Quicken Classic

I’ve been using Quicken for a long time, and I’ve been complaining about it for nearly as long. (My earliest Quicken complaint on this blog is likely this one from 2004.) And, once in a while, I get frustrated enough with it that I start looking for alternatives. There were two things that happened recently that have got me interested in that again.

First, they’ve changed the name of the desktop product to Quicken Classic. Here’s a video where their CEO tries to explain that. The name change itself doesn’t really matter to me, but it makes me worry a bit that they’re de-emphasizing the desktop product even more than they already have. Their web product is called Simplifi, and it might be worth thinking about switching to that, but I’m not keen on that idea. I’m pretty sure I’d lose all my history and wouldn’t have nearly the same functionality I have with the desktop app.

The second thing that got me thinking about moving off Quicken again is some continuing issues with the link to my 401(k) account. I’ve searched the web and found a bunch of other people are also having trouble with Fidelity, which is the provider for the 401(k). In my case, the funds got pretty mixed up, so I deleted and re-created the account in Quicken. That got me a bit further, but there was still a weird thing going on where it looked like I had twice as much money in the account as I actually do. I might have fixed that now, but I won’t really know for sure until I sync the account again.

When I have trouble with Quicken, I start getting “the grass is greener on the other side” thoughts, but then if I stop myself, I realize that Quicken is still the biggest player out there, so if Quicken is having issues with Fidelity, then smaller players like Banktivity and MoneyDance probably are too.

Maybe it’s time to give up on this stuff entirely and just switch to keeping a summary spreadsheet, where I update some high-level numbers once a month.

New Year’s Day 2021

I’ve been writing big New Year’s Day posts on this blog every year for the last several years. I might as well do one this year too. Obviously, last year was a doozy, and a lot of stuff has changed, and a lot is still in flux. I’m not even sure where to start. So I’ll start with links to the last few New Year’s posts:

And I guess I’ll follow a format not too different from previous years.

Health, Weight, and Sleep

My weight has been pretty steady at around 135 pounds this year. It dipped a bit in spring & summer, getting down to 130 briefly, but has rebounded back to 135. I dropped some weight at the beginning of the pandemic, probably because I wasn’t eating any take-out food. I’m still logging all of my meals with Lose It, which I’ve been using since 2013.

I’m also still using Sleep Cycle as an alarm clock and to log my sleep. I’ve been having some weird dreams this year, but apparently so has everyone else. My sleep quality has been mixed, I’d say. Some nights I’m fine, and some nights I’m not.

I was pretty good about exercise through the spring and summer. I did a lot of walking. I’ve cut back on the walks now, since it’s been getting colder. If I don’t go out for a morning walk now, I try to do ten minutes on my exercise bike instead. (I’m glad I didn’t get rid of that thing.) I need to be careful about not letting up too much through the rest of the winter.

On the meditation front, I’ve certainly done more meditation this year than I’d usually do. One of the reasons for that is that I’ve been working from home since March, so it’s easy to take a ten minute midday meditation break. Back when I was working in a cubicle, I was too self-conscious to meditate at work. (And, really, the office environment is too noisy for meditation anyway.) I was using Insight Timer for most of this year, but I switched to Calm in December, since I had a deal to get a free year of Calm Premium. I have enough opinions on meditation apps right now that I should probably hold them for another post. But overall, I’d say that meditation helped me get through this crazy year.

I did finally get my hearing checked this year, in March, just before the pandemic lockdown really kicked in. The results were pretty much what I expected: I’ve lost a lot of hearing in my left ear. My right ear is fine. The doctor said that I’m not really at the stage where a hearing aid would make sense. My hearing issues haven’t really much mattered this year, though. If I’m talking to anybody at work, it’s on my computer, and I can just turn up the volume as much as I need. And I’m never in a crowded restaurant with a lot of background noise, so that’s not a problem either.

Work and Professional Development

I’m feeling very lucky to have had a good, steady, job this year, and to be able to work from home. My performance review for 2020 was very good. I didn’t really expect a raise this year, given the general state of the economy, but I got one. So that’s all good. There are going to be a lot of challenges ahead, going into 2021. Again, that’s probably a whole blog post of its own though.

