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Apex Money Posts

The spending smile of early retirement.

Hello, money nerds, and happy Thursday.

Financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) dominate the discussion at money blogs today. (Maybe a little too much, in fact.) Jim and I don’t want Apex to turn into a FIRE festival, so we’re careful not to go overboard with the F.I. links. That said, today’s top stories are all about FIRE.

An interactive guide to early retirement and financial independence. [Minifi] — There are l-o-t-s of “intro to FIRE articles” out there. I’ve written them. You may have written them. What sets this piece apart, however, are its interactive tools. These are useful for newbies and FI veterans.

My two biggest fears since retiring. [Route to Retire] — What got you here may not get you there. That’s something to think about if you’re an aggressive saver: Will you be able to “turn that off” in retirement? “It’s not a fear of running out of money, but rather trying to get used to the idea that it’s OK to spend it now.”

The spending “smile” of early retirement. [The Military Guide] — “This post will help you figure out your retirement [spending]…I’ll walk you through our 20 years of financial independence, how our spending had changed through the years, and how our retirement has remained on track the entire time – without financial interruptions.”

The aggregation of marginal conveniences. [Accidental Fire] — “I choose to consciously monitor the amount of comfort and convenience in my life as a way of slowing down my slide on the slope. The life of a king where everything is done for me and I don’t have to lift a finger frankly sounds miserable. I want to earn parts of my life. It leads to growth, gratitude, learning, and accomplishment.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Getting the most from credit-card points.

Hola, money nerds, and welcome to Wednesday. I hope you’re having a good week so far. Today we have three articles and one video for you — and 75% of our stories are travel-related.

How to squeeze the most value out of credit-card points. [Movement Capital] — “Have you ever wondered if you’re getting the most value out of your credit card points? This post explains how to make your points stretch further, avoid annual fees, and ranks the most valuable sign-up bonuses. Travel blogs make money from affiliate links that pay them if you get approved for a card. This creates an incentive to push cards with high affiliate payouts and results in less coverage of other cards. This post doesn’t have any affiliate links.

The best way to tour a country is through its grocery stores. [New York magazine] — “Grocery stores have the gritty, hustling authenticity of a bodega or street cart with the propriety and promise of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. And they offer a tourist-free paradise for people-watching, especially the kind of locals tourists never meet.”

True story: I’m a big believer in visiting grocery stores when I travel. Like the author of the article above, I find that they’re a great way to get to know a city’s (and country’s) culture. I also try to visit department stores when I travel, to buy one piece of clothing in each country. Final tip? Get your hair cut when you travel. It’s a trip!

Life Two: What we used to call “retirement”. [The Financial Times] — “Life One is our grown-up working life. Life Two is what follows. It’s the best part of life, so much so that Life One is just the long prologue that finally gives way to the main event, when enjoyment, happiness, and fulfilment peak.”

Let’s finish today with this video from Ask Sebby in which he reveals his hotel-room upgrade strategy. I’m not very sophisticated with my travel hacking, so videos like this are valuable to me.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

Today is Tuesday, money nerds, and that means it’s time for more of the best money stories from around the web.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be poor.” [The Power of Thrift] — “An old friend called me up the other day and asked me to loan him some money. He was one of my favorite people once, but I haven’t spoken to him in years and I haven’t seen his face in more than a decade, so his request startled me…It felt like a test, but I’m not sure I passed.

The real midlife crisis confronting many Americans. [The Conversation] — “The midlife crisis experienced by most people is subtler, more nuanced and rarely discussed among family and friends. It can be best described as the ‘big squeeze’ – a period during which middle-aged adults are increasingly confronted with the impossible choice of deciding how to split their time and money between themselves, their parents and their kids.”

Today’s last article is long but it’s interesting. It’s so good that I bought a copy of the magazine so I can read it again without a paywall.

The last frontier: Homesteaders on the margin of America. [Harper’s, so possible paywall] — “The amazing thing was that a person, even a person of very limited means, could actually buy a piece of these vast acres of land — some of it farmland with pumped irrigation but most of it just undisturbed, primeval — ­for not too much money. Not that this would be a smart investment in terms of return…”

Finally, here’s a 12-minute video I found via Four Pillar Freedom. It documents a day in the life of an average Japanese salaryman in Tokyo. If, like me, you are fascinated by the lives of others, then you’ll enjoy this piece.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

The secret to success and happiness: Don’t be an asshole.

