There is a story circulating about MIT students offered $100 in free Bitcoin back in 2014. A few quickly spent it on dinner at a local sushi restaurant. Some kept it all, now worth about $14,000. Some agreed to help fellow students set up a crypto wallet to hold their Bitcoin, in exchange for some of it. 1 BTC was worth about about $300 back then, and about $45,000 now. Those sushi dinners ended up being quite expensive, but can you really blame them? How many of us went out and backed the truck up on Bitcoin in 2014?

However, that got me thinking about the various deals that I post on this blog. I don’t know what you do for work, but I trust that you work hard and balance your levels of passion, income, and ability. I can’t help you much with your career, but these deals are a way to find common ground, as they are available to the great majority of readers. You may think of them as “free sushi dinners”, but they can equally be a powerful source of retirement savings and income.

1. Consider a target of $500 monthly profit coming from whatever deals are currently available. It could be higher interest on savings accounts, bank sign-up bonuses, credit card cash back, credit card sign-up bonuses, brokerage bonuses, US Mint purchases, savings on your normal everyday purchases, solo-business promotions, and so on. This is a relatively aggressive target, but if you consider everything together and average it out, it can add up quickly. I’ve been doing similar deals since I was 21 years old making $20,000 a year with $30,000 in student loans.

2. $500 a month = $6,000 a year = Maxed-out Roth IRA contribution. The 2021 contribution limit for Roth IRAs in $6,000 a year, with an additional $1,000 for those aged 50+. I always find this a very handy target to help me focus my profit from the “deals and offers” game. If you have a partner, going for $12,000 combined is an even better target. I’ve made every effort to do the max for 20 years now.

3. Invest in simple, transparent, productive assets. Some people are great with real estate, others reinvest in their own private small businesses. We should appreciate that anyone with $1,000 can open a IRA at Vanguard with minimal fees and invest in the all-in-one Vanguard Target Retirement Fund, which is a low-cost, diversified mix of global stocks and bonds. You don’t need to gamble on options at Robinhood, put too much in Bitcoin lottery tickets, or get insider access to a trendy “alternative/long/short/volatility-managed” hedge fund. Put it in, turn on automatic reinvestment of dividends, and walk away. Inside a Roth IRA, you don’t have to worry about taxes on dividends or capital gains distributions.

4. Repeat for 10 years. If you did this from 2011-2020, you’d have over $100,000. Every January, I show how regular, steady investments over time can end up with excellent results. Here is a table from What If You Invested $10,000 Every Year For the Last 10 Years? 2021 Edition:

Global stock markets are up even further in 2021, but we can simply stick with these numbers. The chart assumes a $10,000 annual investment ($833 a month), but we can easily scale it down to our $6,000 annual investment.

If you invested $6,000 a year into the Vanguard Target Retirement 2045 Fund, every year for the past 10 years (2011-2020), you would have ended up with a total balance of $110,822. (If two people did this, they would have over $220,000!) These are real-world numbers based on $500 a month, not a theoretical result from a calculator. You can argue the details, but even with only $250 a month, you’d have ended up with over $50,000. (You would have done even better going all-in with an S&P 500 index fund as well, but this is an easy, set-and-forget choice including global stocks and bonds.)

I admit, I like to play the game of “winning” easy/free money. It’s much more enjoyable to me than any video game. I also try to only pick and choose those that offer a good payout/effort ratio, usually over the equivalent of $100 an hour. Now, these small deals will never replace a successful career, which can supercharge your savings into the realm of financial independence. However, this is yet another reminder that small amounts, however attained, can add up to a significant net worth over time when invested productively and left alone. I have the Vanguard Roth IRA statements to prove it.

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Turning Small Deals into a $100,000 Nest Egg from My Money Blog.

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