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.
Today I’m taking my son, Matthew, to a (hopefully) deserted parking lot so he can practice driving for the very first time.
I remember my first foray behind the wheel of a car. It was in high school, back when high schools still offered driver education classes and vocational training courses like auto shop for folks who weren’t interested in college. Anyway, I took the first corner I ever attempted far too fast and I ended up hitting a curb and coming within inches of taking out a fire hydrant. The only thing that saved me from total disaster was the instructor who, thankfully, had a brake on his side of the car.
Matthew’s first driving lesson will be with our 2001 Honda Odyssey (which I’ll probably cover in industrial bubble wrap before we go out).
Then, after he convinces me that he’s mastered the basics with the minivan, he’ll move on to the advanced driving class using a real car: my 1997 Honda Civic stick shift.
That should be loads of fun!
Okay, let’s get started. With Easter here, this week is an abbreviated “espresso” edition of Black Coffee: It has all the flavor of the regular Black Coffee column, it’s just concentrated in a smaller cup!
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From October 2009:
My Store Brand vs. Name Brand Blind Taste Test Experiment – My blog really started to take off after I posted this article. Since then, with the help of more than a dozen family members — including my dog, Major — I’ve conducted at least 10 additional taste test challenges for everything from ketchup and peanut butter to bottled water and kids’ cereal. More often than not, the results have been surprising.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …
Cash Cow Couple – Why You Probably Can’t Afford a Dog
The Wise Dollar – Envelope Budgeting: A Quick Introduction and Tour
The Money Principle – Can You Have too Much Money?
Afford Anything – Money and Buying Stuff are Different
L Bee and the Money Tree – A Pen and Paper Kinda Gal
Credits and Debits
Credit: Despite all the bad news coming out of Cyprus, I see the stock market went into the Easter break with plenty of momentum. In fact, the markets are so hot right now that the S&P 500 finished the week by setting an all-time high at the closing bell, and the Dow had it’s best quarter since 1988, up 11.3%.
Debit: Meanwhile the Fed said it will continue to prop up the economy — and the stock market — by pumping $85 billion into the economy each and every month. Maybe this money printing scam isn’t so bad after all. After all, it’s making a lot of people on Wall Street rich!
Debit: On the other hand, between the near-zero interest rates that punish fiscally responsible savers, and the inflation in food and gas prices that punishes everyone, there isn’t a lot to smile about for us folks here on Main Street.
Debit: Of course, Wall Street has nothing to worry about because its rich uncle, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, has no intention of pulling away the punch bowl — ever.
Credit: With the Fed tailwinds keeping the stock market on an upward trajectory at the moment, I suspect the only thing that could derail it right now is if I decide to join the party.
Debit: Bernanke won’t stop the money printing now because he can’t without inflicting massive pain. Of course, the longer he waits, the bigger the economic consequences will be when he finally does turn the lights out on the party — and the longer it will take to recover from the mess that was ultimately created by our government’s reckless spending.
Credit: Finally … A mansion caretaker was charged with receiving stolen property and theft after consuming $102,000 worth of vintage whiskey from his employer. Heh. And you thought you had expensive bar tabs.
Credit: Then again, forget the caretaker’s bar tab — that had to be one epic hangover.
By the Numbers
The Los Angeles Times reports that home lending standards are starting to ease again. Hopefully, they don’t get too lax. With that in mind, here’s another look at the 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis:
80 Percentage of sub-prime mortgages that had adjustable rates.
124 Percentage increase in the price of a typical American home between 1997 and the height of the housing boom in 2006.
5 Percentage of all loans that were sub-prime in 1994. (The loans were worth $35 billion in all.)
20 Percentage of all loans that were sub-prime in 2006. (Total loan value of $600 billion.)
2 The median down payment percentage for first time home-buyers in 2006
3 Median income multiple required to buy the median American home between 1981 and 2001.
4.6 Median income multiple required to buy the median American home in 2006.
0 Net increase in median income between 2000 and 2007. Despite the massive run up in home prices, people’s incomes just didn’t keep pace.
77 USA household debt as a percentage of annual disposable income in 1990.
127 USA household debt as a percentage of annual disposable income in 2007.
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Contest Winner
Congratulations to Daniel from Sweating the Big Stuff who won a $20 Starbucks gift card! He was one of seven people who correctly guessed that Apple Jacks was my favorite cereal. In fact, long-time readers may have remembered that I mentioned that here on my blog at least once before.
Daniel’s name was pulled in a random draw among all the correct guessers.
Thanks to everyone who participated. I’ll have another contest soon.
Other Useless News
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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! You can reach out to me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
Here’s one from my “old letters” file. Louie had a burning question for yours truly:
“Hey Len! How many calories are there in a booger?”
Heh. You don’t really expect me to bite on that one, do you?
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.