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Apex Money Posts

Homeownership through the ages.

Welcome to Wednesday, Apexians.

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve finished work on a “financial independence and early retirement” course for Audible and The Teaching Company. Right now, it’s tentatively scheduled to release in October.

As part of that course, I went on a five- or ten-minute digression about the history of homeownership in the United States. In fact, I’ve spent much of this year diving deep into the history of personal finance and home economics. It’s fascinating. (I’ve begun toying with the idea of writing a book or a course on this topic, even though I know the audience for it would be small.)

Anyhow, our first story today here at Apex is all about homeownership through the ages.

Homeownership through the ages: A look at homeownership then and now. [Ancestry] — “The Homestead Act of 1862, the introduction of the 30-year mortgage, and the GI Bill are all among the milestones that brought home ownership within the reach of millions of Americans. Today, more than 63.5 percent of all Americans own their homes, up from 44 percent in 1940. Here are some of the important landmarks in this history.”

Fifteen things to consider before moving to the country. [Frugalwoods] — “There is no perfect location and no perfect lifestyle, but for me, where we live now comes pretty darn close. I’m not out to convert you (well, maybe a little…) but I do want to reassure any rural-curious folks that it is possible to take the plunge without much experience, without having lived rurally before, without owning so much as a shovel, and without knowing how to drive a tractor.”

The life-changing magic of doing just enough. [MSN News] — “In Norway, I discovered a new emotion I can best describe as ‘enoughness’—a neologism whose source I have yet to determine—alien to most New Yorkers. My tolerance for nonproductive activities increased. So did my appetite for solitude in nature, a transformation I have put to good use in pandemic social isolation.”

To round out the day, here’s a fun video of a kid outside Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. He’s hawking souvenirs in twelve different languages. Not sure why I like this so much, but I do.

And that’s all we have for Wednesday. I’ll see you tomorrow with more great stuff from the world of money. Bye bye!

“My fire ants have escaped!”

Hello hello hello, money nerds. It’s J.D. again, and I’m here with more of the best money stories from around the web. Let’s waste no time!

Three ways to attract more luck into your life. [The Profile on Substack] — “By definition luck is a random event that we can’t control, so we don’t bother discussing it that much. I think there’s a secret hidden in plain sight, though. Luck is partially a game of skill — and you can increase your odds by following the rules of the game.”

Seven reasons to love apartment living. [Becoming Minimalist] — “We realize that apartment living isn’t for everyone. But for us, a minimalist lifestyle in a 1,000-square-foot apartment leads to more joy, more fulfillment, and more family togetherness. Our home has never been tidier and our family is thriving in this simple, manageable environment.”

The complete guide to withdrawing money early from your retirement accounts. [Minafi] — “Whatever you approach to retirement is, one part is clear: taxes and early withdrawal penalties can make or break your plan. Take the time to craft a plan that minimizing taxes and maximizes your chance of success!”

I feel like it’s been a good, long while since I shared some truly fun videos with you all. Well, the wait is over. Today, I’ve got a couple of gems. Here’s Mike from the Ants Canada channel on YouTube documenting what happened when his frickin’ fire ants escaped from their habitat. Sheesh!

Apparently, this has been some time in coming. Here’s a video from three years ago in which Mikey documented that his fire ants were planning an escape…

Me? I hate ants. You don’t even want to know what I call them in private. There’s no way in hell that I’d keep them as pets. But it pleases me that somebody does…and that he’s chill when his fire ants escape their enclosure.

Okay, enough for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the best in personal finance!

More and more, money DOES buy happiness.

Good morning, money nerds, and welcome to Monday. That’s right. It’s time to start another week. To help you get up to speed, here are a few of our favorite recent stories about personal finance.

More and more, money does buy happiness. [The Washington Post] — “A new report finds that in recent decades, having more money has become increasingly associated with greater happiness. The Expanding Class Divide in Happiness in the United States, 1972—2016, published last week in the journal Emotion, found that among people age 30 and older, the correlation between income and happiness has steadily risen over the years.”

