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Apex Money Posts

The subscription economy (and the changing face of shopping)

Welcome back, money nerds. It’s the second day of Amazon Prime Day. Er…Amazon Prime Days? (Well, that’s a clumsy thing, now, isn’t it?) To mark the event, let’s look at some top stories about shopping.

“Why I cancelled my Amazon Prime account.” [Quartz] — “I used my accidental Prime to watch some Amazon TV shows…and to make the occasional online order. I decided that wasn’t enough to justify the subscription. Around January, with three months remaining in my subscription, I tried to cancel my Prime account. Amazon sounded the alarm.

Costco markup

How Costco gained a cult following by breaking every rule of retail. [The Hustle] — “Costco’s prices are so low that it barely breaks even on its merchandise sales. And despite pressure from investors over the years, it has refused to boost its markup…So, how does Costco make its money?

The man who’s going to save your neighborhood grocery store. [Longreads] — “The approach Kelley’s suggesting still means completely overhauling everything, with no guarantee of success. It’s a strategy that’s decidedly low-tech, though it’s no less radical. It’s more about people than new platforms. It means making grocery shopping more like going to the movies.” [This is a l-o-n-g article, but it’s fascinating.]

The subscription economy: They see it, they like it, they want it, they rent it. [The New York Times, so possible paywall] — “Many young American urbanites have resigned themselves to a life of non-ownership, abandoning the dream of their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents before them, often out of financial necessity. But renting isn’t just a matter of necessity these days. It’s become almost posh.

Should we splurge? Hell yes! [His and Her FI] — “Psychologists agree that retail therapy is a thing. In fact, when we buy something we can get a high from it. It is a short cut to the pleasure center of the brain. Splurging acts as a charge for the brain…It is good to engage in behavior like this OCCASIONALLY and with intention.”

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

The small joys of early retirement.

“Monday, Monday — so good to me.” Rise and shine, money nerds. It’s time for another day in paradise. To help you start the week off right, here are some recent top money stories.

How you can make $500,000 per year. [Auren Hoffman on Quora] — “Even if your goal is not money, following these steps (save the fifth one) will help you achieve success in any organization you are in (including teaching in a school, being a soldier in the military, being a firefighter, working at a non-profit, and more).”

Downsizing to one car can do wonders for retirement finances. [The Globe and Mail] — “As terrible as it for your finances, owning two cars is often unavoidable. Take two working parents, add kids and you have a strong convenience-based case for paying the many costs of owning and maintaining a pair of vehicles. Add a home in the suburbs and the argument gets even stronger. But owning two cars stops making so much sense later in life. In retirement, you can save a bundle by going down to one vehicle.”

10 small joys of early retirement. [Part-Time Money] — “We all are aware of the big benefits of early retirement: the freedom of time, the ability to travel, and, of course, not having to work. But what about the little things? What about the small joys that pop up in early retirement?…What follows are ten small joys (i.e. the little benefits) I’ve found in early retirement.”

And just because we’re all nerds at Apex Money, today’s bonus link is extra nerdy. Want to parlay your D&D skillz into big bucks? How about becoming a professional DM?

The rise of the professional dungeon master. [Bloomberg Businessweek] — “At the higher end of the professional price spectrum is John Clark of Los Angeles, a studio department head for Paramount by day and DM to the stars by night…In addition to catering to his celebrity clientele (he politely declines to name names), Clark offers hourlong private lessons at $100 a pop.”

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

“What I teach my kids about money.”

Good morning, money nerds, and happy Friday. Here are your top money stories for today.

“What I teach my kids about money.” [Cameron Huddleston] — “I don’t claim to be an expert on kids and money. But as a mom of three kids ages 7 to 14, I’ve had plenty of experience teaching my own children money lessons. Here are five key things about money that I’ve tried to instill in my children.”

