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’ve got another abbreviated “espresso edition” of Black Coffee.
I didn’t have time to write any lame jokes regarding my favorite blog posts this week because I was shopping for Christmas trees. And nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit quicker than a visit to the chain-link-fence-enclosed Christmas tree “farm” that sits smack dab in the middle of my local Home Depot parking lot.
Somebody pass the egg nog.
Where was I?
Oh yes, the good news is I got Confucius to write the lame jokes for me this week.
Don’t worry, I told him to keep them clean. (Okay, relatively clean.)
Let’s get this show on the road …
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Prairie Eco Thrifter – How to Throw a Lavish Holiday Party on a Tight Budget. Confucius say … Best way to prevent hangover is to stay drunk.
Money Master Mom – Do You Dare to Dream? Confucius say … If you want your dreams to come true, don’t oversleep.
The Free Financial Advisor – The Worst Gifts Ever: Crystal Frogs, Re-gifted Candy and More Bad Holiday ‘Fun’. Confucius say … Wise man never play leap frog with unicorn.
Your Life for Less – 9 Tips to Stay Safe Online. Confucius say … Safety tip: Show-off always shown up in showdown.
Your Finances Simplified – 3 Things Love and Hip Hop ATL Taught Me About Finances. Confucius say … Man who eat many prunes get good run for money.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From December 2010:
If I Got to Pick the Gifts in ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ – What was that guy thinking when he chose the gifts for his true love in the 12 days of Christmas? If I was going to give the Honeybee gifts for the 12 days of Christmas, she’d get something a lot better than ten lords-a-leaping and six geese-a-laying. In fact, here’s what I came up with, using the exact same budget.
Credits and Debits
Credit: Holiday shoppers spread a little good cheer to US retailers, who saw their sales climb 0.3% in November. Retailers are hoping consumers will continue feeling merry and keep their wallets open in December.
Credit: Shoppers were especially attracted to electronics and appliances, whose sales increased a healthy 2.5% from October. Furniture and clothing sales also were popular in November.
Debit: Unfortunately, American consumers aren’t the only ones in a spending mood. This week the Fed announced that it will continue printing enough money to buy $85 billion worth of long-term Treasury and mortgage bonds every month.
Debit: Chairman Ben Bernanke also stated that the Fed will maintain near-zero interest rates until at least 2015. That’s more bad news for savers and people on fixed incomes who are seeing their purchasing power continue to diminish with the Fed’s reckless inflationary policies.
Credit: Then again, the government insists inflation is tame. Last month, the consumer price index fell 0.3%, it’s first drop since May. That’s really great if you’re buying new vehicles and home appliances — or getting a heart transplant.
Debit: But the official core inflation figure excludes food and energy — which is what most folks purchase month in and month out. And while gasoline fell 4.1% last month, food prices rose 0.2%, electricity increased 0.7% and natural gas prices climbed 1.3%.
Debit: Although I can’t be certain, I suspect the consumer price index doesn’t account for shrinking food package sizes that manufacturers use to hide their price increases.
Debit: This week at the grocery store, I noticed that the egg noodles we’ve been buying for years had their package size quietly reduced from from 16 to 12 ounces. Worst of all, despite the 25% reduction in product, the price remained unchanged. I know.
Debit: Meanwhile, liberal economist Paul Krugman continues to insist that keeping the money printing presses running in overdrive is nothing to worry about, suggesting that investors have no reason to lose faith in the dollar because the US can’t officially default on its debt.
Credit: Technically, he’s correct. After all, we can print all our debt away — but we don’t because every new dollar we print devalues the money that’s already been printed. That’s not only basic economics, it’s common sense.
Credit: And, as the Weimar Republic, Zimbabwe and many other nations have already demonstrated, printing too much money eventually results in hyperinflation that usually makes the currency worthless. Then, presto! Without declaring bankruptcy, the country defaults by, well … default.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers
Here are some sobering statistics I read this week on the dying city of Detroit, based upon data from the US Census Bureau:
706,585 Population in 2011. (In 1950, Detroit was the fifth largest city in the US with over 1.8 million people.)
224,846 Detroit residents age 16 and older who have jobs. (Fifteen percent of those have jobs with the government.)
257,576 Detroit residents age 16 and older who don’t hold a job. (Yes, they outnumber those who do work.)
34.5 Percentage of Detroit households that receive food stamps.
27.3 Percentage of all housing units in Detroit that are currently vacant.
9.2 Percentage of married-couple households in Detroit with children under age 18.
16.6 Percentage of households with children under 18 that are headed by women with no husbands.
75.4 Percentage of babies born in Detroit to unmarried women.
7 Percentage of eight-graders in Detroit public schools that are grade-level proficient in reading. (Only 4% are grade-level proficient in math.)
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — five states in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. North Dakota (1.79 pages/visit)
2. Delaware (1.78)
3. Idaho (1.77)
4. Vermont (1.71)
5. Arizona (1.70)
46. Hawaii (1.39)
47. Oklahoma (1.38)
48. Rhode Island (1.38)
49. Kentucky (1.35)
50. Maine (1.29)
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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 Marcia, who opened up a recent message to me with this observation:
You are definitely a hoot!
Awww … Thank you, Marcia! (But owl bet you tell that to all the bloggers.)
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.