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Apex Money Posts

What’s not to love about a potluck?

Good morning, money nerds. It’s Tuesday. As always, Jim and I have some top money stories to share with you. Let’s jump right in!

What’s not to love about a potluck? [Frugalwoods] — “What’s not to love about a potluck? You make food, other people make food, you bring that food together and then you eat! Potlucks are a bedrock of frugal living, of community-centered living, of family-oriented living, of social living, and of living for people who like to eat. How could something so inherently frugal – so inherently about food – not be talked about on Frugalwoods until now? We cite the oversight and seek to remedy.”

Why don’t women self-promote as much as men? [Harvard Business Review] — “Since self-promotion is a pervasive part of work, those of us who do more self-promotion may have better chances of being hired, being promoted, and getting a raise or a bonus. As researchers interested in gender gaps in earnings, negotiations, and firm leadership, we wondered whether gender differences in self-promotion also exist and might contribute to those gaps. We found a large gender gap in self-promotion — with men rating their performance 33% higher than equally performing women.”

How Reese Witherspoon took charge of her career and changed Hollywood. [Hollywood Reporter] — “Tired of dreadful scripts and degrading magazine spreads, the Oscar-winning actress, producer, entrepreneur and activist built an empire on her own taste and work ethic. Now she plots projects all over Hollywood and responds to critics of her paychecks.” True story: I’ve been a Reese Witherspoon fan since I saw her in 1993’s “A Far Off Place”. She was just a kid then, but I thought she was amazing. I especially liked her as the hilarious Tracy Flick in “Election”.

Sixteen going on sixty-six: A longitudinal study of personality stability and change across fifty years. [Journal of Personality and Psychology] — “How much do people’s personalities change or remain stable from high-school to retirement? To address these questions, we used a large US sample (N = 1,795) that assessed people’s personality traits in adolescence and 50 years later…Our findings suggest that personality has a stable component across the lifespan, both at the trait level and at the profile level, and that personality is also malleable and people mature as they age.”

To wrap things up, here’s Chelsea at The Financial Diet interviewing therapist Kati Morton about money, emotions, self-esteem, and self-control.

Wow. That’s a lot of great stuff — plenty for one day. I’ll save everything else for tomorrow. See you then!

How to change without willpower.

Hey! Look at that! It’s the first Monday of 2020. Must be time for some top money stories gathered from the far corners of the web. Today’s stories are more about habits in general than specifically about money. But I hope you’ll agree that this is a great batch of material.

It’s 2020 (and you’re in the future). [Wait But Why] — “The 2020s sounds like such a rad futuristic decade — and that’s how the 1920s seemed to people 100 years ago today. They were all used to the 19-teens, and suddenly they were like, ‘whoa cool we’re in the twenties!’ Then they got upset thinking about how much farther along in life their 1910 self thought they’d be by 1920. In any case, it’s a perfect time for one of those ‘shit we’re old’ posts.”

I love this sort of thing. I think about this kind of stuff all of the time. My favorite bit from the article? If you’re sixty or older, you were born closer to the 1800s than today. Crazy!

If you're sixty, you were born closer to the 1800s than today.

How to change without willpower. [The Cut] — “It’s a new year! Time to reinvent yourself. Maybe you want to save more money, get fit, date better, eat better, use your phone differently, or drink less. I have tried most of these. And the hardest one — drinking less, after years of trying to do just that — ended up being the easiest, in the end. The key, for me, wasn’t finding a way to handle temptation or desire. It was uprooting the desire to drink in the first place, and replacing it with an entirely new belief.”

The unexpected joy of giving up alcohol — or anything else. [Quartz] — “Much to my surprise, Dry January—or Drynuary, as it’s also known, in a double assault against both the Gregorian calendar and my ears—turned out to be kind of fun. That’s because I finally understood something I hadn’t comprehended from the outside: Subtracting a food or habit from your life doesn’t have to mean existing in a state of deprivation. Under the right circumstances, there is pleasure to be found in absence.”

I’ve written elsewhere about my own relationship with alcohol and how I believe I should drink less. Perhaps much less. I’m at the start of my own dry January, and it’s going well so far. I’m much more productive, that’s for sure. We’ll see how I feel at the end of the month.

Lastly, here’s an 18-minute video of Adam Driver giving a TED talk in 2016. It’s interesting to hear him talk about his journey from Marine to actor. I find his work compelling. He’s intense. I look forward to seeing where he goes in the future.

