Personal financial management technology is evolving to include cash flow estimates and deeper transaction insights to guide consumers during their shopping decisions. Banks and alternative financial services providers are offering these emerging services to help consumers become quickly informed about their financial picture before they buy something they may not need, and thus stay on track to meet financial goals. But skeptics point out flaws inherent in such financial modeling.

“The overwhelming thing to keep in mind is that [modeling] is a shot in the dark,” says Cathy O’Neil, who earned a Ph.D. in mathematics  and pens the blog mathbabe, which explores quantitative issues. O’Neil is co-authoring a book called “Doing Data Science” with Rachel Schutt, senior statistician at Google Research and an adjunct assistant professor in Columbia’s Statistics Department.

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