Calendars and Finances

How many times have you missed an important payment because you forgot when it was due? My guess is not that many times for most of you, but still a few folks this will trip up on dates and such (I do it for credit cards once every few years, and then have to phone up and plead to have interest rates reversed).

My wife is starting to learn some of the advantages of using some of the Electronic Calendars that are out there, in my case I use Google Calendar as the center of my scheduling world (it’s free, and Google backs it up for me), and then other clients connect to it (Outlook, iPhone Calendar, etc.,) to get information from it, so if it is not on my Google Calendar, it most likely won’t get noticed. One thing I did notice that Quicken had this “sync with Outlook” button, so I turned that on, so now Quicken adds events, to Outlook, which in turn (hopefully) adds them to Google Calendar, which means I shouldn’t miss too many more bills and such.

A beautiful hand made clock

Time Flies Make Sure You Track It!

The danger with having too many things in your calendar is you may ignore some of them (calendar clutter), but I don’t schedule my day using this, so there are fewer things in my calendar. I know some folks who use their calendar to make rigid schedules, to force themselves to keep on track, I can’t do that, but I do need something to REMIND me when important things need to be done.

I did point out in if it’s not written down, that if you don’t keep records of what you have done financially how can you remember if you did it, and using an electronic calendar that way, also gives you a record of when you did stuff (passe compose), so keep that one in mind as well.

Many times I have forgotten when I visited with the bank or paid bills, but I can now check my electronic time ledger to see when things should have happened (it’s always good to update things to reflect you did it as well (i.e. if you have a Bill on your Calendar update it when you paid it with Credit Card bill *PAID* or something good like that)).

How do you keep track of your important dates and when things need to get paid? Do you simply automate those payments?

{ 1 comment }

Quicken 2012 a Review

Disclaimer: First let me state as full disclosure, I did receive a copy of Quicken Home & Business 2012 so that I could review it, thus while I am not being paid directly for this review, I did receive compensation (i.e. a free copy of the software).

Quicken 2012 My Right Hand Finance Tool

As most of my readers know, I live and die financially by Quicken, so someone asking me to review the new release of the software is like asking a Trekker to review a new Star Trek movie (yes I am also a geek). I have used Quicken for many years and it holds in it information about my financial life that even I have not looked at, but I do know the information is there (and thanks to the backup capabilities it is also safe).

If you don’t have a tool that you use to track your spending and your moneys I recommend this product (which is a rarity, I don’t usually say anything that definitive about anything). Quicken has helped me unravel the Gordian Knot that is my finances more than once. It hooks into most banks and credit card companies web sites directly, so you can simply download all the transactions and use it as a log book if you wish, or you can use the tools they give you to try to track your spending a little more closely.

Why Should I Buy Quicken 2012 ? (if I already have Quicken)

Intuit Quicken 2012


I must admit I should be careful here, because up until last year, my own mother ran Quicken 2005 for year after year with no problems (I finally bought her a new version, because her bank didn’t want to support her using the very old version). I find it useful to stay up to date with software releases year after year (easier to get patches and support), however with this release of Quicken you get the following benefits:

  • Better budgeting:  easier to set goals, save more, and stay in control of your finances with the fully redesigned budget tool. Yes, that is directly from the web site, but it is also true, so I have no problem stealing it from there.
  • Improved bill and income reminders (?), well they have changed how it works that is for sure. It took me a little while to get the hang of how the new system works, but I was able to set up a recurring bill payment with a known end date, so that was a good test of the system.
  • New larger font option, which is important for folks like me who need glasses to see and our eye sight is starting to deteriorate. I will be using this feature very soon (I those numbers are just too darn small for me to see).
  • Redesigned debt-cutting tools (Home & Business only): create a customized plan to reduce debt. Easy-to-use interactive tools make it easy for you to stick to your plan. I can’t vouch for this one just yet, but I will be trying this one out in the near future as well.

All in all the software works very well (I have been using it for the past month), updates are working fine, and I am able to download from TD Canada Trust, AMEX, PC Financial and CIBC no problems, so I think it is well worth using.

Funny, my review last year got a ton of comments, anyone care to point out any issues they have with the software, leave a comment, I’ll pass it on to my contact at Intuit.

 

{ 9 comments }

Account Number Changes

 

So a while ago I wrote about how PC Financial has changed which service provider they use for Credit Cards (from CIBC to the Royal Bank from what I can tell), and that is causing some interesting ramifications for those who use the PC MasterCard (like yours truly).

The first obvious change was the interface with the on line banking site (new password, new userid, etc.,), which was annoying, but I got used to it, and it all seems to be chugging along happily.

The next part I hadn’t thought about, but now I have more information it makes perfect sense: I downloaded my latest set of transactions and attempted to import them into Quicken, and Quicken kept asking “Which account would you like these transactions added to?”. This vexed me, because it would not let me import them into what I thought was my MasterCard Quicken account, I eventually decided to wait and see if I could figure out a smart way to fix this (i.e. think about it, or procrastinate, maybe it would fix itself).

Then I got a letter last week (from PC Financial) that said because I was such a great customer I was going to get a Brand New MasterCard, which made me wonder a bit, but I thought no more about it.