Hello from San Diego, money nerds! As much as I wish I’d been down here for Comic Con last weekend, I’m actually here to hang out with some of my blogging buddies for a few days. I guess that’s just as nerdy.

Today’s stories follow a sort of narrative arc. Fun, right?

How to talk about money in your relationship. [Stefanie O’Connell] — “You don’t have to come right out and ask a bunch of deeply personal financial questions, but you should be on the lookout for cues and comments that might offer insights into your potential partners’ relationship with money, and think about how those views and behavior may or may not fit with your own. These clues can pop up in conversations ranging from upcoming vacation plans to how to split the check.”

Why are men still paying for first dates? [The Atlantic] — “Who’s expected to pay for a date may seem trivial — some would even argue that covering the tab is a form of respecting women — but there’s reason to believe that this minor, ‘benevolent’ form of sexism can lead to a fraught question of what the man is then owed.” [Related: Am I the asshole for letting my date pay for dinner? on Reddit.]

I was happy to marry a poor man. Then things changed. [Bitches Get Riches] — “When we met, [my husband] was an actor. He made about $20,000 every year; he had no health insurance; and nothing by way of retirement or savings…I love making money. And I’m good at it. In our partnership up to that point, making money was My Thing. By the time we got married, I was making 2.5 times the money he was, in a career with much more growth potential. I’d paid off my student loans early and weaseled him onto my insurance.” [Related: Am I the asshole for making my “yes” to my boyfriend’s marriage proposal contingent on him getting a better ring? on Reddit.]

Want to be happy and successful? Don’t be an asshole. [Fast Company] — “There is an arc to being an asshole. The aspirants (people trying to make a living) are generally kind…The near successful (where I’ve spent most of my adult life) tend to over-index on the asshole meter…The super-successful people I know are usually nicer, more generous, and generally better mannered.”

I think that last bit of advice could serve as a fully-functional life philosophy: Don’t be an asshole. In fact, it’s essentially the 4000-year-old Golden Rule stated in reverse.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Paradigm shifts and principles for success.

Happy Friday, money nerds! It’s the weekend!

Before you get out there and enjoy some much-deserved time off, we have three amazing articles for you. These are all long (sorry) but they’re all fantastic reads. Seriously. They’ll make you think.

The problem with early retirement. [Michael Kitces] — “In the end, arguably the biggest challenge in the FIRE movement – and ultra-long-term retirement planning in general – is that we haven’t done enough to develop ‘rules’, and a framework for rules-based spending adjustments, to know not just what is a safe point to retire, but what is a safe spending path as the subsequent future unfolds.” This is an excellent article — one of the best we’ve featured on Apex Money so far.

How a taxable brokerage account can be as good as (or better than) a Roth IRA. [Physician on Fire] — “Some people don’t seem to know what to do with additional money once available retirement accounts are maxed out. I’m showing how a taxable account can be just as good, and in some cases better, than the much-heralded Roth IRA.” (Also from PoF: The epochs of early retirement.)

Hey, now. Nothing’s as good as a Roth. (We Roths are awesome!)

This last piece is especially long but it’s also especially interesting. If you really are a money nerd, you’ll love it.

Paradigm shifts. [Ray Dalio on LinkedIn] — “The consensus view is typically more heavily influenced by what has happened relatively recently (i.e., over the past few years) than it is by what is most likely. It tends to assume that the paradigms that have existed will persist and it fails to anticipate the paradigm shifts, which is why we have such big market and economic shifts. These shifts, more often than not, lead to markets and economies behaving more opposite than similar to how they behaved in the prior paradigm.”

Speaking of Ray Dalio, here’s a 30-minute video that summarizes his principles for success. “I watch this every few months,” Jim says. “With my kids.” My buddy is getting his kids ready for life!

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Living life on hard mode.

Rise and shine, money nerds! It’s Thursday and time for some more top money stories. Today, we’re turning our attention to the psychology of money.

What your relationship with money reveals about you. [Psychology Today] — “Even if we spend countless hours thinking of ways to make more money, we may not give much thought to how we relate to money. But when you pay attention to your relationship with money, you can gain some important insights into yourself.

