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.
It’s hard to believe, but this week my blog celebrated its seventh birthday. Yep. Way back on December 11, 2008, yours truly decided to kick off his newfound writing hobby with this modest little entry. At the time, I never dreamed that Len Penzo dot Com would ever become as big as it has; over the years, this little ol’ blog has chalked up nearly 8 million page views — and the best part is, it continues to grow with each passing month. Hooray!
Anyway … whether you’re a long-time follower or a relative-newbie here, I want to thank all of you for your continued interest and support — including the complaints and criticisms. Well … most of them.
And with that, off we go …
Credits and Debits
Debit: The new calendar year begins in a few weeks, but the US fiscal year is already two months old — and spending, tax rates, and the budget deficit already increased over the past 60 days. The government monster is growing — and consuming everything in its path.
Debit: Did you see this? It turns out that the 20 richest Americans own more wealth than half the US population. Wow. Apparently, 50% of Americans are poorer than I thought.
Credit: Maybe Malaysia’s Kuala Lampur International Airport should ask one of those rich Americans if they’re the mystery owner of three 747s that are still sitting on their tarmac after landing there more than a year ago. I know of people who forgot where their car was parked — but a 747?
Debit: Meanwhile, the Fed is signaling it will raise interest rates by 25 tiny basis points on Wednesday and the financial markets are having a hissy fit: the Dow had its worst week since August, bond yields are collapsing, crude oil is at a seven-year low, the dollar is falling, and junk bonds are plummeting.
Debit: Common sense suggests that bonds are in an even bigger bubble than stocks — after all, they’ve been in a bull market for 35 years now. In fact, the bond market is so big, financial experts are worried that its “circling the drain” because it lacks the liquidity required to keep a catastrophic meltdown from occurring. No, really.
Credit: If that doesn’t prove to you how dependent the fraudulent US economy has become on interest rates holding at the zero-bound, I don’t know what would. When this house of cards finally collapses, look out below.
Credit: Why is our economy in such a dire financial mess? Well, as financial analyst John Rubino points out, it’s because: “The US is engaged in an experiment to see how long an economy can function with services growing and manufacturing contracting.” In short: we’re not creating enough stuff. Well … unless you count waiters and bartenders.
Credit: Of course, this twisted financial experiment — led by the mad money-scientists at the Fed — will eventually fail in spectacular fashion, if only because no nation can maintain a high standard of living when it continually consumes more than it produces.
Debit: Nations prefer exchanging real goods like oil for airplanes, or lumber for corn; short of that, they want gold. For more than 40 years, however, the US has been paying frustrated trading partners with increasingly worthless dollars. It’s a game that won’t go on much longer, folks — and understandably so. Look:
Debit: Speaking of mad experiments, I see Canada is officially thinking about joining desperate central bankers on the other side of the Atlantic by imposing negative interest rates. Then again, desperate times call for desperate measures. I guess.
Credit: Finally, don’t look now, but the lone Obamacare co-op to make a profit in 2014, Maine’s Community Health Options, is now losing millions. In fact, things are so bad that they’ve stopped taking new enrollees. The company blames higher-than-expected medical costs. Heh. Tell us about it.
By the Numbers
In case you’re wondering, the data is in and it turns out that Black Friday sales in the US didn’t light the retail world on fire in 2015. Here are a few numbers:
$10,400,000,000 Total Black Friday sales this year; that’s down 10% from 2014.
$1,800,000,000 Total sales on Thanksgiving; that was down 10% from 2014 too.
22,000,000 Number of Black Friday shoppers who visited Walmart in 2015.
36 Percentage of all online sales captured by Amazon on Black Friday; that’s more than any other company.
8 Percentage of all online Black Friday sales made by Best Buy, which came in second place among all retailers.
8 Days before Black Friday that Amazon officially began offering Black Friday sale deals. Cheaters.
Source: The Motley Fool
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Result
Which of these traits would you rather have?
- Eat without getting fat (40%)
- A photographic memory (33%)
- Never get tired (16%)
- Everyone likes you (11%)
More than 900 people chimed in for this week’s question and a strong plurality — 2 in 5 people — indicated that they’d prefer the ability to eat without getting fat over having a photographic memory, getting through the day without ever getting tired, or having an irresistible charisma. Me too. Frankly, I thought that number would be higher — especially with the holidays upon us. Shows you what I know.
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — five states in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. South Dakota (1.95 pages/visit)
2. Arkansas (1.90)
3. Alaska (1.84)
4. North Dakota (1.83)
5. New Mexico (1.82)
46. Connecticut (1.39)
47. Oklahoma (1.38)
48. South Carolina (1.37)
49. Rhode Island (1.36)
50. Wyoming (1.28)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like my friends in South Dakota … for the second month in a row!) — or not (ahem, Wyoming) — please don’t forget to:
1. Click on that Like button in the sidebar to your right and become a fan of Len Penzo dot Com on Facebook!
2. Make sure you follow me on Twitter!
3. Subscribe via email too!
And last, but not least …
4. Consider becoming a Len Penzo dot Com Insider! Thank you.
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
After reading my article on how to know when it’s time to stop giving gifts to nieces and nephews, KenCo added a caveat of his own:
Of course, the gift-giving will end prematurely if no Thank You (note, email, call) is made.
Even better: You could send them a pencil and some stationery the following Christmas!
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credits: hdwallpapers_cat