Huddleston image

It’s okay to be good and not great. [Outside magazine] — “We’re told that striving to be great and never being satisfied are necessary to meet the ever increasing pressures and pace of today’s world. It’s the only route to success. But what is it all for? What does success even mean? […] Adopting the following core principles of good enough is likely the best route to being happier and getting better.”

How discount brokerages make money. [Kalzumeus] — “The discount brokerage industry works because you can make decisions which are bad for users and lucrative for you (‘Ahh you have entrusted me with cash money; let me park it safely and pay you 50 bps while keeping the next 150 bps for me, rather than parking it in the equally safe place any of my product managers could have implemented if they wanted to be fired instantly’); roboadvisors depend on making decisions which are good for users (‘Let me minimize that cash drag for you’) and then being very explicit about costs which are anchored very low.”

And because it’s the weekend, here’s a little something that has nothing to do with money:

How to run a small social network site for your friends. — “Since August 2018 I have run a social network site called Friend Camp for about 50 of my friends. I think Friend Camp is a really nice place, and my friends seem to agree that it has enriched our lives. I’d like to see more places like Friend Camp on the internet, and this document is my attempt to provide some practical guidance as to how you might run a social network site like this.”

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

“Am I the asshole for selling my daughter’s car?”

Howdy howdy, money nerds. It’s Thursday, and we have some more top money stories for you.

The regret minimization framework: How to make tough life decisions. [Four Pillar Freedom] — “So, while The Regret Minimization Framework can be a nice way to avoid future regret, it’s important to also be realistic. Money matters. You still have to pay rent and eat food. Be courageous and be willing to take the leap when the time is right, but make sure the time is actually right.” [Also note that earlier this week, Zach launched his own financial link-curation site called Collecting Wisdom. Go, Zach!]

“Am I an asshole for selling my daughter’s car after we discovered she was texting and driving?” [/r/amitheasshole on Reddit] — “The car is already sold, so there’s no going back. I think what we did was absolutely correct, that actions have consequences and we would be in the wrong to pull back from that…She had a car, it came with certain stipulations, she disobeyed us, and now she pays the price.” [Holy cats! I admire the guts of these parents. But maybe the problem was the phone, not the car? I’d have taken away my daughter’s phone first. Fortunately, my daughter is a dog and doesn’t drive or use cell phones.]

Five key lessons learned during 25 years of financial planning. [Kiplinger] — “Like most financial advisers, I’ve spent (and still spend) a good share of my time building on the technical knowledge I need to do my job. The financial industry is always changing, and it’s important to stay on top of new theories, trends and tools. But after 25 years of working with retirees and pre-retirees, I’ve learned that experience — and a lot of listening — can be every bit as valuable.”

To finish things up for today, here’s a group of high-school students in 1958 talking about their expectations for the future:

If only we could go back and tell these kids about how much fun they’re going to have in the Sixties!

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

“The best $3000 I ever spent.”

Welcome to Wednesday, money nerds. Today we’ve got four top money articles from around the web. Enjoy!

The best $3000 I ever spent? Training for my dog. [Vox] — “Kristin was hyper-organized and overloaded us with information…We told Kristin we were concerned about how Beau would react to the new baby, but also about how he would react to so many new grown-ups coming in and out of the house. In between her visits, we were supposed to practice — which we did, inconsistently. But every week, he gradually got a little bit better.” [Related: Outside magazine on how to pick the right dog.]

Really, that article is just an excuse to share a photo of my dog. Here is Tahlequah in the middle of her favorite pastime: digging. Don’t mess with her when she’s digging!

Tahlequah in mid-dig

Inside the black market of vintage Kool-Aid packet collectors. [The Takeout] — “If you’re scratching your head as to why people might pay hundreds of dollars for packets of unsweetened drink powder that still only cost about a quarter in the grocery store, continue on, because the vintage Kool-Aid packet collector community is a microcosm of broader dynamics of fan culture. Really.” [It’s nice to know that there are bigger nerds in the world than me…]

“My credit score dropped after paying off my mortgage.” [The Finance Buff] — “Altogether I would call it drop of 20-50 points from paying off the mortgage. It doesn’t bother me because I’m not looking for more credit. Because my credit score is still good afterwards, it doesn’t affect anything.”

