Many of us look to technology to add to our regular faculties -- make us better, faster, stronger, and more productive. But there's another promise of new technology for millions of people around the world: accessibility.
Larry Goldberg, director of WGBH's National Center for Accessible Media, joins Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson to discuss new ways tech is helping people with disabilities. Click on the audio player above to hear more.
United States Trade Representative Michael Froman traveled to Tokyo on Monday for meetings related to a new free trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. One key issue in trade discussion is a long-standing one: opening up the Japanese market for American automobiles.
Japanese automakers have long been successful in the U.S. market, with a market share of 36.9 percent in 2013, according to data from Edmunds.com. Toyota sells both the best-selling car in Japan and the best-selling car in the U.S.
U.S. automakers, on the other hand, have not been able to crack the Japanese market, holding less than 10 percent of it. They blame what are known as “non-tariff barriers.”
“Mostly we’re talking about regulation,” says Mireya Solís, Philip Knight Chair in Japan Studies and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “For example, safety standards, emission testing: all these things the producers need to comply with in order to bring their products to the market.”
The U.S. is seeking to loosen those regulations as part of the larger Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which has been quietly under negotiation for years. The Big 3 automakers --Ford, GM and Chrysler -- emphasize the significance of accessing Japan’s market, though some analysts have doubts.
“Frankly all the growth in the future is going to be overseas, and not in Japan,” says Edmunds.com senior analyst Michelle Krebs.
Instead, growth in overseas sales will come from emerging markets, like the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India and China.
University of Southern California professor emeritus David Cope created Emily Howell, a computer program that composes music with data. He's been at the center of the debate over whether computers or their controlling algorithms can be creative. Cope says in the case of programs he has created, that might be the wrong question. He joins Marketplace Tech host Ben Johnson to explain. Click on the audio player above to hear more.
This final note today, in which Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gets an earful from an unemployed web developer.
The developer found a bug in the company's software, tried to report it under the bug-reporting program Facebook has -- tried a bunch of times, in fact -- with nary a peep from the company. The guy hacked Zuckerberg's personal page and, while apologizing for the hack, left him a message there about the bug.
Bad enough for Facebook. But then they made it worse. Since he actually hacked the site, he's not gonna get the cash reward that you usually get if you report a bug.
Boarding a plane isn’t rocket science, but it may take an astrophysicist to figure out how to make it faster.
“Most of my time is spent studying exoplanets, planets orbiting distant stars,” says Jason Steffen, a research fellow at Northwestern and former NASA scientist.
But one day, while waiting for what seemed like light years to board a flight, Steffen was distracted from thoughts of dark matter and decided to come up with a better strategy to get passengers onto planes.
According to his theory, it would be fastest to board back to front and then window to aisle. And when passengers go on, they should be staggered every other row, thus providing more personal space and preventing those annoying overhead-bin traffic jams in narrow aisles.
“So instead of having one or two people putting their luggage away," he says, "you’ll have 15 people putting their luggage away.”
Airlines have long struggled to make boarding efficient. Delays are expensive, and unhappy passengers may not return. First, airlines assigned seats, then they created boarding zones. Each major airline has its own boarding system, and they usually keep tinkering. United and American recently tweaked their boarding process.
To observe some different strategies, I timed, unscientifically, two different flights.
First, an American flight from New York to Los Angeles. American says carry-on bags are the number one cause of boarding delays, so the airline is now letting passengers with no carry-ons board first. American says its new strategy saves two minutes a flight, and it has thousands of departures a day.
The flight took about 20 minutes to board.
Next, I observed a Southwest flight from Newark to Phoenix. Unlike the American passengers, who crowded the gate until their boarding zones were called, Southwest passengers lined up in the order they checked in. Once onboard, they choose their own seats -- so ideally they could avoid getting stuck in overhead bin traffic.
“Customers don’t have to look for a specific seat. They can sit wherever they choose,” says Chris Rupprecht, Southwest’s station manager at Newark airport. Southwest’s plane was about the same size as American’s and it also took about 20 minutes to board.
