Are you looking to get more control over your financial situation? Empower and Mint both give you an overview of your spending and investments but in different ways.
Mint is primarily an aggregator and budgeting app, while Empower is mainly an aggregator and investment management platform–but also offers limited budgeting capabilities.
Let’s take a look at both services in detail, so you can decide who is the winner in Mint vs. Empower.
What Empower has to Offer
Empower describes itself as a financial software and wealth management service. But there’s no doubt it’s best known for the wealth management side. The service is used by nearly 2 million people, including 18,000 investment clients, with over $8 billion in assets under management.
Wealth management is a premium service. However, the financial software (the best available) is free, and it offers budgeting and a healthy amount of investment services.
Free Financial Software
Empower’s budgeting service, however, is relatively limited.
You can use it to track your cash flow and spending patterns, as well as view and analyze spending categories and individual transactions. It also provides monthly summaries, so you can see exactly where your money is going.
You start by linking your financial accounts to the Empower platform. There, you can aggregate all your accounts in one place. They offer a “Cash Flow Analyzer” tool that helps you create a budget.
It does this by tracking both your income and expenses from your various financial accounts. The analyzer also helps you set and reach financial goals, like paying off debt or saving for a specific purpose, like retirement.
A big part of the reason for the popularity of the free financial software is what Empower offers beyond budgeting. And that’s their investment management tools. The service is worth having for these alone.
Once you’ve entered all your financial accounts onto the Empower platform, it will assess the risks and opportunities in your various accounts. Empower will make suggestions on how you can optimize those accounts.
This can improve the performance of your investment accounts, even without any direct management from Empower.
For a free service, this is an outstanding benefit. You can contact a personal advisor for questions you have or for more detail on the recommendations made by Empower.
Using a series of “what if” scenarios, you can add different variables to determine the outcome of various investment strategies used to reach your retirement goals.
It can help you learn if you have enough money saved for retirement or need to up your game. It can even provide projected future retirement portfolio values to give you a glimpse of the future based on current strategies.
This tool analyzes your 401(k) plan and shows you the fees you’re paying for your account, as well as the investments included in your plan.
It makes allocation suggestions for your plan and also provides you with lower-cost alternative funds within the account. This is important because small differences in investment fees can make a big difference over the long term.
Wealth Management services are part of Empower’s premium version, but you also have access to the services and tools of the free financial software.
The Wealth Management service is more investment-specific and can directly manage your accounts.
While Empower Wealth Management is often confused for a robo-advisor service, it goes well beyond typical robo-advisor services.
For example, it manages the accounts directly handled by the service, and acts as a financial aggregator. That means it will work non-managed accounts into your overall financial plan.
For example, while they won’t directly manage your 401(k) plan, they will build asset allocations reflecting those held within that plan.
Empower Wealth Management requires a minimum of $200,000 under direct management. Much like a robo-advisor, they first determine your risk tolerance, investment goals, and personal preferences. With that information, they design an investment portfolio based on modern portfolio theory.
Your portfolio is invested in exchange-traded index funds that invest in US and international stocks and bonds, as well as commodities.
However, the US equities allocation is comprised of up to 70 individual stocks instead of ETFs. In addition, they use tactical weighting with US equities.
This strategy has been outperforming the S&P 500 by more than 1.5% annually, giving you the potential for higher returns. They even offer a socially responsible investing (SRI) option.
Other Wealth Management Services
They’ll provide the usual investment management services you get with robo-advisors.
- periodic rebalancing
- automatic dividend reinvesting
- tax-loss harvesting
Tax-loss harvesting is a strategy in which losing positions are sold to offset gains in other assets.
Shortly after those positions are sold, they’re replaced with similar investment funds to maintain the target asset allocation for your portfolio.
The strategy works to lower your long-term capital gains tax liability, providing you with a form of backdoor tax-deferral on taxable investment accounts.
Another tax minimization strategy they use is tax allocation. Income-producing assets (interest and dividend generating investments) are held in tax-sheltered accounts.
But assets that produce capital gains are held in taxable accounts, where they can take advantage of more favorable long-term capital gains tax rates.
Fees for Empower Wealth Management are as follows:
- Up to $1 million, 0.89% per year.
- First $3 million, 0.79%
- Next $2 million, 0.69%
- Next $5 million, 0.59%
- Over $10 million, 0.49%
For portfolios over $1 million, Empower also offers its Private Client Group that provides personalized investment services and wealth planning, including direct access to a certified financial planner.
Here’s our full Empower review if you want to learn more.