The benefits of choosing to live life on “hard mode”. [Financial Mechanic] — “The thing about ‘hard mode’ is that you get better at playing the game. Every time you DIY, roll up your sleeves, and figure out something that you may be tempted to outsource, you gain more skills to use in the future.”

Financial independence does not equal success in life. [Tawcan] — “At the end of the day, it’s not about how much money you make, it’s not about how big your house is, it’s not about what kind of car you drive, it’s about the relationships that you build and the impacts you’ve made on other people’s lives.”

When we started Apex Money, Jim and I had a chat about ground rules.

  • Is it okay to swear on the site? (Hell yeah.)
  • How many stories do we showcase each day? (Three to five.)
  • What’s more important, community or quality? (Quality.)
  • Do we link to our own stuff? (Yes, but only if we’d do so if it were written by somebody else.)

Today’s the first day we link to something one of us wrote. It won’t happen often. We promise. Only when we think it’s good enough to share.

Identity economics: Who are you? And how does it affect your spending? [Get Rich Slowly] — “We make our purchasing decisions based on who we are and who we want to be. If we’re not clear on who we are and who we want to be, our choices tend to be arbitrary. They’re spontaneous and not based on anything other than immediate desire.”

When you’re feeling blue, just remember that even stars have their ups and downs:

Tom Hanks on Twitter

Lastly, here’s Chelsea Fagan from The Financial Diet with a YouTube video that highlights five psychological tricks to help you get better with money.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Re-thinking how you view your time.

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds. This morning, we have four money stories for you — and a video about trains. Enjoy!

Re-thinking how to view your time. [Of Dollars and Data] — “The key to changing your worldview on time is knowing when to trade it for money. Obviously, if you don’t have much money, you don’t have many options for trading, but as you gain wealth, this tradeoff will become more relevant. The traditional way to think about when to trade your money for your time has been to pay for anything that is below your hourly wage. This explains how one could justify paying for a cleaning or laundry service. I generally agree with this, but it can be expanded.”

This next piece is sad but it’s a great illustration of a point I’ve been trying to drill home for years: It is vital that you keep your housing payment as low as possible. When things are going well, it helps you to save more. And when the shit hits the fan, having a low housing payment means you get to keep your home instead of losing it…

I am unexpectedly a widow and clueless about finances. How can I keep my home? [/r/personalfinance] — “I’m just barely hanging in there covering the bottom line but what is the smart thing to do? No decision seems like a good one. Selling seems like a bad decision to me because I will owe the balance which will wipe out every penny of saving. Do I stick it out until loans are paid and some money is freed up, then try to live as frugal as possible and be house poor?”

How a career slow-down enhanced my life. [Cash for Tacos] — “I knew I wanted to find a position where I could improve my work life balance, earn at least 80% of my current pay and decrease my commute. With a little effort, I was able to find a position that checked off these three boxes. I now have less responsibility and am essentially a worker bee completing projects as they are assigned. I work 40 hours a week with only the occasional overtime. And more importantly, there is no phone tied to my hand. When I leave work, I barely think twice about it.”

How to make money from garage-sale arbitrage. [Financial Pilgrimage] — “Finding great deals at garage sales is all about volume. You need to be able to move quickly from house to house. Once you have experience, as soon as you walk up to a garage sale you’ll know if it is a dud or potential gold mine.”

Lastly, here’s an episode of His and Her Money in which Talaat and Tai McNeely chat with Khalil and Kyara about entrepreneurship — and especially about building a real-estate empire. Nothing scammy here. Just some down-to-earth chat about how people get started with rental properties.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

The subscription economy (and the changing face of shopping)

Welcome back, money nerds. It’s the second day of Amazon Prime Day. Er…Amazon Prime Days? (Well, that’s a clumsy thing, now, isn’t it?) To mark the event, let’s look at some top stories about shopping.

“Why I cancelled my Amazon Prime account.” [Quartz] — “I used my accidental Prime to watch some Amazon TV shows…and to make the occasional online order. I decided that wasn’t enough to justify the subscription. Around January, with three months remaining in my subscription, I tried to cancel my Prime account. Amazon sounded the alarm.

Costco markup

How Costco gained a cult following by breaking every rule of retail. [The Hustle] — “Costco’s prices are so low that it barely breaks even on its merchandise sales. And despite pressure from investors over the years, it has refused to boost its markup…So, how does Costco make its money?

