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Apex Money Posts

How to insulate yourself from advertisements.

Good morning, everybody, and welcome to another day of Apex Money. Let’s dive right into the personal-finance stories.

Why you should stay skeptical of personal-finance gurus. [The Sensible Merchant] — “There is no budget in the world that is going to get you or anyone else a quarter of a million dollars in cash in 3 years unless you are already a high earner or very wealthy, so let’s knock off the charade. This is an echo chamber at its finest.”

How to insulate yourself from advertisements. [Bitches Get Riches] — “Cable may be the single most wicked invention of our wicked age. Everything about it sucks. It encourages you to want things you don’t need. When you use it, you just sit passively absorbing sponsored content, wasting your time on unproductive nothingness. And doing so makes you pale, doughy, and out-of-shape. Like me.”

How does a raise early in your career affect your finances? [Of Dollars and Data] — “Imagine you just got a new job offer or you’ve been working in a job for a few years without a raise. Should you ask for more? Or should you wait it out? How much does a raise early in your career actually affect your long-term finances?The answer is…it depends.”

Lastly, here’s a video that my girlfriend sent to me. Kim has long been interested in death and dying (and would like one day to do some sort of volunteer work in palliative care), so naturally she liked this seven-minute clip about a coffin-building club that helps New Zealand old folks approach death positively.

This is a great video. You should watch it.

True story: Before my father died, he sincerely requested that we bury him in a corrugated cardboard box. You see, he had started a box-making company a decade earlier, and he wanted the family to build him a box to bury him in. We didn’t do it. I don’t regret not doing it, but in some way I feel like we betrayed him a bit. (Because he wasn’t joking.)

Okay, that’s all for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with one last installment before we head into the weekend. See you then.

Is it hoarding, collecting, or archiving? How to know the difference.

Good morning, my friends, and welcome to the Wednesday edition of Apex Money. Let’s kick things off today with some stories about minimalism.

A life of meaning without buying. [Zen Habits] — “Lately I’ve been buying a lot of things: a nice watch, some cool folding knives, some tools and outdoor gear. It’s fun! But as I give in to these impulse purchases, I notice that the thrill doesn’t last that long, and it leaves me wanting more. And of course it dawns on me that this is a lesson I’ve learned a thousand times: Buying things rarely gives me any kind of fulfillment.”

Is it hoarding, collecting, or archiving? [Psychology Today] — “Do we want to be the gatekeepers and key-holders of the past, especially when the past is shared with others who are no longer with us? Those keys, and the rings that hold them, can turn into heavy chains, however, and no longer represent merely healthy ties that bind.”

Developing a “good enough” mindset to increase financial contentment. [Nerd’s Eye View] — “Because they can never have it all, Maximizers will generally suffer a lot of regrets. Hindsight is always 20/20 and this can be very disconcerting for Maximizers – How did they (or their advisor!?) not know to sell!? How did they (or their advisor!) not know to buy? Or not see the bubble? They are never (or very rarely) going to be fully satisfied with any result, no matter how hard the advisor (or even the client themselves) tries.”

Lastly, here’s yet another article about the current real-estate market. I tried to make it through an entire installment without mentioning housing…but I can’t. Sorry!

The biggest differences between today’s market and the housing bubble of the mid-2000s. [A Wealth of Common Sense] – “Don’t avoid buying a house because you think prices are too high. Avoid buying a house if you think your financial circumstances don’t warrant buying a house right now…Your personal decision to buy a home or not should be based on your own personal finances, not some macro forecast about housing prices.”

And that’s all she wrote for Wednesday. Take care, my friends, and come back tomorrow for more Apex Money.

We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship.

Hello, Apexians, and welcome to Tuesday.

Although I didn’t mention it yesterday, Kim and I made an offer on a house over the weekend. We found a nice home listed for $649,000 and decided we loved it enough to throw our hat in the ring. After hours of crunching numbers in spreadsheets, we offered $777,777 (not joking) with no repairs required and a $50,000 appraisal gap waiver.

Crazy, right? Yes, it is.

But the even crazier thing is that there are likely ten or twenty other offers on the place — and most of those are probably for more than we’re willing to pay. I’d be shocked if our offer is even in the top five.

The housing market is batshit crazy right now. And because I’m still deep in this process, my first two stories are about various aspects of that craziness.

