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With the rise of tap and go, we're getting ever closer to cashless. There are plenty of apps and platforms for monitoring your money and using paper for bills and statements is becoming a thing of the past. We spoke to CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional Chris Giaouris of Chronos Private about the pros and cons of going paperless and coming up with the right approach for your situation.
The growing availability of digital technology for managing everything from your super and tax to bill payments and bank statements is leading us all towards less paper in our lives. In Chris’s view, this can only be a good thing, both for the environment and for our increasingly packed schedules. “I believe that everyone can benefit from going paperless with their finances,” he says. “As human beings, we’re bound to feel better with less clutter in our lives, including paperwork that we don’t really need to have lying around. And the environmental benefit goes without saying. In every part of my business, I now think very carefully before printing something out and putting it in an envelope.”
In Chris’s experience, saying goodbye to paper statements and records is something we have to get used to, whether we like it or not. “To some extent, people don’t really have a choice in the matter of going digital with financial record keeping and communication,” he says. “The world of financial institutions and corporations has changed in the last decade. The trend towards digital for everything from utility bills to Centrelink benefits means everyone is getting used to managing their affairs without relying on paper. When we decided to stop mailing statements to clients, some did let us know they preferred to continue getting their paper copies. So we kept sending them to a handful of people, but the majority were happy to make the transition.”
The drawbacks of digital
With businesses large and small moving away from paper communications and transactions, getting something in the mail is becoming increasingly rare. This can either give paper more or less power than it had when letters arrived daily. “We now have so many tasks to attend to in the digital realm, it can be hard to keep track of them all,” says Chris. “Paper can still act as a reminder, a prompt to action. On the other hand, when something arrives in the mail these days, we can be quick to write it off as junk mail. One of my clients was sent a routine alert from their super fund closing their account with a low balance. They ignored it, thinking it was something routine. The account was closed automatically, and with it went an insurance policy that was a key part of their financial plan.”
One step at a time
So can a paper trail still be an important part of your money toolkit? According to Chris, it really depends on what you’re used to. “If someone has been doing something the same way their whole life – going into their bank branch, getting paper statements in the mail – it can be challenging to make the change to digital. With our new clients, we never force it on them especially if they’re completely unfamiliar with the whole paperless process and quite comfortable with the way they’re doing things already.”
It’s often the case that Chronos Private clients will start to pick up the paperless habit from Chris and his team, even when they’re new to it. “When we meet with a brand new client, we start with things that need immediate action, which is different for everyone,” says Chris. “If you’re looking at getting your finances in order to buy a home, we’ll be asking for tax returns, super fund and bank statements and payslips. I let clients know I’m going to scan their original copies and either give them back or discard them if they’re no longer needed. At that point, we offer clients the option of using our cloud based storage to keep digital copies of all their financial documents. Many take us up on it, but there’s no pressure to do so. Some clients still prefer to scan and send their documents by email and keep the paper copy themselves.”
Working with what’s available
While this digital solution is often taken up by clients, Chris will always aim to work with whatever approach suits the individual. “We want to work with clients and their finances in a way that’s convenient and comfortable for them,” says Chris. “Keeping things simple is really important. A lot of the tools and apps out there claiming to be a one-stop-shop for managing money and paperwork are very complex to set up and there are few people who have the time to invest in using them properly. When a third party tool comes along that works seamlessly with the major banks and other financial institutions, we’d be more inclined to look at this for our business and clients.”
Chris may be a fan of using digital innovation to simplify paperwork for clients, but his business is still founded on face-to-face interaction, which can’t be replaced by technology. “Chronos Private is a personal business so we have some old-school ways of doing things,“ he says. “When I want to brainstorm ideas and solutions for a client I use scrap paper because sketching out a plan gets me thinking creatively. Problem solving with a keyboard and screen doesn’t feel quite the same.”