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Apex Money Posts

The upside of Covid-19

The pandemic has been terrible but if you wanted to find a silver lining, this might be it.

What We Leave Behind [No Mercy / No Malice] – “Covid-19 has presented an opportunity to envision our lives when turned upside down, powder redistributed. We can start over. We hoard relationships and the accoutrements of a life others have fashioned for us. We often don’t know any better, or don’t have the confidence to draw outside the lines until we’re older. My colleague professor Adam Alter has done research on the regrets of the dying. One of the biggest: not living the life they wanted to lead, but the life others chose for them.”

🔮 The exponential march of solar energy [Exponential View] – “This plunge in prices has far exceeded any credible forecast. Solar electricity in 2020 is roughly half the cost I projected in 2011, and one quarter the cost the International Energy Agency (the IEA) projected in 2010. Both the world’s foremost energy authority (the IEA) and possibly the world’s biggest optimist on solar (me) were wrong.”

You can’t stop the sun!

And before you go – here’s everything you need to know to survive Covid-19 from sci-fi and horror movies (both funny, scary and sad at the same time):

Should you be starting a business?

With unemployment at historic levels, it’s time to revisit the idea that during a recession is the best time to start a business.

Is a Recession Really the Best Time to Start a Business? [Marker/Medium] – “Considering how awful it is to be a human now, it seems like an even worse time to become an entrepreneur. [..] Some of the entrepreneurs I spoke with come from money and have prestigious business degrees. Others are working with whatever resources they can scrape together. All of them seem to think that right now is a perfectly reasonable time to start a business.”

I think that everyone should start some kind of side hustle, whether it’s a business that can grow into something big or just a little extra cash on the side. It provides insurance for your income.

One country, two monetary systems [JP Koning] – “For a few months now, something strange has happened to Yemen’s banknotes. Old rials and new rials have ceased to be fungible. Any rial note that was printed prior to 2016 is now worth around 10% more than newer rial notes.

More generally, the entire Yemeni monetary system has split on the basis of banknote age. From a Western perspective, it would be as if every single U.S. banknote issued with a Steve Mnuchin signature on it, the current Treasury Secretary, were worth 10% less than bills signed five years ago by his predecessor Jack Lew.”

The Three Sides of Risk [Collaborative Fund] – “In investing, the average consequences of risk make up most of the daily news headlines. But the tail-end consequences of risk – like pandemics, and depressions – are what make the pages of history books. They’re all that matter. They’re all you should focus on. We spent the last decade debating whether economic risk meant the Federal Reserve set interest rates at 0.25% or 0.5%. Then 36 million people lost their jobs in two months because of a virus. It’s absurd.”

Just so we don’t end on a bit of a down note…

Axios Sports: 50 Best Sports Documentaries [AXIOS] – “👋 Good morning! The bad news is ‘The Last Dance’ is officially over. The good news is there are hundreds of other sports documentaries waiting to be watched, and this morning, we’re hooking you up with our ‘Top 50 of all time.'”

Have a good week!

The revenge of the latte factor.

It’s freaky Friday, friends! You know what that means. Time for another batch of awesome money links as we head into the weekend.

How to have “the talk” with your parents about aging and money. [Smart Money Mamas podcast] — “Remember when your parents had the birds and the bees conversation with you? Well, now it’s your turn to sit down with your parents for ‘the talk’. Talking about aging and money with our parents can be scary – but it is so necessary in order to avoid harder situations in the future.”

Consumer Reports reviews food delivery services. [Consumer Reports] — “Just how good is the service you receive when you use a food delivery app? CR decided to evaluate consumers’ experiences with four major players in this market—DoorDash, Grubhub, Postmates, and Uber Eats—to see just how well they performed. We also reached out to all four companies with specific questions about their services and about the issues we identified.”

The revenge of the latte factor. [Monevator] — “It was always obvious you can take frugality and compound interest to extremes. I once called it Buffett’s Folly, in honour of Warren Buffett’s house of the same name. Even as he bought his property in 1957, Buffett calculated the $31,500 home cost him at least a million dollars…But Buffett still lives in exactly the same house, 63 years later.”

Bike sales surge as Americans seek to avoid mass transit and get exercise. [The Philadelphia Inquirer] — “Bike shops across the nation are seeing a spike in demand. With gyms closed, some consumers switched to bikes for exercise and stress relief…As America slowly reopens, commuters are turning to bicycles to stay away from crowds in subways and buses. More than 80% of Americans see cycling as safer than taking public transportation.” Wow

And now for something completely different…

I’m a long-time videogame player. I came of age in the late 1970s, so cut my teeth on the Atari 2600 and the Apple II. From there, I’ve played all sorts of games. Having said that, my gaming tastes are currently stuck in the late 1990s. I don’t play a lot of modern action games. But that might change.