Even if airlines perfect boarding, there is still the problem of getting off the plane. Astrophysicist Steffen says when he tested it, his synchronized method of boarding was fastest and it will likely work in reverse too: alternating rows, front to back, aisle to window.
Unfortunately, Steffen says, it’s not likely his method for deplaning would work outside the military, where people are more accustomed to taking orders. In civilian life, when a plane lands passengers want off and they don’t care about rules.
“And so,” he says, “the airplane is going to de-board, the way that it is, until the sun expands and consumes the Earth.”
Conservatives kick off a nine-city town-hall tour to try to "defund Obamacare," as they put it, yet again this week. Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Heritage Foundation president Jim DeMint will be emceeing the road trip, which will hit in succession Fayetteville, Dallas, Tampa, Nashville, Birmingham, Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Wilmington.
The goal is to galvanize Tea Party supporters and the GOP's conservative base, to in turn put pressure on hesitant Republican senators and representatives, who are wary of using the threat of a government shut-down to try to sink health care reform.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” Sen. Cruz said in a speech on August 7 announcing the new strategy for opponents of the Affordable Care Act. “The next 60 days, the decision will be made whether or not we continue to fund Obamacare.”
The attempt at defunding this time around involves the entire federal budget. Cruz has told fellow Republicans that they have until September 30 to achieve their goal. That’s the deadline for Congress to pass a continuing resolution on the budget, or shut the government down. Cruz has urged his colleagues: continue funding everything in the federal budget to run the government -- except anything that implements health care reform.
That will be tough to do, both legally and administratively, says primary-care physician Kavita Patel. Patel was formerly a staffer in the Obama White House and is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution.
“If you change the federal budget that’s allocated for Medicaid, you could unintentionally decrease the state funds given in Medicaid,” says Patel, including in states like Texas, that have rejected Medicaid expansion funds offered in the Affordable Care Act. Patel says that Medicaid, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act are so intertwined, it’s hard to defund the latter, without destabilizing the former. She expects defunding efforts to continue, but at a less sweeping level than the continuing budget resolution -- for instance, with Congress cutting funding for specific programs, like prevention and wellness spending.
But Dan Holler of Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation, says Congress can easily strip away aspects of the Affordable Care Act like Medicaid expansion, health exchanges, insurance subsidies, and enforcement of penalties for individual taxpayers and employers.
“It’s a really, really easy thing to do from a technical legislative standpoint,” says Holler. “There would not be funds to address or enact those changes. Aside from that, things would go on as planned.”
Republicans’ chances of defunding health care reform get much harder after subsidies for taxpayers to purchase health insurance kick in in 2014.
And we noticed bug damage. A lot of bug damage. Weird yellow bugs have pretty much destroyed our zucchini. My husband said half-jokingly that we should get some chickens. They could eat the bugs, and would provide us with fresh eggs. I thought it was a great idea; he had questions.
So, to continue our summer organic gardening cost-benefit experiement, we sat down at the kitchen table to decide if we should embrace the urban hen, or chicken out.
The following is, sorta, how the conversation went:
NANCY: Chickens are cool. Think about it: Eggs are expensive, and urban chickens could save us money!
HUSBAND: Chickens are not cool -- or not cool enough. Plus, we already get a good deal on organic eggs.
NANCY: But these eggs would be fresh from the backyard!
HUSBAND: But it’s a lot of work. Some people say it’s easy but it looks like there’s a lot of cleaning up after them.
HUSBAND [AFTER THINKING]: But I know there are a lot of people starting to buy chickens and put them in their backyard. And they seem very happy with their chickens.
NANCY: I'll take that as a 'maybe,' do some research, and get back to you.
I took that as a challenge. So, my first step was to find an urban chicken farming expert. I came across Jennifer Blecha. She studies urban agriculture at San Francisco State University. She says, yes, there are a lot of urban chicken farmers.
And she thinks the trend started about 15 years ago, in Seattle. And she says it’s really taken off since then.
"In the last ten years, there’s just been really an explosion of information and networks. Lot of cities have tours of coops now," Blecha says. "Lots of cities have chicken keeping classes. Lots of cities have changed their ordinances to make it legal."
