Financial picture clearer online

What would we do without computers?  They are becoming an increasingly important tool to help us manage routine tasks. Gone are the days of having to line up to complete a simple transaction or to obtain information. Online access allows you to obtain a complete financial picture from the comfort of your home.

By accessing your financial institution’s website you may be able to obtain all of your account information immediately.  This convenience is becoming more important as investors are able to react sooner to financial news as it is released.

Investment Statements:  Paper statements are generally sent from investment firms to clients on a quarterly basis or more frequently if there is account activity.  Statements provide a benchmark period to review performance and to monitor investments.  They are generally sent to individuals a week or two after month end.  Individuals with online access are notified by email and are able to view electronic versions of their statements sooner.

Bank Statements:  Some people may be receiving bank statements for a period that does not coincide with the end of the month (i.e. November 11 to December 10).  We recommend that these individuals request their financial institution to change the dates to coincide with the first and last day of the month (December 1 to December 31).  This provides individuals without a computer a complete picture of their total financial situation at one point in time.

Is there another option?  Computer users have benefited considerably by setting up online access.  Those who have not yet set up online access should spend a few moments to consider the benefits of online banking.  Most financial institutions provide their clients online access to allow them to view the status of their bank accounts and investments at any time.  An activation card and instructions will enable you to obtain online access.  Financial firms generally provide assistance when setting up your online access.

Securing Your Password:  One of the steps in setting up online access is to establish a password.  As with any password, it is important to keep this secure.  Individuals should avoid public internet cafes where the security of your information may be compromised.  Never give out your passwords!  Your personal information should never be released unless you are certain of the legitimacy of the request.  If in doubt, phone your financial institution prior to giving out any information.  Identity theft is on the rise and we caution individuals to take the appropriate steps to safeguard their information.

Benefits of online access:  Online access provides people the freedom to conduct many of their financial affairs from their home or other convenient locations.  Banking services may include obtaining a summary of your balances at any point in time.  You may view your deposits and withdrawals and look at your Visa transactions.  You may also pay most of your household bills, including your Visa, either immediately or post-date them.  Mortgages and lines of credit may also appear provided they are at the same financial institution.

Online access also enables individuals to view their full service and discount brokerage investment accounts.  Individuals may be able to access research on their investments and are better able to monitor account activity.  For individuals with online trading access, they are able to place orders to buy and sell investments.

With the ability to transfer funds between accounts and institutions investors are able to ensure that excess cash is working in a high-interest savings account.

No Activity:  Some financial institutions will not issue statements if there have been no transactions within the account.  Most people still want to know if the underlying values of their investments have changed.  Online access enables you to check the value of the investments and account balance at any point in time.

Online access allows you to simplify your life.  People who are already accessing their accounts electronically know how safe, easy and convenient it is.   Lets compare online access to the period when ATMs first came out.  Many resisted them at first choosing to see a teller for simple transactions that could be done through an ATM.  Now people see how easy and convenient (and often cheaper) it is to use an ATM.  After completing your first online transaction in the comfort of your own home you may just ask yourself why you didn’t sign up sooner.