That’s it for today. We’ll be back tomorrow with more awesome stuff worth reading.

The reason carry-on luggage became such a hassle.

Welcome to Friday, money nerds. Aren’t you glad it’s the end of the week? I am. I’ve been so kerfuffled this week that I sent out yesterday’s email edition of Apex Money without the correct subject line. All it had was the date! Yikes. Time for a relaxing weekend.

Before I check out, though, let’s look at some recent top money stories from around the interwebs, shall we?

The top infographics of 2019. [Visual Capitalist] — “This year, we published more than 300 posts on Visual Capitalist, getting well over 30 million views along the way. Many of these graphics are visually stunning, but there’s only room for 19 posts on the annual list of our best work. Below, you’ll find the Top Infographics of 2019 list, which contains our most popular infographics, as well as a curation of staff favorites for the year.”

How to save money on your health-care expenses. [Physician on FIRE] — “Healthcare expenses are unavoidable and reports show that more than 25% of adults in the US struggle to pay their medical bills. Unfortunately the cost of healthcare continues to rise which is why it is important to learn more about what you can do to reduce your healthcare expenses. The good news is that there are several ways in which you can save your money and yet receive the care that you require.”

The reason carry-on luggage became such a hassle. [Vox] — “About a decade ago, before the era of inescapable travel fees, a plane ticket used to include at least one free piece of checked luggage. That changed in 2008, when American Airlines introduced a $15 fee for passengers’ first checked bag, two weeks after other major carriers started charging $25 for checking a second bag. Bag fees soon became standard…That has prompted travelers to try and avoid bag fees altogether, by squishing more in their suitcases and carrying them on.”

Is the world’s best butter worth $50 a pound? [Saveur] — “I’m happy to report that the diminutive brick in the plain paper wrapper tasted as breathtaking as I remembered — a vast array of flavors and aromas blended into a seamless whole in the manner of a well-aged burgundy.”

To close things out, my buddy Joe at Retire by 40 has what I think is a hilarious (but fun) article at his site: He graded every Amazon purchase he made in 2019. This sounds like the sort of silly thing I might do. Joe loves his new kitchen faucet. But the Nerf gun face-masks? Not so much.

Okay, enough money talk. Go enjoy your weekend! We’ll see you back here on Monday for more of the best in personal finance.

“Why I walked away from a six-figure job.”

Good morning, money nerds! Are you ready to dive into 2020? I am. It’s like a clean slate, isn’t it? I’m eager to make the most of the year. To start, let’s take a look at some top money stories, shall we?

“Why I walked away from a six-figure job.” [Every Single Dollar] — “I made the bold decision to walk away from my (with two weeks’ notice, of course) with no other permanent job lined up. I know it’s something that a lot of people dream of doing but it took careful planning and preparation along the way. I didn’t just wake up and decide to quit. So if you are thinking of taking the same course of action, here are reasons I had to consider when deciding to leave my job.”

How do your financial priorities stack up with the “investing pyramid”? [Morningstar] — “Here’s a look at the investment pyramid I would propose, ranging from what should be investors’ top priorities — the base of the pyramid — to the least important ones. If you have a finite amount of time to devote to your investment activities, this can help guide the way.”

Three forces that are shaping the world. [Collaborative Fund] — “Every current event – big or small – has parents, grandparents, great grandparents, siblings, and cousins. Ignoring that family tree can muddy your understanding of events, giving a false impression of why things happened, how long they might last, and under what circumstances they might happen again. Viewing events in isolation, without an appreciation for their long roots, helps explain everything from why forecasting is hard to why politics is nasty.”

The ultra-wealthy who argue that they should be paying higher taxes. [The New Yorker] — “[Abigail] Disney is one of the highest-profile figures in the Patriotic Millionaires, which now has more than two hundred members in thirty-four states: technology entrepreneurs, software engineers, Wall Street investors, industrialists, and inheritors of family fortunes.”

Last of all, here’s a video I found interesting. When Kim and I took a Mediterranean cruise last summer, we chatted with the cruise director about what it takes to get a job as a performer on a ship. Even on a small vessel, it’s tough. This seven-minute clip gives an inside look at what it takes to be a cruise-ship performer.

That’s it for today! We’ll be back tomorrow with more top money stories from around the web. See you then!

A vision of the future.

