National / International News

Giving credit where credit is due

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:34

By writing the next line, I am basically begging Marketplace Money host Carmen Wong Ulrich to wag her finger in my face: I have only checked my credit score once in life.

It was a couple of years ago when I was making my first major "grown-up" purchase – a car.  And I haven’t checked it since.  The good news is, when my credit history was run (that one time), it turned up an impressive 780.  Yay me!  In case you’re not aware of how FICO credit scores are ranked, it goes a little something like this:

BAD 599-649

BETTER 650-699

GOOD 700-749

EXCELLENT 750-800

But did you know there’s an unlisted category of consumers? People who have a credit score of more than 800: the Credit Elite

Okay, we made that label up, but these personal finance high achievers deserve their own title, don’t you think? Only about 18 percent of Americans can say they’re in the 800-plus club. Naturally, we wondered what kind of people are credit perfectionists. 

We asked on Facebook here and here for folks with an impressive score to tell us about how they achieved it and how much work it takes to maintain credit nirvana. The following is a collection of some of our favorite responses, complete with tips on how to get on their level.

Amy writes:

“Being raised on a small family farm, I was taught from a very young age that you don't know if you'll have a crop next year. So you save consistently and live well within your means. This means that I've paid for cars in cash (because i save for them) and only purchase on credit cards what I have the money to pay for right away. My credit score was 804 at last check.”

That being said, I am NOT a homeowner.

Edward says:

“[My credit score is] 830.  For years I have had all accounts set up for auto-pay, and have made sure that the money was in the account. Credit cards never carry a balance, and are paid off every month.”

And Meredith  (FICO score 806) adds:

“My ‘secret’? Get a credit card early on. Use it sparingly. Pay on time. Pay the balance in full, if possible. The end :)”

They make it sound so simple, don’t they? Well, not everyone who got in touch with us had an easy row to hoe.  Cindy in Fishers, Ind., shared her story of how she went from having a mountain of credit card debt to scoring an 820:

And Frederick of San Diego, California readily admits that he probably would have gone down a bad financial path if his mother hadn’t given him a sound financial education:

Now I’m thinking, since I’m so close to being a card-carrying member of the 800 Plus Club, should I strive for credit perfection? Well, maybe I’m already there.  Like I said, it’s been a while since I checked my score…

Are you in the Credit Elite? Tell us your story with a comment below or Tweet us your score @LiveMoney with the hashtag #800plusclub. 

In The Super Bowl Ad Game, One Small Business Will Win Big

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:28

This year, one lucky little company's professionally produced commercial will air during the Super Bowl's third quarter — all free — thanks to a contest held by the software firm Intuit. The four finalists include an organic egg farm and a natural compost supplier. For Intuit, it's a smart way to drum up more business.

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Blasphemy death sentence for Briton

BBC - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:25
A court in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindii sentences a 70-year-old British man to death after convicting him of blasphemy.

The Healthy, Not The Young, May Determine Health Law's Fate

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:25

Much has been made of the need for young, healthy people to sign up if the Affordable Care Act is going to work. But it may be that the key word here is not young, but healthy. Insurance companies get paid more for older people, regardless of their health.

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Dow Loses 318 Points, The Most In One Day Since June

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:24

The index joined the rout that hit European and Asian markets on fears that the global economy is slowing.

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MP sex claim woman can see report

BBC - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:23
The alleged sexual assault victim of MP Mike Hancock wins a bid to see a full version of a report about her accusations in court.

Pair jailed over abusive tweets

BBC - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:21
A man and a woman are jailed for sending abusive messages on Twitter to feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez.

Ask Carmen: How to rebuild credit after a bankruptcy

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:15

We asked you to send us your credit questions, and here to help us wade through the maze of credit conundrums is Liz Weston, a personal finance columnist and author of the "Ten Commandments of Money: How to Survive and Thrive in the New Economy."

Michael in St. Paul, Minnesota, asked us his daughter, currently a freshman in college, should get a credit card to start building her credit record. Michael's wife thinks opening a credit card is a post-college thing to do, but Michael thinks she's better off building a credit history now.

Weston says: “She would probably need a co-signer, since she doesn’t have an income.” Due to new restrictions in the CARD act, college students without income don't have available access to credit cards like they did in the past. “I would argue, don’t wait until she gets out of college. Although it's a little more difficult to get a credit card, it’s still going to be easier to get one in college than afterward.

