Are you wondering about Personal Capital versus Vanguard Personal Advisor services to manage your money? You’ve come to the right place as I’ve spent hundreds of hours reviewing both. Further, Financial Samurai started in 2009 and is one of the premier independently run personal finance sites with over 1 million organic visitors a month.
Personal Capital Versus Vanguard Personal Advisor Services
Personal Capital is the leading hybrid digital wealth managers today with free financial tools. Over 2 million people use Personal Capital’s free financial tools to manage their net worth. They offer wealth management services using human advisors plus digital algorithms to manage over $15 billion in assets under management as of 2021.
I’ve been working with San Francisco-based Personal Capital since their founding in 2011 and have used their free tools since 2012 to manage my net worth. Their fees range from 0.49% – 0.89% due to better services and human advice. Personal Capital was acquired for $850 million in 2020 by Empower. Now Personal Capital has even more capital to grow and improve their product.
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is the digital wealth advisor arm created by money management giant Vanguard in 2015. They charge a flat fee of 0.3% and a minimum investment amount of $50,000 versus $100,000 for Personal Capital. Vanguard is one of the most respected money management firms today with some of the best, lowest cost index ETFs.
Here is a quick infographic comparing the two digital wealth managers, or robo-advisors as they are known today.
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services Review
Here are the main features of Vanguard Personal Advisor Services.
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services builds portfolios on a client-by-client basis, using primarily Vanguard funds. In many ways, that benefits investors. Vanguard funds carry some of the lowest expense ratios available, and many competitor robo-advisors also use them as the base of their portfolios. However, it allows Vanguard to take a cut twice; once with the management fee and again with fund expense ratios, which range from 0.04% to 0.12%.
Vanguard’s portfolios are primarily constructed of index funds and, in some cases, actively managed funds. Clients also can include a money market fund for access to liquidity. Core portfolio holdings include Admiral Shares of Vanguard’s total stock market index fund; total bond market index fund; international stock market index fund; international bond market index fund; and limited-, intermediate- and long-term tax-exempt funds, which invest in municipal bonds.
2) Comprehensive management
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services directly manages brokerage and individual retirement accounts, as well as trusts. But the advisors will also take into account other aspects of a client’s portfolio, such as a 401(k), college savings plans or even accounts held at another firm, when developing a financial plan. It’s up to you to tell your advisor about those assets, and they won’t be managed directly by Vanguard advisors. But the advice you get will be comprehensive and fit your full financial picture.
3) Financial advisors
If you have assets in excess of $1 million, you can get a dedicated advisor for free. If you have at least $500,000, you can access a dedicated advisor for a fee, or you can access a certified financial planner for specific investment questions at no extra fee.
At lower account balances, you’ll work with Vanguard’s band of advisors rather than one person assigned to your account. The advisors will help you adjust your investments as needed and send you quarterly progress reports. You can schedule time to speak with an advisor via phone or video conferencing, and advisors are also available for quick questions via email. Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is a trusted source.
I personally use their free financial tools to manage my own wealth and so should you at the very least, regardless if you use Personal Capital or Vanguard to manage your money. Personal Capital was built with technology from the ground up in 2011, whereas Vanguard PAS was built as an add-on. Below are some highlights of Personal Capital’s award-winning app.
Eight Reasons To Use Personal Capital
1) Simplicity And Less Stress. Before Personal Capital, I had to log into eight different financial institutions to track over 30 different financial accounts ranging from brokerage accounts, money market accounts, CD accounts, checking accounts, IRA, and my 401K. My finances were a mess, and I’m sure your finances could use some organization as well. Now I can just log into Personal Capital to see how everything is doing in one place. It’s important to have a holistic view of your overall financial health so you know where to allocate resources.
2) Net Worth Overview. Gone are the days where you have to use an Excel spreadsheet to manually update every single asset and liability line item to calculate your net worth. Personal Capital updates your net worth automatically as soon as you log in because all your accounts are linked. They provide a pie chart of your assets as well as gives you a historical chart of your net worth progression. If you cannot find an account in their database, you can simply add it yourself. Personal Capital will also conveniently e-mail you a weekly snap shot of your latest net worth along with how the markets did, upcoming bills, latest insightful blog posts and accounts that need your attention. Below is a sample headline snapshot.
