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Staying on top of personal finances requires you make a daily commitment.
Unfortunately, people often create difficult financial situations because they let their finances slide, going days or weeks without checking their accounts. This is an easy way to overspend, fall into debt, miss payments, and fall short of savings goals.
In the past, tracking finances required a lot of time and effort. But now, the process is much easier thanks to financial tools like Personal Capital and You Need a Budget (YNAB).
Here’s a quick comparison summary:
|Budgeting||Fewer features, completely free||More features, free trial then $12/mo|
|Security||256-bit encryption (stronger)||128-bit encryption (strong)|
|Effectiveness||Better for net worth tracking||Better for budgeting|
|Customer support||Comprehensive support||No live support options|
Keep reading to learn more about what these platforms offer and how they compare to one another.
or, jump straight to our in-depth Personal Capital vs. YNAB comparison
What is Personal Capital?
Personal Capital is the leading personal finance software for Android and iOS. This personal finance app is for investing and managing daily finances across multiple accounts.
Managing Your Finances with Personal Capital
Personal Capital offers the following money management tools, which make it easy to monitor finances and track progress across different accounts.
Net worth tracker
Personal Capital’s net worth tracker lets you see exactly where you stand after factoring in all of your assets (e.g., savings and retirement accounts, house, and car) as well as liabilities (e.g., student loans, credit card debt, and mortgage balance).
Savings account planner
People often think they’re on track for retirement when in fact they’re far behind in their finances. Personal Capital’s savings tool makes financial planning and investment tracking much easier, using high-quality visualization tools.
One of the top reasons consumers struggle with budgeting is because they lack visibility into daily spending. Personal Capital’s budgeting feature lets you organize spending and savings by date, merchant, and category.
The app’s cash flow tool lets you track monthly cash flows over a period of 30 days.
Personal Capital offers a free investment portfolio analysis for brokerage and retirement accounts. This service lets you see how well your investments are performing and how they could perform better.
And the best part? It doesn’t cost a dime.
Investing through Personal Capital
In addition to money management tools, Personal Capital has its own investment platform which includes access to human advisors, tax optimization tools, and more.
To invest through Personal Capital, you’re required to have a minimum account balance of $100,000. There’s also a 0.89% management fee to start, although that fee decreases with larger account balances.
The app offers an automated investing feature, which moves money around strategically to maximize growth. This brokerage service runs through a custodian—or holding company—called Pershing Advisor Solutions.
The company supports both retirement and non-retirement accounts, trusts, and cash accounts. In addition, Personal Capital offers 401(k) and 529 Plan guidance as well as tax optimization support.
Pros and Cons of Personal Capital
- Synchronization across multiple accounts
- Asset allocation analysis
- Free money management tools for bank accounts and investment accounts
- Great user experience over a cutting-edge app
- Strong customer support over the phone, mobile app, or web browser
- Secure app with AES-256 encryption
- Authentication and security can be overwhelming
- Aggressive wealth management service solicitation
- $100,000 minimum for investing (this is separate from net worth tracking / budgeting)
- High annual investment management fee of 0.89%
What is You Need a Budget (YNAB)?
You Need a Budget (YNAB) is solely for budgeting purposes. The budgeting tool does not offer any investment or account management services like Personal Capital. It’s exclusively for tracking your expenses and reaching your financial goals.
How zero-based budgeting works
YNAB uses a concept called zero-based budgeting, which is a powerful strategy designed to maximize income.
Zero-based budgeting gives every dollar a purpose. In other words, every dollar you bring in has a job, such as reducing debt, investing, or paying for food or housing expenses. The goal is to get your budget to zero at the end of the month, with nothing left over.
At the end of the month, you form a new budget and start over instead of carrying over a balance from the last month. This way, you maximize all of your income.
Top Features for YNAB
YNAB continuously generates strong customer reviews for delivering the following transformative budgeting services.
Data is ultimately worthless if you can’t quickly make sense of it. YNAB offers fun graphics that help explain your spending patterns. YNAB’s reports make budgeting fun and engaging, making it easy to see where you can improve.
YNAB enables co-budgeting with a partner, making it easy to share financial information and stay on track of household expenses. With YNAB, you can budget with a partner, spouse, caregiver, child, or roommate.
A big part of budgeting is setting goals and completing them. YNAB has a goal tracking feature to make sure you stay on target as time goes on.
YNAB isn’t just a budgeting app. The app educates and informs users about financial responsibility. It offers many budgeting tips and tricks to help you master the art of lean living.
Pros and Cons of YNAB
- One of the best budgeting apps on the market
- The app has a strong educational component
- Co-budgeting service is great for improving household finances
- 34-day free trial included with sign up
- Somewhat expensive at $11.99/month or $84 per year
- No functionality beyond budgeting
- Complicated interface
- Graphics are informative but the app offers limited data
Personal Capital vs YNAB: Comparison
YNAB and Personal Capital both offer high-quality budgeting tools and you can customize both to meet your unique needs.
YNAB offers a few advantages as a dedicated app specifically for budgeting. Yet Personal Capital is free, making it a no-brainer if you’re trying to save money.
If you want to be savvy, try paying for YNAB for a few months to learn budgeting and switch over to the free Personal Capital app once you get the hang of it to save money.
YBAB offers 128-bit encryption. In addition, the company has a social engineering security strategy in place to protect against phishing.
According to the company, no YNAB team member will ever initiate communication or ask for a username or password. Further, YNAB partners with Recurly, a PCI-compliant payment provider for processing credit cards.
YNAB’s network infrastructure runs on the Heroku data platform and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Check out YNAB’s security policy for more details on how the company protects data.
