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Author: Jim Wang

Why We Should Talk About Money More Often

Growing up, we didn’t talk a lot about money.

But it wasn’t a taboo subject by any means. It was simply that money would be a distraction from my “job” as a kid, which was to study and get good grades.

When it came to money, my parents were very open about it. While I didn’t know how much my parents earned, how much we spent, being frugal and judicious, and why were being frugal were all discussed. There wasn’t a lot of emotional baggage tied to money. We weren’t broke but we also weren’t wealthy, we were solidly middle class and happy.

A lot of people have a lot of emotional baggage around money and that’s, in part, because we don’t talk about it more. I this first post, Darius Foroux makes the case (and I agree 100%) that we should talk about it more (and why).

Why We Should Talk About Money More Often [Darius Foroux] – “So many of us carry around some baggage when it comes to money. Some folks find it rude to talk about finances, others are ashamed or uncomfortable. And then there are many folks who’re clueless because no one ever taught them how to talk about money. It’s no wonder that a recent survey found that 44 percent of Americans see personal finance as the most challenging topic to discuss with others.1 Most folks find it harder to talk about money than subjects like death, politics, and religion.”

Who gets to flourish? [Vox] – “Are you flourishing? Not “just getting by” or “making it through,” but truly thriving? In the last two decades, the field of positive psychology has embraced the concept of flourishing, the pinnacle of well-being. Distinct from subjective happiness or physical health, flourishing is the aggregate of all life experiences when every aspect of your life is going well. “A state in which all aspects of a person’s life are good,” says Brendan Case, the associate director for research at Harvard’s Human Flourishing Program. As impossible as it may seem, to flourish is to feel satisfactory, inside and out, about your relationships, income, work, health, and passions, and to extend that virtuous spirit to others.”

Silver coin boom in medieval England due to melted down Byzantine treasures, study reveals [The Guardian] – “The new rush of silver coinage stimulated trade and helped fuel the development of the new towns springing up at the time – but where did it come from? Were the Anglo-Saxon kings recycling old Roman scrap metal? Or had they found lucrative sources from mines in Europe?” It’s fascinating that they can determine coins in England came from melted silver from the Byzantine empire. Science is amazing!

Would you go to this type of bar?

At Stock Market Bar Night, Buy Low and Drink Up [New York Times] – “In London, “competitive socializing” transforms pubs into stock exchanges, golf courses and cricket fields for those looking for more elaborate drinking games.”

See you next week!

We should have named a successor executor

I was spending time with friends over the weekend and the subject of estate planning came up. We set up our estate a few years ago and it contained a few “future proof” statements, like including “all future children” rather than just naming the ones we had at the time.

One thing we did not do? Name a successor executor. (naming multiple executors is generally considered bad because it can cause a lot of headaches)

Sadly, our named executor passed away unexpectedly a few years ago and we haven’t yet named a new one.

Right now, it’s fine because we’re still alive and can update our estate to name a new executor, but it could be a problem in the future until we fix it (it’s on the list!).

This is covered in our first post today:

Name Successor Trustees (Plural!) for Your Trust [Oblivious Investor] – “Regardless, this is an easily avoided situation. Make sure your trust has multiple successor trustees. Even if you like the idea of naming a family member or a trusted individual professional as the trustee, naming a business entity, such as a well-established law firm that’s likely to outlive any one person, as a final successor trustee can prevent the situation described here.”

Exclusive: How much Acorns savers amassed by investing spare change [Axios] – “How much money would you save up if you invested your spare change in the stock market? The answer, in practice, seems to be about $2,500 over nine years.” The average saved per month was $43… but the fees are $3 – $9, so is it really worth it? Maybe? Kind of?

A history of the American economy through stadium names [Sherwood] – “With that much money changing hands, we’re bound to see trends emerge in who actually pays for these sponsorships, from beer companies to dot-com startups to for-profit colleges and disgraced energy brokers. Where might these naming-rights go next, and what do they tell us about how big-time sports — and the US economy at large — have changed over the past five decades?”

Return the ball

You Can’t Succeed In Life Without This Skill [Ryan Holiday] – “I’m a ‘sense of urgency’ guy. I always have been. As I was working on a draft of this article, one of my former employees sent me a short piece about the concept of “clock speed,” which in the world of computing refers to how quickly something can execute instructions. “Something you are very good at,” this former employee (and now friend) wrote. “You keep the tempo/momentum very high and if there is ever a bottleneck somewhere (decision or input), you process that as soon as physically possible. You return the ball very quickly.””

They Chose to Take a Pay Cut—and Say They’re Happier [The Wall Street Journal] – “Switching to a job with a lower salary often means trimming your expenses, but it can come with a raise in free time and work-life balance.”