The ER overcharged me, so I gave them a taste of their own medicine. [Huffington Post] — “I’m through with the days when a giant company can make a mistake, and then I have to call their corporate support center and wait on hold for hours or escalate the call through countless customer service representatives who argue with me and say there’s nothing that can be done over and over again. I refuse to waste any more of my time working with corporations to fix their mistakes ― or at least, I won’t be doing it for free.”

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

Tips for facing a mid-career crisis.

Top of the morning to you, money nerds. As always, we’re here with our top money stories from around the web.

How to choose your car. [Bitches Get Riches] — “I kind of fucking hate cars. They’re expensive, time-consuming, and ruin the environment while simultaneously turning you into the kind of person who thinks it’s ok to scream obscenities at complete strangers from behind the shield of a ‘COEXIST’ bumper sticker. So if you can operate your life without a car, I highly recommend doing so. Sadly though, they’re often a necessity…If you must buy a car, buy the right one.

Tips for facing your mid-career crisis. [Harvard Business Review] — “The reasons for the ‘mid-career crisis’ are not well understood. Why does job satisfaction suffer during midlife? Judging by my own experience, and by conversations with friends, there are multiple factors: the narrowing of options, the inevitability of regret, and the tyranny of projects successively completed and replaced.” Related (and excellent): Stories from eight women who found professional success after age 50. [The Washington Post]

Simplifying a retirement “bucket” portfolio. [The Oblivious Investor] — “If you find buckets to be helpful, great. But be sure, after creating a bucket-based plan, to step back and look at the whole thing at once.”

Because I’m an old man, I sometimes miss things that go viral. Here, for instance, is a video I find hilarious…but it’s eighteen months old. It’s J.P. Sears on buying Bitcoin.


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

How to be a better negotiator in everyday life.

Hello, money nerds, and welcome to week two of Apex Money. Having fun yet? Today, let’s hear from three women who have interesting things to say about money — and life.

How I convinced myself to stop buying stuff. [One Frugal Girl] — “After spending hours sorting and processing and another ninety minutes documenting and pricing items…I added up the cost of all items together. Then separated out the cost of the starred items. I was shocked to see how much money I spent on stuff I rarely used. I was also amazed at how little I spent on stuff I loved and had to get rid of.”

How to be a better negotiator in everyday life. [Rainesford Stauffer on Medium] — “Done right, negotiating doesn’t have to be something that pits you against anyone. In fact, it can even strengthen your relationships, helping you learn to communicate more effectively with the people you love. Here’s how…to get better at asking for what you want in day-to-day life.

Speaking of negotiation, here’s The Financial Diet sharing seven things you didn’t know were negotiable:

My childhood went viral before social media. [The New York times] — “Before there was Instagram, before there were parenting blogs, even before there was Facebook, there were newspaper columns where parents wrote about the experience of child rearing. One column, called ‘Family Man’, was published in The Connecticut Post and syndicated in 10 newspapers around the country. The author was my father.”

Okay, that last article isn’t actually money-related, but I like it. So sue me.

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

The dark side of marketing.

Howdy, money nerds. Rise and shine. It’s time for your daily dose of top money stories from around the web. Today, we’re looking at the dark side of marketing.

Dark patterns at scale. [Princeton University] — “Dark patterns are user interface design choices that benefit an online service by coercing, steering, or deceiving users into making unintended and potentially harmful decisions. We conducted a large-scale study, analyzing ~53,000 product pages from ~11,000 shopping websites to characterize and quantify the prevalence of dark patterns.” [See also: the dark pattern challenge.]

How advertisers convinced Americans they smelled bad. [Smithsonian magazine] — “Naysayers might argue that western society would have eventually developed its dependence on deodorants and antiperspirants without Murphey and Young, but they certainly left their mark in the armpits of America, as did the heat of New Jersey’s summer of 1912.” [This story is fascinating! Did you know B.O. used to be considered manly? True story.]