Personal Capital also has a strong commitment to security. The company deploys 256-bit encryption, which is much stronger than what YNAB uses. In addition, the company uses multi-layer key management and rotation architectures, along with anti-snooping technology via Transport Layer Security (TLS) 1.2.
Personal Capital engages in constant security testing while also maintaining a crowdsourced bug bounty program. Plus, Personal Capital partners with leading global security firms for added peace of mind.
Ultimately, Personal Capital has a slight edge here with 256-bit encryption. But both apps are very safe to use.
It’s impossible to say whether one app is more effective than the other. Both are very good at specific tasks. At the end of the day, it all depends on your goals and what you want.
If your goal is to learn how to budget effectively, YNAB is probably the way to go. If you know how to budget and you want to save money, budgeting with Personal Capital is the better option.
YNAB won’t help with anything beyond budgeting. If you’re focused on tracking spending or net worth, investing, or saving money, then Personal Capital is likely the app for you.
One of the biggest gripes customers have about YNAB is their lack of live customer support. The company routes all customer service issues through its website or email. So, if you have a question and need rapid support, you won’t be able to access an agent over the phone or through live chat.
Personal Capital offers a much more comprehensive level of support, complete with phone service, email support, live chat, and a self-help portal. If you’re the type of person who likes to work through support issues with a live agent, Personal Capital is the better option.
Credit score monitoring
Neither company offers credit score monitoring. If you want a reliable credit score service, check out Credit Sesame or Credit Karma.
Many credit cards today offer monitoring as well, like Capital One and Discover. So if you have a credit card, check with your provider to see if they offer free credit reporting.
Alternative Personal Finance Solutions to Explore
There’s no shortage of great personal finance apps on the market. Here are some of the leading options to consider as you browse for solutions to help keep your finances on track.
1. Simplifi by Quicken
Price: $35.99 /year
Simplifi by Quicken offers a single source for managing finances and tracking income. This is an automated service, offering a hands-off approach to financial management. Although the software is not free, its robust money management tools are well worth the small annual fee.
Quicken also offers a popular desktop-based management service for Windows and Mac.
Mint by Intuit is a personal finance app for tracking spending, managing investments, checking balances, and budgeting. Mint also offers free credit score monitoring.
3. Marcus Insights (formerly Clarity Money)
Marcus Insights links accounts from different institutions, bringing them together in a central portal for instant analysis. This free service offers a great way to visualize spending and investing trends over an easy-to-use mobile dashboard.
Prism by BillGO is a purpose-built bill pay app that brings together multiple bills from various providers in one place. The service tracks bills and sends reminders about due dates.
On top of that, it lets you see income, account balances, and monthly expenses from a user-friendly mobile interface.
EveryDollar offers a free budgeting service with customizable tracking. Simply add your income and plan your expenses.
The company also offers a premium plan that comes with budgeting content, enhanced features like connectivity and reporting, customized tips, 90 days of help, and a free session with a Dave Ramsey-trained coach, among other features.
EveryDollar offers premium plans in addition to their free version. Premium plans cost $59.99 (3 months), $99.99 (6 months), or $129.99 (12 months).
Tips for Using Personal Finance Apps
Using personal finance apps can be overwhelming at first if you’re used to managing money the old-fashioned way. Keep the following pointers in mind to ease the transition and improve your experience.
Make finance a daily habit
Installing a personal finance app like YNAB or Personal Capital is one thing. Next, you’ll have to make a conscious effort to incorporate the app into your financial strategy.
One of the best things you can do is to make personal finance a daily activity.
For the best results, check your balances, monitor your credit score for changes, track your investments, and view your budget. By doing this every day, you’ll make financial management a healthy habit that becomes part of your routine.
Apps don’t change behavior, people do
Personal finance apps can be incredibly powerful tools that provide an abundance of data and insights to help influence daily decisions. But using an app is only half the battle.
It’s important to align your actions with your goals. For example, sticking to a budget requires capping your spending and exercising self-control when visiting stores, planning meals, and buying online items.
Before moving forward with a personal finance application, spend some time considering your spending habits and financial strategy. Try to identify areas of improvement so you don’t wind up spinning your tires.
Be careful about spending money
Use caution when paying for personal finance apps and leverage free products whenever possible. Software expenses add up very quickly. If you’re not careful, you could wind up paying hundreds of dollars annually in usage fees.
Use multiple finance apps
You don’t have to be exclusive when using money management software. For example, you might use Credit Sesame for credit monitoring, YNAB for budgeting, and Personal Capital for tracking bills and investments.
You know your personal situation better than anyone else. Try different solutions and use programs that feel comfortable for your unique needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I need a budget?
In my opinion, yes. Everyone needs a budget. It doesn’t matter if you’re broke or wealthy. Sticking to a budget stretches limited income and preserves wealth. Not having a budget is very risky and often leads to overspending and poor income distribution.
Can Personal Capital help with retirement planning?
Personal Capital offers a special retirement planning tool you can use to check up on your retirement goals and make sure you’re on track. Personal Capital’s retirement planner is an excellent tool for monitoring progress and making financial adjustments.
Making small tweaks to your retirement plans while you’re young can lead to massive gains down the line.
Should I use a financial advisor?
It largely depends on your preferences and needs. However, there are many free budgeting apps like Personal Capital and Mint that offer great financial advice. These apps can help you reach your financial goals while spending a lot less money.
The Bottom Line
Apps like Personal Capital and YNAB can potentially improve your financial life. But keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be one or the other when using these apps. You can use them together or with other great services like Mint and Quicken.
Since everyone’s financial situation is unique, consider experimenting with different services and picking the ones that offer the best bang for your buck.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what financial technology you’re using. As long as you’re using some sort of financial app that provides updates, alerts, and tips, you’ll increase the chances you get a hold of your budget… which will improve your odds of achieving financial freedom down the road.