“My experience selling my house FSBO — for sale by owner.” [/r/RealEstate on Reddit] — “One risk I didn’t realize is Real Estate agents hate FSBO. Hate it. Some will not show your property to their client (they told me this). Others will try and trick you into making a mistake so they can get you delisted and you will have to go with an agent. Be leery of agents asking for anything special.”

We’d rather have the iceberg than the ship. [Granola Shotgun] — “Thirty years from now all the new homes she’s selling will slip into the ‘old’ category and will gradually fester as taxes rise and the middle class migrates to new greenfield developments. These older places (the homes being built today) will then be populated by lower class people with fewer resources and less status thereby reinforcing the perception that it’s best to move on if at all possible. These are fungible, forgettable, disposable places that rapidly age and are then left to quietly decay.”

“I’ve saved too much. What should I splurge on? [Bogleheads forum] — “I am 72 and have saved far more than our needs. I thank the powers-that-be for my good fortune. I need less than 1% of my investments annually to maintain our lifestyle, and most of that 1% is spent in give-aways to grown-up kids (and grandkids) and charity…After decades of being sensible, what are your splurges in your 70s and 80s?”

Why one man has gone two decades without money. [Capital Daily] — “Motivated by reasons more pure than stress relief, Johnston ditched money almost two decades ago, and he says there’s no going back. His last purchases—beer, cigarettes, pot—occurred 18 years ago, he says, on his 31st birthday. He claims he hasn’t spent any money since. It’s true, his friends have told me. No money at all.”

While the above story is interesting, it’s important to point out that the subject in question has gone without money the same way Henry David Thoreau lived a life of simplicity by Walden Pond: by relying on the money of others. Neither person truly gave up cash. They just let others use cash for them.

Okay, that’s it for Tuesday. Come back tomorrow. Maybe I won’t have any stories about real estate? (But honestly? I probably will.)

The right to repair.

Good morning, Apex Nation!

I’ve spent the past ten days hunting for houses in a town 90 minutes south of Portland. As a result, I haven’t had much time to read about personal finance. That said, I have seen a handful of videos that I’ve enjoyed, so today’s edition of Apex Money is 100% video for the first time ever. Let’s take a look.

In this 57-second clip, Louis Rossman explains why the “right to repair” is so important. More and more, bit corporations — including Apple, a company I love — are making it difficult (or impossible) for everyday people to repair their products. In fact, they’re making it difficult for even professionals to repair their products. Why? Profit. Here, Rossman explains why this is an issue.

Why should you care? Because stripping the ability to repair items drives up costs…and creates a “disposable” society where instead of repairing things, we replace them. It sucks.

Anyhow, here’s Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak lending support to Louis’ video. This is a longer video (nearly ten minutes) but it provides more context into why the right to repair is so important.

Next up, I like this clip from the Dave Ramsey show in which the conversation veers to a very important subject: why telling people what to do doesn’t work.

I’ve seen this from both sides. I’ve seen people who want to tell others, and I’ve seen people who have been on the other end. It’s always the same. Generally speaking, folks are happy to hear your story (if it’s genuine and heartfelt) but they hate being lectured. That’s it. That’s all you need to know.

Lastly, here’s a video that has nothing whatsoever to do with money. It’s the video for the song “Oh!” by The Linda Lindas (a punk rock band made up of teen-age and pre-teen girls).

I can’t explain it, but I love everything about this: the music, the video, the sheer dorkiness of everything going on here. Sign me up!

And that’s it for this Monday. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with more great stuff. See you then!

Word gap because of stress

One of the things I noticed during the pandemic, a period of high stress, was that I was getting terse and annoyed at our kids more often.

It’s like a house guest that stays too long… things that you could endure for a little bit start to magnify. And when they stay for 24-hours a day for 18 months, it’s not surprising that all the annoying things that your kids do become really really really annoying. (thankfully we have camps and whatnot now so the kids are, for the most part, back to a regular schedule)

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, right? Presence, especially 24 hours and 18 months, makes the heart … something else. 🙂

This is all to say that this next finding is not at all surprising to me and a good reminder that I have to be better:

Word gap: When money’s tight, parents talk less to kids [Berkeley News] – “While parenting deficiencies have long been blamed for the word gap, new UC Berkeley research implicates the economic context in which parenting takes place — in other words, the wealth gap. The findings, published this month in the journal Developmental Science, provide the first evidence that parents may talk less to their kids when experiencing financial scarcity.”

