Betterment vs Personal Capital

  • Automatic portfolio rebalancing
  • No minimum deposit requirement
  • Tax-loss harvesting
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  • Dedicated financial advisors
  • Innovative investment interface
  • Convenient account aggregation
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An increased interest in investing has blown the doors wide open for retail investors. Approximately 15% of all retail investors today only started in 2020. For newer investors, it can be challenging to find which platform is right for you.

When comparing Betterment vs Personal Capital, this is a comparison between two substantially different platforms. One is a pure robo-advisor, whereas the other is a personal wealth management surface.

From an investing perspective, these two platforms target two different investor types. So, let’s discuss the similarities and differences between Betterment and Personal Capital.

 

Betterment Overview

First up is the true robo-advisor. Betterment is one of the original robo-advisors, having launched at the dawn of this new investing revolution in 2008. The Betterment platform boasts hundreds of thousands of active users who want to invest in bonds and stocks.

Our Betterment review has always maintained that this is the ideal platform for beginners. If you want to keep things simple, investing with Betterment is the optimal solution. The platform tailors your recommended portfolio allocation based on your income, financial aims, and personal risk tolerance.

Of course, you’re not required to follow Betterment’s recommendations. You also have the option of investing your money manually. More confident investors may choose this option and combine it with Betterment’s automatic portfolio rebalancing feature.

Betterment Details

Account Minimum $0
Management Fees 0.25%/0.40%
Account Types Brokerage, Saving, Checking, Trust, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, and SEP IRA
Investment Type Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

Immediately, you’ll notice that there are no account minimums. Unlike traditional brokers, you’re not required to deposit a specific amount before you can start investing. When you choose to invest, you can put your portfolio on autopilot with automatic portfolio rebalancing.

Its sheer number of supported account types allows Betterment to fit the needs of practically any investor. The presence of its checking, saving, and trust accounts is a significant boon you won’t find with most investment platforms of this nature.

Betterment has always aimed to improve accessibility within the markets. You can tailor your portfolio according to not only your goals but your ethics.

For example, you can invest in environmentally friendly companies via their Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) portfolio, which is now known by the name “broad impact.”

Betterment has proven itself to be a platform that understands the importance of the dollar and produces investment options that fit the needs of the more socially conscious investor.

Betterment Fees

One of the big selling points we highlighted in our Betterment review is Betterment’s low-fee model. If you’re tired of paying substantial management fees to traditional brokerages, it’s time to make the switch.

Betterment Digital users must pay a 0.25% fee annually, whereas Betterment Premium members pay 0.40% in management fees. To qualify for the latter, you must have more than $100,000 invested in the platform.

Another fee to take into account is ETF expense ratios. These range from 0.07% to 0.15% on all ETFs. While this may seem high, they are not charged by Betterment but by the ETF provider themselves so that you won’t get a lower fee elsewhere.

While Betterment Premium members gain access to free financial advice from qualified CFP professionals, there is a fee for Betterment Digital users who want some advice tailored to their situations. Currently, you will pay $199 for each 45-minute call. Whether you consider this good value is up to you.

Betterment Pros

  • Automatic portfolio rebalancing
  • No minimum deposit requirement
  • Tax-loss harvesting

Betterment Cons

  • Limited investment choices
  • Lack of customization
  • High fees for financial advice

Overall, Betterment is perfect for investors looking for specialized core portfolios and a no-hassle investing experience. To learn more about the platform, read our review on Betterment.

Personal Capital Overview

Personal Capital is a personal wealth management platform. There are similarities in the debate between Betterment vs. Personal Capital, but there are huge differences at heart. Comparing the two is far from straightforward.

Firstly, Personal Capital consists of two parts. You have the Financial Tools software and the Wealth Management service.

The former provides your financial accounts, budgeting capabilities, and investment analysis aggregation. Its Wealth Management service involves direct management of your portfolio and is the most comparable part of Personal Capital to Betterment.

Where Personal Capital stands out is in its ability to include any type of investment asset in your portfolio, including gold, artwork, and crypto. That doesn’t mean you can invest in these assets via the platform, but you can aggregate everything to manage your entire portfolio from a central location.

Since opening its doors in 2009, Personal Capital has managed more than $12 billion in assets and works with 2.5 million clients.

Our Personal Capital review praised its cutting-edge wealth management features. In this respect, it beats out Betterment, hands down.

