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Apex Money Posts

Market volatility has shown the fragility of many stock brokers

Remember a few weeks ago when Robinhood was unavailable? Amidst some of the most violent stock market volatility, one of the darlings of the fintech world wouldn’t let customers in to trade.

Remember when the price of oil briefly went negative? Turns out it had a similar effect on Interactive Brokers:

Oil Crash Busted Broker’s Computers and Inflicted Big Losses [Bloomberg] – “At midnight, Shah got the devastating news: he owed Interactive Brokers $9 million. He’d started the day with $77,000 in his account.”

Fortunately, IB is going to make it right out of their own pocket but that can’t be a good feeling.

The world is on lockdown. So where are all the carbon emissions coming from? [Grist] – “Pedestrians have taken over city streets, people have almost entirely stopped flying, skies are blue (even in Los Angeles!) for the first time in decades, and global CO2 emissions are on-track to drop by … about 5.5 percent. Wait, what? Even with the global economy at a near-standstill, the best analysis suggests that the world is still on track to release 95 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted in a typical year, continuing to heat up the planet and driving climate change even as we’re stuck at home.” 5.5% drop is the largest yearly drop on record but just wait until you see where the emissions are really coming from (only 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions is from transportation) and why it’s so hard to reduce it.

Finnish basic income pilot improved wellbeing, study finds [The Guardian] – “Europe’s first national, government-backed basic income experiment did not do much to encourage recipients into work but did improve their mental wellbeing, confidence and life satisfaction, according to the first big study of a Finnish scheme that has attracted fresh interest in the coronavirus outbreak.”

The amount provided wasn’t a lot – €560 a month, or $600 a month.

I was born in the United States but both of my older two generations were immigrants to where they would spend most of their lives. My parents grew up in Taiwan and most of my grandparents were escapees from mainland China. I always felt very fortunate and thankful that my life story started in the United States.

This next story hit home for me:
Sizzler and the Search for the American Dream [Eater] – “My dad dreamed of steak dinners every night. My mom dreamed of lace doilies and matching china. We children dreamed of nothing. We had no idea what to expect.”

Enjoy the week Apexian.

Enjoy the process

It surprises some people that I don’t set goals.

I don’t set them each year, I don’t set them each quarter… I don’t even set them within a day.

I don’t set business goals, I don’t set personal goals, I don’t set them in a house, I do not set them with a mouse, I do not set them here or there, I do not set them anywhere.

I don’t set them for two reasons and they are perfectly encapsulated in two posts, one published very recently and one from 2013:

This is a post in which Alex West explains how goals interfered with his life. I don’t know Alex at all but I read this and his epiphany encapsulates a lot of why I don’t set goals – they’re arbitrary and when you reach them, you just set higher goals. The most I do in setting goals is to say “it’d be nice if I…” and that’s the goal.

This post by Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert but of so much more, covers something I read in greater detail in his book:

Goals vs. Systems [Scott Adams Says] – “In my new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life, I talk about using systems instead of goals. For example, losing ten pounds is a goal (that most people can’t maintain), whereas learning to eat right is a system that substitutes knowledge for willpower.”

Ok now get to the section where you read this – “Compare the goal of exercising 3-4 times a week with a system of being active every day at a level that feels good, while continuously learning about the best methods of exercise.”

Many times in life we yo-yo because willpower is the tool we use rather than building a good system. We exercise hard, then stop, then exercise hard, and convince ourselves interval training is the best. (it is for some things)

To improve something, you need a simple process and you aren’t trying to kill yourself. Pavel Tsatsouline studied some of the best powerlifters and came away with a very simple weight training protocol you can read on the Tim Ferriss blog. It’s short, it’s doable, and it doesn’t call on you to kill yourself every time you go to the gym.

Oh and stretch because it increases your strength by 10%. (if you listen to a lot of Tsatsouline, mobility is a word he uses a lot…)

Will this pandemic herald a return to thrift?

Welcome to Friday, money nerds. It’s the end of yet another week.

For today’s set of money stories, we’ve gathered a handful of quarantine-related stories. I know that in some places, quarantine is winding down. In others, though, it’s still going strong. Plus, many folks are choosing to continue self-isolation even when official distancing measures are lifted.

Anyhow, here are some stories about money during the time of coronavirus.

