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Apex Money Posts

Making $35,000 bonsai scissors.

Far out, money nerds! It’s Friday! The weekend is here and it’s time to celebrate with a handful of top money stories from around the web.

Everything is temporary. Nearly everything is reversible. [CityFrugal] — “Nearly all our financial decisions are like this. If you take a job and you don’t like it, you can find a new one. If you buy an apartment and get moved for work three years later, you can sell it. If you don’t like a city, you can move back to your old one or try another…Nothing we do is permanent.

“Why I don’t use the FIRE acronym to describe financial freedom.” [Monevator] — “Yoking the concept of financial independence together with retiring early is not ideal. I just don’t see them as uniquely wedded at the hip. Also, I suspect it causes confusion about goals, and even cultivates outrage from those dreaded ‘retirement police’ who get angry if a FIRE-ee earns a few bob on the side.”

Is the U.S. on its way to becoming a cash-less society? [Harvard Business Review] — “Taken together, these data do signal that a ‘less cash’ society is emerging and that an entirely cashless society is unlikely any time soon–especially when 70% of Americans still report using cash on a weekly basis. But 50%, 60%, or 70% cashless is certainly conceivable.”

Robo-advisors are still hot. Here’s how their portfolios are performing. [Barron’s] — “Robo assets continue to rise, to at least $440 billion at last count, according to Backend’s analysis. The increase has been driven by new services, including access to live advisors, sustainable-investing products, and higher-yielding cash accounts.”

To finish off our Friday edition of Apex Money, here’s a four-minute video about master blacksmith Yasuhiro Hirakawa. He makes a variety of knives and other tools, including $35,000 scissors. $35,000?!?!? Yep. Take a look.

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

All the right stuff.

Hola, money nerds, y bienvenidos al jueves. Let’s dive right in to our top money stories.

Gathering investment lessons from the headlines. [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “Sometimes the headlines tell us all we need to know about market sentiment. Other times they give us false positives. And other times all the tell us is the financial news organization that put them out had to fulfill their quota for the day.”

Exercise makes you happier than having money. [World Economic Forum] — “It’s clear exercise has health benefits both physical and mental — but what if we could actually prove it was more important to your mental health than your economic status? According to a study carried out by researchers at Yale and Oxford, we may have done just that.”

Meet the men obsessed with carrying all of the right stuff. [Vox] — An introduction to the world of Everyday Carry (EDC). “While the term — usually used as a noun, like ‘my EDC’ — was originally born out of threads on outdoor enthusiast forums where users would reveal the items they carry on their person every day, such as your wallet, keys, phone, or even a knife or two, it’s now exploded into full-blown subculture.”

I’d never heard of EDC until last weekend. If you’ve been reading me (J.D.) for any length of time, you know I’m obsessed with bags. I own too many backpacks and messenger bags. Yet, I just ordered another. It’s the Luminary 15 in burnt orange from Tom Bihn, and it’s billed as an EDC pack.

Here’s how Mythbusters’ Adam Savage describes EDC.

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Let’s talk like we used to.

What’s up, money nerds? It’s Wednesday and these are your top stories about personal finance.

“Three reasons I prefer bloggers over journalists.” [ESI Money] — “In my online reading, I read a wide variety — both blogs as well as mainstream money articles written by ‘professional’ journalists. After having done so for many years, it’s clear to me that I prefer pieces from bloggers BY FAR over those by journalists. There are a lot of reasons for this, but here are the top three…”

The futility of blame when pursuing financial improvement. [The Simple Dollar] — “When you fail at something (or don’t even try) and blame others for that failure, it’s nothing more than an excuse for your own poor behavior. It’s an excuse for you to not have to put out effort, because you’ll always have that convenient ‘them’ to point at as the convenient ‘reason’ for your failure.”

This next link isn’t really about money. Sorry. It’s about blogging. It’s an article from my friend David Cain, who writes the excellent blog Raptitude, which is all about getting better at being human. If you don’t read this site, you should. Seriously.

