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…
Soon after the news broke, Twitter users began listing things with a shelf life longer than her marriage to basketball star Kris Humphries. You know, stuff like:
- an iPhone battery
- the time it takes to make a bowl of Easy Mac
- the movie Titanic
- a yellow traffic light
- her engagement
- a Justin Bieber chest hair
- Lebron James’ forehead
I guess you can probably add this edition of Black Coffee to the mix too.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Control Your Cash – The October Retard of the Month, Assuming She Exists. Greg tells me I once again lost out on this coveted award only because of a technicality. That opened the door for Kelli Space, a college grad who racked up $200,000 in student loan debt. That is, assuming her strange story is really true. Then again, if it is, her experience is a perfect example of why an expensive college education is probably no longer worth the time and money for most people.
Afford Anything – Find a Niche. Conquer It. Create Something Amazing. Nope. You don’t have to go to college to be a successful entrepreneur. Don’t believe me? Look at Kim Kardashian. Says Paula: “With the exception of selling your sperm or giving birth for money, (many) jobs could be done by a middle school student.” Uh huh. I know what you’re all thinking, but don’t worry; I’m not saying another word, folks.
Good Financial Cents – Durbin’s Amendment May Change How You Use Banks. Passed last month, the Durbin Amendment limits how much banks can charge merchants that process debit card transactions. Jeff adeptly shows why government meddling in the free market rarely, if ever, works. In this case, it will simply end up more effectively transferring those costs from the merchants to the consumers.
Money Help for Christians – 3 Reasons Why We Kissed Budgeting Goodbye. Never mind that this is the very same Craig Ford who published The Secret to a Successful Budget. After a decade or so of successfully employing them, Craig has finally had it with budgets. He’s finished, I tell you! Done! Well, that is until June 2012, when he plans on keeping a budget again. I know. (In other news: Craig will be announcing his intent to run for public office any day now.)
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…
The Simple Dollar – How Important Is it to Start Early?
Darwin’s Money – When Faith Kills – Life, Death and Finance
Lazy Man and Money – Determining Your Retirement Expenses
Bible Money Matters – 100 Frugal Gifts You Can Give This Christmas
Fiscal Fizzle – 8 Critical Mistakes in Envelope Budgeting
Millionaire Nurse Blog – Aging: Financial Armageddon. Does It Have to Be?
Everyday Tips and Thoughts – Taking Risks And Living With Decisions
Punch Debt in the Face – The Most Comprehensive Guide on “How to be Debt Free” Ever Written.
Personal Finance By the Book – Three Ways to Minimize Your Vehicle Depreciation Expenses
Financial Highway – Dollar Matters: Credit and Debt
Green Panda Tree House – Decisions, Decisions: Making a Big Purchase
The Penny Hoarder – Get Paid $50 or More to Write a Guest Post
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From July 2010:
Your Big Fat Expensive Wedding: Stupid Is as Stupid Does – At the time I wrote this, I thought Chelsea Clinton’s wedding was a perfect example of matrimonial excess. Then came Kim. Anyway, here’s how my very modest wedding to the Honeybee stacked up financially to Chelsea’s.
The Question of the Week
Credits and Debits
Credit: Good news: The United States ended its 2011 fiscal year on a high note. Total revenue rose 6.5 percent, resulting in $2.3 trillion being deposited into the US Treasury. Hooray!
Debit: Too bad the federal government decided to continue its unabated expansion, charging $3.6 trillion more to the national credit card this year. That’s a 4.2 percent increase over last year’s crazy spending spree.
Debit: That means the taxpayers are stuck with a third consecutive annual budget deficit of more than $1 trillion. Meanwhile, our National Debt — essentially our outstanding credit card bill — is poised to cross the $15 trillion mark any day now. I know.
Debit: Oops. I almost forgot. We’re also on the hook for $100 trillion or so in unfunded obligations like Social Security and Medicaid. That’s really scary when you consider our entire annual US GDP — essentially our nation’s collective annual income — is “only” $15 trillion.
