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 in mourning this week.
My beloved Los Angeles Dodgers were officially eliminated from the playoff race on Tuesday, the second-to-last day of the season. That’s after getting out of the gate and running with the best record in baseball for the first two months of the season. I know.
When it comes to futility, the Dodgers are almost as bad as the Chicago Cubs.
Oh well, now I’ll just spend the rest of October rooting for my second favorite baseball team: whoever is playing the San Francisco Giants.
Okay … On with the show!
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Club Thrifty – Working as an Employee … and Making the Best of It. Should you work for “the man” or be self-employed? Holly makes a case for the former. I say … both!
Afford Anything - Do You Prefer Ignorance or Bliss? I know what you’re thinking. No, it’s not a trick question.
Free From Broke – Know Your Spending Triggers to Change Your Financial Behavior. Says Miranda: “What’s the point of having the iPhone?” Heh. I’m still trying to figure that out too.
Sweating the Big Stuff – Lifestyle Inflation: What to Consider Before Telling Yourself Yes. On the other hand, Daniel recently upgraded to an iPhone5. Here’s five questions he always asks before splurging — on anything.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From October 2010:
19 Tips for Saving a Bundle of Money on Home Appliances – Home appliances can get expensive. Here are 19 ways to help ensure you get the best deal too when buying yours.
Credits and Debits
Credit: The US unemployment rate remarkably plunged to 7.8% in September. According to the Labor Department, their Household Survey indicated the economy added 873,000 new jobs last month. (No, really.)
Credit: If the numbers are to be believed, last month we just had the biggest hiring boom in 29 years — since June 1983, to be exact — a binge of new employment not seen since the days of Ronald Reagan. The economy is back, people!
Debit: With numbers like that, the economy should be humming. But is it really? The last time we had results this good with respect to the unemployment report, the GDP growth rate was a very robust 9% — it’s currently at a paltry 1.5%.
Debit: If the unemployment rate is plunging, why do unemployment claims continue their steady parade, hovering around 375,000 week after week. Clearly, that number should have dropped with so many new jobs being added. It didn’t.
Debit: Meanwhile, the non-farm payroll report found only 114,000 new jobs in September. That’s eight times fewer than the Household Survey number — but it’s in-line with previous months and more credible considering the other economic indicators.
Credit: Jack Welch, the ex-CEO of General Electric, isn’t buying the 7.8% unemployment numbers. He thinks the numbers are being manipulated ahead of the elections.
Debit: One of the strangest outliers with the unemployment data affects the 20-24 age group. They experienced the first non-seasonally adjusted employment gain for September. Ever. That’s across 60 years of record keeping. Why now?
Debit: Finally, the government’s U-6 number, which includes the unemployed and the underemployed — those who have part-time work, but are still looking for full-time jobs — remained unchanged in September at 14.7%.
Debit: In reality, 400,000 more people are unemployed or underemployed in September than in August. Even worse, most of the new jobs that were created were part-time.
Credit: For those willing to look at the data more closely, it’s obvious that the latest U-3 unemployment number is extremely misleading, abetted by a rare — if not curious — statistical anomaly.
Debit: Of course, as more accurate data becomes available, the latest unemployment number will be quietly revised upwards next month when nobody is paying attention. Same as it ever was.
Credit: In other news, Iran is having a financial meltdown; their currency, the rial, is in a free fall — it lost 40% against the dollar this week alone — and hyperinflation has taken root. The Iranian inflation rate is now 70%. That’s per month, folks.
Debit: At that rate, a $5 cup of Starbucks coffee would cost $1713.28 one year later. That’s a simple, but elegant illustration as to how hyperinflation can turn even the wealthiest people into paupers. If that doesn’t scare you, it should.
Debit: I can feel your schadenfreude from here, but keep in mind that if the US doesn’t get its own budget problems under control soon we’re going to have our turn too. We’ve added $6.05 trillion to the National Debt in four short years.
Debit: Speaking of hyperinflation, Californians are now paying almost $6 per gallon at some gasoline stations due to refinery troubles that have choked supplies. For over 30 years, politics has kept any new refineries from being built in the Golden State. I know.
Credit: Although I live in Southern California, I actually have it pretty good. At my neighborhood station, between Wednesday evening and Friday morning the pump price rose “only” 35 cents; it’s currently $4.68.
Debit: If you think that’s highway robbery, check this out: On November 6, Spirit Air will begin charging some passengers $100 for their carry-on bags. Whaa?
Debit: I’ll repeat that. Spirit Air will begin charging some passengers $100 for their carry-on bags. The good news is that’s still cheaper than a cup of coffee at a Starbucks in Tehran.
Credit: Finally … This week I was pleased to read about a recent Wharton School of Business study that found men with shaved heads are considered to be more masculine, dominant, and better leaders than their hairy colleagues. Duh.
Credit: They forgot to add “more sexy” too. Hey … Just sayin’!
By the Numbers
Here are a few more hair-related facts you can run your fingers through:
125,000 Approximate strands of hair on the average person’s head. (Blondes have the most hairs on average, followed by brunettes and then redheads.)
0 Strands of hair on my head. (For the record, I shave my head once per week.)
4.7 Inches of hair growth per year for the average person.
7 Maximum “lifespan” of a human hair.
100 Approximate strands of hair the average person loses per day.
40 million Men living in the United States who are either bald or balding. (25% of all men begin balding by age 30; by 60 the proportion increases to 67%.)
57 Percent of women age 80 and older who are balding. (40% of women begin some degree of balding at menopause.)
$163.5 million Price that Japanese wig-maker Aderans paid in July 2012 to buy the Hair Club for Men and Women.
Sources: New York Times, Haircare Boutique, Wikipedia
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Programming note: Unlike most blogs, I’m always open for the weekend here at Len Penzo dot Com. There’s a fresh new article waiting for you every Saturday afternoon.
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Top 25 Referrers for September
It’s the first weekend of the month, which means it’s time once again to thank the top 25 referring websites to Len Penzo dot Com.
1. MSN: Smart Spending
2. Money Talks News
3. Business Insider
5. The Simple Dollar
6. Budgets Are Sexy
7. The Sydney Morning Herald
8. The Age
9. Plutus Awards
10. Bargain Babe
11. Everyday Money
12. Time Magazine: Moneyland
13. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
14. Sweating the Big Stuff
15. Deseret News
16. The Quest for $85,000
17. Street Smart Finance
18. Financial Uproar
19. Control Your Cash
20. Afford Anything
21. Wealth Pilgrim
22. The Millionaire Nurse
23. Retire by 40
25. Money Funk
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated.
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!
Uh oh. Miss Miran Muna seems to have developed a crush on me:
I saw your profile today on Business Insider and it moved me. I would like you to (contact me) so that I can give you my pictures. Hope to hear from you soon.
See what I mean, fellas? Who wants to borrow my hair clippers?
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.