Black Coffee: Why ‘Working’ Has Suddenly Lost Its Cachet

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.

Well, I am completely swamped at work. So much so that I’m now working on the weekends. As a result, I’m bringing you another espresso edition of Black Coffee this week.

In fact, I think I hear my boss calling — not the Honeybee, my other boss — so we better get things started …

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

From December 2010:

Important Art Investment Tips for Newbies – Fine art offers a unique alternative for those who are looking to diversify their investment portfolios beyond the traditional mix of stocks, bonds, cash and precious metals. In this guest post, a long-time art dealer offers up his best advice for investors looking to venture into the world of fine art.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …

Prairie EcoThrifter – Do You Equate Money with Affection?

Money Beagle   – You Have to Have Both Oars in the Water

Escaping Dodge – Why a Marriage Manifesto Is Better Than a Prenup

The Chicago Financial Planner Do You Have a Back-Up Financial Plan?

Stacking Benjamins – Planning Retirement? Use This Simple Equation.

Credits and Debits

Debit: Jobs are precious right now. Last month, the number of Americans who had a job or were actively looking for employment, fell to a 35-year low. That’s especially disconcerting because the number of massive federal entitlement programs, and government bureaucrats now micromanaging our lives, is at an all-time high.

Debit: With that in mind, it’s really no wonder that nearly 1 in 3 Americans — more than 100 million people — are now receiving government welfare in the form of food aid. That’s more than the number of full-time employees working in the private sector.

Credit: Once the number of people in the cart are greater than the number who are actually pulling it, then what? Hey, I’m just askin’.

Debt: This much is certain about the remaining cart pullers: They’re once again spending, on average, an unhealthy portion of their income on the mortgage; 40% to be exact. Ideally, that number should be no more than 30% — but preferably less. The average house payment is now $1287.

Debit: In fact, disposable personal income is growing at the slowest pace since such records began in 1959. Okay, you got me. It was slower one other time — in 2009.

Credit: Even so, since Barack Obama became president in 2009, stocks are up 108%. The nearly five-year stock market rally now exceeds the length of the average bull market by almost an entire year. Strange times indeed.

Debit: Of course, stocks and home prices have been artificially turbo-charged by the Fed’s quantitative easing (QE) and near-zero-interest rates policies, which have completely distorted those markets. Heck, even Ben Bernanke admits that.

Debit: Unfortunately, QE is doing more harm than good. In fact, the Fed’s relentless money printing campaign is hastening the demise of the US dollar. Scoff all you want. The day is coming, folks.

Debit: With the US dollar — not to mention the entire world financial system — getting closer to their final day of reckoning, one accomplice has decided to clear his conscience. Last week a former Fed employee apologized to America in the Wall Street Journal, calling QE “the greatest backdoor Wall St. bailout of all time.”

Debit: As for Obamacare, somehow, things just keep getting worse: Fewer than 79,391 people have enrolled on the state websites — and just 27,000 have enrolled on the federal exchange. Meanwhile more than 5 million people have had their individual insurance canceled. Forward!

Debit: That hasn’t stopped the lady who promised we’d have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California), from claiming that five times as many people enrolled. It’s yet another of her shameless attempts to mislead the public. And no, she’s not apologizing either.

Credit: Thankfully, there are a few Obamacare advocates who are willing to occasionally take off their rose-colored glasses. Harvard professor David Cutler, one of the train wreck’s architects, reluctantly admitted this week that things are so bad that we could be looking at the beginning of a healthcare death spiral.

Credit: Speaking of death spirals, the federal Obamacare exchange has been spewing almost-comical garbled messages while America’s “best and brightest” continue to try and fix things by the end of the month — on the fly. I know. Believe me. I know.

Debit: Despite all of this, Kathleen Sebelius, the government bureaucrat in charge of Obamacare’s execution — er, in a good way — continues to insist that, “the marketplace is working.” If that’s her definition of “working,” well … things are even worse than I thought.

(The Best of) By the Numbers

How many of you remember (or would like to forget) the top 10 movies from 1996?

1. Independence Day (US domestic gross: $306 million)

2. Twister ($242 million)

3. Mission Impossible ($181 million)

4. Jerry Maguire ($154 million)

5. Ransom ($136 million)

6. 101 Dalmatians ($136 million)

7. The Rock ($134 million)

8. The Nutty Professor ($129 million)

9. The Bird Cage ($124 million)

10. A Time to Kill ($109 million)

Source: The Movie Times

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Last Week’s Poll Result

Are you afraid of flying?

  • No (84%)
  • Yes (16%)

With more than 200 people responding, it looks like roughly 1 in 6 Len Penzo dot Com readers aren’t comfortable with traveling by air. According to Psych Central, among the total population, 30% claim to be apprehensive about flying, although the number of people who have a true white-knuckle fear is less common; somewhere between 2% and 10%. Another tidbit: flying phobias are more common in females.

Other Useless News

Here are the top — and bottom — five 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 (3.15 pages/visit)
2. Saskatchewan   (2.89)
3. Manitoba   (2.57)
4. Alberta (2.38)
5. Newfoundland   (2.32)

9. Nova Scotia (1.94)
10. British Columbia Ontario (1.91)
11.  Quebec (1.78)
12. Northwest Territories (1.20)
13. Nunavut (1.00)

Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like the crazy canucks on Prince Edward Island, eh) — or not (you hosers living on the frozen Nunavut tundra) — 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! You can reach me at:

Last week, Cammie sent me a very nice note that included this burning question:

Are you watching the X Factor this season?”

Yes. Unfortunately.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Truthfully, Lance. I consider myself blessed to still have one of rapidly disappearing quality, high-paying jobs out there — so I really can’t complain.

  1. 11


    Hey Len,

    Thanks so much for the shout out in this week’s edition of Black Coffee, I super appreciate it!

    I gotta say that I absolutely LOVE your Debit/Credit section. It’s filled with great stats, insight and brilliant humor. I know what it takes to write what I consider to be a quality post and I’m blown away at what you produce while working a full-time (and then some) job.

    I’m glad you’ve figured out how to make that happen because I really love your site.


  2. 13

    Karen Kinnane says

    Dear Len, or readers, Just when did “working full time” go from 40 hours per week to 30? Somehow I missed the announcement the day it was decreed that “full time work” consisted of 30 hours. That’s only six hours per day. What happened? All my fifty-one years of working for a paycheck a full time job was forty hours.

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      Not sure, Karen. I do know Obamacare exempts businesses from its regulations if employees work less than 30 hours per week.

  3. 15

    Marcia says

    I got married in 1996. Ah, the memories.

    As far as food aid goes…well, there are massive amounts of companies who base their business plan on paying people a certain amount and keeping their hours low enough that they don’t have to pay benefits. So, that means people are eligible for food stamps.

    When I was just a teen, working in the grocery industry, it was moving in that direction. They were hiring younger people and limiting them to hours that would not make them eligible for benefits.

    Heck a number of our own military people get food stamps.

    • 16

      Len Penzo says

      Hey … We’ve got a couple things in common, Marcia! I got married in 1996. I also worked in the grocery industry as a teenager.

      • 17

        Marcia says

        Well, if you are an engineer, have two boys, were ever in the Navy, and live in So Cal, then I’ll think you are almost my twin. 😉

  4. 18

    Michael in SoCal says

    I gotta say – reading your blog is at times a very disheartening experience. But I ain’t shooting the messenger here – you’re doing a great service letting the people know that things really are as rosy as they seem (which ain’t rosy at all!). Keep it up Len.

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