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Apex Money Posts

Don’t organize your inbox

I don’t organize my inbox with a few exceptions (I label tax-related stuff) – and now one of my favorite authors has validated my approach!

Why you shouldn’t organize your email [The Washington Post] – “When I left my desk I think [my inbox] had four emails. But what I don’t have is lots of folders. You can leave your email in your inbox or delete loads of stuff, put stuff you need to act on in a folder named action, and everything else you just archive. I think either works. It’s partly a matter of personality and partly a matter of habit. But what doesn’t work is this weird situation of, in trying to get your inbox to zero, you take your 17,000 emails and you start categorizing them and putting them into folders, which takes forever and makes precisely no difference in the likelihood you will find anything.” I’ve long been a fan of Tim Harford and this conversation covers a lot of different topics, more than just email.

The Opposite of the Latte Factor [Four Pillar Freedom] – “The problem with the latte factor, though, is that it emphasizes cutting out a tiny expense that is enjoyable for most people. So, despite investing more money each year using this method, your overall quality of life might take a dip.

Instead, what if you considered the opposite of the latte factor? That is, instead of cutting $1,825 from your existing level of spending each year, try earning an additional $1,825 each year.”

In times of need, you forget how badass you are.

To remember, try the Cookie Jar Method by David Goggins (it’s got some language packed into the two minute video):

If you don’t know who David Goggins is, this is his website and he certainly is a badass.

Now go be a badass and fill up that cookie jar!

The man who wants to help you out of debt – at any cost

Today is a bit of a grab bag of articles but the lead one is an interesting look into one of the biggest figures in personal finance – Dave Ramsey.

Some people love him. Some people hate him.

I think article does a great job showing you why people feel so strongly about him.

The man who wants to help you out of debt – at any cost [The Guardian] – “Millions turn to financial guru and radio host Dave Ramsey for his ‘tough love’. Many say he saved their lives. Critics say he ignores the structural reasons so many are in debt and poverty.”

5 Things Your Millionaire Neighbor Isn’t Telling You [The College Investor] – “It’s currently estimated that there are about 3,000,000 millionaires in the United States today. And given that there are about 300,000,000 Americans according to the latest Census data, that means about 1 in 100 are millionaires. Even more startling is that means that you probably know someone who is a millionaire, and you probably live within a stone’s throw of other millionaires that you don’t know.”

What Day of the Dead tells us about the Aztec philosophy of happiness [The Conversation] – “For the Aztecs, then, a happy life is achieved through balance. Individually, this means balancing one’s “face” and “heart,” but socially this involves friends, family and ancestors. Day of the Dead rituals help with this social balance.” The found the part about the ecosystem of minds absolutely fascinating.

Life’s Work: An Interview with Jerry Seinfeld [Harvard Business Review] – “If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way. The show was successful because I micromanaged it—every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting. That’s my way of life.”

See you tomorrow!

Last Lecture

Every few years, you’re reminded about things that have shaped the arc of your life.

Just last week, something popped up on the homepage of Hacker News that was like meeting an old friend again. It was a link to Youtube to Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture and it’s amazingly powerful to watch. It marked one of the first times I really thought about how I did things, rather than the thing itself.

The lecture was given in September 2007… it was no small coincidence that I’d quit my job and be working for myself by January of 2008.

I had the pleasure of going to Carnegie Mellon and I even tried to take Randy Pausch’s course, Building Virtual Worlds, but never made it off the waitlist (it was the first few years it was available and everyone wanted to be in it… and there were far more deserving students than me). Sometimes I wish I had tried harder to get in the class but that’s the benefit of hindsight.

If you’ve never heard this lecture before, I’m excited for you. 🙂

Have a great day!

How to invest like a girl.

It’s the end of another week! But before we quit work, we have one final batch of interesting money news to share with you.

Let’s kick things off with a podcast…

How to invest like a girl. [Smart Money Mamas] — “In this episode I am talking with Amanda Holden, author, speaker and expert in equipping women to make smart investment decisions. Amanda is super relatable and super passionate about you being financially free as a woman in retirement. We’re talking about why investing needs to be a priority for women, the biggest takeaways from the stock market in 2008, and how to know if you’re ready to invest.”

What if you only bought stocks after down years? [Four Pillar Freedom] — “Here’s a fun thought experiment: What if you only invested in stocks after the stock market had a down year?…This is a simple market-timing strategy. The logic behind this strategy is that if the stock market experienced a negative return in the previous year, perhaps it’s more likely to experience a positive return in the coming year.”

