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Author: Jim Wang

Retirement is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be

I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older and I’m talking to more folks nearing or in retirement…

or that more people are retiring because of the FIRE movement…

But it’s starting to feel like society’s view of retirement as your career’s “finish line” is, and probably has always been, inaccurate.

Retirement is Nothing Like I Thought It Would Be [Physician on FIRE] – “But it’s also true that once you pull the trigger on retirement, there are some things you only come to know from experience. And while you can imagine what things will be like on the other side of your last day at your 9-5, reality may not match your expectations.”

Why You Should Never Retire [Can I Retire Yet?] – “I like the idea of Financial Independence (FI) but I can’t get my head around Retiring Early (RE). I’m 70+ and have been working full time or going to school or both since I was 16. I guess I missed out on the retire early movement. My identity is tied to my profession and I’m not sure what I would do if I did retire–Probably die in a few months. I don’t just put in a nominal 40 hours a week into work, but am involved in all sorts of professional activities and easily put in 60 hours per week. And I plan to do it until I no longer can. Why not?”

What Is the Cost of a Cashless Society? [The Walrus] – “… the digitization of the economy could likely make it difficult to pay for food, basic goods, and transit. In our rush to abandon cash under the guise of technological progress, are we leaving behind the people who rely on it most?” Food for thought.

And for our final story, one about actual food.

A Brief History of Peanut Butter [Smithsonian Magazine] – “But while peanut butter’s popularity abroad is growing—in 2020, peanut butter sales in the United Kingdom overtook sales of the Brits’ beloved jam—enjoying the spread is still largely an American quirk. “People say to me all the time, ‘When did you know that you had fully become an American?’” Ana Navarro, a Nicaraguan-born political commentator, told NPR in 2017. “And I say, ‘The day I realized I loved peanut butter.’””

Enjoy the weekend!

The Secret to Conventional Success We Don’t Talk About

Sometimes, the most obvious thing doesn’t get mentioned. Or the people who talk about it just assume that everyone knows it.

The Secret to Conventional Success We Don’t Talk About [Money with Katie] – “The people with everything from the bodies you want, to the lifestyles you desire, and even the jobs you envy are not more disciplined than you are—they’ve just found approaches they enjoy. They like what they do.” If you like it, you’re more likely to do it.

This, coupled with the ideas:
1. Success must come with struggle and
2. You must to optimize everything leads to suboptimal outcomes.

Those two have led to bad outcomes. The 2nd best workout plan you do is better than the best workout plan you don’t do.

Getting to Happy [Adam Grossman on Humble Dollar] – “There’s a fair amount of evidence supporting the notion that comparisons detract from our happiness. Many people find it surprising, for example, that Nordic countries tend to be rated among the happiest in the world. They aren’t the wealthiest, and their weather is among the worst. What they have in their favor, though, is relatively less income inequality than in the U.S. The implication: As a driver of happiness, the amount someone earns is less important than what he earns relative to his peers.”

The Untold Story of Napoleon Hill, the Greatest Self-Help Scammer of All Time [Gizmodo] – “Napoleon Hill is the most famous conman you’ve probably never heard of. Born into poverty in rural Virginia at the end of the 19th century, Hill went on to write one of the most successful self-help books of the 20th century: Think and Grow Rich. In fact, he helped invent the genre. But it’s the untold story of Hill’s fraudulent business practices, tawdry sex life, and membership in a New York cult that makes him so fascinating.” Tawdry!

$660M in a Day

The price of a barrel of oil is always a popular talking point for financial news. Since we all need gasoline, gas prices are a hot topic too – and you get gas from oil. 🙂

Do you remember when the price of a barrel of oil went negative? It was in April 2020, when a mix of factors pushed the price of oil down. Jack Raines of Young Money (great newsletter btw, you should subscribe) breaks it all down and how a group of guys in England made $660 million off it. Wild stuff with a great explanation every step of the way.

$660M in a Day: The Big Oil Short [Young Money] – “But the most insane market moment in the pandemic era wasn’t a meme stock, cryptocurrency, or SPAC. It was sweet, sweet crude oil. Before GameStop started, DogeCoin barked, and Trump tried to make SPACs great again, the oil market experienced the unthinkable: On April 20th, 2020, oil hit -$40 per barrel.” Black swans are more common than you think!