Debt freedom doesn’t equal wealth. [The Budgetnista] — “Debt freedom should be the byproduct of wealth. Think of it like this… there’s a hole in your backyard. You can either fill it with more dirt, or you can plant seeds. If you fill the hole with dirt, you have a smooth backyard surface — nice! If you fill the hole with (investment) seeds as well, you watch it grow and bear fruit — even better!”

The paradox of thrift while pursuing financial independence. [Medimentary] — “But this is precisely the beauty of pursuing financial independence. Those seeking it have consciously thought about their consumption and then adjusted their lives and budgets to meet their demand. It’s clear to me that happiness is derived internally, not from external consumption.”

To wrap things up, here’s billionaire Mark Cuban’s guide to getting rich.

That’s it to start the week. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great money stories. See you then.

Is there a benefit to moving to a state without income tax?

Wow, what a long week, my money nerds. I’m not sure why it was so taxing on me — nothing especially difficult is happening in my life — but I spent the entire week d-r-a-i-n-e-d. It was a challenge to do anything…and that includes publishing Apex Money on time haha.

Have no fear, though. I still managed to find great stories to share every single day, even if they weren’t ready bright and early in the morning. Here, for instance, are the four best money articles I read today.

Is there a benefit to moving to a state without income tax? [Be Three] — “There are some states without income tax, and amongst many of the high income earners I know, they’d love to live in one. So much so, in fact, that I often get question marks and eye rolls when I tell them that living in California is great…Is it really all that beneficial to live in states without income tax? That’s what I’m going to look into here, and we’ll see what the outcome is.”

How to install a bidet seat. [Consumer Reports] — “Judging by our recent bidet user review, adding a bidet to your bathroom is well worth the effort. ‘I’m thrilled that we’ve probably cut down [toilet paper] consumption by 80 percent,’ said one panelist. ‘I think the bidet does a better job cleaning,’ said another.” [It’s no secret that I’m a fan of bidets. I got hooked on them while traveling, and installed one in our home about three years ago. I love that they’re gaining popularity in the United States. More clean butts!]

Why is gold valuable? [Of Dollars and Data] — “For millennia gold has played a significant role in human society. From ancient civilizations to modern times, it has been used to showcase status among neighbors, to display power among rulers, and to facilitate trade among nations. Yet, despite its shiny exterior, it is intrinsically worthless…Why gold? Why not aluminum? Or iron? Or something else entirely? And, more importantly, should you be investing in gold?”

Sometimes comparison is good. [Accidental Fire] — “Comparison is not always good. If you’re a person who is extremely self-critical and hard on yourself as I have sometimes been in the past you might want to steer clear of comparison. But I’ve found comparison to my old self the best way to improve, and comparison to others very helpful if I pick the right measures and go in with a positive mindset.”

That’s it for this week. I’ll be back on Monday with more of the best in personal finance. See you then!

The enduring enigma of the Costco hot dog.

Welcome to Thursday, my friends. There’s a very real chance that today I will (at long last) buy a new car. Well, a new used car, but still. My 2004 Mini Cooper (which I bought in 2009) has been great, but it’s time to upgrade. After 100,000 miles in eleven years, I’m looking to move to a 2018 or 2019 Mini Countryman.

There are two great low-mile models available locally for $30,000. That seems like a fortune, but it’s cheaper than the $45,000 these vehicles sell for when new. Later this morning, I’m headed out to look at both Minis. And there’s a solid chance that I might purchase one.

Before I go car shopping, however, here are some of my favorite recent stories about personal finance. Enjoy!

The enduring enigma of Costco’s $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. [Mental Floss] — “When Costco president W. Craig Jelinek once complained to Costco co-founder and former CEO Jim Sinegal that their monolithic warehouse business was losing money on their famously cheap $1.50 hot dog and soda package, Sinegal listened, nodded, and then did his best to make his take on the situation perfectly clear. ‘If you raise [the price of] the effing hot dog, I will kill you,’ Sinegal said. ‘Figure it out.'” True story: I am a die-hard fan of the Costco hot dog. I’m sad, however, that they did away with the Polish dog a few years ago. So delicious.

