Black Coffee: If You’ve Got a Hairy Back, Have I Got a Deal for You!

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. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…

I had a blast at last week’s Financial Blogger Conference and I am already looking forward to next year’s edition. I learned a lot about the business of blogging and it was a pleasure meeting so many bloggers and freelance writers that I have got to know over the past few years.

My only regret was not being able to meet and talk with everyone who was there — there just wasn’t enough time. Speaking of time, I need to get right to it because I’ll soon be off to my parents’ house to celebrate some family birthdays — including my mom, who will be 71 this week!

Okay, off we go.

Plutus Awards

Well, despite my best effort to stuff the ballot boxes with illegal and illicit votes, it wasn’t enough to pull out victory in this year’s edition of the Plutus Awards. Thankfully, I lost out to two very worthy and deserving bloggers in the two categories for which I was nominated. So congratulations are in order to J Money at Budgets are Sexy, who won the Most Humorous Blog award, and to Trent from the always terrific money blog The Simple Dollar, who won the Plutus Award for the Best Personal Finance Blog by a Single Author.

Kudos to both of you fine gentlemen — your awards are definitely well deserved!

Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week

Personal Finance FirewallThe Big Ugly Truth About Daily Deal Sites. Says Jesse: “Every day I would open my inbox to find a new deal, ‘Get Your Back Waxed for 40% Less!’, and that’s when it hit me … do I really need that junk?” Heh. Ah yes, the dreaded rug back. Also known as a cave coat. Chew-backa. Hairy Bellafonte. The derisive list goes on and on. Thankfully, Jesse, you and I have been spared such a curse, but there are lots of unfortunate folks out there who would kill for that 40-percent-off deal. (Right now, I suppose they’d probably kill me too.)

Canadian Finance Blog This is Why You’re Screwed. No, this isn’t an article about hairy backs. But it is a wake-up call from Nelson to anyone who feels comfortable putting in their 40 hours per week, and then simply going home and kicking off their shoes for the rest of the day.

Oblivious InvestorWhy Use Index Funds? (It’s All About Costs.) I have a lot of admiration for Mike. He has built a huge following on the Internet because, day in and day out, he takes a very complex subject like investing and explains it so simply that even a 5th grader can understand it. Heck, even I feel like I could be a money manager for Smith Barney after reading one of Mike’s articles. (And if that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.)

Afford Anything Stop Crying That There Are No Jobs. Create One. Speaking of excellent writers, this article by Paula is a terrific example of why she was presented with her first Plutus Award for the Best New Personal Finance Blog at Fincon last week. And yes, folks, I know; that’s one more Plutus Award than I’ve ever won.

MonevatorThe Genius Speech. The passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs justifiably sent shock waves across the world. The Investor was kind enough to include the transcript of his inspiring — and very personal — commencement address to Stanford University.

And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…

Debt Free AdventureHow to be Content with What You Have

Bible Money Matters – Do You Really NEED It? Or Just Want It?

Ironclad FinancesWhat About Debt?

Your Finances SimplifiedHow  I Saved My Family  $270,000!

Yes I Am Cheap – Saving Money as a College Student

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

From September 2009:

Notes from a Car Mechanic: 6 Money Saving Tips – Nina’s not the only family member who has written a guest post for me here at Len Penzo dot Com. A couple years ago my father-in-law, Tony, took a stab at writing an article for me too.

Credits and Debits

Debit: According to the governor of the Bank of England, the world is facing the worst financial crisis in history.

Debit: I don’t know if that’s true or not, but one thing is certain: the housing bust is officially the worst since the Great Depression. Census figures found that the home ownership rate fell to 65.1 percent in 2010, making it the biggest decennial drop in over 70 years.

Debit: Meanwhile, the official government unemployment rate remained steady at 9.1 percent after the economy “created” 103,000 new jobs in September.

Debit: Just to be clear, in their tabulation of “created” jobs, the government included the return of 45,000 striking Verizon workers from the picket lines   — even though those workers never lost their jobs in the first place. I know.

Debit: Am I the only one still trying to figure out the point to this whole “Occupy” movement, aside from the ubiquitous complaints about “corporate greed” (whatever that is)? I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad — even the protesters can’t explain what they’re fighting for.

Credit: Heck, I say forget grousing about private corporations; the biggest and greediest “corporation” of all is the U.S. Government. Where’s Bono when we need him?

Debit: You know, depending on where you live, state and local governments can be pretty greedy too. Just ask the folks living in Cook County, Illinois. Many are now complaining about rising property taxes, some of which have gone up 27 percent this year alone.

