Black Coffee: Odd Shopping Habits, Lazy Kids & Fuzzy Math

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…

Only 16 shopping days to Christmas. If you’re looking to buy me a gift but aren’t sure what to get, drop me an email and I’ll give you my list!

Okay, upward and onward …

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Barbara Friedberg Personal FinanceWorry Free Holiday Shopping. John starts his Christmas shopping every January. Yikes. For his neighbors’ sake, I hope John isn’t that proactive with his Christmas lights.

Fiscal FizzleWhy I Still Wash My Own Car. Says Wojo:“Whenever my son is looking for something to do, he suggests that we ‘go outside and wash the cars.’ (That’s) awesome enthusiasm from a three-year-old.” It is awesome! Too bad most kids lose that enthusiasm once they become teenagers.

Money BeagleIs Our Emergency Fund Redundant? With savings accounts earning virtually zero interest nowadays, more and more people are questioning the wisdom of keeping emergency funds there. The question is: Where’s the best place to keep that cash?

Consumerism CommentaryLife Is Short: Toxic Financial Attitudes. I work very hard to ensure that I will never outlive my money. In this piece, Flexo discusses the other possibility: too much of our money outliving us.

Moolanomy - A Guide to Withdrawing Money from Your Retirement Accounts. Retired folks who are committed to spending their kids’ entire inheritance will want to check out this piece on how to withdraw their retirement money as efficiently as possible. (They may also want to hire a food taster the next time the kids invite them over for Sunday dinner.)

The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed

From February 2009:

My Kids’ Loan Interview with the Bank of Dad – This is one of the first articles I ever wrote for my blog. My kids Matthew and Nina are teenagers now, but at the time I wrote this piece they were just 11 and 9. And even though it was nearly four years ago now, I still fondly remember the day I conducted this interview in an effort to determine their money IQ.

Credits and Debits

Credit: US employers added 146,000 new jobs in November as the “official” unemployment rate fell to 7.7%; that’s a four-year low.

Debit: Ironically, despite the lower unemployment rate, 122,000 fewer people held jobs in November than the month before. I know. It’s a Bizarro world we live in nowadays where black is white, bad is good and down is up.

Debit: The fuzzy math “works” because the government’s U-3 figure only counts people actively looking for work. Unfortunately, 350,000 people left the labor force in November — which suggests a lot of adults simply quit looking.

Debit: It makes you wonder why Congress doesn’t pass a law that forces everybody to quit looking for work — that way the government could officially claim an unemployment rate of 0.0%.

Debit: By the way, those “rosy” job creation numbers for September and October that were being widely celebrated awhile back were revised downward too — by a combined 49,000 fewer new jobs. Imagine that.

Debit: Since June, 873,000 new jobs have been created. The trouble is, 73% of them are government jobs, which are incapable of creating wealth — only the private sector can do that. Government can only consume and redistribute wealth.

Debit: It’s detrimental to the economy when government job growth outpaces the private sector. That’s because bureaucrat salaries depend upon the wealth created by folks in the private sector.

Credit: However, if the economy is ever going to grow at a pace that will allow our standard of living to begin rising again, we’ll need to focus on creating real wealth — not simply more make-work government jobs for the sake of lowering misleading statistics.

Credit: That’s not to say we don’t need government jobs. Obviously, society depends on the government for many legitimate tasks. The problem is, bureaucrats have encroached into areas that are far beyond those spelled out in the US Constitution.

Debit: Then again, who needs any jobs when the government is spending $168 per day for every household in poverty? Especially considering that the median household earns $31 less per day. Like I said, it’s a Bizarro world.

Debit: Of course, as government grows, it requires higher taxes from its citizens. Some Californians may soon be hit by a top marginal rate of almost 52%. Why would anybody maximize their productivity if they have to give 52 cents of every affected dollar they earn to government?

