2017 - Smart Money Seed


2017: A Year In Review Plus 2018 Preview

Thank you and Happy New Year from Smart Money Seed!

We would be remiss if we did not start this post with a huge and sincere thank you and shout-out to our Smart Money Squad! All your support is the reason why we decided to relaunch earlier this year, why we've worked so hard to build what we've built, and why we're so motivated to continue to build and work to grow exponentially through 2018.

This community is ultimately for you, so we sincerely thank you for forming Smart Money Seed into what it's become thus far and what it will become.

2017 Highlights

2017 was obviously a super exciting year for us as it was effectively our first year on the job. Although we dabbled in the blogging space last year for a minute, we attacked 2017 with much more focus and effort and worked hard to bring you all useful, helpful, and hopefully enjoyable content.
  • Officially added Ty to the fold in November
  • Surpassed 25,000 total pageviews!
  • Set a record in December with over 4,500 pageviews
  • Grew our Twitter to over 900 followers
  • Grew our Facebook to over 80 likes and followers
  • Launched a podcast with 3 episodes to date
  • Posted 41 posts

2018 Goals

2017 was a fun year for us full of learning, experimentation, and establishing ourselves. This process has served its purpose and has been extremely meaningful and helpful for us. But it's time to blow the doors off this thing.

We're deeply invested in making Smart Money Seed the best platform in this personal finance, career, travel, and lifestyle space. A big part of that for us is working harder to learn what exactly you want to get out of this. Our 2018 goals are all centered around 2 main topics: growth and outreach.
  • Increase interaction with and within our community on Facebook & our website
    • We know you have awesome ideas and opinions. Some of our most successful posts have been about topics suggested by our community. We know we'll all get more out of this community with increased interaction. We're going to do our best to develop this in our own community and within our blogging community, but we really need you to step in here and help us out!
  • Post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
    • We've been working hard the last couple months to get ready to bring you high quality content more often. We're proud of our 41 posts in 2017, but we're shooting for at least 150 in 2018.
  • Record and post weekly podcast episodes
    • We really enjoy recording podcasts and will be looking to do some fun, fresh things with our podcast in 2018. We're going to start bringing you podcast episodes on a regular basis in the next couple of months.
  • Initiate unique outreach initiatives
    • I'm working on increase our interaction within the blogging community, Christian is developing some boots on the ground type in-person outreach strategies, and Ty is developing our Facebook strategy. Another initiative I will be initiating in 2018 is our entrepreneur interview series -- more to come on that in the coming weeks.
  • 10x our following and interactions
    • We're striving to hit 250,000 pageviews, 10,000 Twitter followers, and 1,000 Facebook likes. Again, we're counting on you to help us grow for the benefit of everyone involved.

Thank You!

Again, we cannot stress enough how much we appreciate all your support. We hope you all are ready for a kick ass 2018 for all of us as a community and individually. We're so excited for what's to come, and we're going to make sure this is an exciting year for the Smart Money Squad too!


Podcast Episode 3: Goal Setting & Holiday Budgeting


Welcome to 3rd episode of the Smart Money Seed podcast!

The SMS guys talk about our tips for holiday shopping (in case you're still scrambling at the last minute) and goal setting for the new year.

We also cover our Top 3 Christmas gifts of all time, and Alex and Ty battle it out in an epic Christmas song competition.

Merry Christmas!


The Best Way To Spread Christmas Cheer . . . Is Making The Best Of A Perfectly Imperfect Situation

Life always finds a way to throw the curveball.
The best we can hope for in these situations is to find a way and perspective to make life perfectly imperfect.

Giving is certainly important all year round, but it takes on an extra special meaning during Christmas time. I'm not afraid to admit that at 24 years old, I've lived most of my life as the receiver rather than the giver. This year, however, thanks to Rockstar Finance's Community Fund, we've been given the opportunity to spread a little Christmas cheer to an incredibly deserving family.

Erica Metzger, her sister Elena Gantt, and their family have been through much trial and tribulation since December 29th, 2016. That was the night that her mother, Lou Ann Cooper, began not feeling well and began to display stroke-like symptoms. After a quick trip to the emergency room, she was transported to Ohio State Medical Center. By 2 a.m. she was completely paralyzed and on a ventilator.

Lou Ann was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome which is a rapid-onset muscle weakness caused by the immune system damaging the peripheral nervous system. She is currently at Galion Rehab Center in Galion, Ohio where she undergoes an intense daily regimen of physical, occupational, and speech therapy. She no longer suffers from respiratory complications, she has gained the ability to talk and make facial expressions, and she has begun moving her hands, arms, and shoulders.

Lou Ann has made great progress, and she and her family maintain a positive and confident mindset. The road ahead remains long and daunting for the entire family, but they are committed to providing a joyful life for Lou Ann and helping her to restore her life as closely as possible to some level of normality.

Through all of this, Erica has been committed to establishing and growing her business, Perfectly Imperfect Gifts, which she currently manages using Facebook and Etsy. Between caring for her three young children and her mother, Erica somehow manages to find time to work on and build her business, often times working late into the night.

Erica does great work and has really started to build a positive reputation in her community. Continued support for her personally and for her business from her community and beyond is paramount in helping her find that extra energy she her family need to stay strong in their support of Lou Ann and, just as importantly, of each other. 

Ultimately, we decided to give $150 Visa gift card because we didn't want to limit Erica in how she is able to use the money. Whether she wants to invest in her business, support her mother, or take her family out for dinner, that decision is completely up to Erica.

We sincerely appreciate J. Money, John, and the Rockstar Finance community for bringing this opportunity to us and more importantly to Erica and her family. We understand $150 isn't a life changing amount of money, but we trust this will help bring a little Christmas joy to a family who desperately needs and deserves it.

From Christian, Ty, and myself, we would all like to wish Erica and her family, the Rockstar Finance community, and our Smart Money Squad a very merry Christmas. Let's all be sure to take some time to enjoy and savor the time spent with our families and loved ones and do what we can to spread the Christmas cheer not only this Christmas season but all year round.

Merry Christmas!


We're All Born With Different Resources. Let's Make The Most Of Them!

In case you haven't figured this out by now, Christian, Ty, and I enjoy talking about our own knowledge and experiences in the hopes that it might help others with similar experiences or who are hoping to have similar experiences.

