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Category: General

Thank you

It’s Thanksgiving in the United States today and I wanted to thank you for being a subscriber of Apex Money.

For J.D. and me, this has always been a fun project that has allowed us to share the fascinating things we find on the internet. It’s really nothing more than that.

We have no grand ambitions to turn this into a business or to “monetize” it with advertisements, we just want to share the things we find in the hopes that you enjoy them too. The only metric we ever look at is how many people sign up for the email newsletter. It shows us that people like it and, hopefully, share it with their friends.

If you like us, tell a friend, forward this email – it would really make our day. 🙂

As a bribe, I want to share with you a video that I think is absolutely hilarious because I’m really, deep down inside, just a 9-year-old boy – testing the wobbliness of hot dogs.

(this video is not indicative of the stuff we send out … OK, maybe a little bit)

Thanksgiving may look different this year but we hope you’re able to spend it with some folks you care about.

We’ll be back on Monday.

First principles thinking

When I was younger, I played the piano. My parents wanted me to do it, so I did it (begrudgingly), and I was just playing music over and over again. I became “good” at playing the piano through sheer repetition.

I never learned about music. I never learned first principles about why some music “sounds” good and others don’t. I knew nothing about theory, I was just an imperfect robot.

One day, during a house party, I was watching my (music theater) friend playing the piano and he was explaining simple music concepts to someone else. I was riveted. It was like someone explaining gravity and it all making perfect sense. That’s the power of understanding first principles and, probably, one of my first aha moments.

How Julia Child Used First Principles Thinking [Farnam Street] – “There’s a big difference between knowing how to follow a recipe and knowing how to cook. If you can master the first principles within a domain, you can see much further than those who are just following recipes. That’s what Julia Child, “The French Chef”, did throughout her career.”

If It Hurts, It’s Probably True [Steli Efti, founder of Close] – “The truth is always simple. If it’s complicated, it’s probably not the truth. When things seem too complex, it’s probably a mind trick you’re playing on yourself because you don’t want to face the truth.”

2020 has been a dumpster fire – and now you can email a dumpster fire. 🙂

Email a Dumpster Fire.Literally. – “Send an email to dumpsterfire@hey.com with whatever you want to torch. Use plain text or an image attachment. PG-13 rules apply.” They print out your email and drop it in a dumpster fire. Wheeeeee!

Happy Thanksgiving Apexian! (unless you are outside the United States, then happy Thursday!)

Make your world small

I enjoy Joe Rogan’s podcast because he talks to a lot of interesting people. I don’t listen to every episode and I’d venture to say I miss/skip the majority. I enjoy it because you can listen to candid conversations with people with vastly different life experiences.

One such episode was with Andy Stumpf about getting through Hell Week in Navy Seal training. In the clip, you can hear Stumpf talk about the key to getting through the week is to “make the world small.” Instead of thinking about the week and being overwhelmed, think about the next meal.

You can hijack your brain to make it through a tough long task by making it smaller.

As the old maxim goes – “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

The Circle of Concern & Influence – How to Reduce Worry, Stress, & Anxiety [Coach Carson] – “I originally learned this idea from one of my favorite books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. Think of all of the events or situations in your life that concern you. Now imagine collecting all of these concerns into one big circle called the Circle of Concern. Everything inside the circle is of concern to you, and everything outside of the circle of no concern to you.”

Do you remember Y2K? Computers would implode because they couldn’t handle the date being 2000? That was COBOL.

The Code That Controls Your Money [Wealthsimple] – “COBOL is a coding language older than Weird Al Yankovic. The people who know how to use it are often just as old. It underpins the entire financial system. And it can’t be removed. How a computer language controls the financial life of the world.”

Life Lessons from a 97-Year-Old Lobsterman [Outside] – “John’s current lobster boat, the Sarah Ashley, is a 39-foot workhorse roughed up by salt and wind. Rusty tools, wires, screws, and a bunch of other unidentifiable items crowd her dashboard. There’s no chair for the captain—or anybody else. “She’s a little rugged,” John admits.

He’s rugged, too. One front tooth is chipped and his eyes, blue like the sea, are no longer sharp. But John’s core is shipshape, despite the bending, pulling, and lifting that sidelines many lobstermen before they hit 60. According to the U.S. Labor Bureau, John’s career is the most dangerous in the country, and half of the deaths of fishermen in 2017 were workers over 65.”

The Queen’s Gambit!

