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Apex Money Posts

The woman who lives 200,000 years in the past.

It’s Hump Day, money nerds. But does that even matter anymore? Haven’t we all sort of lost track of what the day is? WI know we have in our house! A couple of times each week, we have to pause to think things through. And as for the actual date? Hahahahahaha. With no appointments and plans, the date no longer matters.

But you know what does matter? Smart personal finance. Smart personal finance never goes out of style. To that end, here are a few great money stories you might enjoy.

Coronavirus reminds us what functioning communities look like. [Quartz] — “Somewhere between work, kids, house, family, and friends, the idea of caring for those who lived in close proximity and yet were largely strangers to us became an abstract notion, a virtuous and distant hope but not a pressing priority. Coronavirus changed all that.”

How to design an anti-fragile career. [RadReads] — “In nearly every conversation, some recurring themes have emerged…[People are] optimistic. Not blind optimism that ‘everything will be ok’ – because there’s too much uncertainty to know that with 100% confidence. But a pragmatic and humble confidence thar results in the belief of their own resilience.”

The financial implications of owning a cat. [ESI Money] — “The best way I can describe Zeus is a dog in a cat’s body. He is friendly, loving, sweet, and so very cute. Since we knew he was awesome, it eliminated the possibility that if we got a cat we’d end up with a dud. I saw my chance to have one last, amazing cat in my lifetime.”

The woman who lives 200,000 years in the past. [Outside magazine] — “Lynx (who doesn’t share her legal name) is not your typical back-to-the-lander. The lithe, blonde former teen punk, who grew up in the ‘concrete and dismal gray’ environs of London, has become an unlikely torchbearer of humanity’s wild heritage. Her overarching aim is not to simply survive out here in nature but ‘to live as wild people lived’ and to show others how to do so as well.”

Last of all, here’s a fun video. It’s a Buddhist monk rocking out to Queen. I love it!

Well, I do not love the vertical video. Vertical video is such a curse but I’m afraid there’s no stopping it now. Too many people just don’t care. 🙁

Okay, enough of me complaining. I’ll be back tomorrow with more great money stories from around the web.

What screams “pretending to be rich”?

Today is Tuesday, money nerds, and this is Apex Money — your home for the best money stories from around the web. We’ve got some good stuff for you today (as always) but I think my favorite link is the last one…even thought it has nothing to do with personal finance.

Let’s do the money stuff first, shall we?

Ask Reddit: What screams “pretending to be upper class”? [/r/AskReddit] — Interesting discussion on Reddit about the difference in behavior between people who are rich and people who want to be rich. Rich people do and wear what they want, and have no need to have others think they’re rich. People pretending to be rich put on displays. They talk about money, display logos, and so on. This matches my experience.

Why intentional friction is a game-changer. [Break the Twitch] — “here are many ways you can create intentional friction (or reduce unintentional friction) to make small but impactful changes in your life. I’ve personally found great success in implementing this in my own life, and I’d encourage you to give it a try.”

99-year-old British vet raises £17 million for health service by walking laps. [BBC News] — “A 99-year-old war veteran has walked 100 laps of his garden to raise £17m and counting for the NHS. Captain Tom Moore originally aimed to raise just £1,000 for NHS Charities Together by completing laps of his garden before his 100th birthday. But he has smashed his target after nearly 800,000 people made donations to his fundraising page.”

Why this crisis is going to make wealth inequality even worse. [A Wealth of Common Sense] — “Some people will see their finances completely destroyed by this crisis and have to start from scratch. The economic machine and stock market will recover from this recession. People’s personal recessions won’t necessarily follow the same recovery timeline.” [Related reading: This is a no-fault recession at The Belle Curve]

Our non-financial link today isn’t a video. It’s better. It’s a massive list of videos.

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to pursue a variety of “chronological history” projects. For instance, I want to make time to read one biography of each U.S. President — in order. And I’ve considered making a list of historical films, then watching those in order.

Well, somebody else has taken care of that last one for me. Here’s a *HUGE* list of historical films in chronological order from Patrick Louis Coolney, Ph.D. I’d almost argue that this list is too exhaustive. It’s overwhelming. But then I realized that, for my own purposes, I could simply use this as a starting point. I can draw from this to create a smaller, curated list of films that I can watch over the next few years. Nerdy, eh? (Does that surprise you?)

