How to Track Prosper Loans in Quicken 2007 (Mac OS X)

So, a few confessions to start this off.

First, I am still a Quicken addict. It has been thirteen years, I think, since I started using Quicken in earnest to track my finances, and I’m still at it. Despite absolutely terrible releases of the software, and lackluster Mac support, it’s still one of my must-have applications.

Second, I am a big fan of I found Prosper when it was CircleOne, through some friends from eBay who left and joined the company. As a result, I’m a founding group leader (though not a very successful one), and a shareholder.

Earn 8-12%. Great Returns. No Banks. Borrow Money From People. Low Rates. No Banks.

So, with those confessions out of the way, on to the good stuff.

If you don’t know what Prosper is, it’s basically a marketplace where you can easily borrow money or lend money to other people. Consumer debt is very expensive, so it’s potentially a way for individuals to get cheaper rates borrowing, and for lenders to make higher rates than normal saving options. Here is a Q&A on Prosper from Money Magazine. Here is a write-up in Forbes of some strategy when dealing with Prosper.

If this sounds crazy to you, here are some of the rates you can earn on Prosper. Note that even for the highest risk borrowers, right now the default rate is around 3%. 24% – 3% is a very good return, but only if you spread your money around with a lot of very small loans.

For the past year, I’ve been struggling with an appropriate strategy to track Prosper Loans in Quicken. I found some information through web searches that seemed appropriate for the Windows version of Quicken, but didn’t work for me on the Mac. The idea was to create an Asset account, which is the loan, and then to set up a loan paid from the asset back to the Prosper account. I couldn’t figure out how to do it.

Since I had trouble finding a solution for this online, I thought I’d post my solution here. Feel free to comment if you’ve found a better way to track Prosper loans in Quicken.

Step 1: Create a Security for each Prosper Loan. I name them after the unique Prosper Loan number, like “Prosper Loan 335”

Step 2: Create a Brokerage account for your Prosper account. Transfer the money from your checking account to this account when you move money to Prosper.

Step 3: When you make a loan for a certain amount, let’s say $100, then purchase the shares of the Prosper Loan security, at $1 per share. So, in this example, you would purchase 100 shares of “Prosper Loan 335”

Step 4: Whenever you want to update the account, use the following 3 transactions. Use a “Sell Shares” transaction to represent the principal re-payment. Use a “Interest Income” transaction to represent the receipt of the interest payment. Lastly, use a “Miscellaneous” transaction to record the Prosper fees charged.

This is likely too much work to do monthly, although you need to if you want Quicken’s IRR calculations to be accurate. Personally, I’ve decided just to update the account once every 3-6 months, which is sufficient for my needs.

Let me know what you think… if this helps even one Quicken addict out there, it will have been worth it. 🙂

Update (4/9/2007): This is why I love blogging. AMF posted my blog comment on a Prosper Board, and now there are good comments there too. Check it out!

Update (4/10/2007): has their own solution… not as accurate as the one above, but worth linking to. I agree with them that it would be better for Prosper to offer a Quicken-compatible download format.

Update (4/10/2007): Are you interested in joining If so, please join my group. I originally started it for my investment club, but I’m changing it to be an open group for friends & family. I feel a little lame right now because I only have 3 members in my group, and I am a founding group leader.

Update (4/10/2007): has merged their approach with mine in a hybrid approach that tracks you entire Prosper portfolio as a single security. Only 3 entries per month! The only downside is you can’t track the performance of each loan this way. Check it out here.

Update (4/11/2007): OK, last update. But has followed up with a finally post on the topic. Between the two of us, I think we’ve provided the best way to handle this until we convince Prosper to provide downloadable transactions.

How to Search iTunes for EMI Songs on Mac OS X (non-DRM)

About two months ago I wrote a post about Steve Jobs’ announcement on the role of DRM in the online music industry:

Steve Jobs Drops a DRM Bomb on the Music Industry: Thoughts on Music

Well, that release was followed with the news about two weeks ago that iTunes would begin carrying music from one of the major music labels, EMI, without DRM. In fact, it’s a very clever proposition: For $0.99 you get the standard, 128-bit AAC files with copy protection. For $1.29, you get 256-bit AAC files with no copy protection.

Well, since I already wrote a long post on the topic, I thought I’d follow up here with a slightly more user-centric question:

Let’s assume that I love the new DRM-free music… how do I find it?

First attempt: I tried to search the iTunes store for EMI. The results were meaningless. I guess their search engine isn’t set up to search by publisher.

Second attempt: I looked around for the announcement on the Apple website or in the iTunes store, hoping for a link that would take me to a way to filter iTunes just for the DRM-free music. No luck.

