Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #22

It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe

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…

The Centsible Life – I often like popping in to Kelly’s site for lots of great money saving ideas. This week she gave a quick tutorial on how to set up a sale-mail account. What’s sale mail? Well, suffice to say its a mail account that alerts you to sales at your favorite stores. Kelly says it should keep more money in your pocket by decreasing impulse buys, and letting you look for relevant discounts and sales. While that’s all well and good, Kelly had bigger news to report this week. On Wednesday I learned via Twitter that she won a raffle this week at Ikea! Congratulations, Kelly! I’m just sorry you only won this boring table setting. I know if I ever won a raffle at Ikea, I would much prefer to win a year’s supply of their famous Swedish meatballs. (Yes, I know that’s not a year’s supply.)

Tough Money Love – And some of you guys think I’m a personal finance bully… Every once in awhile, there’s nothing like a good kick in the groin while being simultaneously reminded why you suck – it helps keep your head out of the clouds and your feet grounded. That’s precisely why those who lack a good mirror and love to blame everybody else for their personal financial problems need to check out this site – if they dare. Today, Mr. TML highlighted the most recent data out of Washington DC that shows why it is that troubled homeowners can’t be bothered to help themselves.

Fiscal Fizzle – Meanwhile, the pecuniary pepper lays out the proper, responsible, path to home ownership. Hint: If you do it right, you’re going to need to pony up a significant portion of cash up front. When it comes to securing most home loans now, it’s back to he future.

Hope to Prosper – Last Tuesday was Pink Slip day at Bret’s place of employment. The cuts were deep – twenty percent of the employees is a huge hit for any company. Bret avoided the axe, thank the good Lord, but ten of his friends weren’t as fortunate. If you work for “the man,” you really need to read Bret’s article – he helps us make sense of why companies have layoffs and then tops it off with some terrific insight, based on first-hand experience, regarding what you can do to greatly reduce your risk of being a lay-off victim. As always, a first-rate post from one of my five favorite personal finance bloggers.

The Smarter Wallet - For those looking to invest some of their hard-earned money, Millie Kay evaluates some popular online brokerages.

Four Pillars – I saw a commercial that said 4 out of 5 dentists surveyed have kids that have puked in their car at one time or another. If you want a good laugh, check out this post from Mike, who shares his recent experience with cleaning up a puked-on child car-seat. What does puking kids and their car seats got to do with personal finance? A lot if that car seat is ultimately rendered unusable by the dreaded event. Mike tells us how he avoided buying a new one.

Debt Kid – How do you stick to your savings goals when you really start to get that urge to spend? Debt Kid has come up with seven ways he manages to do it. My answer: understand that life is a high-wire act and our personal savings represent the only safety net we can truly count on.

Mighty Bargain Hunter – MB asks if the busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, officially jumped the shark. My reply to that is: Absolutely! As I told MB, for me Black Friday lost its luster about 15 years ago when retailers started advertising and putting out the holiday goods the day after Halloween! Sometimes earlier than that.

PT Money – PT put together an excellent article on how to buy life insurance. The process is rather long, but PT deftly lays out all the steps for you in a nice easy and informative read and shares his own experience at each step – even Step 4 (Getting A Physical Examination). Don’t worry – PT spared us the details regarding the rubber glove treatment. You did get the rubber glove treatment, didn’t you, PT? If you didn’t please forward me the name of your doctor. Thanks.

Credits and Debits

Debit: The Telegraph reports that French bank Société Générale has advised clients to be ready for a possible “global economic collapse” over the next two years. The world’s underlying debt burden is now greater than it was even after the World War II. Unfortunately, aging populations will make it harder to erode debt through growth. The report noted that, “High public debt looks entirely unsustainable in the long run. We have almost reached a point of no return for government debt.” It also noted that inflating debt away might be seen by some governments as a lesser of evils. As I have previously noted with my four-part series on inflation, of course inflation will be embraced by governments with runaway debt problems! It is the most politically palatable alternative for leaders who lack the political courage to overtly force their populations to pay for massive government spending through taxation. Instead, they will let inflation come like a thief in the night – stealing from all of us by eroding the purchasing power of our savings and pensions. The retired and unemployed will suffer most of all.

