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…
Last January I challenged myself to try giving good personal finance advice in a weekly article of 100 words or less. Now I’ve got the urge to raise the bar once again. So today, I’m keeping my usually snarky article comments to 10 words or less. (I know; that was 14 words. It ain’t easy.)
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Hope to Prosper – What I Learned from My First Job. Bret’s number one: digging cesspools. (I’d argue that’s number two.)
Don’t Quit Your Day Job – The Unsustainability of Social Security … in One Graph. The only retirement assistance I’m expecting from the government: cheese.
Consumerism Commentary – Save Money at the Gas Pump. I’m paying $4.35 — I’ll consider buying a Volt at $43.50.
Generation X Finance – 24 Ways to Save on Tax Preparation Fees. Your best bet, two words: TurboTax. Wait … is that one?
Moolanomy – A Review of Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps to Financial Freedom. Regarding Dave’s baby steps: they often land in financial poo.
Heh. That was a miserable failure.
(Yes, even worse than this cheesy fight scene from the martial arts movie Undefeatable — although the badly-dubbed Schwarzenegger-worthy tag line at the end is priceless.)
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From March 2009:
24 Financial Things About Me (… and One Confession Makes 25) – Remember that “25 Things About Me” craze that was going around Facebook, MySpace and even through email several years ago? Here was my entry — with a personal finance twist.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Well, after reaching 13,000 for the first time in 4 years, it sure didn’t take long for the Dow to experience its first triple-digit decline of 2012, did it?
Credit: On the positive side, the US economy added 227,000 new jobs in February. Hooray!
Debit: Unfortunately, despite the increase in new jobs, the government reported that the unemployment rate for February held steady at 8.3 percent. That’s because more people are now looking for work.
Debit: And the broader U6 underemployment rate — which combines the “officially” unemployed with those who can only find part-time jobs — is at 14.9 percent.
Debit: The government doesn’t track the long-term unemployed who have given up looking; they defined those workers out of existence in 1994. But if you include them, the unemployment rate approaches 23 percent.
Debit: The fact is we need greater monthly increases in the number of new jobs being created. Otherwise, at this pace it will take many years before the unemployment rate recovers to what it was before the Great Recession.
Debit: Then again, if you believe the pretzel-logic coming from a blog at the Onion the Washington Post, those who want a “real recovery” should be rooting for rising unemployment. I know.
Debit: In other news, from June 2011 to January 2012, more than 1 in every 3 US home sales were either short sales or sales of foreclosed properties; as a result, the national median home price fell 8.5 percent to $154,700.
Debit: And housing prices will likely drop even further after another flood of foreclosures hit the market in January — 29 percent more than in December.
Credit: I see Warren “The Rich Need to Pay More Taxes” Buffett owns a company that is fighting the IRS over their demands for $336 million in back taxes and penalties. Whaaaa?
Credit: With a net worth of $39 billion, Buffett is one of the richest men in the world — the taxes owed represent less than 1 percent of that. So why doesn’t Mr. Buffett practice what he preaches and just pay the taxes from his own pocket? Just sayin’.
Credit: Maybe I was too hard on the Chevy Volt last week; despite all its troubles, the Europeans just dubbed it the 2012 Car of the Year!
Credit: One funny guy noted the Euros’ decision makes sense only if the Volt’s primary use was for standing around it and warming your hands after it catches fire.
Debit: Of course, the Europeans don’t subsidize Volt development and production costs — but American taxpayers do. So much so that each $39,000 Chevy Volt currently costs about $250,000 to make.
Credit: Meanwhile, Consumer Reports decided to evaluate another plug-in hybrid — a Fisher Karma they paid $107,850 for — but it broke down before they could even finish testing it. I bet the Euros will love that car too.
The Best of By the Numbers
I wonder if Warren Buffett has seen this data regarding how different states tax their citizens – and the fallout from those states with the highest taxes…
1100 From 1998 to 2007, the number of people who moved daily from the nine highest income-tax states to the nine states with no state income tax.
89 From 1998 to 2007, the percentage of additional jobs created in the nine states with no income tax over the nine highest income-tax states.
32 From 1998 to 2007, the percentage of additional income growth for people living in the nine states with no income tax over the nine highest income-tax states.
8.97 The current tax rate on the richest people in New Jersey. It was raised in 2004 from the old rate of 6.35%.
4000 According to a Princeton study, the number of missing half-millionaires in New Jersey after the new higher tax rate took effect in 2004.
49 New Jersey’s rank among the 50 states in the percentage increase in wealthy tax filers in the years after they raised the tax rate on them.
0 The state sales and income tax rates in New Hampshire.
4 The rank of New Hampshire public-school student test scores among all 50 states.
Taken from my Black Coffee post on July 31, 2010 entitled A Massachusetts Yacht (In Rhode Island Harbor)
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — 5 states in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. Louisiana (2.80 pages/visit)
2. North Dakota (2.36)
3. Indiana (2.25)
4. Rhode Island (2.21)
5. Utah (2.16)
46. Kentucky (1.73)
47. Massachusetts (1.72)
48. Delaware (1.71)
49. Arkansas (1.70)
50. Maine (1.61)
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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!
Superman has Lex Luthor; I have Oscar, who recently took the time (yet again) to remind me that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer:
… If you had the cash on hand and your two options for buying a $100,000 house were for $125,000 or $200,000, which would you choose? DUH!
Um, is that a trick question?
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message. (All 1184 words of it.)