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Green tea ice cream (and Hot Wheels).

Welcome to Monday, my nerds. We have a lot of great stuff today. In fact, this is one of my favorite batches of links that I’ve ever gathered. Set aside some time during your lunch break, because there’s a lot too enjoy here.

To start, let’s talk about Costco. (Have you noticed I have a low-key obsession with Costco? This is the fourth story about Costco I’ve shared in the past year.)

How Costco convinces brands to cannibalize themselves. [Napkin Math] — “While customers might not know it, Kirkland products are often made by the same manufacturers who make the branded products that sit next to them on the shelves. And not only that, but according to a Reddit user who worked at a Costco supplier, Kirkland products have to be at least 1% better than the equivalent branded products…Costco forces manufacturers to compete with a better version of themselves.”

In non-Costco-related news…

The battle to invent the automatic rice cooker. [Atlas Obscura] — “The automatic rice cooker is a mid-century Japanese invention that made a Sisyphean culinary labor as easy as measuring out grain and water and pressing a button. These devices can seem all-knowing. So long as you add water and rice in the right proportions, it’s nearly impossible to mess up, as the machines stop cooking at exactly the right point for toothsome rice. But creating an automatic rice cooker was not so easy.”

The collectors who spend thousands on rare Hot Wheels. [The Hustle] — “Five decades ago, Hot Wheels were America’s hottest new plaything. Today, the children of the ‘60s are fueling a small but mighty collectors’ market that wheels and deals in obscure corners of the internet…How did one-time 59-cent toy cars become 5-figure collectibles? And what drives grown men and women to spend princely sums chasing them?”

For the past decade, Brain Pickings has been one of my favorite blogs. Here, Maria Popova shares what she’s learned during her thirteen years running the site. I particularly like #3…

Thirteen lessons from thirteen years of Brain Pickings. [Brain Pickings] — “3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. ..To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”

Lastly, I really liked this four-minute music video from Linda Diaz (and friends). It’s her submission to NPR’s Tiny Desk contest. It’s lovely.

Okay, I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stories from around the web. And I promise that this time they’ll be about, you know, money. (Or something close to it.)

7 Phases of Retirement

On August 7th, I thought it would be fun to share a post from Retire by 40 and Joe’s 7 Phases of Retirement!

How fitting, right?

I like this post not because it’s seven phases and today is August 7th, I like it because it shows you a glimpse of how he sees his retirement progressing. He’s right in that it’s not a singular moment in time in which all work stops. It’s more like a transition and he shares what his family has done so far and where he attempts to predict what the future will be. It’s a way healthier vision of retirement than the traditional “hit 65 and full stop.”

Updated Joe’s 7 Phases of Retirement [Retire by 40] – “… we shouldn’t think of retirement like jumping off a cliff. Retirement would be much easier if we take it in phases, one step at a time. This way we can gradually work toward full retirement and enjoy the journey along the way.”

(this is also a good time to share with you Tanja’s post on the first two years of their early retirement because it shows a slightly different transition)

This Man Owns The World’s Most Advanced Private Air Force After Buying 46 F/A-18 Hornets [The Drive] – “For the last 30 years, Don Kirlin has been flying for the airlines, working on real estate deals, setting up the world’s biggest skydiving meets, and building a private air force the likes of which even he has a hard time believing is possible.” 35 of the 46 are already flying and the remaining 11 just need to be inspected. Wild!

Put on your seatbelts because the private air force thing is wild in a way that wouldn’t make for a good movie… but this next one is wild in exactly that way:

Tea Boy to Tattooed Trader: A Secret Tipster’s Life and Death [Bloomberg] – “By the time the concierge reached James Harris last June, he was lying in the hallway outside his apartment, arms and legs shaking, gasping for air. Although an ambulance crew raced in and administered an antidote for opiate overdoses, Harris’s pulse returned only briefly. Three minutes later, the 42-year-old British trader was dead.”

That’s it for me Apexian, J.D. is back next week with your gems!

Make time for what’s important

Being quarantined has been challenging but it does highlight what is important in life – the people closest to you.

It’s easy to look at the things we cannot do and get upset, especially after you read the 3rd article, but I implore you to think about what this pandemic has enabled and to be grateful for the things we still have.

Make time for what’s important [Gentleman’s Family Finances] – “e told a story about how when he was a kid he used to meet with his Granddad every Friday evening to play a game of chess and chat. When he went to university he started to get distracted by dancehalls and line-dancing (or whatever was popular in the 80s) and didn’t get to his Granddad’s for a few weeks his Granddad asked him where he’d been. “I’ve just been busy with…” was the answer and what his Granddad said has stuck with me to this day “well son, you make time for what’s important”.”

