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Apex Money Posts

What the heck is a SPAC?

SPACs have been hot lately – in 2020, there were nearly 250 new SPACs that raised $83 billion in capital. They basically allow a private company to go public really quickly. Here’s how they work:

What Are SPACs and Should You Invest in Them? [Money For The Rest of Us] – “Special Purpose Acquisition Companies or SPACs are non-operating publicly-listed companies whose purpose is to identify and purchase a private company, allowing the acquisition target to have publicly listed stock.” This is a really great explainer – easy to understand.

the diminishing returns of productivity culture [Culture Study] – “Automation was also positioned as a sort of cure-all for America’s industrial slump: a way to close the gap between their global competitors, particularly Japan and Germany. It promised to decrease inefficiencies and increase productivity — and productivity, as Robert MacNeil put it in his intro to an episode of PBS Newshour in 1980, was the “in” word of the year: “Everyone who thinks he knows what’s wrong with this country wants to improve productivity.””

Everytime I see the word thief, I think about the kids book the Brief Thief. This one is, however, about eggs.

The Egg Thief [Outside] – “For decades Jeffrey Lendrum helicoptered up and rappelled down to aeries on cliff faces from Patagonia to Quebec, snatching unhatched raptors and selling them, investigators believe, to wealthy Middle Eastern falconers. This week in London, one of the most bizarre criminals in modern history goes on trial for the fourth time. Here is his story.”

Investing is really easy, right???

South Korean boy investor with 43% gains is new retail trading icon [Reuters] – “Kwon pestered his mother to open a retail trading account last April with savings of 25 million won ($22,400) as seed money, just as the benchmark KOSPI index began recovering from its biggest dip in a decade.”

4 Ways Financial Independence Changed Our Lives (Work, Health, Time, Mentality) [Financial Mechanic] – “The most remarkable part about how financial independence (FI) has changed our lives is in how little, at least from the outside, it’s had any visible effect. The best way to sum this up is—wealth is what you can’t see.” A good guest post on Financial Mechanic written by Jenni and Chris from TicTocLife.

Fun little read on the $GME saga and “the guy who got GameStop:” (this isn’t the Roaring Kitty guy everyone talks about)

The Beach Bum Who Beat Wall Street and Made Millions on GameStop [The Ringer] – “Mike McCaskill spent years scouring the stock market and betting on long shots. Then he found the opportunity that changed his life—and helped spark the mother of all short squeezes.”

GME is the gift that keeps on giving. Good for him!

crypto crypto everywhere

The Wild West of Crypto sure is fun to read… and with Tesla picking up $1.5 billion in bitcoin, I suspect we’re closer to the beginning of the story than the end.

Here are a few entertaining and, harrowing, crypto stories for today.

The first article is benign but entertaining to read. Please do not buy any Dogecoin!

The rest are more telling of what happens you have no rules. 🙂

I tried to get rich off Dogecoin and all I got was this lousy blog post [Gov Worker FI] – “… my Dogecoin phase wasn’t about investing for retirement. Mostly, I was just in need of a quick dopamine hit. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs. Really, I’m a boring person. But now and then I like to gamble a bit. Mostly with betting on sports or making prop bets. For the record- my favorite prop bet is betting on the length of the National Anthem during the super bowl. Even though bookies set the line at an insanely long time each year.” My friend always puts a few bucks on the first score of a Super Bowl being a safety… if you recall, this happened two times in three years (the last time was Super Bowl XLVIII). He probably has a few hundred Dogecoin, though I’ve never asked. 🙂

Darknet’s JokerStash Retiring After Making Over $1B Through Illicit Transactions [Coindesk] – “Crypto sleuthing firm Elliptic says one of the world’s most prolific cybercriminals is going out on their own terms.”

Rise and fall of the house of Bitcoin [Rest of World] – “A Buenos Aires hacker haven produced some of Argentina’s most valuable crypto companies. Then it suddenly disappeared.”

