Black Coffee: A Massachusetts Yacht (In Rhode Island Harbor)

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 what you’re thinking: Hey, Len, something’s different about you?   Did you cut your hair differently?

Nah.   I just made a slight change to the title of my Black Coffee column.   I figure after a year and change of using the wordy title “Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions” most people get what this column is all about.

Now on to my favorite blogs, money news and…   ah, you know.

Go Banking Rates Coming Soon: The Bank of Wal-Mart.   I know.   But let’s face it.   Nobody holds prices down like Wal-Mart.   If they break into the banking business, I bet they’ll be offering 0.2% loans to everybody who wants one including cash-strapped high credit-risk state governments like California’s.   In fact, I say we should also let Wal-Mart open up a chain of hospitals – that would reverse the high cost of medical care in this country.   While I’m at it, I think we should let Wal-Mart open up a few universities and colleges too.   Who’s with me on this?   I’m writing my Congressman first thing Monday morning.

Control Your CashStick A Pin In It, It’s Done.   Speaking of low prices, has anybody noticed prices are dropping on almost everything – well except for hospital care, college educations, and tax-payer guaranteed government employee pensions?   Yes!   I’ll say it again: prices are dropping!   Hooray!   Wait, check that.   Maybe that’s not such a good thing after all.

Family Balance Sheet – Freeze Your Garden Produce Now and You’ll Be Thanking Yourself Later.   Note to self:   Next time, just be sure to thaw the frozen carrots first before trying to eat them.

Financial UproarBlogger Jamboree: If You Could Only Invest In One Company, What Would It Be? This was a cool idea from FU.   (No, not that FU.   The other one.)   He was even so bold as to risk ruining the credibility of his article by including a recommendation from me.

Darwin’s FinanceWhy Your Kid’s Kindergarten Teacher Is Worth $320,000.   You know, after I read this article I marched into my boss’s office and told him if a kindergarten teacher was worth $320,000 per year then an engineer like me was worth at least that much – if not more – and so I wanted a raise.     You know what he told me?     Go get a job as a kindergarten teacher.

Financial Samurai –   Why are Employed People So Smug About the Unemployed? I love Sam, but I vehemently disagree with his accusation.   I don’t think many folks are arguing that some sort of safety net isn’t a good idea, but I for one say 99 weeks of unemployment benefits are insane.   Our fathers managed to survive on a maximum allowance of only 26 weeks of benefits.   Our grandfathers and the generations before them also survived despite having zero unemployment benefits.   How did they do it?   They were fiscally responsible.   They lived within their means.   They diligently saved their money for a rainy day.       They relied on family when times got really tough.   They also relied on charity from churches and other businesses until they could get back on their feet.   Some folks will say I’m being smug.   Or a self-righteous bastard.   I’ll argue that I’m endorsing personal responsibility and self-reliance.

Money Help For ChristiansHow to Pay Off Debt Using the Debt Snowball.   With a LOL opening line from Craig, the creator of the debt snowball spreadsheet:   “I thought we’d better sneak this post in before it gets too warm — a snowball is always easier to visualize in the winter.” For the record, Craig lives in Papua New Guinea, where the average temperature in summer is 120 degrees.   Celsius.   And the temperature in winter is 119 degrees.   Celsius.

Personal Finance By The BookThe Real Estate Bubble: What Happened and What Can We Learn From It? Lesson #242:   The house you live in should not be considered an investment.   It’s a home.

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

The Dividend Guy – Comment on This Post and Win an iPod Touch! Hey, Mike (The Financial Blogger) just bought this site and he is holding a contest to promote it.   So, if you are looking to win an iPod Touch, scurry on over before Friday, August 6 and leave a comment!

Bucksome Boomer’s Journey to Retirement Afraid to Retire.

Green Panda Tree HouseShould I Borrow Money From My Family? Sure go ahead, Mike.   (We’re not related are we?)

Canadian Finance Blog6 Ways to Save Money on a Road Trip.

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

From July 2009:

18 Astounding Things You Didn’t Know About Money – A year ago this week I posted another of my “18 Things You Didn’t Know About…” articles.   This one is all about money and its history.

