It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…
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…
So the Honeybee was listening to her iPod the other day when she felt the need to stop and inform me that, “It must be ‘Two-for-Tuesday’ today. They’re playing two songs in a row by the same artist a lot!”
Heh. Of course, I couldn’t let that one go without a snide remark. (It’s okay, I’m used to sleeping on the couch now.)
“Who are ‘they,’ Honeybee?”
“Who are ‘they’? Is there a tiny DJ or two in your iPod? If so, where can I get them?”
Well, assuming I correctly interpreted the hand gesture that followed, Apple is now putting exactly one tiny DJ in all their iPods now. Amazing.
No wonder Apple’s stock is going through the roof.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Money Funk – Obscure Insurance Policies That May Help You in the Future. Did you know scientists recently identified a common food item that instantly cuts the sex drive of the average woman by 50 percent? Yep. It’s called wedding cake. I assume that’s why the first item on this list is wedding insurance; it indemnifies you for losses in case, say, the groom reads that news and suddenly gets cold feet.
Lazy Man and Money – Marriott Vacation Club: Scam or Not? The Honeybee and I went to the same timeshare presentation Lazy Man went to when we were in Maui last October. Of course, I had no intention of buying — I just wanted the 40,000 Marriott Rewards points they were offering in exchange for 90 minutes of my time. Oh yeah; we also got free use of the pool. Unfortunately, it was closed because a kid had pooped in it earlier in the day — at least I hope it was a kid. I wonder if they have insurance for that. In any case, somebody better tell the bartender at the pool bar that he ain’t helping Marriott sell any timeshares by, um, leaking that intel to potential buyers.
Married with Debt – Barack Obama: Bigger Tax Cutter than Bush. As I noted to John, the real issue in 2012 has nothing to do with the tax debate. Instead, it’ll come down to philosophical mindsets regarding what America is all about. Either the electorate will choose a return to greater individualism, liberty, states’ rights, and personal responsibility by electing politicians who believe in the Constitution’s limits on federal power, or they will accept increased power of the federal government in exchange for many of their most basic needs — an idea that only took root in the early 20th century. That decision will eventually make the apples-to-oranges tax debate a moot point. Just sayin’.
Fabulously Broke in the City - Annoy Yourself Into Saving. I love it when I learn new things. For example, in this article I learned that a patisserie is a French pastry store, a pain au chocolat is a chocolate pastry, and that STFU means “shut the fuzz up.”
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…
Millionaire Nurse Blog - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Ten Personal Finance Lessons
Fiscal Fizzle - The Battle for Our Security Deposit
Bucksome Boomer – Life After Debt
So Over Debt - How Much Does It Cost to Prepare for Emergencies?
Out of Your Rut – Preparing Your Financial Life for Self-Employment
Budgets Are Sexy - Do One Small Thing, Then Another
My Broken Coin - Debt Is All Around You (and It’s Accruing Interest)
The Simple Dollar – Rules Versus Facts
Money Reasons – The Problem with Being Too Frugal or Too Tight with Money
Couple Money - Tax Brackets and Effective Tax Rates
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From March 2010:
Taste Test Experiment: An All-Kid Panel Evaluates Name-Brand vs. Store-Brand Cereals – Many store-brand kid cereals offer savings of up to 62 percent over their name-brand counterparts. So I gathered up the kids in my neighborhood — and my dog, Major, of course — to see if they could tell the difference.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Astronomers are warning that they’ve identified an asteroid that has a 1 in 625 chance of striking Earth a mere 28 years from now. Meh. We’ve got bigger things to worry about.
Debit: For example, in a desperate bid to stave off default — and despite union protests — Greece approved additional austerity measures asked for by the European Union in return for an additional $175 billion in bailout funds. I know.
Credit: Realizing that the latest bailout is the economic equivalent of rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, S&P immediately downgraded the destitute nation’s financial rating from “junk” to “selective default.” Ouch.
