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Should I be using Quicken?
Old 01-05-2016, 10:58 AM   #1
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Should I be using Quicken?

Or maybe the question is, would I really like it? I've been reading the "2015 Expenses" thread and this is what made me think about it.

Let me start with the questions/concerns I have, and then go into more detail.

- Will Quicken let me flag or hide certain expenses from my tracking that I either don't want included in my budget spending or want to easily identify?

- For managing a checkbook, how does it handle scheduled payments that are well into the future?

- For investments, will Quicken Premiere let me use my method of tracking net worth by reducing taxable accounts and IRAs by the taxes that will be due when I liquidate them?

- Will it let me include SS and pensions as an asset, by either figuring out or letting me enter the value of the future payments?

Right now I just track total outflow with a spreadsheet in a very general way, to make sure I'm in range wrt my planned withdrawal rate. I track all outflows out of my bank accounts other than transfers between accounts or investments. I include but note irregular large expenses like new car purchases and major home projects so that I can easily see bumps and how often they occur. I keep a 12 month running average. I separately account for income tax payments due to Roth conversions or cap gains on sales, as I don't want my budget thrown off by the decision of how much to convert (more on that later). I do include taxes paid for dividends and CG distributions.

I don't categorize my expenses because it's too much work, and I'm FIRE'd and generally on target with expenses so I doubt I'd do much with it. It would be interesting to see, though, and I suppose it would help with decisions like how important it is to get a fuel efficient car given how much I spend on gas. And maybe there are things I spend more money on then I think and could cut back if they aren't important. It also would be nice to find old transactions. I don't do it often, but when I do I often have to guess which month it came and download and search the statements until I find it.

Quicken could help here, but by itself I don't know if it's enough reason. I know I could use Mint for free, but I don't know that I want all that data in yet another potentially hackable place.

I assume Quicken would let me hide some entries from my budget and flag special expenses, even if I had to create new categories for them?

Oh, and the checkbook. I use a spreadsheet now, because I like to show future estimated tax payments. I scatter them to about where they would land on my spreadsheet, so that when they are a couple months out they aren't really on the radar, but as they get closer I can make sure I can cover it. I'm sure Quicken can let me enter future payments, but I don't want it to simply subtract $5-10K in future payments that won't happen for quite awhile. What I mean by this, is that I've already entered my 2016 scheduled payments as well as the 2015 payment for mid-January. It doesn't bother me in the least that these put me in the red. But if the upcoming January payment would put me negative, I need to know now and transfer more money. And sometime in March I'll look ahead and see how I look with the April payment looming. But it's a long time before I need to worry about the 2016 4Q payment. I don't know that Quicken would be able to show these future payments getting larger on the radar as they get closer.

Quicken Premiere looks interesting for tracking portfolio data. Right now I use a spreadsheet for my net worth, and it's not too hard to keep current, nor track my AA since nearly all my investments are in a few funds at Vanguard. Quicken could do it more automatically and look nicer, but I wonder if I can customize it how I want it, or if I'll be disappointed that it forces me to use their methods. Two things come to mind that I do that Quicken probably doesn't by default and may not accommodate:

- I use "after tax" values for my net worth calculations. For example, if I have $100K in a taxable account with 20K cap gains, I reduce it by $4200 to account for 15% fed tax and 6% (actually 5.75%) state tax, so I "really" have $95,800. $100K in my IRA is reduced by 21% for those same taxes, so I consider it to be $79,000. $100K in my Roth is $100K. This is why I don't consider taxes on Roth conversions or cap gains on sales as part of my budget, because I apply my WR% to my after tax balance for how much I can spend. I don't blow my budget by doing a Roth conversion which is really a wash in my net worth as long as I'm smart about how much I convert.

Will Quicken let me do anything like this, and continue to do it as it updates from my investment accounts?

Let's not argue if this is "correct". It's what I do, and what I will continue to do, and Quicken is not probably worthwhile to me if it won't allow me to do this or makes me go in and manually change data to account for taxes every time it updates the numbers.

