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Apex Money Posts

Many of the important things about money aren’t about money

I heard you like guest curation! We (Jim and J.D.) want to introduce the latest guest-curated Apex courtesy of none other than Kristin Wong.

Kristin Wong, a personal finance freelance writer author, and award-winning journalist, has put together her favorite picks as a representative of Personal Finance by Women. Many thanks to Brynne from Femme Frugality for coordinating!

From negotiating to navigating the pay gap, women and marginalized groups face unique challenges when it comes to money.

When I first started getting my finances in order, I didn’t think this was true. Money isn’t gendered, so why should personal finance advice be any different for women? And really, it’s not. We don’t need special money advice. But we are faced with gender and racial bias in the workplace and beyond, and like so many things, this problem often becomes a money problem. The more I dealt with my own personal finances and started writing about my experiences, the more I became aware of the fact that we do indeed live in a world that makes money more complicated for some folks.

This week, I’m pointing you to five articles — and one podcast episode! — on this topic that I’ve recently read and enjoyed.

When Getting Money Hurts [New York Times] – Paulette Perhach asks what to do when you receive financial compensation from a past trauma, like sexual abuse. Considering the statistics on sexual assault, this may be more common than you think. Perhach asks the painful, poignant question: “How should people handle financial gain, a supposed symbol of freedom and power, when it derives from events that made them feel trapped or powerless?”

Work Isn’t Working: The Real Reason More Women Are Going Freelance [Refinery29] – Andrea Codrea-Rado wonders if more women are opting for freelance as a response to traditionally masculine workplace structures. I thought that I was just built for freelancing – an introvert who works better alone; a nerd who loves to organise; an only child who likes to get their own way. I had internalised all the insidious ways that workplaces didn’t work for me and concluded it was me who wasn’t working ‘properly’. But the further into self-employment I got, the more women I met and the more stories of empowerment I heard.”

Letter to Middle Class Black America [Rich and Regular] – Julien and Kiersten, aka Mr. and Mrs. r&R, make the case for FIRE as a response to marginalization in the workplace. “Black excellence is exhausting. We’re tired because the effects of a work-obsessed culture coupled with the fatigue from climbing a rigged corporate ladder are starting to take hold. We’ve been given all the tools to get on the hamster wheel, but none of the tools to get off. Now, the golden handcuffs are starting to feel less like bracelets and more like a shiny trap.”

To Promote Inclusivity, Stay Away from Personality Assessments [New York Times] – Quinisha Jackson-Wright wonders if personality tests like the Myers-Briggs are a bad idea for workplaces seeking inclusivity. “Are such assessments helpful or harmful to organizations that want to promote a truly inclusive workplace culture? Do they fulfill their intended purpose of helping managers get to know their team’s working styles, or simply reinforce stereotypes that encourage managers to seek out people like themselves?”

So Many Money Feelings: [Call Your Girlfriend] – Podcast producer Gina Delvac interviews Reema Khrais, host of This is Uncomfortable, to answer reader questions about money, relationships, and emotions. CYG is not a personal finance podcast, but it’s kind of refreshing to hear non-“money people” talk about money.

The Important Thing About Money Has Nothing to Do With Money [The Luxe Strategist] – I’ve always said that personal finance has everything and nothing to do with money, so I loved this post from Luxe at the Luxe Strategist. She writes, “In personal finance we all focus way too much on tactics. While spending less than you earn, learning how to invest, and opening up a 2% interest savings account are important, the results will mostly vary depending on who you are. But one thing I can guarantee is that money will always be hard unless you’ve got the touchy-feely stuff down. That means understanding what drives you to do things. Your core values.”

You can’t invest your way out of debt

Happy Wednesday Money Nerds!

We are still basking in the glow that is FinCon (it ended on Sunday) and seeing all of our other money nerd friends. If you love personal finance and FinCon ever comes to you, getting a Community Pass is a great way to meet some of your favorite creators. It’s going to Long Beach next year so all you LA-adjacent Cali folks can stop by!

