13 pieces of money advice you can’t afford to ignore

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There’s so much financial advice out there that it’s near impossible to follow all of it.

But missing the most important — and often most basic — words of wisdom could end up costing you big time.

To help out, we combed through our archives to round up the best money advice from financial planners, bestselling authors, and the second-richest man on earth, that will help you save and earn the most money.

Below, check out the 13 pieces of money advice you simply can’t afford to ignore:

1. Pay yourself first

“People still don’t grasp the fact that they need to save a dime out of every dollar,” author and self-made millionaire David Bach told Business Insider in a Facebook Live interview. He said the average American who’s saving money is saving just 15 minutes a day of their income, when they should be saving an hour.

Bach noted troubling research from the Federal Reserve that revealed nearly half of Americans wouldn’t have enough money on hand to cover a $400 emergency. Yet, he continued, millions of those people will buy a coffee at Starbucks today and expect to buy the new $800 iPhone next year. Americans have money, he says, but we aren’t saving it.

So get on the “pay-yourself-first plan,” as Bach calls it, and automatically save an hour a day of your income. “When that money is moved before you can touch it, that’s how real wealth is built,” he said.

Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr

2. Beware of lifestyle creep

There’s a lot of pressure in your 20s and 30s to keep up with your friends. Maybe they’re buying a nicer car or a house, but if you’re not in the financial position to keep up, don’t try.

“I always refer to it as ‘lifestyle creep’ because one of the big things that people can do — that’s an advantage to them — is keep their fixed expenses somewhat stable and reasonable for what they make,” Katie Brewer, a Dallas-based certified financial planner who founded Your Richest Life, told Business Insider.

Planning for your recurring costs — like mortgage, rent, a car payment, and insurance — ensures that expenses won’t creep up on you and derail your financial future. Of course, Brewer said, if you’re making good money you should have the freedom to spend it how you wish, as long as your lifestyle doesn’t overtake your income.

In short: Live below your means.

3. Take advantage of an employer-sponsored 401(k)

Putting money into a retirement plan as early as you can, no matter the amount, is a smart and easy way to pay yourself first.

If your company offers a 401(k) plan, take advantage of it. In some cases, employers will offer a contribution match. “That means the company contributes a set amount — say, 50 cents for a dollar — for every dollar you contribute up to a specified percentage of your salary,” Beth Kobliner writes in her book “Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties and Thirties.”

“That’s free money, equivalent to a 50% or 100% return. There’s nowhere you can beat this!” she writes.

Plus, 401(k)s allow you to contribute your pre-tax money, meaning the more you contribute now, the greater the growth (thanks, compound interest) and the more money you’ll have down the road, though you will be taxed when you withdraw the money for retirement. For 2017, the maximum contribution to a 401(k) is $18,000.

Andy Kiersz/Business Insider

4. Invest in the stock market, just don’t try to time it

“No one can time the market, so know that if there is a decline, it’s going to bounce back. Over time, being in the market pays off more so than staying out of it,” Michael Solari, a certified financial planner with Solari Financial Planning, told Business Insider.

A smart play, according to Solari, is to put your money in a low-cost target date retirement fund.

Sometimes known as “set it and forget it” investments, these diversified funds automatically adjust their asset allocation and risk exposure based on your age and retirement horizon. Early on, when the need for that money is still a couple decades away, the fund will adopt a more growth-focused strategy. As you ripen toward retirement, it dials back the risk.

You may not get the average annual return of 11% in your target date fund — given you’ll be invested in a blend of stocks, bonds, and alternative assets — but if you get even 6% per year, an original $10,000 investment will be worth more than $32,000 in 20 years without you having to do a single thing. Compare that with $12,200 in your high-yield savings account or $10,020.20 in your traditional savings account.

5. Build an emergency fund

Let’s face it: It’s really not a matter of if you’ll need to fork over cash for a car or home repair, child expense, or medical emergency, but a matter of when.

“No matter how well you plan or how positively you think, there are always things out of your control that can go wrong,” Bach writes in his bestseller “The Automatic Millionaire.”

“People lose their jobs, their health, their spouses. The economy can go sour, the stock market can drop, businesses can go bankrupt. Circumstances change. If there’s anything you can count on, it’s that life is filled with unexpected changes,” he wrote.

Most financial planners suggest stockpiling anywhere from three to nine months worth of expenses in an emergency fund that you can turn to when in need. If you don’t have savings at the ready, you run the risk of having to rely on family or friends for help, or worse, falling into debt.

