Learning New Technology… Benefits Worth The Learning Curve

635956588092585447-6090119_social-mediaWhether you are as green as me to workplace tech, a 30 year vet required to attend a seminar, or a retiree simply learning a new function on a smart phone- at some point we have all been through the grind of learning new technology.  Having started with DWM in mid-April, I am still learning, but also making some significant progress.  Prior to starting, I thought this stuff would be a piece of cake.  After all, I’m 23 and kids are always helping older generations with technology- so how hard could workplace tech really be? I figured I’d have this stuff down in a couple of days.

I was so wrong…

My first week was about as overwhelming as finals week just before graduation.  I quickly realized how much time I had to dedicate to fully understand the software at DWM before I could even think about wealth management.  The success of any business begins with efficient and consistent internal practices; and in today’s age, efficiency starts with utilizing technological advances.

Day-to-day processes are a little different at a boutique firm compared to a large business.  A small company doesn’t have the luxury of calling the IT department when something is off, making it very tempting to ignore certain problems and just send an email, or make a quick phone call- it’s easy and on the surface seems harmless.  This is where firms focused on having well-defined processes separate themselves.

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If you take a look at the image above, you will see four levels of how to optimize a CRM (Contact Relationship Manager), and thus, the client experience overall.  Firms interested in continuous improvement look for ways to further optimize the yellow areas shown above, this means no shortcuts because we have seen what a difference it can make for clients.  In general, a firm cannot get to the 4th level (yellow) until the first three levels have been mastered.  DWM is proud to be a member of the “yellow club.”

Junxure, our CRM, is one of five major software systems we utilize, the others include Schwab (investments, research & trading), MoneyGuide Pro (financial planning), Orion (portfolio management), and of course- Outlook (email). So as you can imagine, there are many complicated/time-consuming projects we deal with on a weekly basis.  A single project may involve multiple email exchanges and all 5 systems!

Not to worry.  All five systems are integrated within one another at DWM.  To go along with this, we also make use of a process within Junxure known as “workflows.”  There are two types of workflows utilized at DWM, systematic and recurring.  The first type, the systematic workflow, is a step by step checklist of tasks.  Within this workflow, a team member activates a specific action which triggers a chain of events.  As one task is complete, the next is automatically assigned.  Systematic workflows can consist of just one team member or everyone at the firm.  The second type, the recurring workflow, is only entered once and assigned to specific team members at predetermined dates. An example of a recurring workflow, is something most clients will eventually utilize: money links.  This is an automatic withdrawal from a client’s Schwab investment account into their bank account.  Mostly utilized by retirees to replace income received during employment, money links are a great way to keep the appropriate amount of cash on hand while the rest of your portfolio compounds and grows in diversified investments.  For example, let’s say a client wants $1,000 withdrawn from their account every month.  We would then set up a money link with Schwab and record a workflow within Junxure.  Now, before every automatic withdrawal, a specific team member will get an action to ensure the account has sufficient cash to complete the money link.  If it does not, the team member will give our Portfolio Manager a due date and instructions within Junxure to raise cash before the money link is executed.  As the due date approaches, the action automatically moves further up on his/her to-do list.

DWM has shown me how important utilizing technology is and how much more efficient it makes everything.  I now get excited when I hear about a new update within one of our five systems because I know it is created to benefit not only our job, but more importantly, the overall client experience.

What’s Trending?

trend_watching1We are certainly living in an exciting time.  The world is facing many political, economic, demographic and technological shifts and it is fascinating to observe and participate in the changes. In 2016 especially, we are inundated with political polls and national statistics.  Often, these statistics or polls are reported to best suit a particular agenda.  It can be worrisome and makes many decisions, including those regarding our personal financial management, fraught with anxiety.  As Americans, we watch these trends and polls and try to put our world in perspective.

It is really fun to watch the technological advances!  These trends now come so quickly we can hardly imagine things before they are a reality.  A car that drives itself? Drones that deliver goods to your doorstep? A watch that contains your phone, internet service and monitors your health?  I have a personal example of the impact of new technology.  My grandfather, George Crowley, was an inventor and, as a boy, looked for ways to use electricity to better the world around him.  He rigged his mother’s curtains to open and close with the flip of a switch and made a dining room door that moved automatically.  As a Navy engineer assigned to GE, he used his talents during WWII to create heated flight suits that allowed the American bomber pilots to fly above the German anti-aircraft weapons, an ability that is noted in the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum as helping to turn the tide of the war.  That also led to a GE patent for the modern electric blanket, which, if you live in colder climates, is a wonderful luxury even now!  At the 1964 World’s Fair, my grandfather contributed to a GE film exhibit about a “House of the Future”.  In the imagination of the creators, there was a medical bed on which you would lay down each morning and receive a report on all your vitals – a quick health check-up.  We can now do this on most home exercise machines or health apps.  Everything in the 1964 smart house was voice activated or electronic in some way…video cameras in the baby’s room with monitors for the parents around the house; lights, music and security systems that were voice activated; kitchen appliances that allowed for “instant” cooking or multifunctional chores like today’s microwave ovens or food processors.  Amazing innovations in the 1950’s and 60’s and taken for granted nowadays.