Today’s articles run the gamut of subjects but they are all good and you should find something in there that resonates!

Your Financial Order of Operations: Where in the Hell Do I Even Begin? [The Dumpster Dog Blog] – “I know that “building wealth” sounds kinda intimidating and out of touch. When I say “building wealth,” I’m actually talking about freedom. I am talking about putting ourselves in positions where we won’t have to work forever. I’ll say it again: WEALTH = FREEDOM. Sometimes, it helps to reframe—from now on, think of “building wealth” as “building towards my freedom.” What would you do with your life with financial freedom? That’s where I begin, and do some reverse engineering from there.” If you want some fun real talk on your financial order of operations, you’ll get it here.

This image, from the post, should wake you up too if you have credit card debt:
No combination of investments will beat credit card debt

Measuring the All-In Fee of Top Investment Advisors [Movement Capital] – “I went through ADV disclosures for each of the top 100 RIA firms in the InvestmentNews database. I then excluded family offices with high minimums and firms with variable pricing not clearly broken out into tiers. Some of the firms include financial planning in their fee and most firms have discretion so clients might pay less than the public fee.” The specifics of this are less important than the implication – if you work with an advisor you have to look at more than just management fees. You have to look at implementation costs too because they are not inconsequential (around 50 basis points). This is one reason why robo-advisors are enjoying their moment in the sun.

Tips from 16 years of working from home [A Whole Lotta Nothing] – “The most important thing that made this a stable, reliable, and workable option in my life was getting a dedicated room in my house set aside for work. Having a home office with a door that cut me off (mostly) from whatever else was going on in the house was key to making it all work.” Matt Haughey has been working from home for quite a while and as someone who works from home, I found his advice was spot on.

If you like treasure hunts…

There’s a Treasure Chest Worth Millions Hidden Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. These Searchers Are Dedicating Their Lives and Savings to Finding It [Money] – “For Fenn treasure hunters like Meachum, the search is no myth. It requires real commitment, and perhaps more importantly, it requires real money. From hiking boots to hotel rooms, the costs can add up quickly. Meachum recently calculated that she spent more than $10,000 on the chase last year alone — to her, a small price to pay for an “incredible adventure” that’s still unfolding.” Forrest Fenn thought he was going to die of kidney cancer so he cast a bronze chest and filled it with gold coins, placer nuggets from Alaska, pre-Columbian animal figures and Chinese jade faces. Then buried it somewhere in the mountains.


Why so many engineers retire early and how to overcome burnout

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting up with some of my favorite people in the world at FINCON.

So many of the other bloggers came up and told me how much they love Apex Money, what J.D. and I are doing, and to learn about where we hope to go. This is on top of all the warm emails we get replying to the daily curations (keep your emails coming!).

One common question keeps on coming up – how can I help? If you want to help grow Apex, share it with friends. Forward them the emails and share them on social media.

Also, if you have something you want to share with us, you can always submit it using this form. Send in your stuff, send in someone else’s, send it whatever — as long as you think it’s the best. Thank you!

Here’s today’s curations:

Why Do So Many Engineers Retire Early? [The Frugal Engineers] — “Have you ever wondered why engineering is so prominently represented in the early retirement community? Is it actually easier for engineers to retire early? What can everyone learn from the engineering mindset to propel their own early retirement journey?” As a former software engineer, a lot of the reasons resonated with me – it’s more than a relatively high income. That certainly doesn’t hurt (and not all engineers are highly paid) but the other characteristics matter more.

How to Stay Hungry on Your Journey to Financial Freedom [Dividend Diplomats] — “Time can wear you down or time can build you up. You may feel tired from putting in all of the blood, sweat and tears on your journey. I am here to show you what you may need to STAND back up, to stay HUNGRY and to keep GOING on your journey.” It’s hard to work towards a multi-year goal and this post by the Dividend Diplomats shows you how to identify what is essentially burn out and reinvigorate yourself.