Let’s talk like we used to. [Raptitude] — “A few weeks ago someone commented on my new post, saying they had just stumbled across my blog, and that it was ‘very old school’. I took that as a compliment, and got to reminiscing about what old school blogging really felt like, compared to today. Something’s definitely gone missing — some quality that made it vivid and exciting, and I want it back.”

Today’s final link is, well, perhaps a little esoteric. It’s an interview with Wendell Berry, the Kentucky farmer, philosopher, and Luddite. Never heard of Berry? Not surprising.

Going home with Wendell Berry. [The New Yorker] — “Berry, who is now eighty-four, does not own a computer or a cell phone, and his landline is not connected to an answering machine. We corresponded by mail for a year, and in November 2018, he invited me to visit him at his farmhouse, in Port Royal, a small community in Henry County, Kentucky, with a population of less than a hundred. Berry and his wife, Tanya, received me with exceptional kindness, and fed me well.”

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Owning your home won’t make you rich.

Time to dive into Tuesday’s top money stories, money nerds. Are you ready? Today it’s all about homes and autos.

What will smart homes like ten years from now? [Time] — “A decade from now, experts say, we’ll move from turning the lights on and off with our voices to total immersion in the Internet of Things (IoT). Thanks to advancements in artificial intelligence, the smartest homes will be able to truly learn about their owners or occupants, eventually anticipating their needs.”

Smart homes of the future

Owning your home doesn’t make you rich. Owning someone else’s home does. [L.A. Times] — “In every country Fessler and Schürz studied, homeowners’ wealth hovers near the national average. The biggest gaps are between those who own businesses and rental properties and their customers and tenants. In terms of wealth, that gap is widest in the United States and Austria. In terms of income alone, the United States tops the list.”

Was the automotive era a terrible mistake? [The New Yorker] — “When the people of the future look back at our century of auto life, will they regard it as a useful stage of forward motion or as a wrong turn? Is it possible that, a hundred years from now, the age of gassing up and driving will be seen as just a cul-de-sac in transportation history, a trip we never should have taken?” A l-o-n-g look at the history of driving — and its possible future.

Okay, our final piece today has nothing to do with money (okay, a little to do with money if you count the tip at the end) and is very likely not safe for work — unless you work in a maternity ward.

Here’s a baby being born in the back seat of an Uber (or taxi — I’m not sure which). This driver is crazy calm.

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Influencers are bullshit.

Happy Monday, money nerds. Today’s top money stories are all about how our friends and family influence us — both on social media and in real life.

How your friends change your habits — for better or worse. [BBC] — “We often think that self-control comes from within, yet many of our actions depend just as much on our friends and family as ourselves. Those we surround ourselves with have the power to make us fatter, drink more alcohol, care less about the environment and be more risky with sun protection, among many things. This is not simply peer pressure…Beneath your awareness, your brain is constantly picking up on cues from the people around you to inform your behaviour. And the consequences can be serious.”

The age of envy: How to be happy when everyone else’s life looks perfect. [The Guardian] — “Perhaps, though, each of us also needs to think more carefully when we do use social media actively, about what we are trying to say and why – and how the curation of our online personas can contribute to this age of envy in which we live.”

“I make seven figures a year traveling the world and let me tell you: Influencers are bullshit.” [Matt Kepnes on Thought Catalog] — “Calling yourself an influencer is all about you. That means all you’re doing is talking about yourself and trying to show your best life on social media — while then often complaining about how many hours you work and how hard it is. You know why it’s hard? Because, since you don’t really create anything of value to others, you have to hustle for every dollar…‘Inspiration porn’ only goes so far.

Lastly, check out the Personal Finance Club account on Instagram. Nearly every day, Jeremy Schneider posts fun and informative images and infographics to help people get better with money. This is an example of how we — all of us — can use social media as a tool for good.