There are lots of urban chicken farming resources and websites now, too. BackYardChickens.com is one -- the owner, Rob Ludlow, says you'd be surprised at where the interest is coming from. It's not just Seattle or Portland, Ore. or Berkeley, Calif. Over the past year, Ludlow says his site has gotten most of its traffic from New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
He says people want to "become more self-sufficient and take part in grow-local and slow-food movements."
Ludlow says people in the biggest cities, and around the country, want eggs from chickens that were raised humanely. And he says these new "urban chicken farmers" think the whole experience is fun, though I'm not so sure about the 'fun' part.
Fun or not, Ludlow says the costs of backyard birds vary wildly, for instance:
- Chicks cost: $3-$5 each
- Misc. startup supplies (feeder, waterer, brooder): $60
- Feed, treats, water: $3-$4 per month, per bird
- Misc. ongoing supplies (shavings, egg cartons): $10
- Coop: $0.00 (free) to thousands of dollars
Jennifer Blecha paid $1,500 for her coop. (You got that right, she not only studies urban farming but raised chickens herself.)
She definitely didn’t save money on eggs. But she didn’t expect to.
"It’s like recreational fishing, after you buy the boat," Blecha explains, saying that the upfront costs end up making each additional egg more expensive. She says that after six years, her production cost was probably cost about $1 per egg.
Blecha says her coop was extra expensive because it had to be outfitted for tough Minnesota winters. Our Beltway winters aren't a breeze -- but they aren’t Midwest cold, either. So we could probably get a cheaper coop.
After reporting and researching it, will we get chickens? I think we need to think it over a bit more.
But it does seem like – as with our garden – it’s not something you get into to save bundles of money.
A 2009 study by the research group Intern Bridge found women are about 77 percent more likely to take unpaid internships than their male counterparts. Dr. Philip Gardner, the lead researcher on that study, said women are more likely to major in subjects that lead to internships in education, non-profit work and social services. Still, Gardner said, a paid internship isn't necessarily better.
"We've got really good unpaid internships. And we have crappy unpaid internships," Gardner said. "And we have really good paid internships and we have crappy paid internships."
Rose Corteau, a rising senior at Williams College, who spent the summer working as an unpaid intern at a luxury lifestyle magazine in Washington D.C., said she believes more women work in unpaid internships than men because "I just feel like guys wouldn't accept [unpaid internships] as easily," adding that her male classmates are more likely to take internships in "consulting and ibanking," while her female classmates are more likely to major in creative fields.
As the turmoil and unrest continues in Egypt, many businesses in the country have closed operations. In many areas, it's too dangerous to allow employees to come into work and in others, the commute may be too risky.
Ahmed Al-Qusi is a small business owner in Cairo. He owns six showrooms that sell stationary and fine paper. His shop in one of the more tumultuous areas was closed today, but he and his employees came to work anyway -- with the doors locked and fire extinguishers ready -- to make sure the property and items inside stayed safe. He worries about the safety of his employees, but he feels assured that they will be safe. By now, they are all used to it.
"We are always going through all kinds of crises. So we've got lot of experience to live the day, every day, by itself -- to work on a daily basis," he says.
Al-Qusi says even though tomorrow he plans to open all six of his showrooms and head offices, after tomorrow, he is less certain. Listen to the full conversation with Al-Qusi by clicking play on the audio player above.
There's that old saying about turning a crisis into opportunity. Here's a twist on that: Turning confusion into opportunity. The confusion is over just how Obamacare’s health exchanges -- the marketplaces on which people can buy insurance this fall -- will work. And the opportunity is scams. Lots of scams.
Let’s start with the confusion. I heard plenty of it when I went out on to the street this morning to ask folks in downtown Los Angeles what they knew about the health care exchanges.
“I must admit that I’m not as well versed as I should be,” said Stephanie Talavere, a development administrator for a non-profit who was on her way to work.
“I know there’s exchanges -- but I don't know how one would go to sign up for an exchange,” a consultant named Eric Morton told me.
A banker named Syed Hague was more blunt. When I asked him what he knew about how the health care exchanges will work, he laughed and said, “I don’t know anything about it.”
