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Apex Money Posts

Time is precious

Time is such a precious commodity. We don’t know how much time we have on this Earth but we do know it’s not unlimited.

And we fill it with activities of varying “value.” Sometimes we spend it doing the things we love with the people we love and time seems to stand still. Other times, we spend it doing the things we must so that we can pay for the things we love … and time seems to stand still, but for other reasons. 🙂

Experts estimated that, as a species, we have about a billion and a half heartbeats during our lives:

Size Matters: The Hidden Mathematics of Life [NPR] – “Though big and little creatures look very different, below the surface there is a surprising unity. Biologists have compared the heartbeats of mammals and discovered that on average (this won’t apply to any individual, just to groups) elephants and shrews and most of the critters in between have a limit of about a billion and a half heartbeats in a lifetime and then they die.” (emphasis mine)

Despite its title, this next post isn’t so much about wealth as it is about time management:

True Wealth is “never feeling rushed” [Rad Reads] – “If time is the currency of achievement, why are some able to cash in their allocation for more chips than others? And in a world of rapid fire Slack messages, daily episodes of The Daily and Zoom calls up the wazoo – who on earth has the right to not feel rushed?”

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative [Get Rich Slowly] – “When Kim and I go to bed each night, we spend time casually browsing Reddit on our iPads. It’s fun. Mostly. […] But here’s the thing. After browsing Reddit for thirty minutes or an hour, I’m left feeling unsatisfied. In fact, I’m often in a bad mood. After browsing Reddit, I have a negative attitude. My view of the world has deteriorated. Why? Because for all the fun and interesting things on Reddit, it’s also filled with a bunch of crap.”

Finally, here’s a post that will take you 21 minutes and suck you into the world of Masterclass:

How to Learn Everything: The MasterClass Diaries [Longreads] – “One day, when MasterClass sends its millionth paid ad into my Facebook feed, I decide this is the answer to the Walter Mitty lurking inside me. MasterClass seems to offer everything: from writing seminars with over a dozen famous authors to celebrity-driven inspiration to take my hobbies further. Clearly, all I was missing were the right teachers, filmed professionally and beamed into my living room. I may not become a surgeon or a pilot, but what if the renaissance woman I’d hoped to be is just a $200 subscription away?”

What will you cut or add to your day today?

Mental models and building wealth

I rely heavily on mental models as a way to coalesce my thinking around particular ideas.

The world is complex and models help me organize ideas and concepts into packages I can remember with relative ease. In many ways, they’re like games. Games are filled with rules, pieces, tactics and strategies – but we don’t remember how to play a game piece by piece, rule by rule. We remember our tactics and our strategy as it is refined over the times we’ve played.

We learn new games by relating them to old games… and life is one big game, just has more significant consequences. And they’re all based on putting complex situations into mental models that are easier to understand and use.

And today, I want to share a few resources that I find helpful whenever I build and renovate these mental models.

First, a refresher on mental models:

Mental Models: The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions (109 Models Explained) [Farnam Street] – “This guide explores everything you need to know about mental models. By the time you’re done, you’ll think better, make fewer mistakes, and get better results.”

The Five Pillars Of Wealth Building [Darius Foroux] – “Any type of pursuit in life consist of a few fundamental ideas and concepts. For example, theory and experiment have been the two pillars of science for centuries. Those fundamental concepts have solidified our understanding of the world.

It’s the same for wealth building. I’ve identified five pillars that support our understanding of how to responsibly build wealth. You’ll see these concepts everywhere personal wealth is created.”

This ties in nicely with the idea of mental models and this 30-minute video by Ray Dalio on the Principles of Success:

I like to watch that video once every few months as a good refresher.

And before you go, something fun — It’s been a while since we’ve gone to Trader Joe’s but we’re a fan of a lot of their products in our home. Some of the products on the list feel like filler (bananas? organic brown rice? c’mon…) but it has a few goodies on it.

The 50 Essential Trader Joe’s Foods [Thrillist] – “There’s a reason Trader Joe’s has become America’s favorite grocery store, and it has nothing to do with those Hawaiian shirts. The chain has come a long way since opening in Pasadena, California back in 1967, growing to an empire and drawing hordes of shoppers on the strength of its affordable, store-brand offerings, which rotate often and include everything from coffee and booze to healthy meals, unexpected snacks, incredible cheese, and internationally focused entrees that have helped evolve the American palate. It has legions of devoted fans. Even haters can’t help but find something to love within its aisles.”

Happy Monday!

The problem with high expectations.

Ah, it’s Friday. The end of another week. Time to ease into the weekend and enjoy what’s left of summer. Before we do, though, let’s take a look at some of cool stories about money (and related topics) that we’ve enjoyed recently.

