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Apex Money Posts

Are you crazy?

“If we see someone throwing money away, we call that person crazy. This bothers us, in part, because money has value. Wasting it seems nuts. And yet we see others—and ourselves—throw away something far more valuable every day: Time.”

Seneca on The Shortness of Time [Farnam Street]

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose

I always hated job interviews. I hated them as the interviewee, I hated them as the interviewer, and it always felt like everyone was just going through the motions.

The interviewer asked some questions they thought would help them evaluate the interviewee. The interviewee gave answers they thought the interviewer wanted to hear.

The worst question, besides “what is your greatest weakness?”, is “why do you want to work here?”

The real answer is “to get paid,” but you had to give some other answer. It’s stupid.

But if you are serious about wanting to understand what motivates you, it probably comes down to three things – autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose: The Science of What Motivates Us, Animated [Brain Pickings]

Psychology of wealth: if you are worth millions, why bother working? [Financial Times] – “Research that suggests the link between pay and job satisfaction is weak at best”

This Is What It Takes to Be in the 1% Around the World [Bloomberg] – “To join the group in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates requires more than $900,000, or 12 times more income than in India, a developing market so populous that the top 1% includes more than 13 million souls. In much of the developed world, an income of $200,000 to $300,000 gets you in the top 1%.”

Family Business [Truly Adventurous on Medium] – “A young man returns home from the army and gets a surprising offer from his emotionally distant father: Join the family business and help mom & pop pull off a string of daring cross-country heists. No one expects the betrayals coming.”

It’s easy to forget how many people there are in the world, let alone on a cruise ship.

But this video shows you How The World’s Largest Cruise Ship Makes 30,000 Meals Every Day!

What did you think of today’s Apex?

Skill vs Talent

Skill vs Talent [Seth Godin] – “I don’t think there are many places where talent is the key driver of success. The biggest exception might be that a drive to acquire skill could be a talent…”

I’ve long believed that success is a function of talent, hard work, and luck. If your sum is high enough, you succeed.

Maximizing any one category, and zeroing out the others, isn’t enough to succeed. But in the moment, you can only control one variable, hard work, so you have to double down on that if you’re going to double down on anything.

The only other factor you can exert any control over, luck, is a function of when you choose to start whatever it is you’re doing.

So really your choices are to work harder to choose a different time to pursue your goal.

Speaking of making your own luck…

How an Ex-Cop Rigged McDonald’s Monopoly Game and Stole Millions [The Daily Beast] – “Jerome Jacobson and his network of mobsters, psychics, strip-club owners, and drug traffickers won almost every prize for 12 years, until the FBI launched Operation ‘Final Answer.’”

8 Critical Decisions for a Successful Investing Strategy [Engineer Seeking FIRE] – “After maximizing income and minimizing expenses, the next step in getting to FIRE is to invest wisely. The goal of this post is to teach you how to wisely make the 8 critical decisions for a successful investing strategy. This is a proven way to optimize your investments and minimize risk. Investing is different than gambling, so this post will not show a way to make money fast. However, I will talk about how to increase your money in a way that minimizes risk, fees, taxes and maximizes returns.”

Finally, we have an enjoyable interview with none other than Alex Trebek:

In Conversation: Alex Trebek The Jeopardy! icon on retirement, his legacy, and why knowledge matters. [Vulture] – “Yes. You have to set your ego aside. The stars of the show are the contestants and the game itself. That’s why I’ve always insisted that I be introduced as the host and not the star. And if you want to be a good host, you have to figure a way to get the contestants to — as in the old television commercial about the military — “be all you can be.” Because if they do well, the show does well. And if the show does well, by association I do well.”

Have a great day!

The ABCs of wealth.

Hello, money nerds. Let me be the first to say: TGIF!!! I might have had just a little bit too much with my blogging buddies this week in Tahoe. Now I’m paying for it. (Rough life, I know.)

