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Apex Money Posts

Keeping up with the Joneses is for the birds

I’ve always enjoyed the phrase “keeping Up with the Joneses” and I didn’t know it originated from a comic strip!

When it comes to money, you don’t want to be “Keeping up with the Joneses” because it’s a quick way to financial ruin. And as younger generations value experiences over things, conspicuous consumption is likely to be on its way out. But it’s not out yet. 🙂

NOwnership, No Problem: An Updated Look At Why Millennials Value Experiences Over Owning Things [Forbes] – “People young and old are opting for experiences over things. These markers of success are no longer as meaningful as they once were. And while young and old are both changing their buying habits, today we are focusing on millennials. As kids millennials saw their parents’ lives crumble as a result of the financial meltdown, and watched as their parents lost their life savings to the banks and Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Now the new normal is to see people in their 70s working at grocery stores when they should be retired. People have become increasingly disillusioned with the status quo. As a result of changing times, millennials want to seize the moment, and they are skipping the mall for carpe diem. People want to experience all that life has to offer, and since acquiring things no longer dictates your class or status in life, millennials are simply enjoying experiences over things, access over ownership.”

Who Wants to Play the Status Game? [The Point] – “When you first meet someone, you “feel each other out” to see where your lives might connect—where are you from, what do you do, what music/art/books do you like, etc. You are looking for common ground on the basis of which your conversation might proceed. Call this the Basic Game; I’d like to contrast it with two more advanced games that can be played in its stead, or alongside it.” A fascinating read that runs the risk of making you evaluate your first interactions with people.

Making Money, Making Happiness [Nat Eliason] – “Having money is unlikely to make you happy. But earning money can make you very happy. Depending on how you get it.” When people talk about Keeping up with the Joneses, it’s often about how much you are spending… I agree with Nat on this point about the joy of creating and earning money from your creations.

Finally, speaking of neighbors…

The Cartel Next Door [Texas Monthly] – “A thirty-minute drive northwest of Dallas, the town of Southlake is one of the richest places in America. Many of its roughly 30,000 residents live in opulent walled-off subdivisions with names like Coventry Manor, Monticello, and the Enclave. Famous athletes are a common sight. PGA golfer Rory Sabbatini and former Dallas Cowboy DeMarcus Ware live here. […] As Julia loaded her bag into the driver’s side back seat, Guerrero climbed into the front passenger seat. That’s when a white Toyota Sequoia pulled up behind them and a man got out with a 9mm pistol.” This one will take a bit to chew through but it’s a fun read if you’re into this type of thing.

Many paths towards wealth

My parents inadvertently taught me a lot of good (and a few bad) money lessons.

One of them is was debt is, in general, bad. You don’t want to owe people money. Favors are one thing, but actual money? No way.

This wasn’t a blank “hey, all debt is bad” but more of a “this better be for a good reason.”

So when I went to college, taking on low-interest (and deferred until graduation) student loan debt was a good reason. I got a bunch of grants and a few scholarships but graduated with around ~$35,000 of student loan debt. Not a small sum but not some of the larger amounts I’ve seen.

It was smaller than it could’ve been because I lived like a college kid and hustled my way to earn spending money.

Hustling (which I just think of as earning money from something other than your primary job) is something I’ve enjoyed doing ever since college. It’s not the only way to graduate without debt, as we’ll see in a second, or necessarily the best way to get rich.

I hope you enjoy these Apex posts today!

Can You Cashflow College? My Debt-Free Graduation Journey [Trip of a Lifestyle] – “Like most millennials, it was expected of me to go to college. I had the grades and the drive, just not the money. To be fair, money was always pretty tight in my family’s house growing up, and my baby brother didn’t make that any easier when he came (unexpectedly) into my parents’ lives during my sophomore year in high school. I knew that if I was going to go to college, I’d need to figure out how to pay for it all myself — without financial support from my parents.” I enjoyed this because it showed a way to get through college without taking on massive debt, which is a huge subject right now as student loan debt tops $1.6 trillion. That and I didn’t know someone who graduated college in 2012 could possibly have owned a car that had automatic seatbelts!

How to Retire a Millionaire Starting From Scratch at 30 [Casual Money Talk] – “And I’m here to ease all your financial worries, and assure you that 30 is a perfect time to embark on the Act I of your journey towards a cushy retirement – even though you might not quite believe it yourself.” Don’t fixate on the term ‘millionaire’ and you’ll find this post very useful if you want a roadmap to building wealth at any age.

