Archives for 2018

TurboTax 2018 Desktop Sale: Federal + State + $10 Amazon Gift Card for $40

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Update: This offer is sold out/expired. I expect some sort of similar short-term deal to pop up again before April 15th.

The benefit of “old-school” desktop tax software is that it doesn’t require your Social Security Number and financial details to be stored in the “cloud” at at time when everything is being hacked. Here’s a limited-time deal on TurboTax 2018 that includes a $10 Amazon gift card. That brings it down to an effective net price of $29.99 for TurboTax Deluxe Fed/State and $44.99 for Premier Fed/State. Found via SD.

TurboTax 2018 Tax Software (Deluxe) $29.99

TurboTax 2018 Tax Software (Deluxe + State) $39.99

TurboTax 2018 Tax Software (Premier + State) $54.99

TurboTax is rarely cheaper than this, and I like TurboTax for their wide list of 1099-B import partners that can save you the time and effort of manually entering lots of tax lots for stock or ETF sales.

TurboTax Deluxe is recommended if you own your own home, donated to charity, have significant education or medical expenses, have child-related expenses or have a lot of deductions. Deluxe lets you enter stock sales manually, but TurboTax Premier includes “additional help” on stock sales and capital gains taxes and also includes guidance on rental properties. Home & Business includes guidance for the self-employed or small business owners, including the creation of 1099s. (If you just have a couple of 1099-MISC forms to report, you don’t need Home & Business.)

Keep in mind that for these products 5 Federal e-Files are included but State e-File is extra ($19.99 per state). I would personally just print the (usually shorter) state return out and snail mail it in if you don’t have a free State e-File option.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Wild Book: What Do You Plan To Do With Your One Wild and Precious Life?

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I’ve been catching up on some memoirs and recently finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed. (I haven’t seen the movie.) I mention it here because the author did a “Big Awesome Thing” in hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and I think achieving financial freedom is also a “Big Awesome Thing”. I thought – What makes a person able to accomplish a “Big Awesome Thing”?

First, instead of rehashing another plot summary for the book, I’ll steal the blurb from Amazon:

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Cheryl Strayed father also left her when she was young. An excerpt from the book:

The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.

In my opinion, the lack of a strong father figure and the early death of her mother left her without the support or belief that she had power over her own life. But by pushing herself to do this seemingly random but difficult task and overcoming many obstacles along the way, she discovered that she did have that power inside. Perhaps each person is drawn to a different “Big Awesome Thing” that can be the first stepping stone to a life lived consciously. Hers was being free in the wild:

It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.

After that, Strayed could attain happiness and fulfillment because she had the belief that she could change her own circumstances. Her actions mattered. It was worth trying, taking that risk to make your life better. I fear that many others have lost that self-belief and thus don’t even try.

I enjoyed the following excerpt from a poem that was included in the book – “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

ETA Executive Travel App: 1,000 United or American Miles After Each $300+ Booking

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ETA (Executive Travel App) is an app that scans your calendar to automatically suggest travel options (hotels, flights, Uber) based on your calendar and personal travel preferences.

They still have a new user offer of 3,000 United or American miles when you are referred by a friend and you book your first $300+ trip with ETA (hotels, flights, or car rentals). The referred person also gets 3,000 miles. That is my referral link if you wish to use it, thanks if you do.

If you already signed up previously, they are offering existing users 1,000 United or American Airlines miles after you book a hotel/flight/rental car reservation of $300+ value through their app. You get 1,000 miles for every $300+ booking, up to 30,000 miles total. You must make the booking by December 31st, 2018, and you get the miles when you complete the trip. Full terms.

