Productivity Know When to Go Digital with Your Finances

by Cheryl Lock | January 04, 2019

New baby? New house? New job? These life milestones are all good reasons to find a new way to manage your money.

In today’s go, go, go world, mobile banking lets you handle your finances anywhere, anytime. You can deposit a check, pay the babysitter, send money to family or find the nearest ATM all from the palm of your hand. While there's no “right” time to go digital, 46% of consumers surveyed in the Citi Smarter Connections Research Study said milestones — like having a baby — sparked their move to mobile banking.

Here are six smart ways to leverage digital banking at pivotal moments in your life.

1. Landing your first job

Smart move: Boost your savings with automatic deposits.

Why it helps: “This is the precise time to kick your savings plan into high gear,” says Jeff Jones, a certified financial planner. “When landing that first job, it’s tempting to allow your lifestyle to rapidly expand and to find ways to spend that new income.” Start socking away some of your paycheck to develop a good long-term savings habit.

Jones suggests starting with 5% or 10% and working your way up. Recent research puts the average amount of savings as low as $1,000-$4,000 for a surprisingly high number of Americans. Keeping an emergency savings fund with an equivalent of three to six months of expenses is a good rule of thumb. “If you’re fortunate enough to get a raise the following year,” adds Jones, “immediately increase the percentage you are saving. Wash, rinse, repeat, and before you know it, you’ll reach your target.”

Infographic about making the switch to digital technologies to manage finances. Statistics provided by Citi Smarter Connections Research Study 2017

2. Saying “I Do”

Smart move: Use a mobile app to view combined finances.

Why it helps: It’s no secret that money is a common point of friction between married couples. Transparency can make a touchy subject more comfortable to bring up. To keep the lines of communication open, discuss expenses, purchases and broader financial goals on an ongoing basis. In a new survey from Ramsey Solutions, 94% of respondents who said they had a great marriage also said they discuss their money dreams with their spouse.

“We find it really useful to track all of our expenses, including our mortgage, checking accounts, credit cards, our stocks and 401k all in one place,” explains Susana Yee. “So when we want to buy anything — like a piece of furniture — or go on vacation, we can see where we are all in one place before making big-ticket purchases.”

Illustration of people in transit using mobile devices. Statistics provided by Citi Smarter Connections Research Study 2017

3. Buying a house

Smart move: Put vital information at your fingertips.

Why it helps: Research is a homebuyer’s best friend. Getting a handle on any financial issues — such as your credit history and debt-to-income ratio — before heading into the home loan process can help ensure you get the best rate. Nearly half of the homeowners in a recent NerdWallet survey admitted harboring regrets about how they handled the mortgage process.

“Being able to see my credit score on various platforms helps me stay a step ahead of any mortgage broker that isn’t giving me the very best rate,” says Matt Holmes, CEO of digital marketing agency Handshakin. He relies on digital banking tools “not only to determine and time when I attempt to finance and acquire a new property but also when I am working with private investors, I can use these tools to gauge their value as a credit partner.”

illustration with icons relating to cyber security. Statistics provided by Citi Smarter Connections Research Study 2017

4. Having a baby

Smart move: Monitor your spending habits and streamline payments.

Why it helps: The latest findings from the USDA show that it costs about $233,610 to raise a child from birth to age 18 — and that doesn't include college expenses. To prep for your new arrival, it helps to review your current budget to create wiggle room for new expenses like diapers and 529 contributions.

When Liz Butler found out she was pregnant, she turned to a budget-tracking app to help get her through maternity leave. “My goal was to take four months off, and the last month I would have no income, so I needed to make sure I saved money for that month and cut expenses where I could,” says Butler. “Also, my husband took a month off with 50% pay from paid family leave. The app helped me see how much income we spent on bills, and it gave me an eagles’ eye view of our life in a month. No eating out saved $160 alone.”

illustrations of mobile devices in a row. Statistics provided by Citi Smarter Connections Research Study 2017

5. Starting a business

Smart move: Invest in tech that makes mobile payments easy.

Why it helps: The Citi Smarter Connections Study found that 18% of U.S. consumers now regularly pay for goods and services through mobile apps and payment services. Entrepreneurs just starting out and small business owners really stand to benefit from this type of tech. “I wear many, many hats, and anything I can automate to make my life easier has my attention,” says McKinzie Bean, a blogger and entrepreneur.

“I run two businesses and frequently need to make and accept payments via mobile. Technology has come so far that I can easily swipe someone’s credit card on my phone reader and collect payments immediately. When I receive invoices from my sub-contractors, with a few taps of a button on my phone I can pay and not have to think about it again. It really speeds up a lot of the processes in my business, allows me to make more sales, and ultimately increases profits.”

illustration of robots explaining how retirees are using financial technologies to help with investments

6. Heading into retirement

Smart move: Monitor your portfolio from anywhere.

Why it helps: Vincent Coluccio, 59, retired in 2017 and he says that there are three things in particular that technology has allowed him to do. The first, is provide a platform to organize all of his funds and stocks in one place to ensure that his investments are balanced and diversified. Second, is to allow him to make more informed decisions about trading and the third, is that it gives him immediate access to trading.

“Opportunities in stocks do not always give a person a lot of time to make decisions,” he said. “I remember once being in Manhattan doing some sightseeing with friends when the market unexpectedly dropped 800 points. Because I had immediate access to trading, I was able to buy some shares of stocks at very good prices. By the end of the day, the market had recovered from most of the earlier days’ loss, and I was able to lock in some really good deals.”

No matter the life event or stage where you find yourself, digital banking and the rapidly-changing technology around it can help you stay one step ahead of curve.

Cheryl Lock

is a personal finance writer who lives in Denver with her husband and two kids and uses financial technology to keep track of daily expenses and stay on budget. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Money, MarketWatch and more.