PersonalCapital.com vs Mint.com: Innovation After Intuit

PersonalCapital.com's Portfolio Risk Manager

I’ve been a long time fan of Mint.com, raving about the features and design for anyone trying to track multiple accounts of income, savings, spending, and investments. But ever since they were acquired by Intuit, I felt the level of quality decreased. Innovation ceased, or was focused on building an iPad app I personally had no use for, while the website stopped connecting my accounts properly.

When I lost all of my investment data before January of last year (due to account connectivity issues), I pretty much stopped using Mint, except to check my budget every now and again. Google docs was much more useful than a site where my account connections kept breaking.

The entrepreneur in me always felt there was a great opportunity for another company to swoop in and do a much better job at finance management. At the same time, Mint was clearly focusing on people with credit card debt, trying to affiliate marketing better credit card rates, among other targeted advertisements. It’s budgeting tool, which once let you see how much money you could save in a year, was changed to be month-by-month only. It’s investment analysis, besides losing my data, was sorely lacking. And recently I’ve wondered (and have good reason to believe) Mint might not be around much longer. It doesn’t make sense in the Intuit portfolio of pay-for products, and they’ve just killed the quality that made it so great in the first place. Sorry Intuit, I love TurboTax, but you’re killing Mint and I haven’t been happy about it.

It was only a matter of time when another company stepped in to pick up where Mint left off. PersonalCapital, which apparently launched in September but I just heard about last night, is being talked about as “Mint.com for rich people.” Ha. The site provides a much deeper view into your investments (while letting you easily auto connect accounts like Mint). They want to make money by providing an optional service of 1% of your account for deeper investment advice, but otherwise provide a free service which shows you how your portfolio may be out of whack. If a focus on investments and long-term growth is Mint.com for “rich people,” then call me rich, and call me interested.

Now, I’m not sure their business model makes sense, so I’d be┬áhesitant┬áto give up Mint entirely (there is great value on historic data, even if Mint lost all of my Sharebuilder account data for the last three years!) and who knows if PersonalCapital can make it, or how the business model will change. I’d imagine they’d do better charging everyone for site access, but a small monthly fee ($2.99 / month) and perhaps add on fees for more insight. Not that I want to pay for this service, but I’d rather pay for a product that works well at this point then invest my time into something free that doesn’t. I imagine if they are going after the “rich” like me (with my $120k networth, ha) then the sentiment might be similar across the board.

The site’s UI is not as intuitive as Mint (guess that’s why Intuit bought Mint, ba dum dum.) They’ve clearly focused their resources on the investment portion of the tool, which makes sense. Already, I’ve been able to quantify just how unbalanced my portfolio is regarding international exposure, which I already knew, I just didn’t know what percent I should focus on investing abroad next year (go Asia go… I’m in the marketing for a good China & Japan dividend ETF, any suggestions?)

What’s missing is the budgeting and ease of categorization tools, which means a lot for tracking your finances. The worst part so far is trying to re-categorize all of my spending. I haven’t figured out if you can create your own categories and the ones they offer are limited. Many items come up uncategorized and trying to change them is a pain (you have to scroll through a long list, there isn’t even a way to type in the category and have it “guess” what you’re writing so it pops up. I’ve given up at using Personal Capital as a budgeting tool for now. The worst of it is that my spending always includes a lot of work expenses, which I have to mark at reimbursements, otherwise my entire spending report is massively out of whack. Maybe if this is Mint.com for rich people they could partner with Expensify and/or provide an easy way to note your work expenses so they don’t get all mixed up in your spending reports.

In any case, I’m excited about Personal Capital, because — even though a lot of the PF journos think Mint.com is the clear winner in this market — there’s a lot of room for innovation here. I’ve long wanted to make a site like Mint that actually provided useful input about one’s overall portfolio. It looks like Personal Capital beat me to it, but given I’m already working at a successful startup and I’m buried for the next year writing a business book, I’m glad they did. My scattered portfolio desperately needs the insight.

 

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