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Apex Money Posts

You can’t predict the future, only what you pay for it

When it comes to investing, it’s hard to know what will happen tomorrow or next week. Or even next year.

But there is one thing we can predict – how much you will pay for an investment. And often that tell you a lot about what will happen.

The predictive power of fees [Occam Investing] – “Investors can never really be sure of anything – we’re left to make the best of unprovable theories and confidence levels while navigating an environment in constant flux. But no matter how much changes in markets, no matter how many theories you choose to place confidence in, one thing will remain true regardless of approach. All else equal, lower fees will result in better performance.”

5 sustainability tricks to save you money [The Twenty Percent] – “January is the time for trying new things and changing aspects of your life. Many people are looking to live more sustainably, while others want to save more money. But why should you have to choose between the two? Here are 5 sustainability tricks to save you money.”

Don’t pick up! The rise and fall of a massive industry based on missed calls [Rest of World] – “Kumar’s friends and family members began ringing each other but hanging up before being charged for a call; the resulting missed-call alerts functioned as a kind of code between them. “It was decided in advance,” Kumar says. “We would say, if I’m coming to pick you up, I’ll give you a missed call, and you come out of your house.””

Your story: Why did 11 days disappear in 1752? [Augusta Chronicle] – “People living in Britain, America and other English colonies went to sleep on the night of Sept. 2, 1752, and when they woke up the next morning it was Sept. 14, 1752. Because the people thought the government was trying to cheat them out of 11 days of their lives, there were riots in villages. Eleven days (Sept. 3-13) were cut from the calendar, deleting them forever. These days simply never existed – no births, no marriages, no deaths.” (and you thought the U.S. sticking with English units was annoying!)

See you next week!

“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”

That was a line from Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford commencement address and an exceptionally powerful idea – he gave this speech a year after his terminal cancer diagnosis.

You can watch his commencement speech here or read the transcript.

If you don’t, take this part with you: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

While a good commencement speech, it comes second to a speech that I’ve shared before (probably several times) but that has had the greatest impact on my life – The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. (transcript)

Brick walls are there for us to show how much we want something. They’re there to keep other people out.

Why Cryptocurrency Is A Giant Fraud

I met Michael Quan a few years ago at FinCon, a personal finance blogging conference, and was excited to hear that he was coming out with a fun early retirement book. It’s not so much a “book” as it is a planner and journal that is colorful, fun, and most importantly, effective. There are a ton of books out there but I haven’t seen too many planners and Michael delivers. If you’re pursuing financial independence, you should check out The F.I.R.E. Planner – he’s done a great job making it accessible to anyone.

What’s at the bottom of the crypto rabbit hole? [The Escape Artist] – “People who understand this new world better than me say that where decentralised finance is now is the equivalent of where the internet was back in 1995-97 with clunky dial-up modems and most people unaware of the tidal wave about to hit markets, the economy and broader society.”

Lumber: A Demand Drive Rally… On Steriods [RCM Alternatives] – “Unlike most other commodities, lumber is used in a product with a long decision-making process. Housing has a long timeline. While the production of a 2×4 is rather quick, the cycle from tree to house is much longer. And because of that abnormally long period of time, lumber futures have the possibility of overlapping economic cycles and seasons. With that amount of lead time available how did this commodity get so under-bought, so under-produced and so under-supplied to cause a 300% increase (!!!) from it’s typical price?”

Why Cryptocurrency Is A Giant Fraud [Current Affairs] – “I’ve been among those who have ignored cryptocurrency for a long time, but Vox has told me I am no longer allowed to, so I’ve read up on it. And I have to say, Schweikert is partly right: “selling it as a revolution” is a hugely important part of why cryptocurrency is succeeding. But as is generally the case when someone is trying to sell you something, the whole thing should seem extremely fishy. In fact, much of the cryptocurrency pitch is worse than fishy. It’s downright fraudulent, promising people benefits that they will not get and trying to trick them into believing in and spreading something that will not do them any good. When you examine the actual arguments made for using cryptocurrencies as currency, rather than just being wowed by the complex underlying system and words like “autonomy,” “global,” and “seamless,” the case for their use by most people collapses utterly. Many believe in it because they have swallowed libertarian dogmas that do not reflect how the world actually works.”