Seems worth a shot if you compare prices and it’s the same price or less on the ETA app.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Movies Anywhere: Sync 2 Accounts, Get 3 Free Movies

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Movies Anywhere is running an anniversary promotion where you can get three free streaming movies for syncing two more accounts. The Martian, Happy Feet, and Fast and Furious 8. You can even get these free titles if you already have a 5 (add 1 more) or 6 (the max unless you have Xfinity) synced accounts. Note that the new links must occur by 11:59pm PST ON 12/27/18 to qualify. Details:

* Movies Anywhere users with four or less synced Digital Retailers as of 11 am PST on 11/07/18 must sync for the first time with one participating Digital Retailer to receive Happy Feet (2006, HD). Syncing for the first time with a second participating Digital Retailer required to receive The Martian (2015, HD) and The Fate of the Furious (2017, HD). Movies Anywhere users who have five synced Digital Retailers as of 11 am PST on 11/07/18 and sync for the first time with one additional participating Digital Retailer will receive all three eligible titles. ALL SYNCING MUST OCCUR BEFORE 11:59 PM PST ON 12/27/18. Users who have or had six synced Digital Retailers at any time between 10/10/17 and 11 am PST on 11/07/18 will receive a non-transferrable digital code with further instructions via their Movies Anywhere registered email, which can be redeemed for all three eligible titles.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Reader Question: Thoughts on Recent Stock Market Drop?

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I don’t really enjoy talking about stock market movements, but given that it has been the most common reader question recently and I wanted to start answering more reader questions, here we are. My overall take is the same:

  • In the short term, nobody can predict the movement of the overall stock market. Especially over the next year. Sure, anyone can make a guess (“forecast”) and sometimes those guesses are right. But last time I looked, the billionaire list is overwhelmingly business owners, not market timers.
  • In the long term, I still believe that businesses will grow in value as product of human ingenuity and hard work. I like owning the entire haystack, knowing that I will own the next Amazon, Google, or Visa.
  • In the medium term, the awesome run during the last 10 years greatly increase the odds of modest returns over the next 10 years.

If you are already making withdrawals from your stock market investments (like me), that last bullet point may make you nervous. As a result of having modest expectations, my main goal is to not sell any shares. I don’t plan to spend 4% of my portfolio given the sequence of returns risk of a 40+ year time horizon. My plan is to limit my withdrawals to just the dividends distributed, whatever that might be.

Above is a chart of S&P 500 earnings, dividends, and buybacks over the last 20 years, via Axios. Dividends and buybacks are both ways that companies can direct profits to shareholders. However, you can see that the earnings jumped around and the stock buybacks tended to go up and down with those earnings, but the dividend payout had a much smoother ride. Companies raise dividends cautiously because they know that their profits can be cyclical, but their shareholders expect their dividends to be consistent.

If you are NOT making any withdrawals from your stock market investments, then your job is to tune out the short-term noise, and maintain the long-term faith in what you own. Why do you own stocks? Why do you own bonds? Why do you own real estate? I know that simple money rules may fit on a 3×5 index card, but you need a foundation of knowledge to keep you following those rules. Otherwise it’s just like saying being healthy is “don’t eat too much, and eat mostly plants”. Simple is not the same as easy.

This is also why financial advisors recommend a written “Investment Policy Statement”. That’s where you are supposed to write these things down when you are calm, so you can read it again when you are panicked.

Don’t anchor yourself to the high point of your portfolio. You reached $10,000 and now it’s $8,000? You reached $100,000 and now it’s down to $80,000? That high number was just a mirage anyway. Remember, the stock market is always either at an all-time high or in a drawdown. See: The Only Two States of Your Portfolio: Happy All-Time High or Sad Drawdown.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Happy Holidays from qara.info!

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I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for reading qara.info. I am grateful for your time and attention and hope that I provided something of value in exchange. I hope that your year has been bountiful and that you have enjoyed both success in your finances and the other critical components of wellness – healthy mind, healthy body, and healthy relationships. I hope that you find time this holiday period to appreciate all the hard work you and your family put forth this year. I forgot to budget for a fancy Christmas card graphic, so here are some artfully-decorated cookies from my kids:

(I might have eaten a jelly bean. Shhh.)

