Personal Capital vs Wealthfront: Which One Is Best for You?

Updated October 28, 2021

The right investment platform can make all the difference. At first glance, Personal Capital and Wealthfront may seem relatively similar, but there are some significant differences that set these two financial platforms apart. 

Your investment style and goals will largely determine which platform is best for you. Personal Capital provides you with access to a human advisor for a reasonable fee. In contrast, Wealthfront acts as a true robo advisor, complete with low fees. 

Ready to see which is the better choice for your investing situation? Let’s dive into the differences between Personal Capital vs. Wealthfront. 

Personal Capital vs. Wealthfront

When you first encounter Personal Capital and Wealthfront, the two may seem similar. After all, both platforms are designed to help you build an investment portfolio that supports your long-term financial goals. Each platform accomplishes these goals in different ways, though.

If you’re comfortable with a robo advisor that doesn’t grant any access to a human advisor, then Wealthfront is the clear choice. You’ll save on the management fee by choosing to forgo any human interaction on your investing experience. 

If you are hoping to get more out of a platform than what a straightforward robo advisor can offer, then Personal Capital may meet your needs. You’ll find a platform that allows you to aggregate your accounts in a single place to better understand your financial position, tools to help you budget funds, and a directly managed investment portfolio designed with your financial situation in mind. 

Ultimately, when choosing between Wealthfront and Personal Capital, you are deciding between access to human advisors or a strictly robo advisor experience. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the features involved. 

 

Features

Personal Capital

Wealthfront

Accounts available

Traditional, Roth, SEP, and rollover IRAs; trusts; individual and joint taxable accounts; 529 savings plans

Traditional, Roth, SEP, and rollover IRAs; trusts; individual and joint taxable accounts; 529 savings plans

Advisory fees

Financial software tools: Free

Wealth management: 0.89% up to $1 million, 0.79% up to $3 million, 0.69% up to $5 million, 0.59% up to 10 million, 0.49% over $10 million

0.25% Management fee

Minimum initial investment

$0 to access Financial Tools software

$100,000 wealth management

$500 

Tax-loss harvesting

Yes

Yes

Rebalancing

Yes

Yes

Mobile app 

Android & iOS

Android & iOS

Socially Responsible Investing

Yes

Yes

Smart Beta

Yes - ‘Smart Weighting’

Yes 

Financial advice available

Yes

Yes but no human aspect available

Banking options available

Yes; Personal Capital Cash

Yes; Cash account

 

About Personal Capital

Personal Capital was founded in 2009. In the decade since, the company has made waves with its extensive collection of free financial tools. The free tools allow you to see where your finances stand at any point in time with general financial tools and budgeting features to stay on track. 

You’ll find more than free tools at Personal Capital. The platform also offers a wealth management service. In order to tap into this higher level of service, you’ll need to invest a minimum of $100,000.

As you work with Personal Capital, the operations are very similar to a robo advisor. However, you will have access to a human financial advisor at any point along the way. Essentially, this combination means you can enjoy the optimized process of a robo advisor without completely resigning your option to reach out to a real human when you need to. 

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

About Wealthfront

Wealthfront came onto the scene in 2014. Since its inception, it has become one of the most recognized robo advisors on the market. 

When you work with Wealthfront, you’ll have access to an automated investment portfolio that boasts of low fees and easy-to-use features. The platform could be a good fit if you don’t have too much money to get started. You’ll be able to dive into the world of investing headfirst with just $500. 

Although you won’t have access to a financial advisor, Wealthfront offers product specialists to answer any questions that pop up along the way. 

Want to learn more about Wealthfront? Check out our Wealthfront review.

Main Features of Personal Capital vs. Wealthfront

The mechanics of these two investment platforms are quite different. Here’s what to look for when deciding between Personal Capital and Wealthfront. 

Portfolio Selection

The core offering of any investment platform is the portfolio it creates for you. These two platforms take different tactics when creating portfolios for their customers. 

Wealthfront goes about the process like a true robo advisor. The process will kick off with a short questionnaire that will help Wealthfront gauge your risk tolerance and investment goals. With the guiding principles of Modern Portfolio Theory, Wealthfront will use this information to craft a portfolio of ETFs in a variety of asset classes. 

Keep in mind that Wealthfront doesn’t take outside investments into consideration when creating your portfolio. With that, your portfolio may not always properly reflect your overall goals. For example, an external taxable account investing entirely in stocks could lead to an unbalanced asset allocation for your comprehensive investment portfolio. 

Of course, you can go in and make changes to this investment strategy at any time. But if the goal of using Wealthfront is to keep your involvement with these investments to a minimum, then making tweaks may not be what you had in mind. 

