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…
A woman became impatient while sitting in the car waiting for her husband to collect his tuba from a storage locker. Eventually, she decided to go in and find out what was taking so long.
Inside the locker she found her hubby sitting on an old sofa, deep in thought, with his head down, staring at an old photo of his first car.
Then she saw him wipe a tear from his eye.
“What’s the matter, Honey?”
“Do you remember 20 years ago when we were dating and you were only 16?”
“And do you remember when your father caught us in the back seat of my car?”
“Do you also remember how your father shoved that shotgun in my face and told me, ‘You’re either going to marry my daughter or spend the next 20 years in prison!’”
Her husband then looked up before wiping another tear from his eye. “I would have gotten out today.”
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Financial Uproar – That Time I Went to an Auction Sale. Speaking of storage lockers … Out of morbid curiosity, Nelson decided to go to a storage locker auction. Here’s his first-hand account of what happened.
PT Money – Ouch! My Uninsured Trip to the Dentist. Newsflash: Although I’m 48-years-old I’ve never had a cavity. Not one. That hasn’t stopped me from financing my dentist’s vacation on the French Riviera this year. In fact, I’ve paid roughly $10,000 out of my own pocket to cover the family’s various dental needs in 2012. That’s not a typo, folks. And here’s the really scary part: I have dental insurance. A beautiful smile isn’t cheap, folks.
L Bee and the Money Tree – 7 New Home Budget Busters. It turns out dental expenses aren’t life’s only budget busters. According to Lauren, there are several items that can toss a wrench into your budget when you move. Number 3 on her list: a good pair of scissors. Frankly, I’m surprised anybody buys scissors. Don’t most people just “borrow” those things from their employer’s office supply cabinet? (In case my boss is reading this, I want to point out that was just a cheap joke. I’ve never stolen your scissors. Pens, tape and Post-It notes, yes. But scissors — never.)
Enemy of Debt – How Am I Paying Off $109,000 in Credit Card Debt? Travis and his wife have reduced their debt by $70,000 so far. In this post, he explains how he did it — and how to know whether or not his method will work for you.
Money Help for Christians – The 6 Best Time-Tested Ways to Raise a Spoiled Child. Says Craig: “The other day, my oldest daughter was asking why she doesn’t get her own room.” Needless to say, I know exactly where Craig’s coming from — I get the same question on an almost daily basis from the Honeybee.
Control Your Cash – Money Won’t Find You. You Have to Meet It Halfway.
Hope to Prosper – The High Cost of Planned Obsolescence
Money Smart Life – Life Insurance Exam Blues?
Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Does Paul Ryan Really Scare Seniors?
Canadian Finance Blog – Boost Your Earnings by Getting Promoted
Everyday Tips and Thoughts – How Much of Your Happiness Is Based On Your Comparison of Others?
My latest roundtable appearance on Average Joe’s weekly financial podcast, Two Guys and Your Money, can be heard on Episode 7: Jeff Rose Interview – The Life Insurance Movement.
By the way, you can listen in every week for a chance to win some fantastic prizes!
This week, Joe is giving away a puppy. No, I don’t know if it’s potty trained yet.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From May 2009:
How to Find a Low Cost Plumber Who Won’t Rip You Off – Not all plumbers are created equal and this post teaches you how to tell a reputable one from other guys who have no qualms extracting as much cash from your wallet as they possibly can via over-priced, and sometimes even needless, parts and services.
Credits and Debits
Debit: Bad things happen when we refuse to live within our means. Nowhere is this more apparent than California, where more than 10 percent of its 482 cities have now declared fiscal emergencies.
Debit: According to Republicans from the Senate Budget Committee, unless something changes the US National Debt will climb from an already eye-popping $16 trillion to an even more astounding $20.3 trillion by 2016.
Debit: Then again, I’m still trying to understand how those senators came to that specific figure, considering the Senate has undermined the Constitution and violated the public trust by failing to approve a budget for each of the past three years.
Credit: In order for an economy to grow and stay healthy, capitalism depends on creative destruction that occurs during recessions via lost jobs, corporate bankruptcies, and industrial upheavals.
Credit: Of course, creative destruction is never easy on the citizenry; it demands strong character, financial fortitude, and — most importantly — an unwavering faith in self-reliance. But over the long run, the reward is an ever-increasing standard of living for society in general.
