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.
Now that Matthew is 16, he’ll be heading to the DMV this coming Monday to get his driver’s permit, which explains why he’s busy cramming for his upcoming exam.
You know, the last time I ever saw my son study for a big test was, well … never.
This weekend, the Honeybee and I are celebrating our 17th wedding anniversary.
I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. We didn’t waste a lot of time after getting married to start our family.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From February 2009:
What Girl Scout Cookies Can Teach Us About Mortgages – We all have our priorities in life. Unfortunately, some people end up paying the price because they misplace them.
And Here’s Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy …
Gold Diggers & Deadbeat Dads – Mind Your (Family) Business
Budgets are Sexy – I’m a Human Guinea Pig
Hope to Prosper – Seeing Opportunity in the Future
Barbara Friedberg Personal Finance – Easy Ways to Save Money
Don’t Quit Your Day Job – Why Everyone Should Care About the IRS Targeting Conservative Groups
Credits and Debits
Debit: It’s been a rough month for the food industry in the American Northeast. Last week, a Massachusetts woman found herself in a pickle after she allegedly punched a restaurant worker in the face for having the gall to put too many gherkins on her steak sandwich. Talk about a sourpuss.
Debit: Meanwhile, a surly senior citizen was charged with robbery after he allegedly tried to use an expired coupon at a Long Island ice cream shoppe. When told he had to pay $3.50 for his cone, the cold curmudgeon allegedly popped the soda jerk in the face and left without paying.
Debit: Not to be outdone, a Connecticut man was arrested on the same day for allegedly stealing $10,000 worth of chicken wings from a local meat company. No, I don’t know if he tried to use an expired coupon. But at least he didn’t punch anybody in the kisser.
Credit: You’d think that kind of desperate behavior would be rare, considering the booming US economy. After all, the stock market is continuing to set all-time highs with each passing week. All three major indices are up about 16% so far this year — and it’s only May.
Credit: Why would anyone bother clipping expired coupons for free ice cream cones when stocks are so hot that they’ve become a gambler’s paradise? This month the S&P 500 has finished higher 77% of the time. For the year, the S&P is almost as impressive, with up days occurring nearly 65% of the time.
Debit: Let’s face it; the markets have become completely detached from reality, as they rise regardless of whether the US macro-economic data is good, or bad. The only thing that appears to matter now is whether the Fed will continue pumping $85 billion per month into the economy.
Debit: Truth be told, the Fed can’t take the punch bowl away without massive consequences now. If they do, the economy will quickly collapse on itself.
Debit: When the markets consistently find any excuse to rise — even in the face of dour news and economic indicators that should, rationally, result in a pullback — that’s the sign of a classic blow-off top. Does that mean a crash is imminent? Maybe not; blow-off tops can remain on an upward trajectory for months before finally crashing.
Credit: With that in mind, it’s times like these that can really test people’s convictions. After all, everyone is looking for a little “easy money.” That being said, the stock market — and our “recovering” economy — is an illusion, supported on the rickety foundation of Central Bank manipulation.
Credit: As Franklin Sanders points out, the folks who insist all is well — and ask us to believe that the Fed really can print its way to prosperity — are essentially trying to convince us that water runs uphill.
Debit: Yes, it’s tempting to ride the current stock market wave, but once the panic selling starts, it’s nearly impossible to get out in time. As a result, a lot of players are going to get caught with their swim trunks down — so be careful out there.
Debit: More bad news on Obamacare: Insurers are now predicting that the new regulations will cause health insurance premiums to rise between 100% and 400%. More proof the so-called “Affordable Healthcare Act” is going to be anything but for the majority of Americans who had insurance before this monstrosity became the law of the land. Just sayin’.
Debit: Well, it could be worse; we could be living in Argentina where we would face the prospect of jail time if we refused to “invest” our cash in government bonds with a 4% return. That’s what Argentina’s socialist government is now considering anyway. Never mind that their annual inflation rate is currently 25% — and climbing.
Debit: The value of the Argentine peso is falling so fast now that the citizens are buying luxury automobiles as an inflation hedge. It’s surreal, but that’s what happens when an economy starts to disintegrate — as it is in Argentina for the second time in a little more than a decade.
Credit: Argentina’s troubles are nothing compared to Venezuela. In that workers’ paradise, the annual inflation rate is 30% and there are widespread shortages of milk, butter, cornmeal, and coffee. This week, Venezuelan consumers are making a stink about the paucity of paper. Specifically, toilet paper.
Credit: Of course, the legendary queues for TP in the old Soviet Union, and the recent toilet tissue troubles in Cuba remind us that socialism and toilet paper shortages go together like salt and pepper or, more appropriately, Beavis and Butthead.
Credit: Then again, back in 1973, the United States experienced a toilet paper shortage of its own after a monologue joke by Tonight Show host Johnny Carson unintentionally sparked a real run on bathroom tissue. Thankfully, the shortage was, er, wiped out within a few weeks.
Credit: Go ahead. You can pooh-pooh the Johnny Carson story all you want, but it’s true. Trust me. I’ve already, um, flushed out the facts.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers
Speaking of toilet paper, here are several enlightening statistics regarding how people actually choose to use — or, um, not use — the Charmin. Continue at your own risk:
5.9 The average number of toilet paper sheets used per visit to the bathroom.
1 Sheets of TP that singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow claims she normally uses per trip. (I know.)
42 Percentage of folks who fold their toilet paper before using it.
33 Percentage of people who crumple it.
8 Percentage who fold and then crumple it.
6 Percentage who wrap it around their hands.
0 Likelihood that Sheryl Crow folds, crumples, or wraps her toilet paper before using it.
8 Percentage of people who admitted to using their bare hand at least once.
50 Percentage of people who have used leaves.
60 Percentage of people who look at the paper after they wipe. (Hey, I warned ya!)
Sources: Bay Paper Company, The Guardian
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — five Canadian provinces and territories in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. New Brunswick (3.47 pages/visit)
2. Prince Edward Island (2.79)
3. Saskatchewan (2.11)
4. Nova Scotia (1.94)
5. Alberta (1.84)
9. British Columbia (1.53)
10. Yukon Territory (1.25)
11. Newfoundland (1.20)
12. Northwest Territories (1.00)
13. Nunavut (1.00)
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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 me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
Leslie asked about Sabado Domingo, who occasionally contributes guest posts for me:
Is Sabado Domingo his/her real name? I’m asking because that means “Saturday Sunday” in Spanish.
Good catch, Linda; that’s a pen name. Sabado tells me his real name is Enero Febrero.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.