To wrap up the week, let me share a few other money stories that came up in conversation this week. I can’t remember who shared each of these, so I can’t give proper credit. But they’re all good!

Why inflation is the single biggest retirement threat. [ESI Money] — “What matters is the inflation you can expect in the future, not the past. And nobody knows with any confidence what future inflation will be because the past is not necessarily indicative of the future. Knowing the next 15 years of inflation would require either a crystal ball or a direct connection to a higher power. I don’t have either and neither does your financial planner.”

Anonymous contributors answer: What’s some underrated general life advice. [80,000 Hours] — “The following are excerpts from interviews with people whose work we respect and whose answers we offered to publish without attribution…The advice is particularly targeted at people whose approach to doing good aligns with the values of the effective altruism (EA) community, but we expect most of it is more broadly useful.”

“I made one simple financial change and it lowered my spending.” [The Atlantic] — “I came up with…an un-fun, disciplined rule and applied it to my own spending—and it has mostly worked. The rule is simple: After I buy something, I log the transaction on my phone, recording the price and what I bought. The idea is to increase the pain of paying, especially with a credit card, by forcing myself to take note of what I’m spending.”

Vicki Robin on the ABCs of wealth. [Triple Bottom Line FI] — “Abilities, Belonging and Community are the three forms of natural wealth you build intuitively in the process of aligning how you earn, spend and save money with your purpose and fulfillment. As you take your eyes off the false prize (of more, better and different stuff) you put them on the real prizes: friends, family, sharing, caring, learning, meeting challenges, intimacy, rest, being present, connected and respected. In other words, those best things in life that are free.”

To round out your week, here’s something I love. One of our attendees at the ski lodge this week has an enterprising daughter named Ellie. Ellie has created her own YouTube channel in which she’s documenting the process while she restores a 1965 Ford Falcon.

Here’s the episode in which Ellie pulls the engine from the car so that it can be overhauled.

There’s so much I love about all of this. I’m a fan of child entrepreneurs, child creators, and people who defy stereotypes. So much of that going on all at once here. No wonder I love it.

Okay, that’s all for this week. Time for me to go back to bed, to try to recover from all the fun I had in Tahoe. Bye!

Wheel! Of! Fortune! (and $39,000!)

Hey, it’s Jim!

I’m making a surprise appearance during J.D.’s week for links. He’s having too much fun with friends in Lake Tahoe and has foolishly forgotten to prepare today’s edition of Apex Money. Silly J.D.

I wanted to have a little fun after sharing a very useful article about retirement.

We jump around a little bit but I think this Apex will have a little something for everyone.

10 Most Common Retirement Questions… Answered! [The Retirement Manifesto] – “Have you ever wondered what the most common retirement questions are? Would there be value in finding those questions and their related answers in one place? I trust the answer is yes because I’ve invested considerable time in attempting to do exactly that with today’s post. I hope you’ll find value in the result.” A run through ten very common questions with resources to dive deeper on the answers – a great starting point if you don’t know where to start.

One of my favorite stories is of Michael Larson winning six figures on Press Your Luck in 1984. This one of a FIRE blogger winning $39,000 on Wheel of Fortune is

How I Made $39,000 on Wheel of Fortune [Dads and Dollar$] – ” But one way I have found to make extra money is one of those pie-in-the-sky ideas that people likely write off without a moment’s consideration. Yes, I am one of those lucky few who have won some extra spending money on a game show. In my case, that show was Wheel of Fortune.”

Seems like every story that involves crypto is also involved in something slightly more nefarious too.

The Strange Tale of Quadriga Gerald Cotten [Vanity Fair] – “When Canadian blockchain whiz Gerald Cotten died unexpectedly last year, hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funds vanished into the crypto ether. But when the banks, the law, and the forces of Reddit tried to track down the cash, it turned out the young mogul may not have been who he purported to be.”

Finally, ever wonder how you steal $8 million a week? You won’t learn that skill in this short video but you will learn why you shouldn’t ever try.


The alter-ego effect.

