Issue #101: *SpongeBob voice* What I learned from Dollar Scholar is...

plus reflections + a critter call
July 7, 2021 • Issue #101
Dollar Scholar
Hi y’all —

Does anyone have an aspirin? I think I’m still hungover from last week’s celebration of 100 Dollar Scholar issues.

Not only did we party with a POP QUIZ, but you also may have noticed I arranged for a celebratory fireworks show over the weekend. Plus, I called your boss and got you Monday off work. To be clear, these were solely because of Dollar Scholar. No other reason. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I’m sitting here now nursing a Gatorade and looking at the analytics for the quiz. Nearly 430 Scholars got A’s, 534 got B’s, 14 got C’s, five got D’s and two got F’s. Not too bad! Funnily enough, the most-missed question had nothing to do with money; it asked which show I watched 15 seasons of last year. (Supernatural.) 

The 100th issue was an exciting milestone, but now it’s time to reflect. And I’m going to do so by listing… 

101 Things I Have Learned From Dollar Scholar
  1. It’s OK to have multiple checking accounts.
  2. It’s also OK to have multiple savings accounts.
  3. Federal law says I can only make six withdrawals from my savings account a month.
  4. Kim Kardashian’s daughter’s bearded dragon wears clothes.
  5. Online banks are able to offer interest rates that blow brick-and-mortars out of the water because they don’t have overhead costs.
  6. Nobody calls travel agents “travel agents” anymore. 
  7. The preferred term is travel advisor because they're specialists in destinations, customer preferences and logistics.
  8. I should keep tax returns and proof I filed for three to seven years in case the IRS wants to review them.
  9. Ideally, I should have an emergency fund that can cover three to six months of expenses.
  10. The FDIC only insures $250,000 per depositor per bank and ownership category.
  11. Talking about my salary with friends and coworkers is fully legal…
  12. ...and helps close wage gaps.
  13. Buying airline miles in bulk is generally NOT a good idea.
  14. When looking for a financial advisor, it’s crucial to seek out someone who operates on a fee-only basis. 
  15. That means that the client — in this case, me — is the only person who pays them.
  16. Dog charcuterie boards are a thing.
  17. And they’re called barkuterie boards!
  18. The little metal square in my credit card is an “EMV” chip.
  19. The chip is a LOT safer than mag stripes.
  20. And even though it might not seem like it, the time it takes for a card reader to process my chip/transaction is shrinking.
I need vitamin Cᴬˢʰ
  1. I should always tip waiters 15% or more unless something awful happened.
  2. I’m NOT evil for wondering if someone I’m going to date is broke.
  3. Getting a big tax refund means I’m over-withholding from my paychecks — and basically giving the government an interest-free loan.
  4. The Fed tries to keep inflation in check.
  5. Installment plan apps can be risky because they essentially offer short-term, fixed-rate loans.
  6. Health savings accounts, or HSAs, provide a triple tax benefit.
  7. That means contributions reduce my taxable income, earn tax-free interest and don’t incur taxes when withdrawn if used for qualified medical expenses.
  8. I can pay for acupuncture with my HSA.
  9. There’s a penalty for taking money out of my HSA for non-medical expenses before I turn 65.
  10. The National Aquarium of New Zealand names a Penguin of the Month every month.
  11. The bank doesn’t care if I have rainbow sea turtles on my checks.
  12. Everyone’s always talking about the Dow because it’s kind of like a weather report for the stock market.
  13. When a person dies without a will, it’s called dying “intestate.”
  14. When I hand-write a will informally without a lawyer, it’s called a holographic will.
  15. One time, a court upheld the validity of a holographic will carved into the fender of a tractor.
  16. Presidents don’t actually have a ton of control over the economy.
  17. Gross pay refers to the full amount of my salary.
  18. Net pay refers to the amount I take home.
  19. There are both primary and secondary ticket sellers, and both charge fees for different reasons.
  20. Primary ticket sellers, like Ticketmaster, use fees as a way to cut deals with venues.
  21. Secondary ticket sellers, like Vivid Seats, use fees to keep the lights on, pay for technology and fund customer service improvements.
  22. iPads can scan muffins.
  23. A financial bubble is when the price of something goes too high relative to its true value. Then it bursts.
  24. One of the most infamous financial bubbles involved Japanese gangsters.
  25. An easy way to save money is to unplug appliances when I’m not using them. That way I don’t use — or pay for — any residual power.
  26. Neighborhood offices often have lower prices than airport rental car counters.
  27. I should read up on rental car insurance before I’m physically at the counter and, y’know, panicking. 
  28. It will also be cheaper if I add insurance when I book as opposed to when picking up the vehicle.
