Financial Dashboards

Tim Isbell, March 2013

Hobbies usually require some tools and equipment. Hiking is a lot more fun when you have the right maps and shoes. Tennis is a lot more fun when you have the right racquet. 
Gardening is a lot more fun when you have the right garden tools. And Personal Finance is a lot more fun when you have the right software accounting tool. In my case, that is Intuit's Quicken - which is a lot cheaper than the tools for most other hobbies! 

Quicken contains a wide range of personal finance tools. You can start with any one and add others when you are ready. As you use it, you'll discover that Quicken teaches you good accounting techniques. I started using Quicken to track ministry expenses for tax purposes. A few years later I decided to use it to manage our checkbooks, then I added investments, and so on. Now, I use it for every aspect of our personal finances.

Quicken aggregates all my finances, which means I can manage all my accounts using one dashboard. Plus Quicken provides a wide range of reports and other analysis tools.

While I am a heavy user of Google Drive (in the cloud) for most of my computing, I do not store our financial data there. Instead, the data is Quicken-encrypted and password protected on my laptop. I back up all our financial data a couple times a month to a hard drive at home. I also use Quicken Online Backup every 2 weeks. This provides the added security of an "off site" backup in case of burglary, fire, earthquake, or whatever. While this is a form of "cloud" storage, having an "off-site" backup is that important to me. And I trust Quicken's encryption above that of the conventional cloud suppliers.

There are a few versions of Quicken; I use Quicken Premier. Here's the Quicken website where you can learn more, and purchase a copy. It's available for PC and Mac.

What do I mean by "I use Quicken for everything?"

It means that I use Quicken to:
  • Manage checking & savings accounts (Includes downloading current data from every institution without needing to manually log in to each institution) 
  • Pay bills (I pay many automatically from a checking account or credit card. Virtually all the rest I pay through Quicken Bill Pay (a single dashboard that lets me trigger electronic payments from all my banks)
  • Manage investment accounts
  • Asset Allocation rebalancing
  • Forecast tax consequences from every transaction (Tax Planning)
  • Track net worth
  • Strategize long-term financial impacts of life events (Lifetime Planning)
  • Manage loans (whether I'm the lender or the debtor)

There is a simpler option for just managing operating expenses: This one is in the cloud so you can access it from any browser.

All the best,

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