For once, today’s video is related to money. It’s a famous (and kind of cult classic) bit from Alan Watts about the illusion of time, money, and ego. This will seem like trippy stuff for some, I’m sure, but if you’ve ever read The Power of Now or books of its ilk, this will be interesting to you.

“We are psychologically perverted in such a way that some of us would like to have money rather than real wealth.” Preach!

And here’s an article that half of the country is going to need, no matter how the whole election thing settles haha…

How to move to Canada. [Maple Money] — “So you want to move to Canada, eh? Something tells me you’re not alone. It’s a topic that seems to garner plenty of attention every four years or so…But while moving to Canada is easier said than done, there are several paths you can take to the Great White North. Before exploring further, however, let’s brush up on your knowledge of this land I call home.”

Here’s one final non-financial link to take you into the weekend. As autumn settles and winter looms, many of us will be spending more time inside. And, in many cases, we’ll be curled up in front of the television. The Atlantic has put together a list of 25 comfort movies worth watching again and again. Although I’ve seen several of these, none of them are on my list of comfort films. Movies I watch over and over include Star Wars, When Harry Met Sally, The Godfather, Fiddler on the Roof, and All About Eve.

That’s all for this week, my friends. We’ll be back on Monday with more of the best from the world of personal finance.

20 years of home price data from across the U.S.

Why, hello there! As you can see, I missed yesterday’s installment of Apex Money, and I’m late with this morning’s edition. That’s because I’ve been wrapped up in election results. And, as of this moment anyhow, there’s still no definitive answer about who will be the next President of the United States.

I guess that means I should return my attention to personal finance. Here are a few interesting money stories from the past few days…

20 years of home price changes in cities across the U.S. [Visual Capitalist] — Let’s start with this interactive chart that draws on Zillow’s home value index. It uses this data to plot how home prices have changed in major metropolitan areas across the United States. How have things changed in your area? (Interesting to read the accompanying article to get some of the breakdown.)

What happens when you get everything you want? [Why We Money] — “Sometimes after we get to where we wanted to go, we long for the journey that got us there. We don’t take the time to soak it up and celebrate where we’re at right now. I’ve found it more helpful to just be in that space for a while. Not easy, necessarily. But it helps to clarify what is and think about what could be before taking any rash steps and adding more to life.”

Contentment is the greenest grass of all. [Clipping Chains] — “We all must deal with difficult and complicated emotions. We will all face our versions of tragedy and loss. As such, our goal should be contentment, not an unattainable and unsustainable status of unadulterated joy.”

Last but not least, here’s the HBO Max ranking of the top 10 Bugs Bunny moments in history. When my brothers and I were young, we lived for Bugs Bunny. One local TV station would play the cartoons in the mornings and afternoons, and we loved them. I haven’t watched them in decades though.

That’s all for today. We’ll be back tomorrow to take you into the weekend.

How to live your values.

Oh, it’s a quiet day here at Apex Money. A quiet day, just like any other day. Right? Haha. Okay, it might be quiet here at this little money blog, but we’re well aware that there’s plenty of noise out there in Real Life.

Go vote! And, like us, sit at home tonight and watch the election results roll in. And please, be kind to each other, no matter what you believe. Sound fair? Now let’s look at some money stories…

Americans’ views on taxes are surprisingly complicated. [Stanford Graduate School of Business] — “A recent survey by a pair of Stanford Graduate School of Business researchers, based on the views of 3,062 American adults, finds that soaking the rich actually is a pretty popular idea, supported by 65% (while 23% oppose it). It’s favored by most people across all income levels and political affiliations.” [This is from March, so the framing text is out of date, but it’s interesting.]

How to live your values. [CityFrugal] — “At your core, you’re a mixture of traits and values. These things are interrelated, as we’ll see, but the distinction is important…A twenty-something might end up in a fight because they’re hotheaded and impulsive. Those are traits. But your values are the things over which you’d deliberately go to war.”

The ultimate guide to a no-buy year. [Forbes] — “With the new year approaching, it’s the perfect time to think about adopting a no-buy year challenge. In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of a no-buy year, the challenge rules, and necessary preparation. Included are 8 examples of people who attempted a no-spend year.”

Why I quit my job to become an entrepreneur. [The Fioneers] — “When weighing the potential benefits against the risks, it feels like this should have been a really easy decision. It wasn’t. Yet, it was made easier by the financial stability we’ve built and the mindset shifts we’ve made over time.”

