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Helpware: Don't rush to upgrade Quicken

Harold Glicken, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

During tax season, there's nothing as helpful Quicken.

If you've conscientiously entered and downloaded your financial transactions during the year, the accounting software for non-accountants will neatly categorize them into the taxable and non-taxable categories you've set up. It will allow you to print charts and graphs of how much money you earned and how much you spent in the budget categories you've created.

If you use TurboTax, taxable categories can be imported from Quicken.

Quicken will help you prepare a budget and scold you when you don't stick to it. The software is slick and user-friendly and mostly logical.

I've used Quicken to manage my finances, both business and personal, since its pre-Windows days. Each year, I've upgrade to the newest version, and each year, I've regretted spending the money. Each new version will do such things as change the home screen colors and menu font, but you still have to hunt deep into the Tools menu to find the Reconcile function. Reconciling is one of the most important functions of financial software, since it compares your bank and credit card statements with the balance and transactions in Quicken.

I reconcile my accounts every business day. That way, there are no surprises. I enter expenditures as they occur and download all transactions directly from bank and credit card accounts. I spend about an hour a week keeping my finances in order. It's time well-spent, especially when the tax man cometh.

The 2017 version of Quicken has a more robust mobile synchronization, yet I couldn't get the app to import transactions from my checking account. A call to Quicken's free and competent tech support resolved the problem, though I did have to endure a 30-minute hold with obnoxious music.

Through the syncing process, data is sent from your PC to the Quicken servers and then to your phone or tablet. Transactions that are entered in the phone app show up in the PC version, and vice-versa. When an error, such as a wrong password, occurs, the syncing can't continue, which is what happened to me.

Do I worry about privacy when my most personal financial data is sent to the cloud? Yes, but that's the way it works.

Quicken excels (pardon the reference to the Microsoft Office spreadsheet program) in tracking investments, planning for college tuition and figuring out how much money you'll need for retirement. It will remind you of the due dates for bills and you can even pay bills directly through the software for $10 a month. I bypass that fee by paying my bills through my checking account, which is free. Payments show up in my Quicken ledger when I download my other transactions.

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