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Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
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…
Four Pillars - Who doesn’t enjoy staring at an accident scene every once in a while? I thought I’d start off today’s edition of Black Coffee with this article from Mr. Cheap, who confesses to a few really bonehead moves in his life. What were you thinking, Mr. Cheap? I mean really – letting an elephant stand on your chest, and moving hot rocks around a camp fire. Sheesh, what a maroon. But seriously, what do hot rocks and 2-ton elephants have to do with personal finance, you ask? Well, a lot actually. Mr. Cheap wonders whether we really need the government to protect us from ourselves – not only from being squashed by pachyderms, or burnt by flaming igneous rocks, but when it comes to consumer pitfalls such as unscrupulous merchants, predatory industries, snake-oil salesmen and other rip-off artists.
Oblivious Investor – How many of you have been questioning whether your passively managed portfolio of boring index funds are the right way to go? Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. In an article entitled Lies from the Fund Industry, Mike notes that the actively managed fund industry always fails to deliver on its promises, and yet investors hand their money over to actively managed fund companies anyway in the hopes that they’ll earn above-market returns. Check out his article to find out why that is.
Suburban Dollar – For those of you who like to keep score, Kyle keeps a monthly “Wealthy Bloggers” list based upon estimated net worth. Right now, Stephanie over at Poorer Than You is at the, um, “top” of the list with a net worth of negative $38,000. Apparently, Steph wasn’t kidding. (Easy now, that’s just a cheap joke.) I choose not to track my net worth on a monthly basis; I update it once per year as part of my annual State of the Household report. For those that are interested, here was my net worth as of January 2009. Check in again this coming January if you want to see an update.
JoeTaxpayer – With benefits enrollment time here for a lot of people, Joe gives us an update on Congressional plans regarding Flexible Savings Accounts for non-reimbursed medical bills. I have been taking advantage of FSAs for quite a while now and they have saved me some serious dough with respect to taxes. Unfortunately, it looks like Congress is looking to set a cap on on the amount you can put away pretax to be used for nonreimbursed medical expenses. Not good news. Check out Joe’s piece to find out just how low the cap may go.
Hope to Prosper – One of my absolute favorite personal finance bloggers, Bret from Bret Frohlich dot com has moved his old site to a new domain: Hope to Prosper. Bret is a very erudite and pragmatic writer and I always find his posts to be very insightful. He is definitely one of those quality-not-quantity bloggers. Please check out his new site and wish him well – I like the new look. In the meantime, I’m going to double-check my dictionary to make sure I said what I actually meant when I used the terms “erudite” and “pragmatic.”
The Canadian Finance Blog - Meanwhile, Tom has also relaunched his site and made some great changes to boot. If you haven’t stopped by, drop in and check them out. I think the site revamp looks absolutely terrific!
Mighty Bargain Hunter – Over at the Mighty Bargain Hunter, MB wonders where that extra French Hen went from last Christmas. (Don’t ask.) Actually, the focus of this spot-on-the-money post is all about re-gifting and how it will actually help the economy in the long run. Here is a snippet from that article on the economic impacts of re-gifting that hopefully whets your appetite: “When people underspend, businesses that rely on people spending will run into hard times. It’s not our duty to keep businesses afloat.” I know – but when you read the whole piece, you’ll see MB’s words in their proper context and it will all make perfect sense.
The Digerati Life - SVB reports that some card issuers are showing signs of life by reintroducing the 12 month 0% balance transfer credit card. While these cards really don’t serve much benefit for those of us who pay off our balances every month, as SVB notes, balance transfer credit cards can help people retire their debt faster assuming they’ve got the discipline to do it quickly and aggressively.
Evolution of Wealth – EOW has an addiction to McDonald’s Monopoly game. Poor sap. Check out this fun read that chronicles EOW’s quest to be the next McDonald’s millionaire with all the dirty statistics including a full accounting of all of EOW’s game pieces, money spent getting those pieces, and number of lunches and breakfasts at the Golden Arches.
Your Money Relationship – Adam had an interesting post highlighting 31 home remedies that might help you avoid a trip to the doctor and save a few bucks in the process. There are some neat suggestions for ailments such as burns, diaper rash, colds and even poison ivy. Nothing though for people suffering from ED and hemorrhoids. “Hey, Len, I didn’t know you had ED and hemorrhoids.” I don’t. Really!
Credits and Debits
Credit: That poster child for socialist centrally-planned economies, Cuba, has ordered all state enterprises to adopt “extreme measures” to cut energy usage through the end of the year in hopes of avoiding the dreaded blackouts that plagued the country following the 1991 collapse of its then-top ally, the Soviet Union. Cuban officials have been warned that the “critical” energy shortage will require the closing of non-essential factories and workshops and the shutting down of air conditioners and refrigerators not needed to preserve food and medicine. This is yet another example of the forced rationing that occurs when we hand over market control from the private sector to the government. Don’t think rationing won’t happen with government-run health care here in the US too.
