I love Empower (Personal Capital) for all the free tools they offer. It’s a great place to aggregate all your accounts and see what’s going on with your money. Empower can be a one-stop shop for your money from budgeting to investment advice.
Here’s what you need to know about how Empower works, how it makes its money, and whether it will be the best way for you to manage your monthly budget as well as your retirement portfolio:
The #1 net worth tracking tool. Free live portfolio reviews for those with $100,000 in assets. Build a personalized investment plan. Licensed fiduciary advisors. Wealth management that combines award-winning tools with specialized expertise.
- A range of free money management tools
- Personalized financial planning advice from CFP advisors
- Live phone customer service is available
- Intuitive website interface that is easy to use and navigate
- Minimum $100,000 is necessary to invest.
- Investment management fees set at 0.89% AUM.
- Requires a call from the firm in order to get started.
How Empower Works
The process of getting set up with Empower is relatively straightforward.
After signing up for an account (which is free and takes all of 60 seconds), you’ll be able to log in and begin connecting your financial accounts, including your bank accounts, investments, mortgage, credit card, and any other accounts.
In this way I find Empower to be a little different from the rest as they’ve added on a money management component to just regular personal investing.
Connecting accounts is as simple as entering your secure information and allowing the software to do the rest.
Empower uses the same security and encryption you can expect from online banking, so providing the program with your secure account information is no riskier than online banking or investing.
As you add accounts, your “investible assets” number will continue to grow. Once you hit the $100,000 number, expect to hear from the Empower team–which we’ll get to in a moment.
First, we need to look at all the free programs you get even without investing.
Empower’s Free Software
One way to describe Empower’s free budgeting software is as an “account aggregator.” This program allows you to track and understand every penny in your financial accounts.
Once you link up all your various accounts, Empower summarizes your finances and offers you basic investment guidance.
This program offers a more comprehensive (and free!) service than a similar competitor Mint. The program generates graphs and charts to help you better understand your financial picture, including the following:
- Net Worth
- Account Balances
- Income Reports
- Spending Reports
- Asset Allocation
- Investment Returns
- Projected Investment Fees
What are Empower’s best free tools? Let’s take a look:
Basic budgeting is a snap with this program. The interface gives you an understanding of your spending and account balances and allows you to categorize your spending by date, merchant, and type of expense.
Net Worth Tracking
One of the best features of Empower is net worth tracking. Empower gives you the ability to view your account balances, cash, investments holdings, credit, mortgage, and loans all at the same time. You can also add in your home value by using the mortgage feature powered by Zillow.
Empower’s Mobile App
With all this financial information available through Empower, it would be great if you could access it anytime, no matter where you are.
Luckily, this is possible through Empower’s award-winning mobile app. Now you can access all of your accounts anytime and track your financials in real-time. Now you can access your Empower account from any mobile phone, tablet, or desktop.
You can even access some Empower features from your Apple Watch and other compatible smartwatches.
Wealth Management with Empower
Of course, Empower’s biggest claim to fame is its investment advice–which is why you are assigned a personal advisor once your investible assets reach $100,000, the minimum investment.
Suppose you choose to invest with Empower. In that case, your money is placed in a diversified portfolio of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with access to their “Smart Weighting” technology, creating greater diversification.
If you’re a high roller with more than $200,000 to invest, you will move into Empower’s wealth management service.
This gives you access to two dedicated Financial Advisors and a customized financial plan. At this level, you will also have access to tax-loss harvesting.
All of this is part of the robo-advising offered by Empower–but there is even more to the investment side of the program.
Empower’s Financial Advice
Clients who invest with Empower have access to financial advisors who are available via phone, email, or video chat for questions about everything from retirement planning to mortgages to refinance loans.
If you invest less than $200,000, you will have access to an Advisory Team. Invest more than $200,000, and you’ll have two advisors assigned to you.
To help you best allocate your investments, Empower customizes your portfolio based on your age, risk tolerance, goals, and investment time frame.
It also accounts for various things like paying for your children’s college education or buying a house.
Your advisors help manage your assets in conjunction with the customized program, although you have the final say in any investment decision.
Also, unlike other robo-advisors, Empower’s financial advisors are available to help guide you through market volatility.
Empower’s Innovative Technology
Empower believes wholeheartedly in the power of technology to keep your money managed well. In particular, the program uses automated rebalancing whenever your portfolio gets out of alignment.
