. Then I create a column for the new year.

          It’s fun, for a geek like me anyway, to look back and see how the numbers have ebbed and flowed over the last couple of decades.

          Before the spreadsheets, I did all with paper and pencil 🙂

  9. Glen says

    Like some of the other respondents, I may suffer from a bit of paranoia with sharing my personal financial information. I use a self designed Excel spreadsheet and calculate my net worth quarterly. It takes only about 20 minutes and helps me keep my finger on the pulse of my money.

    Jim, I found your parody of “The Gambler” on FU Money to be quite relevant and entertaining. I think it should be a required view for everyone on their 18th birthday. Thanks!

  10. Mr VT says

    Come on JL. You’re a smart guy and a rich guy. You could be free of these guys at personal capital. What is more important? The ability to say whatever you want to or the money PC pays you to advertise for them? I use PC for their tracking and budgeting but I’m not very happy with the way they keep hounding me about their advisor services. I’ve repeatedly told them I’m not interested. But they still keep on calling and emailing me. I guess it was probably my own fault because I tried to be respectful the first time they called, and actually listened to the guy awhile. I think they might be a good advisor for a very small percentage of people but really not something EVERY fire blogger should be pushing. Every time I see a blogger accept money from PC it takes a little of the respect I have for their advice. You have a great site and I thank you for the work you’ve put into it. It’s your right to make money off of the site but I would take you more seriously if you didn’t recommend an advisor like PC . Vanguard forever!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Well, Mr. VT…

      While it seems PC has become more aggressive in their pitches than when I first wrote about them a few years back, I’m not persuaded that I want to kick them to the curb just yet.

      As I say in the comments above, I think this approach is a strategic mistake for them, but it is their call to make. Meanwhile, readers here get the full picture and can make their own choice.

      Guess you’ll just have to take me less seriously. 😉

      • Jason Noble says

        I’m about, oh…. 4 years late to this… LOL….BUT, do they still cold call people and do slimeball sales tactics? If so, I will absolutely NOT use their site. I’m actually in the process of moving an orphan 401(a) from them to Vanguard from when I did some adjunct work at a college eons ago. How do they get everyones’ phone numbers? Skip tracing? Process servers? There’s nothing I HATE more than cold calls. Easiest way to make me block/put a company on the #Dead2MeForever list. 🙂 Love your site, JL!

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi John…

      I doubt I’ll write a post on this, although I have addressed it in the comments several times. In my opinion, it is much ado about nothing.

      The links you provided don’t work, but that’s OK. I don’t bother reading about the “index bubble” anymore.

      Mostly my experience has been these things are written by folks trying to make a back-handed case for stock picking and active investing. God bless ’em. They can have it. 🙂

      Indexing is far from being dominate enough to cause the problems they describe and I’m not about to forgo my superior returns to head a non-issue off just in case.

      If indexing ever reaches a level of dominance that would have an effect, outperforming the index will become easier, successes will be touted and the pendulum will swing back.

      You can also find Jack Bogle’s take (which I agree with) in the interview I linked to in this post:

  11. Joe says

    Hi JL, I’ve been using PC as a tracker for at least a few years now. I’m not investing with them, but I enjoy being able to have a place to look at all my investments and play with the retirement calculator. My strategy is 99% what you describe on the Simple Path, but my accounts are spread over several places like Schwab, TSP and Vanguard.
    Here’s a quick summary of my experience interacting with PC. After using the tracker for a few months, I answered one of the solicitation calls and listened and asked questions. They offer a free consultation with one of the CFPs at PC. Schwab also offers this and, occasionally, I take them up on the meeting just to get another perspective. I set up the call with PC and had about an hour long video conference with the CFP from PC who showed me the investment strategy they recommend. It’s a strategy of managing the equity portion of a portfolio balanced equally between the different sectors like energy, finance, tech, etc utilizing individual stocks. The asset allocation in equities is determined by your goal. I found it interesting and declined going any further. They asked why and I told them that based on their calculators that I was happy with my investment costs of about 0.05% and comfortable doing my own investments. That was the end of the conversation. Over the years, I get a voicemail usually quarterly, but occasionally more often. I do think they call more frequently when I use the calculators on the site. One thing I really enjoy is the outstanding tech support when for whatever reason an account won’t update. They are quick to respond and have solved every problem that has come up.
    Anyway, I’m happy to get the free service at the expense of an occasional voicemail or email. The tools seem to be better than anything I’ve seen outside of a professional CFP office.
    Thanks for your blog and book. I wish I could get a referral from all of the folks I’ve sent your way.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Thanks for the review, Joe.

