How Long Will $1 Million Last?

Our 2 Cents – Episode #126

How Long Will $1 Million Last?

On today’s episode of Our 2 Cents, your hosts Steve and Gabriel Lewit are sharing the top 10 states where $1 million in retirement might not last you as long as you need. Then they’re discussing the latest IRS scams you’ll want to be able to spot so you can protect yourself this tax season.

  1. How Long Will $1 Million Last?:
    • Recent data shows retiring with $1 million in certain states might not be enough.
    • What states can you stretch $1 million the furthest?
    • According to a 2021 study, Florida, South Carolina, and Arizona were the most popular states to retire to. Do you think they fall on this list?
  2. Fighting Back Against IRS Scams:
    • In what ways will the IRS contact you? Will it be by mail, email, or by phone?
    • What are the latest scams you should watch out for this year?
    • Received a call from Taxpayer Advocate Services? Find out if they’re a real organization.
    • What is the key way to protect yourself if you believe you might be the target of a scammer?

Request Your Free Consultation Today

Podcast Transcript

Announcer: You are listening to Our 2 Cents with the team from SGL Financial, building wealth for life. Steve Lewit is the president of SGL Financial, and Gabriel Lewit is the CEO. They’re here to discuss all the latest and financial news, trends, strategies, and more.

Gabriel Lewit: Good morning, good morning and welcome to Our 2 Cents. This is Gabriel Lewit, your host, and your co-host Steven Lewit is right here next to me.

Steve Lewit: I am here looking at the snow coming down. It’s really snowing.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, if I was going to be precise, you’re looking at the glass interior of the office.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, but I see the reflection of the snow and you know what? It’s really beautiful.

Gabriel Lewit: It is actually, you’re right. You can see it in the reflection. I’m looking at the snow also directly through the glass, and it is indeed a snowy morning here, which we haven’t had many of those this year.

Steve Lewit: No. I’m not a big snow fan, but I will tell you when it’s like fluffy little snowflakes like are coming down now and it piles on the trees, it’s really beautiful.

Gabriel Lewit: It has sparkles and glimmers.

Steve Lewit: You’re right.

Gabriel Lewit: Really cheers you up, huh?

Steve Lewit: We’re off to a sparkling, glimmering good start.

Gabriel Lewit: Oh, well hopefully you drove safely to work this week in the snow, or you didn’t get stuck in traffic or took a snow day.

Steve Lewit: Or you’re sitting by the fireplace, just relaxing.

Gabriel Lewit: Roasting some chestnuts over the fire.

Steve Lewit: No, we’re past that.

Gabriel Lewit: And some hot cocoa in your mug.

Steve Lewit: Yes, yes.

Gabriel Lewit: Yes. All right. Well, we’ve got a good show lined up for you here today. We’re going to actually start by talking a little bit about… Well, actually it came from an article we put into our newsletter, which was talking about how $1 million doesn’t go as far as it used to. And so we found actually some data here on how far does $1 million still go today, if you had $1 million in which state does it go the furthest or least furthest? So we’re going to tell you a little bit about that here in just a second.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, a couple of surprises for me.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. And then also, since it’s tax time on the horizon, it also is, apparently for scammers out there in the world, scam time. So, we’ve got some tips for you to avoid getting hacked or scammed here on tax-related fraud. So just some protection mechanisms there. Then we’re going to talk to you a little bit about some, not money goals necessarily, they could be, but goals, planning for the year. Last time we were talking about when’s the latest you can say Happy New Year. And so my question here is, when’s the latest we should be talking about our goals for the year? So it’s still January, so we figure we will squeeze one more in here while we can.

Steve Lewit: You know what’s fun, Gabriel, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of clients that came in and said, “Well, I can still say Happy New Year to you.” Because we had said February 1st as the Happy New Year deadline.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah, I think February 1st. And it’s funny, I was writing a few emails last week to some clients I hadn’t yet contacted this year. I’m like, “Should I say Happy New Year?” Then I was like, “Oh yeah, it’s still January.”

