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The Latest Unemployment Report; Improving Financial Smarts; Warrenn Buffett's Financial Cartoon

Aired May 8, 2010 - 09:30   ET


POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Well, good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow. This is the show that saves you money.

We've got those latest jobs numbers, they are in, but we're going to go beyond the numbers, OK? We're going to help you if you are searching for work and we've also got your weekend project to head some low-cost upgrades to transform your yard and also add to the value of your home. Plus, you know you want to take that summer vacation, we're going to help you do that and of course save you sine money in the process. It's all coming up and YOUR BOTTOM LINE starts right now.

We begin this morning with the devastating flooding in Tennessee. Folks there are just trying to pick up the pieces after all of the wreckage and, you know, if you or someone that you know has been affected we want to help you out. There is a lot assistance that's available through federal disaster aid programs if your county has been declared a state of emergency.

Take a look at some things you can do. There are grants to repair or replace things in your home that have not been covered by your insurance. You can also get low-interest loans for some of that uninsured property that may have been damaged or destroyed, and if you've been displaced from your home because of the flooding ,there is temporary housing available to you for up to three months.

Also, if you've lost your job temporarily because of the flooding, there are unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, folks, that you can qualify for and you also may be eligible for crisis counseling. In order to find out if you are, you can go online to you can also call 1-800-621-FEMA for more information on that.

And aside from basic information like your name, your address and your phone number, you should have a lot of things ready, you should have information about your insurance coverage, any other documents that could help substantiate your claim like receipts or photos of things that might have been destroyed.

And one really important thing to keep in mind is that generally flood insurance is not part of a typical homeowner's insurance policy. But you can buy it from either the government's national flood insurance program, you can also buy it through your insurance company. So you want to look into all of those things, folks. And you know, another concern for so many people out there right now is, of course, the state of jobs. The latest unemployment report is out and the numbers do tell the big picture but what we want to do is we want to dig deeper and we want to get into what it really means for you specifically whether looking for your first job, you're trying to get back into the workforce after being retired or you just got laid off. To help us with that is Rod Kurtz, he's the executive editor of AOL Small Business. He joins us today from Austin.

Rod, thanks for being here. Appreciate it.

ROD KURTZ, AOL SMALL BUSINESS: Good to see you, Poppy. How are you?

HARLOW: I'm good, thank you. And you know, a lot of graduates are going to be joining the workforce literally in a matter of weeks, now. So, if you are just out of school, you're looking for that first job, tougher job environment than it has been in decades. What can you do?

KURTZ: Welcome to the real world, kids. I think, you know, there's a lot of job opportunities out there. I cover entrepreneurs, as you know, and meet with allot of them and I was moderating a panel and asked how many were hiring and more than half were hiring. So, there are jobs out there and I think there are opportunities that young people can definitely seize upon.

HARLOW: In terms of what they need to know, a lot of young kids out of college or just they just got their MBA, they love social networking and love FaceBook, they love Twitter. It can really help -- LinkedIn, it can really help looking for your job, but can also really hurt you.

KURTZ: Well, we weren't that far off. It wasn't too long ago for you. But I think the social networking platforms, FaceBook and Twitter and LinkedIn, they definitely have their benefits, but one things I tell young people, frankly I tell it to a lot of people, young and old, is that you really can't replace the face-to-face connection.

You know, you can have 200 connections on LinkedIn but you really only need two good face-to-face connections, people who are really going to get out there and help you get into the workplace and once you're there advance your career.

HARLOW: Yeah, it's all about who you know and getting right in front of their face and foot in the door. There's a lot of people that may have retired early or they were laid off. Let's start off with people that have been laid off for awhile. What's your best tip for them getting into the workforce? Because, you know, what I've heard from a lot of executives and heads of these companies is they are bringing workers back on. They're seeing a return to confidence in the marketplace.

KURTZ: Yeah, I mean it's interesting you mention some older folks. Again, I work with entrepreneurs a lot and I think a lot of them really covet the skills and experience that older workers tend to bring. I think that's an advantage that people who may be coming back from retirement, considering getting back into the workforce, that's something they can really leverage. Obviously some of the technology changes, they have to be willing to adapt to that, but I really do think that experience and that stability counts for a lot.

