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Apex Money Posts

Our modern urban lives.

Today is Tuesday and this is Apex Money! Today I’ve gathered a collection of stories related to our modern urban lives. I thought each of these was interesting. I hope you’ll like them too.

How much does it cost to live in New York City? [Curbed] — “The purpose of presenting these receipts isn’t to shock or horrify. But if they do shock or horrify, we hope facing them is at least better than wallowing in the ambient dread of not knowing. We hope it’s genuinely useful to younger New Yorkers wrestling with questions like, What would my family income have to be to support my vision of tomorrow?”

Imagine a renters’ Utopia. It might look like Vienna. [The New York Times Magazine gift article] — “The key difference is that Vienna prioritizes subsidizing construction, while the United States prioritizes subsidizing people, with things like housing vouchers. One model focuses on supply, the other on demand. Vienna’s choice illustrates a fundamental economic reality, which is that a large-enough supply of social housing offers a market alternative that improves housing for all.” [This is a long, interesting article about a complicated topic.]

How Tokyo became an anti-car paradise. [Heatmap] — “Since the advent of the automobile, architects and urban planners worldwide have found it almost impossible to resist building cities around roads and an assumption that most people will drive. Tokyo somehow managed not to. It rebuilt in a much more human-centric way.”

Lastly, here’s a video that explores a question that’s been bugging me for 10+ years: Why did kids stop walking to school?

I don’t have kids. The parents I know (which is nearly every person I know) have made it clear that this disqualifies me from speaking my mind about issues of child rearing. But I have opinions! I’m not a fan of today’s brand of hyper-involved parenting. I think it hurts more than it helps.

Anyhow, now that I’ve made a bunch of you cranky, I’ll bow out. The folks from Plutus will be here tomorrow with their batch of links. I’ll see you again on Thursday.

Favorite airport tricks.

Hello, money nerds, and welcome to another beautiful day. My name is J.D. Roth, and I’ll be your host this week. Actually, as you read this I am beginning a long trek from my home in Corvallis, Oregon to a cruise terminal in Southampton, England. On Wednesday, I’ll board a ship that’ll be my home for the next 23 days as it sails to Scotland, Norway, and Iceland.

My girlfriend can’t get time off, so I’m using this as an opportunity for introspection and personal renewal. But have no fear! I’ve prepared my Apex installments for you in advance.

Today, let’s look at some stories about travel.

What does the phrase “slow travel” actually mean? [Condé Nast Traveler] — “Slow travel is a mindset: you don’t need three weeks of vacation to slow down. A day spent strolling through an unfamiliar neighborhood without a crammed to-do list or exploring a state park with nothing but a route map and a bag of snacks could fall under the umbrella of slow travel. It comes down to how you engage with the world as you move through it.”

How to afford travel in times of high inflation. [A Journey We Love] — “The first thing to do when you have decided to have travel as a priority in your life is to have a separate savings account for travel. We usually have this on auto-pilot. Having full-time jobs means that we have a set amount of money coming in every month as paychecks. From there, here’s our automation strategy.”

A digital nomad’s guide to thriving and surviving while living abroad. [The Female Professional] — “Contrary to the common notion, not all countries have a warm reception to digital nomads or foreign tourists because of several conflicting factors. There’s the issue of gentrification that kills local businesses to create upscale establishments to accommodate tourists, increases in local housing costs, and other harmful cultural and environmental impacts due to the sudden tourism boom.”

Favorite airport tricks. [The Art of Non-Conformity] — “Uber and Lyft (and taxis, if anyone still uses those) often charge more for airport pickups, but hotel shuttles are free. When prices are insane, hop on a shuttle to a nearby hotel, then have the rideshare driver pick you up there.”

That’s everything I have for you today. Although I’ll be on the road until the end of June, my intention is to carve out time to collect stories for Apex Money. And, of course, my partner Jim will be handling things every other week. So, stay tuned as we share all of the great stuff we find!

I Don’t Know

As we ease into the holiday weekend, I want to start with a really short post by Seth Godin:

“I don’t know” [Seth Godin’s Blog] – “Not knowing is going to happen. Acknowledging it is a sign of confidence and awareness.”

Don’t Miss Out on Your Only Free Lunch [Evidence Investor] – “Most investors, including many professionals, are simply unable or unwilling to acknowledge how little they actually know, or the risk that they’re taking as a consequence. Smart investors, by contrast, know their limitations and, instead of trying to predict the future, simply buy and hold a broadly diversified investment portfolio.”

OK this next one is not money related but I found it so fascinating I had to share it with you!

Is It Real or Imagined? How Your Brain Tells the Difference. [Quanta Magazine] – “New experiments show that the brain distinguishes between perceived and imagined mental images by checking whether they cross a “reality threshold.””

Lastly, enjoy this satirical video about the NFL:

Do You Feel Weird Checking eBay Prices?

