Intro – Finding the Best Personal Accounting Software for Home Use
When it comes to tracking your saving and spending, there are methods out there that either won’t cost you a dime or will barely put a dent in your wallet.
Using an Excel document is one option while another one is using a pencil and notepad to get you started right away. However, while these may sound rudimentary and ineffective for modern consumers, the truth is that many personal accounting software programs don’t offer much more. The vast majority of personal accounting software programs out there can’t help you transcend what you’re able to do by yourself at your desk.
This is why we created the list of the top 5 best personal accounting software for home use. These programs won’t cost you very much (in the case of Personal Capital, they’re free).
And what’s more, they come packed with the kinds of tools and capabilities to help you get a handle on your finances in ways you haven’t done before. Read on for our explanation of how we compiled our list of the top 5 best personal accounting software for home use.
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AdvisoryHQ's List of the Top 5 Best Personal Accounting Software for Home Use
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TOP PERSONAL ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE – PERSONAL CAPITAL
Personal Capital is an online, fee-only financial advisory firm founded by Bill Harris, the former CEO of PayPal and Intuit. The firm specializes in blending industry-leading technology with top-tier financial advice and free personal accounting software online.
Personal Capital has registered over 1 million users to the tune of $214 billion in tracked accounts and $2 billion in AUM. It is headquartered in Redwood City, California, with offices in San Francisco (CA) and Denver (CO).
Image Source: Personal Capital
What Does Personal Capital’s Accounting Software Cost?
One of the nicest things you’ll notice about Personal Capital’s software is that most of it is completely free.
This stands in stark contrast to many financial planners and money managers in the market today. Clients usually have to be wealthy to book a discovery meeting with a financial advisor (oftentimes, making a minimum of $500,000 or more).
However, even if you can get your foot in the door, you might not be able to afford the advisor’s consultation services or premium memberships required to use whatever independent software that it makes available to you.
This is changing with the rise of robo-advisors and mixed financial planning services (firms that blend robo-advisor online software with regular human consultation), and more and more people are now able to take charge of their finances. In other words, you don’t have to make a lot to have powerful financial planning and money management tools at your side.
That’s where Personal Capital comes in. It is an online fiduciary financial advisor offering a host of money management and personal accounting tools free to anyone who needs them.
Sure, it still doles out the pricey wealth management advice to high-net-worth individuals. However, it does one better by extending help to everyone in need.
In fact, the only way you’ll ever pay a dime to Personal Capital is if you seek out a financial planning contract with them. Otherwise, your use of its financial accounting software costs nothing more than your time.
Image Source: Personal Capital
How Secure Is Your Information?
The first thing you need to know about Personal Capital’s online personal accounting software is that it’s exactly that: online.
You won’t be downloading software directly to your computer. On the downside, if your Internet is down or your computer can’t connect, you can’t login to your account until you gain Internet access.
Otherwise, there are plenty of pluses to this online-only feature:
- Your financial records won’t get wiped out if your computer crashes
- You can access your account from any device that gets Internet, including a PC, tablet or mobile phone
- Immediately view real-time updates and transactions; no waiting until you get home to enter the info
- Being an online portal, Personal Capital can sync with all your major accounts, including credit cards, bank accounts, savings accounts, mortgage, car payments, direct deposits, investment accounts, 401(k), and more!
No doubt, there are still reasons to be concerned that some of your most vital and important information is stored on some company’s online servers. Thieves are crafty, and if the protection around your financial data is weak, then you and your money become vulnerable.
Personal Capital shares these concerns. It knows if its financial info was being transmitted across the web, it would want multiple layers of protection surrounding it.
To that end, Personal Capital encrypts each service and each account with the highest levels of security. Your sensitive personal and financial data are protected each step of the way. Practice sound password management on your end, and the entirety of your information will be further secured.
To make sure your details are kept safe, Personal Capital houses your account info at Yodlee, not at Personal Capital. With Yodlee, you get an “information custodian” that defends you against hackers through a comprehensive, three-pronged approach:
- Network security: The Personal Capital network, over which your information is transmitted, is constantly monitored and protected.
- Information security: Your personal financial data is systematically encrypted, both during transmission and storage.
- Application security: The tools themselves and, by extension, the Personal Capital online portal are encrypted and guarded at all times.
Image Source: Personal Capital
Personal Capital also engages in its own security best practices in the following ways:
- Rated “A” by Qualys SSL Labs: Personal Capital maintains one of the strongest security ratings assigned by Qualys SSL Labs, an SSL server-testing lab. The A rating is considered stronger than the vast majority of major financial institutions, including brokers and banks.
- Daily Transaction Monitor: This tool enables you to quickly track, identify, and report suspicious activity on any of your linked accounts.
- Multi-device authentication: While Personal Capital allows you to access your information on a variety of media platforms, such as a PC, tablet or mobile phone, each new device must be registered and authenticated in order to be recognized for future use. This allows Personal Capital to shut down any attempt by thieves to access your data through an unrecognized device. To confirm that each new device you register is done so by you and not an impostor, Personal Capital asks for your verification by email, phone call or text message.
- Touch and PIN authentication: Yet another layer of security – this time, it’s exclusive to mobile phones. iPhones come with Touch ID authentication while iOS and Android phones require a personal identity number (PIN).
Image Source: Personal Capital
What Accounting Software for Home Use Does Personal Capital Offer?
