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Greece takes over as EU president

Wed, 2014-01-01 13:16

Today, Greece takes over the presidency of the European Union, at a time when 27 percent of Greeks are out of work. The country's not winning the award for the most popular member of the EU anytime soon.

For the next six months, Greece will organize meetings, conferences and set policy priorities. Greek politicians say they want the EU to focus on the economy and jobs.

Mark Lowen, the BBC's Athens correspondent, tells us what to expect.

Foiled by foil: The latest weapon in credit card theft

Wed, 2014-01-01 13:02

This final note comes by way of Businessweek:

The FBI says criminals have found a new way to use stolen credit cards. They scale the roof of a store and wrap aluminum foil around antennas. Stores use antennas to communicate with credit card companies. That foil blocks the transmission, which means stores can't verify whether a card is legit or stolen. 

Businesses figure the connection's down temporarily, which happens every once in a while, and approve the transaction.

By the time a business finds out what the card was stolen, the criminals are long gone with the merchandise they bought and the stores ... are on the hook.

From Hendrix to Handel

Wed, 2014-01-01 11:50

How's this for an unlikely pairing: Jimi Hendrix and George Frederick Handel. In the late 1960's, Hendrix rented a small attic apartment in Central London, which happened to be right next door to where Handel lived more than 200 years earlier.

The London odd couple of Handel and Hendrix will finally live together -- in the same museum.

How do I make sure I stick to my resolution?

Wed, 2014-01-01 11:48

For years, David Weliver, editor of Money Under 30, made financial New Year's resolutions, but they never stuck. “I made the wrong resolution, to be honest,” says Weliver. “I resolved to budget.”

At the time, Weliver was more than $80,000 in debt. The problem with resolving to budget was the same problem people run in to when they resolve to lose weight, he says. “If you just say, ‘I’m going to exercise more, I want to lose weight,’ you’re bound to not succeed, because those are very vague ideas.” Weliver was able to get rid of his debt by picking resolutions that were very specific and very achievable, such as putting aside $50 a week.

If you want to get your finances in order, specifically, what’s the first thing you should do?

“Aim for zero consumer debt. That includes credit card and auto loans,” says Jill Schlesinger, an analyst at CBS News who has more than a decade of financial planning experience.

After that, says Schlesinger, take care of the basics: Make an emergency fund to last at least 6 months and bump up your retirement contribution as much as you can. “Live beneath your means.”

That’s the major piece of advice David Jones, President of the Association of Independent Consumer Counseling Agencies, has for the resolutionarily inclined. He says that can often be achieved by making small changes to your daily routine. “We see people every day that are having trouble making ends meet,” says Jones. “Yet, they are going to Starbucks twice a day, they are buying lunches out when they could be brown bagging it.”

A lot of us are suffering because the country went through a financial rough patch, so it seems only fair that Uncle Sam should have to make a financial resolution.

“Have a regulatory regime that will prevent us from going through another financial crisis,” is what Schlesinger recommends. She says the most important thing the U.S. can do in 2014 is make sure 2007 never happens again.

“It’s very important when you have a year like we’ve just had to not gloat, but to look ahead and say, well, what could go wrong and let’s address that.”

If 2013 was a good financial year for you, says Schlesinger, max out your retirement contributions, make an emergency fund that could last you a year ... and then go out to a really nice dinner.

You can always start your diet in February.

2013: A year of heists and capers

Wed, 2014-01-01 11:34

Capers and heists are alive and well in the Internet age.

Just last year, a hacker stole more than 4,000 Bitcoins from the cloud. You may remember thieves stole $50 million worth of diamonds in Belgium, by driving onto the tarmac at the airport in Brussels and intercepting a shipment.

Tim Fernholz, reporter for Quartz, dutifully chronicled the biggest capers and heists of 2013

Tim’s favorite heist of 2013? $26,000 worth of Pappy Van Winkle artisinal whiskey. “[That theft] hits near and dear to my heart, as a lover of bourbon,” Fernholz says. “This was Pappy Van Winkle’s 20-year-old aged bourbon, which of late in the United States, as had this very big resurgence in popularity. $900 dollars a bottle on the secondary market.” Fernholz added he doesn't think it'll be recovered anytime soon.

Check out the rest of his list over at Quartz

What will the housing market look like in 2014?

Wed, 2014-01-01 10:15

Home prices are rising in the Sun Belt and most big cities. Everybody talks about rising housing prices as a good thing, but it’s not so great for people trying to buy a house.

Part of the reason housing prices have taken off? Investors. Some from other countries, some from Wall Street. They've snapped up homes at bargain prices, then rented them out.  Investor interest sparked bidding wars in housing markets, which Anthony Sanders saw first-hand when he bid on a house in the Virginia suburbs of Washington several years ago.

