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.
Let’s get right to it this week …
Credits and Debits
Credit: After falling 4.5% during the first three months of 2104, US productivity jumped 2.5% last quarter. That’s great news because we need something to help us pay for the ever-growing federal government leviathan that lords over us. Speaking of which …
Credit: From the American Thinker: “According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 87% of people who signed up for Obamacare for 2014 qualified for subsidies, and on average they paid 76% less than the true cost of their plan.” Wait a minute … That sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Debit: Unfortunately, as American Thinker points out, Obamacare has, in other words, merely shifted healthcare insurance costs from premium payers to taxpayers. Well … unless you’re among the millions of people who don’t qualify for subsidies — then you’re stuck with Obamacare’s higher premiums too. I know.
Debit: Never mind that the great majority of Obamacare policy holders — including those receiving subsidies — are still stuck with jaw-dropping deductibles that are so ridiculously high, they’d most likely be better off with no insurance at all. Ain’t wealth redistribution grand?
Debit: Just remember, Big Government only “works” until it runs out of other people’s money. And with the current National Debt at almost $18 trillion, and another $67 trillion in unfunded liabilities, I think it’s fair to say that the US — and its taxpayers — are tapped out.
Debit: You think I’m kidding? With $89 trillion in total liabilities and only $82 trillion in household net worth, Uncle Sugar is arguably officially bankrupt right now. It’s all over, folks. We’re just waiting for the lenders to call in the loans.
Debit: By the way, the financial problems aren’t limited to the US government: After more than five years of economic stagnation, its citizens have them too. According to the Fed, 40% of all American households currently show signs of financial stress — and more than half are worse off today than they were in 2008.
Debit: Even worse, 31% of Americans have no retirement savings at all, including 19% of Americans between 55 and 64. I hope they aren’t counting on Social Security — because the odds are almost certain that it isn’t going to be around to save them.
Debit: Let’s face it: You know something is amiss when even the dollar stores are merging to stay in business. Yep. This week Dollar Tree announced that they’re acquiring Family Dollar.
Credit: For what it’s worth, those in the know say the hot trend in retail is a return to smaller more-local stores. Could this mean we’ll eventually see a return of the mom-and-pop shops that dominated commerce in the 20th century? I don’t know if I’d go that far. Yet.
Credit: Finally … If you hate those pestering anonymous random robocalls as much as I do — especially the ones at dinnertime — check out nomorobo.com. It’s absolutely free; best of all, there’s no catch. We’ve been using it for a week or so and it has completely stopped them in their tracks so far. No, really!
By the Numbers
Amaze your friends and neighbors with these facts about the scurrilous telemarketing industry:
2004 Year the Do Not Call Registry was established in the US.
40 Billions of dollars Americans lose to telemarketing fraud every year.
1 Telemarketing fraud’s rank among the list of top Federal Trade Commission consumer complaints.
200,000 Number of telemarketing fraud complaints the FTC receives every month.
80 Percentage of robocalls successfully blocked by nomorobo.com.
1 Maximum price, in cents, that telemarketers typically pay per call — but it’s usually less.
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Result
Have you ever been fired from a job?
- No (45%)
- Yes (28%)
- Fired, no. Laid off, yes. (27%)
Almost 300 people answered last week’s question, and it turns out that more than half of those surveyed have been let go from a job — either voluntarily or involuntarily. I suspect the number of people who fall in either of those two camps will continue to swell as the economy continues to deteriorate.
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — five states in terms of he average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. North Dakota (2.15 pages/visit)
2. New Mexico (2.12)
3. Utah (2.05)
4. South Dakota (1.98)
5. Tennessee (1.90)
46. Kansas (1.44)
47. Maine (1.43)
48. Wyoming (1.40)
49. Oregon (1.31)
50. Vermont (1.30)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like North Dakota, for the second month in a row) — or not (ahem, Ben & Jerry, likewise) — please don’t forget to:
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Here’s Some Posts You Might Enjoy …
Frugal Confessions – Kill 95% of Buyers’ Remorse at the Source
Enemy of Debt – Your Debt Free Checklist
Modest Money – Money Advice for the Poor
Canadian Personal Finance Blog – Lifestyle Creep
A Gai Shan Life – Do You Have Money Fears?
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
Mike had this to say after reading all about my $23,992 bathroom makeover:
You have a master bath? Well in my day, we were only allowed a chamber pot! And we liked it!
True — but at least the remodeling costs were reasonable.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-c