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Solo 401k: Best Self-Employed Retirement Plan For Aggressive Savers ($50k/$100k Income Example)

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Each December, I run the numbers to see how much more I can contribute to my Self-Employed 401k plan, aka Solo 401k or Individual 401k. Fidelity, Vanguard, and Dinkytown (used below) have calculators to figure out contribution limits to various types of retirement plans (Solo 401k, SIMPLE IRA, SEP IRA, Profit Sharing Plan).

In general, as long as your income isn’t too high ($275,000+) and you aren’t deferring salary from another workplace retirement plan, the Solo 401k will allow you to defer the largest percentage of your business income. This is because the Solo 401k allows you defer as much as $18,500 (2018) in salary as an employee as well as 20% of your net self-employment income as an employer (both sides of your business) up to $55,000 total (2018). For example, if your income from your side business was $5,000 and you had no other salary deferral elsewhere, you could put 100% of that into a Solo 401k. (If you are age 50 or over, you can also add a $6,000 catch-up contribution to the salary deferral limit.)

Here are sample numbers for a $50,000 net income to your self-employed business. This assumes you are a sole proprietorship or an LLC taxed as a sole proprietorship. The math for a single-owner corporation is slightly different.

At $50,000 net business income, you can defer 56% annually ($27,793). This is exactly $18,500 more than if you went with the SEP-IRA.

Here’s the comparison for a $100,000 net income to your sole proprietorship.

At $100,000 net business income, you can defer 37% annually ($37,087). Again, this is exactly $18,500 more than if you went with the SEP-IRA.

Now, the Solo 401k does require a bit more paperwork. For example, you will need to file the IRS Form 5500-EZ separately every year once your Solo 401k assets exceed $250,000 to avoid steep IRS late penalties. SEP-IRAs have no such annual requirement. Therefore, if you don’t intend to take advantage of the higher contribution limits of a Solo 401k, I would consider sticking with the SEP-IRA. But if your goal is a high savings rate and maximum tax-deferred funds, look into the Solo 401k. I would compare the offerings from Vanguard, Fidelity, and Schwab. (Mine is at Fidelity.)

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Amazon: Buy $25 Starbucks Gift Card, Get $5 Amazon Credit

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Here’s another quick Starbucks deal. Buy a $25 Starbucks Digital Gift Card (email delivery) and get a free $5 Amazon credit with the promo code SBUX. You should see the code accepted at checkout. Promo Credit is valid through and expires on February 15, 2019, 11:50 PM (PT). Limit one Promo Credit per customer/primary email address.

For a limited time, get a $5 Amazon promo credit when you buy at least $25 of select Starbucks Digital Gift Cards offered by ACI Gift Cards Inc., an Amazon company. Enter the code SBUX at checkout to receive special offer. One per customer. Enter code SBUX at checkout.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Hyundai $50 Test Drive Offer: Yes, It’s Both Legit AND Profitable For Hyundai

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I was flipping through my Car and Driver magazine when I came across Why Getting Paid $50 to Test Drive a New Car Is Easier Than It Looks. Car manufacturers have offered gift cards for test drives off and on for years. I once test drove a Maserati and got a bunch of free Omaha steaks as well.

Yes, all you really have to do is walk in the dealership. Nearly every salesperson will simply let you have the gift card without a test drive if you tell them honestly that you just want the gift card. It’s simply the smartest use of their time. That’s exactly what the Car and Driver journalist found when he signed up for the Hyundai test drive offer. Right now, you can get a free $50 Visa prepaid card, $50 Amazon gift certificate, or $50 Target Gift Card.

The most interesting part of the article was these numbers from Hyundai:

Dean Evans, Hyundai Motor America’s chief marketing officer, says the gift-card offer has driven about 175,000 people to Hyundai dealerships. “We have been doing the program now nationally for about a year and a half. [It has] sold 76,000 cars. And we’ve had 500,000 people fill out the forms on in-market websites.”

