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The very best coronavirus resources

Wow. What a week. On the surface, not much should have changed for me. Generally speaking, I work from home. (Or, more precisely, I’m perfectly capable of doing all of my work from home.) As a writer for the web, it’s not like I have to go into an office.

Still, I haven’t been able to get much done for the past ten days. Current events are just too distracting. I can’t focus on the things I’m supposed to do. Crazy.

In an effort to get some of this out of my system, today at Apex we’re going to share a few of the very best resources we’ve found for our current coronavirus economy. Then — maybe — we can get back to regular personal-finance stories for the rest of the week.

Coronavirus statistics and research. [Our World in Data] — “The mission of Our World in Data is to make data and research on the world’s largest problems understandable and accessible. While most of our work focuses on large problems that humanity has faced for a long time – such as child mortality, natural disasters, poverty and almost 100 other problems – this article focuses on a new, emerging global problem: the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease [COVID-19].” This enormous page of information includes tips, but its best feature is all of the charts graphs and up-to-date statistics.

Coronavirus pandemic page at the World Health Organization. [World Health Organization] — There’s a metric shit-ton of misinformation on COVID-19 floating around. Some of this misinformation is obvious — those conspiracy theories your cousin posts on Facebook — but some of the bad advice actually sounds plausible. Will warm weather kill the disease? Are you safe if you can hold your breath for ten seconds? The WHO is an excellent, reliable source for the facts. (Check out their mythbusters page!)

Similar to the World Health Organization page, there’s a coronavirus hub from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Plus, Consumer Reports has set up their own guide to the coronavirus.

If you’re a nerd with too much time on her hands, you might want to spend a few minutes playing with this epidemic calculator. You can change variables — death rate, recovery times, communicability — to see how different factors affect the spread and severity of a pandemic.

Finally, our pal Erin Lowry from Broke Millennial has spear-headed and effort to collate as much personal-finance info as possible related to this crisis. She’s collected it all into a handy Google spreadsheet. You might want to bookmark it. (Yes, I know Jim shared this same link on Friday. But it’s so useful and important that we’re sharing it again today.)

We’ll close things out today with our usual bonus video. This one isn’t much fun though. It’s an animated look at what the coronavirus does to your body — and what you can do to prevent its spread.

That’s it for a rather melancholy Monday. We’ll be back tomorrow with more of the best money stories from around the web.

Recession preparation and the coronavirus

A recession is a lagging indicator. You’re already in one before it’s “official.”

(A recession is two consecutive quarters of negative GDP “growth”)

A recession is coming. Everyone knows it.

We expected it after so many years of economic growth but the coronavirus was the straw that broke the economy’s back. And in a very serious way.

There are steps you can take right now to better prepare for the coming months. We won’t know how deep or how long the recession will be but you can prepare for when it comes.

First, here’s a massive resource you can use for some coronavirus relief, courtesy of Erin of Broke Millennial:

Broke Millenial’s Covid-19 Relief Hub – It has everything you could possibly need to get up to speed and assistance dealing with COVID-19.

Next, to help with the coming recession, an article from the May 2010 issue of HBR that was meant for businesses but there are lessons you can take and implement in your personal finances too:

When You’ve Got to Cut Costs—Now [Harvard Business Review] – “You’ve been a good manager of a large department for some time now. You’ve run a tight ship. When possible, you’ve cut costs. But now an order has come down (from high enough above that you don’t have the liberty of debating its wisdom or feasibility) decreeing that you must find an additional 10%, 20%, or even 30% in administrative cost reductions, severance aside. You just don’t see how it can be done.”

Next, we have what the Frugalwoods are doing right now:

How We’re Managing Our Money During the Coronavirus Pandemic [Frugalwoods] – “Nothing good comes from panicked investing/un-investing. Pulling our money out of the market right now would be the equivalent of selling at a loss. Additionally, trying to time the market and shoveling more money into it could prove unwise since we have no idea if the market has hit bottom yet. For me, the key to weathering a storm like this is to stick with the plan I created when the markets were good.”