How the California forest that starred as Endor in ‘Star Wars’ was obliterated [SFGATE] – “The film crew got to work. They dug up ferns and rearranged them to fit the eye of the cinematographer. Trails were built, logs repositioned and soon an area not far from Highway 101 began to take on a new, otherworldly shape. The preparation lasted months, but once the actors arrived, Perry suspected this wasn’t your typical movie.”

I’m a little sad that Endor doesn’t exist anymore… but also may exist in a lot of difference places now at the same time.


Happy Monday!

Did you travel to see the eclipse? Jim here – we did and hopefully it doesn’t disappoint! 🙂

Here are a few posts (sorry, none are eclipse-related) that I found interesting last week:

How to stay calm in a bear market [Rad Reads] – “Now I have the unsexiest investing strategy ever. I’ve been dollar-cost-averaging the S&P 500 since 1994, when I was 16 years old. NGL, it’s single-handedly made us rich. It’s been a remarkable strategy that has enabled a life of quasi-financial freedom.” Me too!

The History of Luxury in 50 Objects, From Cleopatra’s Barge to Louis Vuitton Trunks [Robb Report] – “History’s first superyacht owner was Ptolemy IV, who ruled Egypt from 221 to 205 B.C.E. Among his royal fleet was a 300-foot catamaran that towered 60 feet above the Nile, propelled by thousands of enslaved men. But it was his descendant Cleopatra, reigning nearly two centuries later, who has captured the imaginations of poets, playwrights, and Hollywood producers. Cleopatra’s barge was the first nautical fashion statement, a blazing vessel that included silver oars, colorful sails, and a gold-encrusted hull.” Wow.

10 Life-Changing Lessons from Atomic Habits (Book Summary) by James Clear [Untap Me] – “Atomic Habits by James Clear is the holy grail when it comes to guides on habit and behavior change. In this book, he provides a highly effective, practical, and step-by-step framework to embrace new good habits and break free from bad ones. This framework is based on the best techniques from behavioral science and the book is filled with tons of examples backing it up. A must-read if you’re looking to upgrade yourself and move towards becoming the best version of yourself. In this post, we will take a look at 10 key lessons from the book.”

Should You Rent or Buy a House?

I’ve never understood why “owning a home” is the American Dream. Buying a home is such a massive financial decision but the default always seems to be that owning is better than renting.

But it’s not. If you knew you had to move in a year, buying a home makes zero sense.

There are a lot of situations where buying doesn’t make sense but that seems to be the default. It’s kind of weird when you think about it. If you’re facing a rent vs. buy decision, our first post of the day might help:

Should You Rent or Buy a House? [Of Dollars And Data] – “Buying a home is often considered the biggest financial decision people make in their lives. As a result, it makes sense as to ask yourself whether buying is the right choice when compared with renting. Unfortunately, this decision can easily get bogged down with the many assumptions and costs that go into renting vs. buying a home.”

Speaking of owning a home… experts say you need to earmark 1-4% of your home’s value for maintenance and repairs each year… hidden costs are everywhere!

Beware The Hidden Costs [Mr. Stingy] – “Assuming a $400,000 home, that’s somewhere between $4,000 and $16,000 every year. A “hidden cost” that people normally don’t think about when buying their dream home.”

Lastly, to round out the week, I have a fun feature from the New York Times following Taylor Tomlinson’s as she crafts a standup comedy bit. I love stand up and love the craft of it, these “inside baseball” features are so much fun.

See you next week!

Are We Living in The Roaring 20s?

Hi Apexians!

My apologies for missing a few days, we’re spending a few days away from home for Spring Break and it just slipped my mind!

Hope you’re having a good week, here are a few gems I found interesting:

Are We Living in The Roaring 20s? [A Wealth of Common Sense] – “If you had told me back then how well the economy would be doing now I’m not sure I would have believed you.

I’m going to make the case that we got our Roaring 20s.”

“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” [Bond Dad] – “No economic news today, so let me take a look at the supposed killer recent GOP meme that they claim is completely unanswerable: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?””

The Naked Financial Hypocrisy of Tradwife Influencers [Money with Katie] – “I perused her site. Oh, look, I thought, a lead magnet! (In digital content marketing, a “lead magnet” is a free downloadable item you give away in exchange for an email address.) Hers just so happened to be iPhone backgrounds featuring affirmations like, “With humility, I embrace my role, upholding traditions as the keeper of our cherished home.” What struck me about her website was how familiar it felt: This was pretty transparently a content creator’s monetized hub, no different from the courses, e-books, and affiliate codes distributed by the boss-babe influencers the tradwives claim to disavow. Oh my gosh, I whispered to no one, She’s girlbossing all over us! The call is coming from inside the housewife!”

The Impact of the Realtors Settlement

One of the big news items of the last few weeks was that the National Association of Realtors had settled their lawsuit for price fixing and collusion. A key result will be a drop in real estate commissions, which was traditionally set at 6%, as homeowners and buyers can now separately negotiate commission rates with realtors.

