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Apex Money Posts

No act of kindness is too small.

Good morning, my friends, and welcome to another week. This is J.D. Roth and you’re reading Apex Money, your source for curated stories about how to master your money — and your life. Let’s see what we have for you today…

Whatever happened to the starter home? [New York Times gift article] — “The disappearance of such affordable homes is central to the American housing crisis. The nation has a deepening shortage of housing. But, more specifically, there isn’t enough of this housing: small, no-frills homes that would give a family new to the country or a young couple with student debt a foothold to build equity. The affordable end of the market has been squeezed from every side.”

Generosity: No act of kindness is too small. [One Frugal Girl] — “Years ago, I couldn’t imagine ditching my stingy tendencies. Now I readily share my wealth. What changed? I began challenging my assumptions and finding new ways to give. Here are a few ways to give more generously if you are afraid to do so.”

How understanding the Marginal Utility of Money will make you happier. [The Happy Philosopher] — “Each additional dollar acquired becomes less valuable because it brings us a smaller bit of utility than the one before it. Each unit of time we trade for that depreciating money is more precious. How much is your time worth when you’re on your death bed? How much money would you trade for a few more days? Would you work or spend it doing something else?”

Incentives are the most powerful force in the world. [Collaborative Fund] — “You, me, everyone – is susceptible to and more influenced by than we want to admit: Incentives are the most powerful force in the world and can get people to justify or defend almost anything. When you understand how powerful incentives can be, you stop being surprised when the world lurches from one absurdity to the next.”

To finish things today, here’s a twelve-minute Brazilian animated film entitled “Way of Giants”. It’s beautiful, mysterious, and evocative — a wordless exploration of the circle of life.

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

The Most Dangerous Phrases In Personal Finance

Happy Friday!

To start off the final day of the work week, I wanted to point to a quick and short post that packs a punch. It comes from Thomas Kopelman, a financial advisor and blogger, and highlights the dangers of some types of (financial) self-talk.

Oftentimes, we fall into these traps without even realizing it and, hopefully, this post can highlight some of those thoughts so you can catch them before they take hold.

The Most Dangerous Phrases In Personal Finance [The Long Game] – “Most people convince themselves that what they are doing is okay. Here are some of the most dangerous phrases people tell themselves that lead to poor financial decisions that you should avoid:

1. “I deserve this.” This is something people often say before they make a spur of the moment, huge purchase. Instead, take a week before you make any huge purchases, this will help you avoid splurging on things you don’t actually want.”

The Spectacular Collapse Of Cryptokitties, The First Big Blockchain Game [IEEE Spectrum] – “Today, CryptoKitties is lucky to break 100 sales a day, and the total value is often less than $10,000. Large transactions, like the sale of Founder Cat #71 for 60 ether (roughly $170,000) on 30 April 2022, do still occur—but only once every few months. Most nonfungible fur-babies sell for tiny fractions of 1 ether, worth just tens of dollars in July 2022.”

And before we glide into the weekend, here’s a fun short film – One-Minute Time Machine (some language and adult themes, but really funny):

Enjoy the weekend!

The Point of No Return

When I left my defense industry job to work on my blog full-time, I was confident I could go back “later.”

I hoped I didn’t need to but a “software engineer with a clearance” is a software engineer with a job. Your coding and design skills might degrade or fall behind a little bit but you can jump back in pretty quickly.

But what if you’re a physician? That’s what today’s first post is about – not all jobs were like mine. You can’t just jump back into being an anesthesiologist. POF has a good point… “To be frank, if I were in need of a medical procedure, I would not want to have a surgeon, anesthesiologist, interventional radiologist or cardiologist who is in his first few days back after an extended absence of many months.” Me too!

Three Years of FIRE and the Point of No Return [Physician on FIRE] – “I’ve been asked many times if I might go back to work as a physician. My early answer was “probably not” and the likelihood needle has moved closer and closer to zero ever since.”

Your % Savings Rate Is The Most Important Number [The Escape Artist] – “Without a freedom fund, your boss owns you. Having a six month freedom fund means being able to quit on your own schedule or at least wait for a good job to come around after you get laid off, rather than having to take the first one that comes along. That can be life changing. The bigger the freedom fund, the more time, options and runway you have.”