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

“I make a lot more money than my girlfriend. It’s causing problems.”

It’s another freaky Friday, money nerds, and we’re glad to have you with us. Got some great stuff for you today. Let’s dive right in.

The man with the golden airline ticket. [Narratively] — “My dad was one of the only people with a good-for-life, go-anywhere American Airlines pass. Then they took it away. This is the true story of having — and losing — a superpower.” This story is long but it’s a great read.

“I make significantly more money than my new girlfriend. It’s causing problems.” [/r/relationship_advice on Reddit] — “I’m an anesthesiologist in Washington, D.C. and make over 300k a year…My gal works at a nonprofit and makes 55k a year. She’s a bit of a penny pincher, happy to spend money on trips and dining out, but budgets religiously and tracks every penny she spends. We’ve been dating for about four months now, and it’s going really well. I love spending time with her. The issue is, I think she’s uncomfortable with how much money I make…Any thoughts on how to navigate this?

Who actually feels satisfied about money? [The Atlantic] — “These days, not even the rich feel rich. According to a recent survey by the financial-advisory firm Ameriprise Financial, only 13 percent of American millionaires classify themselves as wealthy. Even some of those surveyed who had more than $5 million…said they didn’t feel rich. If multimillionaires don’t feel wealthy, who does?

Lastly, here’s a perfect piece to finish a Friday: a classic stand-up comedy routine from George Carlin in which he talks about how our lives are dominated by Stuff:

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

The spending smile of early retirement.

Hello, money nerds, and happy Thursday.

Financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) dominate the discussion at money blogs today. (Maybe a little too much, in fact.) Jim and I don’t want Apex to turn into a FIRE festival, so we’re careful not to go overboard with the F.I. links. That said, today’s top stories are all about FIRE.

An interactive guide to early retirement and financial independence. [Minifi] — There are l-o-t-s of “intro to FIRE articles” out there. I’ve written them. You may have written them. What sets this piece apart, however, are its interactive tools. These are useful for newbies and FI veterans.

My two biggest fears since retiring. [Route to Retire] — What got you here may not get you there. That’s something to think about if you’re an aggressive saver: Will you be able to “turn that off” in retirement? “It’s not a fear of running out of money, but rather trying to get used to the idea that it’s OK to spend it now.”

The spending “smile” of early retirement. [The Military Guide] — “This post will help you figure out your retirement [spending]…I’ll walk you through our 20 years of financial independence, how our spending had changed through the years, and how our retirement has remained on track the entire time – without financial interruptions.”

The aggregation of marginal conveniences. [Accidental Fire] — “I choose to consciously monitor the amount of comfort and convenience in my life as a way of slowing down my slide on the slope. The life of a king where everything is done for me and I don’t have to lift a finger frankly sounds miserable. I want to earn parts of my life. It leads to growth, gratitude, learning, and accomplishment.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

Getting the most from credit-card points.

Hola, money nerds, and welcome to Wednesday. I hope you’re having a good week so far. Today we have three articles and one video for you — and 75% of our stories are travel-related.

How to squeeze the most value out of credit-card points. [Movement Capital] — “Have you ever wondered if you’re getting the most value out of your credit card points? This post explains how to make your points stretch further, avoid annual fees, and ranks the most valuable sign-up bonuses. Travel blogs make money from affiliate links that pay them if you get approved for a card. This creates an incentive to push cards with high affiliate payouts and results in less coverage of other cards. This post doesn’t have any affiliate links.

The best way to tour a country is through its grocery stores. [New York magazine] — “Grocery stores have the gritty, hustling authenticity of a bodega or street cart with the propriety and promise of Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. And they offer a tourist-free paradise for people-watching, especially the kind of locals tourists never meet.”

True story: I’m a big believer in visiting grocery stores when I travel. Like the author of the article above, I find that they’re a great way to get to know a city’s (and country’s) culture. I also try to visit department stores when I travel, to buy one piece of clothing in each country. Final tip? Get your hair cut when you travel. It’s a trip!

