Newly released figures underscore how few people were able to enroll during the HealthCare.gov website's first few days. The White House has compared that to a slow start for Massachusetts' health care program in 2006. Fact checkers say the comparison isn't quite right, though.
Usually when one of our 20- or 30-year-old listeners sends us a question for the show, they wonder if they can afford a home or what they should do to pay off their student loans.
A guide to U.S. retirement accounts Learn more about what kind of plans are out there and which is best for you. Plus, browse our other resources to help you reach your retirement goals.
But not 30-year-old Amanda in Chicago. She has no debt, holds six-figures in retirement savings, an emergency fund of $35,000 and was recently let go from her company. And she's wondering if she can skip the whole day-to-day job thing and get straight to retirement.
"I'm calling in today cause I'm hoping you'll tell me I'm ready to buy a boat and sail off into the sunset," says Amanda. "When is enough, enough? I was diligent and put away money well."
Amanda actually has more savings than 75 percent of the country. But is it enough to retire?
Though some sites say that retirement lies in a magic number, like saving $1 million or 10 times your annual salary, it's more important to figure out what you're saving for, since every retirement situation looks different.
Questions to answer
- Where will you live? Do you still owe money on your home or pay rent monthly? Would you be able to afford that even if your income stopped?
- Do you plan on still working? Even if you do leave the 9-to-5 behind, could you work a part-time schedule or find freelance work if necessary?
- Will you have to take care of family? If your parents aren't adequately prepared for retirement, will you have to support them?
- Where will you live? Other cities, and countries, offer significantly lower costs-of-living. Would you be willing to leave?
- How much debt do you have left? Will you be able to juggle payments even without income?
- Wha will you do? Some people aren't content with sitting at home. Will you travel or volunteer abroad? How much will that cost?
But sometimes, spending money in the short-term can save you money in the long-run.
The Internet Innovation Alliance, which supports providing broadband internet access throughout the U.S., recently repleased a report that highlights how buying internet access can save money. Clearly, IIA has a stake in the battle -- but in its research, the group found that comparison shopping on the internet can save significant amounts of money for consumers.
In rental housing for example, the IIA used sites like Craigslist and Trulia to find homes for rent. Using those real-estate comparison sites led to saving 14 percent compared to the average rent in a city. Buying gas might seem like a straight-forward task, but using sites like GasBuddy that show the cheapest gas in your area can lead to saving 5 percent off your gas bill every month.
The chart below tabulates that data in a way that encourages broadband use -- but aside from that bottom line number, a lot of savings can clearly be had by comparison shopping online.
Treasure Island is a former Navy base located in the middle of the Bay and sits about three miles east of San Francisco. Most people just drive past the place but these days, it’s getting an unusual amount of attention. That's because a barge is docked there.
Well, this barge is rumored to be owned by Google. Google’s not saying much but the rumor mill is running wild. So, I drove out to Treasure Island to check it out for myself. Turns out, the pier leading to the barge is fenced off and topped with razor wire. And the gates were locked. In the distance, I could see the barge. It was about four stories high, a half-a-block long and shrouded in black mesh.
“This whole facility has been fenced off for about a year,” says Pat O’Hara a building contractor who works on the Island.
O’Hara says when he asked the workers what they were doing, weirdly, they had no clue.
“They would get a piece of the plan and they would build a portion and that’s all they knew they were building,” he says.
But Christina Norsig thinks she knows what’s up, “This looks like a pop-up concept to me.”
Norsig is the author of “PopUp Retail.” Pop-ups are stores that open for a limited time, often to create buzz. She says Target experimented with a floating store when it launched its Isaac Mizrahi line a few years ago. And recently, retailers have been playing with shipping containers to create pop-ups.
“They’re combining ideas,” she says.
My sources told me Google’s going to use the barge to sell Google Glass, a wearable computer that sits on your face like spectacles.
Carl Howe is a retail analyst with the Yankee Group. “They’re going to have to do some experimentation in terms of how to sell it,” he says.
