Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #39

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…

I’m heading to Arizona this weekend with the family to watch the Dodgers play an exhibition game.   I’m in a bit of a rush this week, so I’m going to the lightning round for a shortened version of my weekly blog highlights.  Give me 60 seconds on the clock and here we go:

Joe Taxpayer – We kick off this edition of Black Coffee with Joe, who ponders the greatest mystery that we’ll ever face as human beings living on this insignificant little rock in the middle of an enormously vast and wondrous universe: “What’s better – a 15-year or 30-year mortgage?”   (And if you ask me, it’s one that’s paid off.)

Canadian Finance Blog – Donald shares some scientifically tested psychological “tricks” (phrases, actually) you can use when talking with customer service to get a lower interest rate on your credit card.  Hmmm.  I wonder if I turned the lights down low and tried saying those phrases backward tonight I might actually succeed in raising the Honeybee’s, um, interest.  Laugh all you want -  you know I’m going to try.

Fiscal Geek – Meanwhile, Paul, the MacGyver of personal finance, featured an excellent article from Out of Your Rut’s Kevin Mercadante that explores whether or not tax deferral is a sucker’s bet.

Rainy Day Saver – Nicole highlights a weird bunch of folks who take part in “extreme couponing.”  One lady saved $1000.  How would you like to be behind her in the checkout line?  Of course, the drawbacks of such an activity are plenty.  One of the biggest is perpetually dull scissors.

Don’t Quit Your Day Job -  The median duration of unemployment in 1970 was under five weeks.  Care to guess what it is today?  Well, Paul sheds some light on statistics that suggest the old pastime of job hopping may be over – at least for awhile.

Money Obedience – CT got a tax refund!  Now check out why CT thinks it’s better to get a refund rather than having to pay taxes come tax day.

Green Panda Treehouse – Meanwhile, Mike shares some classic tips for how you can eat well while still being frugal.  (Hint: It doesn’t involve ordering from McDonald’s dollar value menu.)

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

From May 2009:

Going Once, Twice, Sold!  Save Big Money at Grocery Auctions. -  The United States recently suffered from the worst food inflation in 17 years.  Perhaps that’s why grocery auctions are quickly becoming one of the fastest growing trends in America.   Never heard of grocery auctions?  Then check out this article and get some tips on how you can use the grocery auctions in your area to maximize savings to your food bill.

Credits and Debits

Debit: The Associated Press reported yesterday that Fidel Castro declared passage of American health care reform “a miracle” and a major victory, but wondered why it took the United States 234 years to enact what the communists did in Cuba decades ago.  Well, duh, Comrade!   The United States may be a socialist country now, but it’s still not a Marxist dictatorship.  In a democracy it takes a little more, um, cajoling to convince the people to destroy a healthcare system they actually liked in favor of one that will hasten the demise of their currency.

Debit: By the way, this is the same Fidel Castro who had to go to Spain for stomach surgery in 2007 because the People’s surgeons weren’t up to the task.  Viva la revolucion!

Credit: Let’s get off this health care stuff and focus on something a little more upbeat, shall we?  In other news, a Harris poll found that nearly a quarter of Republicans believe that President Obama may be the Antichrist.   Meanwhile, a lot of people are absolutely flabbergasted that Republicans could be so loony – especially the 61 percent of Democrats who were either unsure or certain that George Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance.

Debit: It is interesting to note that in 2009 a Harris poll found that a star-struck American public also considered the Antichrist President Obama to be a bigger hero than Jesus.

Debit: Continuing with the Biblical thread, Reuters reports that the Antichrist President Obama mocked Republicans on Thursday for acting as if the Obamacare bill would lead to “Armageddon.”  Said President Obama:  “After I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there were any asteroids falling (or) some cracks opening up in the earth!”   If you are looking for cracks, Mr. President, I suggest you focus on our rapidly crumbling currency.

Debit: Meanwhile, the freebies and entitlements continue to pour out of Washington.  President Obama is now pushing to temporarily slash or eliminate monthly mortgage payments for the unemployed.  Meanwhile, the government is moving to entice lenders with incentives to forgive loan principal for underwater borrowers if they currently owe 15 percent more than their home is worth.  The only condition is that the homeowner must remain current on the loan for three years.  I know.  But if everyone has a right to healthcare, then it follows that home ownership is a right too.   Viva la revolucion!

