Sending and Stashing Cash
January 25, 2013
This page covers two aspects of dealing with large amounts
of cash. The first part is about sending currency through the
U.S. mail; you'll learn how to do it properly. The second part
looks at what you should do with bills you may have stashed around
the house or in a safe deposit box. It isn't necessarily safe
to just leave them alone. You probably should be putting new
currency in place of the old, as you'll see.
I've never had a package or letter sent to me get lost in
the mail, and have never had anything I've sent to others lost
either. Stories of lost mail here are rare relative to the millions
of letters and packages that get sent daily. In other words,
the U.S. Postal Service is apparently pretty reliable. And yes,
I have sent cash through the mail.
In fact, if you want to leave virtually no trace of money
that you need to get to someone, the mail can be a much more
private option than using wire services or sending checks or
using credit cards or PayPal. Everything other than cash leaves
a clear trail that, more and more, government officials can access
without even troubling themselves to get a warrant. So let's
look at a few guidelines for safely sending cash through the
1. Split large amounts up and mail it in several different
2. Mail the envelopes from several locations.
Let's say that you need to repay a debt of $16,000 to a friend
on the other side of the country, for example. Wrap four $100
bills in a magazine page or glossy ad from a newspaper. Put them
in an envelope, address it properly and put a stamp on it. Do
not do anything that will make this look like more than a normal
letter, such as taping the flap. You can use your own return
address or any valid address, but it is best if it is one that
will allow you to retrieve any returned mail. Repeat this procedure
39 more times and mail the envelopes from several different post
offices or mailboxes over a period of several days.
I recently read about a man who says he did this for decades
and never lost a cent. In any case, the risk is limited by using
the different mailing points and doing so on several days. If
one is lost you will have delivered 97.5% of what you owe. The
cost in this example would be $18 for stamps and a few dollars
more to buy the envelopes.
Note: Please do not email me asking why anyone would want
to send cash or if I am advocating something illegal. There are
perfectly practical, ethical, and legal reasons why a person
might like to keep a financial transaction private.
Many people have a secret stash of currency, and it is not
a bad idea. Banks can fail, and even when deposits are insured
it can take a while to get the money. An emergency an hour after
your bank closes for the weekend can leave you with no money
Some keep their money hidden in a safe deposit box, while
others like to keep the cash closer to home, sometimes hidden
in a wall or a buried cache. Perhaps it is best to have it in
both places or even split among several stashes for additional
security. Regardless of where you keep it though, you should
take it out and replace it with new currency from time to time.
Why go to the trouble of rotating your bills for new ones?
Because currency changes have become more frequent, and if you
have bills that are no longer in common circulation you might
attract attention that you don't want.
The U.S. Government issued a redesigned $20 bill in 2003,
and a new $50 bill in 2004. In 2006 and 2007 we got new $10 and
$5 bills, and yet another $5 design in 2008. In 2010 the U.S.
Department of the Treasury, the Federal Reserve Board and the
United States Secret Service announced a new design for the $100
bill. Those are the highlights of changes offered by the government
website where I researched this, but I have three different $20
bills here at the moment, so there was apparently another change
since the 2003 redesign.
The changes are said to be about combating counterfeiting,
and that makes sense. However, it is also a way to draw out large
quantities of cash from the underground economy, including that
held by drug dealers. Since the average bill is expected to last
about 25 months in circulation, within a couple years after a
redesign anyone who shows up at the bank with thousands of dollars
in the form of older bills will be suspect. Thus, those who have
large currency hoards from illegal activities have to either
run them through laundering operations soon after a change in
the bills, and so pay taxes on that money, or they face possible
investigation if they wait and try to spend or deposit a pile
of old bills years later.
You might have your name forwarded to federal authorities
for investigation if you local businesses all note that you are
spending funny-looking bills (they look odd or different once
we are used to the new ones), or if you go to the bank with them.
So take out that cash every couple years at least, and work it
into your deposits or spend it. Replace it with newer bills if
you want to maintain your stash. You may have done nothing illegal
in stashing the money, but who needs federal agents knocking
at the door? Also, smart criminals will recognize that someone
with a bunch of old bills has (or at least had) a hidden supply,
which can make you a target for a future robbery.
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