Apps for Saving, Investment, and Retirement

As a former police officer and an attorney who regularly represents police officers and other public servants, I have a good idea of what financial life is like for police officers and other public servants. It can be tough. It often means that police officers work a combination of overtime and off-duty details that would make working two jobs seem inviting. Add a family and that challenge just gets more difficult.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that police need a search warrant to look through someone’s smart phone. Why? Because, these days, we have the most intimate details of our lives stored on our phones — the type of information that should be protected. Some of that information is financial information.

I have made a few posts of Facebook and Twitter, but it is a little disjointed and hard to make sense of in that format. So, I thought I would put it here, together. I am going to share my experience with 3 apps: Acorns, Robin Hood, and Stash. A little disclaimer — I do use these 3 apps and clicking on the links I provide will give me and the clicker (you) a $5 bonus for signing up. While I did not write this to hustle $5 bonuses, who would turn down a free $5? The point is that the $5 is not my motivation.

Acorns

Acorns takes a unique approach to saving and investing. When you set up Acorns, you tell the app what level of risk you are willing to undertake. For example, you can set up the investments as conservative, moderately conservative, moderate, moderately aggressive, or aggressive. Acorns invests your money in one of five funds that invest in things that fit the appropriate risk profile. You link your bank account and/or credit card accounts to Acorns. As you spend money, Acorns rounds up your purchases to the nearest dollar. When the rounded up change reaches $5, it transfers the money to your Acorns account and invests it in the appropriate fund. It essentially invests yours spare change for you.

You can also tell Acorns you want to invest a lump sum each month in addition to the spare change it invests it on a regular basis. Finally, you can ask Acorns to transfer funds as needed. You can withdraw funds from Acorns pretty easily using the app. It takes 3-5 business days before you see the funds appear in your account, but the funds do appear in your account.

You can also open a debit account and a retirement account with Acorns. The money grows without having to pay any attention to it. I transfer my spare change and $100 extra per month set at moderately aggressive and my account has returned 1.88%. So, not the greatest return, but it is certainly better than any savings account.

The fee is $1/month or .002% for balances over $10,000.

Acorns is intended to be used through an app on your phone, but you can access your account through the Acorns website.

Click here to download Acorns.

Stash

Stash may be my favorite. Stash is a cross somewhere between Acorns (it does not invest spare change like Acorns) and Robin Hood (which will be next, but is more like traditional investing). Stash links to your bank account and you can set an “auto-stash” or you can manually transfer funds to invest. Once you transfer the funds you have to choose your own investment vehicles.

Stash has a number of funds that are organized by the types of companies the funds invest in. The funds are categorized into “I Believe,” “I Want,” and “I Like.” The categories are supposed to represent things you might believe in, want, or like. For example, one of the funds in I Believe is called Clean & Green and invests in companies that use or produce clean energy sources such as wind and solar. Another is Defending America which invests in America’s military suppliers. Women Who Lead invests in companies lead in the area of gender equality. I’m not sure what the I Want category is supposed to be. I mean, I could guess, but I don’t know that I would be right. It has a fund called Corporate Cannabis. I am sure you can guess what that is about. There are also funds that describe the risk level – Aggressive Mix, Conservative Mix, Long-Term Mix, etc. The funds in I Like are things you might be interested in, I guess. They have names such as American Innovators (Google, Facebook, Apple, etc.), BLOK (companies working on the block chain), and On Cloud Nine (companies developing cloud computing). Finally, there are a selection of companies you can invest in directly.

The list of companies you can invest in directly include such companies as Alphabet (Google), Amazon, General Dynamics, Boeing, Facebook, Netflix, and others. The beauty of this is that you can invest however much you would like. For example, if you were to buy Amazon (AMZN) from your stock broker, each share would cost you more than $1,500 ($1,691 as I write this). Alphabet (Google – GOOGL) is $1,092.18 per share as I write this. With Stash, you can invest $50.00 in Amazon and own approximately .003 shares. Now, you won’t be controlling the voting at Board meetings, but if 1 share of Amazon goes up by 5%, 1000 shares go up by 5% and .003 shares goes up by 5%. If your goal is a hostile takeover of Mr. Bezo’s empire, you should choose another vehicle. If your goal is similar to mine — saving some money that earns more than what savings accounts are paying in interest — then this may be a good option for you. I think Amazon is a good investment. Amazon is into everything these days and the companies it does not own have to use Amazon services to make money. It would cost me $169,100 to buy 100 shares and I don’t have that sitting around ready to invest. I can, however, find $50 to invest in Amazon. You could tell Stash to invest $5/week in Amazon. Or you tell Stash to invest $5/week in Amazon and $15/week in the fund composed of companies picked by IBM’s Watson.

One of the things I really like about Stash is that it allows you to open custodial accounts for your minor children. The custodial accounts work just like the main accounts. Stash also has a debit account and a retirement account option available.

The fee is $1/month or .002% if your balance is over $10,000 — the same as Acorns.

You can download Stash here.

Robin Hood

Robin Hood is more like a traditional investment account. You buy shares of companies at the prices everyone else buys shares of stock. If you had $169,100 in your Robin Hood account, you could buy 100 shares of AMZN. There is not a limited number of companies. You can also buy and sell options and Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

There are no fees (account fees or trading fees) associated with Robin Hood unless you borrow money from them using Robin Hood Gold (margin trading). The company also earns interest on the un-invested cash in your account.