Debit: Apparently, there are at least a few people in Russia who already believe the economic Armageddon predicted by Société Générale has already occurred. Russian police arrested three homeless people suspected of eating a 25-year-old man. The men were arrested on suspicion of killing their victim with knives and a hammer before butchering him. After their meal, the resourceful trio then sold the, um, leftovers to a local kebab house. I had absolutely no idea that’s what Russian kebabs were made from – and I thought their borscht was yucky. Note to self: Pack lots of sandwiches for the trip to St. Petersburg.

Debit: Fox News reports that gross inaccuracies were found on a government Web site that tracks jobs purportedly saved or created by the $787 billion pork, I mean, stimulus plan. Recovery.gov is under fire for posting a number of jobs created in congressional districts that don’t exist and for accepting unrealistic data from several reporting outlets. For instance, the site reported that 30 jobs were saved or created with $761,420 of federal stimulus spending in Arizona’s 15th Congressional District. But wait just a minute – the state has only eight districts! If that weren’t enough, the site also lists 12 other non-existent districts in Arizona where jobs were reportedly saved or created. I wonder how many people in the 63 US states are as upset about this as I am.

Debit: As the late great Billy Mays would say, “But wait! There’s more!” Fox also reported that Recovery.gov listed imaginary districts in at least three other states, including Oklahoma, Iowa, and Connecticut. One recipient of stimulus funds, Talladega County of Alabama, claimed that it had saved or created 5,000 jobs from only $42,000 in government money – which would amount to $8.40 in annual income per job if each position received an equal amount of funding. It looks like I’m going to have to update my list of the 10 Most Underpaid Jobs.

Credit: As for Michael Ramirez, he has his own figures regarding how many jobs were created – and lost – thanks to the economic porkulus plan.

Debit: Officials with the Recovery Board stated that all of the mistakes at Recovery.gov were caused by human error. Well, golly, thanks for clearing that up. What else could have caused it? Mice carelessly pitter-pattering over computer keyboards after everybody at Recovery.com went home for the night? Global warming? “We report what the recipients submit to us,” said Ed Pound, communications director for the board. Wow. Hey, if they’re with the government, where is their commitment to accuracy? Accuracy? Heh. They don’t need to show us any stinkin’… well, you know.

Debit: Speaking of government pork, California faces a budget gap of nearly $21 billion over its current and next fiscal years. Since Arnold Schwarzenegger took office in 2003, the size of the California state budget has increased 40 percent – this despite Arnold being swept into office on a pledge to restrain the size of the state government. Has even half of that ridiculous growth in government been trimmed since the economy went into the toilet? No. The trouble is, the state Legislature continues to be staunchly controlled by a liberal majority that refuses to make the real cuts necessary to bring the state budget into line. It’s been that way now for roughly twenty years. Maybe one of these days my fellow Californians will get tired of this budgetary BS and finally return control of the Legislature back to the fiscal conservatives. One of these days. Maybe. Until then, the inmates will continue to run the asylum here in the land of fruit and nuts.

Letters, I Get Letters…

Well, sometimes I get letters. This week I didn’t get any. Maybe I should consider that an improvement considering nobody bashed me. ;-)

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 – assuming I get one, that is – 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

It’s always an honor when a large publication or web site picks up one of your posts. So how is it that I forgot to mention last week that Time Magazine’s web site featured a very nice story by author Brad Tuttle on my post entitled My Name-Brand vs. Store-Brand Blind Taste Test Challenge? Well, I did. I’d like to belatedly thank Brad for featuring my article, not to mention his very kind words – I truly appreciate it. :-)

As always, if you happen to enjoy what you’re reading – or not – please feel free to follow me on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed too! :-)

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

From April 2009:

My Ten Commandments of Personal Finance – Did you know eighty percent of Americans know there are two all-beef patties in a Big Mac, but only 6 in 10 can identify “Thou shalt not kill” as one of the Ten Commandments? Yep. This post is currently the sixth most popular article here at Len Penzo dot Com and for good reason: Not only does it tell you about the famous study that discovered that little Chicken McNugget of wisdom, it also gives some very pithy pointers to help you ensure your personal finances run as smoothly as possible.

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

- Carnival of Money Stories #28 at Out of Debt Again (Editor’s Pick – Hooray!)

- Carnival of Personal Finance: Financial Fables Edition at M is for Money

- Eagles are Stupid at Eagle, Falcon, Hawk, Whatever…

- Next Time Honey, I’ll Park Car at Tell Me Again How This Happened? (Oh, Never Mind)

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