My Blog


Join my mailing list for tips on tax, travel,
social media, marketing & more!



Below you'll find my personal blog
with my own random thoughts.

Boomers are retiring, and Millenials
are all over YouTube teaching
each other how to build wealth.

Too many of my fellow members of
Generation X are BROKE!

Maybe it's too late for us to retire early,
but it's not too late to plan.


All information is accurate at the time of posting. Be sure to consult your tax or other financial advisers before making any major financial decisions. Talk to your doctor before changing diet or exercise. Any suggestions are given in good faith based on my own life experiences. Your results depend on a number of factors and cannot be predicted or guaranteed.

Enjoying your 1-2% Cash Back Card? Here's How I Get 10%...

posted Jul 27, 2020, 9:39 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 28, 2020, 8:43 AM ]

Hey! I’ve been using Cash App to send money and spend using the Cash Card. Try it using my code and we’ll each get $5. PMLBSBT
https://cash.app/app/PMLBSBT.
I thought I was smart using my credit cards to earn cashback and travel points. Why not take advantage of the bank's generosity and use those account credits, free flights, and other travel perks? Turns out, I was falling right into their trap. Thinking of the rewards inspired me to spend over my budget, and soon I found myself with a balance and monthly minimum payments. Even when I did pay the cards off, was 1.5% on my Quicksilver really worth all this hassle?

When I got out of debt, I decided to use only my debit card for spending and destroyed my credit cards. While liberating, I began to feel like I was not getting my best value without those rewards. On the bright side, I was spending less, not wanting to deduct too many individual purchases from my ledger.

It was the Joe Rogan Podcast that first referred me to Cash App. I listened to the promo a few times before I finally got it. It's a debit card, not a credit card; you can use it as a bank account, even sending your direct deposit money; you can send and receive money like Venmo; and it's the only card that comes with BOOSTS! Boost save you money at popular retailers. More on that in a bit.

I was skeptical at first but finally joined. It's funny because I didn't use it in time to get the sign-up bonus. That's how unsure I was. But now I use it all the time and save 10% nearly every time. In fact, before I spend money, I check my Cash App for boosts. If there's no active boost, I'll reluctantly shop or wait for a better deal.

Boosts are subject to change, but currently feature 15% off DoorDash, and 10% off Playstation/Xbox, Subway, Jack in the Box, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, and any grocery store. See the photo above for my boosts in the last few weeks.

People who use credit cards often cite security concerns as a reason. If someone steals your credit or debit card, you are not liable for the charges; however, when your debit card is used, the money comes right out of your bank account. With a credit card, you usually have 30 days for the bill to come due, and by then the charges are rectified. If someone skims or steals my Cash Card, there is no money on it to take. Any charge will be rejected, and I will get an immediate notification in the app. The Cash Card solves the security concern and keeps you out of debt.

How does it work? You sign up using my link, connect your bank account, look for boosts, and shop. At checkout, add the necessary funds to your card in the app, then swipe. The full amount gets charged, but the boost gets applied back to your account to be used later or transferred back to your bank.

Currently, using my link will net us each $5 to our accounts, so this is another referral win/win. Let me know if you have any questions.







Why Not Touch Your Retirement Account?

posted Jul 14, 2020, 4:56 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 14, 2020, 10:46 PM ]


If you have worked for a company with a 401K or started your own Individual Retirement Account (IRA), you are fortunate to have planned ahead for when you are unable or unwilling to work. Having that nest egg, no matter the size may give you some peace of mind. You may even think to yourself "If the fit hits the shan, I'm glad I have that money to keep me out of trouble." Although those funds are best left alone to build for our golden years, many of us give in to the temptation to borrow against or withdraw our retirement. While there are many reasons tampering with retirement is a bad idea, I can give you three that should turn you off the idea entirely.

