Fun with Quicken
Every year at tax time, there's some annoying financial event I don't know how to account for. Like another "fair fund" payment (a tiny $13.42, so I'll just report it) or amount "in lieu of fractional shares" (that one was only $6.14, so ditto).
It's really next year's worry, but I like to keep entries up to date... and on my March brokerage statement, something weird happened with Time Warner. They not only did a reverse stock split, but spun off into a separate company just for cable. The statement listened the cost basis for the spinoff as "unknown." If they don't know, how could I possibly know?
Stock splits go pretty smoothly in Quicken, but spinoffs can be confusing. An online forum commenter offered an incredibly complicated way to manage this, but did mention the correct cost amounts. So I tried inputting them in the spinoff form to see what would happen... and the program blew up. There were ***s in total columns and general mayhem. This is after I'd spent 3 days entering data. I thought I'd backed it up the night before, but the latest backup was a little older. Uh-oh!
Worse, I couldn't seem to retrieve the spinoff transaction I'd just entered and was desperate to delete. I finally was able to get a "report" on the new stock, zoom to the transactions (which were under the OLD TWX stock on the register), delete those, and then delete the new TWC stock. The numbers came back. Almost.
Now there was too much cash in that account. Whaa? Apparently it returned capital on the old stock, so I deleted those items. The number finally matched. The reason it blew up was probably because there was a very small fractional share of reinvested TWX dividend at one point, which must have been like dividing by zero.
I still needed to account for the new stock. Luckily, it's in a Roth IRA account which has no tax consequences, so I just did a "shares in" entry and stuck it on using the price from the first day.
That wasn't the end of the fun. I was tooling along entering investments, noticing devastating losses (30-40% in the past year. For an exact figure, I'll need 401(k) results which I'll do later since they aren't needed for taxes). I wondered how I did long-term, since I started investing in earnest around 1997.
Imagine my chagrin when I learned that apparently Quicken LOST all stock and mutual fund prices before May of 2000 and those market values were all zero. While I have paper copies of everything relevant (including some proprietary funds in the 401(k) which can't be looked up in normal online sources), I didn't relish the thought of manually re-entering price history.
Quicken e-mail help was no help, but online forum research determined that sometime around 2000, upgraded Quicken versions kept price history in a separate file as opposed to the main program. So at some point when I upgraded (they force you to upgrade every few years, if you want to download financial data), bye bye old prices. What a useful design!
The online mavens also had a solution. If you go into an investment register and hit CTRL-Z, it recalculates all the transactions. This means if a price was part of a transaction (like you reinvested a dividend of x shares at y price), it will be recorded in the price history file. I held my breath, did this for my many investment registers (I'm paranoid and have small amounts in a lot of firms), and WHEW, it worked! The only problem is the data can be spotty (if there was little activity in an account), but it's much better and at least is no longer zero-value from 1997-2000.
I may still want to re-enter at least quarterly prices off the paper statements from the missing eras (especially for the funds in the 401(k) that don't have ticker symbols), but this is OK for now.
So transactions are entered, papers are piled up, and I'll load the tax program and start the taxes themselves next. Please, no more surprises!