Skip to content

Apex Money Posts

Financial bullshit.

Hey hey, Apexians. I’ve had a ton of fun diving back into the world of personal finance after nearly three months spent out of the loop. It’s especially interesting to watch as the financial world begins to teeter under the weight of all the bullshit that’s been piled onto it: cryptocurrency! meme stocks! institutional investors inflating the housing market!

Anyhow, here are today’s stories…

Individual differences in susceptibility to financial bullshit. [Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance] — “Consumers particularly vulnerable to financial bullshit were more likely to be young, male, have a higher income, and be overconfident with regards to their own financial knowledge. This finding is in line with prior research that found age to be positively related to people’s ability to distinguish profound and pseudo-profound communication in general.”

Car buyers balk at monthly fees for add-on features. [Axios] — “The entire auto industry is headed toward subscription features amid the shift to software-controlled electric and automated vehicles that can be regularly updated like a smartphone. In many cases, premium features are included for an initial trial period, but then car owners have to pay a monthly fee to keep them.” I hate the subscription economy. It’s pure bullshit.

How to invest with a looming recession. [Oblivious Investor] — “How should we invest if a recession is looming? About the same way we invest the rest of the time. It doesn’t usually make sense to make portfolio changes based on economic news, though changes within the fixed-income part of the portfolio can make sense, as the fixed-income option with the highest interest rate for a given level of risk can change over time.”

How to figure out if you can actually afford that new home. [The New York Times, so possible paywall] — “High inflation often translates to high anxiety, which is why many Americans are striving to lock in the cost of one of their most basic, most human needs: a home. But with housing prices already at lofty levels and mortgage rates spiraling, many buyers may be tempted to jump in before they’re ready — or because they fear the situation will only get worse.”

The rich and the wealthy. [Collaborative Fund] — “I’m always interested in the difference between getting rich and staying rich. They are completely different things, and many of those skilled at the former fail at the latter. Part of this topic is knowing the difference between rich and wealthy.”

That’s it for Thursday. Tomorrow, I’ll have more money stories to help you try to separate the good from the bullshit…

Travel is best with young children.

No long preamble today, and no frivolous video. All I have for you this Wednesday is five juicy links…

The trouble with the FIRE movement. [The Rational Walk] — “I broadly agree with the goals of the FIRE movement when it comes to Financial Independence. But I do think that the community has certain blind spots when it comes to Retire Early. Hopefully this article does a better job of explaining where I think the FIRE movement falls short and potentially help some people think about what their early retirement goals are really all about.”

We really don’t know what drives inflation. [Klement on Investing] — “Even over 147 years and incorporating the distortions from international relationships between 17 large economies around the globe there is no stable relationship between money supply and inflation, nor between inflation and long-term interest rates.”

A stranger on an airplane gave her $100 years ago and changed her life. Now she’s trying to find the mystery woman. [CNN Travel] — “Zugay says she was a nearly 12-year-old refugee fleeing the former Yugoslavia with her older sister when a stranger handed them the envelope on a flight to the United States in 1999. The woman made them promise not to open it until they got off the plane. The girls were later shocked to discover dangly earrings and a $100 bill inside.”

What life was like in early cities. [Aeon] — “While past kings, priests and other leaders are part of the story, it is clear that in the past, as today, generative processes – the actions and interactions of people in cities – were the driving forces in the expansion and success of cities.” This article is a bit heady, but I found it fascinating.

Travel is best with young children. [Derek Sivers] — “‘Once you have a baby, you can’t travel.’ I’ve heard this so many times, although only from people who haven’t done it. But I took my baby to nine countries before he was one year old. Then another ten countries by the time he was eight. So I can tell you from experience that it’s not only easy but great.”

There you go. Fresh, ripe links full of delicious information. I hope you enjoyed those articles as much as I did. I’ll be back with more great stuff tomorrow. Won’t you join me?

How to design the life you want.

Welcome to Tuesday, Apexians. No long preamble today. Today, let’s get right to the stories we’ve curated for you.

Let’s start with our daily video. I had lunch with my friend Winston recently, and our conversation turned to the profound shift that I seem to be experiencing in my beliefs, values, and desires. The past six months have been…interesting for me.

Anyhow, Winston suggested that I watch this 2017 TedX talk from design professor Bill Burnett. It’s his advice on how to design the life you want. (And it’s sensible stuff, not the glib advice you hear from the lifestyle design gurus.)

Now let’s look at our links for today…

Over 60 million Americans have taxes so simple the IRS could do them automatically. [Vox] — “For many people, the IRS has all the information it needs to calculate their taxes, send taxpayers a filled-out return, and have them sign it and send it right back to the IRS if everything looks in order. This isn’t a purely hypothetical proposal. Countries like Denmark, Belgium, Estonia, Chile, and Spain already offer such ‘pre-populated returns’ to their citizens.”

