Black Coffee: Why Old Fat Brits Are Luckier Than Gray-Haired Italian Men

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…

Let’s get right to it today.

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Mighty Bargain HunterIs Ten Cents for Two Bucks Worth of Silver a Bargain? While three people out there can lay claim to yesterday’s $640 million Mega Millions jackpot, I feel like I just won the lottery myself after reading John’s post. Apparently, thanks to the rising price of silver, all of the pre-1965 silver dimes, quarters, half-dollars and dollars in my coin collection are worth more money than I originally thought. For example, silver dimes are worth about $2.40 each right now. Keep that in mind next time you are going through your change jar.

Little House in the ValleyBudgeting and Savings Rules of Thumb. In this post, Jennifer reminds us of some handy dandy widely-accepted budgeting bromides, like the “50-30-20″ rule: spend 50 percent of your income on needs, 30 percent on wants and 20 percent on savings and debt. You know, I once tried promoting something similar: I called it my “52.8-28.3-18.9″ rule. For some strange reason it never caught on.

Millionaire Nurse BlogFuel Efficient Cars: Do They Ever Make Sense? Who says gynecologists can’t do math? My good friend Dr. Dean pulls out his trusty calculator to show us a perfect example of why trading in a relative gas-guzzler for a more fuel-efficient vehicle is usually penny-wise and pound-foolish.

Monevator – How Group Buying Holidays Can Help You Save Big. I know what you’re thinking, but the Accumulator assures us: “I’m not trying to stuff your inbox full of offers for collagen face masks or stylish ottomans.” Uh huh. Apparently, using Groupon for vacation deals does have its virtues. On a side note for American readers: you may want your English-to-American dictionary close by when you read the article. I needed it to figure out what the heck “faff” meant. (Those wacky Brits!)

Yes, I Am CheapSome Store Brands and National Brands Are the Same. I found myself nodding my head in agreement all the way through this article. And no, I’m not featuring this post simply because Sandy referred to the taste test challenge series I’ve been doing here over the past few years as “fantastic.” I’m really not. What’s that? Okay, it certainly didn’t hurt. Yes, I’m faffing now; let’s move on.

Good Financial Cents – The Roth IRA Movement. I was supposed to take part in Jeff Rose’s noble movement to educate younger people on the benefits of investing early and Roth IRAs, but my good intentions were, unfortunately, overcome by events. That’s what happens when you procrastinate and leave an assignment until the day before it’s due. I don’t think anybody missed my non-contribution though because, I’m happy to say, 140 other bloggers more responsible than me actually did participate.

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

From August 2010:

Walking the Walk: My $114,000 Challenge to Uncle Sam – At the time I wrote this, that is the amount of money I had contributed into Social Security and so I figured I’d make an offer that Uncle Sam couldn’t refuse. (But he did.)

Credits and Debits

Credit: What economic malaise? The stock market ended March with the largest first quarter gains ever. The Nasdaq saw its index climb 18 percent over the past three months, while the S&P 500 gained 12 percent, and the Dow rose 8 percent.

Credit:  Meanwhile, the huge success of Apple — its share value rose 46 percent this quarter — now has folks tracking the S&P 500 with and without that stock in the index.

Debit: In fact, Apple is so dominant right now, it’s significantly skewing the results of the S&P 500.

Debit: And although the stock market is booming, the US housing market continues to languish. Home prices hit a 10-year low this month, and have fallen 34.4 percent from their July 2006 peak.

Credit: In other news, India has banned its airlines from paying a European Union carbon tax. As if we needed more airline fees.

Debit: Officially, the levy is intended to cut carbon emissions by 20 percent. If you ask me, it’s just an excuse for EU politicians to collect extort more revenue from the public.

Debit: Speaking of carbon limits, the EPA is proposing new costly regulations to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired US power plants by half.

Debit: I’m still trying to figure out how the EPA came to the ludicrous conclusion that carbon dioxide is a pollutant, considering we exhale it and plants depend on it to live. The inmates are truly running the asylum, folks.

Debit: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — collectively known as the BRICS — met in New Dehli this week for their annual financial summit to discuss ways of increasing their influence.

