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…
Merry Christmas, everyone!
For those who haven’t been paying attention, there isn’t much time left to finish your Christmas shopping.
Hopefully, you’ve already finished yours. If not, you might want to consider throwing in the towel by writing a few Christmas checks. Otherwise, enjoy the mayhem at the mall.
Now let’s get on with this week’s cup of Christmas cheer:
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Northern Cheapskate – Working with Ice. Living in Southern California, the only ice I ever encounter during winter is the stuff in my freezer. Maybe that’s why I found this post on making creative — and very beautiful — ice art work projects at home absolutely fascinating.
PT Money – Hot New Toys for Christmas 2012. Number 2 on PT’s list: Something called “Doc McStuffins Doctor’s Bag Set.” I know. But it does sound like something that would come in real handy the next time I feel like playing “doctor.” (I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself.)
Smart on Money - 5 Tips for a Successful Homemade Christmas. Says Miranda: “Your first priority with any gift is to be thoughtful. Think about (what) the recipient might enjoy, and use.” Which is why, of course, those Doc McStuffins doctor bags are flying off the shelves this holiday season. (Well … it’s true.)
Wisebread – Seven Ways to Deal with Unwanted Gifts. Then again, not all gifts can be as popular with the kids — and some adults — as a Doc McStuffins doctor bag. Thankfully, Andrea shares a few tips for helping us cope after we get stuck with things like ubiquitous Chia Pets and fresh fruitcakes. Wait. Come to think of it, “fresh fruitcake” is an oxymoron.
The Family CEO - The Great Christmas Debate: Real Trees vs. Artificial. You might be surprised to know that, somewhat ironically, most cats — and male dogs — have no preference. Unfortunately.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From December 2010:
Why I Love Christmas: A Guest Post from My Daughter – Just yesterday, Nina lamented how she is finding it hard to get into the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe that’s just a symptom of her recently turning 13. Whatever the reason, here is a guest post she wrote for me back when she was a bit more enthusiastic about the holiday season.
Credits and Debits
Debit: According to the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, their 2012 Prosperity Index shows that, for the first time ever, America is no longer among the world’s ten most prosperous nations; it’s now ranked 12th.
Debit: What’s really disturbing, however, is the reason why: According to the study’s authors, you can blame the problem on “a decline in the number of US citizens who believe that hard work will get them ahead.”
Debit: I wonder if recently-retired California Highway Patrolman Jeff Talbott would agree with that assessment. According to Bloomberg, the ex-division-chief was California’s best paid trooper last year, collecting $483,581 in total compensation.
Debit: Fortunately for the 53 year-old Talbott, he won’t have to worry about eating cat food for dinner anytime soon. His taxpayer-guaranteed pension is $174,888 per year. Meanwhile, California has a $26 billion budget deficit.
Credit: The truth is, these absurd pensions would never be possible in the private sector. Any business crazy enough to offer them would eventually go bankrupt. So why do we continue to tolerate them for government employees? Just sayin’.
Debit: Despite this, a majority of Californians voted to raise taxes on “the rich” again last month, passing a proposition heavily endorsed by Governor Jerry Brown. Of course, the new law increased the state sales tax too — and that affects everyone.
Credit: Brown’s spokesman, Gareth Lacy, said the governor “is fixing the many problems that he inherited from past administrations.” Heh. Right. It was Brown who opened the door to this insanity by granting collective bargaining rights to state workers during his first tenure as California governor 30 years ago.
Credit: A Bloomberg commenter, KC Truby, had this observation: “So who’s really greedy in America? Is it the business owner (who) works 60 hours a week to get into the top 1% and now doesn’t want to pay 40% of his income in taxes? Or the government employee (who) retires at 50 or 55 when they could easily put in another 10 or 15 years of work?”
Credit: Why bother working hard if a significant chunk of our income — the fruit of our blood, sweat and tears — will be confiscated by the government through taxation and then given away to others?
Debit: Perhaps the Legatum Institute is spot on; hard work is becoming a sucker’s game now. If so, that’s extremely detrimental to society because we’re always better off when folks maximize their productivity and work as hard as they can.
Credit: Finally … A very surprised substitute teacher in California recently inherited two wheelbarrows full of gold coins after a search by officials determined she was the sole surviving cousin of a recently-deceased Nevada loner.
Credit: The hidden treasure — consisting of thousands of coins — was discovered by a cleaning crew in the garage of the dead man’s modest 3-bedroom 1200 square-foot Carson City home. The house sold for $112,000.
Credit: As for the fortune, it was valued at $7.4 million. Sweet. Heck, that booty is so big it would make even Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian jealous. (What’s that? No, I’m not going to apologize for that one.)
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 pick any one of the Top 10 iTunes downloads from 2011 (listed below) that I currently have on my iPod. (For the record, I have four of them — but you just need to pick one!)
Please place your answer in the comments section; I’ll only accept one song guess per email address. If multiple folks have a 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 Friday, December 28th at 5 pm, Pacific Standard Time. Good luck! I’ll announce the winner in next week’s edition of Black Coffee.
1. “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele
2. “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO
3. “Firework” – Katy Perry
4. “Grenade” – Bruno Mars
5. “Forget You” – Cee Lo
6. “Give Me Everything” – Pitbull
7. “E.T.” – Katy Perry
8. “Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5
9. “Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster the People
10. “Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj
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. Prince Edward Island (2.26 pages/visit)
2. Alberta (1.61)
3. Quebec (1.50)
4. Saskatchewan (1.47)
5. Ontario (1.38)
8. Manitoba (1.23)
9. Northwest Territories & Nunavut (1.20)
10. New Brunswick (1.15)
11. Yukon Territory (1.14)
12. Newfoundland (1.13)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in Prince Edward Island, eh) — or not (you hosers in Newfoundland — for the second month in a row) — 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!
I got a very nice note from Gretchen this week, who included this little nugget:
If I don’t get a job soon I’m moving in with you and Honeybee and the kids. I’d make a great maid.
Gretchen, if you saw my kids’ bedrooms I guarantee you’d take that proposition back.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.