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Apex Money Posts

I Aspired to Be Poor.

Hey Plutus Family! Hopefully, you can take a quick break from the hustle and bustle and enjoy these great articles.

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

The California Effect. [Mr. Money Mustache] – “Start noticing your own bubble and study the California Effect in your own lifestyle. Where do you see ridiculousness masquerading as normalcy? How can you extract the best of life in your area, while shedding the unnecessary downsides? How can you create an entirely new bubble of normal?” (Submitted by J. Money.)

I Aspired to Be Poor. [Rahkim Sabree] — “3 years later I think about how much my life has changed because of that talk. How many times I’ve been asked what I meant when I said I wanted to be poor. The look and sound of admiration people get when they hear I’ve done a TED talk and how incredibly honest and transparent I was in that moment and continue to be today.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

The Best Holiday Gift List I’ve Seen This Year. [Maximum Gratitude, Minimal Stuff] — “Each of these gifts equips children and families to change their own lives for a better future. They’re useful, provide decent jobs, and do more than enrich a retailer’s bottom line. If you’re still looking for gifts for your loved ones, you can’t go wrong with these.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

Disaster planning for regular folks.

Good morning, Apexians, and welcome to another edition of Apex Money. Today is a special day. “Tell us why, J.D.” I will! It’s a special day because today is Taylor Swift’s birthday. My favorite musician/director/writer/performer turns 33 today.

To celebrate, here are 33 of my favorite Taylor Swift videos.

Haha. Just kidding.

To celebrate, here’s my favorite cover of a Taylor Swift song. Here are Shoshana Bean and Cynthia Erivo performing “I Did Something Bad”. It’s AWESOME.

I’ve probably shared that video before. I’ll probably share it again in the future. I know you won’t mind. 😉 (If you really do want to listen to 33 Taylor Swift songs — or thereabouts — check out my YouTube playlist of Taylor Swift covers.)

Okay, moving on to the real reason you’re here…I’ve gathered the following personal-finance articles to share with you today…

Does this count as market timing? [Oblivious Investor] — “The point of the ‘don’t try to time the market’ message is simply that new investors need to learn that it’s impossible to predict a) where the stock market is going next or b) where interest rates (and therefore bond prices) are going next. But it can be OK to make financial decisions based on current interest rates or market values, as long as you don’t have to successfully predict where the stock market or interest rates are going next in order for the decision to make sense.”

Disaster planning for regular folks. [lcamtuf] — “Effective preparedness can be simple, but it has to be rooted in an honest and systematic review of the risks one is likely to face. Plenty of newcomers begin by shopping for ballistic vests and night vision goggles; they would be better served by grabbing a fire extinguisher, some bottled water, and then putting the rest of their money in a rainy-day fund.”

How to keep your work from taking over your life. [Greater Good Magazine] — “Personally, I learned that not thoughtfully working on work-life integration is a form of passive acquiescence to work that can take much more than you’re able to give. I can miss some important events—like that weekend of my daughter’s graduation. Addressing this requires some mindful self-reflection and some bigger conversations about what I need from work and what work needs from me.”

Okay, that’s all for this Tuesday. The folks from the Plutus Foundation will have links for you tomorrow, then I’ll be back on Thursday to share more fun stuff with you. See you then!

p.s. Trivia! Not only is today Taylor Swift’s birthday, it’s also the birthday of my buddy Grant Sabatier from Millennial Money.

The art of imperfection.

Heigh-ho, everybody, J.D. here with another week of Apex Money goodness in store.

Here in Oregon, I’m suffering from a monster cold that just will not go away! Kim and I both picked this up from our nephews when we were in California for Thanksgiving. It’s not COVID (multiple negative tests), likely not the flu (both have vaccines), but it’s something similar that waxes and wanes. Right now, it’s waxing for me and I hate it. My head feels like a big balloon! Anyhow, enough about my stuffy nose. Let’s dive into personal finance.

How to create your estate plan: A checklist. [Morningstar] — “It’s helpful to think of estate planning as a process, rather than something that’s one and done and begins and ends in an attorney’s office. Crafting an estate plan involves a series of steps, some of which you’ve probably already undertaken and are probably going to need to revisit as your life unfolds.”

