Replacing Microsoft Money, Part 1: Requirements

[Update: After evaluating the alternatives, I discovered a way to automatically download the transactions and price quotes and feed them to Money after Microsoft pulls the plug. See follow-up posts Replacing Microsoft Money, Part 5: OFX Scripts and Download Price Quotes to Microsoft Money After Microsoft Pulls the Plug.]

Back in June 2009, Microsoft announced they would stop selling their personal finance software Microsoft Money. I have been a Microsoft Money user since it was Money ’98. With Microsoft’s throwing in the towel, my current version will work as-is until September 2010. After that, two download features will stop working:

  • download transactions from my banks, credit cards, and brokerage accounts from inside the money program, without having to go to the web site of each bank, credit card company, and brokerage firm
  • download the current prices for my investments

Although I can still enter transactions or update prices manually, the download features sure make it much more convenient.

I don’t quite understand why the download service has to be disabled when they stop developing new versions of Microsoft Money. Can’t they offer the download service at $15 a year? I would pay it just to avoid the hassle of switching. Oh well, it is what it is and I’m looking for a replacement of Microsoft Money before that expiration date comes.

There are are number of free web sites that aggregate your transactions online. Mint.com is a┬ápopular choice. But I’m old school. I prefer to keep those data on my own computer. I’m limiting my search to desktop applications.

Before I begin my quest, I wrote down exactly what I use Microsoft Money for. Ideally I’d like to maintain all these functionalities. I use them as my evaluation criteria for the replacement candidates.

  • Categorize transactions in bank and credit card accounts, including splitting one transaction into several categories
  • Download transactions for bank, credit card, and brokerage accounts
  • Reconcile account balances against bank and credit card statements
  • Maintain a budget and report income and expenses against the budget
  • Track loan payments and allocate between principal and interest automatically
  • Track investment values, purchases, sales, dividends, interest, and capital gains and losses
  • Update price quotes automatically for investments
  • Report investment portfolio returns over any period
  • Report net worth over time

Ideally I also would like to import as much as possible from my existing Microsoft Money file into the replacement application.

My replacement candidates are: Quicken, GnuCash, and Moneydance. I will review them one by one in the next few posts.

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Comments

  1. indexfundfan says

    tfb, I have the same problem.

    I am now essentially down to two candidates: MoneyDance or AceMoney.

    I dismissed Quicken because of the download expiration in the product. Also, I believe it is a monstrous program like MS Money.

    I have tried out GnuCash but can’t remember why I discarded it. Maybe it was too slow.

    AceMoney is a native windows program and is fast. But it is lacking a portfolio view by each brokerage; however it is something on the author’s to-do list.

    MoneyDance runs a bit slower because it is in interpreted in Java.

  2. SanDance says

    I, too, dropped Quicken after using it for yours when they restricted my downloads with their ‘sunset policy’. That’s when I bought MoneyDance and have been happy with it for years even moving it from computer to computer (lots of PC problems) It does not handle investments as well as Quicken did, but everything else is at least as good or better IMHO.

  3. Alan says

    Your article on this blog is fantastic. Well done! I’m a big fan of your blog and be sure to keep up the great work.
    I plan on returning and linking to your site.

    Sincerely,
    Author
    The Alan Haft Blog,

  4. Ulysses says

    I don’t recommend Quicken any longer. I was a Quicken for Windows customer for over 10 years and wrote about why I switched to Mint at:

    http://www.quickencommunity.com/webx/FiLife-for-Mac/Online%20Banking/71/6

    The big reason: Mint simply works with ALL my banks. No worrying whether the bank supports Quicken Direct Connect or just Quicken Web Connect. No finding out the bank hasn’t updated their software (and paid Intuit money) to support the latest Quicken. Mint just works, and works well, with very little effort.

  5. Ulysses says

    BTW, I too resisted Mint because I was paranoid about my data being on my computer and nowhere else.

    But then I found out: Mint has the same backend (Yodlee) as Microsoft Money, Fidelity Fullview, and many other financial institutions. Your usernames and passwords are stored, to the best of my knowledge, at Yodlee. Mint is just a pretty interface for Yodlee.

    And you can export all your data to spreadsheet format anytime, so I really don’t have much cause for concern.

  6. Harry Sit says

    Thank you for the comments about the online services. Privacy and data security are not the only reasons I want a desktop application. I still enjoy the rich functionality provided by a desktop application. The online tools do a good job at displaying a snapshot view for today. They do not give the users the level of control a desktop application does. The online tools still don’t do well in tracking investments. For example how do you match lots when you sell a stock? How do the online tools handle individual bonds?

  7. Pop says

    Well AAII had a very good review on the portfolio manager. However online tools provide you a good snapshot of all your finances including expenses and investments.

  8. Dave C. says

    The online alternatives for sure, when you work from several computers throughout the day like I do. Work computer, personal laptop, home desktop PC or Mac. I know my situation is not the norm, since I am a web worker and computer / Internet junkie, but more and more people are doing everything on the web, it may not be long till desktop applications are a thing of the past.

  9. Harry Sit says

    Pop – What did AAII say? I agree the online tools provide a good snapshot. Once you go beyond the snapshot though, I find the features lacking. Does Mint calculate and allocate a loan payment between principal and interest? What if you make a $1,000 extra payment toward the loan? Does the next payment recalculate the interest and principal amounts?

