Voters Guide: House District 50B

Zavier Bicott

City of residence: Bloomington

Age: 30

Family: Wife Sarah

Education: Bachelors in business administration, associates degree in accounting and tax

Occupation: General sports associate, Minnesota Young Republicans state chairman

Years lived in district: 16

Community involvement: 2013 Bloomington City Council at-large candidate

Contact info:

Why are you seeking election to the Minnesota House of Representatives?

I submitted my candidacy for the Minnesota State House to be a champion of more voluntary solutions to state governance. That means finding and advocating for community solutions that do not require the force of government regulations and taxes to change our behavior. With the right leadership this is an achievable long-term goal that includes winning the hearts and minds of our community by building coalitions of like-minded individuals. I will continue to be an advocate of more local voluntary community solutions as long as I am here.

What are your priorities in District 50B that you would like to address during the term?

My campaign is not about my priorities, it is about yours. I am not here to make laws that run your life, take and give your income to someone else and restrict your freedoms. Our most immediate community, Bloomington, has needs and our state has needs. In no particular order jobs, education and health care are priorities and main topics I hear when I talk to people in our community.

What are the priorities you will work to include or remove from the budget and why?

I will work on legislation that maximizes our freedoms and meets our priorities through voluntary solutions.

The recent $90 million State Senate Office Building, the $498 million Mall of America contribution and $468 million portion of the Minnesota Vikings stadium were not the top priorities that came into discussion with the families I talked to in Bloomington. These $1.56 billion combined projects create economic activity but were they really the top priorities of the families in Bloomington?

There are state budgeted initiatives that are working well and some that are not. We need to prioritize initiatives that are successful in getting people back on their own feet in being self-sufficient and discontinue those that are not.

Jobs and education are priorities that I would work on that go hand-in-hand. There are jobs available, but the workforce lacks the technical training and education to meet those needs. We should prioritize resources spent on job training that prepares our work force for these jobs. If we are not prioritizing, student loans for education could be the next financial bubble similar to the housing market. If we continue to subsidize education we should prioritize education that directly prepares our workforce for the jobs that will be ready when they graduate.

On Sept. 26 the Star Tribune reported the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.” Minnesota ranked last of the Midwest in private sector job growth.

NZ dollar gains after Fed’s greenback concerns surprise market

The New Zealand dollar gained after minutes from the Federal Reserves September policy meeting surprised traders, showing the worlds biggest central bank was concerned with the strength of the greenback.

The kiwi rose to 79.39 US cents at 5pm in Wellington from 78.96 cents at 8am and 77.90 cents yesterday. The trade-weighted index advanced to 76.96 from 75.96 yesterday.

The local currency extended its gain in the local session after the release of the Fed minutes, which showed policy makers at the worlds biggest central bank were concerned a global slowdown and a stronger currency posed risks for the US economy.

The greenback has been on an upward trajectory since the end of June as traders firmed up their bets the Fed will start raising interest rates next year, ending a zero-interest rate policy that has been in place since the global financial crisis.

We dont think that this means theyll be discouraged from raising rates in the middle of next year because of US dollar strength, it was simply something that needs to be flagged, Raiko Shareef, Bank of New Zealand currency strategist, said. It doesnt change the view that the kiwi is in a downtrend.

BNZs Shareef said the local currency will probably trade between 76 US cents and 80 cents in the coming months.

Government figures today showed New Zealand retail spending on credit and debit cards fell 0.4 percent in September, after economic indicators point to optimism earlier in the year not playing out with the equivalent activity.

Walmart and Apple go head to head over Apple Pay

Correction:The headline of an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Home Depot had rejected Apple Pay. We have not rejected Apple Pay, a Home Depot spokesperson said via email. We consider Apple a great partner, but it is simply too early for us to determine what well do. Yahoo Finance regrets the error.