The next version of Unreal Engine — a tool for game designers — was revealed recently and the worlds it can create are mind boggling. I mean, take a look at this demo.

Truly stunning stuff. And it just might make me start playing more modern games.

Speaking of which, this week I fell into the pit that is Animal Crossing: New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch. So fun! And such a timesink. I’m not even a week in yet, so I’m really just getting my island set up. Can’t wait to buy turnips and play the Stalk Market starting on Sunday.

Okay, that’s all for today. See you on the flip side…

It’s time to get on the bidet train, America!

Good morning, money nerds. Today is Thursday and this is Apex Money.

Okay, today we’re going to lead with our bonus video. This has nothing to do with money. Instead, it’s a 26-minute video of a guy solving a complex (almost impossible!) Sudoku puzzle. Sound boring? It’s not. In fact, if you’re like me you’ll end up watching the whole damn thing.

Almost half a million views on YouTube in the ten days it’s been online — 24,000 upvotes and only 131 downvotes. That’s how good this video is.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to our regularly-scheduled money stories.

Could the coronavirus lead to larger homes and office spaces? [HousingWire] — “The idea that a distributed work environment can be as or more productive than a traditional office environment does not have universal buy-in. For most CEOs, the jury still is out on how productive workers are when they work from home.”

The simplest way to make up for portfolio losses. [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “This is more about optics than anything but psychological tricks can be helpful during down markets because behavior is the first thing to go during stressful markets. Sometimes you have to fool yourself into staying the course because the temptation to sell is so great when prices are all over the place.”

It’s time to get on the bidet train, America. [Mother Jones] — “Americans have a toilet paper addiction. And it’s not just causing mass anxiety — it’s taking a toll on the planet. But, I have some good news: There is a better way to avoid fights in the supermarket and environmental devastation. America, it’s time to embrace the bidet.”

True story: I first used a bidet in Argentina in 2012. Well, I tried to use it. I couldn’t figure it out. Then, over the next few years, I used bidets in France and Italy and began to see their virtues. When we bought our current home in 2017, one of the first things we did was install a bidet on our toilet. It was cheap and easy. We love it. It doesn’t completely eliminate the need for toilet paper, but it certainly reduces it. Plus, I come away feeling much, much cleaner!

That’s it for today, my friends. I’ll be back tomorrow to help you close out your week. See you then.

The now or later fallacy.

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds. Come on in. We’re glad to have you here at Apex Money. Here are a few of the best personal-finances articles we’ve read recently. We hope you enjoy them like we do!

Life is not a buffet. [Emily Guy Birken] — “We spend a great deal of our time wishing to have the things that other people have…But even if you could trade places with the object of your envy, or swap out the missing ingredient from their life to yours, that life wouldn’t be yours and the missing item wouldn’t be yours.”

The now or later fallacy. [Physician on Fire] — “I am a firm believer in balance. Please, don’t save so much now that you cannot enjoy today. I also don’t encourage you to live it up so much right now that you cannot save for tomorrow. Learn to find the balance in moderation. You might realize that despite the saying, you can in fact have your cake and eat it, too, when it comes to living today and saving enough for tomorrow.”

Does delaying Social Security deliver an 8% return? [Morningstar] – “In order to know the actual ‘return’ you receive from a decision to delay Social Security, however, you’d have to know how long you’ll live. If you delay your benefit and live a long time (or your spouse does, if you’re the higher earner), your enhanced benefit is magnified and your ‘return’ from that decision to delay is higher. If, on the other hand, you delay filing and die shortly thereafter, your ‘return’ from delaying is negative; you would have been better off starting benefits earlier.”

“Would I be the asshole if I didn’t give up my honeymoon villa to my grandparents?” [/r/AmItheAsshole on Reddit] — If you’ve never read the “Am I the asshole?” subreddit, here’s how it works: People post situations they’re in that are causing (or have caused) division and strife in their lives. Some of their real-life friends and family think they’re jerks; others don’t. They ask internet strangers to weigh in on the situation. This particular question (and the answers) highlight many things ranging from wealth to class to generational differences to cultural differences. Entertaining and enlightening!

Our final piece for today captures three things that I’m a sucker for: (1) happy crowds, (2) performers moved by audience reaction, and (3) famous artists who bring their kids on stage. No wonder I love this. Here’s Dave Grohl bringing his daughter Violet on stage to perform an acoustic cover of an Adele song.

So much fun. So much fun. Can’t wait until live music is a thing again!

See you tomorrow, friends!

You don’t have to monetize your joy.

Today is Tuesday, money nerds, and this is Apex Money — your source for all of the best in personal-finance news. Today, we have four great features for you. Enjoy!

