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Apex Money Posts

Letting go of keeping up.

Good morning, friends, and welcome to another day of Apex Money.

Today’s first article should prove useful to me in the near future. I’m about to earn a regular income for the first time in years, so I’ll no longer qualify for subsidized health insurance. It’s time for me to dive into the healthcare marketplace!

How to choose the right healthcare plan for you. [Bitches Get Riches] — “Choosing the right healthcare plan can be intimidating, especially if you’re doing it for the first time. The stakes are high; the options are confusing; there’s often a small window during which you can make the choice before you lose your chance; and the whole thing highlights the merciless jank that is our healthcare system! Luckily, there’s an incredibly easy, 100% foolproof way to make the decision. Here’s our secret.”

Letting go of keeping up. [Reactor] — “Give yourself space. Step away from the internet. Ignore the websites that want you to rate and review art like it’s a toothbrush or a new pair of sneakers. Don’t even keep a list of books read, if you don’t want to. What we get from reading is not quantifiable, not a statistic to earn or an item to collect. It’s an experience, a process, an education, a gift.”

“37 pieces of career advice I wish I’d known earlier.” [Ryan Holiday] — “This post is about…things I wish I’d been told when I was just starting and things I still tell myself. Some of them might be exactly what you need to hear right now. Some might not apply to you yet, or ever. That’s okay. Whether you’re just starting out, looking to make a big change, or aiming to reach new heights in your current role, I hope you’ll find something here that helps you navigate your own unique path.”

Today’s non-financial video is right in my wheelhouse. It’s a twenty-minute compilation of Charles Schulz drawing Peanuts. I’ve seen some of these segments elsewhere before, but this industrious fellow has compiled a ton of them into one video. It’s awesome.

I continue to take art classes (I have three going right now!), and I’m making clear and obvious improvement. But I’m still a long way from being able to draw a comic strip, which is my ultimate goal.

Anatomy of a credit-card rewards program.

Heigh-ho, money nerds. J.D. here with another week of Apex Money. I apologize for missing yesterday’s installment. I was hard at work in Real Life preparing for a variety of upcoming events. But I’m here today. And boy, do I have some great stuff!

I believe all three of these articles are fantastic and well worth your time:

“My advice to young people (or, The lies I tell myself).” [Jason Liu] — “You’ll notice that I use the word ‘choosing”‘frequently. I genuinely believe that we are always making choices and that we have the ability to choose. Choosing can be terrifying because it means we are accountable for our decisions, and there are infinite options before us. It is also frightening because once we have made a decision, we must live with it, it is the death of optionality. But I believe that choosing is the only way to live authentically.”

To make sure grandmas like his don’t get conned, he scams the scammers. [NPR] — “Kitboga, also called Kit, is a millennial with a knack for improvisation. He’s among the most popular of so-called scam baiters, a term used to describe those who aim to waste scammers’ time otherwise spent ripping off innocent victims. It’s a lucrative gig for some of the biggest creators in the genre who, like Kit, have quit their jobs to scam bait full-time, often broadcasting their humorous schemes on YouTube and Twitch. As internet scams spike, with victims losing more money than ever, scam baiters like Kitboga are trying to get more than just laughs.”

Anatomy of a credit-card rewards program. [Bits about Money] — “The heaviest credit card spenders — and this fact is both uncontroversial and flies in the face of what many personal finance columnists believe — are wealthy and sophisticated. They use credit cards primarily as payment instruments. Issuers compete aggressively for their business, which is quite lucrative. This is not because they pay much in interest, because while they have higher headline APRs they only rarely revolve balances. It is because ‘clipping the ticket’ via interchange on a high volume of transactions is an excellent business to be in.”

And, of course, we’re going to close out the day with a video completely unrelated to money. This one is a three-minute clip about a bulldog who is obsessed with bowls.

Animals are so funny — just like humans.

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more fun stuff for you. See you then.

Why We Should Talk About Money More Often

Growing up, we didn’t talk a lot about money.

But it wasn’t a taboo subject by any means. It was simply that money would be a distraction from my “job” as a kid, which was to study and get good grades.

When it came to money, my parents were very open about it. While I didn’t know how much my parents earned, how much we spent, being frugal and judicious, and why were being frugal were all discussed. There wasn’t a lot of emotional baggage tied to money. We weren’t broke but we also weren’t wealthy, we were solidly middle class and happy.