How to Choose Your College Degree [giansegato] – “As you start thinking about what to major in, start pondering this very scary question: what professional area do you want to get in? I know it’s hard to even process. But you must start dipping your toes in the water if you wish to make an informed decision. Leave your subject-based thinking behind. There’s no Computer Science: there’s web development. There’s no Economics and Finance: there’s trading behind a monitor until later hours. There’s no Psychology: there’s fundraising during fancy dinners with people you may or may not personally like. There’s no Pharmacology: there’s selling vitamins behind a counter to the elderly.”

We finished watching The Bear on Hulu and really enjoyed it – you should check it out if you like to get stressed out watching a show. 🙂

When I Watch The Bear, I See My Life [Esquire] – “And then he stares at the camera with sad blue eyes and says something unexpected. “I felt like I could speak through the food, communicate through creativity… The deeper into this I went and the better I got, and the more people I cut out, the quieter my life got. And the routine of the kitchen was so consistent and exacting and busy and hard and alive and I lost track of time and he died.” I stopped and rewound and watched it again. And again. This was my life. My everything.”

Nobody optimizes happiness

My birthday is around the corner and it was only in the last few (pandemic) years that I’ve come to fully accept a key idea I’ve long believed – I am responsible for my happiness.

The goals I choose to pursue, the ways in which I spend my time, and the people I surround myself with are my responsibility.

We spend much of our youth being told what to do. This is especially true in a Chinese household, where you listen to your parents and do what they tell you. My parents were pragmatic in that we could discuss what we were told, to a limited degree, but ultimately we did it. To this day, when my parents tell me to do something, I do it. It’s just how it goes and I’m OK with that.

But when you’re used to be told what to do, there’s comfort in that. You don’t have to wonder if you’re working on the right things. When you aren’t told, whether by parents or by society, it can be very difficult. That’s what happens when you retire because you “don’t have to work” – and that’s a huge challenge. I love articles that discuss that transition and today’s first post hits it on the head.

Nobody optimizes happiness [Dynomight] – “My favorite evidence comes from the FIRE (financial independence / retire early) community. There are tons of people who work hard, minimize expenses, and retire young. Some people who do this are totally happy. But there are also a lot of reports like… ‘I retired at 39. It sucked after about 6 months. I went back to college for a bit and eventually went back to work in a new career. Boredom was the worst.'”

I last shared this image back in January of 2021 and after a year and a half, I think it needs to be revisited:

Who do we spend time with across our lifetime? [Our World in Data] – “Who we spend time with evolves across our lifetimes. In adolescence we spend the most time with our parents, siblings, and friends; as we enter adulthood we spend more time with our co-workers, partners, and children; and in our later years we spend an increasing amount of time alone. But this doesn’t necessarily mean we are lonely; rather, it helps reveal the complex nature of social connections and their impact on our well-being.”

Simon Sinek’s Life Advice Will Change Your Future — Most Underrated Speech [Motivation Core] – “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called ‘stress’. Working hard for something we love is called ‘passion’.” It starts at Mach 1 and only goes faster.

Big Block of Cheese Day

I (Jim) like to collect articles that I find interesting so that I can share it with you. Sometimes they are about money, or at least money adjacent, and sometimes they’re not.

Sometimes I like them because they’re interesting or funny. Sometimes I find them useful.

Every so often, I have a collection of articles that I enjoy but don’t fit any kind of theme. So I use a random Friday to dump a bunch of them on you to enjoy. Or skip.

Think of it as our version of the Big Block of Cheese Day. 🙂

Netflix’s Purge Problem [M.G. Siegler on 500ish] – “In the olden days of TV, you knew your show was coming back each year. We can’t and don’t know that these days. Sometimes it’s two years. Sometimes it’s three years. Sometimes it’s never. How about never? Is never good for you?” It hurts when you fall in love with a show and it just gets cancelled.

Listerine Royalties: The Origin Story and Valuation of a Uniquely Enduring Asset [Invariant] – “It guarantees that irrespective of other conditions, as long as Listerine is sold, the royalties will be paid. Full stop. You might have also noticed the word “defendants’”—plural possessive. If you check the court documents, you will see a number of defendants, i.e., royalty holders.” I remember seeing someone trying to sell a sliver of these royalties on Royalty Exchange – fun to hear the whole story.

