Tag Archives: finance

Recompromising

Well, that was a quick resolution.

In my last post, I was lamenting the financial vulnerability I had keeping the bulk of my liquid assets in my checking account, tied to an ATM card that I had to use 10 times a month in order to get a preferred interest rate.  My solution to reduce my liability was to move a large chunk of my money out to another savings account that didn’t pay as good of an interest rate.  So, problem solved.

Today, I was just doing some random account maintenance, and logged into my checking account.  There was a small ad/offer/banner that invited me to create a savings account on the home page.  Uninterested, really, but I clicked the link anyway.  It was a savings account that paid 1% on the entire balance, which is exactly what my checking account paid on the excess of the 4% preferred rate.

To most anyone, this would be a big meh.  It’s the same thing as keeping your money in the checking account.  Why bother?  But to me, this is exactly what I needed.  I needed to isolate the bulk of my money from anyone who could steal my ATM card.  There’s so many benefits of this to me, I can count them on one hand! (I’m saying there’s not a lot of benefits, but they are very important to my needs.)

So again, first priority is to isolate my cash from ATM thieves – check.  I can keep my checking account balance limited to the amount that gets the bonus interest.  Any small amount over that gets paid at 1% interest.

Second, keeping the (relatively) good interest rate on my large balance – check.  The compromise in my last post had me move a large sum to another online savings account, which currently pays .5% interest.  That’s actually better than it used to be, I guess since the recent interest rate hike by the Fed, but whatever, it’s still half of what I can get from T-Mobile.

Third, having quick access in case of fraud – check.  I had mentioned in the last post about a worst-case scenario, where a hacker does get your funds.  You can claim fraud, but money is not returned to you until after the investigation.  If you have funds elsewhere, you can move them in to fill the gap and pay bills, so automatic payments don’t fail or things get paid late.  But transferring from an external account can take a couple of days.  However, having the checking and savings account at the same bank?  Instant transfer with no delay.  There’s value to that.

So, yes, I did immediately open a savings account and tested out the funds transfer.  It was immediate, just as I expected.  Now I can begin moving funds back into this account to get my extra interest.

I think in a future post, I’m going to document the complexity of my financial web.  There’s eight bank accounts and two payment services that all link together and it would be a good opportunity to review them and visualize them for example’s sake.

Compromises

It was last year in March that I posted a gripe about a change to my T-Mobile checking account.  They had changed the requirements for how you get the bonus interest rate on their account.  Instead of making a direct deposit each month, you had to use the check card 10 times each month.  I didn’t like the change for the inconvenience it caused, but there was another concern that I had and I didn’t express it in that post back then.  Tonight, my concern became reality.

Lying in bed, ready to sleep and my phone goes off with a text message.  It says:

FreeMsg: Bankmobile Fraud Ctr: 18449392796 Case (redacted) Did you attempt $.00 at MOTHER GOOSE TI with card x8930? Reply YES or NO. opt Out reply STOP.

This brought me a bit of concern.  BankMobile is faintly familiar, but I wasn’t sure if that was my card number.  I climb out of bed and get on the computer.  Yes, it is my card number, and BankMobile is the bank.  I still think this might be a scam, though, so I call the bank directly, not using the number they provided.

Talking to the service rep, I am assured that there is nothing wrong with my card, but that the message is legitimate.  So, I say, ok, I’ll reply to the message after this call.  After the call, I reply NO and immediately get a reply saying my card is now locked.  Well, great.

Back on the phone again and explaining this new turn of events, and the rep says that there is a blank transaction on my card and my card is locked, so they will have to send me a new card.  Yeah, yeah yeah, this is nothing new to me, let’s go ahead with it.

But what IS new to me is that concern I’ve had since last March.  This card is tied to a massive (to me) amount of money.  Because of the excellent interest rate (4% on 3k and 1% on the rest), I keep the bulk of my money in there.  And EVERY TIME I am using my check card to get to my 10x transactions to qualify for the 4%, I am exposing myself to theft and fraud.  And within a year, in less than 150 transactions, it has happened.

I want to say just how careful I am with that card.  I just went through every statement in the last year and checked.  I’ve only used my debit card at 15 different places.  That is a crazy small number compared to how many places I use my credit card.  And that’s the part that freaks me out so much.  Debit cards don’t have the same fraud protections that credit cards do.  Yeah, sure, it’s covered, but if someone drains your account and you scream fraud, your money’s not coming back until they finish the investigation, as your bills go unpaid.

So where does that leave me?  For my financial security, I should give up the 1% interest on the large balance and only keep the amount that will get me 4%.  4% of $3k is $120/yr.  Not bad when all other places will get you like $3, $15 if you’re lucky.  But what’s the value of security?  It’s priceless.