Mark Rober is awesome – I’m so glad he’s one of the most popular Youtubers out there because his videos are really good. This one, Beating 5 Scam Arcade Games with Science, is great for several reasons.

First, engineering is cool. It’s fun to see the contraptions he’s built to beat arcade games.

Next, you also learn which games are scams and how to win. That’s all find and dandy but there’s another (secret) reason I love them.

I show it to our kids so THEY know which games are scams and they don’t ask to play games that are scams. This makes me happy because I don’t have to frustratingly try to convince them that they’re scams. If you’ve ever tried to convince a kid not to play a game, you’ll know how fruitless that can be. This video solves so many problems at once. (so does this one about carnival gameswhich I love even more)

Enjoy!

Financial Bloodletting: Don’t Let This Happen to You

We can not believe it’s Wednesday already. The Plutus team dug deep into our treasure box to bring you these awesome articles.

Here’s what we wanted to share with you this week.

Financial Bloodletting: Don’t Let This Happen to You. [Mantaro Money] — “Just as the parasite doesn’t want to kill their host, the active manager wants to keep their prey alive, whilst extracting the highest viable amount of capital… Do not allow yourself to be bled dry. Other, more humane, investment methods exist.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

Man’s Best Side Hustle? A Look at Making Money From Dogs With Rover. [Studenomics] — “A man’s best friend or a man’s best side hustle? If you love dogs and want to get more exercise in, you’re in luck because I’ve discovered a way to get paid for making new furry friends by using the dog walking app Rover. I’m going to show you how you can make money from .” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

Roth IRA For Kids: Why It Is An Excellent Strategy For Parents. [The Cents of Money] — “Guiding your kids on the path of saving for their future gives them a head start to financial independence. Creating a Roth IRA for kids provides more flexibility for your children before they reach adulthood than other options, as these funds can help pay for college, making a first home purchase, or retirement.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

I love roundabouts and I cannot lie

We live in an area with a series of three of four roundabouts that, despite having been there for years, continue to confound local drivers.

In fact, Washington D.C. is just 20 minutes south of us and is filled with roundabouts. Massive roundabouts that are, understandably, intimidating. Our roundabouts are tiny and well marked… not like some of the ones in the UK where it’s just a little metal circle on the ground.

I love roundabouts because they work. They’re more efficient. And I wish there were more of them.

I’m all for this Freakonomics podcast from 2021!

Should Traffic Lights Be Abolished? [Freakonomics] – “Could the humble roundabout really save thousands of lives? It is true that more than 35,000 Americans are killed each year in traffic crashes, and about a quarter of those deaths happen at intersections. All those crashes that kill 35,000 people also cause millions of injuries and nearly a quarter-trillion dollars in property damage, medical and legal costs, lost productivity, and more. What would all those numbers look like if some of our standard intersections with traffic lights were swapped out for roundabouts? Today on Freakonomics Radio: we consider this and many other roundabout questions, including the economics of the traffic intersection:”

OK I know that has nothing to do with money, per se, but I don’t care. I want more roundabouts and fewer traffic lights.

It’s Time to Rethink Retirement [Darious Foroux] – “Here’s what the structure of modern life looks like for most. In the early years of a child, the focus is on learning and playing. Once the playing is done, a teen starts their educational career. Then start a career. And save up for retirement. Those are the three main stages of life as we know it: Study, work, then retire. It might look like these stages are natural to human life, but that’s a wrong assumption. These stages are, like most things in modern-life, made up. This structure was created in the 19th century, when the Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck implemented the first national old-age social insurance plan in 1889.”

And of course, I had to share this big news from last week – Billionaire No More: Patagonia Founder Gives Away the Company [New York Times] – “A half century after founding the outdoor apparel maker Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, the eccentric rock climber who became a reluctant billionaire with his unconventional spin on capitalism, has given the company away.”

Amazing.

Quiet Confessions of Options Trading, Rental Real Estate, Crypto

It’s Jim again! Did you miss me?

Two weeks ago, which was the last time I curated an Apex Money post, I had the great pleasure of hanging out with a bunch of money nerds in Orlando for FinCon (including the delightfully experientially omnivorous J.D. Roth). Since I was going to be running around, I queued up a few posts that I’d been saving — including a post where he lost a little money in crypto.

