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Apex Money Posts

How much it costs to live in every state.

Far out, friends! It’s Friday! We’ve made it through another week. To celebrate, let’s look at some recent stories about personal finance, shall we?

How much it costs to live in every state for 30 years, ranked. [My Money Wizard] — “Fed up with the lack of good information out there, I decided I’d have to create it myself. Here’s the system I came up with. Admittedly, it balances a line between simplicity and sophistication, so it’s not perfect. But it is better than any similar ranking I’ve ever seen.”

30 year cost of living

Median household income in the U.S. hit an all-time high in 2019. [Accidental Fire] — “The Census Bureau released the official income statistics for 2019 a few weeks ago. In 2019 the median household income in America was $68,703, marking a substantial 6.8% increase from the 2018 median of $64,324.” [Here’s a related article.]

How to become a digital nomad. [Heath & Alyssa] — “These past six years of travel have been the best years of my life and we’re lucky to live in a world where working remotely from the mountains of Colorado or the beaches of South Carolina isn’t just a dream. It’s a fairly easily achieved lifestyle. In this guide, I’ll cover how to make the transition to become a digital nomad.”

True story: When Kim and I did our 15-month RV trip in 2015-16, we connected with Heath and Alyssa. I think they guest-posted at our travel blog (or we guest-posted at theirs?). In any event, I now get loads and loads of email meant for Heath and Alyssa. I’m not joking. It’s all spam, though, so I just delete it.

Ready to head into the weekend? First, let’s watch a video. It’s the best video I’ve seen all week.

I love my dog. I especially love how happy she gets when Kim comes home from work. She spazzes out, as dogs will do. Well, here’s a blind and deaf dog who nevertheless recognizes its owner when he comes home. This is so frickin’ cute! It warms my heart. (How can fifteen people have given this video a thumbs down? Those folks are going to burn in hell.)

Speaking of dogs, mine is begging for her walk. So, I’m off to do my daddy duties. Take care, everyone! We’ll see you again on Monday.

How much money should you save for retirement?

Good morning, good morning, good morning! Welcome to Apex Money, your source for all of the latest money news. Today, we have five cool stories for you.

What is your retirement number? [Women Who Money] — “How do you know how much you’ll need to have saved for your future retirement?…Figuring out how much you’ll need to have in retirement savings is a multi-step process. But once you have an idea of your savings need, it’s easier to see if you’re on track.”

How much money should you have saved for retirement? [The Irrelevant Investor] — “By age 30 you should have saved 1x your annual income. If this makes you feel bad about yourself, you’re not alone… We’re all in different situations, but the one thing we all have in common is we’re human. It’s hard to be disciplined about saving money.”

William Bengen revisits safe-withdrawal rates. [Financial Advisor magazine] — In 1994, William Bengen introduced what has come to be known as “the 4% rule”, which said that a person could generally plan to safely withdraw 4% of their retirement portfolio each year based on its balance at the start of retirement. (One of my biggest pet peeves is when people attribute this concept to the Trinity Study. Bengen is the source, not the Trinity Study.) In this article, Bengen takes another look at the numbers.

Positive cash flow is the “open secret” of the early-retirement community. [The Finance Buff] — “Having a positive cash flow outside the portfolio is an open secret in the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) circles…The smart FIRE leaders don’t rely on their investment portfolio for their day-to-day spending. In theory, they can cover their expenses by withdrawing from their investment portfolio, but in reality, they don’t. They cover their expenses by their current income while leaving their portfolio untouched.” [As a FIRE insider, I can say that this is generally 100% true. Except for me and Doug Nordman, most FIRE folks support themselves with actual income.]

Lastly, Consumer Reports thinks that the new Apple Watch SE may be the perfect smartwatch at the perfect price. “The SE’s combination of practical features, modern look, top performance, and friendly price make it the Goldilocks of smartwatches. It’s just right.”

Take care, my friends! I’ll see you tomorrow.

How to remember what you learn.

Good morning, money nerds! Are you ready for some cool links?

