When it comes to getting insight into personal finances, online banking just doesn't make enough of a statement.
While the Web excels in some areas, it falls short in providing valuable tools for complete financial management.
To provide a more complete financial picture, Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq:INTU) today released Quicken Personal Finance Software 2007, filling the gaps where bank sites fall short and complementing the way people use online banking today.
"Bank sites are good for showing me my account balance and whether a check has cleared, but I need more," said Patricia Eastburn of Belmont, Calif., who tested the newest version of Quicken while still in development. "Quicken shows me bigger spending trends across all of my accounts and tells me where my money is going. Armed with this information, I can quickly get the information I need to make important, real-time spending decisions about my finances today and plan for the future."
Quicken 2007 features a new home page design that provides at-a-glance answers to key spending and saving questions; a revamped setup process to get users up and running in minutes; better connectivity to more financial institutions to keep the software up to date with minimal effort; and improved ability to attach images, letting users save important checks and statements in Quicken long after they are removed from a bank's site.
What's Left Over to Spend or Save?
Quicken's redesigned home page lets users easily see money coming in, money going out and what's left over to spend or save every month. A cash surplus can be quickly identified and applied to pay off a high-interest credit card balance without leaving the home page.
A new calendar view shows bills coming due and the estimated daily checking balance, giving users the peace of mind of knowing they can cover upcoming expenses. Improved spending charts show cash flow balance for the month and where money is being spent.
Creating a Virtual Filing Cabinet
The Internal Revenue Service suggests keeping cancelled checks, trade confirmations and other tax-related financial records for three years - seven years for those running a small business. But banks typically only store and make these check images available to consumers for an average of 65 days, and will charge customers a fee to retrieve the images or checks later.
Quicken provides a place to keep that historical data and reduces the perennial paper chase of personal finances, making it easy to save and store data for as long as needed. Cancelled checks, bills, receipts, warranties and other important papers can now be scanned or cut-and-pasted directly into Quicken 2007.
Also new this year is the ability to import an image directly from a scanner, save the front and backs of checks and store multiple electronic images for a single category.
"We visited people in their homes and watched them proudly declare that they were reducing clutter by signing up for electronic statements," said John Flora, Quicken software product manager. "Then we saw them print those statements and file them manually because they have no place else to store them. The ability to easily download or scan important financial documents and create a permanent digital archive inside Quicken makes perfect sense to people and will certainly help them locate these documents at tax time or years later if audited."
Reducing Setup Time from Days to Minutes
Personal finance software becomes valuable when it is easy to install and use with a reasonable amount of time and effort.
Quicken 2007 has cut setup time to just a few minutes by enabling users to get started by simply entering their existing financial institution ID and password. The new Express Setup makes using the software easier for the 80 percent of consumers who currently have an online financial institution account. When a new user sets up a primary checking account in Quicken, for example, the software will automatically identify and set up other accounts held at that bank, such as a savings account or credit card. Transaction data, balances and automatic categorization of spending across all these accounts will be downloaded into Quicken just by entering an existing ID and password.
By simplifying the download process and asking new users to enter very basic data about their income and bills, Quicken provides immediate and valuable insight into spending habits and cash flow. Later, Quicken users can use more advanced features and functions of the product, such as retirement planning and portfolio management.
Filling the Gaps in Online Banking
Personal finance software also becomes increasingly valuable when users can keep their data up to date in a reasonable amount of time and effort.
Responding to strong consumer demand for more connections to their online accounts, Quicken now connects to more than 4,500 financial institutions. Even more important, ninety-nine percent of these financial institutions now have the ability to send data down to Quicken with just one click.
The software's One-Step Update feature lets users securely store all of their existing financial institution PINs and passwords under one single password in Quicken's PIN Vault. By entering this password, users can keep Quicken 2007 up to date by downloading account information from banks, brokerages, credit card companies, IRA, and 401(k) accounts. This feature can also be scheduled to run at any time so the information is up to date when needed. The number of financial institutions connecting to Quicken in this way marks a 1,000 percent increase when compared to Quicken 2006.
Additional Quicken features like the ability to automatically categorize downloaded transactions, forecast future balances, and rename cryptic payee names to remove store codes and other unnecessary transaction data help consumers make the most of the data available to them online.
"Quicken takes information available on financial sites and presents it to users in a way that is useful, provides insight and helps in decision making," said Glenn Tom, director and offering leader for Quicken consumer products. "Twenty-three years after the initial launch of Quicken software, these improvements make Quicken 2007 more relevant and valuable to the way people manage their finances than ever before."