Steve Lewit: So Happy New Year, everybody.

Gabriel Lewit: Oh, I’m not going to keep saying that.

Steve Lewit: No, no.

Gabriel Lewit: On the show at least, we’ve said that 100 times.

Steve Lewit: At least.

Gabriel Lewit: Okay, so let’s go ahead and jump in here today. So to kick things off, a million bucks sounds like a pretty good number, right, dad?

Steve Lewit: Well, yeah, everybody’s goal used to be to become a millionaire.

Gabriel Lewit: Seven figures, right? Holy grail.

Steve Lewit: Now millionaire is kind of dime a dozen. There are a lot of millionaires out there, and there are a lot of non-millionaires out there. And there’s a whole bunch of… I want to say multi, what’s more than multi? Trulti-millionaires? I just invented a new word. To accumulate $1 million is not easy for most people. And then the question is, okay, I retire with $1 million. Or you go on a website and you say, “How much money do I need to retire?” And it says, “Oh, you need $1 million to retire.” But yes or no, and depending on what state you live in, it could be yes or no.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. Well, the article we had put into our newsletter was talking just about in general, $1 million doesn’t go as far these days as it did 20 years ago, 10 years ago. Back when, as you were saying, people said a million bucks is sort of the end goal. And that’s very simple, due to inflation. So let’s say 20 years ago, you needed $50,000 to live on. Today let’s say you need $100,000, well then $1 million you need $2 million. Double.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, but a lot of people I talk to still think, “$1 million, wow, that’s a lot of money.” Well, it is and it isn’t because of inflation and the rising costs of housing and gas and food. $1 million doesn’t go that far. And then where you live adds on to that.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. So that’s sort of the evolution here. Today we’re going to talk about where you live can certainly impact how far that million dollars goes in addition to, of course, things like inflation. But that’s actually part of what’s wrapped into this because the study here talks about all the analytics it did to determine cost of living and a bunch of other factors to determine which top 10 states that are the most expensive, where $1 million will run out the fastest. And then the top 10 states where basically the least expensive, where your $1 million is going to stretch the furthest.

Steve Lewit: Exactly. And it doesn’t matter, folks, we’re not concerned. This is all on the same page. In other words, the growth rates and all, everything is the same. It’s just which state will the money last longest.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. So let’s go ahead and dive in here.

Steve Lewit: I’m amazed to hear this.

Gabriel Lewit: And we’re going to pick the number one state where $1 million won’t go the furthest out of all the other 49 states. And you said you were surprised with this? I wasn’t. I thought it seemed to make a lot of sense to me, but it is Hawaii.

Steve Lewit: Hawaii, yeah. No, I was really surprised. I know Hawaii is expensive. I mean, it’s expensive to get there. But I didn’t know the cost of living in Hawaii was expensive. I just didn’t think. You and I have catered around, “Let’s move to Hawaii. Wouldn’t we love to have our offices in Hawaii?” And so many folks like you and me like to go to Hawaii. But living there, when I go to Hawaii, it looks expensive, but not like-

Gabriel Lewit: Well, it’s an island.

Steve Lewit: I think of California as expensive.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, California, funny enough, is number three on the list.

Steve Lewit: Which surprised me too, because I thought New York would be behind California and New York is number two on the list. So we got Hawaii, New York, and California.

Gabriel Lewit: So, what this article here says is that if you had a million bucks, it’s only going to last you 10.9 years in retirement if you live in Hawaii. So if you’re 65 years old, 10.9 years, that puts you basically at 76 years old. And you’d be out of dough with a million bucks.

Steve Lewit: Then you move back into some rural area in the United States.

Gabriel Lewit: Then you go to the $1 million goes the furthest, which is Missouri or Mississippi? What’s MS? Mississippi. Okay.

Steve Lewit: Mississippi.

Gabriel Lewit: Oh yeah, Missouri’s MO. That’s right.

Steve Lewit: How many years in there?

Gabriel Lewit: Your $1 million will last you 25.3 years in Mississippi.

