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.
Sometime over the weekend I will unveil my new blog theme. I know. I’m really excited too.
I think Andrea at Nuts and Bolts Media did an excellent job updating the blog’s look and feel while staying true to my requirement for maintaining Len Penzo dot Com’s basic no-frills design.
Anyway, I’d really appreciate it if you could please give my site a bit of a test run and let me know what you think!
One of the most important features of my new blog design is its ability to work on any platform, from the largest computer monitor to a tiny smartphone — so I’d really appreciate it if some of you could do a quick beta test for me and let me know if we succeeded.
There may be a few bugs and nits to work out in the early going. If you find any while browsing around the site, please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can get them fixed as soon as possible.
Thank you so much!
Okay, off we go …
Credits and Debits
Credit: The US created 288,000 new jobs in April, bringing the unemployment rate down to 6.3%. Hey … that’s the lowest level since President Obama has been in office. Hooray!
Debit: Unfortunately, that unemployment number — like the economy we’re living in — is illusory. Consider that the labor participation rate is currently at a 35-year low — or that no one works in 20% of all American families today. That’s right. No one.
Debit: It gets worse: 41% of all working age Americans today don’t have a job. Forty-one percent. If you don’t think the implications of that are worth worrying about, then you probably enjoy paying income taxes — or you’re one of the 43% who don’t pay them at all.
Debit: Here’s the problem: Our economy is rotting from within — and the pace is rapidly accelerating. That’s because an increasing number of Americans are rejecting personal responsibility and self-reliance in favor of a massive central government that promises to provide for them from womb to tomb.
Debit: I can only assume Big Government Americans believe that they can’t effectively run their personal lives without “help” from faraway bureaucrats in Washington, DC. Liberty shmiberty. If this was 1770, King George III would be proud of them.
Debit: Of course, as the government behemoth continues to grow with each passing day, the US economy continues to wither. As a result, fewer taxpayers are available to support the nanny-state. Maybe that’s why the White House just did the unthinkable: opening the door for tolls on US Interstate highways.
Debit: The economic rot can’t — and won’t — continue indefinitely. If you don’t believe me, just ask any Venezuelan. Their collapsing socialist economy is in such a state of disarray that a major noodle maker there shut down last week because they can no longer acquire wheat.
Debit: Even the strongest plow horse will eventually collapse if it’s continually forced to pull a bigger load than it can bear. The plow horse that is the US economy may not be collapsing, but it’s seizing up; GDP growth last quarter was just 0.1%.
Credit: Despite the stagnant growth, the Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the week up 0.9%, including its first record close in 2014 on Wednesday — although by Friday it was off 0.4% from that all-time high. In the old days, markets would have tanked on that kind of news.
Credit: The S&P 500 and NASDAQ also finished the week on a positive note, up 1.0% and 1.2%, respectively. I guess there’s no need to worry when the Fed is providing the markets with hundreds of billions in fresh cash every year.
Debit: Meanwhile, the uber-wealthy are now more willing than ever to pay incredible sums for real estate. A mansion in East Hampton, New York recently fetched $145 million, and an unfurnished London apartment — yes, apartment — just sold for $247 million.
Credit: And it’s not just real estate. Rich people all over the world are increasingly willing to spend outlandish money on art too — like the anonymous bidder who paid a record $58 million last November for a sculpture by artist Jeff Koons entitled Balloon Dog (Orange).
Debit: Folks who can’t see the forest for trees will blithely dismiss those jaw-dropping sale prices for tangible assets as nothing more than the product of over-heated markets. In fact, it’s another early sign that the dollar is on its deathbed, and rapidly losing value.
Credit: More to the point, those high prices are also a reminder that waning confidence in the US dollar — and the rest of the world’s fiat currencies, which today are backed only by blind faith — ultimately affects the wealthy too.
By the Numbers
60 Parts that were welded together to form the sculpture.
10 Height, in feet, of the sculpture. (So it won’t fit in most living rooms.)
12 Length, in feet.
7 Years required to design and build the final product.
5 Unique Balloon Dog versions in existence. (Blue, Magenta, Orange, Red, Yellow.)
Source and Photo Credit: Christies
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Results
At what point would gasoline prices cause you to begin limiting your driving miles?
- $4.00/gallon (37%)
- $5.00/gallon (24%)
- $6.00/gallon or more (19%)
- $4.50/gallon (16%)
- $5.50/gallon (4%)
Almost 300 Len Penzo dot Com readers participated in this week’s survey and a strong plurality said they’d start cutting back on their driving after the price of petrol topped $4 per gallon. It’s a good thing they don’t live in California — I’ve been paying $4.29 per gallon for almost two weeks now. While that number has got my attention, to be honest, I don’t think I would start curtailing my driving until that number got closer to $5.50 or $6 per gallon. (But let’s not share that with the gasoline companies.)
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!
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.
Top 25 Referrers for April
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.
1. Business Insider
3. Rock Star Finance
5. Money Talks News
6. Budgets Are Sexy
8. Daily Finance
9. Smart Asset
11. Save Outside the Box
12. Money Crashers
13. Getting a Rich Life
14. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
15. The Apartment Prepper
16. Get Rich Slowly
17. Afford Anything
18. Deseret News
19. Quest for $85,000
20. Modest Money
21. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
22. Coin Thrill
23. Street Smart Finance
24. Boomer and Echo
25. L Bee and the Money Tree
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol’ blog! It’s much appreciated.
And Here’s Some Articles You Might Enjoy …
My Alternate Life – If You Can’t Save 5%, You Don’t Deserve to Borrow 95%
Stacking Benjamins – 5 Reasons Not to Fire Your Advisor
Beating Broke – 6 Reasons Why I Love Using Dirty Germy Cash
Our Big Fat Wallet – Things I Refuse to Pay For
Coin Thrill – How to Appreciate Your Coins More
Art of Being Cheap – Wireless Phone Review: Moto G vs. Moto X
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
I got this note from David C. regarding last week’s post that highlighted the $184 “gourmet” cheese sandwich:
“For $184, it had better be so good that I’ll want a cigarette while I bask in the afterglow …”
Me too, David — and I don’t even smoke.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-c