As a daily Quicken 2015 user, I upgraded to Quicken 2016 this week. The changes aren’t very significant but I chose to upgrade anyway. So here’s my Quicken 2016 review, with my thoughts about the latest version as well as an updated look at my Income Portfolio Morningstar X-Ray and an updated Credit Score just for fun!
27-Nov-16: An updated Quicken 2017 review is also available.
Quicken 2016 – what is it?
Quicken 2016 is the latest release in one of the few remaining desktop finance applications for PCs & Macs. Other cloud-based alternatives (Mint, Personal Capital, etc) are very popular and growing at a fast rate and products such as YNAB have also gained a lot of traction.
Intuit, the company who makes Quicken, is concentrating on cloud and online services with its popular (and free) mint.com website as well as its Quickbooks product for small business and services such as Quicken Bill Pay. Intuit also makes the popular TurboTax software. They announced in 2015 that Quicken is currently up for sale, which is certainly a point to keep in mind considering the lackluster improvements in the latest 2016 version. Of course they’re promising a bright future for Quicken although the evidence in the form of Quicken 2016 does not bode well.
Quicken 2016 comes in several different versions – Starter ($39.99), Deluxe ($74.99) and Premier ($104.99). If you are interested in purchasing Quicken, I suggest you shop around instead of buying directly from Intuit or using their Quicken upgrade offer. I bought my version of Quicken Premier 2016 from Amazon for $54.99, a 50% discount from the ‘official’ $104.99 price and cheaper than Intuit’s special price pf $62.99 . Quicken Deluxe 2016 is $29.99 at the time I wrote this, compared to the official $74.99.
The Starter edition is only for new Quicken users as it doesn’t offer the ability to import older Quicken files. The Deluxe version is the standard version for most people and you only need the Premier version if you have investments at brokerages which you want to manage and review. You can see a more detailed comparison at Quicken’s site. I use the investing features which are only available with Quicken Premier so that’s the only version I’m interested in.
All versions of Quicken work with a free mobile app. I’ve never used the app nor have I ever found myself needing to use one, so I won’t really comment on that. But it’s there if you want it. I turn off the “cloud synchronizing” feature which enables the mobile app functionality.
Installation and upgrade
Since I bought my copy from Amazon, I simply needed to download the 150MB installation file. It took about 6 minutes to uninstall Quicken 2015, install Quicken 2016 and import my data file to the latest version. Now I think my data file is pretty big at 80MB as I have transactions going back to 2009, but it imported everything without any problems and I had no issues starting up Quicken afterwards.
The installation does backup your Quicken 2015 file, so if something did go wrong you can always reinstall the older version and open up the saved file.
IDs, Passwords and Security
I didn’t have to fuss about license keys or anything like that during the installation, although I did need to enter my “Intuit ID” to register. This is an online ID which works across a range of Intuit products and it can also be linked with the mint.com login too; (although I wonder for how much longer).
Because Quicken is a more traditional desktop app storing your data on your computer, you can lock your Quicken Data with the Intuit ID, or with a custom password, preventing it from being opened. And you can also use only the older “Vault password” instead, this password is required to be entered to gain access to your banking credentials for downloading transactions etc.
New Features for 2016
So I freely admit that I’m underwhelmed by the new features in 2016 and that probably comes across in my comments below. It’s not that Quicken 2016 is bad, it’s just that it offers nothing new and is almost unchanged from 2015.
Here’s a summary of the four new ‘features’ which are being offered for your hard-earned money:
- Quicken Bill Pay. For the princely sum of $9.95 a month it’s now a bit easier to pay bills online with Quicken and the add-on Quicken Bill Pay service. Let me think about that: Ally bank does that for free from their mobile app / website and even pays the postage when mailing a check; Quicken charges $10 a month. Hmm… a tough call. (Some banks may also offer a Quicken compatible service for free or for a charge)
- Easier upgrade from Windows to Mac. I’m not sure why this is listed as a Windows app feature, but apparently the Mac version can now understand a Windows Quicken file better?
- Increased online bank downloads and transaction. We’ve fixed some bugs in our key feature that you’ll have to pay for.
- Free phone support. Yes! Now we’re talking – free phone and chat support! Except that I had free phone and chat support before?
Reasons to upgrade
One of the main reasons for you to buy Quicken 2016 is because of the Discontinuation Policy.
Quicken provides phone and chat support for products per the above policy; it’s usually about 2-3 years. This also applies to some Quicken features such as downloading bank transactions. If you’re using Quicken 2013, those features will be disabled after April this year so you must upgrade if you wish to use continue those features.
If you’re using Quicken 2015 there’s really no reason to upgrade that I can see, and if you’re using Quicken 2014 … well, you may like some of new features that were offered in the 2015 version which you still get in the new version. Chances are though that if you didn’t upgrade when Quicken 2015 came out, you probably don’t need to upgrade now.