2022 And Money

Its a new year, sort of.  I’m a little late.  But anyway, a new year is a new start and time to chart a direction.  As part of that, I’m working on re-managing my finances.  They’ve kind of been on auto-pilot for some time.  The auto-pilot is pretty good, but I need to confirm the route and make some adjustments.

Big news about 6 months ago, I took on a new job.  That changed a lot of things in my life, with mixed results.  In the financial realm, it appears I’ve taken a small pay cut.  But that’s fine, the new work environment is worth that.  When you change jobs, a lot of other stuff changes as well.  You lose access to a 401k for a brief while, insurance costs and payments become strange and unknown, and other things change too, but we’ll focus on the two I mentioned.

So, the 401k.  I left my old job at the end of July and I didn’t become eligible for my new 401 until January.  So something like 5 months of no 401k contributions.  And now I have two 401ks.  But I’m in the process of moving my old 401k into my IRA accounts, like I’ve done with my previous two employers.  The process isn’t that difficult, but I’m leaning heavily on their support staff to get me the right forms and say the right things so it all goes smoothly, with no tax surprises.  I apparently am considered high-value, because my form has to be certified with a "medallion signature guarantee" which is something rather stupid.  What’s wrong with a notary?  I guess the medallion stamp is multi-colored and they verify the color gradients for fraud.  Ridiculous.

Next up, insurance.  I was going to make this a whole post of its own, but I don’t really have that much to say.  My original intent was to do a deep analysis between my old insurance and my new insurance to see which was better, cost-wise.  While this isn’t as deep, it’s still a comparison worth having.

I wasn’t expecting my new plan to be so bad, because it had a lot of marketable elements.  Foremost in those features is that you get an HSA – a health savings account.  And the company puts in $600 every year to pay for your healthcare.  When selling the HSA, a lot is made of the tax advantages – any contributions are pre-tax, your balance can be invested and grow tax-free like a traditional 401k, whatever you spend from the HSA on healthcare expenses is not taxed as income.  See, it’s mostly about the taxes.  I was thrilled with the $600/yr the employer contributed to it.  Based on my previous plan, I would be turning a profit every year.  Then I had my first doctor appointment under the new plan.

Checking in at the doctor, I was told I didn’t have a copay.  Wow, that’s even better!  I used to pay $35/visit before.  This plan is an HMO compared to my old PPO plan, so I assumed that was how HMO’s work – stay in network, pay no copays.  A month or so down the line, I got a bill from the clinic.  There must be a mistake; I’ve never gotten a bill before.  The insurance didn’t pay anything toward the bill and didn’t have any in-network discount.  The bill was ~$150.  A call to the insurance company confirmed how it worked.  I had to meet my deductible before they would start paying. 

Here’s the thing about plans that come with HSA’s.  They’re all high-deductible plans.  I don’t recall whether my deductible is $6k or $8k, but at that level, there’s no difference.  So I paid my bill with my HSA card, which had just enough to cover the bill between my $50/mo contributions and the company’s $50/mo contribution.  But I had to think ahead, I had another appointment coming up, and a 3-mo followup, and I got sent to a specialist.  And on and on.  This was not going to work for me.

I quickly crunched the numbers tonight.  On my old plan, I was paying $28/mo for insurance per biweekly check, so about $780/yr.  Then I had my copays.  Let’s say I had 5 appointments a year, $175.  Let’s round up and say my medical expenses were $1000/yr.  Now under the new plan, I’m paying $150/visit, with no paycheck deductions and no copay.  Although it might be confusing, I do pay $50/mo to my HSA, but that money is still mine and it goes to pay the medical bills.  With 5 visits a year, the bills are about $750.  So, a surprise to me, my new plan is actually cheaper.  And, if my employer is contributing $600/yr, that’s a net cost of $150.

To be completely honest, before I ran the numbers, I was certain my new plan was much, much worse.  I guess that shows the psychological power of frequent small costs.  I don’t miss $28/pay.  I don’t miss $35/visit.  I am freaked out about $150/visit, but it happens only a few times a year instead of every other week.

I’m not going to get excited about the tax benefits of the HSA yet, because I don’t know if they are part of itemized deductions yet, and there’s no likelihood I’m going to have enough deductions to beat the standard deduction.  But I’m also not going to get excited about my plan because I feel I am gambling on the future here.  If I have more visits than normal, the $150 is going to outpace the $35 pretty quickly.  Not to mention lab work and other specialist stuff that may not be a simple copay.  Right now I’m working with estimated numbers.  Next year we’ll see the actual results.

