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Apex Money Posts

Your burning questions about money — answered.

Hello, my friends. Welcome to Tuesday. Today’s edition of Apex money, as always, features some of our favorite recent money stories from around the web. And today, each featured article asks (and answers) a question! Take a gander…

What is lifestyle design? (And why does it matter?) [The Fioneers] — “I actually prefer to think of lifestyle design as an action or an identity. I want to be in the process of designing a life that I love. I want to be a lifestyle designer. When learning about lifestyle design, it was helpful for me to breakdown the phrase into its component parts.”

How much should you pay for tax preparation? [The Wealth Accountant] — “A good place to start your accountant search is by asking people in a similar situation as you are. If you have income properties, ask other income property owners who they use as a tax professional. Business owners should do the same. If you have multiple state issues you certainly need to find someone in the same boat you are because not all tax professionals handle out-of-state or multiple state tax returns.”

Which password manager should you use to secure your digital life? [Wired] — “Now that so many people are working from home, outside the office intranet, the number of passwords you need may have significantly increased…A password manager offers convenience and, more importantly, helps you create better passwords, which makes your online existence less vulnerable to password-based attacks.”

Finally, here’s something that has nothing to do with money.

Until I became obsessed with Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation earlier this year, my favorite film of all time was Alien — the first one. It’s a nearly perfect film. (Rogue Nation upped the bar. I’m not even joking.) I’ve seen Alien dozens of times in my life, and I hope to see it dozens more.

Well, HBO Max has re-created the trailers for ten classic films (including Alien) in a modern style. These are fun…but they also make me tense. I hate hate hate the short-attention span, quick-cut video that’s so prominent today. (It’s one reason I don’t like TikTok.)

Still, it’s fun to compare the original trailer for Alien

to the “modern” trailer for Alien

I don’t know. That first trailer is a classic. I remember seeing it in the theater (at age ten) and being both scared and intrigued.

The second trailer looks like every other movie preview on the market today. And like all modern trailers, it gives away too much of the movie. It’s the entire movie in two minutes instead of two hours.

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more fun stuff. See you then!

“Divorce ruined my finances (but saved my life).”

Hey hey, everyone! It’s Monday, March the 22nd. Spring has sprung! (Astronomical spring, anyhow. Meteorological spring started three weeks ago.) It’s my 52nd birthday on Thursday. Kim and I are prepping to sell our home. Things are CRAZY, I tell you. CRAZY!

Add to that craziness a brand-new money blog. Women’s Personal Finance started as a Facebook community three years ago, a community that many of my friends love. And now the founders of that group have started a supporting website. My buddy Gwen (from Fiery Millennials) pointed me to the site yesterday.

Women’s Personal Finance is a membership community first and a website second. Those who join get access to a quality group of like-minded folks, a monthly newsletter, and more. I like it! I hope it flourishes for years to come. To that end, our first article today comes from WPF…

Divorce ruined my finances but saved my life. [Women’s Personal Finance] — “In one harsh, cold decision, our whole world flipped upside down. I left with less than half our assets and all my debt, including some credit card debt from the move and the divorce. While I could have fought to have him help me pay it, we couldn’t afford lawyers, and I wanted freedom more than I wanted equality.”

Am I the asshole for hiding a large savings account from my husband? [/r/AmItheAsshole] — “My (44F) husband (46M) is a big spender. Whenever we have money to spare, he wants to buy something new for the house or for his car or boat. For this reason I have a secret checking account that I rarely use for purchases I don’t want him to know about…He found the [account] and asked me why I had a debit card he didn’t know about. Eventually I confessed that I was saving it for our vacation. He was really mad…Am I the asshole?” Reddit’s verdict? Not the asshole. My verdict? Also, not the asshole. What’s your verdict?

“The evolution of my thoughts on spending money.” [A Purple Life] — “I always assumed that my thoughts on spending money would remain stagnant, like my thoughts on marriage or having kids. However, it turns out that my view of spending has evolved almost as much as my thoughts on time.”