The novel frugality: A return to thrift? [Vox] — “Since quarantine started, following the spread of Covid-19, there has been a move away from this culture of waste. This new strain of frugality — call it the novel frugality — is defined by its attachment to this moment and its participants’ motivations. While it might mirror long-held practices (like not throwing away aluminum foil or consciously saving scraps of leftovers to make new meals), its impetus is slightly different.”

How to maintain the car you’re barely driving. [Bitches Get Riches] — “Right now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that basically includes everyone. But it’s not exactly a niche topic, either. Many frugal people, minimalists, and environmentalists own a car out of necessity, but are interested in driving as little as possible. So today we’re going to discuss how to take care of your car when you barely drive it at all.”

“I used to make fun of Silicon Valley preppers. Then I became one.” [The New York Times] — “For years, one of the most smirked-at subspecies in the technology ecosystem was that of the Silicon Valley Prepper…Now, with Covid-19, they feel vindicated. Because they are. The coders and founders long snickered at for stockpiling flour and toilet paper were absolutely right.”

Lastly, here’s a video that could come in handy during quarantine. It’s Jim Henson in 1969 explaining how to make a muppet. I love it! (It’s crazy how much he sounds like Kermit. Not surprising, I guess, but I wasn’t expecting that.)

That’s it for this week. Jim will be back on Monday with more excellent money stories from around the web. See you then!

How to determine your family money values.

Good morning, money bosses! It’s Thursday, and that means we have more excellent money stories from around the web. Let’s start with a podcast.

How to determine your family money values. [Smart Money Mamas podcast] — “The practice of defining your family money values is an incredible way to start or improve money conversations with your loved ones…When your family has a shared value system and money narrative, everyone knows what’s important and how financial decisions are made, and that gives you all focus as your work toward your family’s financial goals.”

What is your money story? (And how can it affect your finances?) [Women Who Money] — “Your money story might be buried deep in your past, but it can affect your finances today and in the future. It’s worthwhile to explore the experiences and feelings of your personal history and see how they affect your finances today.”

Women ask for raises as often as men, but are less likely to get them. [Harvard Business Review] — “Even we were surprised by the results. We had expected to find less asking by the females. Instead, we found that, holding background factors constant, women ask for a raise just as often as men, but men are more likely to be successful. Women who asked obtained a raise 15% of the time, while men obtained a pay increase 20% of the time. While that may sound like a modest difference, over a lifetime it really adds up.”

Lastly, here’s a 48-minute video that I loved more than I ought to have. It’s 48 minutes of Muzak used for United Airlines flights during the 1960s.

I hated Muzak when I was younger. I thought it was awful. Now that it no longer exists, though, it’s a memory trigger. I hear this stuff and am transported to the department stores or airports or musty museums that I experienced when I was a child.

Okay, that’s all for Thursday. I’ll be back tomorrow to see you into the weekend. Until then, take care!

Why you don’t want nice things.

Good morning! Good morning!

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s once again time for a batch of great stories about mastering your money — and your life. Here’s what we have for you today.

The end of your investing worries. [Mindfully Investing] — “The longer you invest, the less reason you have to worry about your investments, assuming you can stay focused on your long-term results. So, I thought it might help some worried investors out there if I provided more information on how several example portfolios have performed over various timeframes.”

“We lost to lifestyle inflation. Here’s how we fought back.” [EducatorFI] — “After 15 years, we had a barely positive net worth. We’d gone from spending just over $3k a month to spending 3x that. A mountain of debt balanced out our assets – two car loans, a house that was too big, and a vacation home. We’d lost to lifestyle inflation. Badly. Here’s how we woke up and fought back. You can too.”

Why you don’t want nice things. [Financial Mechanic] — “We have to make a trade for the nicer things in life. Whether it’s white furniture, pieces of fine art, or a shiny new car, it takes more effort, time, and worry to keep things spic and span. Personally, I’d rather own things I don’t have to worry about. I would rather have peace of mind than really nice things.” And this, my friends, is why I drive a 1993 Toyota pickup. (True story: Last week in the grocery-store parking lot, a woman stopped me to explain why I needed to wash the truck. No thanks!)

Speaking of nice things, today’s bonus video is about super-expensive scissors that are handmade in Sheffield, England. Why are they so expensive? Because they’re made by master craftspeople. This video is fascinating!

That’s it for Wednesday, Apexians. See you again tomorrow.

“My wife feels like we’re headed for financial ruin.”

