Off To FinCon 2016 in San Diego!

As I’ve mentioned previously, Becky and I will be attending FinCon this year in San Diego.  We fly down today and will be in and around the conference up until Sunday!

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I’m looking forward to seeing people again that I’ve met in the past and hopefully meeting some awesome new people at the conference and various after-parties that are scheduled so far.  We’ll also be learning about various new financial startups, hearing from some interesting speakers, and hopefully picking up some motivation and inspiration along the way.  I’ll be sure to pass anything particularly interesting along either here or on Twitter.

If you’re attending this year, feel free to say hi if you find me!  Becky and I will probably be walking around together between the various panels and I’ll be in cargo shorts regardless of the weather.  Feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@Money_Metagame) or follow along from home if I remember to post updates.

Cheers everyone, here’s to an awesome FinCon!

Ebay Gift Card Arbitrage Update: It Lives, but Keeps Getting Tougher

Over the past month or so, ebay has changed numerous rules that make flipping gift cards on ebay a little harder, but the good news is that it isn’t dead yet.  First, ebay added back the limit on using ebay gift cards by restricting everyone to $2,000 per rolling 60 days.  There was a brief period while ebay gift cards were transitioned over from PayPal to ebay where you could go wild and use as much as possible, but it probably isn’t a big surprise that the old rule (although a little different) returned.  Next, the terms and conditions on many popular shopping portals began restricting cash back on the purchase of ANY kind of gift cards rather than the older restriction that only applied to ebay branded gift cards.  Finally, ebay dropped a bigger hammer down without any warning and restricted the use of ebay gift cards for purchasing any kind of gift card!  Luckily they have turned this rule off until October 13th to allow people to empty out their gift cards, so be sure to burn any you are still holding on to soon.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I recommend checking out my Intro Post on Gift Card Arbitrage and my other post specific to Ebay Gift Card Arbitrage.

Ebay definitely seems to be cracking down on gift card reselling, but I would guess that most of it has to do with fraud rather than simply trying to limit people like us.  Despite the negative changes, there is still some opportunity to be had, especially if your main goal is increasing credit card spend for little or no cost.  In fact, on my ebay gc arbitrage tool today, it’s possible to generate over $1,500 worth of spend for less than $10 without even counting the credit card points, miles, or cashback!

I’ll break down the impact of the new restrictions below and go into more detail on the $1,500 spend example I just mentioned.

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Early Retirement Cash Flow With The Roth IRA Conversion Ladder

Most people exploring financial independence and early retirement quickly arrive at a similar question: “How do I access the money I’m saving away between early retirement and traditional retirement age?”  It’s one of the most common questions I see in the early retirement community and a very important one to understand the answer to if you decide to venture down your own path towards early retirement.  With the large emphasis on utilizing tax-advantaged accounts such as 401k’s and IRA’s, it might appear that the money is locked away behind a large penalty until the age of 59 and a half!

One solution is to only utilize tax-advantaged accounts to hold money you won’t need to access until traditional retirement age, but this causes you to end up paying a lot more taxes over the course of your lifetime than is necessary.  A more elegant (and profitable) solution is to utilize a strategy referred to as the Roth Conversion Ladder in order to access tax-deferred money before age 60 without paying any tax penalties.

Below, I’ll cover the basics of the Roth Conversion Ladder and walk through a hypothetical case study of a person who retired at 40 and lived off of their investments with all the details of how the money was invested and eventually withdrawn to live off of.

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Might Be Time To Check Your Raise Account Status

One of my current side gigs is buying and selling discount retail gift cards and reselling them to gift card exchanges through a process I call Gift Card Arbitrage.  I’ve written about it numerous times and while I don’t move as much volume as I used to, ebay is still great source for easy flips that I do for the extra miles and points.  The two primary gift card exchanges that I sell to are SaveYa and Raise as they gave me bulk seller status once upon a time, but I will also sell to ABC/CardCash if they have the best rate.

Unfortunately, I recently sold a few gift cards to Raise.com expecting the bulk seller commission rates I was promised and only found out after the fact that I was no longer considered a bulk seller!  Luckily, this particular transaction only cost me ~$5, but the situation could have been much worse if I was selling a different brand with a larger commission discrepancy or larger volumes.  Apparently Raise now enforces a minimum sale threshold to maintain bulk seller status, but the worst part is they can change your account status without even informing you.  I’ll break down what I know below.

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How We Booked a $14,000 Honeymoon for Under $400

Becky and I have officially tied the knot and are now married!  The wedding took place in Seattle where we live and despite the chaos of planning and executing a crazy event like this, it ended up being an amazing experience where we were able to celebrate with family and friends, many of whom we hadn’t seen since moving across the country a few years ago.  Now that the wedding has taken place, the next big thing on our minds is the honeymoon!

I’ve previously posted more specifically about finding the various flights and hotels we booked along with different options we were considering, but this post will summarize what we ended up going with.  Primarily thanks to various credit card signup bonuses that we’ve taken advantage of over the past couple years, we were able to book flights in business class to New Zealand and Fiji and cover all 16 hotel nights for less than $400 out of pocket!  Becky and I have never flown anything above economy outside of the country and this we be the furthest that we’ve ever traveled together.  Needless to say, we’re extremely excited to head to the airport in a few days and I’m excited to break down exactly how we did it below.

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