CREDIT & MONEY MANAGEMENT


Quicken: Still the Best for Budgeting

The rise of Mint.com and its online budgeting cousins helped speed the demise of Microsoft Money personal-finance software, and it scared the daylights out of Intuit, which owns Quicken. But Intuit fought back -- by acquiring Mint in 2009. Now, Intuit's new Premier version of Quicken ($65 at Amazon.com) incorporates many of the same colorful graphs and user-friendly features that Mint uses to help you budget and set goals.

So why not save $65 and sign up for Mint or another of the growing number of free online budgeting sites (see Easy Ways to Track Your Cash)? They're fine for budgeting beginners, or if you just want budgeting lite. But if you want a more comprehensive view of your finances, including your investments, and you are willing to devote more time to the task, Quicken Premier can do the job. Desktop-based software is also a good option for anyone nervous about storing financial information online.

Quicken's Premier edition offers a robust investment section, a feature that is not available in free budgeting and money-management programs (nor in the less-expensive Basic and Deluxe versions of Quicken). It lets you track your portfolio's recent and historical performance and measure it against the market as a whole and relevant benchmarks. You can view your asset allocation, compare it with model portfolios and see how to rebalance to reach recommended allocations. (You will have to enter manually the cost basis for securities or funds you purchased more than a year ago.) You can also export data into TurboTax and other tax programs to streamline tax preparation.

And unlike Mint, Quicken has a calendar, so you get a quick picture of when bills are due and when money is coming in. You can also see projected cash flow -- how much cash you'll have available after you pay a certain bill.

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