Andrew Tobias's Managing Your Money has long been one of the leading personal finance programs. Lately, it has received some stiff competition from Quicken 4.0, a lower-priced ($59.95) program that also makes it easy to keep track of your finances.
Not wanting to abandon its market, Managing Your Money publisher Meca Software recently unveiled an impressive new Version 7.0 ($219) that is both sophisticated and easy to use.
Tobias, a well-known financial adviser, didn't write the software but did write the help screens and was instrumental in developing the content. Tobias's help screens not only assist you with using the program, but offer financial advice appropriate to the part of the program you're using. The program's manual is easy to understand, but the help screens are so good that you may never need the manual.
The heart of the program, called "Money," is where you write checks, record credit card transactions, maintain your budget, enter deposits and keep track of loans.
Managing Your Money doesn't prepare your income tax forms. However, its tax module prepares reports that can be instrumental at tax time. It also estimates your tax liability and prepares data that can be imported directly into Meca's Taxcut tax preparation software. The program allows you to enter data for your 1040 along with schedules A, B, C, D, E and F.
There also is an insurance planning module that calculates your life expectancy, how much life insurance you need and what it might cost.
The "analyze" part of the program can be incredibly useful when making a major decision, such as whether to refinance your house or buy or lease your next car. You can get that same type of advice from books and articles, but Managing Your Money bases its recommendation on information you enter, such as your tax bracket, assumed rate of inflation and interest you're earning on your savings and investments. If the program already has the information from another module, there is no need to enter it again.
I used the program to estimate how much money to put aside for my children's college funds. The program didn't tell me how to come up with all that cash, but it did suggest that "expecting your child to earn a good chunk of the cost through part-time and summer jobs is more than reasonable and good experience." I'll pass that on to my children.
Other analysis tools allow you to calculate compound interest, inflation-deflation, loans and annuities, yield to maturity, savings account yields, loan amortization, mortgage refinancing, rental properties, buy-lease-rent investments and retirement planning.
Investor tools include buying and selling assets, recording income and the effect of stock splits. The program also has a "bullishness index" in which Tobias provides you with some general investment advice based on the data you've entered.
The program keeps track of your portfolios. The company offers a $79.95 optional program, Managing the Market, that uses a modem to call Dow Jones News Retrieval service to automatically update your portfolios. The optional software also allows you to use other Dow Jones services, including historical stock prices, status of your American Express account and the ability to search the last five years of the Wall Street Journal.
Managing Your Money is not positioned as "integrated software," but it does include some useful utilities:
The "desk" section contains a reminder pad where you can maintain your schedule, keep track of important anniversaries and have the program remind you to pay bills, transfer funds or make time-sensitive investments.
The word-processing module, called MYM-Write, lets you write documents without having to leave the program. It can also be used to edit the financial reports that Managing Your Money generates.
The "card file" is a personal database where you can store information on friends and associates. But it's more than just a listing program. It dials their numbers and automatically addresses letters.
You can use the program to print your checks, but you'll need personalized continuous form checks that you can run through your printer. The manual provides a number for a company that can print them for you.
For more information about the program, contact Meca at 203-226-2400.Readers' comments are welcomed, but the author cannot respond individually to letters. Write to Lawrence J. Magid, P.O. Box 620477, Woodside, Calif. 94062, or contact the L. Magid account on the MCI electronic mail system.