Black Coffee: My Favorite Blogs, Money News & Opinions #30

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…

Ask Mr. Credit Card – In order to help raise money for the victims of the recent Haitian earthquake, Mr. CC has already donated to the United Methodist Committee on Relief.  Now, he has also offered to make additional donations based on the number comments he gets to his Haiti Aid post – all you have to do is say which organization you are donating to, how you decided upon that organization and if there were any sacrifices you had to make.  Mr. CC will also make additional donations if you use a credit card (of course!), and/or if you are on the ground in Haiti helping out and then tell him about it in the comments section.   I donated to the American Red Cross through my employer. The reason is simple: The American Red Cross is a very reputable organization.  If you haven’t already made a donation, please consider doing so – and remember to stop by Ask Mr. Credit Card and tell Mr. CC all about it!

Financial Highway – Earlier this week Ray put together a really fun post on seven money lessons we can all learn from Monopoly.  He also included some great inputs from other personal finance bloggers.  As I told Ray, I happen to keep a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in my wallet in case I ever get thrown in the hoosegow.  Do I expect it will work? No.  But maybe my jailer will spot me a break and not put me in a cell the size of a small walk-in closet with some big ol’ bubba who is looking for love in all the wrong places. (Er, if you know what I mean.)

DINKS Finance – Meanwhile, Michael opines on the folly of a TARP bailout recipient, Citi, spending an estimated $20 million to sponsor the BCS Championship Game.   I couldn’t agree more.  Hopefully, next time we will put our foot down and force our legislators to grow the backbone required to allow capitalism’s creative destruction process to cleanse itself from the damage caused by the financial irrational-exuberance that gets us into trouble in the first place.

Fiscal Fizzle -  Is it a good idea to encourage your kids to get a job while they are in high school?  You know, I was a grocery store box boy at 16 and before I knew it my hard work allowed me to be promoted to a checker within six months ahead of many others  – and I made A LOT of money.  As long as kids’ grades don’t plummet, I think working during their teen years is absolutely essential for most kids to help develop some semblance of a work ethic.  Besides, forcing my kids to work and then charging them rent when they turn 16 is one of my key strategies for paying off the mortgage early.

Spend on Life – Carrie had a very interesting post this past week asking if Facebook hurts your credit.   Apparently, some banks pay other companies to monitor and analyze your network of friends to try and determine if you are a good or bad credit risk.  Carrie notes that “if this level of monitoring helps keep the bad borrowers out and the good borrowers in, that’s a win for all of us.”   Not if Barney Frank can help it, Carrie.

Good Financial Cents – Jeff had a guest article from Joe Taxpayer where he shared some scenarios that are cause for regretting a Roth IRA conversion.  I’ve been reading more and more from Joe over the past few months and I appreciate his contrarian stance on the unbridled hoopla surrounding Roth IRAs.  If you ask me, he makes a lot of sense.  See if you don’t agree.

Out of Your Rut – Has anybody reading this in the United States seen the hit series The Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC Family?  I’ll have to admit I haven’t, but after reading Kevin’s article regarding the show, I have to say I’m glad my pre-teen kids haven’t discovered it.  As I understand it, the show features plenty of promiscuous teenage girls willing to have sex with anybody and everybody.   In discussing the show with the Honeybee, I mentioned that times sure have changed; when I was in high school there weren’t any girls around like that.  Of course, leave it to the Honeybee set me straight.  Apparently there were plenty of girls like that in high school – they just weren’t making themselves available to nerds like me.

Big Fat Moneybags – I used to have a teacher in my junior high school life skills class named Mr. Lewis.  As opposed to most of my teachers, this guy was a realist.  A true conservative who did his best to show us that the real world was out there and waiting for us, but if we weren’t careful it would chew us up and spit us out with no mercy.  On our first day he looked at the class and, before he even introduced himself, asked us “What makes the world go round?”  I went into a rambling scientific dissertation, a few people said “God,” but most every other kid predictably said “love.”  If only Mr. Moneybags was in class that day – he would have been the only kid with the right answer.  Check out the very funny and entertaining post he wrote this week that gives us 473 million reasons why the world still revolves around money.

Hope to Prosper – Bret took a little time out from his grandstanding for Dow 13,000 (sorry, Bret… had to get that in) to write a very timely post calling for the end of reckless spending and warning politicians from ALL parties that if they don’t get in line they’re going to get booted out of office this November.   While Bret believes all parties are at risk, I think one party more than another is vulnerable.  Which party am I talking about?  Well…

Credits and Debits

Debit: Earlier this month, a very detailed polling analysis by Mark Blumenthal at pollster.com concluded there wasn’t any real evidence of discontent with the president – and one assumes, by extension, his policies – among rank-and-file Democrats.

Credit: You can’t win them all, Mark.  In what is probably the biggest election upset in the history of the US Senate, Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts senate seat held by long-time senator Ted Kennedy until he passed away last year.  Brown’s stunning defeat of Democrat Martha Coakley in what is arguably the bluest of all blue states – Democrats outnumber Republicans 3-to-1 there – means the health care agenda that president Obama has been pushing for the past year, and the trillion-dollar legislation passed by Congress in December, is now officially on life support.  But, Len, you ignoramus, half of Massachusetts voters are registered independents! Yes, “independents” that vote Democrat 99.9% of the time.  Brown’s ascendancy to the Senate breaks the Democrats’ 60-vote, filibuster-proof majority in Washington. This not only affects Obama’s health care agenda, but it also creates problems for proposed legislation ranging from financial regulatory reform to cap-and-trade.

