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Apex Money Posts

When should you self-insure?

Good morning, my friends, and welcome to Apex Money. Once again, I’m here to share some of the best personal-finance stories from around the web. Here’s what I have for you today.

What does it mean to live a rich life? [Financially Balanced] — “As I journey toward Financial Independence I try to keep in mind just how important it is to be in the present. It’s great to plan for the future, but time is most certainly finite. It’s ultimately the time we spend and memories we make with those we love that will leave us fulfilled and make us truly rich.”

Optimization vs. optionality. [Retirement Field Guide] — “There is this pervasive idea in the financial advisor industry that everyone should be ‘optimizing’ their financial strategies. [But]…what if clients don’t want to optimize every little piece of their financial life? What if they’d value optionality more than optimization?”

When should you self-insure? [Can I Retire Yet?] — “Some people have an affinity for insurance and buy all the coverage they can get. It gives them peace of mind, at a price. Others are suspicious of insurance and loathe paying premiums for services they may never use. Count me in that latter camp.” [I too am skeptical of insurance.]

What you need to know about inflation. [The White Coat Investor] — “The rate of inflation went up this Spring and that has caused some significant fluctuations in the market as well as a lot of talk about inflation. Given the fact that inflation has been low for so long, novice and young investors may not know a lot about inflation, so today we’re going to take an in-depth look at it.” [A thorough exploration of the topic.]

True story: I’ve entered a transitional stage of life. Over the past few months, my interest in online life has been fading. Fading. Fading. (For real!) My free time has instead been spent learning about art and design. I think I may even go to art school!

Anyhow, I’m starting as a total art newbie. I don’t know anything. All the same, I’d love to learn how to draw comic strips. That’s probably why I found today’s video so much fun. It’s all about how to draw yourself as a Peanuts character with advice from actual Peanuts artists.

I followed along and here are my results.

J.D. in Peanuts style

Fun! You should try it too.

Okay, that’s it for this Thursday. I’ll be back tomorrow to see you into the weekend. TTFN!

How to remember you’re alive.

Nerd alert! Nerd alert! Today’s edition of Apex Money contains a lot of nerdy stuff. And it’s not all about money. But I promise you: It’s all interesting. (To me, at least.) Let’s start by looking at the nature of time.

Being in time. [The New Yorker] — “Thoughts of the future are often associated with anxiety and dread, and thoughts of the past can be colored by regret, embarrassment, and shame. Still, mental time travel is essential…ast, present, future; history, this year, the decades to come. How should we balance them in our minds?” [Related: The mathematics of mind-time. Oh yeah, and this: Past, present, and future time perspectives.]

How to remember you’re alive. [Raptitude] — “The state of Being Alive also comes with a rich and distinct sense of possibility. You can make any number of interesting things happen by sheer will. You can scrawl sentences on a scrap of paper that will trigger certain thoughts later, for you or someone else. You can touch a few buttons on your phone and be speaking to any of a hundred people you know, and whatever is said would change each other’s day, or life, in some way.”

U.S. consumer prices surge in June by the most since 2008. [Associated Press] – “Consumer prices in June rose 0.9% from May and 5.4% over the past year — the sharpest 12-month inflation spike since August 2008.” More newsworthy — and not in the headline — is the fact that prices for big-ticket items have surged tremendously. Hotel stays are up 15.1% in the past year. Airline fares are up 25%. Used cars are up 10.5% in one month. Furniture is up 8.6% for the year. And although it’s not listed in this article, home prices are up 13.2%.

Here in Portland, inflation is obvious — especially with food. Grocery prices are outrageous. Restaurant prices even more so. During the pandemic, some of this made sense. You could make the argument that we’re not yet out of the pandemic, of course, but I’m skeptical that prices are going to drop (or hold steady) any time soon. I think we’re in for a year or two of high inflation…and it’s going to suck.

But hey. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll be very happy if that’s the case!

Lastly, let’s dive into plant intelligence. Yes, that’s right: I said plant intelligence. Hardcore J.D. fans know I’m deeply interested in animal intelligence. A closely-related subject is the intelligence of plants. Do they have any? Turns out: maybe. Quit possibly. Here’s a short (two-minute) video about how trees talk to each other.

And on a related note, here’s an article about the hidden memories of plants. Crazy stuff, eh? Maybe Tolkien was onto something when he created Ents.