To kick things off, here’s an image from /r/coolguides on Reddit that I thought was hilarious. It compares U.S. units of measure to units of measure in the rest of the world:

Units of measure

Honestly, my own system is even goofier. I use celsius (yes, really) and DMY for dates. And sometimes I use metric for mass. But otherwise I stick with the system I learned growing up haha.

Okay, let’s get to the money articles.

Women in the workplace. [McKinsey & Company] — “This is the sixth year of the Women in the Workplace study — in a year unlike any other. This effort, conducted in partnership with LeanIn.Org, tracks the progress of women in corporate America.” [This is a formal study with actual stats and data! Here’s the PDF of the actual report.]

How to remember what you learn. [Vasili Shynkarenka] — “In the past six months, I’ve devoured dozens of books, research papers, and studies on how people learn. As a result, I’ve designed a learning process that works for me. It’s not perfect, but an order of magnitude better than what I had before.”

They pirates of the highways. [Narratively] — “Some of the highest value and thus most targeted loads in recent years have been snack nuts. When a drought greatly diminished the supply of nuts, thereby raising the demand for them, seasoned truck thieves became more interested in going after nuts than they were big-ticket electronics or medicine.” [This is a l-o-n-g read but it’s fascinating.]

As usual, here’s a video to close things out. As you might have noticed, I’m fascinated by tiny homes. I love the idea of living in a small space. I’ve done it myself in the past (living in a motorhome for fifteen months), and I’d like to do it in the future.

Well, here’s a four-minute tour of a 193-square-foot house in the heart of Tokyo. The video is in Japanese, but don’t let that stop you from watching. It’s still neat to see.

Somehow I feel like I’ve shared this before. I’m okay with that. It’s worth sharing again.

Okay, folks. That’s all for today. I’ll see you tomorrow with more fun stuff…

Deadly wage-slave thoughts (and how to overcome them).

Look, ma! No politics! That’s right, folks. Today, we’re back to good old-fashioned personal-finance stories. Enjoy!

The most important questions to ask before marriage. [One Frugal Girl] — “No matter how well you know one another, there are bound to be topics you’ve never discussed. Now is the time to focus on those hard questions that will help you envision your future life together. After asking these questions, be patient, open, and understanding. Marriages thrive when both partners feel free to share their ideas and beliefs.”

Deadly wage-slave thoughts and how to overcome them. [The Woke Salaryman] — “I’m not saying salarymen are lazy. Nor is this article about why ‘thinking like an employee’ is bad. What I’m saying is that the comfy white-collar, stable-income you take on has risks that you might not even be aware of.”

In praise of beater cars. [Root Simple] — “There’s another benefit to driving a beater…[A] lot of people measure status with the brand and upkeep of your car. These are exactly the sort of people you don’t want to hang out with. Your beater will act as a kind of filter for vain idiots.” Funny, but with a core of truth. [Related: How to buy a reliable used car at Good Financial Cents.]

Pay less for rent by choosing the minimum viable apartment. [City Frugal] — “Your goal should be to keep rent under 30% of your after-tax pay after maximizing your annual contribution to your 401(k). It can be much lower if you’re a high earner, but most of us have the opposite problem – it’s hard to keep rent under 30% of your take-home pay.”

Lastly, here’s a video I love from Syfy Wire. It’s a two-minute profile of New York artist who alters thrift store paintings, incorporating new pop culture elements into otherwise mundane landscapes. So fun!

And I love that his wife is involved in this project too…

That’s it for Tuesday. See you all tomorrow. TTFN!

Millionaire money mentors

Good morning, Apexians! Plenty of money stories to share this week, but because the U.S. in the middle of a Presidential campaign, let’s start today with something political. That ought to make a few folks angry. But it has to be done.

A lot of issues in the political arena have two sides, and I get that. I’m fine with it. Let’s argue about immigration and tax reform and how we should handle health care in this country. But sometimes? Sometimes an issue is complete bullshit. Voting by mail is one of those bullshit issues. How did this even come to be perceived as a problem? Because it’s not — and it never has been. Even my conservative friends are baffled as to why it’s suddenly in the news. And no wonder.