10 Daily Habits to be Happier, Healthier and Wealthier [Debt Free Guys] – “We go on to share our top three habits for improving your wellbeing and challenge you to do little things that will better your mental and physical health. Listen in for advice on implementing simple money habits that will build wealth over time and learn what you can do TODAY to be a happier, healthier member of the queer community—well on your way to financial freedom!”

How the Pandemic Defeated America [The Atlantic] – “In the first half of 2020, SARS‑CoV‑2—the new coronavirus behind the disease COVID‑19—infected 10 million people around the world and killed about half a million. But few countries have been as severely hit as the United States, which has just 4 percent of the world’s population but a quarter of its confirmed COVID‑19 cases and deaths. These numbers are estimates. The actual toll, though undoubtedly higher, is unknown, because the richest country in the world still lacks sufficient testing to accurately count its sick citizens.”

The Cold War Bunker That Became Home to a Dark-Web Empire [The New Yorker] – “In the mid-nineteen-seventies, the West German Army, the Bundeswehr, built a vast underground bunker near the town of Traben-Trarbach. It was five stories deep, had nearly sixty thousand square feet of floor space, and was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Eighty days’ worth of survival provisions were stored inside, including an emergency power supply and more than a million litres of drinking water.”

Happy Thursday!

Why credit card fraud is still a thing in the United States

When we went to Europe ages ago, all their credit cards had chip and pin. This wasn’t last year, this was like ten years ago.

The reason it’s so common there is because it prevents a lot of fraud.

We don’t have it as much here … and that’s why fraud is still so prevalent:

Here’s Why Credit Card Fraud is Still a Thing [Krebs on Security] – “Most of the civilized world years ago shifted to requiring computer chips in payment cards that make it far more expensive and difficult for thieves to clone and use them for fraud. One notable exception is the United States, which is still lurching toward this goal. Here’s a look at the havoc that lag has wrought, as seen through the purchasing patterns at one of the underground’s biggest stolen card shops that was hacked last year.”

Derek Sivers & The Art of Enough [Brendan Cahill] – “Derek Sivers is an American entrepreneur and musician (now living in New Zealand) who was the CEO of one of the first digital music stores “CDBaby” in the early 2000s. Derek Sivers might be one of my favorite writers and entrepreneurs. I came across Derek’s book Anything You Want a few years ago when I was reaching burn out amounts of stress from juggling being a full time teacher in a tough school district, running a coaching business and also trying to be a good husband in a new marriage. My goal is to pack as much Sivers wisdom into one spot so you won’t have to go crawling through the internet for it. Enjoy!”

Justice Department Is Scrutinizing Takeover of Credit Karma by Intuit, Maker of TurboTax [ProPublica] – “The Department of Justice is scrutinizing Silicon Valley giant Intuit’s $7 billion takeover attempt of Credit Karma, an upstart personal finance firm that became a competitor when it launched a free tax prep offering that challenges Intuit’s TurboTax product.”

Finally, enjoy this gem:
The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That [GQ] – “What if we told you there was a man who had unlocked the secret to human joy? That despite all the pain and suffering and bad news out there, a monk on a mountaintop in Nepal has discovered a kind of template for How to Be Happy. In fact, so wise and ebullient is Matthieu Ricard that he’s been celebrated as “The Happiest Man in the World.” (Please don’t call him that.) We needed to meet this guy! So we sent Michael Paterniti to the hinterlands to learn how we all might make our lives a bit happier”

See you tomorrow!

There is no set price

We’ve been quarantining at home for months and while it hasn’t been great, we’re very fortunate.

I can’t imagine what it’s like to have to 1. get a Covid test and then 2. find out it’s going to cost a pretty sizable mortgage payment. Yikes.

How a $175 COVID-19 Test Led to $2,479 in Charges [ProPublica] – “A global pandemic ravaging America is no time to forget the first rule of American health care: There is no set price. One out-of-network medical provider in Texas seeks permission from patients to charge fees as high as six-figures to their insurance.”

To Take Care of Others, Start by Taking Care of Yourself [Harvard Business Review] – “As physical distancing continues, we need to make sure that we help alleviate the isolation, loneliness, depression, anxiety, and other mental health impacts that will result, driving a potentially system-overwhelming curve of their own. And now is the time to head off this second crisis.” Co-written by Whitney Johnson, it’s a good read and good reminder right now.

This next thing is just really cool. I’m not sure if I’ll be a buyer but I like the idea of it:

This Startup Is Making A Food Container That Detects How Much Time is Left Before Your Food Spoils [The Spoon] – “Most of us can detect food spoilage by smelling the ammonia emitted as food decomposes, but by the time that happens, it’s usually too late to save the item. According to one of the company’s founders, BlakBear’s sensors are up to 100 times more sensitive than the human nose when it comes to detecting spoilage.”

