Updated February 23, 2023

Empower vs Quicken

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Quicken is the oldest name in personal finance software, while Empower is newer and offers advanced tools for free. Read on to see if it's a good alternative to Quicken.

About Empower and Quicken

Quicken
Quicken is the granddaddy of personal finance software, originating all the way back in 1983. It allowed people to gather all their finances in one place and quickly perform tasks that were usually done on paper.

Quicken is a subscription-based desktop software. It offers comprehensive financial tools including budgeting, bill pay, investment tracker, and property and business accounting tools.

Empower
If Quicken is the veteran, then Empower is the new kid. It's digital-only and offers two services:

  1. Free, advanced financial tools
  2. Paid robo-advisor service for investors with at least $100k

In this comparison review, we're only looking at Empower's free personal finance tools versus Quicken's tools.

Quick Takeaway: Which is better—Empower or Quicken?
Empower is better for the average investor looking to track their investments and finances in one place. Quicken is better for budgeting and has robust tools for business managers and property managers.

Empower's tools are completely free, while Quicken charges a subscription fee. Read on to learn which is right for you.

Key Differences and Similarities

First, let's take a quick look at where Empower and Quicken differ.

Empower

  • Cost: Free
  • Platform: Online web- and app-based platform
  • Special Features: View net worth over time, personalized investment advice, retirement planner, education planner for college costs, create savings goals

Quicken

  • Cost: Subscription-based ($41.88-$119.88/year)[1]
  • Platform: Desktop program that can be used offline
  • Special Features: Advanced budgeting software, save and store receipts, debt reduction tool (Deluxe plan), bill pay (Premier plan), accounting and property management (Home & Business plan), create tax reports, easy export into TurboTax

You'll find some similarities on each platform too. Empower and Quicken allow you to link all your external accounts so you can view your financial life in one place.

Both products offer the following features:

  • View balances on accounts and overall net worth
  • Track income and expenses by category
  • Get bill reminders
  • Track investments across all accounts, compare your returns to market indexes, analyze fees, suggest target allocations
  • Plan for retirement with interactive tools
  • 256-bit encryption security

However, note that Empower offers all of these for free, while you have to pay a subscription fee for Quicken.

Empower vs. Quicken: Which is Better?

Want to know which tool wins out in a head-to-head battle? Let's take a more detailed look at how the two compare.

Cost — Winner: Empower

All Empower financial tools are free. You just can't beat that. For the average person, the free tools offer more than enough to effectively manage your finances.

On the other hand, Quicken's tools are on an annual subscription basis. Quicken offers 4 plans:

  • Starter: $41.88/year
    See all your accounts, create a budget, categorize expenses, manage bills, export to Excel

  • Deluxe: $59.88/year
    Added functions include: track loans, investments, and retirement accounts, create customized budget, manage and track debt, create savings goals

  • Premier: $83.88/year
    Added functions include: online bill pay, investment analysis, create Schedule D tax reports, track market value of your home, priority customer support

  • Home & Business: $119.88/year (Windows only)
    Added functions include tools for small business and real estate managers (more on this later)

The cost is quite expensive for simple features such as budgeting and expense tracking. Many other apps do these same functions for free.

But the more advanced features like debt reduction planning, tax reporting, business accounting, and real estate management could be very valuable for the right person.

Quicken has a 30-day money-back guarantee for all their plans.

Synchronization & Accessibility — Winner: Empower

Empower operates online only through a web platform and mobile app. Linking accounts is fast and automatically synced between the web and mobile app. This makes it easier to manage your finances in real-time.

Since all transactions are automatically recorded, you don't need to manually ensure your accounts are up to date on the platform.

On the other hand, Quicken is a desktop software that you need to purchase and install on your computer. You'll need internet connection to import your accounts and manually initiate updates. (You get 5GB of secure online backup with Dropbox.)

Quicken's desktop software seems outdated. But it may appeal to those who don't trust their information being stored in the web/cloud.

Recently, Quicken introduced a web platform. Their mobile app has been around for years. These are optional companions to the software. You'll need to manually sync your Quicken data to the cloud to be able to access your info on-the-go.

Quicken lacks features for Mac users. Home & Business is only available for Windows. And some of the investment monitoring features are not available on Mac.

Budgeting — Winner: Quicken

Quicken has comprehensive budgeting tools, while Empower only offers limited functions.

Empower's budgeting feature is basic. You can only set an overall monthly budget. It'll track how much you've spent this month so far, and compare it to your spending last month. You can see how much you spend in each category, but you can't assign a budget for a specific category.

Quicken allows you to create a more customized budget. Features include:

  • Create as many spending categories as you want
  • Set a budget for each category
  • Analyze areas where you can save more
  • See regular expenses that you may have missed
  • Include or exclude specific expenses

Quicken lets you project your account balance after your bills are paid. Enter your expected income and bill dates and it'll estimate how much you'll have left. This helps you know how much actual cash you have to spend.

Debt Reduction — Winner: Quicken

The Debt Reduction Planner is a feature unique to Quicken (offered in the Deluxe plan). This helps you create the best debt pay-off plan to minimize interest.

The Debt Reduction tool can help you:

  • Automatically search for loan and credit card balances
  • Exclude or add a debt manually
  • Set an amount to pay towards debt each month
  • Project how different payment amounts will impact pay-off

This can be a valuable tool for those in debt and who need a solid pay-off plan they can actually afford.

Empower does not offer debt reduction planning.

Bill Pay & Reminders — Winner: Quicken

Both Empower and Quicken have bill reminders. However, Empower only has reminders for credit cards, loans, and mortgages. Quicken also allows you to set up bill reminders for gas, utilities, and telecom services.

