Monday, September 6, 2010

Good Internet Monday: NPR's Planet Money

Happy Labor Day. Here's hoping my wife goes into labor. Yeesh.

One thing I've come to enjoy immensely over the past few years is podcasts. I often ride a bus or walk to work, giving me plenty of time to enjoy several different subscriptions. One that I thought I would never subscribe to, or for that matter enjoy so thoroughly, is a financial podcast- NPR's Planet Money.

To be fair, Planet Money is as much a pure financial podcast as Harry Potter is a series of spell books- not at all. Each episode finds a topic, such as the economic state of Jamaica or the status of health care billing and administration, and puts a real face on it by interviewing the people affected by the topic. Concepts that are usually abstract to people who are not deeply involved in them, such as how the Federal Reserve tries to help the economy, are spelled out explicitly and with multiple examples.

One of the best examples is how the crew has explored the housing market crisis by pooling together $1000 to buy a piece of a real toxic asset- a high risk investment package containing thousands of mortgages. The team tracked down the people who are struggling to pay off their mortgages, leading to the "death" of their asset, aptly named "Toxie". As more of the pieces of Toxie go bad, either through foreclosure or bankruptcy, Toxie starts to "die"- that is, the team stops receiving checks that would otherwise pay off their initial investment and, in a healthier economy, yield a profit. The Planet Money staff explains all the ins and outs of how they obtained Toxie, what it contains, and why it is dying so quickly.

The topics covered are broad and varied, ranging from an excellent show concerning the impact of Net Neutrality on the web to "Deep Reads" with economists to deeply examine the current economic situation. Each show is engaging and thought provoking; I highly recommend it


  1. My favorites are Wiretap and RadioLab. This American Life is pretty good too :)

  2. I second Patty.

    Planet money is like a financial version of This American Life, and occasionally they work together for stories. I've learned that I love NPR and PRI podcasts.