This last one is again focused at business but you can do this yourself to help with thinking of the future. Make sure you get to the part where you take two axes and write headlines, that’s when I had my “a ha” moment:

How Futurists Cope With Uncertainty [Amy Webb on Linkedin] – “Futurists use a simple tool in times of deep uncertainty. It’s called the Axes of Uncertainty, and it’s easy to understand and apply. I’m going to walk you through how to use the tool in your organization, and even to help you grapple with disruption in your personal life. Some of what you surface in this activity will highlight opportunities you didn’t see before, and you will likely also see existential risk you’d never imagined. The more plausible outcomes you can discover, and the more flexible you can be in your thinking and planning, the more assured you will feel about your futures. That’s how you break the vicious cycle of corporate anxiety. And there’s an added benefit: if you identify existential risk early, you have time to take action.”

From the Axes of Uncertainty to the Axis of Awesome, a fun video about how many pop songs are the same four chords:

(I know I’ve shared this video before but I couldn’t help the cheesy “Axes to Axis” line!)

The economics of your local eateries

One of the unfortunate effects of the coronavirus and mandatory lockdowns is that some of the most vulnerable small businesses will be lost.

We’ve all probably heard how slim the margins are in restaurants but did you know how slim they were?

What Does It Really Cost to Run a Restaurant? [Eater] – “Restaurants have notoriously slim margins. Mei Mei in Boston reveals just how slim they really are. […] Today, every single staff member, from the dishwasher to the line cook, can interpret and speak to the restaurant’s entire profit-and-loss statement because, for two years now, Mei Mei has been opening its books to its staff.”

That said, we still need to maintain our distance:

The Power of the Individual in an Exponential Crisis [Kottke]

This image sums it up:

The Quick and Ubiquitous Economics of Bodegas [Mel Magazine] – “Convenience stores: Imagine a world without them. You wouldn’t wanna live in it! Whether you’re cruising in for a six-pack, or you live in the big city and depend on your corner store for, well, just about everything, they’ve usually got you covered. But how do they survive selling nothing but inexpensive merchandise? Also, what’s with all the random stuff on the shelves — detergent, a key-making machine, old DVDs, dollar-store toys — and how’d they get there?” A surprisingly fascinating look at the corner store and the price of convenience (20-30%).

And just because we need a little fun in our days, enjoy this 6-minute video comparing the relative sizes of fictional buildings:

Numismatics rejoice!

I never got into collecting coins but I do have a 1957 Quarter that I stumbled upon in a field behind our first house.

I remember seeing it in the grass and thinking it looked awfully gray.

That’s because, during this time period, quarters were made of 90% silver. The coin is pretty beat up and worth about $5 or $6.

It sits on my desk as a reminder that you never know what you’ll find when you aren’t looking for something – which is pretty much my internet career! 🙂

Buffalo nickels: How to start building a collection [CNN Style] – “Millions were made, so rather than rewarding finders with the promise of riches, the coins simply offer a window into US history. ‘When you hold a 1913 buffalo nickel in your hand, you are holding the form of payment used to watch short films at nickelodeons,’ said editor of CoinWeek, Charles Morgan, referring to an early type of movie theater that charged 5 cents for entry.”

Did you inherit a coin collection you don’t want? Our boy J has your back!

How to Sell Your Inherited Coin Collection [Budgets Are Sexy] – “Here are the best ways to sell a coin collection, ranked in order of getting the most profit for them, but also proportionate to the amount of *time* you want to spend too ;)”

I remember reading about how you could “invest” in junk precious metals (specifically copper) by way of old nickels. Miranda has an explanation:

Coin Hoarding Idea: Nickels [Miranda Marquit] – “While people are looking for older pennies, the relatively high copper content of current nickels might make them well worth hoarding right now, as long as you think that there is a chance that the nickel could be abolished at some point in the future as well.”