Let’s crunch those numbers. 500,000 people provided Hyundai with their personal information (to be used for future marketing). 175,000 of those actually showed up in the dealership (and presumably got their $50.) The other 325,000 got nothing, but still gave up their info. 76,000 cars were sold as a result. That works out to $115 per sold car, they now have a huge marketing list for the future. Hey, that IS a good ROI compared to traditional advertising.

I think this is working out for Hyundai because their new cars appear a lot nicer in person than you might think and are significantly cheaper than the competing models from Hondas and Toyota. They just need to give people a little nudge to get in the door. I don’t think this is as likely to work out for “respected” brands like Audi or even Toyota. (You could argue about what corners are quietly being cut to get to that lower price – their Consumer Reports reliability ratings are lower than Toyota but higher than Nissan and Honda.)

Bottom line. If you are shopping around for a car, many places are offering $50 or more for a simple test drive. You really do get the free stuff just for walking into the dealership. But be careful, apparently nearly half of people who walk in for a free gift card, walk out with a new Hyundai!

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Starbucks Gift Card Promo: Buy $10, Get $5 Free $5 with Mastercard

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sbux_cupBack again through 12/20. Here’s another Starbucks caffeine promo. Buy a $10+ Starbucks eGift Card with Masterpass, get a free $5 Starbuck eGift card. Masterpass is the online checkout system for Mastercard (like Visa and Visa Checkout).

Offer good through 12/20/18 or while supplies last. Limit 1 promotional eGift per person. Usually my wife and I both send each other a gift… If they run out of free codes, they usually will take down the offer page. However, if you’re interested I’d take advantage of this offer as soon as possible. Full terms.

You should see both the $10 gift card and bonus $5 gift card at checkout, while the total should be $10. If you see the Capital One Masterpass option only and your Mastercard is not with them, look for a link on the bottom labeled “Change Your Wallet”. Alternatively, try the process again in a new Incognito/Private window.

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

The Permanent Gift Guide 2018 – Buy Stuff That Lasts Forever

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I’m reading through all these gift guides and so much of it seems just trendy and disposable. Do any of the authors actually own all the stuff they list? How many of these gifts will end up forgotten by this time next year? I decided to create an alternative “Permanent” Gift Guide, consisting of things that (1) I actually own, (2) I’d buy again if I lost it (it sparks joy), and (3) I expect to last for a very long time (or at least comes with a lifetime replacement guarantee).

Moka Pot Coffee Maker – $30
A lot of people love espresso, just like the Italians. But traditionally Italians only drink espressos in cafes. They don’t have huge, fancy espresso machines at home; they have Moka pots! (Okay, they now like Nespresso pods.) But something like 90% of Italian homes have a Moka pot. Read this Atlas Obscura article for details. I also learned why Cuban households also love Moka pots. Comes in different sizes. Bialetti is the original but there are other Moka pots that are cheaper and with good reviews.

LEGO Classic Medium Creative Brick Box 10696 – $28
When cleaning out my parents house, what were the toys that still worked and my own kids could pick up and start playing with instantly? Legos and Hot Wheels. As a kid, I never ever followed any of the directions that came with a Lego kit, so I am partial to these big assortment Lego mixes. Lego wants their bricks to be biodegradable, which is nice but at least their stuff lasts forever and can be used forever!

allcladsaute

All-Clad Stainless Steel Fry or Saute Pan – $100
I first heard about this brand when they kept winning comparisons by America’s Test Kitchen. However, they are quite expensive. Now, you don’t need All-Clad everything, but do I think a large stainless steel fry pan or saute pan from All-Clad is an important kitchen addition that will pretty much last you forever. (Skip the non-stick All-Clad and go with T-Fal for best non-stick value.) Resurrect occasionally with Bar Keepers Friend.

