Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #53 (The I Go Away and Socialism Becomes Chic Edition)

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…

As you might already know, I just returned from a two-week family vacation.  For those who didn’t know but are interested in how it went, be sure to check out all the dirty details from my personal diary.

I’d like to thank Greg McFarlane (Control Your Cash), Kevin Mercadante (Out of Your Rut) , and Bret Frohlich (Hope to Prosper) for filling in for me with some really top-notch articles while I away.   While they may not be among the biggest they are three of my favorite personal finance bloggers, and I am honored and humbled that they agreed to help me out while I was gone.  With that said, let’s see what these guys – and some other bloggers too – were up to while I was away:

Hope to Prosper – I know this is a couple weeks late but, hey, as I mentioned I was on vacation.  Anyway, I hope Bret can forgive my delay in highlighting this incredibly touching Father’s Day tribute to his two dads.  If you haven’t seen it, please check it out.

Control Your Cash – Let’s have a special hand for my friend, Greg, who did an awesome job the past two weeks filling in for me here!  Greg wrote not one, but three pieces – including two very time consuming Black Coffee columns.  What’s even more amazing is that he did this while on the road, promoting his excellent personal finance book, Control Your Cash (co-authored by the beautiful and very charming Betty Kincaid).  So how does an author promote his book?  One way is by doing lots of radio interviews, as he recently did for a radio station in Houston, which you can see here.  (Yes, I know you can’t actually watch the radio, but this interview was video recorded too.)

Out of Your Rut – I noticed while I was gone that Kevin posted an article from a guest writer entitled How to Make Money with an Authority Blog.  Just what is an authority blog, you ask?  According to the author, “An Authority Blog is a large, content based blog lots of other bloggers and the Internet Community at large 1) visit and 2) respect.” Hmm, let’s see… Nope and nope.  Well, I guess that rules this blog out.  Moving on…

Budgets Are Sexy – While I was in Washington DC, I had the pleasure of meeting up with some local personal finance bloggers including the always-entertaining J. Mo-nay.  It turns out that the day after our little get-together, J asked his readers if they would be willing to essentially give up a year of their life – by avoiding any kind of contact with the known world – for $100,000.   (I’m not sure if I should read anything into that or not.)

Money Relationship - Adam is another blogger I had the pleasure of meeting last week.  I notice that he finally figured out what readers at Len Penzo dot Com have witnessed first hand here since December 2008 when I started pretending to be a personal finance genius: perfection does not exist.   Welcome to the club, Adam!   Now you know why the two of us will never have an Authority Blog.  (I’m sure I probably inspired that post too.)

Squirrelers – When it comes to my favorite squirrels, Rocky (from Rocky and Bullwinkle fame) will always be at the top of my list.  But I have to say, The Wise Squirrel, is a close number two.  Like Rocky, I’m not sure if Wise Squirrel is male or female, but who really cares.  Every time I stop by this site I have to smile.  The logo, with a cute little squirrel nibbling on a dollar sign (instead of an acorn) is adorable, just like Rocky.  Now, if I were running this site, I would introduce a doofus moose that writes the occasional piece on what NOT to do in the world of personal finance.  After all, moose and squirrel go together like Batman and Robin, Hall and Oates, and bacon and eggs.   Speaking of bacon and eggs, Wise Squirrel wrote a nice little piece on how you can take a bite out of your food expenses.  (I can’t believe I just recommended some personal finance advice from a squirrel.  Yet another reason why I’ll never have an Authority Blog.)

A Few Other Posts I Enjoyed Reading This Week…

Sweating the Big StuffIs 30 Cents Too Much To Spend on Rent? (That’s not a typo.)

Cash Money Life - How New Overdraft Rules Will Affect You (My guess: not too much if your rent is only 30 cents per month.)

Money Help for Christians - When Do You Become Debt Free? (As soon as you can find a place that charges 30 cents per month for rent.)

Engineer Your Finances - Employee Referrals: The Double-Edged Bonus

Joe Taxpayer - 401(k) Ripoff

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

From July 2009:

Parents: Before You Name Your Baby, Learn How to Spell. – One of the joys of having an eponymous blog is that I don’t feel obligated to always write about personal finance.  And if I see one more kid’s name with an oddball spelling – based upon some woefully misguided idea that it somehow makes them “unique” – well, I’m gonna hurl.

Credits and Debits

Credit: I pulled my money out of stocks at the end of April and I am glad I did, when the Dow as still sitting above 11,000.  After closing the week at 9,686, the Dow “rewarded” shareholders with their worst quarterly loss since December 2008 (9.4% including dividends).  I anticipate even bigger problems for the market in 2011 when the Bush tax cuts expire.

Debit: So I come back from vacation only to discover that socialism is suddenly chic in America.  The Washington Post reports that support is increasing for Obamacare: “The Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that 48 percent of the public had a favorable view of the law in June while 41 percent had an unfavorable opinion. A month earlier, the split was 41 percent favorable to 44 percent unfavorable.” Uh-oh.

Debit: Keep in mind that it’s not just Kaiser’s tracking poll that is showing an uptick in support for Obamacare; all the other polls are too.  Whaaa? Have Americans finally decided that socialism ain’t so bad after all?  Really?

