Black Coffee: The Boom and Bust Edition

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.

The past, present and future all walk into a bar at the same time. It was tense.


Warning: It’s all downhill from here, folks.

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

From December 2009:

One Year (Belated) Anniversary – On Wednesday, I celebrated my blog’s fifth anniversary. Here’s a look back at the post I wrote celebrating blog-birthday number one.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …

Spring – Violating the Foundational Tenets of Personal Finance for Fun and Profit

Control Your Cash – How Big Should Your Tranquility Fund Be?

Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads – One Good Reason Why You Shouldn’t Cosign a Lease with Your Lover

Budgets Are Sexy – 13 Ways to Scare Off Your Money

Escaping Dodge – Loony Logic: It’s Okay, As Long as the Payment is the Same!

Podcast News

On this week’s Stacking Benjamins podcast, Joe discusses 5 Ways to Ruin Your Holiday Season, and the roundtable panel — including yours truly — discusses my post on 9 Great Gift Ideas for People Who Have Everything.

Credits and Debits

Credit: Did you see this? Texas is pumping more oil from the ground on a monthly basis than it ever has before. In fact, over the past three years, Texas oil production has more than doubled. It’s a big reason why the Lone Star State’s economy is booming.

Debit: Speaking of booms, a couple weeks ago, financial analyst Marc Faber warned that stocks, bonds and bitcoins “are in a massive speculative bubble.” Not only that, but he says the world is headed for a global financial crisis that will be worse than the one the world endured in 2008.

Credit: It’s hard to disagree with Marc when you see a high-flying stock like Twitter. On Friday, its price climbed more than 4% and reached yet another all-time high. Put that in your Christmas stocking.

Debit: Twitter’s market cap is $26 billion (with a “B”) — despite having revenues of just $168 million (with an “M”). That’s not sustainable, folks. At all. It’s not realistic; to even justify a valuation of $8 billion, Twitter needs to average 30% growth annually — for the next 10 years. Right.

Debit: And it’s not just Twitter — Amazon shares continue to trade near all-time highs even though, as Investopedia points out: “The company hasn’t earned big profits since around 2010, lost money in 2012 and finished the latest quarter in the red.” But those are just minor details, I’m sure.

Debit: The same thing was happening during the dot-com boom: Internet companies with little or no earnings and revenue were seeing huge run-ups in their stock prices. It was a fun ride until reality finally set in, the market finally came back to earth, and the boom became a crash.

Debit: According to the US government, GDP has (supposedly) grown 18% and unemployment has (allegedly) dropped markedly since the recession ended in 2009 — but if that’s true, why is the real median income in America 4% lower over the same period? Bueller?

Debit: The rapidly-dropping unemployment rate is seemingly at odds with the President’s call for Congress to extend unemployment benefits. That is, until you hear the President’s claim that, “Unemployment insurance is one of the most effective ways there is to boost our economy.” No, really.

Credit: The President is suggesting that every dollar of government spending creates more than a dollar of economic growth. If that were true, we could all quit our jobs tomorrow and let the government just cut everyone a monthly check forever and ever.

Debit: Of course, this is the same guy who also told anyone who would listen that if you liked your healthcare plan, you could keep your healthcare plan. Period. End of story. Well, I guess you can’t blame him for trying. Some people believe in Santa Claus too.

By the Numbers

According to the Christmas Price Index, rising prices are not a figment of your imagination — they’re very real … which just goes to show that even the Christmas Price Index is a better indicator of inflation than the government’s highly-manipulated feel-good Consumer Price Index:

$27,393 The total cost for one set of each of the gifts in the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” That’s an increase of 7.7% over last year.

$199.99 The price of the only gift on the list that saw a price decline in 2013: the partridge in a pear tree. Its price tag is 2.4% lower than last year.

$7552.84 The cost for the most expensive item on the list: nine ladies dancing — that’s 20% higher than last year.

$58 The cost of the least expensive item on the list: eight maids-a-milking. No, they didn’t get a raise in 2013.

