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.
As a reminder, later today, on Saturday, February 27 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific / 2:00 p.m. Eastern, I’m holding my first phone call for Len Penzo dot Com Insiders.
I’m looking forward to taking your questions — er, assuming anybody calls in. If not, it looks like I’ll be doing my weekend home maintenance chores early.
The call-in number and passcode can be found in last week’s Black Coffee post, which Insiders can access here.
And if you’re not an Insider, you can sign up here.
I hope to see you there!
Did You See This?
One last thing before I get into the Credits and Debits today … I’m sure most people haven’t forgotten last year’s dreaded dress meme which, incredibly, had the world arguing over its actual color. (That is: Was it blue and white, or black and gold … er, or maybe they were arguing over whether it was black and blue, or gold and white. Whatever.)
Well, last night my 16-year-old daughter — and occasional guest writer for this blog — Nina, innocently asked her friends via Tumblr a similar question regarding a picture of a jacket her friend had taken. And then it went viral. No, really.
Call it “the jacket” meme.
Oh, and she was also interviewed by ABC News who put out this article describing the entire story. I know, huh?
Then to top it all off, not long after the ABC story hit the wire, she was contacted by the girl who initiated the original dress meme — one year ago today. Too funny.
Anyway … for what it’s worth, less than 24 hours after she sent out the original post on her Tumblr blog, she’s received more than 20,000 notes. Not too shabby! Welcome to the big show, Nina — if only for a day or two.
Now … I just wish that many people could muster up the same level of excitement when it comes to macroeconomics and personal finance.
UPDATE: This weekend, Fox News Channel contacted Nina. She’ll be on television for the Monday edition of the Fox and Friends morning show.
Okay, and with that, off we go …
Credits and Debits
Debit: Bloomberg is reporting that delinquencies on subprime auto loans are rising sharply now; in fact, they are at their highest level in five years, and most likely tied to rising unemployment. Uh oh.
Debit: Then again, the eroding job picture, spurred on by faltering oil prices — not to mention previously-announced plans of US retail chains to close 6000 stores between last year and next — shouldn’t be a surprise. At least to anyone who’s been paying attention.
Debit: Of course, when people don’t work, that ultimately means less revenue for the tax collectors at the IRS — who already get bupkis from almost half of all Americans. Go ahead: Insert your favorite Mitt Romney joke here.
Debit: Meanwhile, in order to remain solvent, the giant Central States Pension Fund is looking to cut many retirees’ benefits by 50%. It’s true. Without those cuts, the fund will go broke in less than 10 years. Can you say, “unsustainable?”
Credit: One Teamster retiree had this to say about his pending benefit cuts: “What’s happening to us is a microcosm of what’s going to happen to the rest of the pensions in the US.” Uh huh. Very observant, young padawan. Er … I mean, old padawan.
Debit: By the way, when most US private-sector pensions eventually blow up — and they almost certainly will — you can bet the same fate will befall those absurd taxpayer-guaranteed Cadillac public-sector pensions too. Lest there be a run on pitchforks and torches.
Debit: Needless to say, economic turmoil isn’t limited to the United States — it’s a worldwide phenomenon, as evidenced by last year’s 14% plunge in international trade. That’s the first contraction since 2009 — and you can blame that on the rapidly faltering fiat-dollar-based international monetary system. No, no; I insist. Blame it.
Debit: The Fed certainly senses something isn’t right; they’re now saying asset managers are ‘vulnerable to runs‘ from investors. And that has some folks saying if central bankers are openly concerned about a selling panic, then things must be worse than they’re willing to admit.
Credit: It looks like the Fed didn’t have to tell the Japanese that something is amiss in the financial world. The Land of the Rising Sun has seen a run on safes that began with the onset of negative interest rates there last month. And why not? The interest rate on cash in a safe is more attractive than what the BoJ offers.
Credit: How much cash are the Japanese hoarding in those safes? Nobody knows for sure, but Japan has recently seen a big increase in demand for 10,000-yen notes.
Credit: It’s not just the Japanese: the Swiss are beginning to sense something ain’t right too. Switzerland has seen, as Donald Trump would say, a “yuge” increase in the use of 1000-franc notes since interest rates went negative there in November 2014. Yes, yuge!
Debit: So … Now you know why bankers, ivory-tower socialist academics, and other statist toadies are getting more vocal in their breathless calls for the end of high-denomination currency such as the $100 bill. At least I hope you do.
Credit: Frankly, I don’t know why folks in Japan and Switzerland aren’t storing a little gold in their safes instead of yen and francs. Unlike fiat currencies, whose value can actually go to zero — regardless of the number printed on the bill — gold is the ultimate store of value. And silver ain’t far behind.
Credit: Ironically, this week Deutsche Bank suggested that, because of “rising stresses in the global financial system,” now is the time to buy gold. No, really. And in other news, our Hades affiliate reports that the temperature in hell is currently a very frosty 40-below. Snowballs, anyone?
Last Week’s Poll Results
Do you think we should eliminate cash and make all transactions electronic?
- No (90%)
- I’m not sure. (6%)
- Yes (4%)
More than 1000 people responded to last week’s question and, I’m happy to say, 9 in 10 don’t want to see an end to the green funny money we carry in our wallets. Maybe there really is still hope for the future.
The Question of the Week
By the Numbers
Here’s a little more US tax data to chew on while you’re filling out this year’s IRS return:
80 Percentage of taxes paid by the top 20% of earners.
50 Approximate percentage of all taxes paid by the top 1% of earners.
45 Percentage of all Americans who didn’t pay taxes in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
$18,150,617,666,484 The US National Debt at the end of fiscal 2015.
20 Percentage of all Americans who didn’t pay taxes in 1990.
$3,233,313,451,777 The US National Debt at the end of fiscal 1990.
40 Estimated percentage of all Americans who won’t be paying taxes in 2025.
This Week’s Public Service Announcement
Do you like research and invest in stocks? If so, my friend Jeremy from Modest Money has introduced an exciting new module at his website that he calls the Modest Money Stock Wizard. It’s a stock directory that aggregates numerous data sources to make stock investing research easier. He’s also just added an advanced search feature to help find stocks that match your specific target metrics — so what are you waiting for? Go ahead and check it out!
Other Useless News
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 8818 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- How I Manage My Finances in Just 15 Minutes Every Month
- Economic Collapse 101: Ten Ways to Prepare for the Unknown
- 9 Tips for Getting the Most from Your Groceries
- How to Tell If You’re Dating a Deadbeat
- Why Programmable Thermostats Rarely Save People Money
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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
This week I got some great news from Francis Egoyibo, an officer for the Office of the Accountant General:
The Auditor-General for the country of West Africa has determined that you are owed US$9,241,000.00. We would like to know how you wish to be paid …
Kindly send the entire amount to the US Internal Revenue Service as an advance tax payment on my future income.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-