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10 Things to Do If Your Account Doesn't Balance

Sometimes when you're reconciling an account in Quicken 2014, things just don't seem to, well, balance. Here are ten quick tips on what to do when your account doesn't balance:

Verify you're working with right account

Sounds dumb, doesn't it? If you have a bunch of different bank accounts, however, ending up in the wrong account is pretty darned easy. So go ahead and confirm, for example, that you're trying to reconcile your checking account at Mammoth International Bank by using the Mammoth International checking account statement.

Look for transactions that the bank has recorded but you haven't

Go through your bank statement and make sure that you have recorded every transaction your bank has recorded. Cash machine withdrawals, special fees or service charges (such as for checks or your safety deposit box), automatic withdrawals, direct deposits, and so on, are easily overlooked.

Look for reversed transactions

Here's a tricky one. If you accidentally enter a transaction backward — a deposit as a withdrawal or a withdrawal as a deposit — your account won't balance. And the error can be difficult to find. The Reconcile: Checking window in Quicken 2014 shows all the correct transactions, but a transaction amount appears positive when it should be negative or negative when it should be positive. For example, the check you wrote to Mrs. Travis for your son's piano lessons appears as a positive number (a deposit) instead of a negative number (a check).

Look for a transaction that's equal to half the difference

One handy way to find a transaction that you entered backward — if you only have one — is to look for a transaction that's equal to half the irreconcilable difference. For example, if the difference is $200, you may have entered a $100 deposit as a withdrawal or a $100 withdrawal as a deposit.

Look for a transaction that's equal to the difference

While I'm on the subject of explaining the difference by looking at individual transactions, let me make an obvious point. If the difference between the bank's records and yours equals one of the transactions listed in your register, you may have incorrectly marked the transaction as cleared or incorrectly left the transaction marked as uncleared.

Alternatively, you may have entered a transaction twice. That's another way you can get an error.

Check for transposed numbers

Transposed numbers occur when you flip-flop two digits in a number. For example, you enter $45.89 as $48.59.

Transposed numbers are tough to find, but here's a trick you can try. Divide the difference shown in the Reconcile: Checking window by nine. If the result is an even number of dollars or cents, you may have a transposed number somewhere.

Have someone else check your work

This idea may seem pretty obvious, but you'd be amazed at how often a second pair of eyes can find something that you've been overlooking.

If you're using Quicken 2014 at home, ask your spouse. If you're using Quicken 2014 at work, ask the owner or one of your coworkers (preferably that one person who always seems to have way too much free time).

Look out for multiple errors

If you find an error by using this laundry list and still can't balance your account, you should start checking at the top of the list again. You may, for example, discover — after you find a transposed number — that you entered another transaction backward or incorrectly cleared or uncleared a transaction.

Try again next month (and maybe the month after that)

If the difference isn't huge in relation to the size of your bank account, you may want to wait until next month and attempt to reconcile your account again.

Consider the following example. You reconcile your account in January, and the difference is $24.02. Then you reconcile the account in February, and the difference is $24.02. Then you reconcile the account in March, and, surprise, surprise, the difference is still $24.02.

What's going on here? Well, your starting account balance was probably off by $24.02. (The more months you try to reconcile your account and find that you're always mysteriously $24.02 off, the more likely it is that this type of error is to blame.)

After the second or third month, it's pretty reasonable to tell Quicken 2014 that it should enter an adjusting transaction for $24.02 so that your account balances.

Beg the bank for help

As an alternative to the preceding idea — which supposes that the bank's statement is correct and that your records are incorrect — try this idea: Ask the folks at the bank to help you reconcile the account. (Check to see whether they charge for this service first, of course.)

In general, the bank's record keeping is usually pretty darned good. Nevertheless, your bank may have made a mistake, so ask the people there to help you. (Note: Be sure to have them explain any transactions that you discover only by seeing them on your bank statement.)

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