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Household

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Valuations are stretched! 5 great stocks to grab now! A crash is coming! Inflation will eat our returns! Buy and hold! Well which is it? And how can we protect ourselves if things really do go to hell in a hand basket?

Always fun to compare yourself to others. Are you a spending savant or a spending savage? Let’s find out!

How cool would it be to get free iPhones for life?

Dream with me for a minute. Imagine brand new free iPhones every other year. And hey, if we are dreaming anyway, how about a free cell phone plan to go along with it? Pretty sweet. Since everyone likes free stuff, let’s add in $200 gift certificates from Starbucks, Lululemon, Starbucks and Chipotle. Even better. But is this really possible? And why would these companies give all of this away for free? More important, how can you get in on the deal?

Most personal finance writers would shoot down the idea of new iPhones every other year, fancy coffees, dining out and premium sportswear. I would too, if you actually had to pay for all of it. But what if there were a way to actually get it all paid for…every year…for life?

So what is the scheme and who actually pays for the free iPhones?

Over at Apple there are 147,000 employees. They are all working hard, dusting store fixtures, selling iPads, explaining nuances of iCloud and making all the boxes open slooowwwly. Meanwhile at Chipotle, people are opening stores, scrubbing grills and being incredibly patient while customers fuss over their exact burrito toppings. The Amazon folks are scampering around filling orders and whipping reindeer to get everything to your house on time (kidding on that last one). What are we doing while they are working so hard? Well, frankly not much. And therein lies the elegance of this approach to get free iPhones and other stuff.

As they are busy with all this ceaseless toil, they are growing their companies. Improving sales numbers, opening new stores and making their companies more money. The brands become more valuable and their success continues to snowball. The great products and experience keep the results coming and and their stock prices continue to grow. That stock price growth is what we can use to get their products for free.

Converting stock growth to free stuff

Ok. So far we have companies with products we want. Employees working like the Dickens. Stock prices rising. So how do we cash in and get all the free iPhones and the other cool stuff?

Imagine that we set aside $7,000 five years ago and bought $1,000 worth stock of each of 7 cool companies whose products and services we like. Let’s lay it all out in a table:

free iPhones
An initial investment made 5 years ago

On the left is the company, their stock ticker in blue and an initial investment in yellow. $1,000 per company. Adding up the growth of the stock over the last 5 years, including dividends give us today’s value in green. Finally, the purple column shows the average annual return for each of these stocks. Wow! An average annual return for the group of 34.39%. They are all great companies with big competitive advantages. Will they keep growing like that? I have no idea. And neither does anyone else.  But stay with me!

So our initial investment of $7,000 has grown to over $30,000. Not bad. There are lots of things that we could do with that cash. Usually, my counsel is to keep it invested, especially in an IRA or a 401(k). (TFSA or RSP for you Canadians). But this time, let’s assume that your debts are under control and you have a good start on your retirement savings.

Time for a little fun with our cash

Rather than spend the money in a lump, or invest it for the long term, what if we just pull out each year’s gains after that initial 5 year growth period and spend it on fun stuff. What could we buy and how long could we keep this up? Let’s take a look:

free iPhonesSo we will start with a new iPhone every other year for $1,000, or about $500 per year. Let’s add a cell plan and let it gorge on unlimited 5G data. Tasty. Tuck in a standard Netflix subscription. That adds up to $1,508. Then let’s spend $200 on gift cards from each of Starbucks, Lululemon, Amazon and Chipotle. That all ads up to $2,308 of fun stuff every year. Some nice lifestyle additions. Why those numbers?

They sum to $2,308 or about 7.5% of the value of our stocks. If our stocks grow at about 7.5% a year, we would be able to spend that much and not actually deplete our $30,691. In fact, we could enjoy free iPhones, cell plans, Netflix subscriptions and all those gift cards forever. $2,300 worth of stuff forever, all from a one time investment of $7,000.

But wait, it wasn’t free. We still had to invest $7,000 and wait 5 years.

Actually, you can get that initial investment for free. Or very close to free. Some careful re-shopping of regular bills can easily emancipate the cash for that kind of investment. All with minimal effort. Have a look at easy ways to reduce regular bills like energy costs, home renovations, housing costs, prescription drugs and even vodka expenditures. Want another $13,000 of monthly savings ideas? Check out Cashflow Cookbook.

What about the business of waiting 5 years for that initial investment to grow? Let me answer that with a story. When I was about 27, I started working on an MBA part time. People would often say “Part time? Are you kidding me? That will take you 4 years. You won’t be done until you are 31.” My answer was that I will be 31 eventually. I can either be 31 with an MBA, or without one. Life goes on, tuck away the money, go about your business and check your balance in 5 years. Hopefully you will have a fun account that spits out free iPhones and other goodies for life.

You can, of course set this up with whatever brands you like and nothing says you have to spend the growth and dividend money on the same companies you invest in. The investments are spread across 7 stocks which provides some level of diversification.

We got some free iPhones and some powerful learnings

A few things get reinforced with this example:

  • Compound growth really is the 8th wonder. It can even keep you in iPhones.
  • Great companies have brand power that fuels their growth and investment returns
  • A group of strong stocks can provide an ongoing stream of money to fund a lifetime of expenses
  • This is really a miniature version of the power of long term investing for retirement
  • Invest for the long haul. Markets tend to rise over the long haul, but may rise or fall in the near term

Some caveats

Readers should always do their own research on any investment. This example was for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. The author holds positions in Amazon and Apple. Investment results are unpredictable and past results may not be reflective of future performance.

