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Software Review of:
Money 2002 Suite

 

Picture of Microsoft Money 2002 Suite

Jacquelyn plans to continue using Quicken and TurboTax on the Web (ďIts free for me!Ē).

From the March, 2003 issue of PC Alamode Magazine

Microsoft Money 2002 Suite includes Money 2002, Deluxe, TaxCut Deluxe from H&R Block, and Kiplinger's Home & Business Attorney that allow you to manage personal finances, file state and federal income taxes, and get guidance for legal planning. 

Microsoft has already released Microsoft Money 2003 Suite. 

I initially used Kiplinger's CA-Simply Money for my personal finances. I switched to Quicken in February 1997. I took a quick look at MS Money 1997 since it came with the computer we purchased in April 1997. Iím currently using Quicken 2001 Home & Business Edition. 

I havenít used any legal programs before. Iíve used TaxAct and TurboTax to prepare tax returns in the last two years. 

Warning
In order to keep this article to a reasonable length, Iím not providing a thorough review of each program. Iíll tell you about some of the experiences that I had installing and running the programs. 

The box has the following items: 

  1. MS Money 2002 in a black plastic case with a 19-page booklet containing installation instructions, system requirements, support options, and several ads.
  2. MS Money 2002: Managing Your Finances with Microsoft Money 2002 Userís Guide. Its 128 pages contain an Introduction, 10 chapters, and an Index.
  3. Kiplingerís Home Attorney CD-ROM in a sealed card board sleeve
  4. Kiplingerís Business Attorney CD-ROM in a sealed card board sleeve
  5. Kiplingerís Home & Business Attorney Quick Start Guide whose 5 pages contain installation instructions, system requirements, and basic operating instructions.
  6. Claim form for TaxCut Deluxe 2001
  7. Information card containing phone numbers for information and support for each program


Obtaining TaxCut Deluxe 2001
When I attempted to download the program, I received an error message that said my code was erroneous. I sent an e-mail but the reply wasnít helpful so I sent another one. This time they very pleasantly told me they couldnít help since I hadnít ordered the program directly from them. However, they gave me some long distance phone numbers. 

I spent an afternoon making phone calls before the problem was resolved. Everyone I spoke with was courteous, friendly and did their best to help. Near the end of the day, Stacy Barker called me back. She said they were sending an e-mail with an order number that would allow me to download the program. The e-mail arrived and I was able to download the program with no problem. 

Since it was so late in the year I did ask if I could have a code to download TaxCut 2002 instead. Unfortunately, the preliminary version of TaxCut 2002 wasnít ready until December 2002. (The final version wonít be available until early in 2003.) 

Money 2002 Installation
For the most part this was a typical Windows install. However, to install Money where you want it you must choose the custom install option. Custom install also lets you choose whether to install the Help audio and video files. (If youíre upgrading from a previous version of Money, you may not need these files.) The install routine also updates system files and Internet Explorer if needed. 

Unlike most programs, you install the program before you accept the license. However, you must accept the license before you can open Money 2002. 

Running Money 2002
When I first started Money 2002, it walked me through importing and converting my Quicken account file. This went smoothly with no apparent errors. I have transactions going back to December 1996 so the import file is very large. Since Money handles categories, classes, and savings goals differently than Quicken I would have a lot of double checking and changing to do to effectively use Money. (If I really planned to switch to Money, I would archive most of my Quicken entries before importing my account.). 

After exploring what Money made of my Quicken accounts, I switched over to the sample file included with Money. Here I did some more exploration and checked out the categories, etc. I found that Money has integrated its Home Inventory better than Quicken 2001 has. 

Money takes a long time to load its summary pages, modules, and monthly reports. One reason is that they all contain several charts and data from many account locations. The other is that Iím running it on a Windows 95 200 MMX system. 

