Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Personal Finance Software Review of Quicken Product Offerings

In this article I would like to conduct a personal finance software review of the Quicken product offerings designed for personal use. There are several personal finance software products on the market that do wonderful jobs of helping families manage their finances, but I am most familiar with Quicken as I have been a user of its products for over eight years. I have been completely satisfied with the features Quicken provides and would like to review and compare the benefits that its product offerings deliver.

Quicken Starter Edition

Formerly known as Quicken Basic, the Quicken Starter Edition is an excellent solution for individuals who will be using personal finance software for the first time. The three main features the Quicken Starter Edition delivers are: (1) balancing of your checkbook electronically, (2) tracking how you spend your money by being able to categorize purchases, and (3) monitoring and updating all your investment and banking accounts in one place. It basically provides a "one-stop shop" for all of your personal finance concerns.

Quicken Deluxe

Although the Quicken Starter Edition is a fantastic product, I believe the average family considering a personal finance software product should start with Quicken Deluxe. The reason is that, in addition to offering all of the features of the Quicken Starter Edition, Quicken Deluxe provides the capability to download banking and investment account transactions automatically. This makes reconciling your checking account, as well as your other accounts, extremely simple. In addition, Quicken Deluxe allows you to create savings goals and track their progress, store statements and records electronically, and plan for a new home, a baby, or retirement. For most families, this is the best place to start.

Quicken Premier

For those families who manage their own investments and require additional tools to monitor and measure their progress, Quicken Premier is the perfect solution. Quicken Premier offers all of the wonderful features from Quicken Deluxe plus several others, including: (1) generating various investment performance reports, (2) analyzing and optimizing your portfolio with special tools, (3) generating Schedule A, B, and D tax reports, and (4) setting investment alerts to notify you when certain conditions are in place. A truly remarkable tool for the do-it-yourself investor!

Quicken Home & Business

The three software solutions above are all excellent choices, but if you own your own business, none of these will be sufficient for the additional monitoring and record keeping required of you. Enter Quicken Home and Business. Though not as powerful a solution as Intuit's QuickBooks products, it is the perfect choice if you have a small business with no payroll requirements, or especially for a part time business. In addition to providing all of the wonderful features of Quicken Premier, Quicken Home and Business allows: (1) tracking and categorizing of both business and personal expenses, (2) creating customized estimates and invoices, (3) generating profit and loss reports, (4) tracking vehicle mileage and other Schedule C items, and (5) monitoring upcoming bills and unpaid invoices. If you are considering a small part-time business, this solution is perfect to get you started.

In conclusion, Quicken offers a wonderful lineup of products that are designed to meet the varying needs that different families require. This personal finance software review has aimed to provide you with a basic overview of each product to help you decide which solution would be most appropriate for your family. Hopefully this discussion convinces you of the incredible value personal finance software delivers to its users. I can only speak from personal experience.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Personal Financial Freedom - Personal Finance Budgeting

The topic for this article is Personal Finance Budgeting. The first step in becoming financially responsible is starting out with a personal financial budget. Absent a budget there is no way one can possibly track their income and expenses.

Before getting into what personal budgeting finances are I want to explain why budgeting is important. For this idea we will say that you have decide to startup a business, a personal financial advising firm. When establishing your financial advising firm the first thing to be done is the planning out of your company expenses. Most people would logically budget for their expenses before they began because without this financial planning you would have no idea of whether or not your financial advising firm could potentially be profitable. The next thing is to plan out your revenues. Then you would take the difference between the two and see whether things looked good or not.

This is what a financial budget is for a company and people should handle their personal finances in the same manner. When establishing a personal financial budget it is important to include everything that involves your money.

You can find personal finance software on the internet. This software is made so that you can easily enter all your income and expenses and it does everything else for you.

The components in a personal financial budget include both income and expenses. Examples of income in a personal finance budget include job income, gambling winnings, capital gains, social security, tax refund, etc... Examples of expenses in a personal budget worksheet include SAVINGS, electric bill, health insurance, cell phone, groceries, books, shoes, clothes, car insurance, gas, entertainment, travel, miscellaneous, etc.

This expense list does not include all potential expense, I'm sure you can think of others right now. Anything possible thing that you can think of that you might need to spend money on should be put on your personal budgeting worksheet.

I know that some of you are thinking to yourselves "Savings? What? Thats not an expense!" Well I'm here to tell you that savings should indeed be thought of as an expense. Each month one should personally budget for a certain amount of their money to be saved. This should not be an "if I have money left over" situation. It should be definite and as automatic as writing that check for your mortgage every month.