Whole-Life Fulfillment

It was back in 2016 that I had made a post talking about my life insurance policies and how such policies were considered to be a bad decision by many economic people and I argued in favor of having the policies.  I had said that at some unknown future point, my insurance would be free.  Well, I was doing some account maintenance and review because of an upcoming significant life change and guess what?  That time has come.  I’m not going to go back in time and try to determine when I actually crossed that line, but I can say in 2021, I have made more in dividends than I have made in payments.

Here’s the actual numbers involved.  I pay about $135/mo for my two insurance policies.  So far in 2021, I’ve paid $945 in insurance premiums.  Now I don’t regularly check the balance of my whole-life policy because it’s not something that really needs any attention.  I’ve checked it three times this year and in those three times, the cash value of the account has grown $1433.  If it’s not obvious, that number is larger than $945.

Insurance is a bill, an expense in your life.  You should consider it lost money.  Even more so because you’re not supposed to get any benefit out of it – it’s for other people.  Not so with Whole Life policies, there is a cash value that you can access in retirement.  Detractors say that whole life policies are savings accounts for people who can’t save, because the deposits are faked as a bill.  So what!  It works.

So if my dividends for the year were anything over $945, I am effectively in the black.  And almost being 50% above my deposits, that is a decent return.  So now that this goal has been met, let’s look a little harder at the big picture.  This should make the naysayers feel more superior.

According to records, I have had my insurance policy since June, 2007.  My payment has actually gone down a little bit as the years have gone by, but $135/mo is a fair average of what I’ve paid a month.  So, how much have I paid to have insurance all those years?  Looks like almost $23k.  What is my current cash value of the account? A little over $17k.  If I want to be slippery about this I could say I’ve effectively paid $6k for 14 years of insurance, which is about $35/mo.  My $100k term life policy is like $16/mo, so I’ve been getting my whole life policy at term life rates.

But that whole discussion is just like dealing with percentages.  It’s bullshit.  Here’s the bottom line.  I purchased insurance at a rate that was not a hardship for me.  I’ve maintained that policy for 14 years.  The policy is no longer an expense and is now an investment.  It is behaving exactly how it was sold to me.

I do not believe whole-life policies are evil if they are crafted properly by a reputable company.

No One Wants To Play Nice Together

Especially EBay.

I would say I have a love/hate relationship with EBay, but I neither hate them nor love them.  They either annoy me or pleasantly surprise me on occasion.  One of the more recent annoyances is their acrimonious split with PayPal.  PayPal is a company that I am more fond of than EBay.  I have some reservations about them, but overall, I think they do what they do pretty well.  And EBay deciding to break from them was a step in the wrong direction. 

So, EBay purchases are now handled internally by EBay.  Whatever.  It doesn’t matter to me whether EBay or PayPal charges my credit card.  However, when it comes to selling, things get a bit worse.  Previously, PayPal essentially served as "EBay Bank" and everything funding came and went through them, including selling receipts and selling costs and whatnot.  Now, selling payouts need to go to an actual bank, which is not PayPal.  And the payouts are held for a short duration before disbursement (which isn’t a big deal to me, but for some, I can imagine they’d be more annoyed).

To set the stage for the specific issues I’m having, let me describe the general problem with the seller workflow.  You sell an item.  You get the funds, but you don’t have access to the funds.  The funds will go to your bank account at some point in the future, less EBay fees.  You have to ship the item.  You have to pay for shipping using other funds.  Now, I list items with free shipping and include my expected shipping costs in the sale price (because Amazon has trained us that that is the most effective way), so maybe if I had the seller pay shipping, things would be different.  I don’t know if the cost of shipping would be in the funds held for disbursement or would be available for use to pay for shipping, but anyway, this is what I’m facing right now.

Now, here’s the problem I’m having.  I have a complicated financial configuration of accounts for the primary reason of security.  If somehow one of my internet-facing accounts gets hacked, I want my liability to be minimized.  To that end, PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle only have access to one of my savings accounts, which keeps a low balance.  And anything that I can’t use my credit card for, I use PayPal.  if I can’t use PayPal, I also use that low-balance savings account.  You see what I’m trying to accomplish here.

Back to EBay.  I’ve sold some items.  I need to pay for shipping.  For whatever reason, EBay has been charging PayPal for shipping.  My PayPal has a $0 balance, because the funds from my sales don’t go there anymore, they go to my bank account.  So PayPal goes to my savings account to get the funds.  This has been working out, but has had unintended consequences. 

