How to embrace technology in the new year

It is a new year, and many of us have resolved to get our financial house in order.

We envision a world where bills don’t pile up on the hall table, taxes will not be done at the last minute and we will finally get around to creating a plan and following a budget.

We feel a sense of hope and determination as we excitedly unpack our new folders, labels and planners to gear up for a year of money and time organization. But let’s be honest, we’ll probably use that fancy label maker or leather-bound organizer a few times. Then it will end up in a cluttered pile or storage box in a closet or the garage.

You are not alone if you tend to go through this exercise annually. According to a survey by Fidelity, the most popular New Year’s resolutions are to save more, spend less and pay down debt. However, achieving these goals can be easier said than done, and there may be various reasons holding you back. That’s where technology can come in.

By leveraging the power of apps and other digital tools, you can automate and simplify financial tasks, making tracking your performance and improving your overall financial health easier.

Organize, budget, save

Here are some tech-savvy solutions to help with your resolutions:

—  Are paper bills piling up? Many companies and service providers allow you to set up electronic bills and automatic payments. This can help you avoid late fees (and no paper cuts).

— Still haven’t created a budget? Apps like Mint or Personal Capital can help you see where your money is going. The apps link to your financial accounts, including bank accounts, credit cards, and investment accounts, so you can see all your transactions in one place. You can also use these apps to create and track a budget, pay bills, and manage your investments.

Apps like Rocket Money also help you cancel unnecessary subscriptions and find ways to save money.

— Having a hard time setting money aside? Many banks and investment companies allow you to set up automatic transfers to your savings or investment account. You can also use apps like Acorns or Qapital to automatically invest spare change and make saving like a game.

— Does investing seem too complicated? We generally recommend working with a financial planner. However, what if you are new to investing and your account is still too small to utilize an advisor’s services? In that case, a robo-advisor is an online service that uses algorithms to manage your investments. You can set your investment goals and risk tolerance. The robo-advisor will create a diversified portfolio and automatically make investment decisions for you.

Simplify tax prep

— Invest in a receipt scanner or use an app on your phone or tablet to scan tax documents. (Scanned documents are much clearer than photos taken with your phone.)

— Receipt-tracking apps like Expensify or Shoeboxed can help track your business expenses and receipts throughout the year. This can make it easier to gather all the information you need when it’s time to do your taxes.

— Most tax professionals also allow you to sign your taxes remotely on your PC, phone, or tablet. If you usually have a March or April tax appointment, ask that instead, you meet later in the year for planning when you and your professional are less busy.

— See if your tax professional has a free secure portal to store your tax documents and if they will give you a discount for completing everything electronically.

Tips and apps for seniors

— Websites like help seniors and their loved ones monitor financial accounts for fraudulent activity and identity theft. It can also alert you if it detects unusual account activity or changes.

— The What’s Covered app, provided by the U.S. government, allows you to access your Medicare information and claims, find doctors and hospitals, and get drug coverage information.

— The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) also provides various online financial resources for seniors and an AARP Now app.

— Many banks offer special services for seniors, such as simplified low or no-cost checking accounts and assistance with online banking.

Safety concerns

Millions of people use the internet daily and are not victims of identity theft or fraud. However, if you are new to this, you should follow some precautions.

— Use strong, unique passwords for all your financial accounts, and don’t share them with anyone (or leave them written down on a notepad).

— Enable two-factor authentication, if available, to add an extra layer of security to your accounts. (An example of two-factor authentication is a message with a code sent to your phone or email verifying that you are logging in.)

— Be wary of phishing scams, which are fake emails or websites trying to trick you into revealing your login or other sensitive information. Remember, the IRS and other agencies will not send you notices via email.

— Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown sources.

— Ensure you use a secure connection when accessing your financial accounts, especially when using public Wi-Fi.

— Check that the websites you visit have a URL (at the top), have a lock in the left-hand corner, and start with “HTTPS.”

— Use anti-virus and malware software.

— Update your operating and other software regularly.

— Be careful of what personal information you share on social media

If you’re new to using technology to manage your finances, start with something simple, like setting up automatic bill payments or using a budgeting app. You can add more features or try more advanced tools as you become more comfortable. Remember, you can start over or hit the home button if lost. Safeguards are in place, so it is hard to mess this up.

There is nothing wrong with asking for help to get started and feel confident using technology. Go to for free videos, or visit your local library, community center, or Apple store to take a class. (Learning can also be a great way to spend time with the younger people in your life and keep your mind young and healthy.)

If you resolve this year to become technologically savvy, it is possible that organizing your finances will not have to be a resolution next year. You can also enjoy the benefits of spending less time on financial tasks.

Michelle C. Herting, CPA, ABV, AEP, specializes in succession and tax planning, trust administration, and business valuations. She has three offices in Southern California.


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