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Apex Money Posts

Renting vs. buying

The rent vs. buy question is one of the oldest in personal finance debates. If you’re my parents’ generation, the advice was to buy if you could afford it. No question about it. Renting was “throwing money away” and you wanted to buy to build equity.

But it’s rarely so clear. There are obvious advantages to both.

We own our home because we prefer stability. As an owner, your housing payment doesn’t change significantly (only increases as property taxes increase) and no one can kick you out. There are other advantages of but those are the biggest ones.

But renting has advantages too, as we’ll see in the first post:

Advantages of Renting: Why I Rent Instead of Buy [Life and My Finances] – “One day, I imagine owning a home where my husband and I can raise a family. But right now, I’m a happy renter and I plan to rent instead of buy for at least more five years. Here are my top five advantages of renting…”

There’s no one size fits all advice in the world. And this applies to sleep as well. 🙂

Individual Circadian Clocks Might Be the Next Frontier of Personalized Medicine
[TIME] – “Although the federal government recommends that Americans sleep seven or more hours per night for optimal health and functioning, new research is challenging the assumption that sleep is a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. Scientists have found that our internal body clocks vary so greatly that they could form the next frontiers of personalized medicine. By listening more closely to the ticking of our internal clocks, researchers expect to uncover novel ways to help everybody get more out of their sleeping and waking lives.”

24 Places to Get Free Books Online [A Dime Saved] – “I absolutely love reading! I am a real bookworm. There is nothing better than curling up with a great book. Books can get pretty expensive so I am constantly searching for the best ways to get free books online.”

Meet the psychic that big-money Wall Street traders depend on [NY Post] – “When it comes to playing the stock market, buttoned-up bankers are turning to a new form of market analysis before hedging their bets: A New York City tarot-card reader.”

Have yourself a great day!

232 Sand Dollars

As we enter our fifth (sixth?) month of isolation because of the pandemic, we’ve spent a lot of time looking at the things in and around our home. Little things that were minor annoyances were quickly dispatched, since we would deal with them more frequently.

One thing that I’ve come to appreciate more are all the little tchotchkes around the house.

They are subtle memory triggers of a different time and, more importantly, a different place.

We will always have the memories but the little souvenirs trigger those memories – it’s kind of nice.

232 sand dollars [Derek Sivers] – I’ve long been a fan of Derek Sivers’ thinking, which he captures quite eloquently in his writing, and I won’t excerpt this post because it’ll take you only two minutes to read. I recommend it.

This next story is fun because it’s how I’d imagine things going if me and a few of my own friends decided to build our own cabin.

We Quit Our Jobs to Build a Cabin—Everything Went Wrong [Outside] – “We were two or three weeks into building a cabin when the first two-by-four became the target of a sudden, white-hot flash of anger. It was the summer of 2018, in the middle of Washington’s emerald-soaked Cascade Range, and I was on the phone with my father, seeking advice about some framing conundrum, while my longtime friend Patrick (who goes by Pat) was wrestling a 16-foot board toward a miter saw. When the whir of the blade stopped, it became immediately clear that he had cut it wrong. The sawdust still airborne, Pat reached down, grabbed a two-by-four with the conviction of a Baptist preacher, and sent it flying into the forest with a short, crisp, ‘Fuck.'”

And to end it on something a little weird…

A Highway Pickle Mystery Is Preserved in Missouri [Atlas Obscura] – “WE ALL HAVE OBJECTS THAT we notice every day, that ground us in our communities. Maybe it’s a particular mailbox, or a nice street tree. Maybe it’s a sign on the way to work that makes you laugh. Or maybe it’s a pickle jar, perched on a concrete wall next to a highway ramp.”

The story ends with the last sighting in 2018 but if you go to the Facebook group, someone posted last week that there are now three pickles there!

See you tomorrow!

How to find college scholarships.

Friday is here! It’s going to be a hot weekend here in Portland, but we’re keeping it cool today at Apex Money. Lots of great stuff to share with you. Ready to dive in?

Today’s video is actually useful. (It’s not about cats and birthday cakes.) Here’s Marie Forleo interviewing Alexandra Carter about her new book, Ask for More: Ten Question to Negotiate Anything.

But I don’t want to leave you cat lovers out in the cold. No no. So, let’s lead with a cat-related story…

The financial benefit of cats. [The Wealthy Accountant] — “Up till this point we focused on the money you can save from having a resident cat. Even a minor reduction in medical costs can turn your tabby into to a financial dynamo. Add the personal benefits and joy of petting and playing with your furry friend and it becomes clear cats really are a member of the family. But saving money is only one financial benefit of cat ownership. You can also make make money with cats.”