Features I don’t personally use
I’m probably not the average Quicken user, so here’s a quick overview of some of the Quicken features that I don’t use but that someone might find useful. I’ll mention why I don’t use them as I go. Note that every screen in this entire review is unchanged from the 2015 version, there’s no cosmetic improvement in this version.
You can enter all your bills, recurring or one-time charges and Quicken will flag you that you need to pay them when the time comes. When you pay (or say that you have paid) the bills they’re entered into your account register.
I automate every bill payment that I can as either an automatic credit card or bank payment so I just confirm that bills have been paid when the automatic bank download imports them.
Based on your future bills and spending, Quicken can project your future balance. This can help you avoid being overdrawn.
I’m fortunate to have a large enough cash buffer in my accounts that I don’t need to worry about going overdrawn. When I added some debts to my file, Quicken calculated all the payments so the projection above is a constant outflow of cash because I didn’t add any future deposits such as salary income.
Each transaction in Quicken can be tagged with categories (and sub-categories). Budgets can be created with fixed amounts and can be set to roll-over from month to month if desired. Here’s a sample screenshot from my file; I was surprised to see some budgets set up so I must have played with it in the dim and distant past. There are also some alternate views I’m not showing here e.g. you can see a yearly view with the balance / budget of each month etc.
For some reason I just have trouble visualizing budgets like this, even though I know it’s really the same information that I have in the Excel file I use. I’m just much happier using Excel.
Quicken offers some tools for Debt Reduction, Lifetime Goals and Savings Goals.
The Debt Reduction and Savings Goals are the usual calculators allowing you to see the effects of additional payments etc. I’ve not tried them but I expect they’ll generate future transactions in your file and help show your progress to pay down debt or reach a savings target.
The lifetime goals tool is interesting though; it’s another wizard type tool that is similar to tools from Fidelity, Personal Capital and other brokerages although it tries to fill out the details such as income and expenses etc. based on the history in your data file. The initial screen looks like this:
I made up some numbers and entered them into the tool and the result is shown below.
As far as I can tell it grows the Taxable and Tax-Advantaged accounts that you selected with your estimated growth rates and then decreases them per your living expenses when you reach retirement age. Sadly it said that I should only expect to live until I’m 82 years old, which is 37 years ago although apparently I might make it another ten years as a stretch goal!
I expect it modifies the results as time progresses based on your current account balances. I don’t know because I do my future projections in … you guessed it, Excel.
If you have a mortgage, Quicken provides charts and reports to review the effects of additional payments or re-financing. It’s all pretty good and it’ll calculate interest and principal payments for your mortgage and categorize them appropriately. Nothing that isn’t available online but here it’s all linked with your account transactions.
Reports, Reports, Reports
Quicken has a huge number of reports that it can generate. Net Worth, Cash Flow, Investment Performance, Spending comparisons, you name it.
It even has a cool “Easy Answer” wizard where you can select questions such as “Am I saving more or less compared to last year?” and it’ll produce a report to answer your question. The reports can all be produced manually via the reporting / query tools but the questions get you straight to the specific report that you want. I’ve just never found myself asking Quicken those questions.
Features I actually use every day
So that’s a lot of features that I don’t use and you’re probably wondering what I actually do use in Quicken. So here they are.
Quicken tries to link every transaction between two accounts. So if you transfer money from Checking to Savings, it’s one transaction and has a “from” and a “to” account. This is handy because it allows you to navigate from one account to the other; you can click on the deposit and then navigate to the outgoing transaction. Likewise changing the amount in one account will change the amount in the other account since they’re linked. But it requires some logic to match up transactions and sometimes Quicken needs a little help and I’ve even had two entries in one account link to a single entry in another account which is, well, wrong.
You can always work-around this; for example you can simply withdraw cash or add and remove investments without requiring a second account. But the majority of transactions are linked and show flows between accounts.
Online account synchronization
Quicken can connect to all my accounts and download the latest transactions. I have a number of savings, checking and brokerage accounts between Vanguard, American Express, Charles Schwab, Chase, Barclays, Fidelity, HSBC and CapitalOne; Quicken can pull all this information in one go. This is the feature I use the most as it allows me to review all transactions going through all my accounts and helps me check off the transactions as they occur in my Excel file. The only account it’s not able to access is my HSA account at Bank of America, which also has the dubious honor of being the worst banking website that I have to use.
Note: Mint.com, Personal Capital and others can do all this too, but what I like about Quicken compared to Mint is that the transactions are linked between accounts as I mentioned above.
Historical Investment Cost Basis
This is the feature I use next often; Quicken provides a very simple interface for viewing the value of your portfolio on any given date. This feature works on all investment accounts since Quicken downloads the historical price data for each stock / fund that you own.
