Monday, December 12, 2011

The Five Safest Places to Hide Big Cash

I had a lot of fun trolling the net reading people’s ideas about where to hide big money. Of them, the clear winner is the mason jar in the back yard. Unfortunately, according to most stories, it also usually ends in the money being lost because the person can’t remember where it is, or never tells anyone else.

We all would like to have some ways of keeping cash secure enough so a casual stranger won’t find it in five minutes of unsupervised snooping or outright burglary. Making the cash difficult to find is the aim. A safe bolted to the floor would outwit most short-time burglars, but here are some other ideas:

1. Books. Burglars do check bookcases if they have the time. They throw books on the floor to look behind them, and they will open some books looking for book safes. But if you own many, many books, chances are the burglar will give up the book-by-book search long before the money is found. Most burglars want to get in and out in five to ten minutes. Trouble is, a casual visitor to your home might pull out just the one book you’ve hidden the money in. Safe, or not so safe?

2. Clutter. Got clutter? Serious clutter? If you can’t find your valuable stuff, neither can a burglar. You’ve got bigger problems than burglary, though. Safe.

3. On your person, in a money belt or wallet. These are completely secure and invisible. Even if you are mugged, a mugger is not looking for big money, just whatever is in your regular wallet or purse. Very safe.

4. A bank account. It’s your money and they keep it for you. Simple. The down sides are: now the world knows you have this money, and possibly the account could be used by the bank to pay some other account or debt of yours or even frozen by some government entity. This can happen, but most people don’t have to worry about it. Very, very safe.

5. A bank vault. Unlike a bank account, the contents are not insured, not even by your home insurance policy. But you can put anything that fits into your bank safe deposit box and no one gets to know about it or have access. Choose a freestanding bank in a corner of a busy shopping center, or similar. With no contiguous building to tunnel from, and people always around, that vault is likely to stay safe. In a bank robbery, the bank employees would not have access to your box, so the robbers would have to blast. For various security reasons, they are unlikely to have the time to do so, or to rip through every safe deposit box, regardless of what you’ve seen in the movies. Safest of all, unless your bank is run by thieves who have duplicate keys.

If you truly do not trust banks and have significant money to hide, then the jar in the yard is your answer. Burglars who have unlimited time and aren’t just looking for $50 to $200 to fuel a drug habit will eventually find all your most cunning hiding places inside and around your home, but they don't usually arrive with metal detectors. You hope. On the other hand, are you really going to remember where you buried the jar? Of course using a mayonnaise jar with a plastic lid will make metal detecting useless, but then you still have the issue of remembering where the money is. Hmm...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Four Reasons to Toss Out Something Today

1. Possessions can weigh you down and eventually suffocate you. Lighten the load. You'll feel a huge sense of relief.

2. Your donations will help others. People are prowling thrift stores looking for inexpensive holiday gifts or basics they can't afford to buy new. You can affect the lives of others positively if you donate your unnecessary items in good condition.

3. Recycling is good for the planet. You are the person best qualified to recycle your possessions. Whether you put metal out at the curb for the roving metal guys, or you carefully sort and haul your recyclables to special centers, every item you keep from the landfill helps.

4. Trash should not be kept for sentimental reasons. We all have items that no longer work and cannot be fixed. Their usefulness is long gone, and they should be, too.

You will never wear bell bottoms again. You will never find the match to that one winter glove. You will never fix that radio, glue that broken mug, or repair that bicycle. Send them all to the next best place.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Five Reasons to Keep Some Cash in the House

1. If you are elderly, it is expected. Don’t buck the cliché.
2. You don’t have to go to the bank so often
3. It’s fun to open a drawer and find big denomination dollar bills.
4. Having cash you can see and touch makes you feel richer.
5. There are times when having up to $100 in cash in your home is a convenience.

A long, unexpected cab ride, for instance. Paying someone who plowed the snow off your driveway, for another. Forcing cash on a reluctant relative.

When I read that all older people hide cash in their homes, I was surprised. Then I remembered my mother told us she was hiding a little cash in her house, inside the flap of her hardcover copy of Dr. Zhivago. The dear doctor’s stash was used up long before her death. After she died, I found other hidden cash, under the dividers in her vanity table drawer, between the top and bottom of a cardboard box set inside another drawer, inside a sewing table, and more. They were never big dollar amounts by current standards. A five or a ten at most. Finding these little bits of cash was like finding Easter eggs. All good feelings.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Five Reasons to Sell Your Stocks

1. If you’ve lost money in the market and it bothers you a lot, you’re not cut out to own stocks. Sell.
2. If your stocks are not making you money, find an investment that will produce a profit. Sell.
3. If you need to preserve your principal, the stock market is not a safe place to keep it. Sell.
4. If you are being killed by brokers’ fees or fund management fees, find an investment where the money flows toward you. Sell.
5. If you don’t understand why you’re in a stock or fund, find an investment you do understand. Sell.

The stock market is not for everybody. If you want to keep a few stocks just to feel you're still in the game, fine. But if anything on this list rings a bell, get out of the stock market now. You'll sleep better at night.