This tiny house community feels like living in a small village. [Contemporist] — “Living in a tiny house community is the dream for some people, and Jesse Russell, owner and creator of Hiatus Homes, has designed a purpose-built village with 22 tiny homes, located in Bend, Oregon…The tiny house village has paths that connect the homes, with them arranged in a way that they face inward to the shared community spaces that include ponds, fire pits, planters, and a bocce court.” [Here’s a video tour. I want to live here!]

Nine symptoms of an unhealthy relationship with money. [Physician on Fire] — “The good news is, no matter how unhealthy your relationship with money is, you can always take steps to improve it. However, to make that happen, you need to identify the habits which are causing you to overspend or preventing you from spending even on your basic comforts and necessities.”

Okay, Boomers, let’s talk about socialism. [Hedgeye] — “Most Boomers think they earned it all on their own merits: See, capitalism works! Most Millennials suspect that it has more to do with how Boomers benefited from their particular age location in history.”

The problem with high expectations. [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “Even uber-successful people experience jealousy and make relative comparisons about career accomplishments. Getting exactly what you want in life can often be a letdown because it’s so difficult to be content with what you have. Once the positive feelings wear off, you eventually need a bigger hit of dopamine to get the same emotional response.”

Let’s end the week with something fun!

Here’s a segment from Penn and Teller’s Fool Us in which French performer Léa Kyle fools the hosts with her magical “quick change” act. As one commenter says: “If you slow it down to 0.25x, you can actually see that I have no idea how she does any of it.” Neither do Penn and Teller.

Here at Apex, we’re going to perform our own quick change act. Or maybe it’s a slow change act. I’ll be disappearing for a week while Jim steps in to take his turn with the links starting on Monday. Until then, have a great weekend!

How to design your ideal life.

Today, my friends, can you believe it? Today, my buddy Jim and I have gathered together some fine, fine stories about personal finance and related topics. What will we think of next?

How to make your high cost of living city more affordable. [CityFrugal] — “When you bump into something costly in a city, ask yourself why that is. Are you consuming what is plentiful and living in harmony with your city? Or are you trying to consume something that’s relatively scarce, pitting your desire against your city’s endowment of resources? Once you start seeing this distinction, you won’t be able to stop seeing it. I notice it everywhere.”

Is financial independence for everyone? [Millennial Revolution] — “In our situation, FIRE was life changing and I don’t regret quitting my job for a second. But are we the norm or the exception? Is it because you need a spouse in retirement to avoid loneliness? Or are some personalities simply not suited to early retirement?”

What you must do before you can design your ideal life. [The Fioneers] — “Over the last few years, I’ve sought out the resources to help me build a holistically fulfilling life. Each book, framework, experience, and resource taught me something that I’ve incorporated into my life.”

Make better decisions by freeing yourself from the need for perfection. [Educator FI] — “It is impossible to make perfect decisions. Trying to do so will ultimately cost you more in the long run. Instead, strive to make solid decisions…You’ll give yourself the chance to seize more opportunities. You’ll avoid staying in and taking catastrophic failures out of stubbornness.”

And to round things off: Have you seen the trailer for the upcoming Netflix film, Enola Holmes? Wow. This thing hits so many of my nerd buttons.

Everything about this looks charming.

That’s it for Thursday. I’ll be back tomorrow with one last batch of links before we head into the weekend.

Your to-do list is too long.

Welcome to Wednesday, Apexians. We’ve got some great stuff for you today.

Your to-do list is too long. [Harvard Business Review] — “The one-thing list reflects a strategic and intentional choice about what you will do next and continue to focus on until it’s done. It might feel silly, but writing that one thing down on its own list is the key. It makes it a commitment that you are far more likely to follow through on.” I love this!

Why efficiency is dangerous and how slowing down makes life better. [Psyche] — “When making decisions, instead of asking ourselves which option will give us the best results, we should be asking which option will give us good-enough results under the widest range of future states of the world.”

Surround yourself with inspiration. [Modest Millionaires] — “The more you surround yourself with inspiration, the more opportunity you find to make progress with your goals and stay accountable. Inspiration can come in many forms. Essentially it represents examples highlighting how others have accomplished goals you want to achieve or surrounding yourself with people, who, in your eyes, behave in inspiring ways.”

How to learn everything: The Masterclass diaries. [Longreads] — What have you done during the global pandemic? Professor Irina Dumitrescu binged Masterclass courses. Here’s what she learned.

Related: masterWiki –> “We stole MasterClass’ content and turned it into wikiHow articles.”


To finish up today, here’s a one-minute clip in which Jerry Seinfeld explains to David Letterman how our present selves always seem to be sabotaging our future selves.

I do this ALL OF THE TIME. One of my greatest challenges in life is learning how today’s J.D. can be kind to tomorrow’s J.D…

Speaking of tomorrow’s J.D…he’ll be back on Thursday with more great stories about personal finance. Future You should join him! 😉

Money talks. Wealth whispers.

