Update: New Computer Investing Products
by CI Staff
Quicken 2004 Premier is Intuit’s latest offering in comprehensive personal finance software.
Quicken’s improved Express Account Setup enables users to track personal finances from a variety of accounts. Accounts are updated as often as the user specifies via user-entered information—bank name, account and PIN numbers. Alternatively, account information may be entered manually and is categorizable for report purposes.
A new feature, the Portfolio Performance Information area, presents individual portfolios by cost basis and by one- to five-year performance relative to popular benchmarks (such as the S&P 500). An average annual return chart displays the performance of the user’s entire portfolio.
Quicken features a variety of Internet links including the Morningstar rating for mutual funds center. Other resources include a stock screener and scorecard area.
Tax filers can download financial information into schedule A, B and D tax reports. The Quicken Capital Gains Estimator and Investment Sales Optimizer display preliminary capital gains taxes and then advise users on ways to reduce those taxes.
A new and improved net worth and 401(k) center help users to monitor their net worth over time. Users can determine what percentage of their net worth is derived from real estate and portfolio securities and where liabilities such as a mortgage and credit card debt lie. Downloads of 401(k) data are available from many companies, allowing for more accurate data entry, transparency, and tracking.
Microsoft’s new version of Money Premium offers a variety of enhanced features. Microsoft Money’s personal finance software performs account and portfolio tracking, credit and debit card management, and financial planning functions.
The Accounts and Billing center aids with day-to-day financial tracking. Users can track their account balances, pay bills, create a budget, and manage cash flow. On-line banking enables users to download account information from their financial institutions. The Register Reconciliation area tracks spending and automatically categorizes transactions—eliminating the need for manual input. Microsoft’s on-line service manager simplifies the on-line setup process and automatically updates accounts.
The Cash Flow Tracker helps to manage income and expenses. Users can designate transactions to certain accounts, examine spending habits and generate a bill calendar to predict future money flow. Users can also detail historical financial transactions or information for a specific year or day.
The Investing Section features a portfolio manager that aggregates and continually updates account information from various institutions. It includes 79 performance factors and lists the day’s top winners and losers. Internet support, news and stock screening is available through MSN Money.
The Planner Section allows users to map future plans. Debt reduction resources focus on current debt and creating a plan for debt management. A budgetary function monitors the status of future goals and alerts users to any deviations from the budgeted plan. Other useful tools include a Lifetime Planner enabling users to plan for a baby or early retirement.
The tax area aims to shorten the time required to plan and prepare for taxes. Money offers tax filing through H&R Block’s TaxCut. Data can also be imported from Intuit’s TurboTax. The tax area offers users ways to lessen taxes and organizes tax-related income and expenses. A Capital Gains Estimator calculates potential capital gains and provides strategies to lessen capital gains taxes. A Tax Estimator produces an estimated tax amount for the current year based on the prior year’s tax return.
Enhancements and new features include two years of free on-line bill pay, Capital Gains Optimizer and Schedule D from GainsKeeper, on-line tax filing from H&R Block, one credit report and one year of ongoing credit monitoring from Experian, and a personal consultation with an American Express financial planner. The program also includes a Quicken file converter.
Wirehouse.com serves as a starting point for investors seeking opportunities within specific industries. Users can search drop-down quotes, news, and chart lists and choose desired industries. Once an industry has been selected, Wirehouse.com provides charts and profiles for a variety of companies. Additional news, charts, and research data on the individual companies are provided. Wirehouse.com is a free site; additional research from outside vendors may require a fee.
Retail Stocks Newsletter on 123jump.com
123Jump.com offers a monthly E-mail newsletter dedicated solely to the retail industry. It provides subscribers with retail sector commentary including retail trends, store formats, industry news, and earnings reports. Each newsletter features a company focus and examines a segment of the retail sector in detail. For example, one issue may focus on the current winners and losers in the teenage market—both succeeding and struggling companies are spotlighted and their practices examined. The E-mail runs eight to 12 pages and is available as a downloadable Adobe Acrobat PDF. A 12-month subscription is $99.
Sierra Club Mutual Funds
Sierra Club and Forward Management have teamed up to provide environmentally conscious mutual funds. Forward Management pays for access to the Sierra Club’s social and environmental guidelines and research in order to choose environmentally friendly securities. In turn, Sierra Club uses the revenue from Forward Management to support efforts to safeguard wildlands, curb urban sprawl and protect natural forests. The site offers a downloadable prospectus, semi-annual report and application.
VentureBlog is a Web forum supported by the Silicon Valley venture capital firm of August Partners. A blog, short for weblog, is essentially an on-line diary recording thoughts and commentary on current events. Visitors direct a comment to a blog and then, ideally, a dialogue will begin. This particular blog caters to venture capitalists. Contributors claim to avoid their own investments or alert readers when they are discussed. Use of the site is free.
Mutual Fund Analyzer on SmartMoney.com
SmartMoney.com has added a ranking calculator for mutual funds. Visitors can rank their list of mutual funds on a variety of factors including beta, tax efficiency, total return, expense ratio and turnover. Mutual fund data is provided by Lipper; use of the fund analyzer is free.
Investopedia Financial Calculators
Investopedia’s financial Web site features a large variety of financial calculators. Fixed-income instruments and bond calculators determine bond pricing, various durations, yield to maturity and more. Investopedia also offers a foreign exchange conversion calculator and a variety of retirement calculators. The site is free.