Kate Hiscock/Flickr

6. Pay off your credit card balance in full every month

Sometimes a credit card can feel like free money, until you’re slapped with the bill. Even then, most credit cards only require you to pay 1% to 3% of your balance each month, which can be an alluring prospect if your budget is tight. But consistently paying the minimum could cost you a fortune in the long run, damage your credit score, and affect your ability to qualify for a mortgage.

Farnoosh Torabi, a financial expert, author, and host of the “So Money” podcast learned this lesson the hard way.

Not only did she swipe her credit card with no reservations and adopt the bad habit of paying just the minimum amount — Torabi said she once forgot to pay the bill all together.

She remembered incurring a late fee that showed up on her credit report and gave her a true “wake-up call.” The incident happened before she “realized the power of automating” her bills, a practice that can save you money on late fees and relinquish you from remembering due dates and the embarrassment of missing a payment.

7. Don’t sit on too much savings

Saving money is important — and could be easier than it sounds — but if you’re saving too much, you may be keeping yourself from building wealth.

Though you’re “never going to kill your financial future” by accumulating money, Brewer says, “you’re losing out on opportunity costs by having money sitting around … especially if it’s sitting in an account making barely anything in interest.”

If you’re risk-averse, one way to manage savings overflow is to move your money into a high-yield savings account, where you could be earning 1% interest on your money, rather than the 0.01% earned in a traditional savings account. Or, as previously mentioned, stick it in a low-cost target date fund and see your returns balloon over time, with little to no work required.

John Lambert Pearson/Flickr

8. Have more than one credit card

It may seem financially reckless to have a wallet full of credit cards, but it’s actually smart. According to John Ulzheimer, credit expert at CreditSesame.com, having a single credit card can damage your credit score, thanks to something called your credit utilization ratio — that is, how much of your available credit you’re actually using.

“That percentage is very, very influential in your credit score,” explains Ulzheimer. “People say that you’re in good shape if you keep your utilization within 50% of your available credit, or 30%, but really, it should be below 10%.”

Available credit counts all the cards you have: If you have one card with an $8,000 limit and one with a $6,000 limit, your total available credit is $14,000, even if you only spend $1,000 a month. With a single card, you have no unused credit cushioning the impact of your spending. The closer you get to your limit, the harder the hit on your credit score.

9. Pay off high-interest debt first

Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive and the founder and CEO of Ellevest, says paying down high-interest debt should always be prioritized, even above building an emergency fund.

She explained the math in an article on Ellevest:

“Say you have $5,000 of credit card debt at an 18% interest rate. Say you happen upon $5,000 of money. If you take some of the advice out there, and split the use of that $5,000 (half to establish an emergency fund, half to pay down credit card debt), you still have $2,500 of credit card debt and $2,500 of money sitting in cash.

“The $2,500 of credit card debt at an 18% interest rate costs you $450 a year. The emergency fund earns almost nothing in interest. So you’re out $450.”

Bottom line: You’ll save more paying off the debt than you’d earn if you invested it, whether in a high-yield savings account or the stock market.

10. Always be insured

Every American citizen is required to have health insurance, or be fined hundreds of dollars by the IRS each year. Kobliner advises signing up for insurance should be “your No. 1 financial priority” because it’ll protect you from unforeseen accidents or illness, and prevent yourself or your family from going bankrupt in the case of an emergency.

If your employer offers health insurance, take it, Kobliner says. It’s almost always cheaper than buying a policy on your own (but keep in mind that you can be covered by your parent’s insurance until age 26). Before signing up, though, make sure you understand the cost and extent of the plan, including your deductible, or how much you’ll be paying out-of-pocket before insurance takes over.

If you do end up needing to purchase a policy on your own, head over to healthcare.gov to compare plans and pricing.

Business Insider

11. Track your spending

Business Insider’s Libby Kane has written, edited, and read hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories about money during her career, and says she’s learned that “the best, most critical first step you can take to improve your finances is to track your spending.”

Keeping tabs on where your money is going, whether fixed expenses like rent or mortgage payments and transportation costs or discretionary spending like dining out and travel, is a crucial part of mastering your money.

Setting up a spreadsheet or using a service like LearnVest or Mint can help you make cuts where necessary and even set you on a path to early retirement, if that’s what you’re after.

12. Pay your taxes — and be smart about it

“Whether you owe money to the tax man at the end of the year or not, it’s always a smart move to file your taxes,” Kobliner advises.

