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…
This week, I’m continuing to feature bloggers I enjoyed meeting at Fincon12 earlier this month. Okay … I’ll admit it: I met most of them there.
Did I just hear somebody just scoff? Hey, give me a break. I couldn’t have possibly met everyone, folks — there were at least two million personal finance bloggers there. Can you imagine if they had all showed up?
Enough lame excuses. Let’s get this party started, shall we?
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
You Have More Than You Think - 4 Hardcore Strategies to Torch Debt, Rack Up Cash, and Build Wealth Now. Number one on Shawanda’s hardcore list: “Stop buying shit.” Okay, be honest. How many of you out there thought she was going to suggest something else, like: “Become a famous adult movie star”? And don’t roll your eyes, people; you know darn well it’s a plausible strategy. Speaking of hardcore, it’s time for your:
Daily Money Shot – Business Lessons from a Roadside Bullet Vendor. I know. Trust me on this one; you’ll learn something.
Control Your Cash - The 25th Through 28th Ways Rich People Think Differently. With this post, the great Greg McFarlane, co-author of the best personal finance book I’ve ever read, Control Your Cash, explains why having a back-up plan isn’t such a good idea. (I just hope Greg’s hobbies don’t include skydiving.)
Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance - Hidden Expenses in a Cruise Vacation. My gal Barb got a rude awakening after taking a cruise where the price supposedly included “everything.” It turns out that for most folks, those “all-inclusive” cruises are far from being, well … all-inclusive. Wait until you see how much more Barb says you should expect to spend over and above that “all-inclusive” price the cruise lines advertise. Oy vey!
MoneyMasterMom - 5 Fun (and Free) Activities I Did with My Kids This Week. Says the eponymous blogger with the alliterative moniker: “I told my 4-year-old daughter we’d go on an animal hunt (and) any animal she caught we could keep as a pet. I don’t recommend this activity if your child has any chance of actually catching something.” Ya think, Mom? Thankfully, most 4-year-olds are only good at catching colds.
Frugal Confessions - Nuggets of Information I Took Away from Popular Financial Books. Uh oh. Unlike Shawanda and the MoneyMasterMom, somebody (ahem, Amanda) apparently missed my recent talk on how to write good headlines at Fincon12. Come on, girlfriend! Readers are more likely to click on your headline if they know how many nuggets you’re going to deliver in the article! (For the record, folks, Amanda shares five of them — and they’re fabulous!)
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy
Prairie EcoThrifter – Can’t Afford Private School? It May Not Matter.
The Free Financial Advisor – You Have NO Idea What I Paid for this Room
Afford Anything – I Spent $17,021 in the Past Three Months
Money, Life and More - 5 Reasons We Won’t Separate Our Finances When Married
Careful Cents – Timeshares: A Surprising Money-Saving Alternative
Millionaire Nurse Blog - 8 Ridiculously Simple Ways to Save Time
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From August 2011:
You Can Save Money Faster by Turbocharging Your Change Jar – Change jars are a great way to earn a little mad money. The trouble is, the process can be painfully slow — that is, unless you already know this little secret.
Credits and Debits
Debit: The non-institutionalized US population rate grows, on average, by 186,000 citizens per month. Even so, despite the number of monthly new jobs falling far below that figure over the past year, the “official” unemployment rate continues on a downward trend. Whaa?
Credit: Maybe that explains why a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 85% of Democrats believe that recent economic news has been mostly good or at least an even mix. Really?
Debit: They must be unaware that the government’s dubious numbers fail to count unemployed folks who give up looking for work. Eliminate the accounting hocus-pocus and the real unemployment rate jumps from 8.1% to 11.7%.
Debit: I bet they forgot that, thanks to Obamacare and expiration of tax relief legislation passed in 2001 and 2003, the largest tax hikes in the history of America will take effect on New Year’s Day — most of it affecting the middle class.
Debit: Perhaps they didn’t read that 1 in 12 Americans have quit using banks since 2009, or missed reports that the number of Americans using pawnshops, payday lenders and rent-to-own services — 51 million in all — is now 2% higher over the same period.
Debit: And things can’t be that good when the number of people using
food stamps EBT cards are also at record levels. In fact, the number of able-bodied people using EBT cards doubled after the work-requirements for welfare were gutted in 2009.
