Personal Finance: Internet Investor - Your pension is in the oven

YOU MAY have heard about the Microwave Bank, a microwave oven that can manage your personal finances while defrosting your television dinner. Well almost. The microwave, which plugs into the Internet, is a concept developed by United States company NCR Corporation, and Knowledge Laboratory.

You cannot buy one. However, you can watch a demonstration on the web. The microwave has a touch-sensitive screen incorporated in its door. It may never make it to the shops in the high street but it is surely a harbinger of things to come.

There is no reason why Internet access needs to be managed through a PC and keyboard. The idea of surfing via the television will soon be realised through digital television. In fact, except for those who wish to bring work home, there may be little reason to have a home computer within the next couple of years. Web surfing, e-mail and games will all be accessible via digital television, and maybe the microwave, the toaster and the fridge- freezer.

In another significant development, Vogue - the women's fashion magazine - has linked up with the UK's only Internet-based PEP provider to offer its online readers access to financial investment information.

Conde Nast Publications, publishers of Vogue, has one of the biggest web sites aimed at young professional women. The site explains how to make money work for you and how netPEP's products can help.

Without wishing to cast aspersions on fellow "netizens" - an appalling American neologism coined to describe those who spend time on the Internet - I find the Microwave Bank and Vogue's interest in personal finance on the Internet soothing to a condition I occasionally suffer from. It is known as `anoraksia nervosa' and the more accessible and inclusive the Internet becomes, the less I shall suffer from it!

Indeed, in a broad sense, personal financial planning is all about lifestyle choices and, perhaps, it is time more of us realized that. Which brings me to the latest in Internet banking - the unveiling of Citibank's Internet Banking service.

Citibank's latest offering allows you to pay bills online, set up standing orders and transfer funds to other accounts. The service includes foreign currency accounts and the promise of Euro accounts from next January. You need a PC running Windows 95/98/NT or a Macintosh running Mac OS8 or higher to access the Citibank service.

To be eligible for the Citibank service, you need a minimum household income of pounds 30,000 a year. There is the promise of a year's free access to the net via Virgin Net providing that you deposit pounds 2,000 in the account for a month. But perhaps the best incentives are the low charges and the 4.75 per cent interest paid on current account balances.

Microwave Bank Demo: www.newstream.com/98-332. shtml

Vogue:www.condenast. co.uk

netPep: www.netpep.co.uk

Citibank Internet Banking: www.citibank.co.uk

Robin can be contacted on RobinAmlot@aol.com

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