Credit: It could be worse – at least Cuba has plenty of toilet paper. Oh wait, I forgot. There’s still a critical shortage of TP on the island – the Cuban government runs the toilet paper industry too.
Debit: The Telegraph reports that global gold production is in terminal decline despite record prices and furious efforts by mining companies to discover fresh sources of ore in remote spots. With global gold output falling by roughly one-million ounces a year since the start of the decade, some analysts are suggesting that the world has reached ‘peak gold.’
Debit: The flight to gold has more than a little to do with these stunning figures regarding the United States’ off-the-hook deficit spending spree: The 2009 budget year set an all-time deficit record of $1.42 trillion; that was almost three times the 2008 deficit. Meanwhile, Obama administration plans call for running a deficit of $1.5 trillion next year and continued annual deficits over the next ten years that will never drop below $739 billion. It is absurd to believe that interest rates and inflation won’t eventually be pushed higher with all of the money now being printed to accommodate our runaway fiscal deficits and large unfunded obligations for Medicare and Social Security. Sooner or later, the Chinese, who have floated the bulk of this country’s debt, will eventually force the issue.
Debit: All that debt is a big reason why the dollar hit a new 15-month low this week. The Federal Reserve reiterated they plan to keep rates low, possibly until 2011. All of this pressure on the dollar could have been avoided if the government would have bit the bullet and allowed creative destruction to heal the market, rather than this orchestrated soft landing which only prolongs everybody’s agony.
Debit: With news like that it’s no wonder London has officially dethroned New York as the world’s top financial center, according to an index released this month by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum. Officially, the US fell to number 3 in the rankings. The nations were evaluated according to more than 120 criteria, including business environments, the size of their equity and bond markets, technology infrastructure, human capital, and the ease of obtaining consumer and commercial loans. The No. 2-ranked country is Australia, thanks largely to its low sovereign debt.
Debit: Although I love our British cousins dearly, they can’t get too smug though. According to a dating website that says it only allows “beautiful people” to join, British men are among the ugliest people in the world. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger – I’m only reporting the news here. If it will make my friends in London feel any better, apparently male Russian and Polish applicants fared even worse. “You’re ugly too, Len. Are you British?” No – and I’m not Russian or Polish either.
Credit: Jobless claims fell last week to the lowest level in 10 months, although analysts do not expect the gains to be strong enough to push down the unemployment rate — now at a 26-year high of 10.2 percent — until the second quarter of 2010. Many private economists worry the nation could be in for a “jobless recovery” as the unemployment rate rises despite economic growth. If that is true, it can’t be good news for the stock market over the long run as it will become very difficult to sustain economic growth in that environment -despite what a growing number of market bulls are saying. Especially considering 70 percent of the nation’s GDP is driven by consumer spending. Never mind the fact that many people with jobs are still way in over their head with debt from the easy-credit party that went on during the aught-decade.
Letters, I Get Letters…
I only got one letter this week so, as promised, I’m featuring it by default – no matter how lame it may be. Regarding my post on Planning Dinner Menus to Save Big Money, Dominik Schmid wrote:
“Awful blog article. I’am (sic) not the type of guy who often blog arcticles (sic), but i (sic) want to know where you have your informations (sic) from?”
Dominik: When it comes to my food-related posts, I owe all my ‘informations’ to the guy on the left.
Just for writing in, Dominik will receive a $1 gift certificate to the 99-cent store in Reseda, California, and an autographed copy of my Drive-By Movie Review for Duplicity.
If you have a question you’d like to ask, or a comment you’d like to make regarding some of my irritating opinions, please feel free to drop me an e-mail at: Len@LenPenzo.com
I’ll feature the most interesting question or comment I get each week here on Black Coffee – and if you’re lucky enough to be the only question in the mail bag, I’ll highlight your letter whether it’s interesting or not.
Other Useless News
Here is a list of my top five posts over the past 90 days. If you missed one or two, be sure to check them out!
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts You May Have Missed
From April 2009:
Ten (Extremely) Out of the Box Ideas for Saving Money – I published this post on April Fool’s Day. Hopefully, most people figured out it was only a joke. I actually got one letter from somebody who said I was being irresponsible for posting it. You can’t please everybody.
This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:
- Revenge of the Canary at Fido Made Me Do It
- Mr. Monopoly Man World Tour at The Corner of Boardwalk and Mediterranean Ave.
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