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YOUR BOTTOM LINE

A Complete Guide to Surviving the Job Market; What to Do If You Have a GM or Chrysler Car; Is Your Home Making You Sick? How to Keep Your Family Safe

Aired June 6, 2009 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


GERRI WILLIS, CNN HOST: Hello. I'm Gerri Willis and this is YOUR BOTTOM LINE, the show that grabs you money.

Grab your pen and paper, just seconds from now a complete guide on surviving the job market, whether you're unemployed, employed or maybe just worried that you might lose that job.

Plus, American autos in trouble. What to do if you have a GM or Chrysler and why now might be the best time to buy a brand-new car.

And is your home making you sick? How to keep your family safe. YOUR BOTTOM LINE starts right now.

The unemployment rate is very high, but let's not get caught up in the numbers because behind all those statistics are a very real people. So, let's get to what you need to know, a complete job survival guide.

Rick Newman is the chief business correspondent with "U.S. News & World Report," Jennifer Merritt the careers editor with the "Wall Street Journal," and Annya Lott is the careers editor with "Black Enterprise" magazine.

Welcome to you all, great to have you here.

Rick, I want to start with you. You know, we talk about these numbers all the time but they're always national numbers, right? If I really want to drill down in my marketplace, get data on employment in my area, how do I do that?

RICK NEWMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: I think that's exactly what people need to do is figure out what's going on around me. A lot of times you know You talk to people in your community and things like this. You need to become a kind much of private investigator, is what I think you really need to do. Everybody is sitting in front of their computing doing Google searches, looking for jobs at online Web sites and things like that, so you're just part of the pack if that's what you're doing.

I think you need to get out and find out what kind of companies around where I live are hiring, what kind of industries might be coming to town or building out a little bit. I mean, we usually know about all the companies that are cutting at least once they cut because that makes the headlines, but who's coming next and maybe you're looking for a place where there are five jobs not 50 jobs or 500.

WILLIS: Right. Absolutely. Well, let's get some folks in here. Annya, let's talk about who is actually hiring out there. You know, Rick talked about industries that are hiring. Which ones are expanding now?

ANNYA LOTT, BLACK ENTERPRISE: Well, we definitely know that health care is expanding, education is expanding. Federal and local jobs are in demand. Also, energy, you know, President Obama is pumping a lot of money into green investments, so those areas are, you know, increasing with high demand. And it's very competitive right now for folks. Right now people need to be competitive players in the marketplace, but there are areas of potential growth.

WILLIS: All right. But there are also areas of potential nongrowth. Jen, let's talk about what areas should I not even bother with?

JENNIFER MERRITT, WALL STREET JOURNAL: You know, I think right now if you want to be in the financial services industry, you might think about that again. Definitely -- even though education is hiring in some areas, there's definitely been a pullback because a lot of school districts are still putting hiring on hold or cutting back, but maybe look in other areas for that. Manufacturing is way down and there's very little expectation that that's going to come back anytime soon.

WILLIS: Of course, you know, you can always kind of retool what you're doing. If your area of finance, maybe you're not applying to Wall Street, but maybe you want to be a controller for a company or a CFO or somebody who's running the numbers for, you know, somebody's medical practice or something. There are always ways to kind of turning that to your favor.

And Rick, you say, actually, don't target the industry, target the company. How do you do that?

NEWMAN: Well, you know, headhunters and job search places will tell you what they're telling everybody else. I think if you want to find where you're going to be a good fit. So, instead -- again, instead of getting in line with everybody else, identify a company or an industry perhaps, perhaps, you think you want to get into and go after them.

I mean, you're going to be going in a side door instead of the front door, let's say, and finding, saying, here's what I'm good at and maybe they'll say we're really not hiring right now but maybe we can use you on a freelance basis, as a consultant, or something like that and that might be the way that you actually do get to a job down the road.

WILLIS: That's a great idea.

Annya, you know, a lot of people are doing the kinds of things Rick is describing and it's because, you know, they've been out of work for a very long time. This recession is now 17 months old. What do I do if I'm one of those people who's been looking for a long, long time? The longer I'm out, the worse it looks to employers.

LOTT: Well again, it's about being competitive player, so what's key now in this economy is training. You know, folks really need to focus in on training. If you can afford to go back to school for a degree or even a certification in a particular areas, that would be wise. Also, you can consider online programs or utilizing government job services like OneCareerStop that's funded by, you know, the Bureau of Labor.

WILLIS: That's a great Web site.

LOTT: And then, you know, also school is not an option for folks, they should consider reading trade journals, magazines, specific industry books that they can become abreast with trends and the latest technology and consider joining organizations and associations where they can go to conferences and meet panelists and CEOs and people that can really help build their network.

WILLIS: Right. It's all about meeting all these new people or taking advantage of the relationships you already have. Jen, talk to us about social networks, because that's like the most popular way now, really, to branch out.

MERRITT: Right. And I think people think of them traditionally. There's LinkedIn, there's FaceBook, there's Twitter, but a lot of professional associations, professional organizations and even alumni networks have online communities and the important thing is to not get discouraged especially if you've been out for a long time. You might stop networking, you might think, oh, this has been useless, but you can't. You've got to keep it up, try to meet new people, go to some industry events, make sure people on your FaceBook and LinkedIn know what you're doing.

Volunteer if you can. Maybe you don't want to, you know, take on an unpaid role, but if you're going over to say, the Red Cross or something, and you had a marketing job before, you can offer to do marketing for them and you're keeping up your experience, you're meeting new people and you're meeting other volunteers who maybe still have jobs.

NEWMAN: Why not use some of those Web tools to your advantage? I mean, it costs almost no money to build your new Web wage, to start a blog if you have something professional to say, not just what I had for breakfast. You know, and use those tools to your advantage so you have more of a presence than just a paper resume and a pile.

WILLIS: Well, you know, one of the things you say that I think is so interesting, you say go out and start a new business but, come on, Rick, I mean, the economy is horrible. How am going to make that work?

NEWMAN: What do you have to lose? I mean, it's never been easier to set yourself up. I mean, starting a business can mean hiring 25 or 50 people, but it can also mean you just start your -- you set yourself up, call yourself a consultant, if that's what it takes, build a Web site. If you can -- maybe get business from the company you used to work for.

Remember, they just got rid of a lot of people, they still need to do that work, maybe they'll outsource some of it to you. And before you know it, maybe you're bringing in a little bit of revenue and you've got yourself set up. And maybe you're going to have a client who's going to hire you down the road.

WILLIS: At least maybe you're meeting some of your bills.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIS: It's a great place to be in between and it's something you can promote to other employers, as well.

MERRITT: You have experience. You're still out there working.

NEWMAN: And you're busy. Very important.

WILLIS: Because not being busy is depressing.

MERRITT: Exactly.

WILLIS: Because one of the things you've got to do is keep your spirits up. Guys, you kept my spirits up today. Thanks for the help today, Rick, Jen, and Annya, appreciate your help.

NEWMAN: Thank you.

MERRITT: Thank you.

LOTT: Thank you.

WILLIS: GM is bankrupt. Chrysler is bankrupt. What it means if you own one and why now might be a good time to buy a new car.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIS: General Motors filed for bankruptcy this week joining Chrysler in bankruptcy court. That, of course, raises a lot of questions if you own one of these two cars or you're in the mass market for one. And we, of course, are here to save you money.

Scott Painter is the CEO of TrueCars.com in Los Angeles.

Scoot, great morning to you.

SCOTT PAINTER, TRUECARS.COM: Good morning.

WILLIS: All right, so let's get down to some of these questions. You know, people who own GMs and Chryslers, they're really concerned about what am I going to do? Where am I going to get my car serviced? All of these dealerships are going to close. Is now the time to panic or are they going to be OK?

PAINTER: Well, neither one of these companies are going away. They're great American businesses and they're going through a tough time right now. There's no question. But I think everybody has been careful to communicate that General Motors and Chrysler are not going away and it is a good time to not only buy these cars, but also to own them.

WILLIS: Well, that's exactly where I was going next which is it's got to be the perfect storm for prices, let's face it. You know, if you wanted to buy one of these cars, there couldn't be a better time to do it than right now, correct, or you know, should I wait a few months?