- I include annuitized values for SS (75%, fully taxed, to conservatively account for possible cutbacks) and a small pension. I use this both in my net worth and my asset allocation. Actually, I have calcs that include them and calcs that do not. For my AA, I consider these as part of bonds/cash. Does Quicken allow this too? Again, let's not argue about whether this is correct. It's what I do, and it makes sense to me.

Sorry for the long-winded post. It helps me to write up what the issues are for my own evaluation, and if anyone is still paying attention I'd probably have to eventually explain why these things are important to me anyway.
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Old 01-05-2016, 11:03 AM   #2
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Why not just try it out? I bought a copy several years ago because of its popularity here. Although I was determined to like it, I didn't. Others do, though. It's just not for me. It does what it is designed to do, and I missed the flexibility of Excel.

I would address your specific questions, but I don't remember the answers.
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Old 01-05-2016, 11:09 AM   #3
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$55 for Premiere download on Amazon is a bit steep to try it out knowing there are issues that would probably keep me from doing it.
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Old 01-05-2016, 11:10 AM   #4
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For any checkbook functions, it's perfect. It handles future payments, just key in the dates when you will be paying the bill. It has reminders, loan tracking, etc. All your estimated taxes would be there. It will remind you to enter your SS, or a water bill if you want.

Your spending reports can include/exclude any categories you want.

I use mine for both my personal finances and my rental business.
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Old 01-05-2016, 11:33 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Senator View Post
For any checkbook functions, it's perfect. It handles future payments, just key in the dates when you will be paying the bill. It has reminders, loan tracking, etc. All your estimated taxes would be there. It will remind you to enter your SS, or a water bill if you want.
By perfect, do you mean that it will tell me at a glance that my balance will go negative or very low for a payment coming in the next month, but not for one that is further away? Because that's what my spreadsheet does.

My January tax payment shows up with just a couple spaces from where I am recording right now. I see that I have it easily covered. I'm not yet close enough to the April tax payment entry to notice it, but if I scroll down to where it is, I can see that my balance is low. Scrolling further down, the June payment would put be negative, so obviously I'll have to transfer money in by then, but I don't need to do it yet, so it's nice that the negative balance doesn't show up where I'm looking at my current and near future checkbook balance.

Can Quicken do this? Are there options to show the current balance, balance in 30 days, balance in 90 days, etc?
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Old 01-05-2016, 11:57 AM   #6
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You can set up expected income and expected bills. I use this for DH's SS, rental income, etc. I also use it for some of the big recurring, consistent bills (health insurance monthly, car insurance every 6 months, homeowners insurance annually.)

In the budget view it will tell you when you'll go negative on the money.

As far as hiding expenses... I'm not sure what you mean... when I look at the spending tab - I want to see EVERYTHING.... if money was spent - I want to see it. But I'm sure there are ways to exclude some spending... I just haven't explored that.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:36 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Will Quicken let me flag or hide certain expenses from my tracking that I either don't want included in my budget spending or want to easily identify?
There are many standard reports available, and the ability to customize them to extremes has been far more than sufficient for me.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
For managing a checkbook, how does it handle scheduled payments that are well into the future?
I rely heavily on the calendar view for exactly that, and it is probably the most useful feature of the software. "Scheduled" payments can be strung out by number of payments, to a specific calendar date, with set recurrence patterns, i.e. weekly, monthly, day of month, first [Sun, Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri, Sat]day of month, etc. The only one missing for me was biennial payments for real estate taxes, but easy to work around that one lacking detail.

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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
For investments, will Quicken Premiere let me use my method of tracking net worth by reducing taxable accounts and IRAs by the taxes that will be due when I liquidate them?
Interesting way of looking at it, and I understand why you would - and I'm sure it could be done in Quicken by entering a future transaction for the estimated amount - but I personally let a spreadsheet do that sort of prognostication. Lots of moving parts to consider in making those sorts of assumptions, like inflation and its effect on adjusted thresholds so I let Excel do its thing for that.

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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Will it let me include SS and pensions as an asset, by either figuring out or letting me enter the value of the future payments?
I set up accounts with values adjusted to the current NPV of pensions and SS to do exactly that.

