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Personal Capital and Expense Tracking Woes

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  • Personal Capital and Expense Tracking Woes

    So, a really nuts-and-bolts question for people on the board:  Share tips and tricks for making Personal Capital useful?

    One of my problems with both Mint and Personal Capital is that I find them infuriatingly annoying to use.  They register investing as an "expense" (but also as income in the investment account,) transfers of funds between accounts are similarly picked up as expense/income; payment of credits cards is treated as an expense (which doubles the underlying expenses on the credit card), etc.

    A couple of years ago I thought I had Mint set up to kind of deal with all of this (when I was really focused on paying off loans).  But since I've paid off my loans, I've totally fallen off the wagon in terms of watching my spending, expenses, etc., which has left me where I am now (looks like spending in excess of $100k last year, but I really have no idea because my bookkeeping is such a mess). So I have to start from scratch, and I'm looking to the people here who seem to have some of this "mastered" for some tips, as I try to drag myself back to a situation where I can save 50% or more of my gross income a year.

  • #2
    How much did you save last year?

    I know my answer: add up 401k, rIRA, brokerage, and cash.

    The rest was spent....

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    • #3
      my PC does none of those things you mention.  None of my investing is an expense nor income under investment income. Transfers are null.  Credit card payments are null. Are your transactions not tagged correctly?

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      • #4
        I don’t find tracking my spending and expenses useful, whether with PC, Mint or pencil and paper, although I’ve experimented with all. I’ve deactivated my Mint account. I like Personal Capital very much, but use it only for tracking my portfolio. It’s great for aggregating accounts at different institutions, displaying AA, projecting retirement numbers, and has an appealing user interface, illustrating the info in a clear fashion.
        My Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFF...MwBiAAKd5N8qPg

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        • #5
          I've had the same issues with Mint (no experience w/ Personal Capital) and it was enough to drive me insane after attempting to track expenses and fix all the errors for ~6 months. For the following 6 months, I gave up and let it run wild. Next thing I knew, 12 months had passed and instead of asking Mint how much I'm spending, I did the exact annual calculation Peds suggested -- it so much simpler and very satisfying.

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          • #6




            I’ve had the same issues with Mint (no experience w/ Personal Capital) and it was enough to drive me insane after attempting to track expenses and fix all the errors for ~6 months. For the following 6 months, I gave up and let it run wild. Next thing I knew, 12 months had passed and instead of asking Mint how much I’m spending, I did the exact annual calculation Peds suggested — it so much simpler and very satisfying.
            Click to expand...


            I hear you there.  Depending on how I count things, I invested about $125-150k last year (one problem is that I didn't invest part of my 2016 end of year bonus until part of the way through 2017 because (a) I was an idiot and KNEW Trump would crash the market and (b) I was holding out money for a car purchase, which I ended up doing about halfway through the year; I didn't do a good job of tracking, and so I'm not sure exactly what part of my 2017 investments are attributable to my 2016 bonus), so it's not like I'm doing terribly.

            That all said, I made about $400k, so I "spent" $275-250k.  A lot of that is taxes, a lot of that is unavoidable insurance, etc, which is what gets me to thinking that I spent about $100-125k of discretionary amounts (~$25k of which was the one-off car purchase, ~$9k of which was my annual out of pocket max on health expenses which I hit every year).  So within that 80-90k of truly discretionary, non-repeating expenses, I desperately want to do a better job of tracking so that I can figure out (a) why on earth I'm spending so much and (b) how I can cut out some of the unnecessary fat.  We don't go out to eat much, we don't travel much, etc., so it's just mind-boggling to me--I don't see a way of attacking it other than tracking it more specifically.

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            • #7
              I totally hear you about having an easy way to track specific expenses and wish Mint worked that way for me. Overall it just seemed to require more maintenance that I was interested in. That being said, I'm a resident and my spouse is a young attending. Our spending is still pretty low -- on the "living like a resident" end -- so a general ball park calculation has been good enough for now.

              I've found that a personal net worth spreadsheet with retirement/savings/taxable accounts which is updated every few months (and especially on Jan 1) has allowed me to make some nice calculations of annual savings/spending rates, etc.

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              • #8
                Use quicken if you want this type of granular data. It takes a lot more data entry, but the reports one can generate is great.

                Mint and PC are simple bucket aggregators that probably don't recognize a matching transfer between accounts and simply counts them double expenses.

