I ran my investments through Personal Capital's free tool and was shocked by how much money I'd been wasting in fees

knyazevfoto / Shutterstock.comThe author is not pictured.
  • After hearing good things about investing app Personal Capital, I tried out its free features to see if it could help me with my money.
  • Running my investments through its fee analyser made me realise I was paying 10 times more in fees than I would for similar accounts, and inspired me to switch to lower-priced options.
  • I also tried the budget tracker, which saved me the time I usually spend managing our spreadsheets. At this point,Personal Capital has saved me time and money.
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Whenever people rant and rave about a service, I tend to roll my eyes. I can’t help it – I’m a sceptical person by nature.

Personal Capital came onto my radar after seeing a bunch of websites and social media accounts rant and rave about it, so naturally I was curious … but sceptical. It was free (although you can pay for portfolio management) and offered a bunch of interesting features like the ability to see all my financial accounts in one place.

Its retirement planning tool was also intriguing, since my husband and I had a whole bunch of random retirement and brokerage accounts and weren’t sure what we were paying in fees, or whether it made sense to consolidate our accounts.

After trying Personal Capital for a few weeks, we know exactly what we’ve been paying in fees – and how we’re going to save thousands in the future.

The investment fee analyser showed us we were paying 10 times more than we had to

After a simple sign-up process, we linked our retirement and brokerage accounts to see what was going on. We knew our investments had fees, but we wanted to see just how much we were paying … and, more importantly, how much we could be losing.

What we saw shocked us. Most of our accounts were fine – we didn’t pay much in expense ratio or management fees – but there were a few mutual funds that we opened ages ago we hadn’t bothered to look at.

With these accounts, we were paying more than 10 times what we were paying for similar ETFs elsewhere. A fraction of a per cent didn’t seem like a big deal until we saw Personal Capital graph in its fee analyser, which shows just how many years of retirement we could be losing out on if we continued the way we did.

That was enough to convince us to transfer those assets to a brokerage that offered lower fees, saving us thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars throughout our working years.

The 401k analyser was eye-opening

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but we assumed my husband’s 401k account wasn’t that bad. While we knew the investment options weren’t great, we were in for a rude awakening as to how much we were paying for the employer-sponsored account between the expense ratios and additional fees.

While even the lowest expense ratio for my husband’s 401k funds was way higher than we’d like, we were still able to save money by switching over to some lower-priced investment options within his employer’s offerings. We also decided to only contribute the amount required for the employer match, and put the rest of the money that would have gone into the 401(k) into other tax-advantaged accounts instead – like my solo 401k, which offers low expense ratios.

At this point, Personal Capital has saved me both time and money

I’m a spreadsheet lover until the day I die, but even I was sick of manually tracking our expenses, so we decided to try Personal Capital‘s budget widget out for a few weeks to see if we liked it.

It definitely saved me time from having to manually enter in all of our expenses in a spreadsheet (except for cash payments, which was rare). We were able to see how much we spent in the last month so that we could plan how we can save even more for a house down payment.

I really liked that it shows our top five expense categories because it pinpointed an obvious place to start cutting back on spending (with the exception of some fixed expenses) instead of pinching every penny – we had an ambitious goal of saving $US60,000 in less than two years.

Personal Capital has saved me time from having to track everything and poring over paperwork to figure out things like investment fees, expense ratios, and our spending habits. Like all tools, it’s meant to enhance your life – changing your behaviour is totally up to you.

However, there are some great tools out there like Personal Capital that can make it a lot easier by showing you where your money is going. It certainly did for me.

Learn more about Personal Capital »

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