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…
(Note: Fellow Yakezie members are highlighted by their weekly Alexa rank increase.)
Monevator (7.34%) – Word to yo momma! This week’s edition of Black Coffee opens up with a fun post from my boy the Investor who features a hilarious educational rap video on the differences between the economic theories of Britain’s John Maynard Keynes and Austria’s Friedrich von Hayek. Ayo, Keynes! You’re a duck – you know what I’m sayin’? As for Hayek, well he’s my homey, Dog. I’m Eastside reppin fo’ life! Why? Because my boy Hayek likes to chill, that’s why! He is a staunch believa in the power of free markets. Damn! That philosophy is so fly. Keynes, on the other hand, is a big believa in using government intervention and a centralized banking system – like our Federal Reserve – to “smooth out” boom and bust cycles. In other words – Keynes is all for printing lots of scrilla when the economy starts to sag in order to keep the good times rolling. Peace out. (Truth be told, I think the right answer lies somewhere in the middle – but closer to Hayek.)
Wealth Pilgrim (14.98%) – Hey! Now that you’ve finished paying your taxes, I bet you are probably ready to declare bankruptcy. Lucky for us, Neal shows us exactly how to do that – without losing your home equity. Life is good.
Couple Money (5.11%) – Yesterday, Elle tackled the age-old conundrum of whether we should loan money to our friends and relatives. As far as I’m concerned, if that means should you do it with the expectation that you will get the money back, you might as well ask me if I should sit on a prickly pear cactus. In a pair of Speedos. While eating a haggis sandwich.
Green Panda Treehouse – Meanwhile, Mike is planning on a summer vacation in my little corner of the world, Los Angeles. Along with passing on a few excellent tips to better plan your vacation, he’s also looking for a little advice on whether he should use L.A.’s public transportation system. As far as I’m concerned, you might as well ask me if you should sit on a prickly pear cactus. In a pair of Speedos. While eating a haggis sandwich. Heh. Rent a car, Mike – it’s Los Angeles, for God’s sake.
How to Manage Money Tips – Speaking of haggis, here’s a no-nonsense post on how to save money on your groceries. (I’m sorry, I don’t have a quip here. I’m still preoccupied with horrific thoughts of Mike using the Los Angeles public transportation system instead of a private vehicle.)
Financial Samurai (4.59%) - At what age does age-discrimination typically start? Sam suggests it starts at 40, which I think is a bit young – but maybe he’s right. Meanwhile, my pick for the Samurai fund was still leading the pack at the start of the week, up an astounding 34% since January. Please folks, if you want my advice on the next big thing, please drop me a line and I’ll see what I can do.
Foreigner’s Finances (9.10%) - I think Austin put together a very thought-provoking post regarding his proposed curriculum for a high school money course. What would your curriculum look like if you were to create a personal finance class for your local high school? I know the Nerds would want to explore topics like the impacts of paying extra principal payments on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. I think it’s fair to say the Jocks would include a section on the financial benefits of scalping tickets. As for the Stoners, I suspect they would want to discuss more important issues, like how to establish and balance a drug budget.
Hope to Prosper – I had the pleasure of meeting Bret and his wife for lunch a few weeks ago. Bret and I have a lot in common – our lives have kind of run parallel as we’ve aged (like fine wines, of course). But I’m not so sure I am down with Bret’s suggestion that the US should go to a flat tax. Although I believe it would be better for the country in terms of revenue generation, it would be worse for folks like me who would end up paying more taxes in the end. Yes, I am being a bit selfish here. As I told Bret, I would be more open to a flat tax if I could get some guarantees that we would be able to radically reduce the size of Big Government. But we all know that government is almost wholly incapable of doing that. The Republicans did a pretty good job of cutting the size of government when they took over the Congress in 1994, but now it has become bigger than ever and continues to grow unchecked.
Fiscal Geek - I rarely use cash any more for anything except gumballs. I just don’t. It’s a pain in the ass. And when the day comes that I can finally figure out how to cram my credit card in a gumball machine and still get my prize, then I’ll stop using cash for gumballs too. I suppose I’m the target audience for Paul’s very entertaining post telling us the top 10 reasons real men pay with cash. Thanks for the gumball, Mickey! (That’s another lame joke for those of you older than 37.)
