Wealth & Poverty

Ways to Connect

Walmart is trying to invent the food of the future to win the fight with Amazon and sell you everything.

If you're in South Sudan and something big happens in your life — you get married, you buy property or pay a penalty for a crime — cows are most likely involved. Cows are currency and credit card and bank account rolled into one. In South Sudan, banks can go bankrupt — cows are more reliable. At least that's how it used to be.

Note: This episode originally aired in 2015.

There are people with Birkin bags, and then there are the rest of us. This purse, made by the French luxury brand Hermès, averages $60,000. It's a little boxy. It comes in just about every color. Each bag is handmade, and Hermès staff apprentice for years before they can produce a Birkin.

In the winter of 2010, there was a robbery in Detroit. Two men rush into a Radio Shack on Jefferson Avenue carrying a handgun, and demand smartphones, enough smartphones to fill laundry bags. Then they flee. A few days later, they do it again at a T-Mobile store. And a few months after that, another robbery. They are criminals that need to be stopped.

Police try to gather every bit of evidence they can use to catch the robbers and make the case stick.

This episode originally ran in 2012.

We're in a gym full of high school students. The gym is at the headquarters of the New York Federal Reserve, just a few blocks from Wall Street. The students are here for the High School Fed Challenge.

The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October, according to the monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate fell by a small notch, from 4.2 percent to 4.1 percent.

While job creation showed a rebound from hurricane season, the October result didn't meet analysts' expectations that the report would easily top 300,000 jobs.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, the first woman to hold that position, won't have the opportunity to serve four more years as leader of the nation's central bank. But she leaves the Fed's top post having largely achieved its mandate to engineer full employment while keeping inflation at a level that fosters growth.

President Trump on Thursday named Jerome Powell to be the next chair of the Federal Reserve, the first time in decades that a president hasn't reappointed a chief of the central bank for a second term.

If confirmed by the Senate, Powell, 64, will succeed Janet Yellen — the first woman to head the Fed — whose term expires in February. Powell, a current member of the Fed's board of governors, is expected to pursue policies largely in line with the gradual interest rate hikes of the Yellen-led Fed.

Economists used to assume that people were, overall, rational. They may make mistakes now and then, but, if reasonably informed, they do the right thing. Then came Richard Thaler, who, in October, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

A day before President Trump was expected to name their next leader, Federal Reserve policymakers decided to hold a key interest rate steady at between 1 percent and 1.25 percent. However, analysts are still looking for a rate increase at the central bank's next meeting, in mid-December.

Two years ago, one of the biggest companies in the world bought a failing hotel in a tiny rural hamlet in upstate New York. That made Planet Money reporter Noel King, curious. She grew up in the town and worked at the hotel as a teenager. Why, she wondered, would a multi-billion-dollar Chinese company invest in her hometown?

What happens when you're faced with a workforce that seems unwelcoming or even hostile? For people like Dennis Jackson, often the answer is to become your own boss.

In Los Angeles, he is making the best of an October heat wave by selling solar panels. Jackson says he has essentially always been an entrepreneur. He started in landscaping and moved toward solar panel installation.

President Trump says he is very close to making a decision about who will lead the Federal Reserve once Janet Yellen's term expires in February.

The Fed chair is often called the second-most-powerful person in Washington, after the president. By steering interest rate policy, the Fed chair affects economic growth, the pace of job creation and inflation.

In big-time college football or basketball, money is everywhere. Millions of fans purchase tickets to games. There are giant TV contracts and million-dollar coaches' salaries. Shoe companies like Adidas and Nike compete for contracts with top teams.

The dead don't have to do any work. For the rest of us, though, death is expensive and complex. There's real estate to be hunted, and coffins to be purchased, and insurance to be procured.

Sonari Glinton takes us to visit some of the most expensive real estate in the world, where supply is limited. The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park is one of the most exclusive pieces of property in Los Angeles, the cemetery is nearly full, but customers keep coming to buried alongside stars like Marilyn Monroe and Natalie Wood.

Each summer, as college students prepare to leave campus, they get rid of their textbooks, selling them for cheap. And Bob Peterson and Kenny Jacobson are waiting to buy them, and resell them when school is back in session and demand is high. Their scheme sounds simple, and it is. They've noticed a difference in price, and they're turning it into a quick profit.

Even inside North Korea, the most restrictive, socialist regime in the world, there are entrepreneurs. People are dreaming up ideas of services to offer, products to sell, businesses to start. They're called the 'donju,' and they're part of North Korea's small middle class. Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, doesn't throw them in jail.