And be aware that you can save money on taxes by taking advantage of deductions, or the specific expenses you’re allowed to take out of your income before calculating your owed taxes. The standard deduction — $6,300 for singles and $12,600 for couples — is a good place to start, Kobliner says.

You can also itemize deductions to maximize your savings by listing specific deductions, including expenses for housing costs like mortgage interest or property taxes, and charitable donations, or making use of tax credits.

And if you don’t file your taxes? You could pay a penalty fee of at least $135, plus interest on the money you owe, and lose ground on your credit report, among a host of other financial consequences.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

13. Be patient

When bestselling author and motivational speaker Tony Robbins asked billionaire Warren Buffett a few years ago, “What made you the wealthiest man in the world?” Buffett replied, “Three things: Living in America for the great opportunities, having good genes so I lived a long time, and compound interest.”

“The biggest thing about making money is time,” the investor, who’s now worth more than $76 billion, said in a recent HBO documentary about his life. “You don’t have to be particularly smart, you just have to be patient.”

In his latest letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, Buffett announced that he was on his way to winning a $1 million bet he made in 2007 that his investment in an S&P 500 index fund would outperform five hedge funds over a decade.



Capsule movie reviews, March 26

Writer James Baldwin in “I Am Not Your Negro.” Photo: Bob Adelman, Magnolia Pictures

American Anarchist Documentary about William Powell, who wrote “The Anarchist Cookbook” in 1971, which contained information about making explosives and illicit drugs. Not reviewed. Not rated. 80 minutes.

Bokeh Sci-fi thriller about a young vacationing couple who wake up to find that everyone else on Earth has disappeared. Not reviewed. Not rated. 92 minutes.

Chips Action comedy about a rookie CHP officer who is teamed with a hardened veteran. Dax Shepard wrote, directed and co-stars (with Michael Peña). Rated R. 100 minutes.

ALERT VIEWERFifty Shades Darker Despite the title, this second installment in the “Fifty Shades” saga is softer and more pleasant, with Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan playing lovers growing within and coming to terms with their relationship. The movie is silly, but weirdly appealing. Rated R. 120 minutes.—M.LaSalle

WILD APPLAUSEFrantz Director Francois Ozon reimagines Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 antiwar film as from the perspective of the young German woman (Paula Beer) who has lost her fiancee in World War I and meets a mysterious Frenchman. Beautifully filmed and acted. Rated PG. 113 minutes. In French and German with English subtitles.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSEGet Out This first film from director Jordan Peele is very much a product of 2017, a comic horror film about a young black man (Daniel Kaluuya) who goes with his new girlfriend (Allison Williams) on a visit to her parents’ house. It’s a funny and unsettling mix of paranoia and a comic awareness of its own paranoia, and it’s irresistible. Rated R. 103 minutes.—M.LaSalle

SNOOZING VIEWERThe Great Wall This is a Chinese action/monster movie, somehow starring Matt Damon as an English mercenary. The narrative is clumsy, and the monster scenes are ridiculous, but not ridiculous enough to be funny, just ridiculous enough to be boring. It’s hard to care, and there’s no reason to try. Rated PG-13. 103 minutes.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSEHidden Figures A by-the-books historical piece, about black female mathematicians working in NASA’s early days, the film is enlivened by the three principal actresses, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, and by Kevin Costner, who is the perfect vision of the early 1960s man. Rated PG. 127 minutes.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSEI Am Not Your Negro James Baldwin’s writings on race (spoken by Samuel L. Jackson) are interspersed with footage of Baldwin making speeches and appearing on talk shows. The result demonstrates that Baldwin, who died 30 years ago, is as relevant today as he was in the 1960s and ’70s. Rated PG-13. 95 minutes.—M.LaSalle

SNOOZING VIEWERJohn Wick: Chapter 2 An action movie that fails even on its own limited terms, it features Keanu Reeves as a one-man killing machine, but also as a hapless victim of circumstance. It’s an exercise in monotonous choreographed spectacle that doesn’t do justice to Reeves and ends up leaving the audience dispirited. Rated R. 122 minutes.—M.LaSalle

WILD APPLAUSEJulieta Pedro Almodóvar delivers one of his best films, the story of a woman from age 25 to 56, as played by two actresses who really do seem to be inhabiting the same soul. It’s subtle, brilliantly acted and in touch with essential truths, a great film. Rated R. 99 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles.—M.LaSalle

Keep Watching Horror thriller about a family tormented by murderous home invaders. Not reviewed. Rated R.