The most basic concept of personal budgeting is to control spending and use your money wisely so that you have money left over rather than having no money or going into debt.

After listing your income and expense on your budget worksheet you need to subtract the expenses from your income and get a Net Cash Flow for the month. The idea is to include all income and costs and come out with a positive cash flow on your personal financial worksheet. If the number comes out negative then you have a problem and your expenses will need to lowered.

Now you know exactly what a budget is and how to make one. The next thing to is run a few Google searches an find a budget template to make things easier.

You need to keep a budget every month. No, you cannot simply make one plan for the whole year and stuff it away somewhere to forget about it. Our income levels change and our expenses change and these changes need to be accounted for.

To be successful with your personal budgeting plan you need to make out a projected personal budgeting plan for the whole year. Then as each month passes you can make monthly adjustments.

The other thing to do is keep a record of your actual income and expenses and compare that to your personal financial budgeting worksheet. You want to make sure that your original estimates were correct or at least close.

The thing about a personal financial budget is that it sets you up for success and helps keep you from needing to use credit cards or other debt to make it.

If you have an accurate personal financial budget then you will be prepared for the unexpected financial burdens that happen from time to time.

There should be no issues when your car breaks down and you suddenly need $300 to fix it. All is good because you have been putting money into savings each month.

This is the most basic idea of personal financial freedom and personal finance budgeting. If you can establish a sufficient level of savings then you can begin to be at ease with your financial situation.

Most people are clueless and don't realize that their unplanned/unwritten actual personal finance budget includes something like $4500 of income and $4700 of expenses each month.

Next time I will take a short break from the Mini Series and instead suggest a few personal financial budgeting software programs that are available out there.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Business and Personal Communication Skills - Finding Our Life Energy

Communication Skills that Provide Energy

Many times we wake up in a bad mood, not happy, maybe upset about something that happened the day before. Especially during these difficult times with the unpredictable economy and turmoil in our government, this is an excellent time to use this communication exercise. Energy deprivation also happens to us during the day and we go from functional to dysfunctional consciousness. Here is a fun exercise to try when your energy is depleted.

The exercise that I will talk about in this article is powerful and only takes 3 steps and a few seconds to execute. It can take you from being upset to being in an exuberant mood during the day.

Here are the 3 Steps:

1: Think of a need or value not being satisfied at this time.

An example of a need could be respect, safety, peace of mind, ease in what you are doing, creativity or even fun. There is a needs list at the website below. Our needs are our life energy and if they are not satisfied our energy level will dissipate. If our needs are satisfied our energy level will rise.

For example: When I think about my financial security (my need), I become upset or frustrated. My energy level lowers. My need may also be for abundance, peace of mind, safety for my finances or family, ease in my life, or to have fun with a vacation.

So there are many needs that are not being met because of my finances. Again, look at the needs list and you will see other needs that can be listed. For this exercise, I will pick one of these needs. You may do the same thing and pick a need of yours that is not being satisfied. Again it could be a different situation, yet this exercise works for any need. You'll be pleasantly surprised as your energy level raises. I will pick the need for "abundance" for this exercise.

2: Now, I will say this statement to myself, " I am abundant." My need for abundance is being satisfied."

Yes, it sounds like an affirmation. It is an affirmation. Yet, we will go a little deeper with step three. So say this to yourself, I am __________. My need for ____________is being satisfied." In the blank space place the need that is not being satisfied at this time. So, if you're need not being satisfied is for safety, say to yourself, I am safe, My need for safety is being satisfied." say it again, Say it one more time for good luck. " I am safe, my need for safety is being satisfied." Now take a deep breath, and we will go to step three.

3:Say to yourself: How is my need for safety being met? Take a deep breath, ask yourself 3 times. How is my need for safety being satisfied?

As you ask the question, you will start processing how your need for safety is being met. This is where the dramatic change may happen.

So, for clarity, here are the 3 steps.

1: Think of a need or value that is not being satisfied at this time?

2: Say to yourself. I am__________. My need for abundance is being satisfied."

3: Now ask yourself, how is this need being satisfied. Speak Slowly

These simple three steps will bring your energy back. In fact, it will probably give you even more energy than you can imagine. After you go through the three steps just let your mind imagine how this need is being satisfied in your life. You must take a few minutes and dwell on this need, and the question, how is that need being satisfied? Write down these steps and place it next to your computer. As your energy level may diminish during the day, perform the exercise and watch your energy rise. Be proactive and use it hourly to maintain your energy.