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’m working this weekend. Again. So it’s time for another espresso edition of Black Coffee.
So let’s get right to it …
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From November 2010:
Come On, People! Quit Maligning the Plastic Bag! – Can anybody tell me why plastic shopping bags continue to get such a bad rap? Why is it still chic to pillory them?
Credits and Debits
Debit: January 1 was the first day that Obamacare enrollees could officially begin using their health care insurance. In theory. Unfortunately, 4.2 million fewer people have healthcare coverage in 2014 because of the law. So far. (Just wait until the employer mandate kicks in.) Happy New Year!
Debit: Meanwhile, workers at one auto dealership are now painfully aware of the onerous redistributive effects of Obamacare. According to NBC News, 21 of 26 workers saw their deductibles rise from $1,125 to $3,000, while maximum out-of-pocket costs jumped from $2,250 to $6,350.
Debit: And those affected dealership employees with families got hit even harder by the new law: their deductibles increased to $6,000 with an out-of-pocket maximum of $12,700. It’s too bad Obamacare subsidies reward many folks who make poor choices while penalizing responsible people.
Debit: Oh … I almost forgot. Now that 2014 is here, there are a host of new Obamacare taxes and fees we all get to deal with, including a new tax on our healthcare plan premiums. As if the higher premiums and deductibles weren’t enough punishment.
Credit: How about some good news? It was a banner year for the stock market in 2013. The NASDAQ was up more than 38%, while the S&P and Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 29.6% and 26.5% respectively. Hooray! Wall Street owes Ben Bernanke a big “thank you” for juicing the returns this year.
Debit: Too bad the Fed’s continuing near-zero interest rate policy came at the expense of savers on Main Street who got socked with another year of real negative returns.
Debit: Of course, past performance is never a guarantee of future results. One technical analyst is predicting the Dow will rise another 4% — before dropping more than 70% over the next two years, thereby ending “the bubble of all bubbles.” I agree on the magnitude of the eventual drop — but it’s the timing that’s tricky.
Debit: Most precious metal speculators who were betting on a 12th consecutive year of price gains for gold got the financial equivalent of a punch in the nose in 2013: for the year, gold was off 28.2% and silver was down 35.9%. Ouch.
Credit: Then again, there are two sides to every coin: So-called “gold bugs” who are concerned about insuring their excess wealth from currency devaluation or outright collapse welcomed the price drop, which has led to the biggest precious metals sale in 32 years.
Credit: In fact, the sale was so big, demand for gold coins soared by 63% in 2013. So it’s not just the world’s central banks that have been eagerly gobbling up the yellow metal — even though Ben Bernanke will tell you with a straight face that gold isn’t money. I know.
Debit: The year also ended with more Americans collecting disability benefits than ever before; 10,988,269 to be exact. That was the 202nd consecutive month of disability roll increases. If you’re thinking that means that dubious streak must have started in February 1997, you’d be right.
Debit: In case you’re wondering, the average monthly disability benefit is now $1146.43. That’s also a record. Too bad it wasn’t enough to stop pending home sales from seeing its worst year-over-year drop since April 2011.
Debit: And finally … Chicago’s woefully underfunded pension system for firefighters, teachers, police, and transit workers is on the verge of eviscerating the city’s budget. The teacher’s system alone is facing a $1 billion deficit.
Credit: Rest assured, the “free lunch” mentality that has led to these types of fiscal issues at the local, national and international level is going to end. One way or another. The only question is when.
By the Numbers
The US wasn’t the only country whose stock market had a stellar year. Here is the year-to-date performance for other countries:
14.43% Great Britain
107.69% Dubai UAE
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Results
Do you think 2014 will be better or worse for you than 2013?
- Better (52%)
- About the same. (29%)
- Worse (19%)
More than 200 Len Penzo dot Com readers participated in this week’s survey, more than half of you expect 2014 to be better than last year — at least on a personal level. Being a glass-half-empty guy, I’m expecting things to be worse. Hey, if I set the bar low, I’ve got nowhere to go but up!
Other Useless News
Programming note: Unlike most blogs, I’m always open for the weekend here at Len Penzo dot Com. There’s a fresh new article waiting for you every Saturday afternoon. At least there should be. If not, somebody call 9-1-1.
Hey! If you happen to enjoy what you’re reading — or not — 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!
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And last, but not least…
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Top 25 Referrers for December
It’s the first weekend of the month, which means it’s time once again to thank the top 25 referring websites to Len Penzo dot Com.
3. The Simple Dollar
4. Money Talks News
6. Business Insider
7. Deseret News
9. Budgets Are Sexy
12. Mr. Money Mustache
13. Quest for $85,000
14. Afford Anything
15. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
16. Financial Uproar
17. Save Outside the Box
18. Plutus Awards
19. Christian Science Monitor
20. Boomer and Echo
21. Clark Howard
22. Money Crashers
23. Money Funk
24. Escaping Dodge
25. Control Your Cash
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated.
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
Here is a small portion of a long rambling diatribe that Your [sic] An Idiot left in the comment section of last week’s edition of Black Coffee (since deleted):
“Every overly opinionated idiot with enough sense to turn on a computer has the right to publish any amount of worthless, meaningless, biased, thoughtless and useless words that they have time to salvage from the biological landfill they call their brain.”
I see what you mean.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.