This blog will not help a multi-millionaire CEO double her net worth or an impoverished single parent find an extra $5 for groceries. Sure, some of the concepts we talk about do apply all the way up and down the wealth spectrum, but we feel our articles have the strongest impact on those in similar situations as ours.

We also understand that we have not exactly started from scratch. We are extremely fortunate to have been born into somewhat privileged family situations with strong support systems and an abundance of resources to help us accomplish the things we have accomplished and wish to to accomplish.

It's been said a million times, but I'll say (type) it again. Life's not fair. We badly wish it were, but it's just not. Some of us are born on 2nd base, some are born having already scored, some are born standing at the plate getting ready to bat, and some are born 100 miles away from the field with no concept of what the game even is.

No matter where your life started, your parents worked hard to get you to where you're at. Generally speaking, your parents started at some point on the spectrum I mentioned above and scratched and clawed their entire lives doing everything they knew to put you in the best possible situation. Wherever they ended up, they need to call in a pinch runner at some point. Now it's time for you to take the baton and run with it.

DISCLAIMER: My understanding of the rules of baseball is predicated on teachings from Christian, SMS resident baseball expert. If you have a problem with it, talk to him.

A Motivated and Committed Person can Accomplish Anything!

We've all been given an opportunity to run, and although we don't all start at the same spot or have the same equipment and resources to help us run fast, we have an opportunity to run. My dad's dad was born into an impoverished family. He took his baton and ran, becoming an entrepreneur (albeit with additional challenges some of which were self-imposed) who, with much help from my grandma, always made sure his family had enough to get by.

My dad grabbed the baton at an early age and aspired to leverage the institutions available to him in society in order to get ahead. He spent 22 years in the Air National Guard and earned a bachelor's degree in business from Bowling Green, working for county and state agencies for nearly 30 years and counting. Again with much help from my mom, my brother and I had everything we could have ever possibly needed and then some.

High School graduation is an important point where your light
jog needs to turn into a dead sprint to get you where you want to go.
I was fortunate enough to live my life relatively sheltered and free from distractions. But that didn't mean I was content with staying on 2nd base where I was born. I understand I didn't hit that double, but my parents handed me this baton, and I have worked hard my entire life so I can take off with it. I was able to focus on school growing up, and my parents (gently most of the time) pushed me to be the best I could be academically and personally.

I was fortunate enough to have the resources to be able to go to Ohio State and earn my degree in 4 years. Part of that was my parents' willingness to help out, part of that was my own desire to work and make sacrifices to take on part of the financial burden of college myself, and part of that was my small academic scholarships I had earned through hard work during my high school years and earlier.

I worked hard during college to get a great job and spend a lot of my free time trying to build our blog, our brand, and our squad. Sure, I still spend plenty of time playing video games and going to the bars. But I'm working hard every week to make myself and my overall mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc. situation better the next week.

Take Off!

I hope this post doesn't make me come across as an egotistical maniac. My point is not to focus on my life and what my family and I have done. My point is that no matter what situation you are born into, you need to run.

When you're running, you're going to fall. You might even break your leg or tear your achilles, but those are the most important moments when you have to find a way to get back up and run some more. Dig deep and find every resource available to help you to start moving again.

Sometimes when life makes it hard to run, you need to find a
vehicle to help get your ass in gear.

If you feel lost or unmotivated or like you have the world working against you, my best advice for you is to just start running. Set a goal for yourself, make a plan, and utilize every resource possible to improve your situation. We have the opportunity to accomplish so much with the resources available to us in society. Just because those resources might not be available to you today doesn't mean they can't be available to you tomorrow.

It's never too late to start running.


Five Finance Friday - 12/15/2017


What's up, Smart Money Squad! It's that time again for another edition of our weekly series, Five Finance Friday. We're bringing you 5 articles that I've come across throughout the week and particularly enjoyed and think you will enjoy as well. The topics will vary between all the different topics we write about, blogging, entrepreneurship, hot topics or really whatever we happen to be drawn to that week (basically we'll do whatever the hell we want).

Don't forget to let the authors know that you enjoy their content!

1. Lifestyle Simplification

Making Sense of Cents brought some more awesome content this week with Are You Making Your Life Difficult? 18 Ideas To Simplify Your Life In 2018. Doesn't living a simpler life just sound fantastic? It's something that many celebrities and athletes, who are idolized by many, idolize themselves. Ending the negativity and all of the organization methods are definitely my favorites that I need to focus on in 2018!

2. Spavings

J. Money from Budgets Are Sexy knows exactly what you should do with that extra money you saved on Black Friday or from hitting your free drink on your coffee shop loyalty card: make a spavings account! Instead of using that money to justify throwing a few extra bucks away towards your next impulse buy, make a separate account to actually help yourself get ahead in your financial life. J. Money's got an awesome idea of using that money to max out an IRA! The spavings crazy is sweeping the nation, so head over to his article to check out the spavings successes!

3. Keeping Up With The Joneses

Josh from Money Life Wax provides some great perspective in Stop Comparing Yourself Financially. Comparing ourselves to others in any aspects of life can be a harmful practice. It's important to remember that we all need to just focus on being the best we can be and let everyone else worry about themselves. Comparison leads to a need to keep up with the Joneses which can lead to financial destruction pretty quickly.

4. Start Your Day For You

Forbes ran an awesome article from Brian Scudamore from O2E Brands.Brian gives us 6 Morning Rituals That Will Make You Productive All Day. I've been working on taking control of my mornings, and I've taken some huge strides in my fitness as a result of getting up at 5:30 to workout before work (more to come on that in a later post). 

All the advice is so great that it's hard to pick a favorite, but to me, Write Down 1 Daily Intention really stands out. The days I write down my 3 MITs (Most Important Tasks) are so much more productive than days I let myself get gobbled up by email and drown in red flags.

5. Home Ownership

Jason's backstory from Winning Personal Finance feels a lot like mine at the beginning of his article My Wins And Losses From Buying A Condo At 24. I had considered purchasing a condo once I moved out of my parents' house after almost 2 years at Marathon. Ultimately, the opportunity to live with one of my best friends, Jordan, a great location downtown which is walking distance to work, and a super cheap rent were benefits too great to pass up.