The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake

This first article is going to open your eyes and perhaps challenge some of your assumptions on what makes a “good family.”

The Nuclear Family Was a Mistake [The Atlantic] – “If you want to summarize the changes in family structure over the past century, the truest thing to say is this: We’ve made life freer for individuals and more unstable for families. We’ve made life better for adults but worse for children. We’ve moved from big, interconnected, and extended families, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, to smaller, detached nuclear families (a married couple and their children), which give the most privileged people in society room to maximize their talents and expand their options. The shift from bigger and interconnected extended families to smaller and detached nuclear families ultimately led to a familial system that liberates the rich and ravages the working-class and the poor.” There are some eye-opening statistics in this article, especially near the end.

The biology of dads [Aeon] – “The bodies and brains of fathers, not just mothers, are transformed through the love and labour of raising a child”

Overnight Millionaires [A Wealth of Common Sense] – “You can’t possibly hope to offer someone financial advice without first understanding how they view things like risk, spending, saving and the emotions that come about from difficult money decisions.”

Some scams are just so obvious that you wonder how people think they could’ve gotten away with it!

South Africa’s lottery probed as 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 drawn and 20 win [BBC] – “An unusual sequence of numbers drawn in South Africa’s national lottery has sparked accusations of fraud after 20 people won a share of the jackpot. Tuesday’s PowerBall lottery saw the numbers five, six, seven, eight and nine drawn, while the PowerBall itself was, you have guessed it, 10.” What are the chances??? (the exact same as any other combination, lol)

Grit may not be it

I think grit is important. I want grit to be important.

But how important is it?

The Weak Case for Grit [Nautilus] – “It might surprise you to find out how little evidence there is to support the idea that boosting students’ “grit”—their propensity to tenaciously attack difficult problems they encounter rather than give up—is a reliably effective way to improve their school performance or to close long-standing education gaps. After all, you’ve probably heard otherwise. Grit is everywhere. By the time you read this, it will have been a golden child of the world of education for well over a decade. It’s a sexy, appealing idea: grit predicts success, grit can be measured, and grit can be improved.”

The article made me think that trying to boil down a human being’s success into a 10-question test may be a bit too simple. 🙂

COGS: How I Bankrupted MoviePass [Napkin Math] – “MoviePass is my favorite business of all time. For a brief, glorious period between 2017 & 2018, the company sold an unlimited movie watching membership for <$10. All you had to do was pay the fee and you’d go see all the flicks your heart could possibly desire. My favorite theater in Mountain View, California sold a ticket for a leather recliner for 15 bucks. Essentially, MoviePass was selling dollars for cents. Unsurprisingly, people enjoy being given free things! Their subscribers jumped from 20,000 to 3,000,000 in the span of a year. All of my friends had it. We would go to Century Cinema 16 at least once a week just to chill. Each of us were easily costing MoviePass north of 60 dollars a month, all for the low price of 10 bucks." The Rise and Fall of a Double Agent [The Walrus] – “It’s not mentioned in the account of his arrest, but the first thing officers likely did after they cuffed Ramos was reach into his pocket and grab his BlackBerry. That device, and the network it connected to, was at the heart of a sprawling FBI indictment that accused Ramos of racketeering activity involving gambling, money laundering, and drug trafficking. But that doesn’t quite cover the scale of his operation.”

Why you shouldn’t offer financial advice.

Howdy, folks. It’s Friday and we’re back with more of the best from the world of personal finance.

Yes, yes. It’s true. I forgot to collect links yesterday. What can I say? It happens. My only excuse is that we’re still in the throes of our homeselling experience. But hey. I’m here today with fresh stories, so let’s dive in.

Why financial strain is so harmful to your health. [GQ magazine] — “There’s an American myth about the distaste we have for talking about money. People who seem to have enough of it, they’ll talk about addiction, politics, problems with their families, but they won’t talk about money. But what I find is that when you don’t have a lot of money, you’re thinking about it all the time, and you’re also talking about it with everybody around you.”

The expert guide to making clothes last forever. [The Guardian] — “De Castro, 54, is an activist, a lecturer, a former designer and a co-founder of not-for-profit movement Fashion Revolution. With the release of her book Loved Clothes Last, she has also become a kind of anti-Marie Kondo. She advocates ‘radical keeping’, not decluttering. ‘The only antidote to throwaway culture is to keep. So I am an obsessive keeper,’ she says.”