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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
I don't categorize my expenses because it's too much work, and I'm FIRE'd and generally on target with expenses so I doubt I'd do much with it.
That one comment concerns me as to how useful you might find Quicken. It is by no means an effortless way to track expenses. I've found out that paying close attention to properly setting up accounts and categories gives the best results if one wants to have a good picture of their financial health. Somehow I don't think you'd be doing the spreadsheet method now if you weren't that interested though, so I'd say given a reasonable bit of effort in adjusting to the learning curve, Quicken could give you more of a "feature rich" view of your finance than a spreadsheet based solution does.

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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
I assume Quicken would let me hide some entries from my budget and flag special expenses, even if I had to create new categories for them?
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Oh, and the checkbook. I use a spreadsheet now, because I like to show future estimated tax payments. I scatter them to about where they would land on my spreadsheet, so that when they are a couple months out they aren't really on the radar, but as they get closer I can make sure I can cover it.
That is exactly how I use the Quicken calendar view. And I feel your pain, because I use a redundant spreadsheet method for that too.

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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Quicken could do it more automatically and look nicer, but I wonder if I can customize it how I want it, or if I'll be disappointed that it forces me to use their methods. Two things come to mind that I do that Quicken probably doesn't by default and may not accommodate:
Again, the learning curve. I've been using Quicken for decades, kind of a love/hate relationship at times. But I'm sure there are things it can do I still haven't found.

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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
I include annuitized values for SS (75%, fully taxed, to conservatively account for possible cutbacks) and a small pension. I use this both in my net worth and my asset allocation. Actually, I have calcs that include them and calcs that do not. For my AA, I consider these as part of bonds/cash. Does Quicken allow this too?
I suppose one could fudge it in as an investment account, getting all the reports to show the result you want might take some doing.

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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Again, let's not argue about whether this is correct. It's what I do, and it makes sense to me.
Whatever works for you!

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Sorry for the long-winded post. It helps me to write up what the issues are for my own evaluation, and if anyone is still paying attention I'd probably have to eventually explain why these things are important to me anyway.
No need to explain. And I'd be breaking one of my rules of financial nondisclosure if I tried to explain my methods.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:37 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
By perfect, do you mean that it will tell me at a glance that my balance will go negative or very low for a payment coming in the next month, but not for one that is further away? Because that's what my spreadsheet does.

My January tax payment shows up with just a couple spaces from where I am recording right now. I see that I have it easily covered. I'm not yet close enough to the April tax payment entry to notice it, but if I scroll down to where it is, I can see that my balance is low. Scrolling further down, the June payment would put be negative, so obviously I'll have to transfer money in by then, but I don't need to do it yet, so it's nice that the negative balance doesn't show up where I'm looking at my current and near future checkbook balance.

Can Quicken do this? Are there options to show the current balance, balance in 30 days, balance in 90 days, etc?
Yes, exactly. Just enter all the transactions you know are coming up with their future dates. Quicken gives you a scrollable checkbook register with a blue line under today, so you can see what's in the past and what's in the future. It has a normal running balance for the future, so you can see positive or negative numbers there.

I have recurring transactions setup for everything from property taxes to utility bills to paychecks, so Quicken automatically creates them for me. I set mine to be visible for the next 3 months, but you can choose any interval. The items that have varying amounts are setup as estimates from the previous 3 similar transactions (i.e. January's electric bill is currently shown as the average of Oct/Nov/Dec), but this is also adjustable. When the actual amount is known, I just type over the estimate and that gets figured into the future estimated payments.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:47 PM   #9
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You can contort Quicken to do many things, including generating reports that can then be copied into Excel and processed as you like.

I don't like Quicken's budgeting. I use it as an "envelope" or double-entry system instead. All assets are balanced by liabilities, and Quicken thinks my net worth is $0. So when I buy groceries, my cash goes down $40 and the amount I have allocated for groceries goes down by $40. I always know my checking balance and how much I have left to spend on groceries by looking at my account totals. Every two weeks I use scheduled transactions to add money to my budget categories. A holdover from pre-FIRE.