Conventional financial wisdom says to buy as early as possible, but it's important to keep in mind that you'll only make out ahead if it's the right buy for you. Jason considers himself to have come out ahead on the deal but certainly not by a landslide. A home can be a wonderful financial asset, but it can also bring headaches and leave you vulnerable to volatility in the housing market especially for a home you know you're going to sell in a relatively short time frame.

Thanks for stopping by, squad. Go give these authors a shout and have a kick ass weekend!

We usually come across articles browsing through our Smart Money Seed Twitter. If you'd like to be featured in a future Five Finance Friday, first write a kick ass post then tweet it at us or email to info@smartmoneyseed.com


The SMS Guide To Bitcoin & Cryptocurrency

Welcome back, Smart Money Squad! When we last checked in, we delved into how we can make money through bank account bonuses for the upcoming holiday season. While I do love the world of credit cards, churning & saving money, I’m here to talk to you today about something I am incredibly passionate about and I hope you’ll enjoy: the world of cryptocurrency.

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the talk around the water cooler. People are buzzing about this strange new money called “Bitcoin”, and for good reason. Bitcoin, cryptocurrency’s current champion and by far the largest digital currency, has skyrocketed in value over the past year.  When we think about our 401k or our Roth IRA, conventional wisdom would tell you that 12% is a fantastic return on your investment. That’s the S&P 500 average year-over-year & what you would typically expect to annually return by keeping your money in the stock market long-term. Bitcoin, however, has put this figure to shame. Here’s the one year value chart for bitcoin (courtesy of Coinbase):

As you can see, bitcoin has risen 2096.02% over the course of the past year. That is an INSANE figure for any investment and certainly growth that has Wall Street drooling. With that in mind, I’m here to give you a little background on the world of cryptocurrency and how you can potentially get started with an investment.

What is Bitcoin?

When I try to describe the concept of bitcoin/cryptocurrency to my friends, family and peers, it often becomes trivial explaining the technology behind the concept. Let’s break down our current monetary system in the US before jumping to the world of bitcoin. The U.S. dollar is a currency that is regulated by the Federal Reserve (government) and has transactions confirmed by three parties: the sender, the receiver & a clearing house. 

If I wanted to send Alex money through my bank, both my bank & Alex’s bank would have to confirm the transaction before going to a trusted medium to make sure this money transaction is indeed valid. Sounds complicated, sure, but this is the basis upon which the U.S. monetary transaction is founded.

This is where the concept of bitcoin differs from the U.S. dollar: bitcoin does not need the regulation of the third party to confirm a transaction.  Bitcoin instead relies upon blockchain technology to confirm its transactions, a field that is revolutionizing the way we think about recording data.

Blockchain Technology

The blockchain technology that is the foundation of bitcoin works uniquely to record the thousands (by now, maybe millions!) of transactions that occur daily on the bitcoin network. The blockchain functions by having thousands of people around the world run programs on their computer to “mine” bitcoin; essentially, the programs work to confirm that each transaction is valid before adding the transaction to the blockchain. 

As such, every confirmed transaction is readily available to view on the blockchain and works as bitcoin’s version of a “ledger”. The bitcoin miners that run these programs on their computers use an exorbitant amount of electricity (hence the high costs of mining) but in turn are rewarded with bitcoin for their mining efforts.

All in all, the blockchain works as our trusted third party without having to be regulated by a government entity. Because the blockchain technology is in place, we can trust that there will not be fraudulent transactions (i.e. trying to send money twice) & can feel safe knowing a transaction will go through as planned.

Why Should I Buy Cryptocurrency?

While the concept of cryptocurrency remains fuzzy to many, I’m here to ease your worries. Cryptocurrency has a variety of uses that make it a viable option to invest in as it continues to explode onto the Wall Street scene. 
  • You could simply treat cryptocurrency as a "stock" investment, diversifying your portfolio. This would conceptually be no different than investing in an individual stock or a valued commodity like gold. Simply treat bitcoin as you would Apple stock when taking that next $200 out of your paycheck to invest.
  • Cryptocurrency is indeed valid tender across many different mediums, many of which currently lie online.  A few major U.S. companies that accept bitcoin include Microsoft, Wordpress & Overstock, to name a few. Japan made news earlier this year when announcing that bitcoin would be accepted as legal tender across all businesses as early as next year. Adoption has already begun both in Japan and neighboring countries; it may only be a matter of time before it hits the U.S. We’ve already got bitcoin ATMs popping up around the country (the nearest one to me is 10 miles away) and with the rise of payment options like Apple Pay/Samsung Pay, it’s only a matter of time before bitcoin payments become the norm.

  • The fees associated with utilizing cryptocurrency are much less than those of our U.S. dollar counterparts. When we send money via a card in the U.S., we are often hit with a 3% processing fee. How many of us have tried to pay our rent or an electric bill with a credit card? I know I have-and I remain frustrated every time by having to fork over anywhere from 2-3% to simply pay a bill. Cryptocurrency transactions offer a cost-efficient solution to this, especially newer cryptocurrencies like Ethereum and Litecoin.

  • Last but not least, the speeds of the transactions in cryptocurrency are unparalleled. If I want to send somebody money through a bank wire-to-wire transfer, the money typically arrives in 3 days. Cryptocurrency eliminates that lag time and ultimately sends your money quickly. While bitcoin does tend to take a bit longer than the aforementioned ethereum and litecoin, all of these cryptocurrencies are sure to get your money moving faster than the current U.S. banking system.

How Do I Buy Cryptocurrency?

Once you’ve made the decision to invest in cryptocurrency, we now need to answer the question of where to purchase. The easiest method (and the one that I use) to purchase cryptocurrency is through an online wallet. Coinbase is the most widely recognized online wallet (currently #9 on the Apple top charts) and a very simple solution to purchase cryptocurrency.

Simply signup for an account on Coinbase, verify your identity, and you’re well on your way to purchasing your first amount of bitcoin. If you do decide to utilize Coinbase as your online wallet, I’d simply ask that you please utilize my sign-up link when purchasing. We’ll both get $10 in bitcoin (BTC) with an initial purchase!