Steve Lewit: That’s amazing.

Gabriel Lewit: I’ve never been to Mississippi. Have you? I don’t think I’ve even driven through Mississippi.

Steve Lewit: I was in, I think Biloxi, Mississippi. I think Biloxi is. Yeah, I have no memory of it.

Gabriel Lewit: Producer Katie, have you been to Mississippi? Not even down the river?

Steve Lewit: Katie, look up what’s the capital of Mississippi.

Gabriel Lewit: We should know this. Hold on. Mississippi’s capital.

Steve Lewit: Mississippi.

Gabriel Lewit: Hold on. Jackson.

Steve Lewit: Really?

Gabriel Lewit: Jackson is the capital of Mississippi.

Steve Lewit: Do you know what’s really interesting, this is one state I never think of.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, it’s there. It’s got a whole river named after it.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, it does.

Gabriel Lewit: A very large, large.

Steve Lewit: I don’t even think of it as a state. Mississippi River is just the Mississippi River. All I remember is in school when we were kids learning how to spell Mississippi.

Gabriel Lewit: M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, right. Yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: I still remember that one.

Steve Lewit: I bet there are wonderful places to live in Mississippi.

Gabriel Lewit: I assume. And you definitely would stretch your money further, but maybe that’s why it’s number one on the list where money goes the furthest because people don’t even remember it’s there. Right?

Steve Lewit: Yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: And if you happen to be a Mississippian listening to the show, let us know how it is. We’d love to know actually.

Steve Lewit: I’d love to know the hot-

Gabriel Lewit: I don’t think I have many clients that ever tell me, “I’m going to move to Mississippi.”

Steve Lewit: I haven’t said the word Mississippi in… I don’t remember the last time I said the word Mississippi.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, you’re making up for it here today on the show.

Steve Lewit: We are. We are. But I bet there are hotspots in Mississippi that are really beautiful and great places to live and retire in, or just to grow up with kids and stuff that we don’t know about.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, let’s say that you were in Hawaii, and you realize you’re burning through your money at too rapid of a clip. And then you are deciding that Mississippi’s not for you. Jackson isn’t your place to be. You could also choose from Oklahoma, which is 24.8 years your money would last you, $1 million.

Steve Lewit: That’s another word I don’t say.

Gabriel Lewit: And Kansas is 24.6. And you’ve got AL. Is that Alaska? That’s Alabama.

Steve Lewit: Alabama.

Gabriel Lewit: AK is Alaska. Okay, I’m getting my-

Steve Lewit: AK is Arkansas, isn’t it?

Producer Katie: AR is Arkansas.

Gabriel Lewit: Producer Katie is giving us all the lesson. You’re right, Arkansas.

Steve Lewit: Folks, I want to tell you something. We’re really great at money, but we’re terrible at geography.

Gabriel Lewit: Geography is apparently not our forte… Alabama’s 24 years. Kansas is 24.6. Oklahoma’s 24.8. And again, Mississippi’s 25.3.

Steve Lewit: So, the last time I thought of Kansas was when we went with your kids to see the-

Gabriel Lewit: My kids?

Steve Lewit: Yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: My kids haven’t been to Kansas.

Steve Lewit: No, but to the show about Kansas.

Gabriel Lewit: Oh, The Wizard of Oz.

Steve Lewit: The Wizard of Oz.

Gabriel Lewit: Oh, I thought you said my kids have been to Kansas.

Steve Lewit: No, no.

Gabriel Lewit: I’m like, “Did you take them without me?”

Steve Lewit: Yeah, I took them. And the last time I thought of Oklahoma is when I sang Oklahoma, because there’s a Broadway show called Oklahoma!, which is a great show.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, you and I did a two-day business trip to Kansas.

Steve Lewit: We did?

Gabriel Lewit: Last year.

Steve Lewit: We did?

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah.

Steve Lewit: Where did we go?

Gabriel Lewit: One of the organizations we work with is in Kansas.