Yesterday my new card arrived, I activated it over the phone, and thought no more of it. This morning I went on-line to look at my PC MasterCard transactions and looked at the account number being shown on the site (the last 4 digits only to be secure) and it looked wrong. Sure enough I looked at a receipt in my wallet, and the last 4 digits did not look the same at all. I then look at my e-statement for this month and it was different too?

Finally the other shoe dropped (figuratively), and I looked at my brand spanking new MasterCard, and sure enough, it had a completely new number (including the service provider ID section of the number at the beginning), so now my MasterCard is with the new credit service provider (RBC I think), but now I end up with a couple of interesting questions:

  • If I made a payment yesterday to my old account number (on-line), does it get credited to the new account? My assumption would be yes, it will, but how long will that grace period last?
  • What about the 1 thing that I allow to debit automatically every month from the old account number? I think I need to change that fairly soon too

Guess I am lucky I noticed that, anything else I might have forgotten here?

{ 2 comments }

On Line Financial Services

Overview

Financial services like Quicken, Turbotax and Mint have  broaden their customer bases and are offering their financial services on line (i.e. you don’t buy the software, download or install it from a CD onto your PC, you just run it inside of your favorite (supported) browser)). From what I can tell, these on line versions have pretty much the exact same tools and functionality as the versions that folks buy and put on their PC, which is a point in their favour.

Let’s run down some of the advantages and disadvantages of these tools.

Advantages:

  • Exact same functionality, and many times newer features are added sooner and you are not constantly updating the software with new updates from the manufacturer. The software simply runs (usually inside of your browser)
  • You can access your records from anywhere, not just your PC at home. You can look at your finances at work, or if you need to while you are on vacation.
  • If your PC crashes, you don’t lose your data, and you can simply access it from another computer. Under this same point, your data is backed up by the financial service provider as well (so it is safe, because the backups are not in your house).
  • The service provider is now the one having to protect your information from Hackers, Malware, Viruses and other nefarious folk.

Disadvantages:

  • If your internet connection is dead, you don’t have access to your records any more. This doesn’t happen very often, but it can happen at the most inoportune times.
  • On some of the services (like Mint) you are putting all your on line banking information into the tool (including your passwords), so it can automatically update your financial data on line. You may want to check with your Bank or Credit Card company because their rules may prohibit you from giving this information out (or they may not protect you if your account gets hacked).
  • All of your financial data is no longer under your lock and key (metaphorically) it is now in someone else’s house on their server.
  • You are accessing all this information across a network connection, not just on your local PC (which can also be insecure), but all the way along the network there can be interlopers trying to steal your data (encrypted data hopefully).
RRSP, RESP, RDSP, Mastercard

Internet Cafe an Insecure Place

As you can tell from my posts this week (Financial On Line Security especially) , I am really not comfortable with my information being available on line, and putting all my banking information into these services really makes me nervous. Accessing this data over any kind of network makes me twitchy as well, but even if you do choose to use these services remember never to access the accounts via:

  1. Internet Cafe or untrusted PC’s, those things are always teaming with viruses and keyloggers to steal your vital financial information
  2. Public wireless access that does not use any kind of encryption (like say Starbucks or other restaurants)
  3. If you use any kind of shared PC at work make sure your Browser history queue and password cache is FLUSHED when you log off.

This is very important (and I am pretty sure the On Line Financial Service folks would agree with me on that).

My Opinion

As you could guess, my opinion is to not recommend using  the on line versions of these financial tools.  The tools themselves seem great, but my inherant mistrust of computer networks and knowing of all the Blue Meanies out there trying to steal your information, I just don’t feel comfortable putting this information in an easy to find single place. If the service site gets hacked (much like Epsilon was), suddenly hundreds of thousands of folks banking info is compromised, so where do you think the hackers will be concentrating their attacks?

Please don’t take this as me saying these tools are bad, or that you should not use them, but if you do, you should keep in mind the points that I have brought up, and read over (closely) the agreement you “sign” with the Financial Service Provider and read over their Security Rules.

Do use Financial tools like Turbotax, Quicken, Mint or the like, they are important to helping you get your finances under control.

{ 1 comment }

Medical Expenses and Taxes

Remember that if you have enough Medical Expenses it might be worth mentioning them on your Federal Tax returns.

Last year was a bigger year for medical expenses for me because of the following:

  • One of my daughters ruptured her ACL, and there was a fair amount of expenses there, including a brace and physio therapy.
  • I needed physio therapy for my knee, due to me getting old
  • My other daughter also had physio
  • Some visits to Psychologist for testing for my kids
  • Occupational Therapy for another kid

Now a great deal of this was covered under my health plan, but only up to 80% of the expense, and there was a limit to how much was paid for the year.

All of this adds up to over $7000 in expenses, but I must also then put in how much compensation I received from my Health insurance as well. It may add up to nothing, but it is something to think about.

How  was I able to know this? I checked on my Quicken, of course (sorry for the blatant plug, but it is actually the case in this instance). I put it all into my TurboTax and it was easy enough to put it all in too (another blatant plug, but stay tuned there will be a giveaway coming too).

{ 6 comments }

%d bloggers like this: