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Apex Money Posts

Half of young Americans receive financial help from their parents.

Wow! We almost had a disaster on our hands, money nerds! Somehow I managed to duplicate Tuesday’s edition of Apex Money to today — and lose all of the links I had intended to share with you. Fortunately, I was able to reconstruct things. Ah, the hazards of blogging.

First up is this long, amazing piece. I often encourage people to write down their money histories, to identify their actual money blueprints (or money scripts, if you prefer). Here, Ali has done just that.

My money background. [All Options Considered] — “[My sister and I] didn’t learn anything about money directly from our parents. But in a sense we actually learned the most important lesson — how to set goals at an early age and work towards accomplishing them. I knew when I was tiny that I didn’t want to be anything like my parents when I grew up. My sister and I both wanted to be like our Grandma. As a little kid I decided I wanted to have a job so I could earn my own money and be self sufficient as quickly as possible.”

About half of young Americans receive financial help from their parents. [Pew Research] — “The share of young adults who could be considered ‘financially independent’ from their parents by their early 20s – an assessment based on their annual income – has gone down somewhat in recent decades. A new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds that, in 2018, 24% of young adults were financially independent by age 22 or younger, compared with 32% in 1980.”

“How I align my time and money with my highest priorities.” [Frugalwoods] — “I’m ruthless about how I use my time and money. They’re both limited resources and how I deploy them dictates the type of life I lead. That doesn’t mean I never waste money and time. In fact, it was two recent failures – an $87 shopping spree at the co-op grocery store and a dirty upstairs bathroom – that prompted today’s reflection.”

How to properly dispute a medical bill. [The Frugal Gene] — “Hell has got to be where you expected an $85 bill but now you’re trying to find someone/anyone on the other end of the phone line (on a shoddy vulnerable connection) to answer why you were billed $2,000 for a set of routine labs. Hopefully, this article will help put an advocate in your corner for that ridiculous medical bill charge.

Today’s video is from Mrs. Midwest on YouTube, in which she explains ten ways her family thrives on one income.

Last of all, here’s something completely unrelated to personal finance. It is related to pizza, however. (For whatever that’s worth.)

How I got bigger, stronger, and leaner by eating 222 large pizzas in a row. [Deep Dish] — “Everyone knows pizza is ‘bad’ for you. This healthy vs unhealthy binary is drilled into us from childhood. The compulsion to pigeonhole everything into distinct categories is probably human nature, but it sure causes a lot of problems. The truth is, there are almost no objectively ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods; only good or bad diets. The appropriateness of that diet in turn depends entirely on each person’s circumstances.”

How to spot a quick-change artist.

Hey hey, money nerds. Have you noticed that we tend to share stories from certain sites more than others? Yeah, we’ve noticed that too. But no apologies. Quality is quality.

Our aim is to share the top money stories from around the web, no matter where they come from. And if certain sites — like A Purple Life, for instance — tend to publish more interesting articles than others sites, then we’re going to share stories from them more often.

Speaking of A Purple Life, look who’s here to start our Tuesday!

How to slay job interviews. [A Purple Life] — “Friends have told me that it’s not that easy to find a new job and that the one month of concentrated effort it’s always taken me is unusually short. During my last stint of funemployment, one friend pointed out why I might be an outlier…So I’m here to give the details on how I approach interviews in case it can help someone else shorten their job hunting time.

Do neighborhood watch apps make us safer? [Quartz] — “While Nextdoor, Citizen, and Neighbors might make some people feel more connected with their neighborhoods by recreating closer-knit communities of the past, the apps also can perpetuate and facilitate xenophobic, racist, or classist behaviors that often came alongside that closeness.”

How to get a better deal from a real-estate agent. [The New York Times] — “Informal industry estimates suggest that agents generally spend only a few dozen hours working on each deal and doing the things that home buyers value, like showing houses, evaluating prices, negotiating with sellers and coordinating inspections. Even if the agents in the New York example worked as many as 100 hours on each of their two deals, they would have spent only a small fraction of their time directly helping their clients.

How to get started hunting coins and currency. [Mighty Bargain Hunter] — “Some hobbies require startup costs. I’ve had friends that were into metal detecting. The better metal detectors aren’t cheap. With currency hunting, though, there don’t have to be any extra startup costs. All you need is money in the bank to withdraw. Also, even if you withdraw some bills or some coins, and end up finding nothing special, you still have all of your money…There’s no downside, only upside!

Speaking of spare change, here’s an interesting YouTube video that shows how to spot a quick-change artist trying to scam a clerk.

Lastly, here’s something that has nothing to do with money:

Happiness is fleeting. [Longreads] — “Amongst the thousands of life lessons found throughout Peanuts, I believe there is one that stands out amongst the rest: At the end of the day, you can either be disappointed, or you can be dancing, but you cannot be disappointed while you’re dancing. So take your pick.”

It’s okay to change your mind.

Merry Monday, my money nerds! Happy to have you here once more. Jim and I have been bookmarking our favorite money stories from around the web, as always. Let’s look at what we have to kick off the week!

“I accidentally uncovered a nationwide scam on Airbnb.” [Vice] — “Even if my scammers had been slightly foiled, there was no guarantee that they couldn’t just start fresh with new profiles. The system was still in place. Airbnb has created a web of more than 7 million listings built largely on trust, easily exploitable by those willing to do so.

It’s okay to change your mind. [Fiery Millenials] — “When making a big decision, just remember you don’t have to stick with it if you don’t want to. You might not be able to go back to your exact pre-decision situation, but at least you’ll know what works best for you and can go about building that life…Our lives are too short to be stuck in something that isn’t working for us. We are not trees — we can change our situation any time we want.

Buying less is better than buying green (for the planet and your happiness). [Science Daily] — “Study participants who reported having fewer materialistic values were much more likely to engage in reduced consumption. Consuming less was, in turn, linked to higher personal well-being and lower psychological distress. Green buying — which may have some positive environmental implications, although to a lesser degree than reduced consumption — was not found to improve consumer well-being, Helm said.”

And here’s a piece of news you’ve probably seen already. I don’t care. I like this so much, I have to share. I believe strongly in equality off opportunity for all, and I’m pleased with the progress the U.S. has made in my lifetime. But I sometimes worry that we’re taking steps backward — and this regression comes from those who think they’re most accepting.

Well, former president Barack Obama feels the same way. And he’s found rare bipartisan support by challenging “woke” culture.

The Washington Post writes:

Former president Barack Obama offered some advice earlier this week to young people hoping to change society: participating in cancel culture isn’t the way to do it. ‘This idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly,’ the 58-year-old said Tuesday while speaking at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. ‘The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws.’

In our current divided “black and white” culture, in which people on both sides of the political fence are quick to point fingers and condemn their opponents, this is a welcome observation.

You can STILL be anything you want.

It’s November, money nerds. November!!!! Can you even believe it? I can’t. Time to start thinking about winter already…

Today’s first article is fascinating. It’s academic research that shows how contestants on “The Price is Right” are getting less good at guessing prices as time goes on. (In my own life, I’m finding that I have a less of a sense for what things cost than I used to.)

Inattention and prices over time: Evidence from “The Price is Right” (1972-2019) [SSRN, click the “download this paper” link for PDF] — “Analyzing nearly five decades of data from “The Price Is Right” using nearly 30,000 trials of the one-bid Contestant’s Row game from 1972 to 2019 shows that players have increasingly underestimated the true price of the good over time with an increasingly greater magnitude, suggesting that individuals have become more inattentive to prices.”

Tips for getting out of poverty. [/r/povertyfinance on Reddit] — “I’ve grown up a minority in poverty with a younger brother and a single mom. I worked in fast food starting at $6.25/hr and banking from the age of 15 till late college. In the last 7 years I’ve graduated from college ended my full-time teller role and have been fulfilling my career choice as a designer throughout multiple roles…Here are some tips for things I’ve learned throughout the years that might be useful for people looking to break out of poverty. I hope it can help someone.”

Money buys you some happiness. Health buys you more. [The Big Picture] — “The issue with many attempts to measure happiness or well-being is that too often, they tend to rely on problematic surveys. Asking people questions tells you what they believe to be true — not what is actually true. This is a nuanced but crucial distinction.”

You can still be anything you want to be. [Rethink the Rat Race] — “You can still be anything you want to be…You don’t have to feel stuck in the choice that you made at 17 years old when you picked a major and profession that you thought would make your family happy. Don’t feel trapped in a career path that you didn’t even really choose, but one that you just kind of fell into. There has never been an easier time in history to pursue your true passions. The world is an amazing place where people are doing incredible things. Be one of those people.

Amen! Please please please be one of those people. Go out there, live intentionally, and make the world an amazing place by doing incredible things. Thank you.


Boo! Did I startle you, money nerds? It’s Thursday. It’s also All Hallow’s Eve! Today at Apex Money, we’re celebrating the event by sharing spooky stories from the world of personal finance. Prepare for the scare!

“When you die, I’ll be there to take your stuff.” [Narratively] — “You learn a lot about a dead man rifling through his house – lifting his furniture, clearing his walls, going through his closets, finding out which psalms are dog-eared in his Bible – searching for anything that might be worth selling at auction. It feels like trespassing.”

A financial checklist for the death of a parent. [Fatherly] —”No one thinks dealing with the death of a parent will be pleasant. We expect a morass of unfamiliar and uncomfortable emotions. We anticipate unprecedented grief. But no one warns us about how much math and paperwork it entails. Sorting out a parent’s estate after their death is a slow, sometimes grueling process that starts while you’re grieving and then drags on for months. Even if your parents left behind a clear estate plan and instructions about their wishes, you still may be tasked with a daunting list of responsibilities.”

Suddenly single: Why women need to focus on financial planning. [CFA Institute] — “My calculation is that 90% of married women will end up needing to manage their own finances at some point due to divorce or widowhood.” This is an article written by a financial advisor for financial advisors, but its lessons are important to everyone — especially women.

My family wants to spend our retirement money to keep Mom alive just one more day. [/r/financialindependence on Reddit] — “My mother is very sick, dying in the hospital…Now it is her families responsibility to pay the bills. My sisters want to keep her alive another day (and anther day after that.) with very expensive medical procedures. I say let her go. They call me a killer.” This is a fascinating ethical and moral dilemma.

This last piece isn’t about money but it is about death, a perfect topic for Halloween, right?

Remembering Action Park, American’s most dangerous and daring water park. [Sports Illustrated] — “Six [people died] between 1978, when the park was born, and ’96, when it went out of business. And there is simply no way of calculating how many injuries, ranging from minor to major, were sustained at the sprawling 250-acre playground that came to be known, variously, as Class Action Park, Traction Park, Friction Park and Accident Park.”

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? You should send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

How to use Gmail more effectively.

Last week, as I do from time to time, I was moaning about email. After two months of travel, I was buried in the stuff, and whining about it on Facebook seemed to be the only logical move. My pal Charlotte Baker sent me a private message. “J.D.,” she said. “Hop on Zoom with me. I’ll show you how to get your email under control.”

Charlotte taught me an email management trick she recently learned, a trick based on today’s first top post, a six-year-old article from Andreas Klinger.

How to use Gmail more effectively. [Andreas Klinger] — “If you struggle with keeping on top of your emails in Gmail you want to maybe try my setup. It’s hard for me to lose track and trust me – I am easy to distract. This is how I use Gmail since 2010…I couldn’t even imagine using gmail any other way. No seriously. I see those messy priority inbox tab inbox systems and I am just scared.”

A handy gmail system

How much time should you spend on your finances? [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “The goal shouldn’t be to allocate more time to managing your finances. The goal should be to spend 100x the amount of time doing the things you actually enjoy doing. But to get to a place where finances don’t take up too much of your time and have your financial house in order, you have to set things up in advance so you’re not constantly worrying about it.”

Creating the habit of being Not Busy. [Zen Habits] — “One of the most common problems among people I work with and coach is the feeling of always being busy…Most of us have used this ‘too busy’ rationalization, because it feels very true. It feels absolutely true that we’re too busy. And there’s a corollary to this: if we want to be less busy, we have to get all our work done first (and be more busy in the meantime)…Is it true? Or can we develop a habit of not being busy, even with the same workload?

To wrap things up today, here’s a short video that’ll probably make you a little envious. It’s a four-minute tour of a $15.6 million penthouse in Miami. Let’s all chip in and buy it together!

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? You should send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

When work and meaning part ways.

Today is Tuesday, money nerds. And if you’re reading this, it means that Kim and I escaped cold and snow Denver without any complications. We braved the icy roads to make the 70-mile drive to the airport at 6 a.m…and escaped unscathed. Yesterday’s cliffhanger had a satisfying resolution.

Of course, if you’re not reading this, I cannot vouch for the outcome of the cliffhanger.

In any event, let’s dive into today’s top money stories from around the web.

What it’s like to work for the same company for more than 25 years. [Mel Magazine] — “If the data behind the ‘job-hopping generation’ is to be believed, for many millennials — especially those of us in the media — working at the same company for 30 years is both a pipe dream and a nightmare. Job security is great and all, but many millennials see hopping from company to company as the only way to advance their career…I sought out three guys who went to the same office every day [for decades] to find out [what it was like].

When work and meaning part ways. [The Hedgehog Review] — “Our work-centered culture hasn’t collapsed yet. We have time now to get off the rickety scaffolding and build a new culture before disaster hits. If we do that, then the fully automated age won’t be a disaster at all…We don’t need meaningful work. We just need meaning, wherever we might find it.

What it’s like to outsource your life to subscription services. [Bloomsberg Businessweek] — “I’d been hearing a lot of Generation Z-age founders boast that their algorithms know consumers better than they know themselves. Their direct-to-consumer websites, which sell online without involving a retailer, claim to be able to refill shampoo containers just before they run out or tailor outfits to an individual’s personal style. Could these algorithms actually change my life?…In July of 2019, in an attempt to see where mechanization is taking us, I tried to live life by subscription alone.

Employees are happier when they work for competent bosses. [Harvard Business Review] — “We found that employees are far happier when they are led by people with deep expertise in the core activity of the business. This suggests that received wisdom about what makes a good boss may need some rethinking.”

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? You should send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

“Honey, I robbed a bank.”

Welcome to Monday, money nerds. Last week didn’t end with a cliff-hanger, but this week starts with one! My girlfriend and I are in Denver visiting friends. All great, right? Except that a snowstorm is forecast for Sunday. (It’s Saturday morning as I write this.) Will we manage to make it to the airport for our Monday morning flight?

Ooohhhh… the suspense is killing me.

Let’s leave this mystery for now and look at some of today’s top money stories. We’re going to start with crime.

“I would only rob banks for my family.” [Texas Monthly] — “By law enforcement standards, the Catts were as unlikely a set of bank robbers as one could imagine. They had no pressing financial issues and no obvious personal problems…Yet when it came to robbing banks, said Nehls, ‘they were very bold, very daring, and very risky. They’re lucky they didn’t get caught up in a shoot-out.'”

Bank robbers!

How much does it cost to be a stay-at-home parent? [Tawcan] — “I have always wondered what’s the actual financial cost of a stay-at-home parent. Therefore, I decided to reach out to Chrissy at Eat Sleep Breathe FI about writing a post and analyzing how much does a stay-at-home cost?…Rather than a generic article, I requested Chrissy to provide as many numbers as possible (I really pushed her comfort zone with this request hehe!). I wanted to make sure that we cover as many potential scenarios as possible…”

FICO scores are beginning to seem arbitrary. [/r/personalfinance/ on Reddit] — “I work in automotive lending for a major automotive lender. With increased technology, credit swipes, credit boosts, authorized user credit, and just straight fraud, FICOs are starting to become unreliable...I would not be surprised if in the coming years a FICO score becomes irrelevant. So instead of trying to inflate your score, just work on paying the important things on time every time.”

Finally, today, here’s a 13-minute rant from Chelsea Fagan at The Financial Diet. She’s sick of how “self-care” is portrayed in social media nowadays and she wants to set the record straight about what actually constitutes self-care.

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? You should send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

How many cats is too many cats?

It’s another freaky Friday, money nerds, and I’m flying out to Longmont, Colorado to celebrate the birthday of a certain mustachioed friend. Before I go, though, I’ve collected some more top money stories from this collection of tubes and wires that powers our modern life.

What is the creepiest thing you don’t talk about in your profession? [/r/AskReddit/] — In this 7300-comment thread, people share strange and creepy things that happen in their line of work. There’s some interesting stuff here — things you might not expect — but be warned: many of these are creepy and/or not safe for work.

Should you tithe or build your own wealth? [The Physician Philosopher] — “Even if you are not religious, I think that this concept is still important. Giving money comes in many different forms. It includes giving money to charitable causes outside the church. If you are religious and feel called to tithe, maybe this post will help you revisit the topic or start the conversation if you’ve never tithed regularly.”

How to not feel financially behind your friends. [Casual Money Talk] — “Human beings have this funny psychological tendency to normalize the status quo, and are thus never truly satisfied with the status quo. Comparing ourselves to others is an evolutionary gift that drives us to continually better ourselves and avoid complacency, but it does come with emotional costs and daily stresses we can do without.”

Our next story isn’t about money but it’s important. It’s all about how we use social media.

Social media is designed for emotion, not discourse. [Longreads] — This article is deliberately impossible to capture in a short quote. And that’s the point. The author argues that long, nuanced conversations are valuable. They educate us and, sometimes, change our minds. Social media is the opposite of long and nuanced. As a result, the conversations there aren’t conversations at all. They’re emotional outbursts and they do nothing to improve our society.

I’m not opposed to social media, but I don’t like how many people use it. I don’t think it’s a good tool for deep discussion. Deep discussion requires give and take. It involves subtlety. There’s no room for subtlety in 140 characters. I’m a big user of Facebook, but I don’t use it to dive deep into society’s ills. I use it to share cat videos.

Speaking of which: Our final piece today — which also has nothing to do with money — came to me from a friend on Facebook. Anna Akana has six cats.

Silly stuff, isn’t it? Yes, it is. But I like it. After all, the internet is made of cats.

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? You should send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.

There’s a difference between rich poop and poor poop. (For real!)

Hey there, money nerds. It’s Thursday, and today we have a variety of top money stories from around the interwebs.

Academic study: There’s a difference between the sewage in wealthy areas and the sewage in poor areas. [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] — “Our study shows that chemicals in wastewater reflect the social, demographic, and economic properties of the respective populations and highlights the potential value of wastewater in studying the sociodemographic determinants of population health.” Holy shit!

TurboTax’s 20-year fight to stop Americans from filing their taxes for free. [ProPublica] — “The success of TurboTax rests on a shaky foundation, one that could collapse overnight if the U.S. government did what most wealthy countries did long ago and made tax filing simple and free for most citizens. For more than 20 years, Intuit has waged a sophisticated, sometimes covert war to prevent the government from doing just that, according to internal company and IRS documents and interviews with insiders.”

U.S. median household income is at an all-time high. [Accidental Fire] — “Economists on both sides of the argument as to whether middle class incomes are stagnant have been accused of cherry picking their data. Fair enough. But what none of them seem to talk about is that the middle class is living better than ever in 2019.”

Are cash-back credit cards better than points cards? Quite possibly, yes. [The Lean House Effect] — “In this comparison, I want to show you that even though you’re getting lots of flights with your rewards, you would be able to buy all those flights and more with your cash back.” [This article is from a Canadian perspective, but the same principles apply to the U.S.]

Today’s final link has zero to do with personal finance. But I like it. It’s an interesting eight-minute video on the lost art of paste-up.

In the olden days — like thirty years ago — newspapers and magazines were assembled by cutting and pasting artwork and stories onto pages that could then be photographed for publication. Many of our modern computer metaphors (“cut”, “paste”, etc.) are derived from this process.

I have fond memories of many hours spent in high school (and church youth group) doing manual paste-up for newsletters, newspapers, and magazines. It was tedious work, but made better in the company of friends. By college in the late 1980s, though, digital layout had supplanted scissors and glue.

Found something you think your fellow nerds might like? You should send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money.