A lot of people have a lot of emotional baggage around money and that’s, in part, because we don’t talk about it more. I this first post, Darius Foroux makes the case (and I agree 100%) that we should talk about it more (and why).

Why We Should Talk About Money More Often [Darius Foroux] – “So many of us carry around some baggage when it comes to money. Some folks find it rude to talk about finances, others are ashamed or uncomfortable. And then there are many folks who’re clueless because no one ever taught them how to talk about money. It’s no wonder that a recent survey found that 44 percent of Americans see personal finance as the most challenging topic to discuss with others.1 Most folks find it harder to talk about money than subjects like death, politics, and religion.”

Who gets to flourish? [Vox] – “Are you flourishing? Not “just getting by” or “making it through,” but truly thriving? In the last two decades, the field of positive psychology has embraced the concept of flourishing, the pinnacle of well-being. Distinct from subjective happiness or physical health, flourishing is the aggregate of all life experiences when every aspect of your life is going well. “A state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good,” says Brendan Case, the associate director for research at Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program. As impossible as it may seem, to flourish is to feel satisfactory, inside and out, about your relationships, income, work, health, and passions, and to extend that virtuous spirit to others.”

Silver coin boom in medieval England due to melted down Byzantine treasures, study reveals [The Guardian] – “The new rush of silver coinage stimulated trade and helped fuel the development of the new towns springing up at the time – but where did it come from? Were the Anglo-Saxon kings recycling old Roman scrap metal? Or had they found lucrative sources from mines in Europe?” It’s fascinating that they can determine coins in England came from melted silver from the Byzantine empire. Science is amazing!

Would you go to this type of bar?

At Stock Market Bar Night, Buy Low and Drink Up [New York Times] – “In London, “competitive socializing” transforms pubs into stock exchanges, golf courses and cricket fields for those looking for more elaborate drinking games.”

See you next week!

We should have named a successor executor

I was spending time with friends over the weekend and the subject of estate planning came up. We set up our estate a few years ago and it contained a few “future proof” statements, like including “all future children” rather than just naming the ones we had at the time.

One thing we did not do? Name a successor executor. (naming multiple executors is generally considered bad because it can cause a lot of headaches)

Sadly, our named executor passed away unexpectedly a few years ago and we haven’t yet named a new one.

Right now, it’s fine because we’re still alive and can update our estate to name a new executor, but it could be a problem in the future until we fix it (it’s on the list!).

This is covered in our first post today:

Name Successor Trustees (Plural!) for Your Trust [Oblivious Investor] – “Regardless, this is an easily avoided situation. Make sure your trust has multiple successor trustees. Even if you like the idea of naming a family member or a trusted individual professional as the trustee, naming a business entity, such as a well-established law firm that’s likely to outlive any one person, as a final successor trustee can prevent the situation described here.”

Exclusive: How much Acorns savers amassed by investing spare change [Axios] – “How much money would you save up if you invested your spare change in the stock market? The answer, in practice, seems to be about $2,500 over nine years.” The average saved per month was $43… but the fees are $3 – $9, so is it really worth it? Maybe? Kind of?

A history of the American economy through stadium names [Sherwood] – “With that much money changing hands, we’re bound to see trends emerge in who actually pays for these sponsorships, from beer companies to dot-com startups to for-profit colleges and disgraced energy brokers. Where might these naming-rights go next, and what do they tell us about how big-time sports — and the US economy at large — have changed over the past five decades?”

Return the ball

You Can’t Succeed In Life Without This Skill [Ryan Holiday] – “I’m a ‘sense of urgency’ guy. I always have been. As I was working on a draft of this article, one of my former employees sent me a short piece about the concept of “clock speed,” which in the world of computing refers to how quickly something can execute instructions. “Something you are very good at,” this former employee (and now friend) wrote. “You keep the tempo/momentum very high and if there is ever a bottleneck somewhere (decision or input), you process that as soon as physically possible. You return the ball very quickly.””

They Chose to Take a Pay Cut—and Say They’re Happier [The Wall Street Journal] – “Switching to a job with a lower salary often means trimming your expenses, but it can come with a raise in free time and work-life balance.”

How the California forest that starred as Endor in ‘Star Wars’ was obliterated [SFGATE] – “The film crew got to work. They dug up ferns and rearranged them to fit the eye of the cinematographer. Trails were built, logs repositioned and soon an area not far from Highway 101 began to take on a new, otherworldly shape. The preparation lasted months, but once the actors arrived, Perry suspected this wasn’t your typical movie.”

