Skip to content

Author: Jim Wang

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hello Apexian friends!

This will be our last post of the week. I’ve been battling the flu for the last week (amazing it’s been this long, to be honest… I got a flu shot too!) and we have family coming into town for Thanksgiving. If you are a Thanksgiving enjoyer, I hope you have a good time with you and yours, we will be back next Monday with more great stuff courtesy of my better looking half, J.D.

I will not, however, leave you without some interesting topics that may make it to your dining room table discussions. These are meant to make you think, not start fights. 😆

What If Money Expired? [NOEMA] – “A long-forgotten German economist argued that society and the economy would be better off if money was a perishable good. Was he an anarchist crank or the prophet of a better world?” This is a fascinating thought experiment… but in some ways, inflation serves a similar function. But read the whole thing because there are a few stories of different places that used perishable money.

She lived in a New York hotel for more than 40 years. But her life was a mystery [NPR] – “Yet for a few dozen, the Belvedere is home. They came to New York from all parts of the world decades earlier, and stayed on in rent-stabilized rooms as the hotel changed owners and the city changed around them. Among them was Hisako Hasegawa in room 208. She would live in the Belvedere for more than 40 years, yet remain a mystery even to those who saw her daily. That anonymity would follow her in death.” Something to think about as you spend time with family and friends… keep them close and cherish them.

Finally… how deadly is quicksand?

Don’t take it personal

While we are all unique, most of our financial needs are the same. It’s easy to think that we all need specialized advice but I’d venture to say 80-90% of our needs are the same.

You should spend less than you earn. Save at least 20% and invest it in the stock market. The rest fits on an index card.

But financial experts, the ones who would sell you personalized service, would have you believe you are a unique situation with unique needs… needs they can help you with.

Don’t Take It Personal [Fortunes and Frictions] – “The financial advice industry markets to our desire for exclusivity and personalization. But for stocks, paying extra fees for personalization is typically a waste of money.”

11 Things I Learned About Investing [The Alchemy of Money] – “You are not the next Warren Buffett. Or the next George Soros, Peter Lynch, David Tepper, etc. … There is nothing wrong with picturing yourself in someone else’s shoes early on. And it is important to understand how and why some investors excelled. But you have to integrate those lessons into a path that is uniquely yours, in markets and life.”

The 20 Greatest Decluttering Tips of All Time [No Sidebar] – “As you’ve journeyed through these 20 decluttering tips, you may feel the urge to overhaul your space all at once. However, lasting change is a gradual process. The secret isn’t in embracing every single strategy today, but in finding the few that resonate deeply with you and your lifestyle.”

Generative AI’s impact on white-collar work

Generative AI’s abilities are growing at an astronomical pace, if you aren’t aware of it (or better yet, using it), you’ll probably be left behind… especially if you do knowledge work.

Here’s what we know about generative AI’s impact on white-collar work [Financial Times] – “I understand the temptation to wave away these warnings as mere projections. Thousands of years of history have lulled many of us into the false sense of security that automation is something that happens to other people’s jobs, never our own.” The first chart is worth 10,000 words but keep reading the whole thing, especially the section on BCG.

Tim Ferriss had a chat with Morgan Housel that I found very enlightening. Housel has a new book out but they talk about a lot of different topics, some of which are more financial in nature than others. The whole thing was entertaining and educational to listen to.

One of the discussions they have is covered by this blog post I enjoyed:

A Few Laws of Getting Rich [Morgan Housel on Collabfund] – “There are 13 divorces among the 10 richest men in the world. Seven of the top ten have been divorced at least once. Correlation isn’t causation, and that sample size is tiny. But a statistic that is so much worse than the national average, on a topic so fundamental to happiness, among a group whose lives are envied by so many, is interesting, isn’t it?”

OK and as we enter the weekend I ask you this, where is a starfish’s head? 🤣

J.D. is back next week!

