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Friday, January 20, 2017

Personal Finance Programs to the Rescue

Written by  John Redmond-Palmer

The new year is here, resolutions have been made, and it’s a great time to look at ways to manage your money. There’s that cruise you want to take, the kitchen to remodel, a new house to buy, and lots of other expenses that necessitate you managing your money in order to afford them. Fortunately, there are a variety of personal finance software products to help you, both for the desktop and online or desktop.

Quicken is a great product that I’ve used for years. Originally developed by Intuit, it is now owned by HIG Capital. It offers several different versions with tools to best meets your needs. The Starter Edition allows you to download your bank’s checking and savings transactions, and track your spending. The Deluxe version adds additional debt and money management tools. The Premier version adds tools to help you stay on top of your portfolio, maximize your investments, and find mutual funds that fit your goals. The Rental Property Management version adds tools to organize your personal and rental property finances, track profit and loss by property, identify tax deductible expenses, and store lease terms, rental rates, and security deposits. The Home and Business Version helps you manage both your personal and small business needs, and allows you to generate business reports. There is also a version of Quicken for Macs.

We all have savings goals, and one of the great features of Quicken that I love are the savings goal tools. In my house, a big goal every year is to save for the summer. In my job, as a teacher, I only get paychecks from September to June and have to save money to get me through the summer. The savings goals help me make sure the money is there.

There are a couple of things it’s important to know before purchasing Quicken. First of all, you will need to purchase an upgrade version about every two years because they discontinue online services support. While the continual need to update your software can get expensive, on the upside they are continually adding new features to the program, and improving existing ones. It’s also important to know that the versions for managing a business or rental properties are very basic, and nothing like using the powerhouses like QuickBooks or Peachtree. If, however, you have a very small business or limited needs, Quicken for business may be the right fit.

Since selling off Quicken, Intuit, Inc has purchased Mint.com, an online service for basic money management. It works very much like Quicken, however, it also provides you with emails reminding you of upcoming bills, low account balances, etc. It works by pulling data down from all of your accounts electronically. A major downside to the service, is that you are unable to manually enter information into the website.

There are many other web-based programs out there, but most web-based programs are like Mint.com and aggregate the data from your various accounts.

Is it worth spending close to $110 for the Premier edition of Quicken? It all depends on what your needs are. Personally I have used Quicken since the 1990s and can’t imagine using anything else. I never pay full retail for it though. Amazon regularly has great specials. The online programs are great, but for me I like being able to manually enter my transactions to reconcile later with the bank. Also, having the other features to help manage my finances, like budgeting, forecasting scenarios, setting up savings goals, managing investments, make it worth the investment to me.

In the next column we will look at tax software. Yes, the W-2’s, 1099’s and the taxman cometh. There are many options for doing your own taxes, and I will look at some popular ones, as well as a few great alternatives.

John Redmond-Palmer can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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