If you don’t like the setup of Coinbase or wish to utilize other online wallets, here is a list of a few leaders in the industry:
·         GDAX-I use this as well, owned by Coinbase but fees are less
·         Bitstamp
·         Gemini
·         Kraken

Where do I store my Cryptocurrency?

Once you’ve purchased your cryptocurrency, there are a few different options of how to store it. We’ll use bitcoin as the specific example for this-if purchasing other cryptocurrency, I’m more than happy to discuss methods of storage offline or in the comments section.   
  •  Download a software wallet. I utilize Electrum as my specific wallet when storing my bitcoin and it’s always worked smoothly. Once you have received your bitcoin from the online wallet of your choice, you can send the bitcoin to an electronic address (typically 30-35 characters) that is linked to the software wallet you ultimately store the currency on. When clicking send, I would simply paste the electronic address associated with my software wallet and confirm the transaction. This works almost identically to any cash-sending app we use today (Venmo, Cash, Paypal) but instead of a phone number/email address as the recipient, we send to something like this:

If you lost the computer/phone that had the cryptocurrency on it, fear not. Electronic wallets are equipped with a seed (think password) that consists of 15 randomized words that function as the safeguard to your account. You should write these words down and store them somewhere safe-if you lose access to your electronics, this will be the only way to access your cryptocurrency.

  • Store your cryptocurrency on the online wallet. While this is not the recommended method, this works for many people who prefer to be passive with their investment. Online wallets will store your currency free of charge; however, you are at the mercy of the wallet’s functionality when looking to make transactions. If Coinbase went down (which it often does with increased web traffic), you have no access to your cryptocurrency for a prolonged period of time. 

There is certainly nothing wrong with storing your currency in online wallets, but I liken it to having all of your money at the bank. If the banks shut down, you won’t have access to your money. I prefer to have a bit of liquidity when investing, which storing in a software wallet provides.

Tax Obligations

I would be remiss if I did not mention that there is a tax obligation associated with buying cryptocurrency. The tax on any profit made by investing in cryptocurrency is treated like capital gains tax, meaning that any post-tax dollars you invested will be taxed again on the profits only. Any time that you move your investment from cryptocurrency to USD, that is considered a taxable event. For example, let’s say I bought $100 of bitcoin in August and sold that same amount of bitcoin for $300 in December. I’d be taxed on the $200 of profit at the short-term capital gains tax, explained below.
There are two different tax rates that you can be taxed at, depending on how long you hold the cryptocurrency in question.

  • If you held the cryptocurrency for less than one year before converting back to USD, the profits would be taxed at the same rate as your marginal tax bracket (think 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, etc.)
  • If you held the cryptocurrency for more than one year before selling back to USD, the profits are considered long-term capital gains and are taxed at 0%, 10% or 20% depending on the tax bracket that you fall into.

When dealing with large tax implications, it’s always safe to consult with a  tax professional and get their advice on how much of the profits you should be withholding for tax. You can also report your losses and receive a $3,000 deduction/year that can be rolled over into following years if you lost more.

Final Thoughts

Cryptocurrency is a booming industry that continues to see explosive growth in 2017. The field projects to continue growth throughout the coming years; however, we must remember that NOTHING IS CERTAIN IN INVESTING. Bitcoin has swings that range from hundreds to thousands of dollars daily, a figure that may scare off those who want to be risk-adverse when investing.

Ultimately, it is imperative to keep in mind that anything you are investing is money that you can afford to lose. With the crazy swings that cryptocurrency take, it’s easy to panic sell. Holding these investments long-term is sage advice in nearly every investment and what will ultimately pay dividends in the future.

If you liked this blog, please share to your friends & let us know how we did in the comments section. I’m happy to answer any of your questions on cryptocurrency and hope to connect with many of you soon!  




Five Finance Friday 12/8/2017


What's up, Smart Money Squad! This is the first installment of our new weekly series, Five Finance Friday. We're going to bring you 5 articles that I've come across throughout the week and particularly enjoyed and think you will enjoy as well. The topics will vary between all the different topics we write about, blogging, entrepreneurship, hot topics or really whatever we happen to be drawn to that week (basically we'll do whatever the hell we want).

Don't forget to let the authors know that you enjoy their content!

1. Travel Hacking/Credit

Mr. Jamie Griffin gives some great tips for anyone looking to get into the travel hacking game in Travel Hacking Our Way to Cheap Vacations. If you're interested in learning more about travel hacking, Ty posted an awesome travel hacking 101 which has quickly become one of our most popular posts. Jamie focuses on an extremely important success factor in travel hacking -- the ability to remain disciplined when using a credit card.

If you're not used to using a credit card, it's a good idea to ease in rather than going crazy trying to rack up points on day 1. The cost of credit card debt will quickly erase any benefits you might be getting from y our rewards!

2. Saving $$

Making Sense of Cents was featured on CNBC this week with money-saving strategies from spouses who bank 85% of their income. Congrats, Michelle -- such an awesome accomplishment! This offers some great perspective on a couple who hasn't lost sight of their financial goals even as their income increased about 10x. These money saving strategies can be applied whether you're making $1,000 per month or $100,000.

3. College & Costs/Benefits of Sports

The Cheap Athlete gives some comprehensive insight into the realities of college scholarships and the financials behind them in Breaking Down The Average College Athletic Scholarship. First and foremost, this reminded me I need to revisit my investigation into whether Christian was paid to play college baseball. I've heard he's up for the corner outfielder warmer upper hall of fame soon!

We often see college athletes receiving scholarships, but we might not necessarily think about the fact that not only are most scholarships not full rides, but those athletes have incurred a hell of a lot of costs to earn that scholarship. People should participate in sports because they enjoy them and not because they'll be a "free" ticket to a college education. Not everyone can make hundreds? thousands? millions? like Christian did back in his day.

4. Blogging

Ninja Budgeter published an article this week that should be particularly interesting for new bloggers, 11 Lessons I've Learned From A Year Of BloggingThis serves as a great reminder that we're in this blogging game to provide value for others which we need to do consistently at a powerful level through our blog content, promotions through social media, and interactions with others, and we need to be strategic in doing so. Thanks for the content, Mike -- congrats on completing your first year!

