This month, Apple unveiled its sixth iPhone and its first smartwatch. But for CPAs like myself, the focus was on a new service, not a new product.
During the same glitzy press conference, Apple announced its own digital wallet service called Apple Pay. What media attention it received came in the form of questions. “Will Apple Pay kill PayPal?” a CNN headline asked. (Short answer: No.) USA Today wondered, “Will Apple Pay be safer than credit cards?” (Not necessarily, but it won’t be less safe.)
My concern is something else entirely.
If Apple Pay takes off, you’ll not only be able to buy clothes in the mall with a wave of your phone, you’ll also be able to buy a Coke from a soda machine without fumbling for a single and change.
That convenience is good news to those possessing iron-clad financial self-control. It’s bad news for those who struggle with temptation now or who engage in “shopping therapy” when they’re feeling a little blue.
As a credit counselor for more than two decades, I’ve heard horror stories from otherwise mature men and women who had no clue how much they were spending — because they swiped their old-fashioned credit card without really paying attention.
If they can’t master plastic, how will they tame their phone spending?
Using tech the right way
I know how this sounds: “Howard, you’re no fun. This tech is cool!”
I am fun! And I agree Apple’s technology is even more fun. I’m not a Luddite — I just want Americans to embrace technology that can help them save money instead of spend it.
Here would be my request: Everyone who pays to get an iPhone and use Apply Pay, please get a free version of PowerWallet. It’s a technology called PFM, short for “personal finance manager.” There are many available, and your bank may offer one, but I like PowerWallet the best — because I created it.
These programs securely link to your bank account and show you what you’re spending and where it’s going — often with nifty graphics that make managing your money less of a chore. When I was just starting out as a CPA, you had to keep a budget by jotting down numbers on worksheets or typing numbers onto a spreadsheet.
So don’t get me wrong, I love technology. I use it myself every day. I simply believe for every spending technology you embrace, try a saving one, too.
Howard Dvorkin is a CPA and chairman of Debt.com, an educational resource for those who want to conquer all forms of debt in their lives.