When I say a little, it’s not insignificant numerically ($2,249.51 in four months) but given his investment, it was a loss of under 10%.

Compare that with the absolute horror stories you can find on Reddit and it doesn’t look that bad!

Quiet Confessions of Options Trading, Rental Real Estate, Crypto [My Money Blog] – “I still haven’t told my wife we lost 50% of our savings in Anchor. I’m putting what’s leftover from my paychecks into restoring it back to the initial amount, hoping she won’t notice. It will take me approx. 5 years with my current salary. We planned to buy a house next year.” ooooophf.

By the way, honesty is the best policy. You can come back from an investment mistake but lying about it… that’s breaking trust.

Elon Musk’s college sweetheart auctions off billionaire’s mementos [CNN] – “The lot includes 18 candid photos of the entrepreneur as a baby-faced economics student at the University of Pennsylvania, as well as several other mementos of Musk and Gwynne’s time together. The glossy photos show the billionaire looking every bit the normal college student before his meteoric rise to success: goofing off in a dorm room, hanging out with his fellow resident advisers, and cuddling with his girlfriend.” This is weird right? I’m all for her cashing in, good for her, but the folks bidding on these items?

Would you pass the wallet test?

How to save money on streaming services.

It’s been a long week for me, my friends. A long week but a short week. I’ve been fighting some sort of bug. A bunch of people came down with COVID after Fincon in Orlando last week, and I thought for sure I was one of them. But five negative COVID tests later (and five days recuperating), I feel much better. Somehow I dodged that bullet.

Fortunately, all of the downtime gave me plent of opportunity to read about money. So, here I am to close out another week with a nice stash of links. Enjoy!

Lived experience makes work better. [Behavioral Scientist] — “Solving problems requires more than just having powerful tools, you also need people who can use them properly. When it comes to fighting poverty, people with lived experience are essential teammates if we want to maximize the impact of any anti-poverty work.”

How to cut your water use in half. [Consumer Reports] — “When it comes to wasting water in the kitchen, the dishwasher isn’t the culprit — it’s probably you. Too many people rinse their dishes clean before putting them in a dishwasher designed to do that very job—and do it better than you can.” (True story: I know a woman who rinses her dishes completely clean before putting them in the dishwasher. What’s the point of even having a dishwasher in this case?)

How to save money on streaming services. [Consumer Reports] — “There are easy ways to simplify the confusing and expensive mess that streaming services have become. The following strategies can help you create a great plan for getting most of the shows you want to watch at a price you can afford.”

41 quick tips for health, wealth, and happiness [A Teachable Moment] — “Birthdays make you think, and this one’s no different. As that old dead Greek guy said, The unexamined life is not worth living. The point of aging is learning from past mistakes, figuring out what’s important, and passing this knowledge along. No need to make things more complicated than that. Almost six decades of living provide heaps of raw material. Here are some tips learned the hard way.”

And that’s it for this week. Jim will be back on Monday to educate and entertain you. I’ll see you at the end of the month. Until then, stay healthy and grow wealthy!

A new way to look at net worth.

Today is Thursday. I’m J.D. Roth. And you are a money nerd. That means we’re all in the right place! Today at Apex Money, the four links (and one video) all require a certain amount of nerdery. They cover topics like student loan stats, net worth, and retirement spending. Boring to average folks. Exciting to Apexians like us. 😉

Who holds the student-loan debt? [Of Dollars and Data] — “Regardless of how you might feel about these ideas, there are many good discussions to be had about how to fix the student loan problem. I can only hope that, despite the complexities involved, we find a solution that works for everyone.” This is another interesting and nuanced discussion of a complex topic. [See also: Personal-finance creators share thoughts on student-loan forgiveness at Michelle Is Money Hungry and Some things I do and don’t like about student loan forgiveness at A Wealth of Common Sense]

A humanistic concept of net worth. [Money and Meaning] — “Financial net worth is an advantage that some leverage for good and others flaunt or squander or worse. When I think about net worth I use a different measure. My assets are the relationships I’ve nurtured, the growth I’ve earned through deep exploration, my creative capacities, the perspectives I’ve gained by traveling the world, the beauty that I surround myself with, my curiosity AND the financial resources I’ve worked for.”

