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 have good news and bad news on the rat front, folks: I still haven’t caught the wily rat that’s been wreaking havoc in my house over the past month. However, last Sunday I went on a reconnaissance mission and discovered the secret “front door” he had been using to come and go as he pleases. The pesky rodent gnawed a relatively large hole in a concealed and hard-to-access spot on the side of my home. So I dutifully sealed it up with a combination of stucco patch and heavy steel mesh.
I also set up a phalanx of glue traps to guard the patched area — just in case my little friend has any ideas about reopening the hole.
Since then, there has been no further evidence of my little buck-toothed friend anywhere in my house. No late-night pitter patter of tiny feet in my attic, no gnawing sounds in the walls, and no tell-tale poop trails.
Life is good again.
I’m not ready to declare total victory in the rodent war just yet — but I’m cautiously optimistic that I may have finally vanquished my formidable foe once and for all.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Financial Uproar – How to Invest in Weed. Before you Bogart that joint, consider this: If you had invested in Medical Marijuana Inc. at the start of 2012, you would have earned a handsome return of almost 500% for the year. Even so, Nelson thinks anybody who chooses to invest in Medical Marijuana Inc. — or any other medical marijuana company for that matter — has to be, well … smoking something. Don’t worry though — Nelson rolls a plan of his own for those still looking to get in on the medical marijuana market.
Money Reasons – Aggressive Financial Plans for the New Year. Item number 1 on Don’s list: double his net worth in five years. Five years. Hmm. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? If the medical marijuana market stays hot, he could double it in 45 days.
Budgeting in the Fun Stuff – Budgeting in the Roommate Stuff. Let’s see … If I did my math correctly, Crystal’s roommates end up costing her about $700 annually for stuff like cable, utilities, basic supplies and general wear-and-tear on her home. Unfortunately for her, those expenses became a bit more costly after she found a roommate who likes to drive a “big ass truck.” (Don’t ask.)
Sweating the Big Stuff - Setting New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep. Says Daniel: “When it comes to making resolutions, just under half of Americans set a goal every January 1st.” I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but if I did, you can bet one of them would be to make sure I never rented a room to somebody who drives a big ass truck. (Don’t ask.)
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From June 2009:
Does Anybody Know the Going Rate for the Tooth Fairy? – My kids lost their last baby teeth a couple years ago, but when I wrote this, the Tooth Fairy was still making occasional appearances at the Penzo house. Here’s how I decided how much to put under my kids’ pillows every time they lost a tooth.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Who says public school teachers are underpaid? If the unionized educators in Illinois are any indication, teaching is an extremely lucrative profession. In fact, 10,000 Illinois public school teachers earned six-figure salaries in 2012.
Debit: The top end of the scale includes a driver’s ed instructor making $174,279, a phys ed teacher earning $189,523, and an elementary school teacher hauling in $203,311. And remember, that’s for just nine months of work. I know.
Debit: Those teachers also reportedly get $7500 annually in health insurance benefits, up to 15 days per year of sick leave — payable at retirement if not used — two personal days off per year and other perks. They can also retire as early as age 54.
Debit: In fact, the typical Illinois public school teacher’s taxpayer-funded pension is currently four to seven times larger than Social Security. And you wonder why teachers’ unions — in many states — tend to be big tax-hike advocates. No, it’s not for the children.
Debit: Of course, high taxes are the order of the day when governments get too big for their britches. This week, President Obama signed a bill that avoided the so-called “fiscal cliff” by increasing taxes on “the rich” to the tune of $620 billion.
Debit: Unfortunately, this “brilliant” plan calls for $41 in new taxes for every $1 in spending cuts. Even worse, those taxes aren’t used to reduce spending deficits — the agreement adds $4 trillion to the National Debt over the next ten years. Pathetic.
Debit: Especially when you consider that the “fiscal cliff” was a feeble attempt at forcing the government to address its spending problem. Instead, it did the opposite. You can’t make this up.
Credit: The good news is 77% of Americans are apparently richer than they thought. I say that because that’s how many of them will be seeing their taxes rise in 2013.
Debit: Meanwhile, the dollar continues marching towards its inevitable implosion; more likely sooner than later. Blame that on our spineless politicians — on both sides of the aisle — who continue to sell out our currency in exchange for votes.
Credit: When the dollar finally dies, and most Americans become instantly impoverished and have to start standing in long lines for the most basic necessities — assuming the goods even get to market — they may finally wake up. Unfortunately, it’ll be too late.
Debit: Sadly, many Americans will still fail to understand how we ever got to such a state of utter despair and deprivation. And I strongly suspect many others will continue to deny that an ever-expanding government was ultimately to blame.
Credit: On the bright side, the S&P 500 rose to its highest level in five years after data showed the current dismal “official” US unemployment rate in December remained essentially unchanged from the prior month at 7.8%. Really?
Debit: Keep in mind if adult labor-force participation was the same today as it was when the jobless figure peaked back in October 2009, the unemployment rate would currently be 9.7 percent. Aww, there I go again; I’m being a killjoy.
Credit: One commenter over at ZeroHedge, surf0766, nicely summed up where we’re all headed this way: “Dow 20,000 with 75 million on food stamps and 40 million on U-6 unemployment! Ain’t planned economies great!” Word up to Ben Bernanke! Woohoo!
Credit: See there? If I really try, I am capable of being a glass-half-full guy.
By the Numbers
Here’s a closer look at the US unemployment picture today — and yesterday:
39.1 Weeks the average unemployed person has been out of a job.
4.76 Millions of people looking for work last month who have been unable to find a job over the past 27 weeks or longer.
155,000 Total new jobs added to the economy last month. (Only 4.61 million more to go!)
125,000 Approximate new jobs required just to keep up with population growth.
140,000 The average number of new jobs created each month since February 2010, which marks the start of the latest economic recovery period.
1.8 Millions of new jobs added over the past 12 months.
1.1 Millions of new jobs created during September 1983 alone — the economic high point of the Ronald Reagan administration.
270,000 The number of new jobs created each month, on average, during the Reagan era’s economic recovery period (November 1982 – December 1988).
20 Millions of new jobs created between 1981 and 1988 — despite an economy that was only half as large as it is today.
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. 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:
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Top 25 Referrers for December
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
4. Business Insider
5. The Simple Dollar
6. Budgets Are Sexy
7. Money Talks News
8. The Quest for $85,000
10. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
11. Control Your Cash
12. The Sydney Morning Herald
13. Financial Uproar
14. Sweating the Big Stuff
15. Everyday Money
17. Tiger Droppings
18. Afford Anything
19. Darwin’s Money
20. Timeless Finance
21. Money Funk
22. Beating Broke
23. (tie) Money Life and More
23. (tie) Couple Money
25. Canadian Finance Blog
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! You can reach out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
From Terri, who left an urgent request in my inbox earlier this week:
Pick me! Pick me! Pick me! PICK ME!
Okay, okay, Terri … I’m picking you! (But if this ends up being the highlight of your week, we really need to talk.)
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.