And those folks speak for a lot of Americans, said Sally Greenberg, the executive director of the National Consumers League. Right now, as the new program rolls out, “consumers may have a little bit of knowledge, but not a lot,” she told me. And that makes it a “heyday for the scammers and the fraudsters of the world.”
To get a sense of how these things go down, I asked if Greenberg would pretend to be a scammer calling me up on the phone. She was game.
“I’m from the government -- the Health and Human Services Department, and I’m calling about Obamacare,” she said, in her friendliest voice. “Did you know you have to have insurance and you could be in some serious trouble with the law if you don't sign up -- including going to jail?”
That part about jail is not true by the way, but it’s a common threat in these sorts of Obamacare scams.
Lucky for me, my fake scam-artist told me, “we're offering a special deal right now where you can get insurance for $29.99 a month. All you have to do is give us some information about your bank accounts.”
And by this time in a phone call like this, you should already be hanging up. (Greenberg said whenever you get a cold call from someone who asks for any sort of personal information like bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers, it’s almost always a scam.)
Another common Obamacare scam involves offers to sign up for government “Obamacare Cards” -- cards that do not actually exist.
After you hang up, if you do get a call or email you think might be an Obamacare scam, you should report it to Federal Trade Commission, said Lois Greisman, associate director for the FTC’s division of marketing practices.
“We want complaints,” she says. “They are an enormous source of rich information for us. They're our investigative leads.”
Greisman said the FTC hasn’t sued anyone over Obamacare scams -- yet. But she said her agency has received more than 1,000 complaints about the issue. “We are looking very closely at the complaints we receive. It’s a top law enforcement priority for us,” she said. Greisman expects even more complaints in the next few months, as we get closer to October, when the exchanges actually open.
“As is the case with any new large program, we’re going to see fraudsters take advantage of the opportunity where there’s confusion in the marketplace,” Greisman said.
Meanwhile, the federal government just awarded $67 million in grants to nonprofits and others to hire so-called Obamacare “navigators,” who will help people figure out how to sign up for exchanges. It’s unclear how that outreach will be conducted, meaning there might be more room for fraud, by people pretending to be navigators. Greisman said the FTC is in discussions with various navigator programs, to attempt to minimize that risk.
It's almost the end of summer, which means many people are wrapping up their very first job.
We're asking people to tell us their first job stories -- what you learned, what's stayed with you, what was humilitating, what you still think about.
First up: Michael Price, writer and co-executive producer of "The Simpsons." His first gig: working at a women's clothing store at the local mall.
"It was all sort of embarrassing to me because I grew up in a family of all boys; I had no sisters. I was painfully shy around girls, and here I was working in a women's clothing store where there were women and girls walking around all the time. And I really had no clue what to do about it."
Check out Price's interview on Marketplace Money this weekend: Family finance from 'The Simpsons'
You’ve heard of the “For Dummies” books? There’s “PCs for Dummies,” “Excel for Dummies”...
Well, now there’s “Wine for Dummies.” But it’s not a book, it’s an actual wine. The bottle has that familiar yellow and black color scheme and a label tells you about the varieties.
Turns out that while wine drinking’s up in the U.S., but winemakers still struggle with its snobby reputation, said Mark Tucker, a marketing director of Vision Wine and Spirits, the company selling Wine for Dummies.
“A lot of people are intimidated by wine and we wanted to make it accessible for everybody,” he said.
But within that category of "everybody," Tucker’s got his eye on one group: millennials. And millennials -- the generation born between 1980 and early 2000s -- are looking for fun.
That’s given rise to “concept” brands, one of the fastest growing segments of the wine market. Its wine that’s known for its cool -- and sometimes funny -- label. But not for the esteemed winery it comes from. Yellowtail is a popular one, and there’s also Ménage à Trois.
In general, millennials aren't so interested in the vintage or age of the wine, said Nancy Light, whose with the Wine Institute, an association of California wineries.
“Some of the millennial consumers like to go to a party and bring something that’s going to make a statement or be a conversation piece,” Light said.
That runs counter to everything I was taught about wine. And that is, don’t judge a wine by its label. Turns out, I’m dating myself.