On the professional development front, one nice thing to come out of 2020 was a lot of free virtual conferences. I didn’t participate in as many of those as I would have liked, but I did manage to watch some content from Microsoft Build and Microsoft Ignite. Most of my efforts at learning new stuff this year were centered around SharePoint Framework (SPFx) and Microsoft’s Power Platform stuff. I wasn’t really successful in getting any projects done with any of this new stuff in 2020 though. I have a couple of big projects at work that will really need to get done in 2021. I’m still not even sure if I’ll be using SPFx or Power Platform or something else though.

Looking at last year’s post, I see I was talking about trying to learn maybe Rust or Swift in 2020. I definitely didn’t do that. The one new general thing I tried to learn in 2020 was React. And that was mostly because I needed to learn it for SPFx.


I’m in pretty good shape, financially. Certainly better than most people, given the state of things. I’ve actually seen my checking account balance grow this year, presumably because I didn’t spend any money on travel, or on day trips to NYC, or even on a lot of little things like restaurant meals and gas for my car and Starbucks coffee. I expect 2021 will be similar. Given how little interest I make on my checking account, I really need to shunt some money over into my Merrill account and buy some more shares in an S&P 500 fund. The stock market (after a brief crash back in March) has done surprisingly well this year. And I probably need to sit down with a financial advisor at some point in 2021 and move some money around. There’s some stuff I want to do to simplify my finances a bit, but I can’t do it without figuring out the tax implications.

I opened two new credit card accounts this year, which is pretty unusual for me. I traded in the AmEx Green card I’d had since college for an AmEx EveryDay card. That was done mostly because the fee on the Green card had gone up to $150, so I wanted to replace it with a fee-free card. And I finally gave in and got an Apple Card. I’ve only used the Apple Card to buy my new Apple Watch, in November. I don’t really anticipate using it for anything other than Apple Store purchases.

I’ve also been thinking about getting an Amazon Prime credit card. I spent nearly $2000 at Amazon this year, so the 5% back could be as much as $100 for me. There’s really no reason for me not to get it, other than not wanting to add yet another card to my wallet.


I’m always obsessing over subscriptions. The pandemic has caused me to pull the trigger on a few subscriptions that I’ve been holding out on for years. Partially because I have some extra money to spend (as noted above), and partially because I have some extra time to kill at home. So I might as well spend some money and time on nice stuff that’ll distract me from the horrible state of the world right now.

I finally subscribed to Apple Music. I signed up for a six-month free trial in October, so I don’t need to start paying for it until April. But I will likely keep it going when that happens. After years of trying to resist switching from CDs & MP3s to a subscription service, I’ve finally given in and embraced the new way of doing things.

I’ve also signed up for Disney+ and Hulu. I wanted Disney+ for The Mandalorian and Soul. And Hulu had a Black Friday deal where you could get the ad-supported tier for $2/month for a year, so that seemed worthwhile. I’m still resisting HBO Max, but I might give in on that one too eventually. If Wonder Woman 1984 had gotten better reviews, I’d probably have done it by now.

I might also sign up for the Apple One subscription bundle at some point in 2021. I don’t really need Apple TV+ or Apple Arcade, but if the pandemic keeps going, I’ll probably give in on that.

Books and Comics

According to Goodreads, I read 86 books in 2020. I’d set a goal of 100 books, and I didn’t reach it, but I’m OK with that. Most of those were comics, but (again) I’m fine with that.

For my Great American Read group, I didn’t really get through much, but I did finish Gone With The Wind in March, so that was a big one. I also read White Teeth, Invisible Man, and The Outsiders from the TGAR list. I’m still an admin in that group, and we’re still posting monthly group reads, but I’m not sure why I’m still bothering with that. The other admin is doing about half the work, so that’s good. I feel like we’re going to have to wind that group down in 2021, but I’m not in a hurry to do so.

My favorite comics of the year were probably the Resident Alien collections that I read back in May. And the Locke & Key series was also surprisingly good.

I’m still ordering a few titles from Westfield every month, but I think I’m going to wind that down over the next few months. I haven’t gotten on board with DC’s Future State thing, and I’m not reading any Marvel books. So that just leaves a few books from smaller publishers, and it’s probably best if I just switch to digital and/or trades for those. Also, my Comixology backlog is nearly 200 books (mostly collections, not single issues), so just working through that could take me a few years.