I’m a little sad that Endor doesn’t exist anymore… but also may exist in a lot of difference places now at the same time.


Happy Monday!

Did you travel to see the eclipse? Jim here – we did and hopefully it doesn’t disappoint! 🙂

Here are a few posts (sorry, none are eclipse-related) that I found interesting last week:

How to stay calm in a bear market [Rad Reads] – “Now I have the unsexiest investing strategy ever. I’ve been dollar-cost-averaging the S&P 500 since 1994, when I was 16 years old. NGL, it’s single-handedly made us rich. It’s been a remarkable strategy that has enabled a life of quasi-financial freedom.” Me too!

The History of Luxury in 50 Objects, From Cleopatra’s Barge to Louis Vuitton Trunks [Robb Report] – “History’s first superyacht owner was Ptolemy IV, who ruled Egypt from 221 to 205 B.C.E. Among his royal fleet was a 300-foot catamaran that towered 60 feet above the Nile, propelled by thousands of enslaved men. But it was his descendant Cleopatra, reigning nearly two centuries later, who has captured the imaginations of poets, playwrights, and Hollywood producers. Cleopatra’s barge was the first nautical fashion statement, a blazing vessel that included silver oars, colorful sails, and a gold-encrusted hull.” Wow.

10 Life-Changing Lessons from Atomic Habits (Book Summary) by James Clear [Untap Me] – “Atomic Habits by James Clear is the holy grail when it comes to guides on habit and behavior change. In this book, he provides a highly effective, practical, and step-by-step framework to embrace new good habits and break free from bad ones. This framework is based on the best techniques from behavioral science and the book is filled with tons of examples backing it up. A must-read if you’re looking to upgrade yourself and move towards becoming the best version of yourself. In this post, we will take a look at 10 key lessons from the book.”

The golden rules of travel.

It’s Friday, money friends, and before you saunter off to enjoy your weekend, here are a handful of stories about money (and more) to close out the week.

Are Apple Pay and Google Pay more secure than credit cards? [How-To Geek] — “Even if your Google or Apple account were to be hacked, neither service will allow you to use, modify, or view your payment methods without you using your phone (or other device) to confirm that it is you. This ensures that a hacker won’t be able to go on a spending spree with your cards.” [For five years now, I’ve been easing into Apple Pay. I use it quite a bit now.]

The golden rules of retirement travel. [Traveller] — “Adherence to anyone’s rules will never ensure a vacation free of hiccups, where no flight is ever delayed, every tour is worth the hours put in, and every meal sublime. But learning from others may improve your chances of a good time – even when things inevitably go sideways.” This advice is couched in terms of “retirement travel”, but as a frequent traveler I’d argue it’s good advice for everyone. I agree with nearly every item on this list. (But pack your own toilet paper? WTF? Why would you do that?)

Lessons I’ve learned about death and money. [Kindness Financial Planning] — “As a financial planner, I’m privileged to be alongside people as they experience death in their own lives. I hear what it’s like and help people plan to make it easier on their survivors. I’ll borrow a bit from my work and incorporate themes I’ve seen in my career, but most of this is my first hand experience, including fighting the healthcare system, how the legal system is not well set up for aging, and tips you can take to make it easier on your loved ones.”

A short history of global living conditions and why they matter. [Our World in Data] — “Global poverty is one of the very largest problems in the world today. Is it possible to make progress against this problem? To see where we are coming from, we must go far back in time. 30 or even 50 years are not enough. When you only consider what the world looked like during our lifetime, it is easy to think of the world as static — the richer parts of the world here and the poorer regions there — and to falsely conclude that it always was like that and will always be like that.”

To wrap things up, here’s my favorite video from the past week. It’s compilation of the funniest animal videos from 2023. I love it.

So funny. Animals are awesome.

Okay, that’s it for this week. Jim will be back on Monday. I’ll see you in ten days.

Why you must be suspicious of tech leaders.

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds!

Let’s start today with a piece that echoes what I’ve been thinking and writing and saying for over five years. Something fundamental has shifted in the nature of the internet, and it’s no longer a place that I want to be. More and more, I’m not.

Why you must be suspicious of tech leaders. [The Honest Broker] — “I lived through the excitement of the early Internet — and even ran two web startups…I was filled to the brim with enthusiasm about the web, but everybody was back then. That was then, this is now. Everybody I talk to now is wary and worried about the dominant digital platforms. They don’t love them, they don’t trust them, and increasingly they don’t even want them.”