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds! And welcome once again to Apex Money, where we do our best to share the best money stories from every corner of the interwebs.

This week, I’m at Lake Tahoe, hanging out with blogging buddies. I’m handing curation duties over to them, asking them to give me their favorite recent articles. And, as I’ve mentioned all week, our talk continues to be centered around the Tim Ferriss article about fame that I shared on Monday. I’m not kidding: This piece has everybody talking.

Still, I’ve managed to get people to give me other stories worth sharing.

My business partner Tom Drake (from Maple Money) thinks you Apexians would appreciate this MSN Money article about the “Japanese art of saving money“. — “What sets this 116-year-old method apart, however, is that it doesn’t involve any budgeting software, apps or Excel sheets. Similar to bullet journaling, kakeibo emphasizes the importance of physically writing things down — as a meditative way to process and observe your spending habits.”

Mr. Josh Overmyer likes this story from MSNBC about thrift-store arbitrage. Enterprising entrepreneurs rummage through used books, clothes, and gadgets to find casually discarded treasures, which they turn around and sell for a profit online. “Reselling online touches several current trends. You don’t add to the landfill. You streamline your possessions and satisfy your inner Marie Kondo. And you side hustle, because who can’t use a few extra bucks?”

Here’s a video recommended by Lacey Langford, The Military Money Expert ®. She loves The Alter Ego Effect, Todd Herman’s recent book about using the power of secret identities to transform your life. The premise? Defeat negative self-talk by naming it and isolating it. Then, when you need to perform at a high level, pretend you’re somebody else. Pretend you’re Sasha Fierce.

Here’s a four-minute video in which Herman describes the alter-ego effect.

This video is a little cheesy, no doubt, but it’s an interesting concept, one I’d find useful for me. I’m intrigued enough that I ordered his book, in fact. I’ll read it and report back in the near future at Get Rich Slowly.

Lastly, here’s an article submitted by Apex reader Craig, who is not a blogger and not present here in Tahoe. At The Atlantic, Annie Lowrey writes about the great affordability crisis breaking America. “Beyond the headline economic numbers [of the 2010s], a multifarious and strangely invisible economic crisis metastasized: Let’s call it the Great Affordability Crisis…In one of the best decades the American economy has ever recorded, families were bled dry by landlords, hospital administrators, university bursars, and child-care centers. For millions, a roaring economy felt precarious or downright terrible.”

Do you have something you think your fellow readers would enjoy or find interesting? Send it to us! We love reader submissions.

What’s in your safe?

¡Hola, amigos! Welcome once more to Apex Money, your source for the top money stories from around the web.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m hanging out with a bunch of blogging buddies at Lake Tahoe, on the Nevada-California border. For fun, I’ve asked them to share some of their favorite recent articles with me. Everyone keeps pointing out the Tim Ferriss piece we linked to yesterday. It’s on all of our minds. But I can’t link to that twice in two days, right?

So, here’s what we have for today.

My new friend Michelle Black had several suggestions, including a piece from Brave Saver: Why should moms have to justify their choices? “I and many moms have gotten the message loud and clear,” author Elyssa writes, “that we must sacrifice and burn ourselves out to warm everyone around us.” Michelle says this article spoke to her, that she could relate to it.

Robert Farrington from The College Investor likes this recent post in the /r/fatFIRE/ subreddit: What’s in your safe? “It’s really interesting to see what people keep in their safe,” Robert says. “I don’t have one. But many people do. Some of this stuff is obvious, but some of it isn’t. I think your readers might find this useful.”

The awesome (and heavily-bearded) Nick True pointed me to this l-o-n-g PDF document — which may be slides from a presentation? — about the state of tech in 2020. I’ll be honest: While I can’t grasp the larger narrative thread here, scrolling through the slides (if they are slides) is fascinating. Some of you will find this tedious. Others will love it.

To wrap things up for the day, here’s something completely non-financial worth watching. My pal Philip Taylor turned me on to Kraig Adams, a YouTuber who creases (mostly) silent travel videos as he hikes around the world. For instance, here’s an awesome video of him hiking alone for three days in Perú.