  1. Pulling money out of retirement unplugs your hard-earned investments. When you see that total balance and think of what it can do for your current situation, you may not realize how long it took you to build. If you are struggling to keep up with monthly bills, if you have your eye on the latest toy, or if your dream home becomes a money pit, you may not consider the hours worked, the tough sales you closed, or the slow and steady market gains that fed your account. Once you pull the money out, the gains are lost and no more compounding interest. Finally, if it took you five, ten, fifteen, or twenty years to save, how old will you be when you finally put it back? Don't chop down the tree before you can eat the fruit. You can find another way.
  2. Have you considered the taxes and penalties? Would you borrow money at 30% interest to get out of your current situation? If the answer is no, then you definitely do not want to pay 30% to the IRS. Someone I know very well cashed in his modest $25,000 IRA in hopes of putting debt in the past. He had taken out $1-2K every couple of years to meet his budget and always managed to cover the taxes, but this was going to be the last time. He kept $6,000 aside to cover his potential tax bill, rationalizing to himself that giving that much to the government to access his own money was okay. Then he filed his taxes, and in spite of taking every deduction he could find, he still owed over $12,000 to the IRS. He was right back where he started, only now without that IRA. As we approach five years later, he still has a long way to go to get back.
  3. You may agree taking early disbursements from retirement is a bad idea, but then you hear about 401k loans. A great deal of US workers have 401K loans, and many think they are not so bad. You borrow from yourself and pay yourself back with interest. Sounds like a win-win on the surface, but 401k borrowers are violating both of my first two points. First, they unplug good investments that have taken years to build. Whether borrowing or withdrawing, your nest egg takes a hit. Second, when you leave your job, the loan becomes due immediately. Otherwise, it's viewed as an early withdrawal and subject to penalty taxes. Whenever I have lost a job, the last thing I was ready to do was to pay out a bunch of money.
There are some exceptions to my recommendation. If you face bankruptcy or the threat of homelessness, you may consider cashing out, but I would file bankruptcy before doing that. Retirement funds are usually not counted in BK court. If my family was days away from ending up on the street, that is the only time I would give in and take a disbursement. Right now under the COVID 19 pandemic, many are cashing in retirement thanks to policy eliminating the penalty. People who cash out now are still subject to income tax and are violating my rule #1 of unplugging growing investments.

I worked for a company without 401k for nine years. That's a good chunk of my working life without saving. One year led to the next, and I kept telling myself I would start an IRA as soon as things got better. Luckily along the way, I started listening to Dave Ramsey and Chris Hogan. Finally, I have a plan to save and Retire Inspired as the title of Hogan's book suggests. As a 40 something Gen-Xer, I am not even to the seventh inning stretch of life, and no matter where you are, it's not too late for you either.

That's why I started this post saying you are fortunate if you planned ahead. Many in my generation have not. In exploring investment accounts, it's easy to get caught up reading about trading stocks, working with brokerages, and timing the market. Don't fall into the analysis paralysis trap. Financial planners usually don't want to work with you unless you have some money to roll over. The thing to do right now is open an IRA, and start automated deposits. Just START. Don't wait for NINE YEARS as I did.

You can follow me to Wealthfront where they manage your first $5,000 in an automated account for free. After filling in your info, they ask a few questions to assess risk then take it from there. Start small if you must; drop $50 or $100 per month. Once you get your budget in line, you can try increasing. Whatever you do, start or continue investing. Keep it automated as possible to maintain growth out of sight and out of mind.



I Donated My AmEx Hilton Points

posted Jul 13, 2020, 8:51 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 14, 2020, 4:55 PM ]

http://refer.amex.us/JEFFEWaDCd?XLINK=MYCP

Apply for an American Express Card with this link. We can both get rewarded if you're approved! http://refer.amex.us/JEFFEWaDCd?XLINK=MYCP


You can earn:

75,000

Hilton Honors Bonus Points after you use your new Hilton Honors American Express® Card to make $1,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. You will be able to apply for any available Hilton American Express Personal and Business Card offers.


