I have to admit to being slightly in awe of my accountant Michael. My visits with him are rather like those with my doctor, except Michael’s never once asked me to unbutton my blouse. Instead, he intimately exposes my financial vulnerability, running a slender finger down the trail of indecent consumerism that has become my life of late. He looks at me almost tenderly, like a father to a small child, one eyebrow raised in Roger Moorish amusement. Smiles an easy smile, and tells me that ‘managing money is not my forte’.
So money management doesn’t come high on my list of fun things to do – ‘big deal’! Well actually it is, isn’t it? I mean, to be an independent woman of the new millennium, we should all be able to control our finances without feeling the need to lean on a father figure for financial support and an occasional sin-absolving slap on the wrist. So, this month I go in search of the perfect way to manage my money – via the web!
First stop is http://www.egg.com and I must admit to being impressed. The site is well thought out and extremely easy to navigate. Egg gives you the option to open a variety of individualised accounts to suit your lifestyle. The Savings account option offers the highest rate of interest (currently 6.55%) with instant access to boot! – not bad me thinks! Next I discovered Smile (www.smile.co.uk); the Co-op’s Internet Banking arm and is a well constructed site, full of fast loading links and information. The interest rates offered are not as high as those from Egg, but Smile does offer a £500 overdraft facility at no extra charge, which could prove to be extremely useful for spend-a-lots like me, plus, being part of the Co-op they offer the security of investing in a safe, familiar UK brand name with ethical investment as an underwritten assurance.
Most of the High Street banks offer what’s called ‘Home’ or ‘PC’ banking. This should not be confused with Internet banking as it does not use the web to the same extent, but instead relies upon software to activate the various features available within your account perimeters. The internet is utilised merely as an access point to carry account information from one storage area to another. This has several advantages, the main one being cost. It is obviously considerably cheaper to set up all your various transaction requests off-line and then to transport them to your branch via the web rather than to have to carry out everything online. Also, by being part of a bank that has PC banking as a separate branch of its operation, you always have other money managing options available to you should your computer crash!
Stretching your dough!
If you’re looking to invest in stocks, shares or other schemes via the web, the Financial Information Net Directory (www.find.co.uk) is a good place to start. It lists all manner of money management links, from banks to stockbrokers, from ‘up to the minute’ market rates to offshore tax breaks. It’s all here in one easy to follow colour-coded guide. Options XPress (www.optionsxpress.eu) brings the trill of the stock market to your desktop as you peruse the ‘Free Investing Whitepapers’ the ‘Virtual Trade’ option or the ‘Trading Toolbox’ which offers everything you need to get started in online trading.
In the Pink!
If ‘reading all about it’ is your bag, look up the Financial Times online (www.financialtimes.com) and keep up with the Mr Dows and Ms Jones’ of this world, minus the pink paper! It’s all out there on the web! These days, there’s no reason why anyone shouldn’t take full charge of their finances. Whether you choose to wiggle your mouse, or manually scour your statements. In today’s shifting world towards total consumer control, we have no excuse for not taking our finances firmly by the reigns and guiding them steadily towards our individual future prosperity.