Steve Lewit: Kansas City.

Gabriel Lewit: Is in Kansas.

Steve Lewit: Yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: Anyways-

Steve Lewit: What town? Do you remember the town?

Gabriel Lewit: No.

Steve Lewit: It was near Kansas City.

Gabriel Lewit: Let me put it this way. There wasn’t much there.

Steve Lewit: Yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: We drove an hour and 20 minutes from the airport.

Steve Lewit: Oh yeah. Now I remember. Yes.

Gabriel Lewit: And we got there, and it was pretty rural.

Steve Lewit: It was sparse.

Gabriel Lewit: It was sparse.

Steve Lewit: It was very sparse.

Gabriel Lewit: But the people we talked to in Kansas said they really love it there.

Steve Lewit: They love it, yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: Maybe it’s a where you’re born and raised kind of thing though.

Steve Lewit: It’s in your heart and soul.

Gabriel Lewit: But anyhoo, so what’s the point of all this? Well, here’s the point. I’m going to run through a list here of the other states that are your most expensive states and then I’ll give you the rest of the least expensive states. But the point of all this is one of the easiest ways, if you will, to stretch your dollars in retirement, if you’re open to it, is moving from a high cost of living state to a lower cost of living state.

Steve Lewit: Well, I have clients that are considering Puerto Rico. I have clients that are considering somewhere in Europe, a small country. I can’t remember what it is. Why? It’s cheap. $1 million is like you’re a king in that country.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. Well, so where will $1 million not treat you like a king? Oh, we got the list here.

Steve Lewit: Mexico too. If you have $1 million in Mexico, it’s like you’re on top.

Gabriel Lewit: So, we’ve got Hawaii was it would last you 10.9 years.

Steve Lewit: Pauper.

Gabriel Lewit: New York. Now, I bet you this is very regional in New York. It doesn’t tell us. Because upstate New York is, I think, a little different. 13.8 years. California, 15 years. Massachusetts, 16.2. Alaska, 16.5 years.

Steve Lewit: Really? Wow.

Gabriel Lewit: Apparently. I guess you got to fly all your stuff out to Alaska because it’s so far away. Maybe that’s why. Maryland, 16.6 years. Oregon, 16.8. Connecticut, 17.7. New Hampshire, 17.9. And my home state is representing here. Vermont, 18 years. I had no idea. I knew Vermont was actually more expensive than I remember it being as a kid, but it’s really crept up there. Top 10.

Steve Lewit: Yeah. My goodness.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. Folks, if you don’t know, I grew up the majority of my life in Vermont.

Steve Lewit: He did.

Gabriel Lewit: And then moved out here to Illinois.

Steve Lewit: He did that too.

Gabriel Lewit: All right, so where does your $1 million go the furthest? As we talked about, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas and Alabama are our top four. And then you’ve got Iowa. Okay? You’ve got Georgia.

Steve Lewit: This is where they go the furthest?

Gabriel Lewit: The furthest, yeah. Indiana. We had a client that we were talking to, he’s working on an estate plan, and he said, “I don’t want to move to Indiana.” Because they’ve got I think no estate tax over there, if I remember correctly. So then you’ve got Tennessee. A lot of people like Tennessee. I hear that a lot.

Steve Lewit: Nashville.

Gabriel Lewit: I get and a lot of people saying they love it in Tennessee.

Steve Lewit: I love Nashville, yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: It’s probably part of this reason, right? It’s high on the list here. Then you’ve got Arkansas is number nine, and then you’ve got Michigan, believe or not.

Steve Lewit: Really?

Gabriel Lewit: It says 23.4 years, Michigan.

Steve Lewit: You know, it’s getting me to wonder about is all these states we never think of. I never think of Arkansas, but there are millions of people that live in Arkansas.

Gabriel Lewit: It’s a whole state.

Steve Lewit: It’s a whole state and it’s got people in houses.

Gabriel Lewit: You need to get out more, I think.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, I got to get out of my place.

Gabriel Lewit: You know, what should do?