Why hello, money nerds! Welcome to another day of Apex Money.

As you read this, I in a recording studio for the very first time in my life. No, I’m not laying down music tracks — nobody wants that — but I’m recording my five-hour “intro to FIRE” course for Audible. Very excited to see this come to fruition.

While I’m hard at work, here are some great recent money stories I think you might enjoy.

“We’re doing well but my wife constantly feels like we’re headed toward financial ruin. Help!” [/r/relationshipadvice on Reddit] — “My wife and I have been running a successful online business from home for five years. We bring in over six figures, live far below our means, all of our money goes into savings and investments, no debt…I’m proud of how well we’ve managed money, but she has an insane amount of anxiety around it. She constantly feels like it’s all going to be taken away in the blink of an eye.”

Inside the weird, get-rich-quick world of dropshipping. [Wired UK] — “When an order is received, the dropshipper purchases the item through AliExpress, and has it shipped directly to the buyer, pocketing their mark-up minus marketing spend. At no point does a dropshipper hold stock: they are simply the middleman in a globalised supply chain.” This article is l-o-n-g but interesting.

Berkshire Hathaway 2019 Annual Report [Berkshire Hathaway PDF] — I don’t read any other annual reports, but I always look forward to the Berkshire Hathaway document every year. Warren Buffett always sprinkles little nuggets of wisdom among the financial details of the companies he owns. This year, Buffett’s topics include the importance of retained earnings and the future of his company (since he and his business partner are statistically approaching the ends of their lives). Interesting stuff. [Addendum: Jonathan at My Money Blog posted an overview of the 2020 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, which was held virtually this year (as all things are right now).]

To wrap things up today, here’s the Wall Street Journal video review for the new iPhone SE. Everyone loves Joanna Stern’s video reviews, and it’s easy to see why. She loves tech, but she doesn’t take it (or herself) too seriously. This is fun.

Okay, that’s a wrap. I’ll be back tomorrow morning with more great money stories. See you then.

“My retirement plan is YOU.”

Hello, Apexians, and welcome to Monday! Are you ready for another round of great money stories from around the web? Great. I’m here to satisfy.

But, as we sometimes do here, I’m going to lead not with our money stuff but with the bonus video. Why? Because it’s great. It’s truly outstanding. Here are 100+ Juilliard students and alumni gathering in a mass Zoom recording to perform Ravel’s “Bolero”.

There are some big names here — and some folks you’ve never heard of. But it’s all wonderful. And such a product of our times.

Okay, okay. Let’s move on to the money stuff…

“My retirement plan is you.” [The New York Times, so possible paywall] — “A growing number of millennials who are supporting their parents financially and, in some cases, giving them a place to live. Known as the reverse-boomerang effect, the phenomenon of parents moving in with their adult children, often for financial reasons, is on the rise.”

The more you know a stock, the worse your performance gets. [Klement on Investing] — “By watching their stocks more closely, they are more likely to react to short-term noise. As they try to anticipate the next correction, the returns of their stocks become smaller and smaller.”

Are rich people as happy as they think they are? [The Evidence-Based Investor] — “There’s a lot we can learn from this. For the upper middle class, pursuing more money or higher status things won’t make their lives any better. If they’re happy now, then having a Ferrari, a swimming pool and a mansion won’t make any difference.”

That’s it for Monday. I’ll be back tomorrow with more stories to help you master your money — and your life.

I suffer from pronoia

When I was younger, my favorite magazine was Wired. It was printed on amazingly thick paper and I loved the heft of the magazine, the vibrant colors, and also the content of the magazine. As a young nerd, it was the equivalent of candy for the brain.

When I saw this next post, I recognized the name but couldn’t place it. Kevin Kelly. Kevin. Kelly.

Where had I heard that name?

Oh! He was the founding editor of Wired Magazine! And on his 68th birthday, he shared 68 bits of advice that I loved reading. They’re like 68 bits of candy for life improvement.

68 Bits of Unsolicited Advice [Kevin Kelly] – “Don’t be the smartest person in the room. Hangout with, and learn from, people smarter than yourself. Even better, find smart people who will disagree with you.”

Also, I learned a new word – pronoia! Such a good word!

