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Apex Money Posts

Don’t Set Your Happiness on FIRE

This is one of my favorite jokes:

Do you know what the hardest thing about running a marathon? Working into every conversation.

You can replace marathon with practically anything someone is getting into whether it’s keto, becoming vegan, joining Peloton, etc.

FIRE, financial independence retire early, is no different. It’s easy to discover it, become infatuated with it, and fall into the trap of mindless adherence.

Don’t Set Your Happiness on FIRE [Emily Guy Birken] – “Unfortunately, focusing on money in the pursuit of FIRE can create a different kind of mindlessness. Rather than think through how you want to spend your money, you may end up exchanging mindless consumption for mindless financial accumulation. The pursuit of a higher bank balance can become your goal, rather than using your money to improve your life satisfaction.”

These medical bills were made into oil paintings and sold to pay off the $73,360 debt [Mashable] – “MSCHF, the group responsible for stunts like Finger on the App and MasterWiki, is bringing attention to the failures of the American healthcare system with Medical Bill Art. Three real medical bills were rendered into oil paintings and sold for the amount of money owed via the art market. The work is aptly called 3 Medical Bills.”

Reminds me of when John Oliver bought almost fifteen million in medical debt for $60,000 and then forgave it.

Hotels of Pyongyang – “Hotels of Pyongyang is a photography project documenting the hotels of North Korea’s capital and one of the world’s most mysterious cities. Frozen in time, the architecture is typically soviet and brutalist whereas the interiors are modernist, kitsch and sometimes bizarre spaces. Staffed by stoic, uniformed and charming staff, the hotels are a world unto themselves that North Korea presents to outsiders.” This is just a series of photos of hotels in North Korea… and it’s surreal.

I really enjoyed James Clear’s Atomic Habits, here’s a 15-minute video recap of the three life-changing ideas from the book by Thomas Frank:


Money shame

I’ve also liked the phrase that personal finance is more personal than it is finance. I’m certain it’s one of J.D.’s favorite phrases when it comes to money.

Much like body weight, there’s more to it than the mechanics and the math. If you want to lose weight, consume fewer calories than you expend in a day. If you want to save money, make more money than you spend.

The math is simple but the execution is much harder and much of that is because of what’s between your ears.

How Financial Advice Triggers Painful Money Shame [Brave Saver] – “I cried the first time I went shopping for maternity clothes. I started a job shortly after finding out, but I waited as long as possible to tell my manager. I loathed grocery shopping once I started showing. I wasn’t self-conscious about my changing body itself, but rather what I felt it told people about me. They could simply look at me and know the deep, shameful truth: I was pregnant and completely unprepared.”

I also want to share a bias that is easy to fall into – it’s known as the fundamental attribution error. It’s when you attribute someone’s actions or outcomes on the “type of person” they are versus the situations and circumstances that person was put in.

Fundamental Attribution Error [SimplyPsychology] – “The fundamental attribution error (also known as correspondence bias or over-attribution effect) is the tendency for people to over-emphasize dispositional, or personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing situational explanations.”

This is not to say people are not responsible for their actions, that would be swinging the pendulum to the other extreme, but a warning that you should consider outside forces a bit more when assessing a situation. We have an inherent bias towards blaming the victim, so it’s important to rethink initial assumptions.

If you don’t like going to the dentist, you may want to skip this next one because it will do you no favors:

My dentist saved my tooth, but wiped my memory [BBC Future] – ““I remember getting into the chair and the dentist inserting the local anaesthetic,” he tells me. After that? A complete blank.

It is as if all new memories are being written in invisible ink that slowly disappears.
Since then, he has been unable to remember almost anything for longer than 90 minutes. So while he can still tell me about the first time he met the Duke of York for a briefing at the Ministry of Defence, he can’t even remember where he’s living now; he wakes up every morning believing he is still in Germany in 2005, waiting to visit the dentist. Without a record of new experiences, the passing of time means nothing to him. Today, he only knows that there is a problem because he and his wife have written detailed notes on his smartphone, in a file labelled “First thing – read this”.”

See you tomorrow!

Don’t lie, cheat, or steal

Today’s posts are a little bit different in that they’re not “core” personal finance articles. The first two are about, superficially, fraud and money but not in a way regular people can (also they’re not legal).

I share them to highlight some of the seedier sides of the Internet so that you can understand how these worlds operate and, hopefully, learn how to protect yourself better from financial fraud.

The last article is just a fun little study of how a poker cheat got caught.

