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The best stuff won’t make you happier.

Today is Tuesday, money nerds. I’m J.D. Roth and this is Apex Money.

Generally speaking, Jim and I don’t like to promote our own stuff here at Apex. This is a place to promote the work of other people. Today, I’m going to link to two pieces in which I play a big role. They’re not from any of my sites, but they both feature interviews with me. But I think they both contain good info, so I’m going to do it.

First up is an interview I did with Jess from The Fioneers:

Money doesn’t magically fix our problems. [The Fioneers] — “Today, that’s exactly how I see money: a tool. No, that’s not quite right. I see money as fuel. That’s a better analogy. A tool is durable and reusable. Money is not. Money is consumable. It’s a fuel source to help you fund the life you want. If you burn this fuel making detours to stops that don’t matter (buying things you don’t want or need, for instance), then you’re compromising your ability to reach the destination you have in mind.”

Second is an interview about writing that I did with Jacob from The Root of All. It’s at the end of his longer piece about spending in the time of COVID.

Spending in the time of COVID. [The Root of All] — “The most important to become a good writer is simple: Write. Write all of the fucking time. I talk to a lot of people who say they want to become writers, but they don’t ever write. They just talk about it. If you want to be a writer, you have to write. More than that, you have to share your writing with other people, and you can’t be precious about it.”

Okay, enough about me. Let’s close things out today with a couple of other interesting money articles from other sources:

How our perceptions of time and money change as we age. [Retire Before Dad] — “Our perceptions of the value of time and money shift as we age. In early adulthood, time is abundant, while money is scarcer. We want more money and are willing to sacrifice our time to get it. By middle age, a thriving career helps us earn more, but job and family obligations consume our time. Life is expensive, and working middle-aged people never seem to have enough time or money. Approaching retirement, we’re more willing to spend money to save time.”

“The best stuff won’t make you happier. I know because I tried it.” [Vox] — “It isn’t just a display of wealth; it’s your morality: that you are indeed the Informed Consumer, able to not only afford the best but to know what ‘the best’ even is. It’s a marketing strategy that is not new, of course, but that seems to work particularly well at the present moment.”

That’s it for today! Tomorrow, the folks from the Plutus Foundation will drop by with their weekly round-up. I’ll be back on Thursday with more great stuff. See you then.


Hey, everyone. It’s J.D. again. Thanks to Jim for carrying all of the Apex Money duties during the past month while I was preoccupied.

You see, my mother died on October 3. This wasn’t unexpected — her health had been declining for a long, long time — but October has been difficult nevertheless.

I spent all of last week doing nothing: walking the dog, staring into space, browsing Reddit for hours at a time. I feel listless and apathetic. I have so much to do but no will to do it. The best way to get back in the swing of things, though, is simply to take action. So that’s what I’m doing. Let’s see what sorts of goodies I’ve found for you today…

The people making millions off Listerine royalties [The Hustle] — “Most types of intellectual protections (trademarks, copyrights, patents) have a built-in expiration date: Patents automatically expire after 20 years, at which point a company can no longer charge a royalty. Listerine’s formula, however, was a trade secret — and a trade secret, the court ruled, can have a perpetual royalty contract.” This is a fascinating story, and one of my favorite pieces of the year.

Does shopping at a warehouse club really save anything? [Chief Mom Officer] — “This week I’m going to do a bit of an old school series on warehouse clubs. Today I’m going to share with you the research I did to look critically and closely at a typical BJ’s shopping trip and see what, if anything, we saved over other options in town. On Wednesday I’ll go through a bunch of warehouse club shopping tips. And on Friday I’ll talk about how to figure out what kind of shopping options work best for your family.”

The power of a “what if we didn’t own this?” bag. [Rich in What Matters] — “Many things enter our home that don’t actually serve a purpose in our lives. We don’t use them, love them, or need them. The purpose of material possessions is to be used for some good. If we’re holding onto things that have no value, we are keeping them from fulfilling their true purpose in someone else’s life.”