Credit: Many people are wondering how such an historic upset could happen.  Well, people are fed up that their representatives are not listening to them, that’s how it could happen.  This ain’t rocket science, folks.  With “the real” unemployment rate hovering around 17 percent and the economy in shambles, Congress has spent the last 367 days bumbling and stumbling along, trying to push across the finish line a trillion-dollar-plus nationalized health care plan that a clear majority of the electorate doesn’t want.

Credit: Here was Michael Ramirez’s funny take on the underlying message behind the aftermath of Brown’s historic victory in Massachusetts.   The rebellion is underway and I fully expect the people will finish their business at the polls this coming November.

Debit: Then again, sometimes it just doesn’t matter how loud the horns blow.  According to the New York Times, Democrats in California revived a bill yesterday in their state legislature that would create a monstrous $200 billion single-payer, universal health care system in the state.  I’ll repeat that.  Democrats in California revived a bill yesterday in their state legislature that would create a monstrous $200 billion single-payer, universal health care system in the state.  Just to be clear, we’re talking about the same California that is on the verge of bankruptcy, suffering from a $20 billion budget deficit, and where state officials warned this week that public works projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars could be in jeopardy starting this summer — and possibly for years to come — because of California’s continuing budget crisis. What is it with these politicians?  Wake up, California! The inmates are running the asylum.

Credit: Last month Taco Bell was featured in Black Coffee after a man paid $72 for a 79-cent taco and told employees to keep the change.  This time, a man paid $100 for a taco – in addition to getting one-day in jail and a year of probation – after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct Tuesday for throwing the double-decker taco at the manager of a Taco Bell in Fairbanks, Alaska.  The man became enraged when he discovered his taco contained spit after he had been through the drive-thru twice to correct his order.  Lawyers for the restaurant told Len Penzo dot Com that it was an honest mistake on the part of the employees.  Although audio recordings confirmed the man clearly requested his taco topped with extra “cheese, tomatoes, olives, and sour cream,” the lawyers say the crew simply misheard the customer – they thought he said extra “spit.”

Debit: A Pennsylvania couple is charged with stealing a bank card from a friend who died on their couch and running up more than $1,000 in charges.  Investigators believe the couple went through the dead woman’s purse while emergency workers tried to help her.  Well, I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Credit: Hey, did you hear about this? The Telegraph is reporting that Holiday Inn’s in both London and Manchester are offering human bed warmers this month on a trial basis to help their guests get a good night’s sleep.  The special employees are dressed in all-in-one sleeper suits and are sent to warm the beds of guests staying at the Holiday Inn before they get under the covers.   Will the Brits actually go for this?  Maybe The Investor can weigh in on this one.  But it should be noted that the human bed warmer idea is the brainchild of the very same Holiday Inn marketing team that also introduced free barbecue steak dinners as part of a “Sizzlin’ Sirloin Saturdays!” program for their Mumbai and Calcutta properties last year.  “Sizzlin’ Sirloin Saturdays!”  (You see, the cow is considered sacred in India and – oh, let’s just move on…)

By the Numbers

Here’s numbers from this article by CBS News regarding President Obama’s first year in office:

1,693,000,000,000 The amount in US dollars that the national debt increased.

411 Speeches, comments and remarks by the president.

193 Flights on Marine One.

178 The number of times President Obama used a teleprompter.

160 The number of times he flew on Air Force One.

158 The total number of interviews.  Ninety were TV interviews.  Eleven were radio.  The rest were newspaper or magazine.

124 The number of bills he signed into law.

29 The number of rounds of golf played by President Obama.  (George W. Bush played seven rounds of golf his first year.)

21 The number of foreign nations he visited (four were visited twice).  Ten separate trips were made in all.

1 The number of vetoes.  (He killed a bill to keep the Defense Dept. operating in case an Appropriations measure wasn’t passed.  It eventually was.)

0 The number of pardons.  (That doesn’t count the two turkeys pardoned for Thanksgiving.)

Letters, I Get Letters 

I got a letter from Heidi who wrote a long, and very nice, note to me.  Here is just a small snippet:

“I just got back from New Zealand… If you haven’t been there you really should go.  It is so beautiful!”

I’ve never been there, Heidi, but your comment reminds me of something that has always bugged me: Where the heck is Old Zealand?  ;-)

Just for writing in, I was planning on giving Heidi an autographed In-and-Out Burger gift card that has been in my wallet for the last two years (with about 50 cents remaining on it) – but she refused to give me her mailing address.  Oh well, I tried.   What does that tell you when I can’t give my autograph away even when I try to tie to In-and-Out Burger?

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

Samurai Fund Update:   My unlikely stock pick, the housing corporation Lennar, was still the top performer for the honorable index as of January 18th, up an astounding 25%!  I still say this stock will end up being a dog.

The Top 5 referring personal finance and money blogs to Len Penzo dot Com for the first three weeks of this month are…

1. Tip’d
2. Wisebread
3. Million Dollar Journey
4. The Kirk Report
5. Political Calculations

I really appreciate the links, folks! :-)

Next week I will highlight the Top 10 referring sites for the entire month.

As a reminder, 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:

Four Big Drawbacks to Store Credit Cards – I’m not a big fan of store credit cards. Never have. That’s because store credit cards can have several potential drawbacks that should always be considered before committing to sign up for them. Can you guess what those drawbacks might be? If you aren’t sure, check out this article – you just might be surprised at the answers! (Yeah, I know you knew I couldn’t resist adding that last sentence.)

Carnival News

This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:

- The Carnival of Personal Finance at Million Dollar Journey

- The Carnival of a Building Rebellion at Thank You, Massachusetts

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