CVS (CVS) and Rite Aid (RAD) drugstores have fired the latest salvo in the imminent battle in the mobile pay system. The two chains have already stopped accepting Apple Pay (AAPL), which was released just a week ago. The stores are part of a larger group of retailers developing a competing system for mobile payments. Those names include Walmart (WMT), Gap (GPS), Old Navy, 7-Eleven, Kohl’s (KSS), Lowes (LOW), Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN), Sears (SHLD), Kmart, Bed Bath amp; Beyond (BBBY) and almost all major gas station chains nationwide. Rite Aid and CVS already have technology in place to read the short-range wireless signals that allow customers to make payments using their smartphones, but a leaked internal memo shows that Rite Aid modified its NFC reader preventing access to Apple Pay.

According toForrester Research, the mobile pay market is forecast to jump to $90 billon in 2017 from $12.8 billion in 2012. Yahoo Finance Senior Columnist Michael Santoli points out that Apple Pay isn’t the only mobile pay method vying for a big chunk of that market–it joins Square, Google Wallet (GOOG) and Softcard- all seeking a foothold in the arena. Separately, CVS and Rite Aid are part of a consortium of retailers that have been working on their own system called CurrentC. Santoli describes it as such: “They are going to launch next year to a handful of retailers. They kind of want it to be something of their own where it’s essentially drawing down from a checking account; a debit card type system. And they’re also going to be giving discounts and rewards, so to me its kind of a sophisticated customer rewards program along with a payment system.” CurrentC does not have a single bank backing it– thereby cutting out the middleman and card processing fees.

Apple Pay operates differently. It has partnered with major banks and credit card companies such as Visa (V), MasterCard (MA) and American Express (AXP), which have jumped on the Apple Pay train viewing it as a way to increase the number of credit card purchases. Right now though, Apple’s website highlights just 34 retail partners supporting the system.

Santoli agrees that ultimately a mobile phone will look like a typical consumers’ wallet containing a number of credit and debit cards. He says “if everything is essentially located on your phone. With this app or that app you’re paying with, it becomes some sort of centralized payment function, whether its PayPal or somebody else when you have multiple cards loaded on there.” He’s betting that down the road the big credit card issuers such as MasterCard and Visa(V) are going to be tremendous forces in the mobile pay wars.

Parents pay price of adult children at home

The Meet the Full Nesters report found that parents with a full nest of grown-up children report that their household spending is around pound;460 per month, which is pound;100 a month more than empty nesters, adding up to an extra pound;1,200 a year.

Around 2.7 million households in the UK are estimated to have adult children still living in the home they grew up in.

Parents with a full nest were found to be more likely to say they were pouring less money into their savings, raiding their savings accounts, shopping at cheaper supermarkets, using value brands, spending on credit cards, going overdrawn, working extra hours and even selling off valuables in order to get by.

Almost half (44%) of full nesters surveyed said that their current focus is on providing for their family, compared with less than one quarter (23%) of empty nesters.

One third (32%) of full nesters do not expect they will ever get the financial help they have given to their children back.

Full nest parents inability to focus on their plans for later life was also a cause for concern, with 24% of full nesters surveyed saying they wished they could concentrate more on preparing for their own future.

If you don’t have it, don’t spend it

I have been down that credit trap in my life, being up to the eyeballs in credit card bills. I bought a flash car at 24 for $14,000, and the finance company offered me a mastercard, which turned into a gold card.

That was all good and well until the bills start rolling in and you realise you have a noose around your neck every month. Both my husband and I fell into that trap.

Then we decided we wanted to buy a home.We only earned very average money working in factories. I said to my husband, its the recession time when house prices are getting lower due to affordability, so it would be a good time to buy.

So we decided to work very hard and paid off each of the four credit cards we had, one by one. We rented for 10 years and it took us about two years to pay everything off. Then we saved hard, even having two primary aged kids and renting at the same time.

We did things like making do with what we had, not buying new furniture, clothes etc. We only paid to maintain our simple lives so we could save any extra money.

In 2009, we bought a house in Auckland and still live there. Its the best decision we ever made as our mortgage payment is lower than renting.

When people ask me what is my advice for success, I say when you have your own saved money to spend you are more careful about spending it. When you are spending on a credit card, you dont care.

Now we are on one income as I look for a job, and I just dont buy anything I dont need. Wekeep the same mobile phone for years and maintain our cars.