For example, a portfolio that has a 15% investment in technology stocks could fall out of balance if tech stocks surge suddenly, turning your 15% investment into a 25% investment.
Empower’s automated rebalancing monitors your portfolio daily and makes necessary changes to keep your portfolio within your preferred balance.
In addition, the program works to reduce your tax burden by taking advantage of both tax-efficient investments as well as tax-loss harvesting through the use of individual securities.
Empower also works to properly allocate investments into the most tax-efficient accounts possible.
Of course, human financial advisors do need to be paid, which means Empower’s fee structure is higher than many of its competitors:
- Up to $1 million invested: 0.89%
- $1 million to $3 million invested: 0.79%
- $3 million to $5 million invested: 0.69%
- $5 million to $10 million invested: 0.59%
- Over $10 million invested: 0.49%
To put these fees in perspective, an investor with less than $1 million in assets will be paying $89 per year for every $10,000 invested—which is a little steep, particularly when compared to other robo-advisors.
Empower’s Financial Tools
That being said, Empower works to be the alpha and omega of your financial needs. In addition to the above offerings, the program also has the following features, many of which you are unlikely to find elsewhere:
Are you meeting your retirement goals? This is somewhat simplistic compared to other planners but a good starting point. Create a basic risk profile, pick a target retirement date and your projected income sources, and the program will recommend a portfolio for you.
Empower’s Retirement Planner can help you build, manage, and forecast your retirement savings in the same place you handle your regular budgeting.
Retirement Fee Analyzer
This free tool can help you to understand the fees you are paying on your current investments. Many people aren’t aware of how much they pay in fees, so this is a “must-use” tool.
Other popular Empower tools include:
- Stock Options Tracker: Track the value of stock options from the company where you work.
- Universal Checkbook: Deposit checks via their mobile app. Take a picture of your check, and the funds are deposited.
- Tax Optimization: Are your investments fully optimized for taxes?
- Fund Costs: How much in taxes and expenses does it cost you with each fund you own?
- Asset Allocation Target: Are you overweight or underweight in any of the major equity categories?
Empower Personal Cash
Empower Personal Cash is a fee-free cash management account from Empower. It offers high-yield APY to start and even higher rates for users of the Empower advisory service.
Empower Personal Cash is a great option for people looking to earn more interest on their idle cash than they would in a regular checking or savings account, with no minimum balance requirement or annual fees involved.
It also comes with an aggregate FDIC insurance of up to $2 million and allows users to wire up to $1 million without paying fees.
Other perks include unlimited monthly transfers and the ability to set up direct paycheck deposits and link your account to your checking account for bill payments.
Just note that there’s a maximum deposit limit per transaction of $250,000 and a daily withdrawal limit of $25,000 (or $100,000 if your account has been open for over 60 days).
Who is Empower Right for?
Empower is perfect for anyone who wants to see their big financial picture and to be able to track numbers like spending, savings, and investments.
Most people will be content using Empower’s free tools since they offer an array of options that cover just about everything.
Empower’s budgeting tools can be used as your sole budgeting option but are best used in conjunction with other budgeting methods. As far as free financial tools go, nobody beats Empower.
Is Empower Worth it?
As a robo-advisor, Empower is more expensive than its competitors, and with a $100,000 minimum investment, it has a high barrier to entry.
However, it is a program that offers a great deal to both non-investors who take advantage of the free tools and investors who want to have the peace of mind of a financial advisor along with the automated approach of a robo-advisor.
Because investing with Empower is cheaper than most brick-and-mortar financial advisors and much more comprehensive than most robo-advisors, it is a good best-of-both-worlds option for the long-term, passive investor who wants a holistic view of their finances.
How to Sign Up for Empower
Click here to go over to Empower–it’s free to use. You’ll start by creating an account by providing your email address, password, and phone number.
Click “Sign Up” and you’ve created your account.
That’s all there is to it!
Next, Empower will present you with a short questionnaire. You can skip it if you’d like.
But it only takes a few seconds to complete. And it helps their software learn more about you and your financial goals.
Next, you can start connecting your bank and investment accounts.
Once all your accounts have been added, you can take a look at your overall financial picture from the Empower Dashboard. You can also start to build your budget or dive into some of their advanced calculators and tools.