As I mentioned recently, I watched a lot of movies in 2020. Looking at Letterboxd, I see that I watched a total of 73. Probably my favorite film of the year (that actually came out in 2020) was Soul. My second favorite would have been Onward, so the year for me was bookended with solid Pixar films. I did a rewatch of all four Avengers films early in the year, and a rewatch of all the Daniel Craig Bond films just recently. Those were both fun distractions. I also tried to watch a bunch of Kurosawa films, but I only got through four. For 2021, I want to watch some more Kurosawa, and maybe rewatch a bunch of Miyazaki films. (I bought several of them on Blu-ray earlier this year, and haven’t watched any of those discs yet.)


I am kind of proud of myself for getting through 2020 in one piece, not too much worse for wear. I managed to avoid putting on weight, picking up a drinking habit, getting COVID, and losing my job. I think my mental health is reasonably OK, all things considered. I’m trying not to stress about things I didn’t do. I’d like to have spent more time on “enriching” activities and less on pure distraction, but I’m mostly OK with having watched 73 movies and lots of TV, and having read a lot more comics this year than novels or non-fiction books.

I’m expecting the first couple of months of 2021 to be pretty rough. I think the vaccine rollout will be slow. I don’t expect a change in the status quo on mask wearing and social distancing and working from home. Winter will probably still be in full force through to early March, so we’re not going to be able to do much outdoors. I think the current surge of COVID cases will continue through February, and not start to let up until March. I don’t see us all being able to return to anything like normality until very late in 2021, if at all. But, hopefully, by summer, we’ll have enough folks vaccinated and the political situation will have stabilized enough that we’ll start on the road to “normal.”

I’m thinking a lot about short-term strategies for getting through winter. Things like getting my groceries delivered, watching a lot more “comfort” TV, reading a lot of comics, working out on the exercise bike, meditating, blogging, journaling, whatever helps. I’m not making any resolutions for 2021. I’m going to take it day by day, and I think that’s what we’re all going to have to do.


end of vacation, end of year

So it’s back to work tomorrow, after my week-long vacation. Looking at my “things to do on vacation” list, I didn’t do any of them. Which is fine. I did a few things, including updating my MacBook to Big Sur, sending out my Christmas cards, reading the entire Locke & Key comic book series, and, um… replacing the battery in my smoke detector. Yeah, I know those aren’t big accomplishments, but hey, it was supposed to be a vacation, right?

I’ve also been doing a lot of end-of-year thinking and planning. I got a few end-of-year things done this week, and there are a bunch more that I’m still working on. One thing, of course, is figuring out which services/subscriptions to keep and which to cancel, and whether or not I should be signing up for anything new right now. So the rest of this post is going to turn into yet another rumination about all that stuff.

For video, I added Disney+ recently, and also Hulu, via their $2/month Black Friday deal. So now I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+ and Hulu for video services. I’ve been thinking about canceling my traditional cable subscription, but I still haven’t done that. It’s looking like my cable bill might go up by $20/month in January, so that’s pushing me more in that direction. I’ve been experimenting with using my Apple TV more and my TiVo less, and figuring out how to get some of the stuff I like on regular TV without a cable subscription. I can get most (or all) of the PBS content I want from the PBS Apple TV app. And I can watch clips of the late-night shows on YouTube. So that’s probably fine.

For music, I’ll probably let my Apple Music free trial turn into a paid subscription when the trial is up. I’m actually using it a lot.

For comics, I do intend on dropping my Westfield subscriptions at some point, but I haven’t done it yet. For December, I would have had just three comics on my order, but I added a couple of graphic novels. That might be my last order, or I might hang in there for two more months. I have a couple of series I’d like to complete before giving up on print comics.

I’ve also been thinking about some financial stuff. Specifically, I’ve been assessing my credit card situation. I signed up for the Apple Card recently, as I’ve probably mentioned here before. I don’t like some things about that card, but the cash back for Apple Store purchases makes it worthwhile. Now that I’ve had it for awhile, I think I’m a little more OK with it than I initially was. Even though I can’t download transactions from it directly into Quicken, the process for saving a QFX file and importing it into Quicken isn’t that bad. And the Apple Card is better about privacy than most other cards, so maybe I should consider using it for more stuff.