Quicken has online bill pay access to over 11,500 online billers. You can pay your bills directly through the software. Empower doesn't have that feature.

However, online bill pay is only available in the Premier plan. Many banks now offer free online bill pay, so this isn't a feature we should have to pay for anymore.

Investment Tracking — Winner: Empower

Investment tracking is where Empower really shines. It offers personalized advice for your investments—and all for free. Empower's investment tools include:

  • Portfolio Overview
    See the overall performance of your portfolios compared to market indexes, such as the S&P 500, DOW, etc.

  • Fee Analyzer
    Calculates how much is being lost to fees and the expense ratio within each fund. This way, you can consider switching out funds with high fees.

  • Investment Checkup
    Analyzes your current investment strategy and suggest a target allocation. It also tells you exactly how to rebalance your portfolio to reach the suggested allocation.

Read more about Empower's investment tracking tools (with screenshots) in our detailed review.

Quicken only offers investment tracking in the Premier and Home & Business plans. Some features include:

  • See all your investment fees and your true market returns
  • Set up stock watchlists
  • See your actual portfolio allocation and target allocation (Windows only)
  • Evaluate your portfolio with Morningstar's X-Ray tool (Windows only)
  • Run IRR and ROI reports
  • Compare your portfolio's performance to market benchmarks
  • See realized and unrealized gains for tax planning
  • Use "what if" scenarios to see tax implications of selling
  • See market comparisons to help with buy/sell decisions

Retirement Planning — Winner: Tie

Empower has one of the most advanced FREE retirement planning tools. You set at what age you want to retire and how much you plan to save per year. Empower will calculate what your retirement looks like.

  • See projected portfolio values at different ages
  • Determine projected monthly retirement income
  • View calculated Social Security distributions
  • Get recommendations on what you can change to grow your retirement savings
  • Enter "what if" scenarios (like buying a house, paying for a wedding, traveling), and see how these will impact your retirement

Quicken has a "Lifetime Planner" that also lets you play with different scenarios. You can input things like future homes, college costs, future loans, living cost adjustments, etc. Quicken will use these assumptions to give you an interactive look at how they'll affect things.

Both programs do a good job of showing you how big financial events would impact your retirement nest egg.

Property & Small Business Management — Winner: Quicken

Empower doesn't offer any functions for real estate and small business management. So, Quicken wins in this category.

Quicken's small business and property management are only included in the Home & Business plan. Note that this is only available for Windows.

Small Business Management Features

  • Track all your assets and liabilities
  • Separate business and personal transactions
  • Store contracts, receipts, and other business documents
  • Create Schedule A to E tax reports
  • Track business deductions, even from personal accounts
  • Export directly to Turbotax
  • Create and email custom invoices

Real Estate Management Features

  • Track property value, loans, rental income, and expenses
  • Save tenant lists, lease terms, rental rates, and security deposits
  • Track outstanding and paid rents
  • Send email reminders and custom rent receipts
  • Run Schedule E and other tax schedule reports

The fee for the Home & Business plan is a great deal to manage more complicated finances and simplify your taxes.

Empower Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Tools are completely free
  • Digital only and automatically updates accounts
  • See your accounts in real-time
  • View net worth instantly displayed on your dashboard
  • Portfolio analysis and personalized recommendations
  • Robust retirement planner
  • User-friendly interface and mobile app

Cons


  • Simple budgeting features
  • No manual transaction entries
  • No tax reporting
  • No business or property management features
  • No online bill pay

Quicken Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Most comprehensive set of financial tools
  • Reconcile accounts
  • Manual transaction entries
  • Debt reduction planning (Deluxe plan)
  • Online bill pay (Premier plan)
  • Small business and property management (Home & Business plan)
  • Import directly into TurboTax

Cons

  • Costs $41.88-$119.88/year
  • Need to manually import data
  • Synchronization issues
  • Lots of customer service complaints
  • Some feature not available for Mac

Alternatives to Quicken and Empower

If neither Quicken nor Empower seem like a good fit for you, here are some other popular alternatives.

Mint
Mint (read review) is a completely free money management app. You can link up all your accounts to get an overall picture of your finances. It allows you to create a custom budget and assign a monthly limit to each category.

Other features include goal tracker, debt payoff planner, bill reminders, and credit monitoring. It also tracks your investment portfolios, but it doesn't offer any advice.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)
YNAB (read review) purely focuses on budgeting. Instead of just tracking your spending, it actually teaches you how to budget and helps you save. There is no investment or retirement planning.

YNAB costs $11.99 per month, so it's best for serious budgeters committed to changing their habits.

EveryDollar
EveryDollar (read review) is the budgeting app created by celebrity money expert Dave Ramsey. It incorporates his signature "7 Baby Steps" to financial success.

The basic version is free and only supports manual entry. For auto account syncing, it costs $129.99/year. It's good if you're not sure where to start your financial journey.

Bottom Line: Which Is Better for You?

This is hard to say because it's hard to compare a free service with a paid one. Yes, Quicken offers more robust, comprehensive features, but you need to pay for those. Empower's free tools are just about the best on the market and… well, they're free.

This makes Empower the better choice for the average person. Quicken is better for small business owners, multiple property owners, and those with more complex finances. You do need to pay for the software, but it'll save you time and make managing your money easier.

References

  1. ^ Quicken. Plans & Pricing, Retrieved 6/17/2022

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Empower Personal Wealth, LLC (“EPW”) compensates CREDITDONKEY INC for new leads. CREDITDONKEY INC is not an investment client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation or Empower Advisory Group, LLC.

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