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Category: General

Planes, trains, and automobiles: Isn’t travel the best?

I love to travel. I enjoy seeing and living in different places, usually as slowly as possible as to recreate a local’s living experience rather than a tourist whirlwind through sights… but I am not a fan of the actual travel to and from those places.

Airports are magnets for stress. Easy going, normal people are always stressed out 150% and TSA doesn’t help.

We have three kids so traveling is a chaotic juggling of children, luggage, and schedules. It’s not fun but it’s what we need to do to get to the fun. 🙂

Today’s Apex will be mostly travel-related, starting with a little behind the scenes at LAX:

Nine Secrets I Never Knew About Airports Until I Worked at LAX [Bloomberg] – “From dead bodies in the security line to a cobra in a Pringles can, you wouldn’t believe the crazy things that happen at America’s busiest airport of origin.”

The Girl’s Guide to Hiking Solo [Nomadic Matt, written by Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse] – “Like solo traveling, some people will argue that hiking alone is never safe, no matter what. As someone who does it all the time, I have a different take on it. I find it empowering, incredibly peaceful, and one of the best ways to get closer to myself. I get to push out all the noise and clutter and just be one with nature. That said, you have to take precautions to make yourself safer.”

Why Cruise Lines Keep Cutting Their Ships in Half [Bloomberg] – “With sparks flying, and shipyard workers and invited guests cheering him on, Delany made the final vertical cut to chop Star Breeze in half. But he was hardly destroying the small ship—he was doing just the opposite.

In a process called “stretching,” the Star Breeze is getting pulled apart to make room for a new, 84-foot, 1,250-ton prefab midsection addition. Think of it like unsnapping (or unwelding) two Legos and putting another block in between. But with a boat.”

This last one isn’t about travel but was too good for me to not share!

Expensive Cars are Masquerading Around as Signs of Wealth [Greenbacks Magnet] – “You ever drive by a neighborhood that ends in Estates or Hills and look in the driveway?

There are usually enough European cars around for these folks to start a dealership down the street and give Audi a run for their money.

You figure places like Beverly Hills, Miami Beach, and New York are places that can afford these types of cars, but what about places you would think those people may not make the type of money it requires to have those vehicles?”

Before you go, a fun little video about something you might’ve heard about. In 1981, American Airlines sold a $250,000 pass that allowed the holder to fly for free… until they clawed it back.

Watch this video to learn more about this program and what happened:

(if you are really into it, The Hustle did a long piece about AAirpass too)

That’s it for me – next week, J.D. returns with a heavy dose of Apex Worthy stuff for you to enjoy!

Tis the season to TAKE :)

Two days ago, the theme of the post was giving.

The theme of today’s Apex is all about TAKING.

Don’t get me wrong… taking something that isn’t yours is bad. Very bad.

And the posts today will show you exactly how bad it is to take what is not yours, especially after you get caught (and you will always get caught).

Where Husbands Hide Money During Divorce [Christine Luken] – “If things aren’t going well in your marriage, you might wonder where husbands hide money during divorce. Although no one really “wins” financially coming out of divorce, women are more negatively impacted than men. […] Since many of my clients are divorcing women, I’ve heard quite a few stories of financial deceit: husbands hiding assets, income, and even debt from their wives!”

The Big Bitcoin Heist [Vanity Fair] – “He was the lone guard at the Advania data center, housed in a former U.S. naval base not far from the Reykjavík airport in Iceland. His job was to keep watch over two hangar-like buildings that held rows of small, box-like computers, the size of two cartons of cigarettes, stacked in towers as far as the eye could see. It was a hot, constantly blinking trove of devices, lashed together with tangles of cables and wires, all dedicated to a single job: mining the cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin.”

Jackpot [Medium] – “How two lottery-crazed bank clerks cooked up China’s biggest bank robbery of all time.” Like many bank robberies, it was not a good plan. And in China, the consequences are far more severe.