“My favorite investment writing of 2022.” [Of Dollars and Data] — “Unlike previous years, 2022 was painful for investors of all types. Stocks fell, bonds fell, and crypto really fell in the worst market environment since 2008. And, though this year was difficult for all of us, the silver lining is all the great investment writing that came out of it. With that being said, I present my favorite investment writing of 2022.”

The art of imperfection. [Austin Kleon] — “A lot of what I love in art is ‘deliberate imperfection,’ which you see in everything from Japanese wabi-sabi to Navajo rugs to punk rock. Mistakes or ‘happy accidents’ that don’t get thrown out, like mishearings that lead to new ideas. Chance operations, introductions of asymmetry, invitations to weirdness and error, and what Sally Mann calls ‘praying to the angel of uncertainty’.”

The magnificent bribe. [Real Life] — “The bribe is a discomforting concept. It asks us to consider the ways the things we purchase wind up buying us off, it asks us to see how taking that first bribe makes it easier to take the next one, and, even as it pushes us to reflect on our own complicity, it reminds us of the ways technological systems eliminate their alternatives.” This is a heady piece, but a good one.

That’s all I have for you this Monday. I’m going to crawl back in bed again to continue sleeping this off. I’ll be back tomorrow with more. See you then!

What You’ll Wish You’d Known

What You’ll Wish You’d Known [Paul Graham] – “I’ll start by telling you something you don’t have to know in high school: what you want to do with your life. People are always asking you this, so you think you’re supposed to have an answer. But adults ask this mainly as a conversation starter. They want to know what sort of person you are, and this question is just to get you talking. They ask it the way you might poke a hermit crab in a tide pool, to see what it does.”

We do not know which events will make history [Klement on Investing] – “Similarly, I dare say that the events of 2022 will largely be forgotten in the future. We may think that this year has brought with it the re-emergence of high inflation, but I am not so sure about that. We may think that we may have seen a major war in Europe, but I am not so sure anyone will remember this event in a couple of decades from now.”

Maximize Your Savings: Top Savings Rates ‘Soar’ Past 4.00% [The College Investor] – “The FDIC reports that the average savings interest rate nationwide is 0.24% APY (annual percentage yield), which is up 4x from a year ago (when it was just 0.06%). However, the best savings account rates and money market account rates are all at 4.00% or higher.” Interest rates are high right now, which is bad for borrowers but great for savers!

Have a great weekend!

Watch a credit card dissolve in acetone…

This first one today is a video of what happens when you dissolve a credit card (it’s from the UK, so it’s a bank card) in acetone to reveal only the metal inside.

What’s inside a bank card? [BBC] – “Hannah Fry dissolves a bank card to reveal the hidden technology inside.”

Yes, she dissolves a card in acetone and then uses it to buy coffee!

How I Successfully Appealed My Home Appraisal When It Was Wrong [The College Investor] – “Well, last week, after a period of waiting, we got the appraisal back on the house we were looking to buy, and it ended up coming in a full $70,000 below our offer price, and well below fair market value to similar properties inside the same development. SO IRRITATING!”

When — and How — to Say No to Extra Work [Harvard Business Review] – “With more and more teams being understaffed, chances are you’ve been asked to take on more work. Top performers are a prime target for additional requests. But you need to be careful about what you agree to take on. In this piece, the author outlines when it’s best to say no to taking on more work: 1) When your primary job responsibilities will suffer. 2) When it’s someone else’s work. 3) When there’s no clear exit strategy. 4) When the ask is unreasonable.”

All the Personal-Finance Books Are Wrong [The Atlantic] – “They tend to treat their readers like fools without willpower. So you could argue that they’re wrong for the right reasons.”

85% Of Gen Z And 83% Of Millennials Engage In Financial Deception.

Happy Wednesday Plutus Family! It’s not too late to join us for our final Content Creator Happy Hour tonight, December 7th in Washington D.C. at 6pm.

As always, tickets are free, but extremely limited. Register for Content Creator Happy Hour Washington D.C. here.