I was referred by my friend Phillip from Auto Locator, Inc., and used my new card for household bills for the first three months. After I racked up over 80,000 points, the pandemic hit, and I wondered if there would be travel in our future.


Because I didn't feel I was in a stable enough cashflow position to donate to the cause, I followed the referral link in my account to donate all of my points to the relief effort. Here we are four months later, and I am even happier that I chose to donate.





I Have A Separate Bank for Paying Netflix

posted Jul 12, 2020, 5:20 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 29, 2020, 9:26 PM ]


Because I drive quite a bit, I pass the time listening to podcasts. Always looking for ways to diversify my income, in addition to the occasional laugh, I latched my ears to Get Rich Nick (@getrichnickpod) from the first episode. Week after week, the duo of Nicks tries one money-making scheme after another. Some are more successful than others, but all are hilarious. From winning a car on The Price is Right, to shopping InstaCart during the pandemic, they have shared just about every side hustle.

One of their most successful episodes centered on SoFi Money. By posting their referral link in the show notes, they raked in hundreds of dollars in bonuses. I was glad to sign up and get my credit, which was paid out as soon as I deposited $500. Playing around in the app, I found a link that would get me a free share of stock with SoFi Invest, so I followed that and got a share of Amazon. After transferring the funds back to CapitalOne, I didn't know what else to do other than watch my Amazon stock grow.

Then the pandemic struck. To compensate for everyone staying home, SoFi Money emailed offering to save percentages on various streaming services. We are big Netflix fans, so I started a small payroll direct deposit to my SoFi Money account. As the pandemic has worn on, SoFi Money has added grocery discounts, including InstaCart. Now I have a separate bank just for paying Netflix that I can also use for groceries. Because of the tiny direct deposit every pay period, my bill is automated out of sight and out of mind.

As of this writing through September 2020, they are offering a 10% discount on streaming services and several grocery stores. The current sign up bonus pays you $50 for using my referral link https://www.sofi.com/share/money/2542897/



Disclosure: This article contains referral links to InstaCartAmazon, CapitalOne, NetflixSoFi Invest, and SoFi Money. Following my links helps support my blog. Thank you


I Can No Longer Recommend Ing Direct

posted Nov 29, 2013, 1:37 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 14, 2020, 2:04 PM ]


For years I have recommended that my friends and family bank online with Ing, especially when they complain about overdraft and other fees at their banks. Sadly I can no longer recommend Ing Direct. Here's why...

Ing Direct was acquired by Capital One and is now known as CapitalOne360. After spending most of this year with CapitalOne360, I can confidently recommend them just as I have Ing in the  past.

Why am I bringing this up now?
  1. I wanted to experience life with CapitalOne360 before I could honestly recommend it.
  2. Right now is the best time to join because they are having their annual Black Friday sale and are giving away the most money for opening an account.
Banking online is not for everyone, but for me it works perfectly. I'm not suggesting you give up your brick and mortar bank. They provide services that no online bank can. CapitalOne360 is the perfect place to start that second account to sock away money for a rainy day, or even for a sunny one.

I used to work for a bank, so I know how their business model works. They are worth more when they have more of your money. They train their employees to take all your money. Yes, it's your money, but they use your money to make even more. Then they charge you fees.

More than one friend has complained to me about bank fees. Bank customers complained to me about bank fees. That's how banks work, right? Bank fees are a fact of life. Overdraft fees are the worst, especially when you get more than one at a time. Overdraft fees tend to come in bunches. We have all mixed up our math at one point or another.

CapitalOne360 does not charge fees. They pay you for the privilege of holding your money. That's how it should be. I agree with this so strongly that in 2011, I gave up my Wells Fargo account and now bank exclusively with CapitalOne360. I make check deposits with my phone and get cash at more ATMs than your bank likely allows.