Okay, that’s PLENTY for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff. See you then.

Why do we buy what we buy?

Today is Tuesday, my friends, and we’re almost half way through July 2021. Can you believe it? I can’t. Last year c-r-a-w-l-e-d but this year seems to have flown by.

Let’s get to today’s money stories.

Why do we buy what we buy? [Vox] — “I recently spoke with Juliet Schor, a sociologist at Boston College, about the history of modern American consumerism — what it’s rooted in, how it’s evolved, and how different groups of people have experienced it…In her view, marketers have less to do with what we want than, say, our neighbors, coworkers, or the people we follow on social media.”

Keep only the best. [Becoming Minimalist] — “An only the best approach to possessions is beneficial, but can still be difficult, especially for people with particularly sentimental personalities. If that is the case, here are a few tips to help you along in the difficult process.” [As a corollary, I’m learning to only buy the best when I have to purchase something.]

Time freedom (and choosing how to spend your time). [One Frugal Girl] — “What if we measured success in terms of time rather than money? What if we stopped focusing on how much we earned and instead paid attention to how much we loved, laughed, and enjoyed the moments that make up each day?”

And our last story today? Well, it has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with magic.

Disney adults don’t care if you hate them. They’re having fun. [Buzzfeed News] — “Disney has had quite an effect on Blackham, who even interned at Disney, where he eventually met the woman he would marry. (Naturally, they honeymooned at Disney World.) He said that Disney is also responsible for exposing him to identities outside of his own.”

That’s it for now. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff. Join me then, won’t you?

The future of the American house.

Hello hello hello!

J.D. here with another week of great money stories to share with you. No fancy introductions today. Let’s dive right in.

What the future of the American house looks like. — [Veranda] “To examine just how much our desires and priorities have changed, we polled more than 170 architects and designers on everything from mudroom must-haves to how we host guests. The results are in. Welcome home, where the party’s just beginning.”

Four-day workweek an ‘overwhelming success’ in Iceland. [BBC News] — “Workers reported feeling less stressed and at risk of burnout, and said their health and work-life balance had improved. They also reported having more time to spend with their families, do hobbies and complete household chores.”

Heaven or high water: Selling Miami’s last 50 years [Popula] — Here’s the thing. I know climate change is a political issue, although I’m not sure why. To me, it seems perfectly clear that climate change is happening. You can debate whether or not it’s human-caused, and that’s fine. You can debate whether or not we ought to try to change it or not, and that’s fine. Debate away. But the reality is, you — or your children, anyhow — are going to have to make decisions based on this fact. This article from 2019 is about the real estate market in 2019. And based on recent events, it’s remarkably prescient. [Here’s a two-year follow-up to that piece]

To wrap things up, I’ve been thinking about giving up caffeine. I was raised Mormon, so didn’t consume caffeine (not even an iota) for the first sixteen or seventeen years of my life. Now I’m addicted. But I’ve been thinking of cutting it out cold turkey. Maybe that’s why this Joe Rogan interview was so interesting to me. Here’e what Michael Pollan learned from quitting caffeine for three months.

Sure would be interesting to try, anyhow.

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff. Join me, won’t you?

Efficient vs. Effective

When I was younger, roughly a teenager if my memory is accurate, I distinctly remember doing something with my dad and thinking he was really slow. I don’t recall exactly what we were doing other than it was fixing something in his car. It was probably replacing the struts, which was one of the biggest jobs I remember doing with my dad on his Toyota Supra, but what saw as lackadaisical was just my dad being careful and methodical.

When I asked why he was moving so slowly, he said that he’d rather do it slowly once than mess it up quickly. Plus, what was the rush?

Like many childhood lessons, I learned nothing in the moment and everything years later. 🙂

Efficient vs. Effective [James Clear] – “You get one, precious life. How do you decide the best way to spend your time? Productivity gurus will often suggest that you focus on being effective rather than being efficient.

Efficiency is about getting more things done. Effectiveness is about getting the right things done. Peter Drucker, the well-known management consultant, once encapsulated the idea by writing, ‘There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.'”

Casualties of Perfection [Collaborative Fund] – “Psychologist Amos Tversky once said “the secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours.”

A successful person purposely leaving gaps of free time on their schedule to do nothing in particular can feel inefficient. And it is, so not many people do it.