Happy New Year, money nerds! Welcome to 2020. I hope the coming twelve months treat you well.

To start things off right this year, here’s a website I recently discovered: The Happy Broadcast. Says author Mauro Gatti:

I’m honestly fed up with all the bad news everywhere. I am not a journalist or an influencer, but I want to use my art to spread some positivity. I want to create something positive as an anti-venom to the vitriolic rhetoric that pervades our media. That’s why I illustrate and share positive news from around the world in the hope that it brings you some happiness and inspires you to spread some good news yourself!

I think this is an awesome idea for a site. In fact, I started something similar (but not nearly as good) almost a decade ago. If you’re looking for a positive site, check out The Happy Broadcast.

The Happy Broadcast

A goalless 2020. [Fervent Finance] — “I’m at a point where I’m happy, healthy, and my wife and I can provide for the life we want to currently lead. 2020, for me, is going to be a goalless year. I want to do a better job of enjoying the here and now, without getting caught up in what I ‘should be’ doing or striving for.” [Related reading: A reconstruction of goals.]

A financial planning calendar for 2020. [Kiplinger] — “Whether or not you make financial New Year’s resolutions, you no doubt want to improve your bottom line in the coming year. With that in mind, we have some suggestions for bolstering your finances each month, ranging from budgeting in January to checking up on your insurance coverages in April to reviewing your estate plan in October.”

“The best money we’ve ever spent on other people.” [Vox] — “At the very end of 2018, we started publishing an essay series called The Best Money I Ever Spent. Less a collection of musings on the best or most underrated or cheapest versions of products, it’s meant to be an exploration of what value means to different people…Here, at the end of 2019, we wanted to depart somewhat from the format we’ve established. Instead, we asked writers to tell us about the best money they’ve spent on someone else, or that someone else has spent on them.”

Lastly, here’s a vision of tomorrow from 1993. That year, AT&T ran a series of commercials that I remember well. They showed what our technological future might be like.

I hate most advertising, but I remember that these commercials really intrigued me. Some of the stuff seemed like science fiction! The crazy thing now, twenty-six years later, is that all of this stuff has come true — and almost exactly as these commercials predicted.

I wonder what the next twenty-six years will bring us…

The best of 2019.

Happy New Year’s Eve, money nerds. Welcome to the final day of 2019. And, as we discussed yesterday, it’s just one more year until the end of the decade.

Today, we’re not even going to try to pretend to link to top money stories. Nope. Instead, we’re going to look at some “best of 2019” articles from various corners of the interwebs. Let’s get started.

“Our most popular money advice of 2019.” [Lifehacker] — “While you’re thinking about your own financial lessons from the past year, take a look at some of the most popular stories here at [Lifehacker] in 2019. They range from the practical to the absurd, but they’re all on this list for a reason: They contained some kernel of financial wisdom you can take away and apply to your own life.”

“Our most-read articles of 2019.” [Behavioral Scientist] — “We love the list below. The 10 most popular articles of 2019 are not only interesting in their own right but together illustrate the range of ways behavioral science influences our personal and professional lives.”

The most 2019 photos ever. [The Atlantic] — “Not necessarily the top photos of the year, or the most heart-wrenching or emotional images, but a collection of photographs that are just so 2019 — from ‘Old Town Road’ to ‘Storm Area 51′, from a fast-food banquet at the White House to Tesla’s Cybertruck, from virtual reality for dairy cows to ’30–50 feral hogs’, and much more. This is 2019.”

Donald Trump has great taste in food

“The fifty coolest things I read and watched in 2019.” [Four Pillar Freedom] — “Here is a list of the 50 coolest things I read and watched in 2019.” No need to say anything more. Our buddy Zach always finds cool stuff on the internet.

Finally, here’s something I look forward to every single year: David Ehrlich’s montage of the top 25 films of the year. Ehrlich picks his favorite movies, then mashes them together into an amazing fifteen-minute video that never fails to mesmerize me. I AM NOT JOKING. THIS VIDEO IS AMAZING. IT IS AMAZING EVERY SINGLE YEAR. YOU SHOULD WATCH IT.

Here’s this year’s version:

And just for kicks, here are Ehrlich’s top films from previous years: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012.

Okay, that’s it from 2019. We’ll be back next year with more top money stories from around the web. Join us, won’t you?

What would you request if a genie granted you three wishes?

