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Category: General

NVIDIA!!!!!

Ok, despite the numerous exclamation marks, I’m not losing my mind about NVIDIA even though it added $277 billion to it’s market cap yesterday. I think it’s great that technology companies are doing well and while I don’t directly own any shares, they’re in the S&P 500 so our brokerage account balances went up too.

It’s just crazy how quickly things are moving and we’ll see if this is showing us the way forward or just some early excitement. Either way, nothing to do except enjoy the ride.

Speaking of how quickly things are changing… did you see this?

New dating app requires good credit score to join [Yahoo Finance] – “A new dating app called “Score” has been launched by financial services company Neon Money Club. Score is positioning itself as an app for financially responsible singles, requiring users to have a minimum credit score of 675 in order to join.” What time to be alive – and another reason to keep your credit score high!

Compensating compassion [Works in Progress] – “Too few people donate their organs, dead or alive. How can we make it easier to donate, but avoid the abuses that some fear from cash payments?” If you’re interested in this subject, incentivizing organ donation, this article is very thorough in looking at the data and experiences of other countries. I learned quite a bit about the various programs across the world.

Finally, I love ramen. But I love watching people hone their craft even more.

The Ramen Lord – “At Chicago’s buzziest new restaurant, Mike Satinover is obsessed with one goal: making the perfect bowl of Japanese noodles.”

Like Mike Satinover, obsess over something this weekend!

Index Funds Have Officially Won!

Index Funds Have Officially Won [Morningstar] – “But for active management, ill omens lurked. Although retail buyers cared little for indexing, the strategy had by the mid-’90s become the rage among institutional investors. What’s more, Vanguard 500 Index’s VFINX 20-year returns were appealing. Before long, the marketplace would notice that fund’s success. In fact, I ventured at the time, indexing might someday account for as much as … gasp … 30% of the fund industry’s assets.” I’m surprised that passive (index) mutual funds have only exceeded 50% market share in January of 2024, I suppose that’s a bit of confirmation bias on my part. Some good thoughts (and criticisms of those thoughts) on the implications of this.

What’s Driving the Stock Market Returns? [A Wealth of Common Sense] – “Earnings growth has been the main driver of stock market returns since the end of the Great Financial Crisis. It’s also worth noting that although dividend yields have been relatively low in recent decades, the growth in dividends paid out by corporations has been healthy.”

Minimalism is Neat, but Clutter Makes a Home [The Atlantic] – “I’m reconsidering these mementos and many others as I try to clear out space in the small apartment I share with my husband and toddler. But I can’t seem to give them away. So they collect in the corners of rooms, evoking the randomness of a thrift store—and not the twee, curated kind. I don’t necessarily love the look of mismatched junk congesting the nooks and crannies of my home, but the clutter satisfies a deeper emotional need. Collectively, it represents every stage of my life, the lives of relatives who have died, and now the life of my not-quite-2-year-old daughter. It connects me to people and times that would otherwise feel lost.” Ok maybe clutter isn’t so bad… and the last paragraph is a doozy. (tip of the cap to Kottke.org, who shared this article and whose gift article link you’re clicking)

How To Be Rich

We have a medley of articles – a post from my friend Robert sharing his rules for getting rich, a crazy story in The Cut about someone getting scammed out of $50k, and finally a note from the FTC about what they’re doing to stop AI impersonation.

Enjoy!

How To Be Rich: 10 Rules To Grow Wealth [The College Investor] – “Being rich doesn’t always mean having money, but 90% of the time it does. However, there are habits, behaviors, and “rules” essentially, that will allow you to get rich and grow wealth. It’s not an overnight process. There aren’t any get rich quick schemes here. What you’re going to read below are my ten rules for how to get rich and grow wealth – over time.”

The Day I Put $50,000 in a Shoe Box and Handed It to a Stranger [The Cut] – “On a Tuesday evening this past October, I put $50,000 in cash in a shoe box, taped it shut as instructed, and carried it to the sidewalk in front of my apartment, my phone clasped to my ear. “Don’t let anyone hurt me,” I told the man on the line, feeling pathetic.” This story is unbelievable.

FTC Proposes New Protections to Combat AI Impersonation of Individuals [FTC] – “The agency is taking this action in light of surging complaints around impersonation fraud, as well as public outcry about the harms caused to consumers and to impersonated individuals. Emerging technology – including AI-generated deepfakes – threatens to turbocharge this scourge, and the FTC is committed to using all of its tools to detect, deter, and halt impersonation fraud.”

Happy President’s Day!

I was always surprised whenever President’s Day rolled around because it’s a federal holiday that is always the third Monday in February. We just had a lot of days off for the holidays, we’re barely into the year (though it is February already!), and it’s still cold out. It doesn’t really mark a big transition period, it just kind of shows up one day and “hey, we’re off today!”