Just dont go to the shops if you dont have the money, go for a walk in the park instead. Have a cash budget and you will be much more careful about your spending.I have tried to tell my friends this but they just keep spending on credit cards and moaning that they have no savings.

If you dont commit, you get nowhere, and no one is going to do it for you.We live in a life where we think we need stuff, well, you only need your bills paid.

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Venezuelan gov’t vows fair prices for air tickets

Vice-President of Economy and Minister of Economy and Finance Rodolfo Marco Torres stressed that the Venezuelan government is working to set fair prices for air tickets.

There will be a (price) band based on flight miles, the official explained.

We are reaching agreements with the companies (…) the price of air tickets will be reviewed, although today, air tickets are cheaper than last year, he argued.

Since mid-2013, the price of air tickets has soared as availability has declined, due to government delays in settling debt in foreign currency to airlines, spokespersons of the airline sectors have noted.

The minister remarked that there is a commitment to settle the foreign currency. We have already made a lot of payments; we have reached very interesting agreements (with airlines).

Marco Torres did not provide details on the amounts settled; however, he claimed that pending debt to airlines did not total USD 4 billion, as representatives of the sector have reported.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), in January-July, sales of international air tickets in Venezuela fell from a monthly average of USD 268.3 million in 2013 to USD 178.5 million.

Translated by AndreĆ­na Trujillo

Opinion: Getting the right credit rating

By Kevin Hughes, Money Advice Service

Your credit rating can have a significant influence on your ability to borrow money, which in turn can then have consequences throughout your lifetime. Quite simply, if you have a poor credit rating you may be compromised when it comes to being accepted for a new credit card, a loan, or a mortgage. To make sure you can afford your mortgage, take a look at the Money Advice Service Mortgage Calculator.

If you have not been able to demonstrate that you can repay credit on time in the past, lenders may not extend the amount of credit you require, charge a higher interest rate – or not give you any credit at all. Companies like Experian allow you to check your score.

Several factors can impact your credit rating. High levels of existing debt will make banks, building societies and other lenders nervous about allowing you to borrow more; missing or late payments will be frowned upon too. You may not be aware that missing and late payments on a mortgage, credit card, personal loan and utility bills will stay on your credit file for six years. A county court judgment – a CCJ – can have a serious impact on your credit score and this too stays on your file for six years.

If you have a poor credit rating there are steps you can take to begin the process of improving your status, and this infographic from the Money Advice Service shares some of that knowledge. To begin with, STOP applying for credit! Every time you apply for credit it shows as a record on your credit report so if youve been applying en masse, it doesnt look good. Stagger applications instead.

Also, if you have a few unused credit cards, cancel them. An open account in your name, even if you dont actively use the card tied to that account, will still count when a lender assesses what credit is available to you. Another suggestion is to make sure you are on the electoral register so that potential lenders can verify your identity.

You can also rebuild a poor credit rating by using something called a credit-builder prepaid card. These have a credit-building option to improve your score: typically you will be loaned an amount, say pound;120, and you will agree to pay the card company a monthly fee of pound;10 to repay the total loan. At the end of the year, as long as you havent missed any payments, your credit report will show 12 months of successful repayments. Its a step-by-step way of improving your credit score.

What to do – stop applying for credit, get on the electoral register, cancel unused credit cards

What to do carefully – credit-builder prepaid cards: you receive a small loan that you repay monthly but they also charge fees

What to avoid – repaying debts late, taking out pay day loans, using credit repair companies

Is Congress setting the stage for another mortgage crisis?

Owning a home. Its been called the American Dream. But as the financial crisis taught us, its a dream not every American should make a reality. Now, some critics believe recent changes announced could be setting up another crisis.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mel Watt this week announced – from a Las Vegas casino – that he was bringing back some of the low down payment, lax lending standards that were all too prevalent during the housing boom that eventually created the housing bust and the financial crisis.

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Aaron Task spoke with former Car Czar Steve Rattner, who oversaw the restructuring of the automobile industry, about the implications of this latest return to easy lending, and whether the move is setting up another financial crisis for the United States.