“I notice that the older people they appreciate the wine more than my generation,” said Primrose Lorenzo. She’s 31, works in the finance and drinks wine.
I asked her if she’d buy Wine for Dummies. “I just might actually, as long as the label’s catchy, that’s what I look at, it’s just wine, alcohol,” she said.
Lorenzo says as long as it tastes good and gives you a buzz, what else do you want?
We have had kind of a rough week on Wall Street -- a selloff in the equity markets, and the bond market looking to have its worst week in two months.
"Bond yields are going back up to vaguely normal levels, stock prices are not going up anymore because people are worried that companies aren't going to be able to make more money," said Felix Salmon of Reuters. "So yeah, it's a bit uncomfortable if you're one of those people who care about what the markets do from day to day -- which those of us who are smart never care about, right?"
"The market and the overall economy have been two really divergent stories for the past several months, and this week they kind of converged a little bit," added Fortune magazine's Leigh Gallagher. "There's been a tremendous amount of unease about the economy, whereas the stock market has just been shooting to the stars. And so this was sort of a reality check a little bit. And we saw some not-so-great earnings results from two big bellwethers: Walmart and Cisco. Walmart being a bellwether for the consumer and Cisco being a bellwether for tech and business spendings. So that's sort of scary-making."
Listen to the full audio for more on what's going on in Europe, and what happened in the London Whale case. And then check out what Leigh and Felix offered for their weekend #longreads picks:
- How Silicon Valley does international charity.
- Does the FBI now work for Goldman Sachs?
- Fortune's profile of Carlos Brito, king of beers.
- Matt Taibbi on the college loan crisis.
- Marissa Mayer in Vogue.
More than 128 million Americans log into the web version of Facebook every day, according to the social media site. That's more than 40 percent of the entire country. And nearly 101 million people access the site through their phones (one study shows that Facebook is among the most popular activities for Americans who have smartphones). In fact, the average U.S. resident spends 32 minutes on Facebook daily -- just on their phones alone.
All in all, that's a lot of time we spend on one social network. And guess what? It's not making us any happier.
In a recent study, researchers from the University of Michigan surveyed 82 undergrads about their Facebook activity, and found the more time they spent on the site, the more likely they were to say they were feeling less happy and less satisfied with life.
"Everyday Facebook use leads to declines in subjective well-being, both how happy you feel moment to moment and how satisfied you feel with your life," Ethan Kross, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and a co-author of the study, told ABC News.
To gauge the survey participants' feelings, researchers texted students five times a day. Mostly, researchers said, participants were feeling the classic case of FOMO -- fear of missing out. Think about it: How many pictures of weddings or vacations do you see on Facebook? With all those happy pictures of friends hanging out or with their significant others and babies, it's hard to boost your own self-esteem.
Now if that doesn't make you feel down in the dumps quite yet, maybe this news will: you're probably not invited to try out Facebook's new VIP app.
AllThingsD reports that Facebook is testing out a new app specifically for celebrities. “We are currently testing some mobile features designed to help public figures interact with their fans,” a Facebook spokesperson told the site.
Essentially, the app allows celebrities to monitor their fan activity from a mobile device. So a celeb can push out a status on Facebook, and engage with fans right away with their smartphone or tablet. This comes after Facebook started verifying celebrity pages and profiles, a la Twitter, with a blue checkmark.
For now, the app is being tested with "a small group of partners," according to the site.
Nearly 640 people are estimated to have been killed in the violent crackdown on supporters of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. Cities across the country are bracing for more violence today, after the interim government declared a state of emergency and the Brotherhood called for a "Friday of rage" to begin after morning prayers.
Aside from the toll on human life, the recent uprisings have wreaked havoc on an already troubled Egyptian economy. Banks are closed until at least Monday. A General Motors plant in a Cario suburb that employs 1,400 people has closed, and other multinational corporations with operations in Egypt are laying low.
So are multinationals reconsidering future investment in Egypt? Not yet, says Majid Jafar, CEO of Crescent Petroleum, an oil company based in the United Arab Emirates with extensive operations in Egypt. Jafar says his company has been dealing with instability since the fall of Hosni Mubarak's totalitarian government.