What companies and products would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit Douglas Bagg at Unsplash

How to retire richer the lazy way

Shopify Stock Chart
Ok I didn’t get that job at Shopify so no juicy stock options!

There are lots of ways to retire richer. You could start selling products in a multilevel marketing scheme (downside: annoyed friends and a garage full of creme rinse, vitamins and car polish). Perhaps you could just pick a new employer with a great stock option plan ( I came in second for a job at Shopify once. Bummer – see stock chart below). Or you could move back home with your parents (Father: “Honey, what’s that smell upstairs?” Mother: “I think it’s our 30 year old.”)

Not thrilled with any of those options? In a perfect world, you could just plant yourself in a chair, do some scrolling and mouse clicking and have a few hundred grand gradually added to your retirement fund. Sound a little too good to be true? In fact, not only is it possible, I just did it and you can too! No tricks, no clickbait, stay with me on this and I’ll show you how to retire richer.

Get rich without working or giving anything up? Ummmm…OK!

Last post I did some energy saving projects and laid out how we will save about $1,300 a year on gas and electricity right here at Cashflow Cookbook headquarters.  Which is not bad, but those ideas take some work. Insulating and weatherstripping and whatnot. What if we could save more than twice that without lifting a screwdriver?

Turns out, the answer was right there, hiding in our car insurance policy. Who knew?

Comparing car insurance is easy…and lucrative

It was hard to watch this year’s Super Bowl without seeing those Zebra car insurance ads. (Being a Browns fan it was hard to watch the Super Bowl anyway. Soooooo close, we coulda been there! Next year!) Seemed like they popped up after every Buccaneer touchdown. Could comparing car insurance really be as easy as it looks on TV? Turns out it kind of is!

Way back in the 2010’s, comparing car insurance rates was a painful process of making calls or reentering your car and driver data on multiple sites. Now it’s much easier with comparison sites. We looked at 2 comparison sites here in the USA, Zebra and Insurify. Both had a snappy interface and let you quickly add cars and drivers to suit. Even with 3 cars and 3 drivers it only took 15 minutes per site. Their results were similar, although Insurify had more options and two quotes that were much lower than what Zebra offered in their “displayed quotes”. In Canada check out ratehub.ca and rates.ca.

I used our actual data for 3 drivers and 3 vehicles. Our current insurance is with GEICO and we pay $141.60 a month. Having that policy handy sped up the process of entering all of the information. Using the same policy parameters, Here are the results from Zebra:

Zebra quotes
Zebra car insurance rate comparison

Zebra quotes

The Zebra options were limited with just 3 companies showing actual quotes. The rest promised “one more click to quote”. Well that’s what they promised. The “get quote” companies dragged me through traffic ticket data, annual miles driven and even that accident where I hit a deer a couple of years back. I was hoping to forget that. Some of the companies require you to pretty much re-enter all of your data (Talking ’bout you, Progressive!). The good news is that after all the work, Progressive did deliver on their promise of being cheaper than GEICO. In fact, they were the cheapest overall at just $502 for 6 months, or $83.66/month.

The cheapest “displayed quote” on Zebra was $164 which was more than the $141 we are paying with GEICO. Not exactly a win. On Zebra the gold was in the undisplayed quotes. Still, who wants to do the extra work? On to Insurify to see how their engine works:

Insurify quotes
Insurify car insurance rate comparisons

Insurify shows us how to retire richer!

Over at Insurify we had lots more options. Have a look at all this goodness!

Huge swing in prices from a high of $331 to a low of $97. A difference of $234 a month. Worth a few mindful moments with your browser. One of the interesting options is Clearcover – a digital provider with a slick app. (They don’t even want to know from paper).  They claim that they can settle your, well, claim in as little as 13 minutes. Hello disruption! And with 489 Google reviews averaging 4.5 stars, apparently they are doing something right!

Although Insurify had the edge in my situation for the displayed quotes, it might be worth the extra 15 minutes to run your scenario through both of them. And check the “get quote” options just to be sure.

The remarkable thing is that the prices varied by almost 4x going from lowest to highest. That is even more than the 2.5x difference when we were trying to find out if premium vodka is worth it. So this is a pretty easy and painless way to save some monthly cash.

 

OK but how to retire richer and where is my $650,008?

If we take the $248 monthly savings between the low rate (Progressive) and the high rate (Safeco) seen on the two sites and invest it at 7% you would have:

  • $42,904 after 10 years – good news for you 55 year olds
  • $128,960 after 20 years – even better news for you 45 year olds
  • $304,048 after 30 years – you 35 year olds have got to be loving this
  • $650,008 after 40 years – if you are 25 shop your insurance NOW!!!

Given that the average American retires with just $200,000 of total net worth, here is a way to triple that with just 15 minutes of work. If you’re wondering how to invest those savings and earn 7%, you can learn about that here. People often ask how to get started with building wealth. Answer…This! Good luck and let me know how this worked for you.

Is there a rate comparison engine that you like better? Let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit Marcel Friedrich at Unsplash