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.
Trust me: business travel is no fun. I left my Southern California home on Sunday morning to catch a flight to Huntsville, Alabama for a week-long trip; one epic thunderstorm, two delayed flights and an outright cancellation later, I finally reached my destination — late in the morning on Tuesday, 51 hours after I walked out my front door. Uh huh.
It gets better: The good folks at American Airlines refused to give me my luggage after my connecting flight in Dallas was unceremoniously cancelled. Their unsympathetic employee at the baggage claim counter told a baker’s dozen of us looking to retrieve our luggage for the night in no uncertain terms — and with jaw-dropping attitude, to boot — to go fly a kite because she “didn’t have the personnel to pull your bags!” Never mind that she had almost two hours to find somebody to complete the task. And never mind that the next available flight American had into Huntsville — or the next-closest location for that matter, Nashville — was two days away.
So my luggage continued on to Huntsville and got there Sunday evening. As for me … I was shuttled to an airport motel — which I had to pay for — with only the clothes on my back, where I served a two-night sentence for being stupid enough to fly American Airlines to Huntsville through Dallas on a Sunday in springtime.
Other than that, the trip was fine. So … how was your week?
Credits and Debits
Debit: I probably shouldn’t complain about business travel — especially considering that 19.7% of all American families currently have nobody working. Granted, the number has been relatively constant since 1995, but still … It’s more proof that American “prosperity” is largely smoke and mirrors — and has been for a long time.
Debit: Of course, sobering statistics like that only bolster financial analyst Jim Grant’s claim that the US is insolvent. Hogwash, you say? Well … if you can credibly explain how every American can pay off their $43,000 — and rapidly growing — share of the National Debt when so many are unemployed in the first place, I’d love to hear it. I said “credibly.”
some too many people think strawman arguments, tautology and ad hominem attacks are credible ways of discrediting those who point out that the US is bankrupt. Psst. They’re not.
Debit: Then again, forget the National Debt; most people are having trouble coming up with enough cash to pay their Obamacare premiums — which is bad news considering the spokesman for US health insurers is warning that next year’s O-care premium increases will be the largest in history. Forward!
Debit: Oh sure, Americans can worry about how to cover those ridiculously-high Obamacare deductibles after they get sick. In the meantime, I’ll keep watching for that 3000% healthcare premium discount that the President promised those of us with employer-based healthcare plans would see if Obamacare passed. No, really.
Credit: I’m sure that 3000% reduction claim was an innocent mistake. The President prolly just misspoke; he actually meant to say, “3000% increase in premiums.” Or “$2500 reduction.” Oh wait …
Credit: One thing’s for sure: If we don’t see those lower Obamacare premiums soon, then we never will because the floundering healthcare scheme could soon find itself in an irreversible death spiral. I know. But like that little ol’ ant, I’ve got high hopes.
Debit: Obamacare is a prime example of how government subsidies and control make markets dysfunctional. In the People’s Socialist Paradise of VenezuelaTM an Internet, cable and phone service bundle costs pennies per month. Ole! But now that Venezuela has run out of other people’s money, their telecom grid is disintegrating, if not outright disappearing. Hear that, Bernie?
Debit: Pooh-pooh all you want, folks, but the US is on the same unsustainable economic trajectory as Venezuela — or Detroit, for that matter. How else do you think the Motor City went from being one of America’s wealthiest large cities to arguably its most destitute in less than 50 years? Hint: It wasn’t due to libertarian policies.
Debit: Sadly, most Americans believe the U. S. of A. will never run out of other people’s money. They better think again. And if the Saudi’s follow through on their recent threat to liquidate all of their Treasury holdings, our day of reckoning may get here sooner than anyone thinks.
(The Best of) By the Numbers
A little more on Detroit:
5 Detroit’s rank among the most populous US cities in 1950.
1,800,000 Number of Detroit residents in 1950.
680,250 Population of Detroit in 2016.
17 Number of US cities that are larger than Detroit today.
30,000 Number of current and retired city workers.
$18,000,000,000 Detroit’s total debt and liabilities.
$26,460 Current liability for every resident of Detroit.
$9,200,000,000 Unfunded pension and healthcare liabilities claimed by Detroit’s two pension funds.
$306,666 Average pension liability for every current and retired city employee.
Last Week’s Poll Results
What grade would you give the current state of your personal finances?
- B (45%)
- C (22%)
- A (21%)
- D (8%)
- F (4%)
More than 1000 people responded to last week’s question and I’m happy to see that 2 in 3 Len Penzo dot Com readers say the personal finance line on their report card is showing an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ — in other words, above average to excellent. That’s good to know — assuming there’s no grade inflation going on. At the other end of the spectrum, slightly more than 1 in 10 give themselves a ‘D’ or ‘F’.
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 9074 RSS feed and weekly email subscribers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- Why It Pays to Pay Attention When You Buy In Bulk
- The 50 Biggest Money Mistakes Household CEOs Make
- Why Grandma Was Probably Smarter Than You About Money
- 11 Ways to Make Your Retirement Savings Grow Faster
- 5 Affordable Ways to Upgrade an Outdated Bathroom
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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 Melinda left this, well … let’s call it “unexpected” note in my email inbox:
Len, The cure for my loneliness is in your pants.
Really? Three pennies, two nickels, a Swiss army knife and some lint?
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-c