Most will not be able to do this, but it doesn't hurt to try CapitalOne360 and take advantage of the following Black Friday deals.
  1. Open a checking account by 12/2/13 and earn $125.
  2. Open a savings account by 12/2/13 and earn $75.
  3. Open a kids savings or Money account to earn $25.
  4. Open Share Builder or take out a home loan for other bonuses.
  5. Refer a friend. If two people use my referral link: CapitalOne360 by 12/2/2013, I get $100. Same goes for you.
Keep in mind, these accounts are all free and do not charge fees. They pay you interest. Isn't that how it's supposed to be? Thank you for using my referral link.



Now I Have an iPad

posted May 5, 2012, 5:49 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 12, 2020, 7:15 PM ]


In my last post, I shared how I learned from my dad about looking past marketing, packaging and other B.S. in order to make the best decisions with spending money. I closed by saying that I have held out on buying an iPad because I didn't need one. I could think of a thousand things I'd rather spend money on than one of these.

I say one of these because I'm typing this post on it. My boss must have seen that last post, or perhaps nature or God was working in mysterious ways. The very next day after I posted, she sent me a message to tell me that she never uses her iPad and sees no need for it, concluding that it would be better off with me. (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU if you are reading this one)

Now that I have had it for a few days, I do see it's value. That doesn't mean I would have rather spent my own money on it though. While it is an awesome communication and entertainment device, I don't think it's a must have for every household. 

My HTC Droid Incredible that I got for free with upgrade (well I got the replacement for it on eBay for $80 after it shattered) does just about everything the iPad does and fits in my pocket. These are strong arguments against dropping minimum $500 on one of these aside from the larger screen. 

These are a few things I like better on my HTC Phone :
  1. Sharing. I had no idea that iOS made it so difficult to share things (aside from on Twitter). On Android, wherever you are, you can hit "Menu" and "Share" to post links, videos, photos and more to any number of social networking sites or even mail apps. iOS will share to mail as well, but through the main mail app only, not a third party app like Gmail or Yahoo. By the way, as of today, there is no Yahoo Mail app for iPad anyway. 
  2. Integration. Mac people will like that their iOS device syncs well across the Apple lineup. As a Google based person, I like how Android syncs well with everything Google without even trying. All my pictures, videos and music are synced with the cloud without taking up valuable space on my phone . Yes there is iCloud for Mac, but their limits for free storage are much lower. 
  3. Ease of use. I must be joking, right? An iPhone is the most basic smart phone out there. The apps all show up on your home screen. They're simple to add and even easier to delete. I say android is easier because of features one level up from the basics. Everything from setting musical ringtones to syncing contacts with Facebook is much easier on Android.
  4. No iTunes. Google took my iTunes account to the cloud. My entire music library is available on my phone without worrying about how much space I have available. No updating my iTunes! 

My iPad lock screen posted to Twitter.

Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy the iPad"s large screen and massive selection of applications. In addition to choosing from more apps, iOS users tend to get the most popular ones well ahead their friends on Android. I remember seeing friends on Words with Friends and Instagram a year before I had access to those apps on my phone . That argument alone may be enough to sell you. 

Bottom line is that I'm more than happy to be able to choose from either. I'm glad my phone is Android so I can continue to share with ease, and I'm glad to have an iPad in order to have access to the hottest apps and to see what my daughter sends me in emoji characters. ✌

The Gentleman's Rant


Yes, I hate it. Yes, I must have one.



The Dukes of Hazzard, Kmart ,and My Dad

posted Apr 27, 2012, 5:11 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 12, 2020, 7:29 PM ]


When I was my son’s age (6 or 7), my world was The Dukes of Hazzard. I had Dukes toys, bed sheets, a birthday party and more. There was just something about that orange car, the General Lee, flying through the air. I can hear it now. “Yee Haw!”

General Lee by Johnny Cash

Every time we visited a store, I enjoyed looking through the toy section (still do). I can recall so clearly to this day one trip to Kmart with the family. While my mom and brother were in another aisle, I was admiring a Hot Wheels sized General Lee. I had plenty of Hot Wheels and loved playing with them all the time, but I had no General Lee in my collection. I immediately wanted it and showed it to my dad.