I bet you could replace financial scarcity with general chronic stress (which is harder to measure) and find similar results.

a million chances to fail [The Reformed Broker] – “Poisoning an audience and selling it the antidote takes very little talent. Holding the audience’s hand, through thick and thin, ups and downs, through years and decades of fear and greed – that’s about the hardest thing you can do in this industry. It’s what Jack Bogle did for longer than anyone. It’s admirable because it’s so hard.”

Ethereum Co-Founder Says Safety Concern Has Him Quitting Crypto [Bloomberg] – “Di Iorio, 48, has had a security team since 2017, with someone traveling with or meeting him wherever he goes. In coming weeks, he plans to sell Decentral Inc., and refocus on philanthropy and other ventures not related to crypto. The Canadian expects to sever ties in time with other startups he is involved with, and doesn’t plan on funding any more blockchain projects.” Hmmm…

Finally, how forgery experts determine if a painting is fake, specifically a Jackson Pollock.

Stores are using facial recognition!

If the idea of being shown ads for something you only talked about with your friends was creepy…

From Macy’s to Ace Hardware, facial recognition is already everywhere [Vox] – “While you may not have heard of it before, stores using facial recognition isn’t a new practice. Last year, Reuters reported that the drug chain Rite Aid had deployed facial recognition in at least 200 stores over nearly a decade (before the company suddenly committed to ditching the software). In fact, facial recognition is just one of several technologies store chains are deploying to enhance their security systems, or to otherwise surveil customers. Some retailers, for instance, have used apps and in-store wifi to track users while they move around physical stores and later target them with online ads.” I wasn’t aware this was happening and it kind of reminds me of the ads in Minority Report.

Some Fascinating Retirement Statistics… [The Retirement Manifesto] – “Today, I’m pleased to publish the resulting work and share what I’ve found during my research. A variety of fascinating retirement statistics, dedicated to all of the fellow retirement nerds in the house.” Some big eye openers in this one… and one reason likely why “society” scoffs on the idea early retirement.

As you may know, I love a good list of hacks… 🙂

33 Invaluable Travel Hacks From Experienced Jet-Setters [InsideHook] – “So, to make things moderately less frustrating, we went ahead and asked some of expert jet-setters — agents, bloggers and various other industry professionals — for their top tips and tricks for navigating the often rocky terrain that is travel. The result is a compendium of wayfaring wisdom that will make budget-friendly travel feel more accessible and the process as a whole hopefully more palatable. We hope that you’ll soon find the opportunity to put them to good use.”

Could you live on half your income?

Challenge your assumptions!

Could You Live on Half Your Income if it Would Make You Free? [Financial Success M.D.] – “When I discuss living on half of one’s income, I’m almost always met with, “that would be impossible for me.” They say it as if it were a fact, that some outside source is preventing them from living on significantly less than they make. This outside source is somehow keeping them from saving a good sum of their income. Non-physicians point to the fact that I’m a physician, and I can do it because doctors make a lot of money. I then point out that when I was a resident, and our combined household income was below $50,000, my wife and I lived on half of our income.” It’s important to challenge one’s assumptions about what’s possible.

This powerful video about The Chicken & The Eagle is all about assumptions and your decisions:

Thoughts on Free Will [David Perell] – “My friend Chris Sparks says: “When it comes to creating your environment, assume you have free will. When it comes to living in it, assume you have no free will.”” I love this quote.

Be wary of financial advice on social media

If you get advice from social media, it’s not 100% bad but you have to realize that they’re usually just regular people who may not know 100% everything accurately. Donna shares a few ideas to keep in mind if you get advice from influencers.

TikTok is not a fiduciary! A cautionary tale. [Donna Freedman] – “According to a poll from CreditCards.com, 28% of Gen Zers look for advice from “social media platforms and influencers.” Of the other demographics, 24% of millennials, 10% of Gen Xers and 4% of Baby Boomers get advice there.”

What would you pay for autonomous driving? Volkswagen hopes $8.50 per hour [ArsTechnica] – “Volkswagen’s real moneymaker might be autonomous driving, though. “In autonomous driving, we can imagine that we switch it on by the hour. We assume a price of around seven euros per hour. So if you don’t want to drive yourself for three hours, you can do it for 21 euros,” said Klaus Zellmer, chief sales officer of the Volkswagen brand.” Yes, 100% I’d pay $8.50 an hour especially if it means the car itself is more affordable. No brainer.