Am I the asshole for revealing our net worth when my wife constantly says we are broke. [/r/AmITheAsshole] — “The same conversation has come up numerous times about us being broke. Recently, I reminded her numerous times it makes me feel and look bad in front of friends and family. I told her if she keeps saying stuff like that I will reveal that we are doing well with money…At a dinner with her sister and parents the same I’m broke story came up. I piped in and said, ‘It’s weird to hear a millionaire say they are broke.'”

Why you shouldn’t offer financial advice. [Money Ning] — “The only time you should give out advice is when someone specifically asks you for it. Otherwise, you’re wasting your breath. No matter how much you think a person needs your help, they’re not going to change until they are ready. And that’s out of your control.”

And to finish the week, here’s a seven-minute video from the Business Insider channel on YouTube. It’s all about why gongs are so expensive.

Honestly, I’d never considered the price of a gong. And I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that quality gongs would cost tens of thousands of dollars!

Yes, it’s an esoteric topic, I know. But the video is interesting. Trust me.

And that’s it for this week. We’ll be back on Monday with more of the best from the world of personal finance — and beyond. See you then.

Life is about what we can do for each other.

Today is my mother’s 73rd birthday. But she has no real way of knowing it. You see, for many years now — more than a decade — she’s suffered from severe mental impairment. At first, the doctors didn’t now what to call it. Now they tell us it’s dementia.

It’s very very difficult for mom to communicate. Almost impossible. Except, for reasons nobody understands, every once in a while she’ll have a couple of lucid moments.

Anyhow, the articles I’ve gathered for you today are all things that reminded me of my mother.

Money trouble as an early sign of dementia. [Squared Away Blog] — “Researchers followed more than 81,000 men on Medicare for more than a decade and linked their medical records to their Equifax credit reports. The men who would eventually be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia started missing the due dates on their bills about six years before the diagnosis.”

Life is about what we can do for each other. [Ryan Holiday] — “We are here for each other, that we are here to make things better for others, for the next generation, that makes life meaningful and worth living. Because in doing so, we find happiness and respect for ourselves.”

How much should you have saved for retirement right now? [The College Investor] — “It’s fairly easy to know when you’ve reached certain financial goals such as building up your emergency fund or paying off your high-interest debt. But what about your retirement savings? Exactly how MUCH you should have saved for retirement right now or at any given point in life?” [Mom didn’t save much for retirement. Fortunately, our family business is acting as a retirement account for her.]

Grandparents gone viral. [Rest of World] — Social media isn’t just for young folks! Here’s a list of eight influencers who have spent their golden years racking up followers. From game-playing grandmothers to master carpenters to a couple of cooks, I enjoyed watching these videos of older vloggers from around the world.

Finally, because my mother loves cats (even now, when she lacks awareness about so many things), here’s my favorite cat video of the past month. And trust me: I watch a lot of them! It’s a quick 15-second clip of a woman training a cat to leap into her arms. I love it. I wish my cats would do this.

Cat jump from r/Catculations

Okay, that’s all for this Wednesday. I’ll see you tomorrow for more talk about money. Ta ta!

Adventures in mobile homes.

Good morning, money nerds, and welcome to another Tuesday. As always, we’ve gathered together some of our favorite stories about money — and more! Let’s dive in.

How to invest in mobile homes. [Side Hustle Nation] — “When most people think of real estate investing, mobile homes probably don’t come to mind. In fact, technically speaking, mobile homes are personal property–not real estate. Still, this is a sub-niche in real estate that comes with the familiar cash-flowing opportunity of buying a building and renting it out for a profit.” This is something I’ve been thinking about, so it’s great to read about somebody who’s done it. [See also: Adventures in Mobile Homes.]

The sign of a great thinker. [Inc.] — “High-ability individuals tend to underrate their relative competence, and at the same time assume that tasks that are easy for them are just as easy for other people. The smarter you are, the less you think you know — because you realize just how much there is to actually know.”

The power of feedback. [Farnam Street] — “We all want to improve at something. Skills we’d like to develop, habits we like to change, relationships we’d like to improve—there are lots of areas where we’d love to see positive, meaningful change. Sometimes though, we don’t know how to keep moving forward…When you’re stuck, you need feedback.”

