Black Coffee: Motown Money, My Little Pony & Other Fairy Tales

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…

I’m in the middle of doing my taxes and it ain’t pretty; kind of like this week’s edition of Black Coffee. Here we go:

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Sustainable Personal Finance What Games Taught Me About Life and Finances. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks Monopoly is overrated. I also learned that the Settlers of Catan game increases a nerd’s odds of getting laid. Too bad that game wasn’t around when I was teenager. On second thought, I don’t think even that would have helped.

Money MambaExpensive Clothes Are an Investment. Says the Mamba: “A study by Tilburg University in the Netherlands found that people who wear brand name clothing are more likely to have a favor fulfilled.” I guess I should have worn more Lacoste polo shirts in high school. One thing is for sure: my Garanimals didn’t work.

BargaineeringHow to Calculate Social Security Benefits. This is a great resource for folks over 50 who want to figure out how much they’ll be getting from Uncle Sam in retirement. As for the rest of us, I strongly recommend taking the standard Social Security benefits equation explained in this article and then multiplying the answer by zero.

Darwin’s Money The Tax Lie Politicians Love. I think I’m going to fire Sabado Domingo and get me a real staff writer like JT; this kid definitely sees through all the BS politicians love to foist upon us. I just hope he’s willing to work for free like Sabado does.

Bible Money Matters Putting Together a Bug Out Bag for the Zombie Apocalypse. With December 21, 2012 and the end of the world looming, I’m seeing more and more of these articles now on the Internet. One thing I’m adding to Peter’s list: a 15.6-inch LED television set. Apocalypse or not, there’s no way in hell I’m going to miss a single episode of Ice Road Truckers.

PT Money – We Finally Completed Our Last Will and Testament. Although I have no idea what Phil is putting in his apocalypse bug-out bag, there certainly won’t be any arguments over who’s going to get all his stuff.

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

From March 2010:

4 Ways Duct Tape Can Fix Your Personal Finances – It’s widely known that duct tape can fix just about anything — including your personal finances. Oh yes, it really can.

Credits and Debits

Debit: After decades of mismanagement, Detroit is scheduled to run out of money by May. Even so, this week the nearly bankrupt metropolis rejected a state-appointed oversight board to help extricate it from its financial woes.

Credit: The beleaguered city, once America’s fourth-largest, has seen its population fall by more than 60 percent since 1950. In fact, if Detroit loses any more residents, they’re going to change its nickname from Motown to Less Town. I know.

Debit: One thing is certain: higher taxes won’t save Detroit — or the US for that matter. An analysis by the CBO determined that the proposed “Buffett Rule” tax — requiring a minimum 30 percent tax rate on earners making $1 million or more — would raise a paltry $31 billion.

Credit: By the way, that $31 billion in additional tax revenue is over a period of … ten years. Too bad the federal government is currently spending $16 billion per day. Talk about fly poop in the pepper.

Credit:  Soaking the rich will never fix our budget problems; we could tax every millionaire at a rate of 100 percent and it still wouldn’t be enough to fix our debt problems. Less government spending, folks, is the only answer.

Credit: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has proposed his own spending plan that would cut $6.8 trillion in expenditures — including green energy subsidies — over the next 10 years; it’s a good start, but still not enough.

Debit: That didn’t set well with the White House, which called backers of Ryan’s plan “deliberately ignorant” on clean energy. Ouch.

Credit: But there are a lot of smart people out there who disagree with the White House and think it’s economic folly to force “green” energy technology on society before it becomes financially viable.

Credit: That’s because the free market — not the government — should determine when the time is finally right for the widespread adoption of clean energy. Just like when the switch was made from the horse-and-buggy to the automobile. Just sayin’. (Hat tip to “ch91461” for that example.)

Credit: Speaking of horses, the Huffington Post reported on a 29-year-old woman from Yorkshire, England named Sarah Butler who has amassed $32,000 worth of toy equines — 1000 in all — as part of an enormous My Little Pony collection. “There’s nothing wrong with that!” insisted Ms. Butler. Heh. Well, you certainly can’t accuse her of being a neigh-sayer.

By the Numbers

A few fun facts about the city of Detroit:

18 Detroit’s rank among America’s most populous cities. (Current population: 713,777.)

73 Stories of the Detroit Marriott Renaissance hotel. (At 727 feet, it’s the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere.)

2 Detroit’s rank among all American cities in terms of fishing rod sales.

42 Number of years that Detroit was capital of Michigan. (From 1805 – 1847. Lansing is the capital now.)

22 Total major sports championships (baseball, football, hockey, basketball) claimed by the city of Detroit. Only New York and Boston can claim more.

7 Number of times Detroit has bid for the summer Olympic games. (It’s the most times any city has bid without winning.)

32 Length of the Detroit River (in miles).

75 Estimated percentage of all alcohol entering the US that traveled down the Detroit River during Prohibition.

1876 Year the ice cream soda was born — in Detroit, of course.

The Question of the Week

How many times, on average, do you go to a movie theater?

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Other Useless News

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  • What is the name of the guy that invented the Roth IRA?
  • Will my marriage make it through a remodle [sic]?
  • My wife doesn’t like my sports car. Now what?
  • How to impress neighbours [sic] sexy wife.
  • I wonder if Len Penzo will find this.
  • Len Penzo is awesome!   (Thanks, Mom.)
  • I need data on strongest toilet paper when wet.
  • Why should i [sic] drive a shitty car when i [sic] have the know how to drive fine luxery [sic] cars?
  • Do women want to prove something when they buy designer things?
  • Is free phone sex really free or are there hidden charges?

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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!

Jim was clearly being sarcastic this week when he wrote in to chide me for my seemingly constant complaints regarding the cost of green energy:

I love reading your Black Coffee fairy tales …

Correction: I’m not actually writing fairy tales, Jim — I’m just commenting on them.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 4


    Speaking of Detroit and the automobile, the Henry Ford Museum and Village near Detroit is well worth a visit if you are in the area. Cool place.

    • 5

      Len Penzo says

      I’d love to check that out, Dr. Dean. I am a huge fan of museums. Problem is, I usually have to go alone to enjoy them because I prefer to read all the exhibit cards when I’m there and learn a little something along the way. The rest of my family aren’t quite as interested in that.

  2. 8

    Marie says

    In case you are interested, the Ford Museum is totally kid-friendly. Kids get to put together and take apart a model T each day.

    • 9

      Len Penzo says

      Thanks for the tip, Marie.

      Is it only kids that get to put together and take apart a Model T? I’d love to do that too!

  3. 12

    tim says

    I am glad to know there are people more skeptical of the Social Security promises than me. I would recommend people under 40 to multiply by zero, but unfortunately it is probably accurate to say 50 on the current trajectory of spending. I am also planning that if I want any health care after 65, I will pay for it myself as there will be no doctors accepting the health insurance offered by the government (Medicare). I definitely prefer health care to health insurance.

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