Betterment vs Personal Capital: Which is Best?

Updated September 14, 2021

Although Betterment and Personal Capital may seem very similar on the surface, there are some big differences in the services offered through these financial advisory platforms. Ultimately, the type of investor you are will determine which is the better fit. 

If you want the low fees of a true robo advisor then Betterment may be for you. However, if you are willing to pay more for access to a human advisor then Personal Capital may be your best choice. 

Let’s take a closer look at the differences between Betterment vs. Personal Capital. 

Betterment vs. Personal Capital

On the surface, Betterment and Personal Capital seem to offer extremely similar services. After all, both are platforms designed to help you manage your investments. But when you dive into the details, the differences become very apparent. 

Anyone seeking a straightforward robo-advisor will find what they want in Betterment. 

But suppose you want access to a multi-tiered platform that allows you to aggregate your assets, budget your funds, and tap into a directly managed investment portfolio. In that case, the Wealth Management service offered through Personal Capital might be a better fit. 

Essentially, the choice between Betterment vs. Personal Capital boils down to whether you want to work with a robo-advisor or a personal wealth management service. 

FeaturesBettermentPersonal Capital
Accounts availableTraditional, Roth, SEP, and rollover IRAs; individual and joint taxable accounts; trusts; 401(k) plansTraditional, Roth, SEP, and rollover IRAs; trusts; individual and joint taxable accounts; 529 savings plans
Advisory fees

Digital: 0.25% up to $2 million; 0.15% over $2 million

Premium: 0.40% up to $2 million, 0.30% over $2 million

Financial software tools: Free

Wealth management: 0.89% up to $1 million, 0.79% up to $3 million, 0.69% up to $5 million, 0.49% over to $10 million

Minimum initial investment

$0 digital

$100,000 premium

$0 to access Financial Tools software

$100,000 wealth management

 

Tax-loss harvestingYesYes
RebalancingYesYes
Dividend reinvestmentYesYes
Mobile app Android & iOSAndroid & iOS
Socially Responsible InvestingYesYes
Smart BetaYesYes - 'Smart Weighting"
Financial advice availableYesYes
Banking options availableYes; Checking and Cash ReserveYes; Personal Capital Cash

About Betterment

Betterment was founded in 2008 as a robo advisor. As of 2021, the company has a total of $29 billion in assets under management

If you want to dive into investing with Betterment, you can open an account with no minimum balance. However, you’ll need to have at least $100,000 to invest for access to a premium account which comes with access to a human financial planner. 

When you work with the company, you’ll answer a series of questions about your financial goals and investment timeline. With that information, Betterment will select an investment portfolio of exchange traded funds (ETFs) that aligns with your goals. 

From there, Betterment will handle the optimization of your portfolio over time through tactics like tax loss harvesting and Smart Beta implementation. 

Here's our full review of Betterment if you'd like to learn more

About Personal Capital

Founded in 2009, Personal Capital has made a name for itself with a suite of free Financial Tools that allow users to explore their investing, budgeting, and general financial options. 

However, Personal Capital goes beyond these helpful free tools in its Wealth Management service. You’ll need to invest a minimum of $100,000 to tap into the Wealth Management service. 

Importantly, the services offered through Personal Capital function in a similar way to a robo advisor. But investors will have access to full-service financial advice along the way. That means you can enjoy the streamlined perks of a robo advisor without sacrificing your ability to reach out to a real human when you need to. 

Here's our full review of Personal Capital if you'd like to learn more

Main Features of Betterment vs. Personal Capital

What should you be on the lookout for when choosing between these two investment choices? Here’s a closer look at the major features of Betterment and Personal Capital. 

Portfolio Selection

One of the most, if not the most important thing offered by any investment service is the portfolio created for you. Betterment and Personal Capital go about building your portfolio in different ways. 

Betterment will ask you a series of questions to better understand your financial goals and investment timeline. Additionally, the platform will uncover information about your financial habits when you connect your outside accounts. Once Betterment has a clear understanding of your financial goals, the robo advisor will set up an investment portfolio that aligns with your goals using ETFs. 

Although Betterment initially sets up your portfolio, you can adjust the strategy along the way if you want to. However, there are limitations to these adjustments. As of now, you cannot adjust the asset class weightings within certain portfolio strategies, including Betterment SRI, Goldman Sachs Smart Beta, and BlackRock Target Income. 

