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.
Another glorious week comes to an end. Off we go …
If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.
— Dale Carnegie
For sleep, riches and health to be truly enjoyed, they must be interrupted.
— Jean Paul
How blessed are some people, whose lives have no fears, no dreads; to whom sleep is a blessing that comes nightly, and brings nothing but sweet dreams.
— Bram Stoker
Credits and Debits
Debit: Despite more tax revenue than ever entering the US Treasury, more than 44% of all Americans didn’t pay a single dime of income taxes last year. Obviously, it’s tough sledding when the number of people in the cart is nearly equal to those who are pulling it.
Credit: Heck, with so few people chipping in, you have to wonder if a majority of Americans really care that major tax reform is, supposedly, just around the corner. I know I’m excited. For what that’s worth — especially if tax “reform” ditches our current progressive system in favor of the Fair Tax.
Debit: Then again, why should anybody pay taxes when central bankers have no qualms about printing money? Exhibit A: So far this year, central banks around the world have bought slightly more than $1 trillion in assets — that’s $3.6 trillion on an annualized basis — and an all-time record. Incredible.
Credit: Now you know why global stocks and bonds are still near all-time highs despite ridiculous price-to-earnings ratios and other headwinds. Of course, the central bankers really have no choice. If the market tanks, everything that depends on stocks maintaining their lofty valuations will implode, including 401(k)s and, especially, pension funds.
Debit: Speaking of stocks, here’s an interesting tidbit: Last week, the S&P 500 fell on the day before the Good Friday market holiday — the last time that happened was 17 years ago. I’m sure it doesn’t mean a thing. At least, I’m pretty sure.
Credit: In other news, less than two million out-of-work people collected an unemployment check last month. The last time state unemployment offices sent out fewer checks to jobless Americans was, wait for it … 17 years ago. In April 2000 to be exact.
Debit: On the other hand, jobless claims may be increasing soon considering that thousands of retail stores are scheduled to close by year-end. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise; after factoring out the effects of inflation, department store sales have fallen by almost 50% since the turn of this century. Yes; 17 years ago.
Debit: You can bet those impending job losses mean that the 65% of Americans who are currently losing sleep over money issues will soon have additional company. For the record, 38% of those money insomniacs fret over healthcare, and 37% worry about their lack of retirement savings.
Debit: Although it didn’t make the money-insomniacs’ worry list, young people are finding it increasingly difficult to transition to adulthood. How tough is it for Millennials? Well … according to a recent study by the US Census Bureau, in 1975 only 25% of men aged 25 to 34 earned less than $30,000 per year (in current-year dollars). By 2016, that share rose to 41%. America, we have a problem.
Debit: By the way, that same census study noted another stunning difference between now and the disco era: In 1975, 43% of women between 25 and 34 were stay-at-home moms; today that number is just 14%. Wow.
Credit: Finally … I see that Nigeria’s anti-corruption unit found $43 million in $100-bills hidden inside a Lagos apartment. Uh huh. Maybe they shouldn’t be so hasty to assume the cash is the fruit of nefarious endeavors. After all, if my inbox is any indication, there are plenty of wealthy folks in Nigeria — most of whom are more than eager to give it away.
Credit: According to a spokesman for the Nigerian anti-corruption unit, “The $43 million in cash was transported to the nearest police station and counted again. The $24 million was then taken to a bank by police authorities where the entire $28,000 was placed into a safe deposit box for safekeeping.” Hey … who doesn’t love a happy ending? (h/t: directaction)
By the Numbers
What recovery? Here are the number of stores scheduled to close in 2017 for selected retail chains:
552 Radio Shack
250 The Limited
171 Wet Seal
138 JC Penny
Source: Daily Reckoning
Last Week’s Poll Results
Do you think minimum wage laws are a good idea?
- No (51%)
- Yes (37%)
- I’m not sure (12%)
More than 1100 people responded to last week’s question and more than have of them say that minimum wage laws are a bad idea. I agree; ideally, wages should be negotiated between an employer and a prospective employee — not the government. By the way, there are first-world nations who get along just fine without minimum wage laws, including Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Norway.
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Here are the top five articles viewed by my 15,001 RSS feed, weekly email subscribers, and other followers over the past 30 days (excluding Black Coffee posts):
- If You Can’t Live on $40,000 Annually It’s Your Own Fault
- 6 Cheeky Ways Frugal People Save Money
- Is 15% of Your Income an Adequate Savings Rate for Retirement?
- Real Estate Agents: Why You Rarely Get What You Pay For
- The Honeybee Helps Me Review Blue Apron’s Home Delivery Meal Service
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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
After reading my article explaining why financial freedom requires very little money, Mary said:
My husband and I are debt-free, don’t bring in a ton of money and still save $8000 per year. I guess we both don’t want what the Joneses have.
That makes three of us, Mary.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: brendan-c