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Apex Money Posts

Your future is going to be AWESOME!

Greetings, Apexians! Welcome to another day of smart money management. Here are the stories I’ve collected for your edification and enjoyment…

Why your future is going to be AWESOME. [1500 Days to Freedom] — “Since being a natural-born pessimist isn’t a great way to live, I have to work at optimism. This involved intercepting the negative thoughts my brain tosses my way and then dismissing them or turning them into something positive. Despite what the news wants to scare us into thinking, the world is pretty great now. And, it’s getting better.”

Why work when you can afford to retire? [Physician on FIRE] — “There are some very good reasons and not-so-good reasons to continue working despite having attained financial independence. Let’s look at why people work when they don’t need the money, and I’ll try to do some self-reflection, as painful as that can sometimes be.”

Longevity and the new journey of retirement. [PDF report from Edward Jones] — “Edward Jones and Age Wave initially joined forces in 2019 to explore people’s hopes, dreams, and concerns in retirement. Together with The Harris Poll, we conducted a groundbreaking study of more than 9,000 people across North America to understand more deeply what it means to live well in retirement. Through a series of follow-up tracking studies conducted in 2020 and 2021, we took the pulse of how five generations, and retirees in particular, were faring amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” [via The Retirement Manifesto]

Today’s video feature has nothing to do with anything. Okay, it has a (very) little to do with Apex Money.

In an email exchange the other day, I said to Jim: “Good stuff, Maynard!” That was a common phrase around our house when I was a kid. Why? Because of this old commercial for Malt-O-Meal:

And here’s a “sequel” to that commercial.

To this day, I still say “Good stuff, Maynard!” now and then. More and more, though, I think the reference is lost. I’m just making a joke to myself haha. Growing old is fun.

Okay, that’s all I have for you today. See you tomorrow with more, my friends!

How to take a digital detox.

Today is Tuesday, and this is Apex Money. I have three stories and a video for you today. Enjoy!

How you can take a digital detox this summer. [Becoming Minimalist] — “The key is not to throw out all tech, but it would be wise for all of us to reboot, take a step back, and realign tech into its rightful place in our lives. The leaders of technology are not going to stop warring for our focus, our time, and our money. We must learn to fight back in a responsible way if we’re going to live lives that matter.”

Minimal on purpose. [No Sidebar] — “If minimalism is anything, it’s intentional. When you enter a minimally furnished and decorated room, you’re forced to realize that whatever is there is there deliberately. It’s been chosen.” [Whoa. I had never considered this aspect of minimalism before. It’s curation. Maybe that’s why it appeals so much to me…]

How to make a decision. [Out of the Blue] — “All of us are like guitars who frequently get out of tune. Withdrawing away, disrupting our rhythm, and giving ourselves plenty of free time, can tune our strings to their true notes. Then once we return home, we can play and create the way we were meant to.”

To close things out, here’s a good interview: Angela from Women’s Personal Finance chats with Kiersten of rich&REGULAR.

I know I’m terse today. Sorry. Be back tomorrow with more! 😉

Why more isn’t better.

Welcome to Monday, my friends. I hope you had a productive and/or entertaining weekend. I opted for the former. I managed to finish half my fence project, and I spent several hours on my Get Rich Slowly “de-design”. It’s 95% complete!

Today, though, I’ve been reading about money, and I’ve found a few pieces to share with you. To kick things, here’s a piece I really enjoyed from my partner here at Apex, Jim Wang:

Don’t chase more. To win at money, accomplish goals. [Wallet Hacks] — “Today, I want to share an idea that took me a very long time to learn – to win at money, you don’t need more. You simply need to identify and reach your goals. And it’s usually not about getting more money. In fact, many of the most important things in life cannot be bought. They have to be earned.”

The simplest reason renting will save you money. [The Military Finance Coach] — “When you rent, you never pay more than your rent each month. When you buy a house, you never pay less than your mortgage each month.”

Why are there weeks in which decades happen? [Taylor Pearson] — “As with a crumbling sand pile, it would be unintelligent to attribute the collapse of a fragile bridge to the last truck that crossed it and even more foolish to try to predict in advance which truck might bring it down. Yet this is basically the entire business model of ad-based media businesses. Turn on any cable news channel of your choice and you will always find people yelling about their preferred grain of sand.”