“I just happened to have one Chinese investor literally arrive at the house at the same time I did," he says. "And we almost had a foot race to the door. Fortunately, I’m faster.”

Sanders knows a thing or two about the housing market. He teaches real-estate finance at George Mason University, and says the bidding wars are producing bubbles in the hottest housing markets, like Los Angeles, San Diego and Charlotte.   

“That’s where the bubbles are forming," he says. "They’re old bubble cities, that are re-bubbling.”

Sanders’s fast footwork got him the house, by the way.

Economist Svenja Gudell, the director of economic research at Zillow, watches housing bubbles carefully. Because lenders stopped making shaky loans, and the bubbles are confined to the most expensive cities, Gudell doesn't expect another housing crash.

Plus, more houses are on the market. Fewer people are underwater – owing more than their houses are worth -- so they’re selling.  “You have more banks selling their foreclosures and you have more people freed from being underwater," she says. "So supply will increase.”

Gudell says as housing supply increases, prices will cool, and expects home values to rise 3 to 5 percent in 2014, as opposed to 2013's 7 percent.

Patrick Newport, a housing economist with IHS, agrees that prices won’t go up as much this year. His prediction? "A [housing] slowdown in 2015, and then going forward, prices growing maybe one or two percent above the rate of inflation.”

That's about the normal rate of growth, according to Newport. Low enough to banish housing bubbles — and housing bidding wars.

Marketplace's driveway moments and best-of 2013

Wed, 2014-01-01 08:36

Happy New Year!

To wrap up 2013, we made a podcast of 10 driveway moments from the year that you can download above, or through subscribing to Marketplace on iTunes

What are your driveway moments from 2013? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.  

Thanks for listening! Here’s to a prosperous 2014.

Like the music? Marketplace's music curators share their favorites

Wed, 2014-01-01 07:00

One of the most common questions we get here at Marketplace isn't about the economy or government, but the music we play in between stories. Marketplace Money director Lindsay Foster Thomas, Marketplace Morning Report producer Justin Ho and Marketplace director Millie Jefferson share their favorite songs they played in 2013, and what goes into picking that perfect song that pairs with a story about the government shutdown or Apple's new product release. 

Check out our playlist of Marketplace’s favorite songs in 2013!

Lindsay writes:

This year brought a lot of change to Marketplace Money.  Change … money … get it? 2013 was my first full year as director. We ramped up our social media outreach (shout out to our 1500+ Twitter followers @LiveMoney!), and this was the year Carmen Wong Ulrich settled in behind the mic to host the show.

With all that happening behind the scenes, online and on-air, two things about the show remained constant: Marketplace Money’s devotion to covering personal finance issues and our use of music to add to the show’s entertainment factor. The latter, we lovingly call our $oundtrack. Where does the $oundtrack come from? Mostly from my crazy music tastes, but there are several things I consider when picking a song for the show:

Is it a good song?

Obvi, right? This has nothing to do with its potential to crack the Billboard Top 40 — although pop music is popular for a reason. We only get to play 10 or 20 seconds of a song between stories, so if the tune is good because of amazing lyrics or its ability to get the party started when the beat drops, that’s not really going to matter for our purposes. I listen for strong instrumental breaks, unique beats, or frequent changes in rhythm that hold your attention until the song fades into Carmen’s voice or one of our show’s underwriters. But if it does get the party started, bonus!

Does the song speak to the topic at hand?

It’s always fun to pair a song with particular subjects, especially in personal finance. Personal finance is part of our life. Topics that fall under that category are also things artists have been singing about for years: Homes, work, hard times, etc. When there’s a chance to give a wink to our audience with a song, I usually take it. 

Will people be happy to hear this song?

Most people listen to Marketplace Money on the weekends, while they’re cleaning their apartments or running errands with the kids. I think about that when I put a groovin’ song in the $oundtrack, one that I know will get folks to snap their fingers or sing along. Familiar music, by artists like Stevie Wonder or Queen or The Black Eyed Peas, is comforting and just the thing to make the weekend feel like the weekend. 

Here's a few amazing tracks I discovered in 2013: 

Sleep In The Park (Twin Shadow Remodel featuring D’Angelo Lacy) by Solange:

It took about four seconds of this song for me to fall in love. I’m already a huge fan of Solange’s music — it's not all about you, Beyoncé! — and this remixed beat made me immediately stop what I was doing. Solange repeats, 'We can’t survive on love, baby,' which made me think about the financial situations many of our listeners write in about. They have the foundation for great relationships, but something is lacking related to money. Whether you need to make more of it, communicate about it honestly, spend it smarter or keep it separate from your partner, this song is a great anthem for folks who have the love but need to get the money together.