Lastly, here’s a YouTube rant from the GiantGrantGames channel that I really, really liked: “YouTube ads are getting insane, and I hate it.” This video explores the growing problem with YouTube ads and suggests some solutions.

As somebody who’s prepping to dive (back) into video, I found this fascinating. I was a Google early adopter. I told everyone I could about how awesome the company was. No more. Google long ago discarded their “don’t be evil” motto and embraced the Dark Side. I hate it.

I’ve slowly been shedding everything Google from my life…even gmail! Doing so is difficult, though, and makes it tougher for content creators to earn a living. My aim is to have zero percent of Get Rich Slowly’s content on Google platforms, but I still need to puzzle out how to make this happen. Will people really go to Vimeo to watch videos instead of using YouTube? I don’t know.

Eating the Seed Corn

It’s not every day we share a post from a big bank but this one is useful in that it helps me understand why we it seems Americans are able to continue to spend despite higher prices. Despite all the talk of recession and a slowdown (and the Fed doing its best to urge it along), people seem fine.

But that’s because we are spending down more of our savings… which can spell more acute pain later. 🙁

Eating the Seed Corn: How Long Can Consumers Rely on Savings? [Wells Fargo] – “Consumers have yet to lose their staying power, and our analysis of household finances suggests consumers still have the ability to rely on their balance sheets for some time yet. The catch: The more consumers rely on their balance sheets to spend today, the larger deterioration we’ll see in overall household finances and the worse the eventual economic downturn may be.”

We love our gas stove and so I was saddened to read about all the studies on gas stoves and indoor air quality. The prognosis isn’t great, considering you are burning stuff, but the solution isn’t bad. Fortunately, we use our range hood all the time (we went from probably 75% of the time to now 100%). Just a heads up if you didn’t know.

Your Brain on Gas Stoves [Slate] – “They release a slew of pollutants that aren’t great for kids—but there’s a simple way to improve the situation.”

In a shock to no one, stressful jobs increase depression risk. 🙁

In stressful jobs, depression risk rises with hours worked, study in new doctors finds [Sciency Daily] – “The more hours someone works each week in a stressful job, the more their risk of depression rises, a study in new doctors finds. Working 90 or more hours a week was associated with changes in depression symptom scores three times larger than the change in depression symptoms among those working 40 to 45 hours a week. A higher percentage of those who worked a large number of hours had scores high enough to qualify for a diagnosis of moderate to severe depression.”

OK, I can’t leave you all doomy and gloomy… ever curious about The Economics of Pumpkin Patches?

Default mode

Default mode matters a lot. Too many people accept the default option and so we should design systems in which the default mode is better for user, if all other things are kept equal.

Also, recognizing default mode is important if you want to avoid making big mistakes in your life. There are a lot of bad default options.

Default Mode [Accidentally Retired] – “Whether it is a default presented to you in your favorite app, the on-boarding for a new job, or in every day life. We accept the default. What administrators, app developers, or healthcare providers choose for our defaults can make a huge difference.”

Why It’s So Tough to Save Money When You’re Poor [Money Ning] – “We can all agree that living paycheck-to-paycheck is not an ideal situation. And it’s just as obvious that individuals doing this still need to save their money and build a financial cushion so they can finally feel secure. Unfortunately, the basic rules of saving money are simple but not easy – particularly if you’re already behind the financial ball. Here are three reasons why it’s so difficult for people in poverty to improve their situation…”

That new watch really makes you less likeable [Klement on Investing] – “I don’t think I will surprise anyone when I say that the studies showed that people who posted about the stuff they bought were rated as less likable than people who posted without mentioning a recent purchase. But people who were showing off their material purchases also were less liked than people who posted about their experiential purchases. And, importantly, whether people were posting about material purchases or experiential purchases, they become less likable the more often they posted about their purchases. The people who posted without mentioning any purchases, on the other hand, became more likable over time.” More accurately, posting about how you just got a new watch makes you less likeable.

How Ana Paid Off $100K of Medical Debt.