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

85% Of Gen Z And 83% Of Millennials Engage in Financial Deception. [A Dime Saved] – “Millennials and Gen Z have experienced constant economic uncertainty: entering the job market during a massive economic downturn, Millennials have struggled to gain financial stability and have been hit with tidal wave after tidal wave of world-shaking events. Gen Z has had to cope with technology pushing perfection, head-spinning U.S. and global politics, and a looming recession,” said Michael Hershfield, founder, and CEO, of Accrue Savings.” (Submitted by Tarsha.)

It’s Not About Retirement Anymore. [Retire Before Dad] — “It’s about: being more available to my family, focusing on meaningful work that I enjoy, building on the nine years of effort I’ve put into my online writing business, and leveraging the saving and investing I’ve prioritized over the past two decades.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

Make a Stock Tracker with Google Sheets. [Freddy Smidlap] — “It’s about: being more available to my family, focusing on meaningful work that I enjoy, building on the nine years of effort I’ve put into my online writing business, and leveraging the saving and investing I’ve prioritized over the past two decades.” (Submitted by J. Money.)

Bring Economics into The Holidays. [Economics with Dr. A] — “Learn more about how we brought economics to the holiday season. This is an example of assignments that are designed to develop community.”

Money fights

Fights happen all the time, whether over money or just life, and so I’m always eager to read about how others work through their challenges.

This first post is really good in that it puts the money battles through the lens of a lot of “conventional” money advice:

Actual Money Fights We’ve Had (and How We Solved Them) [The White Coat Investor] – “My husband and I recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary (although, now that I think about it, we didn’t observe the occasion with anything more than a “nice job, babe.” We need to learn to live a little). Twenty years, two medical careers, three kids, six dogs, and many, many conversations about money later, we don’t just have shared financial goals: we have learned how to think about money in the same way.”

Savers Get Paid Again [The Belle Curve] – “ZIRP is not the normal state of the monetary system. Where we are today is normal. Savers should be paid to wait, and the risk-free interest rate should not be zero. That was insane. Everyone got so high on the supply of free money that we forgot the basics of how money works. Unwilling to park cash in zero-interest savings accounts, investors went on a mad dash of risk-taking.”

The Traditional Budgeting Rule That I Just Can’t Get Behind [Making of a Millionaire] – “Living in one of the fastest-growing real estate markets in the country, I’m confident that pulling the trigger on a 2nd house is a smart financial move.

And if I’d listened to the “25% housing rule” as Gospel, I’d probably never have the chance to do this.” General rules are good guidelines but never 100% accurate for everyone all the time.

Are You Moving Toward or Away from Financial Independence?

It’s Jim here with your day’s money (and money adjacent) gems.

Are You Moving Toward or Away from Financial Independence? [Passive Income MD] – “The usual direction of our financial lives is to move gradually toward financial independence. However, there are three situations where we may find ourselves moving away from financial independence.”

How to Make Money Online for Beginners: 25 Easy Ways [Millennial Money Man] – “So, you want to learn how to make money online? There are so many options for beginners, and that’s awesome news if you’re looking for a side hustle, a new career path, or you just want to make extra money to offset inflation.”

This is fascinating — China’s Van Goghs: The Village That Paints Thousands Of Fakes A Year – “Until 1989, the village of Dafen in the city of Shenzhen, China was little more than a hamlet. It now has a population of 10,000, including hundreds of peasants-turned oil painters. In the many studios, and even in the alleyways, Dafen’s painters turn out thousands of replicas of world-famous Western paintings. Nobody thinks anything of an order for 200 Van Goghs. To meet their deadlines, painters sleep on the floor between clotheslines strung with masterpieces. In 2015, the turnover in painting sales was over $65 million.

Local painter Zhao has a dream to travel to Amsterdam to see the works of his legendary associate. After struggling and saving, he fulfils dream. In Europe, his encounter with van Gogh’s paintings brings an epiphany. Although dejected at the revelation, Zhao is inspired by van Gogh’s paintings and the hardships he suffered, and resolves to dedicate himself to his own original art.”

I think “fakes” is a bit disingenuous for the title, I think replicas is a more apt term.