Speaking of things that taste really strong … I don’t like White Claw. Seems like many Americans agree!

Hard Seltzer Has Gone Flat [The Atlantic] – “Hard seltzer might be flatlining for obvious reasons. Crowds have returned to bars and restaurants, where the drink isn’t very popular. Inflation might have tightened seltzer budgets. Maybe the market grew so quickly that it has already reached something of a natural ceiling. But also, here’s the thing: Hard seltzer just isn’t very good.” I enjoy seeing how fads start and stop, boozy seltzer will probably never go to zero but it had a quick rise and fall.

David E. Weekly sued a text spammer and won $1,200! Read the details.

(and a good reminder to get on the National Do Not Call Registry!)

Wondering where the hell the good years went

The Other Side Of Investing [Banker on Fire] – “Stop being so damn focused on achieving early retirement. It’s okay to give yourself a bit more runway. You are MUCH better off spending 30 (or more) years doing something you enjoy than grinding through 15 unhappy years, retiring at 40 – and wondering where the hell the good years went.” This quote comes later in the post but the payoff pitch happens in the intro, which I didn’t want to spoil. You know the message already, let the introductory store cement it home.

The fundamental problem for every investment adviser [Klement on Investing] – “…I sometimes asked a room full of clients to raise their hands if they think equities are riskier than real estate. Then I asked them to raise their hands if they thought real estate or equity investments had a higher return. Apart from the real estate crash of 2007 to 2009, the majority of people said that equities were riskier than real estate, but real estate was more profitable than equities. But if you think about it, it will mean that by investing in real estate, you can systematically get higher returns for lower risk. Why bother with equities then?”

What about all the FUN debt gave you? [Budgets Are Sexy] – “This is going to sound weird or stupid, but isn’t *going into* debt so much fun???! Like, don’t we enjoy spending money on stuff we love – even if it’s only in the moment? As finance nerds we tend to focus on how terrible debt is and how much we hate it etc etc, but I think we forget just exciting it can be to buy stuff too :)” Good point!

Why So Many Children of Immigrants Rise to the Top [New York Times] – “Immigrants are good at doing something difficult: leaving behind relatives, friends and the familiarity of home in search of prosperity. The economists found that native-born Americans who do what immigrants do — move toward opportunity — have children who are just as upwardly mobile as the children of immigrants.”

The Buyerarchy of Needs

One of the things we discovered during the pandemic was how much stuff we have. Being at home for that long really highlighted that our stuff takes up too much of our space.

This also meant discovering our local Buy Nothing groups on Facebook and giving away much of this stuff to folks who need it. Or at least could better use it.

Which is why our first piece, by Kara of BravelyGo, struck a chord. It introduces us to a framework on the front side of stuff – when you buy it.

(also, the first food shopping example of lentils was spot on… that little half bag has been in our cabinet for years)

The Buyerarchy of Needs [BravelyGo] – “Much like values based spending, the buyerarchy of needs asks that you get in touch with your personal needs, desires, and lifestyle choices. It asks: do you really need a new top, or can you ask to borrow one from your sister? Borrowing saves you money, time, and is better for the planet- let’s do that! Initially created with clothing shopping in mind, the buyerarchy of needs can be slightly adjusted and applied to any area of spending.”

At 88, Poker Legend Doyle Brunson Is Still Bluffing. Or Is He? [Texas Monthly] – “In poker lore, the best stories tend to begin with jackpot wins, steady nerves, or the occasional threat of murder. Doyle Brunson has all those tall tales—and we’ll get to them in due time. He has won millions while bluffing, stared down killers in parking lots, and pried his chips—quite literally—from the hands of death.”

The Simple Solution to Traffic“… I wish more people watched this.

Treat life like a video game

Jim here again! It probably comes as little shock to you that I’m a fan of video games. I’m a child of the 80s and had a Nintendo but never any of the other systems until I got to college, when I could buy my own Playstation.

I love the idea that you should treat life like a video game in that you should think about how you “level up” different aspects of your life.

Wealth Is a Strong Predictor of Whether an Individual Pursues a Creative Profession [Smithsonian Magazine] – “Those from households with an annual income of $1 million are 10 times more likely to become artists than those from families with a $100,000 income” This probably comes as no shock to anyone reading it!