I was impressed with the Monthly Reports (I wish Quicken had them). For each month, it compares the month with the previous month in the following areas: 

  •  Income & Expenses
  •  Monthly Expenses Compared pie charts
  •  Top 5 Expense Categories
  •  Your Net Worth bar graph of the previous 12 months
  •  Debt Reduction Progress
  •  Investment Performance
  •  Potential Problems with Your Account (gap in check sequence, late and pending transactions, etc)
  •  Upcoming Financial Events
  •  Cash Flow Forecast
  •  Infrequent Bills
  •  Deposits & Transactions for the following month
  •  Income Tax Estimate
  •  Frequent Flyer Programs. 
Screen shot of the Monthly Reports

Running Kiplingerís Home Attorney
When I opened Kiplingerís Home Attorney I was greeted by a Control Panel that allowed me to access these program areas: Create New Document, Open Saved Document, Law Library, Document Guide, Party List, Exit, and Help. When I hovered the mouse pointer over each icon, a message window told me what each does. 

I chose the Document Guide. I completed a multi-screen questionnaire about situations and activities; the program generated a custom report of legal documents to prepare. As I browsed through the report, I saw that for areas in which I didnít need any documents they provided a reference in case my situation changes. Hereís a typical entry: ďII. Child Care Issues - Your response was that you do not need assistance with child care issues. If you need help in the future, check the documents in the category ďConsumer & FamilyĒ. 

Then I clicked on the Will hyperlink. This brought up the Select Document Template with Will highlighted, an explanation of the template, an introductory video to watch, and several action buttons. I watched the video then clicked on OK. This brought up the Will Template Wizard. After I answered the questions and told it what state I live in, a will was generated for me to complete. 

The items I had to complete were in red. Double clicking on one brings up an information and completion box that tells you what you should enter and why. Where appropriate it tells you items to consider and gives examples. Once I completed the item and entered it, the color changed to blue. I had a draft will in only a few minutes. 

Next, I looked at the Memorial Planner and Information template, which I really need for my Mother. I entered her name and the information I knew for sure. Then I tried to print it. A dialog box came up and told me that I hadnít completed everything and if I proceeded with printing, blank lines would show up instead of the red items. This wasnít what I wanted. I went into each completion box and cut and pasted explanations from the information area into the text entry area. I even included some of the examples. Then I printed it out. Now I have a document, with all of the considerations, to use for discussion. 

These are only two of the hundreds of legal documents Home Attorney helps you create. 

Although the system requirements call for Windows 95 or higher, the program only allows you to save your documents in the old DOS format (eight letter names). 

The program also includes three books in its Legal Library
Home Legal Guide - 84 of the most important personal law subjects 
Kiplinger's Handbook of Personal Law - provides help and explanations about your rights and responsibilities in nearly every facet of daily life 
Gilbert's Law Dictionary - comprehensive reference with over 4,000 legal terms and phrases. 
 

Although I didnít install it, Kiplingerís Business Attorney contains two more books: 
Business Law Guide - includes explanations and discussions on employment practices, borrowing and credit, sales and marketing, etc. 
Kiplinger's Working for Yourself - 26-chapter guide featuring everything you need to make your business a success 

TaxCut Deluxe 2001
I liked the clean lines, plain organization, and large text of this program. (See Figure 3) Like other tax preparation software, it allows you to use an interview or fill in the actual forms to complete your tax return. They recommend you use the interview so you miss nothing and make no mistakes. 

I quickly ran through the interview using my own situation. Either Iíve learned the lingo or their questions are simpler than other programs Iíve used. Anyway I wasnít too confused and didnít have to click on the situation buttons. They put in short explanations telling you that certain types of entries were coming up but that other information was needed first. For instance, information on retirement payments isnít collected until after salary, self-employment, interest, and dividend income is taken care of. 

TaxCut can import data directly form MS Money & Quicken. It takes several minutes for the import wizard to complete the job. It can also import your last year tax return file. 

You can access a variety of tax forms, reports, and the Shoebox in the Menu Bar at any time. The Shoebox contains a list of documents coming from a variety of sources that are used when preparing a tax return. Once youíve identified your document and why you received it, Shoebox tells you what line of what form it goes on. 

As you go through the interview, you can look at the Tax Refund/Owe box in the upper right corner. The display shows both Federal and State amounts. 

Although I downloaded TaxCut Deluxe 2001 at the end of its life-cycle I still had to download an update file to make sure it had all the program changes. The Tools menu contains the Update link directly to the web site. I had no problems at all doing this and it only took a minute or so over the cable modem. 

