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How to achieve financial independence and retire early.

Today’s installment of Apex Money is a little different. Generally speaking, Jim and I don’t like to engage in promotional activity — especially not self-promotional activity. Today, we’re making an exception.

You see, I spent the past couple of years researching, writing, and recording a project with Audible and The Great Courses. It’s a ten-part, five-hour overview of financial independence and early retirement. In many ways, it’s a culmination of my life’s work.

If this appeals to you (and you’re an Audible subscriber), check it out: How to Achieve Financial Independence and Retire Early.

How to achieve financial independence and retire early

And since I’m promoting my own stuff, it’s only fair to promote something of Jim’s right? I know I’m biased because he’s my friend, but the dude does great work over at Wallet Hacks. For instance, I thought his recent article on buying your first home was fantastic. It’s good not only for first-time homebuyers, but for all homebuyers. (Seriously. This week, I’ve been dealing with our crummy house — the fourth one I’ve purchased in my life — and I wish I’d heeded some of Jim’s advice before buying.)

I don’t want to spend this installment solely on self-promotion, though. Let’s finish the day by promoting the work of others!

The Daily Grower is a curation site devoted to homestead and farm stories. Apex subscriber Randy Kleinman aims to gather the best info related to small-scale food production and share one article each day. I love the site, which features articles on topics like fermentation, goat behavior, and growing your own spices. I’ve added it to my news sources!

Finally, All-Star Money is the new curation site from J. Money, founder and former owner of Rockstar Finance. When Rockstar stopped publishing, Jim and I were inspired to start Apex as a way to fill the void. Well, J. Money is back. He’s collaborating with The Motley Fool to bring us three new articles every day. Yay!

And that’s it for our first-ever promotional installment of Apex Money. It’ll probably be another two years before our next episode of self-promotion haha.

Building a rich life.

Hey hey. Today is Thursday, if you’re keeping track. And, of course, this is Apex Money, your source for fresh money links. Let’s see what we have for you today…

A false sense of purchasing power. [Becoming Minimalist] — “It is helpful to recognize that the temptation to take out credit based on income (rather than wealth) can be detrimental to our long-term financial health. It allows us to spend money like the wealthy, even though we are not.”

The secret, essential geography of the office. [Wired] — “I keep reading that the office era is over — that our pandemic has proven that ‘office culture’ is an oxymoron. When the virus hit we left our desks and threw away our commutes, and now no one can tap our shoulders (or, much worse, massage them). And aren’t we better for it?…But I don’t buy this.”

Building a rich life. [ESI Money] — “You don’t want to be rich. You want to be happy. You’re not after wealth for the sake of wealth. You’re after what that money represents: freedom, fulfillment, and a Rich Life. Money itself is a means to an end.”

Lessons from watching food-truck videos. [Financial Panther] — “I find food truck owners to be an interesting group of people. They’re extremely passionate about what they do. They work harder than almost anyone I’ve ever seen. And, the thing I really relate to, these food truck owners value control and autonomy over their lives more than anything.”

And to finish today, here’s a fun video from Guinness World Records. It’s the most tricks performed by a cat in one minute.

The only trick my cats will do is “beg for fish treats”. (Well, that’s not really true. They’ll also “cry to go outside”.)

Any my best trick? My best trick is that I’ll be back tomorrow to share more money news with you all! See you then.

How to do the things you keep avoiding.

Welcome to Wednesday, my friends. We’ve got some money links for you. Are you ready?

Today, let’s lead with our video feature. From His and Her Money, here’s a 43-minute interview in which one wife describes how she got her husband on board to become debt-free. Good stuff, right?

How to do the things you keep avoiding. [Raptitude] — “The Cloud is not the Task, but from a distance it appears to be. The Task is what you have to do. The Cloud is all the immaterial, psychological stuff that condenses around a Task when you’re thinking about it without doing it. It’s a byproduct, made of intolerable, insoluble problems that aren’t really about the task, like self-doubt and the pain of past mistakes.”

Positive feedback loops. [Zen Habits] — “Negative feedback loops will cause us to not do the activity. Positive feedback loops will cause us to stay with it for much longer. Think about the design of your plan to change your behavior: is it designed to give you positive feedback or negative feedback? Most people ignore this component entirely.”

Why four women decided to downsize their homes and declutter their lives. [Real Simple] — “Meet four women who decided to live a downsized life, from an interior designer who realized she wasn’t using half of her house, to a podcast host who wanted to finally stop being a messy person. They share their motivations, strategies, and challenges—plus the rewards of their newfound simplicity. Here’s what happened when they decided to live with less.”

That’s it for Hump Day. Join us again tomorrow for more of the best from the world of personal finance!

An illustrated guide to bitcoin.

Good morning, y’all! You ready for a plate of piping hot personal-finance links to go with that cup of coffee? Good. You’ve come to the right place. Dig in!