To round things up for today, here’s a crazy (but cool) five-minute video of a beekeeper removing a hive and moving it to a new location — all without gear. THIS FREAKS ME OUT!

I admire this woman’s courage. This is not for me. I have a bee allergy, and while I know the little guys are nice, they scare me. (I hate ants too, but that’s another story.)

Okay, that’s it for Day #1 one my birthday week. I’ll see you again tomorrow with more great stuff. See you then!

Don’t be salty

Salt!

How a Salt Monopoly Could Spike Car Accidents in the Midwest [BIG by Matt Stoller] – “Michael Milken, private equity, and a salt roll-up are showing we’re in for shortages and price spikes.” This was fascinating to read because of its discussion of the importance of salt (I did not know the magnitude of its importance in transportation) but also the larger implications of a roll-up in the industry.

How We Removed 80% of Our Unhappiness in The Home [Keepin’ It Frugal] – “In 2020, we removed 80% of our unhappiness in the home. Using the 80/20 rule, we took stock of what grated on us most, and one by one started eliminating them. The results were huge.” We started doing this at home too, finding those areas that bother us and slowly fixing them so they don’t bother us anymore. A lot of it is organizational (kids toys!) so very fast, just have to get your hands on it. Those pesky bebbles!

It’s Friday so two pieces of candy today —

Something fun for you to play with – draw an iceberg and see how it’ll float. (kinda)

Something fun for you to watch – How to impress a woman.

Poverty is used as a cudgel to get people to work

Stockton’s Basic-Income Experiment Pays Off [The Atlantic] – “Two years ago, the city of Stockton, California, did something remarkable: It brought back welfare. Using donated funds, the industrial city on the edge of the Bay Area tech economy launched a small demonstration program, sending payments of $500 a month to 125 randomly selected individuals living in neighborhoods with average incomes lower than the city median of $46,000 a year. The recipients were allowed to spend the money however they saw fit, and they were not obligated to complete any drug tests, interviews, means or asset tests, or work requirements. They just got the money, no strings attached.”

What happened next will (not) shock you!

How To Prepare For Prosperity [His & Her Money] – “You must be ready to be completely done with the debt that you have in your life. It gets hard being in the same place every single month, being in debt and being in over your head with bills. You have to get yourself to the mental space where you are tired of it and ready to get out of the hole you have dug yourself in. […] Believe you can do it. The change will not be comfortable. Be prepared for that too. Just remember this is going to lead to the best future for you and your family.”

NFTs are a dangerous trap [Seth Godin] – “BUYERS of NFTs may be blind to the fact that there’s no limit on the supply. In the case of baseball cards, there are only so many rookies a year. In the case of art, there’s a limited number of famous paintings and a limited amount of shelf space at Sotheby’s. NFTs are going to be more like Kindle books and YouTube videos. The vast majority are going to have ten views, not a billion. It’s an unregulated, non-transparent hustle with ‘bubble’ written all over it.”

This is just a cool drone video inside a bowling alley:

What Would Change in Life If You Were Rich?

An interesting thought experiment – what would change in your life if you were rich? As in Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos rich…

Being Rich – What Would Change in Life? [Route to Retire] – “It’s hard to digest everything you could do if you had an unlimited amount of funds. Being rich – like really rich – would certainly give you the power to change the world if you wanted.”

12 Things I Remind Myself When Markets Go Crazy [A Wealth of Common Sense] – “3. Your gains will be incinerated at some point. Investing in risk assets means occasionally seeing your gains evaporate before your eyes. I don’t know why and I don’t know when but at some point a large portion of my portfolio will fall in value. That’s how this works.”

Is investing a zero-sum game? [Occam Investing] – “To understand whether investing is a zero-sum game, a useful place to start is a concept known as Sharpe’s Arithmetic of Active Management. Sharpe’s arithmetic begins with the premise that the equity market is owned by two kinds of investors: a) market cap indexers, who own every equity in the market in proportion to its market capitalisation (known as “passive investors”), and, b) active investors, each of whom owns a portfolio of equities which they believe will outperform.” That’s just a teaser but the summation is that active management is for the birds. 🙂

Speaking of which… how flipping cool is this??? I also learned a new word – “murmuration.”