“Does anyone ever really feel ‘grown up’? I asked older people to find out.” [The Guardian] — “I confess, I thought all older people must be fully cooked adults by default. I fell into the trap of assuming that, if you’ve grown old, you’ve grown up. It’s comforting to believe questions of being an adult, of what even is an adult, have been answered by someone who draws a pension.” [I love this line of inquiry…See also: What they don’t tell you about being an adult.]

That’s all I have to start the week. Now, it’s time for me to get back to my two projects: the website and the fence. I want to work on the website, but I know that it’s much more important ofr me to finish the fence. sigh I guess I’ll go grab my hammer…

Not Financial Advice

As a person who writes about personal finance on the internet (Jim here), I’m always wary about offering any kind of advice. Whether it’s a company to invest in, an asset type to pick, or just a strategy to use – I always make sure the reader knows that these are not suggestions in the traditional sense. I’m not suggesting you invest in a particular fund, even if it’s index funds, but that I am suggesting you consider them and where they fit in your plan.

Not everyone is like that. A lot of people grew up watching the Jim Cramers of the world giving out stock tips and think that’s the way. It’s not the way.

I would feel terrible if I said “buy this company” and it tanked. And so I don’t say anything like that. On Wallet Hacks, I just share what I’m doing and looking at.

Which ties into the first post today by Jack Raines – I fully agree with the message.

Not Financial Advice. [Young Money by Jack Raines] – “There is nothing dishonest or “wrong” with buying bitcoin, NFTs, individual stocks, or any other asset that you like. It would be a slap in the face of free markets to prevent anyone from buying any of these things. There is nothing wrong with us having polar opposite ideas about an asset; that is a necessary feature of markets. What is wrong is spending your time and energy trying to convince as many people as possible to act in a way that will be financially beneficial to you, regardless of whether it will benefit them. What is wrong is giving “financial advice” that directly benefits the advisor more than the advisee.” 💯💯💯

To Enjoy Life More, Embrace Anticipation [The New York Times] – “The accumulation of these mini-thrills means you’ll still reap the benefits of looking forward to something, even if it’s not a big-ticket reward, said Christian E. Waugh, a psychology professor at Wake Forest University who studies anticipation. “Plus, with the nearer stuff, there’s more of a sense it’s going to happen for sure,” he said. “You’ve got more control over a small gathering this evening than a vacation in six months.””

Reports show scammers cashing in on crypto craze [FTC] – “From Super Bowl ads to Bitcoin ATMs, cryptocurrency seems to be everywhere lately. Although it’s yet to become a mainstream payment method, reports to the FTC show it’s an alarmingly common method for scammers to get peoples’ money. Since the start of 2021, more than 46,000 people have reported losing over $1 billion in crypto to scams[1] – that’s about one out of every four dollars reported lost,[2] more than any other payment method. The median individual reported loss? A whopping $2,600. The top cryptocurrencies people said they used to pay scammers were Bitcoin (70%), Tether (10%), and Ether (9%).”

Last one is a video on juggling – specifically, how to juggle three balls. I’ve never been able to juggle three objects and I chalk it up to never practicing. This video explains how to do it and I’m going to learn:

INFLATION!

It’s everywhere. You can’t escape it. You might as well learn to deal with it… so with that, I give you this actionable post to start the daily collection:

Ten Ways I Fight Inflation – And You Can Too [Chief Mom Officer] – “Inflation is back, baby! The last time inflation was this bad, I was literally a toddler. Now, I don’t have specific memories of that time . And if I did, they would likely be of Sesame Street and not monetary policy. But I do have stories I remember my parents telling me. They talked about 13% mortgages and CD’s (certificates of deposit) that paid 10%. I remember my passbook savings account back then used to earn decent interest. Back when I first bought I – bonds (inflation protected savings bonds – more about them later) in the early to mid 2000’s that they paid more than nothing. So I’m not a total stranger to inflation, and I remember early in my personal finance nerd journey, often reading about strategies to fight inflation. Although like many people, it hasn’t been this bad in my adult lifetime.” Some good reminders in there.

Finding Your ‘Why’ for Your Desired Financial Behavior [The White Coat Investor] – “Knowing what you are supposed to do usually isn’t enough to create lasting change. People usually don’t drastically change their diet or lifestyle based on a simple recommendation from a physician or other professional. Instead, they find the reason they want to change inside themselves. To effectively change financial behavior, each individual needs to dig deep and find their “why.” Finding a reason to change helps you remember motivation when hard decisions come and when you need to sacrifice for your priorities.”

