Rob Shaye: Military Reservist & Military Spouse Credit Cards, Certified Financial Planner | Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 49

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Rob Shaye is a Coast Guard reservist, Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and military travel hacker.

He's passionate about financial education and helping military servicemembers make the best decisions with their money. Learn more about Robert Shaye's company Fireside Finances on his website.

In this wide ranging episode, co-hosts Jamie and Spencer talk with Rob about a variety of topics including:

  • The mistakes Rob made investing his lawn mowing money at 15
  • How Rob got into travel hacking
  • Converting a Chase Marriott card to a Ritz Carlton card
  • Rob's favorite card at the moment, the Paceline Card
  • Getting military fee waivers as a Reservists and military spouse
  • Maximizing the Amex Platinum $200 airline fee credit
  • Bank account bonuses
  • Where Rob goes for credit card news
  • Recommended fiction and non-fiction books

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 49 Links

Outline of episode: 

  • Military veteran becoming a CFP
  • When military families may consider using a CFP or CFA
  • Early investment mistakes when younger
  • Military travel hacking
  • Military Lending Act (MLA)
  • Our favorite annual-fee-waived credit card benefits
  • Getting annual-fee-waived credit cards as a reservist
  • Using business credit cards & favorite benefits
  • Best uses for American Express Platinum card’s airline incidental benefit
  • Saks Fifth Avenue benefit on the American Express Platinum card
  • Other travel hacking resources
  • Using bank bonuses to get money for opening a new account
  • Real estate investing for military families
  • Considerations for dual-income and mil-to-mil families
  • Why to consider Reserve or Guard service after leaving active duty

Military Money Manual Podcast Episode 49 Transcript

[00:00:00] Rob: My wife wanted to buy one of these travel strollers by YoYo. It's like the super collapsible one that fits up in the overhead, and they're crazy expensive. And once I found out that Saks sold them, I was all in on it. I was like, Yes, we can go. We can. So I called the Saks in New York, their flagship store, and I was like, Do you have any YoYo strollers?

And they're like, Yeah, we have one, one in stock. And I was like, Come on. And we take our daughter like a funny picture of it. We jump on the subway. I was like, “We gotta get there before it sells.”

[00:00:55] Spencer: Hey, podcast listeners, Spencer Reese here from MlitaryMoneyManual.com. Today's episode is a great discussion with Rob Shaye from Fireside Finances. I first met Rob at FinCon 2019 in Washington DC. He's a Coast Guard reservist who also created and taught a personal finance class at the Coast Guard Academy.

He has his own business focused on financial education, where he leads personal finance and investing workshops for employees of large companies, and he's also an experienced military travel hacker who's pulled off some great travel hacks as a reservist. And as always today, I've also got my co-host here. Hey, Jamie.

[00:01:32] Jamie: Hey Spencer. Thanks for listening this week, guys. As always, if you have any questions or feedback, you can send that to us on Instagram @militarymoneymanual or email us at info@militarymoneymanual.com. 

Just a quick reminder that this episode is for informational purposes only. We are not investment advisors, and this episode does not constitute investment advice.

[00:01:53] Spencer: And without further ado, here's our conversation with Rob Shaye. Hey Rob, thanks so much for coming on the podcast.

[00:02:00] Rob: Yeah, thanks for having me.

[00:02:01] Jamie: Hey Rob. Welcome. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a certified financial planner (CFP) and your story through becoming a Coast Guard reservist?

[00:02:11] Rob: Yeah, sure. Thank Jamie. Happy to talk about that. I went to the Coast Guard Academy, and I served 10 years on active duty. I was four years at sea and then did some shoreside work and went to grad school with the Coast Guard. And then after that, I always was interested in a job in the civilian sector, so I went to the Inactive Ready Reserve, the IRR, for a couple years. 

For those of you who are familiar with the IRR, it's a pending status where you don't really have many obligations to the military. So I went to the IRR for a couple years. And then I moved over to the selective reserves. That's the reserves that we think about when we talk about reservists. That's one weekend a month and two weeks a year. So I went over to SELRES and was drilling for a couple years. 

In the civilian world, I've always been a personal finance nut and nerd. So I knew I wanted to do something in finance. My mother was a teacher for over 40 years, so I have that in my blood too.

So I combined two of my favorite things, which are teaching and personal finance, and pursued my CFP credential and then started my own business doing that, running financial wellness classes for companies. And then on the side, I'm a Coast Guard reservist as well. So that's my winding path to how I got to where I am today.

[00:03:30] Spencer: Rob, what's the process to become a CFP? I know there's an education requirement and a test requirement. Anything else in there that actually gets the designation?

[00:03:40] Rob: Yeah. It is a pretty robust process. It took me a couple years to get the two big credentials in the financial world, which would be CFA and then CFP.

CFA is more theory-based and takes a little bit longer. CFP is more application-based. It's the applied side of financial planning. So CFP, I studied a lot, there's an education component. Most people do it in about a year, and you can take a prep class. I did it a little bit less.

I condensed it and just did it in a little bit shorter time, but about eight months of pretty much four or five nights a week studying and taking practice exams. And it was pretty robust, but it was actually surprisingly interesting for me. And I know I'm in the minority part of the population there that like to spend Thursday night reading about financial ins and outs and bond ladders and all these weird topics.

So it wasn't that bad for me. Although parts of it were a little redundant, learning about all the different retirement plans and all the obscure ones that you would never actually use in practice. So I did the education requirement, then you have to have two years of experience or three years of experience.

And my time working at BlackRock and a fintech startup were counted for that. Then you take a pretty rigorous test. It's an all-day test, and luckily I passed that on the first try. And then you pass an ethics requirement too, and then you have every other year ongoing continuing education credits as well.

So it's definitely a robust process, but super interesting. And I've coached a lot of people who are interested in the CFP designation, and it's pretty straightforward. You can make a free account at CFP.net and you can even take the first module. You could pay Kaplan or Dalton or one of the big companies out there and take the first module.

There are seven modules, and you could see if it's something you're interested in. So there's a way to toe into it and step into it if you are interested and if you think you're interested in pursuing it.

[00:05:43] Jamie: That's pretty neat. We've talked a lot in the previous episodes about the impact of fees on your overall accumulation of wealth. And so maybe for the listener who's active duty military or maybe the spouse of a military member, where would it make sense to reach out to a CFP or a CFA? Where in someone's wealth-building journey or journey towards financial independence would that be something they should consider and see if it's right?

[00:06:12] Rob: Yeah, absolutely. And again, I don't have one-on-one advising or assets under management business. That's just not my business model. Most CFPs or CFAs do have that business model. 

I do think it can be really helpful at some point. People often face decisions, and military members and civilians alike face times in their life when they're just making a big financial purchase or they're making a big move. 

Or maybe they've inherited some money, maybe buying a house, which is arguably the largest, financial decision probably other than getting married. The largest financial decision of your life, right? In those types of instances, it can be tremendously helpful to pay hourly and get 2, 3, or 4 hours or however long it takes for a CFP or CFA to help you out.

And I'm a big fan of that, right? I tell people. Be very comfortable paying for financial planning and you probably don't need to pay for asset management. 

So I separate those two things in my mind. Asset management being portfolio construction, managing your investments, that can be done either by a robot or by you very easily and very cheaply.

And then financial planning is knowing all the rules and what accounts to draw from. That is starting to get automated, but it's not really quite there yet. And in my book, that's okay to pay hourly for. So that's when I would say it makes sense for a military member.

Maybe facing retirement, those are huge financial decisions if you elect the SBP, the Survivor Benefit Plan, how much life insurance you have, all that kind of stuff can be very supported by a financial planner who has military experience, right? 

So if you're going to look for one, try to find one that has experience with what you're looking for. Because they all specialize. I know the basics of social security, but I'm by no means an expert in social security. So if a person in their sixties came to me and said, “Hey Rob, can you help me work through this social security claiming strategy?” I would say, “I'm not your guy. You should go find someone who's an expert in social security to navigate that problem.” 

But conversely, if someone came to me and they're like, “Hey, help me talk through my TSP funding options and whether I should fund that first over my Roth IRA?” Then I would absolutely help them out and talk through that decision.

[00:08:28] Spencer: I think that's a great distinction between paying for a few hours of a professional's time to build a good strategy to go forward and execute. Depending on how much the CFP charges, that could be $500 to $1,000.

But what an amazing return on investment you'll get from just that small investment of both time and money. To have a professional look at where you're at and where you want to go, and to provide the direction to get there. 

And then if they're a good CFP or if there's someone who believes in low-cost index fund investing, then you can put your money to work into an index fund that's going to charge you five basis points [0.05%] and be extremely cheap.

Yeah, I really like how you brought up that distinction between paying a lot for your investments or investing the money into getting some good, professional advice.

[00:09:28] Rob: Yeah it's like I tell people if you're taking the fitness approach maybe you don't need to pay for a personal trainer to work out with you like three days a week. That's excessive. But would it make sense to pay a personal trainer or nutritionist for a couple hours of their time to design a fitness plan or a nutrition plan for you? 

And then you run with that plan and maybe check in with that person once a year or if you got sick you could check in with them more often. Something like that. So I like that analogy. I think that helps people relate it to something that they're more comfortable with.

[00:10:01] Jamie: Yeah, that's cool. Rob, we talked about CFP help in areas such as term life insurance and VA benefits, survivor benefit plan, and things like that. Are there other things that maybe the average service member might not know as a CFP can help them with? Other than just, here's a hot stock tip of the day. I think a lot of times that people think of when they think of investment advice or getting help with their finances.

[00:10:24] Rob: Yeah, really. And it's funny. You're right Jamie, a lot of people just think of the investment side of it as being the bread and butter or the only component of it. But there was so much more, and that was where the CFP education background was just really fascinating to me. 