Sam at Financial Samurai spoke with Mike Ketchmark, the lead trial attorney on the case, and then broke down what he thought would be in the future for commissions and home prices. While Sam isn’t an industry veteran, he is a smart guy and I think his thoughts on this particular subject are well-reasoned.

The NAR Settlement’s Impact On Commissions And Home Prices [Financial Samurai] – “My conjecture is that homebuyers will be reluctant to pay more than 1% of the home’s value in commissions. For instance, a buyer may be willing to allocate up to $10,000 to their agent for closing on a $1 million property. It’s either up to 1% or a flat fee. Of course, a buyer’s agent and a buyer can agree to incentive commissions if the agent is able to negotiate a lower price.”

Fluke [Morgan Housel] – “I did a talk with a high school class last week and someone asked how I decided to become a writer. I said I didn’t, it was never planned. The path that led me here is an absurd story, and one that most of us have a version of – the pure fluke.” You have to read the story, it’s a little crazy, and I can attest to his believe that everyone has a story like this. I have a story like this (maybe not nearly as sketchy though).

Turning Pro: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals [Farnam Street Blog] – “Why is it that some people seem to be hugely successful and do so much, while the vast majority of us struggle to tread water? There is one thing that stands out more than others: mindset. If you want results, you need to approach things like a professional, not an amateur. It all comes down to your approach.”

In a real life Brewster’s Millions (sort of), how Anil Ambani lost $42 billion:

How much should you spend on vacations each year?

Do you still pay for cable?

A few years ago, we cancelled our cable. We weren’t using it at all.

Seems like fewer and fewer people are…

Cable’s Continued Collapse [Spyglass] – “Everyone knows by now (finally – I wrote this almost a decade ago) that cable TV is in a prolonged state of decline. But the numbers (assuming these numbers are at least directionally accurate) are nevertheless sobering.”

How Much Should You Spend on Vacation? [Art of Manliness] – “Some financial experts recommend this one: spend 5-10% of your net income on vacations. If you’re in debt, your budget should be closer to the 5% mark; if you’re not, it can be closer to the 10% end of the range. So, for example, if your net income is $80k a year, then you could reasonably spend $4-8k a year on vacations.” I’ve never thought about how much I spent on vacation as a percentage of net income… a fascinating idea.

Finally, we have an interesting story about the mafia and Sicily’s citrus trade:

Can We Blame the Mafia on Lemons? [Atlas Obscura] – “Economists and historians are connecting the early rise of organized crime with Sicily’s citrus trade.”

See you next week!

Be Kind

Be Kind, But Keep Your Integrity [More To That] – “The one thing we have high expectations of, however, is who she is as a person. And for that, we distill it all down to this one statement: We want her to be kind.”

What’s Ozempic doing to our brains? [Vox] – “Desire — for food, companionship, fun, sex, whatever — can bring excitement, joy, and even purpose to life. It’s the Good Stuff! But too much craving is the seed of addiction, of unhealthy eating habits, of the shameful feeling of being torn between what’s good for us and what we crave. We cannot live without wants, yet we cannot be overcome with them. […] Scientists are starting to see the potential for GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic to pull off this trick.”

Show this chart to anyone who tells you college isn’t worth it [Axios] – “Yes, college is still worth it: The wage gap between recent college and high school grads has been widening for decades, and grew even more last year, per new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”

This is the chart:
Median annual wage for recent graduates

It may not be worth it to everyone, but it’s definitely worth it.

Every Bit Helps

Happy Monday!

I enjoy all kinds of personal finance writing. Sometimes, I’m in the mood for a bit of money philosophy and mindset.

And sometimes, I just want to see a list of little hacks and tips you can immediately use to improve my life a wee bit. Our first post of the week does that.

Every Bit Helps [humbledollar] – “IN NEW ORLEANS, a lagniappe refers to a small gift or bonus—like receiving 13 items for the price of 12, or a so-called baker’s dozen. Today, credit card points are a popular form of lagniappe, delivering a modest bonus every time you spend. But many other lagniappes are also readily available:”

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable [Nir and Far] – “We may not enjoy whatever discomfort we expose ourselves to in the moment—be it a physical, mental, or spiritual hardship—but doing so is key to personal growth and even just plain contentment.”

Watch It Burn – Two scammers, a web of betrayal, and Europe’s fraud of the century. [Atavist] – “Daphne and other scammers’ pillaging of Europe’s carbon market constitutes what the media have called “the fraud of the century”—billions of euros were stolen in a matter of months. The shadowy scheme attracted established crime rings and amateur hucksters alike, many of whom knew each other. But the scam lent itself to duplicity: No one was ever sure who was working with whom, who might be screwing someone else over, or who had started the whole thing.” It’s really really really long.