      I guess it comes down to this: “Anyway, I’m happy to get the free service at the expense of an occasional voicemail or email.”

      For some, those VMs and emails evidently are too intrusive, for others a small price to pay.

  12. DraggonFIRE says

    I love the screenshot from PC – “will support your goals, including $279,305 per year in basic retirement spending”.

    Basic – “forming an essential foundation or starting point; fundamental.”

    I’m suddenly feeling a pretty mighty disconnect. Get your $7 Million portfolio ready! 😀

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Well, DF…

      …at 279k per year you might have to tighten your belt a bit. But you can do it! 🙂

  13. Adela says

    Hi JL,

    Wow, just amazing! There is so much here to digest.

    My husband stumbled across your blog not two weeks ago ~ purchased your book ~ shared it with me, and now we’re BOTH fired up to reach FI as fast as we can with our current income.

    This is the first time we’re investing in the Stock Market and all of this is new to us. However, in the past we’ve lived below our means and kept our money in local banks, but in the last couple of DAYS realized our savings technique is getting us no where for our retirement years. ~ sigh, live & learn. 🙂

    Last week, we’ve put $10,000 into the VTSAX fund and plan to deposit $2,000 monthly. We ran across the option to max out Traditional & Roth IRAs for both of us, but I’m wondering since we are in our late 40’s (47 & 48) and hope to reach FI in 10 years, is it better to stay focused on the VTSAX fund only?

    I bet you’ve already answered this type of question somewhere…

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Adela…

      Glad you like it.

      There is a lot, but just take your time.

      For now, you are confusing the “buckets” in which you hold your investments (IRAs) with the investment that go in them (VTSAX).

      Keep reading. This is covered in posts in the Stock Series and in the book.

    • DraggonFIRE says

      Thanks for the link! Both of those video clips were awesome. I’m already doing most of the “right things”, but I still get a kick out of watching these. The O’Brien one hit too close to home, though. It’s 7am, and I think I need a tequila shot…. 😀

  14. ES says

    “In my next post we’ll talk about how to unload those unwanted stocks and funds.”

    I can’t wait. I have a couple of things I’ve been unable (or unwilling) to unload for tax reasons. I recently sat down with a Fidelity rep to try to get creative and came away disappointed. Really looking forward to your next article.

  15. QueerFI says

    I started using the PC free tools about 2 months ago. I got some calls but they weren’t that aggressive, possibly because of my relatively small net worth <200k.

    I am currently learning everything I can about finance and use my 3 calls with PC to expand my knowledge. I asked a lot of detailed questions about asset allocations and what various terms mean. I found the information and the time I spend on the phone very useful.

    One piece of information that PC didn't advertise clearly was their returns. In telling my parents about PC, they asked about how the returns compared to the market and I had not received the information in my initial conversation. I asked my 'advisor' about this and we discussed it during our second conversation. I felt put off that they had not include the return information in the initial conversation and that they were trying to use my naivety for their benefit.

    I did not sign-up for any investment services but have continued to use the free tools. I dislike the 'budgeting' aspect of the software but the net worth charts far surpass anything that I can get from fidelity.

  16. M says

    I’ve looked at Personal Capital but can’t get myself to commit to using it. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but giving these people my financial account numbers and passwords just seems wrong to me. They claim it’s secure but if it was hacked there goes yours savings.

  17. Dugan says

    Personal Capital currently doesn’t work for non-american bank accounts so as a Canadian I’m stuck looking for alternatives. I used to use google finance, but they got rid of their portfolio tracking feature, which is too bad because they let you track as many funds as you wanted, and you could create imaginary portfolios and see how they performed over time. Currently I use — it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that Personal Capital does, and the free version caps you at 6 funds, but it’s pretty good and gives you dynamic tracking, and automatic dividend and currency gains (something you don’t get through things like Yahoo portfolios).

