Here are 8 fascinating things I read this week. 


Neil Irwin shows that as the country got richer, most Americans have not:

Battle of sexes

Related: Male earnings peaked in the 1970s: 

Golden years

The stock market has boomed lately, but retirement accounts have not:

According to a new report from the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the 401(k) accounts of workers closest to retirement actually shrunk from 2010 to 2013. The study found that the average combined balance of the retirement accounts of a household headed by someone aged 55 to 64 was $111,000 in 2013. That was down from $120,000 in 2010. The data in the study, which looked at both 401(k) and IRA accounts, came from the Federal Reserve's Survey of Consumer Finances, which was released earlier this month.


More Americans are insured than ever before:

The Centers for Disease Control has spent 17 years measuring the number of people without health insurance. In new 2014 data, the federal agency found that number hit a new low.

The survey found that 13.1 percent of Americans lacked health insurance at the time of their interview with the CDC. Back in 1997, when the CDC started surveying on this issue, 15.4 percent of those surveyed said they didn't have coverage.


This is much-needed context of the the student loan bubble:

–Roughly one-quarter of the increase in student debt is attributable to increases in educational attainment, especially at the graduate level.

–Increases in the average lifetime incomes of college-educated workers appear to have more than kept pace with increases in debt loads. Specifically, the increase in earnings received over the course of 2.4 years would pay for the increase in debt incurred.

–The monthly payment burden faced by student loan borrowers stayed about the same or has even lessened since 1992.


Here's how much America's oil boom has saved us:

Now we have an estimate of where oil prices might have been absent the American oil boom—a sobering $150 a barrel, former BP CEO Tony Hayward told the Financial Times (paywall).

That's 55% higher than the current benchmark price of $96.27 that was trading in Asia this morning. If Hayward's number is right, it means that the US boom is saving the global economy about $4.9 billion a day in oil spending. Global consumers currently demand about 92 million barrels of oil a day, and without the extra US supply the market would be about 3 million barrels short, sufficient to send traders into a frenzy bidding up the price.


Charlie Munger says it like it is: 

Confucius said that real knowledge is knowing the extent of one's ignorance. Aristotle and Socrates said the same thing. Is it a skill that can be taught or learned? It probably can, if you have enough of a stake riding on the outcome. Some people are extraordinarily good at knowing the limits of their knowledge, because they have to be. Think of somebody who's been a professional tightrope walker for 20 years – and has survived. He couldn't survive as a tightrope walker for 20 years unless he knows exactly what he knows and what he doesn't know.  He's worked so hard at it, because he knows if he gets it wrong he won't survive. The survivors know.


TV is increasingly for old people:

The median age of a broadcast or cable television viewer during the 2013-2014 TV season was 44.4 years old, a 6 percent increase in age from four years earlier. Audiences for the major broadcast network shows are much older and aging even faster, with a median age of 53.9 years old, up 7 percent from four years ago.

Enjoy your weekend. 

Contact Morgan Housel at The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.