Or, if you’re ready to try out Empower for free, use this link to sign up.
What Mint has to Offer
As mentioned earlier, Mint is primarily a budgeting service. And while it has a few other services that Empower doesn’t, its investment services are pretty slim.
Mint is a personal budgeting platform, and it’s free to use. Much like other online aggregators, it allows you to bring all your financial accounts onto the platform to give you a more holistic view of your financial situation.
Once you sign up for the service, you can link your bank accounts, investments, credit cards, loan accounts, retirement plans, and even your PayPal account.
As a budgeting app, Mint is one of the most popular platforms on the market. It allows you to create budgets and track investments: to find new ways to find savings in your budget.
To make the app even easier to use, Mint can sync up with nearly every US financial institution with an Internet connection.
The app automatically updates and categorizes your information. In the process, they analyze your accounts, then make recommendations to help you save money based on your lifestyle and goals.
It is similar to Empower’s 401(k) Analyzer, except that it goes beyond 401(k) plans and includes bank accounts, brokerage accounts, CDs, and IRA accounts.
The app will alert you of upcoming bills, so you won’t miss a payment and incur a late fee or credit delinquency.
You can also set specific alerts, including reminders of bills, when bank accounts are getting low on funds, or if there are any large or suspicious transactions in your spending.
You’ll also get warnings when you’re exceeding pre-set spending limits in your budget, as well as reports on how much you’re spending on ATM fees. Both can allow you to revise your spending patterns, stay on budget, and save money.
Mint Bill Pay and Goals
Mint Bill Pay
One major negative with Mint is that they eliminated their bill pay function as of June 2018. That’s a big, gaping hole in an app designed primarily as budgeting software.
The app continues to do everything needed to get you ready to pay your bills. But you must now make actual payments through your bank account or credit cards, rather than as an automatic feature within the app.
Goal setting is one of the stronger features of Mint and is one of the better reasons to use the app. You can set up and track progress toward specific goals, like getting out of debt, saving for retirement, or saving up the down payment on a car or a house.
You link a goal to an account, and it then shows up in your budget as a spending category. Also, you can set a specific amount of your budget to allocate toward a goal and even create multiple goals.
It’s an excellent feature if you’ve been having trouble saving money for specific purposes.
Credit monitoring is a specific service not offered by Empower and emphasizes Mint’s concentration on the user’s immediate financial situation. The service is provided through TransUnion and is free to use.
It not only provides updated credit scores but also explains the factors that make up your score. Just as important, it will also help you to improve your score going forward.
And if that isn’t enough, you can set up alerts to notify you any time new information appears on your credit report. That can help you deal with errors as soon as they happen and be aware of potential identity theft in real-time.
As is typical of genuine free credit score providers, Mint does not require that you “put a credit card on file” to access the service. (This is symptomatic of “free” credit score providers that give you free access to your score for a limited time, then begin billing you if you don’t specifically opt-out of the service.)
Mint offers a few free tools to help you better manage your investments, but it’s not a comprehensive investment management app, nor does it try to be.
And unlike Empower, there’s no option for a premium direct investment management service. Still, the investment tools offered are helpful for a new or small investor.
Mint tracks and summarizes your investments, which can give you a clearer picture of what you have and where it’s invested.
They also provide a free analysis that will highlight the fees you’re paying–and may be hidden–in your investment statements. That includes basic account fees, transaction fees, and even 401(k) fees.
Is Mint Really Free?
Once again, Mint is free to use. But like Credit Karma and other free services, they can offer the service for free because they make recommendations of various service providers.
These include credit card offers, checking and savings account, investment accounts, IRAs, insurance companies, and lending sources. Mint receives a commission if you sign up for any of these services, allowing them to keep the app free.
Here is our full Mint review if you’d like to learn more.
Empower vs. Mint: Which Will Work Best for You?
If you’re looking for a free budgeting app, Mint is the better choice of the two. Budgeting is Mint’s primary mission, and it’s pretty good at it as free software services go.
However, the elimination of the Bill Pay feature does diminish its value somewhat, even though it’s still worth having for basic budgeting and tracking purposes.
Mint Goals is well worth having if you’ve had trouble saving money in the past since it can turn saving into a regular budget item.
If you’re primarily interested in investment features, Empower is the better choice. Even the free version provides valuable investing tools that can help you manage your investments on your own.
But if you decide you want to turn that job over to the professionals, you have the option of trading up to Empower’s Wealth Management.
Do you use either of these services? How has your experience been?