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Online financial management is a basic phrase assigned to the many different programs and applications that allow users to manage money and view financial information over the Internet. The most basic online financial management tool is an online bank account. More complex examples include budget management software, investment tracking websites, and online financial advice portals.
The term “financial management” means pretty much what it sounds like: keeping track of money, and keeping tabs on savings and spending. Online financial management, or OFM, is no different except that it revolves around the Internet. Banks, financial brokerages, and other financial institutions are making great strides to bring their services to the Internet space. Where one once had to rely on checkbook ledgers and keep track of receipts to be on top of account information, today, one often need do little more than log in to a designated site. Most bank accounts, credit card transactions, and investment growth or loss are readily visible online.
Access is an important part of online financial management, but the web tools available mean that the actual practice of managing money online can encompass much more than merely observing funds. Some of this comes from the financial institutions themselves. Other tools come in the form of third-party products.
An increasing number of banks allow customers to manage their accounts not only from their desktop computers, but also from mobile devices, or from anywhere an Internet connection can be found. A number of them even allow users to do such things as transfer money with a text message. Others offer structured savings plans and special online-only high interest bearing accounts. Customers can log in, set up these sorts of accounts, then direct that a certain amount of money be funneled to the new account at specified intervals. Many institutions also allow users to connect in real time with financial advisers for advice and planning over chat or instant message.
On the outside software side, a wide variety of programs — some free, and some available only for purchase — promise to help users manage their finances across a variety of sites. These types of applications largely fall into two categories. One focuses on helping users create budgets and manage money going out; the other is designed primarily for helping users keep track of the money they have in all of their various accounts.
Budgeting programs often challenge users to set goals, then help track spending over time. These programs are often set up to automatically download online banking information, but not always. The goal is usually to help customers get into a pattern of making savvy spending decisions, and to remain accountable for financial choices. Financial management online is often easy to break into with simple programs like this.
Programs in the second category are designed more for management of assets with different account or investment structures. Often times, online financial management software programs will download all of a user’s information from across all relevant banking and investment sites to present a single, unified view of all assets held. This prevents a user from having to log into each individual site to see his holdings. Many of these programs also have budget building and tracking capabilities. They are mainly designed to give an entire financial overview of what comes in, where it is held, what goes out, and where it is going.