Quicken, Lion and iBank

Last week, I received an ominous note from Intuit regarding Quicken, a personal finance product that I have been using for long, long time.

I can still remember when I first installed Quicken on the Powerbook 100. (The Powerbook is long gone, but for some reason I have kept the Quicken install disks in storage). I was immediately captivated with Quicken and proceeded to tell all my family members to switch to Quicken instead of using Microsoft Excel or Lotus 1-2-3 to manage their finances. As the years passed, I consistently upgraded Quicken until I reached Quicken for Mac 2005. I skipped 2007 and Quicken Essentials for Mac received disastrous reviews. So, I held off as long as I could.

After a pretty good run, I may have reached the end of the line with Quicken since Intuit tells me that Quicken for Mac 2005 is not compatible with Apple’s upcoming Lion operating system.

Since Intuit was offering a 50% discount for Quicken Essentials for Mac and a 60-day money back guarantee, I decided to take the plunge. I did not experience any problems migrating all my financial data to Quicken Essentials for Mac. However, the inability of the program to track investment transactions is a non-starter. I could look past the changed UI that displays transactions in one line instead of two, which makes Quicken Essentials look like a spreadsheet. (Gasp! If I wanted to use Excel, I would launch that app instead.) I could probably deal with transfers between accounts that are now recorded in a transfer field instead of the category field. But, the loss of investment transactions was too much to bear.

In 2010, the Macworld review for Quicken Essentials noted that a “promised Quicken Deluxe comes out next year” that may address the lack of investment tracking. But, we are into the second half of 2011 with no product in sight. I tried to pry some information from the Intuit support staff, but I couldn’t get any response other than phrases cut-and-pasted from the Intuit website. Since Quicken Essentials for Mac did not meet my needs, and I have no idea when an upgrade to Quicken Essentials for Mac or a rumored Quicken Deluxe may show up, I decided to give iBank a look.

At first glance, iBank looks more like Quicken than Quicken Essentials for Mac. Despite the superficial similarity, iBank does have some differences from Quicken. For example, categories work differently. In Quicken, I had to add a new category through “Lists > Categories & Transfers.” I could not find a parallel menu in iBank and found the solution by happenstance when I tried to type the new category in the category field. I actually like the iBank method.

I also liked the transaction search in iBank where I can enter a term in the search field and iBank instantaneously filters the transactions. Much faster than the Find and Replace dialog in Quicken.

But, what absolutely aggravated me was iBank’s treatment of short sales. The portfolio summary incorrectly reported that I was fabulously wealthy. After some sleuthing (by generating another portfolio report with all transactions), I found the offending transaction that threw off my portfolio balance. Within the portfolio report, I could see a share adjustment transaction at the time of a short sale. Well, iBank would not let me sell shares that I did not own, so it added the shares to the account before the short sale. If that wasn’t bad enough, the share adjustment transaction only showed up on the portfolio summary and not in the account register. The resolution is to change the transaction type for the short sale from “sell” to “sell to open.” After that, the portfolio balance plunged back to a more credible level.

This major bug has shaken my initial faith in iBank and wasted an inordinate amount of my time. I will be taking full advantage of the 30-day free trial period before I commit to Quicken or iBank. I like the iBank UI and feature set, but I cannot deal with maddening bugs like the above. For now, iBank is in the lead, but if I find another significant glitch, I might be returning to the tried and true Quicken 2005.

8 comments… add one
  • Tony Jul 14, 2011 Link

    Found your post I share your frustration. I’m trying the conversation now and can’t get my brokerage account to show correctly. The “share adjustments” have also adjusted my balances and typically indicate I have not closed positions when in actuality I’ve already covered the positions. If you find a solution please provide!

  • Ken Chan Jul 14, 2011 Link

    @Tony. I think you have to look at the portfolio to see when the share adjustments are taking place. Go back to the corresponding transaction on the register and change the transaction type from buy or sell to buy to open/close or sell to open/close, and see if that removes the share adjustment from the portfolio page.

  • Tony Jul 14, 2011 Link

    Thank you, but it turns out I also had to merge a few transactions which I hated to do. For example I:

    Sold short 100 shares of XYZ on Jan 1 for $1000 (Sell to Open)
    Covered 25 shares of XYZ on Mar 1 for $200 (Buy to Close)
    Covered 50 shares of XYZ on Aug 1 for $400 (Buy to Close)
    Covered 25 shares of XYZ on Dec 1 for $300 (Buy to Close)

    However, iBank gave me this odd “share adjustments” sometimes (not every transaction and I can’t find a pattern) so that instead of my position being closed (net 0 shares on Dec 1) I showed I actually owned shares long (no real pattern here either on the # of shares).

    I tried copying and pasting the transactions, deleting and inputting and nothing worked. In the end the only thing that worked was merging the separate cover transactions into 1 transaction (there by recording several incorrect dates). Thankfully the “share adjustments” were all in the same year so no effect to taxable capital gains/losses but it still annoys me.

    You see anything similar?

    Thanks for help,

    Tony – Quicken since 1998 but may be no more?

  • Tony Jul 14, 2011 Link

    Also, I’ve got another question to see if you have something similar and I’ve got an inquiry into iBank as we get 30 free days of support.

    When I do a portfolio report for “today” I show 3 positions in 3 separate companies of 0.0000 shares for $0.00. The annoying thing is that the positions are clearly closed yet the still show-up and their prior gains/losses are skewing current totals.

    You see anything similar or have any ideas on resolution?

  • Tony Jul 14, 2011 Link

    Correction: Quicken since August 1, 1995

    How’d I forget!

  • Ken Chan Jul 14, 2011 Link

    @Tony. I had a similar situation where I shorted, and then covered during several subsequent transactions. For the short sale, I changed the “sell” to “sell to open.” However, since that solved my immediate problem, I left the subsequent covers as “buy” instead of changing them to “buy to close.”

    I also see the problem in the iBank portfolio report where some securities with zero shares are listed. However, these are also showing zero value, cost basis and gain/loss.

  • Tony Jul 15, 2011 Link

    Couldn’t re-find your blog for a bit and then I tried “Chinese American Quicken”. Your the top google hit!

    Tech support emailed me back and I’m providing them additional detail. I’ll let you know the outcome.

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