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Ease of Technology Can Actually Complicate Your Financial Life

In the past, we have written about ways to streamline your savings using technology or hacks to find great ways to save money, but just as technology can improve outcomes, there can be some ways it could actually complicate your finances.

Digital banking: Navigating risks and rewards

Technology can make our lives easier through and faster and broader access to information. But with that, there is also potentially the downside of increased financial risk. These days, banks increasingly expect customers to use their mobile apps to bank online as they shrink their physical branch networks and reduce staff. This can be great for people who prefer interacting with online, but it does bring some risks.

For example, regardless of whether you want to use mobile banking, if you have an account with a bank or financial institution, it’s set up to register an account for you online. If you don’t do it, there is a risk that someone with bad intentions could register to access your account online, assuming they have access to some key personal details. You typically need only a , email address and phone number to register online.

Institutions with fewer safeguards in place might not be able to verify the identity of the end user. I’m not trying to scare anyone unnecessarily, but if you take cybersecurity very seriously, this would suggest you should “plant the flag” by registering online with your bank before someone else tries to. Due to the many data breaches, basic details like your Social Security number and other personal details about you may be available for hackers or criminals to purchase on the . , it was reported that 233.9 million people have been affected by data breaches and leaks the first nine months of the year — compared to 425 million in all of 2022.

Also, , or fraudulent, emails that claim to be from your bank but are actually from cybercriminals require a constant watchful eye so that you don’t click on a link that could give someone access to your bank account. Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for these issues, as mobile banking and apps all function differently.

Informed decisions: Balancing convenience

On a separate point, it’s fairly easy to do an internet search for the best banking, investing or savings options. The problem is it can be overwhelming to sort through the huge number of options and discern what is reasonable information vs what is well-disguised advertising.

For example, let’s say you’re looking for the best online. Some sites will rank them and give you the top 10 to consider. Sometimes, some of these banks will sponsor the website and have their ads built in to attract savers. That doesn’t necessarily mean a bad outcome, but you may spend extra time sorting out which options are objectively better vs “featured.” Also, the ratings or sites may not be able to determine for you the cost-benefit analysis of different options.

Let’s say you’re earning 4.00% APY on your cash savings right now, and you see a site offering 4.5% . That is a good step up; however, if you’re considering opening a new account and moving funds, you have to consider the time and effort of going through a new account application, transferring funds electronically and then tracking that new account as part of your balance sheet.

If you aren’t using a budgeting tool or spreadsheet that helps you keep track of where all your assets are located, you are adding complexity and inefficiency to your financial life. If you open many accounts and have several open lines of credit with different institutions, you also need to factor in the extra effort required to keep up with it all.

Subscription fatigue: Managing auto payments

Another area where technology can be a double-edged sword with finances is automation and convenience. It’s great to sign up for a service online and immediately have it available on your smartphone, such as Amazon Prime or . What these platforms hope you will do is set up automatic payments and that you won’t cancel. If you do that for multiple services, you could end up spending far more than you realize. Some services make it easy to sign up, but then put roadblocks in place to make it harder to cancel, such as having to call and talk to a person (typically after a long hold time).

Increasingly, will identify ongoing subscriptions to point out where you might be spending money on unused services. Still, it does require effort on your part to jump through the hoops to cancel them.

The human touch in a tech world

While technology has helped with many aspects of our financial lives, a trusted still has a critical role in helping to filter out the noise and identify the most important decisions. With the rise of AI-based tools, understanding how technology will be integrated into your financial life is going to become even more important in the future.