I’m Finally Making Money, But It Doesn’t Feel Great [The Cut] — “For the first time in my life, I’m making a really good salary, and so is my husband. We’ve always been very careful with money. We both maxed out our 401(k)s and IRAs even when we made tiny starting salaries. […] It’s like now that I have all this extra money, I feel like I’ve become this whole new person I don’t recognize. How can I go back to being someone who’s fine with mismatched plates and thrift-store items, instead of this trend follower with a perfect house filled with nice shit that doesn’t matter?” When you don’t much, it’s hard to understand the problems of those with means. But they have problems too and they’re often quite pernicious and Charlotte Cowles gives fantastic actionable advice free of platitudes.

The Troubling Business of Bounty Hunting [GQ] — “You may not realize it, but bounty hunting is still alive and well in America in 2019. It’s fueled by old laws, loose guidelines, and not-great money. In order to get a closer look inside the world of “bail enforcement agents,” writer Jeff Winkler got licensed and spent months working as a BEA. What he found was a mess for pretty much everyone caught up in a broken system.” Some of the best articles are those where the names and locations have been changed… this one is no exception if you ever saw Dog the Bounty Hunter and wondered what actually happens.

Everything is temporary

Money Nerds!

Today’s grab bag of articles will have something for everyone.

Let’s see what they are:

Everything is temporary; nearly everything is reversible [Cityfrugal] — “Each of these decisions terrified me before I made them. I stressed about them, asked friends and coworkers for advice, and fretted about every possible thing that could go wrong. However, none of these were permanent decisions. The decisions to change my behavior, though slightly off the beaten path, could all be undone.” I arrived at this epiphany when I quit my job to become a full-time blogger. I stressed about quitting but in the end, you can always find a job. This is a great reminder of that idea.

Should You Invest In Gold? [Money For the Rest of Us] — “With gold at a six-year high, is now the time to invest? What determines the price of gold and what are ways one can invest in this precious metal? We also explore whether gold is an effective inflation hedge and store of value.” With all the talk of recession and the economy slowing down, you’re bound to see calls to own more gold. Read this to get a primer on what it means.

What I Learned from Losing $200 Million [Nautilus] — “I’d lost almost $200 million in October. November wasn’t looking any better. It was 2008, after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. Markets were in turmoil. Banks were failing left and right. I worked at a major investment bank, and while I didn’t think the disastrous deal I’d done would cause its collapse, my losses were quickly decimating its commodities profits for the year, along with the potential pay of my more profitable colleagues. I thought my career could be over. I’d already started to feel those other traders and salespeople keeping their distance, as if I’d contracted a disease.” The article is quite long and goes into detail about the financial aspects of the derivative (how the security was structured, who bought it and why, etc.) and how we overestimate our ability/skill/intelligence. Then halfway through, he discusses the illusion of control followed by the “loss,” his reaction, and the aftermath.

And our last article comes from the Department of Money Doesn’t Solve All Problems:

I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich. [Vox] — “The money my clients spent startled me. One house had a receipt for a throw blanket more expensive than my car. I vacuumed children’s bedrooms bigger than my apartment. Rob’s House — my picky Friday client who adored me — had $3,000 worth of television and stereo equipment just in the living room. The TV was always on. My Christmas card from him and his wife contained a $100 bonus, the highest the company had ever seen. That was around when the prescription bottles multiplied by the bathroom sink and Rob’s skin took on a yellow tone.” Wow. Just wow.

If you know someone who would enjoy one of these, please send it to them!

There’s no speed limit

Free will is a funny thing.

We all think we have free will. That our choices are our own and we have the option to do anything we want.

In reality, there are constraints. There are legal and social constraints on what you can and cannot do. What you should and should not do.

And then there are the invisible constraints that shape your decisions without you even being aware of it.

Those are the most pernicious constraints because they affect your free will in profound ways.