This brings back memories of my own 2011 trek in Perú (which was not solo). One of the highlights of my life. The country is beautiful and filled with amazing people.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff for you. See you then.

Today you, tomorrow me.

Hey, all! It’s J.D. here, back for another week of top money stories from around the web. This week, I’m in Lake Tahoe with some of my favorite blogging buddies. We’re taking a mid-winter break to hang out and enjoy one another’s company.

As we filtered into Reno over the weekend, there was one article that everybody wanted to talk about. Author Tim Ferriss — famous for The Four-Hour Workweek recently shared 11 reasons not to become famous. It’s a vulnerable (and sometimes disturbing) look at the price of fame.

Nobody in our blogging group is famous famous. We’re not movie stars. We’re not even Tim Ferriss. But each of us has stories of strange things that have happened — haters, stalkers, over-enthusiastic fans — and how that’s altered the way we present ourselves publicly. Some people (like me) haven’t made many changes. Others have made drastic changes. And the women, especially, have learned to be cautious. (See also: this article on sexual terror and how it costs women at The Dumpster Dog Blog.)

Okay, that’s a little dark and deep to start the week, I know. Let’s turn our attention to more mundane money stuff, shall we? Here’s some cool recent stuff.

A retrospective on the history of work [since 1950]. [Atlassian] — “You’ve made it to a new decade of work and life. Buckle up because it’ll be like no other that’s come before it. Things have changed so much in just a few decades, influencing how we approach our work in ways you can only see when you stop and take a look back. What has changed, what hasn’t, and what does the future of work hold?”

The biggest lie in personal finance. [Of Dollars and Data] — “The biggest lie in personal finance is that you can be rich if you just cut your spending. And the financial media feeds this lie by telling you to stop spending $5 a day on coffee so that you can become a millionaire.” Preach! Unless you earn an out-sized income, a hard-core devotion to frugality will never make you rich. It’ll just make you miserable.

What is an investment policy statement? (And how do I write one?) [Women Who Money] — “An investment policy statement (IPS) is your investing roadmap. It’s a document outlining your financial goals and strategies, with guidelines for achieving them. And it will help you stay on the right path as you move forward, despite what the market or everyone else is doing. An IPS can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. It provides an overall vision of your investment strategy and holdings.”

Finally, to get your week started right, here’s a ten-minute film I love. While that Tim Ferriss article captures the dark side of humanity, this story captures the light. And that’s the side I prefer to see, the side I prefer to focus on.

This is a dramatized version of a popular Reddit comment. It’s simply called “Today You, Tomorrow Me”.

Screw all the bickering and strife in this country lately. People are people, man. Can’t we all just get along?

Doing nothing is OK… sometimes.

The idea of early retirement is huge and blogs devoted to discussing FIRE seem to pop up every single day. I’d say it’s probably the fastest-growing “category” in money blogging. (and has been for several years)

The tricky thing about FIRE is that a lot of the people writing about it are in the accumulation phase – where they are saving up to retire. This makes sense because we enjoy the journey more than the destination.

That said, I believe that thinking about retirement as a destination can be a mistake. It’s more like a mile marker on the long road trip of life rather than a spot you reach.

So to those who seek to retire early, here are a few posts to help you think about what happens after you “retire:”

Doing Nothing Is Okay [Root of Good] – “There is no right answer to the question of how busy you must be in retirement to be fulfilled and content. It depends on what drives you and makes you happy. For me, the first six months of retirement were pretty busy as I was used to a decade of full time work and I continued the productivity trend straight out of the office and into retirement.”

If you like mental models, this next post is very long but very rewarding. It discusses this idea of a money spectrum and where you may be on it (it is itself a journey) based on your relationship with money. Lots of fun illustrations too.