Taking an insurance needs analysis and looking at people's umbrella insurance needs and their liability and all those kinds of things. And then looking at retirement plans and small business owners and really taking a comprehensive look at someone's benefits package and seeing where they can improve their finances. Saving for college. That's a tremendous one if we translate it to the military world. 

If I'm helping, I don't do one-on-one asset management. I do help my friends with some of this stuff, but when I'm talking to someone in the military, we go into all sorts of topics. I was talking to my buddy the other night and helping him out, Coast Guard, O-5. And I was talking to him and making sure that his post-9/11 GI Bill was set up in a smart way and that his benefits were transferred to his kids. And making sure he has all that squared away before he separates in a few years. 

All those things are just so important. There are little things, right? A little nugget is that you're eligible for VGLI, the Veterans Group Life Insurance. When you leave the military, the premiums are about twice as expensive as SGLI.

But you're only allowed to have how much coverage you had of SGLI when you left the service. So Spencer has $400,000 and Jamie, you have $100,000 when you separate, then when you go to turn on VGL later down the road, those are your caps that you can enroll in. 

So why not the three months before you separate from the service, why not up your coverage to $400,000? That way if you want to take on the max VGLI later in life, you have that option for you. So little things like that maybe the average person isn't really thinking that a professional may be able to help you navigate.

[00:12:33] Spencer: Yeah. Because you've seen not just one life experience, but several or maybe even dozens or hundreds of other service members who have gone through the exact same situation.

And so you can apply the experience and knowledge of other people to someone's specific situation. One thing I forgot to mention in your bio was that you say that you opened your first IRA at 15 with your lawn mowing money. I'm curious, what did you invest your money in when you were 15? And has your investing strategy changed much since then?

[00:13:07] Rob: Yeah, I still remember it. My first IRA, it actually wasn't a Roth IRA back then, because we didn't have them. I think it was 1996. We had traditional IRAs, and I used my lawn money. My mom now teases me, but I don't remember this part, but she fronted me the contribution. So she let me keep the money and then she matched my contribution or fronted me the money, which was very generous of her.

But she watched a local news segment that talked about opening an IRA for your kids. And I remember the fund, it was a Franklin DynaTech investment fund. It was Class A. It had the full load, saddled with fees. It was like 1.4% expense ratio. I think the fund has since closed, which is no surprise.

But I thought it was the greatest thing ever, right? I had 300 bucks in there or whatever it was. And I was so happy watching it. I got a statement in the mail with my name on it from an investment company. I thought that was just the coolest thing. And like any 15-year-old, but nerdy 15-year-old Rob thought that was really the best thing ever.

Then I got smart on fees and when the Roth IRAs came online, I switched over to Roth. And then I was just well aware of keeping your fees low. So investment strategy has vastly changed since then. Now I'm a low-fee index fund, diversified, broadly diversified kind of investment strategy, but back then it was just taking the lead from the investment advisor who helped open that account.

[00:14:40] Spencer: I think one great point that comes out of that story is when you start investing when you're young, for most people listening to this podcast, you're probably not 15, you're probably in your twenties or thirties. But if you start investing now, and if it's just with a couple hundred dollars or $1,000, you can make a lot of mistakes with those small amounts and learn a lot of very valuable lessons like that.

When it comes to investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the future, you can avoid those mistakes. And then because you've already had the experience, you've already learned it when you were younger. So I think that's a great lesson. 

If you're a young E-3, 19, 20, or 21 years old listening to this and you just opened up your Robinhood account, and you've got some money in there into VTI ETF or whatever, but you're also, training some options on the side, okay, have your fun training the options, but when you lose all your money doing that, learn that lesson so that when you have a substantial sum of money in 10 or 20 years that you're not gambling it on Robinhood and trying to try to make your next million off of options.

[00:15:49] Rob: Yeah, I have a little story about that.

I was still in high school, and I don't know if you remember the Palm Pilots, the precursor of the iPhone. They were made by Palm before that they were made by a company called 3Com. And then Palm spun off a 3Com, but the investment advisor we had at the time was from American Express.

He thought this was the next big thing, and it was hot, right? It was when tech was still pre-2000, it was still on the upswing. So he thought the Palm Pilot was the best thing. And this is crazy looking back on it and now having my financial background, but he had like half of our family's wealth in Palm Pilot. I mean it was crazy.

And he had us buying Palm Pilot every two weeks. We were buying some, and it just kept going up and we thought it was the greatest. And I remember when it spun off the day Palm Pilot IPOed, my mom let me stay home from school. I was glued to the TV watching the stock price. I think I was a junior or maybe a senior, but I just watched our account balance, and I was like, “This is awesome!”

Then reality set in and Palm just tanked. It went to the toilet and fell out of grace, and it was a sizable amount of money back then. I can't even think about what the opportunity cost has been since then. But that lesson I learned in having a concentrated position is one that will forever stick with me.

And I can tell that story and listeners can be like, “Oh yeah, concentrated positions are risky.” But now when I see someone with like 40% of their money in Google or Amazon or whatever, as safe as it seems and everyone thinks those companies couldn't fall from the graces, we've seen the big giants like AOL just disintegrate.

And Palm Pilot at the time was the hot darling of the tech world. And that's a lesson that I will just never forget. And those things you have to be burned to really understand the risk there.

[00:17:52] Jamie: So Rob, you share another passion with both Spencer and me and that's travel hacking. How did you find out about travel hacking and what was your first exposure to it?

[00:18:02] Rob: Yeah, I'm a huge fan. I love what you guys are doing about getting the word out on travel hacking, especially for the military community because it's been in my DNA for a while. I was trying to think back about it before I came on the show here to what my first experience was, and I think it was an American Express Delta card, which I still have to this day. 

I opened it up in 2000 when I got to the Coast Guard Academy, and I think it was like a 20,000 or maybe 25,000 SkyMiles bonus. And I remember getting that card and using those miles to fly to Mardi Gras with some of my classmates from the Coast Guard Academy when I was 18 years old.

I was like, “This is the best thing! I can fly all the way to New Orleans for free for a long weekend!” And we had a blast at Mardi Gras as a couple young 18-year-olds would. And I just remember thinking, “That was awesome!”

I got to go on that trip for free; I didn't have to pay for my plane ticket. I used these SkyMiles. And then from there, it was just off to the races. 

So I've been doing this for about 20 years and have been through different fits and spurts of going aggressive for a little while for cards, but it's always been a passion of mine.

So I think that initial Delta card was one that kind of kicked off the interest.

[00:19:29] Spencer: And when you were opening up your cards you were at the Coast Guard Academy, was that when Amex was applying SCRA benefits, ServiceMembers Civil Relief Act benefits?

[00:19:42] Rob: I don't think they were, I was trying to remember that.

I believe I didn't really go heavy on the Amex SCRA benefits until 2015 with the platinum cards. So in between there, I had a lot of cards, but I don't particularly remember getting a lot of the annual fees waived. Maybe I just wasn't attracted to the high annual fee cards, but I was getting a lot of cards.

And I remember back in the day, 2006 to 2008, there was a website way back when called Fat Wallet Finance, and they had this thing called app-o-rama. It was like AOR and that was the term for applying for multiple cards in one day. You could apply for six, seven, or eight cards in one day. And people called that an app-o-rama. 

And now you don't have to do that. You can spread out your apps, but back then you could do it and you could condense your hard pulls onto one day. So I remember doing app-o-ramas every six months or a year and that kind of stuff. 

But I think, to get back to your question, Spencer, I think Amex wasn't doing the fee waivers back then, or if they were, I just wasn't playing that game as heavily as I am now.

[00:20:57] Jamie: So now do you prefer cash back or do you prefer the travel rewards cards? What's your kind of go-to rewards planning?

[00:21:06] Rob: That's tough. I love them both. I use them both. I just finished the minimum spend on my Amex Business Gold, and I got 90,000 membership rewards points which I redeemed for cash back.

I know there are a lot of people out there that would get more value there and try to transfer that to partners. I'm not a huge user of that. I've taken some business class flights, but I don't fly a ton of business or first. So I cash those 90,000 points out via my Schwab investor rewards account and got $990 cash back.

So, I love that cash back. But then I'll also use points. Actually, I just got approved today for the Marriott boundless card with 250,000 points. So that is one I'll use because my wife's pretty good about finding Marriott rewards in the sweet spots in the redemption chart. We'll try to take five nights and find a nice Marriott to go to for a vacation.

I don't know. I love them both. Jamie, I try to spread the love among both of those cards. I don't discriminate.

[00:22:10] Spencer: Do you have a preferred flexible point scheme, whether it's Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Capital One Miles, or Citi ThankYou points? Do you have a favorite one that you like to earn points with?

[00:22:24] Rob: Yeah, I love the Ultimate Rewards. I find those to be the most flexible for me. I love the pay-yourself-back feature. I just think that's just really handy when you want to just zero out something. Like now it's dining, so you can just go out to eat and then redeem your points against your dining purchases and get that 50% bonus. I really like that. 

I also have used it to transfer too. If I'm just 2,000 miles short of a United redemption, I can just send over a low amount of United miles from my Chase Ultimate Rewards. Same thing with Hyatt. I've done that to keep Hyatt points active and from expiring. I'll send over a thousand Hyatt points every 18 months or something if I have some Hyatt points in my Hyatt account that I just haven't been able to redeem, but I don't want them to expire.

So I just send over some Ultimate Rewards points every now and then. But I find those to be the most flexible. Membership rewards points, I generally cash out for cash back. It's just harder for me to find those partner redemptions. There's something to be said for simplicity, and I like just cashing out for cash back at some point.

[00:23:35] Spencer: Yeah, absolutely. I find that I tend to build up a lot of Amex Membership Reward points just because the best redemptions are on those long-haul, international business class or first-class flights, like on Emirates, Etihad, or Singapore. And it’s hard sometimes to find availability and actually have enough time to go take those trips.