PAINTER: Well, certainly the auto industry in general is going through a bit of a perfect storm and almost 25 percent of vehicles across the board, regardless of brand, are selling below actual dealer cost, what we call true cost, which is a new phenomenon in the market.

WILLIS: Yeah, and this is shocking really when you think about it that prices have gone down so far so fast. In fact, we want to show you some numbers here that you can take a look at that will tell you exactly how much people are paying for cars. This is from your Web site. I think we're looking at a Suburban, that's the vehicle we want to show, here.

Shows you how much people pay on average, what the dealer cost is and what the low, low cost is. Now, if you're looking at this chart right now and you want to buy one of these cars, you really want to be on the left-hand side of that. You want to pay as little as possible for it. How do I do that, Scott?

PAINTER: Well, there's no question that there's a very strong correlation between how informed a consumer is and the amount of money that they save. And in the case of a Suburban, just in Los Angeles alone, the delta between the person who pays the most and the person who pays the least can be almost 25 to 30 percent.

WILLIS: You mean the difference, there. You mean the difference.

PAINTER: The difference.

WILLIS: Delta being difference. OK.

So, you can have thousands of dollars of difference and of course if you're looking at sticker on the Suburban, as we just saw, it's almost $4,000 between the lowest price and the sticker. That's very concerning out there. What information do I need to arm myself with and, for goodness sake, how do I negotiator when I actually get to the dealership?

PAINTER: Well, again, going back to the Suburban example, when somebody is paying $10,000 more than another customer for the same exact vehicle, information is power and at TrueCar.com we actually publish what other people are paying as well as reveal the dealer cost structure and those are the two most important numbers that you need when negotiating for your vehicle.

WILLIS: All right. So, Scott, when I get there, I've got the information in hand, but what's the best way to approach these guys? How do you talk to them? It how do you convince them to lower their price? After all, this is bread and butter for them, too.

PAINTER: Sure. Well, there are so many dealers right now that are struggling. It's a very interesting time for the consumer. Upfront pricing has really become a very, very trend and one of the things we've noticed is a lot of affinity groups or organizations like AAA or American Express now have auto buying programs.

USAA, for example, saves their members thousands but they publish an upfront price on their Web site. So, as a consumer, get informed, but also if you're a member of one of these organizations tap into them, use their auto buying programs and look for that upfront price.

WILLIS: That's a great idea. Obviously arm yourself with as much information as you can and do your research, right? Let's talk about some of the Web sites out there. There's not just your Web site, there are some others as well.

PAINTER: Sure. It depends on what you're looking for. I mean, every Web site specializes in different things. If you're looking to buy a used car, Kelley Blue Book is a great standard at kbb.com. If you're looking to do deep research, if you want to know about the third row safety seat or the miles-per-gallon, Edmunds.com gives you a buffet of information and allows to you do a lot of homework.

And then TrueCar, when you're ready to buy a car, definitely get informed, find out what other people are paying as well as what the dealer cost structure is and all the available incentives that are out there.

WILLIS: Well, the Web site is called TrueCars. Scott, thanks for your help today. We appreciate it.

PAINTER: Thank you.

WILLIS: It's something no one wants to deal with but something everybody should deal with -- how to make sure your home is not making you or your family sick.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIS: Over the past few weeks, CNN has told you about defective Chinese-made drywall that may be damaging homes and causing health problems. Now, federal investigators are also setting their sights on it made by an American company.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS (voice-over): It was supposed to be their dream home.

JILL SWINDLER, HOMEOWNER: The AC went out, the appliances went out, we had jewelry tarnishing and the plumbing fixtures tarnishing, but none seemed to be related.

WILLIS: The Swindler's built their home themselves. Michael a construction foreman by trade had overseen the building of more than 500 homes in Florida. For his own home, he bought 289 sheets of ToughRock brand drywall made by Georgia Pacific at a nearby lumberyard.

(on camera): You don't have Chinese drywall in this house, right, Michael? You built this house.

MICHAEL SWINDLER, HOMEOWNER: Yes.

WILLIS: What is it that you have?

M. SWINDLER: Georgia Pacific.

WILLIS (voice-over): The Swindler's knew about complaints regarding tainted Chinese drywall, but their walls were lined with a product made by an American company.