But Tversky’s point is that if your job is to be creative and think through a tough problem, then time spent wandering around a park or aimlessly lounging on a couch might be your most valuable hours. A little inefficiency is wonderful.”

I’ve shared this post a bazillion times but it fits the theme for today 🙂

Relax For The Same Result [Derek Sivers] – “So apparently all of that exhausting, red-faced, full-on push-push-push I had been doing had given me only a 4 percent boost. I could just take it easy and get 96 percent of the results.”

Finally, one group that can move as quickly as they want and suffer no ill effects… robots:

How many robots does it take to run a grocery store?

Have a great weekend!

Four day workweek

Would you rather a four day work week where you had to go into the office every day or a full 40-hour work week but you could work remotely?

That question isn’t what was posed by our first article today but something I was thinking about. I think I’d rather be 100% remote and work 40 hours a week instead of have a 4 day week where I had to be in the office.

Will the post-Covid world include a 4-day workweek? As Kickstarter tests it out, some predict it will catch on [CNBC] – “For New York-based crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, one way to address that is the four-day workweek, which it is testing out next year. Despite the reduced hours, workers will still receive the same pay. The idea is that in those four days, there will be fewer interruptions and more focus on work.”

Can You Save Money Drinking Non-Alcoholic Beer? [Impersonal Finances] “So, if I’m not saving money on the purchase price, how is N/A beer still saving me money? Indirectly, in a lot of ways. I could point to some longer term health benefits that come from cutting down on alcohol and the savings on theoretical future medical expenses. But in the short term, mixing in some non-alcoholic beers simply encourages responsible behavior. And responsible behavior leads to responsible spending.”

The French Burglar Who Pulled Off His Generation’s Biggest Art Heist [The New Yorker] – “The skilled climber and thief Vjeran Tomic, whom the French press referred to as Spider-Man, has described robbery as an act of imagination.”

Dynastic wealth

As the lyrical poet Christopher Wallace once said, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.”

I don’t know what it’s like to have dynastic wealth. We’ve done well financially and as the numbers get bigger, sometimes the stress of the markets can bleed over.

1% of $10,000 is a mere hundred bucks. It’s not chump change, per se, but it’s something I can accept and stomach without incident.

1% of $1,000,000 is $10,000 – which is more than twice what my starting salary was at my first job out of college with Northrop Grumman (and in fact is more than any monthly salary I’ve ever had).

I can only imagine what it’s like to have dynastic wealth, especially one you didn’t have a hand in building, and seeing similar activity.

I Was Taught From a Young Age to Protect My Dynastic Wealth [The Atlantic] – “When you come into money as I did—young, scared, and not very savvy about the world—you are taught certain precepts as though they are gospel: Never spend the “corpus” (also known as the capital) you were left. Steward your assets to leave even more to your children, and then teach them to do the same. And finally, use every tool at your disposal within the law, especially through estate planning, to keep as much of that money as possible out of the hands of government bureaucrats who will only misuse it.”

It is Better to Donate than Resell [Becoming Minimalist] – “We found more joy in delivering items to those local charities than we could have ever found in money earned from selling our clutter. This experience changed my view of minimizing and forever changed my advice to others embarking on the journey.” There are a lot of small local organizations that need donations. During the pandemic, we learned of several via Facebook and it’s been great knowing that we can help out someone nearby while also removing some of the stuff in our home.

An ode to slowness: the benefits of slowing down [Ness Labs] – “It may seem counterintuitive, but slowing down can be a faster way to achieve your goals. Fighting our urge to live and work faster can lead to clearer thinking, deeper connections, and better mental health.”

Why going to the doctor sucks.

Welcome to Friday, and welcome to the third year of Apex Money! Let’s dive right in with some of the best money stories from around the web…

The casualties of perfection. [Collaborative Fund] — “So many people strive for efficient lives, where no hour is wasted. But an overlooked skill that doesn’t get enough attention is the idea that wasting time can be a great thing.” Love this!

The magic of putting food by. [Surviving and Thriving] — “For us, gardening is a source of happiness as well as nutrition. Watching a seed the size of the period at the end of this sentence turn into a healthy head of celery is pretty magical. Freezing the chopped-up vegetable and drying the leaves is more work but it, too, is magic when you look at pantry and freezer shelves and realize, ‘I did that.'”