5. Networking

Millennial Money Man gives us a reminder of the importance of networking in Why Networking Is as Powerful as Compound Interest. Bobby provides us some great insight into how networking has helped him not only in his current role as an entrepreneur, but also to land his first traditional job as a teacher. I've seen powerful examples of networking in my own life as well.

I actually applied at Marathon because Christian's brother-in-law works there and told Christian to apply. Christian told me about the company, and a few months later I found myself in Houston for an internship. Bobby also gives some tips on how to network including the dreaded but oh so important "Step out of your comfort zone."

Thanks for stopping by, squad. Go give these authors a shout and have a kick ass weekend!

We usually come across articles browsing through our Smart Money Seed Twitter. If you'd like to be featured in a future Five Finance Friday, first write a kick ass post then tweet it at us or email to info@smartmoneyseed.com


Not Your Typical Fisherman's Story


The Story

This past weekend I went on a fishing trip with one of the best cat-fishing guides on this side of the Mississippi. This guy is a first class fisherman, and he consistently catches BIG catfish on the Ohio River. He has plenty of 5-star reviews online, and he can tell stories of catching many 30+ pound fish with pictures to prove it. I'm a rookie fisherman (trust me, I still have a lot to learn), so this trip was one of my first opportunities to land some really big fish. We were on water at 8:30am and by noon it was 50 degrees and sunny. I couldn't have scripted a better day for fishing in December.

We hit our first fishing spot by about 8:45am and wasted no time dropping the lines in the water. 15 minutes passed and all we had to show was a couple of small nibbles. "Crank 'em up," the guide told us. "Let's try a new spot." A few minutes later we nestled into another well known fishing hole and dropped our baits in the water. Again, the rod tips weren't budging. We tried a 3rd and 4th spot, and after about 2 1/2 hours all we had caught was a Buffalo Carp. This was a pretty big fish but far from what we were looking for.

We really caught this fish by mistake. He just happened to be swimming by when we were reeling in the lines.

We tried a 5th, 6th, and 7th spot. No luck. Somewhere between spots 8 and 10 we caught a catfish that was less than 10 inches. We were happy to bring a fish on the boat, but you can catch fish much bigger than that in a small farm pond. We probably hit 15-20 tried and true fishing holes over the course of 7 1/2 hours, and all we had to show of it was a carp and a baby catfish. This was definitely not the fishing trip I had dreamed of.

What happened? Why didn't we catch any big catfish? It would have been easy to blame the guide and say that he didn't know what he was doing or that he didn't try, but that would be a blatant lie. He was clearly an Ohio River fishing expert, and he did everything he could to put us on the fish. Maybe it was that we were poor fishermen and we were just not setting the hook right. While this may have been true once or twice, we didn't even get enough bites to have a chance to mess up!

I think the answer is pretty simple; sometimes the fish just don't bite. As a fisherman, you can do everything right, but if the fish aren't hungry, you aren't going to have any luck. We could have panicked after we weren't getting a lot of bites and tried some new tactics and strategies, but I'm not sure what good that would have done. We made some minor adjustments, but at the end of the day, our best bet was sticking to the proven cat-fishing methods.

The Message

First and foremost, I think that this story exemplifies the bad luck that I bring to fishing. If anyone has any "good luck" dances, songs, or rituals, please send them my way.

What happened to me on the fishing trip happens to all of us in our personal and professional lives. Sometimes at work you can put together a great presentation, but your manager doesn't like it. You can cook your family an awesome meal, but one picky eater doesn't like the green beans.

In personal finance we run into the same barriers. Occasionally you will loose on an investment, maybe even a considerable amount. Sometimes you will run into months where you can't contribute to your savings, and at some point you may have to taken on some unforeseen debt.

Sometimes life throws us nasty curveballs, but have you even seen what a major league player does after they swing and miss? They step out of the box, go through their pre-pitch routine, and step back up to the plate. They stay committed to their battle tested process that has gotten them this far in their career. What you don't see is them instantly switching their batting stance or changing their grip. Don't let a curveball send you back to the minor leagues. Don't drastically change your investing strategy just because of one failure. Don't change your saving approach just because you have to dip into your savings account. Stick to your guns and stay dedicated to the saving, budgeting, and investing tactics that have gotten you this far.

I may not have caught any memorable catfish this weekend, but that doesn't mean I'm throwing in the towel. I'll be back out there soon in search of a river monster, and when I find it, I'll be sure to make it sound much bigger than it really was.

Far from a trophy fish, but this is proof that I can indeed catch a fish!


How Would the Senate Tax Plan Impact You?

Smart Money Seed: Your one stop shop for all government related news.
PS: Ty has pretty awesome government access! He wouldn't let us in the fence.

Although the new tax plan's potential implications are often blown out of proportion by biased news reporters either trying to make it look really good or really bad, the fact of the matter is that we will all feel some sort of impact once the damn thing finally gets executed.

If you're confused about this whole process, you're not alone. Essentially the House has passed a tax reform plan, the Senate has passed a slightly different plan, and the powers that be will now hash out the differences to propose the finalized plan.

Barring anything radically bizarre, tax reform is now a when rather than an if. We're also waiting on the final what.