Third attempt: I found a great little hint on the Mac OS X Hints site. It’s a simple terminal command to let you find out which of your purchased songs are EMI. You’ll be able to upgrade these to the DRM-free versions for $0.30 a song in May.

It seems that the new DRM-free music isn’t available yet, so I might have just been looking too early.

Oh well. Apple will likely debut the functionality with the new format in May. I hope. I fall into the camp of users who have resisted buying songs on iTunes because of the low-quality (128-bit) and the uncertain future of the FairPlay DRM. Instead, I’ve been ripping CDs and ripping them to Apple Lossless. But this new format looks interesting.

In the meantime, my old friend Wikipedia does have a page on every artist signed by EMI… it’s a start, at least, for searching iTunes for DRM-free music.

Pssst. Want Some Hot TIPS? Buying Inflation Protected Bonds.

One of the blogs I read regularly is The Finance Buff.  This past week, he has posted four times on the topic of inflation-protected bonds, TIPS and Series I Savings Bonds.  As a result, I thought I’d post some pointers and comments here.

First, as I mentioned in my personal finance series, Series I savings bonds are an interesting option for an cash emergency fund.   Series I savings bonds have the following advantages:

  • After 12 months, you can cash them in at a moment’s notice.  Great liquidity.
  • You can buy up to $30K of them in any year.
  • You can buy them direct from the government with no fees at the Treasury Direct website.
  • You owe no income taxes at all until you sell them.
  • You never owe state or local income taxes on the gains, even when you do sell them.
  • You won’t owe federal income taxes on the gains if you use the money towards a qualified educational expense, like college tuition.
  • Your money is guaranteed to grow above the rate of inflation, re-adjusted every 6 months, for the next 30 years.  You are given a fixed rate above inflation, measured by the CPI-U index, which measures inflation in urban areas.

Right now, Series I Savings Bonds pay 1.4% + inflation.  Given that historically, money market funds have basically matched inflation over time, and bonds have only beaten inflation by about 1.7%, that’s a pretty good deal, by historical standards, for something that is at least as liquid as a 1-year note.

In any case, the Finance Buff doesn’t like the Series I Bond rate.  In fact, because inflation is so low, he sold his Series I Bonds in November, taking the 3-month interest penalty.

Instead, the Finance Buff likes TIPS, which are the inflation-protected version of normal US Government Bonds.  TIPS are offered in terms of 10 years and 20 years, and right now they are paying a whopping 2.63% over inflation!  Given that the historical return of bonds is below that amount, I can see why he likes them.

Unfortunately, TIPS do have a down side or two:

  • While you are paid the interest every year, the inflation value accrues every year to the bond principal.  What that means is that you owe taxes on the inflation gain every year, but you don’t get the cash to pay the taxes.
  • TIPS are only available in high dollar amounts.
  • TIPS, like other bonds, can be sold before maturity.  However, there is no guarantee of the price you’ll get if you sell them before they mature.  To guarantee your return, you have to hold them the full 10-year or 20-year period.

Here is a great post from the Finance Buff on TIPS.

I have to post this great snippet from his follow up article on pricing TIPS.  It’s fairly complex, but I love seeing the hard math posted for some reason.  Check it out:

I tip my hat to you, sir, for posting that.  🙂

In any case, I had to think about why I’m still such a fan of the Series I Savings Bonds.  I think it is because of the context that I use them – as a cash-equivalent emergency fund.  I’m not looking at them as a bond investment, but as a form of cash.

As I stated, cash equivalents, like money market funds, over time have returned an average of 0% over inflation.  So the idea of getting better than that on my “safety money” appeals to me.

That being said, the rates on high yield internet savings accounts, like Emigrant Direct, are well over 5% now.  With inflation as low as it is, that’s a serious yield also.  With no risk, money available at any time.  Government protected, even, up to $100K!  Hard to argue with that.

The problem is, there are penalties around selling Series I Bonds too early, and there are significant tax advantages to consider.  Interest on a bank account goes on your 1040 every single year, and is taxed at federal and state levels.  There is also no guarantee that these type of high-yield savings accounts will be around forever, although they’ve been pretty consistent over the past 5-7 years.

I’m lucky, because the Series I savings bonds I purchased in 2002 have a 2.0% premium over inflation, so they are paying a higher rate that the bonds you can buy today.  As a result, I’ll be keeping mine for a while.  Sometimes, like this period, they pay less than 3% interest.  Other periods, they have paid almost 8%!  In the end, to be comfortable with them, you have to be comfortable with earning a fixed amount over inflation over time, and leaving it at that.

You can find out more about TIPS and Series I Savings Bonds on the Treasury Direct website.