‘Even for the Rich, It’s Hard to Access’ America’s wealthiest are discovering the vaccine is one of the few things money can’t buy. [The Cut] – “If Georgina* could pay $10,000 to get the vaccine tomorrow, she would do it in a heartbeat. “I’ve always had this thing, and I know it sounds so entitled and bitchy, where I’m like, Stand in line for something, are you crazy? Nobody who’s a real New Yorker waits for anything,” says the businesswoman, speaking on the phone from her Upper East Side home. Georgina has never had trouble finding her way through seemingly closed doors — from sold-out showings of Hamilton to SNL afterparties and the most exclusive clubs and restaurants.” FWIW, Georgina qualified to get the vaccine in New York due to age, she just can’t get it because there isn’t enough supply.

Lessons about protecting capital during World War 2

This first article is fascinating because we don’t often think about how to protect ourselves (financially) during a “true” crisis like war. The pandemic was for sure a crisis, with threats to your financial life as well as your real life, but it’s not the same as war. That’s when things can get truly bad.

Protecting your capital during a war [Asia Stock Report] – “Wars are one of the greatest destroyers of capital. In Barton Bigg’s book “Wealth, War & Wisdom”, he makes the case that to protect your capital during a war, investors need to own diversified portfolios of stocks and property in safe regions. The book chronicles the experience of investors during World War II: whose wealth was destroyed and why. And what you could have done to protect your wealth.”

The Nirvana fallacy: when perfectionism leads to unrealistic solutions [Ness Labs] – ““Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien” wrote Voltaire in 1772—which translates to “better is the enemy of the good”, but is often translated as “perfect is the enemy of the good.” The Nirvana fallacy consists in comparing existing solutions with ideal, perfect ones—which are often unrealistic. A form of perfectionism, the Nirvana fallacy can lead to dangerous thinking and harmful decisions.” [History of Yesterday] – “This is the incredible true story of John Daniel, who was no ordinary gorilla”


Why do some people risk their lives for fun?

I’m (probably) never going skydiving. I don’t get it.

But some people love it. In fact, for some people, skydiving isn’t enough. They need to put on a wing suit and jump off mountains!

It’s crazy. This next article helps me understand it a little better but…

Why do some people risk their lives for fun? [The Economist] – “This past year, thanks to covid-19, humans have faced a radical increase in risk. Governments and individuals have decided to make huge personal and financial sacrifices to protect people from an increased chance of death. Once-unremarkable activities, such as eating at a restaurant or visiting your grandchildren, are suddenly fraught with the fear of death. The response to the pandemic has shown the extent to which humans are risk-averse—it has proved quite how far they are willing to go to avoid a chance of dying prematurely. So why would anyone jump off a cliff, and willingly expose themselves to it?” The interesting part of this article is when you get past the potentially evolutionary reason (“men overestimate the extent to which females value their engaging in non-heroic risk-taking, such as bungee jumping or risky sports, says a 2005 study”) and get into the compartmentalization section (“People who enjoy jumping off cliffs will not necessarily be keen to put their money into risky investments, or take risks in their relationships.”).

A FIRE-Minded Approach to Life Insurance [Physician on FIRE] – “Essentially, you’d be betting just shy of $16,000, paid in installments over 20 years that 30 year-old you won’t live to see age 50. If you lose the bet, you’ve kept your life. Win the bet, you’re now dead, but your grieving family will be a multimillionare grieving family. That’s how term life insurance works.”

10 Things I’ll be Watching Closely in 2021 [The Irrelevant Investor] – “2020 was the wildest year in the stock market that any of us have ever seen. We had two of the five worst days ever, the fastest bear market ever, and the fastest recovery ever. Today I want to look forward and talk about some of the things I’m thinking about for 2021.”

Inside Bali’s Saddest, Most Abandoned Theme Park [Vice] – ““Have you ever seen a ghost?” I asked the gatekeeper. “Everyday,” he replied nonchalantly, gesturing to the bench he was sitting on. “Sometimes the kid ghost sits with me.””


How people learn to become resilient.

Hello, Friday, and hello, friends. I’m back with last installment of Apex Money before we head into the weekend. Are you ready? Let’s get to it.