We Need to Talk About Your Retirement ‘Spending’

This first post was really good and resonated with me a lot.

Frugality is great but up to a point. At some point, it’s important to stop scrimping so much and enjoy the money you’ve saved. Success isn’t necessarily leaving a large inheritance, especially if it comes at cost of a big sacrifice elsewhere.

We Need to Talk About Your Retirement ‘Spending’ [Morningstar] – “It’s that the portfolio withdrawal that my parents made in 1994 to enlarge our down payment counted, technically, as retirement “spending” for them. But I would argue that it was legacy planning, pure and simple. That early gift from my parents meant much more to me and my husband than did the inheritance we received from them at the end of their lives, even though the latter was a significantly larger sum. And while I’m sure my parents weren’t thinking transactionally about the down payment gift—they only wanted to help and for us to be close by because we enjoyed spending time together—having us in close geographic proximity proved to be a godsend to them later. We helped them achieve their goal of aging in place.”

Aging at Different Speeds [Next Avenue] – “The difference in our tempos may be a bit extreme, but the fact of an unforeseen divergence in how our bodies are aging is not. More and more often, I hear from friends about a spouse’s illness, need for hip or knee replacement or general slowing down. More and more, I hear about the frustrations and strains that aging at different paces places on a relationship.” Food for thoughts.

I know people who buy stuff off Amazon, use it once, and then return it. They jokingly called it “Amazon Rentals” and it sounded pretty scammy to me. But this last story is waaaaay scammier. (please don’t buy and return stuff to Amazon and call it Amazon Rentals)

How a ‘Refund Fraud’ Gang Stole $700,000 From Amazon [404 Media] – “Court records and online research reveal how a highly professionalized industry uses malicious insiders at Walmart and fake shipping labels to get high-end items for practically free.”

Do you remember Choose Your Adventure books? This game, Arcane Intern, reminds me of it with a few tricks only available on the internet.

The Best Laid Plans

Today’s first article is one that I really enjoyed because of how “real” and “honest” it was.

So many times we hear retrospectives that tell a story that fits a nice clean timeline.

“I planned this, then it happened exactly as I mapped out decades earlier, and now here’s what I learned.” — BOO. Those are not only fake narratives but teach terrible lessons.

The one shared by Chris is real and something we should all read, regardless of what financial stage you’re in:

Reader Case Study: The Best Laid Plans… [Can I Retire Yet?] – “Today I bring you a case study of a reader that planned diligently for early retirement. Life played out much differently from those plans. Still the process of saving and planning combined with the ability and willingness to adapt put him in position to live a rewarding early retirement. Ken Lindsay retired 14 years ago at age 50. Today he generously shares lessons he’s learned in over a decade of early retirement and his plans as he enters traditional retirement years.”

A quick PSA for couples with different 401(k) plans… make sure you coordinate contributions!

Many Couples Do Not Coordinate 401(k) Matches [Center for Retirement Research at Boston College] – “Imagine a married couple. Both work, and their earnings are identical. But one spouse’s employer is matching every dollar of her 401(k) contributions up to a cap. The other spouse’s 401(k) match is only 50 percent. They could increase how much they are saving for retirement by contributing first to the 401(k) with the full match in this simple version of the myriad situations married couples face. But, according to a new study, one in four couples do not prioritize the more generous employer’s 401(k) matching funds.”

I never thought about this (in part because I’m a U.S. citizens) but how do you leave the British House of Lords?

How to Leave the House of Lords [History Today] – “Members of the House of Lords are traditionally prohibited from giving up their seats. What if a move to the Commons becomes a political necessity?”

Average is not the same as median

Happy Monday! I’m (Jim) back!

This first article opened my eyes to the folly of picking individual stocks. Most of my portfolio is in boring index funds (and boring is exactly how I like my investments) but I do have a small portfolio where I picked dividend stocks (I haven’t done that since I set it up, many many years ago).