A Pickpocket’s Tale [The New Yorker] – “In magic circles, Robbins is regarded as a kind of legend. Psychiatrists, neuroscientists, and the military study his methods for what they reveal about the nature of human attention.” This article is dated 2012 and every so often it reappears in my life and I’m reminded how amazing Robbins is. If you want to learn more about him, you’ll find numerous videos on him and his work but definitely watch his TED talk on attention and misdirection. Solid gold and very useful.

Thanks for reading and please please please share this with someone who will enjoy it!

Hustle your face off

In America, we celebrate hard work. Burning the candle at both ends. Rise and grind. [insert your favorite “work hard, play hard” quote here]

But is it always the right thing?

Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

And it’s especially hard to know when you’re working for yourself (or aspiring to) because there’s always more to do and the pressure to do it. But working harder doesn’t always mean you’re working smarter. In fact, the more you work, the less you’re able to differentiate between the good stuff and the bad stuff. It’s like cramming for a test… that last hour of studying is usually trash.

We start today’s Apex with a post on entrepreneurship and finish with a fun video series by the champion of hustle, Gary Vee:

Why Your Entrepreneurship Addiction is Making You Broke (and how-to fix this) [Studenomics] – “You’re proud of yourself because you suddenly feel like an entrepreneur. You’ve listened to a podcast, you’ve signed up for another seminar, and you shared an inspirational meme today. You did all of this before 6 in the morning since you’re up at 5 because that’s what you’ve been told to do by a guru.

I’m here to tell you why your self-help addiction is making you broke and what you can do to fix this right away…”

How to Manage Two Successful Business (And Why One Wasn’t Enough) [Afford Anything] – Julia Kelly shares why she started a second business after having a ‘successful’ first business. She’s a caricature artist making six figures that also co-started an accounting business with her neighbor. “Three years in to starting the biz, we have over 50 clients and five employees making up an awesome team of humans doing work that’s valuable, important, and (for me at least) fun!

I still run JK Expressions and do a decent number of the gigs myself. Turns out, I’m much happier when drawing caricatures is my side gig and it’s balanced out with more analytical type of work.”

Ever wonder where Amazon returns go? People buy them by the pallet and resell them!

Where Amazon Returns Go to Be Resold by Hustlers [The Atlantic] – “With a couple hundred dollars and a few minutes, you could go to a liquidation website right now and buy a pallet full of stuff that people have returned to Amazon. It will have, perhaps, been lightly sorted by product category—home decor, outdoor, apparel—but this is mostly aspirational. For example, in one pallet labeled “home decor,” available for sale on liquidation.com, you could find hiking crampons, shimmer fabric paint, a High Visibility Thermal Winter Trapper Hat, a Mr. Ellie Pooh Natural White Paper List Pad, a St. Patrick’s Pot O’ Gold Cupcake Decorating Kit, a Spoontiques Golf Thermometer, a Feliz Cumpleanos Candle Packaged Balloon, and five Caterpillar Hoodies for Pets.”

It’s a GRIIIIIIIND.

IF you enjoy that type of thing, I found a fun video series you’ll enjoy. Gary Vaynerchuk, of Wine Library TV and Gary Vee fame, goes around to garage sales for vintage toys, mugs, and other high-value goodies that he can flip on eBay (more accurately, his team flips it). It’s basically a version of Storage Wars but with stuff that all 80s kids will identify with. It’s quite fun to watch. Here’s the first video in the series:

Have a good day and send this to someone you think will enjoy reading this!

Tis the season to give

Ever wonder what it is like to run a foundation?

It sounds really exotic and fancy but it’s actually quite easy to start a foundation. My wife and I did it a few years by making a small contribution to a Fidelity donor advised fund. Now we are the proud advisers to a DAF that gives us the flexibility to separate our donations from our giving. A DAF lets us contribute in a way that maximizes our tax benefits while decoupling it from when we give from the fund. It’s a great system.

Want to learn more? Leif does a great job explaining how this works in his epic post on the subject:

The Donor Advised Fund : A Smarter Way to Give [Physician on Fire] – “A donor advised fund (DAF) is an excellent and tax-efficient way to give to charity. The vast majority of my charitable giving is to and from my DAF. There are several big advantages to using a DAF as opposed to giving cold, hard cash, or writing checks.”