How to conduct a weekly financial review

Adam at Minafi is a really smart guy who makes some fantastically intuitive tools on his financial independence blog. If I can be honest, I’m super envious of them because they look so elegant. 🙂

Anyway, enough fawning… last week, he shared a good framework for weekly reviews:

How To Conduct a Weekly Review to Keep Yourself on Track [Minafi] – “Whether you call is journaling, mindfulness or just scheduling, spending a few minutes to create a plan for your week is the best step towards reaching your goals.”

A Mental Trick to Make Any Task Less Intimidating [Forge] – “All you have to do is picture yourself on the other side.”

Are The Simpsons Still Middle Class? [NPR] – “Back in 1989, the very first episode of The Simpsons aired on Fox. Since then, the Simpsons have become an iconic American family: The dopey, good hearted Homer; Marge, the rock of the family; three kids; two cars; a dog and a house. Money’s always tight but they make it work. Over 30 years later, however, the Simpsons’ life doesn’t feel so normal anymore. The idea that you could have one breadwinner working a job at a power plant supporting a family of five in the suburbs seems a little … unattainable.”

Related to The Simpsons but not related to money is this fun clip of The Simpson’s opening but live action:

Regret minimization framework

I’ve long operated on a simple principle famously put into words by Jeff Bezos – regret minimization.

His story about deciding to start Amazon was similar to my decision to quit my (great) job at Booz Allen Hamilton to work on my personal finance blog, Bargaineering. The thought of quitting a stable job, where I had a security clearance, to work on a “blog” seemed incredibly risky and reckless. I can’t imagine what my friends thought of my choice.

But it was about regret minimization. I would know very quickly, within a few years, if the blogging thing was for me and whether I could succeed in it. Plus, I could always go back. Turns out, at least so far, I’ve made the right decisions.

I asked hundreds of people about their biggest life decisions. Here’s what I learned [The Conversation] – “You make decisions all the time. Most are small. However, some are really big: they have ramifications for years or even decades. In your final moments, you might well think back on these decisions — and some you may regret.”

That article introduced me to the book by Bronnie Ware (which I have yet to read, I only discovered it last week) but this Guardian article goes into greater detail on the five regrets:

Top five regrets of the dying [The Guardian] – “A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?”

5 Regrets Of The Dying And Why Financial Freedom Is The Answer [Financial Freedom Countdown] – “This was the most common regret when people realize that their life is almost over and look back to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. If you are stuck in the hamster wheel of earning, spending, earning, spending; you will soon realize that you need to keep on working for a very long period of time.”

It’s not easy to read but something everyone should.

Maybe money DOES buy happiness after all.

Yay! It’s Friday! But before you head into your weekend, here are a few final money articles for you to digest and absorb.

Why retirees go broke. [The Retirement Café] — “Retirees don’t go broke as a result of sequence of returns risk. They go broke as a result of illness, injury, unemployment, housing problems, divorce, birth or adoption, death or illness of a family member, forced retirement, identity theft, consumer debt and aggressive debt collection and the interconnected, cascading effects of all of the above.”

The mystery of trust. [Comment] — “To make an institution more trustworthy when the conditions animating the trust from yesteryear have shifted or frayed, you need to take risks. You need to be willing and able to change the structure and incentives (and often the people). You need to make genuine strides toward public accountability. This is not just technical or cosmetic; it is moral.”

Maybe money does buy happiness after all. [Visual Capitalist] — “What’s the relationship between money and happiness? Previous studies have indicated that, while money can in fact buy happiness, it plateaus at approximately $75,000/year. However, new research suggests otherwise.”

Adding a legacy letter to your estate planning documents. [Humble Dollar] — “Your estate plan specifies what you want done with your money and possessions after your death. But your life’s treasures extend beyond these material items — to your values, heritage, relationships, hopes, dreams, memories and stories. You can share some of this with family and friends through a legacy letter”

Lastly, from the Break the Twitch channel on YouTube, here’s a five-minute video about how to build good habits through minimal viable actions. A minimally viable action is the smallest and easiest-to-do action of the habit you are trying to form.

