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 Digerati Life – SVB wrote a really nice summary that shows you how to book cheap flights & air travel deals. Here’s a tip: I can save $12 on Southwest airlines by taking a flight from Los Angeles to Denver – as long as you don’t mind layovers in Dallas, Raleigh, Omaha, and Albuquerque. You can also choose to fly this airline that refuses to use more expensive journeymen pilots.
Fiscal Geek – Paul and his wife Ang are now debt free! Hooray! Check out his remarkable story of how he reduced debts of over $63,000 in approximately 11 months.
The Oblivious Investor – Over at TOI, Mike tells us that he is not impressed by investors who brag that they have beaten the market for nine straight years. Why? Because he says their size is “insufficient.” Really, Len? But I thought size didn’t matter! No, Mike is not talking about that. According to Mike, nine years just isn’t a large enough sample size to tell us with confidence whether such an investor’s results are due to skill or luck.
CESI Debt Solutions - So you say you’re in need of some tips to kick off 2010 that will really help you save some money this year? Well, FruBlogger has put together this very impressive list of the 101 best debt busting posts from 2009. (I bet that’s a sample size that will impress Mike!) And I’m not just saying that because one of my posts was included. Okay, maybe I am just a little bit.
Financial Samurai - Tired of the coldest winter in decades? Maybe it’s time to move. Lucky for you, the honorable Samurai had an interesting post on America’s most expensive places to live when using housing as the measuring stick. Now pack up and move to some warmer climes, would ya?
Bible Money Matters – Hey, here was an interesting article! This week Craig Ford from MoneyHelpForChristians wrote a guest post over at Peter’s site that asked us to consider if there is ever a good reason to get into debt. I can think of two: buying a new home or starting a business. Perhaps, college – within reason. I can’t think of any others. Can you?
The Canadian Finance Blog – Tom has compiled a list of quick tips that can be used to extend the life of seven of your most expensive home appliances. Unfortunately for me, he didn’t have any tips for two of my most expensive home appliances – the kids’ orthodontia. Sheesh. Those things are always breaking bands and wires and the trips to the orthodontist for repairs are costing me a fortune!
Credit Card Chaser – Meanwhile, Joel put together another great calculator that teaches just how sinister the payment terms can be when you don’t pay off your credit cards in full from month to month. This calculator determines the true cost of credit. Of course, I had to try it. Using the calculator I bought a cheeseburger for $6.88 and decided I would take 59 months to pay off the card at a rate of 29.5%. The calculator showed that the real cost of that cheeseburger based on those terms was $13.11. Imagine if that was a big screen television instead of a cheeseburger.
Money Energy - This week ME wrote a great post that identified five basic tips to help you buy low and sell high. A sixth tip would be to ask me for my advice and then do the opposite.
Credits and Debits
Credit: In an opinion piece on World Net Daily, Patrick Buchanan asks whether America’s financial collapse is inevitable considering the five largest elements of the federal budget are Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, defense, and interest on the national debt. With the national debt having risen to a very scary 53% of GDP, where will the President make the cuts necessary to keep this country solvent? Where indeed. Don’t forget that the President is also advocating the passage of a national health care plan that will tack nearly another trillion plus dollars over 10 years. If you think that figure is realistic and won’t go higher without significantly rationing health care, well, think again.
Debit: The only other logical answer of course, short of a tacit currency devaluation that will destroy the dollar and our savings, is to increase taxes. Congress is doing everything they can to raise taxes now as surreptitiously as possible. For example, twenty- and thirty-somethings should keep in mind that if this health care bill passes, the surtax “the rich” will be paying to help pay for this bill is not indexed to inflation. In other words, by the time you are in your prime earning years, YOU will most likely be one of “the rich” paying the taxes to fund the national health care plan even though you are bringing home middle-class wages. Your representatives in favor of this legislation are keenly aware of this – so don’t expect them to index the tax to inflation.