I got an email today saying I have exceeded the number of monthly transfers from my savings account.  Apparently, you are limited to 6 transfers a month for online savings accounts.  Excess transfers will result in a $10 fee.  Well, that’s not going to do me any good to pay an extra $10 for $5 in shipping costs.  The solution for this is to move money into my PayPal account so I can cover the shipping costs.  But I would have to move a larger amount of money to float the future costs, otherwise, I’m not doing anything different than PayPal is already doing, and I’ll get excessive transfers.

So the bottom line is, EBay has thrown a wrench into my setup because they are not putting the funds into the same account as they are taking shipping costs from.  And if I want to avoid that, I need to float the money in PayPal instead of an interest-bearing account. 

As a stopgap, I shut down my active listing, so I don’t have any more sales until I figure out a solution.  It might be as dumb as me not noticing a payment option when purchasing shipping after a sale.  It may be resolved by a setting I changed in my seller account to use the same account for seller costs as for funds release (although that sounds odd, because EBay fees should be deducted before funds are released anyways).  In either case, I won’t know until I make another sale and in the case neither of those do fix it, I don’t want to be stuck with a $0 balance in PayPal when it happens.  So the plan is to wait until next month to relist the items and I can float some money into PayPal in advance just in case.

EBay just made it harder to make money.

BTC FOMO WTF, I Dunno

There’s plenty of talk recently about bitcoin.  It’s something I’ve never understood, believed in, or trusted.  However, I feel it’s finally come time for me to at least have a conversational knowledge of it.  I don’t fully understand it from a technical perspective, because I do know enough about that part to retain my stance that I don’t believe in it or trust it.  What I want to be able to do is explain the (or a) process of using bitcoin.  Because I expect at some point, someone if going to ask me about it and how to get into it and when I say I don’t know, they’re going to think I’m stupid, because I’m supposed to be the all-knowing geek.

I start my quest with general searches on buying bitcoin.  Obviously, you need a place to store your stupid, fake money.  You can choose to have it stored on someone else’s website.  Yeah right.  I’ve been on the internet for a very long time.  You don’t trust the fucking internet for anything.  If not on someone’s website, you can store it in software on your computer or on a dedicated storage device.  This has a parallel to password vaults.  You can store your passwords in a vault online, like LastPass or you can store them in a file on your computer, like KeePass.  I chose KeePass, and I will choose the same for my bitcoin wallet.  Step 1 sort of complete.

I choose to install one of the better known wallet apps called Electrum.  I run through the default wallet setup, storing all the security information in KeePass in a symbiotic relationship.  Ok.  I’m ready to make a purchase now.  Gonna buy some fake money.

More searches on where to buy bitcoin.  I go to the first recommended place and start the process.  I’m immediately hit with a request for ID.  I have to submit a picture of an ID, either drivers license or passport, plus a picture of me holding the document.  Are you fucking kidding me?  What did I just say, you don’t trust the fucking internet.  We’re dealing with an unregulated product here, there’s nothing ensuring any security of any kind and you want me to give you a copy of my ID?  You can fuck right off.

Further research suggests that bitcoin is getting a little more legitimacy at least in the idea that it can be taxed by the IRS.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not.  Mostly I think it’s not.  If eliminating the anonymous aspect of bitcoin is the price of legitimacy, I don’t know.  So I look deeper.  I find there is a way to purchase bitcoin for cash using a special ATM machine, one of which is in my city.  That seems anonymous enough (although of course any agency that wanted to, could track me down with little problem).  I’m not trying to do this in the shadiest way possible.  I’m just trying to learn more about this concept and I don’t want to expose a bunch of my personal info to untrusted websites if I’m not going to be a devotee to the cause.

I watch a video on how to use the ATM and one thing I need is a QR code for an address to send my fake money to.  Electrum has a lot of different values in it.  I wanted to send the money to my wallet, so I went to Wallet Information and generated a QR code for my wallet ID.  That afternoon, I drove to the ATM and tried to buy some bitcoin.  Unfortunately, when I scanned my QR code, the machine said I had to use a supported wallet.  Step 2 failed.

Later, back at home, I think I generated a QR code for the wrong thing.  I though your wallet ID was unique and I’m sure it really is, but your wallet holds multiple addresses in it and each of those addresses are what you send and receive the bitcoin with.  The default view in Electrum didn’t show those addresses, but when I found it, things made a little more sense.  I generated a new QR code for one bitcoin address and I will attempt to use that.

Until I get back to the ATM, I figure I will try to buy some bitcoin online anonymously.  How about PayPal?  They’ve been making noise about supporting "Crypto" (The slick marketing term for this, I guess).  I quickly find out that any bitcoin you buy in PayPal can’t be transferred to your wallet.  So essentially, you have an online wallet with them.  I love you, PayPal, but no thanks.

