Quicken is one of three very well-known, widely used and highly successful financial software programs developed by Intuit, Inc. (NASDAQ: INTU). Intuit makes QuickBooks, a very popular accounting program for small businesses; TurboTax, used for personal and small business do-it-yourself tax preparation; and Quicken, its personal financial management tool.

Quicken offers users services from basic checking and savings account management and budgeting, all the way to portfolio analysis and management features such as capital gains tracking. There are several Windows-based versions of the program available and a single Quicken for Mac version compatible with Apple's operating system. Intuit has expanded the Quicken suite of products with offerings such as Quicken Health Expense Tracker and Quicken Rental Property Manager.

Although manufactured for a number of global markets, Quicken remains focused largely on a North American customer base. While Quicken has dominated its niche market since its introduction in 1991, there are a number of similar, alternative products available. Quicken continues to capture well more than 50% of total market share, but it is increasingly challenged by competitors.

1) Mint.com

Intuit itself offers a simpler, more basic alternative to Quicken in Mint.com, which it acquired in 2009. Mint.com is Web-based, rather than a standalone software program. It is a free service and only offers basic features such as creating and tracking budgets and financial goals, and monitoring one's credit score. Mint.com offers services similar to those contained in Quicken's most basic "starter" version. It does not offer significant investment management services. The program is criticized for account synchronization problems and for the fact it does not allow monthly bank reconciliation, because it automatically assumes all downloaded data is correct.

The fact that Mint.com is a read-only service is both a plus and a minus for the program. A read-only service offers greater Internet security, since even if someone was able to access a user's information, all he could do is see the accounts. He is not able to take any actions such as transferring money out of them. Of course, on the minus side, being a read-only service also limits what the user of the service can do and, therefore, the capabilities and functionality of the service.

Like virtually all similar personal financial management programs, Mint.com is accessible through almost any Internet-connected device, including personal computers, tablets and smartphones.

2) Personal Capital

Personal Capital represents an attractive and less expensive alternative to Quicken for individuals who prefer a cloud-based program and one that offers extensive investment management tools.

Personal Capital has been designed to target a specific market of financial up-and-comers, individuals with net worths between $100,000 and $2 million. This represents a market segment that is traditionally skipped over by financial advisory and wealth management firms in favor of more wealthy clients. Personal Capital is a registered investment advisor, with more than $1.5 billion in assets under management (AUM).

The basic Personal Capital financial services package, which includes account tracking, budgeting, bill paying and other basic services, is free. Personal Capital makes its money primarily from individuals who choose to upgrade to the personal wealth management services the company offers, and for which it charges approximately 0.69% of assets managed as a fee. With the paid wealth management service, clients are assigned a personal financial advisor and receive all the usual services a client expects from a wealth management company, including tax and estate planning, tax loss harvesting, advice on insurance, educational funds for children and any other necessary services to provide full financial management for clients. Personal Capital's fees are significantly lower than average for full wealth management services.

Just the free personal finance services offered are extensive and competitive with what is offered by Quicken. Included are services such as budgeting, a retirement planner, a 401(k) fee analyzer and an investment allocation target checker. The budgeting component includes a cash flow tool that allows individuals to input income and spending, and then receive weekly, monthly or annual analyses of their projected cash flows. The retirement planner can be used to map out a retirement plan, and then to monitor how closely the user is adhering to the plan. This free feature allows users to set spending and savings goals, track income events and project the future value of their investment portfolios. The comprehensive features and the flexibility of input variables offered in this free module compare favorably to any comparable service, free or paid. The asset allocation component determines a user's risk tolerance profile and then makes appropriate investment allocation recommendations.

Personal Capital has received good reviews on a number of levels, one being that it offers better account synchronization than most programs of this type. It also receives high marks for customer service, a rare plus for a free financial services software program. Personal Capital offers much more in-depth investment analysis and planning than Quicken. It also offers enhanced security through its use of two-factor authentication.

Personal Capital services are accessible by computer, tablet or cellphone, and it is one of the first of these personal financial management services to offer functionality with the new Apple Watch.

3) iBank

Designed specifically for Apple's operating system, iBank, developed by IGG Software, is touted as a superior alternative to Quicken for Mac users. The program sells for about the same price as Quicken Deluxe, a little more than half the price of Quicken Premier or Quicken Home and Business, although the range of services it offers is more in line with the premium Quicken programs.

iBank aims to serve as a personal or small business financial management program. It offers a myriad of financial services, including bank, credit card, loan and investment account management. IBank offers detailed income and expense analysis, with continually updated charts. Features not included in Quicken but that come standard with iBank include multicurrency functionality and variable loan amortization. IBank has an excellent platform for reviewing all of an individual's financial accounts in one easy to use central dashboard: checking, savings, money market, equity and fixed-income investments, retirement accounts, loan accounts and brokerage accounts. The program can import files in a very wide range of formats, including OFX, QFX, QMTF and QIF, in addition to the commonly used CSV format.

iBank stands out for the investment performance analysis it offers, tracking buys and sells of stock shares, dividends and stock options. The program allows for easy production and printing of custom financial reports, and it even allows a user to print new checks when needed.

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