Okay, that’s all for Tuesday. I’ll see you tomorrow, my friends.

What to do if you’ve lost your job.

Happy Monday, Apexians. I hope you had a good weekend. As for me, I spent much of my time working in the yard with my girlfriend. We moved into this house three years ago, and since then most of our attention has been focused on home remodeling projects. Now it’s time to tame the jungle outside our back door!

But I also found time to pull together links to some great money stories from around the web. Let’s take a look!

What to do if you’ve lost your job due to coronavirus. [Frugalwoods] — “Today’s focus is the benefits available to folks in the United States that’ve arisen in response to the coronavirus pandemic. If this doesn’t apply to you, it’s likely you know someone who would benefit from this information–please share this post with them. I’m not re-inventing the wheel today; rather, my goal is to provide you with all of this information in one place.”

How to care for home appliances and systems on a budget. [Yes, I Am Cheap] — “Imagine you’ve saved up and are now a proud owner of some high-quality home appliances. That’s great news, but you also need to remember that your expenses aren’t over. Those devices will need maintenance and they might break down no matter how well you take care of them. The same goes for any home system, like plumbing or electrical.”

Extreme frugality: Gardening edition. [Surviving and Thriving] — “Getting free seeds is only one way that we practice extreme frugality in the garden, though. A reader named Laure asked for an article about low-cost gardening. This one’s for you, ma’am.”

What to do when your options shrink. [CityFrugal] — “Our range of possibilities has narrowed, for at least the next few months. Good. Hard times aren’t for lamenting the options you’ve lost but rather to embrace the opportunities you still have. It’s time to get creative.”

To wrap things up for today, here’s a video I really enjoyed. It’s twelve minutes of villagers from rural Pakistan trying coffee drinks for the very first time. So real! So fun!

Okay, that’s it for today. I gotta go have my second cup of coffee. I’ll see you again tomorrow. Until then, take care.

Game nights!

TGIF!

For us, the only difference is that we get together with friends (online) to play games after the kids are in bed. 🙂

If you’re social distancing and need some games to pass the time, this Google Doc has a list of online versions of various games you play. There are board games, drawing games, puzzles, you name it. Pair with Houseparty and you have yourself a little bit of quarantine fun.

This next one is not exactly the type of hustle I appreciate (it’s more like street hustling, where you trick people) but still a fun read.

Gem Fatale: The frenzied hustle of the jewelry business [Book Forum] – “There are a lot of hustles in the jewelry business. It’s a cash business with big numbers and independent spirits, and that creates a kind of pure capitalism, with all of its flaws. The great Ronnie C., the Texan who taught me the jewelry business when I was a teenager, and once the king of the jewelry business in the American Southwest, got his start as a small-time coin dealer in San Antonio. The coin business was not well-regulated and it was easy to make newly printed silver coins, with counterfeit dates and stampings, look old by putting them in a paper bag and blowing cigar smoke over them, before repackaging them in sealed plastic. Like most short-con games this had a problem—eventually, anyone who was a real collector was going to want to have the coins appraised, verified, insured.”

Here’s something a little wild – have you researching buying a mattress online? A lot of those companies will let you try a mattress for free for like a hundred days. And with so many providers, one dude got a year of free mattresses. It’s both terribly wasteful but kind of funny.

My year of free mattresses [Curbed] – “Companies like Purple, Casper, and Nectar say lying on a bed in a mattress store, staring up at fluorescent lights, and imagining how well you’d sleep isn’t the ideal way to find the perfect mattress. Instead, through the magic of the internet and U.S. shipping infrastructure, these companies will send you a slab of foam rolled up in a nearly person-sized box. You unroll it, let it magically expand into a mattress, and try it out in the comfort of your own home. The best part? Almost all of these companies allow you to return the bed free of charge after 100 nights—or about the same length as one of my academic terms.”

I wouldn’t do this now (I’m nearly 40 and can afford a nice mattress) but I’m not sure 20-year-old me wouldn’t have. 🙂

Have a great weekend!