Steve Lewit: Just stuck in one place.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, actually it is on my bucket list.

Steve Lewit: To go to Arkansas?

Gabriel Lewit: Technically on my bucket list. I want to go to every state.

Steve Lewit: Ah, that’s pretty cool.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. I’d like to spend a week in every state.

Steve Lewit: And find the great places.

Gabriel Lewit: Pick the most popular city probably, spend a week there. So that would be an entire year of retirement where I would just spend a week in every single state. 50 weeks.

Steve Lewit: I got to believe there are really cool-

Gabriel Lewit: Wow. That would be a cool trip. That’d be a very expensive trip.

Steve Lewit: There got to be cool places in all these states.

Gabriel Lewit: Of course.

Steve Lewit: Just like great places. Yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah.

Steve Lewit: And beautiful places too.

Gabriel Lewit: Oh, no doubt. The America the Beautiful, as they say. It’s a beautiful country.

Steve Lewit: It is. It is.

Gabriel Lewit: All right, so hopefully that’s piquing your interest here in places to go see that you haven’t been.

Steve Lewit: Well, a lot of conversations we have, Gabriel, “Should I move to this state to save on income taxes or property taxes?” But it’s much more than that.

Gabriel Lewit: That’s a piece of the puzzle, yeah.

Steve Lewit: It’s a piece of the puzzle. But the whole cost structure of the state comes into play.

Gabriel Lewit: Look, a lot of times people feel stuck because they’ve got family here and they’ve got friends here and they’ve got their home that they grew up with their kids in here and their social network here. And it’s hard to uproot yourself. But it certainly can be a smart financial move. And funny enough, as we homestead here in Illinois, Illinois wasn’t-

Steve Lewit: It’s not on the list.

Gabriel Lewit: It’s kind of in the middle.

Steve Lewit: It’s kind of in the middle of the pack.

Gabriel Lewit: Now looking at the color scheme here, it appears to be in the, believe it or not, the lower end versus the higher end, oddly.

Steve Lewit: Well, there’s a lot of rural areas in Illinois which are less expensive, I would think.

Gabriel Lewit: All right. Well let’s talk a little bit about-

Steve Lewit: So, we’re not moving to Hawaii?

Gabriel Lewit: Well, maybe.

Steve Lewit: Can we open an office in Hawaii?

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah, it’d be like a little shack. Office Shack.

Steve Lewit: A shanty office. SGL Shanty.

Gabriel Lewit: On the beach though. You’ll have top views.

Steve Lewit: All right, come visit us.

Gabriel Lewit: All right, so fighting back with scams. Tax season, IRS scams are very popular with scammers. I always wonder who the scammers are. People have no lives, just get to sit there and scam people. But usually they’re overseas because they can’t get tracked over there.

Steve Lewit: Well, I got to tell you, I got last week an automated message that said, “You may have a refund coming from the IRS. Please call this number.” And there you go.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, so that was probably a scam.

Steve Lewit: Definitely, yeah.

Gabriel Lewit: So why are we talking about this? Does it impact your money? Of course, yeah. If you fall for one of these, as some people have, in fact many people have, you could lose a lot of money. You got to be smart and you got to be savvy in today’s world. You got to know how to spot the fake, fraudulent stuff that’s out there. And we’re going to try to give you some tips here. Hold on, Steve, you take point because I got to sneeze.

Steve Lewit: You got to sneeze?

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah.

Steve Lewit: Oh, bless you. I’m not ready to take point though. So can you sneeze and get back to your job, please?

Gabriel Lewit: All right, I’m back.

Steve Lewit: I’m looking at this list because folks I usually let Gabriel lead the way here, so I have the list, but I haven’t looked at it. He’s sneezing again. This is a podcast.

Gabriel Lewit: Oh, you’re not allowed to sneeze on the podcast?

Steve Lewit: No, you’re not allowed to cough.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, I’m back. So folks, folks, you’re lucky because if Steve sneezes, he’s one of those guys that does 12 sneezes in a row.