Finally, I leave you with this counter-argument against (modern) coin collecting:

Modern coin collecting fun but useless for preserving wealth [Mighty Bargain Hunter] – “A coin collection that stores value better has coins that are rare and in good shape, with precious metals like silver, gold, palladium, or platinum.”

Collectible items, or at least those that go up in value, need to be rare. A lot of the newer coins, much like baseball cards in the 80s and 90s, are produced at such a scale that they are easy to find. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun!

Growth mindset >> fixed mindset

By now, the idea of growth mindset vs. fixed mindset is relatively well understood. More to the point, a growth mindset is better than a fixed mindset.

And you don’t even really need data to support this idea because it’s supported by their very definitions!

Growing is better than not growing.

All that being said, it’s still helpful to read reminders of this from time to time, including this one:

How a ‘growth mindset’ can lead to success [BBC] – “If they are to be believed, passion isn’t only essential for success. It’s essential for happiness.

It is only relatively recently, however, that psychologists have started to test these assumptions.”

3 Indicators of A Successful Early Retirement [Retire by 40] – “Retirement isn’t always an easy transition. After the initial honeymoon period, many retirees become bored, lonely, and even depressed. That’s understandable especially if you’ve worked your whole adult life and built your identity around a job. Work gives you structure, goals, social outlet, a sense of belonging, and income. On the other hand, retirement is totally unstructured. You have to define your own goals and figure out what to do with your time. This can be jarring if you aren’t prepared.”

How North Korean Hackers Rob Banks Around the World [Wired] – “They scored $80 million by tricking a network into routing funds to Sri Lanka and the Philippines and then using a ‘money mule’ to pick up the cash.” What do you do when the entity committing fraud is a foreign government?

To help you take your mind off current events and onto something you may have wondered but never read up on…

What’s the deal with airplane food? [Vox] – “Most passengers don’t question where their complimentary food came from or how it got to them, despite how little information is given about the meal selection and preparation process. Would anyone stuck 35,000 feet up in the air turn down free food? Not me.”

Yummy, right? 🙂

Where to Invest $1 Million Right Now

Every quarter, Bloomberg updates an article on how to invest $1,000. This last one was written on January 30th, 2020, and I am interested to what folks say at the end of this month!

Where to Invest $1 Million Right Now [Bloomberg] – “To help with that, our panel in this issue of our regular series for those with $1 million to spend, looks a little deeper at some green homes for your greenbacks. Is the answer blowing in the wind or swimming in the sea, and what exactly is the nexus between AI, blockchain and garbage? Read on.”

I’m sharing this so you can bookmark it and check on March 31st (or April 1st).

Nobody Told Me [Humble Dollar] – “I HAVE DEVOTED my entire adult life to learning about money. […] For more than three decades, I’ve spent my days perusing the business pages, reading finance books, scanning academic studies and talking to countless folks about their finances. Yet, despite this intense financial education, it took me a decade or more to learn many of life’s most important money lessons and, indeed, some key insights have only come to me in recent years. Here are 10 things I wish I’d been told in my 20s—or told more loudly, so I actually listened.”

Pandemics, Portfolios and Perspective [bps and pieces] – “Last week was one of the worst weeks in history for global stock markets, as the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outside of China began to worsen. The S&P 500 dropped over eleven percent for the week. There were three days that each saw declines of over three percent. Selling beget selling which beget even more selling. Investors looking for a bounce or buyable dip later in the week were met with utter disappointment.” It’s short so make sure you read to the end… it helps put the current epidemic in a little perspective.

Meet the Man Who Tracks Down Stolen Watches [GQ] – “Only 30 of Richard Mille’s RM-030 “Argentina” watches, with their juice box-sized cases and vibrant blue Laffy Taffy-like bands, exist in the world. On a late November night in 2017, one of them was yanked from the arm of its owner, carried at a sprint down a sidewalk, then swerved through London traffic on the back of a moped. Security footage later showed that two people had allegedly stalked the watch as it traveled, on its owner’s wrist, through London’s upscale department store Harrods. Eventually one of the men split off, presumably to get the moped stationed. When the watch’s owner stepped out onto the street with his wife and young daughter, the man still following him ran up, grabbed his arm, and made off with the $100,000 watch.”