It’s done well enough but I was surprised to learn the discoveries of our first article.

Average is not the same as median… [Klement on Investing] – “Antti Petajisto analysed the return distribution of all US stocks in the CRSP database going back to 1926. Below is the distribution of returns for different investment horizons. Note that the distribution gets more and more skewed to the left as investment horizons increase and that the left-hand side of the distribution is not zero, but a total loss of investment (-100% return).” In layman’s terms, “If you randomly pick stocks in any given sector, your most likely outcome is that you will have lost money after 10 years.” Wow.

I haven’t been following the trial of Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, but it turns out the verdict has been rendered:

Sam Bankman-Fried Guilty on All 7 Counts in FTX Fraud Trial [CoinDesk] – “Sam Bankman-Fried defrauded his customers and lenders, a New York jury found after a five-week trial for the FTX founder and former chief executive. A tentative sentencing date was set for March 28, 2024. Bankman-Fried could spend decades in prison (and theoretically up to 115 years).”

OK this video about the son of the founder of Oriental Trading Company is insane.

The Man Who Lost $204 Million On A Trip To Vegas – it’s technically more than one trip but does that really matter???

The Sharp End

Our first article on the last day of the week is a great one I discovered a short time ago. It talks about the various chains in a failure and our title, The Sharp End, refers to the last failure.

At hospitals, and in the case of overdoses, the sharp end is the last touch point. The person who administered the drug that led to an overdose. The sharp end is a convenient scapegoat but the failure is the result of a chain of events. A lot of failures have to occur for the tragic one to occur. It’s an important mental model and our first post by Jesse discusses its relevance with our money:

5 Common Failures in Personal Finance [Best Interest] – “In my amateur study of fire safety, the “chain of events” is clear. There’s never a solitary reason explaining a fire death. There is always a chain of events. If any of the links on that chain were different, tragedy would have been avoided.” (these failures can apply to all areas of our life too)

With Halloween around the corner, here are some good tips for saving money:

10 Easy Ways To Save Money On Halloween [Well Kept Wallet] – “According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending is expected to exceed $12 billion this year. But did you know that there are easy ways to save money on Halloween? Whether you’re shopping for costumes, candy or party decor, there are things you can do to lessen the holiday’s blow to your budget.”

Never Look Down the Road Not Taken [Of Dollars And Data] – “I “knew” I should’ve bought more, but I didn’t. You probably have a story of “the investment that got away” as well. However, I’m here to tell you that this kind of thinking is a mirage. It’s pure fantasy. Because the way you think things would’ve turned out is not the way they actually would’ve turned out. How you imagine an experience is a theoretical exercise. It’s a mental simulation of your past. But, how you live through that experience in real-time tends to produce very different results.” Never ever!

Did you know that in a rainbow, some parts of it are missing? Here’s why they’re not there (in just 12 minutes and it’s really really fascinating!):

Benefits of a long walk

I enjoy walking.

Our kids’ bus stop is a solid half mile away from our home and I try to walk them out whenever the weather cooperates (when it’s not raining). It’s not a long walk but we have to do it twice in the morning and it’s a nice little boost of mileage for me, who works from home.

Short walks are nice but long walks are where it’s at.

It’s Amazing What Being Alone With Your Thoughts on a Walk Can Do for You [Route to Retire] – “Today I decided I was going to take a little walk just because the weather was nice and those days are a rarity in Ohio as fall continues rolling on through. Well, it turned out to be more than a quick stroll. It somehow became a 7.17-mile hike (plus the walk to the trail and back). That’s not too shabby for being alone and not knowing the area at all. It became a great reminder for me of how important it is to get outside and to pay attention to nature. Not only is it good for you physically, but it’s great for your mind as well.”

What Economists Got Wrong About the Great Recession [Tyler Cowen on Bloomberg] – “Economists do not, in general, know when business downturns will arrive. If there were reliable signals of a coming downturn, it would arrive immediately, as market actors would contract their plans accordingly, in the expectation of bad times to come. In that sense, there is not much of a predictive window to experience.”

