Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Networked Finance

American finance is in bad shape. The whole world's finance is in bad shape, but occasionally to a lesser extent. The finance can be represented as numbers, and thus, we can enlist the support of computers.
One thing computers are very good at is taking a large quantity of numbers, and preparing visual charts to allow a quick understanding of the big picture. I have a financial program that, if I input all of my transactions, will quickly tell me a number of very important things about my finance:
* How much money do I have, total?
* Where am I getting my money?
* What am I spending it on?
* Are there things I'm buying that I could stand to buy less of?
* Will I have enough capacity in case of an emergency? (which would cost a known amount of money)
Okay, but having to look up and enter the records is time consuming. But Also, this program was capable of receiving the input from database files, which I could download from my bank, thus having my bank do my entry for me. Same with my credit card. I would only need to do a quick correlation to show how this new data fit the picture, and it would be entered. The program also knows a common European bank-communication protocol, which doesn't help me much because American banks do not use that.
So...what if there was a common financial communication protocol that all banks, credit cards, and brokerages could communicate with? A simple unified program could obtain my information (strongly authenticated, of course, because I don't want just anyone to have access to my financial information), crunch the numbers, and report on trends, patterns, and points of interest.
After all, many financial concerns are just a matter of math. What will I owe in taxes? The government's regulations may change from year to year, but there is a formula, one the computer will easily be able to compute. Can I afford a vacation? (Vacation is projected to cost $X, we have $Y saved up and $Z income, if Y+Z is greater than X, then technically yes, but I think I'll hold off until Z is greater than X.) What if I retired? (Income would reduce, at my age to 0.)
The program could, over time, even learn suspicious patterns (a change in credit card spending may suggest that your card has been stolen or cloned), or suggest things in order to achieve a goal, like buying a house. (You can afford a house costing $X if you have an income of $Y and savings of $Z, with a W year mortgage.)
I would like to see it as an open source program so that it could be run on many different platforms.

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