If you have read some of my other posts, you may recall that my dad was pretty good with money. He may have had some flaws, but finance was not one of them. His sound saving and investing has helped take care of my family to this day, nearly 25 years after his passing.
Insurance for Your Children from GerberLife

Well, my dad thought this car I was enamored with was the silliest thing in the store. Because it was a General Lee, it was priced much higher than other cars, and he did not see the difference. “You want this little thing?” he questioned. “It’s just a little car. Why would you want to spend so much for this?”

Maybe he was having a bad day. Maybe it was the way he was asking, but I did want that little car. I thought it would be a perfect fit in my collection. I had visions of soaring over my other cars and zooming around dirt tracks in our backyard. “Yes. Yes I do want it. Please?”

He got a little frustrated at that point and proceeded to rip open the package. Then he held the car up to me to show me that once it was open, it wasn’t so special. It was just another toy car. I slowly understood what he was saying, but my little heart was broken. Didn’t he understand how I felt about the Duke boys?

What he showed me was that in the grand scheme of life, we have to look past all the packaging and merchandising to see what we were really spending our money on. If we bought that car and never opened it, it may have been a good investment. I was going to play with it until broken or lost. That made it a liability. My dad thought like Robert Kiyosaki’s "Rich" Dad.

The Dukes of Hazzard was a masterfully crafted piece of marketing. The entire program was designed to keep viewers tuned in and buying merchandise. Why do you think the car was orange? Look how memorable it was and is. Even as an adult, I was excited to see one at the Johnny Cash Festival a couple years ago:
I also had a thing for Daisy Duke’s Jeep and have had my own Jeep for nearly 20 years now. I guess their master plan worked.

A few years ago, I watched Season One of the Dukes of Hazzard on DVD. It was fun and nostalgic to revisit the old show. Looking back now though, I can see what my dad saw. It really was pretty cheesy.

Has the world gotten increasingly commercialized since this early 80s hit? In short, yes. We are surrounded not only by advertising messages from companies looking for our dollars, but also by entertainment options that focus on well to do characters, fictional and non, who seem to have an endless supply of money. Not just reality TV, which as we all know, glorifies the lifestyles of the rich and famous, but also casual radio, TV viewing or websites. Characters and hosts casually mention the restaurants they ate at the night before or the latest products they can’t wait to get ahold of.

What are we supposed to do? I try to see it all the way my dad did. I try to look past the marketing, the fancy wrapper, the jealousy and the hype. I try, but sometimes I just want an iPad (for example). I don’t even like Apple that much. I can hardly tolerate iTunes for more than a few minutes. I can’t explain it. Lucky for me, I can still think back to that day in Kmart and tell myself that my life is fine without one.

UPDATE: As of two days after this post, I now have an iPad. Go figure.


My Anniversary

posted Apr 26, 2012, 3:32 PM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Jul 12, 2020, 7:31 PM ]


Today is my 14th wedding anniversary. As I look back through those 14 years and the five years we were together before, I recall so many fun memories. Yes, there have been ups and downs, sicknesses and health, richers and poorers, but we continue stronger than ever to this day.

We know that relationships are daily commitments filled with countless decisions. We both understand that our relationship will be only as good as the effort we put into it. As Paul McCartney told Chris Farley, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”

OK I know that line came from before that. Just a comedy homage to Mr. Farley.

Our song from our movie:



Our song comes from the movie we saw on our first “unofficial” date. The Proclaimers “I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)” from Benny and Joon. Funny how the lyrics make more sense the older we get...

