Online banking tools make budgeting quick and easy

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published October 3, 2017

METRO DETROIT — When you were in home economics class as a teen, and the teacher taught you the importance of balancing your checkbook to stay on budget, did you listen?

Did you sit for hours and add the numbers in the check register, hoping they would match your account balance? Did you burn through one too many pencil erasers trying to get the figures right? 

Or, like so many, did you just give up and hope for the best?

If you’re the latter, Cornerstone Community Financial Operations Manager Steve Flores said you’re with the vast majority of people who stick to no budgeting plan at all — primarily because it requires too much effort.

“It’s pretty uncommon for people to use budgeting or manage their accounts in some way. While technology and the way banking has changed over the years has enhanced the ability for people to manage their accounts, it’s still not a focus for a lot of people,” Flores said.

At CCF, Flores said, tellers are always encouraged to point members in the direction of different budgeting or online banking tools if they seem interested, but he thinks there’s a chance that the old-school method of budgeting has turned most people off to the idea of mapping out their finances. 

“Very few people will take pen to paper anymore to balance a checkbook, and that’s why there’s a huge benefit to all this technology that not only makes banking easier, but planning as a whole. Everything is automated, and you can see transactions happening in real time,” he explained. “Before, we’d have people walk to the teller line with their check register and ask which things have cleared. They don’t have to do that anymore.”

Online banking is popular, sure, but just to see where money is going, according to Flores, who said customers should take tech a step further and plot out where their money will be allocated in the future. There are lots of software programs and smartphone apps that can act as a personal financial planner, analyzing where overspending is happening and helping the user to make adjustments.

“We have Everfi on the Cornerstone website, which is an educational tool to assist with budgeting. I know the Mint app is a popular one too, which will break down finances for individuals, help them set goals for themselves and alert them if overspending occurs. And it links right to all your accounts, so it does the work for you,” he said. “Most institutions are starting to incorporate goal-setting options into their own online banking technology too.”

You don’t have to convince Scott Struzik, a father and homeowner in Rochester Hills who manages 100 percent of his assets, from utilities to retirement savings, online.

“At first I still had to use a traditional bank for check deposits, but now (the institution) has a solid phone app that I use for depositing checks, checking my account and moving money around,” Struzik said. “Everything is in real time, not in monthly statements. I still get statements, but nothing surprises me. And I am traveling to Orlando this week for (a) conference, and I still have the same exact access to all of my finances that I have when I am home in Rochester Hills.”

There’s always that nagging worry in the back of Struzik’s mind: What if his account gets hacked? All too often, we hear about another major corporation falling victim to hackers who accessed sensitive information for millions of customers. But he hopes those behind the wheel of all this technology are as concerned about his money as he is.

“It does make me nervous, but even if you are a brick-and-mortar bank customer, that information is still stored online. Accessing the information online does provide a few more opportunities for attack, but reputable online (institutions) have a lot of security technology in place as well as quite a bit at stake too.”