If you’re off today, thank you for sharing some of that time off with us!

My Game-Changing Spreadsheet to Track Upcoming Credit Card Bills [Route to Retire] – “It’s kind of a hassle to log into each credit card provider’s site and see what balance is going to be paid and when. Then I’d have to add it all up and figure it all out. I need to do this regularly maybe every few weeks or so… not something to look forward to. I didn’t like it. Tracking upcoming credit card bills shouldn’t be this hard. Since I couldn’t find an easy solution, I decided to make my own tracker for our upcoming credit card bills.”

Who Benefits From The Layoffs? [Retire By 40] – “As a shareholder of these companies, I liked the big pop last year, but I think they should cool it with the layoff. The workforce is getting too lean. Performance will suffer if they continue laying off workers at that pace. Also, I only have 200 shares of Meta. The big pop was nice, but it didn’t make millions for me. I probably should take profit and trim back my position a bit like Zuckerburg.”

How to Cancel Unwanted Subscriptions [Milmo] – “Subscriptions are everywhere. From streaming services to online memberships, it’s easy to accumulate rack-up subscriptions without even realizing it. That’s not even factoring in the frequent moves that come with military life. The financial drain caused by unwanted or unused subscriptions can sneak up on you. In this article, I’m going to share the importance of identifying and canceling unnecessary subscriptions to keep your budget under control.”

Victory [Truly Adventurous] – “At 11-years-old, Victoria Brucker planted her feet wide and crouched down to face the large metal machine as it whirred up, ready to deliver a pitch. Her heart hammered inside her chest as the gaggle of boys impatiently waited behind her for their turns.

Victoria was determined to make her local Little League’s All Star baseball team, composed of the best players in San Pedro, California, but the odds were stacked against her. Not only was she a girl–the only girl–trying out, but she was also a year younger than most of the other boys. And she had only played baseball for three years. There were plenty of parents in the community who had made their feelings clear about the prospect of a girl on the team: She won’t be tough enough… She’ll start crying when she doesn’t get on base… She’ll make a fool of the team.”

The most overrated concepts in personal finance.

At this point, I’m mostly retired. I officially stopped blogging about money nearly a year ago. I do update my personal blog from time to time, but not on any regular schedule. The only “work” I do on a regular basis is this: sharing interesting stories at Apex Money.

I’ve been wondering recently how much time I spend on this site. It’s not much, I know, but it’s not nothing either. So, this week I timed my Apex hours to quantify the work I’m doing. The result? I spent exactly three hours working on Apex this week. Not bad for a retirement hobby.

Let’s take a look at what those three hours of reading/watching yielded for you today:

How to stop catastrophizing. [Vox] — “Catastrophizing is a common thought pattern where you assume the worst possible scenario…Climbing out of the spiral that is catastrophic thinking requires both in-the-moment grounding techniques and big-picture reframing. Focusing on the reality of a situation — and not the story you’re telling yourself — can help blunt the anxiety of catastrophizing, experts say. Here are more therapist-approved tactics to help you avoid catastrophic thinking.” [I feel as if the entirety of U.S. society has become one extended exercise in catastrophic thinking. It’s so dumb.]

The most overrated concepts in personal finance. [Of Dollars and Data] — “In the world of personal finance, we are constantly bombarded with messages about the ‘one thing’ that could significantly improve our financial lives. Whether it be a particular kind of investment, a novel mindset, or the latest money-saving technique, there’s no shortage of ideas on how to get ahead. Unfortunately, while many of these ideas are great in theory, they tend to not measure up in practice.”

Our complicated relationship with Stuff. [The Root of All] — “Material objects allow us to explore not just space but also time, even fueling nostalgia for a past we’ve never experienced through collections of vintage cameras, records or typewriters. Moreover, certain possessions mark life’s milestones, such as your first car, home, or stroller. Whether right or wrong, these items have become modern rites of passage. In essence, our belongings make the abstract tangible, serving as anchors to our past lives or stepping stones toward our future aspirations.”

Our final “bonus video” of the week isn’t a single clip. No, it’s an entire YouTube channel! Here’s the home of Ron Calverley, a typical (?) older Canadian gentleman.

Why is this channel remarkable? Because for the past several years, every day Ron has documented his progress building model ships. Here, from five years ago, is the first day of Ron’s model-building series.

It wasn’t until episode 31 of this series that Ron acquired the model ship he intended to build!

It took Ron over a year to build his ship. Here, in episode 474, he gives a tour of the completed project.

And here’s a recent installment (part 1894!) in which Ron continues to build models.

There’s something tremendously comforting about Ron and his videos. It feels like hanging out with my father (who died thirty years ago) or his brother.