Steve Lewit: I’m a multi-sneezer.

Gabriel Lewit: He just doesn’t stop.

Steve Lewit: Keeps going.

Gabriel Lewit: As a kid, I remember it was a game I would count to see what was the maximum number of sneezes he would have. And I think at one point it was like 12 sneezes.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, it was. Maybe more. Little tiny sneezes.

Gabriel Lewit: Right.

Steve Lewit: I’m a tiny sneezer.

Gabriel Lewit: My son on the other hand, and daughter, they have a single sneeze where half their nose just flies like 100 yards across the room.

Steve Lewit: Oh gosh.

Gabriel Lewit: Splatters on the wall.

Steve Lewit: I don’t want to think about it.

Gabriel Lewit: Lot of hand sanitizer in the house.

Steve Lewit: All right, back to the topic.

Gabriel Lewit: We get off topic there, yes.

Steve Lewit: So, let’s get back on topic.

Gabriel Lewit: Okay, well, we got to have a little fun, right?

Steve Lewit: Of course.

Gabriel Lewit: All right. Okay. So scams, IRS scams in particular, these are what you want to watch out for, an email saying, “We recalculated your tax refund and you need to fill out this form.” And the sneaky part here is it can look like it’s got an IRS logo.

Steve Lewit: Oh, it will. It will have an IRS logo.

Gabriel Lewit: And it’ll have subject lines such as Tax Refund Payment or Recalculating Your Tax Refund.

Steve Lewit: And it won’t be that clear print. It’ll be a little fuzzy and everything, just like it’s coming from the IRS.

Gabriel Lewit: So, the problem here is if you get an email like this and you think it’s legitimate, and you click the link, it’s probably going to ask you for your personal information. This is where, well, number one, your secret sauce is knowing what the scam email looks like. That’s a little beyond the scope of our topic here today. There’s lots of ways to spot them. But the second way is if you click a link in your email and then it’s prompting to enter your full social and phone number, right there is a huge red flag. Because the IRS is not going to have you do that.

Steve Lewit: And they already know it.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah.

Steve Lewit: I don’t even think they will send you an email. Do they contact you by email first? There’s a rule that they don’t call you or they let you know they’re going to-

Gabriel Lewit: I think they send you mail.

Steve Lewit: They send you mail. Physical mail.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. Yeah, but you just want to be cautious, right? Anything that sounds like it’s from your bank or from the IRS, anything to do with your money where you’re getting random emails saying click and then enter all your information, one of the other safest rules is that you never click the email. If you think that you have a message or something from the IRS, you get out of your email, you open up your browser, and then you go to the website itself, and then you enter your information in there. And that’s going to be a safer way.

Steve Lewit: Definitely, yes.

Gabriel Lewit: Because you’d use your login and your password. You’re not entering all your personal information.

Steve Lewit: I lost attention here because I was researching whether the IRS will… They will send you a letter first, yes.

Gabriel Lewit: Okay. No, you’re fine. You were just looked like you were-

Steve Lewit: Well, you-

Gabriel Lewit: You looked like you were in the land of Oz.

Steve Lewit: No, you took a moment to sneeze, and I took a moment to research.

Gabriel Lewit: Okay, so the next one here is if you get a call saying, “We’re calling from the FDIC, and we need your bank information.”

Steve Lewit: Yes.

Gabriel Lewit: Let’s put it out here, folks. The FD C does not personally email you unsolicited asking for your personal bank account information.

Steve Lewit: Well, the FDIC shouldn’t even be calling you, period.

Gabriel Lewit: The FDIC is the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation. It ensures bank accounts. I can’t think of a single reason why they would contact you. They’re usually behind the scenes with big banks.

Steve Lewit: But here’s the deal, even people that are pretty savvy, they get caught right into it. FDIC message says, “We have an important thing about your savings accounts. And you may be due a refund or you may be in jeopardy. We need to check that.” And it just sounds good.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. Yeah. Here’s another tricksy one hear. Tricksy is a fancier version of tricky.

