Chris Arnold

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Millions of Americans are refinancing their mortgages to save money as superlow interest rates create a rare financial bright spot amid the pandemic.

But homeowners are about to get hit with a big new fee. Starting next month, all home mortgages that are refinanced will have to pay half of 1% of the loan. In other words, $1,500 for a $300,000 mortgage.

Lawmakers in California are rushing to create a new financial protection watchdog agency by the end of the month. They say it's needed because, under the Trump administration, the main federal regulator has been paralyzed.

And they say that during the pandemic that is leaving millions of Americans who are in dire financial straits more vulnerable to predatory lenders, get-out-of-debt-scams and other wrongdoing.

Merry Collins lost her job as a home health aide in Dallas after the coronavirus outbreak hit. Before she started getting $600 a week in extra federal unemployment benefits, she got behind on the rent. And in June her landlord took her to court to evict her.

"The first day the courts opened here in Dallas," she says, "that's when they filed for eviction."

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Americans are buying more guns than ever before. People worried about the pandemic sometimes buy guns. People worried about protests in this country sometimes buy guns. And by one estimate, people have bought 3 million more guns than normal since March. Almost half of all those sales are to first-time gun owners. NPR's Chris Arnold reports.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Mandy Collins is 38. She lives in Little Mountain, S.C., with her husband and three kids. And she just spent $450 on a powerful handgun.

Many state and local governments have decided it isn't safe yet to hold in-person eviction hearings in court during the pandemic. But apparently it's OK for people to be put out on the street during the outbreak if you do it after a Zoom call.

That's what's happening in some states as eviction moratoriums expire, and courts hold remote hearings for people who can't pay their rent.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The past few months have weighed heavily on Edgar Fields. He has been meeting with workers at chicken processing plants across Georgia and in nearby states. His union represents them, and many have become sick. Some have died.

"You know, you lay in the bed and you can't sleep because stuff is on your mind? I've got to do this. I've got to do that," he says. "That's what I wake up in every morning thinking, 'What can I do to protect my members to where they have a safe work environment to go to?' "

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

About 17 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in the U.S. in recent weeks. It's an astonishing number that's nearly 10 times what the system has ever handled so quickly.

Updated on April 15 at 11:19 a.m. ET

Those $1,200 federal payments to help Americans through the coronavirus crisis have started arriving in some people's bank accounts via direct deposit. But many people will have to wait longer — and there could be pitfalls, such as debt collectors grabbing the money before you do.

Those who'll be getting checks in the mail may not see them for weeks or even months. To get the money faster, millions of people will have to provide direct-deposit account information to the IRS.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Many people across this country have been calling up mortgage companies and refinancing their home loans because mortgage rates have been hitting record lows. NPR's Chris Arnold is following all of this. Hey there, Chris.

CHRIS ARNOLD, BYLINE: Hey, Steve.

INSKEEP: What is causing people to ask about refinancing now?

A dramatic drop in mortgage rates may give prospective homebuyers a chance to afford the house they've been eyeing — or may lower monthly payments for homeowners who refinance.

Last week, fears over the novel coronavirus outbreak's anticipated economic impact sparked the most dramatic stock market sell-off since the 2008 financial crisis. Stocks rallied Monday on expectations that the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates to boost the economy.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

A few years ago, Lauren had a big problem. The Queens, N.Y., resident had graduated from college with an art degree as the Great Recession had hit. She had private student loans with high interest rates. For work, all she could find were retail jobs. And by 2016, her loans had ballooned to about $200,000.

" 'I can't afford to actually pay my bills and eat and pay my rent,' " she remembers thinking. "I was financially handicapped. I mean, my student loan payments were higher than my rent was."

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Saving more and spending less is a popular New Year's resolution, which doesn't sound like a lot of fun. So why are some of our listeners talking about budgeting like this?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: I'm actually super jazzed about it (laughter). It's, like, all I want to talk about.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: And I am a budgeting wizard.

MARTIN: A budgeting wizard - super jazzed - what's going on with these people? What are their secrets? NPR's Chris Arnold from our Life Kit podcast says this does not need to be a dreaded task.

Mike Calhoun is a man on a mission. He's flying around the country, warning state lawmakers and prosecutors, sounding the alarm at conferences and with members of Congress.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of the nation's most prestigious universities, stands accused of hurting workers in the company's retirement plan by engaging in an improper relationship with the financial firm Fidelity.

A lawsuit headed to trial in September alleges that MIT ignored the advice of its own consultants and allowed Fidelity to pack the university's retirement plan with high-fee investment funds that ended up costing employees tens of millions of dollars. In return, the lawsuit said, MIT leveraged millions of dollars in donations from Fidelity.

Updated at 11:25 a.m. ET

Equifax will pay up to $700 million in fines and monetary relief to consumers over a 2017 data breach at the credit reporting bureau that affected nearly 150 million people.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Updated at 9:47 a.m. ET Thursday

Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard who made investing and retirement affordable for millions, died Wednesday at the age of 89, the company said.

Bogle transformed the way people invest their money when he created the first index mutual fund for individual investors in 1975.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Even in a strong economy, many Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Forty percent don't have $400 to cover an emergency expense, such as a car repair. And many working-class people turn to payday loans or other costly ways to borrow money. But more companies are stepping in to help their workers with a much cheaper way to get some emergency cash.

Startup companies that offer better options for workers are partnering with all kinds of businesses — from giants like Walmart to little fried chicken restaurants.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

To see what a trade fight can do to exports, all you need to do is look at pork.

American ham and other pork products now face massive tariffs — between 62 and 70 percent – after two rounds of retaliatory tariffs by China. It's led to almost a standstill in pork exports to China.

"In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has reported zero weekly export sales of pork to China," says Mary Lovely, an economist at Syracuse University. "So our exports to the country have pretty much collapsed."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continues to come under fire by the man running the watchdog agency — Mick Mulvaney, the interim director appointed by President Trump.

In his latest action, Mulvaney moved on Wednesday to effectively dismantle the agency's consumer advisory council. "It's quite clear that we've been fired," said Kathleen Engel, a law professor at Suffolk University and a member of the CFPB's Consumer Advisory Board.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Pages