Money Is the Megaphone of Identity [More to That] – “Life is almost always a framing problem, and wealth is no exception to this. To say that money is complicated is a cliche worthy of a thousand eye rolls, but when it comes to our ongoing relationship with it, I find that it’s quite simple to explain and distill. At any given moment, our journey falls along a vertical spectrum with three main phases:”

After you read that, here’s a similar blog post about the freedoms we all crave:

Five Freedoms [Humble Dollar] – “We all want a sense of financial security—and yet all too many folks lead fragile financial lives. If our income barely covers our expenses, we may be okay if it’s a typical month. But so few months turn out to be typical.”

Finally, for a little bit of fun, a little scammy scam story.

Todd Hitt’s Shameless Con: How Washington Society Got Scammed by One of Its Own – “Though a son of the Hitt Contracting family—one of Washington’s wealthiest construction dynasties—Todd Hitt had only recently forged a profile as a brash and crazy-successful self-made entrepreneur. He was a commentator on Fox Business. He traveled by private jet. By the night of the soiree, he had convinced a long list of locals that he was an alum of the Wharton business school; that he had a personal net worth in the billions; that when he wasn’t busy with his own exploits, he quietly helped run the family company, too. […] Even as Hitt worked the room during Washington’s most glittery weekend, he had yet to pony up for the party—and he never would. Not two months later, he would become the target of a federal criminal investigation. By fall, the FBI would unmask Kiddar Capital as a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme and rebrand Hitt as a shameless con man.”

It’s a crazy story where everyone seemed to ignore the red flags and when doing nothing ISN’T okay.

Have a great weekend!

Keeping up with the Joneses is for the birds

I’ve always enjoyed the phrase “keeping Up with the Joneses” and I didn’t know it originated from a comic strip!

When it comes to money, you don’t want to be “Keeping up with the Joneses” because it’s a quick way to financial ruin. And as younger generations value experiences over things, conspicuous consumption is likely to be on its way out. But it’s not out yet. 🙂

NOwnership, No Problem: An Updated Look At Why Millennials Value Experiences Over Owning Things [Forbes] – “People young and old are opting for experiences over things. These markers of success are no longer as meaningful as they once were. And while young and old are both changing their buying habits, today we are focusing on millennials. As kids millennials saw their parents’ lives crumble as a result of the financial meltdown, and watched as their parents lost their life savings to the banks and Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Now the new normal is to see people in their 70s working at grocery stores when they should be retired. People have become increasingly disillusioned with the status quo. As a result of changing times, millennials want to seize the moment, and they are skipping the mall for carpe diem. People want to experience all that life has to offer, and since acquiring things no longer dictates your class or status in life, millennials are simply enjoying experiences over things, access over ownership.”

Who Wants to Play the Status Game? [The Point] – “When you first meet someone, you “feel each other out” to see where your lives might connect—where are you from, what do you do, what music/art/books do you like, etc. You are looking for common ground on the basis of which your conversation might proceed. Call this the Basic Game; I’d like to contrast it with two more advanced games that can be played in its stead, or alongside it.” A fascinating read that runs the risk of making you evaluate your first interactions with people.

Making Money, Making Happiness [Nat Eliason] – “Having money is unlikely to make you happy. But earning money can make you very happy. Depending on how you get it.” When people talk about Keeping up with the Joneses, it’s often about how much you are spending… I agree with Nat on this point about the joy of creating and earning money from your creations.

Finally, speaking of neighbors…

The Cartel Next Door [Texas Monthly] – “A thirty-minute drive northwest of Dallas, the town of Southlake is one of the richest places in America. Many of its roughly 30,000 residents live in opulent walled-off subdivisions with names like Coventry Manor, Monticello, and the Enclave. Famous athletes are a common sight. PGA golfer Rory Sabbatini and former Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware live here. […] As Julia loaded her bag into the driver’s side back seat, Guerrero climbed into the front passenger seat. That’s when a white Toyota Sequoia pulled up behind them and a man got out with a 9mm pistol.” This one will take a bit to chew through but it’s a fun read if you’re into this type of thing.