Are you loopy for loopholes?

I got an email from a reader, Emily, asking for my thoughts on a semi-popular way to game “the system”. Check it….

 I came across this article the other day. It’s essentially about gaming the mint to rack up frequent flier miles at no cost. Being in a position where I could do something like this, I get that creepy gut feeling that it’s wrong. After all, free shipping doesn’t exist, the taxpayers are footing that bill. Where would you stand?

Before I begin dishing out my opinion, I think Emily answered her own question. If you have a creepy gut feeling with anything it can only mean two things…1) Your moral compass says you are doing something naughty or 2) You have very bad diarrhea. Since science says women lack the ability to poop (at least that’s what I like to believe), it’s probably safe to assume Emily would be violating her personal “code of conduct” by taking advantage of this program.

Alright, enough about Emily, what would Ninja do? I wouldn’t do it. Not because I think people that do are necessarily evil (although some probably are), but simply because I’m lazy. That sounds like a heck of a lot of work for a relatively minor reward. Even if I charged $5,000 worth of US Mint Coins to my Alaska Airlines Credit Card and deposited said coins in to my bank account a few days later, I would have only earned 5,000 miles. Which is only one fifth of the miles I need to earn a free flight.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Have you heard of credit card arbitrage? You haven’t? It’s just another way to game the system. A few years back, when interest rates on high-yield savings accounts were between 3 and 4 percent, some people would sign up for 0% interest credit cards that allowed them to take cash advances with minimal (or no fee). They would borrow like $50,000 on this CC and put the cash directly in to their high yield savings account. They would collect interest on that $50K each month, and use some of the principal to pay down the loan over the course of the 0% offer. They could literally end up making about $120/month in interest just by borrowing money against their credit card. Obviously, credit card arbitrage is pretty pointless nowadays seeing that “high interest” accounts are only paying out like 1% interest.

So are there always going to be loopholes and ways to game the system? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean I plan on taking part in them. Instead, I’d rather focus my attention on the big picture. Things like budgeting, investing, spending, giving, saving, and singing Joan Osborne’s “What if God was one of us”.

Who has time to game the system??? What other tricks or loopholes have you heard of or read about? Are extreme couponers and people taking advantage of the US Mint blurring the lines of ethical behavior? What would you do?

Short term investing is the worst.

About two months ago, I took $14,000 out of our savings account and put it in a taxable investment account. To date, it’s probably been my least favorite financial move I’ve ever made.

In fact, it’s the worst.

It’s also, apparently, the responsible thing to do, but that’s besides the point.


Responsibility is totally overrated.

drink and drive

To be clear it’s not the investment that I picked that sucks. The interest I’m earning in my Vanguard fund is blowing my savings account out of the water, granted that’s not saying much when my savings APY is a measly 0.7%.

As great as having my money make more money is, I just can’t shake the uneasy feeling I’ve had. I hate feeling less liquid.

I loved having fat stacks of cash in the bank. 

Around this time last year Girl Ninja and I had $100,000 in our savings account. After putting $70,000 of that towards a down payment, and $14,000 in to our taxable account, we are left with about $15,000 in our savings account now.

There is no logical reason why I would need to keep more than that in our savings account. I should be patting myself on the back for diversifying our money across retirement accounts, real estate, and now short-term investments, but instead I want to crawl in to bed and start sucking my thumb.

Investing in our taxable account is certainly the most uncomfortable thing I’ve done in regards to managing our money. I just need to keep reminding myself to stay the course. No pain, no gain right?

What is “that responsible personal finance thing” you know you should be (or currently are doing) that makes you uncomfortable? 

Screw being a millionaire

Ninja Mansion

When I graduated college, at 21 years old, I really only had one goal for myself in regards to my personal finances.


But here I am, seven years later, realizing that I don’t actually care about being wealthy.

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking, “Ninja, you’re a hypocrite. Some of your posts definitely seem like you’re all about building wealth.”

After all, I haven’t been shy about sharing how we’ve…

…averaged a 50%+ savings/investing rate since we’ve been married.

…rented out a room in our home to help bring in extra income.

…increased our net worth a silly amount each year (up $70k in 2013)

Meh, you say tomato, I say to-MAH-to.