Good morning, money nerds! Another day, another edition of Apex Money. Let’s look at the stories we’ve gathered for you today…

Money talks. Wealth whispers. [/r/fatFIRE on Reddit] — “Something I’ve learned in my career in finance is that my most pleasant clients…are NEVER flashy with their money. Growing up I was tricked into thinking wealth meant opulence and showy luxury items, now I know it’s very much the opposite. ” In my own life, I’ve known many millionaires who practice “stealth wealth” but I’ve also met some truly wealthy people who happily use their money to buy things they love…even when those things are expensive. (And a lot of times, the wealthy use their money in a way that’s more in line with the Japanese iki aesthetic than western opulence.)

What if we could live for a million years? [Scientific American] — “Recently, scientists discovered bacteria that had been buried beneath the ocean floor for more than a hundred million years and was still alive. What would change if we could live for even just a million years? Two thoughts immediately come to mind.”

How to get money to stick to your fingers. [The Escape Artist] — “The way to become a person who automatically gets richer is to change how you think about your identity and to embed that in your habits. No one said that this was going to be easy…We didn’t get turned into consumers over night so it stands to reason that we won’t be able to reverse consumerism overnight. It takes time and reps.”

Lastly, here’s some excellent advice from Joshua Becker on how to declutter books. This five-minute video was very helpful to me. Let’s face it: I’m a biblioholic. Despite having purged 80% of the books in my life over the past decade, I still have too many! Anyhow. This video was helpful.

And that’s it for Tuesday. Come back tomorrow for more, won’t you?

The truth about credit scores.

Welcome to Monday, my friends! Are you ready for another week of great money stories from around the web? Let’s get started.

Although many of my friends hate when I say this, I avoid the news. I’ve found that staying “informed” doesn’t help me be a better citizen and it only makes me unhappy. Plus, even without paying attention to the news, I hear about the most important events of the day through other channels. And the downsides of the news are far, far greater than any benefits that might come from consuming it.

The biggest downside? The exaggerated sense that the world is a terrible place. Today’s top story here at Apex touches on this problem:

Many Americans are convinced that crime is rising in the U.S. They’re wrong. [FiveThirtyEight] — “The situation is messy on many levels, but it remains true that people’s personal fear of being victims of crimes and their perceptions of national crime rates are far from accurate. So why do Americans still think crime is high?”

Does financial independence mean a lifetime of deprivation? [Retire by 40] — “FIRE isn’t about deprivation. It’s about having the freedom to do what you want. I will never work for someone else again as long as we can maintain our modest lifestyle.”

The truth about credit scores. [Miranda Marquit] — “Before you congratulate yourself too much when you look at Credit Karma, Credit Sesame, Smart Credit, or any other consumer scoring site and see a great score, remember that it could be lower in reality.” [I just ran into this problem in Real Life. I showed a credit score of 806 when I went to apply for a car loan. The car company showed I had a credit score of around 730…]

To close things out for today, here’s a little video I enjoyed very much. In it, actor Gene Hackman tells a story about his colleague (and friend) Dustin Hoffman. It’s a picture-perfect example of the psychological fallacy known as mental accounting.

Okay, that’s plenty for Monday, don’t you think? Come back tomorrow for more of the best in personal finance!

Are you successful?

If so, don’t miss this first post. It may resonate.

The 7 Things the Most Successful People I Know Struggle with to be Happy [Leo Widrich] – “I dug into my memory and notes of having coached hundreds of people, often millionaires, some pro athletes, successful and wealthy entrepreneurs. I wanted to summarize the main points that most of them struggle with to become happy and fulfilled.” FWIW, Leo co-founded Buffer.

In personal finance, we talk a lot about emergency funds and rainy days, but what about sunny days?

Save for the Sunny Days, Not just the Rainy Ones [Budget Savvy Bride] – “But more than just saving for a rainy day, are you saving for the Sunny Days, too? Are you setting aside time and resources to experience new things, travel, and generally enjoy your life? Being on a budget doesn’t mean you can’t indulge now and then! This is why it’s just as important to have a sunny day savings fund as it is to have an emergency fund.”

I like the spirit of this post and I agree – it’s good to save for those moments of indulgence.

I Made One Simple Financial Change and It Lowered My Spending [The Atlantic] – “As a matter of fact, after writing that piece I came up with just such an un-fun, disciplined rule and applied it to my own spending—and it has mostly worked. The rule is simple: After I buy something, I log the transaction on my phone, recording the price and what I bought. The idea is to increase the pain of paying, especially with a credit card, by forcing myself to take note of what I’m spending.”