I think reducing food spoilage is a super way to save money and now that we’re home, we very rarely trash food this way, but something like this built into a container and easily reusable would be fantastic.

See you tomorrow!

The racial wealth chasm

I will let this chart speak for itself:

10 myths about the racial wealth gap [AXIOS] – “For years, there’s been a popular notion — even among some Black people — that the wealth difference between white and Black Americans could be closed if Black folks collectively ‘got it together.'”

I wanted to share the first article because as human beings, we tend to gravitate towards convenient narratives. This is especially true with complex subjects that we know very little about. Black Americans would be wealthier if they would just stop [insert convenient idea here]. The data, which has no inherent bias, doesn’t support any of those convenient ideas.

Speaking of ridiculous ideas, I once joking told J.D. that I wish I had a massive debt payoff story so more people would subscribe to my blog…

How to Ruin a Good Debt Payoff Story in Seven Easy Steps [Burrito Bowl Diaries] – “This is embarrassing for me to talk about but if it can help one person ruin their lives financially only to later become an inspirational figure by overcoming their self-inflicted financial wound then it’s worth it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my day. Most notably, I tried to always use common sense. This has made many of my life experiences unrelatable to the general population.”

I am the one thing in life I can control [Get Rich Slowly] – “Around noon on Day Two, as I exited I-80 in south-central Wyoming, I was listening to Hamilton for the fourth time in 24 hours when I was smacked in the brain by a lyric I hadn’t heard before. I pulled off the side of the road to think about it — and to make some notes.”

Eight Shocking Secrets I Learned While Working on Private Jets [Bloomberg] – “From comforting naked celebrities who are afraid of flying to cleaning up after pet (and human) accidents, nothing is surprising among those who fly privately for a living.”

Boom! Enjoy the day!

“We’re the kids in America!”

It’s Friday, folks. Let’s have some fun.

And let’s start the day with a video! That has nothing to do with money! Here’s a young man (and his family) explaining what it was like for one of his baby photos to become a popular early photo meme (“success kid”) that still gets used frequently a decade later.

Speaking of kids, here are a couple of recent articles about children…

How to teach kids about saving and investing. [Refined by Fire] — “I knew I had my work cut out for me. After all, finance is supposed to be boring, right? And my son was young so to tach him I had to make it simple and quick to understand. I knew that it had to be his idea or he would not be engaged. I knew I had to wait for a teachable moment. I knew I had to capture his undivided attention…but how?” Part one of a new, ongoing series. I heard this presentation at Camp FI recently and loved it. This is going to be good!

Children are using emojis for digital-age language learning. [Wired] — “🦄🐴🦋🐛🐤🐦🐦🐧🐔🐣🐶🐱🐭🐰🐰🐰❄️❄️🌦🌈🔥💥☀️🍓🥞❣️💙💚💛🧡🔒💕💜🖤💞💞💗💖💘🕉💝☸️💟 These emoji texts are adorable, but as a linguist, I’m interested in what kids are trying to communicate.”

Lastly, and simply to justify the title I chose for today’s edition (which I chose before collecting and writing everything), here’s Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong doing a quarantine-inspired cover of Kim Wilde’s classic “Kids in America”.

True story: When my brother Jeff and I were young and discovering pop music, this was one of the first songs we both loved. And I love it to this day. For twenty years, one of my favorite music playlists has been built around this song.

Okay, I’m out. This weekend, I have a fallen fence to demolish. And maybe a kayak to paddle. Wherever you are, I hope that you enjoy a fun and productive end to July (and start to August). We’ll see you again next Monday.

How Americans learned to love their lawns.

Welcome to Thursday, Apexians. It’s high summer here in Oregon. It’s hot. Blackberries are ripe. Tomatoes are coming on. The hydrangeas are showing their stuff. And nothing sounds better than relaxing in a lawn chair with a cool beverage in hand…

A brief history of the lawn chair. [Valet] — “The rise of this all-American staple coincided with the growth of suburbs after World War II, when homes with larger lawns were suddenly more affordable. Aluminum production soared during the war, since it was used in the structural framing of military aircraft. After the war, manufacturers sought other uses for the strong yet lightweight material. Turns out, narrow aluminum tubing was great for making chairs.”

And hey — why not? — let’s put today’s video in the middle of the list! Here’s a seven-minute video from The New York Times that explains how Americans learned to love their front lawns.