Here for example is a portion of my CapitalOne account, showing my LNT purchases and associated cost data. By changing the date in the “As of” field at the top, I can go back in time and see values on different dates which helps me in producing monthly and yearly reports. Sadly you still can’t go forward in time and look at future stock prices. That’d be a feature worth buying!
The little report icon to the right of the stock name links to news relating to that company such as dividend increases and other events.
There are also a number of investment reports that can be customized and while I use them less often, they can be quite interesting if you want to compare your portfolio’s performance to major stock indexes etc. Here’s my updated CapitalOne account performance compared to the S&P and other indexes.
I’m never exactly sure what’s being compared in these type of performance charts so I don’t pay them any attention. It is showing my portfolio as being the most volatile which is pretty much expected given the fewer number of stocks that it holds.
Quicken allows each transaction to be classified with a category so I occasionally use that feature when reconciling with my Excel sheet where I budget based on categories. It can generate reports that group expenses into each category and provide a breakdown into sub-categories. I’ve used this quite a few times when the expenses in my accounts don’t match my Excel file.
Features added in Quicken 2015
Morningstar offer an X-Ray feature if you pay their subscription fee and this analyses your portfolio holdings, breaking them into sector and regions. This can help you see what you really have in your portfolio and what you might be exposed to; particularly if you hold a number of mutual funds.
However Quicken has partnered with Morningstar to offer this feature for free, and the report can be customized to view one or all of your investment & retirement accounts. I’ve not used this feature in the last year; I idly clicked on the button last week and received only an error screen about some missing user. But since the 2016 upgrade it’s been working again…
I included the X-Ray results of my dividend income portfolio from my Quicken 2015 review. Here are the updated results to give you an idea of the kind of analysis that it produces.
The general summary remained the same this year as last year; still moderately risky but often good for current income.
Investments by Region
Compared to last year my US sector allocation increased from 69% to 74% at the expense of Europe and Asia.
Stock Sectors Summary
The report includes a more details stock sector allocation which can be compared to the S&P 500 or a similar investment style benchmark.
Stock & Bond Style
Since last year the portfolio has moved even more towards Large Cap stocks.
Investment Type & Fees
This year my portfolio has a higher amount of High-Yield stocks and also more Slow Growth stocks.
My Credit Score
All versions offer a Free Credit score report – this is a quarterly report from Equifax and it offers some basic personalized advice based on your credit report. The Score is not the “FICO” score but the Equifax Credit Score. The report consists of the following sections “Credit Card Usage”, “Payment History”, “Age of Credit”, “Total Accounts”, “Credit Inquiries” and “Derogatory Marks”.
I was interested in this feature because I’ve not been willing to subscribe to a monthly service to obtain my credit score. But I get the same service monthly from my Credit Card for free, so I seldom remember to check my score through Quicken.
I was at 796 in October 2014 so this is a big improvement. Of course it’s a different score than the one I get through my credit card, but I guess it’s trends rather than absolute numbers which are more important. My score improved because the average open length of my accounts increased to the “good” band.
I’ve always been able to contact support when needed although it’s a fairly lengthy process. I’ve not bothered to try to fix the current connection issues that I have: One of my savings accounts and all of my chase credit card accounts fail to download any new transactions. I don’t have many transactions on those accounts so I just enter them manually for now.
Based on my experience, you’ll likely see some connectivity issue with an online institution once a month or so; usually to fix it you have to go to the account and tell it up ‘update now’ – I’ve no idea why the global ‘update now’ isn’t capable of doing whatever the individual command does.
It can be a fair amount of work to keep the investment data correct with investment accounts especially. Some brokerages are better than others; I have a lot less issues with CapitalOne for example, but the Vanguard import in particular can get confused due to delays in the transactions between institutions, and the use of a money market sweep fund vs a cash account. So you do need to babysit the transactions and make sure everything gets linked up correctly.
Also one stock split has confused Quicken and it’s added a placeholder entry. These are flagged that they need attention but when I’ve corrected the problem manually before, it just comes right back in the next online update. Maybe this new version has fixed the issue so I’ll try again this weekend.
On the bright side, Vanguard recently changed its account structure and merged two of my accounts into one brokerage account. Quicken handled it more or less okay although missed some transactions during the switch. I was able to repair it all though and everything’s good for the moment.
Is it worth it?
Probably not if you already own Quicken 2015. I’d wait for the next release instead. This is such a minor upgrade of Quicken that you can barely tell the difference.
On the other hand, if you’re using Mint or Personal Capital or some other free service, there’s likely little value here in Quicken for you unless you’re OCD like I am and want total control over all transactions. The Starter edition does give you a means to check your Credit Score quarterly for the next several years for $33 which is cheaper than many credit monitoring services (e.g. IdentityGuard, Experian, Lifelock etc) although you don’t get the credit monitoring aspect of those services.
Quote of the day
An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.