Patagonia Houdini Jacket – Men’s and Women’s – $100
This ultra-lightweight jacket (3.6 oz) packs into it’s own chest pocket (so there’s no extra bag to lose). This means you can throw it anywhere, from your cargo shorts pocket to your purse to your travel carry-on. It’s good for wind and light rain (not fully waterproof though) and just those times when you’re a bit chilly. It’s relatively expensive but the quality is high and it has traveled with me everywhere for several years.

mmbcastiron0

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet – $15
With over 10,000 reviews (!) and a 4.5 out of 5 star average rating, these heavy-duty beasts are trendy again. Great for searing and pan-frying, oven-safe, no worrying about scratches or dings. They will outlive you for sure. Got a rusty one? They are easy to resurrect; here’s a quick video on how to season your cast iron. Here’s a slightly-more expensive version with a silicone handle.

Darn Tough Full Cushion Wool Socks – Men’s and Women’s – $25
You wouldn’t think socks would come with an unconditional lifetime warranty, but they do from Darn Tough. If you wear a a hole in them a decade later, they will still replace them for free. Made in Vermont and comes in different thicknesses for use in both the heat and cold. High-quality wool keeps your feet dry and doesn’t stink. These are pricey, but I am slowly collecting them as part of my minimalist wardrobe.

zeroll

Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop – $16
If you walk into an ice cream shop, this is probably the brand that they use. Once you try it, you will wonder why all the other ice cream scoops in the world are so bad in comparison. It has conductive fluid that makes it easier to get through rock-hard ice cream. It creates the perfect ball shape for placing on cones. The 3-ounce size makes medium-sized ball, but other sizes are available. Why not own the best ice cream scoop in the world for under $20?

Osprey Packs Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack – $160
After doing a lot of research on travel/hiking backpacks, I decided to plunk down a lot of money on an Osprey Pack. They have an All Mighty Guarantee that will repair any damage for any reason free of charge, no matter when you bought it. So far, I have not been disappointed. Quality materials and construction. (My previous pack was from REI, but they discontinued their lifetime repair/replacement guarantee in 2013.)

lecreusetblue

Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Dutch Oven – $300
I cook multiple times a week with our Staub and Le Creuset enameled cast-iron dutch ovens. Cast iron isn’t a lot of maintenance, but you do have to keep it dry after each use to prevent rusting (and seasoning it again takes time). With enameling, you can just wash and leave it wet. The dutch oven shape also makes it perfect for braises, stews, and soups. (They also look nicer at dinner parties.) They do run $200-$300 but spread out over years of use it’s not that bad. I love ours, but honestly I don’t know how much better they are than this Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven which regularly runs under $60.

Hot Wheels 20 Car Gift Pack – $20
I gave my old Hot Wheels to my daughters, but will be giving some new Hot Wheels to my nephews. I will admit that some of my old ones seem much more heavy with more metal content than the new ones, but none of the new ones have broken yet either.

wusthofclassic

Wusthof Classic Knifes – $350
I remember wondering if Wusthof and Henckels were worth the price as I zapped them onto our wedding registry. Then someone actually bought us a set of Wusthof Classic knives and we proceeded to use them nearly every day for over a decade. They have been professionally sharpened a couple of times (less often than recommended), but they still work perfectly with no chips or rust spots. I bought a $40 Asian cleaver from a shop in Chinatown a couple years ago, and it only lasted a few months before large rust spots appeared. My mom told me I didn’t treat it right. Probably. I told her I’d rather spend $80 on a knife and have it last decades even after not treating it right. So I bought this one.

Let me know if you have suggestions (preferably due to personal experience).

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. MyMoneyBlog.com is also a member of the Amazon Associate Program, and if you click through to Amazon and make a purchase, I may earn a small commission. Thank you for your support.

Robinhood (Not a) Checking Account 3% APY: SIPC Insurance Mean?

qara.info has partnered with CardRatings for selected credit cards, and may receive a commission from card issuers. All opinions expressed are the author’s alone, and has not been provided nor approved by any of the companies mentioned. Thank you for your support.

I don’t know who does PR for Robinhood, but they are good. I don’t ever recall this many media articles in a single day for a pseudo-checking account. Techcrunch, Barron’s, Business Insider, Bloomberg, USA Today, CNBC, Marketwatch… All coming the day after they deactivated some user accounts without notice and halted all options trading mid-day.

