National News

What's your Facebook credit score?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-24 14:37

We know that credit goes way beyond the plastic in our wallets -- from how much debt we carry to paying it off on time. Now, some credit agencies are looking into using our social media information in our credit reports.

Credit expert John Ulzheimer says what we post and who we add as friends on social media can have farer reaching effects than we think. “It’s the whole mantra, birds of a feather tend to flock together. And if you tend to connect with people who are high risk or higher risk borrowers, then the perception is that you are as well. And that’s really where the issue lies.”

It's not hard to figure out why credit agencies would want to know what you're like as a person to decide if you're worthy of a loan or credit card, but, is it legal? Ulzheimer says that remains to be seen. "Whether or not it’s legal really is up to how it is perceived in the Equal Opportunity Credit Act. It has to be built using science.”

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter have treasure troves full of information that they could sell, but actually selling personal information could lead to headaches down the road, according to Ulzheimer. “Here is the massive, massive problem that ... social media sites are going to have to deal with. Right now, none of those companies are referred to as a 'consumer reporting agency.' The Fair Credit Reporting Act has a very clear definition of what is a consumer reporting agency. The minute any of these social media sites decide to monetize their information for the purposes of allowing lenders and credit reporting agencies to assess the risk … of consumers, they also become become a consumer reporting agency … you’re going to be in the crosshairs for any number of federal fair credit reporting lawsuits.”

So, should you worry? Ulzheimer says don't go into paralysis over your social media networks, but if there's something you want to remain private, don't post it. "I would just be very careful, that if you’re not willing to tell everybody something, then don’t post it on Facebook, don’t put it on Twitter.”

Sound advice, even beyond credit scores.

Moustaches are up; shaving is down

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-24 14:34

Procter and Gamble reported quarterly profits this morning. Turns out they're down 16 percent, in part because sales at Gillette were off, as beards and mustaches are apparently becoming more popular.

Chief Financial officer John Moeller said this to the Financial Times: "While the incidence of facial shaving is somewhat down... the incidence of body shaving is up, and we can take advantage of that."

You can't unhear that.

Holder Favors Pot Banking, And Legal Dealers Shrug

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 14:09

The attorney general's view could make it easier for marijuana businesses to have bank accounts. But shop owners say they never doubted that banks want a cut of a billion-dollar industry.

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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


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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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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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!

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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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."

Pakistani Judge Orders Death For Man Who Claimed To Be Prophet

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 12:37

The 69-year-old British national, who had been treated for schizophrenia, was convicted under the country's strict blasphemy laws.

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Tech Week That Was: The Mac Turns 30, More NSA Rumblings

NPR News - Fri, 2014-01-24 12:34

In technology news this week: Apple's iconic baby celebrated a big birthday, the debate over Edward Snowden and NSA data collection continued to simmer, and the Target data breach prompted more talk about credit card security.

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Super Bowl commercials get their own commercials

Marketplace - American Public Media - Fri, 2014-01-24 12:27

The Super Bowl is still more than a week away, but try telling that to the advertisers. Not content to wait for the big game, they’re rolling out teaser ads online and on TV. Yes, essentially ads promoting the ads.

Take this Toyota teaser on YouTube. Actor and former football player Terry Crews drives down a dusty road and encounters a seemingly abandoned painted bus.

“Anybody need help?” he calls. 

It looks pretty much like a movie trailer, which makes sense because there is a tie-in with the new Muppets movie coming out in March. But this trailer is promoting Toyota’s Super Bowl ad, coming out in the second quarter of the game.

“We want to build as much engagement before the game,” says Russ Koble, advertising manager for Toyota Motor Sales USA, “where people are talking about it with friends and family, and hopefully people are keeping their eye open for our ad specifically.” 

Ah, the magic word of marketing in the age of social media: engagement. This isn’t the first time advertisers have teased their Super Bowl spots – or even released the ads themselves days in advance, hoping to generate buzz on Twitter and Facebook. But the pre-game frenzy seems to have reached a new level.

“This year, we’re seeing more elaborate campaigns in advance of the Super Bowl than we have ever seen before,” says Tim Calkins, professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

He points to Bud Light. It’s running six different teasers, on the Web and on TV.

“I suspect when everything’s done, Bud Light would have spent as much on the teaser spots as they would have spent on the actual Super Bowl, or perhaps even more,” he says 

All told, a Super Bowl campaign can run around $10 million these days, says Justin Osborne, general manager of advertising and marketing communications at Volkswagen of America.

But that can buy a lot of attention. 

“Now all of a sudden for this two week period, everyone in America is actually interested in advertising and actually wants to watch it, and so it’s a great way for us to extend the actual spot itself,” he says. 

The strategy has paid off for Volkswagen in the past. The company’s Super Bowl ad for the Passat three years ago, featuring a young boy dressed as Darth Vader, went viral after it was released several days before the game. To date the ad has attracted nearly 59 million views on YouTube.

Volkswagen unveiled a teaser for this year’s spot this week, poking fun at the advertising mania. (Let’s just say the car is the least memorable part.) Osborne says the company will release the spot itself sometime next week.

Some companies still prefer the surprise attack. For several years Chrysler has kept mum about its plans for the big game -- and then made a big splash.

Amy Beamer with the ad-tracking website recalls last year’s “God Made a Farmer” ad for the Dodge Ram, featuring a speech by the late broadcaster Paul Harvey.

“It was a surprise, people were engaged” she says. “All that stuff was just tied up in a very neat bow and they got a lot of traction there.” 

Because -- teaser or no teaser -- more than 100 million viewers tune in to watch the Super Bowl, and Beamer says as many as half of them are there just for the ads. 

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