Top 5 Personal Finance Software packages
What is Personal Finance Software All About?
Personal Finance Software is software designed for home use that allows you to manage personal finances ranging from income, expense tracking to the tracking of investments and assets. It is a tool that assists in the management of day to day financial tasks such as reconciling bank accounts, tracking credit cards, budgeting, retirement planning and income tax management.
There are dozens of companies that offer Personal Finance Software; the quality varies as does the price, ease of use and level of features. To assist in the decision making process when deciding which package is right for you I’ve listed the top five software titles currently available.
However, before you take the plunge and go out and buy some software you should really ask yourself some important questions:
Do I really need personal financial software? The simple answer is no. You can do exactly the same job on paper or on a spreadsheet, and still do a great job of managing your money. However, professional software takes a lot of the grunt work out of it; there is a lot of automation built in and there are many pre-built reports or planning tools that will assist you in your decisions.
What about an accountant? You could pay an accountant to do all your finances, create budgets, plan and reconcile your accounts, and that is an effective way of managing your money - but guess what? your accountant is probably using a personal finance software package - so why pay someone else to do exactly the same job you could at home?
Do I have to control my finances? No, there's absolutely no reason why you should try to control your finances - if you've never had a problem before, then why should there be a problem in the future? Well, you may be right - but what if you are wrong? There are many reasons why financial planning is important:
- Planning for the future is important as you don't know what emergency is around the corner.
- Being able to see where your money is going often can help you be frugal - you may see that you are spending $100 a month of coffee at the local convenience store and realize it is cheaper to make your own coffee at home.
- Beaing able to budget allows you to see if you're likely to get into financial trouble in the future.
OK, so now you've decided to take the plunge, what do you need to know about Personal Financial Software?
What to Look for in Personal Finance Software
The best personal finance software will provide easy to use features that allows you to manage even the most complex of financial transactions. However, complexity isn’t always key and it’s important that you really take a look at HOW you want to control your finances and not what THEY want you to do to control your finances. You could find that the simplest program is ideal for you as you’ll never use some of the more advanced features of a personal finance software package. Some key things to think about:
Ease of Use/Installation – this is probably the most important factor to take into account. If the program is to complex to even install let alone use, then it’s highly unlikely you’ll benefit from some of the easy features, let alone the more advanced ones.
So make sure the software is easy to use and is intuitive.
Online Banking – if you want the best features then it is essential that the software has online features – the ability to process online payments, download transactions, reconcile accounts and even get stock quotes will really help you get the best out of personal financial software. However, if you are only looking for something that has minimal features that perhaps helps you budget, then this may not be important.
Investing – if you invest then you need a personal finance software package that has advanced features that allow you to maintain your investments, and do some advanced planning. If you don’t invest and have no intention of investing then you probably don’t need these features – however, even if you don’t use the stock market, some packages will assist you in planning your 401k portfolio.
Planning – for me this is a hugely important area. The ability to plan taxes, loans, investments, savings and retirement (plus all the other events you can think of) is very important. Having a personal financial software package that provides easy to use planning capabilities is a must for people who really want to get to the bottom of their finances. But again, if you only want to record your transactions and reconcile your bank account then you may not need this.
Reporting – most software has some reporting capabilities such as giving an overview of your accounts, expenses and income. Some have very advance customizable reports and whether you need these or not depends on how deeply you want to get into the analytical side of personal finance.
Quick overview of the Top Personal Finance Software Packages
Ease of use
Quicken Personal Finance
Windows / Mac
Windows / Mac
Fortora Fresh Finance
Windows / Mac
1 Quicken Personal Finance
Quicken are one of the most experienced software companies in the field of personal finance software. They have various products available that may suit your needs. Over time Quicken have updated their software, improving the interface and focusing on ease of use; they have also expanded the functionality and have one of the most feature filled packages available. The main packages they offer are:
Quicken Online - this is Quicken’s free online site where you can learn the process of using Personal Financial Software. It allows you to manage expenses, banks and a few other things, but it is aimed at the beginner who has never used this type of software.
This software is the basic Quicken package and is aimed at the inexperienced user, or the user who doesn’t have complexity in their financial life. It allows you to manage your bank account, run reports on the type of spending you have and a few other minor features that are essential in fundamental financial management. It’s a great package for users who don’t have investments, mortgages or any other complex financial transactions. Key Features:
- View all your accounts in one place
- Very Secure
- Budgeting Tools – step by step instructions to set budget, pay down debt and build savings.
- Simple graphs of spending, income and balances.
