Black Coffee: Why I Won't Be Going Out for Sushi and Drinks This Weekend

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.

For those of you here in America who will be enjoying your barbecues and family gatherings over the long weekend, please don’t forget to take a minute to remember the brave men and women who died while serving in the US Armed Forces. It’s the very least we can do.

OK, onward and upward.

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

From February 2010:

Why the Self-Employed Are Smarter than You – I wish I could say I wrote this excellent piece on the advantages of working for yourself, but I didn’t.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy

Financial UproarA Message to 2013 Graduates

Free Money MinuteDon’t Waste Your Life Away

Darwin’s FinanceWhy the Rich Keep Getting Richer

Out of Your RutHow Much Is Your Job Costing You?

Cash Money LifeWould You Take a 97-Month Car Loan?

Credits and Debits

Debit: Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we try to deceive. Last week, 29 New Jersey bars and restaurants were caught boosting profits by using premium liquor bottles filled with cheap booze, water, or worse; one bar even used a mixture of rubbing alcohol and caramel coloring.

Debit: Sadly, the cozenage isn’t limited to the adult beverage industry. According to Forbes, “A recent study found 39% of Big Apple restaurants and retail fish sellers committed fraud, as did 100% of the 16 sushi restaurants tested. Boston and LA fared even worse, with fake fish rates of 48% and 55% respectively.”

Credit: Meanwhile, there are plenty of folks who are casting a wary eye at those who continue to proclaim the US economy is “rolling ahead” and that things have “improved quite a lot.” Maybe so, but if you ask me, I see plenty of conflicting signals that are frustratingly confusing.

Debit: For his part, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said this week that the economy is recovering. Still how well can it be, considering he also said that it wouldn’t be prudent for the Fed to stop its $85 billion-per-month money printing campaign yet.

Credit: Then there’s the housing market, which seems to be experiencing a big rebound. After all, the median price of a new home last month was $271,600 which is an all-time high; it’s also 13.1% higher than it was a year ago.

Debit: Unfortunately, despite the rising prices, new home sales remain at historically low levels. In all, just 454,000 new homes were sold in April; that’s a paltry figure when compared to a monthly high of 1.4 million new home sales during the summer of 2005.

Debit: More disturbing, the average price of a new home in the US increased by 15.4% to another all-time record of $330,800 — despite average real disposable income per capita being unchanged from levels prior to the last housing market crash.  Uh oh.

Debit: With the labor participation rate at its lowest level since 1979, and 1 in 3 Americans currently on some form of government assistance, would US home prices be this high without the Fed buying $40 billion in mortgage backed securities every month?

Debit: It makes you wonder, especially when you consider that student loan delinquencies are at all-time highs because a significant number of US college graduates can’t find jobs. That doesn’t seem to jive with an economy that is supposedly on a roll — or even markedly improved.

Debit: Something sure isn’t adding up. Of course, when it comes to the government, the numbers rarely do. For example, since 2009, the Energy Department has spent $26 billion to create 2,298 permanent “green energy” jobs. For those of you counting at home, that’s $11.45 million per job. I know.

Credit: Remember, this is the same government that continues to claim Obamacare will eventually provide healthcare to 30 million additional people while simultaneously lowering costs and maintaining quality of service. That’s pure hokum.

Debit: While there are plenty of folks who will never admit the government’s pie-in-the-sky healthcare claims have been absurd from the start, more and more unions who played a big part in getting Obamacare passed are finally realizing the err of their ways. I guess their blinders are finally falling off.

Debit: I just hope the government wonks in charge of overseeing Obamacare don’t follow in the footsteps of the trustees who manage Detroit’s two public pension funds that are currently underfunded by $600 million; this week they raided the funds to attend an all-expenses paid vacation conference in Hawaii.

Credit: When you’ve got “trustees” like that, I guess it’s really no wonder why the pension funds they administer are more than a half-billion bucks in the red. Hey … I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

Credit: Who knows; perhaps those trustees never heard of webinars, which can be done from the comfort of a home office. Webinars also avoid the distractions that come with the Hawaiian surf, sand, luaus and hula girls.

Debit: By the way, the total bill for the trustees’ Hawaii trip came to $22,000, which just goes to show that, apparently, you really can get blood from a turnip. Well, at least you can in Detroit.

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Last week’s poll results:

Are you feeling the effects of inflation on your pocketbook?

  • Yes (72%)
  • No (28%)

By the Numbers

According to Men’s Health, here’s a list of America’s drunkest cities. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that none of them are in New Jersey.

1. Fresno, California (Liver disease deaths: ranked 2nd; DUI crash deaths: ranked 16th.)

2. Reno (3rd; 54th)

3. Billings, Montana (16th; 4th)

4. Riverside, California (4th; 20th)

5. Austin (46th; 23rd)

6. St. Louis (43rd; 6th)

7. San Antonio (22nd; 17th)

8. Lubbock, Texas (36th; 1st)

9. Tucson (24th; 9th)

10. Bakersfield, California (1st; 40th)

Source: Men’s Health

Other Useless News

Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 3957 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):

  1. I Finally Broke Down and Bought a New Car. Yes, New.
  2. How to Get the Best Travel Deal from Price Comparison Websites
  3. More Reasons Why I Decided to Buy a New Car Instead of a Used One
  4. My 13-Year-Old Daughter Shares Her Financial Fears
  5. Four Good Reasons Why Some Quarters Are Painted Red

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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

Edward wrote in to share an epiphany he recently had:

“I just ditched my cable. Found myself watching ‘Duck Dynasty’ in fascination and realized this thing has to go!”

Duck what?

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

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Question of the Week:

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.