Hello, money nerds, and welcome to the penultimate day of 2019. Because I’m a nerd nerd and not just a money nerd, I won’t pile on the “end of the decade” thing because it’s not the end of the decade. If you start with Year One and a decade lasts ten years, then Year Ten is the end of the decade. See where I’m going with this?

Pedantic, I know, but it bugs me. And it’s not just me making stuff up.

If you go by official definitions (and most authoritative sources), the decade ends on 31 December 2020 — not tomorrow.

Enough with the super technical details. Let’s get on to some top money stories, shall we?

What top performers know about getting a promotion at work. [Chris Reining] — “In my 20s I used to think if I was the hardest worker my manager would see that and promote me. It took me years to understand that nobody cares if you’re working hard. Really? What matters then? Playing the game. If you don’t know there’s a game being played all around you then I’m going to tell you there’s a game being played all around you. You’re literally missing the gorilla in the room…It’s about adding value, and here are the steps to do it.”

The bus-ticket theory of genius. [Paul Graham] — “Everyone knows that to do great work you need both natural ability and determination. But there’s a third ingredient that’s not as well understood: an obsessive interest in a particular topic…If I had to put the recipe for genius into one sentence, that might be it: to have a disinterested obsession with something that matters.”

“The logistics of sharing finances: How we created an argument-free household money system.” [The Luxe Strategist] — “For me and my husband, where the money actually lives was never deeply symbolic. What really mattered to us was a shared vision, trust, and transparency into the other person’s financial life. We’ve got all of that with separate finances.”

Last of all — and this seems fitting for the end of the year — here’s Tim Urban (author of the amazing Wait But Why) interviewing dozens of people from around the world about what they yearn for. What would they request if a genie offered to grant them three wishes?

I really, really like this video. Love it.

That’s it for Monday. We’ll be back tomorrow to celebrate the end of the year…but not the end of the decade.

Are creativity & scarcity are two sides of the same coin?

The human brain is such a magnificent creation.

Despite all that we’ve done to study our behavior, we still know so little. For the longest time, we believed human beings behaved rationally (hence economics). It might have worked for massive numbers, like entire populations and societies, but it didn’t stand up to what we experienced on a day-to-day basis.

Then a whole new field of study called behavioral economics burst on the scene and now we saw the academics match what we saw with our eyes.

This happens in a lot of areas because our brains are so complex with many inputs. Our understanding continues to expand and that’s a great thing.

One of those areas is that of scarcity. In a scarce environment, which defined much of human evolution, our brains behave differently. Now that we live in relative abundance, our brains aren’t really sure how to respond. Today’s articles address some of those issues in a way that have helped me understand them more:

How busyness leads to bad decisions [BBC] – “When we’re under pressure our mental bandwidth narrows – and that means we focus on the wrong tasks. So what’s the remedy for unproductive ‘tunnelling’?” This reminds me a little of how we lose our “willpower” as the day goes on. Something similar happens to the brain when it’s under pressure.

Why Creativity Is a Numbers Game [Scientific American] – “It’s a great myth that creative geniuses consistently produce great work. Whereas consistency may be the key to expertise, the secret to creative greatness appears to be doing things differently—even when that means failing.” Don’t stop reading once you get to the “they’re OK with failing” and think you got the point of the article… because then you’ll miss the two major factors.

And these two both pair nicely with this talk by Professor Scott Galloway of NYU:

And now for another fun article on fraud… this time with wine.

The great wine fraud [The Guardian] – “Rudy Kurniawan amassed a vast fortune trading in rare wines. Trouble is, he was bottling them himself.” If the buyer of a fake wine still enjoys it, how bad is the fraud? (I kid… it’s still fraud and it’s terrible, but it’s not like someone robbed someone at gunpoint or took advantage of liberal lending practices and got people to sign up for adjustable rate mortgages they couldn’t afford?)

Know someone who needs to read an article from this curation? Send it to them with our compliments!

How about some awkward money conversations? :)

Spend time with your family recently?

Was it awkward with lots of social anxiety?

If so, you’ll get a kick out of some of our articles today. They’re all about conversations… awkward conversations.