Meanwhile, I switched my AmEx card from the Green card to the EveryDay card earlier this year. That was a good decision, since the Green card annual fee was going up to $150/year, and had mostly travel-related bonuses. The EveryDay card has no fee and has extra bonuses for everyday stuff like groceries. So it’s almost like I knew the pandemic was coming, when I switched back in February. I’ve certainly spent a lot more money on groceries this year than I have on travel.

I’ve been spending a heck of a lot of money at Amazon this year too, so that’s got me thinking about signing up for the Amazon Prime credit card. That gives you 5% cash back on Amazon purchases, which would have gotten me as much as $100 this year, depending on which purchases are eligible. But if I get that card, then I’ll have a total of five cards (Citi MC, AmEx, Macy’s, Apple, and Amazon), which might be too many cards. Maybe I should drop the Macy’s card. I’ve ordered a few things from them online this year, but not nearly as much stuff as I’ve ordered from Amazon.

I’m a little worried about how opening multiple new credit cards in one year might affect my credit score. But, then again, I’m not planning on borrowing any money any time soon, so I probably shouldn’t care about that. I don’t know. I guess it’s good to have enough free time and enough money to mess around with all this stuff.

Software and subscriptions and stuff

This is going to be a follow-up to my last two posts (here and here). Sorry. I have some interesting ideas in my head that I want to turn into blog posts, but I’m still plodding through a bunch of largely mundane stuff, trying to see if I can streamline or realign some stuff in my life. Anyway, here’s a brain dump of updates on stuff from those last two posts, plus some new stuff.

Cable TV: I got my February cable bill, with the new rates. My initial understanding of the rate increase was that my bill would go up by about $35. But it actually only went up by $14. The base rate for my cable package is now $85 (plus a bunch of fees) and my internet package is $90 (plus fees), but they’re applying a “special discount” of $42 so the total bill didn’t rise more than that $14. So I guess I’m sticking with my current plans. Any changes to the plans would probably invalidate the discount. So, while I could save a little by changing or dropping my cable plan, it’s not enough to make it worthwhile for me. (I’ll have to keep an eye on that discount and see if they phase it out over time. If they do, then I can think about a change again.)

Web hosting: I haven’t done any more with this. My new contract starts on Feb 12, so I’ll have to review it then. And I have plenty of time to drop my .org domains if I want to do that. They renew in May and August.

AmEx card: I haven’t done much with this either, though I did drop all recurring charges from the card. And I’m planning on using up my rewards points so I don’t lose those. That way, I can drop it cleanly and easily, if I decide to.

Westfield Comics: I did place a February order with them, but it was a small one. And I still haven’t talked myself into dropping Batman and Detective.

Flickr Pro: I took the deal to renew for two more years at the old price ($100 for two years), so now I don’t have to think about that again until 2023.

Quicken: Quicken switched to a subscription model a couple of years ago. I bought a 27-month sub from Amazon for $54 in November 2017, which was due to expire next month. The regular yearly rate to renew it directly with Quicken would have been $50/year, which seems a little steep to me. I found that I could buy a 14-month sub from Amazon for $30, so I did that, and now I’m good for another year. I took a quick look at a few alternatives, including Banktivity, Moneydance, and See Finance, but didn’t find any of them compelling enough to get me to switch.

H&R Block tax software: I’ve been buying their “Deluxe” package every year to do my taxes, for quite a long time, going back to when it was TaxCut. (I took a break for a few years and used an accountant instead, but she was a lot more expensive and not really any more convenient, really.) I generally buy it from Amazon, but this year, H&R Block had a “flash sale” where I could buy it from them for $30, so I did. So now I’m set to do my taxes, whenever I can find the mental energy to sit down and get it done.

Fantastical: I’ve been using Fantastical on my iPhone as my default calendar program for several years. I bought the iPad version a couple of years ago, and the Mac version just a few months ago. And now they’ve just released a new version and switched to a subscription model. (Sigh.) They’re being pretty good about existing users of the paid version, so I can use the new version, but not the new features. So that’s what I’m going to do. The new features are great if you’re really a calendar power-user, but I’m not. I just use my personal calendar to keep track of birthdays and medical appointments, mostly. The MacStories review of the new version is thorough and worth reading, if you’re the kind of person that needs a really powerful calendar management program.

