It’s time to sit back, relax and enjoy a little joe…
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. Here’s what caught my attention over the past week…
Another busy week, another 60-plus hours at the office, but I think the worst is finally behind me. One of my nephews is coming out from Indiana today to spend the week with us, so let’s get right to it. I don’t want to be late to pick him up from the airport — my sister would kill me!
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Wisebread – Finding Your Best Work Hours. After all the long hours I’ve put in over the past month, working from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. or longer each day, I was naturally attracted to this piece. According to Annie Mueller: People naturally have times when they are more energetic and able to focus. If you can figure out what those hours are for you, you can maximize your productivity without working more hours. Unfortunately for me, that happens to be the period between 9:46 and 9:54 a.m. Looks like I need to find a Plan B.
Free Money Finance – The 15 Minute Rule. In this reprinted (with permission) excerpt from “The Essential Phone Interview Handbook,” author Paul J. Bailo suggests not answering the phone when a potential employer fails to call 15 minutes after the scheduled interview time. Why? “Your time is valuable,” says Mr. Bailo. Instead he suggests waiting an hour before calling back and telling your potential employer that you had to take “an international call.” Heh. According to Bailo, “Following the 15-minute phone interview rule will determine your interviewer’s first impression of you.” That’s for sure.
Financial Highway – Money Stuff My Dad Says. As long as I can remember, my dad has always said with a wry smile that he’s never seen a Brinks truck follow a hearse. In other words, spend it if you’ve got it. I know. For you folks looking to stay out of debt, Miranda Marquit and friends share a few money advice soundbites from their dads that are a bit more, shall I say, financially pragmatic.
Afford Anything – Property and the Pursuit of Happiness. Paula nails this post on the America’s Founding Founders and their thoughts behind what the pursuit of happiness meant to them.
20 and Engaged – 8 Things I Learned About My Spouse 8 Years Later. Speaking of the pursuit of happiness, Briana has been living with her hubby for a year now, and she wants to share a few things she’s learned about him since then. I’m happy to know I’m not the only man who is married to a gal who believes us guys don’t know how to do the laundry properly, or pick up after ourselves, or…
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From November 2009:
Dear Diary: How I Fixed My Water Heater without a Plumber and Saved $400 – My terrific father-in-law, Tony, stopped by the house this week and did a couple of odd jobs that I have been unable get to due to the ridiculously long work hours I’ve been working over the past month. This ain’t the first time Tony has helped me out. Here is a past (mis)adventure we had together, chronicled via my occasional “Dear Diary” series.
Credits and Debits
Credit: Despite the doom and gloom predicted by opponents, it looks like the new Wisconsin law that put limits on collective bargaining is already paying big dividends for at least one school district there.
Credit: For example, in the Kaukauna school district, teachers now have to be in class for 40-hours per week — as opposed to the 37.5-hours specified in their old agreement. As a result, high school classes can be reduced from 31 to 26 students, and elementary school class size can drop from 26 to 23 kids.
Credit: And get this: Kaukauna’s employee health care costs dropped too. That’s because the old collective bargaining agreement forced the school district to purchase insurance coverage from a single company — created by the Wisconsin teachers union. It’s tough to negotiate favorable rates with a de facto monopoly.
Credit: Best of all, the new policies turned the Kaukauna school district’s $400,000 deficit into a $1.5 million surplus. That’s right — a surplus.
Debit: Meanwhile, our massive federal government continues to spend more than it earns each month. June marked the 33rd consecutive monthly deficit, which is a record. Prior to this streak, the longest string was 11 months.
Debit: In June, employers hired the fewest workers since last September: a paltry 18,000 new jobs were created. As a result, the official government unemployment rate increased to 9.2 percent.
Credit: However, according to Gallup, the unemployment rate is now at 8.7 percent, which continues a downward trend after peaking at 10.3 percent in March.
Debit: Then again, the Gallup underemployment rate — which combines the unemployed and part-time employed — is still at 18.3 percent. According to Gallup, that’s the same level it was at 12 months ago.
Credit: I see some kids in Cleveland, Ohio, had their lemonade stand robbed of $13.50 by a gang of teens who, according to the Associated Press, “Pulled up in a rusty old car and threatened to beat them up.” Come on, really? Aren’t all cars in Cleveland old and rusty?
By the Numbers
Yet another look at Cleveland, Ohio, by the numbers:
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. Cleveland is currently the 45th biggest city in America.
1 Major rivers that bisect Cleveland. (The Cuyahoga River is 100 miles long and ends its brief journey at Lake Erie.)
13 Number of times that the Cuyahoga River has caught fire since 1868. (No, that’s not a misprint.)
21 Estimated percentage of people who can’t say “Cuyahoga” without spraining their tongue.
46 Years since Cleveland has won a major sports title. According to Wikipedia, no city with at least three major sports franchises has waited longer.
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Over the past couple weeks I’ve noticed that my posts are now being “scraped” by numerous spam sites and being reprinted in their entirety without my permission (or even any credit), almost as soon as I post them on my own site. For example, my article on credit card facts was picked up by 18 different dubious websites that look like they were created to land traffic searching the Internet for a certain key word or phrase. Even these Black Coffee posts are now being scraped by odd-looking “coffee blogs” with mysterious backgrounds. I’m not sure what to do about it though — or if I should even bother to do anything. If you have any suggestions drop me a note — I’m all ears.
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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!
Walker Texas Ranger (I know; I don’t believe it either) wrote in to chastise me for my practice of putting ketchup on hot dogs: “Pathetic. I bet you’re the type that also likes to put ketchup on eggs.”
Only if they’re hard boiled.
This week I had articles featured at the following carnivals:
The Yakezie Carnival @ Narrow Bridge
The Carnival of Personal Finance @ Prairie Eco-thrifter
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.