Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News, and Opinions #34

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Welcome to another rousing edition of Black Coffee, your off-beat weekly round-up of what’s been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

This week was a bit of a rollercoaster for me in the emotions department.  First off, I celebrated my 46th birthday on Wednesday with my family – which is always a happy occasion, despite the repeated reminders from them about what an old man I really am.

Then, sadly, on Thursday I learned one of my most favorite aunts, Aunt Phyllis, passed away.   Aside from her being a relative of mine, Aunt Phyllis was one of the nicest women I ever had the pleasure of knowing.   And although she and her family lived a couple of thousand miles away from me, we spent a relatively lot of time together over the years spending vacations together, and celebrating milestone events.  A lot of good memories.

I spoke to my Uncle Chuck this morning but everything that I said seemed so clumsy and awkward.  What can you say to somebody who just lost his wife of many many many years?

I find times like this to be one of the few instances in life where I really feel helpless and find myself at a loss for words.  I guess all you can really do is tell them that you love them and are sorry for their loss.

I hope that is enough.

So my heartfelt condolences goes out Aunt Phyllis’ family – my Uncle Chuck, and cousins, Chuck, Adele, John and Beth.   I hope you’re all okay and please know that my thoughts and prayers are with you all right now.

This edition of Black Coffee is for you, Aunt Phyllis…

***

Frugal Dad – We’ll ease into this edition of Black Coffee with a guest post from Neal, who is the proprietor of WealthPilgrim.  He writes about the importance of making the correct financial decisions upon the loss of a loved one.

The Smarter Wallet – Meanwhile, The Smarter Wallet featured an informative piece on your debt-to-income ratio, including how to calculate it, and the impacts of the size of that ratio on your standing with lenders.

On Line Investing Guy – Matt writes about seven factors that can rock your retirement and introduces a clever, but accurate, term I never heard of before: “Social Ponzicurity.”

CashMoneyLife – Over at CashMoneyLife, Patrick put together a nice article that compares 30- and 15-year mortgage terms.  On another note, I really need to talk to Patrick because I think his blog name needs a grammar check – yes, just like all of my blog articles.  Patrick, I’d like to respectfully suggest you please consider adding a couple of commas – or periods.  Or a combination of both.  For example:  Cash, Money, Life.  Cash, Money, Life.  Cash. Money. Life.  Whaddya say, buddy?

Fiscal Fizzle – The “James Brown of personal finance,” Mr. Credit Card, wrote yet another guest post – this time over at my pecuniary pepper – asking if passive income is just a myth, and he sparked a spirited debate.  Personally, I am with Mr. CC on this one:  There are no free lunches.  Peel the onion back enough and you eventually find out that what is deemed as truly passive is not really passive at all.

Consumerism Commentary – For those bloggers hoping to strike it rich, Flexo, (No, not my old college girlfriend, the other Flexo) put together an excellent reality check.  In the article, he shares everything he has learned since he started blogging on the Web – in one manner or another – sixteen years ago.  Think about that.  That means Flexo started blogging within days of Al Gore’s initial spam e-mail announcing his invention of the Internet.

Big Fat Moneybags – Mr. Moneybags and I are working on a super secret project that promises to turn the personal finance blogosphere on its ear.  Oh, believe it.  We’ll announce our mutual endeavor as soon as we’re finished with it.  Until then, check out this informative and entertaining piece from Mr.Moneybags that teaches you how to read a balance sheet.  As an added bonus, you might even learn something about plum sauce, assuming Moneybags answers the wise-ass question I posed to him.

MoneyNing – Over at “the Ning,” as I like to call it, Miranda – who happens to be one of my favorite personal finance writers – took time out from decorating her mansion to write an excellent guest post for David that highlights seven smart financial moves to make while you are in your 20s.  Miranda, my blog isn’t reeling in any money for me – Flexo wasn’t kidding, folks – and so I’m still looking to make a little side income.  If you’re interested, I do wash windows and am also pretty good with a riding mower.