LFT by Quadron

I admit it, this song first came to my attention because its title and my initials are the same. Imagine my surprise when I pressed play and discovered an amazing tune that’s become one of my favorites to include on Marketplace Money.  “LFT," or “looking for trouble,” is a song about getting older, but perhaps no wiser – something those who’ve faced the same kinds of money trouble over and over again can relate to. Hopefully our show is helping you stay out of those situations, but if you find yourself in a financial pickle, pump this jam as inspiration to figure a way out fast. 

Worldstar by Childish Gambino

I could’ve just written one long love letter to Childish Gambino and his new album, “Because the Internet.” Childish, if you don’t know, is actor Donald Glover. I came to this artist in a weird way. Marketplace producer John Ketchum’s favorite insult for people is “childish.”  Seriously, he says the word every day 26 times a day. One day I google'd his signature insult (don't ask me why) into a music search engine and boom, there was Childish Gambino just waiting for me! I have had this album on repeat for a couple of weeks now. Although it hasn’t been easy to find versions of his ... rather explicit music to use on the air, the outro to the song “Worldstar” is one smooth groove. 

It was a good year for Marketplace Money and music.  We hope you’ve enjoyed our $oundtrack selections and we resolve to keep discovering and playing more amazing music in 2014.  Happy New Year from Marketplace Money.  Because…you! 

Millie's picks:

It Gets Dark by Holy Ghost!

I pretty much wear out anything from Peter Bjorn & John, Dujeous, Oddisee, 9th Wonder, Mux Mool,  Goldroom or Local Natives. But if you listen to Marketplace regularly, I’m pretty sure you heard this song in heavy rotation. This song is great out of pieces that need a jolt of music to follow them. This song has a nice 'hot hit' (a start without a fade up) and sounds firm and upbeat. It’s an attention getting song, which is one of the reasons I love it. I usually play this song as the first bridge. I think it says, “Hey, you! You’re listening to Marketplace!” 

Pretty Boy (Peaking Lights Remix) by Young Galaxy

Pretty Boy (Peaking Lights Remix) was one of my favorite songs this year.  And like "It Gets Dark," if you’re a regular listener then you heard this one a lot. Unlike "It Gets Dark," I usually played this song at the end. The song has a nice upbeat rhythm and is great after the last story in the show. It works really well out of a piece that ends with the reporter, and those that end with the host speaking. When I hear it, it reminds me of a song that a movie might go end on — a song that can often close or punctuate the show.

Day 38 by Ta-Ku

"Day 38" is a song from a compilation called "50 Days for Dilla" by the Australian beat maker  Ta-ku. "50 Days for Dilla" is a tribute to American musical genius James Dewitt Yancey aka J. Dilla — one of my favorite artists — who passed away in 2006. I love this song because I can play it out of stories that are heavy in subject matter. It’s a nice song with classical piano and heavy hip hop beats, a combination that works well for Marketplace bridge music. It’s a song that, to me, sounds hopeful,  without sounding too happy or sad. It’s very versatile, which is why it ended up being one of the most played this year. Ta-ku is one of my favorite beat makers, another compilation of his worth listening to is "25 Days for Nujabes."

A tout a l’heure by Bibio

I love Bibio, a lot of their songs are in heavy rotation on Marketplace programs. It’s an excellent song to fade under the end of a story and then have it hit right as it ends. To me it’s a song that signifies a page turn, it's a song that helps move the show along.  

God Made the World by Cold Cave

I love this song because it’s fast moving.  It works well anywhere in the show and it works well out of stories that were complicated to tell. I think its fast pace gives the listener time to digest what they just heard, while not letting them stay there for too long. It's one of the songs that I go to if I feel like the pace of the show is slowing too much. 

There are many more songs that I’m sure I played to death.  That happens when you have to pick music that not only fits with the Marketplace sound, but also fits the tone and texture of each individual piece and of the show as a whole. I can’t wait to see what 2014 brings!  I love suggestions,  you can always tweet them to me @eccoMillie or to the show @MarketplaceAPM.

Happy New Year!


Justin's picks: 

1977 by Ana Tijoux

I heard this on Breaking Bad, during that wonderful dead drop scene in the fourth season. The instrumental version is fun, neutral and isn’t that busy – qualities of any great music bridge.

Battlefields by Misun

I heard this on Travis Holcombe’s (excellent) radio show on KCRW. Nacey, a Washington, D.C.-based producer and guitarist of Misun, has a bunch of great tracks he makes available for free online. They’re action-packed and great on air. 

Flyin’ on 747 by Kid Loco

This is a public radio standby. It has a great buildup and a “post” – a moment I want to hear once a piece ends (it’s that moment that happens at :23 seconds in). Sometimes I wonder whether it’s too 'yoga-studio' for morning radio. Possibly used best by Joe Frank in “The Box.” 