You can download Robin Hood here.

I hope this information is helpful to everyone who reads this. It is important to take a minute to plan for the future. If it is fun, you may be more likely to do it. So, do your research. There are other articles on these apps. There is another called Betterment which I don’t have any experience with. However, there are numerous articles online that compare and contrast Acorns, Stash, Robin Hood, and Betterment. Maybe we can both get $5 out of the deal.

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A look back at 2018

For the last few years, I have tried to give a short tally of my FOP Legal Defense Plan activities. I think where I have fallen short in the past is that my short tallies haven’t been very short. So, this time is going to be different.

If you are in law enforcement, you should be in the FOP Legal Defense Plan. If you work for NOPD, that means you should be a member of Crescent City Lodge #2. If you work for another agency, then you should belong to your local lodge. If you don’t have a local lodge, you might be able to join Lodge 100 or another lodge in your area. You may also be able to start a new lodge. The point is that in 2019, the FOP Legal Plan is as important to a law enforcement officer as what tools are on his duty belt. Police officers should never go to work without wearing a bullet proof vest. Likewise, police officers should never go to work without the FOP’s Legal Defense Plan protecting them also.

In New Orleans, I believe things related to disciplinary investigations have begun to level off. I think the total number of DI-1 investigations or formal disciplinary investigations is probably close to the total for 2017. My stats are pretty close to 2017 also.

413

413 is the number of individual law enforcement officers I provided some type of legal service. Most of those 413 law enforcement officers were active members of the New Orleans Police Department. Some, however, were from other departments in southeast Louisiana. A few of those 413 law enforcement officers were retirees. Most were administrative disciplinary actions. Some were criminal investigations. Some were civil issues, workers compensation issues, issues with pay, or other issues associated with their employment.

248

I accompanied officers to 248 interviews in connection with formal disciplinary investigations. This includes statements at NOPD PIB, district stations, and at other agencies.

98

I attended 98 disciplinary hearings with FOP members. This includes Commander’s hearings, Bureau Chief hearings, Pre-Disposition Conferences, and any other hearings that resulted from a sustained charge in a disciplinary investigation.

110

I have 110 New Orleans Civil Service extension request hearings in my records. That is almost certainly very low. Sometimes it is better to lay low at extension hearings.

25

I accompanied 25 FOP members to an Accident Review Board hearing.

14

I represented FOP members in 14 Civil Service appeal hearings.

.500

In 2018, the Civil Service Commission released 6 decisions in cases I took to a hearing before the hearing officer. In 3 of those decisions, the Civil Service Commission granted the appeal, at least in part. In addition, at least 7 appeals were settled before the hearing. 2018 also included a decision in the protests of 3 police sergeants which I would consider a win. Counting that, my average would go up to .667. In 2017, there were 10 decisions in cases I took to hearing before the hearing officer. In 6 of those 10 cases, the appeal was granted, at least in-part. I recall when I first started handling these types of cases, the Louisiana State Civil Service used to keep detailed records on appeals. 8% of employees were successful in their appeals. I am confident my 50% – 60% win percentage is much better than average. Published Civil Service decisions can be found here.

75

I was able to notarize 75 documents for FOP members over the course of 2018.

18

The FOP provides each one of its members 2 hours of legal services for whatever the FOP member may need. I was able to do that for FOP members on 18 occasions in 2018. Sometimes that means drawing up and executing a Last Will and Testament or a Living Will. Sometimes those two hours are put toward something else, like a succession. One way or another, I try to get as much done within the 2 hours as possible.

So, that’s my review of 2018. I will leave everyone with one story from early 2019 before I hit publish.

Very early in 2019, I got a call from an officer about an officer involved shooting. The officer who called said that he wasn’t involved, but two other officers were and he gave me the location. I started in the direction of the scene and I was notified that there were three officers involved. Eventually that turned into four officers and one officer was in the hospital. The officer at the hospital was not injured badly thanks to his body armor which functioned as expected. Once I was on the scene and had spoken to the third officer, i learned that there were a total of 5 officers involved.

Now, this incident is not going to turn into any major production. It is a pretty straight-forward officer involved shooting and it was recorded from start to finish on four different cameras in high-definition. However, had it been a more controversial OIS, I am sure you could imagine what the legal costs would have been for five (5) officers. Fortunately, these officers all would have been protected by the FOP Legal Defense Plan if they would have really needed it.

It turns out the 5th officer on the scene of this OIS had recently graduated from the Academy and was in field training. I walked over to talk to him with a member of the FIT team. The FIT sergeant introduced himself and then went to introduce me and the officer in training said “Let me guess – my FOP attorney.” Sure enough. After we talked about public safety statements and what to expect, I asked this officer if he had my phone number. He kind of laughed to himself and said that I had been in his class recently at the Academy recently and I had told everyone to keep my number. He related to me that he had sat there thinking that he would never need it and did not put my number in his phone.

Put mt number in your phone. Who knows when you will need it? You can use it whenever you want. It might be something stupid. It might be something critical. It doesn’t matter to me or the FOP.