Budgets are Sexy – One of my favorite bloggers, J Money, is celebrating his blog’s second anniversary!  Wow, one-half million page views over that period is very impressive, J!  How do you do it?  You know, my blog recently turned a year old and I’m still waiting to reach 500 page views.

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts You May Have Missed

From May 2009:

18 Scary Things You Didn’t Know About Inflation and Hyperinflation -  This popular post was part of last year’s wildly successful inflation week series.  It’s an eye-opening  primer on what we can expect if the world loses faith in the US dollar and hyperinflation were to take hold.

Credits and Debits

Debit: Greek drivers lined up for gas at the few stations still open this week as a customs strike against government austerity measures left many pumps running dry.  The Associated Press reports that the fuel shortage was the first serious consequence of an emergency spending cuts program, aimed at shoring up market confidence and easing the debt crisis in Greece, brought on by years of heavy deficit spending by the country’s Socialist government.

Debit: As the Euro zone turns… Germany is calling for Greece to get its financial house in order and is also balking at providing any kind of bailout.  Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Germany’s biggest selling daily Bild has lambasted Greece as a nation of lazy cheats who should be “thrown out of the euro on their ear.”  For their part, some Greek lawmakers are now calling for the Germans to pay reparations for their World War Two occupation of Greece before criticizing the country over its monstrous fiscal deficits.

Debit: Meanwhile, here in the United States – another bastion of undisciplined fiscal spending and money printing – many economists have raised concern that growth will stagnate this year as government support programs wind down and unemployment remains high.  This week we got a strong indication of that too, as the government said that the number of people filing first-time claims for unemployment benefits in the US rose unexpectedly last week.

Debit: So you say you don’t think runaway government spending can result in the same type of crisis in the US that Greece is experiencing now (and Iceland suffered through in 2008)?  You may want to think again – lucky for us we still have time to turn things around.

Credit: How about some good news?  Okay, try this on for size: The City of Cleveland, Ohio, finally won something, topping Forbes’ 2010 list of the most miserable American cities.  Yep.  “The Mistake by the Lake” was zinged by Forbes for having high unemployment, high taxes, lousy weather, corruption by public officials and generally pitiful sports teams – but other than that, its a great place to live.  Besides, how many other cities can say they have rivers that occasionally catch fire?  Uh huh.  That’s what I thought.

Debit: Speaking of Ohio, did you hear about this: After the bank started foreclosure proceedings on his home, a Moscow, Ohio, man used a bulldozer to level the house he’d built.  How dare those evil banks do what they were legally entitled to do!  Anyway, the man’s sprawling country home is now just a big pile of worthless decaying rubble.  In other words, the place now looks a lot like Cleveland.

By the Numbers:

113 The current Greek National Debt as a percentage of GDP.  By comparison, the US National Debt is currently at 61 percent of GDP and it is estimated that it will reach 100 percent in two years.

12.7 The percentage of Greece’s 2009 federal deficit as a percentage of their GDP.  The US is estimated to run a deficit this year at 10 percent of GDP.

75 The estimated size of the Greek budget deficit for 2010, in billions of dollars.

1260 The estimated size of the US budget deficit or 2010, in billions of dollars.

Letters, I Get Letters

No letters this week, but if you have a question you’d like to ask, or a comment you’d like to make regarding some of my irritating opinions, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at: Len@LenPenzo.com

I’ll feature the most interesting question or comment I get each week here on Black Coffee – assuming I get one, that is.

If you’re lucky enough to be the only question in the mail bag I’ll highlight your letter, whether it’s interesting or not. ;-)

Other Useless News

Here are the Top 5 referring blogs (excluding aggregators) to Len Penzo dot Com so far during the month of February…

1. Frugal Dad
2. Get Rich Slowly
3. Wisebread
4. Cash Money Life
5. Monevator

I really appreciate the links, folks! :-)

As a reminder, if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please feel free to follow me on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! :-)

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

- The Money Hacks Carnival #104 at Rabbit Funds  (Editor’s Pick – Hooray!)

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