Hey Plutus family! Have you ever racked up medical bills and wonder how you were going to paid It? Have you ever wondered how someone can pay off $100k in medical debt? Well, we were wondering too and came across this great article on how Ana paid off $100k in medical debt.

Here’s what we wanted to share with you this week.

Creating a Safety Net for Your Life. [Physician on Fire] — “We all know that life is unpredictable. In fact, the only thing that’s certain is that things will be uncertain. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I think the majority of people are risk-averse. We’re concerned about the future and its potential for unfortunate circumstances. If we weren’t, there would be no such thing as insurance–and there’s insurance for just about everything.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

How Ana Paid Off $100k of Medical Debt. [Her First $100k] — “What I thought would be a quick visit to the emergency room to get a cast suddenly turned into a three-day hospital stay with around the clock care – a stay that would have to be paid out of pocket because I didn’t have health insurance.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

The Biggest Risk of All. [Money Flamingo] — “In the personal finance community we often talk about risks. The risk of running out of money in retirement; the risk of picking the wrong investment or getting the timing wrong; sequence of return risk; the risk of losing our job during the accumulation phase; leverage risk – you name it.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

Reverse Waiting

I (Jim) really like this idea of reverse waiting.

Reverse Waiting [Mitchell Landon] – “If “comparison is the thief of joy” then waiting is its partner in crime. Sure, it’s great to have things to look forward to, but not at the expense of our happiness today.”

How to Be More Resilient, According to an Elite Performance Coach [GQ] – “What is a better conception of toughness than “push through the pan to get on the other side of it?”

It’s creating space so that you can navigate. When we go through challenging things, it’s almost like the wind compresses and we feel like we have to react. We feel some anxiety and then our immediate reaction is, “Get me out of this situation. Escape, escape, escape.” Toughness is creating the space so that you don’t default to that easy decision, but instead can figure out, okay, how do I work through this in a productive manner?”

Bored? Here are some of the most viral videos of all time.

The Greatest Achievements in Dumb Internet Video [Polygon] – “This list aims to define a canon of funny videos created for the vast expanse of the internet. Ignoring nostalgia and their virality, it’s an attempt to carve out a Criterion Collection of completely stupid, but absolutely genius internet content. This is a list you could confidently show an alien who just landed on Earth and asked, “so what’s the internet like?””

What’s Happening With Our Rental Property?

When we (Jim) purchased our first home, I considered the rental aspect of it but not in the same detail as the Frugalwoods (as you’ll see in their update post). When we moved out, we rented it to our friends who needed a place to stay for six months.

I’m not going to lie, it was fun collecting rent. We broke even but it was nice to “build equity” in the house. Also, since it was our friends, there was no risk of them messing up the house.

I think this review by the Frugalwoods is great because of how comprehensive it is (or more to the point, how comprehensive they were in their analysis).

What’s Happening With Our Rental Property? [Frugalwoods] – “When you buy a home to live in with a plan to later rent it out, you’re doing two things at once. You have to consider the property more from an investment perspective and less from an emotional “I love this house” perspective. This isn’t always possible (or advisable), but, if you live in a hot rental market and have aspirations of building a passive income stream, buying a home that can be turned into a rental can be a great option.”

This next one is scary. We’re all just “little” one accident away from financial ruin.

How Ana Paid Off $100K of Medical Debt [Her First $100K] – “I sent the text, washed my hands, and was just about to head back to the table when I stepped on a wet spot on the floor and slipped. The next thing I knew, my date and I were at the hospital and I was unknowingly going to take on $100,000 of medical debt. “A catastrophic elbow fracture” were the exact words the doctor used.” Read the whole thing because it actually contains a solid playbook for how to deal with medical debt like this – this isn’t a “she paid off the whole $100k,” she took steps to lower it and then paid it off. It’s brilliant.

Research: Simple Writing Pays Off (Literally) [Harvard Business Review] – ” Financial writing is full of jargon and complexity. But a series of research suggests that investors are drawn to simple, clear writing with short sentences. The simple reason is that complex writing is off-putting — people tune out and find it dull, a fact confirmed by neuroscience research. The author reviews a series of studies on the financial value of good writing and offers a few tips to companies looking to communicate more clearly with investors, or with anyone else.”