    Also, for those of you loathe to give your passwords to a faceless website this presents a nice alternative since you just enter your purchases manually (harder than having a website auto-read your bank accounts, but easier than maintaining an excel doc with share prices, currency exchanges, and dividend payments). You could even register under a throwaway e-mail address if you fall into the tinfoil hat level of paranoia.

  18. Tim says

    I have been using PC for the past 4 years or so and have listened to their hour long presentation twice now. There is certainly a link between when you use their retirement planner calculators and when they call- it must trigger something in their system that generates the call.

    I took their hour long sales presentation last week and just turned down their services today. They were very pleasant about the whole thing and I would be truly interested in what you (Jim) would have to say if you heard their presentation.

    Their pitch is anti-index and they advocate for “smart weighting” by mixing ETFs and Individual stocks to have you invest in roughly 10 percent of each US Sector. They go after the high percentage of Tech, Financial, and Healthcare in the S&P and market cap weighted Index Funds as a scare tactic to have you join them and let them apply their thought process to your money. The sales guy referenced back to the bubble and 2008 often and repeatedly stated holding the index is not a strategy and by simply investing in the index and holding such a high percentage of technology, I was setting myself up for a harsh quick ride down when the next correction happens. I will say he chose not to put a timeline on it, and even said we could ride this bull for a good while longer, but eventually it will turn.

    I must admit that his pitch had me Googling around, reading through some Bogleheads, doing some homework, and really considering their pitch. I decided not to join them as I believe in the simple approach you advocate for, but would be interested in hearing what you have to say about their approach and the discussion of the influence of tech, banks, and healthcare in the indexes.

    Hope everything is going well for you and your family Jim. I appreciate the time you take working on your blog and I recommend folks read you quite often.

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Tim…

      I make it a policy not to comment on the investment ideas of others:

      You’ve outlined the PC approach well and I have done my best to explain my approach here on the blog and in my book. I encourage you and everybody else to read both, and others, and decide for yourself what resonates.

      Thanks for your kind words and for passing along the blog. 🙂

      • Adam says

        Great overview of PC, Tim and thank you Jim for your responses to these posts. I just got the sales pitch and from what I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in return based on the smart weighting and VTSAX. The one thing I can’t get past is one graph they shared:

        This showed their smart weighting outperforming the S&P by over 2 million from 1990 to 2018 if you started with 500,000. This would make it seem that their 0.89% fee is well worth it. I am sure there is a lot more to this graph than meets the eye and I’m just hoping to learn what they may be since much of the other research I’ve done have shown the return to be comparable and if so, better not throw money away to use their premium service.

  19. Tammy says

    So I just had a consultation with PC and I did find some of their arguments somewhat compelling despite what I’ve learned here over the years. I’ve not pulled the trigger with them but here is what they had to tell me. (By the way, they are somewhat more aggressive in the beginning with their contacts but then they taper off in my experience).

    1. They say that I’m over-weighted in tech / finance stocks within the VTSAX index fund (which is a weakness of traditional indexing) and that this has the potential to harm me during corrections versus their “smart weighting” indexing.

    2. As we’ve learned here, this doesn’t much matter because we have to learn to ride corrections through and not panic. 🙂

    3. However, that said, why I find it a little more compelling is that for those of us getting close to our “FU” money, the thought of a correction right now reducing that (and the ability to retire early?) makes me, at least, grit my teeth. So I guess the thought of them mitigating it makes me think about it.

    4. Also compelling, they offer tax strategies and advice which I’m still not real clear on (how to mitigate it, if a Roth is for me and if I should be using one, etc.)

    What I’d really like to find is a blog similar to this one only with guides on what to do *AFTER* early retirement. How distributions are taken, how healthcare is managed, how tax accounts versus non-tax accounts are used versus not used etc. because that is what they are tempting me with right now.

    • TJ says

      I also recently had a phone call with Personal Capital, and liked what they were selling. They will have all my investments and believe they will invest them the best way tax wise. Will be watching this to see what other responses you receive.