On the flip side, Personal Capital offers an alternative to setting up your portfolio entirely through an algorithm. The process starts when you link all of your external financial accounts. This broad overview allows you to see where your finances stand before diving into an investment strategy. 

After that information is set up, you’ll receive a call from your dedicated advisor to help you set up a portfolio that matches up to your goals. The approach is designed to help you meet your investment goals with a deeply personalized portfolio. 

Investment Strategies Available

With either Betterment or Personal Capital, you can enjoy completely automated investment management. You can count on both services to handle the nitty gritty details of managing an investment portfolio without your constant supervision. 

Both platforms rely heavily on Modern Portfolio Theory. And a few of the strategies that both platforms tap into include tax loss harvesting and socially responsible investing

You’ll also find Smart Beta options available through both. However, Personal Capital uses the term ‘Smart Weighting’ to describe this practice of maintaining evenly balanced asset allocations. 

Access to Financial Advisors

Both Betterment and Personal Capital offer access to financial advisors. But there are different qualifications to gain access to each of these platforms. 

Betterment offers access to financial advisors to help you make big money moves. But you’ll have to pay at least $299 for a 45 to 60 minute advice session if you have less than $100,0000 under management. 

If you have more than $100,000 invested, you’ll gain access to unlimited Premium advice from CFP© professionals. But your fee on the balance invested will jump from 0.25% to 0.40%. 

If you have at least $100,000 invested with Personal Capital, you can tap into unlimited financial and retirement planning advice. That’s right! You can connect with your financial advisor at any point in your financial journey without paying an extra cost. But you’ll pay 0.89% in management fees to invest through Personal Capital. 

Management Fees

The fees you will pay to manage your investments play a big role in your decision-making process. With that said, you’ll need to keep in mind what you’re actually getting for these fees. 

Betterment is the clear winner in terms of pricing. The reasonable fees range from 0.25% to 0.40%. But you’ll have more limited access to a human financial advisor. 

Personal Capital has one pricing tier of 0.89% for the first $1,000,000 you have under management with them. But you can tap into lower fees as your investments grow. You’ll pay 0.79% for the first $3 million, 0.69% for the next $2 million, 0.59% for the next $5 million, and 0.49% for anything over $10 million.

Keep in mind that you’ll enjoy more open access to financial advisors and personalized advice through Personal Capital. The fee is reasonable when you consider all of the services offered. 

Financial Planning Tools

The free financial planning tools offered by Personal Capital are a unique offering that can’t be overlooked. Although we are focused on the Wealth Management services that Personal Capital has to offer, the free financial planning tools are extremely useful. 

If you want help analyzing your investing and budgeting habits, then don’t hesitate to take advantage of the free financial planning tools. Even if you decide to work with another investment advisory service, it won’t hurt to better understand where your finances currently stand.

Take advantage of these free tools even if you don’t want to work with Personal Capital in other areas, though be prepared for a phone call if you have more than $100,000 in investable assets. 

Who Betterment is Best for?

Betterment is an ideal option for beginner investors that want to dive in with a small upfront investment. You can get started with the funds you have available because there isn’t a minimum deposit required. 

You’ll be able to manage multiple financial goals through Betterment’s platform. The robo advisor will take care of the details of investing. However, you can reach out for a helping hand to a financial advisor if you need to. 

All in all, Betterment is the right choice if you aren’t willing to pay more for unlimited access to a financial advisor. Plus, you’ll need to be comfortable with a robo advisor that handles the ins and outs of your portfolio management. 

Who Personal Capital is Best for?

If you have at least $100,000 to invest and want access to a team of financial advisors, then Personal Capital is a no-brainer. Although the fees are higher than Betterment, you’ll gain more in the way of a personalized portfolio and the ability to touch base with your dedicated financial advisor whenever you want to. 

Another reason to work with Personal Capital is the free Financial Tools available. You can use these tools to monitor and guide your progress towards financial goals. 

Summary

Both Betterment and Personal Capital have features that could help you manage your portfolio with less hands-on attention required. The good news is that either can help you work towards a brighter financial future. You’ll need to weigh the importance of rock bottom fees against your desire to regularly connect with a financial advisor. 

Not convinced that Betterment or Personal Capital is right for you? Check out our other favorite robo advisors

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Mark Herman has been helping friends with financial questions since serving as an Army helicopter pilot. Since then, he’s gained valuable experience in the corporate world before moving on to become a Certified Financial Planner™.

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