TIGER KING

Have you been binging Tiger King? Did you finish it already?

Want more? Read this!

The Strange and Dangerous World of America’s Big Cat People [Long Reads] – “A headline-grabbing murder-for-hire plot helped expose the dark side of exotic animal ownership in the U.S. Is there now enough momentum to reform the industry?”

I love hustlers. I don’t mean scammers or cheats, I mean true grinders.

So when I heard about Cameo, I thought it was brilliant. For every super-famous actor that headlines a movie, there are hundreds (or thousands) of grinders trying to find roles and earn a living doing what they love. And some of those grinders are willing to record short messages for a few bucks and I think that’s awesome.

How Cameo Turned D-List Celebs Into a Monetization Machine [Marker] – “Inside the surreal and lucrative two-sided marketplace of mediocre famous people.”

I’ve been blogging for 15+ years and people have always asked me whether I’d write a book. I know a lot of published authors and several have had New York Times Bestsellers and so I know the book business relatively well. Well enough to know it’s not financially lucrative directly. By that I mean authors don’t make a lot of money off their books. That’s not to say it’s not a good thing, but it’s not a directly financially good thing. 🙂

If you want a quick primer, this is a good one:

The Print Book Trade, and Money [Michael Warren Lucas] – Ever wonder how the book business works courtesy of an author and retailer? It’s neat, tidy, and seems obvious after you read it.

Seize the day Apexian!

Do you feel overwhelmed?

A few years ago, we came home from a fun weekend away over New Years to our house. As I opened the door, I felt wave of steamy air hit me and stepped into a puddle of water inside our house. Oh no.

A pipe had burst in our laundry room. We have a hot water boiler that pushes hot water through pipes around our house for heat. One of the pipes had frozen while we were away, burst, and melted in those two or three days. Our furnace and heating systems were on the whole time so when it thawed, water gushed everywhere.

In those moments when it’s easy to become overwhelmed, I’ve found that the most effective thing to do is focus and just start working. One step at a time, make your world small, and focus on what you can without looking too much at the big picture.

As COVID-19 shut down everything, we reacted in the same way. Keep your world small, take the next step, then the next, then the next, and control what you can because that’s all you can do. From time to time, it’s OK to look at the big picture, wonder about the what ifs and let that overwhelming sensation go over you but snap out of it and do something tangible.

I’m not an expert on this, I’m just an expert on what works for me. 🙂

To that end, my friend Miranda has a great post on what you can do to help:

What Can I Do to Help? How to Do Good When You Feel You Can’t Make a Difference [Miranda Marquit] – “During times of stress and upheaval, it’s easy to feel like it’s too big and you can’t do anything. Here’s how to do good no matter where you are.”

If you aren’t sure what your next steps should be finance-wise, Melody has a few good ideas:

Calming Your Nerves When Facing Your Own Financial Uncertainty [Cash for Tacos] – “The reality is that we all need money to live. We have rent to pay, loans to pay back, and food to buy. So when our source of income is threatened by some unforeseen circumstance, it’s easy to feel a rush of nerves. It’s a scary situation.But there are steps we can take to help us calm our nerves when faced with financial uncertainty.”

And just because we all need some positive stories, here’s a nice feel-good story amidst the chaos.

Georgia bar owner pulls $3,700 stapled to walls for her unemployed staff [AL.com] – “The Sand Bar in Tybee Island, Georgia, has a new look, after owner Jennifer Knox decided to pull down dollar bills that had been stapled to the walls and give the money to her unemployed staff.”

I love local spots like what this one seems to be, it’s great they’re doing something clever to help out their folks.

This next article, which is not related to personal finance at all, is a review of a paper about individuality and offers up a definition that is different than what you’d expect. This a little bit of science and math involved but you can largely skip it if you’re willing to accept the premise (read until there’s a discussion of entropy, then skip to “Mutual Information and the Individual”).

Life is Made of Unfair Coin Flips [Alex Danco] – “We’ve uneasily settled on three consensus criteria for biological individuality. First, individuals consume energy and use it to persist and increase in relative frequency. Second, individuals adapt to their environments. Third, the component parts that make up an individual have tightly coordinated relationships with each other.”

