The Future of Technology and Banking

by Andrew Schreiber 25. March 2013

Future Banking Technology

Technology is continuously changing the world we live in and how we as humans interact with others. For better or for worse, technology is continuously changing our everyday lives. I want to focus on how future technology could potentially change the way we interact with our bank. Two highly anticipated and talked about products expected to be released in the near future are the iWatch from Apple and Google Glass from Google. These two products have the potential to revolutionize the way we live our lives, including how we interact with our bank, handle payments and track our spending.

iWatch

Apple is developing a wrist watch that will be able to connect to and interact with your smartphone. Text messages, phone calls, appointments and alerts could all be displayed on your watch and you would never have to remove the phone from your pocket. So how can this innovation revolutionize the way we bank? Well, let’s think about it...

We have seen the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in smartphones before, but never in a wrist watch! As you step into a checkout line and go to pay the merchant, you could simply wave your watch over a reader to pay. No fumbling with a wallet necessary. Current NFC technology still requires you to use your phone; this new technology will make the process much more convenient and natural.

But the technology won’t necessarily stop there! After you make your payment, you could have a receipt sent to your watch to confirm the transaction. If you want to be alerted when your balance drops below a certain threshold, this alert could be sent right to your watch. With many of us starting to use personal finance management tools, we could receive an instant update on our current budget after a purchase. The more informed we are about our money, the more comfortable we can feel about our financial security.

Google Glass

The potential of the iWatch is exciting, but in my opinion, not nearly as exciting as Google Glass! Google Glass is a new type of wearable technology that Google has been testing for the past several months. It is a pair of eyeglasses that have the ability to display an augmented reality to the individual wearing the glasses. Like the iWatch, the glasses would connect with your phone and interact with the technology in your phone (i.e. weather updates, text messages, internet browsing, driving directions, etc.) while still maintaining an interpersonal connection to the people around you.

How can this change the way we bank? Well, envision asking the device to show you the nearest ATM and then seeing that ATM right in front of your eyes. As you turn your head, it could show you the ATMs or branches in that direction and the distance they are from you.

Imagine using an ATM at a remote location and communicating with a bank employee through your Google Glass. The functionality of an ATM could possibly be expanded to include transactions and services that you would normally complete in person. Using ATMs this way would be much like a video conference, with bank tellers providing support on an individual basis.

In recent years, personal finance managers that allow you to track spending and set goals have become popular tools. Imagine going to a store and just by looking at the barcode of a product you could see how purchasing it would affect your monthly budget.

This same concept could be applied to large purchases that must be financed. When you are discussing how much you can afford for a new house or car, you could virtually see what your budget would look like with the new obligations. You glasses would show you what your cash flow would look like if you decided to take on the new debt. Seeing this visual aid right in front of your eyes could go a long way to help you make the most informed decision before making a major purchase.

Tools as convenient and interactive as the iWatch and Google Glass could greatly alter the spending habits of consumers. The final decision obviously rests with the consumer himself, but if we get to the point where we have insights and information literally right in front of us, it gets easier and easier to make smart financial choices.

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Is Growing a Garden "Worth It"?

by Renee' Anderson 20. March 2013

Grow Money

It's official - spring is here! As the weather is getting nicer and the daylight is lasting longer you are likely beginning to awaken from your winter hibernation and venture outdoors! Maybe you wandered out to your backyard to find a big empty plot of grass. "Hmm," you think to yourself, "Maybe I should start a garden." Then you start to think about how much work it would probably entail, and you wonder whether or not it would be worth it. So is growing a garden worth it?

It depends on your purpose.

Do you want to garden because you think you'd enjoy it and it would make for a nice hobby?

Or, do you want to garden simply because you're looking to save money?

Figure out your purpose. Gardening is very time consuming and is not for those who don’t enjoy breaking a sweat and getting their hands dirty. Gardening is also a lot about trying things until they work; although, with the internet at our fingertips, you can certainly do some easy research before experimenting.

Either way, gardening differs from state to state (i.e. climate), county to county (i.e. potential predators), and backyard to backyard (i.e. soil composition). So, you can do all of the research you want, but trial and error is inevitable. Why do I bring this up? Because, if you don’t have a certain level of interest in gardening, you likely will not do the appropriate research and will become frustrated with the experimenting process.

It’s hard to come up with an accurate cost analysis since conditions vary from garden to garden. For example, let’s say you plant 6 tomato plants at $1.47 apiece, but you live in a wooded area and deer ate 3 of your plants. Your neighbor may have put a fence up and had no problems with the deer, but how much did it cost to put the fence up (don’t forget labor)?