A few good stories.

Welcome to Friday, money nerds. My name is J.D., and I’m here to take you into the weekend with some quick thoughts about mastering your money — and your life. I really like today’s features. I hope you do too.

A few good stories. [Collaborative Fund] — Let’s lead today with an awesome bit of writing from Morgan Housel at Collaborative fund. Housel is famous for awesome bits of writing, but this one contains (as it says on the tin) a few good stories. They’re each short, and they’re each powerful — especially the last one.

To control your life, control what you pay attention to. [Harvard Business Review] — “Your attention determines the experiences you have, and the experiences you have determine the life you live. Or said another way: you must control your attention to control your life.”

Learning to live. [Of Dollars and Data] — “Many times in life you’ll have the opportunity to assume negative intent in others. Don’t do it. You’ll often be wrong and even when you are right, assuming negativity all the time is no way to go through life. Most people don’t want to wrong you. Keep this in mind before rushing to judgment.”

What are some of the best things to make at home? [Ask MetaFilter] — “So I made homemade bread. It was awesome. I’m making homemade Castile soap this weekend. Very excited. What other stuff should I be making at home?” A treasure trove of fun DIY projects.

Let’s close out the week with a non-financial video. It’s a video that I really, really like.

I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since I saw the first film in theaters in 1977. I was eight years old. But honestly, I’ve always had this sense that the franchise failed to live up to its potential. It focused on the dumbest parts of the universe instead of the most interesting.

Well, imagine my joy when Disney recently released the show Andor, a spy-thriller set in the Star Wars universe but possessing NONE of the problematic elements. No Jedi. No Force. No lightsabers. No bizarre “the entire galaxy revolves around a handful of people” plotlines.

Instead, Andor is a twelve-part series that can be enjoyed by anyone regardless how much they know about the established Star Wars mythos. It’s actual quality storytelling.

Anyhow, YouTuber Thomas Flight just published a video exploring why Andor feels so real. It’s an insightful look at one of the elements that helps set this show apart from its peers. And I think it’s something that other CGI-heavy media franchises could learn from.

That’s all I have for you this week! Jim will be back on Monday with more of the same. I’ll see you in ten days. Until then, have fun!

The most important financial decisions you’ll ever make.

Hey hey, Apexians. Can you believe it’s December?!? Well, it is. Ho ho ho and all that. As the holiday season ramps up, we continue business as usual around here, sharing some of our favorite personal-finance stories from around the web. Stories like these…

The six most important financial decisions you’ll ever make. [ESI Money] — “Decisions, decisions. There are loads of financial decisions we make throughout our lifetimes. Some are big (as we’ll discuss here) and some (most probably) are small (like choosing between the high-priced or store brand peanut butter).” Nice discussion of the Big Things that affect your life (especially your financial life).

“How I’ve saved thousands of dollars on clothes for my kids.” [Frugalwoods] — “This system also enables me to hand-up clothes to friends whose kids need a specific item in a particular size. And yes, they do joke about going shopping in my basement and yes, I deserve it. BUT, I love being able to pull out a complete wardrobe for each kid for every season for an absolute fraction of the cost of buying new.”

Quantifying your dreams to make them happen. [Modest Millionaires] — “Once you have an idea of the potential range of costs for something you desire, spotting a good deal is so much easier. You have data to compare the value you’ll get for the price you pay. So decision making is facilitated thanks to the process of quantifying your goals.”

I’m a big fan of end-of-year “best” lists and similar rituals. The period between Thanksgiving and New Year is always fun because there are so many retrospectives on offer. And here’s one of my faves: Vanity Fair’s annual interview with Billie Eilish.

I don’t listen to much of Eilish’s music (although I like what I’ve heard), but I’ve enjoyed watching each of these interviews over the past six years. It’s neat to watch her growth from age 15 to 20.

Apparently, she’ll continue to do these interviews every year, but starting in 2023 they’ll only be released sporadically. That makes sense. Anyhow, you might enjoy this too.

That’s it for Thursday. Come back tomorrow and I’ll share more some more interesting links to take you into the weekend.