POLITE APPLAUSEKong: Skull Island King Kong never looked so good as in this well-directed, well-acted, imaginatively crafted and very respectably written revisit of the King story, this time on his native habitat of Skull Island. Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston and directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts. Rated PG-13. 120 minutes.—M.LaSalle

WILD APPLAUSELa La Land This modern musical takes the best of the old (rich color, extended shots for the dances) and weds it to new music and a contemporary story. The result is one of the best films of the year, with Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as a pair of strivers who meet in Los Angeles and try to help each other. Rated PG-13. 128 minutes.—M.LaSalle

ALERT VIEWERThe Last Word Shirley MacLaine is a difficult retired businesswoman and Amanda Seyfried is a newspaper obituary writer with poetic aspirations, in this slightly canned but satisfying story of two women becoming friends at opposite ends of their lives. Rated R. 108 minutes.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSEThe Lego Batman Movie The animated comedy is less awesome than its predecessor, but it’s a clever, well-paced, self-aware and completely satisfying kind of less awesome. It takes the most entertaining secondary character from “The Lego Movie,” then builds 104 minutes around him with little fatigue. All inferior sequels should be as fun as this one. Rated PG. 104 minutes.—P.Hartlaub

Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire Documentary about the singer-songwriter’s 1972 European tour. Not reviewed. Not rated. 106 minutes.

Life Science-fiction/horror thriller about the discovery of life on Mars. With Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal. Rated R. 103 minutes.

WILD APPLAUSELogan The ninth appearance by Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in 17 years takes a massive tone shift from the relatively bloodless earlier X-Men films, going berserk in its own moody and ultra-violent direction. Jackman and director James Mangold create something great here, upsetting comic book norms without losing entertainment value. Rated R. 141 minutes.—P.Hartlaub

POLITE APPLAUSELove & Taxes Josh Kornbluth stars in this dramatic version of his stage monologue, about his adventures with the tax man, including not filing and dealing with a very expensive accountant. Kornbluth is an appealing actor, and the result is an engaging film. Not rated. 90 minutes.—M.LaSalle

WILD APPLAUSEMoonlight One of the best movies of the year, this Barry Jenkins film tells the story of a man, from childhood through young adulthood, and shows how environment can exert enormous changes on the spirit. Vigorously filmed and sensitively guided, this is beautiful work. Rated R. 110 minutes.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSEMr. Gaga Offering rare insight into ultra-private Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, this gorgeous if gushing documentary includes into his origins, his artistry and the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company. Directed by adoring fan and 20-year friend Tomer Heymann. Not rated. 101 minutes.—C.Bauer

SNOOZING VIEWERPersonal Shopper Kristen Stewart strains to hold up the edifice of this awful Olivier Assayas mess, about a personal shopper to a celebrity (Stewart), who is also trying to communicate with the dead. Long, dull and structureless, it brings out the worst in Stewart, who has never seemed so mannered and inauthentic. Rated R. 105 minutes.—M.LaSalle

Power Rangers Science-fiction/adventure film about a group of teenagers with superpowers who fight to save the world. Rated PG-13. 124 minutes.

POLITE APPLAUSERaw Director Julia Ducournau understands coming-of-age fears as much as she gets scary movies, and she manages both near-perfectly in this graphic thriller about a cannibal college student. Not for the squeamish, but Ducournau’s expert hand should earn the respect of any cinephile who can handle the explicit content. Rated R. 99 minutes.—P.Hartlaub

POLITE APPLAUSEThe Salesman A husband and wife, actors appearing in an Iranian production of “Death of Salesman,” have their lives thrown off balance when the woman is attacked by an intruder while taking a shower. It’s another perceptive and compulsively watchable examination of domestic life from Asghar Farhadi (“The Past”). Rated PG-13. 125 minutes. In Farsi with English subtitles.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSEThe Sense of an Ending Well-acted, understated and British to the core, this drama is based on Julian Barnes’ novel of the same title, charting what happens when the past abruptly catches up with an aging Londoner. Jim Broadbent does a fine job as a man who is old-school but not a caricature. Good supporting work from Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walker and Michelle Dockery. Directed by Ritesh Batra (“The Lunchbox”). Rated PG-13. 108 minutes.—W.Addiego