For more motivation, here’s a post that outlines seven steps to becoming rich in five years… again, don’t focus on the time period (or the numbers necessarily) but the lessons within – Take These 7 Steps to Become Rich in 5 Years [The Mastermind Within].

Finally, to round it all out, I want to share a post I’ve shared in the past (September 9th to be exact) because it’s appropriate.

There’s no speed limit [Derek Sivers] — “Before I met Kimo, I was just a kid who wanted to be a musician, doing it casually. Ever since our five lessons, I’ve had no speed limit. I owe every great thing that’s happened in my life to Kimo’s raised expectations. A random meeting and five music lessons showed me that I can do way more than the norm.” This blog post has had a big impact in changing my thinking. This story takes just two minutes to read and I hope it has a similar effect.

Let me know what you think.

Learning curves and growth

I really enjoy learning new things.

About ten years ago, I started playing golf. I was (and probably still am) awful.

But over the course of about two years, I took some lessons, practiced a lot, and now I’m decent. Then we had kids, I played a lot less, and now it’s just a fun hobby I enjoy a few times each year. But, I can pick up some clubs, go play a round of golf with some friends, and it’s a good time. (which was my goal)

When you learn something new, there’s that exciting period where you run up the learning curve. There’s a ton of growth and discovery and it can be addicting. It’s why some people jump from hobby to hobby, some people chase that feeling because it’s so much fun.

It turns out that there’s more to it than fun.

How Will You Measure Your Life? [Harvard Business Review] – “One of the theories that gives great insight on the first question—how to be sure we find happiness in our careers—is from Frederick Herzberg, who asserts that the powerful motivator in our lives isn’t money; it’s the opportunity to learn, grow in responsibilities, contribute to others, and be recognized for achievements.”

Being a Noob [Paul Graham] – “I constantly feel like a noob. It seems like I’m always talking to some startup working in a new field I know nothing about, or reading a book about a topic I don’t understand well enough, or visiting some new country where I don’t know how things work.”

This one is less about growth and more about fun:

When a Man Took a Joke in a Pepsi Ad Seriously, Chaos Ensued [Literary Hub] – “At the time, each AV‑8 Harrier II Jump Jet brought into action cost the United States Marine Corps over $20 million and, thankfully, there is a simple way to convert between USD and PP: Pepsi would let anyone buy additional points for 10 cents each. Now, I’m not familiar with the market for second-hand military aircraft, but a price of $700,000 on a $20 million aircraft sounds like a good investment. As it did to John Leonard, who tried to cash in on this.”

Hilarity must have ensued, right?

Come for the football, stay for the commercials

Did you watch the Super Bowl last night?

Or did you just check-in for the commercials?

Which was your favorite?

Here are our favorite money(ish) articles for today:

Climbing the Wealth Ladder [Of Dollars and Data] – “If I gave you $100, would that change your life? What about $100,000? How about $100 million? Your answer will depend on many things including age, family situation, and your current net worth. More importantly though, how you change your behavior after receiving such money can tell you a lot about your current financial standing.”

Three Theories for Why You Have No Time [The Atlantic] – “The household economy of cooking, cleaning, mending, washing, and grocery shopping has arguably changed more in the past 100 years than the American factory or the modern office. And its evolution tells an illuminating story about why, no matter what work we do, we never seem to have enough time. In the 20th century, labor-saving household technology improved dramatically, but no labor appears to have been saved.”

Your Life is Driven by Network Effects [NfX] – “What city you live in. Who you date or marry. Which job you choose. What clothes you wear. We all think we make these choices ourselves. It certainly feels like we’re in full control. But it turns out that our choices — both in our startups and in our lives — are more constrained than we think. The unseen hand in them all is the networks that surround us and the powerful math they exert on us.”

This is still my favorite Super Bowl commercial of all time:

Happy Monday!

How to create sustainable money habits.

Good morning, money nerds! It’s Friday, which means the end of the week. But not for me. You see, I’m currently in the midst of creating an audio-only course about financial independence and early retirement for Audible and The Great Courses. My first deadline — for half of the material — is today. I’m not finished.

Fortunately, my project manager has extended my deadline to Monday. Also fortunately, I’m nearly finished. I’ve completed three lectures and have written the bulk of the other two. But that still means I’ll be hacking away in the word mines for most of the weekend. I’ll be working.

But don’t you worry about that. You enjoy yourself. And before you head home, here are some recent top money stories for you to enjoy.

How to create sustainable money habits. [Frugalwoods] — “It’s not good enough to do good with your money one month, you’ve got to do good with your money all the months. That’s the only route to true improvement. Frugality can become your default and you can train yourself to do the right thing with your money. It’s about establishing habits that are easy to follow.”