Last one for today is a bit more tactical – comes from Jonathan at My Money Blog and how state (and local) income taxes impact your decision of Treasury Bond or CD:

Treasury Bond vs. Bank CD Rates: Adjusting For State and Local Income Taxes [My Money Blog] – “An important consideration is that Treasury bonds are exempt from state and local taxes. This can make the Treasury bond significantly more attractive to some folks, even if the initial rate is the same. This assumes you are investing in a taxable account (not tax-sheltered). US Savings bonds are also exempt from state and local taxes.”

See you tomorrow!

Embrace boredom

Happy Friday everyone!

As we enter into the weekend, this first pair of articles work great together. The first has some timeless money advice, some of which you’ve heard of and others maybe not. My big takeaway from it is that you should be patient. There are plenty of opportunities and you only need to be right once or twice in your life to do well.

The second article covers the time in between those opportunities – when you do the “boring” but very important work. Enjoy and J.D. will be back next week!

I Just Learned That The Best Advice About Investing Is The Advice That Has Nothing to Do With Money [Making of a Millionaire] – “Life is a long-term game. Accept it as it is and do the best you can, and if you live to old age, you will have your sea of opportunities, you may only have two, but take one of the two, and you will be fine.”

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Boredom [Emily Guy Birken] – “It’s human nature to assume that meaning comes from reaching our goals. We think that getting married or getting the corner office or losing 10 pounds or buying a house or going viral or getting published will make us happy. Because we’ll have achieved our end. We will have written. But getting to those goals doesn’t actually provide any kind of meaning. Meaning has to come from within.”

The Broker Who Saved America [The Reformed Broker] – “You know Hancock and Washington and Franklin and Jefferson. You might even know Greene and Knox, Henry and Hale. And we know you know Hamilton, pretty tough to escape that one these days! But it is very unlikely that you know the name Haym Solomon. This is unfortunate, because he’s the guy who arranged financing to keep the Continental Army alive during its darkest days, finding the money to keep the revolution going when many were ready to throw in the towel.”

Enjoy this fun little game of Yes and No decisions as King of the land!

Enjoy the weekend!

I’ve Made $40,000 going after illegal robocallers.

Jim’s back! I hope you enjoyed yesterday’s picks from Tarsha of the Plutus Foundation!

Today, we have some gems that jump all over the place. 🙂

First, a little bit of a PSA courtesy of security expert Brian Krebs of Krebs on Security. Apparently, thieves can sign up for a new account at Experian using your personal information even if you already have an account. Check out the details on his post – Experian, You Have Some Explaining to Do. Scary and hopefully they can close this quickly.

Robocalls have been illegal for years, with a few irritating exceptions like political calls, and I’d heard about people making money suing robocalling companies… but I always thought that was a myth.

It’s not.

“I’ve Made $40,000 going after illegal robocallers.” (Side Hustle #84) [Budgets Are Sexy] – “With the settlements I should be receiving in the next couple of weeks, I will have put in my pocket, net of costs, about $40,000 chasing these callers down. I have settled about 15 total cases, only 1 of which I used an attorney which was settled before trial. One other case I filed a lawsuit on my own, which just settled this week before it went to trial. But this is only the tip of the iceberg… I know many people who have made way more money than I have in a much shorter time frame. I only go after a small fraction of what I could, and if I were more organized the net profits in my pocket could easily be well over $100K.” 👀👀👀👀

Why Sri Lanka is having an economic crisis [NOahpinion] – “A weaker currency makes it much more expensive to borrow and swap to get foreign exchange. That leaves only one good way of getting foreign currency: Exports. If a country runs a trade surplus — that is, if it exports more than it imports — it’s probably OK if its currency gets weaker (we’ll talk about this case another day). But if your country runs a trade deficit, you’re in trouble — you don’t export enough to pay for your imports, and borrowing to make up the difference just got a lot harder.” Good explainer on what’s happening in Sri Lanka and, more broadly, how a currency crisis comes about. If you invest the time to read it (probably 20 minutes or so), you’ll come away with some good knowledge about foreign exchange, trade, and the shenanigans around it.

Art Williams – Just Do It (and do it, and do it, and do it)