Next year I'm planning this big trip where I'm taking my wife, her parents, and me, and we're going to go from New Zealand to Europe for six weeks. I'm going to try to do both directions, business class, either Singapore or Emirates. And it's tough to find the availability and to find the right airport you want to go into and find the ticket that doesn't have a terrible, 17-hour connection or whatever, where you're going to have to go get a hotel room anyways.

So yeah I agree with the Chase Ultimate Reward points, especially since you can redeem them for 1.5 cents when you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve in the Chase Travel portal. That's just such an easy redemption, and it's much better than redeeming them for Amazon purchases, right, where you’re only going to get 0.70 cents. 

Jamie and I have a good friend who cashed out several thousand Amex points for gift cards the other day. And oh, it breaks our hearts.

[00:24:59] Rob: So was it a military person?

[00:25:02] Spencer: It was, yes. He needs to come see the light. 

[00:25:08] Rob: One of the sweet spots I found is if you just get the Schwab Platinum card, you get the 60,000, that never really goes above 60,000 Membership Rewards points, but you can get a Schwab checking account bonus for signing up. Then that unlocks the Schwab Platinum card where you can get 60,000 Membership Rewards points.

But more importantly, it gives you an avenue to cash out Membership Rewards points. They lowered it to 1.1 cents per point. It used to be 1.25, which was awesome. 

[00:25:40] Spencer: Yeah, that was a great cash-out redemption.

[00:25:42] Rob: I used to do that in my Schwab account. That's really the only thing I use my Schwab account for. I do my investing elsewhere, but I keep my Schwab account open. The money shows up instantly, and then I send it right out of Schwab. I like that avenue.

Kudos to you, Spencer, for finding and navigating that award chart and looking for the availability, because that's just something I haven't tackled yet.

[00:26:03] Spencer: Yeah, it's definitely time-consuming. But, it can be extremely rewarding because some of the tickets I'm looking at are $10,000 tickets, and I'm going to be able to pick them up for probably right around 100,000 to 150,000 points. I’m getting almost 10x or 10 cents per point of value, which is huge.

You talked about you just opened up a Chase Marriott Bonvoy card, and you upgraded one of your older cards to the Ritz Carlton card. I haven't been able to find out a lot about this. I think Chase discontinued new applications for this card, but you can still upgrade your cards to it. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?

[00:26:51] Rob: Yeah, sure. I just completed that over the last seven days. 

I had a Marriott Premier card that had a $95 annual fee. It was being waived for the military, but it was that level of card that gave me a 35,000 annual night certificate. I had it for I think like 12 years or so.

I found out you could upgrade that to the Ritz Carlton. So I did that. And one thing that, maybe listeners don't know this, but if you product change within a family at Chase, your SCRA or MLA benefits carry with you. So that was one thing that's a nice little tip or hack. 

So if you're getting SCRA or MLA benefits on the United Explorer card, the one that usually has a $95 annual fee, you can upgrade or product change to the United Club card that has like a $550 annual fee or a high annual fee and those benefits.

[00:27:48] Spencer: Yeah, United Club Infinite.

[00:27:51] Rob: Yeah. And that'll carry with you so you don't have to worry. For a while, I thought, “Oh my gosh, my fee waivers are going to go away.” It wasn't the case. So what I did was I upgraded the Marriott Premier card to a Ritz Carlton, and then that allowed me to apply for the Marriott Boundless because you can't apply for the Marriott Boundless if you have a Marriott Premier.

But I gave it a couple days in the Chase system to clear. I ended up learning some really intricate details of the Chase system during that process, but my advice would be to give it about seven days after your product change. I gave it 24 hours, and that was not nearly enough. But give it a healthy amount of days before you apply.

I was trying to squeeze it in before the Boundless promotion ended. And luckily I got approved, so I got approved for the Boundless card. I just got that. I called the reconsideration line today and got approved for it. So that'll give me the 250,000 points and then I can keep that Ritz Carlton card.

And that one has the annual free night. Spencer, I know you and I were talking about the 50,000 points per night. So the MLA benefits will apply to that. I'll get another annual free night and it has a $300 incidental travel credit, so if you're eligible or you have a route to get to that Ritz Carlton card, it sounds like it's a good keeper. My only regret is I didn't product change to that, eight or nine years ago because I wish I had.

[00:29:20] Jamie: So Rob, you have another card that I don't think Spencer has either the Paceline card, what's been your experience with that so far, and would you recommend it as a good card?

[00:29:34] Rob: Yeah, I actually really like this one. I have a lot of cards, and it's rare to find a card that I really have an emotional attachment to. This one I've only had for three weeks, and I'm falling for it. I really like it a lot. 

What attracted me, it's one of my favorite resources out there is doctorofcredit.com. And my brother and I were like, “What did you see on DOC today?” Or, “What's hot on Doctor of Credit?” So we're always checking that. 

That's where I learned about the Paceline card. What attracted me to it was that it gives you 5% back on groceries, which is pretty good.

Our family of four spends a fair amount on groceries in the Bay Area and then 3% back everywhere else, and 3% back which beats any other card out there. It beats Citi Double Cash. It beats the combo between Chase Freedom Unlimited and Chase Sapphire Reserve and all those. USAA launched a 3% back card a few years ago, But they folded it. I think they grandfathered in the people that were in there.

But basically no one has been able to sustain a 3% cash-back card. So it's interesting that Paceline is offering this to people. But the key here is that this card is about being fit and keeping your fitness at a reasonable level.

So you get those bonus reward categories if you log 150 minutes of activity of elevated heart rate per week. And it doesn't have to be like CrossFit-level high-intensity training. I walk my daughter to daycare in the morning and pick her up in the afternoon, and that knocks out most of my minutes for the day.

So if you're walking it’ll work. I found myself going for more runs now in the morning because I got a log of my minutes and got my rewards. And then the other cool thing is they give you a free Apple watch. I'm not a huge Apple Watch guy, but I picked up a free Apple Watch with it. 

So it's fun. They've combined all kinds of incentives. Have you guys read about it at all or have you gotten it?

[00:31:49] Jamie: So I actually just a week or two ago downloaded the Paceline app. I don't have the card, but it's been giving me small Amazon gift cards for doing my workouts each week. Like here's a sample of whatever for $3, only pay shipping. 

Is it a Chase card that's eligible for MLA waivers? Is that the bank that issues it?

[00:32:11] Rob: No, it's not a Chase card. It's actually bizarre. It's a card that's issued by Evolve Bank and Trust. I've never heard of them. They seem to do a lot of co-branded cards. And then also Railz Bank. So two players I've never heard of before. 

And then Paceline is like the San Francisco tech startup, so it's those three players involved in the card. There is a $60 annual fee, but I called and asked if Military benefits or MLA waivers would apply to that. And they told me, “Send in your military documentation and we'll review it.”

So I'm waiting for my next set of reserve orders, and then I was going to send those in and see. You always do better when I send in ADT orders. And that is a stronger chance of triggering an MLA benefit.

[00:33:11] Spencer: That's a great segue there, Rob, to talk about military fee waivers as a reservist. So on active duty, and we've talked about this on so many episodes, hopefully, people are sick of hearing about it. But when you're on active duty military or active duty military spouse, a civilian spouse, or married to an active duty service member, you can go check your MLA status in the MLA database, and you just Google MLA database DOD, and it should pop right up.

And as long as you're in the MLA database correctly it should be automatic. For most military service members it should be automatic and for spouses, if you're properly in DEERS, it should also be pretty automatic. It's pretty easy when you're on active duty, but I imagine as a reservist there are a few more hoops to jump through.

So can you walk us through your strategy and how you approach getting your MLA and SCRA benefits on your credit cards as a reservist? 

[00:34:06] Rob: Like you said, it's much easier for active duty folks, but as a reservist or a mil spouse it can be a little bit different. It's also a little bit different since I am a reservist and a mil spouse. It's a little bit hard for me to tease out what benefits I'm receiving as a reservist versus what benefits there are extending to me as a military spouse.

But I think I have an idea of how to figure that out. Basically, I take the approach of sending in your orders. Chase makes it super easy. You can upload it to their website into the secure message center. You can request an SCRA or MLA review if it doesn't happen automatically for you.

Now they're checking, I think post-2017, they're checking every application against the MLA database or the DOD database. But you can also send in your orders. So as a reservist, if you have orders, especially if you're activated or you go on ADOS or Title 10 orders greater than 30 days. So if those orders are greater than 30 days, send them in.

So email them into Amex, upload them to Chase, and send them to your banks. You either call them and ask them what the email address is. I think Citi still takes them via email. For Chase, you can upload them. I think Amex, you have to email them. I can't remember the specifics of each issuer, but get your orders to the bank, and then they will review your accounts. 

So do that when you have your orders and ideally when you're still on reserve deployment. Reserve deployments can be anywhere from, I've done one for 42 days. I took those orders and I sent them to all the issuers.

And then those benefits extend; they don't just end after the 42 days. Chase applies your benefits for, I think it's like for 24 months or 36 months. So I've had those benefits extended even beyond the length of my active duty time as a reservist. Which is pretty generous and pretty sweet.

I take the approach of just sending them in. You could also send in your ADT orders. Chase has this whole department that works for this, and they're usually pretty good about sorting out what's ADT versus long-term and what we call ADOS and or Title 10.

But sometimes you get a rep that doesn't really know the difference, and they just see military orders and they apply it across the board, so it's worth a try. The worst they can do is come back and say you didn't qualify for the fee waiver. And then you could also send in something else; I could send in my wife's orders.

I haven't tried that yet because Chase has waived everything just based on my orders. But I could just upload my wife's orders and see if that qualifies me as a spouse.