3) Tracks Your Cash Flow. Budgeting is personal finance 101. By tracking your income and your spending like a hawk, you will be able to save a lot more money than if you simply tried to guess everything. Think about all the times you withdrew cash from the ATM machine and had no idea where all the money went a couple days later. Aggregating all your accounts allows you to see where all your money is going. In the example above, this entrepreneur brought in over $38,000 in income and spent only $3,096. Now that’s great cash flow!
4) Helps You Balance Risk. With so many accounts, it’s often hard to see exactly what’s going where. For example, so many people were too overweight stocks before the financial crash in 2009. With Personal Capital, you can easily see where the imbalances are in your net worth so you can make smart adjustments. Now that it’s a bull market, investors are probably too overweight equities and way underweight bonds once again. The Investment Checkup tool analyzes your portfolio’s holdings based on size, style, and sector. Personal Capital excels for those who have assets in the stock market. Personally, I like to maintain a 35%, 35%, 30% split between stocks, real estate, and CDs/bonds.
5) Helps Reduce Fees. One of my favorite tools Personal Capital provides is their Portfolio Fee Analyzer. I ran my 401K through their fee analyzer and discovered that I am paying over $1,750 a year in management fees. I had no idea that my Fidelity Large Cap Growth fund cost $1,200 a year due to a 0.74% expense ratio compared to sub 0.3% for my Vanguard Funds. As a result, I found a similar Large Cap index fund instead and am now saving $1,000 a year.
Without Personal Capital, I would have spent over $87,000 in excessive fees over the next 20 years. Take a look at my example below. Portfolio fees are a serious problem which will rob you of your retirement wealth if you are not careful. Don’t let ignorance rob you of your financial well being.
6) Shows Your Portfolio’s Investment Efficiency. Based on your risk tolerance and investment objectives questionnaire, Personal Capital will give you an idea of where your current allocation is on the Efficient Frontier Curve. The Efficient Frontier Curve is the best returns for a certain level of risk. You want to be on the curve and not above or below.
7) Recommends Specific Dollar Amounts To Invest. Financial advice is useless if there is no actionable advice. Personal Capital will recommend the specific dollar amounts to invest or reinvest in each asset class to get you to an optimal asset allocation. In this example below, the investor is too heavily weighted in cash.
In order to get to his recommended target allocation the investor needs to increase stock holdings by roughly $200,000 and bond holdings by roughly $100,000. The fun part is figuring out which index funds to invest in each category. All investment related charts and analysis can be found in the Investing tab.
8) The Best Retirement Planning Calculator. Personal Capital has the best retirement calculator on the market because it uses real data and Monte Carlo simulations to come up with the most realistic financial scenarios for your future. Other calculators simply ask you to guess input values to then come up with your financial future.
The problem with this method is that we often underestimate how much we are saving and spending. You can input different life events such as a wedding or home purchase in your cash flow statement and recalculate your financial future to see how you’ll do. Everybody should give it a try.
Can’t Go Wrong With Either Platform
Vanguard Personal Advisor Services is an excellent choice for managing your money. Vanguard is one of the best money managers in the world with their low cost ETFs. I own many of their funds in my active and passive portfolios. Personal Capital has the best free financial app today. I’ve used them to track my net worth and plan my retirement since 2012 and have watched my net worth skyrocket since.
If you want to manage your finances yourself, use sign up with Personal Capital for free. It takes less than a minute to sign up and you’ll be amazed at how much more clarity you’ll have with your finances.
About the Author: Sam began investing his own money ever since he opened an online brokerage account in 1995. Sam loved investing so much that he decided to make a career out of investing by spending the next 13 years after college working at two of the leading financial service firms in the world. During this time, Sam received his MBA from UC Berkeley with a focus on finance and real estate.
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