How to find college scholarships to help your kid graduate debt-free. [Physician on Fire] — “Scholarships can be the difference between graduating with a mountain of debt that may take decades to pay back or starting a new career without a massive financial burden hanging overhead. That’s why they are so crucial to the equation. If you are wondering how you can help your child go to college debt-free with scholarships, here’s everything you need to know.”

Quick note: I like that scholarship article, but have real problems with a piece of the fundamental premise: that parents are the ones searching for scholarships. What?!? Is this normal? Why aren’t the kids themselves doing the work? When I was young — and admittedly, that was back when dinosaurs roamed the earth — kids did their own college planning. My parents had zero input on the schools and scholarships I applied for. But other than this one nit-pick, this is a good piece.

And lastly for today…

We have the tools and technology to work less and live better. [Aeon] — “So if today’s advanced economies have reached (or even exceeded) the point of productivity that Keynes predicted, why are 30- to 40-hour weeks still standard in the workplace? And why doesn’t it feel like much has changed? This is a question about both human nature – our ever-increasing expectations of a good life – as well as how work is structured across societies.”

That’s it! Enjoy your weekend. We’ll be back on Monday with more of the best in personal finance.

There’s a cat licking your birthday cake!

Apexians, today is a special day. If my calendar is correct — and it generally is — then it’s my partner Jim’s birthday! Yay!

Happy birthday, Jimmie.

To celebrate, here’s a cat licking your birthday cake!

Oh. And I also got you this collection of links…

Understanding and overcoming financial abuse. [Partners in Fire] — “Financial abuse is a type of domestic abuse. It’s a form of control and a violation of a person’s resources. It’s a horrible situation to understand and deal with when it’s just stealing and gaslighting…so I can’t even imagine how terrible it is for those who lose complete control of their finances.”

Alligators and kittens. [The Happy Philosopher] — “The most effective way to achieve happiness is usually through subtracting bad things from your life rather than adding more good things. We are not programed this way though. Through most of human history we have lived with scarcity, and it was to our benefit to keep adding stuff, no matter the emotional cost.”

Work less. [Zen Habits] — “Most of us spend free time doing more work. Or going to favorite distractions. But what if we used that time to be fully connected to the people we care about? Or to take care of ourselves, to read, to play, to do nothing?”

Lastly: I hate Twitter. Hate it, hate it, hate it. I’ve had a Twitter account since March 2007, and I’ve been confused about its purpose for just as long. I especially hate when people try to tackle tough, nuanced topics on Twitter. Not the place to do it.

That said, occasionally Twitter surprises me. Here, for instance, is a l-o-n-g Twitter thread about five mental models that former chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin uses to see the world differently than others. Good stuff. I have no idea why this is a Twitter thread, though, instead of a magazine article or blog post.

Okay, that’s all for today. Let’s all sing “Happy Birthday” to Jim once more. (Or, if you’d prefer, sing him the song about the cat licking his cake.) I’ll be back tomorrow to take you into the weekend…

How to measure joy.

It’s Wednesday, and this is Apex Money. You know what that means! It’s time for some outstanding money links!

Can money buy happiness? How to measure your joy. [One Frugal Girl] — “A year ago I created two new columns beside each expense in my spreadsheet. I labeled the first column: ’emotion’…I fill my spreadsheet with emoticons. Imagine looking at a grinning face in one row and a red angry face in another. Date night gets a smiling face with hearts. A woozy face appears next to the nachos we ordered after a long night at the bar. My spreadsheet doesn’t look quite so boring anymore.” I love this!

Fighting the innate urge to chase prestige. [Financial Panther] — “Prestige can trap you. Sure, it made me feel like I was better than other people, but looking back, I know it didn’t make me happier or more satisfied with my life. I don’t need all of that hassle. But that desire to be prestigious is still there, so I’m always actively doing things to make myself not care about prestige as much. Here’s what I do to fight this urge to chase prestige.”

When wives earn more. [Handful of Thoughts] — “When one spouse outearns the other, financial imbalance and income inequality can lead to difficult conversations if one person feels powerless. If one person in the relationship earns significantly less than the other, this can lead to tense conversations, marital issues, and possibly resentment if not addressed head-on.”

Now, my friends, are you ready to waste eight minutes and eleven seconds watching a video on which you find it unlikely you’re going to waste eight minutes and eleven seconds? Well, here you go. From the Language and Life Project, this is a look at Appalachian English.

I’m not sure how I stumbled on this, but it’s fascinating. (I’m not the only one who thinks so. This video was uploaded to YouTube twelve years ago. It has nearly five million views!)

That’s all for Wednesday. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stuff. See you then.

The rise and fall of the status pineapple.

Today is Tuesday, Apexians, and we have money links for you!

Let’s lead with our video. This one is from the always-awesome Financial Diet channel on YouTube. It’s the six-minute story of how one woman spent seven months developing the skills and network needed too find a job she loved: I realized I hated my job three days after starting. Here’s what I did next.

