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Impact of Computers on your Personal Finance Decisions

Recently I started a club over on the Rockstarfinance forums for bloggers from 35-45. If you recall from a few weeks ago, and above I now feature a link to these above. As part of the forum experience I wanted to come up with a topic to ask to get the club discussion going. As I thought back to every writeup of our generation I realized there is one common theme. Every mention brings up computers. I began to wonder, given ours is the first age cohort that experienced the personal computers impact, what has been the impact of computers on your personal finance decisions?

The Impact of Computers on your Personal Finance Decisions

Anyway, as any good host should, I wanted to answer the question from my perspective before posting it. As I started to work through the answer I realized I was writing a post not a forum comment. So here is that article. Give it a read and if you enjoy it either add a comment or join in the discussion over on the forums. I am sure the answer is different and interesting for everyone.

Background of My Computer Exposure

From a young age my family had personal computers. I personally remember receiving a Commodore 64 as a hand me down from my father.  But even before that we had a TRS 80, and a Timex Sinclair. Over the years we upgraded as time went on. There were early DOS machines, Apples at school, and then  Windows as the years progressed. Also, we had game systems like the NES which I lump into the same phenomenon. So, I guess where any venture for me would start is with how computers influenced my career.

Computers and My Career

I started programming in late middle school, and by late high school I dreamed of being a game developer. While thankfully I never pursued this avenue (I gather its ultra-high stress), I did leverage those skills into a computer science degree. My whole associated uniqueness  at work is tied to understanding the interplay of computer systems and processes well enough to run projects improving either. So, we can establish out of the gate that my career wouldn’t exist in its current form if not for computers. This however is the obvious answer, there are subtler personal impacts.

A Deeper Look at the Impact of Computers on your Personal Finance Decisions

Today computer programs and applications permeate the personal finance landscape. There are programs like Personal Capital that allow you to track your net worth. Programs like Digit or Acorns that help you to save. There are even tools like Swag Bucks that let you to trade time/a small bit of privacy for money. Because of my background, I am more likely to use some of these and less likely to use others. Items like Swag Bucks, Ebates, or even blogging intrigue me. I enjoy playing around even if they are not worth much per my time. Why? Simply because the concept of making something from time that is shared from others is ingrained in me from the early days of Prodigy and other online communities.

And yet there is a flip side. I remember hacking as a kid, and the fact that no computer system is 100 percent secure. I even remember movies like Wargames on the subject. They were not ultra-realistic with respect to how hacking works, but they did hammer into me a distrust of putting sensitive data on the internet. There is no more sensitive data than financial data. For that very reason, while I respect many of these online financial services, if they require access to my accounts I take a pass. Note: It also doesn’t help that my undergrad featured 2 classes in computer security, but I believe the hesitance would be there even before I pulled back the curtain.

Now, one could say that millennials also grew up with computers and thus have similar positives. This is true but I view it as a bit different. Millennials tended to be exposed more to systems like Apple IOS where the blood and guts of the computer were covered up. There was no typing on the command line for the average user. Or in the case of a game system like Nintendo, no futile attempts to blow the dust out of the cartridge. That more raw computer experience I also see translating into my financial life in terms of investment choices. I tend to prefer investments with more transparency and more personal control. I do not like target date investments for example simply because I want to control my own asset allocation.

A Love Numbers and Logic

The final influence of computers on my personal finance background is in my love of logic. I believe I think more logically from all those years of trying to define computer logic. When I do things like analyze stocks or other steps I tend to look at it with less emotion and more statistically numbers based. Obviously,that is a great advantage in the world of finance as emotions can be the death of your investments. Instead of going I love stock A and it looks like a good investment, I instead buy index funds because the numbers show they are a superior investment.

So, I have typed for about my typical post length on the impact of computers on my personal finance decisions. Now it’s your turn. As I stated up front, feel free to add a comment either here or on the forum. I am interested in hearing your experience.

 

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10 Comments

  1. Smart Provisions
    Smart Provisions January 25, 2017

    Interesting analysis, FTF.

    Just like you, I grew up with computers and eventually landed in a gig that allows me to program occasionally. I prefer the raw computer experience (Linux, Stock Android, and even selecting my parts for my PC) simply because I have more control of what is going on.

    As technology grew through the years, we have been seeing more closed-systems and less customization (phones without external batteries or even the removal of headphone jacks) for the purpose of being more convenient and easier to use for the average human being.

    The same thing is happening with personal finance and investments, just like you said, Personal Capital helps people analyze their money more conveniently, Target Date funds or even apps like Acorn, Betterment, Digit help people “start investing” and saving.

    I’m not saying that it’s bad, but it’s interesting as it’s still introducing people to be more conscious of their personal finances as it’s becoming more convenient to do so.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 25, 2017

      I agree, by in large it’s probably a good thing for society. It lowers the barriers for entry in both Finance and computers. My 88 year old grand mother can use an iPad, I don’t think I’d have a chance in teaching her how to use Linux. A friend of mine is horrible with choosing where to invest, automatic target date funds are a lifesaver for him. Still it’s just not for me.

  2. Leo T. Ly @ isaved5K.com
    Leo T. Ly @ isaved5K.com January 25, 2017

    I’d say that computers had quite a similar affect on both my life and careers too. Without computers, I think I may have chosen a career in general contracting as I like to build things. As for the affect on my personal finance, I’d had to track my net worth on paper if there weren’t any computers around. I just can’t imagine how I’d survive if the computer is taken away from me today. I can’t remember a day where I did not use either a pc, labtop, tablet or cell phone..

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 25, 2017

      Neither can I. I’ve thought about what career I’d be in without computers, but I’ve never been able to answer the question. General contracting is a big leap from computers. What do you do today for a career?

  3. Go Finance Yourself!
    Go Finance Yourself! January 25, 2017

    I’m 35 so I just made the cut for your group! I remember my family getting our first computer when I was around 8 or 9. My mom taught some touch typing classes at night so we had some typing games loaded on it, as well as some of the early classics like Roger Rabit and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego.

    Computers have had a big impact on my finances. I track my finances online using personal capital. All of my banking is done online. My investments are done online. I do research on investments online. Especially in the past few years, Fintech companies have made it increasingly easier to manage your finances and by a DIY investor. Before the computer age, it seems that it would have been much more difficult to build your own diversified portfolio.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 25, 2017

      Ahh Carmen Santiago. I remember playing the online version on prodigy decades ago.

  4. Mustard Seed Money
    Mustard Seed Money January 26, 2017

    My dad worked for IBM so I grew up with computers. I still remember when I was in first grade and they were teaching us how to play a game on an Apple computer. I remember thinking this is such a piece of junk compared to the games I could play at home on my PC. I think that developed my bias against Apple which my wife doesn’t understand.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 26, 2017

      I remember at the time thinking Apples were just a pretty box with no guts. Especially when they started selling them in weird colors. Thanks for the great comment.

  5. Wall Street Physician
    Wall Street Physician January 26, 2017

    Computers have revolutionized investing. No longer do we need to call up our broker and place a trade with a commission for $89.95. Now you can buy the Vanguard or Fidelity ETFs we need for three-fund portfolio investing for free.

    • fulltimefinance@fulltimefinance.com
      [email protected] January 27, 2017

      90 dollars? I seem to remember firms taking as much as a percent cut on my first investment. 90 dollars was discount brokerage. It’s amazing how quickly those costs have dropped.

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