Anyhow, I’ve subscribed to this channel now, and I’m perfectly happy to play this in the background while I do other things. It’s homey.

That’s all I have for you this week. Jim will return on Monday, and I’ll see you in ten days. Adios!

How to afford a house these days.

Today is Thursday, my friends, and this is Apex Money. As it always is. And as we always do, Jim and I have gathered some stories to share with you, stories about money (and more). Here they are:

The six spheres of life. [The Honest Broker] — “I set out the laws I want to live by. It doesn’t mean I always succeed—in fact, I frequently fall short. But, when that happens, I need to be the sheriff of my six spheres. I’m the only person who can fix things, and return to the right course.” [I think this is a great article. I enjoy learning how others construct their world views.]

How to afford a house these days. [Mr. Money Mustache] — “The solution to this is the same as most other problems: to stop thinking in the way our culture likes to train us (as a victim of outside forces beyond our control) and go back to thinking like a Mustachian. Houses are just like any other manufactured product, and as such they come at a wide variety of prices, subject to supply and demand. And just because you happen to live in a certain place (even if you were born and raised there), doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be able to afford to buy a house there.”

Is F.I.R.E. really a movement? [rich & REGULAR] — “FIRE may not be a political movement, but it is a political statement. It shows a strong desire for autonomy and a willingness to take matters into our own hands. It’s a lifestyle choice that defies the norm by opting out of the typical template of a lifetime of work, retirement, and reliance on a depleted Social Security system. There are plenty of people in our community who plan to work as long as possible, their freedom comes from their ability to show up knowing it’s a choice and not a mandate.” [I think this is a great article too, and I especially like how it frames FIRE as deliberate rejection of societal norms.]

Lastly, here’s a short (three-minute) video from 1930 (ostensibly — looks a bit later to me) in which a man born in 1967 describes what it was like to work during the 1880s.

Unlike most videos I post here, this has some personal-finance chatter in it, especially about wages. Also, the fellow talks about “retiring under the old-age pension scheme”. If he means Social Security, then that places this video after 1935. That seems more likely than 1930. (See? Remember how yesterday I talked about the way I notice errors in movies and TV? This is a prime example of that. The claimed date of 1930 just doesn’t work for a number of reasons. But 1936ish? Yes, that works.)

Okay, that’s it for today. See you all tomorrow!

The acceleration of addictiveness.

Welcome to Wednesday, Apexians. Today’s stories are especially interesting, and I encourage you to read each of them. (They’re all short.) Take a gander, eh?

The acceleration of addictiveness. [Paul Graham] — “Unless the rate at which social antibodies evolve can increase to match the accelerating rate at which technological progress throws off new addictions, we’ll be increasingly unable to rely on customs to protect us…Most people I know have problems with Internet addiction. We’re all trying to figure out our own customs for getting free of it. That’s why I don’t have an iPhone, for example; the last thing I want is for the Internet to follow me out into the world.” [A 14-year-old essay that seems even more relevant today than it did in 2010.]

“How I used the 4% rule over the past 29 years.” [The Retire Early Home Page, via Rob Berger] — “I’ve had confidence over the years in the long-term stock market return data and just maintained my asset allocation through thick and thin. I don’t time the market. Stocks go up and down, but the money you lose to financial advisor fees, commissions, trading costs, and taxes is gone forever.” [From (one of?) the first-ever early retirement site on the interwebs. Still rockin’ the old-school 1994 aesthetic. I love it.]

“I cancelled Amazon Prime, and you probably can too.” [Big Technology, also via Rob Berger] — “Last June, on a whim, I canceled Amazon Prime…I planned to return to Prime soon after canceling, but then never did. At first, I figured I’d wait to pay its $139 annual fee until I had something to buy or watch. But within a few months, I realized I didn’t need it.” [As I’ve mentioned before, I hate what the internet has become. Modern Google and modern Amazon are the two worst offenders. I’m mostly out of the Google ecosystem now, and leaving Amazon is my next project.]

So, here’s a “fun fact” about me: I notice many of the little details that are off in movies and TV shows. And these things bug the hell out of me. I notice when the level of somebody’s drink jumps around from full to empty to full again. I notice when the time on the clock is inconsistent, or when the “summer” leaves are all falling colorfully to the ground.

But I didn’t know until today that this quirk of mine is actually a job in the film industry. Apparently, I’d make a good script supervisor.

The script supervisor is the person responsible for catching continuity errors, for thinking like the J.D.s of the world.

Maybe I’ll move to Hollywood to hire out my services.

For now, though, I’ll be back tomorrow with another installment of Apex Money.

“How I got scammed”

Here’s the thing about cyber security: Even smart people can get scammed. Even when you know what to watch for and how to prevent problems, you can be taken advantage of. All it takes is a momentary loss of vigilance. Our first story today is a prime example.