I find another website that supposedly lets you buy without ID.  I create an account and get to the point of purchase.  They need a credit card number.  Well, here comes that mistrust again.  Not only that, but if I give my CC number, they’re going to hit me with a cash advance fee and interest.  Fuck that, too.

After a lot of puzzling over this, I came up with a solution.  Unsurprisingly or not, it’s PayPal.  I have my PayPal linked to a savings account for cash purchases.  That account is always kept at a low balance, so in case of compromise, I don’t lose all my cash.  PayPal allows you to make a virtual CC number to access the funds in any linked account, called a PayPal Key.  There’s my solution.  Now I’m ready to go.  I return to the bitcoin exchange and place my order.  It’s about $37 for me to learn this new concept.  And when I submit the form, I’m immediately told… I have to verify my identity.  God damn it.

So after a lot more searching and a bunch of other website visits, it doesn’t seem that I’m going to get very far without IDing myself, unless I want to pay a hefty premium for person-to-person trading.  Speaking of premiums, that is something about bitcoin that annoys the shit out of me.  Everything you do has a transaction fee.  It’s like having an account with a bank that has no ATM network.  You just get dinged the more you use it.  I guess people into this stuff just accept it as a cost of business.

I tried out a couple more sites and got stopped at the "provide ID" step.  I guess the ATM method is going to be my go-to method.  Looking at the ATM provider’s website, most of their machines are in sketchy locations – gas stations, vape shops, etc.  But, they do have some in a couple hotels, which I find surprising.  One is not too far from me, along a route I’ve travelled plenty of times.  So that’s going to be my next attempt.  I’ve figured out how to create a read-only copy of my wallet on my phone, so I can generate QR codes for any of the bitcoin addresses I have in my wallet.

I arrive at the hotel and find the bitcoin ATM next to the regular ATM in their lobby.  Using my mobile wallet, I set up a buy, stuffed in $40 (because in my previous online attempts, $20 wasn’t enough for a minimum purchase), and completed my purchase.  I immediately got a text message with my purchase confirmation.  Step 2 complete, I guess.

I went to a nearby convenience store and bought some snacks.  When I got back to my car, I opened my wallet and saw I had a new transaction in my history.  It said the transaction wasn’t confirmed, but, hey, it was there!  Of course, all it says is that I owned a tiny fraction of a bitcoin.  I went online and did some quick math.  It looks like $5 of the $40 purchase went to fees.  Holy shit.  But bitcoin is nothing if not the most volatile investment out there, so tomorrow I could be up $5 or down another $10, who the hell knows.

I drove back home and opened the wallet on my PC.  The transaction was there as well and now it was displayed as confirmed – I guess 15 servers could see that transaction and that was considered good.  Now that I owned bitcoin, I had to learn how to give it away.

My whole drive home I was mildly stewing about the $5 fee I paid to get my fake money.  And it made me wonder how things worked when I went to give some away.  Who pays?  And like I said earlier, it’s a racket.  Everyone wants paid.  I came to lean that even if I’m giving fake money away, I’m still paying someone to give it.  Hw much am I giving away?  Funny enough, the answer is, it depends.  How soon do you want your payment to go through, if at all?  The people facilitating the transactions work on the ones with the biggest fees first.  If things are really busy and they don’t get to your cheap-ass fee transaction in time, well, your transaction is cancelled.  And if not cancelled, you’ll wait potentially for days and your recipient is going to be beating down your door saying, "I want my two dollars!"

There are some interesting features that exist to help this situation.  One of which involves initially setting a low fee, then allowing changes to the transaction that are all fees.  So you can be cheap at first, then increase the fee if there are no takers in a reasonable time.  Another way to use that feature is to set a low fee initially, then let the recipient change the transaction to add any additional fee if they want the money quicker.  I don’t expect I’m ever going to be doing anything like this, but it’s kind of neat to know this is an option.

I contact a friend and we go through the setup of a new wallet and I perform a "Send" of about half my balance.  I chose a moderately low fee, but since everything in bitcoin is in a totally different scale, all you can do is make some rough estimates as to how much you’re losing in the trade.  So the transaction was made and it showed up on the other side almost immediately, but it remained unconfirmed.  I left it go overnight and in the morning, the transaction showed as confirmed.  Step 3 complete.

And that’s about all the more I care to experiment with bitcoin.  I spent $40 and I have $15 left in my wallet.  I’ve seen the process of receiving and the process of sending.  I’ve seen how much you lose in fees in the process.  Bitcoin is in a decline right now, so I’m probably losing value as well.  but I can now say that I can pay and be paid in bitcoin now.  That’s pretty much all I wanted.

