Chris Arnold

NPR correspondent Chris Arnold is based in Boston. His reports are heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. He joined NPR in 1996, and was based in San Francisco before moving to Boston in 2001.

Most recently, Arnold has been reporting on financial challenges facing millions of working and middle class Americans as the economy continues to recover from the worst recession in generations. He won the National Association of Consumer Advocates award for Investigative Journalism for a series of stories he reported with ProPublica that exposed improper debt collection practices by non-profit hospitals who were suing thousands of their low-income patients.

Arnold is now serving as the lead reporter and editor for the ongoing NPR series "Your Money and Your Life" which explores personal finance issues. As part of that, he's reporting on the problem of Wall Street firms charging excessive fees in retirement accounts: fees that siphon billions of dollars annually from Americans trying to save for the future.

Following the 2008 financial crisis and collapse of the housing market, Arnold reported on problems within the nation's largest banks that led to the banks improperly foreclosing on thousands of American homeowners. For this work, Arnold earned a 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award for the special series, The Foreclosure Nightmare. He's also been honored with the Newspaper Guild's 2009 Heywood Broun Award for broadcast journalism. And he was a finalist for the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Award.

Arnold was chosen for a Nieman Journalism Fellowship at Harvard University during the 2012-2013 academic year. He joined a small group of other journalists from the U.S. and abroad and studied economics, leadership, and the future of journalism in the digital age. Arnold also teaches Radio Journalism as a Lecturer at Yale University. And he was named a Poynter Fellow by Yale in 2016.

Over his career at NPR, Arnold has covered a range of other subjects – from Katrina recovery in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, to immigrant workers in the fishing industry, to a new kind of table saw that won't cut your fingers off. He traveled to Turin, Italy, for NPR's coverage of the 2006 Winter Olympics. He has also followed the dramatic rise in the numbers of teenagers abusing the powerful and highly addictive painkiller Oxycontin.

In the days and months following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Arnold reported from New York and contributed to the NPR coverage that won the Overseas Press Club and the George Foster Peabody Awards. He chronicled the recovery effort at Ground Zero, focusing on members of the Port Authority Police department, as they struggled with the deaths of 37 officers - the greatest loss of any police department in U.S. history.

Prior to his move to Boston, Arnold traveled the country for NPR doing feature stories on entrepreneurship. His pieces covered technologists, farmers, and family business owners. He also reported on efforts to kindle entrepreneurship in economically disadvantaged areas ranging from inner-city Los Angeles to the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota.

Arnold has worked in public radio since 1993. Before joining NPR, he was a freelance reporter working out of San Francisco's NPR Member Station, KQED.

Many credit card and loan agreements these days have in the small type what's called a "mandatory arbitration clause." Most people don't even know what that means. But by signing, customers agree not to sue the financial firm in a class action lawsuit. Instead, they agree to work out any problem with an arbitrator hired by the bank.

Investing for retirement doesn't have to be hard. You read up on how to put together a diverse mix of low-cost index funds, bonds, etc. Then keep setting aside all you can into that retirement account. Easy.

But when you actually retire and start spending that money, that's like going from playing checkers to playing chess. It can get a lot harder.

This week, NPR and some member stations will be talking about trade on the campaign trail and in communities around the country.

Economists for decades have agreed that more open international trade is good for the U.S. economy. But recent research finds that while that's still true, when it comes to China, the downside for American workers has been much more painful than the experts predicted.

And that's playing out on the presidential campaign trail in a big way.

'Disastrous' Trade Agreements?

After more than a year of study, the White House on Wednesday finalized tougher requirements for retirement investment advisers.

The changes are intended to help Americans build bigger nest eggs while reducing fees and sales commissions they pay to advisers — keeping more money in workers retirement accounts instead of advisers pockets.

Critics say the changes will create burdensome legal requirements that could squeeze out brokers who earn commissions from working with small investors.

Mary Fusillo and her husband, Bob, have been married for 20 years. She met him on a blind date in Houston. Right away, she knew she liked him.

He was very intellectual, and he "read jazz biographies of dead jazz musicians," she says, laughing.

"And I was used to guys that went hunting on the weekends," she adds.

They fell in love and got married. Pretty soon they had a house and kids — twins, actually.

But within a few years, there was trouble.

Happy times are here again at the gas pump. The price of oil keeps falling, and Americans are filling their tanks for less than $2 a gallon. The government says cheaper gasoline put an extra $100 billion into drivers' wallets last year alone.

That seems like it would be good for the economy. Turns out, it might not be.

"Is it possible that lower oil prices could actually hurt the U.S. economy?" asks Vipin Arora, an economist with the U.S. Energy Information Administration. "I think the answer could be yes."

As Iran prepares to pump even more oil into an already glutted market, that oversupply isn't just making gas cheaper for your car — it's also causing jet fuel prices to go down sharply. And that's now pushing airfares down, too.