Steve Lewit: Very technical term.

Gabriel Lewit: So now you get a call or an email from the IRS telling you that they’ve noticed that your identity has been stolen and to click here to help resolve the issue or some variation of that. And now you’re worried because you think it’s stolen. So now you’re coming at it from like, “Oh God, I got to fix this.” Perspective. So you click the links, provide the information to verify, yada, yada. And lo and behold, you just gave your information and caused your identity to be stolen. So another one of those ones where, again, you’re going to be careful there not to click on those things. And if you’re concerned, again, navigate directly to the IRS website, contact somebody there, ask them, and then you’ll likely find out that, “No, we don’t send emails, we don’t…” Blah, blah, blah, blah.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, a lot of these scams threaten you with stuff too. Is that on the list, Gabriel, threats?

Gabriel Lewit: Well, I think the next one that’s on the list here is another one. So another way that they get you to take action is they threaten a consequence, like believe it or not people fall for this, “We’re going to cancel your social security number.”

Steve Lewit: Oh gosh. Okay.

Gabriel Lewit: They’re saying that they have an unpaid tax bill and they’re going to cancel your social security number. Well, folks, you cannot have your Social Security number canceled. And again, you would get letters from the IRS first and foremost, not emails or calls threatening to cancel your social security number. Another way that they threaten you is ratcheting up the sound here. This is the Bureau of Tax Enforcement.

Steve Lewit: Oh, yes.

Gabriel Lewit: And “We’re going to put a leaner levy on your assets because of an unpaid tax bill.”

Steve Lewit: Including your home. “You could lose your home, you could lose your car, you could lose your children.” Stuff like that.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. So you got to watch out for that one. Another one here is, “If you don’t call us back, you’ll be arrested.”

Steve Lewit: Fear. Yeah, more fear.

Gabriel Lewit: Mm-hmm. And/or threaten your immigration status, business licenses, revoking your driver license or basically threats. Lots of threats where you’re concerned on these things here. So then there’s people that are sending you supposedly legitimate forms, a tax form saying, “We need you to fill out this form for additional tax information that the IRS needs.” And they use an official sounding form or even a real form just for a different purpose like the W-8BEN, which is a certificate of foreign status of beneficial owner for United States tax withholding. People are just sending these random forms to people that are unbeknownst saying, “We need extra details from you. Please fill this out and send it back.” And of course, it’s got all your information on it.

Steve Lewit: And that is a big deal because that looks official. The form is official and it’s very easy to say, “Oh gosh, the IRS needs this form, so I’m going to just fill it out and send it back.”

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. But again, all they’re trying to do is get your information on any way, shape, or form. Okay, so here’s another tricky one. They say that, “Click here to see some details about your tax refund.” And then the link will actually take you to a site that even looks like the IRS’s site. And again, the IRS doesn’t email taxpayers about the status of their tax refunds. And again, if you’re unsure, don’t click the link in the email, go to the website, and then go to the and then click stuff from there.

Steve Lewit: Now, Gabriel, this is a dangerous one because a lot of folks are waiting for refunds because the IRS has-

Gabriel Lewit: Take their time.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, it’s over a year. You could be waiting a year, year and a half, and then you get an email and say, “Hey, checking in on your refund status. Fill out this form, verify your information, and then we’ll tell you the status of your refund.” So don’t get caught in that because you’re frustrated that you haven’t gotten your refund yet.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. Another related to that is you get a call from Taxpayer Advocate Services.

Steve Lewit: Oh yes, those people.

Gabriel Lewit: Okay, which you is apparently a legitimate organization, I didn’t even know this, within the IRS. So you can Google it and find that it’s legitimate and then think it’s a legitimate call. And then when you call them back, they tell you that they are ready to give you information and process your tax refund. And they just need you to confirm your social security number and a few other details.

Steve Lewit: Wow. That’s a good one.

Gabriel Lewit: So now you’re excited because you’re ready to get your tax refund, and so you give away all your data to a supposedly legitimate sounding company, but it is not, because they do not call you.