I restarted playing chess a few years ago and have been excited by the resurgence of the game as a result of streaming, the pandemic, and most recently, The Queens Gambit series on Netflix. I never really got into the Tiger King but this caught my interest and we binged it pretty quickly.

While the protagonist is fiction, at least one of the games shown is real thanks to the magnificent Garry Kasparov:

World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov on What The Queen’s Gambit Gets Right [Slate] – “Most of the games, it was not difficult, but the biggest challenge was the last game, because the last game is just, it’s a full game. And the problem is that the last game had to be played by the Queen’s Gambit. Of course I could pick up games from other openings, but it would be very much against the spirit of the book. How did I find a good game that will be played for 40 or so moves adjourned in a complicated situation? And then you have this very important element of Benny and his team calling from New York. It means the position had to be complicated. I found a few games and picked up one: Patrick Wolff against Vassily Ivanchuk, Biel Interzonal, 1993.”

What myth is still widely circulated as truth? [r/AskReddit] – A lot of fascinating myths in here including having to wait 24 hours to report a missing person, that lemmings commit mass suicide (fun game though!), and that you can reduce fat in a specific body part.

Man Becomes Overnight Millionaire After Meteorite Crashes Through His Roof [NDTV] – “An Indonesian man became a millionaire overnight after a meteor crashed through his roof. Josua Hutagalung, 33, is a coffin maker from Sumatra who became astronomically richer after he recently sold the meteorite for over 1 million pounds – or roughly ₹ 9.8 crore.” Money doesn’t grow on trees but it might fall from the sky!

This one is hard to read but highlights a social dilemma:

The Last Children of Down Syndrome [The Atlantic] – “Fält-Hansen says the calls she receives are about information, helping parents make a truly informed decision. But they are also moments of seeking, of asking fundamental questions about parenthood. Do you ever wonder, I asked her, about the families who end up choosing an abortion? Do you feel like you failed to prove that your life—and your child’s life—is worth choosing? She told me she doesn’t think about it this way anymore. But in the beginning, she said, she did worry: ‘What if they don’t like my son?'”

I know it’s not my typical “last link” but it’s powerful and I felt needed more attention.

See you tomorrow!

Big lessons from history.

Good morning, my friends, and welcome to Friday. I’ve gathered some interesting longer stories for you to enjoy today — and over the weekend.

My secret life as a mysterious millionaire’s personal assistant. [Narratively] — “It started with a simple Craigslist ad. Before long I was being sent on sketchy tasks, pocketing wads of cash, and trying not to think about where his money came from.”

A brief history of Dover books. [Contingent Magazine] — “Many of the titles Dover published — both new and old — were risky for the same reason they were potentially-profitable: they were often on niche topics, but that meant they were highly-desirable to people interested in those niche topics.” [I loved Dover books. I still have a few of their clip-art books next to my on my bookshelf, although I couldn’t tell you why.]

Big lessons from history. [Collaborative Fund] — “There are two kinds of history to learn from. One is the specific events. What did this person do right? What did that country do wrong? What ideas worked? What strategies failed?…The second kind of history to learn from are the broad behaviors that show up again and again, in multiple fields and different eras.” This is a great article.

To take us into the weekend, here’s something fun. I was eight years old when Star Wars came out in theaters. That movie changed my life in ways that are hard to imagine today. I was obsessed with it and its universe. I remain obsessed with it. (But only that original film and the supporting material released through, say, 1985. Everything after is pretty lame.)

Anyhow, here’s an eighteen minute video that explains how instead of changing the film industry, Star Wars was almost a colossal failure. Star Wars was only saved in the edit. (In particular, by George Lucas’ then-wife, Marcia.)

If you’re a nerd like me, you’ll probably enjoy this.

And that’s all we have for this week. Jim will be back on Monday with more of the best from the world of personal finance. Take care, everyone!

Fifteen-minute neighborhoods.

Welcome to Wednesday, money mavens!

Before we start, a hearty congratulations to the winners of this year’s Plutus Awards! Although it probably sounds niche-y to many, the Plutus Awards are given to personal-finance blogs, podcasts, etc. One of my faves — Bitches Get Riches — won a well-deserved Blog of the Year trophy. But what I like most is the chance to add 10-20 new (to me) sites to the reading list that I use to curate material for this site. The Plutus nominees are a great source of new material!