Personal Capital offers a suite of extremely valuable, free personal accounting software. These include:
- Net Worth & Cash Flow Analyzer
- Fee Analyzer
- Investment Checkup Tool
- Retirement Planner
Each tool is packed with powerful metrics designed to help you get the most out of your financial planning and tracking.
When you sign up for a free Personal Capital account, you enjoy access to a customized Personal Capital Dashboard. On this dashboard is the Net Worth & Cash Flow Analyzer.
The Analyzer lets you keep track of your net worth by syncing all of your accounts: everything from car loans and leases, mortgages, savings accounts, checking accounts, credit cards, 401(k)s, IRAs, investment accounts, and more.
Personal Capital believes it is your net worth – what you own minus what you owe – that is the most important number regarding your financials. In Personal Capital’s opinion, this is the truest measurement of your financial health.
Not only that, but your net worth informs every projection you have concerning your financial future or the goals you’ve set thereof.
In an ideal world, the proper balancing of your myriad of accounts results in a healthy and growing net worth. After all, if your spending and saving are disciplined, and if you’re living within your means, then your total assets will grow. This, of course, bars unforeseen circumstances, such as protracted illness, home repair, sudden unemployment, and the like.
Plus, if you have investment accounts, focusing on your net worth relieves you of the sometimes arduous task of tracking your assets’ every move. Likewise, you see the “big picture” of debt management and how each liability impacts your bottom line and, consequently, your future.
The Net Worth and Cash Flow Analyzer lets you see in one simple step whether you’re moving nearer or farther from your financial goals. However, what you may not know – indeed, what many people using free home accounting software don’t know – are the implications of excessive fees on your various accounts.
Are you aware of all the fees you’re paying on each of your accounts? Do you know how your fees stack up to competitors’ fees?
Personal Capital lets you know with its Fee Analyzer. You not only learn if you’re paying hidden fees, but you’re also shown custodial fees, 12b-1 fees, inactivity fees, mutual fund expense ratio fees, and more.
Personal Capital’s own number-crunching has found that many people lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees over the life of their accounts. The Fee Analyzer shows you how to cut down these fees and put that money back into your savings.
This can add an extremely significant amount to your retirement planning, home-buying plans, college funding planning for your children, disaster savings, and beyond. In this way, Personal Capital helps you build extra security into your future. However, what if you’re already paying the minimum in possible fees while struggling with an underperforming investment portfolio?
That’s where Investment Checkup comes into play. Personal Capital gives you a “second opinion” service by analyzing your investments on your behalf.
It tells you how your portfolio is doing, if it could be doing better, and what changes to incorporate to improve overall performance. These recommendations are customized to you and your personal needs.
Personal Capital’s suggestions incorporate asset allocation synergized with balanced asset location and global diversification, all the while staying geared toward maximal returns on minimal risk.
For additional perspective, you can also view how your revamped portfolio would have performed in the past. In the event that you want Personal Capital to implement and manage its recommended portfolio, you have the option of entering into a financial advisor contract.
Personal Capital will then earn a percentage of assets under management (AUM) on your account and nothing more. This makes for a conflict-free experience and helps build greater trust between you and your Personal Capital advisor.
The Net Worth, Fee Analyzer, and Investment Checkup tools alone give you the power to optimize your financials for continued success. However, what about planning for that one day in the future – however distant or not-so-distant – when you’d like to stop working and start supporting yourself and your family with the money you grew and protected?
Enter Personal Capital’s Retirement Planner. This online personal accounting tool gives you a snapshot of your progress toward retirement. You no longer have to wonder where you stand and if your future dreams are in jeopardy.
Instead, you can see clearly the impact that each spending decision has on your target. Are your spending habits taking away from your target? Are your investments underperforming and stalling your progress? Retirement Planner shows you what changes to make to get back on track.
Let’s say retirement is still 10 years or more away. During that time, you’ll need to fund at least two college educations, buy a summer home, and add to your nest egg on top of it all.
Retirement Planner lets you coordinate these major life events while keeping your short-term goals manageable and your long-term goals reachable. With this personal accounting software – free of charge – in concert with the above three tools, you can breathe easier and focus on enjoying life both now and later.
What’s the Learning Curve on Personal Capital Home Accounting Software?
It’s virtually nonexistent.
Sure, you’ll need to enter some information now and then, and syncing your accounts is your responsibility initially.
However, even these beginning steps don’t take long to complete. Not to mention, they are simple, oftentimes requiring the most basic information necessary to digitally access your multiple accounts.
Once those accounts are loaded onto your Personal Capital Dashboard, the real-time monitoring and tracking is taken care of for you. You don’t have to scour complicated and involved spreadsheets for line-item figures.
Personal Capital synchronizes all of your relevant financial data, summarizes account activity, and, in the case of retirement planning, projects your progress toward your target. But what to do if you’re a personal accounting newbie who’s afraid of getting lost and confused within mounds of technical jargon?
Fear not because Personal Capital streamlines everything for you. Each tool features a smooth, intuitive interface built to teach you about your finances. And in the event that you’re stumped or fear an error has been made on your account, Personal Capital is always available to field your questions and concerns.
Image Source: Personal Capital
TOP PERSONAL ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE – 2016 – QUICKEN
Quicken is one of the oldest personal accounting software programs still available today.
Originally launched in 1984 by parent company Intuit, Quicken was later relaunched in 1997 as Quicken.com. By 1998, Quicken had become the most popular site for web-based personal