Microsoft’s ebook apocalypse shows the dark side of digital books. [Wired] — “Your iTunes movies, your Kindle books — they’re not really yours. You don’t own them. You’ve just bought a license that allows you to access them, one that can be revoked at any time. And while a handful of incidents have brought that reality into sharp relief over the years, none has quite the punch of Microsoft disappearing every single ebook from every one of its customers.”

And here’s an instructive little video on how IKEA (and other stores) gets you to impulsively buy more. It’s like “dark patterns” in real life, eh?

I’ll be honest: I’m not a fan of marketing. Manipulating people into purchasing your products doesn’t sound ethical or nice. (I’m sure I’ll get hate-mail for saying that…)

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

Let’s celebrate financial independence day!

Greetings, money nerds. And if you’re in the U.S., happy Independence Day! To celebrate, our four stories today are all related to financial independence and early retirement. (I hear that topic is on fire lately!)

A story of a Fuck-Off Fund. [The Billfold] — “When your boyfriend calls you stupid, you say if he ever says that again, you’re out of there, and it’s not hard to imagine how you’ll accomplish your getaway. When your boss attempts to grope you, you say, ‘Fuck off, you creep!’ You wave two middle fingers in the air, and march over to HR. Whether the system protects you or fails you, you will be able to take care of yourself.” [Three years old, but new to me. Thanks, Kathleen!]

Don’t stress about safe-withdrawal rates in retirement. There’s a small chance you’ll run out of money, but you WILL run out of life. [1500 Days to Freedom] — “Don’t focus on worst case scenarios. Instead, focus on most case scenarios. And this is where the 4% Rule fits in. Use it as a loose guide to know when to quit your job. When you hit your number, politely tell your boss that in two weeks, your cube will be vacant. Open the door and step outside.”

I have heart disease. GOOD! [Early Retirement Dude] — “It’s unpleasant to look down at my chest and think, ‘Two inches under that skin lives an ant-sized nodule of calcium that’s trying to kill me.’ It is REAL. There is NO DENYING IT. What’s also real is this: I have a good outlook if I stick to the plan…Death may be inevitable, but it doesn’t have to happen NOW.”

Money is the easy part of early retirement. The hard part is what comes next. [Slightly Early Retirement] — “Judging from the number of people who self report their amazing progress towards financial independence, the plan seems to work for a wide range of incomes and family situations. In fact, I think getting enough money to retire early is not the hard part, it is the easy part. The hard part is…what comes next?” [Related: Miss Mazuma has achieved financial independence! Congrats, Bianca!]

Steve may be onto something there. Here’s YouTuber Graham Stephen on why he won’t retire early:

Got something you think your fellow nerds might like? Send it in! Help spread the top money stories on the web here at Apex Money. In the meantime, get out there and enjoy your Independence Day weekend!

How to tell if that personal-finance advice is nonsense.

Good morning, money nerds! Welcome to Wednesday. To get your day started right, we have three new money stories from around the web.

What if all I want is a mediocre life? [A Life in Progress] — “What if I never really amount to anything when I grow up – beyond mom and sister and wife? But these people in my primary circle of impact know they are loved and that I would choose them again, given the choice. Can this be enough?”

Zillow has updated their home value estimates. [Zillow] — If, like me, you keep tabs on your home value with Zillow, you’ll be interested to know that the “Zestimate” calculation just got an update. Supposedly it’s more accurate. “The Zestimate’s error rate on homes listed for sale is now less than 2%,” the company says, “meaning half of all Zestimates fall within 2% of the home’s eventual sale price.”

How to figure out if that personal-finance advice is nonsense. [Lifehacker] — “A lot of what ends up in my inbox just gets me riled up about the personal finance information that gets shared online. If you’re someone who doesn’t happen to be an accountant, financial advisor, or economist, how can you discern what personal finance advice or data is worth latching on to, and which is bunk?

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