The Skinny

Yahoo Finance has an outstanding and simple synopsis of how the Senate plan would affect a family of 4 making $25k, $75k, and $175k. Some important notes from that article:
  • $25,000 income - estimated $100 annual tax savings (0.4%)
People are griping about this because the numbers don't suggest that the new plan does enough to help these people. The fact of the matter is that a family of 4 making $25k per year doesn't pay much in federal tax anyway. With a 12% tax bracket and a standard deduction of $24,000 in the new plan, extremely low income families will not be drowning in taxes.
  • $75,000 income - estimated $2,244 annual tax savings (2.99%)
A popular narrative is that the wealthiest people will be helped the most by the new tax plan. Yes that's true from a strict dollars perspective, but I'm sure if we conducted a poll off families making $75k, they would be elated about the extra $200/month in their pocket. The nearly 3% savings this represents actually does exceed the 1.77% savings for families earning $175k.
  • $175,000 income - estimated $3,095 annual tax savings (1.77%)
It will be interesting to see how these people end up investing this extra cash. While families with the previously discussed levels of income will most likely use the extra money to do things like make ends meet or pay down debt, families making $175k are hopefully managing their finances well enough to not have to do those things at least on a long term basis with an extra $250 per month. This is where we could see the biggest increase in economic stimulus, charitable giving, and even job creation.
  • 70.4% of taxpayers claimed the standard tax deduction
The previous standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly was $12,700 ($6,350 for singles). The average itemized deduction among those who claimed (29.6% of taxpayers) was $27,053. If the standard deduction is nearly doubled to $24,000 according to the Senate bill, the amount of taxpayers claiming the standard deduction would increase. That means most of the changes in what people can and can't deduct will only affect the wealthiest taxpayers who are making the most money and spending the most money on things that can be deducted such as charitable contributions and mortgage taxes. Most middle class families will take the standard deductions if they are not already doing so.
  • New tax breaks would expire after 2025
This seems to make perfect sense to me. This is an expensive plan for the government, and nobody completely knows if the positive economic impacts will be drastic enough to offset the decreased federal income tax revenue. Like with any major change, it's good practice to execute a pilot period and then perform a check and adjust. I'm not going to start complaining about tax savings now just because I might pay more in 10 years.
  • Corporate tax rate decreases from 35% to 20%
Trump, who has been an extremely successful business owner, has discussed how difficult it is for some companies to justify keeping jobs in the US when costs can be so much cheaper overseas. Providing a tax break for US companies while simultaneously imposing new taxes and sanctions against companies who are actively outsourcing jobs and profits could help our economy as a whole take steps toward leveling the playing field with the rest of the world. This will allow companies to create more jobs, keep their jobs stateside, and pay higher wages.

What Do You Think?

I'm definitely not a tax expert (I just started taking over the reigns of doing my own taxes from my dad last year -- and he still helped walk me through it), but I do try to play one on the internet. What do you think of the proposed plan from the Senate? Are you interpreting the potential implications differently than I am? Let me know in the comments!


Bank Account Bonuses: Extra Cash In Your Pocket


As the holiday season rapidly approaches, a lot of us begin to budget our finances to ensure that we can afford gifts for our friends & family. For some of us, that means scrapping some leisure activities or that meal out on Friday to save some extra cash. I’m the oldest of 5 children and know that the holiday season definitely finds me strapped for money. Fortunately, I’ve been able to utilize one of the overlooked assets of the travel hacking community to finance recreational trips & that extra beer at the bar in December: bank account bonuses.

Why Bank Account Bonuses?

I find that many of the available sign-up bonuses across the banking industry are quite easy to obtain and put cash in your bottom line quickly. Throughout the last few years, I’ve been able to utilize bank account bonuses as a buffer to many of my side hustles I have going. If you were worried about paying tedious manufactured spending fees or simply want to make the rent burden a little less, checking/saving account bonuses have you covered. Here are a few of the ways I’ve used checking account bonuses in the past:
  •     Excursions on a cruise
  •     Student loan payments
  •      Wedding expenses

The best part about these bonuses-you are not tied into travel partners or a specific points program. This is stone-cold cash that you take home at the end of the day (minus some tax obligations, depending on the bank in question). No matter how you decide to use the extra cash, it’s definitely convenient to have these bonuses readily available at your disposal.

General Requirements of Checking & Savings Account Bonuses

The checking & savings account field tends to be a bit more competitive in their bonuses than credit card companies of late, who have slashed benefits & point bonuses across many major cards (looking at you, AMEX Platinum & Citi Reserve). The bonuses associated with checking and savings accounts tend to range from $100-$500 and will have steeper requirements as the bonus rises.

Keep in mind that in this hobby, your mileage may vary. Every bank has a separate list of requirements necessary to reach their specific bonus-it is vital to keep all of these in mind while meeting the requirements.

While every bank has different requirements for the customers to earn the extra cash, here are a few that are standard across the industry.

Setup Direct Deposit

This is something that anybody with a checking or savings account has heard before. Many bank bonuses will require a direct deposit of a certain threshold as a requirement, e.g. two direct deposits of $1500 or more in consecutive months after account opening. If you do not want to change your direct deposit setup at work to accommodate this requirement, there are ways around this.

I’ve found that simply initiating a transfer from my personal checking account to the checking account associated with this bonus often registers as “direct deposit”. Depending on the bank & credit card, you may also be able to utilize your credit card and not have this count as a cash advance, which could simultaneously help you meet minimum spend on a credit card while satisfying bonus requirements for the checking/savings account.

Debit Card Transactions

One of the easier requirements of banking bonuses, this simply requires using your debit card multiple times over the course of a month. A standard Wells Fargo requirement would be 10 debit card transactions/month for three straight months to earn the bonus (typically $200-300).
As many of us would prefer to use our credit cards instead of debit, an easy solve for this is to simply load your Amazon account with the minimum amount required per load ($.50). A simple $5/month to earn hundreds of dollars doesn’t sound too bad to me!

Account Requirements-Don’t Get Hit With A Dumb Penalty

With bank account bonuses, there are a few things to keep top-of-mind that the banks may try to sneak past you. Similar to credit card bonuses, it is imperative that you read the stipulations of the account you are opening so you are not hit with a monthly account fee or the dreaded bonus clawback, leaving you holding the bag with an account you would not have opened without the bonus. Some of the various requirements a bank may stipulate to avoid additional fees include:

·         Keeping an account open for a certain period of time
o   Chase is notable for doing this-if you do not keep your account open for 6 months or more, they will take your checking/saving bonus back.
·         Minimum balance in the account
o   Many checking accounts require a minimum balance in order to avoid a small fee. Ensure that you are at least leaving the minimum-required balance in the account to not get hit with that pesky $5-10 monthly penalty.
·         Monthly direct deposit
o   This is exactly as it sounds-simply direct deposit the minimum requirement (in many cases, $500/month) to avoid a service fee ranging from $5-15.

Every bank is different. Some banks may simply require meeting one of the above three to avoid a penalty; some require all of the above AND MORE. This is why reading the fine print is so important when signing up for these accounts-we don’t want to give back our hard-earned money!