[00:36:46] Spencer: Yeah, that's awesome. That's one of the most frequent questions I get. “Hey, I'm in the reserves, or hey, I'm in the guard. What if they don't apply MLA? What if they don't waive my annual fees?” 

Then you just pay the annual fee, and you're just like the civilians. People still make travel hacking work, even paying the annual fees. So any military benefits you get on top of it, yeah, they make it a lot easier. Go into it, assuming that maybe one year you'll have to pay the annual fees, and then if you can still make the math work, right?

Especially right now in the Amex Platinum card, the public bonus is 100,000 points. You could just open up another Schwab card, get another 60,000 points, and then cash out 160,000 Amex points at 1.1 cents, which would be like $1,760. And right there you've just covered several years of the annual fee.

And then every year that you go to renew, hopefully, you have active duty orders that you can submit. And then get a fee waiver. And I know for Amex or they're pretty generous, where basically if you've ever qualified for SCRA or MLA they keep extending it for years and years at least. That's most of the data points that I've received from that. 

One thing you mentioned, Rob in our show notes here was that you got your mortgage rate reduced when applying for MLA. Can you talk about that real quick?

[00:38:14] Rob: Yeah, and that was a totally unexpected benefit. 

So one of these times I had sent in my reserve orders to Chase, I had my mortgage with Chase at the time, and I wasn't aware they reviewed all your accounts that you have with them like checking accounts. You don't qualify for fee waivers anyway. And there aren't that many fees there, but they review all your accounts. 

So I got a letter back saying that we've applied SCRA benefits to your credit card accounts, which I was happy to see. And then it was weird. I got this like a cryptic FedEx delivery. The first sign of it was I started getting my mortgage, my monthly mortgage amount, my payment that it was auto deducting for my check account was less.

And I was like what's with that? Why am I paying less on my mortgage? I noticed it right away and I was like okay, let's figure out what's happening. And then I saw something on the line that's at SCRA. And I was like, that's weird. Chase is reducing my mortgage based on s e benefits.

And then I got this cryptic delivery from FedEx. I was in Seattle at the time and I was like, you have a package. We have to come down to the FedEx center and sign for it. I was like, “What the heck? What's in this package and who's it from?” So I eagerly go down to the FedEx place in South Seattle and pick up this FedEx envelope.

And I look at the return address, it says ChaseSCRA. And I was like, “Oh my gosh, what's this?” And I open it up and it's a check. I think it was for $1,600 or something. It was sizable. It wasn't just $20 or something. And they had a letter explaining that I sent in my orders and they reviewed my mortgage account based on the date of the orders, and they reduced the amount of interest. They did some huge, crazy calculations that I couldn't even begin to understand about how much mortgage interest I had paid during those two or three years that was above the SCRA cap.

And they cut me a check for the refund. I've heard of those stories from Amex before, but I had never in my wildest dreams thought that Chase would reduce my mortgage benefit by that. I think it was like 5/8 of a point or something. And then those benefits expire after 24 months or something.

And then my mortgage rate jumped up. What it was before totally unexpected. Nice perk. I don't know if I could pull that off again. Luckily I locked in my rate when I was below that SCRA rate. So I don't think it would happen now, but with rates climbing back up, maybe that is a strategy.

I don't know if anything above 4% gets considered for SCRA, who knows? It'll be a good data point.

[00:40:53] Jamie: Yeah. Interesting. So we love good redemptions as well. And your voice just sounds so amazing with that microphone you have. You were telling us before the show about how you redeemed some of your benefits for that.

So can you talk a little bit about the Amex Business Platinum and one of the benefits you like and then maybe some recent hotel redemptions or any best redemptions you've had as well?

[00:41:14] Rob: Sure. Yeah, the joke is that we all have the face for radio, right? 

[00:41:21] Jamie: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Speak for yourself, Rob.

[00:41:24] Rob: I don't know. But yeah, one of the Amex doesn't waive is the business card. I know Spencer, when you were talking about it earlier, Amex is very generous in waiving their personal line of cards for military spouses and for service members. 

Unfortunately, with their business cards, they no longer waive the annual fee, of course. But those of us who applied back when they did, they still continue to waive those as grandfathered in. 

So I have two Business Platinums. My wife has one Business Platinum, and those continue to get the $695 annual fee waived which is awesome. And then what I do for redeeming those, they have a myriad of benefits including Uber, the monthly Uber credits, and such.

But one that I really use as a small business owner is the $400 a year at Dell. Each card has $400 a year at Dell, so that's between the three cards. That's $1,200 a year that I can spend at Dell. And I buy stuff. I normally don't buy stuff at Dell, but they actually have a pretty good inventory.

So I've bought a lot of stuff. I bought this new microphone, this Sure MV7 microphone. You can buy it there. I bought a monitor with my credit. Basically, it's all free. And the nice thing about the Dell website is that it lets you split purchases between up to three cards. So you can basically buy $600 worth of stuff in one transaction and split it between the three Business Platinums and get that. It's $200 a year of credits per card.

And then Amex seems to always have a Dell offer. So if it's above $600, you can put the balance on that last card and then apply your 10% Dell offer, for example, to that last card and score even more. There are some sweet little perks in that realm as well. 

Oh, and then sorry, I think the second part of the question was about hotel redemptions. Is that right?

[00:43:26] Jamie: Yeah. Sorry, I gave you a double whammy there.

[00:43:28] Rob: Yeah no. That's fine! I love talking about this stuff, so it's fun. But the hotel redemptions. 

I would say the two that come to mind…We just did a big redemption in Maui at the Wailea Beach Club in Maui, which was awesome in Wailea, and it's beautiful. We brought our two daughters. They're young and they had the kids' pool and the water slides and everything. They actually have a crazy high water slide that the kids can't go on. I was going down it like, 10 times a day. It's like the highest water slide in Hawaii or something like that. So that's fun to do even if you're an adult. 

I was like pushing the little kids out of the way and going down the waterslide.”Move it! You got an adult coming through.” That was fun. Because of a TDY deployment she did earlier last year, my wife has titanium elite status.

We used a bunch of Marriott points that we had. I'm trying to think of how we earned those Marriott points. I think they were all earned through stays, through her stays, and then also a ton of credit card sign-up bonuses. We used those to redeem four nights. And then with Marriott, you get the fifth night free.

So we pulled off five nights at Wailea Beach. And she got a really nice upgrade to a ground floor with a lanai, a really nice upgraded room. And we got the free breakfast credits in the morning. We used our Amex Bonvoy card to pay for the parking fees and the resort fees.

So that was a nice redemption and one that we'll have as a memory for a long time. So that was really nice. And all done for, I think rooms were $1,000 a night there, so that's $5,000 of hotel costs that we probably got out the door for like under $200 out of pocket.

[00:45:25] Jamie: Wow. We love Maui. During our time there, both Spencer and I just have such fond memories of Hawaii and especially Maui. Great spot. So that fifth night free is incredibly valuable.

[00:45:40] Spencer: I'm just thinking back to the time we went to the Wailea Beach Resort one weekend when we were stationed in Hawaii, and we had such a good time.

I was like, “Oh, I wonder if there's any availability next weekend?” And yep, there were rooms for 50,000 points, and so we just booked it for the next weekend and came back the next weekend. Clearly, I wasn't working hard enough at my day job, but that was a great perk of being stationed in the Hawaiian Islands. 

We could just hop inner island for $40 on Southwest and then there were plenty of Marriotts and Hiltons all over the Hawaiian and Hyatts and IHGs, all over the Hawaiian island chains that you could cash in your free nights or use points at.

[00:46:25] Rob: I was just going to say another kind of funny anecdote or thing that might be helpful is that on the way back we were flying Alaska because we had Alaska status and we often get upgraded on Alaska. And on the way back we hadn't been upgraded to first class and we were a little sad, crying crocodile tears that we hadn't been upgraded to first class. 

And I know it's a ridiculous, tough life. But then we got upgraded. I got upgraded and my wife got upgraded, but my daughter didn't. We logged in and it said you could upgrade her for I think like 200 bucks.

And I was like, “Ah, I can't, we only paid $99 for the fare anyway. We can't pay $200 to upgrade our daughter to first class. That doesn't work. We're not going to pay that.” And then I remembered that I had set one of my preferred airlines on one of my Platinum cards to Alaska, and they've become more strict on what they qualify as an airline incidental. 

But I know some count. We did it. I looked at my wife and I was like, “Should we do it?” And I was like, “Wait, I think I can get this for free if I have that card on me!” 

I had the card on me, so we paid it and upgraded. We all got to fly home in first class, and then it got a rebate from Amex as an incidental. I used my entire, annual incidental, but we all got to fly home. It's worth it. Yeah, it was really nice.

[00:47:53] Spencer: That's definitely worth it. And yeah, so speaking of the Amex Platinum incidental, that's $200 a year. You have to select your airline in January. I think the data points say you can change your airline up to three times if you just send them a message through their customer service chat app, which I found to be super easy and convenient.

Usually, I'm doing something else, and I'm just on the chat app. It just dings at me whenever they need my attention, and I just say, “Yep, approved, go ahead, do it.” And then they're able to change the airline if I want to change the airline mid-year. 

But one thing that, I don't know if you are familiar with this one, but with Southwest, as long as the fare is below $100, it counts as an incidental and it gets reimbursed.

So that was one thing that we were doing in Hawaii when we were flying interisland. We would just look for fares that were below $100 and then book them. And then you could even change it. If you didn't want to fly it, you could cancel it, and they would put the money into your Southwest travel credit. And that's one of the nice things about Southwest is they always have fully flexible fares.

[00:49:06] Rob: Yeah. That is a great strategy. I used to have Alaska, and they used to do that same thing. And as a gold member, this was pre-Covid, you could do that, cancel flights and deposit them to your travel bank.