The Bank Robbers Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight (Or Do Anything Right, Really) [Narratively] – “When the Duffy Brothers were deported from the U.S, they hatched a plan to bring Bonnie-and-Clyde-style armed robbery across the pond. Their plan had more holes than a bullet-riddled safe.” Enjoy this one. 🙂

33 ways to simplify your life

I like things to be simple.

When you’re young and feel like you’re smart, you like things complicated. You can figure it out, when others seemingly can’t, and it’s fun.

As you get older and have more responsibility, complications just weigh you down physically and mentally. That mental weight is especially pernicious because it’s also invisible. You can’t see it, you only feel it. And it can lead to feelings of inadequacy.

The solution isn’t to power though, it’s to simplify. To reduce your meaningless (or low value) burdens so you can devote your energy to high leverage decisions.

33 Ways To Simplify Your Life (And Be Happier For It) [Mr Porter] – “Research shows that the average person makes about 35,000 remotely conscious decisions each day. While many are complete no-brainers, “decision fatigue” is a recognised form of stress. By rationalising your daily routine you can streamline the process and make better choices that will ultimately leave you feeling happier and with more time to do the things that really matter. Read our list below and consider adopting some new practices for better mental (and physical) health.” Don’t try to do them all, just cherry pick what is easiest for you to implement today and try one.

(for all the O.G. content creators out there, do you miss the days when someone would put “and #8 will BLOW YOUR MIND” in titles as clickbait???)

How to Do Long Term [Collaborative Fund] – “Saying you have a 10-year time horizon doesn’t exempt you from all the nonsense that happens during the next 10 years. Everyone has to experience the recessions, the bear markets, the meltdowns, the surprises and the memes at the same time. So rather than assuming long-term thinkers don’t have to deal with nonsense, the question becomes how can you endure a neverending parade of nonsense.”

Now for something fun – SkyMall! (kinda)

Instagram Has Become SkyMall [Debugger] – “The thing is, SkyMall was a blast. It was so consistently unhinged — night-glow toilet seat! seabreacher customized boat! wine-glass-holder necklace! — that I began to look forward to thumbing through the catalogue while nursing a plastic tumbler of scotch. It was the high point of my flight.” I’m not active on Instagram and while I don’t need more consumerism in my life, I do appreciate that the “SkyMall” experience is back for the next generation.

Stop letting the news control your life.

It’s Friday! Friday! Friday! And although I’m a few hours late, I’m here (as always) with some of the best money stories from around the web. Stories like these…

TikTok is not a fiduciary. [Surviving and Thriving] — “No matter where you get your money edumacation, remember that it’s never one-size-fits-all. It can’t be. A guy who’s just finished a two-year HVAC program is likely to have lots of job offers and maybe even a signing bonus. His options are completely different than those of a 23-year-old with massive student loans and a modest starter salary.”

How to stop letting the news control your life. [Steve Adcock] — “I slowly began to realize a giant flaw in my assumption. I wasn’t staying informed at all. I wasn’t helping society a bit, and it damn well wasn’t improving my overall happiness. Instead, I was letting myself fall victim to information warfare, designed – not just reported, by hugely-profitable entities with a direct and verifiable interest in keeping me tuned in.”

Some Chinese have shunned grueling careers for a “low-desire life”. [Associated Press] — “The trend echoes similar ones in Japan and other countries where young people have embraced anti-materialist lifestyles in response to bleak job prospects and bruising competition for shrinking economic rewards.”

Welcome to the church of Bitcoin. [Rolling Stone] — “Ask Bitcoiners (and I mean real, hardcore Bitcoin acolytes, not cryptotourists dabbling in dogecoin) what Bitcoin means to them and you’ll find that they grow passionate and misty-eyed. Often, becoming a Bitcoiner is not all that dissimilar from the transformative awakening of someone who’s undergone a radical spiritual conversion.”

And I will leave you today with this lovely — almost fake — 34-second video of fireflies on a summer night.

Kim and I saw something similar to this (but better!) in northeastern Oklahoma during our 15-month RV trip. It was amazing. We don’t get lightning bugs here in Oregon. I’m not sure they exist west of the Rockies. So, it’s always a pleasure to experience them in real life.

That’s it, my friends. I’m out of here. Jim will be back on Monday with another week of financial goodness. See you then.