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…
It’s a busy weekend for me, and I’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get right to it today. Here we go!
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From May 2009:
Does Buying Your Gas in the Morning Really Save Money? – Believe it or not, most gas stations take advantage of the laws of physics in a way that permits them to make a little extra money at your expense.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …
Money Crashers – Understanding the Value of Private Label Store Brands
Bible Money Matters – Private Label Banking: How So Many of Your Favorite Banks are Actually All the Same Bank
Careful Cents – How to Make this Year Extraordinary by Simplifying Your Goals
Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance – What Are You Worth? How to Calculate Net Worth.
Your Finances Simplified – 6 Tips for Maintaining an Excellent Credit Score While Losing 15 Pounds
Credits and Debits
Debit: The Detroit News is reporting that the Motor City is still on the verge of bankruptcy and its government leaders have no plan to fix it. It seems to me that Detroit’s politicians have been “fixing” things there for over sixty years now.
Credit: Detroit owes $14 billion, so they’re in a tough spot. Who knows, maybe the Canadians will be kind enough to take the city off Michigan’s hands and annex it. Or better yet, maybe Michigan can just give it to them — there would be less paperwork. What’s that? Yeah, I guess you’re right; those ideas are completely absurd.
Credit: Well … what about this idea: After 60 years of failed socialist policies, maybe Motown’s voters could try going in a different direction during the next election. Oops. There I go again.
Debit: Did ya see this? A new coffee house in Britain put out a call for eight baristas and was immediately swamped with over 1700 applications from aspiring servers. Applicants included unemployed senior retail managers with more than 15 years experience. Scary.
Credit: To put that in perspective, it’s now 20 times easier to get into Princeton than to land a barista job. Then again, it’s still 14-billion times easier getting hired as a barista than it is to be elected as a Republican in Detroit. Just sayin’.
Debit: Two Brits who probably didn’t bother filling out barista applications were Danny Creamer and Gina Allan. They receive $27,000 in government benefits annually and refuse to work because it would leave them worse off — so they spend their day taking care of their baby, watching television and smoking in their two-bedroom flat. Nice.
Debit: Back on this side of the pond, high gasoline prices are now forcing some car dealers to charge for fuel that is used during test drives. No, really.
Debit: Some of the highest gas prices are in California, where they climbed an average of 58 cents last month — that’s the biggest one-month increase ever. The average pump price for regular gas in Los Angeles is currently just over $4.31 per gallon. Yikes.
Credit: With that in mind, I’m sure it’s purely a coincidence that a California woman recently robbed a bank during a test drive. No, really.
Credit: Here’s another news nugget, hot off the press from the good folks at Investors Business Daily: “Top Banker Confirms Government Caused Housing Crisis.” And in other news, the same banker also confirmed that water is wet.
Debit: On a related note, as Obamacare begins to wrap its bureaucratic tentacles around America’s health industry, it’s becoming more apparent that the so-called “Affordable Care Act” is going to be anything but. The IRS is estimating that the cheapest Obamacare plan will cost $20,000 annually for a family of four.
Debit: That’s too bad because companies offering affordable private sector healthcare insurance for their part-time workers — so-called “mini-med” plans — are being forced to drop that employee perk because the Obamacare law makes them illegal. Yes, you heard me.
Debit: Meanwhile, employer fee increases imposed by Obamacare, and the emergence of federal healthcare exchanges in 2014, are now encouraging an increasing number of companies to also drop their health coverage for employees’ spouses.
Debit: Of course, if you can’t afford an Obamacare plan, and can’t find a less expensive one from a private provider — assuming there are any left in a few years — you can always decline health insurance. Er, that is, as long as you pay a
penalty tax to Uncle Sam. That’s right, a tax for something you didn’t buy. Is this a great country or what!
Debit: Don’t worry, folks — for most of you who still have jobs, the
penalty tax doesn’t begin phasing in until next year. However, by 2016, the CBO estimates that the average four-person household earning more than $37,000 annually will be getting socked with a yearly Obamacare penalty tax of roughly $12,000.
Credit: If you think that’s sick, just wait until the government-provided-healthcare rationing starts and you have to wait as long as 12 months for an MRI, or multiple years for a badly-needed hip- or knee-replacement, or open-heart surgery. I hear ya: But, Len, the price is right! If you say so.
Credit: Yes, America is still known as “the land of the free.” It’s just too bad that phrase has a much different meaning today than when Francis Scott Key first coined it almost two centuries ago.
Credit: You know, I’m beginning to think that couple on the dole in Britain is on to something. Maybe working is for suckers.
By the Numbers
Most Americans can probably tell you that Francis Scott key wrote “The Star Spangled Banner.” However, there probably aren’t as many who know these related factoids:
1931 Year “The Star Spangled Banner” became the America’s national anthem.
1814 Year the Battle of Baltimore was fought at Fort McHenry, which is where Francis Scott Key saw the famous flag that inspired him to write the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner.”
1260 Area, in square feet, of the original Star Spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry. The giant flag originally measured 30 feet by 42 feet; its current size is now 30 by 34 feet.
15 Stars and stripes on the Star Spangled Banner. The additional two stars and stripes represent the admission of Vermont and Kentucky to the Union. It’s the only official US flag ever authorized to have 15 stripes.
$405.90 Price the US government paid for the Fort McHenry flag in 1813. That’s equivalent to $4747 in current-year dollars.
0 Hours Betsy Ross spent sewing the Star Spangled Banner. That was actually done by a seamstress named Mary Pickersgill.
49 Years the Star Spangled Banner has been on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington D.C.
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Contest Winner
Congratulations to Lance, who won a $20 Starbucks gift card! He was one of three people who correctly guessed that “Survivor” was the only Top 10 television series of 2002 that I watched regularly that year — and a decade later I still faithfully watch it. (Please, don’t say it.)
Lance’s name was pulled in a random draw among all the correct guessers.
Thanks to everyone who participated. I’ll have another contest soon.
Other Useless News
Over the past two weeks Len Penzo dot Com passed a few milestones:
- 1000 Facebook “likes”
- 3000 Twitter followers
- 3500 Subscribers
- 900,000 captured spam comments (Yep. For every legitimate comment you see, I receive 55 spam comments. I know.)
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 3573 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- 10 Red Flags That May Signal You’re in Big Financial Trouble
- The Embarrassing Anatomy of a Phishing Scam
- The Unconventional Wisdom of Household Strategic Planning
- A Few Thoughts from Aunt Doris: A Cat’s a Cat and That’s That
- How to Tell If You’re Dating a Deadbeat
Each month I post some of the more curious search terms visitors entered into Google’s search engine that (according to Google Analytics) led them, somehow, some way, to Len Penzo dot Com:
- why does my husband get mad at me when he owes me money?
- my wife expects designer clothes but rations sex
- do you pick up deer poop from your lawn?
- my son goes to a private school and our tuition account was not current at the time of finals. the principal of the school pulled him out of class and brought him in his office and told him he could not take his finals. his peers saw him in the principals office and asked him why he was in the office. my son was so embarrassed because he had to explain to them why. he was humiliated and broke down crying. is there any action that can be taken against this school for this action?
- being a principal of a private school sucks
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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! You can reach out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
In case you missed it, Mike Phillips had a bone to pick with my argument in last week’s Black Coffee against raising the minimum wage:
“I know it must be tough with all the money you make to look down your nose at those who are less well off than you and have to work hard just to try and get by.”
Me, rich? By the time the taxman and the Honeybee take their weekly cuts, I’m just as poor as the next guy.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.