When I wake up yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who wakes up next to you
When I go out yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who goes along with you

If I get drunk yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who gets drunk next to you
And if I haver yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's havering to you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I'm working yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's working hard for you
And when the money comes in for the work I'll do
I'll pass almost every penny on to you

When I come home yeah I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who comes back home to you
And if I grow old well I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who's growing old with you

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

When I'm lonely yes I know I'm gonna be
I'm gonna be the man who’s lonely without you
When I'm dreaming yes I know I'm gonna dream
Dream about the time when I'm with you.

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walked 1000 miles
To fall down at your door

source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/onehitwonders/imgonnabe500mileslyrics.html

Saving and Spending Early in Life

posted Apr 25, 2012, 9:26 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 25, 2012, 10:11 AM ]


In an earlier post, I left off with my teenage savings account accumulating $25 per month but going nowhere. My mom started me on the right path by setting me up with the account, but I never picked up on how or why to save. Hey, what teenager would?
Before long, I was transferring money back to my checking account to cover teenage expenses. I saw the meager savings totals and questioned the point of it all. Whenever I got a lump sum of money, I was quick to spend it because I had no base savings to add it to.
I really have no one to blame but myself for this start in life. I guess no matter how many times we're shown something, we still do need to make our own mistakes and learn our lessons. Seems like personal pain or struggle sticks better than lectures. Back then I thought it was all about wearing name brand clothes or driving new cars and didn't care about the long term costs of each dollar I spent. 

I can't believe how excited I was when Jack Weber Nissan "let me" drive home in my new 1994 Sentra SE-R. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I had it made living at home, paying no rent and actually told people I would rather drive a nice car than live in a fancy house. What was I thinking? My job at the time barely covered the car payment, gas and insurance! I'll probably elaborate on this experience later on.

Now I know that I can own nice things, with a sound financial plan. The pain of paying extra for things taught me the value of saving and owning over borrowing to get what I can't afford.

What are you saving for?

Some people simply save for the sake of saving. Let's say you've gotten past step one and figured out a budget to save $100 per month or some percentage of your income. What inspires you to stick to it? What happens if your neighbor gets the latest model of this or that, the new housing development in that nicer part of town finally opens their beautifully decorated models? What if word gets around that you have a little money put away, and someone needs just a little help to get by. Nothing kills a savings plan faster than a new loan payment or a family emergency. It's too easy to fall back into "paycheck-to-paycheck" mode, struggling to get by.


With knowledge, support and discipline, anyone can attain financial freedom (yes, even working for "the man").

First, educate yourself on ways to save money, either by cutting expenses or, heck, why not by increasing your income? Look for budgeting books at your library. By the way, libraries are perfect for cutting costs! Researching the web for knowledge doesn't cost money either.
Remember: Google is your friend.

Beware of advertising on most websites. Plenty of examples on this very page! You could easily click your way deeper in debt looking for financial freedom! A favorite free budgeting site I use, Mint.com, lets you plan and monitor your spending.  

Mint.com  is a good start for support, but you need people behind you as well. Be sure your family is on board and stick with advisers who look out for your best interests - not those of the bank or insurance company!

Finally, the key to it all is discipline. Remember, YOU have the ultimate say of what you spend your money on.

Don't be a "Slacker!"


In future posts, I'll break down ways to increase knowledge, find support and stay disciplined, including sharing how I found trusted advisers who helped me as well as a few who were looking out for their bonuses.
Recommended Reading:
Rich Kid Smart Kid: Giving Your Child a Financial Head Start

What Would You Do With Apple's $100 Billion?

posted Apr 24, 2012, 8:38 AM by Jeff Wagner   [ updated Apr 25, 2012, 10:13 AM ]


I know, in order to spend $100 billion, first you have to make that $100 billion. I guess that makes it easy for us "have nots" to tell them what to do with it.

If you're a shareholder, you most likely would want that money back before spending it on something from the video below, but it can be fun to dream!

Personally, I'd suggest they make iTunes a little less annoying. Seems like I need to update every time I log in. Ha ha!

In the meantime, keep having fun with your iPads, iPhones and iPods.

What would you do? Share with me in the comments below.



1-10 of 29