Credits and Debits

Debit: This week Deutsche Bank noted that if Congress lets the Bush tax cuts expire as they plan to do, the US economic recovery would be stopped in its tracks.

Debit: Meanwhile, CNBC reported that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner essentially thinks that’s hogwash.  

Credit: Geithner did indicate that Congress should agree on measures to help small businesses so that new jobs can be generated for the economy.

Debit: Unfortunately, he also believes letting the Bush tax cuts expire on Americans earning over $250,000 per year will not “have a negative effect on growth.”   I hope he’s right, but I doubt it.

Debit: I fail to see how you can talk about helping small businesses create jobs and simultaneously be in favor of raising the taxes on folks making $250,000 per year.   Although I can’t prove it, I suspect the great majority of small business owners that are actually creating jobs out there earn more than $250,000 per year.

Debit: What amazes me are the folks that continue to insist that raising taxes is the best solution for getting rid of our monstrous deficits.   CNBC noted that according to Geithner, raising taxes is, “the responsible thing to do because we need to make sure we can show the world that (we’re) willing as a country now to start to make some progress bringing down our long-term deficits.”   Really?

Credit: Our government is out of control and unable to control its spending.   The government needs to be put on a crash diet.   Starve the beast.   Now.   You don’t get an over-eating fat man to lose weight by increasing his caloric intake.   It’s time for our politicians to finally show some courage by making the tough decisions.

Debit: Besides, high taxes only encourages some of the most well-paid and productive members of society to eventually leave for places with lower tax rates – whether it be a different state or country.

Debit: Just ask Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who avoided over $500,000 in taxes by docking his $7 million yacht in Rhode Island – which has no yacht taxes – instead of his home state.   Or Kerry’s wife, billionaire Teresa Heinz (of Heinz ketchup fame), who chooses to pay her income tax in Pennsylvania where taxes are 58 percent of the Massachusetts rate.

Debit: In fact, as the website Future of Capitalism notes: The lost income to Massachusetts as a result of Teresa Heinz Kerry’s decision to be an official resident of Pennsylvania probably dwarfs the $500,000 or so at stake in the debate over where the yacht is moored.

Credit: Even though the Heinz heiress isn’t in as much of a pickle as her hubby, it’s rather obvious both of them don’t relish the thought of paying their fair share.   That’s rather ironic, don’t you think, considering their liberal ideology.   Yes, I realize there are conservative ideologues out there looking to try and shelter their income from taxes too.   The difference is at least they are arguing that we should all be paying less taxes – not more.   They’re not voting in favor of bills to raise our taxes either.

Debit: Here’s a little more from Future of Capitalism:   As recently as March of this year, Senator Kerry issued a press release touting “new tools” for the IRS “to detect, deter and discourage offshore tax abuses that currently allow companies and individuals avoid paying taxes.” He said, “It repulsed me that while the average American plays by the rules and pays taxes, some of the biggest corporations avoid paying their fair share.” And he vowed to “close the loophole that allows for offshore tax havens to help taxpayers shirk paying their fair share.”

Credit: Do you think Senator Kerry finds his behavior the least bit repulsive?   Me neither.

By the Numbers

A look at some data regarding how different states tax their citizens – and the fallout from those states with the highest taxes…

1100 From 1998 to 2007, the number of people who moved daily from the nine highest income-tax states to the nine states with no state income tax.

89 From 1998 to 2007, the percentage of additional jobs created in the nine states with no income tax over the nine highest income-tax states.

32 From 1998 to 2007, the percentage of additional income growth for people living in the nine states with no income tax over the nine highest income-tax states.

8.97 The current tax rate on the richest people in New Jersey.   It was raised in 2004 from the old rate of 6.35%.

4000 According to a Princeton study, the number of missing half-millionaires in New Jersey after the new higher tax rate took effect in 2004.

49 New Jersey’s rank among the 50 states in the percentage increase in wealthy tax filers in the years after they raised the tax rate on them.

