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.
Can you believe Thanksgiving is almost here? Wow! Where did this year go?
“Inflation is taxation without legislation.”
— Milton Friedman
“The last duty of a central banker is to tell the public the truth.”
— Alan Blinder, former Fed Vice-Chairman
Credits and Debits
Credit: Don’t look now, but John Hussman is warning of a very significant convergence of the ‘Hindenberg Omen’ and the ‘Titanic Syndrome.’ I know. But that’s the first time that’s happened since July 2007, which is very close to the last time the markets topped. Uh oh. On second thought, it’s probably nothing. Again.
Debit: Did you see this? For the first time since 2012, real average hourly earnings have declined for three straight months, dragging the year-over-year growth in real earnings down to just 0.4% — that’s the weakest growth since April. Then again, for most Americans, real wages — and the purchasing power it represents — have been flat for nearly 50 years.
Debit: In fact, stagnant real wages is one reason why the average American worker must now work more than 111 hours to earn enough cash to purchase an equivalent quantity of S&P 500 stocks. That is the highest level ever.
Debit: In other news, I see that hyperinflation has returned to Zimbabwe. Supermarket prices have skyrocketed by as much as 150% during the last two months alone. Not surprisingly, the Zimbabwe central bank is blaming the price hikes on “greedy” retailers. In reality, hyperinflation is always the result of a greedy government printing funny money to live far beyond its means. Imagine that.
Debit: Then again, signs of hyperinflation are everywhere. At least a strong case can be made when a daVinci painting sells for half a billion dollars, as it did this week — even though some scholars doubt the work’s authenticity. No, really.
Credit: With that in mind, how much would you pay for this painting by Cy Twombly that was sold at Christie’s auction house on November 15th?
Debit: If you said you’d be willing to sacrifice $45 million of your hard-earned money for that particular piece of, um … “art,” then you would have been more than a million dollars under the winning bid. Yep. The world has lost its collective marbles, folks. And if that doesn’t convince you that the US dollar is a mere shadow of its former “almighty” self, then I don’t know what will.
Debit: On the other hand, most people know how to get a lot more bang for their bucks than the schmo who threw away $45 million on a canvas that looks like it was painted by a toddler. Take the Florida woman who was charged with fraud after she walked into a Walmart and bought $1800 worth of electronics for $3.70 by allegedly replacing the bar codes with other clearance item price tags. (h/t: Tom Draper)
Credit: Then again, that kind of chicanery is nothing compared to the stuff happening at Christie’s. Don’t ya think?
Debit: Speaking of scams, Simon Black observed this week that the American pension fund Ponzi scheme is currently 113 times larger than Bernie Madoff’s financial con job — and growing every day. That’s pretty scary when you consider that Madoff bilked investors out of $65 billion. (Yes, the reader is expected to solve this particular math problem on their own. Go ahead; it’s worth the effort.)
Debit: Of course, when it comes to Ponzi schemes, nothing compares to the dollar-based international monetary system. And there’s a good chance that the coming financial avalanche, which is also growing larger with each passing day, will eventually be the trigger that results in the implosion of the world’s major fiat currencies. If not all of them.
By the Numbers
Thanksgiving is America’s second favorite holiday. Here are some numbers to know about turkey day:
1621 The year of the first Thanksgiving, a three-day feast.
46,000,000 The estimated number of turkeys killed annually for Thanksgiving.
5 The number of days required to thaw a frozen 16-pound turkey in the refrigerator.
4500 Calories the average American will consume at a traditional Thanksgiving feast.
229 Grams of fat the average American will consume on Thanksgiving.
$4,450,000,000 The amount of money spent online during Thanksgiving weekend last year.
Source: USA Today
The Question of the Week
Last Week’s Poll Result
Do you have insurance for your cell phone(s)?
- No (89%)
- Yes (11%)
More than 1100 people answered this week’s survey question and it turns out that just 1 in 9 Len Penzo dot Com readers say they have insurance for their cell phones. Unless you have younger kids who are more likely to be careless with their phones, I think you’re better off foregoing the insurance. Apparently, most of you agree.
The good folks over at CashFind.com put together a nifty post with lots of tips on how to get rid of credit card debt quickly — and I was one of their featured “experts.” If you get a chance, stop on by and check it out.
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — five Canadian provinces and territories in terms of the average number of pages viewed per visit here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. Alberta (2.23 pages/visit)
2. Saskatchewan (1.91)
3. New Brunswick (1.86)
4. Manitoba (1.78)
5. Newfoundland and Labrador (1.51)
9. Quebec (1.40)
10. Yukon Territory (1.33)
11. Nova Scotia (1.28)
12. Northwest Territories (1.25)
13. Nunavut (1.00)
Whether you happen to enjoy what you’re reading (like those crazy canucks in Alberta, eh) — or not (ahem, you hosers living on the frozen Nunavut tundra) — please don’t forget to:
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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 me at: Len@LenPenzo.com
After reading my article explaining why Southern California’s famous In ‘N Out Burger chain isn’t as good as it used to be, MRB left this lamentation:
In & Out’s quality has gone down since the owner died. I will never go back. Everything from smaller fries and meat patties to poor service. Total disappointment from the old days when quialty (sic) mattered.
Oh, the irony.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.
Photo Credit: (coffee) brendan-c