Why going to the doctor sucks. [Wait But Why] — “I’m not sure what exactly I think the U.S. healthcare system should look like — but I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t look like this. Maybe one day the system will change, but rather than hold our breath for that, let’s talk about one aspect of the system we can do something about: going to the doctor.”

I try to be apolitical on my blogs. I know readers of every political persuasion come to me for financial advice. That said, there’s one issue I’ve taken a vocal stance on for years now: health care. The way the U.S. does health care sucks. It’s stupid. Obamacare was an effort to improve things but it really didn’t. And the core problem? For-profit health insurance. It’s stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid. I’m a die-hard capitalist who believes capitalism has no place in health insurance.

Let’s close things out by going to the movies! I’m in a cinematic mood. Here’s a random YouTuber’s list of the greatest shots in film history. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with his choices, but these are nice shots — and they remind me of why I love cinema.

I think it’s time for me to go watch a beautiful movie. Blade Runner 2049, perhaps? We’ll see. And we’ll see you again on Monday, Apexian. Take care!

Two years of Apex Money!

Good morning, Apexians, and happy second anniversary. Two years ago today, Jim and I started this site on a whim. We wanted to share some of our favorite money stories from around the web, from major news sites and from tiny blogs, from household names and from folks you’ve never heard of. We’re glad you’re here for the ride.

Let’s take a look at the money stories we’ve collected for you today.

How my father lost his life savings by making one fatal investment mistake. [Mouthy Money] — “Eventually he had to confess to my stepmother that he had lost most of their life savings. This inevitably caused a rift between them and had further ramifications that continued for the rest of their lives. This entire incident was, of course, deeply traumatic for the whole family.”

How to build financial flexibility into your life. [Wallet Hacks] — “The idea I take from FIRE is that by saving aggressively and investing prudently, you give yourself options. You can retire early but you aren’t required to retire early. You can switch jobs to something more fulfilling. You can take time off and create your own sabbatical. If you’re financially independent, you control your time. It’s all about financial flexibility. And there are a lot of different ways you can build financial flexibility into your life.”

Unicorns and Keynsian economics. [Happily Disengaged] — “Personally, I’ve struggled with spending, even on cheap trivial items, because I’m trying to save as much as I can. It can feel as though I’m hurting my future self when I spend. But if I can think of spending as a source of good that we can share with others, it makes it a lot easier.”

Lastly, here’s a recent video that I loved. I’m not sure why other than it’s a young family bonding together through communication. The father is deaf, so the parents are raising their young daughter with both English and American Sign Language.

I’ve always wanted to learn ASL but have never made the time. Someday. Someday.

Tomorrow I’ll be back, my friends, with one last day of links for the week. See you then.

Buying a house in 2021.

It’s one of those days when we’re going to start with the video. I like it. A lot.

While working through the archives of my personal blog, I rediscovered this little gem. It’s the parable of the trapeze by Danaan Parry. Apparently, I liked it nine years ago. I like it today too.

I feel as if, right now in 2021, I am swinging along on a comfortable trapeze bar and that I need to swing to the next one. And…I’m a little scared. One source of this trepidation is my current housing situation. Kim and I sold our home last month and are looking for another. As you might have heard, it’s a crazy time to buy. Our stories today reflect that.

Buying a house in 2021. [One Frugal Girl] — “So when our agent said the next house would sell for over $700,000, we offered $80,000 over the listing price. Does that seem crazy? Most definitely. How do I feel about paying that much above the asking price? Honestly, not too bad. Is this house worth the amount of money we paid? Maybe not, but it is the best house we’ve found in over a year of looking.”

Why the housing market won’t crash any time soon. [Financial Samurai] — I’ve shared a lot of articles about how insane the housing market is right now. Our first article today is a view from the other side. There are folks out there — many folks, actually — who think the housing market will not crash anytime soon. In fact, some argue that it’s only going to continue to soar for the foreseeable future.

What I learned from decluttering more than 400 items. [A Lawyer and Her Money] — “I have previously thought feng shui was utter crap but most of its prescriptions hold true, even if the rationale is flawed. One can’t hold clutter anywhere in the house without it affecting some part of your life. Your junk drawer isn’t harmless – it’s a message telling you that junk gets free rent in your home and your head. It’s a message telling you that you have to put up with this crap. But that’s just not true.”

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more, my friends. See you!