The secret tricks used by restaurant menus. [BBC] — “You may not realise it, but the menu probably played a far greater role than you’d credit. Far from being glorified pricelists, restaurant menus are sophisticated marketing tools that can nudge customers towards certain choices. Restaurant menus can even tell us what to think.”

How poor Americans get exploited by their landlords. [CityLab] — “It is a mistake, Desmond and Wilmers argue, to see slums as a byproduct of the modern city, rundown areas that occur by accident. Instead, they contend that the slum has long been a ‘prime moneymaker’ for those who profit from land scarcity, racial segregation, and deferred maintenance.”

Magnitude matters. [Humble Dollar] — “Why don’t we spend our time and energy on financial issues that have the greatest impact? We’ll drive to a more distant gas station to save 10 cents a gallon, but fail to do all the maintenance needed to extend the life of our car. What lies behind this sort of behavior? The savings from getting the best price per gallon is concrete and immediate, while maintaining our car is long term and abstract. It’s simply easier to focus on the 10 cents.”

Let’s end Friday with a special treat. Or, at least it’s a treat for me. You see, I used to be a devoted fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I videotaped every episode, audiotaped every episode, and took detailed notes on every episode, which I then entered into a spreadsheet. (How many episodes was O’Brien in? What about Keiko?) Yes, I am a nerd, thankyouverymuch.

Well, as you probably know, there’s a new series called Star Trek: Picard. At the moment, it’s only available through the subscription service from CBS, and I refused to pay for yet another streaming service. So, I’ll wait a year for Picard to be released on iTunes. (That’s what I did with Star Trek: Discovery.)

Fortunately, for a limited time, CBS has posted the first episode of Picard on YouTube. You can watch it for free! I haven’t done so yet, but I will this weekend…

Speaking of weekends, it’s time for you to start yours. We’ll be back next week with more of the best of the web. See you then.

A half-million dollar wristwatch.

Good morning, sleepy-head, and welcome to another edition of Apex Money. We’re always here, always working to bring you the best money stories from around the web.

Today, let’s start with our video feature instead of finishing with it.

My ex-wife was (and still is) a huge fan of Antique’s Roadshow, the public television show where people bring in their treasures to find out they’re worth a lot — or a little. Well, here’s a fun segment from AR in which a guy learns that the Rolex watch he bought for $350 in 1974 is today worth…are you ready? The watch is worth half a million dollars. Holy cats!

Every job looks easy when you’re not the one doing it. [Collaborative Fund] — “‘Easy’ makes a good story. It’s short, persuasive, and comforting. But it’s a deceiving story. Everything worthwhile has a cost, so few things worth pursuing are even a shade of easy.”

How the IRS chooses you for an audit. [The Wealthy Accountant] — “It is impossible to completely avoid a tax audit. They happen…If you are unfortunate enough to face an audit, nothing shortens the audit faster than good records. When the taxing authority realizes there is no low hanging fruit they lose interest fast. Clean records also avoid a deeper look into your finances. You just don’t want the hassle.”

Owning a home is not for everyone. [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “There are plenty of good reasons to own a home but peer pressure and price appreciation shouldn’t be at the top of that list…Everyone considering buying a home should run the numbers to understand how the math works out in their area. But even if the numbers look immaculate, you shouldn’t take the plunge into homeownership unless you’re emotionally ready to make this purchase.”

Nearly half of all Americans didn’t participate in outdoor recreation in 2018. [The Colorado Sun] — “While the Outdoor Foundation’s 2019 Outdoor Participation Report showed that while a bit more than half of Americans went outside to play at least once in 2018, nearly half did not go outside for recreation at all. Americans went on 1 billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 than they did in 2008. The number of adolescents ages 6 to 12 who recreate outdoors has fallen four years in a row, dropping more than 3% since 2007.”

That last article made me think: Do I get out as much as I used to? Honestly, I’m outside more than ever. But nowadays, I’m outside with a purpose — not for recreation. Maybe it’s time for me to re-incorporate some outdoor hobbies into my life again. Sounds like a good goal for 2020. Well, once this Oregon rain lets up, that is…

See you again tomorrow! Until then, be good.

The economics of all-you-can-eat buffets.

Today is Tuesday, and this is Apex Money.

Like what we do here? Enjoy your daily dose of top money stories from around the web? Help us out! Share us with your friends and family. Better yet, when you find something that other Apexians might like, send it in. We love reader contributions. It helps us create a buffet of delicious links.

