Black Coffee: Why Lumpy Mattresses Are the Next Big Trend in Europe

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.

I was surfing the web yesterday when I came across a famous quote that we all should keep in mind from time to time, so I thought I’d share it with all of you today:

“Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” — Mark Twain

Sage advice.

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

From July 2009:

Approximate Energy Costs of Your Home Appliances – Ever wonder about the approximate hourly or monthly electricity costs to run a fish aquarium, or a clothes dryer, or any other electrical appliance in your house? Well, you’ll find the answers in this post.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy

Chicago Financial PlannerGreed Is Good – What If Gordon Gecko was a Financial Advisor?

Money CounselorUS Retirement Catastrophe Looming?

We Only Do This OnceDo You Have Grit?

The Money PuzzleLottery Winner Blew $9.5 Million in 9 Years

Financial UproarFinancial Literacy Should be Your Own Responsibility

Credits and Debits

Debit: Last weekend, with Cyprus banks on the verge of bankruptcy, the euro zone offered a bailout “deal” to the Mediterranean island’s repositories as long as the beleaguered institutions’ savers forked over as much as 10% of their account deposits to help cover the tab. I know.

Debit: Naturally, that led Cyprus to declare an extended bank holiday until March 26. The holiday was meant to avert a bank run by panicked depositors who, rightfully, wished to withdraw their money before it could be officially stolen taxed by the politicians.

Credit: Unfortunately for the euro zone, apparently somebody forgot to consult the politicians in the Cypriot Parliament about the backroom deal because last Tuesday the lawmakers roundly rejected saving the banks at the expense of their innocent depositors.

Credit: Even so, long lines of depositors waiting to make withdrawals have become a common sight now at virtually every ATM in Cyprus. And who can blame them?

Debit: Some reports say the bankers’ intended money-grab is so egregious that officials are now looking at plundering levying a 40% fee on uninsured bank deposits from Cypriot savers. Unbelievable. So much for the rule of law, where those with less-senior claims (hello bank stock- and bond-holders) take the first hit.

Debit: Needless to say, the rumors and breathtaking financial shenanigans have taken their toll by completely undermining the public’s confidence in the Cypriot financial system — which is why Cyprus approved capital controls on Friday to maintain some semblance of order after the banks reopen.

Credit: Those Cypriot capital controls essentially signal the de facto end of the euro as a single currency. To borrow an example from the Telegraph, the controls are essentially the equivalent of telling Hawaiians they can’t transfer or spend their dollars across state lines. Good luck with that.

Debit:  The implications of the Cyprus fiasco is that creditor nations will insist that any bank rescue must be co-funded by depositors forevermore. In fact, with precedent set, New Zealand and Spain are now openly considering their own depositor levies.

Credit: With depositors vulnerable to punitive hair cuts — and banks offering negative interest rates in real terms — even economist Paul Krugman understands why savers would prefer to keep their money in a mattress.

Debit: Of course, Cyprus isn’t the only euro zone country with nearly-insolvent banks; there are plenty in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy too. How many depositors in those countries are wondering when their deposits are going to be stolen from them? Uh huh.

Debit: Which begs the question, will the panic eventually spread to the rest of the euro zone? And if it does, will the contagion expand beyond Europe to the US?

Debit: After all, US savings accounts aren’t risk free. Yes, they’re insured — but the FDIC’s $25 billion insurance fund is currently protecting a whopping $9.283 trillion in deposits. That disparity doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in the claim that our deposits are guaranteed.

Credit: Then again, maybe I’m just being paranoid. Remember, I’m a “glass half-empty” guy.

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

By the Numbers – Contest Time: Win a $20 Starbucks Gift Card!

Yep, it’s contest time again! Below you’ll find the 10 worst breakfast cereals — in terms of sugar, trans fats, and calories. Naturally, over half of the cereals that made the list are often found in my pantry. I’ve got a $20 Starbucks gift card for the person who can correctly guess which one of those 10 cereals is my favorite.

Please place your answer in my blog’s comment section; I’ll only accept one answer per email address. If multiple folks pick the correct answer, then I’ll select the winner by a random draw among everybody who got it right.

And if nobody enters or gets the correct answer, then I’ll use the card myself.

The contest closes on Friday, March 29, at 5 pm, Pacific Standard Time. Good luck!