How people learn to become resilient. [The New Yorker] — “Resilience doesn’t have to be an empty or vague concept. In fact, decades of research have revealed a lot about how it works. This research shows that resilience is, ultimately, a set of skills that can be taught.” I really like this article.

Terrible financial advice is going viral on TikTok. [Vox] — “What’s happening on TikTok is hardly a new phenomenon. Day trading has been around since the 1970s, and scams have been around forever. People tend to evangelize risky investments during a bull market, when it’s far easier to make money because the stock market is going up overall. During these times — and we’re in one now — it’s also far easier to position oneself as a financial genius, when really, everyone else is making money, too.”

Retirement myths of the social media era. [Incognito Money Scribe] — “In the era of social media, everything is treated like a fable or fairytale. Life has become one long P.R. campaign. People tend to project the image of a life far better than the one we authentically experience. For retirement or financial independence (pick your term), a lot of attention is focused on the tip of the iceberg – the ideal lifestyle – rather than the unsentimental parts that actually make up most of one’s life.”

Today’s video is one I didn’t think would be as interesting as it turned out to be. It’s a half-hour behind-the-scenes view of a pro cyclist developing and refining a new trick. I have zero interest in this sort of thing. Or so I thought. In reality, the process is fascinating. You might like it too. Take a look.

And that’s all I have for you this week. As always, thanks for joining us. We’ll be back on Monday with more of the best from the world of personal finance.

Your personal inflation rate.

Howdy, y’all! I haven’t mentioned it yet, but this week I’m down south. Well, in Mexico, that is. So I guess I shouldn’t be saying “howdy, y’all” but “hola, amigos”. Whatever.

I’m down here with my accountant (and good friend) looking at the house he’s building, visiting the Mexico branch of his office, and generally just goofing off. (All while wearing masks, of course. Mexico is much stricter about masks than the U.S. is.)

Anyhow, while my friend does accounting stuff, I’ve been browsing money websites. It’s just like always! Here are a few of the articles I’ve liked this week.

Why you’re more productive in coffee shops. [BBC Worklife] — “There are many ways coffee shops trigger our creativity in a way offices and homes don’t. Research shows that the stimuli in these places make them effective environments to work; the combination of noise, casual crowds and visual variety can give us just the right amount of distraction to help us be our sharpest and most creative.”

How to calculate your personal inflation rate. [Monevator] — “Your personal inflation rate measures the change in prices that are representative of your precise spending patterns. That’s as opposed to the official inflation figures, which calculate the national average. Your personal inflation rate accounts for how your situation diverges from the national picture.”

Gamify your money goals with these fun challenges. [Budgets are Sexy] — “A money savings challenge is typically done in addition to your regular saving habits, to achieve a short term savings goal. Most of these yield you a few thousand bucks at the end for you to invest, spend, or give away if you’re feeling generous!”

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with one final installment of money news before turning things back over to Jim next week.

The paradox of abundance.

Good morning, everyone.

Today, let’s lead with our video. But I hope you have an hour to kill. Because when I was your age, television was called books. And this is the star-studded home movie version of “The Princess Bride”. (Seriously. Star-studded. There may be more celebrities in this than any movie ever made. I’m not kidding.)

So so fun. I love it.

And I love these articles about personal finance.

How to become a frugalvore. [Surviving and Thriving] — “Frugalvorism both simplifies and complicates your approach to eating. On the one hand, it’s easier to shop because you plan menus around that week’s most affordable foodstuffs. However, if you’re the kind of person who always shopped by grabbing whatever looked good, then you’ll need to rethink your supermarket habits. Fortunately, it’s fairly simple. Not always easy, but simple.”

The paradox of abundance. [David Perell] — “Abundance is a paradox. Environments of abundance are bad for the median consumer but extremely good for a small number of conscious ones. Average consumers are doomed to the tyranny of instinct. Meanwhile, consumers at the top are propelled by unlimited access to nutritious food and information.” This is a great article.

