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“I lost $50,000 (and I feel fine).”

Good morning, sleepyheads. Welcome to another day of personal finance here at Apex Money. Let’s take a look at the stories I’ve gathered for you.

We’re going to start with a video featuring comments from Warren Buffett at the most recent Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Here’s one of my financial heroes explaining why he won’t buy Bitcoin…ever: “If you offered me all of the bitcoin in the world for $25, I wouldn’t take it.”

(I found this video via the excellent Millennial Revolution blog, by the way.)

“I lost $50,000 on paper (and I’m doing just fine).” [We Want Guac] — “Having lost $50k on paper doesn’t affect my life; it shouldn’t affect the lives of my fellow 20-something investors, either. Whether the stock market goes gangbusters this year or continues into the red, I’ll be doing the same thing either way: sticking to the plan.”

Politics and personal financial planning. [Oblivious Investor] — “If you do or don’t like the person in the White House, and you begin to let that feeling make you think that you can predict what the stock market is going to do over the next month (or 48 months), you’re in for a rude awakening. No one person has that much control over the stock market.”

Reputation rankings for the 100 “most visible” companies in the United States. [Axios] — “The two-step process starts fresh each year by surveying the public’s top-of-mind awareness of companies that either excel or falter in society. These 100 ‘most visible companies’ are then ranked by a second group of Americans across the seven key dimensions of reputation to arrive at the ranking.” Interesting list. At the top is Trader Joe’s, a company I love. Two companies I am growing to hate — Amazon and Google — are higher on the list than I would have expected. (Note that my dislike of Amazon and Google isn’t based on politics; it’s based on the shitty quality of their products.)

And our final story today has nothing to do with money. All the same, it’s interesting and insightful.

Pop stars on life after the spotlight moves on. [The Guardian] — “Armed with a batch of potentially indelicate questions – because who likes to discuss failure? – I began to reach out to musicians from various genres and eras, those who hadn’t died young, but were still here, still working, to ask them what it was like in the margins.”

And that’s all he wrote. I’ll be back tomorrow to take you in to the long weekend…

Should you buy refurbished electronics?

Welcome to Wednesday, my friends. Here in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it has finally turned to what I call “pre-summer”. It’s nice.

As you probably know, the western half of Oregon (and Washington) gets a lot of rain. It’s not heavy rain like the southeastern U.S.; instead, it’s sort of a constant grey mist that sets in around October 15th and lasts until around May 15th. This year, the rain left precisely on schedule and now we have pleasant, sunny days. (The one difference this year? We didn’t really have a transitional spring period. April was the wettest on record, so we didn’t get any scattered sun breaks as we usually do.)

Anyhow, you’re not here for the meteorological conditions in my neck of the woods. You’re here for money news! Let’s get to it.

Should you buy refurbished electronics? [Consumer Reports] — “If you’re looking to save money, refurbished electronics can be a great option…The trick is making sure the product is genuinely refurbished, not simply cleaned up, repackaged, and repriced. And that requires asking some questions before you settle on a deal.” [I’ve purchased refurbished electronics with mixed success. Most of the time, I get a bargain. But a couple of times I’ve got burned — including on a major computer purchase directly from Apple. Still, I’ll do it again in the future.]

Should people get rid of their lawns? [BBC Future] — “The lawn’s long-standing, deep-seated cultural aesthetic is the product of the pastoral ideal of the British nobility in the 17th Century, which has since been exported worldwide. Since then, its influence has been compounded by rapid suburbanisation, which has allowed the middle classes to own a lawn too, as well as the power of advertising, which has reinforced the lawn as symbol of domestic contentment, and the interests of big business.”

Knowing when to stop. [American Scientist] — “Suppose you decide to marry, and to select your life partner you will interview at most 100 candidate spouses. The interviews are arranged in random order, and you have no information about candidates you haven’t yet spoken to. After each interview you must either marry that person or forever lose the chance to do so. If you have not married after interviewing candidate 99, you must marry candidate 100. Your objective, of course, is to marry the absolute best candidate of the lot. But how?” This article is longish and sometimes math-y, but it’s very very interesting.