An introduction to ugly produce delivery services. [The Fioneers] — “I [finds] these services appealing for two reasons. First, these services ship the produce directly to your house, compared to a CSA that typically requires you to pick it up from a central location. The ugly veggie services also provide the option of customizing the size of the box you want and the products inside. CSA shares provide a lot of food, and I wasn’t sure that we could use it all.” Kim just told me about these services last week!

An illustrated guide to bitcoin. [The Hustle] — “At this point, nearly everyone has heard of bitcoin. But many folks still don’t quite understand how the currency is created…In this illustrated guide, we’ll cover the following: how bitcoin is created (a process called mining), how the economics of mining have changed over time, the effects this process has on power consumption.”

“I ditched texting and picked up the phone.” [Outside magazine] — “I thought that I’d wind up among the ‘enlightened’, a digital ascetic who prioritized attentiveness above all else. Instead, I’m grateful for the many avenues of connection out there. Sometimes the facelessness of a text can be a balm, just like the connectedness of a call.” I’ve been experimenting with more phone calls in 2021. So far, I like it.

To close things out today, here’s a video I love. As you may or may not know, you used to be able to buy complete kits to build your own home from Sears. These kits were affordable and popular. Well, here’s a TV news story that profiles an entire neighborhood in Carlinville, Illinois built from Sears homes.

Love it!

Okay, that’s all for Tuesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with more awesome stories. See you then.

An ode to low expectations.

Why, hello my friends. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had the pleasure of posting at Apex Money. You see, my neighborhood got clobbered by a rare Oregon ice storm, which meant we lost power for nine days (and internet for eleven). Thanks to Jim for covering for me last week. Now, at last, things are back to normal.

That means it’s time to dive into some of the best money stories from around the web. Let’s do it!

Strangers took in a delivery driver for five days after she was stranded in the Texas storm. [CNN] — “The couple said they were not going to let Timmons sit out there in the cold. Daytime turned to night and soon dinner was upon them. It was Valentine’s Day and the couple made steak with blue cheese, broccoli and a salad. It was a much better meal than Timmons imagined she’d be getting that night, she said.”

Tracking down a mentor from 40 years ago. [No Mercy/No Malice] — “Forty years later, I was 13 again with a generous man who makes me feel less invisible. Approaching his 70th birthday, Cy was taking stock of his blessings, getting remarried, and considering selling his business and easing into retirement. In my fifties, I’m also taking stock of my blessings, and trying to repair my deficits. Life is so rich.” This story starts slow but ends well.

The market value of my father. [Wealthsimple] — “When the novelist Joshua Ferris’s family blew up, his mother revealed a truth: his father was worthless, a con man. A bad investment in their lives. But years later, a mysterious book about Wall Street showed up—a gift from his father—that began to change the story.”

An ode to low expectations. [The Atlantic, so possible paywall] — “Strive for excellence, by all means. My God, please strive for excellence. Excellence alone will haul us out of the hogwash. But lower the bar, and keep it low, when it comes to your personal attachment to the world…If you can get a buzz of animal cheer from the rubbishy sandwich you’re eating, the daft movie you’re watching, the highly difficult person you’re talking to, you’re in business.”

Finally, this investment calculator at calculator.net is a handy tool for playing with all sorts of parameters related to an investment plan. The calculator includes tabs for modifying contributions, return rates, starting investment, final balance, and more. Nerdy but fun.

Okay, that’s it for my first day back from winter “vacation”. I’ll see you tomorrow with more of the best from the world of personal finance…and beyond.

Just videos today (these are so so so good)

What happens when the largest stunt school in the world puts out a highlight reel of what its students can do? You get this. (a lot of the footage, if you’ll notice, comes from a drone flying around the school!)

Now that you’re fired up, watch this video and don’t cry:

I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Finally, to fire you off into the weekend, here is a collection of videos that Vimeo has considered the videos of the year. They’re all short (a few minutes), and my favorite was the Nike commercial You Can’t Stop Us but this one, Facing It, really makes you think:

Sharing experiences, even from afar, can bring people closer

One of the positives (specifically for us) from the pandemic is that we’ve developed a little workout group with some of our friends. These are friends we’ve known for years, vacationed together, etc; (so we’re already close), but we haven’t all been on shared group threads talking about fitness (and other random topics) like this.

It turns out that sharing experiences, even if you aren’t near each other physically (we are spread out across the Eastern United States), can bring people closer:

Sharing experiences, even from afar, can bring people closer [Chicago Booth Review] – “But we also prefer to experience separate events, good or bad, at the same time, suggest University of California at Los Angeles’ Franklin Shaddy and University of Florida’s Yanping Tu, both recent graduates of the Chicago Booth PhD Program, and Booth’s Ayelet Fishbach. For example, knowing that your friend is having a root canal on the same day as you may make it feel like a shared experience—and make it a little easier to handle.”