The man who’s going to save your neighborhood grocery store. [Longreads] — “The approach Kelley’s suggesting still means completely overhauling everything, with no guarantee of success. It’s a strategy that’s decidedly low-tech, though it’s no less radical. It’s more about people than new platforms. It means making grocery shopping more like going to the movies.” [This is a l-o-n-g article, but it’s fascinating.]

The subscription economy: They see it, they like it, they want it, they rent it. [The New York Times, so possible paywall] — “Many young American urbanites have resigned themselves to a life of non-ownership, abandoning the dream of their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before them, often out of financial necessity. But renting isn’t just a matter of necessity these days. It’s become almost posh.

Should we splurge? Hell yes! [His and Her FI] — “Psychologists agree that retail therapy is a thing. In fact, when we buy something we can get a high from it. It is a short cut to the pleasure center of the brain. Splurging acts as a charge for the brain…It is good to engage in behavior like this OCCASIONALLY and with intention.”

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

The small joys of early retirement.

“Monday, Monday — so good to me.” Rise and shine, money nerds. It’s time for another day in paradise. To help you start the week off right, here are some recent top money stories.

How you can make $500,000 per year. [Auren Hoffman on Quora] — “Even if your goal is not money, following these steps (save the fifth one) will help you achieve success in any organization you are in (including teaching in a school, being a soldier in the military, being a firefighter, working at a non-profit, and more).”

Downsizing to one car can do wonders for retirement finances. [The Globe and Mail] — “As terrible as it for your finances, owning two cars is often unavoidable. Take two working parents, add kids and you have a strong convenience-based case for paying the many costs of owning and maintaining a pair of vehicles. Add a home in the suburbs and the argument gets even stronger. But owning two cars stops making so much sense later in life. In retirement, you can save a bundle by going down to one vehicle.”

10 small joys of early retirement. [Part-Time Money] — “We all are aware of the big benefits of early retirement: the freedom of time, the ability to travel, and, of course, not having to work. But what about the little things? What about the small joys that pop up in early retirement?…What follows are ten small joys (i.e. the little benefits) I’ve found in early retirement.”

And just because we’re all nerds at Apex Money, today’s bonus link is extra nerdy. Want to parlay your D&D skillz into big bucks? How about becoming a professional DM?

The rise of the professional dungeon master. [Bloomberg Businessweek] — “At the higher end of the professional price spectrum is John Clark of Los Angeles, a studio department head for Paramount by day and DM to the stars by night…In addition to catering to his celebrity clientele (he politely declines to name names), Clark offers hourlong private lessons at $100 a pop.”

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

“What I teach my kids about money.”

Good morning, money nerds, and happy Friday. Here are your top money stories for today.

“What I teach my kids about money.” [Cameron Huddleston] — “I don’t claim to be an expert on kids and money. But as a mom of three kids ages 7 to 14, I’ve had plenty of experience teaching my own children money lessons. Here are five key things about money that I’ve tried to instill in my children.”

Huddleston image

It’s okay to be good and not great. [Outside magazine] — “We’re told that striving to be great and never being satisfied are necessary to meet the ever increasing pressures and pace of today’s world. It’s the only route to success. But what is it all for? What does success even mean? […] Adopting the following core principles of good enough is likely the best route to being happier and getting better.”

How discount brokerages make money. [Kalzumeus] — “The discount brokerage industry works because you can make decisions which are bad for users and lucrative for you (‘Ahh you have entrusted me with cash money; let me park it safely and pay you 50 bps while keeping the next 150 bps for me, rather than parking it in the equally safe place any of my product managers could have implemented if they wanted to be fired instantly’); roboadvisors depend on making decisions which are good for users (‘Let me minimize that cash drag for you’) and then being very explicit about costs which are anchored very low.”

And because it’s the weekend, here’s a little something that has nothing to do with money:

How to run a small social network site for your friends. — “Since August 2018 I have run a social network site called Friend Camp for about 50 of my friends. I think Friend Camp is a really nice place, and my friends seem to agree that it has enriched our lives. I’d like to see more places like Friend Camp on the internet, and this document is my attempt to provide some practical guidance as to how you might run a social network site like this.”

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.