You don’t have to monetize your joy. [Man Repeller] — “It’s no surprise we feel pressure to monetize our spare time. The cult of busyness is one of the most toxic aspects of our culture, but…we don’t have to monetize or optimize or organize our joy. Hobbies don’t have to be imbued with a purpose beyond our own enjoyment of them. They, alone, can be enough.”

Doordash and pizza arbitrage. [The Margins] — “If someone could pay Doordash $16 a pizza, and Doordash would pay his restaurant $24 a pizza, then he should clearly just order pizzas himself via Doordash, all day long. You’d net a clean $8 profit per pizza.” I love this story. It’s amazing. I’m very wary of these food delivery services; I think they’re a long-term net negative to the economy. So, it’s interesting to see a business owner getting some sort of petty revenge.

“Will spending an extra $500 per month improve my life?” [My Money Wizard] — “Will spending an extra $500 a month actually improve my life? We’ll see. Maybe it will be some of the best money I’ve ever spent. Or maybe I’ll decide a lot of the splurges aren’t worth it, or I’ll otherwise come way under budget. So far, I’ve experienced both.”

Life-changing economic theories applied to personal finance. [The Woke Salaryman] — “Here are six theories that made me wish I [learned economics] earlier. We’ve reframed these so that it applies to individuals instead of entire countries or geopolitical regions. Here’s to hoping it helps tweak your perspectives. They certainly changed mine.”

To close things out for today, here’s a short video featuring all sorts of cute woodland critters captured on spy cams. Aren’t they cute?

I keep telling my girlfriend that we need to own a couple of foxes. They’re cats that look like dogs! She’s not convinced…

Okay, that’s plenty for this Tuesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with even more fun and games on the road to financial freedom.

“I got better with money once I started CARING about money.”

GOOD MORNING, friends! I’m a happy boy out here in Oregon. While our quarantine isn’t officially over, the state did loosen a lot of things on Friday. People are taking their first tentative steps out and about.

For my part, that means I’m ready to return to my rented office space instead of working from home. It’s been great to have so much time with the family, but I’m ready to get some work done in a dedicated space you know?

To kick things off, let’s look at some great recent stories about money, shall we?

“I got better with money once I started caring about money.” [Freddy Smidlap] — “Nobody twisted my arm and made me get better. The will to do better had to come from within. Had I continued down the crappy money path the world would not have shed a tear. I basically would have been like so many other ‘normal’ Americans spending every dime I made and it would not have been remarkable. You gotta do it for yourself for your own reasons.” [This is a sequel to an earlier article: “I used to be terrible with money!”]

Some thoughts on making do with what you have. [The Three-Year Experiment] — “I will make it do with the things I don’t care about (here’s looking at you, old sneakers that I didn’t replace for years until my mom gifted me a new pair). And I will spend glorious, carefully managed dollars on the things I care about (I’m eyeing you, beautiful cream rug for the music room)…I’m also a grown-ass woman, and I’m buying that new rug.”

Ticker Time Machine — This is a simple web-based tool that does one thing — and one thing only. It allows you to see what the investments you didn’t make in the past would be worth today. While I’ll use this in the future for writing real articles about money, it’s also useful to wallow in regret…or joy!

Billionaire divorce uncovers secretive world of trusts in South Dakota. [CNBC] — “More than just another billionaire divorce spat, the Bosarge case offers a rare window into the highly secretive world of asset trusts in South Dakota, a state whose protective trust laws have made it a haven for billionaires and wealthy families around the world. South Dakota is fast becoming a mini-Switzerland for the world’s rich.”

And, as always, here’s a little something that has nothing to do with money to finish our day.

Every night before bed, my girlfriend and I sit side by side while browsing Reddit. We share our favorite posts with each other. Last week, Kim leaned over and said, “You have to see this.” It’s a vocal quartet called Flyte performing an a capella performance of the song “Archie, Marry Me”. It’s beautiful.

I was unaware of this song before hearing this version. Because I’m always curious about this sort of thing, I looked up the original. It’s good too. It’s by a Canadian group called Alvvays (pronounced “always”). Not quite as beautiful, but fun nonetheless.

Okay, that’s it. I’ll be back tomorrow with lots more good stuff!

A grab bag of articles I found interesting

As I read things on the internet, I file them into a folder to share with you guys on Apex.

Sometimes I reach into the bag and see a nice little grouping that fit into a theme. Then I usually throw a “fun” article that involves some heist or gambling or hack or whatever because those are like a piece of candy to me (I hope you like those too!).

Today, there is no theme other than I found all of these articles fascinating in their own little way.

The Million-Dollar Price Tag Of Being A Stay-At-Home Parent [Costa Rica FIRE] – “Being in Human Resources and having grown up in New York City, a progressive and PC place, I instinctually wrote this entire post to be gender-neutral (i.e., working parent in lieu of working mom). But generally, in dual-career households, the question/ burden/ dilemma of “should I stay at home or continue to work?” mostly falls on the mom. With two adult daughters, do I try to influence my daughters to make the same choice I did?”