Personal Capital takes a different approach. Instead of only considering the funds you invest through Personal Capital, the platform will look at your other linked investment accounts before creating a portfolio. A more broad look at your finances can provide a birds-eye view of the current financial situation. 

Once Personal Capital has the necessary information, a dedicated financial advisor will call you to design a portfolio that has your specific goals in mind. The end result is an incredibly personalized portfolio. 

Available Investment Strategies 

Personal Capital and Wealthfront both offer completely automated investment management. Although each platform takes a different approach to building your portfolio, either way can be effective depending on your needs.

Both Personal Capital and Wealthfront are guided by the principles of Modern Portfolio Theory. Plus, tax-loss harvesting and socially responsible investment options are available on both. 

If you are seeking smart beta options, you’ll find this on both platforms. But Personal Capital refers to this strategy of evenly balancing asset allocations as ‘Smart Weighting.’

Access to Human Financial Advisors

If you are looking for access to a human financial advisor, then Personal Capital is the clear winner. For investors that have more than $100,000 invested, you’ll unlock access to premium advice anytime you want. That means you’ll be able to reach out when you need it.

This unlimited access comes at a cost. The fee for working with Personal Capital starts at 0.89%. As your investments grow, you may see a decrease in your rate ranging from 0.79% to 0.49%, depending on the balance invested. But these Certified Financial Planners™ can help you map out your investments to achieve your financial goals. 

Technically, you can tap into human support from Wealthfront as well via product specialists. However, there were only 12 product specialists serving almost 400,000 clients in 2020. You shouldn’t expect ample one-on-one time to navigate your personal finance questions. Instead, these product specialists are in place to help you resolve any issues with the platform itself. 

Management Fees

When you work with Wealthfront, the fee for assets under management is a straightforward 0.25%. That makes Wealthfront the more affordable option, but you won’t have as much human support. 

Personal Capital has a tiered pricing structure that kicks off at 0.89% for the first $1 million in assets under management. As your investments grow, you can enjoy lower fees. 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.

Although Personal Capital is more pricey, you’ll have access to a financial advisor to discuss your unique situation. With that, the fees seem relatively reasonable when all of these services are considered, and are still a little less than the typical 1% of assets under management fee most traditional financial advisors charge.

Additional Financial Planning Tools

Personal Capital sets itself apart from other options when you look at their free financial tools. In this review, we are primarily focused on the wealth management services offered through the platform, but Personal Capital really shines with its helpful financial planning tools. 

The tools will help you analyze your investments, track your budgeting habits, and visualize your progress. The free tools are worth checking out even if you decide to work with a different robo investment platform. Regardless of where your investments are, Personal Capital’s tools will allow you to see the big picture of your finances.

It doesn’t hurt to take advantage of these free resources. If you choose to take the platform up on the offer, be prepared for a sales pitch when you have more than $100,000 in investable assets. Other than one potentially annoying phone call, you won’t have to do anything to use the free tools.

RELATED: How do Robo Advisors Work? 

Who Personal Capital is Best for?

Investors that value human advice from a team of financial advisors will gain the most from Personal Capital. But you’ll need to have at least $100,000 to invest for this premium service. 

You’ll face higher fees, but you’ll tap into the type of access to financial advisors that you seek. Anytime you have a question about your portfolio, a financial advisor will be there to help you.

Beyond the investment services, Personal Capital’s suite of financial tools can be quite useful. The tools can help you keep tabs on your financial situation and guide your progress towards the goals that matter to you. 

Who Wealthfront is Best for?

Wealthfront is a robo advisor with low fees and minimal human support. If you are looking for an affordable investment option that handles the tedious details of building your portfolio without charging an arm and a leg, Wealthfront is a great choice. 

Another reason to work with Wealthfront is if you are a beginner investor. The minimum initial investment is just $500. With this relatively low barrier to entry, you can start building an investment portfolio designed to meet your long-term goals. 

The downside is you won’t have access to a financial advisor since one on one advice is not included. But if you run into issues with the product itself, you can connect with product specialists to resolve the issue. 

Summary

Both Wealthfront and Personal Capital provide useful features to help you outsource the work of building an investment portfolio that is aligned to meet your financial goals. It’s a tough choice, but with either option, you are taking a step toward a brighter financial future. 

The big decision you’ll need to make is whether you want regular access to a dedicated financial advisor. If you do, Personal Capital is a good fit. If not, then Wealthfront will help you achieve your investment goals with a lower fee.

RELATED: The 13 Best Robo Advisors

References:

https://support.wealthfront.com/hc/en-us/articles/209348486-Tax-Loss-Harvesting
https://blog.wealthfront.com/meet-wealthfronts-product-specialist-team/
https://support.wealthfront.com/hc/en-us/articles/211003683-Fees-for-Investment-Accounts
https://www.personalcapital.com/wealth-management
 

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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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