But then Amex caught onto that and stopped rebating under $100 fares. So now I've since switched all my cards, all my Platinum cards, except one to Southwest for that reason. So I keep one on Alaska. And then the other, I think six are on Southwest, and I think, Spencer, the one caveat there is you can change your airline as long as you haven't used any of your travel.

If you chip away $20 at your credit, then they won't let you change it. But I have had luck changing the airline past January if you haven't used any of those credits. But yeah, and I think there's even a better opportunity. I haven't worried about this yet because we're not towards the end of the calendar year when those credits expire.

But if you book a Southwest flight, when you book a fare, I would just look for any fare on the calendar. Use the one, the low fare calendar, find a fare from Oakland to Denver, and have no intention of flying it. It'd be like 98 bucks. Book it, wait 24 hours, and cancel. 

Instead of refunding it to the card, that's why you have to wait 24 hours, otherwise, it'll go back to your card, and then Amex will claw it back.

But you would cancel that ticket but then retain the dollars in your travel bank for a future flight, but they would be attached to your name, right? So whoever bought the ticket is the only one that I can fly. 

But now with this new fare class that Southwest came up with Getaway Plus fare, one of the perks of that fare is that the travel credits are interchangeable among flyers.

I just saw it; I think it came out a month ago. So I'm thinking here and my deal points and miles bells are going off. I don't want to have to make a prediction of who's going to need the travel credits most. Is it going to be me, my wife, or my daughter?

So now we can basically book those Getaway Plus fares, cancel them, and then now we can shift those dollars among family members or even outside of the family, really. So I'm curious to try that this year and as a new strategy and see if those become more flexible dollars on Southwest.

[00:51:34] Jamie: Yeah, I always get a little nervous with some of those redemptions and try to think of it as if they ever asked, “Yeah, no I truly intended to take that flight, and then plans changed.” So it's a fine line there between.

[00:51:47] Spencer: That's just because you're a good person, Jamie.

[00:51:50] Jamie: But I also don't want to get kicked out of the game either, but one other good one the system does also approve…Since you're near SFO, have you heard of the United Travel Bank, or have you experimented with that yet? Cause Spencer and I have both done that and had good success.

[00:52:06] Rob: I've heard of Travel Bank. I haven't used it yet. But is it, am I understanding that right? You can just deposit money into the travel bank and Amex rebates it.

[00:52:14] Spencer: Yeah, that's right. If you set United as your preferred airline, and again, I hate to talk about this because I think it's going to go away any day now.

This is what happened to the American Airlines deal where you could buy gift cards on the American Airlines site and they reimbursed that as incidentals. That was back in 2019, 2020 maybe. For United Travel Bank, you just go to the travel bank. You have to buy them in either $50, $100, or $250 increments.

So if you have the Amex Hilton Aspire card, you can set United as your airline and then buy a $250 travel bank, and then Amex will reimburse it. And then for Amex Platinum, you'd have to buy two $100 transactions. You'd have two transactions right on the United Travel Bank.

And before you do this, I would just caveat– Google “Flyer Talk United Travel Bank.” Then what you'll be able to do is, Flyer Talk is this great website. It's one of the oldest web forums out there for travel hacking. And you could find data points, very recent data points where people are like, “Hey, I purchased United Travel Bank with my Amex Aspire card on July 20th, and it was reimbursed on July 22nd.”

And then you can have some confidence going into it. But again, with so many little details, and that's a little bit more of a trick than I usually like to talk about, but have the money set aside in case you need to cover it. Because the day that you do it is the day that Amex decides, “Nope, we're not reimbursing this anymore.”

Just have the money set aside. Don't be doing this if you don't have an emergency fund, if you're a beginner. These are very advanced personal finance and travel hacking techniques that we're talking about here. So this year I was able to, between all my Platinum cards, my Amex Aspire cards, I had $2,800 in my United Travel Bank in one year.

[00:54:16] Jamie: Yeah, so that was a pretty good haul. I can't wait to come visit you again.

[00:54:21] Rob: I hope Spencer buys the ticket, right?

[00:54:23] Spencer: That's right.

[00:54:24] Jamie: So I'll share one last one that we use. Like you said, we normally don't like to go too much into these kinds of hot takes of hacks. But the other one that works, as of the time of this recording is working, and again, look at Flyer Talk to see the most recent data points. 

But if you have a Delta gift card, you can buy it at Target or PayPal or anything like that. You put a portion of your ticket on the gift card and then the additional collection registers. The rest of it bills as an additional collection which has been getting reimbursed as well.

And then if you have multiple cards and you have to change your flight for any reason, each time you change your flight, that additional collection would also trigger it. I personally have used that as I had a gift card. I booked part of it then had to change my flight. The flight change, the increase in fare for the new flight was reimbursed.

And so that ended up happening a couple of times, and it just kept getting reimbursed. So that's another one too. But again, that could stop any minute.

[00:55:25] Rob: I'd be curious to know what airline military members most frequently select on their Platinum cards. Is it the airline they fly the most because they're buying a lot? I know a lot of people, my military friends just go hog wild on the flights with in-flight purchases, and they use it for that. 

Whereas it sounds like the three of us try to squeeze it out for travel dollars. We'll forgo the in-flight booze, and we’d rather get money in our travel banks. But I just wonder what other military members tend to do with their $200, if they even use the $200 credit. I don't know.

[00:56:03] Spencer: Great question. The vast majority of them, especially since Amex makes it so hard to use, I would say the vast majority of them probably don't use the $200 credit.

I know the Chase $300 credit, that's easy. I've used that accidentally a dozen times just because I'm like, “I just put a flight on my Chase card and I'm like, oh shoot, there goes my $300 travel credit for the year.” 

All right, Rob, just a couple more questions about Amex Platinum Benefits Saks Fifth Avenue.

Now I thought that this was the most useless credit when I first got the Amex Platinum Card. 50 bucks at Saks Fifth Avenue?! Everything in there costs $100 minimum I felt, but after stacking a few Amex platinum cards, I was able to get some pretty awesome cashmere sweaters from there.

So what's the latest on the Saks Fifth Avenue?

[00:56:53] Rob: Yeah, and I'm with you, Spencer. When I first got that, I was totally thinking that's just like a useless benefit. When am I ever going to use that? I've since come to really appreciate it and learn how to maximize that benefit.

But I gotta say sometimes it's stressful because I haven't spent it, and then it's the end of June or the end of December. And the last thing I want to be doing on New Year's Eve is trying to place six Saks orders and hope they ship in time. 

So it is a little stressful, but I gotta get better about making my Saks Purchases earlier in the half of the year.

But there actually is a lot of good stuff you can find. So if you go to Saks, for the listeners that don't know about this, the Amex Platinum gives a $50 Saks credit twice a year. So between January and June 30th and then July 1st and December 31st. 

The tricky part is, it depends not on when you place the order, but when Saks decides to ship it and charge the card. So I've been burned on this a few times.

It could sit pending for seven days with Saks, and then when Saks ships it from their warehouse, then it bills your Amex card. So I've placed orders on June 25th thinking I'm good. They sit pending on my Amex, but then they don't post until July 3rd, and then it'll count for the second half.

So try to do your Saks orders earlier in the half of the year, so you don't miss out. But what I do is I go to Saks.com or SaksFifthAvenue.com, go to sale, and then you can shop by price, and you can actually just pull up everything on the site that's under $50. And a lot of it is free shipping anyway.

I'm doing it right now as we're talking, and you can actually find the shirt I'm wearing right now. My buddy found it. And he had the card too, and he was like, “Hey, we can get these Vineyard Vines hooded sweatshirts for $44 bucks.” So we each got them and it was fun because we got matching shirts and wore them together.

But it's cute. 

Yeah. It's really nice. So we're bonding over that.

[00:59:02] Jamie: Don't give Spencer any ideas. Next thing you know, we're going to be matching on the next recording.

[00:59:07] Spencer: Yeah. We need to have Military Money Manual branded shirts.

[00:59:11] Rob: Yeah. They'll be branded like anything that is within Saks.

I tease one of my other Coast Guard commander friends, he's like asking for birthday gifts for my daughter, and I was like, “What are you browsing the Saks website because I know you're going to send me a birthday gift that's just going to come right from the Saks package, isn't it?”

[00:59:30] Spencer: Yeah, but you know how I get around that limitation of the $50 is I'll just buy gift cards at the physical Saks store.

We had one in Honolulu, which I think has since shut down, but I'm actually making a trip back to the states, a sort of pilgrimage, if you will, in a few weeks. And one of the places I will be stopping is Saks. Actually, I think I might go to the real Saks Fifth Avenue in New York City. 

But yeah, all you have to do is find a customer service person and say, I want to buy a gift card. And in Honolulu, at least, they got so used to military guys coming in, I would just hand her a stack of 10 Amex Platinum cards and say, “Do $50 gift cards on each of these, please.” 

And then it would get reimbursed. And one time I had a pretty sharp customer service gal, and she said, “Do you know that we can combine it all into one gift card?” And I was like, Oh my gosh. 

if they know how to do the split. There's actually somebody in the Atlanta Saks Fifth Avenue that knows how to do that as well. So yeah, and then you just have a $600, or $500 gift card.

[01:00:49] Rob: But one of my favorite stories is we were living in Manhattan with our daughter, and my wife wanted to buy one of these travel strollers by YoYo. It's the super collapsible one that fits up in the overhead, and they're crazy expensive. Once I found out that Saks sold them, I was all in on it.

I was like, “Yes, we can go.” I called the Saks in New York, their flagship store. And I was like, “Do you have any YoYo strollers?” And they're like, “Yeah, we have one in stock.” And I was like, “Come on.” And we take our daughter, I have a funny picture of it, and we jump on the subway. I was like, “We gotta get there before it’s gone.” 