"If you don’t have kids that are quite to college age yet ... I might want to start them with a credit card before they even graduate high school. This would have been anathema a few years ago, but the idea is you are kind of putting training wheels on a credit card. You are having them use a credit card while they’re still under your roof, still have some influence on them, you can talk about the importance of paying off the balance in full, every single month.”

Yvette, also from St. Paul, Minnesota filed for bankruptcy in late 2013 and also went through a divorce. She now wants to recover and fix her credit. She's been approved for a credit card with a $400 line, but with a $35 annual fee and 18 percent interest. Should she also look at an auto loan to rehab her credit score?

Weston says: "The interest rate on the card doesn't matter because you won't be carrying a balance. The best way to have a credit card is to pay it in full. Use only a small portion of the credit limit and pay it off in full before the due date. Add an installment loan such as a personal or auto loan to further help rehab your credit."

“I think the mistake a lot of people make with credit cards, is that they carry a balance thinking that will help them. It doesn’t help you, it doesn’t benefit you at all. So don’t do it. And the other thing they do is, they max out that card, because they think, ‘$120, how much will that get me?’ Don’t use it as a buying tool, use it as a tool to build credit, which means small purchases, pay them off in full. Use that card lightly, but regularly."

“I’m not a big fan of going after an auto lan right after a bankruptcy, because you are going to pay through the nose in interest. But a personal loan, you can borrow a small amount, pay that back over time, not have an outrageous interest rate, and that too will build credit. The idea of having both an auto loan and a credit loan, is you want both types of credit. You want revolving credit and you want an installment loan.”

To listen to more questions from listeners on protecting yourself from identity theft and separating finances from a spouse, press play above. Have a question of your own? Ask Carmen on Facebook, Twitter, or email us!

Canada 'bans Marmite and Irn-Bru'

BBC - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:13
The owner of a British food shop in Canada says he has been ordered to stop selling Marmite, Ovaltine and Irn-Bru as they contain illegal ingredients.

Trouble In Emerging Markets Causes Stocks To Take A Tumble

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:00

Stocks turned sharply lower on Friday. Both the S&P 500 and Nasdaq indices continued to tumble for the second straight day. The drop is part of a global selloff, as investors focus on the growing financial turmoil in the developing world.

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From Kiev To The Country At Large, Ukraine Protests May Spread

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:00

Massive protests continue to escalate in Ukraine, as demonstrators extend their barricades further into Kiev. At least three protesters have been killed in clashes with riot police so far, and protests are beginning to spread into the western regions of the country. Corey Flintoff offers an update on the unrest from the center of Kiev.

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Texas Sets Up Roadblock For Health Care Navigators

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:00

Texas this week approved regulations that require training and background checks for people who help consumers navigate the Affordable Care Act. But the federal government already requires this kind of trainign. KUHF's Carrie Feibel reports that Texas officials say the rules protect the consumer, while others say it is yet another way to thwart Obamacare.

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There's A Whole Lot Of Waste Outside Beirut's Gates

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:00

Lebanon's stylish capital is looking shabby. Mounds of stinking garbage are piled in Beirut's streets, byproducts of an ongoing political crisis that has paralyzed the government. Angry locals have staged a sit-in outside an overflowing landfill, and waste disposal has ground to a halt. The protesters — and the trash — could be there awhile.

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During Syrian Peace Talks, Rival Sides Wage A Media Battle

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:00

Friday was the first day of negotiations at the Syrian peace conference. There were no direct talks, however. Instead, international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi shuttled between government and opposition delegations in separate rooms.

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Firefighters Search The Ashes After Nursing Home Blaze

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:00

Firefighters are painstakingly combing the frozen rubble of a nursing home in eastern Quebec. The seniors' residence was quickly engulfed in flames shortly after midnight on Thursday, killing at least five residents and trapping dozens of others.

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Tickety-Tock! An Even More Accurate Atomic Clock

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 13:00

Scientists have unveiled an atomic clock that sets new records in timekeeping — it could run 5 billion years without gaining or losing a second. That sort of precision is not trivial, researchers say. Clocks have ripple effects for all kinds of technology, from cellphones to GPS and more.

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Which Are The Most, And Least, 'Bible-Minded' Cities In The U.S.?

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 12:54

Does your idea of America's Bible Belt match up with a new study of where the most "Bible-minded" U.S. cities are? The top spot went to Chattanooga, Tenn. Several cities in the Northeast and West were ranked "least Bible-minded."