Do you live in a 15-minute neighborhood? [Accidental Fire] — In this post, Dave at Accidental Fire looks at a new tool designed to measure a neighborhood’s walkability. It seems very similar to the long-extant Walk Score, but with a much simpler interface. Me? Four years ago, I lived in a very walkable neighborhood and loved it. Today, I live somewhere that is not walkable and I find it depressing.

Five things your millionaire neighbor won’t tell you. [The College Investor] — “The fact is, a lot of people aspire to have wealth, be a millionaire, or be rich – however you define it. But for many, myths about millionaires, their money, and their mindset is holding you back. Here are some common myths about millionaires you need to stop worrying about on your path to wealth.”

The man who wants to help you get out of debt — at any cost. [The Guardian] — “As Ramsey sees it, America’s debt crisis is an epidemic akin to drug addiction, and its roots lie in individual behavior. The only way to escape its crushing weight is to stop enabling yourself and go cold turkey: live on rice and beans, get a second job, sell your money-sucking car.”

Today’s video is a fun glimpse at the past. It’s a three-minute cip that looks at what it was like to be a Wall Street trader in 1980, forty years ago.

And if you like this, the same guy has a lot of great videos in which he interviews average folks about a variety of subjects. He’s been doing this stuff for a long time. These clips are like windows into the real past, not the over-produced film and television that most of us are used to seeing.

Okay, that wraps up Wednesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with more!

How to say “no”

Good morning, money nerds! Welcome to Tuesday.

Today, I’m starting our collection of links with something that has nothing to do with money — yet everything to do with wealth. It’s a Reddit post from /r/AskDocs. And it’s just what I needed to read today. But be warned. It just might make you misty.

“My cancer lung cancer has spread to my heart. It’s over now.” [/r/AskDocs on Reddit] — “As difficult and shocking as these last few weeks have been, I regard them as positive. Only four weeks ago, I thought that the universe was a cold and cruel place. I experienced physical and mental abuse, chronic pain, and addiction. But my situation has forced a change of perspective. I see now that all our experiences, no matter how horrid, are temporary, and that we will all find the same rest and peace in the end.”

Whew. Now let’s look at some money stories, shall we?

Why you need a home inventory (and how to create one). [Women Who Money] — “If you experienced a significant loss, could you describe each item you lost? Would you recall their details and values? Even those with the best memories will forget many of their possessions when not in plain view. That’s why you need a home inventory.”

My priceless summer on a Maine lobster boat. [Outside] — “Last summer I lived alone on a tiny island in the easternmost part of coastal Maine — a region known as Down East — where I worked as a sternman on a lobster boat. I say ‘sternman’ because nobody says ‘sternwoman.’ I could count the number of female captains in the harbor on my hand — not enough to budge the traditional vernacular. I worked for one of them.”

How to say “no” (for people who always say “yes”). [NPR] — “There’s a high price for constantly aiming to make other people happy…People pleasing isn’t something that just pushovers do. Lue notes that perfectionists tend to be prone to people pleasing. The good news is that it’s a changeable habit. Here are some tips that Lue recommends.”

Today’s video comes from the always-excellent Financial Diet channel YouTube. In his 15-minute segment, Yanely Espinal (who goes by the handle @MissBeHelpful) shares five common money mistakes made by low-income earners.

That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff for you to read and view. See you then.

The grinding loneliness of working from home

Good morning, my friends, and welcome to another week of Apex Money. Jim and I are here to bring you some of the most interesting articles we’ve found on money and related subjects. To kick things off this week, we’ve got some good stuff. Take a look.

The quiet, grinding loneliness of working from home. [The Guardian] — “After four months of long days alone at the tiny desk in her bedroom, Mackenzie had a panic attack. She had lost weight and become depressed. ‘At first, I thought it was because the job was demanding, but I realised it was more the isolation and not being able to interact with people,’ she says. ‘I hadn’t realised I’d relied on that so heavily for my mental health.'” This article is important. More and more, I’m beginning to believe that one of the reasons I’ve been struggling with depression in recent years is because I moved out of the city and now spend 90% of my time alone. It kind of sucks.

The prestige trap. [Wes de Silverstro] — “Prestige is a measure of how much status a group assigns to something. From this definition, a lot of interesting qualities of prestige can be discerned. Since prestige depends upon what the group thinks, then it follows that it is not a fixed nor immutable quality. Groups of people differ everywhere, so what is prestigious in one place is not necessarily prestigious in another.” This article is slow to get going but makes an excellent point.