29 Fun Ways to Stay Connected

I love lists of activity ideas because you’re always bound to find something new that you never considered.

Today’s post is courtesy of Andy Hill’s blog, Marriage Kids and Money, and while it’s a little chilly to “beachcomb” we may find ourselves doing some karaoke this weekend.

Family Bonding Activities: 29 Fun Ways to Stay Connected [Marriage Kids and Money] – “Are you craving closeness with your kids and spouse? Say “no” to a few opportunities or obligations and be intentional about time spent with just your family. No matter your children’s ages, you’ll find something on this list of family bonding activities to spark their interest and have a blast reconnecting.”

When the Money’s Just Too Damn Good [Infinite Play] – “I now understand, too, my mental cycle with writing and money. I don’t regret the past diversions: they’ve given me a much better starting point than most people who decide to take their writing seriously. But now that I know it’s how my mind works, I can better guard against future diversions. Future distractions by other people’s success. Future desires to “just go make some money for a little bit.” And hopefully, once I’m in the flow for long enough, the little voice in my head to go do something else will go away.”

Did you know that the Economic Policy Institute has a Family Budget Calculator? It’ll show you the monthly costs of up to two adults plus four kids in every major region, breaking down the budget into housing, food, child care, transportation, health care, other necessities, and taxes. It’s a fun little calculator that can give you a general sense but I’m not sure how accurate it is.

And to ease you into the weekend… Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale!

Have a great weekend!

A cashless society discriminates?

I don’t carry much cash and I find it really convenient to live without it. But I 100% get the point of the first article we’re sharing today – that cashless payments put some people in a difficult position.

Does cashless society discriminate against the poor and elderly? [Data Science W231] – “The growing use of cashless payment puts financially disenfranchised populations at a disadvantage as they cannot participate in services that require cashless payments and pay higher cost when transacting in cash.”

Every Storm Runs Out of Rain [Granite Wealth Management] – “One thing we know for certain is that every single bear market in the history of the stock market has come to an end, and we’ve ended up in a better place than when it all started. Sometimes that turnaround happens fast (initial COVID quarantine period saw the market eclipse its pre-COVID high by mid-August 2020 – that’s quick!), while other times it happens much more slowly (i.e. the Great Financial Crisis, which took years). While inside of those negative periods, our brains turn on their “pessimism bias,” where our thoughts tend to skew towards the negative, insinuating things will never get better and we are doomed. ”

This next article has nothing to do with personal finance but I find it absolutely shocking and sad. 🙁

Alaska cancels snow crab season for first time after population collapses [The Washington Post] – “Alaska will cancel the upcoming winter snow crab season in the Bering Sea for the first time, and bar fishers from catching king crabs in the Bristol Bay for a second consecutive year, because of a sharp decline in their estimated population.”

This Isn’t Your Grandparents’ Recession.

Wednesday is our favorite day of the week. Why? Because the Plutus team gets to showcase top money stories with you. So, prop your iPad up, sip on your coffee, and enjoy these great articles. See you next Wednesday!

Here’s what we wanted to share with you this week.

Cash Management in Early Retirment. [Accidentally Retired] — “Cash management in early retirement has turned out to be a rather stressful endeavor. When I first left negotiated my severance and left corporate America it was easy to know that I still had money coming in for awhile. But eventually all gravy train runs dry, and then I was left figuring out an action…” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

This Isn’t Your Grandparents’ Recession. [Surviving and Thriving] — “When the going gets tough, it’s tempting to invoke our grandparents and their tribulations during the Great Depression. I’m about to commit cultural heresy: A lot of their advice wouldn’t help us.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

7 Things I Don’t Regret Spending Money on as a Minimalist. [Rich What Matters] — “The deeper I’ve journeyed into minimalism, the more purposeful my purchasing behavior has become. What I spend money on now communicates what I value and supports my life.” (Submitted by J. Money.)