How much do retirees spend on uncertain health costs? [Center for Retirement Research] — “Lifetime health care spending by retirees above and beyond predictable premiums is high and uncer- tain. However, Medicare, Medicaid, and other insur- ers cover a large portion of these expenditures. As a result, 65-year-old households pay, on average, $67,260 in out-of-pocket costs over their remaining lifetime, which is about one-fifth of total non-premium costs.”

What a $2 million retirement looks like in the United States. [The Wall Street Journal] — “We spoke in depth with four retirees who saved enough to build comfortable retirements, with net worths ranging from roughly $2 million to $4 million. They shared insights about how they spend their time and money, what has given them joy or anxiety, and how their expectations of life in retirement measured up to the reality.”

For once, today’s video is about personal finance. Here’s our buddy, Rob Berger, with a 45-minute video on YouTube. It’s a beginner’s guide to bonds.

Sound boring? Okay, bonds are a bit boring. But if you’re an investor, it’s important to understand how they work. And Berger is one of the best at taking complex, boring topics and making them digestable for folks like you and me.

Okay, that’s all for today. I’ll see you tomorrow as we head into the weekend…

Do You Rent or Own Your Job?

Hey friends, it’s me again, Tarsha from the Plutus Foundation. I am so excited to share this week’s articles with you. Enjoy!

Here’s what we wanted to share with you this week.

The Surprising Inspiration to Declutter I Found at the Museum. [No Sidebar] — “If I could live for 1000 years, what would I keep? When I am gone, what do I want archaeologists to learn about me from my stuff? What about you?”  (Submitted by J. Money.)

Do You Rent or Own Your Job? [Financial Panther] — “You can rent a job. Or you can own a job. It’s not easy to own a job. And there’s nothing necessarily wrong with renting a job either. But for me, owning a job is the way I’d rather do it. If I’m going to have to work, I’d rather work at a job I made for myself, even if it means I have to take all the risks.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

Slow FI and the evolution of Friendships. [Dinks on a Bus] — “I’ve noticed how my friendships have changed and evolved. Some friendships have ended, and that has been hard, but for the most part, my friendships have changed for the better since slowing down my journey to FI.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

Does capitalism work?

Today is Tuesday, my friends. My name is J.D. and this is Apex Money, your source for interesting stories about money (and more). Here’s what I have for you today.

Does capitalism work? [Gotham Gal] — “Capitalism is still the most effective way to create opportunities, but it is time for a new era of capitalism where we take what works and focus on the weaknesses so that we can all succeed at the level we hope to. If we started doing that, perhaps some of the issues our communities are dealing with right now would ebb, and our economy would accelerate. Something has to change.” I love this. Thoughtful and nuanced. I’m a die-hard capitalist, but even I have begun to have misgivings. I have no answers, but our current system seems broken to me.

How young people learned to love Old-Money aesthetics. [Robb Report] — “This strain of discreet wealth has never really been out of fashion — it’s not like Ralph Lauren was ever hurting — but since the pandemic, it has entered the zeitgeist anew. As the adage goes, everything comes back around eventually. So if you’d written yourself off as a fuddy-duddy, we have good news: Your time is now.”

One woman’s quest to rescue the trash of New York. [Curbed] — “Typically, her haul doesn’t go straight to the Free Store; first, she drags it up to her apartment, where she sorts and repairs items. Then she puts some of the more valuable finds up for resale; books get posted online, while nice clothes, paintings, tchotchkes, wallets, and the like get sold at occasional sidewalk sales or on the neighborhood secondhand circuit.”

How to live a simple life WITHOUT the stark white walls. [Rich in What Matters] — “If you’re intentional about your life choices, if you dig deep and consider long and hard about how you want your simple life to look (and what you can realistically afford), then you’re being intentional. If the result is color, stuff, plenty of engagements in the diary, or more than three pairs of shoes, then great.”

Last of all, here’s a five-minute video that explains how to summon an army of worms — because you’ve always wanted to know how to do that, right?

Okay, wormies, I’ll be back on Thursday with more good stuff. But come back tomorrow too when our pals at the Plutus Foundation will be here with their Wednesday update from the personal-finance community.