Howe imagines each container offering consumers a different scenario. One might be for gamers. Another might mimic a ski slope. He says you’ve heard of Disneyland? Well, “I love the idea of Googleland,” he says.
The award for most anticipated IPO of the season would probably go to Twitter, which is doing its road show now, to gin up interest. But the award for biggest surprise by an IPO? That might go to The Container Store. The company went public this morning, and in very short order, the share price practically doubled.
It has made us wonder if investors’ interest in a consumer product retailer like this one signals a strength in the economy that doesn’t show up in other measures.
At The Container Store in Washington, D.C., whole walls are covered with clothes hangers. There are blue boxes, green boxes, red boxes. There are containers that are circular and cylindrical and square and rectangular, which are shaped like Legos. There are containers to hold containers, and there are organizers of every sort.
Melinda Green spent $25 on a shelf and some mesh bins at the chain's Arlington, Va., location.
“I’m buying stuff to organize my stuff,” she says. “If I didn’t have as much disposable income, I would sure find other ways to find things to fit in my closet.”
According to Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University, “Stuff management is what this store is all about, and stuff management is only top of mind for consumers when they’re buying again.”
The Container Store’s success points to another way the chain reflects America’s economy today, says Burt Flickinger III, a consumer industry consultant who runs the Strategic Resource Group. He’s studied the chain and says a big chunk of its business comes from workers who are drilling for oil and natural gas in places like Texas and North Dakota.
“The people work two weeks on, two weeks off,” he explains. “So they have to use the things from The Container Store to take their personal possessions back and forth.”
But Flickinger says, by his read, there’s another lesson to be learned here about the American economy – one that isn’t as positive.
“Shoppers are still scared, so they’re storing up their clothes and the possessions that they’ve already purchased.”
In other words, they’re refurbishing closets and kitchens instead of remodeling them.
8 Things You Can Contain With Containers from the Container Store:
1. Other containers.
2. Dog waste (at least the bags).
4. The mess inside of your water bottle.
5. The fallibility of human memory.
8. Yourself. Reusable, at $1.99.
And now, 6 Things You Cannot Contain With Containers from the Container Store:
1. The demand for Cronuts.
2. Detroit Lions’ wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
3. “Breaking Bad” spoilers. It is time to give up.
4. These pandas: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u155ncSlkCk
Highway engineer George Thornton, who led a 1970 operation to blow up the dead whale on a beach, died this week at age 84. Thornton's decision resulted in a foul shower of whale blubber. Whenever video of the unlikely event resurfaces, some viewers declare it a hoax.
The Boston Red Sox win the World Series and basketball bad boy Allen Iverson officially retires. The Barbershop guys weigh in on sports news and the other big stories of the week.
Tell Me More host Michel Martin and editor Ammad Omar update law and order stories from New York, Alabama, and Georgia, and they share some listener love for poet Nikki Giovanni.
With the holidays coming up, is your mind on the menu yet? Well, Rabbi Eli Glaser says that eating well is more than just a health concern for Jews, it's a matter of faith. He talks to host Michel Martin about his non-profit group, Soveya which helps Jewish people tackle issues of obesity and weight loss.
More than a year and a half after Trayvon Martin was shot in Florida, Sanford's new police chief has issued new guidelines for neighborhood watch groups and volunteers. Host Michel Martin learns more from NPR correspondent Greg Allen.
People on both sides of the debate over so-called "stand your ground" laws are using the same statistics to bolster their arguments. Host Michel Martin takes a closer look at the actual numbers with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Davis of the Tampa Bay Times.
Forty-seven million Americans -- that's one in seven of us -- receive food stamps. Starting today, they'll be receiving less. A stimulus bill that had added federal money to what's called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, back 2009, has expired, and Congress has declined not to reauthorize the funding. For a family of five with no other income, this could cut food stamps by $43 a month. For low income people who are working, the cut would be less, but it will still bite.
At long last, the Federal Aviation Authority announced this week that we can use personal electronic devices all the way through our plane trips -- even during takeoff and landing-- as long as we're not actually talking on the phone.