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…
I hope everybody’s having a great weekend!
Earlier this week, a coworker of mine asked this seemingly perplexing question: What has 25 arms, 25 legs, and 25 teeth?
Answer: the front row of a Willie Nelson concert.
Hey, I love Willie Nelson!
Anyway, now that I’ve got your attention, let’s get to it, shall we?
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
The Debt Princess – Never Give Up: My Experience with Time Warner Cable. This is an interesting look at the potential drawbacks of automatic bill pay and social media’s power of persuasion. More importantly, it’s a valuable lesson on the financial hazards of throwing unopened monthly statements in a drawer because you assume billing issues won’t ever occur.
Control Your Cash – A Message to Graduates. Says Greg: If you think a college education is the one good or service in the world that doesn’t stand up to cost-benefit scrutiny, where price means nothing, you’re too dumb to go to college anyway. As usual, he’s spot on. My work is done here; that statement was so pithy, I won’t dare try to top it.
Don’t Quit Your Day Job – How to be Successful … In Three Rules. In this short and effective post, PK tacitly echoes Greg’s sentiments. In fact, he notes that studies have shown that by following just three simple rules — and going to college ISN’T one of them, folks! — people have a 72 percent chance of earning “middle-class” wages of $55,000 annually.
The Family CEO – College without Debt: A Non-Traditional Approach. For those of you who insist on taking the higher-education plunge, you might be interested to learn how Cheri managed to fund two 4-year accredited college educations for under $6000 each. No, I didn’t drop a zero.
Canadian Finance Blog – How I Made $200 Playing a Video Game. And now you know why it’s so hard to find teenage boys anymore who are willing to cut your lawn during the summer break for $10.
My latest weekly roundtable appearance on Average Joe’s weekly financial podcast, The Worst of the Free Financial Advisor, can be heard on Episode 13: Top 5 Ways to Teach Young Children About Money.
By the way, you can listen in every week for a chance to win some fantastic prizes! Really!
This week, Joe is giving away a real pony and a starter bale of hay. (No substitute prizes; sorry. If you’re allergic to horses, Joe will help you sell it on Craigslist.)
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From March 2010:
Should I or Shouldn’t I? The Definitive Extended Warranty Litmus Test – Believe it or not, there really are some occasions when it makes sense to get an extended warranty. This litmus test will show you when.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Yet another European leader is warning that the EU has just one week to come to a financial agreement or the euro will be doomed. We know, we know! Sheesh. I’m beginning to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
Credit: Am I the only one who wishes the damn euro would just get it over with already and collapse? It’s time to take our medicine and move on.
Debit: You don’t need to tell the Greeks that the euro is in big trouble. Their debt-stricken economy is now in such disarray that commerce is almost at a standstill and folks are lining up for food rations.
Credit: Greece is the first domino, but others will fall. The euro experiment has been an abject failure, doomed from the start; the longer the EU prolongs the charade, the worse it’s going to be when the euro’s inevitable collapse finally comes. For all of us.
Debit: Speaking of charades, it turns out that $9 billion in stimulus money for solar and wind projects ended up creating just 5150 new jobs — or maybe less. Best case, that’s $1.63 million per job created. Talk about a poor return on “investment.”
Credit: I guarantee you that if small private businesses had kept and invested that $9 billion — instead of having it redistributed to our politicians’ pet projects via taxes — there would be a lot more than 5150 new jobs created. Just sayin’.
Debit: Odds are, there would be fewer stay-at-home dads in America too. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of Mr. Moms in the US has doubled in the last decade to 176,000; that’s 3.4 percent of all stay-at-home parents.
Credit: I see a Fifth Avenue New York City townhouse officially sold this week for … wait for it … $42 million. The previous owner paid $660,000 for it in 1977. Even with inflation, that’s the equivalent of only $2.4 million today. Quite a profit!
Debit: By the way, the tenement, which overlooks Central Park, has 15,225 square feet of living space. I know. I’ve seen cul de sacs smaller than that.
Debit: Then again, everything’s bigger in New York. Well, except for the sodas. Don’t laugh; the idea of banning sodas over 16 ounces is so “popular” now, even the politicians in Cambridge, Massachusetts are considering a similar law.
Debit: New York’s taxes are certainly humongous. The Empire State collects the most state income tax per capita; $1796 per person in 2010 to be exact. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and my home state of California round out the top 5.
Credit: Kind of makes me wish I lived in a state that only taxes interest and dividend income — or has no state income taxes at all. I’m talkin’ about Alaska, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming.
Credit: For the record, the state that collects the lowest state income taxes per capita is Arizona; only $379 per person.
Credit: Finally … the good citizens of Bethel, Alaska (pop. 6,000) were devastated to learn that their isolated town — accessible only by plane or boat — is not getting a Taco Bell on July 4th. I’ll repeat that: They’re NOT getting a Taco Bell.
Debit: Town bulletin board fliers announcing the new Taco Bell got everyone excited by promising jobs to go along with the obligatory nacho cheese chalupas. Unfortunately for the residents, it was a hoax.
Credit: Bethel’s Chamber of Commerce director explained it like this: “We got excited, because we don’t have any fast food chains out here.” I’m sure there are more than a few folks in the lower 48 willing to give Bethel a Taco Bell from their town.
By the Numbers
Here’s a few tasty morsels on Taco Bell:
5600 Restaurants in the US.
2 11 Restaurants in Alaska.
11 Days between visits for the average customer. (No, really.)
1 billion Burritos served annually.
2 billion Tacos served annually.
288 million Pounds of seasoned ground beef, er, or whatever it is, consumed annually by Taco Bell diners.
0 Authenticity meter score when comparing Taco Bell to real Mexican food.
Sources: Gizmodo; Los Angeles Times; MyStore411
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Each month I post some of the more curious search terms visitors entered into Google’s search engine (according to Google Analytics) that led them, somehow, some way, to Len Penzo dot Com:
- why can’t i enter dr. pepper into coke rewards?
- how would u measure the amount of milk a 5th grader drinks in a week?
- man sells own poop on ebay
- can i sue gas station for employee stealing my money i dropped in store?
- how do I order porn off a credit card and not get caught
Yep, these are some of my readers! No matter how you got here — whether or not you enjoy what you’re reading — please don’t forget to:
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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!
For some strange reason, Lori wanted to know:
How often do you have weeks where you never get a letter?
Well … this week was going to be the: First. Time. Ever. Why did you have to go and spoil everything? Thanks a lot, Lori.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.