Sidewalk Money

People are lazy.

With the holidays coming up how many of us will opt for the second serving of turkey and stuffing instead of going on a jog? How many of us will put off efforts that will result in long term benefit, to binge watch a season of The Queen’s Gambit? (To be fair, it was great.)

This applies to finances and investments too. How many people put off basic finance and investment projects that would be a big benefit, just because it’s a headache?

I tweeted the other day a reference to “Free Money”. There are numerous areas in people’s lives where they walk by the $100 bill on the street, and say, “nah, I’m good”. Sometimes it’s laziness, and sometimes it’s not being aware, educated, or informed.

So, I wanted to compile a simple holiday list of free money “to-dos”.

Here’s the rule: they have to be low, or no effort (must take less than one hour).

So, constantly switching credit cards or banks to get rewards and bonuses doesn’t qualify.  While possibly worth it, I want the below to be so low effort that if you don’t do them consider yourself a total POS (that doesn’t stand for Patrick O’Shaugnessy btw)

Therefore, you have no excuse NOT to go through all of these below.

Enough intro, on to the ideas. And if we save you some real cash, hit me up on Twitter I love hearing these stories!

Happy holidays everyone, and if I saved you a real boatload of cash, send me a holiday bottle of bubbly!

1. Unclaimed Assets

Long time readers are probably sick and tired of hearing about this one, but given that we have saved our followers millions of dollars so far, I don’t care.

It’s simple, many people leave behind money, particularly when they move. Things like cable bills, dividends, trusts, insurance all go unclaimed and sit in the state government coffers. There are billions waiting to be claimed, and let’s be honest, the government is in no rush to find you and pay it out.

The good news is you can goto the website, search your name, and apply and claim your cash. Don’t forget to search old states where you lived too. We’ve had followers find over $80k in a single search. Don’t believe me? Go search my twitter history – hundreds of replies where people find $.

You can search your family, co-workers, or my favorite, your boss and C-level execs and present them with the info. There is nothing people like more than free money, except free money they get back from the government.

Hey Grandma, I found you $1,000 of old AT&T! Now pass the gravy…

Time effort: 15 minutes

Cost: Free


2. Tax Credits

If you’re startup founder, chances are you qualify for tax credits you are not claiming.  There is a new company called MainStreet that audits your books, and applies for tax credits on your behalf.

The average amount they save companies that sign up is $75,000.

Let me repeat, by taking 15 minutes to sign up, you may save tens of thousands of dollars. I personally know lots of companies that are saving this much and more.

Don’t believe me? There are countless examples on Twitter of CEOs tweeting how much this program has saved them on a yearly basis. On aggregate they have saved companies over $40 million. And soon they will be expanding from just a few tax credits to hundreds.

If you’re a CEO or CFO of a company with 5-500 employees, it’s a no brainer. If you’re an EMPLOYEE of a similar company, you should print out this blog post and take it to your CFO. You’ll get a promotion and probably a raise too.

Ironically there are plenty of companies with >500 employees that will benefit too, much to the embarrassment of the CFO…

We did a podcast with the founder, and I was so impressed we did ANOTHER one coming soon. I think this company is so transformative I invested in it as well.

Time effort: 15 minutes

Cost: Free – company takes a small % of found credits.


3. Yield

I’m in a super high tier at Bank of America. That means my “Preferred Rewards” gives me massive bonuses like higher interest rates on my cash.

So, instead of 0.01% I get 0.04%.

What the &%!$???

Banks make money off the interest spread (and so do brokerages like Robinhood by the way). They’re not going to voluntarily pay you more, so you need to be proactive about it. They prey on your laziness and lack of intertia.

There are plenty of places that will pay you north of 0.5%, some even around 0.85% that are FDIC insured.

Two I like are MaxMyInterest or Betterment.

Time effort: 30 minutes to setup or switch

Cost: Free


4. Investing Your “Safe” Money

This one requires a bit of a philosophical departure, so it might not be a fit for everyone.

Most people think cash is the safest investment, but if you include the effects of inflation, cash can easily have a 50% drawdown over time.

Historically, if you invest part of your safe money the combined results are: higher yield AND lower historical losses.

For many this might feel uncomfortable, but it’s what I do with all of my cash.

I covered this topic in a 4-part series this year called “The Stay Rich Portfolio“.

My companies manage all in one tax efficient strategies here, as do other ETF issuers.

Time effort: 30 minutes to setup or switch (perhaps longer to mull it over)

Cost: Free


5. Reducing Fees

The holidays are a good time to reflect and review.

Most people pay way too much in fees on their portfolio.  We’ve written exhaustively on the topic over the years, so no need to rehash. Lots of people out there still paying 1 or 2% for a do nothing asset allocation fund. You don’t notice the fees in a month or a year, but boy will you ever notice them in 10 or 20. All of the strategies my company offers are lower cost than their category average.

Here’s a few articles and a free book to get you going in the right direction.

Global Asset Allocation free book

Would you pay your advisor $1,000,000 in fees?

Paying for a filet and getting bologna

How a Trump or Biden presidency will affect your portfolio

Zero budget portfolio

You are not alone

Similar to fees, taxes are equally if not more impactful.  Many people still hold equity mutual funds in taxable accounts, which is almost always suboptimal.  (DFA seems to realize this and is converting mutual funds to ETFs).

ETFs almost never pay out capital gains distributions whereas mutual funds mostly do (I believe in 2019 it was 6% of ETFs and > 60% of mutual funds).

Clean house and pay less taxes, what’s not to like?!

PS If you REALLY want to add to your portfolio, here’s the best way (it will surprise you)…

Time effort: 1 hour to setup or switch (perhaps longer to mull it over)

Cost: Free


6. Shopping Rebates

If you buy things online, you’ll notice a little box at checkout that lets you input a promotional code. Instead of having to go and search everytime you buy something, Rakuten (used to be called Ebates) has a browser extension that finds the best rebate and automatically does it for you. Voila!

I’ve received over $550 in checks so far.

If you sign up through my link you’ll get $40 after spending $40 (me too). Honey is another choice here.

Time effort: 15 minutes

Cost: Free


5. Refunds for Fees

We all pay fees that we don’t necessarily have to pay (think credit card annual fees, etc). There are a few apps that will request fee forbearance or other variants.

I have less experience with these but three that come recommended are Cushion, DoNotPay, and Clarity.

Time effort: 30 minutes

Cost: Free


6. Get a Raise

Did you ask for a raise this year?  Why not?

Most are too scared and people just don’t like rejection.

Ramit has lots of strategies for asking for a raise.  What’s the worst that can happen, they just say no?!

Time effort: 1 hour

Cost: Free


7. Upgrades and Status

Last, I’ll mention FoundersCard. Full disclosure, you have to pay for this one. But it gives you tons of benefits. Members enjoy exclusive benefits from premier travel, lifestyle, and business brands. You also get access to top hotels and resorts offering privately negotiated preferred rates, added amenities, and flexible cancellation privileges.  My favorite benefits are the status upgrades for lots of the hotels, airlines, and car agencies if we ever get to travel again in 2021… You get $200 savings if you signup with my link.

Did I miss any ideas?  Drop me a line and let me know…happy holidays everyone, and if I saved you a bunch of cash, send me a holiday bottle of bubbly!