Marketplace - American Public Media
Having roommates gets old. And having roommates is cramped, says New Yorker Marcos Sanchez.
“Nine people, five cats, and a number of regulars who are guests,” Sanchez describes the residents of his Bushwick loft as he gives a tour. “This building used to be a warehouse.”
The metal stairwell is dark, but brightened by some impressive graffiti featuring yellow jellyfish. An old bucket of sand holds legions of cigarette butts, and rust has eaten through one of the steps.
Inside the apartment, the ceilings are high. Art supplies fill one communal room, an old film crane frames the couches in another.
In many ways, this loft realizes a romanticized ideal of youth and resourcefulness. The roommates host salons and potlucks, artist exhibitions and game nights. They sip beer on the roof in view of the Manhattan skyline. There’s a dilapidated water tower atop the building that offers entertainment for the adventurous and tetanus-resistant. Many of the roommates wouldn’t have it any other way.
Perhaps best of all, the rent is around $900 – about as cheap as it gets in New York City.
There is an additional price to be paid, however.
“You hear sex through the walls,” Sanchez says with a laugh. “You hear some bathroom noises. There are frequently dirty dishes in the sink. The cats are really nice but I think they’re gross. They’re the nicest creatures. It weighs on my conscience when I speak ill of them.”
But he does anyway. And he’s right, they smell.
“When I have my lotto fantasies, one of the first things I do is I get a place of my own near my job," he says.
The Desire To Live Alone
Marcos Sanchez is not alone.
“More people are living alone than at any time in the history of our species," says Eric Klinenberg, professor of sociology at NYU and author of "Going Solo". “Contemporary people, given the option, would rather go solo, which is why we see such incredible demand in the real estate market."
The key phrase there is “given the option.” Many people aren’t given any option at all, he notes.
"The problem is that real estate has become so expensive in the central urban areas that many people are priced out of the rental market,” Klinenberg says.
A one-bedroom in Manhattan easily goes for $3,000 a month or more. Rents are higher than before the recession and renters' incomes are lower. Mass migrations to urban centers have continued, pushing rents up even more.
Compounding the simple imbalance of supply and demand, there is a mismatch across the U.S. between the type of housing desired and the type of housing available.
“The population of singles and couples far exceeds the number of studios and one bedrooms,” says John Infranca, research affiliate at NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. He is coauthor of a report examining this mismatch. In many cities, the available housing is 50-70 years-old on average, and thus designed for a different era. In his words, it was “a time when we had more large families [and] people weren’t living alone until they start[ed] their own family.”
Infranca says this means families today are paying a price for the lack of housing for singles.
“The demand for housing of this population is currently being met instead by our stock of two- and three-bedroom units...pricing families out of those units because they have to compete with two or three single individuals.”
Finding Answers in Tiny Places
One possible solution is the micro-unit. It’s a small – sometimes very small – single-person apartment. Inside of an immense factory space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Tom O'Hara, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Capsys Corp., stands over the emerging skeleton of one such unit.
“This is the combined living-dining area. [The] kitchen goes back in this corner. This is about 300 square feet.”
Capsys builds modular residences – pre-fabricated, stackable, movable homes or apartments or hotels.Sabri Ben-Achour/Marketplace
The apartment he shows me is being made for the MyMicro project, an experiment launched under Michael Bloomberg when he was mayor of New York City.
It’s small, concedes O'Hara, but that is the point.
“I don’t know that anyone would live in a space this small in Peoria, but in New York City, you have a place like this because you live in the city, and this is where you take a shower and sleep.”
The kitchen island will fold down from the wall; the bed will be either a Murphy bed or a convertible sofa.
The 55 units being built in Brooklyn will include 22 rent-restricted units, which will run from $939 to $1,873 a month depending on the income of the renter. The remaining 33 will be market rate, which means they could go for higher.
In dense cities, people live their lives outside – the coffee shop down the street, the bar around the corner. At least, that is the bet that a lot of cities are beginning to make as they allow developers to experiment with building micro-units, from Austin to Denver to Washington, DC. In most cities, minimum apartment size requirements and zoning codes make micro-units either impossible or cost prohibitive without express sanction from local authorities.
So far, the experimentation has confirmed a deep need.
“These units are renting out very quickly, if not fully rented the moment construction is finished,” says Infranca.
In that sense, it has been a success: the city is meeting demand for housing with new supply.
Then there's the question of whether this kind of apartment represents good urban planning. In Seattle, micro-units as small as 120 square feet have been built in not-very-dense parts of the city. Some residents worry about parking problems and other issues created by a sudden increase in population that could come from the creation of this kind of housing.
Those irks may be the lesser of two evils. If young people or single people can’t move to a city because there’s nowhere affordable to live the way they want, they'll just go somewhere else. And that's a far greater existential threat.