Look At What You Can’t Have

Every once in a while, I do a little "worst-case" scenario and determine how little I need to get by in case of, you know, the worst case scenario happening.  It’s not overly complex, it’s basically reviewing my budget and seeing how things have changed for better or worse since the last exercise.

One of the line items is the mortgage.  Almost 5 years ago, I refi’d into a 15-yr loan with a better rate and I’ve been paying a minimal extra amount on the loan each month.  So one of the things if shit really hit the fan is I would attempt to refi it back into a 30-yr so I could reclaim some of the money I’d budgeted to that bill.  I suppose some people might consider pulling out the equity in the house and surviving on that until things got better, but this is just the way I think.  Don’t give up ground, even if your progress has been slowed.

So anyway, I brought up a mortgage calculator and like a lot of nice, friendly forms, this one had nice sliders to adjust the values.  The page loaded like this.

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Well, I’m not getting a 330k loan, now or ever.  So I dragged the slider down.  And when I did, something crazy happened.  The house picture changed.

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Fucking ouch.  What a punch in the gut.  When you load the page, the site is setting your expectations with "this is what your house will probably be like" and when you eventually say, "I can’t afford that payment," you move the slider and the site says, "Well, now you’re looking at this kind of house."  No stairs.  No ornamental shrubs.  Even the tree is wimpier, suggesting you’re just a beginner.  And while that may be true, it’s not as encouraging as it should be.  Don’t focus on where you will be, focus on where you are right now – smallsville.

But I’m not looking for a loan even in that area.  The calculator doesn’t go where I need it to go, but I tried.

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Jesus.  100k and this is all you get for it.  Well, at least it’s a two story place, which I suppose might be better than what I have.  But the point still stands, getting two sad reminders of where you are, not where you’re going.  Of course, once you are faced with the reality, who isn’t going to dream a little and peek over the fence to see the greener grass?  It’s human nature.  If you feel bad, feeling worse is the easiest thing to accomplish.  Drag, drag, drag.

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Nice.  Bigger garage, columns, bigger tree, fireplace.  But I really want to feel bad.

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Sigh.  Ok.  That’s enough.

No Problems, Only Opportunities

What Millennials Can Learn From Gen X’s Money Mistakes

You can consider me a sucker for any article on generational warfare, especially one that involves mine.  So when an article immediately says I’m making mistakes with my money, I’m doubly interested.

I feel I’ve made this clear in other posts, but I really do feel sorry for generations after mine.  While the generation preceding me couldn’t care much about anything other than itself, I am embarrassed at what has been left for the younger ones to clean up, fix, or just try to survive through.  My whole generation is too small to have made any political impression or enact any meaningful change, but I’ve been waiting for the next major cohort to flex its muscle, and I expect we see things the same way.

Anyway…

This article says its a collection of advice from financial experts who want Gen Y to do things differently from Gen X – "Break the chains of financial norms that were enshrined as gospel in the last century."  Here’s the truth that overshadows the entire article: The financial norms are not norms anymore because the entire economy and financial markets got fucked.  But that’s not a problem.  Don’t focus on that problem.  Don’t bother trying to solve the problem (as if you could anyway).

The term "gaslight" is used way too frequently and usually inappropriately.  I’m not going to use it here, but it feels some would.  This article is more of the more traditional, "blowing smoke up your ass" flavor.

Point 1: Gen Y should focus on Roth accounts instead of traditional retirement accounts.  I’m not going to argue particulars, this advice can go either way.  I just want to point out that Roth IRA’s were created in 1997.  It’s not like there was a lot of information on the benefits of a Roth at the time.  And now, given time, experience, and income growth, I now contribute 100% to post-tax retirement accounts.  Because Gen X makes all the financial mistakes.

Point 2: Gen Y should give up on whatever used to be the idea of financial success.  Let me get that exact quote.

"…millennials need to reconsider the entire concept of wealth, success and financial freedom – particularly as it applies to standards that were set in a different time"

It shouldn’t take much cynicism to deduce that "a different time" means "a better time".  What example of change was provided?

"Are we sure we want a 30-year mortgage on the largest house we can possibly secure financing for to go along with our student loan debt and auto loan? … Maybe a used RV and a WiFi hotspot are more appealing than a 2,000-square-foot ranch."

And now I want to really punch someone.  I’ll give you this much.  Buying the biggest house you can get financing for is a financial mistake, worthy of the title of the article.  But to suggest that Gen Y should just literally give up on the concept of owning a house to live in a depreciating asset and have them consider that move financially savvy?  That is an even bigger financial mistake.  One that a future article will use comparing Gen Y and Gen Z.

