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…
I’m back from last weekend’s Financial Blogger Conference in beautiful Denver, and I had an absolutely terrific time! I enjoyed meeting hundreds of fellow bloggers.
Now I don’t mean to toot my own horn — okay, maybe I do just a little bit — but I was both honored and humbled to learn that I won this year’s Plutus Award for Best Single-Author Personal Finance Blog. Which just goes to prove the old proverb that a blind squirrel really does find an acorn every once in while.
I have to say, this year’s Plutus Awards ceremony was really well done too. Kevin from Thousandaire did a terrific job as the main host of the festivities, including a hilarious opening musical number that he wrote and performed; the song really set the stage for a fun evening. The kid has mad skillz, folks. You can check out all of Kevin’s personal finance music videos here.
For the next two weeks I am going to feature some of the bloggers I had the pleasure of meeting at FINCON12, so let’s get started.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Money Under 30 – Why You Should Work Multiple Jobs. Says David: “I wish more people who don’t think about their money would read this blog.” See folks … that’s the difference between a successful long-running personal finance blog like Money Under 30 and a wannabe like Len Penzo dot Com. Unlike David, I wish anybody would read my stuff.
Free at 33 – One Year from Now I’ll Have a House of My Own. Derek, who is 30 and just started blogging this month, paid off his house, and saved more than $100,000 by the time he was 28. He currently has three kids under age 4 and a net worth over $650,000. Not too shabby! He plans on attaining financial freedom by age 33. I think a lot of folks would argue that he’s already there.
Celebrating Financial Freedom – You Know You’re Broke If … When he’s not blogging, Dr. Jason moonlights as a dentist. In this post, he lists almost 50 ways to know if you’re really broke. I’m still trying to figure out #7 though: “You’re bologna has no first name.” Is that an inside joke for dentists? Then again, maybe I’m just dense. Yeah … it’s definitely the latter.
Can I Retire Yet? – Blueprint: Retirement Income. Darrow created an easy-to-follow flow chart to determine if your nest egg is big enough to support retirement, so I eagerly tried it out. Anybody care to guess who still has to go to work on Monday? Uh huh.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From February 2010:
The 5 Worst US State Quarter Designs – Everybody has their favorite US state quarter designs. Here are five that are so hideous that I’m almost embarrassed to spend them. I said almost.
Credits and Debits
Credit: The Dow Jones Industrial Average had a terrific week, increasing 302 points since Monday — that’s nearly a quarter of the Dow’s entire gains for the year.
Debit: The latest market rally is because Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave the markets another “heroin shot”; this week he announced the Fed will begin a third round of money printing known as “quantitative easing” (QE3).
Debit: Unfortunately, a rising stock market is not always indicative of a healthy economy. The US Labor Department reported unemployment claims increased by 15,000 last week. For the record, they blamed it on Hurricane Isaac. Whaa?
Debit: The Labor Department also noted that only 96,000 new jobs were added in August. Unfortunately, that’s only half the number of new jobs that are required each month just to keep pace with US population increases.
Debit: Persistently high unemployment is just one reason why the US median income is at its lowest point since 1995. Adjusted for inflation it was $50,054 in 2011 — that’s 4.1% less than it was in January 2009.
Debit: The impact of falling income is magnified by continuing price inflation for everything from food to gasoline. Last month, wholesale prices climbed 1.7% in August — that’s the highest monthly increase in three years. Blame that on the Fed.
Debit: Sadly, the Fed’s quantitative easing campaigns reduce the dollar’s value, which in turn increases the price of everything from food and gas, to gold and other commodities. That’s counter to the Fed’s mandate, and a big reason why Ben Bernanke should resign.
Debit: Perhaps the Chicago teachers union was worried about rising inflation when it decided to go on strike this week after rejecting a 16% pay raise over the next four years.
Debit: Then again, how bad can things be for the striking teachers in Chicago considering their average annual salary is currently $76,000? That’s before benefits. Not bad for nine months of work. Just sayin’.