Lastly, here’s a fun little four-minute skit from Adam Sandler on Saturday Night Live. In this clip, Sandler plays travel guide Joe Romano, who wants customers to know: “If you’re sad now, you might still feel sad there…You’re still going to be you on vacation.”

“We can take you on a wine tour of Tuscany. We cannot change why you drink…If you don’t like how you look back home, it’s not going to get any better on a gondola.”

See you tomorrow!

The role of luck in personal finance.

Today is Tuesday, my friends, and this is another edition of Apex Money. Every weekday, Jim and I do our best to collect interesting and educational stories about personal finance (and more). Here are some recent faves…

How to do a bit better by doing a bit less. [The Science of Wellbeing] — “It’s not hard to find self-help books and business gurus telling you that in order to be happy and successful you need to be fully committed to your goals and give 100% every waking second of the day. But I’m more interested in the people who recommend a more moderate approach…even extolling the virtues of sometimes (shock! horror!) doing nothing.”

Why do we want problems to be somebody’s fault? [Raptitude] — “It’s not that there’s no such thing as fault, or that solutions never require holding a particular party to account. Only that there’s something about the human mind that wants a given problem to be someone’s fault, simply because it would be easier if it were.” Related (and also from Raptitude): Cynicism is boring.

The law of reversed effort: The harder you try, the harder you fail. [Big Think] — “There are many moments in life when trying harder makes things worse. When you have a mosquito bite, a broken bone, or a nosebleed, you leave it be. Picking, prodding, and probing only exacerbate the problem. So, too, with a lot of life’s major moments.”

Examining the role of luck in personal finance. [The Prudent Plastic Surgeon] — “We all hate luck. We don’t want to give it any credit. In fact, most of us will go out of our way to convince ourselves that we are not lucky. Instead we are deserving. In my mind, both are true. For some reason, and trust me this happens to me all the time, we feel that attributing any of our success to luck or randomness diminishes from our accomplishments or current reality. But does it? Not really.”

And that’s it for today. Time for me to take the dog for a walk. See you tomorrow, everyone!

Why save when you fear the future?

Hey hey, Apexians, welcome to Monday. We’re back with more great personal-finance stories from around the web. You ready for this?

Why this computer scientist says all cryptocurrency should ‘die in a fire’. [Current Affairs] — “So the stock market and the bond market are a positive-sum game. There are more winners than losers. Cryptocurrency starts with zero-sum. So it starts with a world where there can be no more winning than losing. We have systems like this. It’s called the horse track. It’s called the casino. Cryptocurrency investing is really provably gambling in an economic sense. And then there’s designs where those power bills have to get paid somewhere. So instead of zero-sum, it becomes deeply negative-sum.”

The world’s a mess, so these folks have stopped saving for tomorrow. [The New York Times, so possible paywall] — “In a tumultuous time, many adults under 35 have stopped playing it safe. Instead of banking as much of their pay as they used to, they’re saving less, spending more and pursuing passion projects or risky careers…A recent study by Fidelity Investments found that 45 percent of people aged 18 to 35 ‘don’t see a point in saving until things return to normal.'”

That NYT piece is largely sensationalist alarmism of the sort I dislike. But it’s interesting. I like my buddy Douglas’ response to it better…

“How can I save when I fear there might not be a future?” [Douglas Tsoi] — “I think personal finance, like deciding to have children, is about hope. It’s accepting the despair and embracing it with field of love. It’s about humility. It’s understanding that the future is unknowable, even while our brains/egos are wired for pessimism. As Mark Twain said: ‘I have had a lot of troubles in life, and some of them even happened.'”

Lastly, just for fun, here are the results of the 13th annual Trader Joe’s customer choice awards. Kim and I don’t shop at TJ’s regularly; we only head there for certain items. (I love their truffle potato chips and their salsa autentica.) Part of me wonders what would happen if I chose to make TJ’s my only grocery store for three months. Could I do it? Would I like it?

In any event, this is the company’s official list of their customers’ favorite products. Last weekend, on a lark, I went through my local store and bought as many of these as I could find. I’m going to work my way through them. So far, I’m scratching my head at bamba (what the hell is this stuff and why can’t I stop eating it?), and I’m not sure why people love the mini ice cream cones so much. Haven’t they tried the triple ginger snaps? They’re amazing!

