Personal finance advice: Investing your anti-Trump protest pay

Press Secretary Sean Spicer has noted that anti-Trump protesters are being paid.

Finally someone has finally called attention to this important alternative issue. Paying millions of protesters was bound to be a challenge. Even so, this whole protester pay thing has got to be the most poorly-planned shambolic logistical mess of the Trump era.

As you might imagine, my own inbox is flooded with calls and emails from liberals wondering how to most prudently invest their Women’s March pay, whether they should wait for the 1099 before filing their taxes, whether parking and cardboard signs are tax-deductible, and so on. Apologies to the many RBC readers waiting for my responses.

Everyone’s personal situation is different. Generally speaking, I’d recommend that every protester open an SEP-IRA account for these earnings. You can contribute up to 25% of compensation. But regular protesters should be mindful of the maximum contribution limits: $53,000 for the 2016 tax year, and $54,000 for 2017. Something like the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Admiral fund seems appropriate if your protest pay exceeds $10,000.

I believe the Vanguard site is back online after being crushed with Women’s Marchers opening new accounts with their January 21 paychecks. You might still want to login after midnight when the traffic is a bit slower.

So much of the operational chaos might have been avoided had the Soros people simply allowed direct deposit. Live and learn.

Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

18 thoughts on “Personal finance advice: Investing your anti-Trump protest pay”

  1. Thank goodness for your sane, and sage, advice, Harold. Can we talk about overtime pay? And I used a personal vehicle to transport other contract protesters to the T. May I submit for mileage?

    1. I'm afraid that the answer to your second question is, "No." You may only claim expenses for travel for the time you are actually working, not getting to and from work, no matter how many people you are transporting. As your tax adviser (hey, we all need to get paid by the Movement somehow), I recommend that, prior to the next protest, you contact your organizer to renegotiate your contract, stipulating that you fly a banner from your car window as a part of your job. This should allow you to deduct the expenses.

  2. I just wrote a very nice letter to Sen. Cory Gardner, asking him to call on Pres. Trump to resign. I will hand-carry it to his office tomorrow. Basically, I said that Trump's presidency is a national misfortune, but not yet a national tragedy, but it will soon become one if he remains in office.

    Has anyone started any betting pools as to who will be the first Republican member of Congress to call for Trump's resignation? My money would be on Ben Sasse of Nebraska, but if we can have NCAA basketball Final Four pools, why not one of these?

    1. Ed, I should think it would have to be a Republican senator who is generally sickened by the ongoing D.C. Disaster and who isn't worried about being "primaried." Perhaps Susan Collins?

      1. She is a plausible choice. Maybe someone who is done with politics and would like to have a Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award on the shelf along with their government pension–that nice silver sterling lantern makes anyone's private study look snazzy

  3. WONDERFUL! Worthy of the New Yorker's Borowitz, who is probably furious he didn't think of this first. But a question: is it a violation of the Mann act to bring your children along on these marches?????

  4. Given how lucrative this activity is, I wonder if advanced training is available that would get someone a higher wage. If so, that might be a sound investment.

    Maybe Trump himself can open a school to do this, given his past success in educational entrepreneurship.

  5. Harold — like a lot of protesters, I am wondering when the government will raise the limit for AMT. I didn't expect to hit it but I made two signs and walked for almost 10 minutes, so here we are.

  6. I'd like to step back for just a moment from the important discussion of payment and reimbursement to note the brilliant journalistic work on the part of the Fox reporter: "Do you sense that . . . ?" That kind of incisive, straight-for-the-gut, take-no-prisoners, get-it-all-out-on-the-table question is something you just don't hear from ordinary journalists.

    1. Agreed, I really liked "sense". I, personally, sometimes "sense" that dead relatives are talking to me.

  7. I assume it's George Soros who's paying the demonstrators. If you have contact information for him, please let me know so I can sign up.

  8. I think I'm going to donate most of my pay to one of those grass-roots organizations with a nice-sounding name, because without the small donors they wouldn't have anything.

    And if I do it right maybe I won't have to pay taxes for 20 years.

  9. While Spicer has done his duty by pointing out this terrible financial scandal, he is ignoring the huge moral breakdown that happened on January 21st when a good proportion of these same well-paid protesters needed to pee. (We are women, it is what we do – I know it is disgusting.)

    The official uniformed guards at Grand Central Station, rather than defending society's values, declared that there would be two lines into the "men's" room. Men were on the left and women were on the right.

    As I waited in my gender's line, I assumed that there must be some division when we got inside. NOPE. For the first time in my life I saw real men using real urinals. It looks just like it does in the movies.

  10. So what if they were paid? That would just prove they were "smart", right? Even more so if they could evade the taxes on the income.

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