As for the actual giving, I really enjoy how Andy and his family approach giving:

How to Make Charitable Giving a Family Tradition [Marriage Kids and Money] – “Charitable giving can feel difficult or even impossible when we’re in debt and barely scraping by. When we’ve lifted ourselves up to a position of financial strength and confidence, giving back feels like the right thing to do.” This post shares how Andy and his family have made giving a part of their family tradition – it’s a lovely post.

Using Your Real Hourly Wage to Make Smarter Financial Decisions [Life and My Finances] – “Your real hourly wage is the amount you are actually making per hour after all work expenses are accounted for. These expenses include things like the cost of your commute to work each day, work clothes, unpaid lunch breaks, etc.

Discovering how much you actually earn per hour can be a real eye opener. But once you know this number, you can use it to make smarter financial decisions.”

Lastly, our video for today comes from my good friend Bob Lotich of Seed Time – how many of these 17 things do you do?

Have a great week and consider sending this to a friend who might want to see it!

Finding comfort in discomfort

Happy Monday! Welcome back to another exciting week of personal finance awesomeness from Jim.

Today’s post will be slightly different in that it’s not entirely about money. We have three articles all talking about a simple but powerful idea – finding comfort in discomfort.

No one enjoys being uncomfortable but just as you can’t enjoy sweetness without bitterness, you truly can’t enjoy being comfortable when you haven’t been uncomfortable. Today’s posts all discuss this idea… and no ice-cold showers required!

Discomfort Zone: How to Master the Universe [Zen Habits] – “Of all the skills I’ve learned in the past 7 years of changing my life, one skill stands out: Learning to be comfortable with discomfort. If you learn this skill, you can master pretty much anything.”

Don’t Let Life Get Too Easy in Early Retirement [Our Next Life] – “Removing too many pain points from our lives risks actually doing ourselves harm in a different way: a life with no pain points makes us soft. And is that what you want for your early retirement, to go through it as a person who’s growing less and less resilient, who is so used to everything being easy that you become intolerant of dealing with challenges? Because that’s what we’re talking about.”

Are We Happier When We’re Uncomfortable? [The Frug] – “Imagine for a second that all of your needs have been met. You don’t need to lift a finger to do anything. You’re in the perfect location, with the perfect partner, all of your physical, emotional, and financial needs have been completely taken care of. Servants bring you fresh food and drinks. No need to even get out of your beach chair.

I don’t know about you but I’ve been on vacations like this and it truly gets old after the first week or two. Even when I have plenty of good books to read, a beautiful beach, and an ocean to swim in, this thought of sitting still bores the hell out of me.”

And for the candy after the medicine… we have a treasure hunt!

The Fisherman’s Secret: A modern day treasure hunt [SF Chronicle] – “One late night five years ago, fisherman Giuseppe Pennisi was lying in bed with his laptop propped up on his barrel chest, reviewing video footage captured from his 76-foot boat, the Pioneer. The boat is a bottom trawler. It scoops up fish with a net that bounces across the seafloor at depths of more than 4,000 feet. A tinkerer, Pennisi likes to keep GoPro cameras attached to the net, allowing him to study the footage and improve his technique. That night, around 2 a.m., he noticed his camera slide past something unusual.

Along the murky seafloor, fish and rocks come in rounded shapes and soft colors, muted grays and greens. His eyes were attuned to this drab underwater landscape, which is why he had been puzzled by brief flashes of light on the video screen, shiny surfaces glimmering by. Then he saw it: a rectangular object, sharp-edged and pale, almost white, with a tinge of yellow.”

TREASURE! The article is very long but if you just want the action… read until the legal part (there are several chapters in the middle dedicated to the seemingly-futile legal aspect of treasure hunting) and then jump to Chapter 11.

Thanks for reading and please share this with someone you love!

Don’t throw it out until you’ve smelled it!

Happy Friday, money nerds! You’ve made it through the first week of December. Let’s celebrate by sharing some outstanding money stories from around the web, shall we?

How to lower housing costs. [The Fioneers] — “Buying a home has helped us on our journey, but it is not the right decision for everyone. The important lesson we took away from this is to keep our housing costs low while our income has increased. If you are looking to improve your financial situation, you should consider lowering your housing costs. Figuring out how to lower your housing costs will depend on your unique situation.”