Algorithms can aid price collusion, even if no humans actually talk to each other. [The Verge] — “Algorithms might help hotels illegally collude on prices, even if no humans from those businesses actually talk to each other about them, according to US antitrust enforcers.” Could this be part of the reason hotel prices have become so insane in recent years?

Automakers are sharing individual consumer driving behavior with insurance companies. [The New York Times gift article] — “Automakers and data brokers that have partnered to collect detailed driving data from millions of Americans say they have drivers’ permission to do so. But the existence of these partnerships is nearly invisible to drivers, whose consent is obtained in fine print and murky privacy policies that few read.”

How to break dependence on your phone. [Zen Habits] — “A lot of people I talk to want to decrease their usage of phones — not necessarily decreasing to zero, but decreasing impulsive usage of their phones. Many of us tend to grab our phones anytime there’s a lull, and once you get on your phone it can lead to mindless scrolling. So how can we develop more mindful use of our phones, and become less dependent on them?”

Let’s close things down with a video that isn’t really in my wheelhouse…but I enjoyed anyhow. Here’s a 14-minute look at why daredevils all want to leap from the top of this 25-step stairway.

Like I say, not my thing. But fun to watch.

Okay, that’s it for today. Back again tomorrow with more.

How to enjoy things.

HELLO, APEXIANS! Welcome to Monday. Welcome to April. We’re glad to have you here. No foolin’.

We’re going to begin and close today with a bit of meditation. This first article is particularly good, especially if (like me) you’re learning to meditate.

How to enjoy things. [Superb Owl] — “I’ve returned to the concept of wide attention several times over the course of my ~8 year journey into meditation, dreamwork, psychedelics, and introspection. Each time I rediscover it, it feels like a revelation, a metanoia that catalyzes a thousand lesser insights, a key that unlocks new states of consciousness.”

Are we morally obligated to meditate? [Vox] — “A host of other studies showed that meditation can also change your neural circuitry in ways that make you more compassionate, as well as more inclined to have positive feelings toward a victim of suffering and to see things from their perspective. Further research suggested that meditation can change not only your internal emotional states but also your actual behavior.”

Is it even possible to become more productive? [Esquire] — “Time was the problem, I assumed: There was enough of it; I just wasn’t using it right. Or maybe the problem was my attention span. I couldn’t focus. Luckily, there were products for this. First, I tried blue-light-filtering glasses. Then I bought a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato and became devoted to the Pomodoro technique.”

When did people start owning so many clothes? [/r/AskHistorians on Reddit] — “I live in an old house from the early 20th century, it is a great home, but there are barely any closets to store our overabundance of clothing. It got me thinking that in less than a century our relationship with clothing has completely changed. How did this happen? Was it a slow, inevitable shift after the Industrial Revolution and the rise of consumerism? Was it a market created by the the growth of wealth and production in the 20th century? Is it something completely different?”

Lastly, here’s a little something to help you ease into the week. Rapper Lil Jon (“Turn Down for What”, etc.) has just released an album (and YouTube playlist) of guided meditations called “Total Meditation”.

Chill vibes, man. Chill vibes.

Okay, that’s it for Monday. See you all again tomorrow.

Should You Rent or Buy a House?

I’ve never understood why “owning a home” is the American Dream. Buying a home is such a massive financial decision but the default always seems to be that owning is better than renting.

But it’s not. If you knew you had to move in a year, buying a home makes zero sense.

There are a lot of situations where buying doesn’t make sense but that seems to be the default. It’s kind of weird when you think about it. If you’re facing a rent vs. buy decision, our first post of the day might help:

Should You Rent or Buy a House? [Of Dollars And Data] – “Buying a home is often considered the biggest financial decision people make in their lives. As a result, it makes sense as to ask yourself whether buying is the right choice when compared with renting. Unfortunately, this decision can easily get bogged down with the many assumptions and costs that go into renting vs. buying a home.”

Speaking of owning a home… experts say you need to earmark 1-4% of your home’s value for maintenance and repairs each year… hidden costs are everywhere!

Beware The Hidden Costs [Mr. Stingy] – “Assuming a $400,000 home, that’s somewhere between $4,000 and $16,000 every year. A “hidden cost” that people normally don’t think about when buying their dream home.”

Lastly, to round out the week, I have a fun feature from the New York Times following Taylor Tomlinson’s as she crafts a standup comedy bit. I love stand up and love the craft of it, these “inside baseball” features are so much fun.

See you next week!