We get there and we buy it. It was $280 or something like that. Then you have to buy all the accessories for the seat. And I was like, “Do you mind splitting that between six different cards?” And she looked at me like, “You serious?” And she's like, “No problem.” And I was like, “Fantastic. $50 on this one, $51 on this one, $52 on this one…” 

And we walk out the door with it for 10 bucks or something like that, with this awesome stroller that we still use to this day. So the split tender in-person definitely still works if you find the right rep. Maybe your mileage may vary on the gift cards.

I don't want to be closed down for my Amex. So Amex gets level three reporting data from stores. They know what you buy at Saks, so they can see if you're buying a gift card versus buying a stroller. If you get that, you might attract the attention of what they call the RAT team, right? The rewards abuse team at Amex. 

That's a real department at Amex. And if you get caught by the RAT, then they can shut you all down. Like any of this stuff, you have to be prepared for that.

[01:02:31] Jamie: Yeah. Especially if you have a bunch of points in your account.

[01:02:36] Rob: Yeah. But for the military members out there that have that $50 credit twice a year, just go to the Saks site, sort by sale, under 50 bucks, and pick out any number of things that are interesting.

You can get some undershirts, you can get underwear, you can get socks or on-sale clothing. And you can get free shipping. If you sign up for an email account, you can get 10% off your order. So pretty easy to use. I know we picked up a lot of stuff for our daughters, and my wife got some mascara that she likes. It's $25, so we got two of those. 

I found that actually to be a pretty helpful benefit. It went from worthless to now, actually pretty helpful. You can get kitchen knives and all this nice high-quality stuff.

[01:03:21] Spencer: Yeah, I definitely get some value out of the Saks credit.

Okay, Rob just a couple more travel hacking questions, and then we'll move on to a couple other topics. What's your most used card, and what do you carry daily?

[01:03:38] Rob: So currently it's my Paceline card because that's 3% back everywhere and then 5% back on groceries if I hit my fitness goals, at least that's currently the case.

Other than that it would be my American Express Blue Business Plus. So I love that one. 50,000 point sign-up bonus, but 2x back on everything. Cashing that out via the Schwab site, it's 2.2 back on everything, so I love that on non bonus categories. And then I don't mind carrying a couple cards, so I usually have four cards in my wallet.

So first it'll be whatever card I'm working on minimum spend for. I always try to be working on a minimum spend at any given time. And then if I'm not working on a minimum spend, if I'm between signup bonuses, then I'll either do Paceline, American Express Blue Business Plus, or Chase Freedom Unlimited, Chase Reserve, or Citi Prestige. So it's I know it should be a shorter answer, but it's kinda more, more detailed than that.

[01:04:50] Spencer: No, that just shows the level of sophistication that you've applied to the game. 

Something I used to dabble with a little bit more in college when I had more access to physical banks and more time was bank bonuses. I really see them sometimes on Doctor of Credit, that's doctorofcredit.com if you're not familiar. It’s a great resource for military travel hackers. 

But what's the current status of bank bonuses and can you explain what they are and how to get them?

[01:05:22] Rob: So this is something that I've gotten more into is that once I exhausted the credit card game or things started tightening down, I had always written off bank bonuses as just not worth the time and effort.

And then Doctor of Credit has a post that says something like, “What are bank bonuses and why you should give them a try.” I really trust his site and his advice, and I read the post and I was like, okay, I'm going to try this. 

Basically a bank bonus, it's like a CD kind of, if you think about a certificate of a deposit, you give the bank a certain amount of money for a certain amount of time, and they give you a bonus for tying up that money for that amount of time.

So an easy one that just launched again, although these come and go, but Chase just came out with a $600 bonus. If you open up a Chase checking and savings account, you get a $300 bonus for the checking, $200 for savings, and then $100 if you do both of those bonuses. They're Chase banks pretty much in every city across the country.

They're really easy to go into. Their bonuses pay very reliably. It's only if you're a new Chase customer. Chase even gives really good benefits for military members. They waive the monthly fees on your checking account and that kind of stuff, so you can get the good checking account for free as a military member.

So you go in and you do this bonus and you tie up some funds, the savings account bonus requires $15,000 deposited for 90 days, and then it pays out a $200 bonus. But if you think about that return on investment, it's actually far better than your Ally or Discover or other high-yield savings account if you annualize the interest.

I'll just move my emergency fund over from Ally or Discover or Marcus over to Chase for 90 days, get the bonus, and then move on. They're pretty attractive. Give them a try. There are some easy starter ones out there and you'll find that it's nice to collect between $400 and $600, every three or four months you can make a couple thousand dollars a year.

My wife and I make a couple thousand dollars a year each on bank bonuses.

[01:07:34] Jamie: Nice. Rob, one question we get sometimes is advice on how to meet the minimum spend when you open up these cards, and you just mentioned you like to always be working on one. With your CFP background, what suggestions do you have for organic or natural monthly spending?

If maybe they're a service member that doesn't quite meet that normally or they're a younger service member. For example, the Amex Delta Reserve right now is $5,000 minimum spend in three months. So almost $1,700 a month is required in spending. So any ideas on that?

[01:08:11] Rob: Yeah, it's a common question, and it's a good thing to think about.

I think we would all agree, the number one thing is you don't want it to increase your actual spending or you don't want it to. You don't want to spend money unnecessarily. I always tell people, don't pick up the tab at the bar just because you have a minimum spend to hit. I need to spend two grand on my Amex card, so I better go buy this sofa that I wasn't otherwise going to buy. 

But if you frame it as “Hey, I'm going to go buy it. We've talked about it, and my wife and I have talked about buying a new sofa. We're going to, it's about $2,000. We're going to go out and buy it. We've thought about it for several months. This is a decision we've budgeted for.” 

Don't just put that on a debit card, right? That's almost a whole minimum spend right there. So get a card, and put the sofa on it. As long as it's not increasing your otherwise normal spending, I'm all for that. 

So some tips there to help would be, I know you talked about this in the last show if you can put TDY expenses,  if you're allowed, and if your branch of service allows you to put TDY expenses on your personal cards.

It's like a risk preference thing, but I know in the Coast Guard we have to book our flights on our government travel cards. We were required to. We get in trouble with our commands if we don't, but if they allow you to put like other hotels or incidentals on there and you know you have the money to pay it, even if the travel claim doesn't come through, then you might as well do that and hit the minimum spend.

Another one that I like to use is paying your estimated quarterly tax. So you can go on these  three sites that allow you to make IRS payments. And you can pay your federal taxes via credit card and incur a 1.9% fee, but that's well worth it to get the signup bonus. So I do that, and I also pay my property tax on my credit card.

I live in the Bay Area, we have really high property tax, and I'll gladly put on an $8,000 charge for property tax payments. I’ll pay $200 in fees if I'm getting a $1,200 value signup bonus. So people are always like, “Why would you put your property tax on your credit card? It's a 2% fee.” And I'm like exactly. Because I'll get a new card. And that's like a $10,000 min spend right there.

[01:10:34] Jamie: Nice. So you just mentioned the budget, I have to ask for a follow-up there. So last episode that we recorded, we talked about budgeting. Spencer and I have a little bit different techniques for budgeting.

I'm still a very detailed budgeter, even though I don't really need to be. Spencer's more of an anti-budget or reverse budgeter, set a high savings rate, and then don't worry about it. So would you mind sharing what kind of budget you still maintain, if any, or do you just set a savings rate and not worry about it?

[01:11:01] Rob: Sure. And one thing I wanted to ask you, Spencer as well, is in your book I was reading, and I saw that you said you have many checking accounts. One of them, it's like  an account that anytime you make a purchase on your credit card, then you transfer money out of that account.

And when I read that, I was like, “That's gotta be so time-consuming.” You make a purchase, you swipe your card, and then you have to log onto your bank, and make a $42 transfer from one account to the next. Do you?

[01:11:27] Spencer: Yeah, so I don't do that anymore. But that was something when we first got married, I was a young lieutenant, wasn't making a lot of money, and was making a lot of student loan payments. I knew that I was basically losing money using a debit card. 

And there's lots of other reasons to not use a debit card. You're putting your own money at risk. If somebody got a hold of your debit card, they can just wipe out your checking account, and then it's up to USAA or Navy Federal, whoever your bank is by their good graces to make you whole again and then investigate the fraud. Whereas with a credit card, I have had my credit card stolen so many times, and 9 times out of 10, there's four fraudulent transactions.

I'll log in and check my credit card activity once a week or whatever, and I'll see the fraudulent transactions. If the credit card company hasn't already shut it down, then I'll phone them up, and report the fraud, and it just disappears. You don't even, it's never a problem when you have your credit card information stolen, unlike if you have your debit card information stolen.

But we were transitioning; we had been very strict about using our debit card for all purchases. Cause we were living paycheck to paycheck and we needed to break that cycle. And so when we transitioned to using, I think at the time it was a Chase Freedom card, just because I was starting slow and I just wanted the cash.

That was one thing I did. If I went into Walmart and we spent $200 on groceries, I’d log to USAA boom, and move $200 from the account where the money came into the bills account. And then I knew that when I got the credit card bill at the end of the month, the cash was going to be. There was no question about it.

So that was one technique that we used very early on. And that's not something I do anymore, but I still think it's smart for the right person who's trying to get a handle back on their finances. It's almost like the cash envelope system digitized,

[01:13:33] Rob: That's interesting because people always ask me when I run these corporate workshops, like I ran one today, people ask me, “What tips and tricks do you have for budgeting?” 

So I'm always curious about what systems work for people at various stages of their budgeting comfort levels. So that's like a good one to tuck away, and I can see how that would be helpful. I know that money is accounted for. I can pay for it on my credit card. It's like using a debit card. But you get the perks and benefits of a credit card. That makes sense. 

To answer Jamie, your original question about what our family does for how detailed we get on budgeting, it sounds like we kind of align, I don’t know if this comes as a surprise or not from a financial planner, but we align more with Spencer.