Geographical Requirements

Before signing up for a checking/saving account, be sure that the offer in question applies to your specific geographical region. Many banks cater to a specific part of the country and as such, their bonuses only apply to people in that area. I recently found a great offer from Wells Fargo ($200 for 10 debit transactions/month for three months) only to find that the offer was only good for residents of 9 different U.S. cities. Be sure to keep this in mind when deciding what bonus is right for you!

Image result for globe


Unlike our credit card bonuses we’ve come to know and love, these checking/savings account bonuses are indeed taxable. Most banks will issue a 1099-INT at the end of the fiscal year; again, your mileage may vary on this. This may be the biggest drawback to the banking bonus game; where we don’t have to worry about this when accruing miles & points, the cash earnings we are getting from these are liable to Uncle Sam & the IRS.

Image result for uncle sam

Where To Look For Offers?

When I’m looking for the best bank account offers, I find that using a variety of methods tends to be my best bet. If you live in an apartment complex, look twice before throwing out that large stack of grocery flyers/local business advertisements. You never know when you’ll find a juicy bonus offer-this is where I tend to find a lot of my local banks (Chase, Huntington, Credit Unions, etc.)

You can also use the built-in time you are looking for credit card offers with the major banks as an excuse to venture (if you’ll pardon the pun) to the bank account page and see if you are targeted for any specific offers. Many of the best bank account offers come from targeted bonuses and as you’ll be on the bank’s website anyways to service credit card needs, why not take a look at your checking/savings account offers?

Summary-Earn That Cash!

As you can see, it’s relatively easy to earn a little extra cash on the side to supplement your travel hacking endeavors. Checking & savings account bonuses have provided me with the extra juice necessary to go on that extra guided tour on vacation, upgrade that seat I booked in economy or simply buy the next round at the bar. Once you find the offer that works for you, you’ll have that extra cash at your disposal in no time. Enjoy!


Tyler Henze


Quit Wasting Your Free Time


Any fellow procrastinator can relate - taking action on goals can be tough!

Some days getting your ass off of the couch and doing something can be much harder than it sounds. Binging on Netflix shows, winning Super Bowls in Madden, and watching endless YouTube videos takes priority and that to-do list takes a back seat. It happens to all of us, and sometimes that's okay. We all need escapes to refresh and recharge, and a lazy day can be the perfect solution. But too much of anything can be a bad thing, and unfortunately that includes lazy days.

Your free time (i.e. time spent away from work or school) is a valuable commodity. Out of the 168 hours in a week, most people work 50+ hours, and sleep for another 50 hours (if you're lucky); that leaves only 68 hours of free time! This may sound like a lot of time, but for most people that means well over 50% of their time is spent working or sleeping. Despite what you may think, I'm not writing this to be discouraging, but when you do that math, I think it really shows how valuable your free time is! All of a sudden those couple of hours you spend watching TV really starts to eat into your free time.

A Personal Testimony

Quitting your lazy habits cold turkey is pretty tough. The good news is you don't need to quit the habits for good, you just need to cut back on the frequency. Before I started writing this blog with Alex, I probably averaged at least 10-15 hours a week playing video games. I still consider myself a pretty big video game advocate, but I knew there were better ways that I could have used some of that time.

For me, I knew I could be doing something more to learn and grow, both personally and professionally. The solution: Smart Money Seed! I've replaced a lot of my weekly video game time with Smart Money Seed, and I can't begin to tell you how much I've learned from it. Despite all the fame and glory that comes with blogging, I'm not suggesting that you need to start a finance blog. Maybe you have been putting off:
  • Remodeling part of your house
  • Saving for retirement
  • Working on your resume
  • Looking for a new job
  • Getting maintenance on your car
  • Starting a new hobby
  • Learning how to cook a new meal
  • Exercising
  • Stopping a bad habit
  • Cleaning out the garage
  • Doing something on your bucket list
Whatever the task may be, channeling your inner motivation is the next step that will help you achieve your goal.

So, how do I get motivated?

"Getting motivated" isn't always as easy as just flipping a switch. Letting Netflix autoplay to the next episode of Stranger Things is way easier than getting up and cleaning out the garage. It takes baby steps to increase your motivation, and the first step is energizing yourself. Here are some of my tips and strategies to get energized:
  • Get up! Easier said than done, but make an effort to literally get off your ass and move around. Try exercising, walking, or playing a sport.
  • Change your diet. I don't have the best diet in the world, but I've found I'm much more productive when I eat healthy meals.
  • Get off your phone. Spending too much time staring at your phone screen can make you feel like a zombie.
  • Go outside. There's something special about the outdoors that can re-focus and energize your train of thought. Get away from the day-to-day hustle and bustle and spend some time with nature.
  • Find an accountability partner. Everyone knows its a lot easier to skip leg day when you don't have a lifting partner. Find someone that shares a similar goal and hold each other accountable. Without Alex, I can pretty confidently say there's no way I'd be able to run a blog like this alone. (Please don't tell him I said that, I don't want him to think that I like him.)
At the core, getting motivated is about finding your "why". Why do you exist? Why do you get out of bed each morning? What is your purpose? I highly recommend watching Simon Sinek's TED Talk about starting with "why". Here's a link:

Rosie and I tried camping this summer and we fell in love with it. It was a great way to relax and refresh after a long week!

I used to be motivated, what happened?

Losing motivation is discouraging, and it's something almost all of us face. If you find yourself in this scenario, the most important thing to do is understand what has changed.

Do you have a new boss? Are you in a new environment? Did you lose focus or did it become too repetitive? Are there other issues (i.e. family or personal) that are causing distractions? Is there uncertainty or a lack of communication?

This stage takes reflection. Take a moment to dissect the situation and determine what drove your disengagement. Do you think you can re-capture your motivation, or is it simply time to move on?

We're All Connected - Share Your Motivation!

Humans thrive off of each other's moods and energy, and motivation is no exception. When you're excited and passionate about something, it causes a ripple effect of excitement that builds an unstoppable wave of momentum. When you approach tasks and challenges with dedication and energy, others will become more engaged, and their engagement will only motivate you even further. It's a compounding effect like this allows teams to accomplish goals far behind their wildest dreams.

So let's recap; how do I get motivated?