We’ll be back again tomorrow with more of the best from the world of money. See you then.

Are you trading happiness for modern comforts?

Good morning, my friends! Are you ready for an interesting week? In theory anyhow, months and months of election fervor should end tomorrow. Should end. In reality, I know that many folks are worried about what comes after the results are announced.

No matter. Here at Apex Money, our attention is turned inward. We’re focused on personal finance, not politics. And today, to distract you, I’ve gathered several interesting pieces. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Are we trading our happiness for modern comforts? [The Atlantic] — “One of the greatest paradoxes in American life is that while, on average, existence has gotten more comfortable over time, happiness has fallen…Empty consumerism and soulless government are the traditional two explanations for our modern alienation. These days, there is a brand-new one: tech.”

New York restaurant accidentally serves $2000 bottle of wine to couple (instead of the $18 bottle they ordered). [Decanter] — “Staff at Balthazar poured the two wines into identical decanters, but the one containing Mouton Rothschild 1989 was accidentally sent to the young couple’s table, said the New York restaurant’s owner, Keith McNally. Four Wall Street businessmen at another table had ordered the Bordeaux First Growth – the most expensive wine on the restaurant’s list at $2,000 (£1,528) – but were served the $18 Pinot, the restaurant’s cheapest.”

How a single mother created a plastic food-storage empire. [Mental Floss] — “It seemed like magic. Tupperware™ was unlike any home product she’d seen before. It was attractive, coming in pastel colors and flexible shapes, almost like art. More importantly, it was functional — no other competing product even came close. Convinced of its potential, Wise traded in her Stanley brooms in 1949 and started throwing parties to sell Tupperware™. What she didn’t intend, exactly, was to kindle a revolution.”

For today’s topic, I chose a timely topic. There’s been a lot of talk about taxes in light of tomorrow’s election. And, as always, there’s a lot of confusion about taxes. People cannot seem to grasp how tax brackets work. Here’s a simple explanation of how tax brackets actually work from the folks at Vox.

I know this isn’t going to stop my friends on Facebook from posting mis-information, but I hope it’s helpful for somebody!

I’ll see you tomorrow, my friends, as we all head to the polls.

All about fraud

If you’ve been a subscriber to Apex for a while, you probably picked up on how I love a good heist. I don’t like the theft but I enjoy the meticulous planning and execution. Something about a bunch of things lining up tickles the sliver of OCD I have.

I’m less a fan of outright fraud. But I do enjoy reading about elaborate ruses because if those people used their skills “for good,” they probably could make even more than through fraud.

Case in point – have you heard of Rudy Kurniawan? He was the subject of a 2016 documentary “Sour Grapes,” which chronicled the elaborate lengths he went through to forge wine.

A True-Crime Documentary About the Con That Shook the World of Wine [The New Yorker] – “Rudy Kurniawan was a rich twenty-something with a naïve fondness for wine when he first started rubbing elbows with the high rollers at wine auctions, in the early two-thousands—“Just a geeky kid drinking Merlot,” as one veteran collector recalls. But he quickly developed a taste for Burgundy, a far more complex realm of connoisseurship, and was soon spending a million dollars every month on wine, much of it at boozy dinners with luminaries like the wine critic Robert Parker, who found Kurniawan to be a “very sweet and generous man.” Like other wealthy collectors, Kurniawan also sold treasures from his cellar. In 2006, the auction house Acker Merrall & Condit broke records selling off thirty-five million dollars’ worth of his wines.”

Stunning! You can watch the documentary on Netflix.

How fraudsters dupe the art world [The Verge] – “The Civil War-era desk, designed in 1876, looked too good to be true. Ornate, fashioned from walnut, maple, and oak, it was created to honor Union infantryman John Bingham. […] It was also a fake.”

How live-streamed $375k deal for Pokémon cards ended in disaster [The Guardian] – “It had been billed as a record-breaking deal that would make serious investors covet 20-year-old trading cards featuring pictures of cartoon monsters. Instead, a $375,000 (£287,000) cash transaction ended in disaster on Tuesday, when the buyer opened a sealed box that was supposed to be full of rare first-edition Pokémon cards live on YouTube – and found that the contents had been faked.”

“Disaster” is a bit of an overstatement because the buyers never lost their money – they discovered things were amiss on the live stream and kept their money. It’s probably worse for the seller (if you believe he/she wasn’t the perpetrator of the fraud). Still wild though.

