Quicken 2004 Premier Home & Business

By Wayne Kawamoto | Posted September 23, 2003

Making it easier to track that elusive bottom line, Intuit's latest Quicken 2004 is easier to set up, has better investment tracking capabilities and maintains past strengths. Although buying the newest version is not a slam dunk decision for those who already rely on Quicken, 2004 is the most powerful version yet.

For small businesses, Quicken 2004 Premier Home & Business includes all of the features found in Quicken Premier and also offers useful tools to handle invoicing, job tracking, accounts payable and receivable and more. For micro businesses that aren't ready for Peachtree or Intuit's QuickBooks, Home & Business is definitely worth a look.

Some Things New
In the past, newcomers who wanted to use Quicken had to not only learn the program, but refer to bank and other financial statements. They also had to enter a lot of account information, typically from a variety of sources, such as buy/sell sheets, dividend reports and more. The impressive new Express Setup lets users who have online access to their bank accounts enter the name of their bank, along with ID and account information, and than have Quicken download and input the financial data. It's a true time saver. In this respect, Quicken has clearly taken a lead over rival Microsoft Money.

Express Setup also assists investors by downloading the latest quotes, news and alerts that pertain to their portfolios. Quicken works with some 2,000 banks and other financial institutions, so there's a good chance that your financial institution will let you take advantage of this and Quicken's other online banking features.

Managing investments has always been a Quicken strength and in this new version Intuit has improved some investment features. Sophisticated investors can now compare their average annual return against key market benchmarks and verify that their asset allocations are appropriately diversified and match their financial targets. The program also keeps investors informed of Morningstar Rating changes and hidden fees and can estimate after-tax performance.

Quicken's investment screens have been redesigned. Most notably, the account area now resembles a brokerage statement. And a new tab in the Financial Overview Center tracks net worth, breaking it down by asset areas. A useful new Investing Activity Year-To-Date Snapshot/Report lists money that has been contributed or withdrawn to show if account balance increases are due to contributions or to changes in market value.

Standing on Past Strengths
As in past versions, Quicken continues to do a great job of creating and tracking budgets, managing and balancing checkbooks, monitoring investments and developing financial plans.

Quicken's interface remains intuitive and easy to use. The program separates tasks into centers — for example, cash flow and property & debt — that provide related options for performing analysis, obtaining reports, viewing accounts and carrying out transactions. And you may customize reports for each section.

For novice users, the interface can be a bit intimidating with all of its various alerts, links, tabbed windows and menus. But after a short while, most will appreciate the sheer quantity of information that the program provides on a single screen so they may obtain useful information at a glance and find immediate links to obtain additional details. You may also customize pages as you wish.

As before, Quicken provides strong tools to plan for retirement or large purchases and offers options for revising and comparing plans. Step-by-step 401(k) tracking downloads information from 401(k) providers and offers analysis and summary on retirement. A Capital Gains Estimator compares the potential tax impact of gains and losses before you make a trade.

Minding the Business
Small businesses may rely on Quicken 2004 Premier Home & Business to track accounts receivable and accounts payable. The program provides a single, convenient place to view unpaid invoices, upcoming bills and more, and offers 13 fully customizable reports for small business that show sales, profits, expenses and more over any time period. A single click displays all upcoming bills or outstanding invoices. Online bill pay makes it easy and convenient to schedule bill payments in advance so they go out when they're supposed to.

You can create customized invoices and estimates that feature your company's logo. Invoices may be forwarded as attached HTML files, or may be printed and sent. The program also tracks multiple jobs and projects — a very useful feature.

Quicken tracks mileage and business expenses and prints a Schedule C report that may be forwarded to your tax preparer. You still have to be diligent about recording mileage and expenses, but being able to track this information in Quicken is an added convenience.

Generally, Quicken 2004 Premier Home & Business is best suited for small service and low-volume retail businesses. It can also act as a bridge as you gradually wean business finances away from personal finances. Eventually, growing businesses will require the stronger accounting and inventory features found in full-fledged programs such as Peachtree or Intuit's QuickBooks.

Quicken Versus Microsoft Money
The latest Microsoft Money includes impressive free services, such as two years of online bill paying via MSN, tax filing through H&R Block, a single credit report and a year of credit monitoring through Experian, and consultation with an American Express financial planner.

Microsoft Money 2004 Small Business, the company's small business version of Money, comes with features for managing and tracking inventory and managing payroll. Money can adequately manage and update inventory as you make purchases and sales, handle shipping terms and create estimates and convert them into invoices.

The payroll features perform the necessary calculations, remind you of tax deadlines, print paychecks, and fill out tax forms, and you receive a free year of payroll service. If you run a retail or manufacturing business, the limited inventory features found in Microsoft Money may be a plus. And if you have to deal with payroll, Microsoft Money is definitely worth considering.

If you're content with Microsoft Money, there's no reason for you to move to Intuit's Quicken. However, if you are looking to begin managing your finances on your PC, you'll definitely want to consider Quicken. And those of you already rely on Quicken may or may not find enough in the latest version to warrant an upgrade.

Pricing and Availability
Quicken 2004 comes in Deluxe, Premier and Premier Home & Business versions. Quicken 2004 Deluxe has an estimated retail price of $59.95. Quicken 2004 Premier has an estimated retail price of $79.95. Quicken 2004 Premier Home & Business has an estimated retail price of $89.95. Each version is available online or at national retail across the U.S.

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