In college, I used to flip things on eBay and other marketplaces. I’d find software that was free after rebate on Fatwallet, redeem the rebate, and then sell on eBay (totally legit, you indicated the UPC was gone so they knew). There was some risk that they’d reject your rebate but if you followed up, the risk was minimal.

Man those were the days… it made sense for a college kid in the late 90s to spend that much time to make $30. 🙂

I got into it so much that I wrote software to scrape completed eBay listings to calculate how much I could make.

Nowadays, flippers have it so much easier. You can just check prices on your phone right there in the store. So when I saw this first post, I chuckled a little.

As a Flipper, Should You Feel Weird About Checking eBay Prices In Front of Others? [Money And Bills] – “Some flippers feel weird about checking prices in front of others at garage sales, moving sales, swap meets, and the like, is it considered rude behavior to do this? When I was new to reselling on eBay, I felt really weird about checking prices in front of others. I’d do anything to hide my phone or turn around and look something up so no one would see me.” I might feel weird at a garage sale because it’s someone’s house but not at an estate sale or a store.

I Wondered, Could We Live On Social Security Alone? [Leisure Freak] – “I take great pride in the way we chose to live a frugal life so that we could retire early. It not only allowed us to save a higher percentage of our income when we were still working, but also resulted in needing a smaller portfolio capable of supporting us. I wondered at this time when many people have little to no retirement savings, even with our frugality, whether we could retire and live on Social Security alone.” A good exercise.

And to round it all out, here’s a little crime story.

The Last Gamble of Tokyo Joe [Chicago] – “Ken Eto rose through the ranks of the Chicago mob, and then it tried to kill him. The underworld would never be the same.”

Is Money Stress Killing You? Tips to Help You Stay Motivated.

Happy Hump Day Plutus Friends!!! Enjoy these great articles.

Check out what we have for you this week.

Be Someone Whose Life Is So Interesting, No One Can Stitch Together Your Timeline. [Simple and Straightforward] — “Simple living gives you options. Having the opportunity to live a full, interesting life is probably the biggest and most important option of them all. I want to finish my life with more to show for it than a big house and lots of stuff. I want to finish life with people wondering how the hell did she fit all that into 80+ years?” (Submitted by J. Money.)

Is Money Stress Killing You? Tips to Help You Stay Motivated. [Harris Cash Coach] — “You might feel like giving up on managing your money for many reasons. It can be a lot of work and frustrating when you don’t see results right away. Finding ways to stay motivated and on track with your financial goals is important. Staying motivated can help you reduce money stress, build wealth, and achieve your financial goals.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

What are the risks of index investing? [Wallet Hacks] — “Index funds offer a very compelling sales pitch: instant investment in the stock market (whatever the fund represents), exceptionally low fees (often less than 0.05%), low maintenance. But are there risks to index funds? Are there any reasons why we shouldn’t be using index funds? Today, I want to play a little Devil’s Advocate and point out some of the potential risks of index investing.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

IRS building its own tax filing system?

It seems like every few months, there’s another story about the IRS offering a free tax filing system and the tax preparers getting upset about it. 🙂

When will we have it for real? I’ll believe it when I see it!

The IRS is building its own online tax filing system. Tax-prep companies aren’t happy [NPR] – “The IRS is developing a system that would let taxpayers send electronic returns directly to the government for free, sidestepping commercial options such as TurboTax.”

I think a retirement mastermind group is a brilliant idea!

What I’ve Learned From My Retirement Mastermind Group [The Retirement Manifesto] – “He’s just one of 7 really smart guys that now comprise our Retirement Mastermind Group. We launched the group in January and have been meeting once a month ever since. I suspect we’ll be meeting together for years. Each of the meetings has been unique, and that’s all part of the plan.”

The Pitfalls of Playing the Stock Market: Why Index Funds Win Every Time [Accidentally Retired] – “My mini-retirement had finally given me the time to really learn more about investing, and after taking many months to soak up as much knowledge as I could…it all led me to the conclusion that low-cost index investing is the simplest and easiest way to earn better than average returns.”

Diamonds Are Bullshit

Happy Monday Apexians! I hope you had a great weekend, I took a quick trip to Boston to surprise my sister for her birthday and I forget how much fun short quick trips are. The packing is easy (it’s one night!), the kids are at home, and we get to be kid-free adults for a few hours. 😂

Today’s theme will be stuff that’s way more expensive than it should be… and of course diamonds take center stage.

This first one is an oldie but goodie:
Diamonds Are Bullshit [Priceonomics] – “American males enter adulthood through a peculiar rite of passage – they spend most of their savings on a shiny piece of rock. They could invest the money in assets that will compound over time and someday provide a nest egg. Instead, they trade that money for a diamond ring, which isn’t much of an asset at all. As soon as you leave the jeweler with a diamond, it loses over 50% of its value.”

Remember the story of the $600 hammer or how NASA paid millions to design a pen that could write in space (and the Russians just used a pencil)? Turns out one is true and the other is less true.