Atlanta Land Deal Angers People Who Want Affordable Housing

Oct 13, 2017
Anish Patel / Flickr/CC

A controversial deal to require Atlanta's low-income housing authority to sell prime parcels of vacant land to a developer would hand them over at a $120 million discount, according to estimates obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

If the sale goes through, it could amount to a king-sized subsidy towards the construction of high-end, market-rate homes, and harm the city's efforts to create more affordable housing, public housing officials and affordable housing advocates said.

Officially, corporations in the U.S. are taxed at a rate of 35 percent. In reality, they pay a much, much lower rate. That's because the U.S. tax code is filled with deductions and exemptions (which, if you don't like them, you call loopholes).

Politicians from both sides of the aisle like to propose the same kind of change: lower the corporate tax rate, and get rid of some of the loopholes. A few weeks ago, President Trump and Republicans in Congress released a plan to do just that. Today on the show: We break down that plan.

Stanley Fischer is resigning early as vice chair of the Federal Reserve after three years at the central bank. His term was set to expire next June. Before becoming second in command to Fed Chair Janet Yellen, the former MIT economics professor served as head of the Bank of Israel and as a top official at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Citigroup.

On this month's episode of Nothing Funny About Money, hosts Matt Goren and Michael Thomas discuss ways to properly measure the value of a college education. Some of their findings, may surprise you!

In 1874, if you wanted to buy groceries on store credit, the cashier would reach under the counter and pull out a little blue book. Inside would be your name, profession and whether you paid your debts on time. It was the beginning of the Equifax business model. And it was never about the regular citizens. It was about the businesses that wanted to lend to them. Regular people are the product. Banks and businesses are the customers.

The U.S. economy shed 33,000 jobs in September, according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while unemployment fell to 4.2 percent.

The September payrolls drop broke a nearly seven-year streak of continuous job gains, but economists caution that the drop is likely representing the short-term consequences of bad weather, not a long-term shift in the job market.

Before this report, the economy had added an average of about 175,000 jobs per month; the unemployment rate has been at 4.3 or 4.4 percent since April.

Note: This episode originally aired in September 2015.

Roddey Player knows appliances. He was sweeping the floors of his family's appliance business, Queen City Appliance, when he was eight years old. Eventually, he became a salesman, and then the CEO. But in 2012, Queen City Appliances was in trouble. Roddey tried everything to avoid the big failure: bankruptcy.

The less money you have, the more careful you are likely to be in spending it. That’s one find in Rachel Schneider’s new book, “The Financial Diaries: How American Families Cope In A World Of Uncertainty.” It follows the lives of low- and middle-income households as they try and manage their money. We sit down with Rachel Schneider to talk about her book, and the personal side of planning. Rachel Schneider will be at Savannah's Armstrong Center on October 12 from 8:30-10 a.m.

Episode 797: Flood Money

Sep 29, 2017

Selling flood insurance is a risky business. So risky that many private companies won't even touch it. And so the federal government has stepped in. Now, the government has to insure homes that are at a high risk for floods. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma showed us the flaws in this program. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is $30 billion in debt to the U.S. Treasury. If it were a private company, it would be bankrupt. And instead of preventing risky behavior, the NFIP may be encouraging it.

Episode 796: The Basic Income Experiment

Sep 22, 2017

The basic income is a hot topic of social policy. It's a steady payout to citizens. Liberals argue it provides support to struggling citizens with dignity and freedom. Libertarians like that it can be dispensed without an expensive, and controlling, bureaucracy. The rest argue that it's a giveaway that will inspire laziness.

The Federal Reserve on Wednesday said it will hold short-term interest rates steady for the time being. But the central bank said that in October it will begin to unwind the extraordinary stimulus it used to battle the Great Recession.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen has said the process will be gradual. But over the long run, the plan will put upward pressure on consumer interest rates, including for car loans and mortgages.

Episode 795: Is Record Breaking Broken?

Sep 20, 2017

Ashrita Furman has broken more than 600 records— earning him the Guinness World Record for most records broken. He grew up reading the Guinness Book of World Records. A lot of kids did. It's one of the best selling books of all time.

But book sales have been dropping and now Guinness has started having to change the way it makes money. Now, record holders like Ashrita are being joined by a different kind of record breaker: celebrities and companies looking for publicity. People pay thousands to have Guinness orchestrate a record-breaking event for them.

Illmind is a music producer. He isn't famous. He doesn't DJ at festivals in front of huge crowds. He's not best friends with Drake. But the producers who do DJ for huge crowds, who are best friends with Drake — they know Illmind. They use his sounds. They text him when they're working on a song that needs a little something.

Aspiring producers who want to be famous — they also know Illmind. Some of them pay hundreds of dollars and fly across the country just to sit in a room with him and hear what he thinks of their work.

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