And that’s all I have for you today. See you again tomorrow, friends…

You’re Probably Using the 4% Rule All Wrong

We made it to Friday folks!

You’re Probably Using the 4% Rule All Wrong [The Best Interest] – “The 4% rule isn’t guaranteed to work for you. It worked in the past. It worked based on 20th-century economic conditions. Will the next 100 years mirror the previous 100 years? I don’t know. Maybe we’ll have a utopia. Or maybe the climate crisis (or aliens, or a meteor, or…) will destroy us. That’s the hard part about being human. We too easily fool ourselves into exuberant optimism or forlorn depression.” A good reminder that ‘rules,’ or technically rules of thumb, have to be tested frequently and for your situation.

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a good heist or crackdown article, this one isn’t about a manhunt post robbery (it’s actually far worse), but fascinating.

The Epic Hunt for One of the World’s Most Wanted Men [GQ] – “Among the small coterie of specialists who track the world’s most monstrous fugitives, Bob Reid has a well-earned reputation for finding his man. Even when the trail grows cold for years. A decade ago, as chief of operations at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Reid directed the search for the Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic, the so-called Butcher of Bosnia, who was responsible for the murder of more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995. Mladic had been running for 16 years when Reid tracked him to a shabby farmhouse in northern Serbia. Masked agents hauled him away to face the tribunal, which convicted Mladic of genocide and crimes against humanity, sentencing him in 2017 to life in prison.”

This next share is fun hacky stuff. It feels like I haven’t been in a store with this technology in quite some time, it was cool to see how they work (note, this video was published in 2015!):

Don’t shoplift!

And have a great weekend! 🙂

Choose wisely

Choose Your Status Game Wisely [Of Dollars And Data] – “Status is relative to the context in which it is being evaluated. In other words, VCs don’t care how much you can bench and weightlifters don’t care about your investment returns. Both groups have their own standards for judging members of their community and they care much less about everything else.”

A fun Twitter thread about inflation

The Marriage Lesson That I Learned Too Late [The Atlantic] – “The things that destroy love and marriage often disguise themselves as unimportant. Many dangerous things neither appear nor feel dangerous as they’re happening. They’re not bombs and gunshots. They’re pinpricks. They’re paper cuts. And that is the danger. When we don’t recognize something as threatening, then we’re not on guard. These tiny wounds start to bleed, and the bleed-out is so gradual that many of us don’t recognize the threat until it’s too late to stop it.”

Should you invest your retirement in crypto?

I think crypto in a 401(k) is a terrible idea. Like really bad.

Especially if you don’t know much about it.

Digital Distress – Fidelity Spars with DOL Over Crypto: No Asset for Nest Eggs [Intrinsic Value by Roger Lowenstein] – “DOL has no stake in how Americans invest, or speculate with, taxable assets. It has, however, a vested interested in assuring that the estimated (as of the end of 2021) $8 trillion in 401(k) plans are managed with prudence.”

Wow, gas is over $4 in every state right now.

Give yourself permission to be creative [Ethan Hawke, TED] – “Reflecting on moments that shaped his life, actor Ethan Hawke examines how courageous expression promotes healing and connection with one another — and invites you to discover your own unabashed creativity. “There is no path till you walk it,” he says.”

One Day—and One Night—in the Kitchen at Les Halles [The New Yorker] – “From 2000: For weekenders at the restaurant on Park Avenue South where I work as the chef, a saddle of wild hare stuffed with foie gras is not a good special.” By Anthony Bourdain.

7 Mental Blocks That Are Stopping You From Creating Wealth

7 Mental Blocks That Are Stopping You From Creating Wealth [The Making of a Millionaire] – “Most of the wealthy people on this planet never went to Stanford or MIT. Many of them haven’t even finished school. Money doesn’t care if you are well educated.” These are principles from Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money, a book that I really enjoyed and always look forward to getting refreshers from it!