FinCEN Files Show Criminals Moved Billions As Banks Watched [BuzzFeed.News] – “A huge trove of secret government documents reveals for the first time how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins.”

That’s just the first part, the next part where they dig into the files… that’s the juicy bits and you can read them here – We Got Our Hands On Thousands Of Secret Documents. Let’s Break Them Down.

This article by Matt Taibbi is a good companion to the story.

Confessions of an ID Theft Kingpin, Part I [Krebs on Security] – “Ngo’s businesses enabled an entire generation of cybercriminals to commit an estimated $1 billion worth of new account fraud, and to sully the credit histories of countless Americans in the process.” (here’s part two)

The Cheating Scandal That Ripped the Poker World Apart [Wired] – “Mike Postle was on another tear. The moonfaced 42-year-old was deep into a marathon poker session at Stones Gambling Hall, a boxy glass-and-steel casino wedged between Interstate 80 and a Popeye’s in suburban Sacramento. The September 21, 2019, game, which Stones was broadcasting to audiences via YouTube and Twitch, had attracted several top players to the casino’s card room, a gaudily lit space done up like an Old West saloon. One pro from Las Vegas had flown in on a chartered jet with $50,000 in cash. Yet, as usual when he appeared on Stones’ livestream, Postle was shredding the competition; he was the evening’s chips leader by a comfortable margin.”

It’s easy to make the right play when you’re cheating. 🙂

The lesson of the day? Don’t cheat! (or lie or steal)

Psychological tricks that make you buy more.

Ah, it’s been a long week, hasn’t it? But the weekend is nearly here, so it’s all good.

Before we sink into relaxation, however, let’s take one last look at some of the best money stories that Jim and I have found recently. And let’s start by looking at some of the ways we’re tricked every day to spend more than we mean to.

Money tricks

29 psychological tricks that make you buy more. [Visual Capitalist] — “While this list isn’t exhaustive, it provides some key examples of the ways that marketers are attempting to influence your subconscious mind. We noticed some high-level trends among the 29 tactics, which we compiled into four overarching sections.”

Owning a cat: An honest review. [The Frugal Girl] — “I’m really glad that I said yes to Lisey wanting a cat. The joy she’s brought to our family has been worth the small amount of inconvenience. That said, I am still holding firm on the No Dog policy. A girl has to draw a line somewhere.”

An abundance mindset is about more than money. [Money the Wright Way] — “An abundance mindset means you trust yourself enough to know you’re capable of doing what’s needed when and if things don’t work out the way you planned. It’s about making mistakes and knowing those mistakes won’t be the end of the world. You can have an abundance mindset even if you don’t have a six-figure salary, because the mindset comes from listening to yourself and what you value the most.”

Investing is about absolute numbers, not percentages. [Four Pillar Freedom] — “In my early years of college, I invested $3,000 into three individual stocks. Each day I would check the prices of each stock, sometimes several times per day. During these years, I made the mistake of focusing on percentages, instead of absolute dollars. I thought about how cool it would be to earn a 7% return on my investments, without realizing that the actual dollar return was insignificant.”

To finish the week, here’s something fun.

Japan has a love affair with Kit Kat candy bars. This short (four-minute) video looks at the origins of this passion — and how a professional pastry chef creates new Kit Kat flavors. (In the video, they mention that passionfruit was the first new Kit Kat flavor in Japan. I want to try it! I love the flavor of passionfruit.)

Okay, that’s a wrap. We’ll be back on Monday with more money stories. See you then.

How to remember everything you read.

¡Hola, mis amgios! Welcome to Apex Money. Today, we have three interesting money-related articles for you — and one excellent video. Let’s dive in.

What are sunk costs? (And when should you ignore them?) [Women Who Money] — “In economic terms, a sunk cost is money you’ve spent, but can’t recover. Sunk costs also apply to time or other resources you spend and can’t get back. When you can recover time or money spent on something, it’s not a sunk cost. Let’s say you buy an item you don’t want. If you return it to the store or sell it for the same amount you spent, it’s not a sunk cost.”

Why everything is sold out. [The Atlantic] — “Sorting through the immense milieu of online retail has become a business unto itself, with popular websites such as Wirecutter and The Strategist offering tried-and-tested recommendations to combat the dysphoria that typing ‘bath towels’ into a search box would otherwise summon. In just a few months, the pandemic has turned the all-encompassing, carefully constructed institution of American consumerism on its head.”

