Cash is dead. Why are we still pretending it isn’t?

But they haven’t brought older Australians with them. Academics point out a concerning trend: the financial literacy of even the most competent people declines as we get older, making adoption harder the later we leave it in our lives. So what are we waiting for?

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Only 9 per cent of over-65s in this country use digital wallets. And that’s tripled in the last three years. Those adopters are reaping the benefits quite silently, while those who haven’t are outspoken about their concerns. Most don’t realise the benefits of digital transacting are enjoyed by both retailers and consumers alike. If it’s just seven years or less until the end of cash, we have a big job to do to drive up adoption.

Today, let’s look at those benefits, then at the steps people need to take to get on the digital wagon safely, building their confidence over time.

The advantages of digital payments are as widespread for seniors as for other age groups. Embracing digital transactions provides unparalleled convenience. Gone are the days of hunting for an ATM, lugging around a bulky wallet of cards, or having to make a trip to the branch to move money around.

Instead, you can carry multiple credit cards, debit cards and loyalty cards in one place on your phone or digital watch. And a simple tap completes a transaction seamlessly and without any physical hand-to-hand contact.

You can log into online banking and reconcile your payments in real time, allowing you deep transparency of your spending. And, more importantly, digital payments offer enhanced security compared to traditional cash transactions.

While tales of cyber hacks and scams may evoke fear, they are really modern counterparts to the age-old risks of physical theft, like handbag snatching, store hold-ups, and home break-ins targeting cash. The upside is that any theft is free of violence and can usually be avoided with good digital caution, which needs to be part of the education process.

Digital wallets are increasingly the preferred currency in urban and regional areas, reducing the need for retailers (and everyday people) to handle, bank and secure cash. As a daughter of a retired shop-owner for whom banking the daily cash takings was fraught with danger, I think that’s good news.

So, it’s time to get practical. If you have the ability and you’re resisting the shift to digital transactions, or you know someone who is, it’s time to help yourselves or them across to the new world. Sure, you’ll need to have a laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone to get started. But that’s not as much of an issue as it used to be with refurbished devices available at reasonable costs.

Now, here are the things I think you should plan to learn about and use in order:

Start with web-based online banking: We’re 20 years into online banking. And most banks now pride themselves on the ease of use of their banking systems. Many have teams that will help seniors to set up and learn to use their online banking. This is your foundation stone for digital transactions. Everything else gets layered on top.

Next, learn to use your bank’s mobile app: Download your bank’s app and learn how to check your balance, transfer funds and pay bills on your phone. Check it weekly and learn to use it like you did a bank book in the old days. It’s so much more powerful.

Then, start using the digital wallet on your devices: This is technology on your phone, watch or tablet that allows you to pay for your transactions with one tap, simply by waving it over the eftpos machine, selecting the account or credit card facility you want to use and approving with facial recognition or a password. It’s not that different to using an eftpos card, but in reality, it’s more secure and much more flexible.

I know I’m opening a can of worms with this one, but it’s important we all do our bit to help our older Australians embrace digital transacting. If we help them start, and encourage them to build their confidence slowly, we might all arrive at the end of cash more calmly, together.

Bec Wilson is the author of the bestseller How to Have an Epic Retirement. She writes a weekly newsletter at www.epicretirement.net and she is the host of the Prime Time podcast.

  • Advice given in this article is general in nature and is not intended to influence readers’ decisions about investing or financial products. They should always seek their own professional advice that takes into account their own personal circumstances before making financial decisions.

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