Ain’t No Chimneys In The Projects by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Christmas music on public radio. Appropriate? Annoying? Overdone? This track solves it all.

Joey Bada$$ - Waves

The instrumental version of this track works well out of mostly anything. Little-known fact: the clip of our credit announcer reading “Marketplace” samples perfectly over this beat.


PODCAST: Plenty to do in the New Year

Wed, 2014-01-01 06:07

Stock markets are closed around the world for the holiday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average in 2013 rose 29 point 65 percent. The biggest rise in 18 years. Have a cup of tea or coffee, it'll all be fine.

As you finish up your online holiday shopping, you might run into a CAPTCHA or two. Those are the blurry visual tests that websites use to make sure you're a human and not, say, a computer program trolling for credit card numbers. Google, which owns the most popular CAPTCHA service, announced recently they've made their tests a little easier to decipher. But that's not silencing critics who surf the web with their ears.

And, lawmakers are still on recess. Members of the House and Senate don’t return to Washington until next week. When they do get back to DC, there’s one thing they won’t have to deal with for the first time in long time: the budget. The thinking goes, that’ll give them the opportunity to deal with other issues.

With the budget settled, what's Congress going to do next week?

Wed, 2014-01-01 04:30

Lawmakers are still on recess. Members of the House and Senate don’t return to Washington until next week. When they do get back to DC, there’s one thing they won’t have to deal with for the first time in long time: the budget. The thinking goes, that’ll give them the opportunity to deal with other issues.

Marketplace’s David Gura joins us to talk about what those issues are, like the expired unemployment benefits, the Farm Bill, and immigration reform.

Click on the audio player above to hear more.


Tracing the perilous history Antarctic expeditions

Wed, 2014-01-01 04:04

Off Antarctica, three icebreakers have so far failed to make it through to a Russian ship trapped in the ice since Christmas Eve. It's a research ship with 74 scientists, some tourists, and crew.  Everyone's fine, but now they're waiting for a break in the weather so a helicopter can get through.

Ben Maddison an historian on the ship, and is retracing the voyage of Australian explorer Douglas Mawson who ran into big trouble in the Antarctic a hundred years ago. That's the one where the expedition members had to eat their sleddogs and learned the fatal consequences of injesting concentrations of vitamin A in dog's liver. Our interest is the economic incentives for that famous famous but tragic expedition.

Click on the audio player above to hear more.

The push to educate the newly insured

Wed, 2014-01-01 03:54

As of December 31, the government says more than two million Americans have signed up for insurance through the state or federal health exchanges – some for the first time. Nearly 4 million more have enrolled in Medicaid.

It's akin to waking up to a new car in your garage, but not necessarily knowing how to drive. And consumers will be the first ones to tell you, there’s a lot to learn about health insurance.

According to a recent report from the Urban Institute, less than half of Americans with insurance felt like they had a good grasp on basic health insurance terms like premium, deductible and covered services.

“A lot of our focus has been on on-boarding a customer,” saysBrian Lobley of Independence Blue Cross in Philadelphia. "What do we do to make that first experience not only useful to them, but to understand it.”

For example, Lobley says consumers might be tempted to purchase a plan with low monthly premiums, but he says that might come with expensive co-pays. 

“And you’d be better off paying a little bit more per month to have a lower out-of-pocket cost,” he says.

Insurers want the customer experience to be positive the first time out. Because if it is, those customers could they stick around for years to come.

The biggest tech legal battles to watch in 2014

Wed, 2014-01-01 03:27

This week we're talking to people about big tech trends in the coming year. Today it's Cyrus Farivar, senior business editor at the website Ars Technica. He has been looking at some big tech issues in 2014 through the lens of some high profile legal battles.

The first case getting attention this year is that of Pascal Abidor, a French citizen whose laptop and phone were confiscated and copied when he was detained at the border between Canada and the U.S. in 2010. Abidor's lawsuit was dismissed this week by a federal judge in Brooklyn.

Other cases to watch this year include the criminal case centered around the illegal drug marketplace Silk Road, as well as the extradition hearing in New Zealand for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom.

Click play on the audio player above to hear more.

The tech behind tracking marijuana plants in Colorado

Wed, 2014-01-01 02:59

Starting today, Colorado will become the first state to begin allowing the sale of marijuana to anyone over the age of 21. Recreational use has been legal in the state for about a year now, but today the plant will be officially available at stores with special liscenses. And, where there's a crop, and retail stores to sell that crop, there's a tracking system -- as in RFID tags. Not an alien concept to the world of retail. Some of these tags have a strap that you can attach to the plant. Each plant gets tagged, each tag has a number, and each number goes into an large online database. The Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution or as Julie Postlethwait, an officer with Colorado's Marijuana Enforcement Division, calls it, MITS.

Click on the audio player above to hear more.

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