  10. Ulysses says

    I haven’t used it, but I read CakeFinancial.com is a lot better than Mint when it comes to investments, especially the individual bonds you mentioned.

    So you could use Cake for your investments and Mint for everything else.

  11. POP says

    I was a paranoid like you and decided to invest over 100 dollars for this product. But as Dave C mentions you need to be on the same computer to use this and I am finding after more than one year of purchasing this product I am no longer using it as often I should.

    This is purely a tool for managing investments not a wholesome tools that can manage loans,expenses etc (like money or quicken)

    The main reason I bought this was to know the cost basis of all my holdings as I use Systematic Investment plans for many MF’s and dividend reinvest my stocks.

    This software also has a whole bunch of reports including ones that display an IRR of your investments which is a more accurate measure of performance.

    Me personally because of the security fears (old school/paranoid) have not tried out mint yet. I am using this opportunity to argue for mint so that I am personally convinced that I can go ahead and use it

    I am almost there. If I use mint then I will submit more details.

  12. Marge Geneverra says

    I feel that the ability to preserve my financial history data, by exporting tom Money and importing into the new tool is the critical requirement. I do not want to throw away 10+ years of financial records and budget trends.

    When you evaluate the products, the acid test is what it takes to get from your fully populated, functioning money management system in MS Money to a fully populated (all the old data) functioning system in the new tool. With balances in every account matching.

    I agree with you about online services. One would have to be crazy to put all of their financial information, along with bank and brokerage account numbers and passwords, on a web site. I don’t care about what they say about security! Security gets cracked, plus the biggest threat is from inside employees. I work in the IT business and have seen the best security strategies fail. Even with a low probability of exposing your financial data, the impact is so bad that risking it is unthinkable to me.

  13. vereen says

    Non techie question—I’m getting a new computer with W 7 on it. Will I still be able to run money–which I love- on the new computer?

  14. m phillips says

    I’ve been using Ms money since 2000 I think and Quicken before that, but in the two I use the check printing option. Have you found one that offers that in their suite? I know Moneydance and Quicken does and I will be checking GNU in a day or two.

    Thanks

  15. Jerry says

    We are all having similar problems. I was just about to try Moneydance, and found that it prints only large sized checks, not the “wallet” size with 3 to a page and stubs. That means that not only do I have to throw out a years supply of checks, but what is probably 2 years’ supply of matching envelopes.

    There just doesn’t seem to be a good answer. I have been notified that my access to stock prices will expire in a month or so. I can use either MAC or Windows (on a MAC pro), but can’t find a program that does it all.

  16. Jerry says

    Mr. Buff: (Your formal name?)

    You may have written the most important script of the century. At least it may save what’s left of my hair. Every time I shut down Money, I get the warning notice, and I tear a little more hair out. Thank you. I will try it immediately. And I have added my email address to your list of subscribers. I look forward to more of your wisdom.

  17. Asuncion Jurado says

    I have been sing MS Money for at least 20 years. I am so used to it and balance my checkbook in no time. I download all transactions from my bank in less than a minute and my check book is done. I read that Moneydance is the next best thing to MS Money. Is that true and does it work well with MAC ? I used to have it on an old Windows 98 PC and works perfectly well still, only a little slow. I use Quicken to some extent on my MAC but never tried it on my personal finances. Please advise.
    Thank you !

  18. OnLooker says

    Everyone has their favorite feature — mine is the ability to UPLOAD transactions to my bank to pay bills. I believe Quicken has this feature, do any of the other alternatives mentioned here?

  19. Michael says

    If you’re only having to deal with checking, savings, and credit cards only, take a look at SplashMoney. For $20, you get an excellant replacement for MsMoney. You just export from Money, and import to SplashMoney. Setting up online updates from your bank is a breeze.
    M.

  20. Mark says

    Thanks for this. I too have been a Money man since ons. My two uses are very limited, but critical. I enter my investment transactions and track my portfolio (I’m a frequent trader), sometimes several times a day. And I export at the end of the year to TaxCut to create my capital gains (schedule D) data. That’s all I use it for.

    A couple of years ago I investigated other options, including switching to Apple, but learned they did not have a similar program. I rejected Quicken and tried Moneydance, but found it impossible to work with after the ease annd familiarity of MS Money.

    I will be following your findings and and hope you will help me transition to a good alternative. Any strong recommendation specific to my two limited applications would be appreciated.

  21. Harry Sit says

    Mark – If you enter your trades manually, you can keep using Money as-is. The export to TaxCut functionality isn’t affected by the discontinuation either. If you download trades from a broker, you may want to jump to Part 5 of this series. If you download stock prices, see the workaround after Microsoft pulls the plug. If you don’t use either of these download features, you are not affected.

  22. Shari Guess says

    Can ANYONE tell me how to even come CLOSE to replacing the cash flow forecast?!
    Thanks!

  23. gordonq says

    Python script started failing 2/14/11. Yahoo Finance is not downloading the “name” for stocks like DBA, DBC, DVY, EEM, EWA, EWC, EWY and others so Microsoft Money rejects the import because of the missing name. I tried modifying by putting “ticker” in the name and it just fails differently. Any ideas how to fix besides what I did – just eliminate the failing tickers (I would like to get them – the price is there but without the the import fails.

  24. Jim says

    these bandaid approaches have worked, but isn’t there really a replacement for tracking investments, long term with cost basis? I would love to just import all my MS Money data to a new program. Really worth it, if it works.

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