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…
With nine days in Maui behind me, I’m happy to say I’m feeling better than ever. That’s right. I’m back; completely rejuvenated, wide-eyed and bushy-tailed.
(You know I had a good vacation when I’m already pulling out impressive words like “inimitable” this early in the piece.)
Okay, folks; to paraphrase Pink, I’m coming up so let’s get this party started …
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
From Shopping to Saving – 10 Ways to Deal with Vacation Withdrawals. Of course, with my Maui holiday over, I thought I’d get some tips on how to properly decompress from someone who recently completed a vacation of her own. Says Erika: “There wasn’t a moment of free time. We went swimming almost everyday, boogie boarding at our beach BBQ, and drank every night. No one got any sleep … my cousin passed out after a night of drinking.” You go, girl! Actually, that sounded almost exactly like my vacay … Well, except for the boogie boarding part.
Budgets are Sexy – Odd Ball Costs of Having Kids. I rarely write guest posts for other blogs — mainly because most bloggers refuse to lower their standards by having anything written by me on their website. Then again, my good friend J Money doesn’t have any standards. Why else would he ask me to fill in for him last Wednesday while he is on hiatus enjoying his newborn son? Too bad this article was the best I could come up with on short notice. Heck, I got so worked up trying to write a great guest post for J that I erroneously noted in the article that my son, Matthew, is 14 — even though he recently turned 15. (Let’s keep that between you and me though or I’ll never get asked back.)
Yes, I Am Cheap – I’m Quitting My Job and Retiring By 40. While I’m telling secrets … it turns out that Sandy’s going to quit her latest day job any day now. Yes, she quit her previous job only eight months ago. Some people might say they’re beginning to see a disturbing pattern here, but Sandy has a few good reasons why she’ll soon be telling her boss to take his job and shove it. As an aside, I wish I could retire at 40. Of course, considering I’m now 48 that’s probably not going to happen. I said probably.
Hundred Goals – Does the World Need Poor People? Rabid capitalists looking to get their panties in a bunch should take a few moments to read this provocative post on consumerism by Steven. As an added bonus, you can check out my extended dialog with a passionate socialism advocate named Jon in the comments section.
Careful Cents – The Number One Way Car Owners Can Save Money. Boy, do I feel like a dummy. After all these years I thought the answer to this question was “don’t drive it.” Silly me.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From December 2008:
High Incomes Don’t Guarantee Financial Freedom – This is the second article I ever wrote for my blog — which means only four people have ever read it: Mom, Dad, the Honeybee and me. Yes, I was still trying to find my “voice” at the time. I was also still putting two spaces after every period back then — I found out later that errant practice tends to turn most professional editors’ hair prematurely gray. (Public service announcement: You’re only supposed to put one space after a period when using modern word-processing technology.)
Credits and Debits
Debit: It’s official: For the first time ever, Canadians are now richer than Americans. Yep. On average, their net worth is now $40,000 higher than their Yankee counterparts. So much for progress.
Credit: Seriously, I’m really very happy for my wealthier friends in the Great White North. Even so, I don’t think I’d ever consider moving above the 49th parallel; I like the sun. And I’m not a fan of igloos either.
Credit: As for homes in the US, housing starts were at their highest levels in over three years as builders picked up the pace of new home construction. Just to be clear, I’m talking about houses made of lumber, not ice cubes.
Debit: Now if only more Americans could find jobs so they might be able to buy these new homes being built; weekly jobless claims rose again last week as 386,000 folks filed for unemployment benefits.
Debit: No doubt some of those claims came from ex-employees of a Las Vegas solar panel plant — this one federally subsidized to the tune of $20 million — that went dark just 14 months after opening its doors for business. I know.
Debit: By the way, at 41 months, this is the longest stretch of monthly unemployment rates above 8 percent since the Great Depression. Not the current one — the original Great Depression of the 1930s.
Debit: That dubious record exists despite a falling labor participation rate that artificially skews unemployment figures downward. The economy is so bad now that, since April, more Americans have signed up for disability payments than found new jobs.
Debit: The American people were told in 2009 that if the $800 billion “stimulus” was passed, the unemployment rate would be just 5.6 percent today; even with all the government statistical hocus pocus, it’s 8.2 percent. Just sayin’.
Debit: Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, maybe things will start looking up after the government fully wraps its tentacles into the US healthcare industry, which accounts for almost 20 percent of the US GDP.
Debit: For his part, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke says the economy probably won’t be improving anytime soon. As long as he continues printing the cash that feeds the government’s insatiable spending appetite, he’s correct.
Debit: Of course, printing money does allow government-owned General Motors to continue to ignore sound business principles by selling “green” vehicles that cost $250,000 to produce for just $41,000 — even though nobody wants them.
Debit: Last week, that funny money enticed fiscally reckless California — which is currently $16 billion in debt — to commit to a $68 billion “bullet train to nowhere” boondoggle just so they can take advantage of $3.2 billion in federal subsidies. Whaaat?
Credit: With the inmates running the asylum in Sacramento, the Golden State has officially become “the Pyrite State.” (For those of you who fell asleep in geology class, that’s “fool’s gold.”)
Credit: Finally … earlier this week a man at San Francisco International Airport was pulled aside for additional screening after TSA agents astutely observed something extremely large in his pants. It turned out that the bulge was nothing more than, well … you know.
Debit: I never have that problem when I go through security; sadly.
Credit: If I was a betting man I’d wager the guy was probably on his way home to Nantucket.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers
With iTunes taking over the bulk of music sales now, does anybody buy entire albums of music anymore? I don’t. Here are the 10 best selling albums of all time. How many of these did you buy? (I have five of them.)
1. Thriller – Michael Jackson (released in 1982; 65 million copies sold)
2. Back In Black – AC/DC (1980; 50 million)
3. The Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd (1973; 50 million)
4. The Bodyguard Soundtrack – Whitney Houston / Various Artists (1992; 45 million)
5. Bad – Michael Jackson (1987; 45 million)
6. Bat Out of Hell – Meat Loaf (1977; 43 million)
7. Their Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975) – Eagles (1976; 42 million)
8. Dirty Dancing Soundtrack – Various Artists (1987; 42 million)
9. Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack – Bee Gees / Various Artists (1977; 40 million)
10. Rumours – Fleetwood Mac (1977; 40 million)
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. Prince Edward Island (3.31 pages/visit)
2. Alberta (2.21)
3. Saskatchewan (1.95)
4. Manitoba (1.76)
5. Nova Scotia (1.74)
8. British Columbia (1.53)
9. Newfoundland (1.25)
10. New Brunswick (1.05)
11. Yukon (1.00)
12. Northwest Territories & Nunavut (0.00)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like, my friends on Prince Edward Island, eh) — or not (you hosers in the frozen Northwest Territories who didn’t bother to read a single page) — 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!
Kelly called BS on me after reading my Budgets Are Sexy guest post:
Hi Len, I think I caught a mistake in your Budgets Are Sexy article. You said Matthew was 14 but not too long ago you said he was 15!
Although the Honeybee would argue otherwise, I never make mistakes Kelly. Never. Yes, my son is 15. That was just, um … a typo.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.