“Nobody wants to take on the tough questions of: ‘How much housing do we want to have in this country? How many people should be homeowners versus renters?'” Says Steven Rattner, Chairman of Willett Advisors.

With regulators loosening some lending rules in an attempt give a boost to the slow-to-recover housing market, there may soon be a new crop of Americans putting out the welcome mat on a new home. New regulations would make it easier for Americans to buy a house with little or no down payment. It’s a departure from the push after the financial crisis to tighten lending standards.

Rattner, who has also served as Counselor to the Secretary of the Treasury, remembers where the every-American-should-own-a-home push got us last time. “[The US] went through this period – which both parties signed on for – that it was the American Dream to own your house, and then we ended up in 2007 and 2008.”

So will these new rules bring us back to the dangerous situation that led up to the financial crisis? Rattner says, “I do worry that we [could] go too far the other way, although, certainly, people remember well enough that I don’t think you’re going to see that kind of irresponsible lending in the short term, but we have to make sure we strike a balance.

As for the future of Fannie Mae (FNMA) and Freddie Mac (FMCC), Rattner believes Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be government entities that provide some kind of liquidity backstop so that in periods where the private sector isn’t there, for a fee, Fannie and Freddie could provide some liquidity to the mortgage market, but… not 90 or 80% of the mortgage market the way they are today.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been tied in various legal battles involving the companies policies leading up to the housing crisis, as well as cases involving the companies overseer and the Treasury Department, in which shareholders argue the deal with the government unfairly wiped out shareholder profits.

Rattner says, “I think what we need to do is reorganize them, get rid of this public-private partnership idea that’s embedded in Fannie and Freddie. There should never have been private shareholders.

“That’s part of why they went so far off the rails. That was a terrible mistake.

Rattner believes reorganization is what is required, but that would take action from Congress, and Rattner points that, so far, Congress hasnt been willing to take that on. Instead, Rattner says, Congress is doing nothing.

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Stop treating your credit card like a bottomless cookie jar

People stop me on the street, in the mall, at the supermarket to ask me if the people who appeared on my TV shows were real and, by the way, how could they ever get themselves into so much debt.

It’s easier than most people think.

A credit card is kind of like a bottomless cookie jar. With easy access to credit, there’s no reason to wonder when the treats will run out, and you are never disappointed.

Want a new outfit? Just stick it on a credit card. Want dinner with a bunch of friends?

Ka-ching, ka-ching. Desperately in need of a sunny vacation to beat the winter blues? There’s room on the card and that’s just what it’s for, right?

When credit became a commodity and lenders started hiking limits and offering incentives to take on more cards, people started behaving like greedy children, gobbling cookies without a thought to the tummy ache that would eventually follow.

Now, Canadians think nothing of spending more than they make every year. Hey grown-ups, before you think to chastise a child for anything, think about your own lack of self-control!
How did we get so much credit? All you needed was a nice, shiny credit score and you could have all the credit you wanted.

Do you know that people who make only the minimum payment on their credit cards have a better credit score than those who pay off their balances in full every month? Why? Because they’re more profitable customers, so they score higher.

Do you want to be some company’s dream customer, paying gobs of interest and twisting in the wind when the company decides to change the rules of the game? Or do you want to be in charge of your money and your life?

Focusing on your credit score is a trick, a distraction from the real issue: You have to learn to live within your means.

Credit cards only serve you when you have the power. Give the power to the creditor and you’re a puppet, jumping and twitching. So, do you want to be some credit card company’s puppet? Like the feeling of twitching when collectors call? No? OK then, it’s time to retake control.

Being in charge means being out of debt. It means paying off your balance in full every single month. It means having only as much credit available as suits your needs.

Living within your means isn’t as hard as some people think. Yes, you have to make choices. And yes, you may have to wait a while before you can take that vacation.

But when you stop treating your cookie jar like it has no bottom and start living within your means, you’ll be in charge.

Sometimes there are cookies, and sometimes not. And if there are no cookies for a while, that’s not the end of the world. You just have to get busy baking!

How did we get into this gigantic mess?