“Can I afford it?” isn’t always the best financial filter. [Becoming Minimalist] — “This post isn’t contending that we never make any purchase. That would be foolish. To live is to consume and many of the purchases we make do bring value to our lives. This list of better filters isn’t meant to deter anyone from ever spending money again. It’s simply designed to help all of us make better choices.”

Okay, now that you’ve had your fill of personal finance for today, I give you permission to return to that Princess Bride video. You may return to quoting lines along with your favorite stars. 😉

Freedom is more than money.

Good morning, money bosses. Welcome to another week in paradise. To kick things off here at Apex, I have several great stories to share with you. Let’s dive right in.

Be true to yourself: Learning to appreciate the real you. [One Frugal Girl] — Jewels and I have an ongoing conversation by email and blog post. This is part of that conversation. “What I didn’t realize many years ago was how I tied my identity to my possessions. In my mind, those objects represented my past, present, and future. The trouble is, they were misrepresentations of who I was and who I wanted to be.”

Freedom is more than money. [/r/financialindependence at Reddit] — “Freedom is thinking about what you’d really like to achieve in life, and then going for it without fear, regret or what anyone else thinks. Freedom isn’t having the option to eat cheeseburgers and doritos all the time, even though it technically is. The problem with doing so is that it separates you from the best version of yourself, and the best version of yourself is the freest form of yourself.” Interesting post and good discussion.

Right-sizing retirement. [Journal of Financial Planning] — “Retirement is the most expensive purchase most individuals ever make; therefore, it is especially important to understand its cost and save appropriately…There may be possible refinements to retirement planning processes that would help people understand the realities of spending in retirement as opposed to being surprised after they have actually retired.”

For today’s multi-media feature, here’s a recent podcast from Sarah Li-Cain at Beyond the Dollar. Cain interviewed several folks (including me) about giving up alcohol — and how it affects your financial life.

That’s it for now, my friends. See you tomorrow with more top money stories!

OK, this is the last Gamestop explainer (maybe)

I know the Gamestop story has been explained a bunch of times (and some may argue that it may be nearing its end) but this is a really fun explanation of it:

Money Is Fake and GameStop Is King: What Happened When Reddit and a Meme Stock Tanked Hedge Funds [Bitches Get Riches] – “My hat’s off to the day trading cowboys of r/WallStreetBets. By buying and retaining a mostly useless stock, these weirdly principled finance dorks are demonstrating, in real time, how fucking arbitrary the value of something can be. They are calling Wall Street’s bluff and fucking with the people who—for a living—regularly decide to drive an individual company out of business and its employees out of jobs.”

Now, when someone says “diamond hands” you’ll know.

I liked this next post not because of the list of ways to make money with Valentine’s Day, that’s fine, but I really liked the story that preceded the list. It highlights the truly important things in life.

How to Make Money with Valentine’s Day [The Thrifty Issue] – “In our house, as I was a single mother most of my kids lives, we had a different tradition. Each year, I would give them a chocolate rose with a letter telling them how much I love them, what is special about them, things I noticed through the year etc. It wasn’t until I overheard them the night before Valentine’s Day one year whispering about it in their bedroom that I realised how important this was to them. They looked forward to it every year and felt so loved by it.”

Are recipe boxes worth the money? [Be Clever With Your Cash] – “The problem is, they aren’t cheap. The normal price can easily be between £5 and £8 a portion. Possibly cheaper than a takeaway, definitely cheaper than eating out. But surely buying the ingredients yourself works out far cheaper? I’ve taken a look to see just how much of a premium you’re paying for the convenience.”

They’re not financially worth it. We use one, Sunbasket, not because it’s financially prudent but because it offloads a few meals from our mental planning each week. It’s something we only started during the pandemic and it’s very likely something we will stop once our kids go back to school. The convenience premium is worth it for us.

OK, as we go into the weekend, enjoy this story of outright fraud and how absolutely mindboggling simple it is to pull off (at least for a few years):

The Lion, the Polygamist, and the Biofuel Scam [Wired] – “How a member of a breakaway Mormon sect teamed up with a Lambo-driving, hard-partying tycoon to bilk the government for hundreds of millions of dollars.”