You see what I mean? There are lots of considerations to factor in when gardening, but the bottom line is- if you want to start a garden simply to save money, it’s not worth it, unless you put in a decent-sized garden (at least 30’ x 50’), and expect to take a money loss the first 1-3 years. In the long run, a large garden will pay off, but it takes some time to get your garden into tip top producing shape! Once your garden has become a vegetable producing machine, you will not only have enough to feed your family, but enough to share with neighbors and enough to can, freeze, or dry/dehydrate.

On the other hand, gardening is a great hobby, even if you’re not saving a ton of money. For me, gardening is a hobby that gives me some exercise, a way to de-stress, and a feeling of self-accomplishment. Since gardening can be hard work, I also find it very self-fulfilling to walk out and see my plants thriving in the sun, and to pick fresh vegetables that I grew myself. It’s also a huge plus to know exactly where your food comes from and to know if there were chemicals used, etc. There’s nothing like the taste of fresh asparagus picked directly from your backyard!

That being said, gardening, to me, is worth it! I might not be saving hundreds of dollars a year, but I’m certain not losing hundreds either, and I thoroughly enjoy it!

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Spring Break Travel Tips

by Stacy Levin 13. March 2013

Spring Break Travel Tips

If you have a fun trip planned for Spring Break, good for you – you deserve it! Traveling, however, can be stressful, even though the reason for your trip is likely to get away from stress! So, in order to keep your vacation as relaxing as possible, follow these simple steps BEFORE you leave!

1) Let your financial institutions know you’ll be traveling.

In order to protect you from fraudulent activity, financial institutions monitor your “normal” spending activity, including the geographic location of your usual purchases. A charge to your credit or debit card that occurs far away from your “normal” location could be flagged and blocked if the financial institution did not receive word that you would be traveling. Of course, you can call your financial institution and get things straightened out, but who wants to be bothered doing this while on vacation? Get it done before you leave!

2) Make a list of important phone numbers.

It's easy to get lost when you are wandering unfamiliar territory. Additionally, tourists are a perfect target for pickpockets and con artists. It’s best to be prepared ahead of time by noting the phone numbers of local cab companies, the hotel or resort where you are staying, your financial institutions and the local police station. If you are traveling abroad, make sure you know the phone number to call for emergency services. Storing these numbers in your cell phone is a good start, but you will want these phone numbers listed somewhere else as well in case your phone is lost or stolen.

3) Double check your account balances, credit limits and card expiration dates before you leave.

The last thing you want to deal with on vacation is money problems. Make sure you have more than enough available funds/credit before you leave so you don’t have to take a break from relaxing in the sun.

4) Enroll in Mobile Banking.

Just because you brought more funds than you really need, doesn’t mean you should spend everything you have. Sure, on vacation you are likely to spend a little bit more than you would at home, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on how much you’re spending. Mobile banking allows you to do just this with virtually no hassle. If you have a smartphone, check and see if your financial institution offers a banking app, which would allow you to check the balances and recent transactions of all of your accounts. If you do not have a smartphone, look into other mobile options such as a mobile banking brower or text message notifications.

5) Carry a variety of payment options.

Your checking account may be stocked with funds that you responsibly saved up specifically for this trip, but if for some reason your debit card decides not to work, you’ll want to have a backup plan.

6) Do not pack more than you need.

While it’s smart to have a backup plan, you don’t need to overdo it. It’s a good idea to clean out your wallet before you leave to make sure you have nothing more than you need, and to make sure you know exactly what you have with you in case your wallet is lost or stolen. Your drivers license, medical insurance cards, two credit or debit cards and some cash will probably be sufficient.

You also don’t want to overstuff your suitcase. Give yourself enough time to pack so you aren’t haphazardly throwing in every article of clothing and every piece of jewelry that you own. If you don’t remember what you brought with you, you will be more likely to leave things behind when packing to return home. Additionally, extra suitcases (or an extra heavy suitcase) can result in extra airline fees. Finally, in case your suitcase decides not to get on your flight with you, the less you’ve packed, the better off you are.

7) Make sure at least one person at home has your travel itinerary.

In case of an emergency, it’s important that people know where they can find you and how they can reach you. Sure you’re planning on bringing your cell phone with you, but in case your phone is broken or lost, you left your charger at home, or you are in a no service area, you need to have a backup plan. Not to mention that knowing where you are will give your mother some peace of mind.

8) Use common sense.

Stay with your group, know exactly what you are drinking, be weary of strangers and potential tourist scams, and remember that what happens in Cancun/Miami/Ocean City/etc. does NOT stay there, especially in today’s world of cell phone cameras and YouTube. If something or someone seems a little off, trust your instincts.



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