Today’s headline article challenges one of those invisible constraints:

There’s no speed limit [Derek Sivers] — “Whether you’re a student, a teacher, or a parent, I think you’ll appreciate this story of how one teacher can completely and permanently change someone’s life in only a few lessons.” If you were to ask me to list the blog posts that have had the biggest impact on my life, two of the top five can be found on Derek Sivers’ blog. (I’ll share the other one with you another day) This story takes just two minutes to read and I want you to email me after you read it to tell me what you think.

You’re thinking about “financial security” the wrong way [RadReads] — “Having spent 15 years on Wall Street, I’ve grown accustomed to these successful folks who are “bracing” for their worlds to come crashing down. They’re smart, humble, and often from modest roots. They believe in “The Number,” a mythical amount in their bank account where they can stop worrying. But The Number never arrives.” As someone who grew up financially secure but by no means “rich,” this one hit home.

Smashing 6 Figures of Debt & Learning From What Doesn’t Apply to Me [She Picks Up Pennies] — “Our mortgage finally dipped below six figures. Specifically, we now owe $99,884. And I can’t stop smiling. Mathematically, very little has changed. Technologically, it was just a few clicks and a single payment. Mentally? Psychologically? Emotionally? That is another story, friends. We all know that money is never just about math. And I’ve been living and breathing that truth all weekend.” Personal finance is more personal than finance.

How the *$#! do you pick wine? (with Dave Falchek) [Stacking Benjamins Podcast] — “Ever walk into a wine store and wonder what all the labels mean? Today, wine expert Dave Falchek from the American Wine Society joins us to talk all things vino. How do you pick a wine? What are some clues that a wine is good for your party? What do those ratings mean in a wine shop? What wines go best with burgers and dogs?” Both J.D. and I happened to take summer vacations that spent some time in Italy (they didn’t overlap though) and Italy has some amazing food and wine. Mmmm… wine.

And to round it all out, some fun. This video is one of my favorites… it’s about how so many pop songs use the same four chords.

Think of someone who would love one of the articles we shared today — then share this with them! Forward it along and be their new best friend!

Saving My Own Life with a Sabbatical

The last guest curated Apex was so well received, we decided to do it again! (and we will probably do many more in the future!)

Today, Financial Mechanic has pulled together a few of her favorite money stories on leaving the workforce early. (Mechanic also curates cool stuff on Sundays so you should definitely take a look)

Alright FM, take it away!

Start your morning with a podcast episode from the fabulous Fire Drill Podcast. We’re going back in the archives to hear from Ashley at Kiwi and Keewenaw about Taking a Mini-Retirement after 4 Years of Saving!

Saving My Own Life with Sabbatical [Lean FI ATL] — “In slow traveling in Guatemala, I’ve definitely become much more badass in a Mustachian Way. I feel invincible and strong and tiny and inconsequential, all at once, due to the sheer grandness of it all.”

Would you sell everything to travel the world? [Millennial Revolution] — “Focus on the journey and not the destination. For me, I didn’t know what [Financial Independence] was until the past couple of years and all of my decisions were for my own interest. For example, moving overseas from France to the US to explore a new country and changing jobs to learn new skills. I might not have taken these risks if I was laser focused on a FI goal but it ended up resulting in great experiences that I would never trade.”

10 Lessons From A Mini-Retirement [Montana Money Adventures] — “By leaving the 9-5, I have 100% control of my time/life, I hope to tackle 20 BIG dreams before I check out of this life. (Or 50 things! I see myself as the 85-year-old gray haired lady still creating, building, producing in BIG ways! I won’t go out quietly.)”

Should You Take a Sabbatical? 3 Women Weigh In [The Muse] — “Imagine exploring the Pacific Northwest and finding your way to Kurt Cobain’s house. Or taking a Trans Siberian train trip from Moscow to Bangkok. Or how about six months in nature hiking the Appalachian Trail? Sound like something you’ve always dreamed of? Maybe it’s time for a sabbatical.”