Other stuff I’m subscribing to: This could be a long list, but I’ll limit it to apps and services I probably haven’t mentioned recently and that might be worth reconsidering: Instapaper ($30/year), 1Password ($30/year, with discount), Twitterific ($10/year), Sleep Cycle ($2/year).

Other stuff I’m not subscribing to: In a few cases where an app switched from paid to subscription, I’ve talked myself out of subscribing to it, and either stuck with the “free” version, or dropped the app entirely: TextExpander (dropped), Day One (still using free “Plus” version), Drafts (tried the “pro” version for a week; went back to the free one), Overcast (still using the free version, with some features unlocked from my original purchase).

I recently listened to an episode of Mac Power Users with Greg Pierce, the developer of Drafts. He seems like a good guy, and I do really appreciate the fact that subscriptions give small developers like him a steady revenue stream, and make software like Drafts possible. As a user, it’s frustrating to get pushed into all these subscriptions, and it’s often hard to justify the recurring expense for something that (for me) has limited utility. But I don’t agree with the idea that developers are getting “greedy,” which often crops up on places like Reddit or other online forums, when a developer switches to a subscription model. (On the other hand, I am kind of bothered when a large corporation like Apple or Amazon starts pushing subscription services. But that’s a subject for another day.)

So that’s about it for now, I guess. The stand alert on my Apple Watch has gone off twice while writing this, so I’ve been at it for more than an hour. I have another post bouncing around in the back of my head, similar to this one, but just about music and podcasts. The way I pay for and consume music has gotten a little complicated, and seems to be worth reviewing again. And there’s probably a post about buying and reading comic books in there too.

thinking about the Apple Card

I hadn’t been seriously considering getting an Apple Card, for a number of reasons. First, because I don’t need a new credit card. And second, because the card is issued by Goldman Sachs, and I’m not a huge fan of their work, as the saying goes. (And maybe third, because I’m not entirely comfortable with Apple getting into the financial services business.)

Some of the news coverage of the card has been pretty funny, mostly related to the physical titanium card, which sounds kind of cool, but apparently has some issues. The fact that they had to write a support article to explain how to clean it is kind of ridiculous.

But I had an issue with my usual, old-fashioned, credit card this week, and now I’m thinking that it might be nice to have a virtual card on my phone that isn’t tied to a physical card and that’s easier to manage than my old-fashioned card from my old-fashioned bank. So I’m a little tempted to sign up for the Apple Card on my phone (and opt out of the physical titanium card). There’s a fairly thorough review of the card at iMore. It sounds pretty good, to be honest. I’m still not convinced though. I’ve checked, and it looks like you can’t download the card activity into Quicken, so that’s probably the deal-breaker for me.

a new owner for Quicken

I’ve been using Quicken since the early nineties, I think, originally using the DOS version. I’ve been tempted to switch to something else quite often, but I keep sticking with Quicken. Intuit announced a while ago that they wanted to sell off Quicken, and they just announced that they’ve found a buyer.

I was expecting the buyer to be an existing software company or financial company, but instead it’s a private equity company I’ve never heard of. I guess that could be a good thing. If it had been bought out by a financial company, they would likely have used it to push their own services and cut back on compatibility with competing financial institutions. And, now that I think of it, there really aren’t any existing software companies where it would have made sense for them to buy Quicken. Maybe Microsoft, but there’s a lot of history there, which eventually resulted in Microsoft giving up on their own MS Money software and exiting that niche, so I could see where they wouldn’t want to dive back into personal finance software.

So I guess I’ll keep using Quicken for the time being, and see what the new owner does with them. I’m not too optimistic, but I’ll give it a chance. (Especially since I only recently upgraded to Quicken 2016.)


I just spent the last couple of hours cleaning up old financial paperwork. So, if you’re not interested in that kind of thing, move along, nothing to see here, etc, etc.