A recent article from the (centrist, non-partisan) Brooking Institute cites data from the right-wing Heritage Foundation that found — wait for it! — 309 cases of voting fraud involving mail-in and/or absentee ballots over the past 36 years (and nearly two billion votes).

That’s right, my friends. There have been 309 cases of mail-in vote fraud over 36 years and nearly two billion votes. And that’s data/info from a conservative source. Hardly a crisis to our democracy.

Bottom line? This is a made-up crisis. It’s complete and utter bullshit. It’s the bullshittiest of bullshit issues.

And that’s enough politics, don’t you think? 🙂 Let’s move on to money.

Six steps to finding your second act in retirement. [Kiplinger] — “Finding a second-act career isn’t easy, even for those with a track record of professional success. It requires much more than just announcing your retirement one day and signing on as a volunteer the next…Here are some practical steps to help you prepare for your next stage, whether you decide to volunteer, work part-time, start a business—or do all three.”

A remembrance of Forest Fenn. [Medium] — “Forrest Fenn was born in 1930 in Temple, Texas. A poor student who disappointed his educator father, he grew into a life of adventure — a decorated Air Force pilot who was shot down in the Vietnam War and survived the Laos jungle, a rakish and prominent art dealer who courted the rich and famous, and, in his third and final act, a compulsive memoirist who wrote a poem that launched a treasure hunt in the Rocky Mountains that inspired many thousands of regular folks the world over.”

Lastly, our buddy John over at ESI Money has just launched a new program that Jim and I think is interesting. Millionaire Money Mentors is exactly what it sounds like. John has taken his popular series of interviews with millionaires (over 200 of them now!) and used that as a springboard to launch a (for-pay) service that connects wealthy people with folks who want to be wealthy. If that describes you, you should check it out. If it’s not your cup of tea, no worries. But I suspect that some of you will find this worthwhile.

Okay, I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff — none of which will be political. See you then!

Taking out the trash day

One of my favorite shows was The West Wing and “take out the trash day” refers to when the White House would release a bunch of bad news on a Friday so the media couldn’t focus on any one thing. While it seems like the current administration has employed this strategy 24/7, I’m only using it because I can’t come up with a good title or theme for today. 🙂

None of the items on the list are trash.

In fact, they’re great. That’s why I put them in the post. 🙂

But my creativity is at a minimum and I miss The West Wing so there you have it:

My Last Day Of Corporate Work: Stepping Into The Light [A Purple Life] – “It happened. Yesterday was my last day of corporate work.”

My friend Marcus Garrett’s book on getting out of debt – DEBT Free or Die Trying: How I Buried Myself $30,000 in Debt and Dug My Way Out – is free on the Kindle from October 1st through the 5th. Get your copy ASAP and forward this to whomever you think needs to see it.

Something funny is about to happen to some prices [IFOST Blog] – This post is an interesting thought exercise about what happens when electricity becomes plentiful, as it will likely be once solar panels are far more efficient than they are today. You may be paid to consume electricity, which changes the economics of a lot of different activities.

Why the Survival of the Airlines Depends on Frequent Flyer Programs [Marker] – “The Financial Times pegs the value of Delta’s loyalty program at a whopping $26 billion, American Airlines at $24 billion, and United at $20 billion. All of these valuations are comfortably above the market capitalization of the airlines themselves — Delta is worth $19 billion, American $6 billion, and United $10 billion. In other words, if you take away the loyalty program, Delta’s real-world airline operation — with hundreds of planes, a world-beating maintenance operation, landing rights, brand recognition, and experienced executives — is worth roughly negative $7 billion.”

This one is for J.D., something he’d enjoy and appreciate:

How I used the internet to painlessly relearn a foreign language & you could too [Robert Wiblin on Medium] – “Over the last year I’ve found many ways to practice Spanish every day that are extremely effective, and not only painless but outright enjoyable. I found that not only could I relearn Spanish from my home in the UK, I could learn it much faster than if I were living in Spain and just relying on daily life to instruct me.”