Finally, something fun… let’s enter the world of black market bourbon:

Inside the World of Black Market Bourbon [Whisky Advocate] – “I’m in Paul’s home, just outside New York City. We connected with each other via a Facebook bourbon group and I’ve come, as agreed, with cash to buy a store-pick Four Roses Single Barrel. Downstairs in his ramshackle basement, Paul’s bunker of 300-plus bottles is divided between two shelving units, one containing every coveted bourbon and rye you’ve dreamt of owning and the other containing rare scotch—holy grail whiskies like Brora 25 and 37 year olds—and Japanese whisky, including Yamazaki Mizunara Oak from 1984. These are the same whiskies that appear in glossy international auction catalogs. Paul yanks out various bottles he calls “fire,” including Willett 12 year old, 2007 Hirsch, and 2006 Van Winkle. “There used to be a lot more,” Paul gestures to his prized collection. “But a lot of it was sold to buy this house.””

Enjoy the weekend Apexian!

The Plutus Awards Finalists Announced!

For personal finance content creators (bloggers, video, podcasts, etc.), the Plutus Awards are our awards ceremony. J.D. and myself have both been honored a few times and it’s always a fun event to attend during FinCon, a massive industry conference for personal finance content creators.

Earlier this week, the finalists for this year’s Plutus Awards were announced and we wanted to invite you to check out a few of the blogs that were nominated – if you’re looking to add a few new sites to your bookmarks, it’s a great place to start.

A few of today’s posts are Finalists so I’ll indicate it.

A Case for Grieving the Mundane Losses of a Pandemic [Brave Saver] – “And yet I anxiously watched my inbox, willing new assignments to appear. This is it, I thought when they didn’t. My last clients are dumping me. Refresh inbox. I’m losing work and don’t even have the time and resources to get it back. Refresh. How far is this going to set me back financially, professionally? Refresh. Is this what getting laid off feels like? My writing career, 10 years in the making — gone overnight?” (nominated for Best New Personal Finance Blog)

Modeling a Wealth Tax [Paul Graham] – “Some politicians are proposing to introduce wealth taxes in addition to income and capital gains taxes. Let’s try modeling the effects of various levels of wealth tax to see what they would mean in practice for a startup founder.” It’s a quick post that talks about a tax on net worth but when you think about it, this also explains why it’s important to keep investing fees as low as possible. If you’re paying a 1% expense ratio on your mutual fund, over 60 years, it’ll have eaten up 45% of the value of that investment.

How To Budget When You Have A Fluctuating Income [Literally Broke] – “One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to personal finance. But a really great rule of thumb for beginning budgeters is 50/30/20, a budgeting technique based on percentages that was popularized by our girl Elizabeth Warren.” (nominated for Best New Personal Finance Blog)

Finally, ever wonder how many people it might’ve taken to build the Great Pyramid of Giza?

How Many People Did it Take to Build the Great Pyramid? [IEEE] – “Given that some 4,600 years have elapsed since the completion of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the structure stands remarkably intact. It is a polyhedron with a regular polygon base, its volume is about 2.6 million cubic meters, and its original height was 146.6 meters, including the lost pyramidion, or capstone. We may never know exactly how the pyramid was built, but even so, we can say with some confidence how many people were required to build it.”

See you tomorrow Apexian!

A commonplace book

When I started Apex with J.D., I didn’t realize what I was doing.

I was keeping a version of a “commonplace book” but instead of my ideas, it was capturing other people’s ideas in one place. It’s a bit like what J.D. used to do on, before it was sold and sold and sold, but I like the idea of a commonplace book even more.

It’s a collection of your thoughts and ideas.

How And Why To Keep A “Commonplace Book” [Ryan Holiday in Thought Catalog] – “When I read this, I immediately began a ritual that I have practiced for many years–and that others have done for centuries before me–I marked down the passage and later transferred it to my “commonplace book.” Why? Because it’s a great line and it stood out to me. I wrote it down I’ll want to have it around for later reference, for potentially using it in my writing or work, or for possible inspiration at some point in the future.”

What if We Could Live for a Million Years? [Scientific American] – “The good news is that over a lifetime as long as a million years, space travel can take us to the nearest stars using existing chemical rockets. It would take merely 100,000 years to arrive at the habitable planet around Proxima Centauri with a space vehicle that travels at the speed of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft. For passengers who live a million years, such a trip would appear just like the decade-long journey of New Horizons to Pluto within our current life span. Of course, the spacecraft will have to provide an enduring ecosystem and comfortable living conditions over this long journey. And the passengers will have to maintain a stable mindset for their journey’s goal and not lose faith, like a fisherman who, after a long hiatus without finding any fish, asks whether ‘the real purpose of fishing is catching fish.'”

ATM Hackers Have Picked Up Some Clever New Tricks [Wired] – “So-called jackpotting attacks have gotten increasingly sophisticated—while cash machines have stayed pretty much the same.”

Jackpotting is such a great name.

See you tomorrow!