Debit: It’s getting harder and harder for me to preach the benefits of being financially responsible when the Federal government continues to reward the reckless and meddle in the free market.  It’s tough to swallow that many people who may have bought more home than they could afford will now get an opportunity to have a significant portion of their mortgage principal forgiven courtesy of the US taxpayer – simply because their loan is underwater.  Meanwhile, people like myself go on dutifully living within their means in modest homes – only we get to pay for our entire mortgage, not to mention the mortgage of the other guys.  I’m beginning to feel like a real chump.  Maybe it’s time for me to start my own little revolucion.  Who’s with me?

By the Numbers:

44 The percentage of the population that owned a home in 1940

68 The percentage of the population that owned a home in 2008

25 The percentage of homeowners who owed more than their house was worth at the start of 2010.

14 The percentage of homeowners who were behind on their mortgage payments in December 2009.

861,664 The number homes lost to foreclosure in 2008

6,000,000 The approximate number of foreclosures initiated since 2007.

Letters, I Get Letters

The bulk of my mail this week was in response to my opinion piece on the passage of Obamacare into law entitled The Redistribution of Health: Excuse Me, But I Think I’m Gonna Be Sick.  I got eight letters in all.  Here are excerpts from a few of them…

From Janice:  “Sorry but you lost this one Len.”

We all lost, Janice.  Well, everyone except for the very small minority who didn’t have any insurance to begin with.

From James (in Canada): “I’m a little surprised your government, the most indebted government in the world, has decided to really step on the gas of piling onto the debt spiral you guys are finding yourselves in.  Although being from California you guys REALLY know how to pile the debt on.  go Arnie go.”

Ouch, James!  You really know how to kick a guy when he’s down, don’t you?  I bet you pulled the wings off flies when you were a kid too.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

From Steve:  “For weeks I’ve been reading your whining about how bad this health care bill is going to be for America.  Well guess what Mr. Know it all – Congress passed the bill anyway… I say good for them!”

Too bad it’s not good for America, Steve.

From Euromillion: “We happily announce you won the Draw (#670) of the Euro millon (sic) for march, 2010.”

Hit the road, Euromillion.  Can’t you see we’re talking about healthcare here?  (Give the winnings to my friend, Steve.)

From Julie: “I don’t have any problems with the government regulating the health insurance industry. They already regulate other types of insurance. Yeah, I’m an idealist, but I understand that if NOTHING is done, it will continue to get worse and only the uber-rich will be able to afford to get sick.  The rest of us will be in bankruptcy court… (Please notice that I did not call you names or denigrate your mother.)”

Speaking of bankruptcy, with unfunded liabilities currently amounting to $91 trillion, Medicare will be insolvent by 2019.  I hope the Federal government does better with everybody else’s health care now that they are going to run it.  By the way, my mom sends her love, Julie.   :-)

From Rhino: “Well they went ahead and did it.  Now what do you suggest we do?”

Well, Rhino, you can try and acclimate yourself by visiting the local DMV as often as you can.

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

Check this out!  So far for the month of March, these are the Top 5 foreign countries whose visitors spend the most time here on a per-visit basis at Len Penzo dot Com

1. South Africa (8 minutes 55 seconds)
2. Japan (4:12)
3. Israel (4:11)
4. Denmark (4:06)
5. Mexico (3:31)

At the bottom of the list is Spain, whose citizens spend all of one tiny second here each time they visit.  One second.  Heh.  I wonder why that is.  I’ve seen fruit flies with longer attention spans.  Even the Greeks, who I beat up in this column every now and then, spend 2 minutes and 23 seconds here when they visit.   Oh well.

Anyway, thank you to everybody who spends a little time here each week!  I really appreciate it – no matter what state or country you come from.   (Maybe one of my friends from Mexico would be so kind as to thank my Spanish, um, readers for me.)

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:

- Money Hacks Carnival at Maximizing Money

- Carnival of Personal Finance at Amateur Asset Allocator

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