So we set our high savings goals and make sure we're hitting them. We pay ourselves first. So the money goes immediately into my wife's TSP, my solo 401k, and our Roth IRAs we fund generally at the beginning of the year. And then we have our discretionary spending. We do like the auto-routing to different accounts.

So we have an account just set up for our house that we have all of our utilities paid from. All of our mortgage gets deducted from there, our escrow. We do our own escrow for our property taxes into that account. 

So much like Spencer just described, we know, without even lifting a finger, we know that we're going to have money for our housing expenses. Every month we do the same thing for childcare and daycare, and then our discretionary spending after that.

We don't really track that super closely. We sit down and look at that every couple months, Mint and Excel, but we don't really care if one month we spend an extra $100 in dining out and the next month we spend $100  less in travel. As long as we give ourselves leeway on our discretionary spending, as long as we're hitting our overall savings goals.

And our savings, we are mindful of our saving rate and we check that several times throughout the year. But we don't really track every dollar kind of thing and discretion of spending. It just doesn't work for our family. But I know people that really do benefit from it.

[01:15:38] Jamie: Where do you go, Rob, for updates on credit cards and travel hacking news? You mentioned Doctor of Credit. Do you have any kind of go-to newsletters or websites that you really enjoy following?

[01:15:52] Rob: Yeah. Again, I check Doctor of Credit usually a couple times a day. It's like my little break. So I like that one. I signed up for his newsletters. I think the thing that I really like about him is he doesn't do any credit card affiliate links, so you know that if he's posting an offer it's totally authentic and the best for the reader. 

I also follow Ask Sebby, that's Sebastian. He's in the Bay Area. He has a great YouTube channel, gets really into redemptions, and I find him entertaining. He also has a website.

Prince of Travel is another decent YouTube channel that I like; I think he's Canadian, so not everything applies, but he does a good job of talking about different redemption options.

I'm trying to improve my redemption game. I'm looking for redemptions. So it takes a lot of work.  I don't do a good job with redemption, so those would be my go-to. I occasionally read The Points Guy, but I don't know, I always feel bad. I don't really like The Points Guy. It just feels, I think most people in the game here feel the same way, but occasionally he will have some content that is helpful to read. 

So those are my go-to's. I don't think there's really much beyond that that I check or consume on a regular basis.

[01:17:23] Jamie: I feel like I have to go to confession anytime I read a TPG article, although like you said, every once in a while there's something that's like, “Oh man, they did a really nice job breaking that down.” But yeah, I try to avoid it as well.

[01:17:36] Spencer: They hire some really good writers, and they hire some really smart travel people.

Every once in a while, if I'm Googling something and obviously my website hopefully pops up first, but if that doesn't happen, then I'm usually going to click on Upgraded Points rather than a TPG article. But sometimes he just has the exact article, solving the exact problem I'm trying to figure out. So yeah, you gotta give credit where credits do.

[01:18:07] Rob: And I feel like I used to be on r/churning on Reddit a fair amount, but I don't know, in the last two years or so, I feel like that's just gone downhill. Every time I try to post something on there, it gets deleted by the mods even though it was a legit question.

And people are on here, they're like, “That should have been in the daily moderation weekly chat.” Can I just ask a question without being lambasted about where it goes?

[01:18:33] Jamie: Those Reddit moderators are the worst, right?

[01:18:35] Spencer: Basically, yeah.

[01:18:38] Rob: So I've found less value in Reddit, but occasionally you can read something, an old data point on Reddit that's helpful.

But especially the on Doctor of Credit, in the comment section, people are for the most part helpful and you can ask a question and it'll get answered in there.

[01:18:56] Spencer: Yeah. I think for so many websites, as long as you've shown that you've done a little bit of research coming into it, then it's usually pretty friendly to ask a question.

But I found that too. I think I started the military finance subreddit (r/MilitaryFinance). I can't prove it. Because my email doesn't go back that far enough, but I'm still a moderator of it. And sometimes it'll seem every day we get a question like, “How should I invest my TSP?” And it's like, oh man, come on. Go read. Just go read anything, and go read the frequently asked questions. We covered this on the Reddit site, but also there's so many good articles out there. 

Just do a little bit of research or go to the library and check out a book, Little Book of Common Sense Investing or shoot, I wrote a book about it. Yeah, it definitely helps if you can come to a site and you've at least shown that you've done some research before you ask your question. I think most people are pretty friendly.

[01:20:07] Jamie: Speaking of the TSP, Rob, what do you tell people about the TSP despite the new app and what we thought would be some positive changes? Are you a lifecycle kind of guy or do you have a preferred C, S, and I split or anything like that you use as a default?

[01:20:26] Rob: Yeah I love the TSP. I say the TSP is a military member's biggest friend. Doug Nordman is a good friend of mine, and I know he was on your show. He's shown many examples of how you've become a millionaire with your TSP. He's living proof of that. I say it's the best thing.

I'm a lifecycle guy. I value the simplicity. When they refresh the lifecycle funds, and they added the ones beyond 2050, things got better because the lifecycle funds got more aggressive, which I was interested in. And they came in five-year increments. So now I have everything in the 2065 fund for my wife and me.

I think it's 90% or 95% equities, which is great. And I might reevaluate that as we get older and as that allocation would start to shift. But I really do appreciate the simplicity of it. I think the knock against the lifecycle funds may have been that they were too conservative, but I think that has changed since they refreshed the funds.

So I really like the simplicity of it because even though we tell people to go in and invest. If you tell an O-1 or E-3, a C, S, and I mix, and you say, “Oh, this is good for you when you're 20 years old or 22 years old,” and you tell them, “But you have to go in and rebalance this as you get older or you have to go in and be slightly get more conservative when you're 50 years old.”

More likely than not they're not going to do that. And because we forget our time comes in. So that's the value of the lifecycle fund, it's going to lock you in and commit you, adjusting over time. So I'm a fan of that. I wrote a whole article on how military members generally benefit from the Roth TSP more so than the traditional TSP.

Just because we already get so many good tax breaks now with our BAH not being taxed, now is a great time to invest in the Roth flavor of the TSP because when you get out, your tax rate is going to jump up, between state tax and federal tax, they'll both probably go up. I love the TSP despite the new app and the new website, like we said, not being so great.

I left active duty. I could have moved all my money out of the TSP. I didn't. It's all still sitting there. It's in an L2065 fund, and I really don't check it. I check it maybe three times a year and that's it. I feel like I'm resetting my password every time I try to log in, but I tell people that you really don't want to check it that often.

You don't have to. I elect to get the paper statements, because I think this is a good reason why. But it's nice to have a paper trail at some point. And now we can't even access old statements on the new website. You can't even pull up your old statements, which I think is just a shame.

But there is some value in getting paper statements every now and then.

[01:23:24] Jamie: So I have a follow-up for you, Rob. I know we're not giving financial advice here, but let's say I've been thinking about it for a while that I really should switch from my C, S, and I blend to a lifecycle fund and make my portfolio a little more aggressive there.

And I also know that we don't want to try too much to time the market or anything. Right now when we're recording this, overall, the market is still way down from the early 2022 drop. 

Is it unwise to rebalance either in or out of a lifecycle fund, when the market's at an extreme drop like it is right now? Or would you say, just make the decision and go with it and don't worry so much about either a big loss or big gain even in a retirement account and not necessarily in a brokerage account where there might be tax implications of that?

[01:24:15] Rob: Yeah, that's a good question. Unfortunately, it's not so much of an easy answer. I'd like to say that just go ahead and make the change, but it depends on what you're shifting from Jamie, right? Say if you gave the example of C, S, and I, and then you're going to lifecycle. 

C, S, and I are 100% equities. There's no F fund. There's no G fund, so you're at 100% equity portfolio. So you'd be going from something that's more aggressive to probably slightly less aggressive, depending on which lifecycle fund you pick. And if you follow through with that example while the market's down, it's probably not the best time to make that change.

But it's a better time than never making it. If you're going through something that's 50/50, if for some reason your account was 50% G Fund and 50% C fund, Then conversely would be a good time to shift to a lifecycle fund because the G fund hasn't gone down and you're buying equities on the cheap, right?

So if you're going in that direction, then yes, jump at the opportunity to make the change. So I'd look at market downturns, not as a depressing time, but as a time to maybe tweak my allocations, or do I have idle cash that maybe I hadn't been prudent about investing? 

Do I want to make my Roth IRA contributions early? Do I want to increase my TSP contributions? For the time being, for the new members you don't want to max your TSP early, of course, right? But for the legacy members, you can max it out early in the year if you want because you're not getting the matching dollars. But that's how I try to think of it. I don't believe in market timing, but that's generally how I think about opportunities.

Is it a good time to make a change? It is if I've been meaning to make that change anyway.

[01:25:59] Spencer: One of the topics that always comes up, Rob, when we're talking to fellow military service members is real estate. And we've had Rich Carey on the show who's an example of a military real estate mogul, a regular Donald Trump with his monopoly board of properties there.

And a lot of people hear those stories and they're like, “Man I had a Chief and he purchased a rental property every time he PCS’d, and now he's got this million-dollar portfolio and he is just creaming it. He's got more money coming in from his rental properties than he does from his pension.”

And what do you have to say about that? Are you super excited about real estate or do you advise a little bit of caution?

[01:26:52] Rob: I would say it's not for everyone, Spencer. If I would ask the person who does that, listen to Rich's episode, I did listen to that episode, and does that sound interesting to you?

So like managing, I think he has 20 doors he called it, right? Does that sound appealing to you or does that sound like a headache to you? So do you want to be a property manager for 20 tenants and deal with listing properly? Fixing plumbing, coordinating maintenance people, and that kinda stuff.

Some people really like that. That's great. That's what they envision their retirement being, “passive income.” I say it's not really passive because you're doing all this work to maintain it. It's not a free lunch because that's a lot of work, maintaining 20 rentals.