As far as being laid off, I mean, there's no doubt it is a devastating thing. I've had friends who were out of work for more than a year and it really takes its toll. My advice frankly, if you just get that pink slip, take a few days off, a little selfish fun, a little sevenish time to yourself and really just decompress. I know it seems almost counterintuitive, but you're so emotional, it's a very emotional when you lose your job, you really need to step back because the last thing you want to do is make a rash emotional decision.

Take a few days off, make a plan, start working those connections as we talk about and move forward with your game plan.

HARLOW: It's a great point. and you know, summer is coming up and oftentimes there are a lot of temporary summer job that are valuable, so even for folks that are in the middle of their career, should they consider these summer jobs and sort of try to tie it into their field, at least somewhat, and get a paycheck while looking for more long-term work?

KURTZ: Yeah, absolutely. I mean we are not out of the woods with this economy yet. You know, unemployment is still hovering around 10 percent, so any job in this economy is a good job.

I think my caution, my advice to people is that if you are going to take a summer job make, you want to make sure it's at least in the ballpark of what you ultimately want to do, because not only do you want to have something that's consistent on your resume, but you want something that could blossom into a bigger opportunity, a full time opportunity, so you want to stick with your industry or the area that you're focused on.

And the same thing goes for internships. A lot of people, a lot of college grads are facing the option of, I can't get a real job, but I might be able to get an internships. That's how I got my start after I graduated, I had an internship, actually here in Austin, Texas, and it really paved the way for the career I have today. So, you never know what a small opportunity is going to lead to.

HARLOW: Yeah. Hey, same with me. I was an intern in this business for a long time before I actually got paid to do it, so.

KURTZ: There you go. We're living proof, huh?

HARLOW: We are, indeed. Rod, thank so much, always a pleasure. Thanks.

KURTZ: Great to see you. I'll see you back in New York.

HARLOW: I'll see you back in New York. And folks, go to, check out, of course, the latest jobs numbers. But much more than that, also tips for finding a job and what you can do, it's all on But coming up right here this morning...


TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: Before most students are old enough to drive or to vote, they'll be offered credit cards and we know that even as you find your first full time jobs, you're going to need to make choices about how you save, whether to save, how much to save for retirement.


HARLOW: All right, so what is being done by our government and in schools to make sure that students get the financial know-how they need to make smart financial decisions? Very important, it's all coming up next.


HARLOW: All right, well, we are talking kids and money and in the wake of the financial crisis, there are more and more people, folks, that are realizing financial education, it needs to start very early. The Department of Education and the Treasury are posing a challenge to educators and students trying to move future generations and motivate them to improve their financial smarts. CNN's Christine Romans takes a look.



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For these high school students this is the money shot. With the nation's top money man...

GEITHNER: The stakes are so high for Americans...

ROMANS: And the nation's top educator.

ARNE DUNCAN, EDUCATION SECY: The best and I would say the only way to make smart financial decisions is through knowledge and education.

ROMANS: Financial knowledge and education are the goals of the National Financial Capabilities Challenge, a 40-question online exam taken by 76,000 students nationwide. Aaron Moore had the top score, a perfect one.

AARON MOORE, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: We learned math. How to add, subtract, multiply and divide and we learn English to write and speak well, but what everyone does not learn is finance, the missing piece to our future.

ROMANS: Unfortunately, Aaron and the other top scorers who earned a trip to the Treasury in Washington are the exceptions.

DUNCAN: The average score across the country was just 70 percent. Too many students failed to answer basic questions about credit cards, car insurance and compound interest. In our fast-moving and increasingly complex economy, making the right decisions about personal finance just seven or eight times out of 10, actually, isn't good enough.

ROMANS: The challenge was also a wake-up call for the nation's educators who need to be fluent in finance if they're going to teach it. Terri Carson, a certified public accountant, has been doing just that at Stonewall Jackson High School, a public school in Virginia, for the last five years.

TERRI CARSON, CPA, TEACHER: What do I think we should do to ensure students in this country receive essential financial literacy education that they need? Stop wasting time arguing how it's going to be done, who is going to do it and where it should be done. Just like Nike says, "Just do it."

ROMANS: Twenty-five hundred teachers did, in fact, do it. Signing up for the challenge and educator tool kits which included 29 specific lesson plans in areas like "Budget Your Money," "Savvy Savers," "Understanding Your Paycheck" and "Roof Over Your Head." Teaching life lessons about money and finance are important to these two men, they're not only behind the challenge, they're both parents.

DUNCAN: Tim's kids are older. I got little guys at home six and eight, but started them on allowances.