It is also interesting to look back in history and see which economic and political predictions have been accurate.  John Naisbitt, who wrote “Megatrends” in 1982, outlined some of the challenges that lay ahead because of the economic shift from the industrial age to a more global information-based economy.  The issues of population increases, environmental stresses, militant religious forces and an explosion in the increase of information technology are trends discussed in the book.  They seem obvious now, but were certainly less so when originally written.  Our economy has had to adjust, rapidly at times, to these economic and political shifts and certainly impacts our life in this century!

Americans are facing some significant demographic changes ahead.  By 2055, the U.S. will not have one single ethnic or racial majority, according to the Pew Research Center (www.pewresearch.org) in the latest report on their population findings.  In this political year, with much focus on immigration issues, Asia has replaced Latin America as the biggest source of new immigrants to the U.S.  In fact, the Pew Research Center found that between 2009 and 2014, more Mexicans returned to Mexico than arrived in the USA.  Americans, it continued, are more likely to embrace our country’s diversity than consider it a burden.  The demographic group called Millenials, young adults born after 1980, are the generation to watch.  Millenials are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation.  They also tend to consider themselves more politically independent than their elders and are optimistic about their financial future, despite the burdens of student debt and a weak job market.  And this is no surprise, but we have changes in our families, too.  Marriage rates and two-parent households are dropping and, with more women in the workforce than ever before, at least half of the traditional two-parent families have both parents working full-time.  Whatever these trends portend, Americans seem to take them in stride.

So we sit back and watch the technological genius and demographic, economic and political changes with fascination and perhaps, at times, with trepidation.  At DWM, we embrace change and strive to help navigate and make sense of at least some of these trends for you.

My stand-up desk converter should be here any day… they say sitting is the new smoking, so this may be a trend that is here to stay.  My grandfather would have loved it.

Quick Bytes: Tech Tips for Real Life

binary-code-475664_12801. Where not to use your debit card: Although your debit card may look just like a credit card, there are some key differences and places you really shouldn’t use it:

  • Online or over the phone. If your card information is hijacked, your bank account could be wiped out and you might have a cash flow problem until your claim is processed and the funds are reimbursed. If the same thing happens with a credit card, the worst case scenario is you can’t use that card until it’s sorted out.
  • Use a credit card for big ticket items, recurring payments, or anything else you might potentially have a dispute over. Besides rewards program benefits, credit cards offer dispute rights that debit cards typically do not.
  • Don’t use your debit card for future travel or hotel reservations because they will keep your information in their system until your trip and it will be at risk of a data breach for an extended period of time.
  • Lastly, don’t use your debit card anywhere ‘risky’. Restaurants, businesses you haven’t dealt with before, and self-checkout or ATM equipment that looks like it’s been tampered with can put you at risk of having your information stolen and account drained.

2. What ever happened to my Social Security statements? Remember when you used to receive a report from Social Security with your yearly earnings history and estimated benefit in the mail each year? It’s been a while since the Social Security Administration stopped mailing those, but you can still request one by completing a form. Better yet, go to socialsecurity.gov/mystatement to set up an account. (Be prepared- they ask some very specific questions to help prevent identify theft.) With an online account you can keep track of your earnings, get estimated future benefits, update your address, start or modify your direct deposit information if you’re receiving benefits, etc. We urge everyone to verify your earnings annually and monitor your estimated benefit so you don’t have any surprises when you’re ready to retire.

3. Scams- not just for email anymore: Most people who have used email for years are pretty savvy when it comes to avoiding common scams. (I.e. when you receive an email riddled with grammatical errors, from an unknown person in another country, claiming someone left you $10MM or that you won a lottery you didn’t enter, you don’t open it). However, scam artists are always adapting. Many have started using more believable angles like ‘delivery failure notification’ emails that look like a well-known carrier is notifying you they weren’t able to deliver a package. If you click on the tracking number or attachment, you will inadvertently download malicious software. They also target certain groups who are likely to be interested in a certain ‘opportunity’, such as the work from home scam recently targeted at university students. Other recent scams include:

  • Fake (but familiar sounding) charities soliciting donations after a natural disaster,
  • Notices of unpaid parking tickets or other government fees or taxes (where the user may be directed to an official looking website and enter personal information in addition to paying the ‘fine’), and
  • Family/friend in distress emails where it looks as if your friend or family member is stranded in another country and needs money to obtain new documents and get home.