SNOOZING VIEWERSong to Song Terrence Malick’s latest, about songwriters in Austin, is a huge disappointment, over two hours of wistful voice-over contemplation to the sight of various vague characters improvising in the most obvious and tiresome of ways. Starring Ryan Gosling, Rooney Mara and Michael Fassbender. Rated R. 129 minutes.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSESplit M. Night Shyamalan’s latest surprise twist is his own career revival. This low-budget thriller about a criminal with multiple personalities is an entertaining original. James McAvoy is excellent playing more than a dozen roles. Even as the story begins to fester toward the end, it never stops being fun. Rated PG-13. 117 minutes.—P.Hartlaub

WILD APPLAUSET2 Trainspotting The sequel to “Trainspotting,” the 1996 film about heroin addicts in Edinburgh, is a likable and sumptuously filmed comedy, delightful to watch from start to finish. Rated R. 113 minutes.—M.LaSalle

POLITE APPLAUSETickling Giants This documentary about comedian Bassem Youssef, the Jon Stewart of Egypt, delivers a loud and clear message about repression anywhere in the world. Not rated. 111 minutes.—L.Hertz

ALERT VIEWERA United Kingdom The marriage between an African king and a white British woman and the subsequent international fallout is the subject of this true story, starring David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike. But the movie, though conscientious, ultimately fails to satisfy as either a love story or as a tale of mid-century politics. Rated PG-13. 111 minutes.—M.LaSalle

ALERT VIEWERWilson This dark comedy, about a curmudgeonly hermit who tries to reconnect with the world, is loaded with funny characters and moments, even if it doesn’t add up to an emotionally satisfying whole. Rated R. 94 minutes.—D.Lewis



Syrian rebels launch surprise attack on Damascus

Smoke billows up from Damascus in the wake of the fighting
Smoke billows up from Damascus in the wake of the fighting

Syrian forces were scrambling to defend frontlines near the heart of Damascus on Sunday after a surprise offensive by opposition groups.

Shelling and sniper fire echoed across the Syrian capital as rebels and jihadists attacked regime positions in the Jobar neighbourhood, just 2km north-east of the Old City walls.

Control of Jobar has been split between regime forces and opposition fighters for more than two years, making it one of the few areas in Damascus not under firm regime control.

The attack began in the morning when jihadists launched a barrage of car bombs and suicide attacks.

School was abruptly cancelled, and a normally bustling neighbourhood was put on lockdown as the sound of explosions and gunfire filled the air. Syrian state media said terrorists had infiltrated the city through tunnels in the middle of the night.

Opposition fighters took control of several buildings in Jobar and pushed into nearby Abbasid Square. From there they seized part of a large bus station and fired rockets into multiple neighbourhoods, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group.

Abdel Rahman said with Sunday’s attack, “rebels have shifted from a defensive position in Jobar into an offensive one”.

“These are not intermittent clashes – these are ongoing attempts to advance,” he said.

The advance appeared to be aimed at connecting rebel-held territory in Jobar to the Qaboun neighbourhood nearby. By linking the two pockets of opposition control, rebels seek to break the siege of Qaboun and cement their hold on an area uncomfortably close to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s centre of power.

Smoke billows following a reported air strike in the rebel-held parts of the Jobar district, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus
Smoke billows following a reported air strike in the rebel-held parts of the Jobar district, on the eastern outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus

As the offensive progressed Sunday afternoon, regime warplanes launched air raids around the areas of the clashes. Army reinforcements arrived in droves.

Photographs and videos from the area show a city choking on smoke, with rubble from distant and more recent clashes clogging the streets.

This latest effort to advance on Damascus comes with rebels in the most dire straits they have yet faced in the six-year war.

Aleppo, once the capital of the revolution, is now firmly back under regime control.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

A patchwork of truce deals – which one FSA commander described to this newspaper as “surrender, nothing more” – has offered besieged civilians in opposition-held areas a lifeline, but banished rebels elsewhere, mainly to Idlib province which is itself under heavy aerial attack.

Even in Daraa in southern Syria, where the uprising began, the opposition is losing ground.

Sunday’s attack showcased a union once seen as awkward for the opposition’s backers: mainstream rebels like the FSA fighting alongside the Fateh al-Sham front, the jihadists formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s Syrian franchise.

But with external support fast dwindling and the revolution appearing to collapse, the mainstream opposition may be taking whatever help it can get.


Five reasons to give the new Top Gear a chance

The presenters of Top Gear season 24: Chris Harris, Matt LeBlanc, and Rory Reid
Photo by Vlad Savov / The Verge

On a windy, and eventually rainy, day last month, I got to experience something that my teenage self would have been very jealous of: I rode around the Top Gear test track, being expertly flung around its corners by show presenter Chris Harris. It was part of a press preview of the 24th season of Top Gear, and you can already get a taste for what that’s like from my colleagues’ roundtable discussion of the season opener last week.