“How I got scammed.” [Pluralistic] — “Goddammit. The thing is, I know a lot about fraud. I’m writing an entire series of novels about this kind of scam. And most summers, I go to Defcon, and I always go to the ‘social engineering’ competitions where an audience listens as a hacker in a soundproof booth cold-calls merchants (with the owner’s permission) and tries to con whoever answers the phone into giving up important information. But I’d been conned.”

Everyone’s a sellout now. [Vox] — “The internet has made it so that no matter who you are or what you do — from nine-to-five middle managers to astronauts to house cleaners — you cannot escape the tyranny of the personal brand. For some, it looks like updating your LinkedIn connections whenever you get promoted; for others, it’s asking customers to give you five stars on Google Reviews; for still more, it’s crafting an engaging-but-authentic persona on Instagram. And for people who hope to publish a bestseller or release a hit record, it’s ‘building a platform’.”

The mind-boggling reach of Super Bowl commercials. [Stat Significant] — “Super Bowl ads have become an object of cultural celebration, with a reach that greatly surpasses most movies and TV shows. Consider the collective hours spent viewing a single year’s Super Bowl commercials. Assuming a base of 120 million viewers watching 70 advertisements with an average length of 40 seconds per ad, we can project nearly 79 million hours of total watch time for this year’s commercials (and that doesn’t even include their afterlife on YouTube).”

I know that a lot of you probably already see Casey Neistat’s videos and don’t need me to point you to them. But I thought his most recent piece was excellent, and I want to share it anyhow. Here’s his 12-minute look at how it took him seventeen years to achieve a personal goal: Sisyphus and the impossible dream.

That’s all I have for you folks today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff! See you then.

Budgeting has become a flex.

Good morning, money nerds, and welcome to Monday. It’s J.D. here — a few hours late, I know — with our latest collections of cool stories about money (and more). Take a look!

The ADHD taxman cometh. [Slate] — “Spend enough time in ADHD forums or even just a few minutes scrolling #ADHD TikTok and you’ll see the term ‘ADHD tax’ pop up with some regularity. It’s a made-up term for a very real problem: the extra costs incurred as a consequence of executive dysfunction.” [As a guy with an ADHD diagnosis (and medication for it), this article hits home. Even on ADHD meds, my executive function is…minimal.]

Budgeting is officially a flex. [The Cut] — “Unlike conventional budgeting, which is traditionally associated with spreadsheets, anxious math, and hushed lectures from your parents, the ‘loud’ version is out and proud — you’re comfortable telling the world what you’re willing to spend and what you aren’t.” [“Loud budgeting” is a new name for an old concept: mindful spending. We money bloggers have been writing about this for twenty years! It’s cool to see it catching on with the youngs…]

The cost of raising a child. [Retire by 40] — “Will kids ruin your plan to FIRE? (Financial Independence Retire Early) Kids can be expensive, but don’t let that stop you. They might change your plan a bit, but FIRE won’t be out of reach. You just have to adapt your plan to include them.”

Our last story today has nothing whatsoever to do with money. It’s just for fun. Here’s a 16-minute video of a paleontologist answering dinosaur questions from Twitter. It’s fun!

That’s all for this Monday. See you folks again tomorrow…

Inventing the Perfect College Applicant

Happy Friday!

For some reason, this post didn’t get out to you this morning so here it is to help you ease into the weekend. 🙂

Our first one for the day highlights a career I heard about but never read up on – college admissions consultant. Whatever you may think about it, they exist and parents are using them. Our oldest is only 12 but we’re not far from when these types of things will start coming onto our radar.

Inventing the Perfect College Applicant [New York Magazine] – “For $120,000 a year, Christopher Rim promises to turn any student into Ivy bait.” wow.

100 Simple Truths [tr.af] – “26. You can either build your dream, or help someone build theirs.” Some gems in this one.

And for our last article, a story of crime and jailbreak! (no, not unlocking smartphones from their carriers, breaking out of prisons!)

The Secrets of the World’s Greatest Jailbreak Artist [GQ] – “Few prisoners in France are as notable as the 46-year-old Faïd, who officially ranks among the country’s highest-risk inmates. A notorious thief—the architect of a flurry of dazzling heists and blockbuster robberies in the 1990s that targeted banks, jewelry stores, and armored cars—Faïd became more infamous still in 2013, when he blasted out of the Sequedin prison, near Lille, where he’d been serving time after a botched robbery, using smuggled explosives. That dramatic escape embarrassed the top echelons of the French justice system, and since Faïd’s recapture six weeks later, he’s been under stringent restrictions.” It starts with a jailbreak but then goes into Faid’s history, which is filled with less than savory stuff.

Have a great weekend!