“My emergency fund isn’t just money.” [Tread Lightly, Retire Early] — “So beyond saving up every free dollar and slowly building up that cash emergency fund, what can you do to make your financial situation more resilient? Beyond just more dollars, there are definitely other things you can do to weather those expensive storms. Here are a few things we have in place.”

The ultimate productivity hack is saying “no”. [James Clear] — “If you have trouble saying no, you may find the following strategy proposed by Tim Harford, the British economist I mentioned earlier, to be helpful. He writes, ‘One trick is to ask, “If I had to do this today, would I agree to it?” It’s not a bad rule of thumb, since any future commitment, no matter how far away it might be, will eventually become an imminent problem.'”

Don’t throw it out until you’ve smelled it! [Surviving and Thriving] — “Would anyone I knew have thought that milk too close to its sell-by date should be thrown out? Nope. In fact, we might have hoped it was close to its sell-by date, because it might be discounted. The freshness of bread was a moot point because ours came a dozen loaves at a time from the bakery outlet.”

To send you into your weekend, we’ve got one last feature that has nothing to do with money. In this video, a former Secret Service agent explains how officers keep the President (and other VIPs) safe in a variety of situations. Interesting stuff.

That’s it for this week. Jim will be back with more great stuff on Monday, money nerds. See you then…

You should have a true hobby (not a side hustle).

Good morning, money nerds. We’re glad to see you stop by. As always, we have some of the best financial news from around the web to share with you. Are you ready?

Generally speaking, we end Apex Money installments with a video (when we include one). Let’s mix things up! Today, let’s — gasp — start with our video. It’s a brief look at why “99 cent pricing” works.

Personally, I hate this ploy, and I like to think it doesn’t work on me. But I’m probably just fooling myself. Now, let’s move on to our normal, text-based stories.

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! The borogroves aren’t really mimsy this time of year, but lookee here: Craigslist has, at long last, released an official app for mobile devices. It’s currently only available for Apple iOS devices, but there is a beta version for Android, if that’s how you roll.

Remember when you wanted what you currently have? [Budgets Are Sexy] — “In a world constantly pushing us for ‘more’, it sure is a nice reminder of everything we’ve already achieved/received if we actually take a second to reflect upon it. Here’s a short list of all the things I remember really wanting bad over the years — how about you?”

There’s treasure everywhere! [Financial Panther] — “There’s a natural tendency for many of us to think in worst-case scenarios. We’re often taught to play things safe, and if we do anything out of the ordinary, there’s no shortage of people who will step in to tell us all of the bad stuff that can happen. I think this often makes us forget about all of the opportunities that are out there. We make our decisions, not from a place of abundance and optimism, but rather from a place of fear and scarcity.”

How to have a true hobby, not a side hustle. [Vox] — “The next time you reach for your smartphone or tablet out of habit — or boredom — consider a more fulfilling alternative: find a hobby, or an activity that you do purely for pleasure and relaxation, not for work or necessity…Making time for non-essential activities is, in fact, essential. Challenging leisure activities — such as hobbies — improve mental and physical wellbeing, foster learning, and build communities. Oh — and it’s fun!” I love this article!

Lastly, here’s a Very Important Link for all y’all. The staff over at The Kitchn tried eight different methods of cooking bacon to find out which one was best. Can you guess which technique produced the best results? (As for me, well, I’ve never met bacon I didn’t like.)

Well, that’s certainly plenty for a Thursday. We’ll be back tomorrow with more fun stuff. Got something we should share? Send it in!

How women are changing the FIRE community — and the world.

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds! We’re back with more top money stories from around the web. Today’s letter is W, and today’s theme is women.

First up, here’s a little data visualization from /r/dataisbeautiful on Reddit. It graphs the occupational distribution of men and women in the labor force (according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics info). Nothing deep here. Just fun with numbers.

Men and women in the workplace

And our first actual story is semi-related.

