New Years Resolutions

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Editor's Note: New Year. New Resolutions. As 2017 get's off to a start, many people are putting together plans to succeed in the resolutions they have set forth. As we all know, without a strong support sytem, many of these resolutions can be seemingly impossible to reach. For those that have set resolutions involving finances, often the most difficult to keep, the role financial institutions play for these individuals is going to be the key to the success or failure of these goals. 

Save for a new car, pay off credit card debt, stick to a defined budget, save for retirement. New year. New resolutions. For many people, resolutions involving finance can often be the most difficult to keep, especially without a strong support system.

To be successful at accomplishing any financial goal, it helps to have your primary financial institution directly involved. The question is, does your financial institution support you in the way you need? Below is a list of attributes your bank or credit union should offer if they are serious about helping you better manage your financial life.

Transaction Categorization

If you don't have a good grasp on where your money is going, it is nearly impossible to track your performance relative to a budget or a specific financial goal. Too many financial institutions expect their customers to comb through transactions and extract data for budgeting and goal setting. Banks and credit unions that are committed to meeting the needs of their customers and members automate the process of transaction categorization. This means, without any heavy lifting, you can get a view to a budget, categories of spending compared over time and more. That is the kind of data that will help you in the hunt for more financial stability.

Improved Customer Experience

Finances are one of the leading causes of stress in our society. Too many financial institutions add to that stress by providing suboptimal customer experiences (UX) in branch, online and on the go. If you were at all disenchanted with the idea of trying to rein in your bad habits relative to your finances, then an inconsistent, complicated and clunky UX seals the deal, sending you off to buy that thing you definitely don't need to help you forget your money woes. Financial institutions that are not making UX a primary focus are sending you a message that says, "Sorry, Charlie, hope you can hold it together but if not remember we are happy to charge you fees for overdrafts, etc."

Amplified Data Analytics Use

Most of us realize that every move we make is being tracked one way or another, by somebody. These days, that does not just include our browser history but through geolocation tracking, it can mean wherever we go in the physical world. Your financial institution has accumulated knowledge about you that makes what many retailers know about you pale by comparison. According to studies on privacy, many people do not mind sharing data with another party IF that data is used to deliver a value-add to them; e.g., rerouting you to get you to your destination sooner, reminding you of appointments, recommending your type of restaurants in the city you are about to visit. Banks and credit unions also have the opportunity to use the data they have about you to provide advice, products and services that can help you achieve your financial goals. You owe it to yourself to find an institution that does just that.

These may not seem like big "asks" given the fact that your money rests in these financial institutions. However, many banks and credit unions are still struggling with how to deliver even the simplest of these (e.g., automated transaction categorization) to their customers and members. Truth is the tools exist for them to deliver all three of these capabilities. So, if you find your institution to be less than enthusiastic about supporting your resolutions, perhaps you should resolve to find a different bank or credit union to serve you in 2017.