Shopping (and everything) else is moving online.
Everything we do is moving to a digital platform. Even money is getting digitized, as virtually all transactions are now conducted with bank cards, credit cards, or online. Let’s use airline travel to illustrate the evolution. It used to be that you would pick up the phone (with a curly, stretchy cord) and call your travel agent to review pricing and schedules and book your flight. The agent would then mail you a paper ticket along with an invoice, which you’d mail back with a check. A few months later, you’d pack your wheelless suitcase with some paperbacks, a deck of cards and extra batteries for your Walkman. Hopefully you got yourself a seat in the non-smoking section. To plan a trip today, you simply visit a travel website, check the rates and availability of the airlines, hotels and rental cars, compare schedules and layovers, select your seat, and make the purchase using your preferred travel credit card. Your confirmation is instantly emailed, and you’re done, start to finish, in under 10 minutes.
Everything has evolved to a more efficient, paperless, and often, human-less interface. This move away from cash, phone calls and brick-and-mortar shopping has yielded significant efficiencies and rewards perks, and returned lots of time back to our lives.
The cost of these efficiencies are passwords. Endless passwords, with ever increasing minimums of password strength, required password updates and 2-factor authentication. With every service that moves online, there’s another username and password for you to remember. And update. And to earn you reprimands from the compliance team for writing them down on a sticky note next to your computer. So, assuming your brain is not a super computer perfectly calibrated for optimizing and memorizing an endless series of unique usernames and complex passwords, what are you supposed to do?
Password managers make accessing your accounts simple.
Password managers are cloud-based platforms that encrypt all of your digital account credentials and automatically log you in to your accounts with one password. Personally, I use LastPass, but there are many other password managers that provide similar services. It works like this:
- Create a free LastPass account
- Gather up all of your sticky notes where you have “secured” your credentials
- Enter the login URL, username and password for each of your online accounts
- Memorize your LastPass username and passphrase (a passphrase is a series of random words that is much more difficult to guess or hack than even a complex password with special characters. For example: donutdinosaurcatclock)
- You can now access all of your online accounts with one username and passphrase
- Burn your sticky notes
Let me back up a bit. A password manager can be logged into from any internet connected device and will automatically log you in to any account you’ve added. You simply log in to your LastPass account, locate the account you want, and click “launch”. LastPass will open the account’s login page in a new window and fill in your credentials automatically. If you want extra security, you can have LastPass generate highly secure new credentials for your accounts – credentials you will never have to write down or remember. They will all be securely saved within your LastPass account. So, you do still need to remember one set of credentials. But just one.
All in one place.
You can include any account that you log in to online: your Schwab account, email, social media, medical portal, credit cards, DropBox, HBOMax, bank, 401K, student loans and of course, your favorite travel site.
Why would you take the time to input all your account credentials into a password manager? So you never have to frantically search for that beat up address book where you keep all your passwords while your kids taunt you, mercilessly chanting “Booooooooo-mer!!” again. Maybe that’s just my house. But everyone hates passwords, and no one can remember them. I have more than 75 online accounts, and of course, each set of credentials should be different, so that if a hacker gets into one, he can’t waltz right into the others. In a perfectly compliant world, you will have a completely different username and password for each account.
If you use a password manager, you can add significant layers of security for each of your accounts and simplify your access to them exponentially. One username and one password to protect and automatically log in to all of your accounts. It not only makes your accounts significantly more secure, it makes taking advantage of the efficiencies of your online accounts infinitely simpler.
What do password managers have to do with financial planning? Plenty. Along with the other areas of our lives that are moving online, financial accounts and the tools we use to track and manage them have moved there too. And we’re always looking for ways we can add powerful functionality, better integration and enhanced user experience; however, these technological advances require users to log in. As we wait for a best-in-class, all-in-one software solution to deliver integrated investment management, financial planning and research capabilities, password managers allow users simple, one-click access to all of their accounts. They allow users to hit “delete” on password rage, and easily access the new tools and efficiencies at their disposal.