I grew up on Long Island where diners are everywhere – I never worked in one so didn’t know the lingo but this was fun to read. 🙂

Diner Lingo: How to Talk Like a Short Order Cook [CT Insider] – “Diner lingo was never intended for use in speeding up the order-to-table process. Rather, it was a spontaneously developed mnemonic means of making orders easier to hear and remember above the conversational din of the busy diner. It also provided patrons and employees with a free form of entertainment.” I’m not sure I’d ever get Angels on Horseback at some diners though.

Hackers Use QR Codes to Steal Your Money [TheStreet] – “Consumers believe scanning QR codes are harmless, but they are actually “inherently untrustworthy,” Casey Ellis, CTO at Bugcrowd, a San Francisco-based crowdsourced cybersecurity company, told TheStreet.”

I enjoyed my friend Noah Kagan’s latest video where he talked to the owners of yachts to find out how they made their money. If you get past the hype-ness of what is required to win in Youtube’s algorithm, the insights are pretty good:

The part that fascinated me was that all the folks he talked to were in “boring” or “traditional” industries – not a bunch of VC backed tech founders or cryptocurrency wealthy folks. There’s a lot of money in “boring” stuff, I love it.

Crypto is tricky… and volatile…

I have a negligible amount of crypto but I like following the space because of how exciting it seems.

Well, last week was a little too exciting for TerraUSD and Luna.

Terraform Again Halts Blockchain Behind UST Stablecoin, Luna [Bloomberg] – “TerraUSD was one of the largest and most closely-watched algorithmic stablecoins before its intended 1-1 peg to the dollar disintegrated this week. The unraveling sent shock waves through crypto, triggering deep losses before sentiment stabilized.”

When they say that you should invest in things that you understand, this is what they mean. And this is not a dunk on crypto, just a cautionary tale that has been repeated over and over again in a variety of areas. It just so happens that crypto is a hot topic these days.

What Do We Measure Success By? [Rich Life Habits] – “For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be successful. When I was playing little league T-ball, I thought the championship was success. When I cut my neighbors’ lawns after school, I thought I was making the big bucks. Then I got serious about school and thought that a B or a C was a failure and that I would ruin my life if I got those grades. Once I got into the workforce, I thought getting the biggest salary with the highest title was what I’d define a successful life by. These definitions of success are ones that I adopted from others’ influences.”

I loved the first few seasons of Top Chef, then we stopped watching because our DVR freaked out and we lost track of it. I’m both amazed and not at all surprised the show has endured.

The Real Prize of Top Chef [Eater] – “Top Chef has turned cooking into entertainment and chefs into entertainers. But as opposed to an actor or a vaudevillian, a chef’s primary means of expression and area of competency is cooking. There is no substitute for enjoying cooking better than eating it and no more accessible place for the public to eat than a restaurant.”

How This All Happened

This first post is very very good, it explains the U.S. economy after WW2.

How This All Happened [The Collaborative Fund] – “This is a short story about what happened to the U.S. economy since the end of World War II.” It’s 5,000 very educational words and important to note that “this is an attempt to link the big events together, it leaves out all kinds of detail of what happened during this period. I’m likely to agree with anyone who points out what I’ve missed. My goal isn’t to describe every play; it’s to look at how one game influenced the next.”

The rich have always craved status symbols, from peerages to spaceships [Financial Times] – “Can class be bought? A spate of financial controversies involving the newly rich and the British royal family would suggest some still think so — and believe a cheque to charity or a loan write-off is a price worth paying for social elevation. Or just a wedding invitation.”

Why Winners Keep Winning [Of Dollars and Data] – “… King decided to publish his additional works under the pen name of Richard Bachman. Over the next few years, every book King published sold millions, while Richard Bachman remained relatively unknown. King was a legend. Bachman a nobody.” This post introduced me to the term “the Matthew effect,” which is something I’ve seen in a lot of areas. My takeaway is that if you’re experiencing the benefits of the Matthew effect, it’s time to go all in on it because you don’t know how long it’ll last.

The Mathematical Loophole that Broke the Lottery! Fun! It’s a lot of math, with some bad jokes, but it’s still interesting (at least to me). 🙂