Wealth Pilgrim (14.98%) - Hey, what’s going on, Len? You’ve already mentioned Neal. I know, but for those of you out there who find yourself fighting with your significant other over finances, I also wanted to give you a heads up about Neal’s Money School for Couples program, which is designed to help you turn things around and stop the arguing. So if you’re looking for some help, please go check out Neal’s program and see if it might be right for you. There is absolutely no risk to try it!
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts You May Have Missed
From June 2009:
Nobody’s Perfect: My Ten Dumbest Money Mistakes - Money mistakes. We’ve all made them during our lives at one time or another. In this two-part mini-series, I go over my ten biggest.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Last week I noted that almost half of all Americans don’t pay income taxes. Newsweek’s Robert Samuelson wrote an opinion piece suggesting that taxes for everyone have nowhere to go but up and – get this – Americans aren’t going to be too happy about it! Ya think? Assuming the lower tax rates remain the same, Samuelson refers to a study that shows today’s top two tax rates of 33 percent and 35 percent would have to be raised to 86 percent and 91 percent just to (almost) cover the expected annual budget deficits in 2020 generated by President Obama’s policies. Hope and change, baby!
Debit: Your tax dollars (not) at work… The New York Post reported this week that a state employee played hooky every Friday for 17 years without getting caught, bilking the state treasury out of almost $250,000. A recent probe by New York State Comptroller Mike DiNapoli blasted the man’s supervisors for failing to report the never-ending run of three-day weekends. Said Napoli: “This certainly gives new meaning to the phrase ‘casual Fridays.’ ”
Debit: The number of U.S. homes taken over by banks jumped 35 percent in the first quarter from a year ago. According to RealtyTrac, more than 900,000 households, or one in every 138 homes, received a foreclosure-related notice in the first quarter of 2010. That is the worst showing in five years, and evidence that the housing market is continuing to deteriorate despite the Obama administration’s $75 billion foreclosure prevention program – more proof that the mortgage bailout program is another colossal waste of taxpayer money that is only prolonging the agony for everyone in the housing market.
Debit: Just how poorly is the government’s foreclosure prevention program working? Well, the New York Times reports that the number of homeowners who defaulted despite having received a taxpayer-funded bailout nearly doubled in March, continuing a trend that now threatens the entire program.
Credit: This week the board of directors of McDonald’s recommended that the company’s shareholders reject a proposal to require that five percent of the eggs purchased for the chain’s restaurants in the United States be the cage-free variety. Why do animal lovers prefer to eat cage-free eggs, you ask? Well, the New York Times notes that a cage-free environment “provides enough space for hens to walk and stretch their wings; an ‘enriched’ environment in which hens have access to perches and nests.” Heh. I was going to add my own joke, but I think the New York Times unwittingly beat me to the punch.
Credit: Oh, what the hell! I can’t resist… Meanwhile a PETA spokesman told Len Penzo dot Com that, in addition to a cage-free environment, they are also demanding McDonald’s provide their hens with daily continental breakfasts and free cocktails each evening from 5 to 7 p.m.
By the Numbers
I know what you’re thinking: which came, first the Chicken McNugget or the Egg McMuffin? Read on…
$0.15 The cost of a McDonald’s hamburger when it was introduced in 1955.
$1.89 The inflation-adjusted cost of a McDonald’s hamburger in 1955 (2009 dollars).
140 The number of calories in a single Chicken McNugget.
300 The number of calories in an Egg McMuffin sandwich.
1972 The year the Egg McMuffin was invented.
1980 The year the Chicken McNugget was first introduced.
600,000,000 According to Cha Cha, the approximate number of (non-cage-free) eggs McDonald’s uses in a year.
Letters, I Get Letters
No letters this week – I guess everybody was too busy hunting Easter eggs. 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! Here are the Top 5 Referring Blogs to Len Penzo dot Com (excluding aggregators) so far during the month of April…
Thank you to everybody who has referred their readers to my site over the past month!
This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:
- Money Hacks at Deliver Away Debt (Editor’s Pick – Hooray!)
- Carnival of Personal Finance at The Wisdom Journal