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 whats been going on in the world of money and personal finance. Heres what caught my attention over the past week
Let’s get right to it this week!
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Monevator – Capitalists Must Address the Causes and Consequences of Income Inequality. Let’s get one thing clear: The Investor is a capitalist at heart — but I firmly disagree with the titular assertion of this post. In fact, it’s a red herring. In order for the growing income gap between rich and poor to be a legitimate indictment of the free market system, capitalism has to make the rich richer by making the rest of us poorer. That’s clearly not true. As wealthy as they are, the tremendous success of guys like Henry Ford, J.P. Getty, Bill Gates and Larry Ellison didn’t do anything to reduce our standard of living. If anything, they made it better.
Financial Uproar – Is Fashion an Investment? Says Nelson: “For me, clothes dont mean a whole lot. Theyre just something I need so Im not naked.” Me too, Nelson. By the way, I hope you weren’t expecting me to try and follow that with anything more because — let’s face it — there’s nothing I can say that will top it.
The Chicago Financial Planner – Lousy 401(k)? – Maybe It’s You and Not Them. Has the performance of your 401(k) been so poor that you’re now among the growing crowd of people derisively referring to your retirement account as a 201(k)? Well, as Roger explains, the odds are you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself. The good news is, that means you can do something about it — and, best of all, Roger shows you how.
So Over This – Mini Freakout of the Week. Why do our kids grow up so fast? According to Andrea, her newly-minted teen, Jayden, now locks himself in his room, playing Minecraft or watching YouTube videos all day long. Welcome to my world, Girlfriend. I wouldn’t be surprised if our sons are Minecraft buddies and we don’t even know it. It’s gotten so bad, last week I asked my son if he wanted to go outside and toss a ball around. His reply: “What’s an ‘outside’?” Okay, not really — but I can see it happening any day now.
The Finance Buff – Lifestyle Design: Choose What You Do. I really enjoyed this post by TFB for a whole lot of reasons. I loved how he used a photo from his trip to Machu Picchu in Peru to illustrate how higher-paying jobs aren’t necessarily harder than lower-paying positions. What really got me though was finding out that the starting pay of the average ballet dancer is $60,000 per year. I bet there are a lot of college graduates out there right now wondering what the heck they were thinking when they chose to major in English Literature or Philosophy.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …
Afford Anything – Renovating the Rental Property
Control Your Cash – You, CFA
Debt Free Teen – Rent College Textbooks
Mighty Bargain Hunter – What Would Happen if the Military Just “Went Shopping”?
Personal Finance Success – My Experiences from Working Comcast Technical Support
Walking to Wealth – Is Using Your Credit Card a ‘Threat to Thrift’?
From November 2009:
No, I’m Not Cutting Up My Credit Cards! (Maybe You Shouldn’t Either.) – A few years ago there was a real backlash by some financial bloggers against credit cards. This was my counterpoint.
Credits and Debits
Credit: Non-farm US payrolls rose in July to their highest level in five months.
Credit: Thanks largely to that news, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 217 points on Friday; that ended a four-day losing streak for the market.
Debit: Apparently investors didn’t realize that the US unemployment rate actually increased to 8.3 percent because the 163,000 new jobs created still weren’t enough to keep pace with the number of new workers entering the workforce.
Credit: Then again, the president’s economic adviser felt oddly compelled to report on the White House website that the actual unemployment rate was overstated; it’s really only 8.254 percent. I know I feel better about the economy now.
Debit: Of course, rounding issues will be the least of our problems if Robert Wiedemer, author of Americas Bubble Economy and Aftershock is to be believed; he sees 50 percent unemployment, stocks dropping 90 percent, and 100 percent annual inflation coming soon.
Credit: You might think Wiedemer’s prediction is why Georgia voters rejected a $7.2 billion transportation tax this week. But pundits are saying the real reason is citizens no longer trust the government — at any level — to spend their money wisely.
Debit: With massive government “investments” in boondoggles like green energy, and nationalizing part of General Motors to preserve business-killing union contracts that could be nullified by bankruptcy, it’s hard to disagree with them.