Always verify before you do anything. Have established charities you give to- don’t accept solicitations. (You can verify their worthiness through websites such as CharityWatch). Received a notification of an unpaid parking ticket or IRS back taxes you didn’t know you owed? Look up the phone number of the city or agency that allegedly sent it and call them to inquire. (Don’t rely on contact information listed on the notice). Didn’t know your friend was in Spain? Call them. The Federal Trade Commission, FBI, and Snopes are good places to check if you’re suspicious of something.

In the last few years, as social media has rapidly grown in popularity, scammers have followed. Scams can be found everywhere: LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, Instagram, Google+; you name it! Because most users aren’t as experienced with these platforms as they are with email, they may be more likely to fall for a scam. Countless people on Twitter and Facebook forward chain letters they would have deleted immediately had they shown up through email. (Apple is not giving away the newest iPhone to the first 500 people to repost/retweet the message. Sorry). Other common, more malicious scams, include being directed to fake homepages that look like the real thing. For example, shortened URLs are common on Twitter. But since you can’t see the actual address, you don’t know what site it’s really taking you to until it’s too late. If you enter your login information you just inadvertently gave it to a scammer. You’ve been phished. Now they can use your account to post friend/family in distress messages (see above) and take their money and information, and so on. Other than verifying before acting, make sure your spyware, malware, and antivirus are always up to date. Scams are nothing new but they are always changing to take advantage of the latest news, trends, apps, and seasons (ie tax season or holiday giving). They use psychology to appeal to our charitable, greedy, religious, social, or law-abiding nature.

Mind-blowing Technologies Expected in 20 Years

AI handKeeping up with all the change in the world is not easy. Futurist George Dvorsky wrote a very interesting article this month in which he outlined 10 futuristic technologies that he believes will appear by the 2030s. These include artificial intelligent personal assistants, anti-aging intervention, megascale geoengineering to combat climate change, personal fabricators and industrial scale desalination. They blew my mind. Here’s why:

AI personal assistants. Many of us have used SIRI on our Apple iphone. It responds to specific language cues and can access the internet. According to Mr. Dvorsky, that’s nothing compared to what will be available twenty years from now. Our personal assistants will be available 24/7 and exhibit an uncanny level of general intelligence. They will know everything about us and be our virtual clones. They’ll write emails for us, book appointments, perform menial tasks and even anticipate our needs.

Computers Everywhere. Computers are getting smaller and will be everywhere, but for the most part, completely invisible-absorbed into our surroundings. They will be in our clothes, our fashion accessories and even our contact lenses. And, these devices will have a certain amount of “ambient intelligence” to help them perform autonomously under specific conditions. Mr. Dvorsky believes that in the 2030s, we will be completely surrounded by computers, but unaware of their presence.

Anti-Aging Intervention. There is nothing available today to slow down or reverse the effects of aging. But, there may be in 20 years. Futurists and gerontologists are not sure what form this intervention will take. It may be a genetic tweak. Today, there are studies being conducted to map the genetic constitutions of supercentenarians to isolate the factors that extend their lives. It might involve therapy on our telomeres, which are like plastic tips on shoelaces because they prevent chromosome ends from fraying and sticking to one another. Or, says Mr.Dvorsky, it could be an initiative to replenish our mitochondria, the cell’s power producers. Perhaps I should start thinking about inviting folks to my 120th birthday party. Could be a wild event.

Megascale Geoengineering Project. Historically low levels of sea ice, rampant wildfires, superstorms, and record breaking are hard to ignore. The climate is changing. Already some scientists are working on a geoengineering solution to reverse the effects of rampant carbon emissions. Their solution is cloud whitening- the seeding of marine stratocumulus clouds with a generous supply of tiny sea water particles. Other techniques include artificial trees, enhanced weathering, ocean fertilization and alkalinity enhancement.

Personal Fabricators at Home. Most everyone knows that Jay Leno owns lots of antique cars and motorcycles. But, did you know that he uses 3D printing to produce parts to repair them? With 3D printing, you download specs, or scan a part and produce the finished product at home. 3D printing can be used for day-to-day items and electronics, vaccines, self-assembling robots and more. As more blueprints are available online, 3D printing will likely be quite disruptive to traditional manufacturing.

The Oceans Will Quench the World’s Thirst. Mr. Dvorsky suggests that industrial-scale desalination is expected by the 2030s. Using advancements in solar power, we will be able to build massive concentrated solar power plants that utilize the residual heat to strip ocean water of its salt. Experts predict that growing freshwater deficits could be increasingly covered sometime in the next 10-20 years. These desalination plants could produce most of the safe drinking water by the year 2030 and afterwards.

Yes, change is everywhere. At DWM, we embrace change. We are committed to understanding the new economy, the ever-changing investment options and all the other tools available to give every client better information and better choices to protect and enhance their legacies.