Skip to content

Apex Money Posts

Should You Rent or Buy a House?

I’ve never understood why “owning a home” is the American Dream. Buying a home is such a massive financial decision but the default always seems to be that owning is better than renting.

But it’s not. If you knew you had to move in a year, buying a home makes zero sense.

There are a lot of situations where buying doesn’t make sense but that seems to be the default. It’s kind of weird when you think about it. If you’re facing a rent vs. buy decision, our first post of the day might help:

Should You Rent or Buy a House? [Of Dollars And Data] – “Buying a home is often considered the biggest financial decision people make in their lives. As a result, it makes sense as to ask yourself whether buying is the right choice when compared with renting. Unfortunately, this decision can easily get bogged down with the many assumptions and costs that go into renting vs. buying a home.”

Speaking of owning a home… experts say you need to earmark 1-4% of your home’s value for maintenance and repairs each year… hidden costs are everywhere!

Beware The Hidden Costs [Mr. Stingy] – “Assuming a $400,000 home, that’s somewhere between $4,000 and $16,000 every year. A “hidden cost” that people normally don’t think about when buying their dream home.”

Lastly, to round out the week, I have a fun feature from the New York Times following Taylor Tomlinson’s as she crafts a standup comedy bit. I love stand up and love the craft of it, these “inside baseball” features are so much fun.

See you next week!

Are We Living in The Roaring 20s?

Hi Apexians!

My apologies for missing a few days, we’re spending a few days away from home for Spring Break and it just slipped my mind!

Hope you’re having a good week, here are a few gems I found interesting:

Are We Living in The Roaring 20s? [A Wealth of Common Sense] – “If you had told me back then how well the economy would be doing now I’m not sure I would have believed you.

I’m going to make the case that we got our Roaring 20s.”

“Are you better off than you were four years ago?” [Bond Dad] – “No economic news today, so let me take a look at the supposed killer recent GOP meme that they claim is completely unanswerable: “Are you better off today than you were four years ago?””

The Naked Financial Hypocrisy of Tradwife Influencers [Money with Katie] – “I perused her site. Oh, look, I thought, a lead magnet! (In digital content marketing, a “lead magnet” is a free downloadable item you give away in exchange for an email address.) Hers just so happened to be iPhone backgrounds featuring affirmations like, “With humility, I embrace my role, upholding traditions as the keeper of our cherished home.” What struck me about her website was how familiar it felt: This was pretty transparently a content creator’s monetized hub, no different from the courses, e-books, and affiliate codes distributed by the boss-babe influencers the tradwives claim to disavow. Oh my gosh, I whispered to no one, She’s girlbossing all over us! The call is coming from inside the housewife!”

The Impact of the Realtors Settlement

One of the big news items of the last few weeks was that the National Association of Realtors had settled their lawsuit for price fixing and collusion. A key result will be a drop in real estate commissions, which was traditionally set at 6%, as homeowners and buyers can now separately negotiate commission rates with realtors.

Sam at Financial Samurai spoke with Mike Ketchmark, the lead trial attorney on the case, and then broke down what he thought would be in the future for commissions and home prices. While Sam isn’t an industry veteran, he is a smart guy and I think his thoughts on this particular subject are well-reasoned.

The NAR Settlement’s Impact On Commissions And Home Prices [Financial Samurai] – “My conjecture is that homebuyers will be reluctant to pay more than 1% of the home’s value in commissions. For instance, a buyer may be willing to allocate up to $10,000 to their agent for closing on a $1 million property. It’s either up to 1% or a flat fee. Of course, a buyer’s agent and a buyer can agree to incentive commissions if the agent is able to negotiate a lower price.”

Fluke [Morgan Housel] – “I did a talk with a high school class last week and someone asked how I decided to become a writer. I said I didn’t, it was never planned. The path that led me here is an absurd story, and one that most of us have a version of – the pure fluke.” You have to read the story, it’s a little crazy, and I can attest to his believe that everyone has a story like this. I have a story like this (maybe not nearly as sketchy though).

