Many New Year's resolutions that sounded so reasonable three weeks ago now seem like a lot of work. This year, we resolved that we would finally take control of our finances, get organized, get a head start on taxes and make a budget.
But this year we have a secret weapon, in the form of a new version of Andrew Tobias' Managing Your Money. Version 7.0 of Managing Your Money, one of the most popular financial-management programs for the IBM PC and compatible computers, has been streamlined and supercharged and made easier to use.
The latest version is a major overhaul of the 6-year-old program, and all the changes are for the better.
The so-called user interface -- the way the program looks on screen and the way it offers command options to the user -- has been updated to resemble the popular Windows graphical system, although it is not a true Windows application.
It has drop-down command menus that greatly simplify the operations.
And Managing Your Money now takes advantage of the VGA graphics standard for newer personal computers, yielding sharper and more attractive graphs and charts.
Although it has a new face, Managing Your Money retains its old personality. Fortunately, the program and its accompanying manual continue to reflect the personal touch of Tobias, a financial expert and author whose light sense of humor leavens what might otherwise be a rather heavy series of topics.
While some people may be gleeful when counting their money, others of us need a little cheering up from time to time, and Tobias helps.
Unlike other "celebrity" software programs, where a famous figure lends his or her name but little else to a program, Managing Your Money shows clearly that Tobias worked closely with the programming elves at Meca Software Inc. of Westport, Conn., the publisher.
The company says Tobias over saw the design and wrote every word of the "help" screens that can be summoned whenever the user is unclear about an activity.
Managing Your Money comprises several areas of finance, organized in individual chapters. The chapters include budgeting, banking, bill paying, tax planning, insurance planning, portfolio management, financial analysis and net worth.
Each chapter is linked to the others, so, for example, a pig farmer's check written to Boar Power Services would be reflected in the bank records as well as under "Breeding Fees" on the user's Farm Schedule F tax form.
The financial-analysis segment shows off the program's great strengths. It allows the user to do "what if" calculations on such otherwise mind-numbing topics as refinancing a mortgage, planning for college or retirement savings and doing lease-vs.-buy comparisons.
The program also has a variety of utilities, including a pop-up financial calculator, a reminder pad, a simple word processor, a card file for
names, addresses and phone numbers, an appointment scheduler and a direct link to Checkfree, an optional service that allows the user to pay bills electronically though the Federal Reserve System. (For those who prefer old-fashioned paper checks that go through the mail, Managing Your Money can print those, too.)
According to Daniel Schley, president of MECA Software, more than one-third of the owners of Managing Your Money say they use the program to manage small businesses.
This is understandable, since Managing Your Money can handle invoicing, expense accounts, accounts payable and receivable, profit and loss, cash forecasting, daily scheduling and to-do lists. It can also generate mailing lists and mailing labels from the card file.
Managing Your Money 7.0 has a list price of $219.95. (Current owners can upgrade to Version 7 for $49.95.) That places the program at the high end of personal financial-management programs, a category that includes such other programs as Intuit's Quicken and Reality Technology's Wealthbuilder.
On the other hand, Managing Your Money is significantly more powerful than its competitors and better suited for those whose financial strategies go beyond mere budgeting and balancing of checkbooks.
As an option, MECA offers Managing Your Money Plus, a $49.95 membership program that includes a quarterly newsletter, the next annual update to the software and access to extra customer support; a two-year subscription is $89.90.
In addition to the PC version, versions of Managing Your Money are available for the Apple Macintosh ($219.95) and the Apple II ($149.95).