Flag or hide expenses?
Not sure what that would be exactly. You don't have to account for everything. You could just call an expense "miscellaneous" and lump it in with a bunch of other unimportant stuff. I do have a category like that for minor purchases that don't impact the budget much, though it is part of the budget. You can create a separate account for something major like a mortgage. You could place the mortgage high up on the account list and "miscellaneous" low on the list.

Scheduled payments?
It is easy to create a recurring transaction in Quicken. I use scheduled payments for nearly everything. I have them entered into the accounts a month ahead of time. That gives me a nice estimate of when I need to refill the checking account. All transactions are dated, an can be ordered by date, so it is clear which are in the future. Quicken will give a current balance and a future balance.

Account for taxes on IRA's?
No. But you can create a report of all your account balances, copy it into Excel, and apply your factors there.

Future value of SS payments?
No. You can schedule them in Quicken so they are automated. You could report them to Excel. But Quicken doesn't care about their present value.

Flag special expenses?
I sort of do this. I have a home improvement category that is used primarily for irregular large expenses. You can categorize any way you want. You can create reports that include or exclude some of your categories. You can see your spending by month.

Showing estimated tax payments?
Yes. You schedule the payments and tell Quicken when to enter them into the account register. You can do this any number of days in advance. When the payment is in the account register Quicken will show a line dividing past/current and future transactions. The main account balance will be the current value. If you open the register you can see the balance of all transactions, including future transactions.

AA checks?
I have a slice-and-dice portfolio. Quicken is not adequate for this. I generate a report with all my holdings by account and security and copy it into Excel. I compute my AA percentages in Excel.

There is some flexibility in Quicken that may be adequate for you. You can specify an investing goal, up to 10 or so, call them whatever you want, and use it to generate and sort reports. You can attach an investing goal to one or more securities. So an AA with up to 10 allocations would probably work very nicely and generate a pie chart with the percentage of each allocation. That would also allow multiple funds per allocation, if necessary. For simple stock/bond allocation, Quicken does that practically automatically.

The ability of Quicken to consolidate all my accounts fairly quickly is a great help, even if I then have to copy a report into Excel to process the data further.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:49 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rodi View Post

As far as hiding expenses... I'm not sure what you mean... when I look at the spending tab - I want to see EVERYTHING.... if money was spent - I want to see it. But I'm sure there are ways to exclude some spending... I just haven't explored that.
The one specific thing is tax on Roth conversions, which I do not consider as money spent. The way I do it, I've already discounted the IRA by taxes that will be due. Some years I might do a large conversion and owe $20K on taxes. Another year I might do little or no conversion at all. I either don't want to include that $20K or at least flag it as it does not represent how I am actually spending money. I want to look at the bottom line total expense amount year to year and not have it skewed by whether and how much I did on conversions.
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:51 PM   #11
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I use Quicken quite a bit and here are my thoughts. Consider the accuracy of these statements to be worth the amount paid for them...

