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…
After watching XFactor (USA) contestant Marcus Canty rightfully find himself in the bottom two for the third week in a row and, yet, somehow inexplicably manage to escape elimination all three times, I am absolutely convinced the show is fixed. How else can you explain the continued advancement of Canty and his barely passable vocals? They’re now both just two short weeks away from taking the XFactor crown — not to mention a $5 million recording contract.
In fact, Canty’s march to victory is so utterly improbable, so preposterously ludicrous, I predict that he’s also going to win the million dollar grand prize on this season’s edition of Survivor, and the half-million dollar booty that’s going to be awarded to the first-place finisher of The Amazing Race. Mark my words, people.
Never mind that he’s not even a contestant on those other two shows. He’s that lucky, folks.
Blogs I’ve Been Following This Week
Planting Money Seeds – Should You Forget Gold and Hoard Pennies Instead? The great Miranda Marquit, long-time freelance money writer and occasional taxi buddy with yours truly, finally cut back on writing for others so she could start up her own personal finance blog. With that in mind, it’s really no coincidence that one of Miranda’s first articles focuses on the benefits of hoarding pennies.
The Digerati Life – 11 Popular Toy Fads Through the Years. I went through Logo’s list and I personally owned 6 of the 11 items listed at one time or another. In fact, one of them — the Magic 8-Ball — is still right here on my desk, next to my computer. By the way, when I’m at work I use my “Instant Excuses 8-Ball” that spits out messages like “Jury duty,” “Oprah,” “No hablo Ingles,” “What memo?” “Mexican food,” and “Have a headache.” You know, sometimes I’ll swear the Honeybee has one of those hidden in her bedroom nightstand.
MoneySmartLife – What is a Good Credit Score Worth? Yes, yes; everyone knows that a good credit score is extremely valuable. But in this post, Ben lays out exactly how much money it’s worth for any given score.
Oblivious Investor – Playing Catch-up with Retirement Savings. Once again, Mike takes a relatively complex topic and explains it in succinct, easy to understand terms.
Control Your Cash – Why Pay Someone When I Can Do It Myself? Says Greg: “Ricardo’s Law of Comparative Advantage says that things work best when everyone does what they’re best at.” So that explains why my blog is such a friggin’ embarrassment.
The Way-Back Machine: Past Posts Of Mine You May Have Missed
From November 2009:
Drive-By Movie Review: The Good German – And you thought Marcus Canty was bad? My long-time readers would probably like to forget that the Honeybee and I used to do a weekly movie review here. (Or at least we used to until I decided to pull the plug on this recurring feature.)
Credits and Debits
Debit: European politicians came to an agreement that kicked the demise of the Euro down the road just a bit further. The agreed-to “fiscal compact” puts a little more money up to keep ailing governments like Greece and Italy from defaulting on their debts, but it is nowhere near enough.
Credit: The only way that the Euro can be considered a viable currency moving forward is if each of the Euro governments agree to give financial and budgetary control to the European Central Bank in Brussels.
Debit: Of course, that will never happen, because such a move would essentially cede the national sovereignty of every nation using the Euro to an outside group of foreign bureaucrats.
Debit: Meanwhile, closer to home, it turns out the United States has been quietly making money for the past three years by becoming a net exporter of — wait for it — gasoline. I know.
Debit: Are you feeling a bit poorer? The average American family saw its net worth decline over $21,000 this past summer. That’s the biggest decline in three years. Good thing the losses are only on paper. I think.
Debit: Then again, not everyone is doing so bad. For instance, take the police officers working for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Sixty-six of them have already made more than $200,000 this year, including one flatfoot who’s raked in $265,059. Really? For a cop? Hey, I’m not sayin’. I’m just sayin’.
Credit: The Port Authority’s Executive Director, Patrick Foye, lauded the news, saying he hoped the release would expose agency waste. For the record, Foye has a salary of $289,667.
Debit: This is the same Port Authority that, to the applause of union representatives, approved steep increases in commuter tolls this past summer. Uh huh. You gotta pay for those salaries somehow, folks.
Debit: I see Sesame Street now has a “food insecure” Muppet named Lily that is touting entitlements to kids: “Sometimes we can’t always afford to buy all the food that we need. I mean, but we’ve been finding lots of ways that we can get help…Yeah, for example, at school I get a free breakfast and a lunch.” Yep. “Free!”
Debit: That kind of subtle misinformation is yet another reason why so many kids grow up oblivious to the fact that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
Debit: What happened to teaching kids the alphabet and how to count to ten, if not loftier lessons like Lolly Lolly Lolly (Get Your Adverbs Here)? Save the government-assistance lessons for the parents.
Credit: Finally, a Pennsylvania man was arrested for disorderly conduct after he published his living mom’s obituary in the local newspaper so he could receive paid bereavement time off from his employer. Who knows? Maybe the guy had already used up all of his sick days to go fishing.
By the Numbers
And the US economic malaise continues…
$520,069 The net worth of the average American household on July 1, 2011.
$498,752 The net worth of the average American household on September 30, 2011.
5.2 Percentage drop in Americans’ stock portfolios in the third quarter of 2011.
0.6 Percentage decline in US home prices last quarter.
5 Minimum number of years it will take before home prices begin rising again, according to economists.
$2.11 trillion The value of all cash and liquid assets American companies are currently sitting on.
(Source: The New York Post)
The Question of the Week
Other Useless News
Here are the top — and bottom — 5 states in terms of time per visit each reader spent on average here at Len Penzo dot Com over the past 30 days:
1. Wyoming (4 minutes 35 seconds)
2. West Virginia (3:45)
3. Kansas (3:30)
4. Montana (3:18)
5. New Mexico (3:17)
46. Nevada (1:47)
47. Vermont (1:46)
48. Nebraska (1:41)
49. Delaware (1:35)
50. Alabama (1:34)
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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!
This week, Randy decided to take a few moments to fill out an official Len Penzo dot Com complaint form.
Here in Kansas we are tired of the “dumbing down of America” by morons and, it appears, you fit in that category. Sorry.
Well, what else did you expect? Anyone who insists on living here in California has to be a moron. State law, you know.
I’m Len Penzo and I approved this message.