The EU is banning the manufacture of vacuums over 1600 watts, starting September 1st.
What will that mean for Patricia Ware, owner of a vacuum repair shop in Edinburgh? Ware demonstrates the difference in sucking power from her shop, Radio Electrics.
"When you have pets with a lot of dog hair and cat hair, you need to have that suction [a more powerful vacuum provides]," says Ware. "Why they're doing this, I have no idea. This is the EU crap that goes on in Brussels. But nevermind about all the racing cars that raise all the emissions in the air, that's ok, we're going to worry about a vacuum cleaner that's ... on for a half hour."
Remember your first day in an office (or, for some, a barn)?
Our first jobs shape us, how we view work and see ourselves as part of a bigger team.
We went around Los Angeles to find stories of first jobs and what lessons you still hold from your first time employed. Lizzie O'Leary told us about her first job in a sandwich shop, I was something called a 'video game quality assurance tester,' what was yours?
There are, of course, lots of studies ranking one thing against another. Some are more viable than others. But they're usually somewhat interesting.
WalletHub, a personal finance website, has taken a whole bunch of data points including age, gender, income, and household make-up to rank cities on how "typically American" they are, based on how close they are to the national average.
Number 340 out of 366 on the list? Washington, DC.
International commodity markets are full of little mysteries. For example: Why would a market player buy a whole bunch of something when the market is full of that very thing?
In this case, the thing is diesel fuel in Europe. The continent's last winter was mild, so there’s plenty in storage. Yet, according to Bloomberg, the bank Morgan Stanley has been on a huge buying spree.
The experts will tell you, nobody knows for sure. But they can guess: Maybe somebody thinks the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine will stop the flow of natural gas to Europe by winter, when demand goes up.
What does that have to do with diesel?
"If they can’t find natural gas, they’re going to have to find alternatives," suggests Phil Flynn, from Price Futures Group. "They’re going to use more coal, they’re going to use more oil..." and maybe some more diesel.
So, buy low now, sell high later.
That is unless prices don’t go up, like if next winter is really mild, or natural gas supplies are okay, or both. Then you lose money.
Risking your own money is called trading “naked,” which energy consultant David Bellman thinks is unlikely in this situation. Instead, he suggests, Morgan Stanley may be acting as an agent for end-users like governments or companies.
"They could be agents for multiple people," says Bellman. "They could have found end-user A, end-user B, end-user C, and negotiated with all of them and said, 'Aren’t you concerned about Ukraine?'"
It could be a lot simpler than that. Energy economist and consultant Phil Verleger looked up diesel prices— and the price of diesel futures— while we talked on the phone. Turns out, you can sell a contract today to deliver diesel in January for a little more than the current price.
"You could buy the diesel, store it, sell futures against it, and earn a very nice return," Verleger says, "at a time when interest rates are essentially zero."
In this case, it’s the “storing it” that’s the hard part for most players, because of the glut. If Morgan Stanley has some storage capacity, that could allow the bank to make money by buying something that nobody else wants.
The government reported personal spending fell 0.1 percent in July, following a 0.4 percent increase in June. Personal income rose 0.2 percent in July, a weaker-than-expected gain and the lowest since December 2013.
Meanwhile, the Reuters-University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index rose at the end of August, with the current conditions measure hitting its highest level since summer 2007, before the Great Recession hit.
The spending decline in July was partly a function of lower utility and gasoline bills, said economist Chris Christopher at IHS Global Insight. “That can be a good thing in many cases,” he says. “If you have a smaller electricity bill at the end of the month.”
Christopher says lower energy costs in July might result in consumers devoting extra discretionary spending to back-to-school purchases in August.
Still, combined with weak income gains in July, the consumer indicators pointed to a still-weak economic recovery. And yet, consumers now feel better about current economic conditions than they have felt since before the Great Recession.
“The fact that we’re the highest in seven years is good,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo. “It means that we’re better off than where we were a year ago or two years ago. But it still doesn’t compare to where we would be if economic conditions were truly great.” Vitner said consumers weren’t showing extremely strong satisfaction with the economy during the 2000s either, in spite of rising home prices and equity markets.
Sarai St. Julien, who was shopping at a neighborhood grocery store in Portland, Oregon, echoed the evidence in the consumer data.
“I feel more confident, but still I have to be careful,” St. Julien said. “We got hit pretty hard, my husband lost his job, and we kind of had to put ourselves back together and sold a lot of personal belongings to do it. We are doing better, he’s got a good job, but we’re still sort of digging out of a hole.”
Pope Francis is attracting a lot of attention to the Catholic church, but the church has a recruiting problem. A lot of its clergy its aging, and it's happening in other faiths too as religious leaders retire.
Some religions advocate student loan forgiveness as a way to attract young people, if they do significant community service, their loans can be forgiven under a federal program.