Stay safe Apexian!

Debt is dangerous

One of the enduring legacies of the COVID-19 pandemic will be its impact on people’s finances.

Whereas the financial crisis hit more in the markets and the banking sector, it had less of a relative impact on individuals. It still hurt everyone, just that we didn’t have restaurants closing and laying off their entire staff. We didn’t have retailers shutting down, firing everyone, not making rent payments, and going into hibernation. The scale of job loss so far is staggering.

And while stimulus checks and and boosted unemployment will help … there will be folks who fall into (or deeper into) debt.

And debt is dangerous.

If you have no choice, you have no choice. But if you do, enter into it very carefully.

Mafia plots post-coronavirus pounce [Politico] – “‘The mafia offers a loan to a business owner who needs money. He knows who he is dealing with but thinks he can manage the situation. He is mistaken,” said De Lucia, describing what he called ‘the method.’ […] The owner is turned into a prestanome, or front man, for the mafia, which benefits from his relationship with the banks, and his books.”

As someone who isn’t religious, this next piece was interesting to read because it illustrates how a framework and way of life could be so subtle as to not alert its adherents to its existence.

You’re a Slave to Money, Then You Die [Church Life Journal / University of Notre Dame] – “But neoliberalism is a thing, and it is more than a paradigm of politics and markets. Neoliberalism names an attempt to remake human life in the image and likeness of the market. It is a moral and metaphysical imagination in which capitalist property relations provide the template for understanding the world.” hmmm…

Before you go onto your day…

My Summer Job at the Bohemian Grove, Serving Milkshakes to the Shitfaced Global Elite [Gawker] – “The elite need a lot of help to unwind in the wilderness. So every year, hundreds of young people shuffle through the Grove’s assembly-line hiring process to spend several weeks bussing their picnic tables and parking their Porsches.”

Stay safe Apexian!

How to survive and thrive in a downturn

The stock market has been a craaaaaaazy rollercoaster ride!

The S&P 500 was at 2882.23 on March 10th, hit a low of 2237.40 on March 23rd, and then returned to 2789.82 on April 9th.

Wild!

If you’ve ever considered timing the market, now’s your chance! You can do it for real or you can just try this one:

Shall We Play A (Market Timing) Game? – “The Market Timing Game simulation is premised on the idea that buying-and-holding index investing and index funds are a no-brainer investment strategy and market timing (i.e. trying to predict market direction and trading accordingly) is a less than optimal strategy. The saying goes “Time in the market not timing the market”. In this simulation, you are given a 3-year market period from sometime in history (between 1950 and 2018) or you can run in Monte Carlo mode (which picks randomly from daily returns in this period) and you start fully invested in the market and can trade out of (and into) the market if you feel like the market will fall (or rise). The goal is to see if you can beat the market index returns.”

28 Moves to Survive (& Thrive) in a Downturn [NfX] – “In most ways, crises are horrible. But know this — crises always end. They are a cyclical part of our market economy and there are black swans that inevitably occur. The only way to build an iconic company is to do things differently. And in a crisis, survival requires being and thinking differently.” This post is for founder and operators of companies but I think there are lessons you can take and apply to your work and life.

And for the last fun article – this may sound crazy but for 11 years, the Soviet Union did away with weekends!

For 11 Years, the Soviet Union Had No Weekends [History Channel] – “For the urban workforce of the Soviet Union, September 29, 1929, was a Sunday like any other—a day of rest after six days of labor. Sunday was the prize at the finish line: a day’s holiday, where people might see family, attend church or clean their homes. But in the eyes of the Soviet government led by Joseph Stalin, Sundays represented a genuine threat to the whirr and hum of industrial progress. For one day in seven, after all, machines sat silent, productivity slumped to zero and people retreated to comforts thought to be contrary to the revolutionary ideal, like family life or religious practice. On the following Sunday, no such collective pause for breath took place. Eighty percent of the workforce were told to go to work; 20 percent to stay home.”

It feels like all our days are weekends now.

Magazines are toast!

It’s Thursday, Thursday, Thursday, money nerds, and I’m back for more of the best personal-finance stories from around the web. Let’s dive right in.