Life Two: What we used to call “retirement”. [The Financial Times] — “Life One is our grown-up working life. Life Two is what follows. It’s the best part of life, so much so that Life One is just the long prologue that finally gives way to the main event, when enjoyment, happiness, and fulfilment peak.”

Let’s finish today with this video from Ask Sebby in which he reveals his hotel-room upgrade strategy. I’m not very sophisticated with my travel hacking, so videos like this are valuable to me.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be poor.”

Today is Tuesday, money nerds, and that means it’s time for more of the best money stories from around the web.

“I don’t know what it’s like to be poor.” [The Power of Thrift] — “An old friend called me up the other day and asked me to loan him some money. He was one of my favorite people once, but I haven’t spoken to him in years and I haven’t seen his face in more than a decade, so his request startled me…It felt like a test, but I’m not sure I passed.

The real midlife crisis confronting many Americans. [The Conversation] — “The midlife crisis experienced by most people is subtler, more nuanced and rarely discussed among family and friends. It can be best described as the ‘big squeeze’ – a period during which middle-aged adults are increasingly confronted with the impossible choice of deciding how to split their time and money between themselves, their parents and their kids.”

Today’s last article is long but it’s interesting. It’s so good that I bought a copy of the magazine so I can read it again without a paywall.

The last frontier: Homesteaders on the margin of America. [Harper’s, so possible paywall] — “The amazing thing was that a person, even a person of very limited means, could actually buy a piece of these vast acres of land — some of it farmland with pumped irrigation but most of it just undisturbed, primeval — ­for not too much money. Not that this would be a smart investment in terms of return…”

Finally, here’s a 12-minute video I found via Four Pillar Freedom. It documents a day in the life of an average Japanese salaryman in Tokyo. If, like me, you are fascinated by the lives of others, then you’ll enjoy this piece.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

The secret to success and happiness: Don’t be an asshole.

Hello from San Diego, money nerds! As much as I wish I’d been down here for Comic Con last weekend, I’m actually here to hang out with some of my blogging buddies for a few days. I guess that’s just as nerdy.

Today’s stories follow a sort of narrative arc. Fun, right?

How to talk about money in your relationship. [Stefanie O’Connell] — “You don’t have to come right out and ask a bunch of deeply personal financial questions, but you should be on the lookout for cues and comments that might offer insights into your potential partners’ relationship with money, and think about how those views and behavior may or may not fit with your own. These clues can pop up in conversations ranging from upcoming vacation plans to how to split the check.”

Why are men still paying for first dates? [The Atlantic] — “Who’s expected to pay for a date may seem trivial — some would even argue that covering the tab is a form of respecting women — but there’s reason to believe that this minor, ‘benevolent’ form of sexism can lead to a fraught question of what the man is then owed.” [Related: Am I the asshole for letting my date pay for dinner? on Reddit.]

I was happy to marry a poor man. Then things changed. [Bitches Get Riches] — “When we met, [my husband] was an actor. He made about $20,000 every year; he had no health insurance; and nothing by way of retirement or savings…I love making money. And I’m good at it. In our partnership up to that point, making money was My Thing. By the time we got married, I was making 2.5 times the money he was, in a career with much more growth potential. I’d paid off my student loans early and weaseled him onto my insurance.” [Related: Am I the asshole for making my “yes” to my boyfriend’s marriage proposal contingent on him getting a better ring? on Reddit.]

Want to be happy and successful? Don’t be an asshole. [Fast Company] — “There is an arc to being an asshole. The aspirants (people trying to make a living) are generally kind…The near successful (where I’ve spent most of my adult life) tend to over-index on the asshole meter…The super-successful people I know are usually nicer, more generous, and generally better mannered.”

I think that last bit of advice could serve as a fully-functional life philosophy: Don’t be an asshole. In fact, it’s essentially the 4000-year-old Golden Rule stated in reverse.

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.