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IBF orders Froch fights Groves again

BBC - Fri, 2014-01-24 12:46
Carl Froch must take part in a rematch with George Groves within 90 days, the International Boxing Federation rules.

Tech on the bayou: Louisiana and New Orleans make a play for start-ups

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-24 12:45

In this post-Silicon Valley world, and especially in this slow economic recovery, lots of cities and regions are desperate to attract start-ups. Whether it’s the Silicon prairies of the Midwest, or Silicon Beach in Los Angeles, cities want their own piece of the technology pie. Add to that list: Silicon Bayou in Louisiana.

If Silicon Bayou has a center, it could be the 500 block of Capdeville Street in New Orleans’ Central Business District.

On that block is a bar, aptly named: Capdeville. Last Thursday at 5 p.m., only one person was at the bar, a guy on his laptop nursing a glass of red wine. But within an hour the place was packed.

The bartender, Myesha Dunn, helped open the bar four years ago. "Capdeville was originally a rock'n'roll whiskey-themed bar, and we evolved into this hub for this really awesome tech group of New Orleans," she says, before rushing off to pour whiskey for someone in a dress shirt and khakis.

Many of the regulars work next door, in the IP building. The first floor is home to a coworking space called Launchpad.

Inside Launchpad, Paul Teall leads a monthly gathering of video game developers. Before moving here, Teall worked for Electronic Arts (EA) on the blockbuster game Madden. He moved to New Orleans to work for TurboSquid, a company with about 80 employees.

"TurboSquid is a marketplace similar to a stock photo marketplace, like iStockphoto, or Getty images, but focused on 3D models," Teall says.

When you play a video game, or watch a digitally animated movie, every object on the screen has to be made by a game developer or an animator. Or, they could buy those objects on TurboSquid.

Teall pulls up a digital model that’s a replica of the microphone I’m holding.

"You can see the lines on it, that’s the mesh, so that’s how he built it," Teall says, pointing to a grid of curved lines that covered the microphone like elastic jail bars. The price: $199.

TurboSquid could be headquartered anywhere. But when it comes to hiring employees, New Orleans has an advantage over cities where living expenses are higher: "I feel like it was the best move I’ve ever made. I love living here," says Teall.

What is also luring tech companies to Louisiana? Some of the most generous tax credits in the country. Digital media companies can get 25 percent back on what they spend on production and 35 percent on payroll. EA built its North American Testing Center in Baton Rouge, and says it brought nearly $7 million in payroll to the state.
"I think there are businesses where you have a natural competitive advantage by being in New Orleans," says Chris Shultz, the founder of Launchpad. He also has his own startup, Niko Niko, and he’s the self-described pied piper of the Silicon Bayou.

For startups that want to develop software related to food,  music, or the oil and gas industry, Silicon Bayou is ideal. And, Shultz says, the culture of New Orleans itself is a big draw. "New Orleans serves as this creative muse for a lot of people."

At the same time, the idea of a Silicon Bayou, a Silicon Prairie,or a Silicon You Name It, is becoming meaningless, because technology is becoming a part of all businesses.

"A lot of traditional industries are becoming tech enabled,” Schultz said. "As Mark Andreessen says, software is eating the world."

To understand what happens when software eats the world, I talked to Brian Bordainick, the CEO of Dinner Lab, a New Orleans startup that built software to eat, appropriately, the restaurant industry. "Dinner Lab hosts pop-up events in about 10 cities across the United States," Bordainick says.                                                                                                

Dinner Lab is a twenty-first century supper club. Members pay an annual fee plus an additional $50-$70 per dinner, where up and coming chefs serve food in places like warehouses and rooftops.

But the whole experience is really about data that comes in the form of feedback cards. "Typically restaurants see about 0.25 percent fill out a feedback card. We bat about 95 percent," says Bordainick.

Dinner Lab is essentially a focus group. Bordainick believes the feedback his company provides chefs will help them plan new menus and take some of the risk out of opening a restaurant.

When he started Dinner Lab, several people told him that no one would fund a New Orleans start up. But he said, "we are living proof it’s not true. We had one employee this time last year, we have 50 now. We are a high growth, fast moving startup and we’re located in New Orleans."

Chile arrests men over poison deaths

BBC - Fri, 2014-01-24 12:42
The authorities in Chile arrest four ex-army officers for allegedly poisoning prisoners during the military government of Augusto Pinochet.

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