It makes it very difficult to budget for long term projects that we have in mind. . . . I suppose as a CPA who is used to budgeting and forecasting, I just find it eternally frustrating to be only able to budget expenses and not income - it's like half the puzzle pieces are missing!! How can I set my long term goals!
I think many CPAs and other financial types have a hard time dealing with the YNAB system because they're used to the traditional approach to budgeting. But YNAB's software is a specialized tool to implement the YNAB method, and if you'll read the materials on YNAB's four rules you'll see that YNAB is made to lead one away from traditional budgeting, with its long term goals. For someone who can't manage their daily spending, those goals and targets are a prescription for chronic failure.
Therefore, neither the method or the software is meant to focus on forecasted spending or income. Instead, they use the tool of spending by category balances. For those of us who lack savings and are generally in serious or at least scary debt, this helps us learn about daily spending patterns, and our changing category balances provide the feedback we need to identify our priorities and learn to direct our resources at the things that matter to us. This is the first job for a budgeter, and it's why YNAB very deliberately does not
make it easy for the user to forecast. Managing spending--living within your means and putting your self in a position to pay off debt and/or build savings-- is the first step for all us new budgeters. Many want to skip that step because traditional budgeting insists on projecting into the future.
I don't use either Joel's or TL Bauer's method of forecasting, but I've planned for long term goals since I started YNAB. Let me qualify that: it's been so long since I was in good enough financial shape that I saw no point in having long term goals of any kind. Anyhow, I figure out my target date, target amount, and amount per month (I have a buffer, so I budget monthly) to budget to the savings category, and I put all that information in the category note. If I for some reason have to pull money from the category, I put the amount I need to make up into the note and, in the meantime, the adjusted amount per month to add in order to still reach my goal when I need the money even if I never 'pay back' the amount I raided.
Note that Joel and TL Bauer are long-time YNAB users, and both of them learned the YNAB system the way it's meant to be used before they branched out into long-term forecasting. I'm not sure what brought you to YNAB, but even if you're flush and have no financial problems at all I suggest you follow the system for at least a short time to see what we're all talking about and to understand why the program doesn't do what you'd expect it to do, and what it does do that you might not have expected.
And after all that rambling on, I should mention that long term forecasting is on the YNAB team's long term project list. It's nowhere near the top of the list because YNAB's mission is helping those who need it most, but they do recognize that it could have value for some people. However, what I seem to remember is that it would be a separate tool like the reports are; reports also don't directly contribute to the YNAB method, but they allow us to measure our progress, which provides both motivation and a pat on the back.
Edited 8/12/12 for clarity.
"It’s still all about the method. Fancy Cloud Sync algorithm aside...the software is there to help you become more aware (Rule One), anticipatory (Rule Two), flexible (Rule Three), and secure."--Jesse's blog, A Method to Your Madness