Equifax Canada is predicting that our consumer debt levels will hit $1.4 trillion in 2014.

Here’s why:

1 People are paying only the minimum required on their credit cards. Those tiny payments are easy to work into their cash flow and, since people are loathe to add up what they actually owe, make people feel their debt is manageable. Ditto the debt on lines of credit.

2 We simply don’t understand or won’t accept the fact that all that consumer debt is “callable.” That means, at the bank’s whim, you can be asked to repay what you owe in its totality and, if you can’t, you’ll be sent to collections immediately. When you warn people of that, they say things like, “Oh, the bank would never do that.” Yes, they would.

3 Folks won’t live within their means. All that keeping up is going to end up costing a lot of them their financial security — something far more important than snappy shoes or the latest toy. For the people who would rather have granite countertops than a six-month emergency fund, it is only a matter of time before all that debt catches up with them.

4 Our net worth has grown and we keep being told that all the debt we have is OK because, hey, look at how much we have in assets. Here’s the problem with that argument. Let the stock market change direction, or let the real estate market see a correction, and you’ll watch your net worth plummet. The debt? Well, it’s here to stay. As solid as concrete tied around your neck, that debt is going nowhere.

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America’s housing policy: The definition of insanity

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, then clearly Albert Einstein is not responsible for Americas housing policies.

Federal Housing Finance Agency director Mel Watt on Tuesday unveiled new regulations that would make it easier for Americans to buy a house with little or no money down. The rules are aimed at private lenders who opposed a proposal that borrowers make a 20% down payment.

“Finalizing this rule represents a major step forward to providing greater certainty to the housing finance market and paves the way for increased participation by the private sector,” Watt said Tuesday at the Mortgage Bankers Associations annual conference held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (A casino? Really? The optics couldnt be worse.)

In 2013, less than 2% of the $1.6 trillion of MBS issued were so-called private-label securities, meaning they did not have government backing.

In separate but related news, Watt earlier this week announced that Fannie and Freddie are planning to guarantee loans with down payments as little as 3%, down from 5% previously and back to pre-crisis levels.

Insanity number one is the government bending to industry lobbying against proposed rules designed to tighten lending standards and force borrowers to have more skin in the game vs. less. The FHFA also loosened proposals to ensure banks have some skin in the game by forcing them to hold a small portion of the loans rather than bundling them together and selling them as mortgage-backed securities (MBS). The 5% risk-retention rule requires banks to hold onto 5% of loans they sell but exemptions may enable the banks to hold less or nothing, The NYT reports.

Insanity number two is the federal government saying they want to encourage private lending but at the same time shifting course on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, announcing plans to use the mortgage giants to expand credit rather than reducing their outsize role in the housing market, as The WSJ put it.

Fannie and Freddie already back 60% of all mortgages originated in the private market and guarantee 90% of all new mortgages underwritten, according to Investors Business Daily.

The root of all this insanity is a housing market that not only needs the Fed to keep rates at zero for a considerable time but also massive government-sponsored subsidies to maintain altitude. After two years of strength, the housing market has clearly cooled in recent months. From August 2013 to February 2014, the year-over-year increase in the Case Shiller national home price index exceeded 10%. The pace of increase has declined every month so far in 2014 and was at 5.6% in July, the most recent available, the slowest pace since November 2012.

The Obama administration, the Fed and the private lenders all share the same concern: That the housing market rebound is running out of steam and will start to rollover without additional incentives for banks to lend — and Americans to borrow. The MBA expects total lending for home purchases to fall 13.5% in 2014, The WSJ reports.

In sum, were going back to relying on banks to verify borrowers ability to repay loans with little or no money down while Fannie and Freddie are lowering limits on what loans theyll guarantee. What could possibly go wrong?

Somewhere a young Angelo Mozilo — maybe even the former Countrywide CEO himself — is preparing to launch a new venture aimed at lending to Americans with poor credit and/or little savings for a downpayment. After all, its a very lucrative business…and if things go awry, the taxpayer bails you out.

Aaron Task is Editor-in-Chief of Yahoo Finance. You can follow him on Twitter at@aarontaskor email him