How Do Financial Market Outcomes Affect Gambling? [SSRN] – ” Using corporate bond spreads as a proxy for business cycles, we find that in addition to financial market outcomes, price of wagering, incomes, and availability of competing betting products are important drivers of gambling. We also find, ceteris paribus, that gambling rises during recessions.” FYI, ceteris paribus is Latin for, essentially, “all other things being equal.”

10 lessons I’ve learned along the FIRE journey

I love “lesson” posts like our first post:

10 lessons I’ve learned along the FIRE journey [Tawcan] – “Ten years into our FIRE journey, we’ve made great progress on our goal of becoming financially independent. We are appreciative of this journey and how it has transformed our lives and made us more rounded people. We also have learned many lessons that we wouldn’t have learned if we weren’t on this journey.”

America’s Lost Boys and Me [Common Sense] – “There’s one story that’s neat and clean and politically convenient to tell about my life. It goes like this: Poverty is the root cause of my problems (and those of my friends). With enough financial aid, and a good test score, anything is possible. Including Yale. Or Cambridge. But the data tells quite a different story. Poverty, even extreme poverty, is surmountable. What is nearly impossible to overcome is the instability—the psychological havoc—created by broken homes. Especially for boys.”

Do Elite Colleges Lead to Higher Salaries? Only for Some Professions [The Wall Street Journal] – “Diplomas from prestigious schools boost future earnings only in certain fields, while in other fields they simply don’t make a difference. Specifically, for business and other liberal-arts majors, the prestige of the school has a major impact on future earnings expectations. But for fields like science, technology, engineering and math, it largely doesn’t matter whether students go to a prestigious, expensive school or a low-priced one—expected earnings turn out the same.”

Fake Everything

When I was younger, I remember walking through Chinatown in New York with some friends. It was in an area known for knockoff/counterfeit anythings – sunglasses, purses, etc. I was in my 20s and my friends got something fake (I recall it being a purse and they switched the clip on decal from a fake name to a real one after you bought it).

I didn’t think much of it back then.

Twenty years later, I wouldn’t buy counterfeit stuff. Would you?

Supreme, Rolex, Nike: I Wear All Fake Everything, and I Don’t See the Problem [VICE] – “The global streetwear boom is awash with replica clothing, ranging from terrible bootleg Only snapbacks in Camden Market to lavish rip-offs you’d be hard pressed to differentiate from the originals. I, for example, recently bought an extremely comfortable Supreme box logo hoodie – resale price: upwards of £350 – for £35.”

The Simplest Reason Why Renting Will Save You Money [Kate Horrell] – “‘When you rent, you never pay more than you rent each month. When you buy a house, you never pay less than your mortgage each month.'” Wow. Didn’t think about it like that.

Before you go, check out this video-game-esq journal of Andy Moliski’s hike of the Appalachian Trail. I stumbled onto this “blog” by accident and thought it was a game at first. I found it to be beautiful and the soundtrack is remarkably relaxing.

Did We Retire at the Worst Possible Time?

Happy Monday! Jim here with today’s gems – starting with a poignant post from Chrissy who retired last November and then experienced some of the most turbulent months in recent memory (and we are still in a pandemic!):

Did We Retire at the Worst Possible Time? [Eat Sleep Breathe FI] – “In November of last year, we reached FIRE, and my husband M retired. Since then, the world has faced a lot of turmoil, and it seems as if everything is crashing down around us. Today, I’m taking a deep dive to answer the question, did we retire at the worst possible time?” It’s a good post to ponder on… and her outlook is great! 🙂

What You Can Do About Guns When Leaders Fail Us // How Divestment Can Drive Change [Our Next Life] – “I’m sick of being told to vote. I bet you’re sick of it, too. We must vote, of course we must, but it’s not enough. Our own eyes tell us that. We’ve been voting this whole time, and things are only getting worse. So what else can we actually do? I wrote Wallet Activism exactly to answer this question, because voting is never enough. There’s always more we can do. We live in a system that tells us we’re powerless when, in truth, those in power are terrified that we’ll figure out exactly how powerful we actually are when we act collectively.” Great post with some actionable steps that go behind “voting.”

Money is emotional — but personal finance advice rarely accounts for that [Vox] – “In putting financial literacy above all else, many in the personal finance industry have decided that repeating the same facts about how much money folks should have in their emergency savings account will, somehow, change people’s money habits. This approach doesn’t account for our human side: the parts of us that crave connection, new experiences, and fitting in as members of our communities. Most of our decisions around money are emotional; no amount of nitty-gritty knowledge about interest rates will change that.”

More posts tomorrow!

The financial risks of stories we love.