But I’m not here to give away spoilers or specifics of the new season. In my time at the Top Gear facilities, I interviewed all three of the show’s presenters, and now I just want to tell you why I’m rooting for the newly rebooted Top Gear to succeed. Yes, Vlad is being a fanboy.

  1. Chris Harris. The unabashed geek of the show, Chris Harris is in many ways the ideal car reviewer. His uncynical enthusiasm for cars is infectious, and he brings an encyclopedic depth of knowledge to Top Gear that I don’t think the show has ever had. The man can identify cars just by their engine noise, for crying out loud. At a time when popular culture seems impatient with real expertise, I’m delighted to have a true expert on TV from whom I can learn about cars and the joys of pushing them to their limits.
  2. Top Gear became pretty awesome last season, but few people noticed. We can all agree that Chris Evans was a poor replacement for Jeremy Clarkson in the lead presenter role of Top Gear season 23. He tried to be as loud and brash as Clarkson, but didn’t have the same level of camaraderie with his colleagues, and ultimately put audiences off from watching. I think the show’s producers grasped that fact quickly, and the latter half of season 23 ended up with more group driving adventures and fewer spots featuring Evans. As I observed at the time, the show became instantly more watchable, and with the promotion of Harris and fellow car journalist Rory Reid to more prominent roles, it’s only going to improve.
  3. The assholes are gone. There are many people who’ll tell you that the chemistry between Jeremy Clarkson, James May, and Richard Hammond — consisting primarily of them playing pranks and being rude to one another — was at the heart of Top Gear’s previous appeal. I disagree. There’s nothing particularly charming about the emotional immaturity of three men incapable of openly acknowledging their friendship and shared passion. When I watch that old trio, I’m transported back to my school days, where I had to say “fuck” every now and again to reassert my masculinity. The new crew, on the other hand, features two long-tenured car journalists and the son of a mechanic. Harris, Reid, and LeBlanc are more interested in the cars than self-promotion, and I find that refreshing.
  4. The production quality remains stellar. This is another aspect of Top Gear’s first post-Clarkson season that went unappreciated: season 23 was full of gorgeous footage that turned cars into kinetic art. I’m convinced that whenever Top Gear does finally run out of gas, its signature achievement will be one of cinematography and staging. That stuff, the good stuff, hasn’t dropped in quality one iota, and season 24 promises to keep the standard high. Many of the best gadget review videos produced by sites like The Verge and YouTubers like Marques Brownlee owe a creative debt to Top Gear’s innovation in this space. Top Gear took the format of a luxury watch commercial, replete with excruciatingly tiny details and an admiration of the most basic mechanics, and turned it into a way to showcase big and burly cars.
  5. We all need an escape from fighting. Have you looked at Twitter lately? A CNN news broadcast? A New York Times front page? How about the latest choice of blockbuster Hollywood movies? It seems like life today is characterized by polarization, argument, and conflict — whether it’s between sports teams, political ideologies, or superhero motivations. Even our favorite modes of escapism don’t really give us a chance to relax and calm down (I’m about the start the new Mass Effect, for example, and I don’t anticipate it will let me casually farm on a rural planet for 100 hours). So it’s a little bit awesome to get a show on TV that has no villainy, that requires no obligatory two-minute hate for the bad guys. Top Gear is an indulgence. Everyone in it is on the good team, everyone has a common interest and fascination, and, except for the danger of overactive script writers, everyone just gets along harmoniously.

As Matt LeBlanc put it to me, his job is to drive the cars not being driven, and to recount the tales of those experience. His top priority at the show — after not crashing the cars — is to be honest. As a technology reviewer, I can’t help but relate to that ambition. When I speak to Chris Harris, I get the sense of a kindred spirit, a person who’s passionate about his subject matter and about doing it justice. And Rory Reid is someone I used to hang out with at the Geneva Motor Show, gawking at the latest Ferraris and Lamborghinis. So you can say I’m partial to this trio. In person, they convey a humility and seriousness about their jobs that was never apparent with their predecessors. But even without them, Top Gear is still the best and prettiest stage for car enthusiasm on TV, and well worth watching.

In the US, Top Gear airs on Sundays at 8/7c on BBC America.

Photography by Vlad Savov / The Verge