Debit: The federal leviathan can no longer be sustained through taxation alone, so the government is now borrowing — get this — 46 cents of every dollar it spends. If that doesn’t frighten you, it should. You can bet America’s creditors are paying attention.

Debit: While many folks continue to make excuses for why everything is going to be okay, the cold reality is the fiscal path we’re on is completely unsustainable — not to mention extremely dangerous to civil society and the nation’s very survival.

Credit: Speaking of calamitous events, the other day I learned that I don’t exist — well, at least not according to WhitePages.com. Their records show there is nobody living in the United States named Len Penzo. So I passed that info on to the IRS.

Credit: Finally … A recent survey found that 16% of folks with a mobile-phone or similar device do their holiday shopping while sitting on the toilet. You might want to keep that in mind the next time you get a crappy gift.

By the Numbers

Aside from the obvious, apparently shopping for Christmas gifts isn’t the only thing people do on the toilet:

14 Percentage of women who use social media in the restroom.

14 Percentage of men who use social media in the lavatory.

32 Percentage of people between 18 and 24 who use Facebook and Twitter on the john.

28 Percentage of those ages 25-34 who use social media while seated on the crapper.

15 Percentage of those between 35 and 44 who tweet on the commode.

2 Twitter’s rank among the world’s most popular social networking sites. (Only Facebook is bigger.)

750,000,000 Estimated monthly unique visitors to Facebook. (How many of those folks who are on the toilet at any one time is anyone’s guess.)

Source: The Detroit Free Press; EBiz MBA

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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. At least there should be. If not, somebody call 9-1-1.

Hey! If you happen to enjoy what you’re reading — or not — 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. :-)

Top 25 Referrers for November

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. (I know. It’s actually the second weekend of the month, but for some reason I mistakenly thought last Saturday fell on November 30. So sue me.)

1. MSN: Smart Spending
2. Business Insider
3. Kiplinger
4. Money Talks News
5. Wisebread
6. The Simple Dollar
7. Budgets Are Sexy
8. Free Republic
9. Lifehacker
10. The Sydney Morning Herald
11. The Quest for $85,000
12. Monevator
13. Control Your Cash
14. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
15. Everyday Money
16. Afford Anything
17. Sweating the Big Stuff
18. Enemy of Debt
19. Timeless Finance
20. Darwin’s Money
21. Free From Broke
22. Financial Uproar
23. Money Crashers
24. Couple Money
25. Money Life and More

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!

Last week I got this comment from Wilma:

You write with so much authority and spirit! You absolutely hit the nail around [sic] the head.

Thank you, Wilma; that’s why everyone in my family trembles with fear every time I pick up a hammer.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

11 comments to Black Coffee: Odd Shopping Habits, Lazy Kids & Fuzzy Math

  • Wow I made the list of top referrers! That takes some talent right there :)

  • Thanks for the shout-out. I figured that joy of cleaning can’t last for too much longer. :)

  • I know someone that brings the computer into the bathroom, and it’s not me!!! What is up with that? I say, get a magazine!

    • Len Penzo

      Well, Barb … I used to drag a newspaper into the can. The more I think about it, I guess an ipad or smart phone isn’t really much different.

  • garrett

    There are 2 kinds of people in this world: those who have shopped online, or used Facebook or Twitter while sitting on the toilet, and liars.

  • SassyMamaw

    Is it possible that some of the 350,000 people who left the workforce actually retired? I don’t know how the numbers are calculated, but I’m guessing now that the boomers are approaching retirement age, that could be a part of it.

    • Len Penzo

      No, Sassy. In my opinion, that is an unrealistically high number of people retiring in a single month. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 10,000 people will turn 65 every day for the next 18 years. That is 300,000 per month. The national labor participation rate is about 60%. So, now we’re down to 180,000 people. But that assumes all 180,000 people retire once they reach age 65 — which is most likely not the case. Assuming only 50% of those folks retire (and I suspect that is high), then we are looking at 90,000 people dropping out of the work force each month via retirement. But I suspect the real number is even less.

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