- Receive alerts letting you know when bills are due
Quicken Deluxe – this adds to Quicken Online by providing some more advanced planning tools. These include planning for a new home, retirement, savings etc. Key features:
- Display all bank, credit card and investment accounts in one place
- Automatically categorizes your transactions
- Assists in budgets and planning
Quicken Premier – this is the full package that offers features that allow you to monitor all aspects of complex financial personal management including investments, budgeting etc. Key features:
- Tracks and analyzes your investment performance
- Compares your portfolio to the market
- Assist in minimizing taxes on your investments
Quicken Essentials for Mac – this is the Mac version of the software and it includes all the key features of Quicken Premier.
iCash is an intuitive piece of software from MAX Programming, LLC. It allows you to control your personal finances; you have the ability to track income, expenses and all bank transactions. It may not be as advanced and feature packed when compared to most of the other top programs, it has a lot of features that assist in tracking your money, and for this reason alone is one of the best Personal Finance Software packages available.
iCash simplifies the task of reconciling accounts and creating budgets and is one of the easiest programs to get started with. Ease of use is perhaps its best feature, and while it isn’t feature packed, users who are simply tracking bank accounts and simple finances don’t need to look elsewhere. If you want advanced features then this probably isn’t the package for you.
- No accounting experience needed.
- Very easy to use
- Unlimited Accounts, Categories and Contacts.
- Logical Account classification.
- Supports multiple currencies
- Auto balance and reconciliation
- Support for recurring and scheduled transactions
- Full budgeting support
- Pre-defined reports
3 Fortora Fresh Finance
Fortora Fresh Finance tries to deliver a great product and also great customer services. While not as intuitive as some personal finance software packages, the product does contain most features that normal users need.
Fortora Fresh Finance is probably the most uncluttered and easy to use interfaces. It has all the standard features that you would expect including tracking banks, expenses, credit cards and loans. It allows you to track multiple budgets, but the planning aspect of the program are not as good as many other packages.
The biggest downfall of the software is that it does not support investment accounts and thus is only useful for people wanting to manage general bank and credit finances rather than the more complex investment accounts.
The one good thing is that there is a free trial and also a 60-day money back guarantee, so it is worth checking out to see if it has all the features you require. Key features:
- Tracks major accounts such as banks, credit cards, loans
- Tracks income, expenditure and net worth.
- Decent budgeting capabilities
- Bill payment reminders
- Multiple currency support.
4 YNAB Pro
YNAB (or You Need a Budget) Pro is an intriguing piece of software that is focused on budgeting rather than detailed personal financial management. YNAB has threesimple principles:
- to help you gain control of your personal money
- to help you get out of debt
- to help you reach your financial goals
It takes the principal of only spending what you earned very seriously and thus has functions that will reduce the next month’s budget in a particular category if you overspent it this month.
It is not a complex program and if you’re looking for something that will help you manage all of your finances then look elsewhere – this is a spend v budget tool only!
It’s spreadsheet based so if you’re familiar with spreadsheets then you should have no problem using it. While it’s not particularly intuitive and you essentially have to do a lot of data entry, the simplicity of what it does, and the fact that it does the job really well makes it a program worth having, perhaps to complement other software you use.
The key to the package is that you have to constantly update it to get the best out of it – the more you put into it the more you’ll get out of it.
Is this software for everyone? No – in fact it really doesn’t have a lot of features, but sometimes, simply controlling a budget is all you need – and if that’s what you need, then there isn’t a better piece of software out there. Key features:
USesfrom four unique, powerful rules to maximize control over your money Tracks all your expenses Up and running in just minutes, Generate reports, schedule recurring transactions
AceMoney from MechCAD is one of the more advance Personal Finance Software packages available and is jam packed with features. It is a very easy to use product and has some nice overview features that really enhance the process of managing your finances.
It allows you to easily manage multiple accounts and has plenty of reporting options including the ability to track your spending habits. It is one of the easiest programs to use, and it is generally straight forward to do most key activities such as scheduling bills, viewing a portfolio etc.
Like many packages is assists in the process of reconcile accounts but the downfall is that not many institutions support the online features of the software.
One of its biggest downfalls is the lack of financial planning – as there are a lot of features in AceMoney, it was disappointing that there are only a few financial planners including a savings planner and a loan planner.
On the plus side, the portfolio manager is very good giving you the ability to download stock quotes and information from many stock exchanges.
Overall, AceMoney is a very good personal finance software package. It is easy to use but it lacks some key features of their competitors. Key features:
- Manage multiple accounts
- Allows creation of budgets
- Tracks investment
- Tracks spending
Picking the right personal finance software isn't easy and it generally is a personal decision about what is right for you. The packages I have selected are among the best, but there are other programs that may have the features you need.
So don't take my word, check out some of the other programs:
- iBank for Mac - Free software downloads and software reviews - CNET Download.com
Fast, powerful and intuitive, iBank 4 is a personal finance management app designed to help individuals and small businesses track bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments; analyze income and expenses; and plan for the future with budgeting
- Personal Finance Software, Home Accounting Software, Budgeting
BankTree personal finance software to help you to manage your money, budgeting and financial planning goals, with our free 14 day trial desktop software.
- Moneydance 2010 - Personal Finance Manager for Mac, Windows, and Linux
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