Unlock Financial Wellness in the Midst of Uncertainty

Posted on March 30, 2020

Many people around the world have lost their jobs, had hours cut, and are facing financial crises during this challenging time. Of the many things that have been drastically affected, consumer habits are among them. Some of these consumer changes, however, may turn out to be positive and stay for the long term.

Cash, for example, is no longer king at brick and mortar shops. It’s been replaced with contactless payments, such as debit and credit cards, for health and security reasons. The same goes for paper versus digital cheques, as another digitization example. 

With so much financial and economic uncertainty and upheaval taking place, people are becoming more aware of their financial situations and wellness. They are taking control of their finances and managing what they can. Hopefully, this greater awareness of one’s financial wellness may stick around once the health and safety risks pass and normalcy resumes.

Making the best of a bad situation: Fintech apps to manage finances

Nearly one million people applied for employment insurance in Canada, for example, in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. While some bill payments can be deferred, expenses tend to add up, especially when little to no income is coming in. 

A recent National Post article referenced Erin Lowry’s financial advice book called “Broke Millennial.” In it, they discuss an emergency plan for paying bills, which includes assessing the damage, stalling fixed debt, prioritizing your needs, and riding your credit cards. 

Depending on the individual’s financial situation, this last point should be a last resort. Credit card debt can be crippling in interest payments over the long term. Wherever possible, spend what you have on essentials. For example, when making bill payments or shopping for essentials online, use your chequing accounts rather than your credit cards to avoid extra debt. We wrote posts about how ACH and EFT transfers work for more information on digital payments that don’t increase credit card debt.  

When it comes to managing money, such as assessing the damage and prioritizing needs in an emergency, consumers may need help. That’s where financial applications come in. Thankfully, there are hundreds of financial applications available right at their fingertips. We wrote about 15 helpful fintech apps that might even come in handy during this time. Consumers can stay on top of their finances, bills, savings, income, debt, goals, investments and so on right from their phones in various apps. 

Fully functioning fintech applications and open banking

However, earlier this year, the Financial Data and Technology Association (FDATA) of North America released data that 1.8 billion consumer accounts in the U.S. could lose functionality to financial apps they depend on. The FDATA North America determined that impacted consumer and small business use cases would include:

  • Over 530M loan accounts that help consumers with retirement planning, debt reduction, and financial wellness
  • Over 310M accounts to help Americans manage account balances, provide overdraft protection, and make on-time payments
  • More than 330M investment accounts
  • More than 210M accounts to help Americans save and move money
  • Almost 200M transaction accounts
  • Almost 140M accounts to protect Americans from fraud and provide identity authentication
  • Over 100M credit accounts

All of these various financial application accounts used by Americans every day could be affected if screen scraping was prohibited and only the largest financial institutions’ APIs were available because required data fields would be lost. The other, more convenient, consumer-friendly, and secure alternative is open banking

Open banking gives consumers power over their finances. Consumers have the choice to use (and approve) fintech applications in order to support their financial goals and wellbeing now and in the future. 

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