I’ve blogged before about my continuing struggle to keep up with my Merrill Lynch accounts, in terms of entering the statements into Quicken. For quite a while, I’ve resisted letting Quicken download those accounts, since there tended to be some annoying little problems with that process. So, I kept manually entering them. Well, I fell off that bandwagon at the end of 2010, and had just been letting the statements pile up since. As David Allen would say, I’d gone numb to it.

I used to just have two accounts with Merrill — a catch-all account (called a CMA), and a Roth IRA. Well, now, I have the CMA, the Roth IRA, a traditional IRA (created when I rolled over the 401(k) from NMS), and an inherited IRA (from my Mom). So, that’s really too much to keep up with. Today, I decided to “clear the decks,” as it were, and get everything set up to download into Quicken. I started by shredding a bunch of old statements, from 2008-2010, that were in my filing cabinet. Then, I sorted out the big pile of 2011-2012 statements, and put them away, organized in a reasonable fashion, in the filing cabinet. Then, I set up all the accounts to download into Quicken. The result (in Quicken) is a little messy, but it all adds up correctly, and I guess that’s all I need.

My plan from this point forward is to open each statement as I get them, review it at a high level, then file it away. Meanwhile, the activity will get downloaded into Quicken any time I’m in there, balancing my checkbook, so that will be at least once a month.

I guess the main reason for this blog post is so that I can remember what I did, and when I did it, so that I can review things later in the year, and see if this system is working out. My main goal for this year is to actually look at the statements when I get them, so I can call Merrill if something is wrong, or if I need to change anything. Now that I won’t feel burdened by the need to do data entry every time I get a statement, hopefully I can avoid the temptation to just pile them up without looking at them!

catching up on paperwork

The last time I really sat down and brought all my accounts up to date in Quicken was in April 2010. Well, after feeling kind of sick yesterday, I’m feeling better today, and I decided that it would be a good day to do a lot of catch-up work. I entered all of my 2010 Merrill statements into Quicken, manually.

And I decided to give up on entering my 401(k) statements from my old job. I had quarterly statements going back to 2009 that I hadn’t entered. I decided to instead just let Quicken update that account automatically. That account is managed by Fidelity, and I had previously had trouble getting Quicken to update that account automatically, but it seems to be working now. The reason I still have that account, by the way, is because it’s still help up in some kind of audit related to the bankruptcy of that company. I’m hoping it will get released at some point this year, and I’ll be able to roll it over into an IRA at Merrill.

I also now have an inherited IRA with Merrill, which is basically half of my mother’s old IRA. I decided to just set that up as automatically updating, rather than entering it manually. I think that will work OK. I’d like to switch my main Merrill CMA and Roth IRA accounts over to auto-updating too, but I’m still a little afraid to do that. At one point, the way Merrill fed data into Quicken was pretty weird and not quite right. I’m going to watch how this works with my inherited IRA for a few months, and see if it’s looking reasonable enough at this point to switch all my accounts over to auto-update.

Meanwhile, I had really planned on firing up TurboTax today, and getting at least a first draft of my taxes done. That hasn’t happened yet, but at least I’ve “cleared the decks”, so to speak, so I can get started with that, without worrying about all the other paper that was piling up on my file cabinet.

Oh, and I think I’m supposed to watch the SuperBowl today too.

and even more Quicken frustration

So I decided to fix my Merrill accounts in Quicken (see previous post). At first, I tried going through the transactions, to delete the messed up ones, and get it straight that way. It turned out, though, that the download from Merrill had screwed stuff up all the way back to December 2007.

So I decided that I’d restore my Merrill accounts from a Quicken backup file from before I set up the download. Well, it turns out that restoring a Quicken file is an all or nothing proposition. You can’t just restore one account. You can open a backup file in Quicken and *export* one account, though. But then you can’t *import* it into your active file, so that turns out to be pretty useless. So I printed out all the transactions in my active file since that backup, did the restore, then re-entered all the banking and credit card transactions that I’d done since the backup. I’ve also re-entered the two 401(k) statements I’d entered after that backup. So now, after a couple of hours of work, I’m basically back where I started, minus the last four months of Merrill statements, which I’ll have to enter in manually now.

Well, I guess I’ve learned my lesson — Quicken and Merrill Lynch just don’t work together, and probably never will!