How many software programs can you think of that have survived for over thirty years? The home financial management program Quicken has. It was introduced in 1983, back in the pre-Windows days when programs ran on Microsoft's MS-DOS.
Quicken has had a remarkable run, but even though Quicken 2016 is scheduled to be released for both Windows and Mac, the old workhorse appears to be on its last legs. Intuit announced in August that it intended to put Quicken up for sale, along with QuickBase and Demandforce, in order to refocus on cloud-based systems.
According to a press release, Intuit intends to "strengthen the ecosystem and align with two strategic goals: to be the operating system behind small business success, and to do the nations' taxes in the US and Canada." "Ecosystem" in this context is a reference to the overall consumption of small business and tax services. Quicken is purely a desktop-based system, inherently limiting its growth and making it difficult to maintain for the existing base. As the "ecosystem" moves toward cloud-based and subscription-based services, Intuit will pour more resources into their QuickBooks and TurboTax products that compete in that realm.
From a business standpoint, selling Quicken is a sensible move. The three products that are up for sale constitute less than 6% of Intuit's revenue in fiscal 2015, and development and maintenance costs for Quicken must certainly be a drag on profits. Code that is 32 years old is not easy to maintain and update on a consistent basis.
Quicken users have become increasingly frustrated with upgrades that do not provide benefits that correspond to their costs. Users on ConsumerAffairs.com give Quicken only one star out of five, with comments like "I've been using Quicken for many years, and it just get[s] worse and worse with each update" and "I have never seen a major software company so technically inept and getting worse."
Yet many Quicken users are in a love-hate relationship with the program. They have used it for years and are comfortable with certain aspects of it, but they also fear the prospect of having to convert years of historical data into another format to transfer to a different program. Feeling trapped, they complain about Quicken but forge ahead anyway. Any buyer will probably be given a honeymoon period, thinking that anything will be an improvement, but that honeymoon may be brief.
Even though Intuit is pledging to find a suitable buyer for Quicken, it is highly unlikely that they will be picky. A failure to find a buyer might be an even worse result for Quicken users, as less effort will be put into development and maintenance — assuming Intuit does not just throw in the towel and discontinue the product entirely.
If you are a Quicken user, it is time to start looking at your transition options in advance just in case a buyer is not found and the line is eventually discontinued. Take the time to export your information to another format so that it can be imported into a new program. It is a reasonably safe bet that any new program will accept imports from Microsoft Excel, but if you are a true worrywart, have it available in several formats.
Start doing your research now into alternative programs. That way, when the Quicken situation eventually resolves itself, you will have an option for comparison.
GnuCash gets great reviews from small businesses but may be a bit much for personal users. The best part: unlike Quicken, it’s absolutely free. Mint.com is a free online personal finance service owned by Intuit that is suitable for those more focused on daily spending and budgeting, while Personal Capital weighs more toward investment tools. The part of Personal Capital that tracks your data is free, but they also offer a paid advisory service to manage your money. For Apple users, iBank is a useful alternative that can sync with your iPad or iPhone and import your Quicken data, but you have to buy it.
Before researching these options in depth, think about the elements of Quicken that you use the most. Weed out alternatives that do not meet baseline needs and then evaluate the new features of the remaining candidates. You may find useful tools that you have never considered before.
Change is hard, but forced change is really hard. If you have to make a tax or business software change, make it on your own terms.
Editor's note: In April 2016, Quicken announced that it had been acquired by global investment firm H.I.G. Capital and was operating independently from Intuit Inc. Quicken also released their new 12-Month Budget tool free for Mac customers, a free feature that had been the most requested by Mac users.