Where lawns are outlawed. [The New York Times, so possible paywall] — “Under a state law passed last year that is the first of its kind in the nation, patches of grass like this, found along streets and at housing developments and commercial sites in and around Las Vegas, must be removed in favor of more desert-friendly landscaping. The offense? They are ‘nonfunctional’, serving only an aesthetic purpose. Seldom, if ever, walked on and kept alive by sprinklers, they are wasting a resource, water, that has become increasingly precious.”

Hose-flipping algorithms are coming to your neighborhood. [MIT Technology Review] — “There are already signs big investors are restricting supply, further exacerbating housing crises and setting a template that any big iBuyer could follow…For ordinary people, so long as Wall Street cash is flowing into housing, Zillow’s failure is not the end of tech-led disruption but a fumbled beginning.” This is an important and scary issue that not enough people are taking seriously. Institutional investors are driving up the costs of homes in the U.S.

That’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff. See you then!

The many worlds of enough.

Good morning, friends. It is I, J.D., and it’s my first foray into link curation in many weeks. My varied family crises have settled for the moment, so I’m able to resume work. I’ll start by sharing some of the money stories I’ve enjoyed recently.

Let’s dive in!

The reluctant explorer. [This American Life] — On a long drive yesterday, my girlfriend and I listened to this episode of the This American Life podcast. It’s a fascinating look at the new world of NFTs and cryptocurrency and the blockchain, but told in a human way that makes these things a little easier to understand. Entertaining and educational. (This link is to both the audio file and a transcript.)

The many worlds of enough. [More to That] — “This is the Many Worlds of Enough. It’s the perpetual branching of identity that results from progress, as progress provides you with the confidence and ability to actualize greater things (resulting in further progress). The cyclical nature of this process is what makes it so difficult to stop, and is what prevents us from ever settling on what Enough means.”

Intuit to refund $141 million to low-income TurboTax users. [The New York Times, so possible paywall] — “For years, the maker of the TurboTax software claimed that people could file their tax returns online for free. Millions of customers signed up, only to pay hidden fees later in the process. That was the finding of a multistate investigation led by Attorney General Letitia James of New York.”

Lastly, here’s something fun that feels like it might have been written just for me. (Or, if I’d thought of it, written by me.) By now, most of you know I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan. She’s probably my all-time favorite musician. (Only my youthful love of U2 can compete with my current appreciation of Taylor.)

Well, last week at Women’s Personal Finance, Emilie Cleaver published a fun filler piece highlighting 30 things that “Red (Taylor’s Version)” taught us about money.

Speaking of Taylor Swift, last week she released a new re-recorded song. (She’s re-recording her back catalog for Reasons.) Here’s the beautiful “This Love (Taylor’s Version)”:

And that’s all I have for my first day back on the job. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great links to help you master your money…and your life.

I love wasting time

As we slide into the weekend, I wanted to share a few of the “fun” posts I’ve been saving. I usually throw one at the end of each roundup but this one will have a few more than usual. 🙂


Why I Love Wasting My Precious Time [A Lawyer and Her Money] – “Quality time is the highlight reel. Garbage time is too boring to be recorded. Quality time is running the marathon. Garbage time is training. It can prepare you for the big day but it’s not the day. And no one wants to see you run 8 miles 3 months before the marathon.”

Drone footage of inside Tesla’s Berlin Gigafactory – this is INSANE

The Story Behind ‘The Perfect Storm’ [Outside] – “We caught up with author Sebastian Junger to find out how he reported the incredible Outside Classic story of the Andrea Gail’s crew, what’s changed in the commercial fishing industry, and why he’s drawn to people who have dangerous jobs” This is ALSO INSANE

Finally… in celebration of yesterday… the official trailer for Obi-Wan Kenobi. (streaming May 27th!!!!!)

Go waste some time today!

Celebrity endorsed crypto!

Understanding Cryptocurrency’s Celebrity Craze [Variety] – “While it should be anticipated that some celebrities will continue to accept the easy cash from potentially shady NFT and crypto products for some time to come, attention should be paid to how they are being paid. If it is in equity, the product is likely legit. Equally, the involvement of celebrities and brands in crypto philanthropy will continue, as the sums generated will continue to grow and leaders look to invest back.”

Comparing Two Blowups [The Irrelevant Investor] – “I keep coming back to this theme that things feel a lot worse than what’s revealed by looking at how far the S&P 500 is from its all-time high. One of the primary reasons, and there are several, is the number of stocks absolutely blowing up. The names coming undone were the darlings of the pandemic, and so we’re particularly sensitive to their unraveling. And the speed at which they’re doing it is breathtaking.” Fascinating to see how much money is still flowing in… is that good or bad?

This is so much fun:
How the Savannah Bananas have become the greatest show in baseball [SportsCenter]

Insurance is a waste until it isn’t

Insurance is what you buy when you want peace of mind. We pay our insurance company for various policies (auto, home, umbrella, etc) and hope we never have to use it.