If you are feeling the weight of the crisis, here are two articles that may help:

Personal Finance During a Crisis [A Wealth of Common Sense] – “Personal finances can be overwhelming to most people when things are going well. All of the different accounts, saving options and investment vehicles can be confusing especially when you consider you’re completely on your own when it comes to learning about this stuff. If personal finances are confusing during normal times, they can paralyze people during an economic crisis.”

What To Do When It Seems Like The End Of The F***ing World: 5 Steps To Cope With The Uncertainty [Money Side Up] – “I wanted to fall back on my psychology roots and what I have learnt in terms of; sleep, exercise and nutrition to provide 5 key tips for maintaining psychological wellbeing throughout these troubling times.”

And I want to leave you with a beacon of light to take with you over the weekend – it’s about the 90 vaccines currently in development:

The race for coronavirus vaccines: a graphical guide [Nature] – “More than 90 vaccines are being developed against SARS-CoV-2 by research teams in companies and universities across the world. Researchers are trialling different technologies, some of which haven’t been used in a licensed vaccine before. At least six groups have already begun injecting formulations into volunteers in safety trials; others have started testing in animals. Nature’s graphical guide explains each vaccine design.”

Go forth and conquer Apexian!

Do you know what a putter-togetherer is?

I love learning about craft.

In this case, I use the Mirriam-Webster definition of craft as “an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill.”

Whether it’s blacksmithing, coopering, glass blowing, or any number of trades – the skill and care involved is amazing to watch.

I normally offer up some money posts followed by candy, today I’m going to lead with candy because it’s just so good.

Do you know who a putter-togetherer is? Watch this and find out.

To take the scissor theme for another step, here’s a fun one.

If you’re going to bet half a million dollars on a game of rock paper scissors, you better not do it in Canada because it’s a lose-lose-lose proposition. If you win, it’s really only $354,647.65 USD or it’s invalidated. Or you lose $354,647.65 real dollars. 🙂 (just kidding, love you Canada!)

$500K bet on rock paper scissors ruled invalid by Quebec court [CBC] – “A Quebec man lost $500,000 in a rock paper scissors best-of-three game that took place in January 2011. The wager has been ruled invalid.”

The Biggest Lie I Tell Myself is About All The Things I’d Do if I Had The Time [Time in the Market] – “If there’s one good thing that comes out of this quarantine is that it shatters this excuse. I have been at home since the middle of March. Now, I still have a job so it’s not like it’s magic free time manna falling from heaven. However, my job does allow me some freedom in terms of taking breaks and I save SO much time not getting ready for work and driving.”

Something to ponder…

Fraudsters are getting super fancy

Frauds of all types have been on the rise and with everyone at home, under pressure and stressed, it’s easy to fall victim.

And then you have the added factor that fraud schemes are getting very sophisticated… check this story out:

When in Doubt: Hang Up, Look Up, & Call Back [Krebs on Security] – “Today’s lesson in how not to get scammed comes from “Mitch,” the pseudonym I picked for a reader in California who shared his harrowing tale on condition of anonymity. Mitch is a veteran of the tech industry — having worked in security for several years at a fairly major cloud-based service — so he’s understandably embarrassed that he got taken in by this confidence scheme.”

The complexity of that scam is pretty amazing.

About a year ago, I was locked out of my Vanguard account for a couple days because of fraud. Someone was trying to log into a lot of different accounts and mine was one of them. They were successful with the credentials but 2FA saved me because I received the confirmation code. Vanguard never gave them access, did more investigation and saw that the person had tried to log into a few accounts. I changed my passwords (fortunately it was one I didn’t repeat anywhere, which makes me wonder how they got it!) and after verifying my identity, all was well. Still scary though.

It’s Okay to Be in Debt, Just Not Okay to Stay in Debt [Financial Pilgrimage] – “Ever since college I always thought I was good with money. At least, that’s what I’d tell myself in my 20s. At the age of 25 I was completely debt free! Yet, somehow managed to accumulate nearly $200,000 in debt by age 30. Most purchases were relatively normal in this day and age. A house, student loans, newer cars, wedding, a condo at the lak. Oh wait, a lake house is not normal but it happened. While getting into debt was not ideal, I really don’t regret any of it and thankfully we had the financial means to dig out. I know not everyone is as fortunate. Regardless, this is our story.”

And for this last one, would you try a bowl?

Long-Simmering Soup,/a> [Gastro Obscura] – “At a Bangkok bistro, one pot of beef stew has been cooking non-stop for more than 45 years.”

Enjoy the day Apexian!