Credit: You would think that $2.3 trillion would be enough to handle all the nation’s constitutional duties — and it is.
Credit: Consider that the United States spent $712 billion on national defense in 2011. Regardless of whether or not you believe defense expenditures are excessive, that still leaves $1.6 trillion annually to fully fund everything else our Founding Fathers intended the federal government to handle.
Debit: The trouble is, the federal government’s biggest expense isn’t defense, which it is constitutionally mandated to provide; entitlements are, but they’re not authorized by the Constitution.
Debit: For example, the US expended $1.4 trillion in 2010 on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — and another $496 billion spent on other safety net programs.
Credit: Keep in mind for the first 160 years of the United States’ existence, when it rose to become the wealthiest nation on earth, none of those entitlement programs were around — and the size of the federal government was just a tiny fraction of the behemoth it is today.
Debit: Like it or not, the costs of supporting our bloated federal government and all of its entitlement programs are now eroding our standard of living. Even worse, we are, tragically, robbing from future generations and saddling them with unconscionable levels of debt, much of it for benefits they will never receive. Talk about greed.
Debit: Despite this fact, the OWS protesters continue to battle, literally, for even bigger government and more entitlement programs under the guise of “economic justice.”
Debit: Try telling that to the 21 New York City cafe workers who were laid off this week because the ongoing demonstration decimated their employer’s business.
Credit: I guess it’s not all bad here in America. Last week a Pittsburgh man was arrested after stealing a Reuben sandwich. Police caught the suspect shortly after he tried to make his getaway in a forklift. A forklift. I love it when a criminal carefully plans a caper down to the last little detail.
By the Numbers
Here is how the US government spent its money in 2010. The problem is, most of the federal expenditures continue to be spent on duties not authorized by the United States Constitution; duties not specifically assigned to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the the individual states.
21% Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
20% Social Security.
20% National defense.
14% Other social safety nets.
7% Benefits for federal retirees and veterans.
6% Interest on the debt.
3% Transportation infrastructure.
2% Scientific and medical research.
1% International aid not related to security.
3% Everything else.
(Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
Other Useless News – It’s Contest Time!
GoBankingRates is sponsoring a contest right here at Len Penzo dot Com where one lucky winner will receive a six-month membership to CreditScoreComplete, a 3-in-1 credit monitoring solution.
Your membership will include:
– 3-bureau credit monitoring with alerts (TransUnion ®, Equifax ® and Experian ®)
– A detailed analysis of your credit history
– Details on who has viewed your credit score
– Access to all three of your credit scores
I had a similar service for a couple years provided to me free of charge by my employer, and let me tell you, it was terrific. One of the best things about it was the ability to check my credit score whenever I wanted. I loved it and I think you will too.
Unbelievably, as of press time, only one person has entered the contest. Yes, just one. I kind of feel like the kid who sent out invitations to a birthday party and nobody showed up!
Anyway, you have pretty good odds if you decide to take the plunge!
To enter the contest: Click this link!
Oh, yeah; I almost forgot! And 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 October
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. MSN: Smart Spending
2. The Simple Dollar
3. Money Talks News
5. Oblivious Investor
7. Time Magazine: Moneyland
10. Afford Anything
12. Lazy Man and Money
13. Stewardship of Life
14. Money Help for Christians
16. Budgeting In the Fun Stuff
17. Money Beagle
18. Green Panda Tree House
19. Matt About Money
20. Out of Debt Again
21. Budgets Are Sexy
22. Online Investing AI
23. Control Your Cash
24. Fabulously Broke in the City
25. (tie) Frugal Under 40
25. (tie) First Gen American
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!
For some reason or other, The Man from Snark felt the need to write in and ask me this: “Are you lactose intolerant?”
Never mind that. Can you tell me about life in “Snark”? Isn’t that near Liechtenstein? (I think I saw it featured on an episode of House Hunters International once.)
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: Glenn Francis