For the month of February, we’ve been doing the same core exercises (courtesy of Matty Maggiacomo) and we’ve reveled in our shared misery together.

“Fake Famous” and the Tedium of Influencer Culture [The New Yorker] – “A new documentary follows three nobodies who are trying to become social-media famous, which involves buying followers and staging photo shoots in a kiddie pool.”

How Marketing Changed the Way We See Avocados [Scientific American] – “Once upon a time, Americans didn’t know what to do with “alligator pears.” Now we can’t get enough” Alligator pears!

Do you want to be happier?

Skip this post if the answer is no. 🙂

20 Ways To Be Happier in Life [The Retirement Manifesto] – “The last year has been tough on all of us. With that COVID thing floating around, increasing tension between political classes, Social Media run amuck, etc, it’s time to take a break from all of the negativity. With that in mind, here are 20 ways to be happier in life, based on my personal experience.”

Create life mantras and goals, to enjoy life and increase happiness [Accidentally Retired] – “A few years ago, I started to create a Life Crafting notebook. It was created simply using the Notes app on my iPhone to jot down things I wanted to remember to better my life. My Life Crafting notebook now includes various different tidbits of things that I wanted to remember to enact in my life. Everything from Life Mantras, and goals, to date night Ideas, to quotes I like, and key highlights from books I have read.”

((Real personal consumption expenditures: Durable goods: Recreational goods and vehicles+Real personal consumption expenditures: Recreation services)/Real Personal Consumption Expenditures)*100

The growing share of spending on recreation [Federal Reserve of St. Louis] – “The FRED graph above shows the percent of real personal consumption expenditures devoted to recreational goods and services. Between 2002 and 2019, this share has almost constantly increased. (The sole exception being the dip between 2008 and 2009, during the Great Recession.) To be precise, the share of recreational expenditures has increased 57%, which is worth more than half a smile.”

Rich is having passive income greater than your burn

The Algebra of Wealth [Scott Galloway] – “I know a lot of people who make an extraordinary amount of money, but few people who are rich. Rich is having passive income greater than your burn. People on a path to money focus on their earnings; people on a path to wealth also focus on their burn. Joseph Heller said, “It takes brains not to make money.” (Note: I think he was casting a favorable light on his starving artist friends). This may be true, but it definitely takes brains to hold onto it (i.e., money).”

Craft a Better Life Than Your Parents [Retire Before Dad] – “My Dad retired in the early 2000s at the age of 56. I was broke, unemployed, and living with my parents at the time. But I set the goal to retire one year younger than he did. In my mind, it was the best way to measure how I could live a better life than my parents.”

Why The Active vs Passive Investing Debate Misses The Point [Banker on Fire] – “Instead of debating the merits of active vs passive investing, it’s far more productive to focus on actual investing.” The problem with most investors isn’t what they’re invested in, it’s that they aren’t investing enough.

How North Face Athletes Compete for Expedition Funding [Outside] – “The company sponsors some of the best athletes in the world, from Emily Harrington to Alex Honnold, all of whom are vying for a slice of the brand’s annual budget to support their expeditions. The process can be as competitive as getting into an Ivy League university—except, if approved, the athletes are often taking on death-defying adventures.”

How to think

What happened last week in Texas and their power grid was horrifying. It was made worse when politicians started using the story to push their agendas, even while people were without power, water, and shelter.

(J.D. faced his own weather and power crisis too in the Pacific Northwest, which is why you’re getting me for a second week!)

One of the common stories was that wind power was to blame. As it turns out, it wasn’t the fault of wind power but a lack of winterization across the entire system (and that the system was on its own grid to avoid federal regulation). My point isn’t to debate that particular issue but to point out that it’s important that we focus more energy on how we can improve our own ability to think and come to conclusions of our own.

We are often told what to think and what to believe but we aren’t taught how to think – because that makes us less vulnerable to manipulation.

5 Mental Frameworks Exceptional People Use Every Day [Value.app] – “The highest-performers don’t use “tricks” or “hacks” to achieve greatness. They use mental frameworks that fundamentally change the way they see the world. Below are the five mental models that I’ve identified exceptional people use every day…”

How to Think: The Skill You’ve Never Been Taught [Farnam Street] – “No skill is more valuable and harder to come by than the ability to critically think through problems. And schools don’t teach you a method of thinking, you have to do the work yourself. Those who do it well get an advantage and those that do it poorly pay a tax.”

How I Became a Poker Champion in One Year [The Atlantic] – “One of the world’s best players taught me his unique psychological style of play—and it worked.”

Last one is a fun one – The Puppet Master Who Brought ‘Star Wars’ to Life [Great Big Story]