Nobody knows what their bond fund is worth. [Institutional Investor] — “The prices for stocks, which trade on an exchange, are available in real-time. But bonds still trade over-the-counter, meaning a dealer and an investor negotiate a price, whether on a screen of over the phone. As a result, there is no central place to go for bond prices.”

A complete capsule wardrobe for men. [Permanent Style] — “This is a wardrobe for someone that wears a jacket most of the time for work, sometimes just knitwear. And isn’t reduced to a T-shirt and sweatpants at the weekend. Also, its aim is to create as many different outfits as possible, for a relatively small number of situations. In any capsule there is a tension between those two things, and I’ve aimed for the former.” [Note: I would love to link to something similar for women. If you know of a good resource, drop me a line!]

A bird feeder will bring you joy. [Wired] — “Owning a bird feeder as an adult has been incredible. While there are tons of options to choose from, a clear window feeder opens you up to another world of bird voyeurism.”

Nearly twenty years ago, my ex-wife and I bought a home that was perfect for attracting birds — and observing them. We made friends with some of them (for real). Kris still lives there, and her Facebook feed is filled with bird photos.

I used to love watching the birds too. Here, from December 2008, is a nine-minute video of the blue jays fighting over peanuts in our yard.

Kris still gets to watch this nearly every day. I only see it now and then when I stop by to visit her.

Okay, my friends, that’s plenty for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more fun and games related to personal finance. See you then!

It’s the one-year anniversary of Apex Money!

Hello, money nerds. It’s time to celebrate. Today is — can you believe it? — the one-year anniversary of Apex Money. On 01 July 2019, Jim messaged me to ask if I wanted to start a link curation site with him. “Sure,” I said. Within an hour, we had the site set up and the first post was live.

Now, a year later, here we are. We’ve had a lot of fun and hope that you have have too.

I suppose I ought to commemorate the occasion by making a list of our top ten stories from the past year, but that sounds like too much work. Let’s just stick to business as usual. Here are a few of our favorite money stories from the past few days.

How the pandemic has changed the way we buy. [Protocol] — “In just a few months, the pandemic has upended the way that many people are paying for things. People who rarely bought things online are now ordering all their groceries via Instacart, and the few times they’ve gone outside they’ve likely also turned to digital and contactless payment methods.”

Confessions of a former early-retirement skeptic. [Morningstar] — “I’ve concluded that the ‘retire early’ part of FIRE is a bit of a distraction from the really important part of the movement: the value of mindfully allocating our precious time and money in a way that aligns with our values, life goals, and joys. From that standpoint, even those of us who don’t plan to retire early can learn something from FIRE…”

Three keys to building an emergency fund. [Vanguard] — “I’ve seen tough financial situations that were eased by using cash savings and others that were aggravated by a lack of funds. The current uncertainty in the economy points to the importance of having this type of savings buffer. When I work with clients, I encourage them to create an emergency fund. Here are three key strategies I share to get them on their way.”

How to find your financial comfort zone. [The Simple Dollar] — “Rather than seeking higher levels of comfort with higher levels of expense, instead, just seek to avoid discomfort and only seek additional comfort if it’s free or very small in cost.”

To close things out for today, here’s a video that explores the truth about redlining and how it has widened the wealth gap from His and Her Money.

That’s it for Day One of Year Two of Apex Money. We’re glad you’re here with us, and hope you’ll stick around to see what else is in store. Thanks!

“I’m married to a selfish husband.”

Hey there, money nerds. Kim and I made it back from Shasta Lake — and in plenty of time to browse the interwebs for some cool stories about money. Here are three of the best I found today.