The Man Who Thought Too Fast [The New Yorker] – “Frank Ramsey—a philosopher, economist, and mathematician—was one of the greatest minds of the last century. Have we caught up with him yet?” One of the hallmarks of smart people is how quickly they recognize people who are smarter than them.

How Airlines Use Rewards Cards to Drive Growth [Privacy] – “For decades, airlines have leaned on rewards cards for their steady revenue stream—particularly during industry contractions. In fact, the billions in revenue generated by U.S. airline rewards cards and loyalty programs can, at times, outpace overall sales growth. And that cash definitely comes in handy as airlines plan for a ‘dire scenario.'”

OK here is your gambling article!

The Fascinating Origins of Greyhound Racing [The Paris Review] – “Coursing was a brutal forerunner of the modern greyhound race. A live hare would be given a head start, and two greyhounds would be set loose to chase it. Whoever tracked down the rabbit won the race. The sport was not for everyone. When the dog caught the hare, one spectator said, “It really sounds quite a bit like a child’s scream” Some say Smith, at the Hot Springs meet, was shocked by the sound. Others say that he was unbothered, but shrewdly identified the shrieks as hindering the sport’s popularity.”

Even without the shrieking of rabbits, this isn’t for me.

Have a good weekend. 🙂

How the other side lives

While we enter in Week (I have no idea anymore) of the pandemic, I wanted to share a few articles I’ve saved up and thought were a little excessive before the pandemic.

Now that unemployment has hit Great Depression levels, these stories are even more absurd.

But here they are:

Is the World’s Best Butter Worth 50 Dollars a Pound? [Saveur] – “In a tiny creamery just off the barn, St. Clair reached into a refrigerator and took out a pound of her product—four dandelion-yellow balls in a large Ziploc bag. A former New Yorker with no experience in food production, she began making butter almost by accident, after buying a pair of Jersey cows. Wanting an expert opinion, she mailed unsolicited samples to Thomas Keller; he called back to say he wanted to buy all of it, and eventually asked her to acquire more Jerseys.”

Silicon Valley Is Quietly Building Its Own Wall Street [Medium] – “[Eric Ries] conceived of an exchange that would allow companies to benefit from the sale of common stock, while insulating them from short-term stock-market pressures, which he saw as destructive to corporate innovation.”

This one is poignant as it’s dated April 1st, I should’ve sent it out in April when I first saw it (sorry!):

This Looks Like a Depression, Not a Recession [Medium] – “JJust weeks after the stock market crashed in 1929, President Herbert Hoover assured the country that things were already “back to normal,” Liaquat Ahamed writes in Lords of Finance, his Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the financial catastrophe. Five months later, in March 1930, Hoover said the worst would be over “during the next 60 days.” When that period ended, he said, “We have passed the worst.” Eventually, Ahamed writes, “when the facts refused to obey Hoover’s forecasts, he started to make them up.” Government agencies were pressed to issue false data. Officials resigned rather than do so, including the chief of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

World’s first Animal Crossing interior design service launches, offering consultants £40 an hour to perfect in-game homes [Pocket Gamer] – “Homeware brand Olivia’s has launched a consultancy service that’s now taking applicants for interior designers to help Animal Crossing: New Horizons players perfect the look and feel of their in-game homes. Budding and professional interior designers are being offered upwards of £40 an hour to provide this much-needed service, and it’ll be available to players worldwide.”

It just shows that pandemics hit people differently.

For some, it’s a huge struggle.

For others, they’re hiring interior designers for a virtual house. Wild.

Have a great day!

The main takeaway of 2020

When You Have No Idea What Happens Next [Collaborative Fund] – “Do we know more about what’s going to happen in the next 12 months today than we did in January? You’d think so. We now know there’s a pandemic that shut the economy down. We didn’t know that in January. But remember what Daniel Kahneman says. “The correct lesson to learn from surprises is that the world is surprising.”

The things we thought about the world in January now look oblivious. But what does that tell us about our view of the world today? Couldn’t the world change in as surprising a way between April and June as it did from January to March? Of course it could. That should be the main takeaway of 2020.”

Hmmmm… it’s a great point. More important than the lead are the two ideas he offers up next as to what to do instead of trying to predict.

Also, this video is really funny – Julie travels through time to explain the pandemic to herself:

The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months [Guardian] – “When a group of schoolboys were marooned on an island in 1965, it turned out very differently from William Golding’s bestseller, writes Rutger Bregman.” I read a lot of books as a kid and there are few that I remember as much as Lord of the Flies.

The article has a bit of build-up but the payoff is worth it. Six boys, ages 13 to 16, survived on an island for 15 months. It’s wild.

Time to read some history Apexian!