Turning Pro: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals [Farnam Street Blog] – “Why is it that some people seem to be hugely successful and do so much, while the vast majority of us struggle to tread water? There is one thing that stands out more than others: mindset. If you want results, you need to approach things like a professional, not an amateur. It all comes down to your approach.”

In a real life Brewster’s Millions (sort of), how Anil Ambani lost $42 billion:

Is the President responsible for the U.S. economy?

Welcome to Friday, Apexians. Here’s what I’ve gathered for you today. There are some gems in this batch of links!

Toward a leisure ethic. [The Hedgehog Review] — “What is time well spent? Philosophers and social critics have long pondered variations of that question and offered rather consistent insights over time, even across radically different eras. Many have extolled a leisure ethic, and none would say that time well spent lies in ambitious careerism or in drifting on a sea of addictive content. Most would agree that flourishing in time consists of free, active, thoughtful engagement with the world in accordance with one’s nature.”

The best way to get things done. [Of Dollars and Data] — “I am no productivity guru, but I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying how people get things done and how people manage their time. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a silver bullet. There is no single way that will allow you to get more done overnight. However, there are a few frameworks I’ve found that can start moving you in the right direction.”

The couples’ guide to moving in together. [Vox] — “Without a roadmap, couples contend with problems typical of dating — how much time you’ll spend together, dealing with each other’s families — in addition to the conflicts of marriage, like division of chores and finances…To ensure you’re firmly in the ‘deciding’ camp of cohabitation, there are a number of conversations worth having with your partner about living together.”

Why people mistakenly think the U.S. economy is terrible. [White Coast Investor] — “The president honestly just doesn’t have that much of an effect on the economy, no matter how much credit they try to take when it’s going well or how much their opponents blame them when it’s going poorly. Even if presidential policies had a huge effect on the economy (which they don’t), there is such a huge lag (years or even decades) in the effects of those policies that it would be challenging for the typical non-economist to really sort out who gets credit for what.” [I think this entire article is spot-on. I think members of both parties are borderline insane when it comes to how they attribute credit and blame for the economy.]

Lastly, I did find one fun video buried in my pile of art stuff on YouTube. Here’s a short (two-minute) video that is a palindrome. Yes, I’m serious.

Nothing earth-shattering there. Just weird and fun and a good way to head into the weekend. Take care my friends, and come back Monday for more.

How much should you tip?

Yo yo yo, money nerds. Good morning. Welcome to Apex Money. Welcome to Thursday. Welcome to Spring. Let’s take a look at the stories we’ve collected for you today.

Our first piece isn’t about money at all, but it’s my favorite article from the past week. It’s interesting and well-written.

The mad perfumer of Parma. [The New York Times gift article] — “The Covid boom casually defied the entire history of perfume, in which aromatic substances have primarily been used for purposes of targeted seduction (ensnaring a mate), general attraction (wanting other people to think you smell nice) or ritual (anointing the dead, appeasing gods, expelling demons). Locked in their homes, people discovered en masse that perfume could also be a private aesthetic experience, a hobby, a form of entertainment.” [True story: One of my friends here in Corvallis is a perfume nut. His enthusiasm has prompted me and Kim to dive into this world too. I’ve been testing ~36 different samples for the past few months. I even wear a different scent to bed every night!]

How much should you tip? Five people share their tipping habits. [Time] — “If you feel like you’re being asked to tip more often than ever, you’re not alone. A November report by the Pew Research Center found that 72% of Americans say that tipping is expected in more places today than it was five years ago…To better understand tipping culture, TIME asked five people to track their spending over the course of a week, and share what they tipped on and why.”

Three secrets to being rich. [The Wealthy Accountant] — “The good news is that there are only two real ways to build financial wealth. Both are easy to apply. There is a third way to become rich that builds wealth fast and creates a much bigger pile. We’ll save the super-charged wealth building secret for last.”