GEITHNER: You want to talk to them about the things you got right, things you didn't get so right.

ROMANS: Christine Romans, CNN.


HARLOW: And you know, as you can see some challenges still ahead, about 76,000 students participated in the program. The goal was a lofty one million, we'll see if we can get there. And the Treasury Department and the Department of Education aren't the only ones that are trying to raise awareness and promote financial literacy among kids.


SONG: I'm good friends with Warren Buffett. He's going to teach me how to do my best, learn to invest and have a lot of fun to win it


ROMANS: That is right. Warren Buffett, the oracle of Omaha, helping out with a new cartoon for kids "The Secret Millionaires Club." Amy and Andy Hayward are the creators of the cartoon, of course, with Buffett, they're join us from Los Angeles.

Amy and Andy, thank you for being here. Appreciate it, guys.

AMY HAYWARD, A SQUARED ENTERTAINMENT: Thanks, Poppy. Good to be here.


ROMANS: You were the minds behind a lot of well-known cartoons, "Inspector Gadget," "Alvin and the Chipmunks," "GI Joe," so why this one? Why work with Warren Buffett on this cartoon?

ANDY HAYWARD: Well, we felt it was important that kids be exposed to learning financial literacy at a young age and had the good fortune to be able to bring this to Warren and ask him if he would lend his standing and wisdom to help make it happen. And he felt it was very important, as well, and one thing led to another and there we went.

ROMANS: And here we have it and, and Amy, when we talk about what age kids you're targeting and with what message, tell us a little bit about that.

AMY HAYWARD: The cartoon is meant for seven to 11-year-olds and the curriculum has been developed to teach kids in all different formats. So we have three to four-minute webisodes that are online at, but we've also developed games and activities and mobile apps and all the different ways that kids consume media, because it makes it fun for them to learn through, you know, television and online and all the different things that they like to do.

ROMANS: Sure. Well, what are some of the words of wisdom that came from Warren Buffett when he was talking to you guys about how to teach kids at a young age financial literacy? I mean, you know, he's got a very simple method of investing that really works and as everyone knows, he doesn't invest in anything he doesn't understand, so he's clear he wants these kids to get a strong understanding of what finance means for them, right?

ANDY HAYWARD: Yeah, you know, Warren said from the beginning we're not going to teach kids, 7-year-olds, how to read a balance sheet, that's not what it's about. It's more to help them to establish good habits in life and so many times the values that one needs to learn about finance are the values that one needs to learn about life lessons and character lessons, if you will. So they're very, very simple character lessons that we go through in the show and the kids learn interest that.

ROMANS: Amy and Andy, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

AMY HAYWARD: Thank you.


ROMANS: Thanks so much.

All right, straight ahead, summer is here. You know you want to take that vacation. Stick with us, we're going to show you how to get the best hotel deals, no matter what your budget is.


HARLOW: All right. Good news, summer is almost here. Hopefully you'll have a vacation planned. We're going to help you on any budget whether you're on a road trip or you're looked for a luxury resort, we're helping you snag a deal on any hotel room. To help us is Todd Marks, senior editor at "Consumer Reports."

Todd, thanks for being mere.


HARLOW: All right, you guys took a survey of about 27,000 travelers when it comes to hotel rooms. What did they tell you?

MARKS: Well, they spent a collective 150,000 nights in hotel rooms around the country and what they told us essentially is that good deals abound in this economy. We know from statistics that occupancy rates are basically the lowest they've been in 38 -- around 40 years.


MARKS: On any given night, on average 45 percent of hotel rooms across the country are unoccupied.


MARKS: And that has led to the availability of some tremendous dealing at every level of luxury from the cheapest of the cheap budget hotels all the way up to the fanciest of the fanciest.

HARLOW: And you know, what I love is from reading through this, you guys say you can haggle and go to the front desk or call and haggle.

MARKS: Oh, absolutely. You know, we've asked this question for years now when we do this survey every three years and we ask people did you try to negotiate a better rate? Remarkably, still after all this time, only around 35 percent of people actually bother to try to wrangle a better deal. But, among those who did try, 80 percent were rewarded with either a lower rate or a room upgrade, so it really pays to speak up.

HARLOW: And it also pays sometimes, you say, to be a minimum of these loyalty programs, just with airlines, right, I mean, whether it's Starwood, Hilton, what have you, it's worth it. It's going to save you?