Debit: Over the past ten years or so, there’s been a noticeable reluctance in America’s willingness to accept the pain that comes with creative destruction. That reluctance has turned to outright resistance, as evidenced by almost $6 trillion that’s been added to the National Debt since 2009.
Debit: Instead the nation selfishly refuses to suck it up and take its medicine. As a result, we’re probably going to leave our children with a lower standard of living than we currently enjoy. It’s shameful.
Credit: Capitalism requires winners and losers; there’s no way around it, folks. And it should be clear to everyone now, attempts to circumvent the process via bailouts and federal subsidies of unpopular pet projects only make things worse for everyone.
Debit: In fact, all these bailouts and financial band-aids are only prolonging the agony. Want proof? Although the “recovery” started in June 2009, Americans earn 7.2 percent less now than they did back then.
Debit: Needless to say, that loss of income is even more noticeable after the price of gasoline hit an all-time record for August this past week. On Monday, the average price for US drivers reached $3.72 per gallon.
Credit: So, is capitalism perfect? Absolutely not. But history has proven time and again that it’s the best system in the world for advancing the human condition, bar none. Warts and all.
Debit: Hey, if you’re looking for a pay raise, consider getting a job as an intern for the US Department of Agriculture. They spent $2 million to hire a full-time one, including $192,500 to cover his housing for two years. I know.
Debit: I bet that intern story doesn’t sit too well with the more than half of all college grads who are stuck in jobs right now that only require a high school diploma. Sad.
Credit: Finally … Earlier this week a man armed with a steaming cup of coffee robbed an Arlington, Virginia, hotel. The robber threw the scalding coffee on the desk manager before absconding with $450 and a cell phone. He’s still on the lam.
Credit: Meanwhile, police in nearby Silver Springs, Maryland, are now investigating whether this is the same guy who recently robbed their local bank while armed with a kielbasa sausage and a 12-ounce can of sauerkraut. (Yeah, I wrote that all by myself.)
By the Numbers
Sauerkraut is essentially pickled cabbage. Here are a few facts on this German favorite:
330 million Pounds of cabbage grown in the US each year. The top three cabbage producing states for sauerkraut are Wisconsin, Ohio, and New York.
33 Percent of the USDA daily requirement for Vitamin C found in a single serving of sauerkraut. (It’s no coincidence that sailors used to bring sauerkraut on long voyages to prevent scurvy.)
44 Calories in a cup of sauerkraut.
8 Grams of fiber in a typical serving of sauerkraut.
0 Grams of fat in a serving of sauerkraut.
2 Sauerkraut’s rank among all hot dog toppings. Only mustard is more popular. (I know. I don’t believe this one either.)
1.5 Pounds of sauerkraut consumed per person annually in America. By comparison, Americans eat 8.5 pounds of pickles per person annually.
Source: I Love Pickles.org
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 2738 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- The 50 Biggest Mistakes Household CEOs Make
- Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Then Guess the Price of This Detergent.
- 100 Words On: Why It Pays to Sleep On It Prior to a Big Decision
- 100 Words On: Why You Should Resist Borrowing from Your 401(k)
- My 4th Annual Cost Survey of 10 Common Brown Bag Sandwiches
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:
- in one particular butcher’s shop, ham costs $3/lb. turkey costs $6/lb., and beef costs $4/lb. how much does a pound of bologna cost?
- where’s the best place to find money on the ground?
- where is the best place to hide when the big earthquake hits?
- how can i find out if my boyfriend has a prepaid phone aside from his phone on our plan?
- i need to know how can i write a valuble [sic] test as an enghlish [sic] teacher
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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!
Somebody claiming to be Les Moonves chimed in regarding my controversial assertion that smart people aren’t impressed by expensive cars:
Wow, Pulitzer Prize winning stuff. Life is short. If you are someone who loves performance vehicles and doesn’t want to drive around in a ’94 P.O.S. like a Shlub [sic] why not enjoy yourself? Smart people in some cases are haters.
Uh huh. And I don’t need a 60 Minutes exposÃ©, Les, to learn that you’re obviously just another intolerant schlub-basher! So pot, meet kettle.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message. (I’m also a schlub who drives a ’97 P.O.S.)