Have a great weekend!

Get busy living or get busy dying

The first story today reminded me of a story I heard when I had started working.

I was working in the defense industry and it was my first time working in a SCIF, which stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It basically means your office is a big safe. You couldn’t bring in your cell phone, you had to enter a keypad to get in, and the area is locked down whenever someone isn’t inside.

Each day, one person is responsible for unlocking it. That same person is responsible for locking it up that night. If they’re not the last person, they pass it off to someone who is still there. In practice, the responsible person walks around the SCIF and calls out to see if anyone is still there. If they don’t hear anything, they just leave and lock up. It’s pretty simple… until it isn’t.

One particularly sad story was that someone had a heart attack on a Friday and fallen behind a bench. The “last” person walked around and called out to see if anyone was there… but heard no response. So they locked up for the weekend. They didn’t discover their co-worker until the next Monday.

The two lessons I took away from that were:

  • Don’t die at work,
  • Live a life where someone will look for you if you disappear for more than a day.

Retire Before Dead [Retired Before Dad] – “Early in my career, a coworker dropped dead in his cubicle one Tuesday morning. He was 60. That event changed the way I think about office work. He was good at his job, and he seemed to enjoy his role. But it certainly wasn’t his life’s passion. His death got me asking myself, what if I die before I can travel the world full-time again? Retirement suddenly became more urgent, even though I was only in my early thirties.”

The Financial Freedom Through Real Estate Conference is a conference put on by Dr. Peter Kim, of Passive Income M.D., and this year’s event is online and completely free. Last year’s event, which was much bigger, was held in Los Angeles and cost $800 so if you’ve had any interest in real estate as a path towards FI – you should register for this. It takes place from October 9 – 11 and once a talk is made available, you can watch it for the next 48 hours, then it’ll be taken down. (you can buy a lifetime pass sometime later)

How to Buy a Second Home that Pays for Itself [Good Financial Cents] – “Those who have the means to buy a second home are wise to take on mortgage debt in today’s low interest environment.”

Until tomorrow, Apexian!

Don’t Set Your Happiness on FIRE

This is one of my favorite jokes:

Do you know what the hardest thing about running a marathon? Working into every conversation.

You can replace marathon with practically anything someone is getting into whether it’s keto, becoming vegan, joining Peloton, etc.

FIRE, financial independence retire early, is no different. It’s easy to discover it, become infatuated with it, and fall into the trap of mindless adherence.

Don’t Set Your Happiness on FIRE [Emily Guy Birken] – “Unfortunately, focusing on money in the pursuit of FIRE can create a different kind of mindlessness. Rather than think through how you want to spend your money, you may end up exchanging mindless consumption for mindless financial accumulation. The pursuit of a higher bank balance can become your goal, rather than using your money to improve your life satisfaction.”

These medical bills were made into oil paintings and sold to pay off the $73,360 debt [Mashable] – “MSCHF, the group responsible for stunts like Finger on the App and MasterWiki, is bringing attention to the failures of the American healthcare system with Medical Bill Art. Three real medical bills were rendered into oil paintings and sold for the amount of money owed via the art market. The work is aptly called 3 Medical Bills.”

Reminds me of when John Oliver bought almost fifteen million in medical debt for $60,000 and then forgave it.

Hotels of Pyongyang – “Hotels of Pyongyang is a photography project documenting the hotels of North Korea’s capital and one of the world’s most mysterious cities. Frozen in time, the architecture is typically soviet and brutalist whereas the interiors are modernist, kitsch and sometimes bizarre spaces. Staffed by stoic, uniformed and charming staff, the hotels are a world unto themselves that North Korea presents to outsiders.” This is just a series of photos of hotels in North Korea… and it’s surreal.