How the cult of busy-ness took over the world of work. [U.K. Independent] — “Once, a leisurely life was the ultimate status symbol, but now that has been flipped around: busyness has become a status symbol…This focus on constantly doing has spilled over into our personal lives too (we all have that one friend who would love to see us but things are just so hectic right now, though they might have a brief opening in mid-July).”

I wish I had a video to share with you today, but the truth is that almost all of my video-watching time lately has been spent on art. I have another watercolor class coming up in early April, so I’m refreshing my skills. And I spent ALL DAY today researching (and “theorycrafting”) a personal palette of colors for my upcoming class — very much like this. It’s fun! (But that means I’m not watching any videos worth sharing with you folks.)

How Big Tech rewired childhood.

Good morning, Apexians. No big preamble today. Just a quick jump into the three heady articles I’ve curated for you today…

How big tech rewired childhood. [The New Statesman] — “Our digital lifestyle isn’t only ugly on the inside; there is also scant attention to beauty on the outside. The world’s brightest and best have effectively been bought by firms whose purpose is to perfect techniques that induce people to waste their lives hunched over a glass rectangle.”

Which is better: Your browser’s password manager or a standalone service? [Consumer Reports — “Security experts disagree on whether browser password managers offer the same level of robust security as stand-alone password managers, but one thing is clear: Both types of password managers make it easier for people to create and store unique passwords for each account.” [Hey! This is a question I’ve been asking myself lately. I used to pay for a standalone password service but found it more annoying than helpful. Since switching to browser/ecosystem-based password management, I’m much happier.]

What happened when I forced myself to wake up at 5 a.m. every day for a month. [Fast Company] — “Unfortunately, my experiment didn’t produce long-lasting results. When my month was over, I immediately returned to my normal 5:45 a.m., which felt like sleeping in. I even slept until 10 a.m. on weekend mornings–a very rare occurrence for me. I feel more productive now that I’m back to my normal routine.” [Hey! This is another article that’s relevant to me. I’ve been an early riser for most of my life. During times of Peak J.D., I get up at 5:30. In recent years, though, I’ve been sleeping in until 6:30. Just this week, I’m making a push to get up at 5:30 again.]

That’s it. Short and sweet this Wednesday. I’ll be back to share more with you tomorrow.

Question your assumptions.

Hey hey, folks. It’s Tuesday here at Apex Money — and everywhere else on Earth too! (Except for the places where it’s already Wednesday.) As always, we’ve gathered some great links to share with you.

What are we assuming? [Young Money] — “The longer that one of these ideas remains true, the more that we believe it will continue to remain true. And if an idea persists long enough, we treat it as a law, and we begin to make decisions based on these laws. But it’s important to remember that these “laws” are only underpinned by two things: observations of patterns and assumptions that these patterns will continue. Dependence on these assumptions can be dangerous.” [This is an important article making an important point. The older I get, the more I’ve come to understand the importance of questioning your fundamental assumptions about everything.]

How much should you spend on vacation? [Art of Manliness] — “Remember that what you see online are just small slices of life, from a small slice of all the people you know. Everyone is not going on amazing vacations all the time. And just because an amazing trip fits one person’s budget, doesn’t mean it’ll fit yours in your current season of life.”

Maybe you can’t retire yet, but maybe you can stop worrying about earning so much? [Flow Financial Planning] — “Coast FIRE is the state of finances where you don’t need to add to your retirement savings anymore, as long as you don’t withdraw from it. This means that, yes, you have to have a job that pays for your current lifestyle (and taxes, of course)…but that’s it. Which really opens up the world of job possibilities!”

Let’s wrap things up today with yet another video that has nothing to do with money.

A few months ago I re-watched Singin’ in the Rain. It was one of my favorite movies when I was younger — from high school to early adulthood. But I hadn’t seen it in maybe twenty years. I’m pleased to say that it’s just as good as I remembered. Better even! It’s just so brisk and funny and entertaining. Great stuff.

Anyhow, here’s a YouTube video where a couple of modern dancers recreate the choreography from the film’s “Moses Supposes” sequence.