A couple of years ago, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack did an online video chat with personal finance writer Helaine Olen. The topic was how regular people get steered into bad investments by financial advisers.

Right before the holidays, Congress approved tax credits for clean energy. It was just a tiny part of a $1.8 trillion spending bill, but solar and wind power companies say it's a Christmas present that will catapult their industry forward. Analysts are predicting a big boost in wind and solar projects over the next few years.

The Federal Reserve is expected to start raising interest rates later this week, and anyone who's ever bought a house — or thought about it — knows that if mortgage rates rise by much that will make it tougher to afford a home.

Homebuilders are watching the interest rate decision closely too. That's because this 100-year flood of a housing crash has been especially tough on them.

De Desharnais, a homebuilder in Nashua, N.H., says she's one of the lucky ones — her company survived the crash. But it didn't come without pain.

Is it finally time to get rid of the penny? The question was put to the top currency official in the country this week after comedian John Oliver took a swing at pennies on his TV show.

"Two percent of Americans admitted to regularly throwing pennies in the garbage, which means the U.S. Mint is spending millions to make garbage," Oliver said.

Each year Americans pay billions of dollars in fees when they roll over their retirement accounts — and those fees can be hard to see.

Elizabeth Merry, 49, a marketing manager at a technology company, has saved up $150,000 in a 401(k) there. At the end of the year, though, she's leaving her job, and so she was thinking about rolling over that money into an IRA with the help of her financial adviser with Ameriprise Financial. She pays him $1,000 a year to manage her money.

Many Americans feel they can't save any money for the future. Yet if an employer automatically enrolls workers in a 401(k) plan and matches some of their contributions, 90 percent of people stick with it and save and invest for retirement.

Now, what if your employer doesn't do that for you? What can you do? People in NPR's new Your Money and Your Life Facebook group wanted to know.

Many American parents face a tug of war over trying to save enough for retirement and saving for college.

Some, like Lisa Carey, a 44-year-old high school history teacher in Tampa, Fla., and her husband, Peter, a minister, haven't yet started saving for their three kids' college education. (Carey joined NPR's Your Money and Your Life Facebook group. If you're on Facebook, you can join the group, too.)

Are the mutual funds you invest in efficient wealth generators or overpriced losers sucking money out of your retirement account with fees? It turns out most Americans don't know.

We asked the members of NPR's Your Money and Your Life Facebook group, and most respondents said they had "no idea" if the investments in their 401(k)s or IRAs were "good, bad or ugly." That holds true with broader surveys as well.

Jack Bogle is leading a populist revolution on Wall Street.

The longtime investment guru, who 40 years ago founded the investment company the Vanguard Group, wants everyday Americans to make a lot more money in the stock market — and give less of their returns away to financial firms.

And the surprising thing about his revolution? He's winning.

Americans collectively are losing billions of dollars a year out of their retirement accounts because they're paying excessive fees, according to researchers studying thousands of employer-sponsored retirement plans across the country.

The rearchers say part of the trouble is that many employers that offer 401(k) plans to their workers are outgunned by financial firms that sell them bad plans loaded with hefty fees. That's especially true, they say, for small and midsize employers that don't have much financial expertise in-house.

New federal rules could be in the works to make it easier once again for Americans to seek relief through class action lawsuits. That's the latest word out just this morning from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

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Boeing is moving to settle a lawsuit accusing it of mishandling its 401(k) plan for thousands of workers. The case is part of a legal assault by a consumer rights attorney to stop companies from offering employees high-cost, bad retirement plans.

Tractor-trailers have 18 wheels. But under current federal law, you can't be 18 years old and drive one across state lines. You have to be 21. The highway bill working its way through the Senate, though, would change that.

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The Greek word for no is oxi, and across Athens and the Greek Islands on Sunday, it was everywhere: on posters, spray-painted on walls and old cars.

And it was also on ballots: Greek voters voted oxi Sunday in a historic referendum over the country's economic future.

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At the end of World War II with the continent in ruins, Winston Churchill famously proclaimed, "We must build a United States of Europe." He believed such a union would bring an end to centuries of European wars.

For 70 years Europe has been engaged in a political and economic quest to make that happen. But many in Greece, such as Athens cabdriver Jordan Repanidis, feel this historic reshaping of the Western world has a stranglehold on their country.

There's a serious problem in the American economy: Big corporations are doing well, but real household income for average Americans has been falling over the past decade — down 9 percent, according to census data.

"That's not good for America," says Harvard economist Michael Porter. "That's not good for America's standard of living. That's not good for our ultimate vitality as a nation."

Oil prices hit a new high for the year Wednesday — closing at just under $61 a barrel. They've been rallying for a month, but nobody's predicting $4-per-gallon gasoline anytime soon. And some analysts say weak demand will send oil prices down again.

The recent rise follows an historic drop in prices, which were as low as about $45 a barrel less than two months ago.

So to understand what's going on now, let's look at what sent prices tumbling in the first place

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