What I love most about this story is just how self-motivated the narrator is. Instead of bemoaning her situation, she makes a plan and takes action. Awesome!

Why you shouldn’t ignore active income. [The Fioneers] — “This was the first time I heard of semi-retirement. I had no idea that with some active income each year, we could scale back our full-time jobs and partially retire even earlier than we had planned. This sounded great! When we actually put our information into the calculator, the results FLOORED US!”

The difference between trading time for money and trading tasks for money. [Financial Panther] — “When you think about it, doing gig work isn’t exactly trading time for money. Rather, you’re trading tasks for money, getting paid for each task that you complete. It’s a small distinction that might not look like a big deal at first. But I think it’s a distinction that matters and is worth thinking about.”

Finally, here’s a story that found amusing. Who knew that pineapples used to be symbols of wealth? Not this boy!

The rise, fall, and rise of the status pineapple. [BBC News] — “Symbols have always been used to signal one’s status. Military insignia, family signet rings and heirloom watches; impressive properties filled with original art, expensive cars and designer handbags ensure a luxury lifestyle is obvious to all. But for about 250 years, all of these signposts of wealth and good breeding were ably fulfilled by…the pineapple.” Fascinating.

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the best in personal finance. See you then!

Green tea ice cream (and Hot Wheels).

Welcome to Monday, my nerds. We have a lot of great stuff today. In fact, this is one of my favorite batches of links that I’ve ever gathered. Set aside some time during your lunch break, because there’s a lot too enjoy here.

To start, let’s talk about Costco. (Have you noticed I have a low-key obsession with Costco? This is the fourth story about Costco I’ve shared in the past year.)

How Costco convinces brands to cannibalize themselves. [Napkin Math] — “While customers might not know it, Kirkland products are often made by the same manufacturers who make the branded products that sit next to them on the shelves. And not only that, but according to a Reddit user who worked at a Costco supplier, Kirkland products have to be at least 1% better than the equivalent branded products…Costco forces manufacturers to compete with a better version of themselves.”

In non-Costco-related news…

The battle to invent the automatic rice cooker. [Atlas Obscura] — “The automatic rice cooker is a mid-century Japanese invention that made a Sisyphean culinary labor as easy as measuring out grain and water and pressing a button. These devices can seem all-knowing. So long as you add water and rice in the right proportions, it’s nearly impossible to mess up, as the machines stop cooking at exactly the right point for toothsome rice. But creating an automatic rice cooker was not so easy.”

The collectors who spend thousands on rare Hot Wheels. [The Hustle] — “Five decades ago, Hot Wheels were America’s hottest new plaything. Today, the children of the ‘60s are fueling a small but mighty collectors’ market that wheels and deals in obscure corners of the internet…How did one-time 59-cent toy cars become 5-figure collectibles? And what drives grown men and women to spend princely sums chasing them?”

For the past decade, Brain Pickings has been one of my favorite blogs. Here, Maria Popova shares what she’s learned during her thirteen years running the site. I particularly like #3…

Thirteen lessons from thirteen years of Brain Pickings. [Brain Pickings] — “3. Be generous. Be generous with your time and your resources and with giving credit and, especially, with your words. It’s so much easier to be a critic than a celebrator. ..To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.”

Lastly, I really liked this four-minute music video from Linda Diaz (and friends). It’s her submission to NPR’s Tiny Desk contest. It’s lovely.

Okay, I’ll be back tomorrow with more great stories from around the web. And I promise that this time they’ll be about, you know, money. (Or something close to it.)

7 Phases of Retirement

On August 7th, I thought it would be fun to share a post from Retire by 40 and Joe’s 7 Phases of Retirement!

How fitting, right?

I like this post not because it’s seven phases and today is August 7th, I like it because it shows you a glimpse of how he sees his retirement progressing. He’s right in that it’s not a singular moment in time in which all work stops. It’s more like a transition and he shares what his family has done so far and where he attempts to predict what the future will be. It’s a way healthier vision of retirement than the traditional “hit 65 and full stop.”

Updated Joe’s 7 Phases of Retirement [Retire by 40] – “… we shouldn’t think of retirement like jumping off a cliff. Retirement would be much easier if we take it in phases, one step at a time. This way we can gradually work toward full retirement and enjoy the journey along the way.”

(this is also a good time to share with you Tanja’s post on the first two years of their early retirement because it shows a slightly different transition)

This Man Owns The World’s Most Advanced Private Air Force After Buying 46 F/A-18 Hornets [The Drive] – “For the last 30 years, Don Kirlin has been flying for the airlines, working on real estate deals, setting up the world’s biggest skydiving meets, and building a private air force the likes of which even he has a hard time believing is possible.” 35 of the 46 are already flying and the remaining 11 just need to be inspected. Wild!