Debit: Meanwhile, California’s big-government governor, Jerry Brown, continues to lobby voters to pass his $50 billion tax hike on “rich” people making over $250,000 annually. Ironically, Brown’s hike also includes a 0.25% sales tax increase.
Credit: I guess Governor Brown thinks only rich people pay sales taxes.
Debit: Never mind that California’s current sales tax rate of 7.25% is already the highest minimum state income tax in the nation. Toss in county and other local sales taxes and the Golden State’s total rate can be high as 9.25%.
Debit: The governor’s tax hike proposition currently enjoys a comfortable 20% lead in the polls, thanks to well-funded tax proponents donating almost $20 million to the cause — that’s almost 20 times more than the opposition. Unbelievable.
Debit: So who are the proponents pushing for these tax increases? It’s a posse of multiple unions and PACs representing government workers and California public school teachers — the targeted recipients of the new tax revenue.
Credit: At least the tax hikes will be for the children; that’s what the California Teachers’ Association (CTA) is advertising anyway. I know.
Debit: Of course, the reality is 100% of the new taxes earmarked for education will be used for teacher pensions. But that doesn’t make for a very compelling argument when the CTA is lobbying voters to raise taxes on themselves yet again.
Debit: California’s cash crunch didn’t stop its crooked legislators from allocating $68 billion last month for a union-backed boondoggle known as the “bullet train to nowhere.” Cronyism is alive and well in California, America’s version of Greece.
Debit: In the end, all of the trouble we’re now experiencing is solely related to city, state and federal governments spending way beyond their means, thanks to pandering politicians who buy votes by making promises they can’t keep.
Credit: If we don’t wake up soon and begin electing courageous politicians willing to put their community, state and country before their reelection aspirations, hyperinflation will ensue and this ever-growing fiscal house-of-cards will finally come crashing down.
Debit: Don’t think the credit agencies don’t recognize this. It’s a big reason why the US credit rating was cut this week. Yes, again.
Credit: Finally … Air sample testing in Southern California suggests that a strong sewer-like odor permeating the area this summer is probably from Salton Sea, a large lake 150 miles east of Los Angeles plagued by algae and decaying fish.
Credit: Well … it’s either coming from there or the California statehouse in Sacramento.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers – Contest Time: Win a $10 Starbucks Gift Card!
Yep, a real contest! I’ve got a $10 Starbucks gift card for the person who can guess which of the following top 10 iTunes downloads of 2006 are currently on my iPod. Here’s a BIG hint: there’s only one! If multiple folks pick the correct answer, I’ll select the winner by a random draw among those who got it right. The contest closes on Tuesday, September 18th at 5 pm, Pacific Time. Good luck!
1. Daniel Powter – “Bad Day”
2. Nelly Furtado – “Promiscuous”
3. James Blunt – “You’re Beautiful”
4. Gnarls Barkley – “Crazy”
5. Sean Paul – “Temperature”
6. Justin Timberlake – “Sexyback”
7. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
8. Shakira – “Hips Don’t Lie”
9. Natasha Bedingfield – “Unwritten”
10. Chamillionaire – “Ridin'”
Source: Ars Technica
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. Newfoundland (5.90 pages/visit)
2. Yukon Territory (4.12)
3. Prince Edward Island (2.88)
4. Saskatchewan (2.70)
5. Quebec (2.46)
8. British Columbia (2.09)
9. Ontario (2.03)
10. Manitoba (1.79)
11. New Brunswick (1.74)
12. Northwest Territories & Nunavut (1.00)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in Newfoundland who went from worst to first this month, eh) — or not (you hosers in the Northwest Territories & Nunavut) — 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…
3. Don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! Thank you.
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!
Here’s an email I got this week from somebody calling themselves SilverSpur1977:
I just finished reading some of your posts and I’ve come to the conclusion that your [sic] a big cheapskate.
I’d love to respond to your ludicrous accusation, but I’m taking the Honeybee out to dinner and I want to get to Golden Corral before the early bird special expires.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.