Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #54 (The LeBron Who? 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…

I know a lot of you have been sitting on pins and needles all week long, waiting for me to announce whether or not I was going to move the world headquarters of Len Penzo dot Com from Los Angeles to Cleveland, Chicago, New York, or Miami.

After talking things over with the Honeybee and Kobe Bryant – okay, okay, I actually talked to a Kobe poster in my son’s bedroom, but close enough – I’m happy to say I’ve decided to continue to blather about personal finance and other vitally important matters from here in Los Angeles.

Now on to more important tasks at hand, like going over some of my favorite posts from the past week.

PT MoneyMy Financial Advice for LeBron James.   I never did understand all the fuss surrounding LeBron James – or any other sports figures for that matter.  Why do we idolize people who are gifted at tossing a ball through a hoop, or hitting a baseball, or throwing a tight spiral 60 yards down field?  I know: Shut up, Len, you’re just a bitter engineer. No I’m not.  Okay, okay.  Yes I am.

Financial SamuraiEven LeBron James Doesn’t Listen to President Obama.  Still, I really don’t get why people are so enamored with LeBron.  After all, greatness is measured by championships and he has, let’s see here… carry the one, ah yes – ZERO!  To paraphrase the Big Aristotle, Shaquille O’Neal, the guy has been a champion at every level except college and the pros.

Frugal DadAre You Spending Intentionally?  Well, considering I like to eat and food costs money, then I guess the answer is yes.  Wait a sec, that’s not what Dad meant…  Check out his article to find out what he was really getting at.  (And before you clog my email in-box with nasty letters telling me that I shouldn’t end my sentences with a preposition, think again, baby!)

Canadian FinanceLess Is More: Cheap Home Upgrades that Offer a Big Payoff.  I wanted to share an extremely valuable upgrade that the Honeybee and I made here at our home that cost less than $20.  If you’re interested, click here.

…And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy:

WisebreadHow to Save Money Buying a New Car

My Journey to MillionsLearning the Hard Way

BargaineeringShare Expenses With Neighbors

Live Richly - Stranger In His Own Land

The Saved QuarterBest of Yakezie Roundup (Hey, what do you know?  A round-up made the round-up!)

Green Panda TreehouseWhat’s the Difference Between a Credit Report and a Credit Score?

The Digerati LifeHow to Survive a Job Loss

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.

(I know what you’re thinking:  Hey, Len, you dummy, you already featured that post last week! Guilty as charged.  But yesterday I ran into a young woman who spelled her name Makenzye.  As Frost famously said, I’ve got miles to go before I sleep.)

Credits and Debits

Credit: With China currently holding $2.45 trillion in US Treasuries, they have publicly ruled out the use of the “nuclear option” when it comes to unloading their vast holdings of US debt.

Debit: Last year I wrote an article regarding China’s use of the nuclear option, warning that we were becoming increasingly vulnerable to foreign policy pressures from China precisely because of our inability to control government deficit spending; with each passing day the ever-increasing debt we accrue makes America increasingly more beholden to those who loan us money.

Debit: If you read the piece, you might notice that some of the data has since become just a bit dated – after all, I wrote it a little over 13 months ago.  For example, since then the National Debt has risen approximately another $1.5 trillion dollars.

Credit: When it comes to debt, at least consumers can take solace in the fact that, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.57 percent.  That is the lowest level in the 39-year history of the survey.

Debit: While low interest rates are great for people who can take advantage of them, as the Financial Times correctly noted, “More than America needs cheaper money, it needs businesses and consumers to be optimistic.”  That’s a tall order for me and lots of other Americans concerned about: 1) the end of the Bush tax cuts at the end of this year and the macroeconomic impacts of higher taxes in 2011…

Debit: …2) this administration’s aversion to austerity which continues to decimate our currency and spend us into economic oblivion, all in the name of feeding its unprecedented expansion of Big Government…

Debit: …and 3) the institution of Obamacare, a tyrannical socialist entitlement program that will most certainly cost us all far more than its supporters have publicly stated, and was passed against the will of a majority of the American people.

Debit: Heck.  How can you be optimistic about the economy when 4) even hookers are now having trouble drumming up business?  Yep.  According to the Associated Press, “A Florida man went to the police after getting robbed by a woman he intended to pay for sex, but refused when she flashed a smile full of bad teeth.”   That really bites.

Debit: Anyway, put it all together and you’re left with a lot of uncertainty – and it’s tough to be optimistic about the economy when consumers and businesses are uncertain about the future of this country.

Credit: Other than that, though, I think the future of this country is just peachy.

By the Numbers

Here are some poll numbers from recent surveys conducted this week by Rasmussen and Democracy Corps…

35 The percentage of homeowners who say they owe more on their home than it is currently worth.

22 The percentage of homeowners who expect the value of their home to rise within the next year.

30 The percentage of homeowners who expect the value of their home to fall over the next 12 months.

23 The percentage of adults who currently feel the economy is getting better.

31 The percentage of adults who felt the economy was getting better at the start of 2010.

55 The percentage of adults that say “socialist” is a reasonably accurate description of Barack Obama.

25 The percentage of adults that say “socialist” is NOT an accurate description of Barack Obama.

Letters, I Get Letters

This week’s letter comes from somebody using the moniker Blue Sky:

“Why should I believe anything from an anti goverment (sic) wacko blogger like you?