You see, we aren’t saving an obscene amount of our income, living frugally, or investing in our retirement accounts so we can reach the coveted millionaire status. That couldn’t be further from the truth. 


Instead of talking about money, let’s talk about physical appearance as related to fitness. At 6’2 and 175-ish pounds, I tend to be a little leaner than most other men my height.

But make no mistake, I don’t ski, take Nova on walks, or coach high school tennis so that I can be in better shape. Instead, I’m fortunate to be in decent shape because I have a proclivity to do active things; like ski, go on walks, and play tennis.

I care more about the cause, less about the effect. 

The same is true for our money. I never want to lose sight of what is important. I have an innate desire to live well below my means, and save or give away my excess. This was true when my household income was $38,000 a year, and is still true today at $120,000. I don’t measure my value by my net worth, square footage, or income.

So while yes, I do think I’ll be a millionaire one day, please let me make it clear: I don’t care to be a millionaire. 

I just want to be a good steward of the resources God’s given us. It just so happens stewardship often begets wealth building.

Too much bad personal finance advice out there.

You ever read a blog post that went something like this…

You might want to think twice before you buy that brand new TV. It would set you back $2,000, and will likely only provide you entertainment for a handful of years. What if you invested that money instead? 

If you put $2,000 in to a Roth IRA and let it grow for 30 years, at 8%, you would end up with $20,000. 


Is that TV really worth $20,000 to you? I didn’t think so. Now go give yourself a spanking and put yourself in time out for even thinking that buying a TV was a smart move! 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read some iteration of the post above. Maybe instead of a TV, it’s a vacation. Or a boat. Or a house. Or probably the most popular topic for an argument like this to appear, a wedding post.

Consider this my permission to flip those other PF bloggers the internet version of the bird and tell ’em to buzz off. Unless of course, your goal is to be miserable for the rest of your life. Then by all means, drink the kool-aid.

Personal finance bloggers commonly confuse the term financial freedom with wealth. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

Say I had $1,000,000 in my 401k right now. I am literally a millionaire. But am I free?


My 401k isn’t going to pay my cable bill, put groceries on our table, or a car in my driveway for another 30+ years. Yeah, I’m a millionaire, but I’m no more free than the dude that bags groceries down the street at the local Safeway. We both still have to go to work tomorrow.

Do you get it? 

You need to be working towards financial freedom, not wealth building.

I think, at 28 years old, I’ve reached that place. My job provides the best work/life balance of anyone I know, I make a reasonable, but still down-to-earth five-figure income. We have a roof over our head. We contribute 15%-20% towards retirement. And we’re content living within our means, no pinching pennies, but we still have to be mindful of our spending. As far as I’m concerned; we’re retired.

It’s a beautiful place to be, and a place I hope you are in, or working towards finding. 

Don’t get discouraged by the PF bloggers who talk about how great early retirement is even though they are still slaves to their blog (or their portfolios), who make you feel terrible for buying a new car, or who tell you there is no such thing as saving too much.

Those bloggers suck.

You be the best you you can be. Make a plan. Stick to it. And enjoy the ride along the way…even if that means you end up buying that TV.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to be happy. Promise. 

I hate all Extreme Cheapskates.

Apparently there is a show on TLC called Extreme Cheapskates.

I hate it.

Full disclosure: I’ve never actually watched an episode since Girl Ninja and I didn’t sign up for cable until a week before I left for Europe. But what I have done is watched a few clips from the show on the TLC website. It’s disturbing.

The show focuses on people who go to great lengths to save a few bucks. The clip above features a couple who takes all of their showers together. They give themselves two minutes TOTAL to get clean. They not only share the same bottle of shampoo, but the guy actually takes the soapy suds out of his wife’s shampooed hair, to clean his.

It gets worse.

They then proceed to use the same razor. Right as the woman finishes shaving her armpits, homeboy takes the razor and starts shaving his face with it. Yuck.


