You may or not be old enough to remember a time when you got paid with a check, took your passbook to the bank, walked up to a teller who took your check and imprinted your updated balance in your passbook. You looked at the total and always knew how much money you had in the bank. If you needed to pay for something, you wrote a check which you recorded in your check register or you went back to the bank and withdrew cash once again updating the balance in your passbook. While the argument can be made about whether money itself is abstract or concrete, it is safe to say the concept of money was concrete back then. You saw the balance of your account change, you couldn’t spend money you didn’t have, you needed to ‘touch’ money to spend it.
What a difference a couple of generations make. Today, your paycheck goes into your account via direct deposit. You never even saw it coming but your bank balance was higher when you checked it on your phone so it must be ok to spend a little, right? When you go shopping the next day, you are curious to find your balance lower than the night before. It’s probably fine, you think, maybe some auto pays came through. You run a couple of errands and meet some friends for drinks and pay for it all by touching your phone to a box affixed to the cashier’s counter. You have absolutely no idea how much you just paid. Sound familiar? Your financial conceptualization has become abstract and with that change, so has control over your expenses.
The phrase that has been coined is financial abstraction. “Financial abstraction is the phenomenon where currency becomes less concrete, more abstract.” (The Impact of Financial Abstraction on Consumption Behavior by Jeremy Lee) Mr. Lee theorizes that as currency becomes more abstract, spending increases. This theory is based on behavioral economics and is manifested with online transfer platforms such as PayPal or Zelle, Cryptocurrency, online investing and making purchases online. Spending is done without as much thought as it was when you needed cash in hand. Add to this the fact that Americans are saving less to continue spending robustly, even as income growth slows. (axios.com)
My Personal Bookkeeper can help counter the effects of financial abstraction by providing the following:
- Monthly Reports: My Personal Bookkeeper Client Advocates send you monthly reports showing you exactly how much income you had in any given month as well as where your money is being spent. These reports give you a clear visualization of expenses in each expense category, categories customized to fit your typical spending.
- Budgeting: Setting and regularly reviewing a budget brings mindfulness to your daily spending. Whether you need to be on a budget or not, using one is a useful tool to keep you accountable with your spending.
- Recurring Expense Review: Your My Personal Bookkeeper Client Advocate can review your recurring transactions and flag anything of question. You may be paying for a subscription you forgot you had or you may be paying for a gym membership you no longer use. A review of recurring expenses may save you money.
- Savings Plan: It is never too early to start saving for retirement. Are you saving enough or are you spending your entire check each month and hoping you’ll have enough to retire? We can help incorporate savings into your budget and help you move that money into a savings or investment account each month.
- Collaboration with your financial planner: Do you have a financial planner? Do you need one? My Personal Bookkeeper can work with your financial planner to help you reach your investment goals or help connect you to one. You don’t need to be wealthy to have someone help you invest and/or plan for retirement.
- Education for your children: Although taught in school, according to the US National Association of Plan Advisors (NAPA), Gen Z has the lowest level of financial literacy, with only 28% of questions being answered correctly on average. (https://journals.sagepub.com/) One-third of Americans say no one taught them about investing. (https://www.rbcwealthmanagement.com/) Teach your children about money and money management. My Personal Bookkeeper Client Advocates can help you with strategies and topics to cover. We can even help your young adult increase their financial literacy and support them as they become financially independent.
As 2023 nears an end and you begin to plan for 2024, counter financial abstraction and take more control of your daily finances. Contact My Personal Bookkeeper and speak with us to see how we can help.
About the author: Michele Rubin
Michele is a natural at helping others organize and run their household finances. The experience of assisting her mother in keeping track of mail and in paying bills allowed Michele to develop an understanding of the best ways to approach these tasks. Michele is an organized, thorough and compassionate client advocate. These skills have been honed from years of dedication in teaching, office management and running a non-profit organization. When working with clients, Michele understands that patience and efficiency are the keys to helping them maintain their independence and earn their trust.