With their penchant for organization and precision, computers are tailor-made for keeping track of finances. Advancing relentlessly from the crude but efficient spreadsheets of the 1980s, financial technology has become an indispensible part of financial life in the 21st Century. Today, the wide array of financial technology available on your computer can make virtually every aspect of your finances run smoother. Here are some of the most popular applications available:
- Electronic banking – Online banking web sites allow account holders to pay bills, track balances, and even apply for loans. A growing number of “internet banks” exist solely online, and often offer more competitive interest rates and lower fees than traditional “bricks and mortar” banks.
- Payment Services – These services allow you to make purchases online. Most also allow you to send and receive payments.
- Investment accounts – Allow investors to make investments and withdrawals online, and enter certain account updates. The web sites of most mutual funds also allow investors to track fund performance and share value.
- Online brokerages – Allow investors to buy and sell stocks at a fraction of the cost of a “full-service” brokerage. Even full-service brokerages have been compelled to offer these services.
- Financial management software – Tracks income, expenses and account activity, and allows users to write and print checks. Many programs also allow users to upload data to tax preparation software.
- Tax preparation software – Guides you through the preparation process and alerts you to possible deductions. Most programs support both Federal and state income tax returns.
It is imperative that you take advantage of advances in financial storage technology to protect your records. Consider backing up your hard drive by copying essential records to an external storage media, such as a CD-ROM or an external hard drive. You should likewise protect your online accounts with "strong" passwords comprised of letters, numbers, and characters. Sensitive files on your hard drive should also be password protected.
The market for financial technology services is ever active, and providers never hesitate to promote the latest new service. Keep in mind that you needn't convert to every new technology as it is rolled out. Simply focus on those applications which are most helpful to you in your current situation, and consider additional services as your needs change.