MARKS: Well, it can save you in a lot of ways if you're a traveler who likes a particular brand. One, they're free to join, two, they entitle you to all sorts of perks. Many types you can be entitled to late check-in or late delivery -- late check-in or departure. And that's big, because hotel chains are nickel and diming consumers more than ever. If you get there a couple hours early and want to check in, they might charge you a day rate or half the regular I rate. Same thing if you were trying to leave later, so there are things like that. You get extra nights, you can get 15 percent off on any given stay, get one night, get a next night free, room upgrades, again, as part of these loyalty clubs, they're worth joining if you have a favorite.

HARLOW: What about the fees? Because you know you get a hotel rate quoted as something, you get a bill and it's a tax here, tax there, how do at least avoid the fees if you can't skip the taxes.

MARKS: Well, you can't skip the taxes. And somebody once told the reason, and I said, well why are these taxes so outrageous on hotel rooms, they can be upwards of 18, 19 percent, like being in a parking lot. And they said, simple reason, travelers don't vote. They don't live in the places that they stay, so they can't be outraged. So, that's how they balance their budget. But, with other types of fees, the reality is, you can probably get rid of them 10 to 20 percent of the time, on average.

HARLOW: Well, you're helping people keep that money in their pockets. Todd, thanks, we appreciate it.

MARKS: We're trying.

HARLOW: Thanks so much, Todd.

MARKS: You're welcome.

HARLOW: All right, up next, do it your home self improvements for 75 bucks or less.


HARLOW: All right, so what are you doing this weekend? Do you want to fix up your house just a little bit? It can make a big difference. Today we are going to help you spruce up your hard and not break the bank. The latest issue of "This Old House" magazine has some great tips, there, 75 home upgrades for $75 or less. The features editor, Amy Hughes is with us now.

Thanks for being here.

AMY HUGHES, THIS OLD HOUSE: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: It's just fun to look at all this, all this stuff.

HUGHES: It's a lot of color.

HARLOW: A lot of color, we like that heading into the summer. All right, paint, you can make a big difference with paint and it doesn't cost a lot, right?

HUGHES: Absolutely, we all know how we can use it inside the house, it just as big of an impact outside, too. Especially, we just did a -- we painted this swing with an exterior latex in a bright color. It's a cherry, apple red. It's really a fun swing as it is, this just adds more of a playful touch.

HARLOW: Made in the USA, of course.

HUGHES: Made in the USA.

HARLOW: You can paint your fence, make a big difference, right?

HUGHES: Any exterior woodwork, a garden gate, Adirondack chairs, even a picket fence.

HARLOW: And you can do it yourself. I mean, no need to bring in the professionals here, obviously.

HUGHES: No. And a quart of paint is $7.50 at Home Depot.

HARLOW: All right, and what about, this is a great, great mirror and this is for outside, right?

HUGHES: It's actually an interior mirror, but we're going to repurpose it for outdoor use.

HARLOW: Why not?

HUGHES: Yeah, and this was $60 at Pier 1. The great thing about it is if you hang a mirror like this on an exterior wall, especially in a smaller, enclosed space, it can really make the area seem much larger and spacious. It's leak hanging a window into, that you can look through, into another room.

HARLOW: I'm going to do that in my apartment, make it feel twice as big, because it's tiny. But, you can use this inside or outside. Also, these are pretty neat, I mean, these are sort of all-weather lights, right, and they're really attractive, but not just for parties.

HUGHES: Right, not just for parties. These are $15 a string, we got them at World Market. If you were to hang these up underneath your patio umbrella or wrap them around a overhanging branch in the backyard, they set great ambiance, mood lighting, that it's just great for alfresco dining.

HARLOW: And in terms of, I mean, you can keep these up, it's not like Christmas lights, you can keep them up all year round, right?

HUGHES: You can keep them up all season long. I wouldn't necessarily leave them for the year, but they are fine through the summer season.

HARLOW: OK, good, and then we've got some plant, you know, we've got this plant, here, and flowers make a big difference inside or outside. But what's better than cup flowers are these plants because they last.

HUGHES: Yes, they last and the nice thing too, is if you can take a few potted blooms and you know, on their own, they're very pretty, but grouped together they make a big impact. What we did was create shadow boxes out of leftover material. We're really good at reusing stuff at "This Old House." And we created shadow boxes out of fence pickets that we cut in half.

HARLOW: Look at them, they're great.