On the importance of understanding your “bare-bones” budget. [Cash for Tacos] — “A bare-bones budget is a budget that consists solely of your financial obligations (debt repayments) and essential living expenses. All of the wants (like streaming services and going out to eat) that typically bulk up our spending are eliminated. With the wants eliminated, you will be able to see exactly how much your basic needs cost.”

Magazines are toast. [The Lefsetz Letter] — “I’m a magazine freak, I have more subscriptions than anybody I know. But not only do magazines keep biting the dust, like National Geographic Traveler, they’re reducing frequency. Sound & Vision…who knows how often it comes out anymore. Ski, same deal. They all keep reducing the number of issues you get per year. Entertainment Weekly is now monthly, I kid you not.” As a guy who used to subscribe to many magazines (and still loves them), I found this article interesting.

How much home can you buy for $500,000? [How Much?] — “Half a million dollars can get you over 3,000 square feet of home real estate in the United States, based on the national median price per square feet. That sounds like a big number, but when you consider that the 2018 median size of a new home in America is 2,386 square feet (which is 1,000 square feet larger than 50 years ago), it’s no surprise that mortgage debt has hit a record high.”

Surprising facts about everyday household objects. [Smithsonian Magazine] — “It might surprise us to know that, for our ancestors, many of the objects we take for granted, like napkins, forks and mattresses, were also once marvels of comfort and technology—available to only the few.” Forks were evil! Chopsticks came first! Keys were big! Plates were bread! Fun stuf…

And to wrap things up, here’s a three-minute video in which a variety of people (of all ages) answer the question, “What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?” I really, really like this.

The best advice that I’ve ever received? You are the boss of you. That is, nobody cares more about your life than you do. If you want to fix something that’s wrong in your world, it’s up to you to fix it. Don’t wait for anyone else to solve your problems for you. (“Treat people the way you want to be treated” is good too!)

That’s it for Thursday, Apexians. I’ll be back tomorrow to wrap up this week of money news.

“I tested positive for the coronavirus.”

It’s Wednesday, Apexians! Hump day! The middle of the week. And you know what everybody is talking about? The same thing they’ve been talking about for a month now: the coronavirus. Hey, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. In today’s installment of Apex Money, we’ll look at some coronavirus-related money news.

“I tested positive for the coronavirus.” [Afford Anything] — “I’m 36, a non-smoker, in shape, fit and healthy, with no chronic conditions. No asthma, no diabetes, no cancer, no high blood pressure, no history of any type of organ disease. I’m the poster child, the ideal candidate, of someone who would only experience a ‘mild or moderate’ case. My experience of coronavirus was sheer brutal hell. It was the most intense prolonged physical agony I’ve ever felt. Here’s what coronavirus feels like.”

Why did it take the stock market so long to react to the coronavirus? [Morningstar] — “Could the economic damage from the coronavirus have been predicted? Sure. Some investors did just that. Unfortunately for those attempting to profit from information, though, every year researchers predict dozens of events that never occur, or that do happen but have trivial investment consequences (for example, the Ebola virus hitting American shores). The better question is, should investors have recognized that, after many false alarms, the bear was indeed at the door?”

No, you didn’t just lose half of your retirement savings. [Mr. Money Mustache] — “Once you really get the big picture above, you can see that we are going to come through this better in every way…The end result will be a better, more resilient and richer world than ever. Yes, that will also eventually mean more money in your retirement account, but more importantly it means better and happier living conditions for every living thing on Earth.” There are many reasons I love my friend, Pete. His relentless optimism is one of them.

Finally, for those of you trapped at home and forced to do video calls, here’s a way to make them a little more fun. DC Comics has released a set of virtual backgrounds for you to import into your favorite conferencing app. Now you can talk with co-workers, friends, and family from the Batcave. Or the Fortress of Solitude. Or Atlantis. NERD! Dial in from the DC Universe with these virtual backgrounds. [DC Comics]

Oh wait. One more thing. Here’s a fun, short video in which a father performs a virus-related prank on his three daughters for April Fool’s Day.

Nicely done, sir. Nicely done.

Okay, enough goofing around. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the best from the world of personal finance. See you then.