  20. RT says

    Hello, I’m curious if anyone has used quicken to track finances?
    I spend about $80 every 3 years for the latest version….
    I download investment accts, bank accounts… track rental income and expenses…. Very minimal user input.
    I would not feel comfortable providing another online system with all my accounts. I m wondering if Quicken has the same risk as PC in regards to the password protection even though its on my laptop? I’ll have to check up on that.
    Thanks for the blog.

  21. Lazylonewolf says

    Sadly none of these work for me since I’m from the Philippines. Thankfully I don’t have any debt so accounting isn’t that hard, and I just use Excel for tracking my assets, and Goodbudget for tracking my expenses and budget.

  22. Randy Petty says

    I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Personal Capital tool, but did enter my investments manually. ( wasn’t comfortable with letting the tool access my accounts — not sure how that would work unless you’re inputting your login credentials ?? )

    I did notice that a few days later I couldn’t figure out how to update the manual entries.
    This one is also free and I’m liking it:

  23. Thomas says

    I don’t like the big shift to have everything in the cloud and also being from Australia I didn’t find Personal Capital very useful. I also noticed that none of the portfolio managers I tried cater very well to those of us that like to invest in dividend generating stocks. They only calculate simple returns without factoring in income earned while the trade is held. If you are like me I would highly recommend to any investors reading this from Australia. Sharesite, recommended above by Dugan, is another good one but it stores all your trades in the cloud, which I don’t like.

  24. Jeff says

    Hi JL,
    Thanks for the review. I’ve been using PC since at least 2016 – love it and agree with all your sentiments. My only gripe with it is follows: All of my bonds are as paper I-series bonds that I inherited and in the investment checkup tools, PC struggles to model them for what they are. It doesn’t make sense to cash those I bonds out and buy BND – simply for the purpose of getting PC to track the value correctly.

    Do you know a way to enter those paper I-bonds into PC as a manual investment such that it “tricks” PC to consider them as bonds instead of as cash? For a while I tried putting them in as the equivalent number of shares of BND. That sort-of works, but BND is much more volatile than the steady/regular 4.42% growth rate that the I-bonds get.

    Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! – Jeff

    • jlcollinsnh says

      Hi Jeff…

      I have no idea how to do this. You might reach out to PC and ask.

      Personally, I’d just let PC track what it is good at and track the bonds myself.

  25. Matt says

    Hi JL,

    Just found your book (which I fully enjoyed) and your simple approach after signing up to have PC help me get my financial situation organized.

    I was happy to see they have your stamp of approval. Though like others I was a bit surprised since they do charge that .89 fee. With their extensive list of services beyond investment management I see the benefit in this first year to help get our foundation in place.

    They have helped us consolidate our (several) old employer funds into Pershing Bank – not sure if that’s a good idea (shrug) but it’s a start.

    I really like your Vanguard approach and can already see how easy it will be now to move everything to Vanguard when we get our financial strategy in place.

    I’ll ask them about their approach, how it compares to yours and post my notes here for others.

  26. Mitul Parmar says

    Hi there,

    Thank you for this amazing info.

    I am based in the UK so PC doesn’t work. Anything else you can recommend?
    And, whilst I am writing, and specefic UK financial advice?

  27. Eric says

    Hello JL,

    Thank you for words of encouragement in The Simple Path to Wealth. We have been with Personal Capital for a year or so and have not found value equal to their fees. Having just finished your book, I am inspired by the “keep it simple” mentality and would like to move our investments from PC to a total market index like Vanguard’s VTSAX. My wife and I each have a Roth IRA with PC, a joint taxable account, and individual standard IRAs. Our 401k’s are with Fidelity. 1. Does it make sense to move everything from PC to Vanguard if we must keep Fidelity due to our employer plan? Or should we move from PC to Fidelity and invest instead in their total stock index? Either way, what is the process to transition funds and what pitfalls should we watch for around taxes since we have many individual stocks in all PC accounts? If you’ve addressed this elsewhere, I’m happy to go read up if you could point me in the right direction. Thanks again for teaching us all to fish!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *