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The Fourth Industrial Revolution (and what it means for your money)

Ever since the discovery of steam power in the 18th century, people have agreed on one thing: the times they are a changin’. That’s because the original Industrial Revolution initiated by steam has been followed by further industrial revolutions: the discovery of electricity, the invention of computers, and now cloud technology and artificial intelligence. The revolution in computer technology has, of course, made big waves in the world of finance, with tap-and-pay, e-transactions, microlending and even bitcoin now at our fingertips.

Change is here—make the most of it!

The most obvious change to personal finance that online banking has brought about is right in front of you. The device you’re reading this on is the same one you can use to do all your banking. Pay a bill, deposit a cheque, apply for a loan: it’s all available with just a couple of keystrokes (or swipes). But to really get the most out of online technology, you need to go well beyond day-to-day banking and make use of applications that let you budget, save and plan for your financial future.

Budgeting:

Every online budgeting app and tool has its own particular character, but all of them start with your after-tax income. After inputting that, the next big step is to determine what you are trying to achieve, whether it’s curbing your spending habits, saving for a big expense (such as a dream vacation), or building up a retirement nest egg. A good app will recommend a plan that suits your goal, such as pay-yourself-first (for retirement saving) or monthly expense limits (for eliminating unnecessary spending).

Then it’s on to tracking your progress. Keeping tabs on what you’re spending is so much easier now than in the days of cash and cheques, and a good app can do it all for you with minimal effort—categorize transactions, tell you how much you’re spending, track bills and issue alerts when you reach your limits. Apps can also help you automate as much of your finances as possible. There are a vast range of budgeting apps on the web, but probably the most popular of all is Mint.

Saving:

The next best thing to getting your expenses under control is saving for a rainy day. Here again, information technology is your friend. There are countless apps online that help you save, and some of them are remarkably creative. Tip Yourself, for example, sets up an online tip jar that encourages you to reward yourself every time you achieve a goal, such as getting back to the gym after the holidays. Other apps use gaming techniques, automated cash transfers or just plain old encouragement to get you to stash away extra cash. In some cases the amounts can be very small (Acorns rounds up to the nearest dollar every time you make a transaction and squirrels the difference away), but other apps encourage you to save more aggressively while remaining within your means. Digit is one such software: after reviewing your monthly expenses, it transfers as much savings as you can afford from your bank into your Digit account, where you can earn a higher return and build up your rainy-day fund. Of course, these apps generally do not pay the kinds of returns you can get on financial instruments like GICs or high-interest savings accounts—so if you have even as little as $1,000, you might want to get started with GICs from Oaken Financial.

Planning:

Managing your personal finances involves everything from minimizing your taxes, to setting up an investment portfolio, to having a long-term financial plan. With respect to taxes, the Canada Revenue Agency has long encouraged Canadians to file their taxes electronically, either with a tax-filing software package or a web-based site that will submit your return. The great advantage of these is that they optimize your deductions automatically and can thereby minimize your final tax bill or increase your tax refund.

Investing is also benefiting from online technology, automation and intelligent software. The best discount brokerages all allow you to manage your investments online with ease; but if that’s not your style (and you don’t want to pay for a full-service broker) you can try a robo-advisor. A robo-advisor will invest and rebalance your portfolio as required, based on such criteria as your age, risk tolerance and investment goals—as well as provide advice on RRSPs, RRIFs, and even products like insurance. Finally, you can complement your online investing with web-based financial planning software packages. These take your personal and financial data, crunch all the numbers and then tell you how much money you need—for everything from such major life events as taking out a mortgage* to purchase a home to retiring safe and sound.

Put all that together with your budgeting and savings apps and you’re set to manage your finances through the next industrial revolution!  

NOTE: Mint, Tip Yourself, Acorns, and Digit are not endorsed by, nor affiliated with Home Trust. Users should ensure that they have read and understood the Terms and Conditions of any budgeting app before activation.

*Speak to your mortgage broker.

We welcome your thoughts on this blog feature. Please email your comments to Blog@hometrust.ca

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