There is something that I have learned along the way in my frugal decadent lifestyle: if you practice frugality all of your life, then you are most likely going to accumulate money. Never once in my teenage years or my pre-college graduation angst of having to enter the “real world” did I think I would stockpile money alongside 10¢ tubes of toothpaste. I assumed I would barely eke out a living, just like my family of dairy farmers had done. I would use my ingenuity and practical frugal skills to stretch each blessed dollar I received, and would “make it” through each month. But I guess that is not all that life had to offer me; as it turns out, frugality and solid money management can lead to a stockpile of cash.
I never took the time to learn how to invest the bounty from a frugal lifestyle. We have an investment portfolio, but it probably cannot be considered a “portfolio” as it’s not really cohesive by any means. Each time I think about reviewing it to optimize our investments, my head starts to hurt. How do I identify weaknesses? What does a sound investment strategy for a couple in our situation look like? Heck, I’d even like to see a dollar amount of the overall dividends and fees we are paying.
Probably the biggest question of all has been how do we find answers to these questions without paying someone an exorbitant fee or commission?
When I heard about a free portfolio check-up through Personal Capital that several of my blogger buddies had already taken advantage of, I decided to give it a shot. I knew that the only thing I had to lose was a few hours of my time. What I did not know is the vast amount of specific, actionable information I had to gain. Here’s what Personal Capital has done for us:
Aggregates all Accounts and Net Worth for an Eagle Eye View
I seem to collect accounts like Carrie Bradshaw collects shoes. The benefits of opening so many new accounts are the sign-on bonuses and other perks. The drawbacks are having to manage each of these accounts as well as manage an unwieldy list of usernames/passwords. After quitting my day job one month ago, it turns out that this serial account opening/managing may have been on purpose: checking these accounts throughout the weeks and months gave me something to do. Now that I am working at my passion, I just don’t have the time to burn on this sort of thing.
Personal Capital offers a great solution to our serial account problem by aggregating all of our accounts into one account I can access online whenever I’d like. After I signed up with them for free, I filled out information for our checking, savings, mortgage, investments and retirement accounts (FYI: if your particular institution is not listed within their website you can manually input the information). In a few days all of the fields had been populated, and it became quite clear to me the advantages of having an eagle eye view of our portfolio. At a glance we can see a synergy of accounts that allow us to compare them and determine which are prosperous and which are sinking the ship.
Keeps a Running Tally on All the Fees We are Paying
I knew that we were paying low fees with our retirement accounts. But even so, I didn’t keep track of the fees across the portfolio, nor did I have an exact figure of what we are paying each year. One of the advantages with Personal Capital is that they tally up your fees from every account that you own and give you one number. It turns out that our current annual fees are $116.48. They even project the amount of money we will pay in fees over the next 20-year horizon. What great information!
Offers a Free Personal Consultation with Invaluable Insights
Probably the most mind-opening experience of Personal Capital was the free personal consultations with a financial adviser I spoke with Michelle over two different phone calls, and she drafted us a personal investment strategy based off of our goals, income, retirement age, kids, risk, age, etc. The amount of free information gleaned from this consultation was well worth the time to set up our account.
Here are some of the invaluable insights about our portfolio:
- We are heavily invested in US stocks with not much in emerging markets/growth markets (i.e. Brazil, China, and India)
- We have too much risk in the tech and financial markets (which happened to plummet in the last recession)
- We have very little “alternatives” in our portfolio (i.e. hard assets like gold, other metals, energy, agriculture, etc.)
- There are some tax shield/tax optimization strategies that we could be taking advantage of (this was particularly exciting to discuss with her!)
Sends a Weekly Monitor Email
Personal Capital sends a weekly email that summarizes gains and losses on each of our accounts as well as the overall gain/loss for the week. I was surprised to receive this the first few times (and a bit alerted with headlines such as “Your Portfolio Balance is Down By -0.29%”). While it’s a nice overview, I will likely change the frequency of these emails to monthly or semi-annually because I don’t like to know how our investments are doing on such a frequent basis.
Even though I have been investing in retirement and non-retirement accounts for seven years now, I feel that it is time to put more energy into getting our money to work just as hard as we do. Personal Capital has been very much worth our time in this pursuit, and I hope that you find the same.