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Installing solar panels on a house to generate electricity often costs $20,000 or more, and many homeowners have turned to leasing programs to avoid those upfront costs. But most leases are for 20 years, and that can present problems if someone wants to sell the house before the lease is completed.

Peter Auditore of El Granada, Calif., was happy with the leased solar panels he installed a few years back. When he decided to sell, he found a buyer who also appreciated the environmental benefits of solar panels. But then there was a hitch just as the sale was about to go through.

Talking to Your Aging Parents About Their Finances

Jul 10, 2014

As people age, their financial needs change and they may need advice. Here's a useful checklist of issues to consider in working with aging family members regarding financial decisions, provided by Commonwealth Financial Network.

Each day between 2011 and 2030, 10,000 baby boomers will celebrate their 65th birthdays. As the boomers grow older, their middle-aged children may find themselves in a challenging situation: providing financial assistance to their parents as well as their own kids.

It makes some sense that young people might work less than their older counterparts. They are figuring out their lives, going in and out of school and making more short-term plans.

But a whopping 5.8 million young people are neither in school nor working. It is "a completely different situation than we've seen in the past," says Elisabeth Jacobs, the senior director for policy and academic programs at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

Chicago is practically giving away land: vacant lots for just $1 each. The catch? To buy one, you must already own a home on the same block.

Like many U.S. cities, Chicago has struggled with what to do with a growing number of empty lots in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. Efforts to develop affordable housing or urban farms have had some mixed results.

So Chicago officials and community development advocates hope the vacant lot program can help spark a renewal in some of the city's most blighted areas.

A year ago, the housing market looked like it was finally recovering. Sales and prices were picking up. But then home sales fizzled. Currently, they are down about 7 percent from last spring.

A big part of why housing remains so stunted is that there are more than 2 million "missing households" in the U.S. That's how economists describe the fact that fewer people are striking out on their own to find places to live.

When Innocent People Go To Prison, States Pay

Jun 16, 2014

Suppose you spent five years in prison for a crime you didn't commit. How much does the government owe you?

Over the past few decades, the rise of DNA exonerations has made this a more pressing question. And many states have created explicit policies to answer it.

But those policies vary wildly from state to state.

Twenty-one states provide no money — though people who are exonerated can sue for damages. Twelve states and the District of Columbia award damages on a case-by-case basis. Another 17 states pay a fixed amount per year of imprisonment.

If you leave Los Angeles, Calif., on Interstate 10 and head east for about 40 miles, you'll run into a quintessentially suburban phenomenon: the opening of a subdivision.

At one such development called College Park in Chino, Calif., the lawns are bright green, the D.J. is spinning classic rock and a lot of the conversations are in Mandarin. Among those looking for a house is Eddie Yung. He lives in China now, but he's moving to California.

Butlers in American pop culture tend to provide comic relief — think The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The Birdcage. Or, like Batman's Alfred, the butler is more of a friend than an employee.

But one show has brought back the classic butler, with a vengeance. Since the British period drama Downton Abbey made its debut on PBS in 2010, the demand for butlers in some parts of the world has surged.

Congratulations Class of 2014! You are entering a labor market that offers a record number of paychecks.

On Friday, the Labor Department said the U.S. economy now has 138.5 million jobs, slightly more than the previous high set in early 2008 — just as the Great Recession was tightening its grip.

A day after General Motors admitted it failed customers who owned cars with a defective ignition switch, the automaker issued a recall for 105,000 more vehicles, bringing the total number of GM recalls so far this year to 34, involving 14 million vehicles, Michigan Public Radio's Tracy Samilton reports.

Uber and Lyft car services have said they will continue to operate in Virginia, despite a cease-and-desist letter from the state saying the service is illegal because it hasn't received authorization from the Department of Motor Vehicles.

It comes a day after Colorado became the first state to pass a law regulating such companies, which use smartphone apps to connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire and ridesharing services and have seen fast growth in recent years in some parts of the country.

No one really thinks 12-year-old Chloe Stirling presents a menace to public health.

The Illinois girl has a knack for baking cupcakes and has done pretty well selling them. So well, in fact, that her local newspaper published a story about her earlier this year. That drew the attention of the county health department — which shut her down for selling baked goods without a license or a state-certified kitchen.

The Budget Traveler: Tips for Booking Your Summer Vacation Online

Jun 6, 2014

  If a summer getaway is on your agenda, doing some online research is a great way to find deals. But is it better to book through a third-party travel website, like Expedia or Orbitz, or directly with the airline, hotel, or car rental agency? 

An internal inquiry into the long-delayed ignition switch recall by General Motors found an 11-year "history of failures," CEO Mary Barra says. She announced the findings of an investigation into how the company handled a deadly defect with ignition switches at a Thursday morning news conference. (updated at 12:04 p.m.: added link to full report).

Federal border security agents have sharply reduced intercepts of general aviation aircraft, following complaints by pilots that excessive police action at small airports is restricting the freedom to fly.

An official with U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Office of Air and Marine Operations told NPR his agency has heard pilots' grievances and the program is being altered so as not to needlessly affront law-abiding pilots.

In recent years, more and more pilots have reported their aircraft stopped for warrantless searches by aggressive officers.

The most recent farm bill is allowing a handful of farmers across the country to put hemp, the nonpsychoactive cousin of marijuana, in the ground.

The bill allows small-scale experimentation with the plant. But despite the new law, many farmers say they're getting mixed messages from the federal government.

As hundreds of protesters loudly demanded higher wages outside McDonald's headquarters in suburban Chicago, the company's CEO told an audience inside that the fast-food giant has a heritage of providing opportunities that lead to "real careers."

"We believe we pay fair and competitive wages," Donald Thompson said at the company's annual meeting on Thursday.

We learn from life as we live it.  This month Joe shares with us some important life tactics that he learned from a friend who recently passed away.  The lessons all have to do with keeping our minds alert and learning from our mistakes.  We must free our lives of clutter by getting things done.  The best way to achieving a freer lifestyle is the Nike motto, "Just Do It." Take a look at this thoughtful video and see if the advice fits your lifestyle.

In honor of college graduation season, we made a graph. It answers a few questions we had: What is the mix of bachelor's degrees awarded today, and how has the mix changed over the past several decades?

Hover over the graph to see how the popularity of each category changes over time. Click or tap to see a category individually.

A few notes: