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…
So I was going through my email when I noticed that Ø§Ù„Ø¯Ù„ÙˆØ¹Ù‡ Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³ÙŠ had added me on Google+. For those of you who don’t know, Google+ is Google’s attempt to capitalize on the social networking craze popularized by Facebook. At least I think it is — I’m still trying to figure it out.
Now, I had no idea “who” Ø§Ù„Ø¯Ù„ÙˆØ¹Ù‡ Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³ÙŠ was, so I moseyed over to Ø§Ù„Ø¯Ù„ÙˆØ¹Ù‡ Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³ÙŠ’s site and, well, let’s just say I got an eyeful.
After that, er, surprise, I decided to drop by Google Translate to see just what “Ø§Ù„Ø¯Ù„ÙˆØ¹Ù‡ Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³ÙŠ” meant. Sure enough, the translator told me that “Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³” means “porn” in Arabic.
The moral of the story is don’t ever friend anybody on Facebook or Google+ named Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³. Well, unless you’re addicted to Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³ . Hey, I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
I’ll be honest; so far I don’t think Facebook has to worry about the competition.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
In case you missed it — I know I’m sorry I did — personal finance expert Suze Orman got her head handed to her on a platter after she tried defending her fee-laden prepaid debit card in the face of pointed criticism on Twitter from several of my fellow money bloggers. Suze’s biggest mistake was deciding to attack the messengers instead of the substance of the message — calling one blogger an idiot, for example — which is typically the modus operandi of people who are trying to defend the indefensible. She eventually realized her mistake and tweeted apologies to everyone she insulted, but by then the damage was done.
PT Money – What We Need from Suze Orman Instead of Another Celebrity-Endorsed Useless Prepaid Debit Card. Says Phil: “Russell Simmons has a card. It’s bad. The Kardashians created a “kard” in this market. It was bad too. So bad, that it was run out of town. This time it’s not just a celebrity. It’s the self-proclaimed ‘Most Trusted Personal Finance Expert’ in America today.” (This whole debacle essentially reached critical mass on Twitter after Phil gave Suze his 140-character opinion on the matter.)
20 and Engaged – Suze Orman’s “Approved” Card Get’s Denied; Thinks PF Bloggers are Idiots. From Briana: “Suze was making snarky remarks earlier in the evening that made me give the side eye. Then I guess I stepped into the murky waters that is the Suze Orman Twitter feed.” (This is a great summary of the Twitter “war.”)
DollarVersity – Suze Orman Teaches You How NOT to Handle Criticism. Enter Eric: “This is about how Ms. Orman reacted to criticism directed her way regarding this new product, and how she may have done some serious damage to her brand in doing so. If you’re not careful, you can destroy a reputation in much less time than you can build one.”
Generation X Finance – Suze Orman Shows True Colors with her Approved Prepaid Debit Card. Says Jeremy: “These (cards) as a whole are not consumer-friendly by any stretch of the imagination. I mean is this a debit card or am I going to jail? I only get one free phone call for crying out loud!”
Money Cone – Suze Orman’s Approved Prepaid Card – Bad Wine in a New Bottle. From MoneyCone: “For the people this card is targeted for, I think the Approved card is a very bad deal. As I’ve shown you in this post, all the benefits that this card provides can be had for free if you know how.” (An excellent analysis of the nine purported benefits of using the card.)
Lazy Man and Money – Suze Orman’s Prepaid Debit Card Scam. The Lazy Man wraps things up with this: “As John Ulzheimer said, it is the best option in a bad category (‘the cream of the crap’). It is Orman’s misleading marketing of the card and her refusal to enter into any kind of meaningful dialog with critics that I have a problem with.”
Heh. I wonder if that “cream of the crap” line is trademarked; it’s brilliant. It also neatly sums up exactly how I feel about prepaid cards in general. They do nothing to build your credit score and the numerous fees make them an extremely expensive way to spend your own money.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy…
The Millionaire Nurse – A Million Bucks? In My 401(k)? Ya Gotta Be Kiddin’!
Afford Anything – Gunmen Kidnapped My Tenant
Online Investing AI – 4 Times When It’s Okay to Take on Debt
Sustainable Personal Finance – Why Use Cloth Diapers?
Hope to Prosper – 2012 Looks Like a Good Year for the Stock Market
Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance – What is Asset Allocation?
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From February 2009:
Fun with Chicken McNuggets – I wrote this ridiculously stupid post when my blog was barely two months old and I was still trying to find my way. It turns out Nina found a chicken McNugget in her Happy Meal that had a striking resemblance to, well, I’ll let you see for yourself. But I was so impressed I took a photo of it. (Of course, I’m pretty easy to please.)
Credits and Debits
Credit: Retail sales for 2011 totaled a record $4.7 trillion. That’s almost 8 percent higher than in 2010 and the biggest year-over-year gain in more than a decade. Hooray!
Debit: Unfortunately, the year ended on a sour note. Although the National Retail Federation was boldly predicting a robust holiday shopping season, sales in December were 17 percent under their forecast of $469 billion.
Debit: Meanwhile, jobless claims rose to a six-week high, much of it attributable to temporary holiday workers getting laid off. Those are many of the same folks whose hiring helped lower unemployment rate figures last month.
Debit: By the way, some analysts are claiming that the actual “no kidding” unemployment rate — when accounting for the unemployed, underemployed, and so-called “discouraged” workers who have quit looking — is roughly 23 percent. Yes, twenty-three percent. I believe it.
Debit: Did you see this? Hostess — the maker of such iconic brands as Ding Dongs, Ho Hos, and Wonder Bread — has filed for bankruptcy. The biggest creditor is a union employee pension fund, which is currently owed $994 million. That’s a lot of Twinkies, folks.
Debit: We may be officially 32 months into an economic “recovery,” but it’s the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.
Credit: Don’t tell that to NBC. With ads going for between $3.5 million and $4 million apiece, the Peacock Network announced that they have officially sold out all their ad space for Super Bowl XLVIWJQYZ 46. Over 111 million people watched last year’s Super Bowl — and that number is expected to be even higher this year.
Debit: It could be worse, I guess — NBC’s fortunes notwithstanding. We could be Greece; poor families there who can’t make ends meet due to the Euro crisis are now abandoning their children.
Debit: And with the credit ratings of France, Italy, Spain, Austria, Portugal and four other EU countries downgraded on Friday, at least one analyst is warning that the Euro’s worst days are yet to come.
Debit: The US will be next if we don’t get our deficits under control soon — assuming it’s not already too late. The US has reached the $15.194 trillion debt ceiling it imposed just last summer, and the President is going to ask Congress to raise it another $1.2 trillion.
Credit: Hey, if you’re thinking about taking a winter vacation, do it now; airfares are currently at their lowest levels since early last year. Typically, flights are at their cheapest in during the six weeks between New Year’s Day and the Presidents’ Day holiday in mid-February.
Debit: Finally, a new study has found that the more often you use Facebook the more likely you’ll feel bad about your life. Another finding: You’re also more likely to believe you lead a pathetic life if you have a lot of “faux” friends. I know.
Credit: So the next time you find yourself itching to get a little revenge on someone, don’t do anything rash — just send them a Facebook friend request.
Credit: No, I’m not going to send one to Ø§Ù„Ø¯Ù„ÙˆØ¹Ù‡ Ø§Ù„Ø³ÙƒØ³ÙŠ.
By the Numbers
Hostess Brands may be bankrupt, but there’s more to life than Twinkies and Ding Dongs. Here’s a closer look at the American snack food market:
$760 million Total sales of natural chips, pretzels and related snacks in 2010.
1.5 Pounds of pretzels consumed per person per year in the United States.
300 Cookies the average American consumes per year.
1 Sales rank of Nabisco’s Oreo cookie.
500 billion Oreo’s sold since their invention in 1912.
6 Round trips to the moon and back that 500 billion Oreo cookies would stretch, if they were stacked together.
The Question of the Week
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Other Useless News
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1. Hawaii (2.26 pages/visit)
2. Montana (2.23)
3. Arizona (2.10)
4. New Mexico (2.03)
5. Louisiana (1.99)
46. Ohio (1.66)
47. New York (1.65)
48. Utah (1.64)
49. Rhode Island (1.58)
50. Maine (1.46)
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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!
Wilson wanted a little clarification regarding last week’s admission that the first album I ever bought was Peter Frampton’s 1976 offering Frampton Comes Alive!
… I hope you didn’t buy the 8-track tape version.
Unfortunately, yes. And if you ask me, 8-tracks are just one more reason to hate the 70s.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.