And there’s a real trigger: "student loan debt".  Something my generation didn’t have to worry about, at least not to enslavement levels of debt like today.  Maybe a used RV is not so much "more appealing" as it is "the only option".  I’m not saying lower your expectations, I’m just saying to refine them.

Point 3: Accept that shit sucks.  Deal with it.  I would really have to copy the whole text of the two paragraphs to do justice to what is being bullshitted.  Remember, the problem the article is hiding is that the economy absolutely sucks.  Gen Y started a revolution by creating "the gig economy".  You know what the gig economy has done?  It has resulted in workers being exploited and cheapened, with no redeeming benefits.  And no benefits at all.  For every success story on a gig worker, you have a thousand who are working themselves to the bone just to get by. 

The Gen X life story? "Get a college degree. Land a job. Buy a house. Invest for retirement someday."  Their take on these universal desires?  "It’s a flawed model."  IT’S A FUCKING FLAWED MODEL.  I got my job with a Associates degree in an unrelated field.  Gen Y (and Z now) have to have Bachelors degrees to get entry level jobs.  They can’t get any job paying well enough to buy a house or to invest for retirement someday.  WHOSE MODEL IS FUCKING FLAWED HERE?

So the explanation for being flawed is that it doesn’t align with Gen Y’s priorities: "experiences over possessions, and prioritizing purpose, innovation, and flexibility".  And I’m going to say again, these priorities are due to the fact the world is garbage.  They are compensation for having nothing else.  When your world is so dead that you simply want to experience as much happiness as possible as soon as possible because you don’t expect things to be getting better in your lifetime, that’s a problem.  When you demand flexibility because you know you can’t trust any institution for stability, that’s a problem.  As far as purpose and innovation, Gen X had that as well, only it wasn’t something we had to demand, it was simply allowed.  That’s a problem.

This romanticizing of renting for life and RVing and being mobile and nomadic, that’s a symptom of the times.  It’s a necessity to survival.  You really don’t think that if circumstances were the same now as they were 20 years ago that a whole generation would behave so differently?  If anything the nomadic lifestyle would be taken up for pleasure.  If the promise of technology had not been stolen by a few obscenely rich, powerful people, we’d all be living a utopian life.

For the boomers who were flower children until the end and look around with sadness at what they were unable to sustain, I will be a nerd who will die lamenting how the Internet was supposed to bring enlightenment and knowledge and was reduced to conspiracies and trolls.  Gen Y, ponder well what legacy you wish to leave unfulfilled to the world.

All Good Things Must

be made more difficult.

To be honest, T-Mobile has been an excellent company for me.  I’ve always had decent service and they’ve never really let me down.  Some of their promotional offers have been really interesting as well.  It was a long time ago that they offered one share of T-Mobile stock for free to all subscribers.  I regret not taking the time to claim that offer now.  "Free is free" and I didn’t take it.  Shame on me.

One of their other excellent offers was a checking account with 4% interest.  Absolutely unheard of when it came out and is still unbelievable today.  Granted, it’s only 4% on the first $3k in the account and 1% on everything over that.  But even so, 1%?  How sad is it that their base rate is still higher than everyone else?  When I signed up, I had no idea how they could afford to do it and all these years later, I still don’t know how they can keep it up.

Well, that time has come.  I’m sure there are a lot of money-wise people out there that are stocking $3k in that account and nothing more.  In order to qualify for that 4% max rate, you have to have a $200 deposit every month into the account.  Of course, people are going to people, so you can be absolutely assured that lots of people keep $3k in the account, then have an automated $200 deposit in each month and a corresponding $200 withdrawal every month as well.  Totally worth it for 4% interest on $3k, I’m sure.

A bank isn’t going to make any money that way, I understand that.  And so, it’s come to this.  A new change in the way you qualify for the max interest rate.  Again, I get it.  The alternative is they just stop the offer altogether and then it’s just another nice thing ruined by people.

So anyway, what’s the change?  Instead of having the $200/mo required deposit, you now have to make 10 purchases with the check card each month.  This is logical as the bank would get a transaction fee for each purchase and those fees would pay for the bonus interest.  Makes sense to me.  The thing I don’t like is the way they are selling it to their customers.  They say:

We understand making a monthly deposit may be tough and we want T‑Mobile MONEY to work for you. So, eligible customers will soon earn 4.00% APY* by using your T‑Mobile MONEY card for daily purchases like groceries, gas, or shopping online.

They understand making a monthly deposit may be tough.  But it’s easier to make 10 transactions in a month.  If you’re making 10 transactions in a month and not making any deposits, now that’s tough.  But that’s where we’re at, I guess.  Also, it’s a little irksome that to qualify for a higher interest rate, you have to lower your balance with 10 purchases.  But, it’s their game and their rules. 