Debit: In the meantime, President Obama will hit the low hanging fruit in an effort to fund his massive expansion of the government and his nanny state policies. On Thursday, the president said he wants a new 10-year tax on the country’s largest banks to cover a projected $117 billion shortfall in the government’s financial crisis bailout fund. The president is calling this new tax “a financial crisis responsibility fee” that would apply to companies with assets of more than $50 billion. Obviously, this is money that would be put to much better use being loaned to businesses. Instead, if the president gets his way, the money will be going to pay for our bloated and ever-expanding government.
Debit: From the same article, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass) was quoted as saying, “Look, the financial institutions collectively, particularly the larger ones, caused problems by their errors – their errors of judgment, their irresponsibility, in some cases their skating around dishonesty.” Who does Barney Frank think he’s kidding? You don’t buy that, do you? It was Frank and his other big-government redistribute-the-wealth cronies in Congress that arm-twisted the very same banks to make home loans to people that didn’t have the means to ever pay them back. When it comes to the banking sector’s “errors of judgment” and “irresponsibility” – much of it can be attributed to listening to Barney Frank.
Debit: In 2003, the Bush administration recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis ten years earlier. Frank, who was the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee at the time, was the man who insisted, “These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis. The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.” Yet it is Frank who continues to lecture the banks about dishonesty. Unbelievable. If you repeat something enough, Mr. Frank, that still doesn’t make it true.
Credit: Can somebody please explain this to me? I can’t tell whether this thing is a bird or a mouse – or some sick experiment performed by a veterinarian version of Dr. Mengele.
Credit: A woman is suing a New York eatery where she says she was struck by a stuffed moose head with antlers spanning over three feet. In papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court, Raina Kumra claims she was minding her own business at the White Slab Palace in October when a moose head “dislodged and struck the plaintiff on the head.” An attorney for the defendant indicated to Len Penzo dot Com that Kumra’s complaint was completely baseless because she had ordered the moose for dessert.
By the Numbers
255,000 The estimated number of moose currently living in the United States.
2176 According to Zagat, the total number of restaurants in New York City.
1580 Maximum weight, in pounds, of a male moose.
841 The total number of bars in the Big Apple, according to Zagat.
150 The reported weight, in pounds, of the moose head that allegedly fell on the lady at the New York City eatery.
9 The number of US states where live moose can be found.
8 The number of points earned (before bonuses) for spelling MOOSE in Scrabble.
1 The number of ex-governors from Alaska known to claim moose stew as their favorite meal.
0 The number of live moose in New York City.
Letters, I Get Letters (…but not this week)
No letters this week, but 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.
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
As you may have already noticed, I am very proud to announce that Len Penzo dot Com was honored last week by Political Calculations as being one of only seven blogs that they bestowed with the title “One of the Best Blogs We Found in 2009.” In addition to myself, Political Calculations also honored Darwin’s Finance, Fiscal Geek, and Good Financial Cents. Congratulations to Darwin, Paul and Jeff!
In addition, they also named my post on Why Rechargeable Batteries are Rarely Cost Effective as one of the Best Posts of 2009. I’d just like to say to the editors at Political Calculations “thank you” – I truly appreciate the recognition.
The Top 5 referring personal finance and money blogs to Len Penzo dot Com for the first two weeks of this month are…
I really appreciate the links, folks!
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts You May Have Missed
From April 2009:
Gas or Charcoal Barbecues: Which One is Most Cost Effective? – Another one of the great debates of all time is the one regarding the decision to buy gas or charcoal barbecues. Last year, after many years, I reluctantly put my old gas barbecue out to pasture. Of course, after my mourning period was finally over, I wanted to know whether I might actually be better off getting a charcoal BBQ instead. This article highlights my selection criteria and the corresponding trade study I put together to help me make my final decision. The results may just surprise you. (Ah, who am I kidding? I’m just saying that so you’ll click on the link.)
This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:
- The Carnival of Personal Finance #239 at Darwin’s Finance
– The Festival of Flying Flunkies at Bargain Beach Resorts dot Com
- The Carnival of Chile con Carne at Where You’ll Find Me This Friday Evening