“Jobs,” the first of the Steve Jobs movies, opens tonight. It’s not the one by Aaron Sorkin but the one starring Ashton Kutcher as tech legend Steve Jobs. As an actor, Ashton Kutcher’s made his mark by playing dreamy -- but ditzy -- characters on TV. So playing Steve Jobs could be a breakout role for him in Hollywood.
But the movie could also impact his side-job as an investor in tech start-ups. Kutcher’s invested in popular start-ups like Airbnb, Spotify, Uber, and dozens of others. “My decision to take the role was a tough one. I have a lot of friends and colleagues who knew Steve,” Kutcher told the tech blog The Verge. “If I play this, will the people who knew him who I’m friends with be upset about it? You know what I mean? I’m trying to balance two worlds.”
So we know how Hollywood is going rate Kutcher in "Jobs." But what about Silicon Valley?
It's hard not to alienate people we love when money enters the conversation. This is especially true when it comes to borrowing or lending cash. When you decide it's appropriate to ask a family member for money, how do you go about it?
Economist Diane Lim has some personal as well as professional experience with the subject, and says sometimes the decision to ask a relative for a loan isn't something that seems like the best option -- it's something that seems like the only option.
"It felt like that at the time for me," says Lim about asking her own parents for financial help. "I'm not talking about ancient history either. I've recently been divorced a few years ago, and it's expensive to go through a divorce when you have several children... it's the most financial burdensome thing I ever had to go through."
So how do you ask for help?
"Hopefully you have a close relationship with your family member to begin with," Lim says, "such that your family member can kind of figure it out when you might need some help and maybe they're even the ones that bring up the topic first."
Lim says working out how a loan can be a win-win situation is a good way to broach the topic as well -- because "banking within the family" can benefit the lender while still saving the borrower from higher interest rates.
"What if we could work out an arrangement where I borrow a certain amount of money from you and I figure out what kind of interest I'm willing to pay," says Lim. "That way I can pay you a higher [rate] than you can earn in the rest of your savings... and I can pay a much lower interest rate than I'd pay if I went to a bank."
Failing to set up specific terms before you go to family member for a loan could be a recipe for bitterness and resentment down the road, Lim warns.
Lim also offered advice to callers asking about their own family money problems:
Catherine in Tallahassee, Fla., has a uniform gift to minors account that she must turn over to her daughter who's graduated from college. She's concerned, though, that her daughter will spend the sizable sum frivolously -- something she did herself after getting a windfall of cash in her youth. Catherine wants to know how to tell her daughter.
Sam from Pasadena, Calif., has a father who was laid off just before securing his pension and doesn't feel good about both his parents' financial security. Sam asks how he can reconcile the difference to make sure his parents can live happily.
Click play on the audio player above to listen to the advice.
Ford announced that its C-Max Hybrid car doesn’t in fact get 47 miles per gallon on average, but actually 43. The car company is being sued for misleading mileage and has offered to pay customers $550 to make up for the difference, at an estimated cost of 17 million dollars to Ford.
Here’s how it happened: Ford used the Ford Fusion hybrid to determine mileage for the C-Max, according to Dave Sullivan with Auto Pacific. "The C-Max is really a different vehicle than the fusion,” says Sullivan.
Obvious, but not illegal under EPA rules because the two cars share the same engine. And Ford isn’t the only one with mileage issues. “This is happening frequently now with hybrids,” says Michelle Krebbs, senior analyst with Edmunds. She says Honda and Hyundai have had similar problems, “and I don’t think this will be the last.”
Krebbs says despite some small reforms, the way the EPA and car companies evaluate mileage hasn’t changed a whole lot since the 70s. Now especially with more hybrids on the market, “the technology is outpacing the tests.” Hybrids do better in stop and go city driving because they recharge their batteries every time the car brakes, and mileage can then slip on the highway. That’s the exact opposite of traditional vehicles.
Driving habits and even temperature can have significant effects on mileage. Krebbs says when Edmunds took the C-Max out for a test drive they were able to get the 47 mpg that Ford just revised.