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
- Will Quicken let me flag or hide certain expenses from my tracking that I either don't want included in my budget spending or want to easily identify?
Yes, this is a customization in the reporting tool. Very easy to do this.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
- For managing a checkbook, how does it handle scheduled payments that are well into the future?
There is a scheduled bill/payment function available. The frequency and pattern of recurrence can be set to whatever is appropriate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
- For investments, will Quicken Premiere let me use my method of tracking net worth by reducing taxable accounts and IRAs by the taxes that will be due when I liquidate them?
The only way I can think of to do this is to enter them as the post-tax value. I don't know of a way to have the pre-tax and post-tax values exist on the same account. If it was a mutual fund you could adjust the share counts to do this to allow automated updates of prices. Not ideal, but doable.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
- Will it let me include SS and pensions as an asset, by either figuring out or letting me enter the value of the future payments?
You can enter it as an asset to track net worth or you could add it as if it were a bond to make it useful for AA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
I assume Quicken would let me hide some entries from my budget and flag special expenses, even if I had to create new categories for them?
You can include or exclude whichever account, payees, amounts, etc. you'd like as long as there is a unique identifier for the entries. Yes, the best way to flag a special expense is to create a separate category.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
Oh, and the checkbook. I use a spreadsheet now, because I like to show future estimated tax payments. I scatter them to about where they would land on my spreadsheet, so that when they are a couple months out they aren't really on the radar, but as they get closer I can make sure I can cover it. I'm sure Quicken can let me enter future payments, but I don't want it to simply subtract $5-10K in future payments that won't happen for quite awhile. What I mean by this, is that I've already entered my 2016 scheduled payments as well as the 2015 payment for mid-January. It doesn't bother me in the least that these put me in the red. But if the upcoming January payment would put me negative, I need to know now and transfer more money. And sometime in March I'll look ahead and see how I look with the April payment looming. But it's a long time before I need to worry about the 2016 4Q payment. I don't know that Quicken would be able to show these future payments getting larger on the radar as they get closer.
The budgeting tool will allow you to track this. The recurring payment function will apply it to a forward look based on how you enter the data and what you include. It can be done, but it will take a little tinkering to get exactly the look you want.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
- I use "after tax" values for my net worth calculations. For example, if I have $100K in a taxable account with 20K cap gains, I reduce it by $4200 to account for 15% fed tax and 6% (actually 5.75%) state tax, so I "really" have $95,800. $100K in my IRA is reduced by 21% for those same taxes, so I consider it to be $79,000. $100K in my Roth is $100K. This is why I don't consider taxes on Roth conversions or cap gains on sales as part of my budget, because I apply my WR% to my after tax balance for how much I can spend. I don't blow my budget by doing a Roth conversion which is really a wash in my net worth as long as I'm smart about how much I convert.

Will Quicken let me do anything like this, and continue to do it as it updates from my investment accounts?
I don't know of a good way to do this. You can certainly pull a report showing your cap gains exposure, but I don't know of a way to incorporate that into the NW reporting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
- I include annuitized values for SS (75%, fully taxed, to conservatively account for possible cutbacks) and a small pension. I use this both in my net worth and my asset allocation. Actually, I have calcs that include them and calcs that do not. For my AA, I consider these as part of bonds/cash. Does Quicken allow this too? Again, let's not argue about whether this is correct. It's what I do, and it makes sense to me.
See above for the comments above about this.

I love Quicken and use it extensively. It has helped me understand spending and keep many investment accounts straight. The reporting is OK and the tools are useful. It is definitely not, however, a robust investment tool in some of the ways you describe. There are workarounds for some, but don't expect too much. I'm a convert, but that doesn't mean I don't have spreadsheets for the things it can't do. What makes it easier though is that I can pull the data from Quicken an manipulate it from there. I only need to maintain it in one place.

Good luck!
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Old 01-05-2016, 12:52 PM   #12
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Sounds like the calendar view does handle the future payments how I want very well. Thanks for the info.
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Old 01-05-2016, 01:03 PM   #13
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Lots of good feedback here, I really appreciate it. I'll need to step back and reread some of the more detailed replies more closely, and any other comments that might still to be come. It's sounding like it'd work for what I'd want for budget tracking and my checkbook, but to track and analyze my portfolio I might have to do as much work as I do with my current spreadsheet. Maybe basic or deluxe is for me rather than Premiere.
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Old 01-05-2016, 01:22 PM   #14
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Quicken is great for expense tracking and budgeting. The budgeting module is a bit 'quirky' in my experience, though and takes some getting used to.

I've used Quicken for a really long time (earliest releases) and the later versions (2015, 2016) are unfortunately somewhat buggy. I actually am in the process of doing a return on 2016 because it was a lot slower than 2014 and I ran into the same bugs that I had encountered in 2014 (like the budgeting module not showing the correct 'net income' / savings amount depending on the view you were in).

There are some really great things about Quicken, but like most software it takes getting used to how it does things. So, I'm going to continue using 2014 to track expenses and just live with the things that I know to watch out for.

Intuit does offer a 60-day "no questions asked" money back guarantee, but there's a hitch - some sites (like Amazon) don't fall under the policy. So, read the small print on whatever site you order it from..I decided it was worth the 8 extra bucks over Amazon's price to be able to return it, so ordered through Intuit directly.