Debit: Speaking of General Motors, the bailed-out car company currently owes the taxpayers $42 billion, but that isn’t stopping its plan to sponsor European soccer team Manchester United for $600 million. I know.
Debit: Did you see this? Facebook admitted this week that as many as 83 million of its more than 900 million accounts are fake — and another five percent of its users have duplicate accounts.
Debit: On Thursday Facebook stock touched $19.82 per share — almost 50 percent off its IPO price in May — before finishing the week on Friday at $21.09.
Credit: As for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, even if the company’s share price goes to zero he’ll still be $1.1 billion ahead after selling 30.2 million shares at $37.58 on the stock’s opening day.
Debit: And finally … Here’s reason #234,596 why, aside from national defense, the government can do NOTHING better than the private sector: Over the last ten years, taxpayers lost $833 million on food and beverages supplied by Amtrak.
Debit: For example, even though Amtrak charged passengers $9.50 for a cheeseburger, somehow, someway, they managed to cost Amtrak $16.50 each. At the very least, I hope they were made with Angus beef.
Debit: It was the same story with soft drinks. Passengers paid $2 for a Pepsi — but Amtrak was paying $3.40 apiece. Apparently, that was the best “deal” on sodas the government could find. Unbelievable.
Credit: Hey, Amtrak, I’ve got one word for you: Costco.
Debit: A show of hands: How many people still believe that the recent commitment toward increased government control of our healthcare system is ultimately going to be cheaper than when things were run by the private sector?
The Question of the Week
Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
By the Numbers
It’s time for a closer look at the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, better known as Amtrak:
1970 Year Amtrak was created by Congress.
82,000 Passengers that ride Amtrak daily. Last year, 32 million passengers traveled on Amtrak trains.
46 States served by Amtrak.
3 Canadian provinces served by Amtrak. (British Columbia, Quebec, Ontario)
10,899,889 Passengers carried in 2011 on its most popular service: the portion of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor serving Boston, New York, and Washington, DC.
2 Rank of Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service, serving San Diego, Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo, in terms of total passengers carried in 2011 (2,786,972).
75 Percentage of Amtrak trains with Wi-Fi connections.
150 Top speed, in miles per hour, of Amtrak’s Acela Express. It’s the fastest train in the Western Hemisphere, reaching its top speed on a 35-mile stretch of rail between Boston and New Haven, Connecticut.
$1.24 billion Net operating loss for Amtrak in fiscal year 2011.
Other Useless News
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Top 25 Referrers for May
Its the first weekend of the month, which means its time once again to thank the top 25 referring websites to Len Penzo dot Com.
1. MSN: Smart Spending
2. Money Talks News
3. Business Insider
4. The Simple Dollar
6. Budgets Are Sexy
7. Time Magazine: Moneyland
8. Sound Mind Investing
9. Financial Uproar
10. Control Your Cash
11. The Finance Buff
12. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff
13. The Quest for $85,000
15. Afford Anything
16. The Free Financial Advisor
17. Wealth Pilgrim
18. The Griper’s World
19. Mr. Money Mustache
20. Money Crashers
21. Green Panda Tree House
22. Lazy Man and Money
23. Money Help for Christians
24. Do Not Quit Your Day Job
25. So Over This
Thank you to everyone who refers their readers to this little ol blog! Its much appreciated.
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 the second consecutive week, I received another complaint on my post explaining why only suckers buy corner lots. From what I can tell, this one comes from a corner lot owner named John:
wow ok so your too lazy to cut grass and do some work on a corner house i have a corner house my garage is right next to my house and have a big back yard and front yard a little work will never hurt any one i never have any problems with noise and selling them people jump for corner lots trash wow whats every couple months might have to pick up some trash never had problems with any one in the area about how my house looks just seems like u dont like corner house because your afraid to work and lights i have one street lite a little down the street so people if your ok with doing a little yard work thats fine yards are not that big. [sic]
You can’t even be bothered to use periods and capital letters, but you’re calling me lazy?
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.