How to cope with financial infidelity. [The Scope of Practice] — “If you or a friend have a spouse that has committed a serious act of financial infidelity, it can be hard to describe the depth of betrayal that you feel…It’s important to address all three of those areas in order to minimize the risk of financial infidelity in your relationship. But, how do you deal with financial infidelity if it has already taken place?”

Last but not least, here’s yet another Dolly Parton video. You know that I think Parton is a national treasure, and this GQ segment in which she directly answers fan questions on social media is a good example why I subscribe to that view. She’s wonderful.

That’s it for day one. I’ll be back tomorrow with yet more money stories that I hope you’ll find useful and informative. See you then!

Friday the 13th

Are you superstitious?

I’m not superstitious but I also don’t tempt fate by NOT being superstitious. I also turned thirteen on Friday the 13th… but nothing bad happened (thankfully).

9 Bizarre Money Superstitions People Actually Believe [Wise Bread] – “Do not place your purse on the floor. This superstition is considered to be bad feng shui, because your purse is seen as a symbol for your wealth. Putting it on the floor is therefore a sign of great disrespect and disregard for your money.”

It’s only bizarre if it doesn’t work, right? 🙂

The Difference Between Lifestyle Creep and Improving Your Life [We Want Guac] – “Are You Buying This for Your Own Happiness, or Because it’s Expected of You? Check in with yourself to make sure you’re making this decision conscientiously. You don’t want to just go through the motions of purchasing what society tells you is good to buy. If I did what others expected of me I’d have stayed around my hometown Fearsville. I would have continued to practice a religion I don’t believe in and socializing with people who didn’t have my best interests at heart. No part of that scenario would make me truly happy. For your own self esteem and overall life satisfaction, make sure this isn’t just something you feel you need to check off of your Life To-Do list.”

Super-Concierge Doctors, High-Design Home Classrooms, and Catered Backyard Dinners: Lifestyles of the Rich and Quarantined [Washingtonian] – “Covid-19 has wrought lasting, horrific damage on the country—pushing millions of people out of work and killing more than 200,000, a disproportionate number of them people of color. But if the disease has upended our society, there are some slivers of Washington where people can afford an extra measure of comfort (on the hush-hush, of course). The parties are still on (now the tasting menu comes to you), the kids are still in classrooms (they just might be newly installed, high-design “homerooms”), and getaways still happen (they just might involve a new yacht rather than airplane tickets).”

On Needing to Find Something to Worry About [The School of Life] – “It sounds paradoxical and absurd to think that some of us might need to find something to worry about in order to recover our equilibrium. Worry is, after all, something we should rightly hate to have to suffer and should engage with only when absolutely necessary.”

That’s it for me! Stay safe and have a great weekend Apexian!

A surprising discovery about some “cash management accounts”

Cash management accounts are really popular now – it’s when a company offers bank-like services on top of their existing offering.

Companies like doing this because it gives your cash balance some interest and it can make that relationship slightly closer.

But there are risks, especially if the company runs into some trouble:

Beam Financial vanishing act a cautionary tale for partners of fintechs [American Banker] – “In a report CNBC published Thursday, several Beam customers told of realizing the app was down temporarily and unsuccessfully trying to withdraw their money. The report jibes with the Better Business Bureau’s entry on Beam, which says the bureau has received “a pattern of complaints” from customers about delays in receiving funds when closing accounts and issues when contacting customer services. The Beam iOS App Store page contains dozens of complaints from users who couldn’t withdraw their funds.”

It’s hard to know what will happen with Beam but the money should still be FDIC insured. What’s tricky is the partner bank said that they don’t know the account information – which I was surprised to learn. If Beam has all the information and they “lose” it somehow, how do depositors prove how much they had?

I suspect that it will all eventually unravel itself but that may take a while.

Make Money Fleecing Casinos on Your Next Trip to Nevada [Trip of a Lifestyle] – “We normally don’t gamble much since it’s generally a losing proposition. On this drive though, we came up with an interesting strategy to beat the house and make a profit in every casino we stopped at — without risking any of our own money.”

Me and my wife used to do this too on our trips and you don’t come out rich (a $350 haul is pretty good!) but it was still fun!

Common Causes of Very Bad Decisions [Collaborative Fund] – “Italian psychologist Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini was once asked why people keep making the same mistakes. He said: ‘Inattention, distraction, lack of interest, poor preparation, genuine stupidity, timidity, braggadocio, emotional imbalance, ideological, racial, social or chauvinistic prejudices, and aggressive or prevaricatory instincts.’ Let me add some more:”

Have a good day!