More on Money Software

What's interesting about Quicken to Angela is that it's led the field for a long time, fighting off challenges from that big software company everyone loves to hate. What's hateful about both Quicken and Microsoft Money, on the other hand, is that they both expire within a couple years of installation; Microsoft Money gives you two years from setup date, and Quicken gives you three. Tax codes change a lot, of course, but just when you're used to working a particular way, you have to upgrade--make that pay to upgrade--and maybe learn a whole new interface. The Duo are underwhelmed.

But Microsoft's offering has another, unique problem, as Steve points out: The program requires you to sign up for Microsoft's reviled Passport service and then, as the license agreement clearly states, Money will store your information on Microsoft's servers. Given Microsoft's terrible record on security, Steve has no plans to entrust the company with his PINs and passwords. And Angela flat refuses to deal with Passport, so that pretty much ended her testing. (In fact, she stopped the segment to deliver a rare mid-testing Delete. Like Walter Kerr, this reviewer doesn't have to eat a whole apple to know it's rotten.) For his part, Steve remembers a Microsoft glitch a few years back that kept people from accessing the servers, which meant they couldn't work with Money at all. No, thank you. You can put some of your info online with Quicken, but you don't have to.

To be fair, it's not hard to find horror stories of corrupted data and various other bugs with both programs. Both Steve and Angela know lots of people who love these things, but they're simply not convinced. (Though Steve does, in fact, give Quicken a Save at the end of this episode!) But if you're willing to give these programs a shot and you're still not sure which way to go, Microsoft will let you download a trial version, and Quicken has a 60-day money-back guarantee if you buy it from Intuit's Web site. In addition, there are all sorts of editions of this stuff that throw in more features, different features, for more and more money. And if you shop around, you can often find some sort of rebate.

One final caveat from Steve: Be very careful about any Web site that aggregates all your information in one place, no matter how serious the service is about maintaining confidentiality. Lots of information gets compromised inadvertently--as we saw with credit card processors just a few months ago. By putting your whole financial life out there in one place, you run the risk of having your whole financial life compromised in one fell swoop. If you're going to consolidate this info, the place to do it is on your own PC.

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