Speaking of buffets, let’s get started.

The economics of all-you-can-eat buffets. [The Hustle] — “Few things epitomize America more than the all-you-can-eat buffet. For a small fee, you’re granted unencumbered access to a wonderland of gluttony…But one has to wonder: How does an industry that encourages its customers to maximize consumption stay in business? To find out, we spoke with industry experts, chefs, and buffet owners. As it turns out, it’s harder to ‘beat’ the buffet than you might think.”

Most dietary supplements do nothing. So, why do Americans spend $35 billion a year on them? [The Washington Post] — “Every year, Americans spend something like $35 billion on vitamins, minerals, botanicals and various other substances that are touted as health-giving but mostly do nothing at all. Nothing at all! Could the entire category really just be a rip-off?”

A glossary of personal-finance terms. [Women Who Money] — “When you begin taking control of your money and reading about personal finance, you may come across terminology you aren’t familiar with. This can end up frustrating you or lead to mismanagement of your funds. And we certainly don’t want that! Below you’ll find a fairly comprehensive list of definitions to help you grasp numerous personal finance terms.”

How to future-proof your career in 2020 (and beyond). [Fast Company] — “Future-proofing one’s career doesn’t just mean studying STEM, learning to code, or becoming a data scientist (although, for people with the aptitude for STEM, that is a good place to start). In fact, surviving and thriving in the economy of the future may come down to many of the old-school tactics that helped guide my career a generation ago.”

Lastly, here’s a TWO-HOUR video that shows a time lapse of TEN YEARS of U.S. weather. No, I don’t expect anybody to watch all two hours, but it’s certainly fascinating to watch a minute or two. And then I had fun looking for specific weather events I remember from the past decade.

That’s all folks! We’ll be back tomorrow with more fun and games. See you then.

Wealth is what you DON’T spend.

Good morning, money nerds, and welcome to another edition of Apex Money. That’s right: Jim and I are back with another collection of excellent articles from around the web.

I particularly enjoyed today’s stack of stuff. All four of these pieces is great. So good, in fact, that I didn’t include my typical “bonus” non-money story at the end of the post. I want you to dive into these stories, not get distracted by funny animals.

Why you should quit the news. [Mark Manson] — “The news doesn’t show that the vast majority of people are good. They will help if they can. They care even if they’re confused about how to care or why. The news doesn’t teach you that most people won’t hurt you and even if they do, you will recover and be fine and be stronger than before. But most of all, the news doesn’t teach you that moral outrage, while strangely satisfying, gives people a sense of accomplishing something without actually accomplishing anything.” Yes, yes, 1000x yes.

Wealth is what you don’t spend. [Collaborative Fund] — “Financial wellbeing can’t be measured by merely looking at how much you earn. The gap between what you earn and how much you avoid offsetting those earnings is the figure that matters most.”

Why deep work matters in early retirement. [The Frugal Engineers] — “When you leave your day job in the dust and open up an extra 40-60 hours per week of time for yourself, it’s incredibly easy to slip into a state of sloth. I’m not talking about taking a vacation to decompress – I’m referring to the tendency for activities to expand to fill the time we give them…The value of deep work should not be ignored even if it’s not billable, paid work.”

The rise of dogvorce. [GQ magazine] — “As more couples opt out of or delay the traditional markers of relationship maturity (marriage, babies), many of them seem to be compensating by adopting dogs instead. When unmarried couples decide to split, however, without the formality of an official legal process to divide up the assets, figuring out who gets to walk away with the pets in tow can be especially dicey.” This article is surprisingly good.

That’s it for today! I’ll be back tomorrow with more top money stories from around the web.


Hello, Apexians! It’s Monday, and we have money stories for you. Are you ready to dive into some of the best personal-finance articles from around the web? I am!

A midwife in the North Country. [The New Yorker] — “Sunday Smith is likely the only certified nurse-midwife offering out-of-hospital births in a hundred-mile radius. Her services are in high demand, yet she has trouble making ends meet.” This is a l-o-n-g article (and it may be behind a paywall for you) but it’s fascinating. It touches on many different aspects of personal finance. Well worth reading, if you have the time.

A midwife in the North Country.

Five lessons from the “witch” of Wall Street. [Morningstar] — “During the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, a woman named Hetty Green was one of the most powerful financiers in the world. She made the vast majority of her $100 million fortune ($2.3 billion in today’s dollars) herself, investing in railroad stocks and bonds, government bonds, and mining stocks. She also provided loans to cash-strapped businesses and bailed out the city of New York on several occasions…Here are five lessons we can learn from Hetty Green about investing and life.”

