Money To Live

June 24, 2009

The End of Money

Filed under: Uncategorized — by moneytolive @ 5:00 am

Recently when I opened Microsoft Money, I read a message that the program would not be available for purchase after June 30, 2009. This is a message from Microsoft:

Important notice: Microsoft Money Plus will not be available for purchase after June 30, 2009. All purchased Money Plus products must be activated prior to Jan. 31, 2011.

With banks, brokerage firms and Web sites now providing a range of options for managing personal finances, the consumer need for Microsoft Money Plus has changed. After suspending annual updates of Money Plus in 2008, Microsoft is announcing today that we will no longer offer Microsoft Money Plus for purchase after June 30, 2009.

We would like to thank the many dedicated users who have been enthusiastic supporters of Microsoft Money over the years, as well as our partner financial institutions who helped pioneer a digital vision of financial management.

Microsoft remains committed to helping customers chart a course to financial well-being. The MSN Money Web site will continue to provide personal finance information and advice plus comprehensive market news and quotes. We will continue to evolve and enhance the online MSN offering in the coming months.

Current Money Plus customers who have questions or concerns can find additional information here.

http://www.microsoft.com/MONEY/default.mspx

I was very sad. This is the first time I have depended on a piece of software and been left stranded when it ceased to be supported. Admittedly, I would not be stranded for perhaps a few years, but I felt like dealing with this now (while I have some extra time on my hands), rather than being devastated in a few years when the program dies at an inopportune time.

Yes, banks and financial institutions provide online services. Yes, I could make an Excel spreadsheet and track everything myself.

I liked Money because it gives the best of both worlds:

  • Best of online websites: automatically integrate transaction-level data
    • I do not want to manually enter transaction to Excel
  • Best of Excel: I can “pencil in” future expenses and see my projected cash flow over the next few months.
    • I cannot do this comprehensively with online programs
    • When I add the actual “future” entries (like paying my credit card bill), I want it to be easy to clean up the predicted transaction. This is very easy in Money.

Not many people talk about entering future transactions, so I do not know how common this is. At any given time, I keep track of these expected future transactions for the next 1-6 months:

  • income
  • standard expenses: rent, food, credit card bill, insurance premiums
  • irregular expenses: travel, gifts
  • tax-related transactions: refund or estimated payments

Five years ago when I evaluated the options for managing home finances, I did not consider using Excel because I did not know how to make it do all the wonderful things it can do. I am now an Excel Expert (at my last job I had a reputation for being very good with Excel while simultaneously being nice; a manager I did not work with brought a young analyst by and asked me to help the stressed-out-analyst with some Excel trickery).

While watching one and a half hours of HGTV (gotta love it) with my cousins (gotta love them), I set up an Excel spreadsheet for my credit card and bank accounts. This is how I did it.

  • Export old Money data into Excel. This was tricky, required careful reading of Microsoft’s online help pages, and required installing a third-party download. Microsoft makes it more difficult than it needs to be (they crippled the functionality of exporting all transactions), and MS’s instructions are flat out wrong (at least for my version – maybe others work?). Since MS is not continuing to support this product, they should provide a software update that makes it easy to export all data in .csv files.
  • Download recent activity from online accounts. The downloads are in .csv (comma separated values) files. Each institution provides the data in a different format, but all provide the relevant info: date, account, type of transaction, merchant. My bank also provides the balance after the transaction (useful for checking my records!).
  • Make a template for importing this data into my Money-like Excel spreadsheet. Since each institution provides data in a different way (columns are in a different order, and some provide more info than others), I need to handle each download in a particular way. The template reformats the columns with 7 clicks of the mouse/strokes of the keyboard. Then it is 6 more clicks/strokes to put the data into my spreadsheet. Though it is possible to automate this process even further (with macros), I am ok with 15 clicks/strokes.
  • Create summary pages. So far, I only have a page of balances, and I plan to add more summary features when the urge strikes (spending by category or merchant, spending and earnings over time, …). The balance page shows the current bank balance, current balance in my records, and the projected balance (and the date corresponding to the projected balance). These Excel functions are used: vlookup, max, sum, and an array-max-if function.

This will be a work-in-progress, and I have ideas for tweaks to the system. I will test it out for a month or so before making any big changes.

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2 Comments »

  1. Have you any experience with Mint? I’d love to hear what you think about it. I was tempted to switch over (from Money) until I realized that I couldn’t balance my accounts using Mint (I think).

    Comment by Tonio — June 27, 2009 @ 12:16 am |Reply

  2. Trent at The Simple Dollar reviews Mint:
    http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2008/01/31/online-personal-finance-analysis-tools-some-thoughts-on-quicken-online-mint-and-wesabe/

    Here is a review at Get Rich Slowly:
    http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2007/11/14/mint-a-fresh-new-on-line-personal-finance-tool/

    Mint can import data from most financial institutions. It makes beautiful graphs and pie charts. But it raises questions about privacy of sensitive data.

    Comment by moneytolive — July 1, 2009 @ 12:37 am |Reply


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