Chris Arnold | KUOW News and Information

Chris Arnold

Saving for retirement is a challenge facing most Americans. Research shows the challenge is made harder by our basic human impulses. We know we should be saving. But we don't. We consistently make bad financial decisions.

One thing that leads us astray is what behavioral economists call "loss aversion." In other words, we hate losing. And that gets in the way of us winning — if winning is making smart financial decisions.

How A Smashed Car Is Like A Smashed Nest Egg

Russian President Vladimir Putin's swift move to annex Crimea is seen as a sign of strength by many Russians, and it has boosted Putin's popularity at home. But when it comes to Russia's economy, many analysts think Russia's prospects are looking weaker.

In recent days, we've seen Russians rallying in the streets, waving flags and celebrating Putin's move to reclaim Crimea as part of Russia.

The economy often absorbs the impact of snowstorms, such as this week's storm, without much trouble, but this winter the weather is doing more damage than usual.

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And people are stranded not just in Charlotte, but in airports all over. Some airports temporarily shut down, including Washington's Reagan National. NPR's Chris Arnold is covering the effects on the airlines.

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Wherever you live, you're probably not too far from a local microbrewery making beer. Now, the latest trend is the spread of what you might call "micro-boozeries." Craft liquor distilleries are springing up around the country like little wellheads spouting gin, whiskey and rum.

Turkey Shore Distilleries in Ipswich, Mass., is one of them.

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When members of Congress return to work next week, at the top of the "to-do" list is whether to renew emergency unemployment benefits. An extension of the benefits expired at the end of 2013, which means 1.3 million out-of-work Americans are no longer getting unemployment checks.

Following the popularity of companies like Airbnb, which rent out a client's house or apartment to people visiting the area, more companies are trying the idea with cars. Companies like Uber help find someone to drive you around like a taxi. Another will let you rent out your car like a Zipcar while you're at work.

As the U.S. economy continues to recover, it has been getting some help from an unexpected place. After decades of massive job losses, manufacturing firms have been steadily creating jobs — many of them well-paying. One particularly bright spot is a new generation of high-tech manufacturers.

Seven months after his was nominated, the U.S. Senate this week confirmed former Rep. Mel Watt, D-N.C., to head the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the giant companies that control much of the mortgage market.

The vote occurred after Democrats changed the rules on filibusters — now the Senate can confirm presidential nominees with a simple majority.

For people who watch the U.S. housing market, Watt's confirmation is a very big deal that could mean easier credit.

The Comet ISON appears to have survived after disappearing and being thought dead. New NASA photos show the comet emerging from behind the sun smaller and dimmer, but still throwing a big light trail.

We've been reporting a lot lately on the troubled rollout of President Obama's signature health care law. But at the same time, there are rumblings of a major shift in the way companies offer private health insurance to workers.

It involves what are called "private health care exchanges." These are similar to — but completely separate from — the public exchanges you've heard so much about.

Some experts say this new approach soon could change how millions of Americans receive their health care.

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For Obamacare to succeed, it's crucial for young people to sign up.

Healthy young Americans need to pay into the insurance system to help cover the costs for older, sicker people.

So the White House is reaching out. Its website sent emails to subscribers with a big, orange graphic that says half of young people can get coverage for $50 a month or less.

Since the financial crisis hit five years ago, there aren't as many Americans starting new businesses. In uncertain economic times, it's harder for entrepreneurs and investors to take the risk.

And if you look back over the past 25 years, it turns out the overall trend is toward fewer new businesses getting started, too — and that's not good at all when the country needs more jobs.

The Next Google

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Running a company is like driving a car. You need to be able to see what's coming down the road. The dysfunction in Washington has created a fog, and when driving in the fog, you have to slow down.

That's basically what's happening at thousands of companies around the country.

Bob Mosey, chairman of the National Tooling and Machining Association, bemoans the "uncertainty of not being able to plan for the future."

On Wednesday, the stock market cheered the debt ceiling deal in Congress. The Dow gained 206 points and all the major indexes closed higher.

Investors of course have been watching the showdown in Washington very closely, since a default could have been a global financial disaster. At the same time, economists are trying to figure out how much the jitters and uncertainty over all this has been hurting the economy.

For the first year since the recession, median household incomes did not decline in 2012. But it's hardly a reassuring picture. Incomes were flat despite the economic recovery and big gains in the stock market. That's a troubling aspect about today's labor market. It's four years since the official end of the recession and many households are worse off than when it started.

There is something new and different for home mortgages: Jumbo loans are being made at lower interest rates than traditional home loans. That's kind of like a first class airplane ticket being cheaper than riding in coach.

At first this seems crazy. For as long as anybody can remember, homeowners have had to pay a premium to get jumbo loans. That's because they're not guaranteed by the federal government. If they're not guaranteed, they're riskier, so they cost more in interest payments.

In just the past week we've seen a bunch of signs that the housing recovery is gaining steam. Data out Wednesday showed that existing-home sales rose to their highest level in nearly four years, while prices were up 14 percent from a year ago.

Retailers Home Depot and Lowe's both reported strong earnings growth and attributed that to the housing rebound.

And most important for the economy, homebuilders are hiring more workers and building more houses.

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In the latest in a string of insider trading cases, federal prosecutors this week indicted SAC Capital, one of the most prominent and profitable hedge funds in the world.

But when it comes to the 2008 financial crisis that sent the economy into a tailspin, criminal prosecutions have been few and far between.

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An update now on a case that's been working its way through the courts for several years. Some of the world's largest private equity firms are accused of improper business practices. Just yesterday, a federal judge in Boston allowed the case to proceed.

Stocks surged Thursday after the chief of the Federal Reserve sent signals that the central bank wasn't in a hurry to stop helping the economy. When the markets closed, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was at a record high. Other U.S. indexes were also up, including the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which rose nearly 170 points to a record 15,460.92.

Update at 5 p.m. ET: We've updated some figures in this post to reflect the markets' closing.

The latest employment report is encouraging to many economists because the stronger job growth doesn't appear to be just a one-month blip. But some worry that it's so strong the Federal Reserve may pull back efforts to boost the economy.

The Labor Department's newest data released Friday shows the U.S. added 195,000 jobs in June. The prior two months were also revised upward — above 190,000 for both April and May.

That's three months of more-robust job growth.

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