Slow down! The journey to financial independence is not a race. [Budgets Are Sexy] — “No matter if it takes me 5, 10, or 20 years to achieve financial independence, I will eventually cross the finish line. The biggest difference in which path I take is determined by how much I enjoy the journey in the meantime. I realized that there’s no rush for me. I wanted to slow down and enjoy the ride.”

Stock-market speculation is as old as the hills. [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “In some ways, it seems crazy that we would see such speculation during the most severe economic crash of our lifetimes. In other ways, this actually makes sense…Things are constantly changing in the world but human nature remains the constant.” [Related: Why so many people are getting into the stock market right now.]

“I’m married to a selfish husband.” [One Frugal Girl] — “How do you feel about spending and saving and how does that compare to your partner’s views? Do you need a lot of money to feel safe and secure? Do you suffer from a scarcity mindset? How does your partner feel and how does that differ from you? How can you talk about those emotions without calling your partner names? Calling your partner a selfish husband isn’t going to help. They will immediately become defensive.”

Finally, here’s a six-minute video of the real-estate listing for a beautiful $800,000 home in Fresh Meadows, New York — except it’s not as beautiful as you might think at first. Holy cats!

Wow! (Here’s the Redfin listing, if you’re curious.)

Okay. That’s it for Tuesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with more good stuff. See you then.

Why are credit card interest rates so high?

Hello hello, Apexians. I’m writing to you from the windy waves of Shasta Lake in northern California. Kim and I have been here for a couple of days, basking in the sun and the water with her brother and nephews. We’ll be here for another 24 hours before heading home.

But while we’re at the dock refueling, I have just enough time to write up this Monday installment of Apex Money. Here are a few of my favorite recent money stories. I think you’ll like them too.

Why are credit card interest rates so high? [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “There have been some slight dips over time but credit card borrowing rates remain firmly entrenched at double-digit levels. And while interest rates have been falling around the globe in recent years, credit card borrowing rates have risen. There are a number of reasons people point to for the stickiness of credit card rates…”

Peers’ income and financial distress: Evidence from lottery winners and neighboring bankruptcies. [Federal Reserve] — “We examine whether relative income differences among peers can generate financial distress. Using lottery winnings as plausibly exogenous variations in the relative income of peers, we find that the dollar magnitude of a lottery win of one neighbor increases subsequent borrowing and bankruptcies among other neighbors.”

The joys of compounding. [The Rational Walk] — “Gautam Baid’s new book, The Joys of Compounding, is destined to become a must-read investment classic. Baid does an excellent job of taking several steps back from financial analysis and relating how his life story shaped who he is as an investor, how seeking a broad-based education and the ‘worldly wisdom’ that comes from it formed his intellectual foundation, and only then describing how this has translated into financial independence through intelligent investing.”

Your relationship with self-worth and money is complicated. [Financial Best Life] — “Your relationship with money should be about your financial goals and feeling good about your choices. If you have what you need, love your job, and have found happiness, then what other people think should not matter. The reality is that it can be hard to maintain that mindset and other people can affect our emotions.”

Normally I’d include some sort of fun video, but not today. Sorry. Our cell service out here on the lake is so poor that I don’t want to risk not getting you your links by taking too much time to find fun stuff on YouTube. (And the same might be true for Tuesday’s links!)

I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff! See you then.

How money forever changed us

Money is such an interesting phenomenon. If you want to look at the strictest definition, it’s an agreed upon store of value and a medium of exchange. You work, you get paid, and that money has purchasing power everywhere you’d want to spend it. So simple, yet so complicated.

What do you spend it on? After you satisfy your basic needs, you start looking at entertainment, signaling, and all the other fun things money can buy.

But at its core, money is the same. It’s what you do with it that makes all the difference.

But have you considered how the existence of money has changed us? One person has:

How Money Forever Changed Us [More to That] – “It’s interesting how money is accepted as an inevitable force in our lives, yet when we take out the concept and wrap it in unfamiliar packaging, it seems weird and dumb.” This first post is long but full of fun illustrations and the last quarter of the post is where it starts getting really fascinating (when you see “Materialism isn’t about the accumulation of goods. It’s about the fulfillment of possibilities.” then you will have reached the good stuff), please enjoy it!