1. Identify what you want to accomplish or what you have been putting off
2. Evaluate your free time and make some sacrifices
3. Take some small steps to energize yourself and build your momentum
4. Tackle your task with passion and tenacity
5. Spread your motivation and excitement with others
You have the tools. Time is already ticking. What do you want to accomplish?


Retirement Savings 101 - Educate Yourself Early for Financial Freedom in Retirement

You see, young stud, if you follow the information in this
article, you'll never have to worry about your financial future!

Okay maybe you don't need this information quite that early. And maybe that was just a dumb excuse for me to show off how cool my earruffs... err... earmuffs were. But the point is, if you follow this advice early and stick with it, you'll be sitting pretty when retirement comes around!

We've taken the first half step towards helping you plant your retirement seeds with a high level investing discussion. Your retirement savings are a long-term investment that should be overwhelmingly comprised of mutual funds and ETFs especially for younger investors. If you're new to the investing game, give yourself a refresher with that post and come back to us.

Our generation has been bombarded since well before our working lives that saving for retirement early and often is probably the most important tool available to us in our financial lives. Market returns can contribute substantially to our wealth building process over our 40 year working lives.

But generally speaking, that's where the advice stops. Nobody cares to take the time to explain what or how to invest for retirement which leaves hungry young professionals with good intentions but poor knowledge and preparation.

The Skinny

The true power of retirement investing is a magical phenomenon called compound returns. When you invest money, the money you take out of your pocket is called your principal. Your principal makes a return on the market and then the returns start making their own returns. 

The easiest way to illustrate this is with graphs. I found a great tool that simplistically lays this out for us which I used back in our first post. This graph is showing the compound returns over 20 years from an initial investment of $1,000 assuming a 10% annual return. The interest from your principal will be $100 per year which means you'll have $3,000 over the 20 years, right? 

Not quite, Dwight. Because of the power of compound returns, you will end up with nearly $7,000 after 20 years! The amount of return you make off your returns actually exceeds the amount of return you make off your initial investment. 

Graph and calculation courtesy of MSN Money.

And it doesn't have to stop there. Compound returns cause your money to grow exponentially. For example, if you invested in that same scenario over 40 years, you would end up with over $45,000!

That's great, but what does this have to do with saving for retirement?

Great question, Alex! You're so smart, awesome, funny, and handsome.

 Retirement savings are a long-term investment. If you're in the workforce, you need to have a retirement account. If you don't already have an account, go establish one right now. We'll wait for you.

Types of Retirement Accounts

Private sector workers have two main options for retirement accounts: 401(k) and IRA. A 401(k) is a company sponsored plan where you can invest pre-tax dollars in a traditional 401(k) or post-tax dollars in a roth 401(k). Roth 401(k)s are not quite as popular but are starting to be offered by more and more employers. 

Often times employers receive discounts on fee structures and may offer a company match on some level of investment you make yourself. For example, Marathon matches the first 7% I invest in my 401(k). Both 401(k) options are easy set it and forget it options since the money can come straight out of your paycheck before it hits your bank account.

IRAs, or Individual Retirement Accounts, are accounts you directly setup with a financial institution. Similar to the 401(k), you have an option of a traditional IRA or a Roth IRA. Often times you can setup an IRA through the same institution and platform you use for your company's 401(k) plan. If not, just Google how to setup an IRA. That type of advice is why we get paid the big bucks, folks.

Generally speaking, you should utilize traditional accounts if you think you're in a higher tax bracket now than you will be in retirement, and you should utilize roth accounts if you think you'll be in a higher tax bracket in retirement than you're in now. Many people utilize some mix of both to diversify their risk. The important thing to remember is that traditional dollars are taxed when you withdraw the money and roth dollars are taxed now.

Investment Options

Within a 401(k) or IRA, you will face multiple investment options which can be somewhat overwhelming if you don't know what to look for. My recommendation if you're new to the investing game is to keep it simple. Invest in a target date or lifecycle fund which will start out risky and gradually lower risk as you get closer to retirement or index funds which will generally follow the overall stock market.

The important attributes of any fund you need to be cognizant of are the age of the fund and the expense ratio. Generally speaking, I would not recommend any fund with an age less than 5 years or an expense ratio greater than 1%.

My Retirement Investments

I invest 10% of my income into a traditional 401(k) account. 10% is a good number to shoot for with 15% being what is widely considered the ideal threshold to all but ensure a financially prosperous retirement. Because of my company match, 17% of my income is being invested for retirement, so I'm on a pretty good path.

70% of my money is invested in an index fund which follows the S&P 500 (0.01% expense ratio) and 30% is in a mutual fund focused on growth stocks (0.4% expense ratio). Growth stocks are generally newer companies that have some probability to grow and produce high returns.

They are also more risky than a company in the S&P 500 since they have a shorter track record, so the growth stock funds tend to be more volatile. My year to date rate of return is about 16% which is slightly better than the return of the S&P 500 around 14%. I expect those numbers to be very similar over the life of my retirement accounts.

Experts suggest that you save 10-15% of your income for retirement. If that's a stretch for you, start with 5 and increase your savings rate by 1% each year. Another strategy my dad learned early in his career and has used is to put half your raise towards savings (retirement or otherwise) each time you get a raise.

Fortify Your Financial Future

Investing is a powerful tool over the long haul- especially when we're talking about investing for retirement. It's important to setup your investments as almost a set it and forget it with regular monthly or quarterly check-ins.

DO NOT ACTIVELY INVEST ON A PASSIVE BASIS. Don't trade individual stocks or constantly switch your retirement accounts. If you're in a vastly under-performing account, switch to something with a longer, solid track record. If you see an individual stock kicking the crap out of the market, let it go. You don't want to introduce the risk associated with actively trading into the determination of your future financial well-being. Unless you're essentially dedicating your life to learning the trade, you will not beat the market.

Don't freak out when the market dips. It will happen, but the market will come back. It always does. The market has produced an average return of 10% over the past 90 years which we have every reason to continue to expect over a long period of time. Start investing now and stay investing throughout your working life.

When you're sitting on a beach at 65 sipping an ice cold Corona or pina colada, don't forget to thank Smart Money Seed!

For more retirement advice (and some overlapping advice), check out the second episode of the Smart Money Seed Podcast!

PS: The earmuffs actually didn't even really stay on that well. Beauty hurts.