Black Coffee: Birthday Boys, Bloviating Blowhards & Mother’s Day Mothers

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…

Hey, not only is Mother’s Day this weekend, it’s my son’s 15th birthday too, so we’re going to get right to it. I have some celebrating to do!

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Get Rich SlowlyHow to Do a Wallet Audit. Donna Freedman got accosted on her way to last year’s Financial Blogger Conference by three punks who figured mugging a tired-looking middle-aged woman would be a good idea. And before I get a verbal mugging of my own from all you Donna Freedman fans, I just want to say those are her words, not mine. (For the record, I always thought she was a fresh-faced twentysomething — just like me.)

Consumerism Commentary Tavis Smiley: Poverty is a Threat to Democracy. Since Lyndon Johnson launched his War on Poverty in 1967, we have tossed trillions of taxpayer dollars down a rabbit hole trying to eliminate it, but to no avail. Even so, activists Tavis Smiley and Cornel West believe that even more government intervention money is needed. They also claim that one out of every two Americans live in poverty — even though 98.7 percent of all households own at least one television, and more than three in four Americans own a cell phone. I wonder if I can get my hands on whatever they’ve been smokin’.

One Money DesignDo Higher Status Occupations and Incomes Lead to More Stress? Then again, maybe poverty ain’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be. Surveys show that the positive aspects of success tends to diminish the higher one climbs in status and income. At least I now have a viable excuse for why my life has been an abject failure after all my (twenty-some) years.

Fiscal Fizzle –  Getting Frequent Car Insurance Quotes. Says Wojo: Even with a perfect driving record, this 22-year-old male had a fun time finding an insurer that was willing to give coverage for anything less than an arm and a leg. You expect us to believe that, Wojo? Not the arm and leg comment; the other part about your perfect record behind the wheel. The odds are somebody will stumble upon Bigfoot before they find a 22-year-old male driver without a ticket.

Afford AnythingAre You Letting Invisible Scripts Rule Your Life? In this post, Paula rails against those who insist on making us conform to their world views. Or as Paula puts it, those who “crawl out of the woodwork with opinions about how you should spend your money and manage your career.” I wonder who she could be talking about. Nah. Couldn’t be.

Could it?


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

From April 2011:

The Top 40 Ways to Improve Your Credit Score – It’s no secret that people with higher credit scores get better loan rates. Here’s how you can maximize your score.

Podcast News

My latest weekly roundtable appearance on Average Joe’s weekly financial podcast, The Worst of the Free Financial Advisor, can be heard on Episode 7: Top 5 Annuity Traits.

Credits and Debits

Debit: Uh oh. You probably don’t want to look at your 401(k) balance right now; the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 9.3 percent this week. That’s its worst 5-day performance in five months.

Debit: Just in time for Mother’s Day: The number of women not in the US labor force hit an all-time high after 324,000 women officially dropped out in March and April; at 42.4 percent, it’s the highest non-participation rate for American women since 1993.

Debit: Meanwhile, Greek Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos announced he finally found common ground in talks with party leaders from the nearly bankrupt country’s left and right: they all agree Greece is officially screwed! Or something like that.

Debit: By the way, don’t think the bankers haven’t already come to that conclusion; they’ve actually been preparing for Greece’s exit from the euro and a return to the drachma for awhile now.

Debit: Speaking of nearly-bankrupt entities, the US Postal Service lost another $3.2 billion last quarter, spurred by large increases in retiree benefit costs (surprise!) and transportation expenses. Guess who’s going to be picking up the tab.

Credit: Is it too much to ask the post office to run a surplus? You know, like the US government, which this April posted its first monthly budget surplus in 40 months. Whaaaaat?

Debit: Hey, now; don’t get too excited. Thanks to tax collections, the government typically runs a surplus in April. Those federal government deficits are expected to return again, as big as ever, in May.

Credit: The US is lucky that interest rates are as low as they are, or the cost to service the National Debt would be crippling. In fact, 30-year mortgage rates fell to 3.84 percent this week, which is the lowest level ever.

Debit: Of course, when the economy finally does recover, interest rates — and our debt service costs — will begin rising. Only then will the reality of our debt woes finally become apparent to the oblivious and those who are in denial.

Credit: The silver lining to higher debt service costs is that it will finally force the US to massively reduce the size of the federal government. Well, that is, assuming we have a majority of politicians in office who are committed to smaller government.

Debit: Eduardo Saverin, the co-founder of Facebook, renounced his US citizenship ahead of the social networking site’s public stock offering that is expected to earn him over $3 billion — presumably to reduce his tax liability.

Debit: Saverin is proof excessive taxation of the wealthy hurts everybody but the rich. It also illustrates why high tax rates, ironically, result in lower government revenues; one of the most tax-oppressive states of all, bankrupt California, can attest to that.

Debit: California’s onerous tax climate is a big reason why it was just ranked as the worst place to do business in America for the eighth year in a row. It’s no wonder my beloved native state is in such dire straits now.

Debit: Even so, California’s governor, Jerry Brown — backed by the teachers’ union, of course — wants to raise taxes yet again. I know. But it’s for the teachers … I mean children.

Credit: Finally, a Chicago man was arrested after he allegedly stole an excavator and then used it to smash into a dollar-store and steal a couple gift cards and some deodorant. Considering how much Bobcat drivers make, this guy really missed his calling.

By the Numbers

Here’s a few facts on Facebook and it’s upcoming initial public stock offering (IPO), scheduled for May 18:

2004 Year Facebook was launched.

2 Rank in terms of the world’s most-visited websites. (Google is number 1.)

337 million Expected number of initial shares to be sold at prices between $28 and $35 each.

$28 billion Founder Mark Zuckerberg’s expected net worth after Facebook goes public.

4 Zuckerberg’s soon-to-be rank among America’s richest people (assuming a net worth of $28 billion).

7.5 million According to Consumer Reports, the number of children under 13 with Facebook accounts. (That violates the site’s terms of service.)

900 million Number of current Facebook users. (But “only” 500 million people use Facebook daily.)

2.2 billion Number of people already connected to the Internet. (So, realistically, most of Facebook’s growth is probably already behind it.)

Sources: Reuters; Alexa; the Daily Beast; Wikipedia

The Question of the Week

Have you ever had a personalized automobile license plate?

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Other Useless News

Here are the top — and bottom — 5 states in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:

1. Alaska (2.47 pages/visit)
2. Utah (2.36)
3. Deleware (2.35)
4. Iowa (2.18)
5. Kansas (2.12)

46. Nebraska (1.56)
47. Hawaii (1.59)
48. Massachusetts (1.53)
49. New Hampshire (1.49)
50. Mississippi (1.44)

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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!

Emma passed along something she wanted me to share with all of you:

I was doing some research on people’s opinions of Ticketmaster the other day and found a really great website. I thought your readers might find it interesting …

Let’s see … 93 percent of the reviewers rated Ticketmaster one out of five stars; the other 7 percent gave them two. It’s always interesting when Ticketmaster is overachieving.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 4

    marven says

    I’m a 24 year old male, still have yet to receive a single moving violation. I’ve gotten a ticket once for lights and of course parking tickets, but neither do anything to insurance.

  2. 6


    Birthday and Mother’s Day all in one weekend. Have a great time. I just cooked and cleaned for Breakfast. Just a start on my efforts to honor the one who puts up with me.

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