“It is very misleading,” says Auto Pacific’s Sullivan of the current system of mileage rating. “I’m hoping the EPA will find out a better way to do this.”
He says all mileage ratings, at this point, should be taken with a grain of salt.
The EPA has said it will take a hard look at that mileage loophole allowing one car to be a proxy for gas mileage in another.
Marketplace Money's Facebook friends Tyler and Jenni are in the midst of conversations about the decision to delay parenthood with their partners right now. Tyler lives in Minneapolis, Minn., with his partner Nicholas. Jenni, her husband Matt, and their 2-year-old daughter live in Murray, Ky. Jenni says she and Matt weren't really financially prepared for the birth of their daughter and although they'd like to have more children, they have decided not to. Matt is enrolled in school, using his GI Bill, while Jenni works at a nonprofit. "We're in our early 30s and we made the hard decision to actively have a child, which was a great decision and I'm so glad we have our little girl, but the way things are now, money is so tight and we just think it would be financially irresponsible to actively work to have our second child right now."
Jenni is familiar with the expenses of having a child, Tyler says he and his partner are also facing the upfront costs of their parenthood options -- adoption and surrogacy. "We recently started looking at the possibility of having kids and I was fortunate to be able to attend a workshop that talked about surrogacy and I was shocked to learn that it can be as little as $25,000-$30,000 to $100,000 or more per child," he says. "Even infant adoption costs between $15,000-$20,000. So, those were some numbers that were quite difficult to face."
Both Jenni and Tyler say they are the more financially savvy halves of their respective relationships and talking to their partners about having kids can be challenging. "I think my husband has continued to have baby fever, so he's anxious to have another child more than I am," says Jenni. "I'm the one who pays all of our bills and takes care of all of our financial side and so I'm always looking at those numbers every month and going 'aaah!' because I have student loan debt, he's about to have student loan debt when he graduates in December. I feel torn because my maternal instinct is strong, too and I love our child and I'd love to have another one, but someone has to kind of put their foot down and say, we just can't do that right now."
Click play on the audio player above to hear the entire conversation.
The halting pace of the economic recovery is all too apparent, despite glimmers of hope in housing and other sectors. But in some places, the recovery has ended and the economy is in expansion mode.
One of those places is Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a city which Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal said has more to do with the American and global economy than you might think.
"I was at a food processing plant two days ago where they are making pre-packaged meals that will in probably a week and a half be on lunch trays for kids in the Los Angeles Unified School District."
And the economy of Sioux Falls looks pretty darn good. Unemployment is at 3.5 percent, compared to the national rate of 7.4 percent. And this week, Capital One just announced they are bringing 175 new jobs to town.
But here’s the catch: 3.5 percent unemployment is actually, if you ask economists, too low. There isn’t enough turnover between jobs and companies can’t find the employees they need. In fact, local business leaders in Sioux Falls say that when they work to woo new companies to come open stores in Sioux Falls, the companies first question is about that unemployment rate: With so few unemployed workers, how will firms find the employees they need?
There never seems to be a good time to talk about money with family, but putting it off can be more painful in the long run. When should you first initiate a conversation about finances with your aging parents?
Tara Siegel Bernard, a personal finance reporter with The New York Times, says the sooner the better.
"I recently spoke with a family that thought they had plenty of time, then their mother died unexpectedly," says Bernard. "They didn't know their mother had a mortgage, and once they figured out that she did have a mortgage, it was in default."
So when you do decide to start a dialogue, how do you go about it? Bernard says don't be too confrontational.
"You don't want to put anybody on the defensive," she says. "Don't say, 'You're disorganized, you're going to make this so difficult on me.' You want to kind of spin that around and use 'I' statements like, 'I'm really concerned about doing the right thing, how can we approach this together?'"
Encouraging parents to be proactive about setting up special accounts or keep important documents organized can be important as well. Parents can actually help their kids by keeping their papers out of safety deposit boxes, which might be hard to access after they pass away.
"What you want to do is get what's called a 'strong box,' or some kind of fireproof box that you can put in your house in a safe place," says Bernard.
What may be most helpful in the long run, Bernard says, is more than one conversation.
Click play on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.