Credit: If you think that’s bad, S&P then warned Greece that if it asked for another bailout, they would downgrade them again from “selective default” to “deadbeat chiselers.”
Debit: Meanwhile, things aren’t going too well over here either — and I’m not just talking about my lame jokes. By some accounts, real inflation on everyday items is now at 8 percent.
Debit: Of course, assuming those figures are accurate, that means you’ll need an 8 percent raise from your boss this year just to break even. Good luck with that.
Debit: If only my gasoline bill would rise just 8 percent annually. On Friday, the national average rose to $3.74 per gallon; the 24th consecutive day of rising prices.
Debit: At my station, today’s pump price was $4.35 — that’s a 4 percent increase over the past week.
Debit: While you have your wallet out, you may want to know that homeowner defaults in 2011 left government mortgage giant Fannie Mae with a $17 billion shortfall, so Fannie has asked the Treasury taxpayers to make up the difference. (As they do most every year.)
Debit: If you’re looking for some good news, you ain’t going to find it from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He’s warning the US economy is headed for “a massive cliff” in 2013 when a one-two punch of higher taxes and spending cuts are scheduled to take effect.
Credit: Mercifully breaking this week’s run of bad news is (believe it or not) General Motors, which has wisely decided to temporarily suspend production of a car that nobody wants: the hybrid electric Chevy Volt.
Credit: Since 2010, GM has sold only 9,623 of the cars, despite rebates and tax incentives for buyers of as much as $12,500. What a waste of (financial) resources.
Debit: I say it’s for the best. Especially since onerous government regulations are now forcing five Pennsylvania coal-burning power plants to shut down; plants that generate 3140 megawatts of power. Three other plants, in Ohio and New Jersey, will also be closed. Whaaa?
Debit: So while the government continues its attempts to force one-million electric cars on the road by 2015 — even though relatively few consumers want them — it’s also pursuing policies that reduce the amount of electricity on the grid. Makes sense to me.
Credit: Did you see this? The Japanese have invented a speech-jamming gun that silences people in mid-
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers
1801 Year the first asteroid, Ceres, was discovered by Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi.
150 Number of asteroids that are known to have at least one moon. (There are even some with two.)
174 Number of confirmed asteroid impact craters on Earth with diameters between 50 feet and 186 miles.
105 Diameter, in miles, of the Chicxulub impact crater off Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The asteroid that created it was responsible for the extinction of dinosaurs.
6 Estimated diameter, in miles, of the Chicxulub asteroid.
90,000 The estimated number of asteroids lying in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
200 Number of asteroids in the asteroid belt that are larger than 60 miles in diameter.
Other Useless News
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1. Click on that “Like” button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!
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Top 25 Referrers for February
It’s the first weekend of the month, which means it’s time once again to thank the top 25 referring websites to Len Penzo dot Com.
1. The Consumerist
2. MSN: Smart Spending
3. The Simple Dollar
4. Money Talks News
7. Time Magazine: Moneyland
10. Budgets Are Sexy
11. Oblivious Investor
12. Money Help for Christians
13. Credit Karma
14. The Globe and Mail
15. The Millionaire Nurse Blog
16. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
17. Frugal Under 40
18. Green Panda Tree House
19. Bog of Debt
20. The Free Financial Advisor
22. Canadian Finance Blog
23. (tie) Wealth Pilgrim
23. (tie) Early Retirement Blog
25. (tie) Money Funk
25. (tie) Fabulously Broke in the City
25. (tie) Out of Debt Again
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated.
Letters, I Get Letters
Every week I feature the most interesting question or comment – assuming I get one, that is. And folks who are lucky enough to have the only question in the mailbag get their letter highlighted here whether it’s interesting or not!
This week I got a very nice note from Cindy, that included this question:
… Are there ever days when mattresses are NOT on sale?
Hmm. I’m not sure — but I promise to get back to you after I sleep on it.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.