J. SWINDLER: One of the first things we noticed was the plumbing fixtures in our kids' bathroom, little by little started corroding. They brushed their teeth in these for three years.

WILLIS: The fire alarm was going off randomly. Copper wires were turning black and within months soot blanketed the fixtures.

BRIAN WARWICK, ATTORNEY: That's sulfur that's on the right. This gypsum is not natural gypsum and that's the issue.

WILLIS: Brian Warwick is representing the Swindler's in their lawsuit against Georgia Pacific. He says the problem with ToughRock brand is that a key ingredient is synthetic gypsum which contains chemical materials scrubbed from the exhausts of coal fired power plants.

(voice-over): So you don't know what the connection is. You don't have science behind you to tell you specifically what's causing the problem?

WARWICK: The science has yet to be developed. Actually going through the process. We believe our experts know what the problem is.

WILLIS (voice-over): Representatives from the Florida Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection say they found the Swindler home appears to have the same symptoms as homes containing Chinese drywall in which state and federal studies have found sulfur.

Georgia Pacific would not agree to an interview with CNN, but did say in a statement, "We are disappointed that they elected to pursue a lawsuit without first informing us of their concerns. We stand behind the quality of our products and take customer complaints seriously."

Afraid for the health of their family, they have moved to a rental home nearby, their dream home facing demolition.

J. SWINDLER: If it's going to corrode our house like it has, it's got to be doing something negative to our bodies. (END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIS: The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has an active investigation into the tainted drywall. Its labs focusing on what exactly is in this drywall and how it might be connected to the problems these families are coping with. And this, of course, all leads to the question how do you know what materials your contractor is using? Here with some advice is a Ed Del Grande, contractor and host of HGTVPro.com.

Ed, great to see you, as always.

ED DEL GRANDE, HGTV PRO: It's great to be her, Gerri. I have the final -- first of all, everything is brand new with these issues, so there has to be a lot more testing to be done.

WILLIS: You're absolutely right and that testing, obviously, we're waiting for reports that will give us some final analysis of this, but Ed, I got to tell you, when I walked into that house, I was just hit with the smell of rotten eggs. I think homeowners out there want to know, you know, how do I know I have a problem with this drywall before it gets to the point that this family has just seen.

DEL GRANDE: Well, in any home, what you want to look for is your copper pipes, if they're water lines or your air-conditioning coils, they're usually made of copper -- if you see them turning black, there could be an issue and you should contact your contractor right away or your local building inspector.

WILLIS: And the risks here are pretty big, because there's copper in the wiring, right, so it could affect the electrical components of your house?

DEL GRANDE: Well, yeah, there's copper in the wiring, there's copper in a lot of appliances, there's copper, naturally, in a lot of plumbing systems and in your faucets, so this is an issue that could affect just about every area of your home, so if you had construction done recently, you may just want to double check, there's no reason to panic right now, like I said, everything is developing, but contact your builder if you have any questions.

WILLIS: Contact your builder, of course, and look, you know, the remedy for this, really, is taking out the drywall, right? I mean, and that's going to cost a pretty penny.

DEL GRANDE: If it is proven that the drywall is the issue, yes, the only way to do it, you have to go in the house and strip everything out. That may include the insulation, the copper piping, the copper wires, so before someone takes a direct step as to stripping the entire house out, you got to make sure tests come back that it is definitely the drywall.

WILLIS: Yeah, the link needs to be made. Lots of complaints. We're still waiting for the report, as you say. But I want to talk to you a little bit about a broader issue, here. I mean, how do you know about the products in your house and the construction of your home? Obviously, with drywall, if your house was built before, you know, maybe six years ago, five years ago, you don't even need to think about this or be worried about it, but I think people with new homes need to think about what exactly is this house made of? How do they get that information?

DEL GRANDE: Well, you know what, this is an eye-opener for the whole industry, just like the auto industry, restructure. People have to realize you can't just sit back and pick out pretty light fixtures and that's your job, you have to work with the builder and pick out every material as you go along to make sure it's everything you're looking for.

WILLIS: Ed, great advice. Thanks for the help today, we really appreciate it.

DEL GRANDE: Thank you very much, Gerri.

WILLIS: The 2009 Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway. Whether you're in hurricane area or not, we're looking at your insurance to make sure you're covered.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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