For Portfolio tracking - I did try doing this in Quicken at one point but it didn't really fit how I wanted to account for things. I forget at the moment what it was specifically but think it had to do with how "costs" were account for - didn't meet how I wanted to track them.

I'd highly recommend Fund Manager for investment tracking. I have no affiliation with the company and don't know the people who made it, but it's a truly awesome piece of software for tracking your investments. (I say that as an IT guy..FM works the way you expect software to work. It just rocks. HIGHLY worth the cost IMHO). I'm pretty sure they have an eval version (30 day?) also.
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Old 01-05-2016, 02:57 PM   #15
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I abandoned Quicken in 2010 after 15 years of use. I grew weary of searching for workarounds for simple things I wanted to do. There were bugs in the budgeting and cashflow functions that affected me as well. I just felt like I was putting more effort into it than I was getting value out. I was increasingly using Excel for analysis and Quicken just to collect data. Also felt like Intuit was not fixing problems or providing updates in a timely manner. So when they started forcing "upgrades" to keep the software functional, I was out.

I experimented with Mint and Personal Capital. They worked fine, but they each had shortcomings as well. So my current method is to use Fidelity Full View to accumulate and categorize all transactions and balances. I then transfer monthly totals by category to Excel where I do analysis, long-term tracking, budgeting, segregate rental activity, and other custom views. The spreadsheet also includes all the Quicken history in summary form.

I'm very comfortable with Excel, and it's flexible enough to handle my unique requirements. So this system works fine for me. I just need something to automatically accumulate and categorize transactions. I do the heavy lifting myself in Excel.
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Old 01-05-2016, 03:01 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
By perfect, do you mean that it will tell me at a glance that my balance will go negative or very low for a payment coming in the next month, but not for one that is further away?
Yes, it will show a running total, not a one-time total, by date. That will be your balance if you did nothing. Enter any date, any amount, and your running total will be there. After every entry.

There is a line than shows today, and today's balance. Every transaction will impact the running total.
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Old 01-05-2016, 03:13 PM   #17
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A program similar to Quicken, Microsoft Money, is available for free download. It is no longer supported or updated but I've found it provides the functions I need to track investments. Don't know how well it will fit your situation. Free except for the time you invest in getting to know it. Income tax estimates are obviously out of date but can be used for gather the information.
Available at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/down....aspx?id=20738
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Old 01-05-2016, 03:27 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RunningBum View Post
- For investments, will Quicken Premiere let me use my method of tracking net worth by reducing taxable accounts and IRAs by the taxes that will be due when I liquidate them?
I do the same thing with my net worth view. Glad I'm not the only one considering future taxes.

There's no super easy automated way. But here is what I do.

- Create a liablity account called "Tax Liability on IRA and 401k"
- Run a custom report (saved) which totals my IRA and 401k accounts.
- Enter that number times estimated tax rate in the liability account
- Rinse and repeat once per quarter to adjust the liability number

Yes, there is one calculation I have to do by hand. Is it optimal? No. But it gives me a good pulse on things.

I used to have another shadow liability account for employee incentive stock options back in the day when I had them.
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Old 01-05-2016, 05:42 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JoeWras View Post
I do the same thing with my net worth view. Glad I'm not the only one considering future taxes.

There's no super easy automated way. But here is what I do.

- Create a liablity account called "Tax Liability on IRA and 401k"
- Run a custom report (saved) which totals my IRA and 401k accounts.
- Enter that number times estimated tax rate in the liability account
- Rinse and repeat once per quarter to adjust the liability number

Yes, there is one calculation I have to do by hand. Is it optimal? No. But it gives me a good pulse on things.

I used to have another shadow liability account for employee incentive stock options back in the day when I had them.
Interesting workaround. Thanks for the tip.
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Old 01-05-2016, 08:57 PM   #20
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That is a good workaround for the balance, but it doesn't help with AA. Probably not that big of a deal for me, since I don't have all that much in my IRA or in cap gains and it happens to be a close mix of my overall AA. For now, anyway.
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