They then pop out of the shower and share a toothbrush to brush their teeth. I had enough as I watched them share the same piece of dental floss to clean their teeth. #VOMIT

I’m sorry to inform you, but these actions don’t make you appear as though you are a budget conscious saver. Heck I wouldn’t even use the term “Extreme Cheapskate” to label your actions. The only word I can think of that adequately describes your behavior is WEIRD. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind sharing a shower with Girl Ninja on occasion, but when we do, I can assure you it’s not to save money 😉

But hey, at least you aren’t peeing in a bottle to save some money on your water bill…

Don’t even get me started on bottle pee-er lady. She admits to having a gym membership, but wont flush her freakin’ toilet? Oh, or the lady that doesn’t believe in buying toilet paper so she wipes her butt with her hand.

Faith in humanity is gone forever.

Well, we officially quit saving yesterday.

After a brief chat with Girl Ninja yesterday, we’ve made the wise decision to stop saving money for the foreseeable future. No, we haven’t hit our $100,000 savings goal yet, and if I all goes according to plan, we never will.

I first blogged about our ambitious $100,000 savings goal in June 2010. Exactly three years ago. And here we are, probably four weeks away from reaching said goal, ultimately deciding it’s time to throw in the towel and give up.

Have I gone bonkers? 



Don’t worry, I haven’t gone off the deep end yet. It’s just time I start practicing what I preach.

While it’s true we have not hit $100,000 in savings, we are pretty freaking close. About $3,500 short as of this writing. This week’s blog post about 401(k) loans got me thinking. I like the idea of using a 401(k) loan, but ultimately have decided against it for one reason.

I wont need (or want) a boat load of cash sitting in the bank once we’ve made our down payment.

As I’ve mentioned before, we will likely use between $70k and $80k for a down payment and closing costs. This will leave us with a $10,000 emergency fund and between $10,000 to $17,000 for “other things” (furniture, vacations, etc).

I have no desire to keep more cash in the bank than necessary. In other words, we’ve reached our MAXIMUM savings threshold. I feel like any additional savings would no longer be classified as “being responsible” but instead as “hoarding”.


We knocked debt freedom off the list years ago. Yesterday, we put a check mark next to savings. Now it’s time to make some new priorities. So…

  • I upped my 401(k) contributions last night from 13% to 20%, and after I see exactly how that affects my paycheck (thinking about $430/month less in take home pay), I might increase it even more.
  • We’ll probably begin living slightly more frivolously (emphasis on slightly). Maybe we go out to a nice restaurant once a month. Take a weekend trip somewhere once a quarter. Or finally update one of our six-year-old laptops. We won’t be keeping up with the Joneses by any means, but it will be fun to splurge every now and again.
  • Lastly, and what I’m most excited about, we will take the majority of our discretionary income and FINALLY start throwing it in to taxable investment accounts. If all goes well, we can make some serious progress in our goal to build up some short to mid-term investments. It’s important we get a jump-start on this now, before we have kids, a larger house payment, and only one income. 

While it would be cool to actually reach our $100,000 savings goal, I think it’s way cooler to move on to the next phase of Operation Build Wealth.

What are my alternatives?

Girl Ninja and I have a significant amount of our net worth sitting as cash in a “high yield” savings account. It’s exciting that we are just a few weeks away from hitting our $100,000 savings goal, but it’s also terribly depressing to know this money has earned a paltry 0.8% over the last couple years. Especially when it could have been earning 20%+ in the stock market. I mean, I would literally have an extra $20,000 to my name if I saved via the stock market, instead of saving via a bank account.

As you know, we are keeping such an excessive amount of cash on hand for a down payment on our first place. We’ve been hunting for about six months now, and the reality is, we are no closer to buying a home today than we were when we first started.

If we decided tomorrow that we never wanted to own a home, I would immediately take $90,000 out of our savings account and start putting it in the market. This would leave us about $10,000 in cash for emergencies. I think having more than $10k in the bank is pretty silly. Especially when we have a healthy discretionary income, stable jobs, no kids, and a Roth IRE.

My question for you today is simple:

Is there anywhere else I should consider putting this $90,000? 

Half of our net worth is failing to keep up with inflation. This concerns me and I feel like something needs to be done about it. Only problem is, I don’t know what reasonable alternatives there are to savings accounts when it comes to having quick access to cash in the event Girl Ninja and I finally find a house worth buying. HELP!!!