You know, as long as we’re doing the whole 1950s suburbia thing, how about this story that has nothing to do with money and everything to do with bowling?

The most amazing bowling story ever. [D Magazine] — “He had 33 straight strikes entering the 10th frame of the third game. Out came the cell phone cameras. There were whispers, but as soon as Fong picked up his ball, it was dead quiet. He turned to look at the crowd behind him, now well over 100 people, densely packed from the end of the snack bar to the vending machines 80 feet away. That’s when the magic left him…” [Related: Bowling a perfect game in 90 seconds.]

“Decorating our home with thrift-store finds.” [Financial Mechanic] — “I have recently been shopping to furnish our new apartment. I am perpetually taken aback by every price tag…Sticker shock aside, thrifting is about more than just money. Every item you thrift is another item that doesn’t need to go to a landfill.”

A half million dollars by thirty. [A Purple Life] — “Now, enough with those squishy emotions. Let’s get into some nerdy analysis! I was curious how much of my net worth is from after-tax savings from my earnings, compared to how much the market contributed, so let’s look at it!”

And that’s all for today! I’ll be back tomorrow to take you into the weekend — a weekend during which I hope we will all relax after bowling by sitting in thrift-store lawn chairs purchased with our half-million-dollar nest eggs! 🙂

Earning more is NOT cheating.

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds, and welcome to another edition of Apex Money. As always, we’ve collected some money news worth reading to share with you. Ready? Let’s go!

Secrets of a successful, strategic, and short job search. [Bitches Get Riches] — “A successful job search means treating the search like it’s literally your job, like you’re getting paid to do it. Yes, being temporarily unemployed is a great time to relax a bit and catch up on important shit like house work, your mental and physical health…But once you’ve recharged your metaphorical batteries, you need to buckle down and get organized to have a prayer of being hired.”

Things to remember once you decide to take charge of your financial life. [The Simple Dollar] — “The truth about turning around your financial life is that it gets easier as you go. At first, it feels like the changes are endless and very difficult, but as time passes, not only do the changes feel easier, the impact of those changes begins to multiply.”

Earning more is not cheating. [The Escape Artist] — “I’m here to tell you that earning more money is not impossible…nor illegal…nor unethical. I’d go as far as saying that earning more is A Good Thing. The time it takes to get to financial independence depends on your savings rate. And, let’s be honest, its easier to save 50+% of your income when you’re on a higher income.” This is such an important point. It baffles me that there are people who feel guilt over their high incomes. [See also the second part in this series.]

Myths (and truths) of the 17th century tulip craze. [Smithsonian Magazine] — “For decades, economists have pointed to 17th-century tulipmania as a warning about the perils of the free market. Writers and historians have reveled in the absurdity of the event. The incident even provides the backdrop for the new film Tulip Fever, based on a novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach. The only problem: none of these stories are true.”

Our last item today is something completely different. From the blog of film director Steven Soderbergh, here’s a look at how “staging” affects a film. Soderbergh has taken Raiders of the Lost Ark and stripped it of color and sound. He wants us, the audience, to watch this stripped-down version to analyze why Steven Spielberg made the choices he made.

Anyhow, I didn’t watch the whole thing (it’s two hours long!) but I did watch a few minutes. It was fascinating. (Also: Raiders looks amazing in black and white!)

That’s it for Hump Day, my friends. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

The best side gig is spending less.

Good morning, my friends, and welcome to another day of Apex Money. As always, we’ve collected some excellent money stories from other corners of the web. Let’s jump right in.

Is there a passive-investing bubble? [Early Retirement Now] — “If you buy a total market index then you will automatically hold all of the overvalued and all of the undervalued stocks. In the end, everything just averages out…In other words, too much passive investing may create misvaluations within the stock market, not necessarily a misvaluation of the market overall.”

The best side gig is spending less. [The White Coat Investor] — “As a doctor or other high-income professional, you’ve already done very well in the income game. Before you try to generate more offense, at least take a quick look at the defensive side of the game and plug the holes in the dam. (How’s that for a mixed metaphor?)”

When your true hourly wage is more important than your salary. [The Fioneers] — “Once you get to the point where you make enough to live on and save, you can begin to focus on increasing your true hourly rate beyond increasing your salary. You can cut costs associated with working and decrease the time you spend doing work-related things. When you do this, it can free up your time to focus on things that you enjoy and find meaningful.”

Finally for today, from the Stories of Animals channel on YouTube, here’s a two-minute clip highlighting a dog who was raised by cats…and now thinks he’s a cat.

I don’t know why, but I find this entire story charming. I love the idea of a dog doing cat things. It tickles my funny bone.

Okay, that’s all for Tuesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff. Come on back, y’here?