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Are credit-card rewards worth it?

I’m writing this installment of Apex Money next to my poor, sad hound. Tally (our beagle mix) had some fatty lumps removed yesterday, and she’s on vet-ordered bed rest for the next two weeks. She hates it. She’s miserable. And as a result, I’m miserable too. I basically have to stick by her side to make sure she doesn’t do anything fun — like chase squirrels. Not sure how we’re going to police her for thirteen more days. Even one day of this is driving me nuts!

Okay, enough grousing. Let’s look at the stories I’ve collected for you today.

Expensive mistakes that beginner real-estate investors make. [Afford Anything] — “Imagine walking into a casino and putting $100,000 on red. That’s how some people view real estate investing – as pure luck…Successful real estate investing is about strategy, not gambling. By educating yourself and avoiding common pitfalls, you can weather almost any storm.”

Is maximizing credit-card rewards worth it? [Of Dollars and Data] — “Maximizing credit card rewards can be a worthwhile endeavor if you know what you are getting into. Unfortunately, if you do this wrong, you can end up hurting your credit score and going deep into debt. For this reason, I only recommend considering this strategy if you have meet the following criteria.”

Why are Americans spending so much? [Vox] — “The pandemic saw Americans’ average percentage of income saved increase to an all-time high of 32 percent in April 2020 after many households received stimulus checks. That has helped fuel spending, but unlike in other high-income countries where consumers have proved more thrifty, Americans are close to depleting those savings.”

Today, we’ll wrap up with a video that actually is about money for once. It’s an eight-minute Vox piece about inflation: Why can’t prices just stay the same?

Like most folks, I’m stunned by how high prices are nowadays. It’s crazy. Some folks argue that this is merely a result of supply and demand, but I have a different view. I think that COVID and its after effects (especially supply-chain issues) caused demand-based price increases, but once things eased (and supply/demand returned to normal) companies kept those price hikes instead of dropping them. I think this reality is reflected in the record profits that large corporations have been enjoying.

Anyhow, the high prices are frustrating. But I suspect they’re here to stay. I wish I were old enough to remember exactly what price increases were like during the inflationary period of the late 1970s, but I wasn’t even ten at the time. In my world, the only real effect was that comic book prices jumped from 25 cents to 50 cents in a short period of time.

Okay, that’s it for today. Have a great weekend, everyone!

p.s. Here’s a GQ article about my favorite film of 2023: Godzilla Minus One. The film just arrived on streaming services, and I’m doing my best to encourage everyone to see it. It’s truly terrific.