The myth of the $600 hammer [Government Executive] – “One problem: ‘There never was a $600 hammer,’ said Steven Kelman, public policy professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and a former administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. It was, he said, ‘an accounting artifact.'”

Fact or Fiction?: NASA Spent Millions to Develop a Pen that Would Write in Space, whereas the Soviet Cosmonauts Used a Pencil [Scientific American] – “The problem of weightless writing was not solved by either Soviet central planning or good old American sub-contracting, but by a private investor and a good idea.”

If you’ve won the game, stop playing.

Happy Friday, friends! Before you head off to enjoy the sunshine, I’ve gathered a few final links to share with all y’all…

If you’ve won the game, stop playing. [ESI Money] — “If you’ve accumulated enough to reach FI you should not continue taking the investment risks to grow your nest egg. You don’t need any more, you simply need to protect what you have. As such, your investment philosophy should change from growth to preservation. Otherwise a poor market event (like a big drop) you could significantly impact your assets and result in you no longer being FI.”

Life is short. [Paul Graham] — “One heuristic for distinguishing stuff that matters is to ask yourself whether you’ll care about it in the future. Fake stuff that matters usually has a sharp peak of seeming to matter. That’s how it tricks you. The area under the curve is small, but its shape jabs into your consciousness like a pin.”

The IRS will test free online tax prep in 2024. [The Verge] — “We’re a little closer to getting to file our taxes directly with the IRS. The agency just submitted a report to Congress detailing plans to launch a test run of free, government-run tax filing software for the 2024 filing season.” As detailed in this 2019 story from ProPublica, Intuit (and other companies) have fought this sort of progress for decades.

Okay, let’s end the week with something fun.

I’m a movie aficionado. I’m a cinephile. I watch a ton of films from across all eras and genres. Want to know my favorite film? No joke, it’s Mission Impossible 5: Rogue Nation. I’m not joking.

So, you can imagine how excited I am for the upcoming Mission Impossible 7: Dead Reckoning, Part One. The trailer was released earlier this week, and it makes me want to watch the entire series again (except the second movie, which is a stinking turd of a film).

Let’s ignore the shitty CGI for a second. (Trailers are notorious for containing “dummy” effects, and I hope that’s the case here.) I am so stoked about this movie! I’ll go see it in the theater, something that’s rare for me to do these days.

And that’s it for the middle of May. Jim will be back to share money stories with you next week. I’ll see you in ten days.


Hey hey, my friends. It’s Thursday. It’s Apex Money. I’m J.D. Roth. Today, I have one of those occasional installments in which all of the links are connected. Let’s take a look at loneliness — and friendship.

Loneliness poses risks as deadly as smoking. [AP News] — “Loneliness increases the risk of premature death by nearly 30%…Isolation also elevates a person’s likelihood for experiencing depression, anxiety and dementia, according to the research.”

Parrots taught to video call each other become less lonely. [The Guardian] — “The study, which involved giving the birds a tablet that they could use to make video calls, found that they began to engage in more social behaviour including preening, singing and play. The birds were given a choice of which ‘friend’ to call on a touchscreen tablet and the study revealed that the parrots that called other birds most often were the most popular choices.” [Actual research paper] Here’s a video about all of this.

Live closer to your friends. [The Atlantic, so possible paywall] — “Having a pal around is also just practical. For people with kids, a friend in the neighborhood might be able to help with child care in a pinch, saving you the cost of a last-minute sitter; those without children might welcome the chance to bond with friends’ kids. And for people who live alone, proximity to friends can make saving on some things easier: You might share household items you don’t need every day or split bulk groceries, for example.”

To close out this lonely installment — an installment that hasn’t had any explicit financial advice — here’s a morose song about loneliness: Harry Nilsson’s “One”, sung by the songwriter himself.

Yikes. That’s a downer. I’ll be back tomorrow with some links that aren’t quite as depressing…

Get Rich….Holistically

Happy Wednesday Plutus Family! Take your pen and paper. It’s time to take notes!

Check out what we have for you this week.

Get Rich…Holistically. [The Escape Artist] — “There are four pillars to achieving financial freedom: earn more, spend less, invest the difference wisely, and know how much is enough. If we want to build wealth AND be happy, we must master each of these 4 pillars.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

ABLE Age Adjustment Act. [Saving For College] — “ABLE accounts have been around since 2014, but in late 2022 they got a facelift via the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, which passed as a part of SECURE 2.0. This new law ups the maximum age of onset of disability from 26 to 46, nearly doubling the eligible user base.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

Wisdom from the Woods: Walden by Henry David Thoreau. [A Trip of a Lifestyle] — “Most of us could work 50% less and still live very rich lives (especially from a historical perspective). In spite of this, the majority of middle-class Americans spend the remainder on smartphone upgrades, TV subscriptions, take-out food, five-figure cars, and oversized houses. And when each paycheck is expended, they show back up at work to do it all over again.” (Submitted by J. Money.)