I really enjoyed James Clear’s Atomic Habits, here’s a 15-minute video recap of the three life-changing ideas from the book by Thomas Frank:


Money shame

I’ve also liked the phrase that personal finance is more personal than it is finance. I’m certain it’s one of J.D.’s favorite phrases when it comes to money.

Much like body weight, there’s more to it than the mechanics and the math. If you want to lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend in a day. If you want to save money, make more money than you spend.

The math is simple but the execution is much harder and much of that is because of what’s between your ears.

How Financial Advice Triggers Painful Money Shame [Brave Saver] – “I cried the first time I went shopping for maternity clothes. I started a job shortly after finding out, but I waited as long as possible to tell my manager. I loathed grocery shopping once I started showing. I wasn’t self-conscious about my changing body itself, but rather what I felt it told people about me. They could simply look at me and know the deep, shameful truth: I was pregnant and completely unprepared.”

I also want to share a bias that is easy to fall into – it’s known as the fundamental attribution error. It’s when you attribute someone’s actions or outcomes on the “type of person” they are versus the situations and circumstances that person was put in.

Fundamental Attribution Error [SimplyPsychology] – “The fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or over-attribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing situational explanations.”

This is not to say people are not responsible for their actions, that would be swinging the pendulum to the other extreme, but a warning that you should consider outside forces a bit more when assessing a situation. We have an inherent bias towards blaming the victim, so it’s important to rethink initial assumptions.

If you don’t like going to the dentist, you may want to skip this next one because it will do you no favors:

My dentist saved my tooth, but wiped my memory [BBC Future] – ““I remember getting into the chair and the dentist inserting the local anaesthetic,” he tells me. After that? A complete blank.

It is as if all new memories are being written in invisible ink that slowly disappears.
Since then, he has been unable to remember almost anything for longer than 90 minutes. So while he can still tell me about the first time he met the Duke of York for a briefing at the Ministry of Defence, he can’t even remember where he’s living now; he wakes up every morning believing he is still in Germany in 2005, waiting to visit the dentist. Without a record of new experiences, the passing of time means nothing to him. Today, he only knows that there is a problem because he and his wife have written detailed notes on his smartphone, in a file labelled “First thing – read this”.”

See you tomorrow!

Don’t lie, cheat, or steal

Today’s posts are a little bit different in that they’re not “core” personal finance articles. The first two are about, superficially, fraud and money but not in a way regular people can (also they’re not legal).

I share them to highlight some of the seedier sides of the Internet so that you can understand how these worlds operate and, hopefully, learn how to protect yourself better from financial fraud.

The last article is just a fun little study of how a poker cheat got caught.

FinCEN Files Show Criminals Moved Billions As Banks Watched [BuzzFeed.News] – “A huge trove of secret government documents reveals for the first time how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins.”

That’s just the first part, the next part where they dig into the files… that’s the juicy bits and you can read them here – We Got Our Hands On Thousands Of Secret Documents. Let’s Break Them Down.

This article by Matt Taibbi is a good companion to the story.

Confessions of an ID Theft Kingpin, Part I [Krebs on Security] – “Ngo’s businesses enabled an entire generation of cybercriminals to commit an estimated $1 billion worth of new account fraud, and to sully the credit histories of countless Americans in the process.” (here’s part two)

The Cheating Scandal That Ripped the Poker World Apart [Wired] – “Mike Postle was on another tear. The moonfaced 42-year-old was deep into a marathon poker session at Stones Gambling Hall, a boxy glass-and-steel casino wedged between Interstate 80 and a Popeye’s in suburban Sacramento. The September 21, 2019, game, which Stones was broadcasting to audiences via YouTube and Twitch, had attracted several top players to the casino’s card room, a gaudily lit space done up like an Old West saloon. One pro from Las Vegas had flown in on a chartered jet with $50,000 in cash. Yet, as usual when he appeared on Stones’ livestream, Postle was shredding the competition; he was the evening’s chips leader by a comfortable margin.”

It’s easy to make the right play when you’re cheating. 🙂

The lesson of the day? Don’t cheat! (or lie or steal)