                The power of PC is that it's easy to setup, gives you a quick 30,000 foot updates and decent calculators on rebalancing, fees, and retirement scenarios.

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                • #9
                  I gave up on mint this year. I'm pretty tech savvy, however, I just couldn't get it to be perfect the way I wanted and felt it had too many errors consistently showing up. It said we spent 160k as a couple, even though our total income is 130k and we saved about 60k. I couldn't figure out how it was off by so much as it didn't look like the credit card expenses were double counted, but I'm guessing that's what it was.

                  I use personal Capital for investing only, however, for this year I added all our spending accounts and thus far I've been pleased with the transaction assessments. I'll let you know for sure next year.

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                  • #10
                    I use PC and I just go in and correct any mis-tagged items every couple weeks. It only takes a few minutes. I wish it were all correct to begin with but it’s not. And for the info it provides to be accurate the items need to be tagged correctly. The software is free and I’m not sure that any software, free or not, can get around this issue. That’s my experience, anyway. I guess if someday I feel that it’s not worth it anymore to spend the time re-labeling items or I don’t need to track so accurately anymore then I’ll quit using PC for expense tracking. Until then, I am still happy with it in spite of it's shortcomings.

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                    • #11




                      I use PC and I just go in and correct any mis-tagged items every couple weeks. It only takes a few minutes. I wish it were all correct to begin with but it’s not. And for the info it provides to be accurate the items need to be tagged correctly. The software is free and I’m not sure that any software, free or not, can get around this issue. That’s my experience, anyway. I guess if someday I feel that it’s not worth it anymore to spend the time re-labeling items or I don’t need to track so accurately anymore then I’ll quit using PC for expense tracking. Until then, I am still happy with it in spite of it’s shortcomings.
                      Click to expand...


                      I'm happy to go through tagging things.  Easier than manually putting everything into an excel, which is the only alternative (I am not going to shell out for what is now the subscription-based Quicken service).  Was just wondering if anyone had any particular tips/tricks to getting it to work right with the flags, since I'm not confident that my re-flagging of things is putting me into the right place with it.  When you re-flag incorrect transfers and so on, what's your approach to making sure they aren't distorting things?

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                      • #12
                        My approach to making sure they aren’t distorting things is to appropriately tag any mis-tagged items. Right now, in Personal Capital, I’m mainly focused on tracking the spending from our checking account and Visa card account. So it’s very easy to go in and look at the newest automatically uploaded transactions, from say the past week or so, and when I find a doctor visit co-pay charge that has been tagged by PC as an “educational expense”, I correct it to “Medical/healthcare”. I have no idea if their system “learns” to more correctly tag in the future based on the corrections I’ve made.  I also create/modify the expense category tags to suit my preferences. Right now I’m not focused on their cash flow tracking, just expense tracking. Hope that helps and I apologize if I’m not fully understanding your question.

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                        • #13




                          My approach to making sure they aren’t distorting things is to appropriately tag any mis-tagged items. Right now, in Personal Capital, I’m mainly focused on tracking the spending from our checking account and Visa card account. So it’s very easy to go in and look at the newest automatically uploaded transactions, from say the past week or so, and when I find a doctor visit co-pay charge that has been tagged by PC as an “educational expense”, I correct it to “Medical/healthcare”. I have no idea if their system “learns” to more correctly tag in the future based on the corrections I’ve made.  I also create/modify the expense category tags to suit my preferences. Right now I’m not focused on their cash flow tracking, just expense tracking. Hope that helps and I apologize if I’m not fully understanding your question.
                          Click to expand...


                          I believe there is some learning by the system. Every now and then have to chuckle at incorrect tags.....my husband paid his MOC to the ABIM last month and it was tagged as charity.....

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                          • #14
                            I added a car loan payment category and after I put in two transactions, it learned and does it automatically now.

                            A tip is also to use fewer categories. I would like to seperate all travel expenses into flights, hotel, transportation, but as you make more categories, the higher chance to errors. I had this issue with mint, so now in PC I'm keeping it all under travel only.

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                            • #15
                              I was shocked: personal capital didn't know asset allocation for the TSP's lifecycle funds.  It also didn't know a Schwab target retirment fund's allocation.  Really a surprise!  Makes me less interested in maintaining information there.  I would only use it for investments anyways, as I track expenses elsewhere.  My bank had the same issue with calling credit card payments (to the same bank) expenses.

                               

                               

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