Gendered division of labor served a purpose. To make progress, don’t erase it. Replace it. [Behavioral Scientist] — “Although women have made significant strides toward gender equity in the workplace, this does not always translate to gender equity in the household. Studies have found that women often shoulder an extra burden at home, even women who work as much outside the home as their husbands do.”

How women are changing the FIRE community — and the world. [The Wealthy Accountant] — “I don’t want to get bogged down on the inequities women have faced and instead want to focus on their contribution. Celebrating the incredible work women have done (and are doing) is certain to benefit women more than complaining. We can’t change the past, but we can do something about the here and now.”

Are you sacrificing too much for your kids? [Chief Mom Officer] — “That advice they give you on airplanes – to put on your own oxygen mask before helping your kids – applies here. Once your kids have their basic needs fulfilled, you need to make sure that you’re not fulfilling their wants at the expense of your own financial future.”

Last but not least, here’s a video that’s better than it ought to be. It’s three Russian young women performing a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Can’t Stop” in their kitchen. On a trombone and ukelele. No joke…this is awesome!

That’s it for today. See you again tomorrow, money nerds. And remember: If there’s something you think we should share, send it in!

The power of a meaningful life.

Hey hey, whaddya say, money nerds? Today is Tuesday and it’s time for some top money stories from around the web.

We’re going to kick things off by linking to ourselves. That’s right! Jim and I are the guests on the most recent episode of the always-awesome “What’s Up Next?” podcast. Doc G and Paul pick our brains to find out: Why on earth would anyone build a curation site like Apex Money? And, more importantly, is curation art?

Now, here are your regularly-scheduled money stories…

Why you shouldn’t trust numbers and stats from the mass media. [The Financial Bodyguard] — “Big numbers sound scarier. That’s why the media uses them. To drive visitors to their websites, as clickbait, to drive sales and advertising revenue. The media’s interests are not aligned with yours. Next time you see one of these headlines, ask yourself the following questions…”

The power of a meaningful life. [Scientific American] — “Who could argue with happiness? Count the journalist Emily Esfahani Smith as one. Happiness is not itself a problem, of course, but she worries that its relentless pursuit — and the self-help industry that’s grown up around that mission — has left us feeling empty, dislocated and, well, unhappy.”

“How I got rich…” [Derek Sivers] — “I don’t usually talk about money, but a friend asked me what it was like to get rich, and he wanted to know specifics, so I told him my story…When I finished telling my friend this story, he asked for more. I said no, that was it.” I love all of Sivers’ stuff. This is no exception.

To wrap things up for the day, here’s something really obscure. If you’re old like I am, you might remember that in Olden Times, back when the world was young, computer programs came on floppy disks. Or cassette tapes. Or…vinyl records? For real! Check this out…

True story: I still buy the occasional vinyl record. I just picked up U2’s “Unforgettable Fire” last week. And last month I finally acquired Taylor Swift on vinyl!

“How we bought our new car.”

Brrrrr! It’s cold out there, money nerds! We’ve reached December and that means the start of meteorological winter in the northern hemisphere. Time to hunker down by the fire while enjoying some of the top money stories from around the web.

The Munger Operating System: How to live a life that really works. [Farnam Street] — “In 2007, Charlie Munger gave the commencement address at USC Law School…The commencement speech is an excellent response to the Big Question: How do we live a life that really works? It has so many of Munger’s core ideas that we think the speech represents the Munger Operating System for life.”

How (and why) to simplify your life. [Four Pillar Finance] — “I’m a firm believer in the idea that most people can drastically improve their life by simplifying it. By doing less things, but with more focus. By working fewer hours, but with higher productivity. By focusing less on duration and more on intensity. By saying ‘yes’ to fewer activities, but giving more energy to those activities.”

“How we bought our new car.” [The Simple Path to Wealth] — “While buying a new car is now a much better experience than it was in the ‘bad old days’, it is still a bit of a hassle. The key to making it as painless as possible is to separate the selection process from the actual buying process.”

To end things right on a Monday, here’s a beautiful two-minute video of a glider descending in the rain near Florence, Italy. Feels very wintery, doesn’t it? Set it to full-screen and enjoy the experience.

Safe travels!