It's very active. It's very active. But real estate people like to call it passive income. I would argue otherwise, but if that sounds appealing to you, then by all means, that could be your retirement. Collect that, and have a bigger emergency fund because if half your tenants move out and stiff you on the rent, you're going to need to be on the hook for those mortgages, right?

So there are certain things, financial planning-wise, that we could do to better position military members who are going to follow the real estate kind of path. But it's not the only path to wealth by any means. And if that doesn't sound appealing to you, like that's not how I want to spend my retirement. I don't want to have 20 real estate properties that I manage.

I'd rather have a robust investment portfolio that I can withdraw 4% from every year and not have to think about it. And I don't have to do any maintenance on that. To me, that's passive investing. 

So I do own rental properties. I bought it at my first duty station, and I held it for 20 years. It's in New Hampshire. It's a single-family home in New Hampshire. I've been through a stretch of good tenants. I've been through a stretch, unfortunately, of really bad tenants that didn't pay their rent for five months and had one move out of the property. 

So just like we talked about those lessons learned in investing, that was a first hand slap in my face about what I do as a 28 year old who has a property that I'm on the hook for the mortgage and the property tax, and the tenants won't move out.

Literally, they wouldn't leave. And I was like, “You have to go find a place you can afford. And they said, “We can't move out.” And I was like, “You're not paying your rent. You can't stay here.” And going through that whole thing, it was really unfortunate. But that's the story that doesn't get shared that often with people who are gung ho on real estate.

And I think it's an important side of the story because just like when you invest in the stock market, things go up, but you expect things to go down. Just like that's important to talk about in real estate investing. You're going to have good tenants. You're going to have really easy income, and then you're going to have a really difficult income. You're going to have to deal with bad tenants that trash your place and periods of vacancy.

I had a military friend who couldn't rent his place in Connecticut for two years. It sat vacant. And people don't like to talk about that story because it's embarrassing and it's a terrible financial mistake, but that's the risk you run. If you really like real estate, then pursue that path, but don't feel obligated to. 

I often see people, especially military members, get pressured into real estate and they get told or brainwashed that you have to have real estate to build wealth. A lot of people are selling courses and all this stuff, and it doesn't have to be like that.

You can just invest in the TSP and your Roth IRA and low-cost index funds and be just as happy and be maintenance-free. So that's my take on real estate. I personally really like real estate. We go to open houses all the time. But I only own one rental property at this time, and we'll probably own three after this next duty station because we're going to rent out our current house as two rental properties when we leave.

Maybe I'll have a different kind of take or stories to tell in a couple years after that.

[01:30:56] Spencer: Having a tenant that doesn't pay rent and won't move out just sounds like an absolute nightmare to me. I'm so glad that the one time that we bought a property, a condo in Tacoma, Washington, we sold it after three years and did not become long-distance landlords.

Even in the best-case scenario, what if we had the best, the perfect tenants for 10 years, and nothing ever broke? I think it'd be hard to sleep at night.

[01:31:23] Jamie: Rob, as a military spouse yourself and a period of time where maybe you guys had mil-to-mil or dual income there, do you have any other tips for dual income families or mil-to-mil families that maybe, two O-3s or two E-7s that are making pretty good money?

[01:31:41] Rob: Yeah, if you feel like you're in that situation, you're married mil-to-mil or member-to-member and you have, especially pre-kids, two BAHs, two nice incomes there. I would say use those years as like your golden years for saving. Because it's just a great time to max out your TSP, max out your Roth IRAs.

My wife and I lived on just her pay when we lived in Manhattan, and she was going to grad school with the Coast Guard. We lived just on her income, and then we saved my income, my entire income. So we had our high savings rate, and we were able to do it in Manhattan with a kid. Probably arguably the highest cost of living city in the US.

You don't have a lot of other expenses. You're getting dual BAS. Another trick for mil-to-mil, a lot of mil-to-mil people don't know this. If you haven't used your post-9/11 GI Bills, look at transferring them to one another even before you have kids. Because then that starts your four-year payback clock.

You have to be in the service for four years after transferring your GI Bills to one another. But you might think, “Why would I transfer my GI Bill to my wife and why would my wife transfer it to me?” It's just for that reason. Then your four-year clock is already done.

And when you have kids, adjusting who it is transferred to doesn't reset the four-year clock. So a little personal finance hack around the post-9/11 GI Bill there too.

[01:33:38] Jamie: That's good.

[01:33:42] Spencer: Rob, what about those service members who are going to separate before 20 years? Any hacks or tips for them?

[01:33:49] Rob: Yeah. I would say, and I separated from active duty after 10 years, a lot of my friends that are separating before 12, not so many anymore, because most of my year groups are up at the 16, 17 year mark.

When I hear people separating before 20, I say, “Have you considered it a reserve career a career in one of the Reserve or National Guard branches? Because that is a fantastic way to keep your benefits. And, you can still get Tricare, you can still earn credit towards your pension.” 

So a lot of my friends that separated just weren't aware of what it's like to be a reservist and what the requirements are and what the perks and benefits of it are. Fortunately, it was explained to me and I was like, “Yeah, I would do that.”

It's a way to do a soft retirement from the military or keep a foot in the door. You can still get great Tricare, especially if you want to be an entrepreneur. You can get really good Tricare benefits and that way, if your entrepreneurship gig doesn't work out like you thought, you can take some long-term active duty orders or six-month orders.

I constantly have offers to go on three-month orders, six-month orders, one-year orders. I usually decline them because I'd rather work on my own business. But it's great. It's such a nice safety net, if my business doesn't work out. I could roll into a three-month EAD or ADOS, whatever the acronym in your service applies to you, I could roll into those orders. 

If you're separating before 20 and you're not totally disgusted with the military, then consider a career in the reserves. Because another perk is you can transfer your post-9/11 GI Bill to your kids. If you didn't have kids when you're on active duty and you're going to have kids after you separate by being in the reserves, you can transfer your GI Bill to them and then make that transfer valid as a reservist.

Lots of benefits of being in the reserves. Of course, you have to be okay with being deployed. They could always call you up. So there's always a chance, I don't want to misguide anyone on that part. I don't know whether to call those risks or what could happen if you're in the reserves. You have to be okay with being called up. 

But just think about it because not everyone does. And it's sad to see someone separate when they didn't know about the reserve opportunities.

[01:36:05] Spencer: Yeah, those can definitely be overlooked by people as they're in a rush and the hustle and bustle of separating before 20 years.

Rob, thanks so much for hanging out with us for the last hour and a half or so. Before we start wrapping up here, are there any books that you'd like to recommend? And that can be anything military, it could be leadership, it could be financial independence, it could be money related, or investing related. Anything that you'd recommend our listeners to go check out and read?

[01:36:38] Rob: Yeah, I like that you talked about the Psychology of Money on your last or one of your previous shows. I really like that one. 

Another one that I got a lot of value from was by Josh Brown and Brian Portnoy called How I Invest My Money. That was really cool. Each chapter was a different story from a different personal finance personality and talking about how they do their budgeting and how they do their investing. 

I just like that it's like a very refreshing style to read. And I don't know, I generally tend to read personal finance and non-fiction books.

But I did read a good one. One of my reserve colleagues challenged me the other day and he said, “Rob, what's the last fiction book you read?” And I was so embarrassed that I couldn't even think of what was the last fiction book I read. 

And so then I went home to one of my friends, a Navy veteran, a neighbor of mine who reads all the time. So he gave me a novel, which I really liked. It was called The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. So I just finished that one. 

We were on a trip to Norway and I finished that on our trip to Norway. And I couldn't put it down. 

You got one non-fiction and one fiction recommendation out of me.

[01:37:51] Jamie: Okay. Rob, what are you working on right now that you want people to know about? You mentioned helping businesses with their benefits package and talking to their employees about personal finance. What are your big projects right now?

[01:38:06] Rob: Yeah, I'd love to, I feel like I got my studio set up at home now with a professional camera and a professional microphone.

So my next foray, my next project is I'd like to start doing some live streams on YouTube and just in the personal finance investing space and just help people. I do these regularly with companies, but I've never done it in the public sphere on YouTube. And I've seen some livestream folks, and I think do a great job of engaging the audience.

And it's just something I've always wanted to try. So I'm going to publicly state that as a goal and that'll put me on the accountability hook. Six months from now I want to have published two or three live streams, so that'll be good because then I'll promise it to the listeners.

And now I'll have to make good on my goal here. So I'd say that's like my next project. And then we also have kiddo number three coming this October, so I better get that done before October because after that my free time's going to be quite limited.

[01:39:10] Jamie: Yeah. Can't wait to see those videos in live stream. Please keep us updated on those.

[01:39:16] Spencer: Congrats on kid number three on the way. Rob, where can listeners go to find you? What's the best way that they can track you down on the world wide web?

[01:39:29] Rob: Yeah, I'm on Twitter, Fireside Finance is my company name. My website's Fireside Finances and I'm also on Twitter as Robert Shay. And LinkedIn. I'm fairly active on LinkedIn as well. 

So any of those are my go-to social media channels and hopefully, I'll be more active on YouTube once I get those live streams up and running and the recording's published. But that's to be determined yet.

[01:40:03] Spencer: Thanks again to Rob Shay for joining us today on the Military Money Manual podcast. Fireside Finances is his company. Lots of tactical and actionable advice that Rob brought us today. 

Three key takeaways that I got from this episode- Rob talked about passive index fund investing. Number two, military travel hacking, and number three, when a certified financial planner might be right for you.

If you have any questions or feedback, you can message us as always on Instagram at militarymoneymanual or email info@militarymoneymanual.com or Twitter at MilMoneyManual. Thanks again for listening, and we'll catch you in the next episode of the Military Money Manual podcast.

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