Well, because continuing to keep your head buried in the sand for extended periods of time can lead to reduced oxygen flow to the brain.  (And for the record, I may be a “wacko,” but I am certainly not “anti-government.”  I am for a limited Federal government within the bounds specified by the US Constitution – there’s a big difference there.)

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 is a list of countries who spent the most time per visit at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days (minimum 3 visits):

1. Cayman Islands (an average of 19 minutes 13 seconds per visit)
2. Venezuela (9:49)
3. Bahrain (7:36)
4. Malaysia (7:27)
5. South Africa (5:40)
6. Qatar (4:17)
7. Portugal (4:11)
8. Chile (4:01)
9. Ecuador (4:00)
10. Hong Kong (3:35)

For the record, Canada is ranked 19th at (2:26) and the United States comes in at number 25 at (2:08).

Regardless of how long you find yourself here at Len Penzo dot Com, thanks for visiting!

Oh yes, and here’s a friendly reminder for ya: if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please make sure you follow me on Twitter.  And, if you’ll be so kind, don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too!  :-)

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

The Carnival of Money Stories @ Out of Debt Again

8 comments to Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #54 (The LeBron Who? Edition)

  • Thanks for linking me, Len! I found your housing stats very interesting, especially the 35% of homeowners under water. Due to this fact and the huge number of homes that aren’t on the market but owners want to sell, I’m not expecting a turnaround until 2012 at the earliest.

  • Financial bondage

    You are not alone Len. I don’t idolize sports figures. They are all overpaid in my view… they should be paid for performance… $100K base salary… if you play well, you make more. Play bad, and we take money from you.

    • @Jen: I guess I am even more pessimistic than you. I’m not expecting any appreciable increase in home prices through 2015 – if not later. I think the damage from the previous run-up is going to take many years to fix. I attribute any tepid increases over the past year solely to government stimulus programs that have artificially propped up the market and only delayed any real recovery.
      @WiseSquirrel: I was a heavy Coke drinker for years. Thirty two ounces or more for lunch, another can for dinner. A couple years ago I cut back to a can at lunch – I still love the stuff. But now I drink only fruit juice now in the evening and since then I have felt much better.
      @FinancialBondage: That sounds more than reasonable to me. I don’t think LeBron or Kobe would agree though.

    • Jim Irsay, who owns the Indianapolis Colts, pays Peyton Manning $14 million annually. For that, Irsay gets about as indestructible a force as there is in pro football, the linchpin of an offense that’s a threat to go to the Super Bowl every year. Before Manning got to town, the Colts were the laughingstock of the league and the franchise value nowhere near what it is now.

      Irsay didn’t remain rich enough to own a football team by overpaying people. If having Manning around is worth $14 million to Manning, you can be sure it’s worth more than that to Irsay.

      I neither idolize Manning nor disdain him (same goes for any pro athlete), but exactly what good would result from paying him a base salary of <1% of what he commands on the market? Would you have the remaining 31 NFL owners collude and refuse to pay any more than that to an athlete who could enrich their teams by tens of millions of dollars?

      Begrudging athletes their salaries seems to be nothing more than jealousy – the same activities we grew up doing for fun, these people worked so hard to get proficient at that they can command lots of money. Meanwhile, I'm punching a clock and trying to figure out how to pay the mortgage. It's so unfair.

      And exactly how do you "pay for performance", anyway? You want to tie LeBron James' salary to his scoring and rebound averages? In other words, encourage him to shoot as much as possible and play close to the basket even when the game situation calls for him to pass or defend someone on the perimeter? And yes, let's put a coach in a position where he can draw up plays that have a direct negative financial impact on his players.

      So, you argue, pay athletes for winning. How do you determine how much of each victory each player is responsible for? Should a player who works his tail off in a game and injures himself risk further injury by coming back earlier than he should, just so he can get paid more?

      Maybe you could just trust that the majority of pro sports owners know what they're doing. And the few stupid ones (like the guy in Minnesota who just signed Darko Milicic for $20 million) are engaging in an exchange that doesn't affect you or me in any direct way.

      • Jealousy with a capital J, my friend. I don’t think many people would argue that. :-)

        I’m quite surprised you are arguing against pay-for-performance. Personally, I see nothing wrong with it – that’s how the paychecks of most non-union salaried employees in America are determined. Your arguments for not tying LeBron to a performance-based contract use the same tactics that many unions use to argue against merit based pay for their members (i.e., it’s unfair because: 1) you can’t reliably determine individual performance, and/or 2) employee performance may be impacted by factors outside their control). I don’t buy either argument. Well, check that. I don’t buy 1). As for 2), that may be true in some instances, but safeguards can always be put in place to account for such scenarios.

  • re: useless news

    1. Guess the folks from Venezuela trying to learn from you and actually wish you were their president.

    2. The folks from Hong Kong must be laughing their a** off about our fiscal situation. No capital gains tax – tax rate at 17% and still have a functioning socialized medical system! Guess they do not have to fund aircraft carriers!

  • That’s interesting Len! Usually when I tell people I don’t expect a bottom in the US housing market until 2013 or so, they recoil in horror and disbelief. The major ARM resets don’t end until 2013 either according to Credit Suisse, and houses are still expensive relative to incomes in many cities.

  • [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by 2 Cents. 2 Cents said: RT @LenPenzo Black Coffee (With apologies this week to LeBron, socialists & B. Obama) <- Always a great read! [...]

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