Dear Clients, Colleagues, Associates, Friends, and Family -
While I feel the utmost respect for Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks, it has become necessary to address a situation with Quicken, their personal finance product, and offer some suggestions.
Since the days of the DOS operating system, just as QuickBooks is today, Quicken was the unquestioned leader in personal financial software. But it was a PC-hosted solution and, with the advent of cloud computing, competitors like Mint arose, creating a dilemma for Intuit. For a while they experimented with creating their own web-based version of Quicken, but in 2009 they chose instead to acquire Mint.
They continued to produce annual upgrades to their PC-based Quicken product, but around 2011 I began to notice problems - in particular, their budget comparison reports, which have always been the focus of my work, stopped making sense. Now in 2014, Quicken users inform me that they're having more difficulties. By researching reviews of their 2014 product, I've learned that there are a lot of frustrated, loyal Quicken users out there. This message is for them.
Considering the importance of continuity in accounting records, Quicken's rich and incomparable set of features including, most importantly, its robust, flexible, and thorough reports which are so important for wise economic decisions, I am dismayed by how Intuit has mis-handled this situation by alienating such a large and loyal customer base. Quicken's online replacement, Mint, was not designed by the Intuit development team and, by comparison, its reports are sorely lacking. As they should be, Quicken users are bound to be dissatisfied with it.
What would be ideal is if Intuit went back to the drawing board and created a real online version of Quicken with as complete a selection of reports and features as there were in its 2008-2010 versions, with a user interface for mobile devices. Maybe they'll do that some day. Meanwhile, we must cope with the realities of the current situation.
Until that happens, my recommendation is to make a modest investment in QuickBooks and, if possible, migrate your Quicken data into it. If for some reason that suggestion is unacceptable, I've also taken the liberty of researching and scoring other options (below), using fourteen vital criteria that I've gained from decades of professional experience.
As far as I am concerned, the purpose of accounting tools is to deliver reports that are useful for making wise economic decisions. The most important report is some kind of comparison between desired (budgeted) and actual results.
I liken a budget and an accounting system to a map and a compass, respectively. They're both necessary; they work together; and without the other, neither is really very useful at all.
But again, much to my dismay, I find that a good budget comparison report is often missing from modern options. It doesn't exist at all in Freshbooks, and YNAB's paradigm is strictly month-to-month; it isn't possible to look at the bigger picture.
That Quicken let their budget report deteriorate and did not fix it year after year was very telling to me. It taught me that most people, including software developers, don't care about having a budget. Instead, I find that the more popular attitude about accounting and personal finance tools may be summed up as "Set it and forget it."
In my professional experience and observation, this attitude is dangerous. Accounting isn't about forgetfulness; it's about watchfulness. It's not surprising to me that, at the same time Quicken's budget comparison report stopped working, they got heavily involved in the lending business. Without watchfulness, of course one will fall into debt.
Isn't the whole point to get not into debt, but to get out of it? I would say yes; and not only that, but to accumulate the savings necessary to afford an awesome life.
This is why I would suggest that it is wise to go ahead and make the modest occasional investment in QuickBooks. Although it's designed primarily for managing businesses, it can be easily configured for tracking households, too; and if you already own a business that you manage with QuickBooks, you can simply manage two files, business and household, with one application. It actually makes things easier. The most important thing is, it offers a complete report selection, while the other options don't. They seem to me to be designed more with the "Set it and forget it" paradigm.
If you do choose other, more cloud- and/or mobile-based, less expensive or even free options, my standing encouragement is still to have:
The main challenge is to be disciplined and consistent about it over the long haul. That is where professional help becomes really valuable, especially when navigating shifts in technology like this.
As always, I stand ready to serve you and yours. Please contact me.
Very kind regards,
Kris Freeberg, Economist
Making End$ Meet