Microsoft Releases U.S. Version of Money 2001

As wealth continues to pour into Silicon Valley, Microsoft's Monday U.S. release of its Money 2001 Standard and Deluxe software might actually end up helping executives at some of the vendors' fiercest rivals manage their bank accounts.

In the Deluxe version of the financial planning and management software, the Redmond, Washington-based vendor stressed a few new features designed to keep up with a user's day-to-day financial details as well as an overall picture of their financial health. Topping the new feature list is a system to let users point to specific areas of monetary concern and to select what may be priorities in their financial planing. Examples of this prioritization tool include directing Money to focus on eliminating debt or say investing for retirement.

In addition, a real-time feedback option is available to let people see how close they have managed to stay within their budget projections and cash flow predictions. The new software also comes with an Advisor FYI (for your information) feature which gives consumers specific, prescriptive financial tips, Microsoft claimed. This piece of the software guides users toward information resources and provides them with greater detail on their finances.

The information might include how to find lower interest rates on credit cards or loans, according to the software giant.

Along with the software, Microsoft pointed to some of the advice it has received from American Express (Amex) financial advisors in the creation of Money 2001. Over the course of a three-year partnership, the two companies said that they tried to incorporate both short- and long-term financial planning schemes into the product.

Amex helped to create a cash flow planner that tracks an individual's past transactions and then helps forecast bills that he or she may expect to receive. This feature is designed to manage cash flow a bit more efficiently.

In addition, the folks at Amex worked to provide advice on a budget maintenance tool that can reallocate budget numbers to accommodate changes when over or under spending occurs. A user can modify the figures either across different financial categories or over varying time periods.

Money 2001 also integrates with the Microsoft Network Money Central online service which lets users download bank statements and manage funds from any Net-enabled location. Microsoft claims that bank, brokerage, credit card and loan statements can all be retrieved from a single location on the My MoneyCentral Web site. From the site, users can also access paperwork from institutions that do not have direct connections to the vendor's site or relationships with Microsoft.

Other bells and whistles of Microsoft's financial software include 401(k) management, home valuation and functions for dealing with the dreaded U.S. tax season. A relationship with H&R Block Inc. allows users to transfer tax-related data into the TaxCut program for preparation of the tax return.

The Deluxe model has an estimated retail price of $US64.95 with a $US20 rebate.

The Standard version of Money 2001 comes in at $US34.95 with a $US10 rebate.

Microsoft, based in Redmond Washington, can be reached at +1-425-882-8080 or http://www.microsoft.com/.

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