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Being open to technological enrichment


By Joel Dresang

Working remotely recently, I attended a Zoom meeting by securing my computer tablet on a closet shelf so I could stand eye-level to the screen and not aggravate a chronic crick in my neck. It occurred to me afterward that I am not getting younger but that technology can help.

Later that day, I happened upon the term “digital immigrant.” That’s someone, like me, who didn’t grow up in the computer age. (I learned to type on a manual typewriter. To Google anything, I used a rotary telephone to dial the Ready Reference desk at the library.) Anyone younger is considered a “digital native” to whom handling devices and apps and the internet is almost second nature.

Regardless of age, technology is playing an increasing role in keeping track of and communicating about our investments.

Even back in 2013, a White House task force identified technology as key to helping Americans make financial decisions quicker, easier and with more robust information and advice. Last month, a Wharton economist identified willingness to use technology as one of three ways those of us in our 50s and 60s can prepare for the next decade.

“Be as up to date as possible with everything that has to do with tech,” Mauro F. Guillén told the online publication Next Avenue. “We’re in an explosion of technology and some of the biggest beneficiaries will be people over sixty. Tech has a lot to offer.”

The trouble is how easy it is to pooh-pooh technological developments, to see them as a bother rather than a boon. It doesn’t help that financial apps tend to be designed with little consideration for older users, as a recent report from the nonprofit Financial Health Network suggests.

Plus, there’s the notion that old dogs can’t learn new tricks, which a study by AARP debunks. Its surveys show growing ownership of devices by adults older than 50, with adoption rates comparable to younger generations and high usage. One concern, though, is that older consumers have been slow to consider financial technology.

Other Money Talk articles from Joel Dresang

“Despite the fact that adoption of technologies such as smartphones, tablets, and the internet is widespread among adults 50 and older, fintech adoption is lagging behind,” the Financial Health Network said in its report.

I am not a Luddite. Of the technologies I have needed to do my work and live my life, I’d like to think I understand enough or am sufficiently trainable so that I can catch on.

I am not an early adopter, however. I don’t crave the newest contraption or the latest app. I tend to overlook innovations until I’m convinced I need to upgrade. I focus on what I need for how I use technology.

For instance, I do not have a laptop computer. My neck prefers a desktop. For portability, I got an iPad mini to read while commuting on the bus. Lately, I use it to take a break from the desk. I just lift it so I don’t have to bend my neck as much.

During the pandemic, I bought a $20 adapter that mounts the iPad on a camera tripod, allowing me to use the device hands-free at whatever height I need. (I was out of town without the tripod when I had to rely on the closet shelf.)

My age defines me as a digital immigrant, but I have learned to embrace technology that makes my life easier, especially when I think of retirement and beyond. For instance:

  • I wrote previously of my ongoing phaseout of financial paperwork.
  • I am among the minority of Americans tracking my personal Social Security information online.
  • I regularly use the secure Morningstar web portal* to view progress in my investment portfolio and its components.
  • Similarly, I have online access to my 401(k) and my Health Savings Account.
  • Between direct deposit, online access and mobile banking, I can’t imagine having to visit my credit union.

As a result of being home more via the pandemic, I have been more mindful of how I use technology and thus, more open to ways I can use technology better.

How to get more in tune with technology

After asking one of my daughters about her noise-canceling wireless headphones and then trying them out, I found a reasonably priced pair for myself online. They have made a difference. Not only can I listen to the Money Talk Podcast and other shows while everyone else is asleep in the morning, but when others in the house see me wearing them, they act as a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Joel Dresang is vice president-communications at Landaas & Company.

*Landaas & Company clients not using their web portal should contact their advisory team to set it up.

Learn more
Privacy, Identity & Online Security, from the Federal Trade Commission
Tools and Calculatorsfrom the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
How to Avoid Fraud, from the Securities and Exchange Commission
Fraud and Your Investment Accounts During COVID-19 Pandemic, from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
6 ways to get more from virtual appointmentsby Joel Dresang
(initially posted October 2, 2020)

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