Steve Lewit: So many clever ways to make money on other people’s fear.

Gabriel Lewit: Last one here is, “Click on this to see your tax transcript.”

Steve Lewit: What’s a tax transcript? What is that?

Gabriel Lewit: It’s a summary of a person’s tax return.

Steve Lewit: Oh. Gosh.

Gabriel Lewit: It is a real thing, but they do not email it out to you to click and view. Okay? We’re just going to rattle through the last one here. “Take this FBI survey.” Yeah. So then it’s apparently you feel like it’s, “Oh, FBI, I better take this.” And then it downloads ransomware to your computer. “You owe the federal student tax.” There is no federal student tax. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. “Let us help you file a casualty lost claim.” This is for people that are in Florida that had-

Steve Lewit: Oh yes, the hurricane damage and natural disaster.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah, hurricane, natural disasters bring out so many scammers. Okay, so again, just avoid those. And again, so the biggest thing here is how do you spot all these? Well, you just got to be smart. So you typically will receive letters from the IRS multiple times before ever getting a call. If you do get a call, period. Especially out of the blue, it’s probably a scam. And if it’s a prerecorded voicemail or a threatening voicemail, that’s a scam. If it’s an email from somebody, they don’t email you, they don’t text you, they don’t contact you via social media. Again, go directly to the real IRS website, not a “Click in the link.” Generally speaking, never click links in your emails. And asking you to pay for things with gift cards or prepaid debit cards.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, so here’s the rule is you make a rule for yourself. You never put in your social security number or personal information to anything you haven’t requested yourself. You just don’t do it. You don’t provide Zelle pays, you don’t do PayPal unless you requested it. And just leave it at that and don’t worry about it.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah, it’s a tricky world out there. A lot of ways that you can get gotcha-ed. And you want to try to avoid being gotcha-ed and giving away your personal information, and especially social security numbers and dates of birth or bank account information. All of which are wrapped up into IRS refunds, right?

Steve Lewit: I’m still well waiting for my wealthy prince in Nigeria to call me back about my fortune of Nigerian… His uncle is the king.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, you sent him the gift card, right?

Steve Lewit: I sent him the gift card.

Gabriel Lewit: Now he’s going to send you the gold?

Steve Lewit: Now he’s going to send me the gold.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah, all right. Well, funny enough, we ran out of time.

Steve Lewit: We’re not going to do the personal stuff. I was getting-

Gabriel Lewit: We’re going to have to break our rules and do it in the first week of February for the show, because I do want to talk about that. I think that’ll still give us plenty of time for goals for the new year. But just to recap today, what did we talk about? We talked about ways of avoiding scams, lots of never ending levels of scams that are out there. So be careful. And then we just talked about, again, where you can stretch your money the furthest and/or the least. And so if you’ve got questions on any of this, give us a call. Of course we’re here to help you in any way that we can. (847) 499-3330 or go to And if you have questions, you can or you want us to talk about something on the show, you can always email us as well, And we would love to chat.

Steve Lewit: Yeah, we love to answer questions.

Gabriel Lewit: Love to help.

Steve Lewit: Because your questions are more important to us in a way than what we say.

Gabriel Lewit: Yeah. Indeed.

Steve Lewit: Indeed.

Gabriel Lewit: Well, my friends, we hope you have a very wonderful rest of your week and thank you. We appreciate your listenership as always. So take care, be well, and we will talk to you on the next show.

Steve Lewit: Stay well, everybody.

Gabriel Lewit: Bye now.

Steve Lewit: Bye.

Announcer: Thanks for listening to Our 2 Cents with Steve and Gabriel Lewit. For any questions about your finances, give SGL a call at (847) 499-3330 or visit us on the web at, and be sure to subscribe to join us on next week’s episode.

Prerecorded Voice: Investment advisory services are offered through SGL Financial LLC, an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Insurance and other financial products are offered separately through individually licensed and appointed agents.