What the experts say
The mortgage pain point
Interest rates on the most common type of mortgage topped 5 percent last week for the first time since January 2011, said Wolf Richter in WolfStreet.com, and another point higher will hit the “pain threshold” for the housing market. Thirty-year fixed rates for “conforming loans”—mortgages for single family homes priced below $453,100, with a 20 percent down payment—are now at 5.05 percent, up from below 4 percent in 2016. While that’s still a historically low number, it’s likely to rise as the Federal Reserve steadily lifts the interest rate it charges to banks. A 6 percent rate would take mortgages close to where they stood in the housing bubble. That “will block a considerable number of potential buyers from buying at current prices.” Cities where prices have “surged” as much as 55 percent from their housing bubble peak—including Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver—could be hit particularly hard.
Child care for Starbucks workers
Starbucks this week began providing its employees with 10 days a year of heavily subsidized backup child and senior care, said Benjamin Romano in The Seattle Times. If an employee’s child care falls through—if school is canceled, for example—the worker can put a child in a day-care center for $5 a day, or hire in-home care for $1 an hour. Starbucks says the program will help its 180,000 U.S. employees “come to work with fewer worries.” Many companies have cut child-care benefits over the past 20 years: only 3 percent of employers now offer subsidized child-care centers, down from 9 percent in 1996.
Hailing a hospital ride
Ride-hailing services could help shrink the $14 billion a year that Americans spend on ambulance rides, said Austin Frakt of The New York Times. A trip in an ambulance can cost thousands of dollars, “and a lot of it may not be covered by insurance.” Studies also find that nearly a third of rides are inappropriate—ambulances cart many people with minor injuries. For nonemergency medical transportation, Uber and Lyft might be a better and cheaper option. Both companies now offer services that let health-care providers order rides for patients. Or you could hail a car with your own app. “An advantage of arranging your own ride is that you can direct it to a hospital or doctor’s office of your choosing.” Ambulances only take patients to hospitals “and typically to the nearest one.”