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YOUR BOTTOM LINE

Gift Giving Gone Wrong; Financial Gifts to Give Yourself; Slow Employment Growth; Decreasing Home Prices; Baby Boomers Retirement Funds; Physical Shape Equals Financial Well-Being

Aired December 25, 2010 - 09:00   ET

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


CHRISTINE ROMANS, HOST: Merry Christmas, everyone. Hopefully you've had a great night's sleep and even better breakfast and you're set to spend the day with your loved ones.

For the next hour, though, we're your one-stop-shop Christmas survival guide from family matters to last-minute preps before the company arrives, from gifting ethics to the best financial gifts to give yourself. We've got you covered like those presents under the tree this morning. A very special edition of YOUR BOTTOM LINE starts right now.

So let's begin this morning with family. Where else? We want to start by welcoming part of our TV family, Carmen Wong-Ulrich is the author of the upcoming book "The Real Cost of Living," Sarah Humphrey is the executive editor of "Real Simple" magazine and Wendy Walsh is a psychologist and a blogger with momlogic.com.

Sarah, spending this time with your family can be extraordinarily stressful before you walk out the door. I mean, not my family, of course. (INAUDIBLE) watching television but when you walk out the door, you've got to be ready.

SARAH HUMPHREYS, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "REAL SIMPLE": You've got to be ready. Think about this, right? (INAUDIBLE) Before you actually sit down for your lunch or dinner, think about what's going to make you annoyed. Because things will obviously make you annoyed. We all regret when it comes to the holidays, you become who we are when we're kids. You know things will annoy you. You can't control people's behavior, but you can completely control how you react to it.

So just, you know, I know so-and-so's going to do this, I know so and so's going to do this. Take a deep breath, don't be surprised by it, just roll with the punches.

ROMANS: You can always control the way you react. My dad always says FIDO -- forget it, drive on. Forget it, drive on.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like that.

CARMEN WONG ULRICH, AUTHOR "THE REAL COST OF LIVING": And when you say take a deep breath, don't be afraid to kind of walk away. Stepping into the bathroom. Anything to just step away from it when you feel that rising in your chest of like, "I can't believe he said that, I can believe she said that." Take a minute, step away and focus on the kids much more than everyone else around. I find it best to kind of look down and focus on anyone down this level or this level.

WENDY WALSH, PSYCHOLOGIST: You're talking about distraction, and that is one way to deal with it. But you can also deal with what I call the great holiday time machine where you are strapped by some centrifugal force into your seat by these emotional binds from early life.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: What happened? We haven't worked out all of our childhood conflicts yet. They just haunt us forever. And we're either choosing the same conflicts in our adult relationships or we're facing them again at holidays.

ROMANS: It takes me two hours every Christmas to get back at my sister for wearing my clothes. But beyond that, you know, you have your whole family around you, hopefully seeing each other for the very first time. You say put on your public persona, Wendy. What does that mean?

WALSH: That means that when we're out in the real world, we never regress with our friends. We're certainly not doing it here in this table. So why can't we maintain that external public self that we've created? Why can't we do that at our holiday table? Why do we need to actually regress and turn into the child again?

ULRICH: And it's a little bit about detachment and disassociation. It's kind of, you know, a little coping mechanism that (INAUDIBLE) is that when your parents (INAUDIBLE) to understand more about your parents but also to kind of just put up a little bit of a filter, a little bit of a wall that lets you have that public persona, that you disassociate a little bit and look in the outside and as a guest as opposed to and it really gives you a lot better perspective.

ROMANS: And humor is very good.

ULRICH: Oh, yes.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: I want to talk about sort of some of the roles that people play. And there's one here. You know, there's always the constructive criticizer. You sort of broken this down and maybe not so constructive. Walk me through. What is the constructive criticism -- this could be the in-law, the parent who doesn't like the traditions or what you've cooked. You know, I always happen to use corn starch in my gravy, (INAUDIBLE) be yours is fine.

ULRICH: I think all of us have one, if it's not in your immediate family, someone married someone like that, OK and they're there. But here's something I find acknowledged and move on. That's what you do. Well, "thank you," move on. Open a conversation with somebody else. Kind of deflect things and move on. But acknowledge that person or else they are going to harp on you.

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: The whole thing is compassion. I'm a big believer in compassion and understanding that when someone is critical, they're actually feeling insecure. Yes, so understanding that what they're feeling is less than in that moment and they need a little love.

ROMANS: You've always done the gravy so well, but I want to try it like this. There's also the slacker and the martyr. The two completely different --

HUMPHREYS: We have both in my family.

ROMANS: Tell me about those.

HUMPHREYS: OK. So the slacker is the person who doesn't do anything. Doesn't lift a finger, doesn't set the table, doesn't clear the table. You know, here is what you need to do -- step back, take a deep breath, as you always do and say, you know what maybe they don't realize that we need help or maybe they're afraid to fail at what they're doing. You know, they fail at the task given to them.

You know if you're surrounded by perfectionists, you can tend to be a slacker because you're scared. So give that person a very specific job. Could you please heat up the rolls before Christmas dinner? You know, something very specific and easy that they can do and still feel good about. And you can feel achievable.

(CROSSTALK)

HUMPHREYS: The martyr is the opposite. Don't set them up to fail.

WALSH: Absolutely. Because then it's going to create that --

ROMANS: What about the martyr?

HUMPHREYS: The martyr is the one who does everything and wants you to know everything what she has done.

(CROSSTALK)

HUMPHREYS: I've baked 95 -- so, anyway --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's me.

HUMPHREYS: Well, I feel kind of personal.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're bonding on this one.

HUMPHREYS: What you want to do with that situation is say to the martyr, and that is why you deserve to relax tonight. Sit down, we will clear the table. If the martyr refuses, which she may do, at least you feel good that you've offered to help. ULRICH: What would make you feel better? Or what would make you -- what do you need right now? Because if you turn it around and -- what do you need right now?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That would make me feel good.

ULRICH: You're acknowledging that did they something but you're also saying "OK, what do you need pushing this aside --"

WALSH: Being a good martyr myself, I'll tell you all I ever need is --

ROMANS: That was great.

Thank you and a smile will go so far today. But it's also the nosey aunt where thank you and a smile is very difficult. That no matter where you are in your life, there's the nosey aunt. Why aren't you married? Why aren't you having babies: Are you pregnant? All of these questions, how do you deal with the nosey aunt?

ULRICH: OK. I'm just going to become the queen of deflecting. I mean, that's my strategy. My thing is, really, if somebody's bothering you and you get this question, if you have one child, when's the next one coming? If you just got married, when are you going to have a kid? (INAUDIBLE) very nosey. They don't know if you're having trouble conceiving and like that. That's a very sensitive issue. Well, you know, we'll see. So aunt so-and-so, what are you doing? Turn the things around for the focus is not on you because the focus makes you very uncomfortable. And the only way to get them to stop really is to kind of turn the focus away from you.

ROMANS: Exactly.

I forgot to do that. I'll put that on my list.

Thanks for your advice.

WALSH: You know what my trick there? I take it out of the personal and take it into a macro. You know, it's really interesting because I find that in your generation getting married early was so important and in my generation it's appearing to be less important. What are some of the factors why people are getting married later? And I Turn it into an intellectual discussion over cultural trends.

ROMANS: Everyone stick with us. We have a lot more to get through this hour on Christmas morning. But all the stress of family and the holidays, in general, family in general contends many of us to overindulge in the eating department. So if you're starting to bake right now, you're heading out to Christmas dinner later, this is for you, listen up.

Here to help us eat and drink healthy today is Keri Glassman, a registered dietitian and contributor to "Women's Health" magazine. Keri, we need you. It is the dawn of a new beautiful day where we are about to be tempted from top to bottom. Before you head out, you often get, you know, you get to the house, you're starving, you're thirsty. Tell me, what is the snack to have before I leave out of my front door? Before I even start cooking so that I am not tempted?

KERI GLASSMAN, REGISTERED DIETICIAN: Well, first of all, you want to start off with breakfast on Christmas morning. And you want to make sure you eat consistently throughout the day. And then absolutely have a snack before you do to that big Christmas meal to cut the hunger so you don't get there and you're not famished and you dive head first into all of those hors d'oeuvres around. So a great snack could be anything from two slices of turkey to a small handful of pistachios to even a hardboiled egg or a plain yogurt. But you need to have something to cut the hunger.

ROMANS: And that or run through the drive through before you get there because that defeats the entire purpose.

GLASSMAN: Of course, there'll be much better food than that.

ROMANS: There's a lot of appetizers, always. A lot of Christmas cookies, pigs in a blanket, bacon wrapped scallops, my personal favorite. I'm actually serving those for dinner this evening, before crab cakes and two other appetizer and then my filet mignon, my big roast beef for Christmas. What's the smart way to handle the appetizer table in particular?