An emergency fund is similar – it’s a waste of money until you need it. Then you are thankful you have it!

Having an Emergency Fund is a waste of money – until it isn’t. [Burning Desire for FIRE] – “The Emergency Fund is a funny beast. In my experience, I can go for YEARS without tapping into it, to the point where it almost feels like a waste having all that money just sitting there earning next to no interest. Then WHAM! Something happens. Or two things happen. They seem to come in waves.” A great reminder.

How to File a Life Insurance Death Claim – 4 Step Guide for a Beneficiary [Money Crashers] – “Filing a life insurance claim is a four-step process. Under normal circumstances, expect to wait up to 30 days for the life insurance company to process the claim. After that, you’ll receive the death benefit, a request for additional information, or an explanation of why the insurer denied the claim.”

Oh dear… 😂

My Heart Will Go On (but it’s Smash Mouth’s “All Star”)

Loss aversion changes as you age

It’s still unpleasant. And we all hate it. But it turns out our much we hate it depends on our age.

Loss aversion across the ages [Klement on Investing] – “But look at the change in this loss aversion factor relative to the age of the participants. Younger people aged 18 to 24 exhibit a loss aversion coefficient somewhere between 3 and 4 as do people aged 65 and over. But people in the midst of their working lives (aged 35 to 54) tend to have much lower loss aversion, somewhere between 1 and 2.” In other words, and the chart on the page illustrates this quite well, is that we are more loss averse early in life (18-24) and later in life (65+) than we are in the middle (35-44 and 45-54). Fascinating!

Would you buy hot food out of a vending machine? I think I’d try it.

The hamburger vending machine has arrived [Axios] – “A company called RoboBurger sells a machine that will make you a burger with custom toppings — from “grass and vegetarian fed 100% Angus beef, always antibiotic-free, raised with no artificial growth hormones” — in 6 minutes for $6.99.” Would you buy a hamburger out of a vending machine? It sounds crazy but is it really going to be worse than one being made by a kid making minimum wage?

I love this rule of pints.

Happy St Patrick’s Day: This is the rule of pints [CODE] – “Next we come to one of the foremost junctures in the rule of pints: having two pints doesn’t exist. To have two pints would be a waste of time. It would be to fail oneself.” Beautifully written and 100% accurate.

Happy Friday! And have a great weekend!

Powerful lessons from growing up in public housing projects

This is a week of Tweet threads I loved… latest one comes from Ed Latimore, another athlete (former heavyweight boxer), about the lessons he learned living in public housing projects:

#7 about trauma is the one that really resonated because it gets to the idea of life and fairness. When you’re in the struggle, you don’t have time for the “woe is me” or “life is unfair.” When you’re working through something hard, do the work and worry about the other stuff later. That only gets in the way of the work.

Left your job or old 401(k): Now what? [Mile High Finance Guy] – “Months ago, I would often get asked the question, “What should I do with my old 401(k) plan?” At the time, I was working full-time as a retirement planner for one of the US’s largest brokerage and investment advisory houses. Now, many people think you have to roll over a 401(k) plan once you leave a job, but to the contrary, the question (generally) is whether you should roll it over. And importantly, the answer will never be the same as it is dependent upon your unique situation.” A solid guide on what to do with an old 401(k).

11 Things Fiscally Responsible People Do [Five Year Fire Escape] – “Today we’re going to talk about being fiscally responsible. Wait! Don’t run away! The way I see it, this topic should not only be reserved for boardrooms occupied by uptight managers in suits. Becoming financially-savvy should be the norm amongst people young and old who are committed to achieving financial freedom or general awesomeness.”

Free tax filing is not nearly as free as it should be

When I first did my taxes, now over twenty years ago, it was easy. These were the olden days when you had to enter in the information on your Form W2 into TurboTax (or whatever program you used). It was free. It was easy.

But as the years passed, it became less free and that was, in part, because my tax situation got more complicated but also by design – tax prep companies want to make more money. Turns out the FTC has something to say about that

The Turbotax Trap [ProPublica] – “ProPublica has long detailed how Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and other companies have worked against making tax preparation easier and less costly. They have lobbied to ban the IRS from offering free, simple tax filing and deceived customers who should qualify for the Free File product.”

The mystery of the miracle year [Dwarkesh Patel] – “An interesting pattern recurs across the career of great scientists: an annus mirabilis (miracle year) in which they make multiple, seemingly independent breakthroughs in the span of a single year or two.”

Life Advice from NYC Chess Hustlers [Cafe Anne] – “The chess tables in Washington Square Park’s southwest corner have been occupied by a revolving cast of hustlers for more than 80 years. When a CAFÉ ANNE reader suggested I interview these fellows for a feature, I asked what she wanted to know. Boy, did she have questions! “How often do people win? Do they compete against each other? What were they doing before this? Or is this like a side hustle!? I mean seriously WHAT IS THEIR DEAL!?!?!?!?””