In a prior article, I talked about using money management tools, like Mint.com, as a means of budgeting and tracking expenses. I practice what I preach, so I’ve been using this tool along with a few others and would like to share a few ways online tools can help you stay present with your money.
Budgeting and Saving with Online Money Management Tools
I don't know about you, but I tend to minimize my thinking about occasional expenses unless I have the specific data in front of me. And, to be quite honest, some of my spending is "out of sight, out of mind." In other words, I buy the pair of shoes in the moment and don't necessarily think about it again – until now. Now, I receive notifications from my money management tool, reminding me, “You normally spend $XXX per month in shopping, but this month you spent $XXX." Oh yeah, the shoes. Thanks for the reminder!
"I don't know about you, but I tend to minimize my thinking about occasional expenses unless I have the specific data in front of me. And, to be quite honest, some of my spending is 'out of sight, out of mind.'"
I'm not suggesting that something as inconsequential as a pair of shoes needs to be at the forefront of your mind. But, I am encouraging you to stay present with how you spend your money. Digital money management tools are designed to help you review and track your budget broadly as well as specifically. These tools can tell you about far more than just the shoes. Reminder features can also help tip you off to potential identity theft by notifying you of unusual (or potentially unauthorized) spending.
Online money management tools can also help you stay present with your savings and retirement plans. If you set your goal to save, just for the sake of example, $750 per month, then your money management tool will track that goal and send you regular progress reminders. When you receive a notification informing you that you're on track to hit your goals, pat yourself on the back.
Staying Present When You’re No Longer Present
Another means of staying present with your money is to consider how transactions might occur if you were incapacitated or deceased. This might be an unusual topic of conversation, but it's worth thinking about, especially if other people depend on you for financial support.
Beyond getting estate planning and creating a will, think about how you manage all aspects of your finances online. For example, all the usernames and passwords that you keep in your head (or that you write down in a secret place) will not serve anyone if they can't find them when you’re not around. Whomever you have entrusted to settle your estate will need access to your online banking account, investment portfolios and even your social media accounts. Talk to a friend or colleague that has settled an estate in the digital age, and I'm sure they'll convince you of the need for an online account roadmap of the dearly departed.
How can you prepare for something like this? Consider consolidating your usernames and passwords to one location – either electronically or on paper. Keep this file or paperwork in a safe place with your will (yes, I'm assuming you have a will. If not – get a move on!) and update it at least quarterly. Having one "password headquarters" has been especially key as I've gone green with many of my financial and other service providers. Signing up for electronic delivery is great for the environment and for reducing the paper clutter at home, but also means that you may be unable to find the information you need without an updated username and password.
In addition to the links to websites, usernames, passwords, account numbers, any other instructions or PIN numbers to bypass additional security or firewalls, include the name and contact information for your trusted human contacts at your financial institutions. If this person has been helpful to you in keeping track of your finances and answering questions, they can most likely do the same for those who you would like to be able to access your money.
For the digitally savvy, an electronic repository may make more sense than keeping a physical list. A myriad of websites and digital tools exist to support this need. Regardless of your online or offline preference, keep in mind that you are ultimately responsible. Whether you’re managing your budget, your passwords, or your retirement plans, your money is up to you. Stay present and seek out the best tools to support you along the way.
Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.
The opinions and forecasts expressed are those of the author and individuals quoted and should not be construed as a recommendation or as complete.