Put on your seatbelts because the private air force thing is wild in a way that wouldn’t make for a good movie… but this next one is wild in exactly that way:

Tea Boy to Tattooed Trader: A Secret Tipster’s Life and Death [Bloomberg] – “By the time the concierge reached James Harris last June, he was lying in the hallway outside his apartment, arms and legs shaking, gasping for air. Although an ambulance crew raced in and administered an antidote for opiate overdoses, Harris’s pulse returned only briefly. Three minutes later, the 42-year-old British trader was dead.”

That’s it for me Apexian, J.D. is back next week with your gems!

Make time for what’s important

Being quarantined has been challenging but it does highlight what is important in life – the people closest to you.

It’s easy to look at the things we cannot do and get upset, especially after you read the 3rd article, but I implore you to think about what this pandemic has enabled and to be grateful for the things we still have.

Make time for what’s important [Gentleman’s Family Finances] – “e told a story about how when he was a kid he used to meet with his Granddad every Friday evening to play a game of chess and chat. When he went to university he started to get distracted by dancehalls and line-dancing (or whatever was popular in the 80s) and didn’t get to his Granddad’s for a few weeks his Granddad asked him where he’d been. “I’ve just been busy with…” was the answer and what his Granddad said has stuck with me to this day “well son, you make time for what’s important”.”

10 Daily Habits to be Happier, Healthier and Wealthier [Debt Free Guys] – “We go on to share our top three habits for improving your wellbeing and challenge you to do little things that will better your mental and physical health. Listen in for advice on implementing simple money habits that will build wealth over time and learn what you can do TODAY to be a happier, healthier member of the queer community—well on your way to financial freedom!”

How the Pandemic Defeated America [The Atlantic] – “In the first half of 2020, SARS‑CoV‑2—the new coronavirus behind the disease COVID‑19—infected 10 million people around the world and killed about half a million. But few countries have been as severely hit as the United States, which has just 4 percent of the world’s population but a quarter of its confirmed COVID‑19 cases and deaths. These numbers are estimates. The actual toll, though undoubtedly higher, is unknown, because the richest country in the world still lacks sufficient testing to accurately count its sick citizens.”

The Cold War Bunker That Became Home to a Dark-Web Empire [The New Yorker] – “In the mid-nineteen-seventies, the West German Army, the Bundeswehr, built a vast underground bunker near the town of Traben-Trarbach. It was five stories deep, had nearly sixty thousand square feet of floor space, and was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Eighty days’ worth of survival provisions were stored inside, including an emergency power supply and more than a million litres of drinking water.”

Happy Thursday!

Why credit card fraud is still a thing in the United States

When we went to Europe ages ago, all their credit cards had chip and pin. This wasn’t last year, this was like ten years ago.

The reason it’s so common there is because it prevents a lot of fraud.

We don’t have it as much here … and that’s why fraud is still so prevalent:

Here’s Why Credit Card Fraud is Still a Thing [Krebs on Security] – “Most of the civilized world years ago shifted to requiring computer chips in payment cards that make it far more expensive and difficult for thieves to clone and use them for fraud. One notable exception is the United States, which is still lurching toward this goal. Here’s a look at the havoc that lag has wrought, as seen through the purchasing patterns at one of the underground’s biggest stolen card shops that was hacked last year.”

Derek Sivers & The Art of Enough [Brendan Cahill] – “Derek Sivers is an American entrepreneur and musician (now living in New Zealand) who was the CEO of one of the first digital music stores “CDBaby” in the early 2000s. Derek Sivers might be one of my favorite writers and entrepreneurs. I came across Derek’s book Anything You Want a few years ago when I was reaching burn out amounts of stress from juggling being a full time teacher in a tough school district, running a coaching business and also trying to be a good husband in a new marriage. My goal is to pack as much Sivers wisdom into one spot so you won’t have to go crawling through the internet for it. Enjoy!”

Justice Department Is Scrutinizing Takeover of Credit Karma by Intuit, Maker of TurboTax [ProPublica] – “The Department of Justice is scrutinizing Silicon Valley giant Intuit’s $7 billion takeover attempt of Credit Karma, an upstart personal finance firm that became a competitor when it launched a free tax prep offering that challenges Intuit’s TurboTax product.”

Finally, enjoy this gem:
The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That [GQ] – “What if we told you there was a man who had unlocked the secret to human joy? That despite all the pain and suffering and bad news out there, a monk on a mountaintop in Nepal has discovered a kind of template for How to Be Happy. In fact, so wise and ebullient is Matthieu Ricard that he’s been celebrated as “The Happiest Man in the World.” (Please don’t call him that.) We needed to meet this guy! So we sent Michael Paterniti to the hinterlands to learn how we all might make our lives a bit happier”

See you tomorrow!