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.
Yeah, I work over the holidays too. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Now grab yourself a cup of hot cocoa or some delicious egg nog and let’s get started …
He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
— Roy L. Smith
‘They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming!
‘I know what to do!’ the Grinch laughed in his throat. ‘I’ll make a quick Santy Claus hat and a coat.’
And he chuckled and clucked, ‘What a great Grinchy trick. With this coat and this hat, I’ll look like Saint Nick!’
— Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Credits and Debits
Debit: I’m sorry to see that many parents in the People’s Socialist ParadiseTM of Venezuela are telling their kids that Santa Claus isn’t coming this year, thanks to an economic collapse brought about by the government’s insane wealth redistribution policies. Think: How the Grinch Stole Christmas— but without the happy ending.
Debit: For his part, President Nicolas Maduro blames his nation’s economic collapse on “evil businessmen.” In fact, he recently jailed two toy company executives and seized nearly 4 million playthings from the business, which are now being distributed to the poor for free. That’ll teach those capitalist Scrooges … to stop producing things of value in Venezuela.
Debit: Although Venezuela’s toy industry will probably never return, Maduro seems to consider himself a genius. From Reuters: “That’s what you call a reinforcement for Father Christmas, right?” el Presidente laughed, stroking his mustache during a recent speech on state TV. “Saint Nicolas without a beard; Saint Nicolas with a mustache!” Right. Ho, ho, ho.
Credit: On a related note, nationwide looting and civil unrest prodded “Saint Nicolas” to temporarily rescind his mindless ban on cash last week. Why? Because the ban had essentially brought what little was left of his country’s dysfunctional economy to a standstill. Of course, Maduro had a scapegoat for that debacle too: “international sabotage.” No, really.
Debit: Meanwhile, India is thinking about doubling down on their decision to eliminate almost 90% of their nation’s currency — government officials are now actually considering a limit on how much cash people can keep in their homes. Unbelievable. Do you smell that? Do ya? It’s called tyranny.
Credit: In other news, the Dow is in the midst of a Santa Claus rally, finishing its seventh consecutive week in green figures. At the closing bell on Friday, the Dow was just 66 points from the 20,000 point milestone, thanks to a euphoric market that has seen the Dow gain 12% since the election. Go figure.
Debit: To show you how crazy the market is, Caterpillar was up more than 2% for the week despite posting its 48th consecutive month of declining sales. One can only imagine how high Cat shares will soar if they ever manage to announce that their orders book is expanding.
Debit: At the same time, Janet Yellen is continuing to peddle the meme that the economy is rosy — and even raised interest rates last week to “prove” it. But as Craig Hemke from TF Metals Report asks, how can the economy be in good shape when 7 in 10 Americans don’t even have $1000 in savings?
Debit: By the way, Yellen also claims that the US is in the midst of the “strongest job market in nearly a decade.” I wonder if she would change her opinion if she knew that the percentage of young American adults living with their parents is currently at a 75-year high. Then again, she probably does know that; it just doesn’t fit their narrative.
Credit: And while US stock market indices are at or near all-time highs, the holiday season hasn’t been kind to gold and silver; the market continues to pummel them. And that makes zero sense considering, as Dave Kranzler notes, “The US dollar is backed by a government and a central bank, both of which are technically bankrupt.”
Credit: Finally … Speaking of gold, this week an Ohio judge ruled that a treasure hunter who found $10 million of the yellow metal must stay in jail until he reveals its location. Here’s hoping he tells the judge it’s in Fort Knox — maybe then somebody will actually take an interest in investigating what, if anything, is actually stored there.
By the Numbers
Christmas is the most widely observed cultural holiday in the world. With that in mind, here are few numbers for you to contemplate:
$50.82 Average amount Americans spent on real Christmas trees in 2015.
$69.38 Average amount US consumers spent on fake Christmas trees in 2015.
33,000,000 Number of real Christmas trees sold in the US each year.
9,500,000 Number of fake Christmas trees sold in America annually.
7 Average growing time in years for a Christmas tree.
$27.21 The energy cost of lighting a six-foot Christmas tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days.
750,000 Number of temporary employees hired in the US for last year’s holiday rush.
38 Estimated percentage of charitable giving that occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
$752 Average amount Americans say theyll spend on Christmas presents in 2016.
108,000,000 Average number of homes Santa Claus has to visit on December 25 … assuming there’s at least one “nice” child in each.
Source: Action Institute
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Results
Was the primary car you drive bought new or used?
- New (51%)
- Used (49%)
More than 1200 people responded to last week’s question. Frankly, I was somewhat surprised to see that my readers are almost equally-split between those whose main vehicle was bought used versus those who splurged by purchasing new; I figured the majority were driving used cars since used cars are a better value. Of course, new cars do make financial sense if you plan on keeping them for a long period of time — typically a minimum of 10 years. For what it’s worth, I bought my first new car several years ago — and I plan on driving it for at least 10 more years.
Other Useless News
Here are the top 5 articles viewed by my 11,518 RSS feed, weekly email subscribers and followers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- A Real Life Example Why Every Homeowner Needs a Hefty Emergency Fund
- Is a Million Dollars Enough to Last a Lifetime?
- The $100,000 Salary Benchmark Is Woefully Overrated
- 7 Obamacare Alternatives That Could Save You a Lot of Money
- The Top-Selling Christmas Toys Since 1983
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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
Jessie shared a personal story with me this week on why he dislikes gift cards:
I just found a $50 gift card for Olive Garden that was given to me last Christmas … It’s now worth $24.48.
Olive Garden, huh? Frankly, Jessie, I’m not sure why you’re complaining.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: breweddaily.com