Debit: Last year the BRICS met to discuss ways to rid the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Our profligate money printing coupled with global competition is to blame for the current assault on the greenback.

Debit: Some folks are predicting the dollar’s reign as reserve currency will end within 10 years. If and when that happens, our standard of living will drop precipitously.

Debit: I see the Telegraph is wondering “why fat people take precedence over the elderly” when it come to how Britain’s government-run National Health Service rations healthcare. I know. If you think the same ridiculous debates won’t eventually happen here with Obamacare, think again.

Credit: Clearly, the elderly in Britain who rely on government-run healthcare should hedge their bets by making sure they’re both old and fat. (Rim shot!)

Debit: Finally, Italian pharmacists, upset at government attempts to make the lucrative profession more accessible to those wanting to join, are threatening a Viagra strike that would keep the tiny blue pills from reaching the market. Whaaaat?

Credit: Of course, affected Italian men are demanding a little action, but the government in Rome is impotent. After all, its penal code lacks stiff penalties for pharmacists who willingly withhold supplies. (I’m faffing again.)

By the Numbers

Some fast facts on Viagra:

17 The number of letters in Viagra’s less-sexy alternate name:   Sildenafil citrate

1998 Year the drug became available to the general public.

92 Percentage of the global market belonging to Viagra in 2000.

50 Percentage of the global market belonging to Viagra in 2007.

3 Available tablet strengths. (25 mg, 50 mg, 100 mg)

$10.50 Current average price per pill (regardless of tablet strength).

77 Recommended tablet storage temperature in degrees Fahrenheit required to maintain maximum effectiveness.

$31,000 Maximum family income required to qualify for free Viagra under Pfizer’s Connection to Care program.

13.5 million Number of prescriptions written for Viagra in 2004.

Sources: Wikipedia,, Pfizer

The Question of the Week

How many siblings do you have?

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Other Useless News – Len Penzo dot Com Honored by Kiplinger!

I’m extremely proud and honored to say Len Penzo dot Com was featured by Kiplinger this week as one of “10 Personal Finance Blogs Worth Reading.” Obviously, the honor was bestowed before I posted this article. (Although to be honest, I have to assume editor Cameron Huddleston made a mistake if only because this blog ended up in the presence of some very fine company including my friend, the iconic J. Money at Budgets are Sexy, J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly, as well as a lot of other really terrific bloggers.)

By the way, whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading — or not — please don’t forget to:

1. Click on that “Like” button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!

2. Make sure you follow me on Twitter!

And last, but not least…

3. Don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! Thank you. :-)

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!

Josh wrote in with this observation:

… I could never be as anal about money as you are, Len.

Fair enough. And in turn, I find it somewhat ironic that the nearly-bankrupt Greeks aren’t more anal about their money.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 3


    silver dime worths $2.40 a coin.
    2 questions:
    how much of that is due to inflation and how much is due to appreciation?

    what is the rule of thumb one can use to ascertain the difference when something is valued as you did?

    • 4

      Len Penzo says

      A silver dime minted back in 1964 had the equivalent purchasing power of 70 cents today.

      So the real appreciation is $1.70 in today’s dollars.

      If I am doing my math correctly that would mean a silver 1964 dime’s real value (in terms of purchasing power) increased approximately 2.4 times between now and then.

  2. 8


    It was hard to read all those Viagra facts without it wilting my fast getting older brain (and other parts…)

    And gynecologist can indeed use a simple calculator, but we have trouble continuing to go off on tangents, or is it sines and cosines???

  3. 9


    Thanks for including my link! I have trouble following rules, even the simple 50-30-20 one so your whole plus a tenths rule would be pretty difficult. But, hey, if it works for you, go for it! 😉

  4. 10


    When I was 10-12 years old, my parents took me to the local coin club meetings. I’d use my allowance to buy coins. I remember buying Mercury dimes (the dime prior to the current one we use) that were silver for for about a buck each. This was around 1990 and silver was worth practically nothing. How I wish I held onto my coin collection. I think eventually I threw it all away because none of it was worth anything at the time!

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