Robinhood announced a new Checking & Savings Cash Management account to expand their existing (required) brokerage account product. Robinhood is not a bank, and this account is not FDIC-insured. They did partner with Sutton Bank to provide a debit card, but deposits are not held at Sutton Bank. After reading through all their materials, here’s what is included:

  • 3% APY, subject to change at any time.
  • No minimum balance, no monthly fee, no overdrafts allowed.
  • ATM/Debit card with free access at 75,000+ ATMs (Allpoint and MoneyPass ATM networks). Only 4,000 of those ATMs accept deposits, and you are limited to depositing up to $1,000 per day and $5,000 per month.
  • “Pay bills, send and receive checks, transfer money, and set up direct deposit–all from the Robinhood app.”
  • “This process will not affect your credit score.” (I assume this means no credit check.)
  • No physical checkbooks. You request a check via app and they will send a physical check via USPS First Class mail the next business day. Limited to $2,500 per day and $10,000 total per month.
  • Mobile check deposit (take pictures on your smartphone) is limited to $2,500 per day and $10,000 total per month.

What does SIPC insurance mean? As with any other US brokerage account, Robinhood has SIPC insurance. This covers up to $500,000 by the SIPC in cash and securities, of which $250,000 can be in cash. SIPC does not cover changes in value to securities. However, you may be surprised to know that per the SIPC website, the following are considered securities:

  • Money market mutual funds.
  • Treasury bills and Treasury bonds.
  • Certificates of deposit.

Is your money earning 3% APY at Robinhood cash? securities? Robinhood is being rather vague about this. They say “we only use the safest assets, such as US treasuries”. Well, short-term US Treasuries are securities and they don’t even earn 3%. They call it a “cash management account”, but many cash management accounts have an FDIC-insured sweep (i.e. Fidelity CMA). Are they keeping it as pure “cash” and just crediting you money on the side somehow? Are they just creating another money market mutual fund? Money market mutual funds are securities, and tightly regulated ones, especially after 2008 when the Reserve Primary Fund did “break the buck”. Is the SIPC going to let them offer a loss-leader money market fund that pays out more interest than it earns?

(Update: The SIPC has some concerns.)

(Update 2: Looks like Robinhood got a phone call and they have to change the name from “Checking & Savings”. Seems like they will still try to work this in as a cash management account.)

In my opinion, if this is just a hyped-up money market mutual fund, the worst case scenario is that start-up Robinhood runs out of venture capital giving away free trades and crazy interest and both the brokerage fails and the money market fund has issues. This means you may not have access to your money for a while. The Reserve fund mentioned above gave back 99 cents on the dollar, but it took over a year (!) for all the money to be distributed. No interest was paid during that lost time. Following that history, you will probably get most of your cash back eventually (up to the limits) since money market mutual funds must only hold relatively safe assets. Then there is the hassle from losing potentially your primary checking account and all the bill payments, direct deposits, etc.

In contrast, I feel that the FDIC has a more streamlined process to handle bank failures. Several banks fail every year. As long as you are within the limits, you’ll get every last penny back. Nearly all of the time, another bank will take over the deposits immediately and your transactions will keep posting as usual.

I see a lot of internet comments that are either “OMG I’m moving all my money here!” or “OMG you’d be stupid to keep any money here!”. I’m in the middle. I am signing up on the waitlist (that’s my referral link so I move up the waitlist) since it’s free and will read through the application fine print when the dust settles. Right now, Robinhood is just in hype mode. By the time they actually start accepting money, 3% APY might not be all that special.

In any case, I don’t plan to move all of my money or my daily transactions over there. I just don’t trust them enough as a young start-up with barebones customer service that discourages phone calls. With all of the various deposit and withdrawal limits, I would definitely consider maintaining a full-service checking account somewhere else.

If you like how this sounds but don’t have a Robinhood brokerage account yet, you should get your free share of stock first since you need that opened first anyway. WeBull also offers new users free trades and a free share of stock.

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