Debit: One voter who is all for Obamacare is Kathy Myers of Niles, Michigan.  The Associated Press reported last month that the out-of-work Michigan woman – get this – shot herself in the hope she’d receive medical treatment for a shoulder injury.  Myers originally hurt her shoulder a month earlier while playing with her dogs; since she couldn’t afford to see a specialist she put a bullet through it.   Wow.  Good thing she wasn’t suffering from a concussion.

Debit: Hey, wait a minute.  Aren’t most Obamacare supporters also strong advocates of another folly known as gun control?  I’m just asking.

Credit: But seriously, one of the biggest reasons for the increasing “support” – aside from pollsters apparently having Kathy Myers’ phone number on their call sheets – is that Obamacare has been placed on the back burner, dwarfed by other news events.  Nothing more.  We’ll see exactly what America really thinks when November rolls around.

Credit: Don’t believe me?  If I’m wrong,  you can expect the Democrats in Congress who single-handedly allowed this unconstitutional law to be unleashed upon the land – against the will of a clear majority of Americans, no less – to be advertising how they were critical to getting Obamacare passed as they run for reelection this fall.   If we could only be so lucky.

Credit: In other news, last week the Senate refused to extend unemployment benefits beyond the already absurd 99 week limit.  The bill would have added another $33 billion more to our already astounding trillion-dollar deficit.  Thankfully, some sanity finally prevails in Congress.

Debit: Want a great example of liberal bias in the press?  The headline of the MSNBC article I linked to in the previous credit was: Republicans Kill Senate Jobless Aid Measure.  Really? Really? Those Republican bastards.  Why not “Jobless Aid Extension Fails to Pass Senate.”  Or, as somebody calling themselves “sgthappyg-447688″ suggested: Republicans Help Protect Future Generations by Not Adding $30 Billion to Deficit.

Credit: I know, I know.  My point of view on how long unemployment insurance benefits last annoys a lot of people, to put it mildly.  To prove it, my article entitled “It’s Time Unemployed People Start Working for Free” is currently the 8th most “popular” post of all time here – and I’ve written over 300 of them.

By the Numbers

Some random cost data from my recent family vacation…

$47 The daily cost of boarding my faithful Rhodesian Ridgeback, Major, in “Doggie Day Care.”  (Includes a free run of the entire grounds during the day!)

$661 The total dog boarding bill for 13 days and nights.   Tax included.

$265.95 The daily cost of our room at the Embassy Suites in Arlington, Virginia.  (Taxes excluded.)

$27.26 The state and county taxes added to my hotel bill for each night we stayed at the hotel.

$46.37 The cost of lunch for four at the Smithsonian Museum of American History: a tuna sandwich, turkey sandwich, 2 hot dogs, a bag of chips and 4 soft drinks.

$44.13 The cost for lunch at the McDonald’s located inside the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: 3 Big Macs, a chicken sandwich, a double cheeseburger, 4 fries, and 4 drinks.

0 The number of times I heard, “Are we there yet?” from my kids.  I know, I find it hard to believe too.

Letters, I Get Letters

This week’s letter comes from Angela:

“Len, I am a very simple honest and kind girl. I am interested to know more about you and, if ever, become more than friends because Love is as beautiful as two people choose to make it.  So if you have the desire, I will tell you more about myself as soon as I hear back from you.”

Wow, I didn’t know personal finance bloggers had groupies!  Seriously though, Angela, if I weren’t a happily married family man I might actually consider your offer.  Um, that being said, are you blond or brunette?

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:

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

Here are the Top 10 referring sites (excluding search engines) to Len Penzo dot Com for the month of June…

1. The Daily Crux
2. Mint
3. Frugal Dad
4. Tip’d
5. Wisebread
6. Time Magazine: It’s Your Money
7. Canadian Finance Blog
8. Living Like No One Else
9. Free Money Finance
10. MSN Money: Everyday Money

Thanks to everybody for the all link love – including those that didn’t make this list!   I really appreciate it!  :-)

As a reminder, if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please feel free to follow me on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! :-)

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

No articles this week.  (Did I mention I was on vacation?)  ;-)

19 comments to Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #53 (The I Go Away and Socialism Becomes Chic Edition)

  • Len – thanks for mentioning my article. Glad the squirrel makes you smile. By the way, since you were wondering, “The Wise Squirrel” is a guy – me (Ray). Father of Two, regular guy. Unlike Rocky:)

  • I made the top 10 referrers again!

    Well, you returned the favour… you’re in my top 5 for June, which will be posted on Monday!

  • Sounds like you had a great vacation. I love the Black Coffee roundups, by the way – the best out there! :)

  • J$

    It was certainly a pleasure my good man – better believe I’ll be hollering the next time I’m in the L.A. area :) Give your son a fist-bump for me.
    -J Pwnage

  • Len,

    Thanks a bunch for including me in the round up. And, thanks for the opportunity to guest post. I am supposed to be remodeling a bathroom, so I had better get back to work.