Before taking off on a grand adventure, I want to introduce you to Diderot. If you can learn from his pitfalls, you will be better equipped to save up for a sabbatical or mini-retirement. The Diderot Effect describes the phenomenon of spending begetting more spending. Here’s Diderot writing to us from 1769: Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A warning to those who have more taste than fortune

Settling my father’s estate and the burdens of caregiving

Today is the first day of FinCon, which is the annual conference of money nerds. This year, we’ll be in lovely Washington D.C.

Many of the bloggers that we’ve had the pleasure of highlighting each weekday will also be there. If you are attending, make sure to say hi!

Here are today’s best:

I Inherited Money And Now I Can’t Blog About Financial Independence Anymore [The Military Guide] — This isn’t a post about financial independence, it’s about the stress of caregiving and settling an estate. “I’m finally ready to write about distributing my father’s estate. We don’t talk enough about financial literacy in polite society gatherings– let alone aging and estate planning– yet almost everyone in the room is dealing with the caregiver burdens and the concerns of losing a loved one.” I can’t imagine how difficult it was to write but you must read it.

The Safe Withdrawal Rate Series – A Guide for First-Time Readers [Early Retirement Now] — Karsten, AKA Big Ern, has a very comprehensive series of articles discussing safe withdrawal rates. It is quite intimidating to jump into but he has recently published a guide to this multi-part series (by multi-part I mean it’s in the 30s right now) that should make it easier to digest!

You’re Average, So Am I [Waffles on Wednesday] — “Average is an interesting term. The truest definition is ‘a level (as of intelligence) typical of a group, class, or series.’ That’s it, it means typical. But oddly that term has come to imply bad, or not good enough. Why would you just want to be Average?? Average is awful.” Or is it? The article gives you a peek at the Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder’s Meeting and the Oracle of Omaha’s best investing advice and just how average it is.

The Gambler Who Cracked the Horse-Racing Code [Bloomberg] — “Bill Benter did the impossible: He wrote an algorithm that couldn’t lose at the track. Close to a billion dollars later, he tells his story for the first time.” I challenge you to not click on that link and get sucked into this fascinating story!

Did you know there’s a grammatically correct order to how you list adjectives? “Brick red big house” sounds super weird because the adjectives are out of order.

See an article in here that your friend needs to see? Send it to them!

How to get more done

Who doesn’t want to be just a little more productive each and every day?

There’s a reason why David Allen’s 2001 book titled “Getting Things Done” remains one of the most popular books on productivity. People like getting things done. 🙂

Today’s Apex will feature one article that offers up an action based refresher on being more productive followed by two pieces that should whet your appetite for hustling in areas you probably hadn’t considered.

Let’s get into it!

How to Get More Done [The Happy Housewife] — “Just last month I was feeling pretty overwhelmed by all the to-do’s spinning around in my head. After talking to a few friends I realized I needed to sit down, make a list, and start getting things done.” This post is great if you’re struggling to get things done (or feeling like you’ve gotten anything done) – it’s a good approach that includes ideas like achieving quick wins, starting fresh, and more.

Here are two posts on fun little side hustles you can do that I haven’t heard too many people talking about:

How You Can Make Money From Hosting an Airbnb Experience [Studenomics] — I’ve been following Martin’s experiencing starting a coffee tour since Day 1 and him sharing it all in one post is great for anyone looking to host an Airbnb experience. “I finally applied to have my own experience on Airbnb. I was denied. I revised my application and got accepted on the second try. After 6 weeks of on-the-job-training, I’m convinced that this is the best side hustle out there right now. You can host any experience and try to make money from the Airbnb app.”

70+ Ways to Make Money on The Side [Budgets Are Sexy] — J at Budgets Are Sexy has long been a proponent of side hustles and this page lists all the obscure ways (75 at last count) people have been side hustling, from selling crickets online to flipping collectible sneakers. Turning coins into rings is one of my favorites.