GLASSMAN: Use the rule of three. Choose and look around, assess the situation, assess what appetizers and hors d'oeuvres are there. And choose the three that you absolutely cannot resist. Eat them slowly, indulge in them in a conscious manner so you're not eating mindlessly, you're eating mindfully. And then move on. So if it is that scalloped-wrapped bacon, enjoy it but then move on and choose just three.

ROMANS: And don't station yourself next to it on the buffet.

GLASSMAN: Absolutely. Move away, focus on the people, focus on the relatives unless they're giving you stress. Enjoy the people you're socializing with.

ROMANS: You know that we're going to have many people, not everyone but many people have a cocktail, beer, wine, champagne. You say if you're going to be imbibing today, go clear. Why does this advice help you so you don't have a headache tomorrow?

GLASSMAN: Exactly. Go clear. Because drinks like vodka and other liquor mixed with things like club soda are going to only cost you about 100 calories max. Where other drinks like a chocolate martini or an eggnog are going to be well over 300 calories. So stick with those clear beverages to reduce the calories slightly.

ROMANS: Nothing says Christmas like a chocolate martini, you know? Maybe two. Look, if you're baking because you're the hostess or want to give baked goods for your host to enjoy later, you say it's safer and smarter on your waistline to clean as you go. What do you mean by that? GLASSMAN: Absolutely. Because too many people end up with their tongue wrapped around the cookie dough bowl before you're even eating the cookies baked. And we know that a tablespoon of cookie dough here and a tablespoon there is going to add up to hundreds and hundreds of calories.

So have a pan of warm water and dish fluid ready to go. So you just take the bowl, you take the tray, and you throw it right in so you're not tempted to lick as you go.

ROMANS: And you know what? Put them up, package them up, put them in the little tin, close the tin, move it away so you're not snacking one here and there while you're moving on to make the next thing.

GLASSMAN: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Keri Glassman, thank you so much.

GLASSMAN: You're welcome.

ROMANS: I think you saved me a few hundred calories today. I appreciate it.

GLASSMAN: You want to enjoy, but just save a few. Feel a little better tomorrow morning. Merry Christmas.

ROMANS: Merry Christmas to you. Thanks, Keri.

GLASSMAN: You're welcome.

ROMANS: If you ask my kids, Christmas is all about the presents and Santa and the chimney and all that. Still trying to sort out how that works. We've all gotten the mushy fruitcake, the gaudy sweater, up next, we're going to make sure you're not the one giving those lousy gifts. And if you get one, we're going to show you how to get rid of it the right way.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She wrapped up her damn cat.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That's a classic Christmas movie "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." Hopefully you won't get a gift like that and hopefully you'll spend a little more time trying to figure out what to give rather than wrapping up the family pet. But what do you do if you forgot someone on your list? You got a gift you don't like and you're thinking about re-gifting.

All right. Here are all the rules for gifts this holiday. Carmen, Sarah, and Wendy are back to talk about gift-giving ethics. Carmen, if you're using a credit card, people are going to spend more like $78 more they're going to spend this year than last year. And most people say they're going to pay off their holiday debt by the end of January. I mean, that's -- look, that's good intentions. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions?

ULRICH: Exactly.

ROMANS: What do we do to make sure we haven't overdone it. And if it's Christmas morning, you have overdone it. What do we do?

ULRICH: Right. Listen, it's time to get austere. You really, really have to cut down. And January's going to be your time where you've indulged now, you're going to cut out some perks. You're going to cut out a couple nights out, you're going to cut out a couple of mani/pedis. Whatever it's going to take (INAUDIBLE) to pay this off. And you have to give yourself a drop dead deadline.

ROMANS: Right.

ULRICH: You got to give yourself a deadline to paying that off. Because so many people say they're going to pay it off and they drag it out throughout the whole year.

ROMANS: Let's talk about re-gifting, Sarah. Because -- Is it OK to give a gift that you got from somebody else?

HUMPHREYS: It's OK.

ROMANS: It's OK.

But there are rules.

(CROSSTALK)

HUMPHREYS: There are some very strict rules, though. You can't just give anything THAT you've gotten. So a couple OF things. First of all, make sure that the recipient you're giving never knows the person who gave you the gift in the first place. They can have no overlap because you never know what's going to happen, right? (INAUDIBLE) The other thing is, make sure the gift is not opened. It looks new. It looks new. It can't be opened and taped shut or, you know, that box --

And another thing is make sure, it's a gift you would give to the person. Something you really would give to them otherwise and you just happen to have it already.