  • Kevin@OutOfYourRut

    Thanks for the include in the round up Len. (Even thought I didn’t write it!)

    • @Tom: Glad I could help out!
      @Ryan: Thank you, my man.
      @J: He got the fist bump – and now he’s off reading your site! Beware of incoherent comments. (Like father, like son.) LOL
      @Bret: I’ll be calling you when we start our renovation.
      @Kevin: Thanks again for filling in, Kevin. Judging from the comments, you wrote a very popular article! :-)

  • Holly

    OMG! $265, excluding tax, for EACH night at the hotel (sorry….SUITE!)? I can get a week in a condo on the beach on the FL coast for just $100 more (even before the BP disaster)!

    Now 30-cent rent…there’s a deal!!!!

    • LOL! I wish it was 30 cents! But, yep… Washington DC ain’t cheap. In our case, that $290+ (after taxes) got us a suite with a private bedroom, living room and bath. It also included a full all-you-can-eat cooked-to-order breakfast for the entire family and cocktails and snacks at night. Granted, I could have saved more by staying a bit farther from the city center. My father-in-law chose to do this. He got a small room in a Days Inn for $99 per night, but it didn’t come with breakfast or cocktails, and required a shuttle ride to the nearest Metro stop. The small room wouldn’t have been practical for my entire family either. Our place was within walking distance of the Metro.

  • Holly

    Nice! The great thing about D.C. is that all of the sites have little or no admission. I will try to get there at night sometime this summer…I won’t need the suite, though, since I live about an hour away.

    Sounds like you had a great family trip on the East Coast! Maybe I can replicate the New York-style pizza in the grocery store’s freezer case and make a fortune. LOL!!

    • As I mentioned in my diary, if you could just open up a New York/West Haven/Boston style pizzeria in Southern California, you’d be a millionaire in no time flat! And you are so right about most of the attractions being free in DC – but they get it back in the end (food and souvenirs)! :-)

  • JLW

    Just be glad that you still have you job in a time when unemployment is higher than at anytime since the Great Depression.

    You need to be remind too that unemployment insurance is something we all pay into while we work and is should be there when we lose our jobs.

    And…If your so worried about paying for it then we should bring back the estate tax. That’d about cover it instead of benefiting less then 1% of the richest.

    Finally what you call Obamacare is not even close to socialism. If it were we’d have a public option and be done with for profit medical care. Which by definition is unethical. The poor woman who shoot herself to get care is evidence of that.

    I really hope that you lose your job and find all of your wealth evaporated because of a medical emergency because that is what it will take for the likes of you to learn empathy.

    • Thanks for the kind sentiments. For what it is worth – and I know this is hard for liberals like you to believe – my conservative libertarian principles would not be compromised based upon whatever bad luck might, God forbid, happen to fall upon me or my family. Sorry.

      I hope you won’t mind a few questions from the heartless bastard (me):

      1) What makes you think employees pay into the unemployment insurance pool? The employer is responsible for paying for it. As I’ve noted here before, as I understand it, employers are liable for federal taxes on only the first $7,000 of compensation paid to each employee per calendar year at a rate of 6.2% – but that normally nets only 0.8% because of a tax credit employers can take for compensation of up to 5.4% of state unemployment taxes. You do the math, if the employer only pays the first $7000 or so, then the taxpayers end up paying for the great majority of unemployment benefits. So with this in mind, are you not concerned about adding to our monstrous debt? Aren’t you concerned about piling more debt on the backs of our kids and dooming them to a lower standard of living than what our fathers and mothers left for us? Don’t you think 99 weeks of unemployment benefits is long enough? Where would you draw the line?

      2) How can you say Obamacare is not “even close” to socialism? It massively expands government intrusion all aspects of our medical care industry (17% of our GDP), and makes the government responsible for insuring the uninsured. It gives the government the power to forcefully take money from private citizens (via the IRS) to make this happen. The bureaucracy will be enormous.

      3) I’m curious why you think for-profit medical care is unethical? If for-profit medical care is unethical, why isn’t for-profit food-distribution unethical? If you are interested, here is an excellent argument against those who continue to maintain that healthcare is somehow a right:

  • JLW

    One more thing the headline “Republicans Kill Senate Jobless Aid Measure.” is not biased if its true. All of the other headlines you’ve come up with are less informative and mislead the reader in to believing something that is not true.

    You as a conservative are of course entitled to your opinion but certainly not your own facts.

    • Really, JLW? Really? Why am I not surprised you think that way? :-)

      Speaking of using opinions as facts… I suppose you’re referring to your “fact” in the previous comment where you stated employees pay for their unemployment insurance benefits? (Just having a little fun with ya!) ;-)

  • How bad is this – simply scrolled down to the comments trying to play catch-up! :)

    Thanks for the mention, bet it’s a great article overall ;)

    *How’d the adjustment back to CA go? Happy to be home?

    • Ohhhhh, I see. Well, you missed a GREAT article! LOL

      Seriously, we had a great time, but it was nice to get back. Lucky for us we missed the heat wave! It was fun meeting up with you and some of the other DC bloggers. The Honeybee was very impressed by you. (And that’s not easy to do). ;-)

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