Seven Habits that Seem Lazy (but Actually Let You Get More Done) [Scott H. Young] – “Consider the person who stays late at the office every night, to show everyone what a “team player” he is. Except, this causes him to sleep less which makes him sluggish. He misses time spent with colleagues, who would have recommended him for projects and promotions. He never has time to think, and thus fails to think of brilliant ideas that would propel him forward. Despite his drudgery, his lack of progress only convinces him that he has failed to work hard enough.”

These habits don’t seem that lazy… 😀

I love low cost index funds

I can’t imagine a world without low cost index funds. Vanguard has been around for as long as I’ve been an investor and has likely saved me thousands of dollars in fees and tens of thousands of dollars in lost gains.

Today, low cost index funds are everywhere!

So, it’s no surprise that index funds are considered one of the biggest disrupters in the retirement savings game, which is the subject of our first post today:

Indexing, private markets considered key disrupters of past 50 years [Pensions & Investments] – “The most consequential developments of the past 50 years? “It’s a tie between the substantial gain in market share of low-cost passive investment funds and ETFs,” and the incredible growth of private markets, said Lamar Taylor, interim executive director and CIO of the $185.7 billion Florida State Board of Administration, Tallahassee.”

Why I Don’t Talk About Investing Much [Accidentally Retired] – “Day to day, there is literally nothing for me to do or to talk about (investing-wise).” Very true. And I like it.

And before you go, for those who love bullet journals (or any journals), here’s a fun post chock full of ideas on how you can use them to better your money:

100 Amazing Bullet Journal Ideas to Organize Your Money [Caroline Vencil] – “If you are a go-with-the-flow type of person, then a rigid schedule or budgeting program isn’t going to work for you. Bullet journals give you the freedom to really take control of your money using methods that will work for you.”

Money is important but not all important

I spent the better half of last week in New Orleans at FinCon, a conference for financial creators. I got to see a lot of the creators we feature on Apex and it’s always exciting to hear what they have going on in their lives too. We talk about money on our blogs, we share money and money adjacent articles on Apex, but it’s only a small part of who we all are. It’s nice to be able to enjoy that in person.

This also meant that J.D. and I got a chance to hang out! We enjoyed many a beer and beignet together. And étouffée. And po boy. Such good food!

Money is important because it enables our enjoyment of life. It’s important but not all important. It’s nice to get reminders from time to time!

How to Visit Disney World Using Points & Miles [Family Money Adventure] – “Travel rewards can be overwhelming when you start. Going into that first rewards trip, my goal was to earn enough rewards to cover our flights and accommodations. I knew if I could figure out how to do that with our family of six, it would be worth the time and effort. If I had known then what I know now, I probably would’ve been able to pay for our Disney World tickets and rental car with points, too.” Disney is expensive. Kevin can show you how to make it slightly less expensive.

You know what else is expensive? College. And with the changes to 529 plans, you may not be up to speed on how they work.

What Are Qualified Expenses For A 529 Plan (And What Doesn’t Count)? [The College Investor] – “If you’ve been considering opening a 529, here are some common qualified expenses you should be aware of. We also go into depth on some of the non-qualified expenses that people sometimes get mixed up and “think” they do qualify. Make sure you don’t fall into that trap.”

Your Happiest Time In Life Is Still Ahead Of You — Way Ahead Of You [Fatherly] – “If you thought the carefree days of your youth were behind you, or that happiness was a thing for the young, have we got a surprise for you. Scientists from Germany and Switzerland recently pinpointed the age at which people are happiest, and it’s not your twenties. Or your thirties. Or your forties. Or even your fifties. Or even…you get the point. Believe it or not, an analysis of 443 studies comprised of more than 460,000 participants found that the happiest time in people’s lives is when they reach 70 years old.”