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…
Yikes. I’m still a bit tender after the flogging I received from some of my (ex)-readers after last week’s post-election edition, but that’s okay. I’ve picked myself up, dusted myself off, and I’m back on my horse – so let’s get right to it.
Let’s see if I can’t get through this edition without ticking anybody off, shall we?
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
And Then We Saved - Scrooge No More! Awesome DIY Holiday Gift Ideas. No, I didn’t put Anna’s absolutely awesome article on do-it-yourself holiday gift ideas at the top of this edition of Black Coffee just because she sent me an extremely nice email this week. Nope. And, no, I certainly didn’t do it because she thanked me for the speech I gave at this year’s Financial Blogger’s Conference in Denver on how to write great headlines. I also didn’t do it because she said my handy dandy tips helped her increase the number of readers who are now visiting her blog. (Then again, it certainly didn’t hurt.)
Cash Money Life – How to Spot Counterfeit Money. So how can you be certain if you’ve been handed some counterfeit money? Simple. If it’s a three-dollar bill, you can be sure.
Moneylicious – In the Face of Taxmageddon? Says Ornella: “With the possibility of significant tax changes coming up in 2013, what do you do? “ Well … If you’re like me, it’s pretty simple: you keep two sets of books. (I know. Even though that was a joke, I probably just quintupled my odds of getting audited next year.)
The Chicago Financial Planner – Should You Buy Financial Services from Tommy Lee Jones? (Just for the record, that’s a rhetorical question, folks.)
Five Cent Nickel - Odd Uses for a Credit Card. The story of a drunk who was caught at a football game eating ice cream with a credit card inspired Nickel to muse on other arcane uses for them. Actually I thought the ice cream spoon idea was pretty clever — just not as clever as MacGyver’s. I remember one particular episode where he jammed a credit card into a stoplight control box in order to disrupt the signal’s normal behavior and create a traffic jam so he could make his escape. Genius! Boy, do I miss that show.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From December 2010:
Money Mirages: 6 Money-Saving Ideas That Are Anything But – Here are a few classic money mistakes people often make in the name of saving a few bucks. The end result, of course, is that they usually end up spending even more than they bargained for.
Credits and Debits
Debit: What is the world coming to? On Thursday, market darling Apple was hit by a wave of frenzied selling, falling over 2% to a six-month low of $525.62 a share.
Credit: On the bright side, Apple’s stock closed slightly higher on Friday at $527.67. Even better, it’s still up over 30% for the year.
Debit: For his part, famed economist Marc Faber — a.k.a. “Dr. Doom” — predicts a market meltdown is on the horizon. He foresees stocks losing 20 percent of their value in the near term. We’ll see.
Debit: If you think that’s depressing, Faber also sees the potential for a complete collapse of society in as little as five to ten years if the US government continues to run massive deficits to support programs it simply can’t afford. He’s not the only one.
Debit: Then again, some folks would argue we hit rock bottom last Thursday after bankrupt Hostess Brands — the maker of Twinkees, Ding Dongs, Ho-Hos and Wonder Bread — asked a judge for permission to liquidate its assets and permanently close up shop.
Debit: Hostess made the request after its short-sighted bakers’ union continued a debilitating strike to protest steep pay and benefit cuts that were necessary to keep the company solvent. As a result, 18,000 bakers will now be unemployed. I know.
Credit: I guess the union really showed those “greedy” Hostess corporate managers who’s the boss!
Credit: As for those of you blaming Hostess for their soon-to-be liquidation, just remember this: It’s the union bakers who were essentially saying, “Let them eat cake.” (Sorry … I couldn’t resist.)
Debit: Speaking of the unemployed, US jobless claims rose to their highest level in 18 months last week. The Labor Department is blaming the increased jobless numbers on Hurricane Sandy. I’m blaming the Labor Department.
Debit: In other news, the Federal Housing Administration, which has always been self-funded through mortgage insurance premiums, may soon need a taxpayer bailout to cover mounting losses on its $1.1 trillion mortgage portfolio.
Debit: The FHA ended September awash in more than $16 billion of red ink. That’s partly because it’s still backing dubious loans, including those requiring as little as 3.5% down payment, or for people who had recent bankruptcies or home foreclosures. Unbelievable.
Debit: If you’re looking for a great deal on gasoline, stay away from the Shell station at 8788 Vineland Ave in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. They were selling it for $6.44 per gallon last Monday.
Credit: I suspect there’s at least a few Californians out there who are probably wondering what all the fuss is about in Florida. As recently as last month, petrol was going for $5.79 per gallon at a station in Los Angeles.
Debit: Meanwhile, Mayor Bloomberg has proclaimed that gas rationing and price controls in storm-ravaged New York City will continue through Thanksgiving. What a guy.
Credit: Of course, the smart solution is to let prices rise to meet demand; doing so discourages hoarding, eliminates lines, and allows the free market to restore supplies quicker. But don’t tell that to big-government politicians who have no grasp of basic economics. Just sayin’.
Debit: Finally … Last week, Papa John’s Pizza announced that employee hours would be cut in order to help mitigate higher business costs resulting from the implementation of Obamacare; as much as $8 million annually.
Debit: Meanwhile, a manager of 40 Denny’s in Florida is cutting the hours of his front-of-the-house employees to fewer than 30 per week in order to avoid Obamacare regulations that would eventually add $175,000 in annual expenses per restaurant. Ouch.
Credit: Whether you’re for or against Obamacare, one thing is absolutely certain: The moves by Papa John’s and Denny’s just goes to prove that there really is no such thing as … a free lunch.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers – Contest Time: Win a $20 Starbucks Gift Card!
Yep, it’s contest time again! I’ve got a $20 Starbucks gift card for the person who can correctly guess the only Top 10 grossing film from 1982 (listed below) that I’ve never seen (and I can assure you that I never ever will). Keep in mind, there are some movies in this list I wish I hadn’t seen — but that’s another contest question for a later time.
Please place your answer in the comments section; I’ll only accept one answer per email address. If multiple folks pick the correct answer, then I’ll select the winner by a random draw among everybody who got it right.
And if nobody enters, I’ll use the card myself.
The contest closes on Black Friday, November 23rd at 5 pm, Pacific Standard Time. Good luck!
1. E.T. the Extraterrestrial (US box office gross: $435 million)
2. Tootsie ($177M)
3. An Officer and a Gentleman ($130M)
4. Rocky III ($125M)
5. Porky’s ($109M)
6. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ($80M)
7. 48 Hrs. ($79M)
8. Poltergeist ($77M)
9. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas ($70M)
10. Annie ($57M)
Source: Box Office Mojo
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. Alberta (2.32 pages/visit)
2. Ontario (1.86)
3. Nova Scotia (1.84)
4. Saskatchewan (1.78)
5. Quebec (1.73)
8. Manitoba (1.45)
9. Prince Edward Island (1.44)
10. Northwest Territories & Nunavut (1.25)
11. New Brunswick (1.23)
12. Newfoundland (1.12)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in Alberta, eh) — or not (you hosers in Newfoundland) — 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!
Last week, I got six emails from people who wanted to make sure I knew they were unsubscribing from my blog because they didn’t like last week’s Credits and Debits. In addition to those Dear John letters, I also received this helpful suggestion imbedded in a note from Donna S.:
… Your blog would be a lot nicer if it were more informative and nicer.
Let me guess, Donna: You’re a manager for the Department of Redundancy Department.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.