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Getty Images

"My phone keeps dropping calls. What can I do?"

Getty Images
Getty Images

My cell phone keeps dropping calls in midtown New York. This isn’t Siberia; it’s the heart of a major metropolis. I’ve switched devices and providers with no improvement. What can I do?

That sounds awful, Neal. Maybe you should consider trading your faulty cell for a classic: the first mobile phone, which Bell Labs introduced in 1946. This sleek device weighed a mere 80 pounds (the equivalent of 300 iPhones or one baby giraffe), looked like a fridge, and required an operator to place calls. Or you may prefer the 1965 mobile phone, which tipped the scales at a svelte 40 pounds. And talk about convenient! If you were one of the 2,000 New Yorkers sharing the system’s three channels, you had to wait only 30 minutes for an open line.

Of course, our fore-callers could always resort to landlines, though those had their own challenges, like a total lack of privacy. In 1950, 70 percent of American callers shared “party lines” with eavesdropping neighbors. And even politicians weren’t immune to this nuisance. During the 1960 presidential race, candidate Hubert Humphrey hosted a TV call-in show, only to be interrupted by an impatient neighbor demanding Humphrey hang up and free the line. The ever-polite Humphrey followed orders!

Then there was the excruciatingly slow rotary dial. You could almost write a letter in the time it took to dial a friend. The higher the number, the slower the rotation, which is why the phone company gave low-numbered area codes to the biggest cities (e.g., 212 for New York, 213 for Los Angeles). Given that consideration, it’s still unclear why England chose 9-9-9 as its first emergency number. Perhaps it’s that famous British dry wit? But even the rotary dial was better than the alternative: Rural callers had to hand crank a generator to alert the operator they wanted to place a call.

The biggest improvement over the years has to be sound quality. When Thomas Watson was testing early phones, he had to shout so loudly that his landlady threatened to evict him. Since engineering is very tough if you’re homeless, Watson rolled himself in a blanket to muffle the noise.

Anyway, just think of all the time you’re saving by not searching for change for pay phones. Back in the day, even the rich had to dig for nickels! Miserly billionaire J. Paul Getty installed a pay phone in his mansion so he didn’t have to foot the bill for his guests’ calls. We’re guessing he wouldn’t be springing for unlimited minutes either.

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ATM Fees Reach a New Record High

You have good reason to flinch every time you withdraw cash from an out-of-network ATM. The cash machine operator and the bank each hit you with a separate fee for these withdrawals, and both types set record highs this year, according to a new Bankrate survey.

In Phoenix and Atlanta, grabbing cash from an out-of-network ATM will set you back more than $5. But even the cheapest metro area isn’t actually much less expensive: In San Francisco, the average fees are now $3.90. “The national average is $4.57, which means stopping at an out-of-network ATM for $20 will cost nearly 23 percent in fees,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate's senior vice president and chief financial analyst.

To skirt the fees, stay in network. Virtually any bank will let you withdraw money from its own ATMs, of course. But if you want easy, low-cost access to more cash machines, ask your bank if they participate in a larger ATM network. Some do, to provide their customers with more widespread access.

While ATM fees climbed higher in 2016, one type of bank fee actually broke its 17-year streak of increases: overdraft fees. The average is now $33.07 (yikes!), but that's 0.1 percent below last year’s average. It’s probably too soon to celebrate the downward trend, says McBride. Overdraft fee increases still outnumbered decreases by 5 to 1 in the national survey.

McBride’s best advice for avoiding the hefty penalty? “Sign up for email and text alerts that let you know when your balance is getting low, so you can proactively move money into the account,” he says. “And keep tabs on your available account balance through online and mobile banking—particularly before initiating transactions.”

Which State Has the Most Millennials Still Living at Home?

Escaping your parents’ home doesn’t seem to have quite the same urgency it once did. According to Time, recent Census data indicates that a substantial number of Millennials—typically considered to be those 18 to 34 years of age—are choosing to remain in their childhood residences, with one state in particular crowding out the rest.

The winner? New Jersey, which has just under 47 percent of that demographic living at home. Eastern state neighbors New York and Connecticut each have roughly 40 percent choosing to stay in the nest, a significant spike from the national average of around 33 percent. That’s up from 23 percent in 2000. (The state with the lowest percentage of Millennials rooming with their 'rents? North Dakota, with just 14.1 percent.)

It can be difficult to extrapolate why some states have more clingy kids than others. The price of real estate might be one explanation (rent is much more expensive in New Jersey and New York than it is out West); the trend of Millennials getting married later in life might be another. Without the need for their own mortgage, utility bills, and consumer spending, it’s possible that the homebodies may even be contributing to an economic downturn.

Then again, who can resist free laundry? “There’s the comfort of someone to help you out at all times,” college student Irsia Khan told in June 2016. “Having your meals ready and your laundry done for you takes the load off on the rest of the things you go through in college.”

[h/t Time]


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