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 get an email notification every time I acquire a new Twitter follower. According to those notifications, I’ve gained 3817 new Twitter followers since June 10, 2010. The funny thing is, as of today I only have 2543 Twitter followers — which can only mean my rambling rants and twisted tweets have officially pissed off 1274 people over the past two years.
Oops, there goes another one; make that 1275 people.
As always here at Len Penzo dot Com, it’s two steps forward and one step back, which I guess is still better than the other option.
Okay, onward and upward …
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
MoneyTrail.net – Raising Charitable Kids & Teens. Pam shares some good ideas here that help instill the importance of eleemosynary behavior to our kids. Hey, you’re not the only one who learned a new word today. (Hat tip to our next blog for expanding everyone’s vocabulary):
Control Your Cash – 6 out of 8 People Reading This Are Idiots. Yes, yes … This article on the folly of tax refunds was last published a year ago — it also happens to be a repost from a year prior to that. The only difference between the two articles was Greg originally noted that 3 out of 4 people were idiots. Obviously, his readers’ collective IQ is now twice as bad as it used to be. Obviously.
PT Money – 5 Facts About the Buffett Rule. A recent poll found that 60 percent of Americans favor the Buffett tax rule, even though it would provide no economic benefit. Says Phil: I doubt most of those 60% could spout (these) five facts though. I hope he’s right; otherwise this nation is in much bigger trouble than I thought because it means a majority of Americans now favor punishing success merely for the sake of … success.
Financial Samurai – Early Retirement: It’s Not as Risky as You Might Think. This is a guest post from Mr. Money Mustache, who successfully retired from his engineering job in his mid-30s, and is now living on money earned from odd side jobs and passive income. It can be done, folks!
Consumerism Commentary – The Over-Marketization of Social Behavior. Flexo writes a thought-provoking piece on the impacts of using money to encourage people to do the right thing — or something more dubious that they wouldn’t normally do otherwise. Kind of like the time back in college when my friends paid me $10 to mix pickle juice, milk, Worcestershire sauce, Coke, orange juice, chocolate syrup, beer and a few other liquids in our refrigerator and drink it.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From May 2010:
How I Survived Two Armed Robberies (and How You Can Too.) – According to the Department of Justice, the chance of being robbed in any one year is 1 in 419. Despite those long odds, by my 28th birthday I had been victimized twice. Thankfully, shots were only fired during the second incident.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Near the end of the day on Friday, the US National Debt was $15,620,939,419,886 — and that’s not counting more than $61.6-trillion in unfunded liabilities under entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Debit: So where’s the money going? Of course, there are the ridiculous government research projects like the study funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that found rats on cocaine preferred Miles Davis to Beethoven.
Debit: More and more money is also supporting the food stamp rolls, which have increased 70 percent over the past five years — 45 million people in all. That’s more than 10 percent of the entire US population.
Debit: That means roughly one out of every five adult Americans now have their grocery bills subsidized by Uncle Sam, which may not be too surprising considering the nation’s continued inability to create enough jobs.
Debit: And don’t forget that 4.7 million people have signed up to collect government disability checks since 2009. Incredibly, that’s twice the number of new jobs created over the same period. Whaaat?
Debit: Those hotly-debated federal extensions carrying unemployment benefits out to 99 weeks also continue to add to the National Debt.
Debit: You know, the same benefits that got 61 people terminated after it was discovered they were cashing unemployment checks — $800,000 worth — even though they already had government jobs. I know.
Credit: Thankfully, unlike the federal government, which creates money out of thin air, our states and cities have to live within their means; they can ultimately only spend what they collect in tax revenues.
Debit: Still, in exchange for votes, many intellectually dishonest city and state politicians continue to promise more than they can deliver — which is why more municipalities are on the verge of defaulting now than ever before.
Credit: At least bankruptcy will allow them to get out from under their bloated government pensions and union contract obligations that are largely responsible for all the trouble. Just sayin’.
Debit: Then there is the fiasco with the General Services Agency (GSA), which put on an outrageous $822,751 taxpayer-funded party-fueled junket to Las Vegas that also “required” eight (!) off-site scouting trips — most to the same lavish hotel & spa — costing $130,000 more.
Debit: The government executive who allegedly orchestrated the whole charade shamelessly confessed: “I know I’m bad, but I often say, why not enjoy it while we have it and while we can. Ain’t gonna last forever.” Great attitude, huh?
Debit: George Washington said, “The last official act of any government is to loot the Treasury.” Well, somebody should call 911 — the looters broke into the vault a long time ago and there ain’t much left.
Debit: The sad thing is we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves for letting things get to this point.
Credit: Finally, a man was arrested after trying to rob a Utica, New York bank last week by threatening a teller with a plunger. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks all our money is going down the toilet.
Credit: The suspect told police he was hoping the cash would leave him flush. (Hat tip to “Captain K” for that one!)
By the Numbers
How many of you remember (or would like to forget) any of these top 10 Billboard singles of 1988?
1. Faith (George Michael)
2. Need You Tonight (INXS)
3. Got My Mind Set on You (George Harrison — the most popular Beatle!)
4. Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley)
5. Sweet Child ‘O Mine (Guns N’ Roses)
6. So Emotional (Whitney Houston)
7. Heaven Is a Place on Earth (Belinda Carlisle)
8. Could’ve Been (Tiffany)
9. Hands to Heaven (Breathe)
10. Roll with It (Steve Winwood)
The Question of the Week
My latest weekly roundtable appearance on Average Joe’s weekly financial podcast, The Worst of the Free Financial Advisor, can be heard on Episode 5: Top 5 Ways to Cut Vacation Expenses.
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — 5 Canadian provinces and territories in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. Nova Scotia (3.07 pages/visit)
2. Manitoba (2.62)
3. Alberta (2.52)
4. Prince Edward Island (2.50)
5. Saskatchewan (2.14)
8. Ontario (1.72)
9. New Brunswick (1.51)
10. Newfoundland (1.19)
11. Yukon (1.09)
12. Northwest Territories & Nunavut (1.00)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in Nova Scotia, eh) — or not (the Northwest Territories, you hosers) — 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…
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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!
Motzmotz sent me this curious message:
No one reply to the comment I leave here and possibly nobody care the comment I leaved. [sic]
You’re wrong, Motzmotz. I care about every comment my readers leaved.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message