Personal-Finance Apps Fade On Disk, Flourish On the Web
Why return to this topic so soon? Since last spring, three things have changed. First, these three applications have all seen considerable improvements since then (though covering their upgrades left no room to assess such competitors as Geezeo, Thrive and Yodlee MoneyCenter--the latter being the consumer product of the Redwood City, Calif., company that provides back-end services for many of these Web applications). Second, traditional, disk-based personal-finance programs now look a lot weaker, what with Microsoft shelving its Money software and Intuit delaying (yes, again) the next Mac version of Quicken.
Third, I've realized how much I despise keeping my financial records the old-fashioned way in my own copy of Quicken for Mac. I never manage to keep all my accounts reconciled; when I do get around to it, the only things I discover are that my bank's records were right all along and that the empty feeling of pseudo-accomplishment I get after a successful reconciliation fades even faster than it did the last time. I need to get out of this program.
Yes, even if I have to store my bank-account passwords on somebody else's site. I've decided I can live with that--just as I'm OK with using Web-based applications to do my taxes. These companies appear to be taking the right steps to protect their users' data. Their lack of money-transfer features or even a way to see those saved account passwords means that in the event of your account getting hacked, you'd have relatively little at stake.
And even if you never use one of these money-management sites, your financial privacy isn't assured anyway: Everybody raise your hands if you've gotten an apologetic letter from a store, a government office or a school after it lost a disk or a laptop with your personal data onboard.
So now that I've decided to fire Quicken, where do I go next? After doing this review, I'm looking at either Mint or Quicken Online. (I like Wesabe's openness as a company, and I like what its users have done to make the site work better--see the manual they've combined to write--but it doesn't connect to enough of my own accounts.) My choice between those two will depend largely on their ability to roll out their next batch of promised updates, since each site lacks some features I'd like to have; for example, Mint's lack of pending-transaction support and manual bill-due alerts bother me, while I'd like to see Quicken Online allow for transaction splits and sub-categories. So I'll have to follow their blogs carefully.
Plus, I still need to figure out what to do with my old Quicken records. I don't want to keep the program around just to see how much I made in 2005. I may just export the most useful data, such as my income history and spending breakdowns, into a spreadsheet format. If you've recently emigrated from Quicken or Money, I'd like to hear your tips.
I'd also like to hear from people who have used a Web-based personal-finance application for more than six months or so. How has it changed your own money management? What tips would you offer to somebody just starting that transition?
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