1. Kellogg’s Honey Smacks

2. Kellogg’s Corn Pops

3. Kellogg’s Apple Jacks

4. General Mills Franken Berry

5. General Mills Trix

6. Kellogg’s Eggo Cereal Maple Syrup

7. General Mills Basic 4

8. Kellogg’s Smorz

9. Post Oreo O’s

10. Kellogg’s Fruit Loops


Other Useless News

Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 3753 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):

  1. Economic Collapse 101: What It Will Look Like, and How It May Start
  2. Economic Collapse 101: Ten Ways to Prepare for the Unknown
  3. The 6 Biggest Consumer Electronics Markups (and How to Fight Back)
  4. 9 ‘Oops’ Moments I Ultimately Paid For (One Way or Another)
  5. True Story: How a Broken Washing Machine Fixed My Finances

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:

  • how can an 11 year old girl save money?
  • how can a 15 year old girl make money?
  • how can a 17-year-old girl get lots of money?
  • how can a 40 year old single woman save money on taxes?
  • how to get access to husbands [sic] bank account

Hey, no matter how you got here, please be sure to:

1. Click 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! You can reach out to me at:

Gil Wanchai, who works for a company called High Speed Delivery Service, had some really good news for me earlier this week:

“I deemed it urgent to notify you about a compensation payment of $2,811,041.00 USD. Please contact us with your name and address to arrange delivery of your money.”

Um, yes, I’ve been expecting that. By the way, can I get all of it in 10s and 20s? Thanks.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 1


    Post Oreo Zero’s? FDIC insurance is there but what is it worth? This country is already in debt up to it’s ears (actually over it’s head). If the banks were to fail, and the FDIC made good on the failures the dollar would probably collapse!

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Well, Jose … We’re definitely in a bind. Even if only half of those $9T in deposits are truly insured, having the Fed print up $4.5 trillion to make the depositors whole would not be good for the dollar.

  2. 7

    Barbara says

    A vote from Canada for Kellogg’s Corn Pops, only because they are addictive. Following you with a great deal of angst; will riding the rails, soup kitchens and “work projects” be far behind?

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      Tony, that is the first time “great” and “Len Penzo” have ever been used in the same sentence!

      Did you know Honey Smacks used to be called “Sugar Smacks”?

  3. 20


    “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” – Mark Twain

    Mark Twain couldn’t have said that. He was born November 30, 1835 and died April 21, 1910.

    It’s probably just symbolic saying. I believe computer itself was in infancy in 1910 let alone the Inter Networking of computers.

    Generation zero was from 1600 to 1936. We have fifth generation of computers now which includes Artificial Intelligence and other not-quite-easily-understandable concepts like it.

    However, your all comments are well taken.

  4. 26


    I am certain many people will read a quote attributed to Mr. Twain and believe he said it.

    I wonder what great quotes I could put my name to and start taking credit for? Maybe “Mr Gorbachev tear down this wall”.

    Thank you for mentioning my little blog on your big blog. I will take all the free publicity I can get.

  5. 32


    I am going to guess Kellog’s Honey Smacks – since you say your a glass half empty guy :)

    I agree that we cannot falsely believe the US banks are completely risk free. We also shouldn’t panic, because doing things out of fear can sometimes get us in worse trouble.

    I do think this says a lot about how powerful the internet is. If this happened several years ago, no one would have probably heard about if the media was told not to talk about it.

    The internet makes this global world so tight nit. Hopefully, everything works out for the sake of the Cyprus citizens, and everyone else as well. The financial world could sure use some confidence these days.

  6. 33


    I’m going with the classic Fruit Loops.

    There’s so much crap going on with our financial institutions these days, I can’t help but wonder when the whole thing is going to topple and what form that’ll take.

  7. 34


    Froot Loops of course, since you like the out of normal ideas and thoughts which are great by the way!!! I would assume that you throw the box away as soon as they get home, after all out of the box = interesting.

  8. 35

    Matt says

    I can’t believe no one has said the obvious answer of trix!

    also- if I have a water bed…where should I hide all my money??

  9. 36


    Cyprus is a mess mainly due to the banks but the ECB has a great deal of responsibility too. Draghi announced last year that he would do whatever was necessary to maintain the Euro. He forgot to say as long as Germany approved. The problems in Cyprus spring from three things – an oversized financial sector, Greek banks that are close to collapse, and the ECB’s stupidity. Since the Euro is a stateless currency yet each country was writing loans almost independently, this was a car crash waiting to happen. Ultimately either there needs to be a banking union – followed by fiscal and political union – or it will all fall apart. Probably what will happen is that Cyprus (0.2% of the Eurozone GDP) will be sacrificed to encourage the others but it only takes political change in the other countries to topple them all over one by one. There are local elections in Portugal this autumn.

    I am so glad that, for all the mess in our banks (thanks to Goodwin and his bunch of clowns at RBS etc) we are not part of the Euro but we are badly affected, even if a lot of the pain in the UK is self-inflicted by a particularly stupid government.

    Interesting times, eh?

    • 37


      I agree with most of that, although I have one thing to add – the greeks and the cypriots are notorious for treating their tax bills as optional so it’s no wonder their governments are always in dire economic crisis and never have any money to spend. This has been going on for decades with only a pause when they joined the euro.

      And as for “stupid” government, I’d say they just act in the interests of their friends…

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