For a more in-depth look at this concept, check out the accompanying article at the Break the Twitch blog.

And that’s it for this week! Jim will be back on Monday with more of the best from the world of personal finance. Until then, stay healthy and grow wealthy.

Make fewer things matter.

Hello again, and welcome to Thursday. Before we dive into our regularly-scheduled money articles, I wanted to share a sign of hope. A sign of spring. A sign of a world returning to normal — I hope.

COVID gods willing, the EconoMe Conference is planning to return this November! Yay! Early bird tickets just launched this week. I’ll be there, as will some of my favorite folks from money media. If you’re interested in improving your financial life, you should check it out.

With that out of the way, let’s look at some recent money stories from around the web.

Make fewer things matter. [The Finance Buff] — “Making fewer things matter helps you zero in on things that really matter. It also helps you ward off FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) and sales pitches. FOMO and sales pitches always try to grab your attention by saying you’re making a mistake. When you don’t mind making a mistake because you made fewer things matter, the sales pitches slide right off.”

What percentage of income do people really donate to charity? [My Money Blog] — “People across all income levels gave between 1% and 2% of their incomes to charity on average, after adjusting for effect of outliers. This is not to say that this number is the ‘right’ amount to give for any specific household.” Related: How to give with more impact from Smart Money Mamas.

How we paid off a mortgage against all odds. [Mad Money Monster] — “Eight months after the announcement and start of the pandemic our accelerated financial plan was achieved in reality. We felt an immediate sense of relief. I mean the kind of relief that makes you sigh out loud. You know what I’m talking about.”

How much money is enough? [Rinkydoo Finance] — “Many people who read this article will undoubtedly be looking for a specific dollar amount that will bring everlasting happiness, rainbows, and fulfillment. That’s really sweet and philosophical. However, you need to determine your exact intentions for the money. Otherwise, you’ll never have enough.”

And that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow to take us into the weekend. See you then!

The ten biggest money mistakes.

Good morning, money nerds. Welcome back. Once again, Jim and I have collected some of our favorite stories about money (and related subjects) to share with you.

The ten biggest money mistakes. [Of Dollars and Data] – “Because mistakes are not only the foolish things that we do, but also the reasonable things that we don’t do…I’ve compiled a list of the 10 biggest money mistakes that I see people make, with an emphasis on the dumb things we do and the smart things we don’t do.”

The ten biggest money mistakes — analyzed. [Lazy Man and Money] — “There was a Twitter thread that went viral (for money conversations at least) about money mistakes that caught my attention. It caught my attention because everyone agreed that it was very good. I agree that it was very good too. However, I thought that each mention of a money mistake had a lot more nuance that deserved a deeper look.”

Framing a reward is as important as the reward itself. [Nir and Far] — “[Loyalty programs] typically attract customers by offering better prices or superior products…Yet focusing on what a customer can acquire, instead of the time and money they’ve already spent, could be one reason these programs are ineffective. The trick is not strengthening the link between use and loyalty with better deals. It’s reinforcing the perceived relationship between use and loyalty.”

Thriving residents lead to thriving cities. [Urban Institute] — “The economic health of cities and communities depends on the financial health and stability of their residents…Families with a savings cushion as little as $250 to $749 are less likely to be evicted, miss a housing or utility payment, or receive public benefits after a job loss, health issue, or large income drop. Higher savings levels are associated with even lower hardship and benefit receipt.”

Why you should carry renters insurance. [Consumer Reports] — “Millions of Americans have discovered the benefits of renters insurance. Because landlords aren’t liable for any personal possessions or activities in your apartment, these policies can provide an important safety net if something happens.”

And today’s video is a 13-minute clip highlighting life lessons from three hundred-year-old Brits.

I’m always fascinated by studies of longevity, even when they’re anecdotal and informal like this. I feel like there’s a lot to be learned from folks who manage to enjoy long, rich lives.

Speaking of which: I’ll be back tomorrow with more stories to help you enjoy a long, rich life. See you then…