Use, Forget Quicken

2010 September 14
by david

Recently I “upgraded” my version of Quicken for $49.99. It was a total waste of money. I used to have enormous respect for Intuit when I managed personal finance at AOL because they were the kings of user-based testing—something we didn’t do much of in the web business in the early days. “Ready, Fire, Aim” was one of our self-mocking mantras. Intuit was a more mature (in every sense of the word) business than we were. We partnered with them to launch the first marketplace for online banking and they truly embodied a customer-focused organization. But the web was a dual threat to their business a) because banks saw it as a way to disintermediate them and build direct relati0nships with their customers and b) because desktop software was a dying model.

I upgraded because the previous version of Quicken for the Mac was a mediocre product so my thinking was, heck the new version HAS to be better. Wrong! They advertised it as a better product with an interface that is more Mac-friendly. But they broke one of the cardinal rules of redesigning a site—they eliminated functionality. And not just any functionality. They took away what I considered was the core of the app: the ability to compare spending over one time period (say year to date) to spending over another time period (last YTD in the same month), and the ability to compare spending in a time period to the budget for that time period. They tout that it will import data from older versions of Quicken but neglect to mention it doesn’t import the budget so you have to recreate it. Yes, the UI is better but WHAT WERE THEY THINKING up there in Menlo Park?

After hours of trying to learn the new app (another no no), I got disgusted and signed up for Almost immediately I discovered why Intuit bought them. It’s the classic example of an upstart taking on an incumbent and kicking their ass because they’re starting from scratch. Mint makes it super easy to sign up. You just enter in your user name and password for your financial providers’ websites and it retrieves your information seamlessly. When they import the transaction data, they automatically assign categories. (Well ok, Quicken does that.) They update the data seamlessly so you don’t have to do it manually when you log on. Their interface is gorgeous. They sent me an alert within hours of signing up saying I was paying “more than average for auto insurance.” Another alerted me that a credit card payment is due. I may get tired of their marketing messages but they’ll be easy to ignore if I can’t turn them off. Which I imagine I can because they seem to have done everything right. The only thing that looks a little daunting is setting up a budget. But it’s not their fault—there’s no shortcut for that.

There’s much more on the site that I haven’t explored yet: e.g. the ability to set specific goals and track y0ur progress toward them. All this and Mint is FREE! Kudos to Aaron Patzer and his team.

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