Stay safe Apexian!

35 jobs that no longer exist.

Hey hey, Apexians. It’s the end of the week. Before you clock out, though, I’ve rounded up a final batch of great money stories to share with you. Let’s dive in.

Our first feature today isn’t an article — it’s a website. I recently discovered the uber-nerdy Spreadsheet Man and I’m in heaven. The site is just what it sounds like: A collection of spreadsheets, some of which are free, and some of which cost money. (Most of the good ones cost money.) My favorite part of the site, though, is the blog, which covers spreadsheet tips and tricks. Subscribed!

How and why you should dox yourself. [Slate] — “The best defense is to make it harder for abusers to track down your private information. That’s why newsrooms, including the New York Times, are starting to train their own journalists to dox themselves. Not literally, of course — I’m not talking about posting all your information on Twitter. Rather, put yourself in the position of someone trying to mine your personal information to attack you.” This is a useful article for anyone interested in online security.

How delivery apps eat up your budget. [The New York Times] — “When you order through a delivery app, you pay multiple parties, including the driver and the companies that offer the apps, like Uber Eats and Postmates. In some cases, you pay the restaurants extra fees as well. The markups can be downright egregious.”

How does it feel to get everything you ever wanted? [Ryan Holiday] — “So how does that feel? How does it feel to have everything you ever wanted in life? To have it earlier than you ever could have realistically expected? I can tell you: It feels like nothing. Hitting #1 on the bestseller list? Looking at a comfortable bank balance? Sitting across the table from some powerful person as they hang on your every word? Nothing.”

Last but not least, here’s a YouTube video from Mental Floss that looks at 35 jobs that no longer exist. Thimbleriggers! Dogwhippers! Herbstrewers! Haberdashers! Hey, wait. Haberdashers still exist. We have one here in Portland, and it’s awesome.

That’s all she wrote, folks. It’s time for me to head into the weekend. Jim will be back on Monday to share more great money stories from around the web. Until then, stay healthy and grow wealthy.

How the other half lives.

How the other half lives.

Yawn. Good morning, sleepy-heads! I know it’s early, but I’m here once again to share some interesting articles about mastering your money — and your life! Are you ready?

Secrets of the MIT poker course. [Mental Floss] — “Poker, I realize, is a skill in the way language is a skill. It’s a set of rules under a structure of infinite nuance and variance. Professionals separate themselves from the pack with an ingrained understanding of these nuances — smart decisions, made instinctively. I couldn’t expect to learn a language in two weeks, and poker would be no different.”

Inside the wild world of government auctions. [The Hustle] — “Once an item falls out of use, organizations running the gamut from state colleges to law enforcement to the Environmental Protection Agency auction it off to the public. And sometimes, an extraordinary item ends up in the hands of someone like [you].” Wanna buy a lighthouse? A helicopter? An ambulance? Government auctions might be your best bet!

Drivers of high-cost cars are less likely to yield to pedestrians. [Journal of Transport & Health] — “Two naturalistic experiments examined if upper-class individuals behaved more unethically while driving. They found that upper-class individuals (as indicated by vehicle status – make, age, and appearance) were more likely to violate California state law and cut drivers off at a 4-way intersection. In a separate study they also found that upper-class individuals were more likely to violate California state law and cut pedestrians off at a marked intersection.”

Jacob Riis, the photographer who showed “how the other half lives”. [My Modern Met] — “In 1890, Riis compiled his photographs into a book, How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York. Featuring never-before-seen photos supplemented by blunt and unsettling descriptions, the treatise opened New Yorkers’ eyes to the harsh realities of their city’s slums. Since its publication, the book has been consistently credited as a key catalyst for social reform.”