And lastly but not leastly, for something that has nothing to do with money, here’s a fun oral history about the invention of the Super Soaker.

There’s a short video about it too.

Know someone who might want to start an Airbnb experience or recharge scooters? Or perhaps they’re a huge fan of Super Soakers? Send them this article!

We’re all flawed in the same predictable ways. And then we die.

Today’s episode of Apex Money isn’t as somber as the title might imply, but it does tie two really good articles together in a way that really drives their key points home.

Chew on these and let me know what you think:

The flaws a Nobel Prize-winning economist wants you to know about yourself [Quartz] — It’s a brief primer on cognitive biases. “Sorry to say it, but you’re not perfect. We like to believe that we are smart, rational creatures, always acting in our best interests. In fact, dominant economic theory these days often makes that assumption.”

Now, for one of the most powerful arguments for early retirement I’ve ever read:

Why Retire Early? Because Death Is Coming. [A Purple Life] — “Unfortunately I’m no stranger to death. My introduction to the Reaper happened at my father’s funeral – he took his own life when I was 7. During the next 13 years I attended the funerals of 5 close family members…

… I’ve made my current life as awesome as possible, but knowing that my time is finite also makes me strive for more. Time is all we have and having it wasted by doing things that don’t matter or that I don’t enjoy grates on me. Thinking about death helps me understand what I want out of life.”

100% yes.

Now to round it out with something a little lighter:

The Artist, the Conman and the $15 Million Fraud [Narratively] — “From imitation Gauguins to a piece of the true cross, how two small-town crooks fooled art collectors around the world and built an epic empire of fakes.” I’ve done three Apex curations now and all three have had some kind of heist/fraud/con involved… do you like them? 🙂

Speaking of frauds, if you want to dissuade your kids from playing those ripoff carnival games (or asking you to play), show them this video by Mark Rober. He explains how the games try to trick you and how you can, as best you can, beat the ones that can be beat:

Did you enjoy an article in this curation that you think a friend might enjoy? Send it to them or share it on social media!

Just the tip of the iceberg…

Happy Friday – I bet you’re ready to start the weekend and if you wanted something fun you could chat with your friends about, we hope some of the articles in today’s curation can help spark some interesting conversations.

Let’s just get right into it:

Just the tip of the iceberg [Your Money Blueprint] — “All I could see was the fact that we were well fed and well housed. I didn’t really consider the fact they had to work for it. I only saw the end results, not the process. It’s a bit like an iceberg, where we only see the tip (results), but not all of the foundation layed under the water.”

Inside the Twisted, Worldwide Hunt for a $7 Million Stolen Car [Esquire] — “Joe Ford, car detective, searches the world for stolen rare automobiles on the black market. The case he’s on now could set him up for life—if he’s not outsmarted by a skilled network of criminals and cheats.” This article is so much fun.

The New Servant Class [The Atlantic] — “Low-skill, low-pay, and disproportionately done by women, these jobs congregate near dense urban labor markets, multiplying in neighborhoods with soaring disposable income. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of manicurists and pedicurists doubled, while the number of fitness trainers and skincare specialists grew at least twice as fast as the overall labor force.” The data highlights the rise of the “wealth work,” or jobs that support those with significant disposable income, and how the trend isn’t necessarily a good one.

Road-Tripping with the Amazon Nomads [The Verge] — “Chris Anderson moves through the Target clearance racks with cool efficiency, surveying the towers of Star Wars Lego sets and Incredibles action figures, sensing, as if by intuition, what would be profitable to sell on Amazon. Discontinued nail polish can be astonishingly lucrative, but not these colors. A dinosaur riding some sort of motorcycle? No way. But these Jurassic Park Jeeps look promising, and an Amazon app on his phone confirms that each could net a $6 profit after fees and shipping. He piles all 20 into his cart.”

This time-lapsed video of our planet rotating underneath the Milky Way is mesmerizing:

Did you enjoy an article in this curation that you think a friend might enjoy? Send it to them or share it on social media!