0 The state sales and income tax rates in New Hampshire.

4 The rank of New Hampshire public-school student test scores among all 50 states.

Other Useless News

July was a record month here at Len Penzo dot Com, with almost 60,000 page views!   A good chunk of that came from your referrals.   Here are the Top 25 referring sites for the month:

1. Wisebread
2. Consumerist
3. MSN Smart Spending
4. Tip Hero
5. Frugal Dad
6. Mint
7. Time Magazine: It’s Your Money
8. The Daily Crux
9. The Survivalist Podcast
10. Code Name Insight
11. Consumerism Commentary
12. Green Panda Tree House
13. Canadian Finance Blog
14. (tie) Unknown News
14. (tie) JoeTaxpayer
16. Money Help for Christians
17. Monevator
18. Nerd Wallet
19. Dave Ramsey
20. Consumer Track
21. (tie) Enemy of Debt
21. (tie) Dough Roller
23. Wealth Pilgrim
24. Moms Like Me
25. Out of Debt Again

Thank you to everyone for giving me a link on your web pages!   I really appreciate it.   :-)

Oh yes, and here’s another 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!   :-)

Letters, I Get Letters

Prometheus wrote in this week with the following question:

“You do realize how demeaning it is to refer to your wife as Honeybee?”

Oh yeah.   But, lucky for me, the Honeybee hasn’t caught on to that yet.

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. 😉

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

The Carnival of Money Stories @ No Debt Plan (Editor’s Pick – Hooray!)

The Carnival of Personal Finance @ Beating Broke


  1. 1


    Hi Len, thanks for including me in your round-up. For what it’s worth, I think “honeybee” is a term of endearment and sweet versus demeaning.

    So there’s an endorsement from a feminist!

  2. 2


    Thanks for loving me…. but can you really love someone if you “VEHEMENTLY DISAGREE”?! Deep thoughts.

    Maybe I wasn’t making myself clear in the post. I don’t think ALL employed people are smug, I think there are many who are about the unemployed when they have NO IDEA what an unemployed person is talking about.

    With the internet, we are in a SUPER competitive time for job hunting now. Very efficient market, hence it’s much harder for everybody to succeed ironically.

    Who says 99 weeks is long? 99 weeks is short compared to 250 weeks of unemployment! During the last year of my employment, I fully count on collecting the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits!



  3. 3


    As a former resident of Massachusetts, I can assure you that Kerry is a big hypocrite who doesn’t see any contradiction between his words and actions. Likewise, the late Senator Kennedy was a big proponent of green energy – but he didn’t want wind turbines near HIS house. I’m not rich, but I did move from Massachusetts with it’s near 6% income tax to Texas with none. Somehow we manage to pay for roads and other projects without that extra money!

    • 4


      @Boomer: I know. The Honeybee actually gets annoyed with me when I call her by her first name. I only call her by her first name when I am upset with her, or am trying to get her undivided attention. :-)
      @Sam: Of course I can love someone I vehemently disagree with on certain topics. As proof, I’ve been happily married to the Honeybee for 14 years. 😉 I agree the market is getting much more efficient. But I think some people have yet to grasp (or accept) that they may no longer be able to command the salaries they once did in the marketplace because their skill sets aren’t that difficult to attain anymore – which puts downward pressure on wages. So they sit on the sidelines waiting for a job at a rate of pay they’ll never see again. I fully count on collecting any unemployment benefits the government plans on handing out too! If they’re going to give it to me, I’d be a fool not to take it. The difference is, after they run out I will still be able to survive off my savings for years on my rainy day fund (barring high inflation or a catastrophic financial disaster like a health-related issue). That fund was built by living below my means since I graduated from college. It can be done!
      @Jennifer: I agree, the hypocrisy of these politicians is absolutely gob-smacking. Texas definitely has its act together. I wish the residents of California would pull their heads out of their rears, follow Texas’s lead, and elect a state legislature that would go back to governing in a conservative manner. Twenty years of runaway spending is enough. Unfortunately the demographics here pretty much ensures the Big Gov’t/social-entitlements mentality here will continue here for years.

  4. 6


    perhaps a UCW (University of California, Wal-Mart) will be in the works. it could be a one-stop shop for low-cost higher education and all the affordable necessities that a college student would need to start out, all in one place! the Tahoe area would be a nice consideration for a new UC 😉

    thanks for the mention Len!

  5. 7


    My wife and I get along fine as long as I call her “Jan”. But if “Mom” was to ever escape from my lips (it hasn’t), that might be the last word my lips ever utter.

    Thanks for the mention!

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