New maps model possible upcoming climate migration in the United States. [Pro Publica] — “Taken with other recent research showing that the most habitable climate in North America will shift northward and the incidence of large fires will increase across the country, this suggests that the climate crisis will profoundly interrupt the way we live and farm in the United States. See how the North American places where humans have lived for thousands of years will shift and what changes are in store for your county.” [See also: How climate migration will reshape America from The New York Times.]

We end today’s edition of Apex Money with a video, as we often do. This time, it’s my pal Rob Berger sharing advice on how to remember everything you read.

This is longer tham most videos we share (22 minutes), but I found it useful. You may too. (By the way, Rob is one of the smartest and nicest guys I know.)

Okay, that’s it for today. I’ll be back tomorrow to see you into the weekend.

Die broke.

What up, money nerds? This is Wednesday, this is Apex Money, and I am your host, J.D. Roth. Today — as every weekday — I have a handful of cool stories about personal finance (and related topics) to share with you. I’m particularly fond of the first one.

Digging up personal info on a politician based on a seemingly-innocent Instagram photo. [Mango PDF Zone] — “Your boarding pass for a flight can sometimes be used to get your passport number. Don’t post your boarding pass or baggage receipt online, keep it as secret as your passport.” This is a l-o-n-g article that’s difficult to explain…but damn it’s interesting. Bottom line? Don’t post photos of your boarding pass when you’re traveling.

Finding the track. [Haystack] — “This year will force me to be even more alert, move alive, more aware of the signals around me. By paying close attention, there’s a possibility to find the track again. It won’t just reappear, like someone flipping the switch back. Rather, I believe it is a new track, and it has to be forged from scratch.”

The billionaire who wanted to die broke is now officially broke. [Forbes] — “Charles ‘Chuck’ Feeney, 89, who cofounded airport retailer Duty Free Shoppers with Robert Miller in 1960, amassed billions while living a life of monklike frugality. As a philanthropist, he pioneered the idea of Giving While Living — spending most of your fortune on big, hands – on charity bets instead of funding a foundation upon death.”

To close things out today, we’re featuring audio instead of video. Here’s the latest episode from Sarah Li Cain’s excellent podcast, Beyond the Dollar. It’s all about your financial legacy. And if things work like I hope they will, I’ll simply be able to paste her HTML code and the podcast will embed below. 😉

How’s that for a bunch of food stuff? It’s great, isn’t it? And we’ll be back tomorrow with more of the same! See you then.

The algebra of happiness.

Today is Tuesday. Here at Apex, we’re ready to dive into some money links!

How financial apps get you to spend more and question less. [Kristin Wong at Wired] — “Robinhood, the investing app, uses a gamified interface to make investing seem easier than it is, encouraging its users to trade frequently, which most personal finance experts do not recommend for long-term investing. Without properly understanding the risk, many consumers have been steered into costly investing decisions.”

Why creatives thrive in early retirement. [Minafi] — “An identity bridge is a project, hobby, interest, skill, or something else that enables you to continue having a similar sense of self during retirement. It’s about not feeling a sense of loss for a job – or at least the parts of your job that were beneficial. People who don’t have hobbies need this the most.”

“My favorite lessons from The Algebra of Happiness.” [Four Pillar Freedom] — “This isn’t a book that cites controlled studies and experiments dealing with happiness. It’s simply Galloway sharing advice based on what he has personally experienced. This could be a turn-off for some people, but I viewed the experience of reading this book as similar to sitting down with someone who has been through a lot in life, faced hardships, endured failure, and is simply dishing out some advice based on what they’ve seen works.”

Why it might be a bad idea to buy a home during the pandemic. [MSN] — “Mortgage applications are up 22% compared to last year, showing that demand is immense. But if you’re keen on submitting your own application, you might want to reconsider. The US is facing a housing shortage that only ratchets home prices up, according to a new Redfin analysis. Meanwhile, a new LendEDU survey found that those who decided to become pandemic homeowners are already expressing buyer’s remorse.”

Finally, I was moved by this short video clip in which a troop of monkeys mourns the “death” of a camera “spy monkey”. That sentence doesn’t really make sense out of context. Here. Watch the video.

I’m telling you: Animals have greater intelligence and richer emotional lives than most people credit.

Okay, that’s plenty for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the best from the world of personal finance. See you then.

How to cut your work hours in half.

Good morning, my friends. I hope you’re doing well. And I hope that you’re ready for another week of outstanding money links here at Apex Money. To kick things off this Monday, we’re going to take a look at some stories from traditional media outlets. You know, newspapers and magazines! (Remember those?)