Personal Capital Details

Account Minimum $0 for Financial Tools/$100,000 for Wealth Management
Management Fees 0.89% to 0.49%
Account TypeIndividual and Joint Taxable Accounts, Trusts, 529 Plans, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Rollover IRA, and SEP IRAs.
Investment Type 12 portfolio allocations

When comparing Betterment vs. Personal Capital, it’s easy to see where the Wealth Management scheme diverges from Betterment’s way of managing their clients’ portfolios.

They share the opportunity to reinvest dividends, automatic portfolio rebalancing, and tax-loss harvesting. The difference is in the fees. Direct portfolio management is only available if you have a minimum of $100,000, otherwise, it’s essentially just a free portfolio management platform.

Even when you have the required amount to take advantage of Personal Capital’s financial management services, you’re still charged high fees. A 0.89% fee on $100,000 is still $890 per year. These fees put Personal Capital in the realm of traditional brokerages.

Personal Capital does offer high levels of portfolio customization, including socially responsible investing. Your portfolio will be managed based on your goals, such as the amount of annual income desired during retirement.

All Wealth Management clients have a direct line to qualified financial advisors. For example, if you have a portfolio of $200,000, you will have two dedicated financial advisors who will work with you for months and years to come.

It’s a fantastic setup, but Personal Capital is reserved mainly for investors with a higher net worth.

Personal Capital Fees

Personal Capital’s fees for its Financial Tools software are non-existent, but for its management suite, you will need to pay 0.89% up to your first million. From there, the fees do decrease, but to gain access to its 0.49% annual management fee, you need more than $10 million invested with the platform.

Your account minimum to invest via their brokerage, Pershing Advisor Solutions, is a massive $100,000, which already prices out the majority of retail investors.

When comparing Betterment vs. Personal Capital, Betterment is the clear winner, with no account minimums and a 0.25% management fee. In other words, Betterment is ideal if you’re an investor seeking to dip your toes into the market’s waters.

Regarding ETF expense ratios, Personal Capital charges just 0.08%, which is much lower than most low-cost brokerages. Compared to Betterment’s highest expense ratio of 0.15%, this is a great deal.

Personal Capital Pros

  • Dedicated financial advisors
  • Innovative investment interface
  • Convenient account aggregation

Personal Capital Cons

  • High Wealth Management minimum
  • Big management fees
  • No active stock-picking for portfolios under $200,000

To find out more about how the platform works, read our Personal Capital review.

FeatureBettermentPersonal Capital
Min. Investment$0$100,000 for Wealth Management
Management Fees0.25% (Digital); 0.40% (Premium)0.89%-0.49% per year
Avg. ETF Expense Ratio0.07%-0.15%0.08%
Account TypesBrokerage, Saving, Checking, Trust, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, and SEP IRAIndividual and Joint Taxable Accounts, Trusts, 529 Plans, Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Rollover IRA, and SEP IRAs.
Tax-Loss HarvestingAvailableAvailable
Financial Advisor Fee$199 (Free with Premium)Free for Wealth Management clients
Best ForSpecialized PortfoliosExperienced and High Net Worth Investors

 

For the average investor, there’s no contest. Betterment is the superior option simply because Personal Capital shuts out investors who have anything less than six figures ready to invest. Retail investors getting into the market for the first time only have one option.

More experienced investors with more extensive portfolios may want to consider Personal Capital for its customization options and the opportunity to access dedicated financial advisors via a direct line. Personal Capital resembles more of a traditional brokerage than a robo-advisor, even though it does use robo-advisor technology.

You don’t lose much by opting for Betterment, as it still has access to premium features like tax-loss harvesting, dividend reinvestment, and automatic portfolio rebalancing. It also has access to premade portfolios chosen for you based on your financial situation.

Another advantage Betterment has is you can access financial advisors, even if you don’t qualify for free advice. The same cannot be said for Personal Capital.

When it comes to the quality of the advice given and the ease of investing, these platforms are equal. The only downside of Betterment is they offer a minimal range of investment options.

When combining Personal Capital’s Wealth Management program with its Financial Tools software, you can build a formidable investment management system.

If you can afford it, Personal Capital will likely add significant value, but Betterment is the superior choice for the average investor.

Create an Account with Betterment and get your first year with no fees.

Bob Haegele

About the Author:

Bob Haegele is a personal finance writer, entrepreneur, and dog walker. Bob has been writing about personal finance for three years and now manages several personal finance sites, including The Frugal Fellow, Modest Money, and Blooming Wealth. You can also find him contributing to popular websites such as Yahoo! Finance, MSN Money, and GOBankingRates. You can see more of his work on Muck Rack and Contently, or connect with him on LinkedIn.