It’s useful to step back every now and then and survey the landscape. Change in anything can signal opportunities, threats, a necessity to adapt, or a need to get out.
Over the last year, here are a few of the things I’m noticing in the personal finance space:
- Mobile banking: iPhones and Androids are all the rage right now, and one of the coolest developments of the last year is the rise of remote deposits. The ability to get a check into your account with nothing more than a phone is amazing. As soon as paying anywhere by phone becomes commonplace (it used to feel like science fiction), we’ll have little need for wallets anymore.
- Interest Rates: Rates continue to plummet which is bad news for savers and great news for anyone who needs to get a loan or refinance. Some mortgage rates are now cheaper than my “low-cost” school loan was 6 years ago. If you’re able to borrow money today, it could be a very wise move.
- Real Estate: Real estate is still a mixed bag, but there are definitely signs in some areas of a bottom, and even a recovery. With a recent onslaught of foreclosures being processed, the net result remains to be seen, but it’s possible that market stability is back. If you’re buying a home today, remember two things: interest rates are expected to remain low for at least a few more years, and to avoid any “spikes” caused by people running up the prices of homes just to try and “catch the bottom.”
- Internet Use: Personal finance is spreading to the Web, though it’s still for a small segment of the population. More and more friends are using sites like Mint.com to aggregate their financial lives. Closer to home, we are using YNAB 4.0’s new Android App to sync our budgets on the go. As Web users grow more comfortable with having their financial information online, I think we’ll see a rise of these services and an incredible market opportunity for anyone in this space.
- Personal finance bloggers: There are literally more than 1,000 personal finance bloggers today, and the space is infinitely more crowded than when I started, and certainly more so than when the big boys began blogging. People are also more interested in simplicity and are more pressed than ever for time. The end result is that to the best of my perception, 95% of the personal finance traffic is limited to the “Top 10” or even Top 5 sites. Fortunately, I’ve also seen a handful of blogs rise quickly in the ranks to get into this top group, which means that voices are not being drowned out.
What did you observe this past year?