When it comes to figuring out personal finances in general, you have to be aware of all of the specifics. The key is that most people don't like numbers, and many more don't want to do the calculations at a micro level. The good news is that if you look into the world of personal finances you can absolutely see some real programs that can help you control your personal finances and take charge of your money. Here are the keys:
The major types of personal finance software will vary slightly. There are many areas in personal finance, and while some people are more comfortable with one area or another, they may dread certain sub sections of personal finance altogether.
In general personal finance deals with the following categories:
Budgeting - The world of budgeting is a very powerful one but it is the first step. For many consumers who just go about their day without making rational choices or even knowing how much they make versus how much they earn, personal budgeting software helps to define where the areas of problems and the areas of potential success could be at.
Saving and Investing - Savings and Investment is one of the most important things to do, but many people are unsure of where to even begin. Personal finance software that teaches you how to invest and gets you on the path to retirement will continue to be some of the most important and popular pieces of software around.
Cutting Expenses - The key to getting finances in order is finding ways to cut back. With different software available that can analyze not only where you are spending and can afford to make cut backs in general, but also software that can analyze where you overspent by not taking advantage of deals or sales, there is free money and free cash flow waiting to be harvested with this category of personal finance savings.
Taxes - Unless someone is an accountant or has an extreme love of numbers, doing taxes is a nightmare. Having personal finance software that incorporates taxes means that either you will do taxes specifically, or when you are going through budgets and calculations, tax info can be imported/exported and information regarding taxes can be learned.
Retirement Planning - Software to ensure you not only have saved enough to retire at some point, but that you are considering everything from Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, to whether your investments will cover the gap, and even into the detailed items like do you have enough to pay off your mortgage, pay for medical treatments or prescriptions, and especially have the cash necessary to do the travelling that you wanted.
Estate Planning - This type of software helps you to fully understand what it is you will be leaving behind and make sure all of your proverbial ducks are in a row so that you can organize your entire estate with respect to all things inheritance.
Personal Protection (Insurance) - While not seen as a major financial priority, individuals work their entire lives to accumulate assets. Ensuring that you have proper insurance in place will let you cover your exposures and minimize any losses. The software not only can help you determine what is exposed, but also what you should be looking to pay for a given exposure for your specific financial and risk tolerance levels.
Education: Do they teach you? Having a software that gives you info is one thing. However, having a software that teaches you the reasons why you should do things and the rationale for the suggestions they make will help you tremendously along the way.
Automation: What is the frequency of the updates? Are they constantly and automatically updating? Do you have something that you manually need to look at enter yourself? The key to this is that when you can get more info with less work then you are being more efficient with your time.
Goal Setting: Does the software truly help you with respect to "getting to your goal," or does the software just spit out a summary of your information? Having help on your side can truly benefit you by not only keeping track of your finances but by motivating you to move forward.
Net Benefit: While price isn't always the most important thing, it is still an item on this list considering the whole topic is trying to take back control of and better manage your finances. You need to be aware of what the actual tool is going to bring for you and your finances both in the present, and also in the long term. If a specific tool is only saving your a few dollars but is costing you far more, then it may not be the best decision for your budgeting.
Flexibility of Options: Some systems and software are designed to help millionaires and some are designed to help minimum wage earners. If you are looking at a software then make sure it can help you with your situation not only with respect to where you are, but also where you plan to be in five or ten years (if not longer). The last thing you want is a rigid software that not only won't grow with you, but that you will have to give up and find a new one in a few years anyways.
Quicken Premier - Quicken Premier allows you to see all of your investments in one area and even lets you receive analyzed risk vs return assessments including credit reports and summaries.
Moneydance - Moneydance is for both simplicity and practicality, it offers convenience in both the form of automatic updates and even scheduled bill payment.
AceMoney - Not only does AceMoney give you options for tracking, but you can also access the reporting options for tax purposes.
YNAB (You Need A Budget) - YNAB gives you the same info that most do, but puts a spin on it so that you learn as you go due to their focus on education.