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.
I planted a couple of tomato plants in the spring and so far I’ve only been able to enjoy about 15 tomatoes. For the longest time, I assumed the plant was just not bearing fruit due to the climate, but yesterday I discovered the real problem — they’re being pilfered by a pesky squirrel that has been sneaking into my backyard.
Talk about frustrating!
So the battle is on to see who is going to end up eating more of my homegrown tomatoes this year. (Hint: It’s not going to be the squirrel.)
Okay, off we go …
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Results
How many cars have you owned in your lifetime?
- 4 – 6 (28%)
- 1 – 3 (21%)
- More than 12 (20%)
- 7 – 9 (16%)
- 10 – 12 (10%)
- 0 (5%)
More than 400 people responded to last week’s question and I think the most interesting nugget from the survey is that 1 in 5 Len Penzo dot Com readers have owned more than a dozen cars during their lifetime. Wow! I don’t care if you’re a thirtysomething or a septuagenarian — that is a lot of cars.
Credits and Debits
Credit: The S&P 500 hit yet another new high on Thursday before falling back a bit on Friday. For the year, the S&P is up 7% — despite a US economy that contracted 2.9% last quarter, and little news suggesting that things are improving.
Credit: In fact, it’s been more than 1023 days since the S&P 500 saw its last 10% correction. And while that may seem like a long run, the S&P has also seen two longer runs — 1800 and 2500 days — over the past 25 years. So maybe this bull market still has legs.
Debit: Then again, bubble paranoia seems to be spreading. A recent poll by Bloomberg Global found that three in five financial professionals now believe the stock market is either in bubble territory or on the verge of one. Uh oh.
Debit: I know I sound like a broken record, but the disconnect between the stock market and the rotting US economy is bigger than ever. When any nation has less than half of its working-age population between 16 and 54 with full-time jobs — as the US does now — then it has big problems.
Debit: The continuing cascade of disappearing full-time jobs is magnifying another economic problem: Real wages are at the same level today that they were six years ago. But how can that be if we’ve been in an economic recovery since 2009?
Credit: At least the prices on durable goods are dropping everywhere. Unfortunately, most durable goods — like home appliances, televisions, and new cars — are discretionary purchases. Meanwhile, the prices for the things we need — like food, energy and rent — continue to suffer from steadily increasing prices.
Debit: History tells us that all societies with more people in the cart than pulling it eventually collapse, as Venezuela’s is now. For what it’s worth, 49% of all Americans receive government benefits of some kind, whether they’re justified or not. Don’t shoot me, folks; I’m only the messenger.
Credit: Speaking of government “benefits,” in a potential lethal blow to Obamacare, a federal appeals court said last week that the law, as written, clearly states that the government can’t subsidize health insurance plans in the 34 states that do not have their own exchanges …
Debit: … But then another appeals court said it could because the law was ambiguous on that point — so this issue will remain undecided until the Supreme Court makes a decision. Too bad we’ll probably have to wait until 2016 for their answer. Well, unless the economy collapses first.
Debit: What’s not ambiguous is the President’s assurance to Americans back in 2009 that Obamacare’s individual mandate surtax wasn’t a tax. Somebody should remind the IRS too, because they just added a line for that so-called “non-tax” on their latest 1040 tax form. I know.
Debit: Of course, the President also promised, “If you like your healthcare plan, you can keep your healthcare plan. Period. End of story.” He made that claim more than three dozen times. And we all know how that turned out.
Debit: The sad truth is, in 2014 Obamacare will end up creating twice as many losers as winners — in all, 30 million people are expected to lose their healthcare plans this year.
Debit: As for those who still have their plans, the majority are still waiting for annual premiums to drop $2500. (Yes, yet another utopian commitment that had no chance of ever standing up to economic reality.)
Credit: Needless to say, a lot of people now feel betrayed by all of these broken healthcare promises — supposedly, some more than others.
(The Best of) By the Numbers
A look at Cleveland, Ohio:
7 Cleveland’s rank among the biggest US cities in 1950, when its population was over 900,000.
396,815 Cleveland’s population according to the 2010 US Census — that represents a 100-year low.
45 Cleveland’s rank among the biggest US cities today.
1 Major rivers that bisect Cleveland. (Cuyahoga)
13 Number of times that the Cuyahoga River has caught fire since 1868. (Yes, really.)
21 Estimated percentage of people who can’t say “Cuyahoga” without spraining their tongue.
49 Years since Cleveland has won a major sports title. (No city with at least three major sports franchises has waited longer.)
Other Useless News
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 5879 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- 10 Ways to Get Fit for Little or No Money
- 19 Tips for Saving a Bundle of Money on Home Appliances
- Why Paying Off the Mortgage Early May be a Big Mistake
- DVDs from Hell: How to Deal with Unskippable Trailers and Ads
- Don’t Be a Wimp: 22 Things You Should Always Haggle For
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Here’s Some Other Articles You Might Enjoy …
DINKS Finance – Am I Missing Out By Not Having Kids? (Note from Len: Yes.)
Budgeting for More – Advice for Young, First-Time Home Buyers
Money Counselor – Debt Doesn’t Cure Debt!
Money Under 30 – How to Collect from People Who Owe You Money
Young Adult Money – 4 Reasons Not to Quit Your Job to Start a Business
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
Denise was not impressed with my article explaining why corner lots are for suckers:
I have lived on corner lots most of my life. I have not had any problems. I think you don’t like yard work [and] probably live an apartment. I want to know where you get this information.
You’re right, Denise. I just make this stuff up as I go along.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-c