8 The number of maids-a-milking who wish they belonged to the Dancer’s Union.

$5243.37 The cost to hire ten lords-a-leaping.

10 The number of lords-a-leaping likely to point to the nine-ladies-dancing as proof that gender pay-discrimination is a myth.

Source: PNC

The Question of the Week

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Last Week’s Poll Result

Are you in favor of eliminating pennies and rounding up all prices to the nearest 5 cents?

  • No (47%)
  • Yes (46%)
  • I’m not sure. (7%)

More than 300 people weighed-in on this one last week; apparently, a wafer-thin plurality would rather put up with the hassle of having dirty, yucky, useless pennies in their spare change than give retailers the satisfaction of rounding their prices up to the nearest nickel. To each his own — but I would love it if somebody from the “Save the Pennies!” campaign would kindly explain their reasoning to me.

Other Useless News

Here are the top — and bottom — five states in terms of he average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:

1. Alaska (2.01 pages/visit)
2. District of Columbia (1.87)
3. West Virginia (1.87)
4. Oregon (1.82)
5. (tie) New Mexico (1.82)

46. Kentucky (1.59)
47. Hawaii (1.58)
48. Wyoming (1.57)
49. Louisiana (1.56)
50. Mississippi (1.54)

Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in our 49th state) — or not (ahem, Mississippi) — 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 out to me at:

Uh oh. If the long diatribe I got from Justine Mee last week is to be taken at face value, she didn’t like my post explaining how people can avoid paying a mandatory gratuity for lousy service. Here’s just a small portion:

“You should actually call that (article) ‘How to be a cheap F***!’ There is always one a$$hole with every party! I am a waitress, not your royal wench!”

I agree, Justine. And, obviously, an overpaid one at that.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.

5 comments to Black Coffee: The Boom and Bust Edition

  • Should I try and increase my cash holdings so that I can buy up bargains when the big crash happens?

    I am very worried about a possible rise in interest rates so I am trying to pay down debt as fast as possible. I have just locked in a 2.9% interest rate for 1 year so that I can pay off my debt and not worry.

    • Len Penzo

      That’s what many people (guys like Warren Buffett, for instance) are doing, Jane. You’ll have to make your own informed decisions though.

  • Who *wouldn’t* want “9 ladies dancing”?? Hubba hubba!

  • Sam

    why is the real median income in America 4% lower over the same period? Bueller?

    Because the author does not understand that median income is not average per capita income, which is the one that would have to be lower for the implied contradiction.

    If a family of 5 has 3 people working, then the median is one of the parents. If the last two kids start working, the median is one of the kids and has dropped lower (even if the parents incomes go up!). Which household is better off?

    • Len Penzo

      Yeah, that’s right. The engineer who has forgotten more math and statistics than most people — including probably you — will ever know doesn’t understand the difference between median and average. LOL

      Now back to the question: Why has real median household income dropped 4% if GDP has increased by 18% and unemployment has dropped?

      A household is a household, Sam, whether there is one person working in the family or all five. If all five family members are working in the household to make ends meet, then the nominal household income has (hopefully) increased. But there is only one household (and therefore one household income) in your example — regardless of whether 1,2,3,4 or 5 people are employed — so your answer is wrong. By the way, if multiple family members are working to keep the bills paid, then they are not better off. It used to be that most households could get by on a single income. Eventually, two-income households became the norm. For awhile, real household incomes continued to rise thanks to the added income, so one could argue there was some utility to having two working parents. Not so much now though. Now most households NEED both parents working to maintain the same standard of living. You seem to be suggesting that a single household that requires three or five people to maintain the same standard of living — or see it drop — is better off. That’s ludicrous.

      But that’s what happens when you shoot from the hip.

      Now … It could suggest, among other possibilities, that the majority of new jobs being created are low-income, or part-time. It could also mean incomes at the lower end of the scale aren’t keeping up with inflation — while those at the top end of the scale are. It could mean that true unemployment is worse than is being reported (therefore more $0 income households). Or that the GDP numbers are a sham.

      None of those answers are encouraging.

      I’d ask you to try again but, frankly, I think I’d just be wasting my time.

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