Debit: Hey … I don’t mean to rain on anybody’s parade, but 8.7 million people are now collecting disability too; that’s an all-time record. In 1967 there was one person taking disability for every 65 workers — today it’s one for every 16 workers.
Credit: Why have disability claims per capita increased over the past 45 years? Anyone? Anyone? After all, continuing advances in technology that make life easier for us should result in fewer per capita disability claims — not more.
Debit: Meanwhile, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s latest round of gratuitous money printing increased inflation fears this week as evidenced by the so-called “break-even rate” between nominal and inflation-protected Treasury debt; it reached its highest level since 2006.
Debit: It’s never good when a government runs up $3 in debt for every $1 added to the economy, like the US has over the past three years. In fact, that’s a big reason why our purchasing power continues to decline at alarming rates.
Credit: Is this thing on? I guess some folks don’t realize that excessive debt and money printing inevitably leads to hyperinflation. Or that once it strikes, it will quickly reduce even the largest retirement nest eggs that took decades to build into worthless paper that won’t buy a cup of coffee. Sheesh.
Credit: Warren Buffett likes to complain that “the rich” aren’t taxed enough. So this week the House of Representatives passed the Buffett Rule Act; it allows folks to mark a box on their tax form and write a check for more than they owe to the IRS.
Credit: Assuming the bill becomes law, does anybody really think Mr. Buffett will voluntarily put his money where his mouth is? Me neither. Heck, nothing is stopping him now from paying more taxes.
Credit: In fact, if Buffett really wants to pay more taxes, he should fire his army of tax lawyers and accountants, fill out the Form 1040 all by himself, take the standard deduction, and call it a day.
Credit: Of course, that’ll never happen because, although they won’t admit it, people who favor higher taxes do so only when they believe the increases won’t affect them. Sad. That’s not only extremely selfish, it’s economically shortsighted.
Debit: Finally … two California residents lost a combined $14,000 this week after giving their money to a man who promised to double their cash by spraying a magic chemical on it. I know.
Credit: Can somebody please tell me how people that are so unbelievably, um, let’s call it gullible, manage to even have $14,000 to lose in the first place?
By the Numbers
Taxmageddon is less than 100 days away. Here’s a closer look at just some of the increases Americans will soon be facing:
39.6% The new highest income tax rate, replacing the previous high of 35%.
15% The new lowest income tax rate, that’s up from 10%. All the rates in between will rise too.
$500 The new child tax credit, per child. That’s reduced from $1000.
23.8% The new capital gains tax rate, up from 15 percent.
43.4% The new dividends tax rate. The old rate was 15 percent. This increase is due to scheduled rate hikes plus Obamacare’s investment surtax.
0 Tax deductions allowed for tuition and educational fees in 2013.
20 Number of new or higher taxes resulting from Obamacare.
$2500 The new Obamacare cap on medical flexible spending accounts (FSAs). It was previously unlimited by law.
10% The new Obamacare adjusted gross income threshold for deducting medical expenses. The old provision imposed a threshold that was 25% lower.
Source: Americans for Tax Reform
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 3039 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- No, I’m Not Rich, But I Am Financially Free. Here’s How I Got There
- 100 Words On: Why Window Seat Fliers Are the Happiest Fliers
- 18 Flippant Facts You Didn’t Know About the $2 Bill
- One Key Situation When an English Degree May Be a Sound Investment
- 100 Words On: The Dangers of Loitering in the Comfort Zone
Each month I post some of the more curious search terms visitors entered into Google’s search engine (according to Google Analytics) that led them, somehow, some way, to Len Penzo dot Com:
- how do I buy out my crazy wife from house when she can’t afford to leave?
- why do people where [sic] panty hose during robberies?
- how many years can you get for two accounts [sic] of armed robbery?
- why doesn’t the government make the penny dime or nickel out of plastic or lint?
- how long would it take me to suffocate myself with a plastic bag?
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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!
From Misha, who thinks I’ve got some serious issues:
… You’re like those chicks who sit around, criticizing another woman (who’s) walking across the street and minding her own business, just because she is better dressed, more polished, and looks more confident than you feel.
Well now … I guess it’s safe to say you’ve seen my picture.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.