Speaking of things money can buy, ever wonder how baseball cards are authenticated?

How the world’s most expensive trading cards get authenticated [Popular Science] – “When a card arrives at our office, we first make sure it’s real, then assess its condition on a scale of 1 to 10. Because copies have sold for millions at auction, the Wagner used to be a popular target for forgeries. These are easy to spot: Up close, modern printing patterns look much different than the old methods. It also helps to have in-depth knowledge on what the collectible should look like. For example, a 1948 Leaf Bob Feller, one of the greatest pitchers of all time, always has a sort of out-of-focus look. If you’re not an experienced grader, you might examine it and say, “Oh, it’s blurry. It’s not real.””

I quit my job at the start of the pandemic to launch a company. Here’s what I’ve learned in the first 90 days. [The Profile] – “Today marks exactly 90 days since I started working on The Profile full time. Here are the 10 biggest things I’ve learned in the last three months.” She saved the best insight for last, make sure you read #10.

Did you know you can buy caves?

The Cave Kingpin Buying Up America’s Underground [Outside] – “John Ackerman has spent millions procuring a majority of the known caves in Minnesota, which add up to dozens of miles of underground passageways and likely make him the largest cave owner in the U.S. He collects and charts them in the name of preservation, but his controversial methods have created many opponents.”

I have a favor to ask – can you think of someone who would enjoy this? Please forward it to one person and it would make my day!

What could post-lockdown life look like?

We’ve been home for over three months now and with a few exceptions, things have been going OK. Everyone in our household has remained healthy, no one has gotten sick (knock on wood), and we’ve been managing fairly well.

Every once and a while, I blow off some steam on Twitter:

Other countries are at different points in their lockdown and it’s interesting to see how life has changed for them, as it gives us a hint at what things may be like for us after this is all over:

“There Is Hope!” Dispatches From Asia-Pacific On The New, Post-Lockdown Normality [Mr Porter] – “As elements of normality return here, it’s easy to feel a confusing sense of guilt. My friends in these (now, very distant) places can’t meet, their children can’t play, their businesses can’t trade. And while the crisis in Asia feels economic rather than existential, perhaps our day-to-day can this time be a harbinger of hope rather than doom. Four men from across the Asia-Pacific region shed some light on lessons learnt, practices found and promise seen as their communities move into a new, post-lockdown normality.”

Just when you think it was all roses, here’s an article that gives me a little pause:

The Looming Bank Collapse [The Atlantic] – “The reforms were well intentioned, but, as we’ll see, they haven’t kept the banks from falling back into old, bad habits. After the housing crisis, subprime CDOs naturally fell out of favor. Demand shifted to a similar—and similarly risky—instrument, one that even has a similar name: the CLO, or collateralized loan obligation. A CLO walks and talks like a CDO, but in place of loans made to home buyers are loans made to businesses—specifically, troubled businesses. CLOs bundle together so-called leveraged loans, the subprime mortgages of the corporate world. These are loans made to companies that have maxed out their borrowing and can no longer sell bonds directly to investors or qualify for a traditional bank loan. There are more than $1 trillion worth of leveraged loans currently outstanding. The majority are held in CLOs.”

Hmmm… read the whole thing. It gets in deep into the weeds but useful to understand.

Finally, more signs that maybe there’s going to be a second dip in the market:

The Rich Cut Their Spending. That Has Hurt All the Workers Who Count on It. [The New York Times] – “The steepest declines in spending during the coronavirus recession have come from the highest-income places.” The NYT article is behind a paywall so I shared a version on Pocket, but it does a bad job of parsing the charts so just scroll past that beginning part to reach the article. Here is the original if you have a subscription.

It’s almost Friday! Cheers to you if Friday means something different than any other day! 🙂