The aggregation of marginal gains. [Josh Overmyer] — “The guys on the ChooseFI podcast talk about it all the time, how life doesn’t just suddenly become wonderful overnight. Each and every small change or improvement we make adds up and compounds over a lifetime. And because of the power of the Aggregation of Marginal Gains, Brad posts a prompt every Friday morning asking ‘What was the ONE THING you did this week to make your life easier, happier, wealthier, more efficient, etc?’ I’ve gone back to almost every week in 2019 to gather what I posted on each of the Friday Facebook prompts from Brad. Here’s a look back.”

It’s time to let go of commuter culture. [Jalopnik] — “Cities across the world are re-examining the role of the automobile. More specifically, and especially among American cities, they’re trying to get more people to commute like Leo. This is happening because, in many cases, policymakers have realized that they cannot continue to grow by adding more people who use cars as their sole transportation method, to say nothing of mitigating the never-ending gridlock and poor air quality that exists today.”

To wrap things up this Monday, here’s a very important non-financial article from Audobon: When is a bird a “birb”? — “Birb is a slightly daffy word from the same school of internet absurdity that gave us LOLCats and Doge. Yet unlike these online gags, or memes, birb functions as a category rather than a stock character. It is roughly akin to ‘doggo’ or ‘snek’, yet all dogs and snakes are contained within those words; birb remains amorphous.”


Jim and I are here to help you with all of life’s important matters. 😉

Reinvention is a process

As a society, I think we have a romantic view of reinvention.

We are enamored by stories of reinvention, almost as much as we love a good “rags to riches” story, because it shows us that we capable of changing ourselves if we truly wanted to.

But most reinventions are not sexy stories with catchy headlines. They’re borne out of necessity. They’re painful. They’re arduous processes by which people redefine who they are on their terms rather than what they think they should be.

Reinvention happens in a lot of different ways.

Today, I want to take that idea and see where it takes us, starting with a very honest, open, and vulnerable post from Melanie:

The Power of Reinvention: How Boxing Changed My Life [Melanie Lockert on Medium] – This article is not a personal finance one but it’s written by a personal finance blogger I’ve known for years. Melanie Lockert’s money blog is called Dear Debt and this Medium post is about how boxing changed her life after a series of big changes in her life. “The learning curve was steep and intimidating but also exciting. When you’re starting at 0 getting to 10 feels so good. Then 20. Then 30. Progress proved to be addictive and the antidote for my low self-esteem. Slowly but surely I was gaining a newfound confidence.”

I love learning new things, like a skill or sport, because of how quickly you can get from terrible to competent. Running up that learning curve is a lot of fun and can tell you a lot about yourself. I’ve never tried boxing but it sounds like it did a lot of great things for Melanie.

Next, I want to look towards reinventing our concepts around income:

Here’s an interesting interview discussion about universal basic income with Annie Lowrey. She is a contributing editor for The Atlantic magazine, a former economics writer for the New York Times, and author of the new book “Give People Money: How a Universal Basic Income Would End Poverty, Revolutionize Work, and Remake the World.”

Regardless of what you think about UBI, this interview can help give you a better understanding of it (and potential implementations):

‘Give People Money’? A long-read Q&A with Annie Lowrey on the case for a Universal Basic Income [American Enterprise Institute] – “Cutting every citizen a monthly check, regardless of whether they work, is no longer as radical an idea as it once seemed. Some form of government-ensured universal basic income — or UBI, as it is more commonly known — is now embraced by some libertarians, futurists, and (of course) socialists. But that’s not to say UBI has grown uncontroversial. It has, however, grown more politically feasible, as the Overton window continues to widen.”

Much like paying off all student loans, I understand there’s an inherent level of “unfairness” (less so with UBI if everyone gets it) but I think we should look at how it benefits society as a whole rather than who is getting what. I see these solutions as similar to what Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in Million Dollar Murray. Give it a read and you’ll see what I mean.

This last one has nothing to do with reinvention and will be fun for anyone who enjoys a good bagel. Or beigel. 🙂

How New York’s Bagel Union Fought — and Beat — a Mafia Takeover [Grub Street] – “In a thriving industry that by the mid-1960s was pumping out more than 2 million bagels per week to a market only just beginning to reach beyond New York City, they could afford it. With their industry grossing some $20 million per year, these men purchased homes on Long Island, drove fancy cars, and sent their children to prestigious colleges. It was a copacetic ecosystem, working out favorably for all involved.

Naturally, the Mafia wanted in.”

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