The Complete Personal Accountant For The Commodore 64
The Complete Personal Accountant for the Commodore 64 is a powerful personal finance package with many useful options and features. It comes with two diskettes and a 190-page manual. The diskettes contain ten programs which include all the necessary functions and a tutorial to help you get started. The 5½ X 8½-inch bound manual is thorough, but the binding makes it a bit awkward to use while working at the computer—it will not lie open.
Twenty Dollar Insurance
There's an unpleasant surprise in a letter that comes with the package. It reads as follows: "IMPORTANT: If you wish to obtain service from our Technical Support Staff and be advised of any enhancements, program changes, helpful hints, or new products, the information on the next page of this letter must be completed and returned immediately to Futurehouse, Inc. with $20." This policy means that you should add $20 to the cost of the package when making your value/cost comparison.
The software package consists of ten programs which work together. They allow setting up a chart of accounts, keeping track of expenditures, setting up a budget, and trying to keep within it, in addition to computing net worth statements. There are payment and appointment calendar functions as well as graphing and mailing list management programs.
The onscreen tutorial, which looks more like a demonstration, covers each of the programs of the Complete Personal Accountant.
Starting with the Chart of Accounts, you are shown what the various menu items allow you to accomplish. The speed of the self-paced demonstration is quicker than I was able to keep up with. In most cases, it didn't give me sufficient time to read the complete screen. This offers an impression of what the programs do, but doesn't really teach how it is done. The first screens cover most of the menu functions, but as you progress there is a tendency to skip some functions.
The concept of the tutorials is good, and if you run each one several times or have quicker reading and retention than I, you may derive more benefit from them. If Futurehouse slows down the screen-flipping speed in later releases, the tutorial will be more effective.
To use the software you will need a Commodore 64 computer with a 1541 disk drive and several formatted disks on which to store your files. The manual states that a printer is optional, but a printer really is almost mandatory. Even the manual recommends having a printout of the Chart of Accounts available when inputting checkbook information. The Chart of Accounts provided with the program contains 66 different accounts which I found extremely difficult to follow until I had a printout to scan for the proper account number.
To use the Complete Personal Accountant, it is necessary to set up your work files first. The Chart of Accounts is the main one, and the manual leads you through its initialization on a step-by-step basis. For your convenience there is already a standard Chart of Accounts set up and numbered. Using this as a model, it was quite easy to configure another to suit my needs. It is not necessary to use the chart provided, but it is necessary to maintain the five major types of accounts within the setup account numbers.
This is clearly shown in the manual and is not restrictive but merely reveals the power of the program. Thought should be given to the accounts and subaccounts that may be most needed or useful prior to doing your Chart of Accounts. This will allow you to make the best use of the program. A separate chart has to be made up for each checking account that you are working with.
Before inputting your checkbook information, you should go through several months in your checkbook to ascertain the number of transactions required. The program requires that the maximum number of records needed for a month be input so that disk space may be allotted. If you designate too few, it will be necessary to start over when the space is used up. I found this to be awkward, but with the proper forethought it should not pose problems for the user. The checkbook program can handle up to 400 records. This should be sufficient for personal accounts and for all but a few small businesses.
The program is menu operated and reasonably self-explanatory. It appears to be well error-trapped. In working with the checkbook maintenance program, as well as the other sections, it was not possible to lose information without deliberately going against what the manual stated. When I attempted to input information that was not in the context that the screen prompts asked for, the program simply requested that I try again. Should a data entry error be made, the records can be scanned and edited.
While entering checks or deposits, there is a simple method of spreading them over several accounts. This is good when you use one check to pay a credit card and there are purchases that should be applied to different accounts or when a deposit is made that includes income from several sources.
Other handy features of this section include the ability to print your checks from the program. Therefore, the checks and the records have to match. This requires ordering the checks from Futurehouse and having access to a printer, but it may be worth it to you to eliminate extra work. Another feature that speeds up check information input is the ability to simply press the RETURN key on a field where the information is the same as the previous check. When this is done, the program automatically brings the information forward and inserts it for you.
Once you have set up the Chart of Accounts and input your checking information, the program is ready to work for you. Using the menu-driven format, it is quite easy to establish a budget and compare your monthly expenses to your budgeted expenses. You may also change your budget at any time in order to make it more realistic. With a printer connected, the figures may be printed out for examination at your leisure.
The financial statement portion of the program is a method of ascertaining your net worth. All the input is done through menus. This would include such items as outstanding loans, home mortgages, value of investments, and anything else that pertains to value, whether you own it or owe it.
Once the information has been entered, the program provides both net worth and the ratio of income to expense. These may be printed out on your screen or on paper. By keeping the information updated, you will always be able to determine your financial status. This could be quite useful should you need to take out a loan, because all banks like financial records that they can both read and understand.
The rest of the programs included in the Complete Personal Accountant are not directly related to your financial record keeping. They allow you to set up a payment schedule that may be accessed to determine which bills should be paid on a given date, or an appointment calendar for keeping up with your luncheon dates and when to be at the IRS office.
They even include a program that allows graphing your expenses and income along with assets and liabilities. Each of these can be done singly or all on one graph. Just like other portions of the program, these can be printed to screen or paper. This function would be useful if a quick analysis were needed, and besides, the shock value of a graph of your financial situation may be what you need to adhere to a budget.
A more useful portion of the package is the mailing list program. This is saved on its own disk and can contain up to 1200 addresses. There are provisions for updating and sorting. Just like the other programs, it is all menu-driven and very easy to use. Once this is set up, the information may be retrieved in any amount or order desired. Although the manual does not give specific instructions for doing so, mailing labels can be printed.
All things considered, the Complete Personal Accountant is a powerful and easy-to-use set of programs. If you need a program to help you keep your finances straight, you should consider this one.
Complete Personal Accountant
P.O. Box 3470
Chapel Hill, NC 27514