  29. I should always take time-stamped photos of my rental car’s condition before I drive it off the lot.
some financial tips:
  1. The optimal time to buy life insurance is when I’m young and healthy — even though I (hopefully) won’t need it to kick in for years.
  2. To take out a life insurance policy on someone else, I typically need to prove that the relationship passes the “insurable interest” test. 
  3. That means their death would have an adverse financial impact on me — like I couldn’t pay the mortgage on my house without them.
  4. Like in the Taylor Swift song “no body, no crime.”
  5. NFTs are popular because they’re fun, exclusive and let people own something that’s valuable to them.
  6. “Good” credit scores start at 670. 
  7. “Very good” starts at 740.
  8. “Excellent” is anything over 800.
  9. Someone recently spent $99,997 on a chicken nugget.
  10. Usually, I can request one free credit report from each of the three bureaus every 12 months. But the pandemic, and the Equifax data breach, changed the rules to allow people to pull reports more frequently.
  11. Negative information stays on my credit report for about seven years.
  12. Bankruptcy can stick around for a decade.
  13. It’s crucial to pay my bills on time…
  14. ...because payment history makes up 35% of my credit score.
  15. The Social Security reserves are set to run out by 2035.
  16. So millennials probably should plan for the worst.
  17. About 90% of Americans take the standard deduction on their taxes.
  18. Not all states have income tax.
  19. Psychologists believe our actions are influenced by money scripts, which are financial belief systems that follow us our whole life.
  20. Banks collected a whopping $11 billion in overdraft fees in 2019.
  21. I should at least fund my 401(k) enough to get the company match.
  22. Experts say to never shop on a shared computer or public wifi because they’re easy for strangers to exploit.
  23. If I want to take it to the next level, I should use a VPN.
  24. The fraud protection offered by most debit cards sucks. 
  25. On the flip side, most credit card firms offer $0 fraud liability.
  26. The major difference between renters and homeowners insurance is that the former mainly involves personal property.
I wish my life was as exciting as the fraudulent charges on my debit card make it seem.
  1. The latter, meanwhile, also includes the structure of my house.
  2. Renters insurance premiums are based not only on the amount of coverage I need and my deductible but also factors like my apartment’s location and the building’s condition.
  3. It’s more challenging to save for a down payment now than it used to be.
  4. It’s good manners to request someone on Venmo within 24 hours of the transaction.
  5. And they should complete the request within 24 hours of receipt. 
  6. People thinking that a recession is severe can sometimes cause a recession to be more severe.
  7. My net worth is my assets minus my liabilities.
  8. There’s “good” debt and “bad” debt.
  9. There’s a difference between a money market account (which is basically a savings account) and a money market fund (which is an investment).
  10. Declaring bankruptcy costs money.
  11. Payday loans are sketchy AF.
  12. There are 10,000 possible ways the numbers 0 through 9 can be arranged in a four-digit PIN. 
  13. People love Bitcoin because it’s decentralized, meaning nobody controls it.
  14. There will only ever be 21 million bitcoins.
  15. And that contributes to the belief that the currency is a hedge against inflation.
  16. An estimated 100 million people own some sort of crypto asset.
  17. When people say to “HODL” Bitcoin, they’re using a slang term that means to “hold on for dear life” aka avoid selling it.
  18. In fact, the term “HODL” was invented when a person misspelled “hold” on a forum once.
  19. Rihanna owns a mansion next to her mansion.
  20. I can save money on tickets by going to the box office in person.
  21. Robo-advisors aren’t super popular — only about 8% of U.S. households have one.
  22. Insider trading cases usually hinge upon a breach of duty…
  23. ...but I still should avoid using nonpublic information to make stock trades, just in case.
  24. You guys have a love/hate relationship with my animal puns and my (admittedly high) Slurpee consumption.
  25. A single Dolla Scholla holla can make my entire day. 😀
  26. Although writing this newsletter has taught me a TON about personal finance, I’ve got a LOT left to learn.
my financial advisor wants me to do a 401k. idk dude that’s like… 9 marathons

That’s all for now! Next issue we’ll get back to business. In the meantime, please email me cute photos of your 401(k)9s, 401(k)itties and other 401(k)ritters — my supply is running low.

See you next week.
P.S. Thank you for all the congratulatory emails/tweets/comments about the 100th issue!

P.P.S. What’s the best lesson YOU have learned from Dollar Scholar? Are there any topics you’d like me to tackle moving forward? Send suggestions and/or hangover cures to or @SuperJulia on Twitter. Onward.
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