Jacob Riis on how the other half lives

Reading this (and looking at the photos), I was reminded of Betty Smith’s excellent novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Smith’s story covers events between 1900 and 1918 while Riis’ photos are from the 1880s. Despite the time difference, they’re depicting the same sort of life in the same location. I think it’d be interesting to see a version of Smith’s book illustrated with Riis’ photos.

That’s it for this Thursday! I’ll be back tomorrow to usher you into the weekend…

A retirement calculator worth your time.

Welcome to Wednesday, Apexians. If you’re looking for the best stories about money, you’ve come to the right place. Every day, Jim and I dig deep on the internet to find the most interesting and useful stuff to share with you. Here’s what we have today.

Disruption starts with unhappy customers, not technology. [Harvard Business Review] — “In the common scenario that executives think technology is trying to disrupt their business, they try to find a way to develop that technology internally or buy it from others. Major auto companies like GM and Ford are a good example: they have spent billions to buy and then build electric and autonomous driving technologies…What these companies seem to have missed is that the most common and pervasive pattern of disruption is driven by customers.”

The common pricing mistakes that destroy luxury brands. [Jing Daily] — “Pricing mistakes are common in luxury and are one of the biggest culprits behind value destruction. One common mistake — surprisingly — is pricing a brand too low. This happens because managers aren’t fully aware of the Added Luxury Value they create.”

A retirement calculator worth your time. [The Retirement Manifesto] – “NewRetirement is a retirement calculator that’s worth your time. If you prefer to have an expert walk your retirement planning journey with you, they offer the flexibility to only pay for what you need. NewRetirement offers the entire gamut, and it’s a package that can help you achieve a great retirement.”

To wrap things up this Wednesday, here’s a video that has nothing to do with money. It’s a look at P!nk, the border collie from Pickerington, Ohio who has won the Westminster Dog Show 16-inch agility class three years in a row.

I love my pup. She’s intelligent, alert, and very food-motivated. This makes her easy to train. But I don’t think there’s any way I could get her to run an agility course like P!nk does. Who knows, though? Maybe I should try.

That’s it for today, my friends. I’ll back tomorrow with more great stuff. See you then.

Stalking fraudsters on the internet.

It’s Tuesday, money nerds, and this is Apex Money. Every day, Jim and I bring you the best in money stories from around the interwebs. Our goal is to entertain and educate.

Today, we’re going to lead with our daily video instead of end with it. It’s our feature story. In this twenty-minute talk, Nina Kollars explains how she innocently ordered discount coffee pods from eBay…but ended up an unsuspecting participant in triangulation fraud.

This story is both fascinating and frustrating. And it’s entertaining, especially for money nerds like you and me. Kollars writes:

“This talk chronicles the obnoxious amounts of obsessive research and tracking that became my new hobby — stalking Nespresso fraudsters and my decidedly non-technical attempts at developing a generic search profile and reporting the fraudsters to anyone who would listen…Ultimately I just ended up with a LOT of coffee; a lingering sense that I had committed several crimes; and no faith left in humanity.”

Personal savings: A look at how Americans are saving. [Deloitte] — “While the personal savings rate has been trending upward, average savings—calculated using the Consumer Expenditure Survey—has been on a broad declining trend since 2010–2012 for consumers across income levels and for key working-age groups.”

Practical strategies for spending less on transportation. [The Fioneers] — “Any way you look at it, there are ways to reduce your reliance on personal vehicles. Reducing the number of cars is the most effective way to cut your transportation expenses. But I understand that these are no small changes. If moving or switching jobs is too much to commit to right now, you can also look at reducing the cost of owning a car.”

Expert advice on what to keep in a “go bag”. [Why Is This Interesting?] — “The notoriously tough Green Beret training pipeline and real-life deployments put them in some unfriendly places, and we asked them to write about what average people should be thinking about when it comes to disaster preparation…Here’s a list of very pragmatic things to do and think about, from two guys that know.”

Have a story that you think we should share with your fellow Apexians? Send it in!