We spoke with Sister Colleen Gibson, a 28 year old who just took her vows to serve as a nun this month, on the campus of Chestnut Hill College. As far as nuns go, Gibson says she’s pretty young.
Do us a favor, take a look at the job description for the job you currently work. Do you notice anything missing? Maybe, the 4 or 5 other jobs you work at the office?
Since the recession, many workers have had to cover roles that were once filled by more colleagues. According to Gallup, the average number of hours Americans work per week is 47, almost a full workday longer than a standard 40-hour week.Gallup
We asked Farnoosh Torabi, personal finance writer and author of "When She Makes More," about what you can do to survive an ever-increasing workload:
"I think you want to take your emotion off the table, and be strategic about the position you are in. If you're the last man standing at your job, at least if you feel that way ... you need to let your employer kindly know that you're happy to take on the extra work, but you'd like to be fair about it. Before you even go to that meeting, gather some research. Go into HR, and find out what is your salary range. If you just got hired and are at a starter salary, and suddenly you're taking on a lot more work, find out the potential increase you can earn."
Click play above to hear more advice on asking for a raise, working from home, and for handling a freelance career
Those numbers are cited as evidence that women need to be more confident in the workplace, but author Tara Sophia Mohr thinks that's the wrong conclusion.
She did her own study and wrote about it in the Harvard Business Review.
I was skeptical, because the times I had decided not to apply for a job because I didn’t meet all the qualifications, faith myself wasn’t exactly the issue. I suspected I wasn’t alone.
So I surveyed over a thousand men and women, predominantly American professionals, and asked them, “If you decided not to apply for a job because you didn’t meet all the qualifications, why didn’t you apply?”
According to the self-report of the respondents, the barrier to applying was not lack of confidence. In fact, for both men and women, “I didn’t think I could do the job well” was the least common of all the responses. Only about 10% of women and 12% of men indicated that this was their top reason for not applying.
Every week, we have someone tell us their story about money. This week, Los Angeles-based storyteller Brian Finkelstein tells us about a time when the bubble bursts.
The first time I made a lot of money, I was in my twenties and I was broke. I was that broke in your twenties where you have sleep for dinner. You know that feeling where it’s like, “Oh, it’s 8 o'clock and I'm just gonna go to bed because I have no money."
And that’s the way I lived my life. I was living in Brooklyn. And I moved there because it was an arts scene. I didn’t paint or have any sort of artistic desires, but I wanted to be part of that community, so I moved there. And I was living in Williamsburg and I just would go to different jobs all the time. Make a few dollars an hour then leave. And then go on to the next one.
And I got a job at this place Kiehl's, which is a skin care store on the East Village in Manhattan. And I didn’t know what it was, I’m not the type of person who uses skin care. But I got a job as a door man. And that I could do. I went to Queens college, so I had enough education to say hello and goodbye. And I was doing that, I was making $8 an hour and after like 6 months, I quit.
[That night], I get a call at my house from this woman who owned Kiehl's, and she told me to stay. She wanted me to train people on skin care. And I was like, “No, no. That’s not for me. I’m a schlubby white straight dude.” And I worked in a place with fabulous beautiful woman and gay men. They sold skin care. I couldn’t. no one would want to buy it from me. I was not a poster for a good living. And she was like, “but you represent a certain demographic that we don’t have and we want to keep you there. We really want you."
And, so now I was making $8 an hour, I was living hand-to-mouth and she goes, "Well, we will pay you $90,000 a year to start , plus commissions. Which came to over $100,000 a year. She gave me her American Express black card to go shopping in SoHo, and buy myself "fabulous clothes," her words. A gym membership to Equinox. And benefits including a 401K.
That was the first time in my life that I made a lot of money. And that just sort of changes the way you feel about things at that point … like, the art idea just went away. Like any sort of integrity I had was bought that night in that phone call for the rest of my life.
I worked at that job for seven years. And it was great. I got myself out of debt. I paid my friend’s rent. I was very sort of the guy in that group of artists that had money.
I lived in Williamsburg, and I worked in the East Village, and both places were still independent and mom-and-pop. Kiehl's was this independent place that was owned since the 1800s by [one family]. But then one day we held this meeting, and [the owner] had told us that L'Oreal had bought it.
When L'Oreal bought it, they loved the brand of it, and they did everything they could to change it, because of course they were not going to pay people that much. They just fired all of us.
Slowly, as I looked around, Union Square was this beautiful place where there was very independent restaurants and stuff. But the L'Oreal-ization of New York happened. There was two Starbucks, a Toys R' Us, a Barnes and Noble, a Virgin Megastore, it just happened overnight where it was all over.
So, I just spent all the money I had over the next five years pursuing a job as a comedian and a writer and I started doing a lot of shows and then eventually moved to Los Angeles.
