Chris Arnold | New Hampshire Public Radio

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 the financial struggle millions of Americans are facing amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. As part of that, he's done investigative stories showing how mortgage companies have been misleading homeowners who've lost their jobs, demanding outrageous balloon payments if they skip mortgage payments and scaring them away from help that Congress wanted them to have under the CARES Act.

Arnold's reporting often focuses on consumer protection issues. His series of stories "The Trouble with TEACH Grants," that he reported with NPR's Cory Turner, exposed a debacle at the U.S. Department of Education through which public school teachers had grants unfairly converted into large student loan debts — some upwards of $20,000. As a result of the stories, members of Congress demanded reforms and the Education Department overhauled the program and is now giving thousands of teachers their grant money back and erasing their debts.

Arnold was honored with a 2017 George Foster Peabody Award for his coverage of the Wells Fargo banking scandal. His stories sparked a Senate inquiry into the bank's treatment of employees who tried to blow the whistle on the wrongdoing. Arnold also 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.

In addition to reporting for NPR's main radio programs, Arnold has been hosting the personal finance episodes of NPR's Life Kit podcasts, which offer listeners actionable tips backed up by behavioral economics research on the best ways to save money, invest for the future and a range of other topics.

Arnold previously served as the lead reporter for the NPR series "Your Money and Your Life", which explored personal finance issues. As part of that, he reported 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. For this series, Arnold won the 2016 Gerald Loeb Award, which honors work that informs and protects the private investor and the general public.

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. He was also 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 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 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.

Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people's credit getting destroyed.

But much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long.

As businesses reopen, many Americans being called back to work say they don't feel safe — especially those who work in restaurants, hair salons or other high-contact jobs.

"With people eating food, not having masks on, with servers having to touch their plates and their silverware, there's just absolutely no way to keep the servers safe," says Lindsey, a waitress in Iowa.

She has been out of work for two months. But this week, the pub-style restaurant she works at is reopening.

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

NOEL KING, HOST:

About 2.9 million homeowners have been allowed to put their mortgage payments on hold as the coronavirus shutdowns around the country put more people out of work. That's nearly 6% of all outstanding mortgages.

"We saw the share of mortgages in forbearance increase this week from 3.74% to 5.95%," says Michael Fratantoni, chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association which released the latest numbers Monday. "A lot of people are in distress."

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.

Updated at 2:58 p.m. ET

About a third of renters did not pay on time this month as business closures put millions of people out of work.

The National Multifamily Housing Council says 31% of renters didn't make their payment in the first week of April. Normally, about 20% of people don't pay their rent on time. The group tracks more than 13 million units through its survey.

Updated at 3:28 p.m. ET

Homeowners who've lost their jobs or income say their lenders are demanding punishing terms if they take part in what's supposed to be a government effort to help them.

To avoid a wave of home loan defaults, Congress and regulators told lenders that they have to let homeowners defer payments if they've been hurt financially during the coronavirus crisis.

Rent is due for the first time since millions of Americans lost their jobs or incomes as the coronavirus pandemic shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy.

Many renters are in a tough financial spot because they received fewer protections out of the $2 trillion economic rescue package than homeowners did.

Updated at 2:49 p.m. ET

Homeowners who have lost income or their jobs because of the coronavirus outbreak are getting some relief. Depending on their situation, they should be eligible to have their mortgage payments reduced or suspended for up to 12 months.

In an unprecedented attempt to contain the coronavirus outbreak, thousands of stores and other businesses are closing their doors to customers.

Apple, Nike, Patagonia and scores of other retailers are closing thousands of stores across the country. In the nation's largest cities — New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco — officials said they were ordering restaurants, bars, and cinemas to close. Restaurants will be permitted to do takeout business.

In what's looking more like a public health debacle, the U.S. has a serious testing problem with the coronavirus. Only around 15,000 people have been tested so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And public health experts say that's not nearly enough to know how widespread the outbreak is and how to respond.

But the Food and Drug Administration has just approved a new test from the giant pharmaceutical company Roche that could represent a major breakthrough.

Linda Nalbandian is set to go on a cruise to Bermuda in April. Recently married, she and her husband are planning to take their five teenagers on their combined family's first big trip together.

The kids were "super excited," she says. "It was a lot of buildup over the last couple of months, talking about it, planning it, and then coronavirus."

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:

With rising home prices, many young people think they can't afford homes. But there are alternatives to the traditional 20% down payment, giving more people the opportunity of homeownership.

Listen to the full story on finding the right mortgage from Life Kit here.

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.

Updated at 12:26 p.m. ET

A nonprofit student loan group is suing the nation's most powerful consumer watchdog agency. The lawsuit, first obtained by NPR, alleges that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has abandoned its obligation to oversee companies that manage student loans, in particular a troubled loan forgiveness program.

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

New cars these days have better safety features and more tech gizmos than models from a decade ago. And let's face it: Trading in a beat-up clunker with grimy seats is an enticing idea.

But many Americans make big mistakes buying cars. Take new car purchases with a trade-in. A third of buyers roll over an average of $5,000 in debt from their last car into their new loan. They're paying for a car they don't drive anymore. Ouch! That is not a winning personal finance strategy.

For 24 years, Karen Bradley worked as a nurse at St. Clare's Hospital in Schenectady, N.Y. The pay wasn't great, she says, but it was a good hospital, the place where her father once worked as a pharmacist. Bradley thought that if she stayed she'd have a nice pension for retirement.

"I enjoyed what I did there and believed in the promises that were made about the pension," she says.

But a year ago, Bradley got a letter saying her pension was gone.

"Why is there nothing left? Who screwed up?" she wondered.

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 6:56 p.m. ET

Stocks plunged Wednesday on deepening worries over a slowdown in the global economy.

The Dow closed down 800 points, or about 3%. Investors have been whipsawed in recent days by mixed signals emerging from the Trump administration about tariffs and the escalating trade war with China.

The jitters were exacerbated amid worrisome economic data from two big countries. Germany posted negative growth in the latest quarter, and China's growth in industrial output fell to a 17-year low.

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.

The director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says the Trump administration's Education Department is getting in the way of efforts to police the student loan industry. The revelation, in a letter obtained by NPR, comes at the same time that lawsuits allege that widespread wrongdoing by student loan companies is costing some borrowers thousands of dollars.

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.

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