Well, my friends, we’ve reached another Friday. To send you into the weekend, today I’ve collected two (and only two) stories about money for you. Why only two? Because they’re both long and they’re both interesting and they’re both entertaining. I believe that two is enough for today.

To kick things off, here’s a recent story that’s right up my alley: It’s all about collecting old computer games. I started playing games in 1979. Back then, we loaded them from cassette tape onto our lo-res Apple II computer. Today, those games are collectible…

Inside the $100k+ forgery scandal that’s roiling PC game collecting. [Ars Technica] — “The world of PC game collecting has yet to attract the kind of eye-popping, seven-figure-dollar sales seen with some rare Nintendo games. Still, a committed collecting community has developed around older PC titles, with some people paying thousands of dollars for intact disks, packaging, and materials of computer games from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.” [See also this write-up from the Computer Gaming World Museum.]

And the second half of our double-header looks at how stories shape us. It’s about how we don’t make money decisions based on numbers and rational choice; we make money decisions based on emotions and image and aspiration.

The financial risks of the stories we love. [The Root of All] — “Perhaps no other group of people on the planet knows the effectiveness of stories better than the advertising industry. Having worked in advertising, I know the little secret to a successful ad isn’t to sell a product but an entire world view. After all, buying stuff is often not about the stuff but about identity.”

And that’s it. That’s all I have for you today.

I hope that you enjoy your weekend. Me? I’ll be sitting here at this desk, frantically working to put together the new Get Rich Slowly “de-design”. If all goes well, though, Monday morning will see my site dressed in a new outfit! 😉

Three ways to become a better investor.

It’s a Very Special Day in my world, Apexians. In a couple of hours, Kim flies out to visit her best friend in Wisconsin. This gives me five days with absolutely nothing on my calendar and no obligations at home: no chores, no appointments, no meetings, no nothing. Can you guess what I’m going to do with all of that uninterrupted free time? I’m going to code the Get Rich Slowly “de-design”!

That’s right. Given five whole days with no obligations, I’m going to spend my time in my office, in front of my computer, trying to hand-code my dream website. Last weekend, I told a friend about my plans. “I want to create a modern blog,” I said. She laughed and told me “modern blog” is an oxymoron. Maybe so. I don’t care. I’m eager to get this done. If all goes well, I’ll finish early (so that I can use a couple of days for fun instead of computer work), and I’ll be sharing my site’s new look when I next resume duties here at Apex.

Speaking of Apex…you don’t really care about my foray into nerdery, do you? No. You’re here for money links. And here they are…

Sparked by recent upheaval, millennial women are changing their philanthropic focus. [Investment News] — “New and ongoing research indicates that women have intensified their charitable intent and giving in the wake of the public health and racial and gender justice events in the past two years…Millennial women, who are just entering the generational stage where they have enough to make substantial gifts, approach giving differently than prior generations.”

Eight things to do with financial independence besides retire early. [The White Coat Investor] — “Perhaps the most important thing I’m doing in my life right now is raising kids, which I also enjoy. I’ll be 58 by the time my youngest gets out of the house. Given that I currently have two jobs I enjoy already, both of which pay me well, and given that I can’t go on any more trips than I’m already going on and still take care of things that are more important to me than the trips, what would be the point in dropping work completely? Might as well keep working.”

Three ways to become a better investor. [Miranda Marquit] — “No matter the time of year, now is always a good time to improve your finances. Investing, through calculated risks, is part of a comprehensive and successful financial plan. As you consider your investment plan, here are three things you can do to become a better investor.”

Six questions to ask yourself before making a purchase. [Rich in What Matters] — “Marketing has clearly changed a lot over the past few years, becoming increasingly targeted. But the end goal persists: to make you feel deficient so you buy more than you actually need. Increased awareness of the phenomenon that is marketing begets one question: ‘How do we, the consumers, make mindful purchases without becoming swayed by marketer’s snares?’ The answer comes by asking yourself better questions.”

To wrap things up for today, here’s a pair of old TV commercials that take me back to my youth. In my small town, there were a few stores that gave S&H green stamps with purchases. My grandmother collected these stamps, and she encouraged her grandchildren to do so as well. Then, when we’d collected enough, she’d drive us with her to a redemption center in Portland.

Here’s one S&H green stamp commercial from 1962 and another from 1979. (It was probably around 1979 that I was collecting these stamps with Grandma.)

Okay, that’s plenty for today. I’ll see you again tomorrow, my friends, as we work ourselves into the weekend…