Have a great weekend!

Sweat more than you watch people sweat

I just finished reading Scott Galloway’s The Algebra of Happiness and one of his rules (for health) is that you should sweat more than you watch other people sweat. It’s a more eloquent way of saying “work out more than you watch sports.”

It’s not a bad rule… and a twist on Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken in the sense that you should not do what is easiest because it’s not what is always best for you, especially in the long run.

It Pays to Choose the Harder Options [Your Money Blueprint] – “These collective harder decisions are what will allow me to live a much more fulfilling life of health, wealth and happiness. The easy path will get me nowhere but unhealthy, unhappy and poor.”

It’s something we all intuitively understand but very hard to put into practice every day. Consider this a little reminder for you and, to be perfectly honest, for me.

‘Ruined my life’: After going all in on Amazon, a merchant says he lost everything [The Sydney Morning Herald] – “Barak Govani made a big bet on earlier this year that he now regrets. He shut his New York Speed clothing store on Los Angeles’ storied Melrose Avenue, packed up $US1.5 million ($2.1 million) in inventory and shipped it to Amazon warehouses around the country, putting his fate in the hands of a company that has routinely presented itself to the world as a friend of small business. Today, the 41-year-old retail veteran is broke and couch-surfs between his mother’s home and his sister’s place. Govani hopes to start anew by getting Amazon to pay him for inventory the company destroyed after suggesting his products could be fake – an accusation Govani strenuously denies.”

I really like this analogy.

Predicting Retirement is Tough, but it Gets Easier [Lazy Man and Money] – “I like to think of long-term financial planning (for retirement or even college expenses) as being like a hole of golf. You have to take a big shot with your driver to get as close as you can. Then you focus your attention more and more until you are making a manageable putt.”

Til we meet again Apexian! 🙂 [tomorrow]

Is a 4% withdrawal rate TOO safe? Or not safe enough?

The 4% rule has long been held up as a retirement gold standard. If you withdraw just 4% of your retirement each year, it’ll last you until you leave this world.

Sometimes it’s seen as too conservative, but that is in part by design. Bill Bengen came up with the 4% rule because he looked at the worst possible case from 1926 until “now” to come up with a safe maximum withdrawal rate of 4.5% (it involved someone who retired on 10/1/1968 and “suffered through years of poor stock market returns and high inflation.”). Then he chopped off the .5 to reach 4% – so it’s clearly on the safer side of safe.

First, an article that dives into the 4% rule, followed by an update.

Is the 4% Safe Withdrawal Rate Obsolete? [Can I Retire Yet?] – “But the era of the simple 4% Rule may be drawing to a close. We are now hearing from some respected voices that it, too, is rigid and simplistic — relying too much on historical data, and not enough on current financial conditions. Most alarmingly, we are being told that it might be too generous for these extreme economic times, that the actual safe withdrawal rate for today’s retirees could be less than half of the traditional 4% rate. If true, that would mean you must save twice as much!

Woah. So is it safe or not safe enough?

Bengen weighs in:

Bill Bengen Revisits The 4% Rule Using Shiller’s CAPE Ratio, Michael Kitces’s Research [Financial Advisor] – “How do you determine the “safe” portfolio withdrawal rate (what I call “SAFEMAX”) for clients at the beginning of retirement? My research over many years indicates that an initial withdrawal rate of 4.5% sustained all portfolios from 1926 up until now (when we assume that you had a tax-advantaged account, annual CPI adjustments and a minimum of 30 years of portfolio longevity).”

Like all rules of thumb, your thumb isn’t the same safe as another’s thumb. Plus you have the hand. The air around you. And whether that hand is in an inflationary or deflationary environment (the analogy is starting to fall apart, I know :))… but this adds a little color to the otherwise static number of 4%.

Now for something fun – bootlegging in a place where you aren’t supposed to have alcohol!

Bootlegging in Karachi: A Sinner’s Story [Roads & Kingdoms] – “Our anonymous correspondent on the intimate ties between Karachiites and the dubious men who supply them with illegal alcohol. […] My bootlegger and I have a routine, fine-tuned through trial and error. I hand him the bag. He takes bottles from the footrest and stuffs them into it. I give him the cash and ask him if the city is calm tonight. He makes a retort about my tendency to ask too many questions. The transaction done, Bilal speeds off. I return, victorious, to my friends in the restaurant.”

Have a great day Apexian!