Credit: Keep in mind that, unlike the government, corporations don’t have the power to levy onerous taxes, put you in jail, or forcibly take away your private property. They also can’t tell you what kind of light bulbs you can and cannot buy.

Credit: Most importantly, the government cannot create wealth — although the “Occupy” protesters seem to think so. In fact, only private sector entrepreneurs and “greedy” corporations can.

Debit: Although they haven’t figured it out yet, most of the “Occupy” protesters are actually clamoring for less personal liberty and a bigger government. Why?

Debit: Looking at their demographics, I suspect most of the “Occupy” protesters don’t pay property taxes — or any other taxes for that matter. Maybe the bottom line is they’re looking to get something for nothing. Of course, I guess that would make them greedy too. Hey, I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.

Credit: On the bright side, the weak economy does have its benefits: over the past five years, drunken driving incidents have dropped 30 percent, and in 2010 they were at their lowest rate in almost 20 years. Apparently, more people are bypassing the bars and drinking at home.

Credit: Finally, did you see this? Upon reaching its 12th birthday, a two-faced cat was awarded a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the longest-surviving cat with that odd affliction. I’m not really surprised though. After all, the cat has 18 lives.

The Question of the Week

How much money do you think you'll need to retire comfortably?

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By the Numbers

A closer look at the latest jobless figures from Friday’s US Labor Department report, via this article at WLS 890AM:

103,000 Number of new jobs created by the economy in September.

165,000 Number of new jobs currently required to be created each month just to keep the unemployment rate from climbing any higher. (Mainly because the population keeps growing.)

14 million People that are currently actively seeking employment but can’t find it.

25 million Actual number of folks who have either quit looking for work or are only working part-time — these people are not included as part of the official unemployment rate.

3 Consecutive months the official government unemployment rate has remained at 9.1 percent.

16.5 Percentage of all people wanting full-time employment, but have either quit looking or are only working part-time.

40.5 Average number of weeks it now takes the unemployed to find their next job.

6.6 million Jobs lost since the start of the so-called Great Recession in December 2007.

Other Useless News

I’ve eaten rattlesnake before. Believe it or not, it tastes a lot like chicken – but with a lot more bones. (Do with that information what you will.)

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. :-)

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!

Last week, Drew wrote in to remind me that: “This is the fourth week in a row I’ve written a note to you and I haven’t made it into Black Coffee yet. How many letters do you get each week anyway?”
This week: just one.

I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.


  1. 1


    I guess I’m the only one with a boring enough life to read your blog this beautiful Saturday-at least here in the South. Or maybe I hit your URL the minute after you posted. Cool, I love being first.

    Tell your Mom happy birthday. She must be a great lady.

    It’ interesting that Bank of America is being pilloried for it’s fee of 5 bucks a month for the use of a debit card.

    I thought transparency was the reason for all the new regulation. What can be more transparent than telling your customer “This service will cost you $5.” I would rather know the cost and pay for services I use than pay for services I don’t need by hidden expenses.

    And we can choose another bank if we’d like. I don’t get that choice when it comes to paying taxes…

    Have a great birthday celebration.

    • 2


      A $3 a month paper statement fee (not from BAC) was enough to make me switch banks. I neither use my ATM card as a debit card nor bank with BAC, but if I did, $5 would have me switching.

      As for “And we can choose another bank if we’d like. I don’t get that choice when it comes to paying taxes…,” this reminded me of a discussion I had not too long ago.

      We can control our tax rates by deciding where we live (property and sales taxes), making certain investment choices, choosing certain industries, and also deciding how much effort we are willing to put into minimizing our tax bill. This actually plays into some “how is the mind wired” pop pysch analysis.

      I recall that when we were looking at moving to Europe we considered both the higher tax rates and the benefits derived from that (primarily health care and stronger safety nets) when doing the whole quality of life analysis. But the upshot is that we were deciding whether or not accept an increase in taxes.

      • 3


        M, my point was you have the choice to switch banks. (I don’t pay any bank fees as I keep my balances above the minimum required.

        Changing banks is also much simpler than moving your home to change property tax rate. Just selling your home right now is like winning the lottery.

        And as to income tax, people do change behaviors as tax rate change, but try stiffing the government out of their share, and see what happens…

  2. 4


    I’d rather not pay for any bank fees personally. It’s a rip-off. Especially when there are plenty of banks out there that will suit my needs perfectly without paying anything.

    Happy birthday to your mom! Also, your line-up looks great…you’re just missing one awesome blog…(aka, :)

  3. 7


    Was awesome chillin’ with you good sir, as always :) As soon as I get my a$$ to L.A. you better believe we’ll be hanging out more! Gonna try and get out there within the year, fingers crossed. You’re a good guy, I don’t care what they say about you 😉

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