Exploring the World of Financial Technology


LFinancial Technologyast week I had coffee with a friend who is feeling anxious about the size of her emergency fund and hoping for some tips that might help her put away additional money every month. I showed her some of the new apps I’m trying out. It’s amazing how the financial technology world has exploded in just the last couple of years. Not only can apps do some of the most obvious tasks like helping us save. There are also some that help us prioritize debts, make budgets, invest money, and even tip ourselves when we think we deserve it. “I don’t know,” she sighed. “I want it to be easy.” “Look at how simple these apps are, though!” I said.

“I know. It’s just… there’s a ton of them. Who has time to sit on their phone all day flipping through a bunch of apps? Painting is easy. (My friend does beautiful watercolors.) This looks hard.”

I realized she had a point.

Many of the financial conclusions we reach have more to do with our point of view than about the topic at hand. In this case, I’m already pretty immersed in the financial landscape, so all of these tools are like fascinating new toys allowing me to explore something I already love. For her, it was a nightmare. She was worried about the fact there were countless new things she didn’t know how to use. Like a person who’s never seen tools before being introduced to a Home Depot super store, she’s overwhelmed.

Still, much of this has to do with perspective. Ask yourself an important question: are you open to the future or dreading it? If you’re dreading it, it might make sense to reframe your point of view.

I remember years ago, taking my nephew to his first movie. He sat and stared at the screen. Sure, he’d seen films before, but never in a dark theater with an enormous screen and a bowl of popcorn. It was a whole new experience for a six-year-old. Sitting with him I felt like I was visiting a theater for the first time again. It rubbed off on me. After that experience, I wanted to watch several in a row!

That’s the kind of overwhelmed I want to be, don’t you? In his case, “overwhelmed” equals excited, thrilled, inspired and delighted. Yet the older we get, the more we forget that state, and instead we start to fear and even dread change.

Instead of freezing up and wondering, “What if I break my money?”, how fun would it be to embrace just how much there is to know. It IS overwhelming, but that doesn’t make it bad. Being overwhelmed, in this case, means there’s plenty to be fascinated about. Whether you’re excited about just reaching your goals in the easiest way, or you want to know more about how mutual funds work…there’s something for you in the fun world of financial technology.

Once you change your world view from, “This can all hurt me,” to “This is all stuff to help make my life easier,” everything changes. Now, instead of feeling like there’s a pile of apps and I have to find the perfect one, now I’m playing with a few, figuring out how they fit, and throwing away whatever doesn’t stick.

I’m a Tim Ferriss fan, an entrepreneur who calls himself a human guinea pig. Listening to Tim’s podcast, it’s clear that he has a constant willingness to keep exploring how to live a better life. He’ll constantly test new approaches on himself to see how they work. Then he can talk from personal experience about the details of a strategy. He’s lived more strategies than most. He’s probably failed more often than many people have even tried! By just lining up several different approaches and thinking of his life as a test, Tim has become playful, knowledgeable…and wealthy.

Of course, it’s not all about being rich. I think it’s more about how you want to live your life. Do you want to fear new concepts and different points of view, or do you want to embrace them?

Browsing through financial forums, the comments made by readers will often reflect resistance to new ideas. Someone in the Dave Ramsey camp (he’s a bestselling financial author and talk show host) may espouse a specific strategy that works to pay down debt. Then someone else may come along with a different strategy that works for them. It’s fascinating to observe the arguments and see feathers ruffled about “the right way” to success. I don’t understand this fight. Why not try them all until you find the effective route for you?

As artists, I think exploring comes naturally. Whether it’s a role, or a new color combination, or an “ah-ha!” you have while writing poetry, we live exploration every day. As you probably know, here’s a byproduct of living a life where you explore… it rubs off on those around you. I could see by the end of lunch, because I was so excited about some of the apps on my phone, that my friend was becoming excited also. After lunch, she texted me that she’d already downloaded one of them and was playing with it. “I think I could get used to this!” she said. I could hear the enthusiasm in her voice… and it was all from a change of viewpoint. By embracing change instead of fearing it, I think she’s MUCH closer to her goals, whether they’re financial or otherwise.

 

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