Money 2002 Suite Bottom Line
Unless youíll be submitting tax returns after April 15, donít buy any MS Money Suite with TaxCut later than April of the year in which itís published. An exception would be if you get the older version at a price so low, you could afford to loose TaxCut.. 

Before you purchase this suite, assess your needs carefully. Then go to the web sites for the individual components to see which product best fits your needs. Then do the arithmetic on buying what you need separately. If you need the programs that come in the suite then buy it. Youíll save almost $45.00 (almost $65.00 with the rebate). 

Remember ó you must obtain new tax preparation software each year. However, you shouldnít buy more or less, than you need. If you run your own business, have lots of property, and do tax returns for your extended family then youíll need a different program than someone who can fill out the EZ tax return. 

If you need a new Personal Finances program, legal forms templates and medium featured tax preparation software then the current MS Money Suite can meet your needs. I do recommend you download the MS Money 2003 Deluxe Free Trial first, especially if youíre a Quicken user. All of the programs did a good job. Only MS Money ran slowly; the others were sprightly. 

System Requirements for Microsoft Money 2002
Multimedia PC with Pentium 166 or higher processor required, Pentium II 300 recommended 
Operating system: Microsoft Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Me, Windows XP or Windows NT 4.0 or later running Service Pack 5 
RAM: 32 MB required, 64 MB recommended 
Free disk space: 85 MB, 165 MB if MS Internet Explorer 5.5 not installed, Additional 125 MB to run instructional videos and audio from hard drive 
Internet Explorer 5.5 
Internet functionality requires an Internet Service Provider (ISP); Local and long distance telephone toll charges may apply, 28.8 Kbps or higher-baud modem 
Double speed CD-ROM drive or better 
SVGA graphics card or compatible video graphics adapter 
SVGA Color Monitor with minimum 256 colors, capable of displaying 800 x 600 resolution, 16-bit color recommended 
Audio board with headphones or speakers required for audio 
Some features require Microsoft Passport 

Microsoft Money 2003 Deluxe Free Trial:
Remain the same as Money 2002 except for the following: 
Operating system Microsoft Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows Me, or Windows XP 
Internet Explorer version 6.0 or above 
32 MB of RAM required, 64 MB recommended (Windows XP requires 64 MB of RAM, 128 MB recommended, and a Pentium II 266 minimum) 

Kiplinger's Home & Business Attorney
CPU: 486 or faster, RAM: 8 MB, OS: Windows 95/98/00/NT 4.0, Monitor supported by Windows (256 colors minimum). Free disk space: 16 MB to install both CD-ROMs, Double speed CD-ROM drive or better, Sound card and speakers, Printer. 

TaxCut & TaxCut Deluxe Federal Filing Edition for Windows 2001 & 2002
CPU: IBM or compatible Pentium processor, RAM: 16MB (32MB recommended), OS: Windows 95/98/Me/NT 4.0/2000/XP, Free disk space: 50MB, SVGA color monitor (minimum 256 colors), 2X CD-ROM drive (4X recommended), Internet connection, Printer: Windows compatible inkjet or laser printer (with 1MB memory) 

Vital Statistics
I didnít find the Microsoft Money Suite 2003 on the shelves, although I found other versions, when I checked stores locally last fall. CompUSA can special order it for you if they donít have it on the shelves. You can order it on the Web directly from Microsoft. 

Microsoft Money 2003 Suite
Retail Price: $89.95. Rebate offer found in early November: $20. Microsoft Money Home Page. The Money 2003 Deluxe Trial Version contains most of the features available in the full retail version and works with your existing Money or Quicken data. It requires Internet Explorer ver 6.0. For more information and download, visit the Microsoft Money Trail Page

Kiplinger's Home & Business Attorney
Retail price: $29.95. Kiplinger Home and Business Attorney Home page

TaxCut Deluxe 2001
Retail price: $39.95 
Pre-order one of the following programs at Web site and have it delivered to your door: TaxCut Deluxe 2002 Ė Retail price: $24.95; TaxCut Platinum 2002 ĖRetail price: $39.95; TaxCut Home & Business 2002 ĖRetail price: $49.95. TaxCut Home page. TaxCut Comparison chart.


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