The $500-million Family Feud [Toronto Life] – “On a cold grey morning last April, Ontario Superior Court judge Glenn A. Hainey held a routine scheduling hearing in his chambers on University Avenue. One by one, the country’s most high-powered corporate litigators filed into the room. There were friendly handshakes, there was collegial kibitzing, there was even some jovial laughter. It was the latest hearing in the Stronach family trust dispute—a case that’s tearing apart one of Canada’s wealthiest families and galvanizing the best legal minds on Bay Street.” The Stronach family’s patriarch, Frank Stronach, founded an international automotive parts company, a real estate empire, and a group that specializes in horse-racing but controls a massive number of entities. And there’s a FEUD! (it’s a really complex feud too)

Handle These 12 Awkward Money Moments Without Breaking a Sweat [GOBankingRates] – Cameron Huddleston, who recently published a book about talking to your parents about money, shares the best way to handle some awkward money conversations.

Five Money Conversations to Have With Your Kids Before They Go to College [The Simple Dollar] – A lot of parents with college-bound kids are currently waiting to hear back from schools. Now’s a good time to have that money conversation with your kids so they’re better prepared for life after high school. It’s a good overview of five areas you definitely should cover.

Last, we have a post about forgery because I think we need one.

Art Forgery Is Easier Than Ever, and It’s a Great Way to Launder Money [VICE] – “More and more rich people are buying art and stashing it in strange places. According to infamous scammers, it’s not even close to legit.”

Beware conflating frugality with scarcity

As a kid, we rarely turned on the air conditioning and sparingly used the heating system.

My parents emigrated to the United States from Taiwan with very little and we always looked for ways to save money. Summers on Long Island (average highs in the 80s) were far milder than the summers in Taiwan (average highs in the 90s). Winters were harsher on Long Island but my parents would turn the temperatures down at night when we slept. I remember nights when it felt too hot but never felt it was too cold.

We were frugal but my parents never cut back on the things that were important. We flew back to Taiwan every few years, we had piano lessons, tutoring, SAT prep, etc. All the things you’d do to help your children succeed, even if they cost money. I learned a lot about cutting back on what isn’t important but being willing to spend on what is.

That’s the theme of today’s Apex:

7 Tips to Live on a Low Income (Without Feeling Deprived) [The Wallet Wise Guy] – “For the majority of our first seven years of marriage, Kendall and I mostly lived on my income alone. And, no, I wasn’t bringing down the big bucks as a doctor or a software engineer.

Instead, I was happily (even if not necessarily gainfully) employed as a pastor.”

The big takeaway is that you can live on a low income but you have to be quite intentional about it. Rather than just saying “spend less,” it’s a tactical look at how to do it so you aren’t just approaching everything with a “spend less” mentality.

Why a Scarcity Mindset Is Keeping You Poor [Debt Roundup] – “While it’s true that basic necessities like food and shelter cost more than ever, the real reason that most people aren’t achieving wealth goals has nothing to do with how much money is in the bank. It has to do with how they think about money.”

Grayson shares a good definition of the scarcity mindset and why it’s a very bad thing.

Fighting Scarcity Mentality Is About More Than Just Money — or Beliefs [Brave Saver] – “Why was it been so hard to get my stuff together, run those errands I’ve been putting off, mail that 401k rollover check that’s been sitting on my desk for weeks?

When I actually try to answer that question, it’s kind of obvious: I’m tired. With the holidays and end of the year approaching, it seems there are “bonus tasks” cropping up in pretty much every area of life, from home to work to parenting. It’s tiring to keep up with all of them.

In short, I’m running closer to empty, lacking the mental, physical, and emotional reserves that I need to be productive. And it’s landed me in a familiar place: a scarcity mindset.”

A great post that can help you identify when a scarcity mindset starts creeping into your default state and what you can do to combat it.

And now for something totally different:

How Baseball Cards Got Weird [The Atlantic] – “One night not long ago, with my 3-year-old son finally asleep and my wife wisely heading to bed, I settled onto the couch, beer in hand, to catch some baseball. Well, not really baseball. I opened my laptop, navigated to, and prepared to watch a pair of rubber-gloved hands in East Wenatchee, Washington, open an entire case of baseball cards—more than 4,000 cards in all.” If this sounds odd, it’s not. There is a kid on Youtube who makes millions unboxing toys and kids love watching it … this isn’t that much different except everyone involved is an adult. Well, and there are stakes.

If you thought it was strange for kids to watch other kids open up toys, there are adults watching other adults open up baseball cards!

Can you do us a favor and share this with someone you think will enjoy it?

(Also, we will not be publishing a curation for the 24th or 25th – we’ll be back on Thursday!)