MMB Free IRA Contribution 2021 Challenge: $5,327 (So Far)

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With about six weeks left in 2021, I wanted to check in on my claim that I could max out the annual IRA contribution limit of $6,000 using the profits from various promotions alone. If you had put $6,000 into your IRA every year for the last 10 years (2011-2020) and invested in a simple Target Date retirement fund, you would have turned small deals into a $100,000+ nest egg.

Example. I was just approved for the new Capital One Venture X card, and I was hoping the $1,000+ value would put me over the $6,000 threshold. I’m very confident that I’ll get at least $1,000 out of this card, as (1) we have multiple upcoming trips planned, (2) are renewing Global Entry for $100, and (2) this is the rare card that lets us gain lounge access for a family of 5. Each cardholder is free plus 2 guests, but additional cardholders are free 😉. I will offset $1,000 in travel expenses I would have incurred anyway, and invest it instead.

The ground rules: Real-world results for one person only. As following with My Money Blog tradition, this will track my personal, real-world results. It would be quite easy to list a bunch of promotions that add up to $6,000, but these will be promotions that I personally sign up for and complete the requirements (even though I’ve already opened so many bank accounts, credit cards, and brokerage accounts over the years). I will track my individual results only (no spouse/partner). I quickly ran through all posts in the Deals and Offers category:

One-time bonuses for 2021 so far.

Total from one-time bonuses: $5,327

I’m pretty close to $6,000 without counting the money from higher bank interest or other credit card rewards like 5% cash back categories. Hopefully the holiday season has a few more gifts for me in that regard! 🤑 I did multiple US Mint coin deals this year, but also much fewer credit card applications than in a normal year. My wife and I were thinking of trying to get dual Southwest Companion passes, but we decided not to go for it yet.

Bank interest accounts. With a simple direct deposit change, I am earning 3.5% APY on $100,000 at HM Bradley, FDIC-insured and with no interest rate risk. (I have the HM Bradley credit card as well.) This is money that could be earning 0% at BofA/Chase/Wells Fargo, 0.50% at a “high yield” savings account, or about 0.40%-1% in short-term US Treasury bonds as part of an investment portfolio. Even calling it only 2.5% APY above what 99% of people earn on the same thing, that works out to a difference of $2,500 in interest per year.

I could hold even more cash at high interest rates via other fintech like One Finance and Porte. US Savings bonds are paying 7.12% interest for the next six months. I track these in my monthly best interest rate updates. I view this is a legitimate form of “profit”, but the value is dependent on the size your cash/bond holdings. Thus, I’ve kept it separate.

Total from higher bank interest: $2,500

These are all deals with minimal downside risk, but they also tend to be both sporadic and temporary. Some months had zero lucrative deals, and some months had several. I try to only share the ones that will last at least a few days, but it’s a bit like value investing where you have to be ready to jump on an opportunity when it shows up, because it usually won’t last long. For example, HM Bradley now requires a referral to join, and each person can only refer three people.

Total for 2021 so far: $7,827

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Comments

  1. How does one get a referral to HM Bradley 3.5%??

    • I requested a referral at the HM Bradley page.

    • As you already did, I would check the comments on the HM Bradley review page linked above. There is a slow stream of helpful readers that post their referral link, but it appears to go dead after 3 referrals each. HM Bradley is trying to slow down the stream of new customers to keep the quality (and rate) high, and I think that is a good sign (and rare given the common growth-at-all-costs mentality). I also signed up for their credit card (be sure to manually update your income if your direct deposit isn’t high enough) as it gives an extra 0.5% (or $500 a year on $100k) plus it also gives 3% automatically on your biggest spend category.

  2. I didn’t see anywhere where you’ve answered this question before, but it’s been on my mind for a bit.

    What is the easiest way to qualify something as having a ‘direct deposit’ set up without constantly changing were my full paycheck goes. Is it easy for you because you own MBB and can do micro-direct deposits from your company? How would the ‘average’ person do this?

    Thanks!

    • Have you checked with your payroll person? It’s more common now to be able to split a paycheck direct deposit multiple ways. I use Gusto for payroll, which is a pretty widely used service amongst small businesses and lets me split pretty much however I like.

      Otherwise, many people use ACH transfers from online banks that allow you to initiate transfers using any account/routing number combo to “simulate” a direct deposit and it works a lot of the time. There are additional roundabout ways using the new apps like Venmo, PayPal, and Apple Pay. I often simply try it first so I don’t have to go and change my “real” direct deposit.

    • You can do it on line usually depending on who your company uses to manage this. Like workaday. It takes about five minutes to go in and change your direct deposit.

  3. Been following you for over a decade and your blog was very useful for me when I came to this country as an immigrant and was confused about everything.

    Genuinely curious at your income level how are you eligible for a Roth IRA? Unless you have dropped it by going part time? I remember you had more details on income and NW back in the day.

    • When I say Roth IRA, I view a “Backdoor” Roth IRA as the equivalent. I would always contributed to a non-deductible IRA as there is no income limit, and do the Roth conversion as long as there is also no income limit currently.

      • Jonathan,
        I have always tried to max pre tax contributions to a 401k to get under the magi limit (eg 197k for a couple) so I could do a Roth IRA. Do you think it would be better to keep income higher and contribute to the Roth 401k and ira and back door Roth the ira?

  4. Disregard my request for a referral link – I rcvd a referral on another website!

  5. I don’t know if it’s too much of a hassle, but what about Ibotta cash back? That’s netting me a few hundred a year.
    Thanks for your encouragement Jonathan. I will have about 4500$ of my Ira from free promos this year.

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