Experts expect between $6 and 7 billion will be spent on messaging during the 2016 campaign season and its run-up. The Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision opened the door to more outside spending on advertising, and that has changed a lot of things – including who gets attacked by attack ads.
“Liberals call this flyover country,” it begins. “It’s an insult. But nobody insults your life like this guy: Michael Bloomberg, billionaire, elitist, hypocrite.”
The NRA says Bloomberg “has declared war” on the organization and its five million members. The former mayor of New York City has pledged to spend at least $50 million pushing for more background checks on gun buyers.
But Bloomberg is out of office. He is not running for anything – at least right now. And according to Michael Franz, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, that is what makes the NRA’s campaign so novel.
“To see him be the target of the ad is, in many ways, something we have never seen before,” he says.
In the past, attack ads have tied politicians to other politicians and donors to their campaigns. Franz believes this is the first advertisement not tied to a candidate or a campaign.
“This is the post-'Citizens United' world that we live in,” he says.
Franz and others say it is hard to overstate how much the landscape has changed over the last few years.
“The way we’ve organized now, since ‘Citizens United,’ essentially everything is on the table,” says Danilo Yanich, a professor of public policy at the University of Delaware. Everything and everyone.
Ken Goldstein, a political science professor at the University of San Francisco, says Michael Bloomberg and other big donors are being cast as outsiders.
"The message here is that there is something improper about these people being involved in politics," he says. "That their money is trying to fool you."
This is an update, Goldstein says, of a technique campaign operatives have used for a long time.
“One of the first things one does in opposition research is see if they can tie the other side to someone who is unsavory or unpopular."
What the NRA is hoping, Goldstein says, is that this ad — and others it plans to run nationwide — will affect how Americans see Michael Bloomberg and the cause he backs.
The federal government is cracking down on college sexual assaults by putting more than 70 schools under investigation for their handling of such cases - and entrepreneurs and consultants are finding business opportunities.
They’re creating smartphone apps to let students easily notify friends or campus police if they get into a scary situation, and developing training programs for campus-led sexual assault investigations.
“With a heavily-regulated industry, you're going to see a lot of products and services offered,” says Peter Lake, a campus safety expert at Stetson University College of Law.
Stetson says many schools aren't set up to deal with new rules governing sexual assault prevention and reporting. They need the extra help.
“A lot of us were using coconuts and Dixie cups with string to communicate, and now we have complicated software programs that actually work to get data in real time,” he says.
One app, called LiveSafe, lets students give campus security anonymous tips about crimes or potentially dangerous situations in real time. Schools pay a few bucks per student on up for the services.
By some estimates, as many as 80 percent of sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. LiveSafe chief executive Jenny Abramson thinks apps like hers can help change that.
“We find that in a number of places we're in, they're getting twice as many - or even ten times as many - tips from a student to the safety official, around things they ordinarily wouldn't share by calling or other more traditional means,” she says.
In addition to entrepreneurs like Abramson, lots of consultants and lawyers are marketing videos and training programs around sexual assaults. They're betting schools would rather pay their fees than face much stiffer penalties from the government. Without the proper programs in place, colleges can jeopardize federal funding and get fined hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But Dana Bolger is skeptical about some of the products getting marketed as a means to reduce sexual assaults, such as a nail polish that can detect date rape drugs when you dip your fingers into a drink. Bolger was a rape victim in college and is now an activist and co-founder of the organization Know Your IX. She's worried the technology may be more dazzling than effective.
“These products, while often well-intentioned, try to lull us into a false sense of security,” she says, “as though we can just innovate our way out of systemic violence against women.”
Abercrombie & Fitch, the retailer that's known for its hunky models and clothes that scream "Abercrombie" says it's ditching its logo. From now on, the retailer says its clothes will be logo-free, at least in North America.
It’s an odd twist considering Abercrombie helped create the demand for teen clothing with big logos.
Well, no surprise, teens are fickle, said Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at Wharton.
“In general, I think there is a trend that kids are not into logos as they once were because there’s more of an emphasis on showing your own individuality,” Kahn said, adding that it also depends on the logo - and right now Abercrombie’s is out of fashion.
Ronnie Moas, an analyst at Standpoint Research, says the the fast-fashion trend has created a big shift in the teen clothing industry and knocked Abercrombie off its perch. He downgraded the stock in early July. Moas said retailers like Forever 21 and H&M are putting out the newest fashions quickly and cheaply.
“At Abercrombie you’re paying $50-$60-$70 for a dress and at H&M it’s $20,” Moas said.
There’s no logo, so teens can mix-and-match and feel like they’re creating their own, individual style. While this is good news for young shoppers, it’s bad news for retailers, said Simeon Siegel, an analyst at Nomura.
“Leaving the brand premium means your pricing power probably erodes,” Siegel said.
Siegel said it’s not just Abercrombie that's having problems, but all teen retailers that have relied on brands in the past.