HUGHES: Yeah, and we then put them together, into these shadow boxes, we then hung on them on the wall and arranged the plants inside. It's a nice, no cost, big impact improvement.

HARLOW: And in terms of these flowers, I mean, they are not that expensive to get these plants, local farmer's market, it's a good place, right?

HUGHES: Absolutely, or you can repot something that you already have in your yard for no cost at all.

HARLOW: This is my favorite. All right, let's go to the mailbox. This is phenomenal. It's like mosaic work on your mailbox. I'm nervous that I could not do this.

HUGHES: Well, this is actually a very simple project and this is just a regular aluminum mailbox, you can use the one you already have and this is fun to get the kids involved. Again, we're reusing materials that we already had on hand. These are back splash tiles that we had from a kitchen project. Just apply an exterior grade, thin set mortar on the outside of the box, mount the tiles and the design you want. You can let the kids customize it, and then you grout it just as you would a shower enclosure or a kitchen back splash.

HARLOW: Great, this is wonderful. That's what I'm going to do this weekend.

HUGHES: Family fun.

HARLOW: Family fun. I'm going to attempt that. Amy, thank you.

HUGHES: Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Thanks for all the tips. All right, well, your mortgage or your rent, that is probably your biggest single expense every month. But, folks, what if you could live for free? We are not kidding, but there is a catch, because there's always a catch. We're going to give you more on that, straight ahead.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everybody. We want to bring you a bit of breaking news out of New York, right now. We understand there's been a ferry boat accident at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. We're just getting this word a few minutes ago. We know emergency crews are responding to the scene, there. Our crews are on the way, as well.

But, let me tell you what we do know, right now. In fact, Staten Island Ferry, of course this carries people across from Staten Island to Manhattan. We do know, as well, some injuries to report. We don't know the severity of those injuries. We did get some reports earlier of walking wounded, but still, not exactly sure of the extent, but some minor injuries we know have been reported, don't know how many just yet.

But again, you can see, kind of a hazy, I believe a bit of a rainy day there, in New York. We have seen a few accidents over the past several years. These do happen from time to time, but, again, this ferry accident took place at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. We're not sure what caused it, but apparently it ran into the terminal.

These ferries, of course, have to slow down several minutes before they actually get to the terminal and in the past, we have seen some accidents happen because just the timing was off a bit and sometimes the boats are in full throttle, don't slow down in time. But again, don't know hard of a crash this might have been. Also don't know how many people were on this particular ferry. These things go constantly during the year, millions and millions of people, 20 million people are carried during the year. Some 60,000 each week.

You can find, actually, per day, some 60,000 people actually get on these ferries and go back and forth. Those are weekday numbers I'm giving you, but still giving you an idea of just how many people are carried by these Staten Island ferries.

But again, a story we're just getting word on is that a Staten Island ferry has crashed into the terminal. People who are familiar with New York, familiar with the area, you don't even have to live there, necessarily or visit that often to know about these Staten Island Ferries that take people back and forth, day in, day out from Staten Island to the other -- to Manhattan, every single day.

They can carry vehicles, thousands of people, so these things are huge and have a lot of people on them. We don't know how many were on this one in particular, this morning. Again, it's about 10:00, we're coming upon, Eastern Time, in New York, here in Atlanta, our world headquarters, as well, but 10:00 Eastern Time, so this happened within the past, actually, few minutes or certainly within the past half hour or hour.

We're keeping an eye, just wanted to let you know about that breaking story. Some injuries reported after a Staten Island ferry ran into the terminal. We'll have much more on this in just a moment. Stay with us.

HARLOW: All right, folks, a little something free for you, this Saturday morning. Get this, there are places all over the country where you can live for free. Of course, there's always a catch, there's always a catch. Many of them are government-owned historic buildings. A lot of them are pretty nice located in Phoenix State Park.

So, what you can is you can actually become a resident curator, as they're called, and you can get long-term or lifelong leases on these properties with zero down payment, and believe it or not, no mortgage, either. If you look at a state like Massachusetts or Delaware or Indiana, they're really involved in these types of programs. And if you are interested, who wouldn't be, you can check your state park's Web site for more information on that one.

All right, that does it for us. We will be back here same time, same place, next week, for the show that saves you money. Also, don't miss Christine Romans and Ali Velshi on "YOUR MONEY" at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and tomorrow at 3:00. Right now, though, let's get you a check of your top stories with T.J. Holmes and Richelle Carey.

The CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.