Financial Planning Services
Investment Expense Ratios
- Free financial planning tools for all users
- Access to in-person financial advisors for wealth management clients rather than a mere robo-advisor
- Provides services that aren't commonly available on other investing platforms, such as estate and tax planning
- High account minimum and fees for wealth management services
- Limited investment options
Formerly known as Personal Capital, Empower is a hybrid digital wealth management platform that uses robo-advisor algorithms and in-person financial advisors for a holistic investing approach. There are two distinct parts to this platform, making it ideal for two very different groups of users:
- Empower Personal Cash: These tools allow for simple day-to-day money management and long-term financial planning. You can monitor and manage all of your accounts in one place, giving you a clear picture of your overall financial health.
- Personal Strategy: This wealth-management program gives high-net-worth investors access to advanced investment tools and dedicated financial advisors and specialists.
Is Empower Trustworthy?
As of November 2022, Empower had more than 3 million Personal Dashboard users. The company had administered $1.4 trillion in assets across 82,000 plans under administration, making it the nation’s second-largest retirement services company.
As for security, Empower uses military-grade AES-256 encryption. Account access has multifactor identification. Accounts are guaranteed secure — Empower will reimburse losses resulting from unauthorized transactions if they occur through no fault of your own.
Empower packs a lot of features and tools into one platform that can benefit anyone regardless of net worth. But this Empower review reveals four notable elements.
Financial Planning Services
Empower offers a suite of free financial planning tools for monitoring and managing your financial health.
Empower Personal Cash customers can go to the dashboard for a snapshot of their financial picture after linking accounts, from checking to credit cards to investments. The dashboard provides a view of cash flow and budget, including account balances, emergency funds, retirement savings and overall portfolio balance and net worth.
While the budgeting tool lacks many of the capabilities found with other platforms, the remaining suite of tools exceeds expectations. Users can:
- Easily monitor portfolio performance and compare it to market performance
- See an analysis of investment fund fees and how much they actually cost
- Get suggestions for improving investment asset allocations
- Use the retirement planning tool to simulate how various scenarios or a recession will impact their retirement
- Set and track savings goals
Portfolio construction begins with an online questionnaire and an interview with a financial advisor. This holistic approach provides a level of portfolio personalization that isn’t often possible with robo-advisors.
Empower uses a proprietary portfolio selection process called Smart Weighting to provide better portfolio diversification. Rather than mimic traditional market-cap-weighted indexes, it equally weighs economic sector, style and size of investments to construct an index.
The table below displays the minimum requirements and investment types available for each level of Empower’s wealth management services.
|Investment Services||Wealth Management||Private Client|
|Investment Assets||$100,000 to $250,000||$250,000 to $1 million||Over $1 million|
|Investment Types||– ETFs||– ETFs
– Individual stocks
– Individual stocks
– Individual bonds
– Private equity investments for clients with at least $5 million invested
|Advisors||– Unlimited advice and retirement planning assistance||– Two dedicated financial advisors
– Specialists in real estate, stock market and more
|– Two dedicated financial advisors
– Access to Empower’s Investment Committee
– Access to retirement and wealth planning specialists
Investment Expense Ratios
Empower wealth management clients can expect an all-inclusive management fee of 0.89% per year for primary and premium clients or 0.49% to 0.79% for private clients. Trading is commission-free.
Empower uses three strategies to minimize your tax obligations:
- Forgoing mutual funds for ETFs and tax-efficient stocks
- Strategically placing investments in the most tax-efficient account types to improve after-tax returns
- Offsetting investment gains with losses through tax-loss harvesting
How Empower Stands Out
Empower stands out for its hybrid approach to investing and wealth management. In addition to a free dashboard providing a complete overview of your finances, Empower wealth management customers receive unlimited advice and planning assistance.
Customers also have access to an Empower Personal Cash cash-management account. Balances earn a competitive interest rate. Because funds can be held by multiple program banks, they’re covered by up to $5 million in aggregate FDIC insurance.
Empower vs. Betterment
Investors who don’t yet have $100,000 to invest may want to consider other robo-advisor platforms. One alternative is Betterment, which is similar to Empower in that it offers investing and wealth management tools, plus a high-yield cash account.
However, you can invest however you want, including in cryptocurrency, with Betterment. Investing accounts start at $4 per month or 0.25% per year, depending on your account balances. Expert advice is available in packages of 45 to 60 minutes for a minimum fee of $299.
How To Apply
The steps to signing up with Empower are the same for those wanting to use the free tools and those who intend to invest. Here’s how you can get started:
- Create an account by providing your first and last name and email address and creating a password. Additional identification may be necessary after this step.
- Answer a few questions about how you currently manage your investments and your reasons for joining Empower.
- Link any financial accounts to be monitored with Empower, including checking, savings, retirement accounts, credit cards, mortgages and other loans.
- Set up wealth management services by linking the bank account to be used to fund the investment account.
- Schedule a web conference with a wealth management advisor.
Who Empower Is Best For
Empower is completely free for anyone wanting better insight into their day-to-day finances and wealth-building efforts. Regardless of size, those with existing investment accounts can benefit from the investment fee analyzer, investment checkup tool and retirement planning tool to help determine if their portfolio performance is in line with their retirement goals.
The investment services are best suited for high-net-worth investors who want the hands-off convenience of a robo-advisor platform but the personal touch of a financial advisor.
Both high-net-worth investors and those working to become one will find that Empower’s financial planning tools were explicitly designed with wealth-building in mind. Still, its money management tools can help anyone gain better control of their finances.
For investors, other robo-advisors typically have lower fees. However, some would say the access to financial advisors and other specialists makes Empower a good deal, especially for those who prefer a holistic wealth management approach. Users also benefit from doing their budgeting, investing and retirement planning all on one platform.
Empower FAQPotential clients may still need answers to commonly asked questions about Empower.
- Is Empower legitimate?
- Yes. Empower has over $1 trillion in assets under management and is the second-largest retirement services company in the country.
- Is Empower really free?
- Yes, Empower is free for anyone who wants to use its financial planning tools. Only those using the wealth management services pay fees.
- Is it safe to link bank accounts to Empower?
- Yes. Empower uses military-grade AES-256 encryption to keep data safe.
- Is Empower FDIC-insured?
- Yes, funds deposited in the Empower Personal Cash Program are FDIC-insured up to an aggregate of $5 million by program banks. Invested funds, however, are not subject to FDIC insurance.
Daria Uhlig contributed to the reporting for this article.
Information is accurate as of Nov. 29, 2023.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.