I love the unbridled joy of this.

Okay, that’s it for today. Back tomorrow with more.

Why shortcuts mostly aren’t.

Happy Monday to you fine folks. J.D. here to start another week of great stories about money (and more). Let’s get right to it!

The shortcut is probably the long way. [Raptitude] — “It’s like a gold mine, this secret of actually doing things the recommended way. I highly recommend it. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this?” Great piece. I fall into the same trap as David does. I’m trying not to take shortcuts as I learn art.

The spare change donated at store checkout adds up to millions for charities. [NPR] — “Data suggests that despite being bombarded by such requests, [customers] are giving more each year at cash registers, self-checkouts and online. And it has resulted in a huge boost for charities on the receiving end.” [Personally, I never donate at checkout. Never. Why not? Because I don’t know how the money is actually used and because I don’t want to help megacorporations get tax write-offs.]

Why are (most) sofas so bad? [Dwell] — “I was on the phone, asking for a theoretical quote to reupholster a five-year-old or so midrange sofa, which cost more than $1,000 when new. That task, the upholsterer told me, would run me several times more than the couch was originally worth, and, owing to its construction, it was now worth nowhere near its sale price. The upholsterer proceeded to lecture me, in a helpful, passionate, and sometimes kindly manner, about how sofas made in the past 15 years or so are absolute garbage…”

I have lots of thoughts on that last article.

More and more, Kim and I are shelling out the bucks for QUALITY when we buy stuff. We’re remodeling a bathroom right now, for instance, and we’re paying 3x for our vanity than we would if we just bought the cheapest option. And why are we doing this? Because so many products are shit nowadays.

Same principle applies to clothes and home furnishings and kitchenware, etc. I’m sick of buying something cheap, then having it break nine months down the line so that I just have to buy it again. It’s the Vimes Boots Theory in action. We can afford to pay for quality, so we do it.

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll see you money nerds again tomorrow.

How much should you spend on vacations each year?

Do you still pay for cable?

A few years ago, we cancelled our cable. We weren’t using it at all.

Seems like fewer and fewer people are…

Cable’s Continued Collapse [Spyglass] – “Everyone knows by now (finally – I wrote this almost a decade ago) that cable TV is in a prolonged state of decline. But the numbers (assuming these numbers are at least directionally accurate) are nevertheless sobering.”

How Much Should You Spend on Vacation? [Art of Manliness] – “Some financial experts recommend this one: spend 5-10% of your net income on vacations. If you’re in debt, your budget should be closer to the 5% mark; if you’re not, it can be closer to the 10% end of the range. So, for example, if your net income is $80k a year, then you could reasonably spend $4-8k a year on vacations.” I’ve never thought about how much I spent on vacation as a percentage of net income… a fascinating idea.

Finally, we have an interesting story about the mafia and Sicily’s citrus trade:

Can We Blame the Mafia on Lemons? [Atlas Obscura] – “Economists and historians are connecting the early rise of organized crime with Sicily’s citrus trade.”

See you next week!

Be Kind

Be Kind, But Keep Your Integrity [More To That] – “The one thing we have high expectations of, however, is who she is as a person. And for that, we distill it all down to this one statement: We want her to be kind.”

What’s Ozempic doing to our brains? [Vox] – “Desire — for food, companionship, fun, sex, whatever — can bring excitement, joy, and even purpose to life. It’s the Good Stuff! But too much craving is the seed of addiction, of unhealthy eating habits, of the shameful feeling of being torn between what’s good for us and what we crave. We cannot live without wants, yet we cannot be overcome with them. […] Scientists are starting to see the potential for GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic to pull off this trick.”

Show this chart to anyone who tells you college isn’t worth it [Axios] – “Yes, college is still worth it: The wage gap between recent college and high school grads has been widening for decades, and grew even more last year, per new data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.”

This is the chart:
Median annual wage for recent graduates

It may not be worth it to everyone, but it’s definitely worth it.