Four questions to help demystify your relationship with money. [New York Times, so possible paywall] — “That’s where these questions can move people to think about their money as more than just a way to buy what they want. It gets people to think about how they want to be involved in their family, their community and the world.”

Cut your work hours in half by using an “A/B schedule”. [Fast Company] — “As a coach who works with a lot of business owners and solopreneurs, I’ve seen my clients do everything from marketing to idea generation to logistical firefighting. Often, they’re doing all these things on the same day, if not the same hour. That makes about as much sense as actually balancing, wearing, and placing a stack of hats on your head at the same time. So I tell my clients, they need to put on one hat–one role–at a time, and adopt an A/B schedule.”

Financial rules of thumb to consider breaking. [Kiplinger’s] — “Financial rules of thumb circle around the internet like flotsam caught in an eddy. We scrutinized five particularly persistent ones to see how they hold up. Our conclusion: Most have merit as a starting point for setting a financial goal. But depending on your personal circumstances, you may benefit from bending the rules.”

To wrap things up, let’s look at several mass media outlets at once! Last week, I discovered News Radius, a site that collates news headlines from five different major outlets, then displays them side by side. It’s interesting. Here’s a screenshot:

The site also has an election-focused page where you can compare tweets from both Joe Biden and Donald Trump. I’m not a big fan of the news media, but I find this project interesting.

Okay, that’s plenty for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great links. See you then.

How Money Became the Measure of Everything

As we move into the weekend, which for most families feels exactly like the weekdays, I wanted to share an article that really opened my eyes to something fundamental about our society.

Our society often conflates money with value – we think of people who make more money as being “better.”

If you make more money, you must be [insert your definition of better here]. Smarter? Harder working? More efficient? Cleverer? It’s not universal and not in all cases, but I think, as generalities go, it holds true even if we don’t like saying it out loud.

How did we get to this point? The answer is simple – capitalism.

How Money Became the Measure of Everything [The Atlantic] – “Money and markets have been around for thousands of years. Yet as central as currency has been to so many civilizations, people in societies as different as ancient Greece, imperial China, medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure residents’ well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.

In the mid-19th century, the United States—and to a lesser extent other industrializing nations such as England and Germany—departed from this historical pattern. It was then that American businesspeople and policymakers started to measure progress in dollar amounts, tabulating social welfare based on people’s capacity to generate income. This fundamental shift, in time, transformed the way Americans appraised not only investments and businesses but also their communities, their environment, and even themselves.”

By the way, you should leave that article with an understanding of this fundamental piece of capitalism – it’s the idea that “basic elements of society and life—including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, human beings, and nations—are transformed (or “capitalized”) into income-generating assets that are valued and allocated in accordance with their capacity to make money and yield future returns.” Is that a good thing or a bad thing? 🙂

Why Does The Stock Market Go Up Over Time? [Four Pillar Freedom] – “The S&P 500 has never lost money over any 18-year period and during the worst 30-year period it still delivered 4.3% annual returns even after inflation, which was good enough to triple an original investment. Simply put, stocks go up over time. But why?”

Forget botox and beauty regimes… if you want to look better? Be generous…er?

Is being generous the next beauty trend? [ScienceDaily] – “Is being generous the next beauty trend?”

J.D. is back in the saddle for next week, have a great weekend Apexian!

You can always find a gem in great speeches

There have been a lot of famous speeches… but there have also been many great ones that don’t get the shine they deserve.

One of the beautiful things about the internet is that if you have something you love, you can share it with the world. James Clear, who I first met when he had a personal finance blog called the Passive Panda, is most well know for what he’s written about habits (Atomic Habits is a great book). We haven’t kept in touch often the last few years but the one thing that struck me about him was that he was always learning.

Today, I want to share with you something that he’s put together (and he put this together a while ago) that I’ve greatly enjoyed. He’s collected a series of speeches/talks that he thinks are great but that most people have never heard of. You will recognize many of the names and, if you’ve been a long time subscriber of Apex, you may recognize a few of these speeches, but you can find some gems in here.

Please enjoy.

Great Talks Most People Have Never Heard [James Clear] – “I’ve been slowly searching for answers to that question and the result is this list of my favorite interesting and insightful talks that are not widely known. You may see a few famous speeches on this list, but my guess is that most people are not aware of many of them—just as I wasn’t when I first started looking around.”

I was tempted to put just that one link into this post, I think it’s that you need a bit of ha-ha to start the day too:

Comedy Wildlife Photography awards 2020 finalists – in pictures [The Guardian]

See you tomorrow!