Personal Capital and Betterment are two popular online investment management firms. Personal Capital offers a free personal finance dashboard that allows you to track all of your money and analyze your investments. It also offers a paid investment management service that is a hybrid of a robo advisor and human financial advisor. Betterment is best known as the first major robo advisor, but it does offer a human aspect as well.
Either could be a good choice for your investments; however, each has its own pricing model and strengths. Read on to find out if Betterment or Personal Capital is a better fit for your unique investment needs.
|Investor Junkie Rating||9.5/10||9/10|
|Annual Fees||Asset Management: 0.49%-0.89%/year||Digital – 0.25%/year; Premium – 0.40%/year|
|Promotions||None||Up To 1 Year Free|
|Customer Service||24/7 Phone Support||Phone and Live Chat During Business Hours|
|Minimum Deposit||$100,000||No Minimum|
|Who’s the Winner?|
About Personal Capital and Betterment
About Personal Capital
Personal Capital was founded in 2009. It uses a combination of human advisors and a technology-driven investment platform. It charges less than most traditional advisors. Personal Capital advisors work with you to put your funds into one of a handful of pre-designed ETF portfolios. It has $9 billion in assets under management.
The personal finance dashboard is free to all users regardless of whether or not they pay for Personal Capital’s investment management service. You’ll need at least $100,000 in assets to qualify for Personal Capital’s lowest investment product tier, which is the service we are evaluating here. But even if you don’t have that much, the free tools are worth checking out.
Betterment was founded in 2008 and is considered the first major robo advisor. But that doesn’t mean a robot picks stocks for you. Based on a series of questions about your investment timeline and goals, your funds are sent into a pre-built portfolio of exchange traded funds (ETFs) that most closely matches your needs. It holds $16 billion in assets under management.
And because a computer is so heavily involved, it comes with extra perks like tax loss harvesting. You can open a basic account with no minimum balance. A premium account, which includes access to a human financial planner, charges a higher fee and requires at least $100,000 in your account. You can open an account with a $0 balance to check things out without ever getting charged a fee.
How Are They the Same?
- Accounts Offered: Both robo advisors offer taxable individual and joint accounts, as well as traditional IRA, Roth IRA and rollover IRA and trust accounts.
- 401(k) Assistance: Both services can help you with your employer-sponsored 401(k) plan.
- Tax Loss Harvesting: Both apps offer tax loss harvesting features that can save you money on any losses you may have incurred.
- Portfolio Rebalancing: Both Betterment and Personal Capital offer automatic portfolio rebalancing to maintain your ideal asset allocation.
- Socially Responsible Investing: Both services offer socially conscious investment options.
How Are They Different?
Personal Capital is unique in several ways. Most noteworthy is the free access to digital financial analysis tools. When I signed up, I used the fund analysis tools to identify mutual funds that charged more than I wanted to pay. After a few trades, I saved $300 per year in fees and it didn’t cost me anything. I highly recommend signing up even if you don’t plan to use the paid financial advising service.
If you have at least $100,000 in assets, you qualify for the professional investment management service. With a Personal Capital account, you’ll work with a financial advisor team who will guide your funds into a portfolio that matches your needs. You can call anytime for help or guidance and get access to more services as your portfolio reaches the $200,000 and $1 million tiers.
Betterment is open to anyone regardless of how much you have to invest, but you don’t automatically get access to a human advisor. However, with Betterment’s onboarding process and smart portfolio management system, you don’t need one. And you don’t need to know much about investing to get a well-built, low-cost portfolio at Betterment.
In the signup process, you’ll answer some basic questions about your goals, such as retirement, paying for college or buying a home. Based on the information you supply, Betterment will suggest a percentage of stocks and bonds (which you can change if you’d like) and divide up your assets into low-cost ETFs. All accounts include automated tax loss harvesting. If you pay more, you can get access to a human advisor that works similarly to Personal Capital’s lowest tier.
Betterment allows you to start with no minimum. You could invest just $1 if you want. You’ll need a $100,000 balance for the Premium service.
At Personal Capital, there is no minimum to use the free tools, but the paid service (which we are evaluating here) requires a $100,000 minimum. It has a $200,000 minimum and $1 million minimum for additional premium services.
Personal Capital charges based on your total assets managed by the service. For accounts with $100,000 to $1 million, you’ll pay a 0.89% annual fee. That goes down to 0.79% for accounts from $1 million to $3 million. It charges 0.69% up to $5 million, 0.59% up to $10 million, and 0.49% for accounts with $10 million or more.
Betterment charges 0.25% annually for its Digital plan, which includes the self-service robo-advisor product. A Premium account costs 0.40% and includes unlimited access to a certified financial planner (CFP) and a financial plan for all of your assets, even those outside of Betterment.
Features Unique to Betterment
At Betterment, standout features include automatic tax loss harvesting and access to curated portfolios from Goldman Sachs, BlackRock and Betterment itself. You can also personally tweak your portfolio if you don’t like everything Betterment picked for you.
Features Unique to Personal Capital
At Personal Capital, the standout feature is the free financial analysis tools for your entire financial life, as well as access to a human advisor with all paid plans.
Personal Capital offers 24/7 customer service for all paid customers. Financial advisors may have more limited hours, but if you need basic help you can get it anytime, any day. When logged in, you can email your advisor for help.
Betterment customer service is open during daytime hours including weekends. Email addresses are publicly available.
Both Personal Capital and Betterment use extremely strong security to keep your money and account information safe. Betterment is a member of SIPC and all accounts are SIPC insured. Personal Capital accounts are held by Pershing Advisor Solutions, a Bank of New York Mellon company. Pershing Advisor Solutions is a member of the SIPC and account funds are insured.
Who Are They Better For?
No robo advisor is perfect for everyone, but Personal Capital and Betterment are each great for a wide number of people.
Personal Capital is best for people who want to invest at least $100,000 and are willing to pay a bit more in fees for access to a team of personal financial advisors. If you have a qualifying net worth and want more personal attention and handholding with your investment decisions, Personal Capital is the better choice.
Betterment is better for anyone else. The low cost, easy-to-use investment systems help you get professional-quality results without having to work with a person unless you want to. Because the onboarding process is so easy, you can rest easy that you are invested well even if you don’t work with a person or know much about investing.
So Which Is Better?
For most people, Betterment is the winner. Whether you don’t qualify for Personal Capital’s advising service due to your balance or simply want to save on fees, Betterment comes out ahead.
Unlike most comparisons, this one comes with a big “however.” The free investment management tools at Personal Capital are quite good. Even if you don’t want to pay for the service, you will probably get some good information about your portfolio by plugging it into Personal Capital. I recommend this to just about any investor looking for more insights about their money.
But when it comes to comparing just the investment services head to head, Betterment comes out on top.