Apps and online education programmes help you with your money [Independent on Saturday (South Africa)]
(Independent on Saturday (South Africa) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Momentum recently launched a suite of online tools aimed at improving your financial health. Among these tools, found |under the financial wellness tab at www.momentum.co.za, Momentum has an online budgeting application called MyFinTrack.
It is South Africa's fourth budgeting app, or personal financial management tool, as they are often called.
These apps enable you to set a budget and then, by linking your accounts and importing your transactions to the app, to monitor your actual spending against your budget.
Sticking to a budget is the most important step you can take to improve your financial health. Only by spending less can you save and achieve your financial goals. And to spend less, you need to know where you are spending and where you can trim back.
Budgeting apps should be welcomed for taking the slog out of the budgeting exercise. You can't miss items on which you spend money and, typically, you |can "teach" the app to analyse your spending - for example, amounts spent at Pick n Pay, Checkers or Spar would be classified as groceries, while amounts spent at Ster Kinekor would be classified as entertainment.
The app produces a chart showing exactly where you spend your money.
The launch of Momentum's MyFinTrack comes two years after the launch of the first budgeting app for South Afri-cans by 22Seven (www.22.seven.co.za), which has since been bought by Old Mutual. 22Seven uses a US-based aggregator, Yodlee, to access your transactions |from multiple online sources.
Yodlee has been operating for more than a decade, and its services are used by millions of consumers worldwide.
Payroll software company Sage Pastel was next to launch a budget app (www.pastelmymoney.co.za) before |Nedbank launched MyFinancialLife (www.myfinanciallife.co.za).
MyFinancialLife allows you to link any account from any bank.
First National Bank responded to 22Seven by allowing its customers to |create secure secondary read-only accounts with their own passwords that can be linked to any of these apps.
Despite these developments, Absa and Standard Bank are doggedly sticking to their warnings about compromising security, and they actively discourage you from using these useful tools.
Adrian Vermooten, head of digital channels and payments at Absa, says Absa customers are advised never to share their banking credentials with third parties. He has said Absa is |planning its own budgeting tool.
Vuyo Mpako, the head of innovation and channel design at Standard Bank, says that while budgeting apps probably have best-of-breed security, if you are exposed to risk because you revealed your banking credentials on such a site, you will be liable for the losses.
He says Standard Bank is revamping some of the functionality currently offered on its online and mobile channels, and as part of this revamp it will offer separate facilities, including view-only access for an additional user on your account. About time.
Standard Bank's new app for tablets allows you to monitor your savings goals and make use of an "impulse save" |feature. But no budgeting tool. So how serious is Standard Bank about encouraging saving?
Assess your finances
Momentum's financial wellness programme includes a lot more than just the budgeting app. You can do a full self-assessment of your finances, use financial calculators and store important documents on its site - all for free, whether you are a Momentum client or not.
Momentum says the self-assessment questionnaires are currently most relevant for medium to higher earners who have a good understanding of their financial products, but Momentum plans to extend these questionnaires and make them relevant to everyone.
It may also in future help you to assess the cover your policies afford you, regardless of which financial institution provides them.
Estelle Scholtz-Mare, Momentum's head of financial wellness marketing, says that the industry's manner of "finger-wagging" to get people to be more responsible with their finances has had the opposite effect.
"It takes a lot more than just harsh words to get people to really change their behaviour, she says, adding that they must be provided with tools and structured solutions to help them navigate their financial affairs.
Get financially literate
It seems that assurance company 1Life is also of the view that it is time to offer some help rather than finger wagging.
It has launched its own financial |literacy initiative that extends to |making you more financially capable by helping you apply what you learn. The initiative is called The Truth About Money and can be found online at www.truthaboutmoney.co.za.
1Life has teamed up with The Money School to develop an eight-hour computer-based financial literacy course that you can do at any Boston City campus or business college. The course is aimed at helping you to get out of debt, build wealth and change your financial future by changing your behaviour.
"More often than not, the wrong |kind of financial planning habits are learned early on; thereafter, people |struggle to connect with or understand money. We want people to realise that being wealthy is not about how many material possessions one has accumulated, as that may lead to a lifestyle that one cannot afford to maintain," Laurence Hillman, the managing director of 1Life, says.
The course is valued at R1 500, but 1Life will sponsor you if you are a 1Life client or family of a client. It will also sponsor you if you are not a client but 1Life believes you could benefit from the course and you provide a good motivation for doing it.
As a special offer to readers of Personal Finance, 1Life has guaranteed 15 places on the course. All you need to do is email firstname.lastname@example.org, put "Truth About Money" in the subject line and |tell us in a paragraph why you want do the course.
Once you have done the course, you can use financial calculators on the Truth About Money website and read its articles and tips to keep your finances |on track.
While use of the calculators is reserved for those who complete the course, the articles and tips can be accessed by anyone.
The Truth About Money initiative provides a broad range of services beyond financial literacy, to provide you with practical assistance if you are in debt, or need help with a will, winding |up an estate or claiming life cover |benefits after the death of a partner or family member.
1Life has partnered with debt counselling company Debt Busters and Lipco, a call centre-based legal mediation company, to offer you a 20-percent |discount on the legal fees of formal |debt counselling services or a 35-percent discount on legal services related to the transfer and bond registration fees on winding up an estate. You can also get assistance in winding up an estate and legal advice on estate planning.
The Independent on Saturday
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