How salespeople use your mental shortcuts against you. [My Money Blog] — “We are more likely to fall back on these mental shortcuts without thinking when we are stressed, rushed, tired, or hungry. Hopefully, the ability to identify these tactics in action will help us avoid making poor decisions, including financial ones.”

Today’s video feature is a bit of nostalgia for me. You see, when I was young we didn’t have a television. My parents didn’t like them. Plus, they couldn’t afford one. But about the time I entered high school, they bought one. In the afternoons, I’d come home and watch re-runs of The Monkees. It was goofy fun.

Well, here’s a 20-minute video featuring screen tests for the kids who would become The Monkees. All of this seems so long ago…and yet just like yesterday.

Ah, youth. How I miss it. And I’ll miss you for the next 24 hours! But have no fear. I’ll be back tomorrow with more money stories from around the web. See you soon.

The first boycott.

Good morning and welcome to Monday, Apexians. I hope your weekend was more of a weekend than my weekend!

You see, Kim and I just put our home on the market. Over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, our real-estate agent hosted eight hours of open houses and there were eight showings from other agents. We (and the dog) had to be out of the house for all of that. We’re exhausted.

But, if all went well, sometime this morning we’ll find out that there are multiple offers on the place. Fingers crossed!

Let’s start Apex Money this week with a story that’s not about real estate but about my favorite musician (and businessperson), Taylor Swift.

Non-fungible Taylor Swift. [Stratchery] — “While we used to pay for plastic discs and thought we were paying for songs (or newspapers/writing or cable/TV stars), empowering distribution over creators, today we pay with both money and attention according to the direction of creators, giving them power over everyone.” This is a fascinating piece that pulls together a lot of threads.

The first boycott. [Now I Know] — “Because of the landlord’s complaint and the resultant overreaction, news of the events spread throughout Ireland, and other tenants replicated the tactic. But until then, the tactic didn’t have a name. Today, we have a word: boycott.” Again, fascinating stuff. (And this reminds me: Why do we talk about “cancel culture” when canceling is, essentially, boycotting? This is a serious question that I don’t know the answer to.)

“How I lost 65 pounds in 18 months without any fad diets or gimmicks.” [Both Sides of the Table] — “I promise you that throughout I continued occasionally to eat ice cream, licorice, pizza, pita, hummus, sushi, bagels, granola — whatever I like. But I measure everything and hold myself accountable.” Smart, sensible advice that mirrors my own experience with weight loss.

Let’s finish the day with a video that I find hilarious. From Saturday Night Live‘s “Weekend Update”, here’s a five-minute interview with the iceberg that sank the Titanic.

No kidding: I was in tears laughing from this. So funny.

And that’s it for Monday! I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff. See you then.

Confessions of an overnight millionaire

This first post is refreshingly honest and while I’ve never had a $6 million dollar windfall, I imagine any major seven-figure windfall probably feels a lot like this. Too bad it’s anonymous but I get why it is.

Confessions of an Overnight Millionaire [New York Magazine] – “Since July 2020, nearly 750 companies have gone public, raising more than $200 billion and minting thousands of new paper millionaires. Amid the frenzy, one millennial tech worker on the verge of unexpected wealth shared what was going through her mind.” I love the little dig towards banking too and the family stuff is a bit sad.

You Are Your Life’s Creative Director [All About Your Benjamins] – “We’re taught from an early age that we’re supposed to go to school, get good grades, graduate college, find a good job with great benefits, maybe make a few job/career changes, get married, buy that house, have 2.5 kids, put the kids through college, and one day retire…the American Dream. Your life’s path has been predetermined, who the original director was, I’m not sure—I leave off creative because it’s not— and it’s already been paved by the generations who have come before you. Stay on the paved path and you’ll be good.”

Feel Better [Humble Dollar] – “Money can be maddening—if we let it. There will almost always be some parts of our portfolio whose performance disappoints. There will always be some folks who are wealthier. But whether it’s our investment performance or our overall net worth, we shouldn’t let ourselves be bothered by our relative standing. Why not? Here are five reasons.” #4 is an important one.

This last one is presented without explanation, just play with it for a few minutes – Groove Pizza.

Have a great weekend!