I just wish they would have been honest with the reasons.  I thought TMo used to have a slogan, "Straight talk", but it seems that’s another company.  Why can’t they just explain it in reality and not need to spin it?

So that’s that.  Now, what does this change cost the users?  Here’s my plan.  I normally get a drink from RaceTrac when I get takeout from certain restaurants.  It’s $1.07 each time.  So, RaceTrac now gets my TMo transactions.  It’ll cost me a little over $10 to earn… wait, what?  $18 in interest?  Well, it’s not like that, exactly.  I would be spending the $10 on another card regardless, so the math actually comes out that I would be losing interest on that $10, or 10 cents.  Ugh, wait, not 10 cents.  It’s 1%/12 months, so actually .0833%… 0.8 cents a month.  I fucking hate math.

Now, if you were below the $3k balance and earning 4% on your whole balance, the numbers are a little worse.  So to maximize your money here, you need to keep $3k in your account, plus whatever monthly fluctuations you have to keep you over that threshold.  And for the people who automated $200 in and $200 out, now it would be a modification of maybe $20 in and $20 out via purchases each month.  Same game, new rules.

Banks Still Gonna Bank

I’m personally sitting pretty well when it comes to my financial house.  I’ve mentioned changes I’ve made here and there and for quite some time, I’ve been satisfied with what I’ve got.  In summary, where I’m at right now is: Ally handles all my savings accounts needs.  They pay 1.6% interest (right now.  It’s been slowly dropping again.)  T-Mobile (through Customers Bank) handles my checking.  They pay 4% interest on up to $3k in my account and 1% on the rest.  That’s a pretty nice deal, especially as rates keep dropping elsewhere.  Looking at the interest rate history, we’re back where we were two years ago, after peaking in December, 2018.

So, it’s always good to be vigilant and keep an eye open for what may be better for you in your current situation.  Although this hasn’t affected me, it’s still an irrational issue for me that I don’t have a presence at a physical bank.  To repeat, I haven’t needed the services of a physical bank in many, many, years, but I still feel like I should have an account at one.  So every once in a while, I give it consideration.

An offer came in the mail from TD Bank, which opened a branch nearby me recently.  Recently – in bank years – is like in the last decade.  I’ve always been intrigued by them, and I do have a IRA account with TD Ameritrade (although I’m not sure they’re actually related), so when I saw the offer, I figured I’d investigate.  After all, they’re offering a signing bonus of $150 or $300, and who doesn’t want free money?

Let’s start with their top-tier account and see if I can get in.  No minimum deposit to open an account (I don’t even know what that means – how do you open an account with no funds?).  Monthly maintenance fee: $25.  in the old days,  that actually meant something, but now it just means you need to see if you can meet the criteria to get it waived.  It’s almost a pointless charge.  If you don’t meet the waiver criteria, you don’t get that account.  Duh.

So, to waive the fee, I need either: $5k in direct deposits a month.  Oh.  Well, that’s quite a number.  What else you got?  Keep a $2,500 daily balance.  Well, you know I had that at my last bank and it is doable, but are you going to pay me 4% interest on it like T-Mobile is?  Not likely.  Finally, I can have $25k in accounts with TD.  They didn’t mention TD Ameritrade, only loans and deposit accounts, so that could be my ticket in, if that’s the case.

I visited their "Contact" section and their immediate response options were limited to social media or calling.  I wasn’t going to call for a 5 second question, so I sucked it up and used Facebook Messenger to ping them for an answer.

While I wait, let’s see what benefits I get for my account.  No ATM fees, free money orders, cashiers checks, blah, blah.  It looks like I could have a free account…  And now "Marie" has messaged me back, with essentially a copy/paste of the text I already read.  So I have to be more specific in my question.  Is a brokerage account with TD Ameritrade considered a "deposit account"?  And the answer is: no.  TD Bank and TD Ameritrade are separate and their accounts don’t count towards each other.  So TD Bank is not for me.  And it didn’t offer anything compelling anyway.

But, let me jump back just a little bit.  When the TD Bank first opened in my area, I remember being impressed with their choice to have banking independent from investment.  I thought it was the proper thing to do, unlike what, say, Wells Fargo does (as if WF does anything properly).  I still do think that.  But, after looking into their service offerings, I’m just not their target audience.  There are better deals from online banks and the benefits of being physical just aren’t there.  And maybe, maybe… I could be convinced that having my banking under the same umbrella as my retirement investment account is a good thing, then maybe things would be different.  But right now, I think keeping things apart is best, especially in the growing swell of deregulation and financial insanity.