Home > Articles > Business & Management > Finance & Investing

Easy Money: Setting Up Your Financial Life

If you’ve got a computer and access to the Internet, you’ve got the tools to simplify, streamline, and safeguard your finances. Do it right, and you’ll have a bulletproof system that ensures every base is covered and that significantly reduces your money stress.
This chapter is from the book

There’s a problem with managing your finances the old-fashioned way—it just doesn’t work. By the time you get a statement telling you your bank balance, you’re already overdrawn by three checks. By the time you get your credit card statement, the thief who has taken over your account has wreaked havoc. Your quarterly 401(k) statements might tell you how some of your investments are doing, but how does that account tie in with your spouse’s workplace retirement plan and your IRAs?

And then there are all the fees. Late fees. Over-limit fees. Failure-to-keep-minimum-balance fees. One slip in your money management can cost you plenty.

Monitoring your finances in today’s complex world needs to be more real-time. You need to be able to anticipate problems, spot fraud, and move money quickly from place to place as needed.

Fortunately, if you’ve got a computer and access to the Internet, you’ve got the tools to simplify, streamline, and safeguard your finances. Do it right, and you’ll have a bulletproof system that ensures every base is covered and that significantly reduces your money stress.

Here’s what you need to do to get started.

Your Financial Toolkit

The following are essential components for streamlining and simplifying your financial life.

Sign Up for Online Access

Internet access is essential to smart, timely money management. You need to be able to see, 24/7, your balances and recent transactions in your bank, brokerage, credit card, and investment accounts.

Phone access to your accounts is better than nothing, but it’s a poor substitute. You’ll have to write down balances and transactions rather than being able to see them in front of you. You may also be more limited in how far you can look back; calling up historical information will certainly take more time than if you were using Web access.

Link Your Accounts

Think about how you could get money from one account to another in a hurry. With online access at your bank, for example, you can typically transfer money from savings to checking and back with a few mouse clicks. But what if you need to get cash into the IRA at your brokerage account, and the April 15 deadline is a day away? Your brokerage may offer a service that links electronically to your checking account, making such transfers easy.

Many people link their credit cards to their checking accounts for quick, convenient payments, although the need to do that is lessened if you use online bill paying, as I recommend later.

Allow Your Paycheck to Be Deposited Automatically

Your time is too precious to waste it standing in line at an ATM or teller’s window. Besides, it isn’t safe to run around with checks or excessive amounts of cash in your wallet. Sign up for direct deposit and have your paycheck safely and automatically plopped into your checking account.

In fact, almost any amount of money you receive regularly is a candidate for direct deposit. You just need the payer to cooperate, and many will, since processing electronic payments is typically a lot cheaper for them than generating and mailing checks.

Set Up Overdraft Protection

Protect yourself from bouncing checks by asking your bank or credit union to set up overdraft protection for your account. With true overdraft protection, money is automatically drawn from a line of credit, credit card, or savings account if you write a check and there’s not enough cash in your checking account to cover it. You typically pay an annual fee of $20 to $50 for the service, plus interest on any amounts borrowed. Usually, the total cost is less than one or two bounced checks.

By the way, overdraft protection is different from “bounce protection,” which is a different and much inferior service that’s offered automatically by many credit unions and banks. With bounce protection, you’re allowed to overdraw your account, but the money doesn’t come out of your savings or a line of credit. In essence, the bank is lending you the cash but charging you rather hefty fees for the privilege. I’ve heard from people who have racked up literally thousands of dollars in bounce protection fees in a single year.

Also some financial institutions play dirty by automatically adding the amount of your bounce protection to the balance you see when you check your account at an ATM. The result is that you appear to have hundreds of dollars more in your account than you actually do. This just increases the chances you’ll overdraw the account and owe the bank fees.

If your bank is pushing bounce protection, try to opt out in favor of real overdraft protection. If you can’t, start looking for another bank.

Open at Least One High-Yield Savings Account That’s Electronically Linked to Your Checking Account

You’ll want to keep your money working hard for you, and that means getting a higher rate than you’ll find at the typical brick-and-mortar bank. You don’t have to switch banks, though—just look for an online bank that allows transfers to and from your current checking account.

Three good places to check are ING Direct (http://home.ingdirect.com), HSBC Direct (http://www.hsbcdirect.com) and EmigrantDirect.com. At this writing, all three offer high-rate, FDIC-insured savings accounts with no account minimums and no monthly fees. ING and HSBC also offer free checking accounts that pay a decent interest rate and offer free bill pay; see their Web sites for details.

You may decide to have more than one high-rate savings account to keep track of your money. As you’ll read in the next chapter, many people find it convenient to have one account for emergency savings, another for irregular bills, and a third for “fun money.” As long as you don’t have to mess with account minimums or fees, you can set up as many of these accounts as you like.

Consolidate Your Accounts

Generally, the fewer accounts you have to keep track of, the better.

If you’ve got 401(k) or other retirement accounts scattered among your last few employers, for example, see if you can roll all the balances into your current plan. If your employer won’t allow that, or you don’t like the investment choices in your plan, you can roll the balances into a regular individual retirement account (IRA).

If you’ve got a wallet full of credit cards, single out one or two for everyday use. You needn’t close the others—in fact, you probably shouldn’t if you’re trying to improve your credit scores or if you’re in the market for a major loan. But reducing the number of cards you use regularly means you’ll have fewer due dates, interest rates, and terms to keep track of. (See Chapter 3, “Get the Most Out of Your Credit Cards,” for how to select the best card or cards for your spending patterns.)

Bank and brokerage accounts also tend to proliferate. Ideally, you’d have only one checking account to monitor, but that’s not always possible. For some couples, both partners have a separate checking account as well as a joint one. If you run a business, you’ll need separate accounts for that. And, as noted earlier, some people really like to open individual accounts when they’re saving for specific purposes, such as having one savings account for an emergency fund and another that’s dedicated to a future home purchase.

You might be tempted to consolidate all your financial accounts, or at least as many as possible, at one bank or brokerage. Your financial institution would certainly like that; many are trying to capture as much of their customers’ money as possible. Banks have brokerage arms, brokerages offer home loans, and everybody’s hawking credit cards.

The problem I’ve always had with the one-stop-shopping approach is that no single financial institution does everything well. Your bank may offer free checking, a nice online bill pay system, and a great ATM network (like ours does), but it may have lousy rates on savings and mediocre rewards programs for its credit cards (like ours does). Your brokerage may offer low-cost access to great mutual funds but too few ATMs and high rates on loans.

Instead of having clear advantages, this kind of consolidation involves compromises, which means there’s a cost to you. You might decide to go ahead anyway but remember to review your situation at least annually to see if redeploying some of your accounts elsewhere makes sense.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020