WALSH: I think the biggest gift and the best gift is the gift of time. Give gift certificates for a free night of babysitting to a couple with a new baby. Offer to, an elderly person to do their laundry or do the grocery shopping for them, if it's a grandmother. And you can wrap that up. You can make a beautiful gift (INAUDIBLE) in your computer.

ROMANS: Right.

WALSH: This year I started in November actually making home preserves. My old grandma's pickles and soups and sauces, I've still got them in the fridge. And for those that I've forgotten, they can now be a new year's gift.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need a babysitter.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's a great thing to give.

HUMPHREYS: Just make sure you follow through. I think it's very easy to say I I'm going to baby-sit for your kids in a month.

ULRICH: In January --

(CROSSTALK)

WALSH: Put an expiration date. Because they're often afraid to make good on that offer and call you.

ROMANS: It's very recession-friendly. I think that's a really great thing. A record number of people are saying they don't have a job right now and so that's the kind of thing you can give really be helpful.

How do you tactfully give money especially to family, close friends, for a gift?

ULRICH: Well, I guess, culturally in my family, (INAUDIBLE) that's very normal. It's very normal to give cash for the holidays. It's actually uncouth to show up with a present. What am I going to do with this? Why didn't you give me money? I've gotten that, trust me.

ROMANS: Give me money.

ULRICH: It really depends on family. And giving a gift, for example, even if you're not Asian, go get a little Chinese, the red envelopes that are so sweet. And really kind of nice package the money in such a way. And really think about how much can you give? Because, of course, tipping is something very important. Within families, there's a lot of us our families are suffering at different levels.

ROMANS: Culturally in my family, giving money was never a couth.

ULRICH: Right.

ROMANS: We didn't really give money. But my grandmother started giving what she would've given for the Christmas gifts for the grandchildren to the great grandchildren to a 529 plan, a college savings plan.

ULRICH: Very good idea.

ROMANS: That's something that's going to give back in 20 years from now. We're going to still be thanking grandma for that gift which you can't say about an imported plastic toy.

WALSH: I was at a bank before Christmas. And when I was taking out money for my Christmas travels, they said do you want clean new bills for gifts? That's one of the things. If you give money, make sure it's a brand new $50 or brand $100 and I also include a little chocolate or candy with it too.

ROMANS: To make it a little bit personal. What about you, Sarah. You've receive a hideous sweater.

HUMPHREYS: I can't even imagine.

ROMANS: Your husband has received a terrible tie for the fourth year in the row from the same person who is always giving him the tie. And somehow they think that he likes that terrible tie. This is not a case of -- real life case, of course. How do you handle that?

HUMPHREYS: Well, if you've gotten a gift receipt, you're obviously good to go. You can return it.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: But the person who gives the terrible tie never gives (INAUDIBLE).

HUMPHREYS: That's true.

(CROSSTALK)

HUMPHREY'S: So one thing you can do is really just say to the person, thank you so much for this sweater. I love it. But you know what? I actually could use this year? A cardigan. It's easier to take off and on when I'm cold or hot in my office. Would you mind terribly if I return it for a cardigan? Just kind of give, you should ask, you know. I think that's the best thing to do. If you think they're going to be offended, you can try to get away of trying to return it and just not let them know. But I think --

WALSH: I would avoid hurting their feelings and I would find a really good family in need who could use a great sweater. I'm a big giver to, you know, local -- St. Joseph Center is where I go to. But local places.

ROMANS: To quote my father, "forget it , drive on." Just forget it. Thank you, everyone, so much. Carmen, Sarah, and Wendy, Thank you very much, Wendy, very nice to meet you.

All this talk about bad gifts, chances are you're getting to be getting one or two. Improve your chances of getting full store credit or your money back for your gift by bringing along the sales slip or gift receipt. Return the item in mint condition unopened with all the packaging material. If you encounter a problem retuning a gift, contact the store manager or customer service department first. Fight those restocking fees. Power to the people.

If you can't resolve the problem at a store, a complaint can be filed with your state attorney general's office or your local consumer agency.

We've been so caught up in gifts for everyone else, we can't forget about ourselves. Up next, how to give yourself the gift of financial improvement in the new year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: A majority of Americans admit they plan to splurge. Not on friends and family, oh, no, but on themselves this holiday season. It's OK. You can admit it. 57 percent of consumers plan to spend more than $100 on themselves. This is according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

But the best gift you can give yourself is the gift of financial well being, right? Our good friend Ryan Mack has some ideas on how to accomplish that in the new year. Also still with us Carmen Wong- Ulrich.

Look, you got to pay down debt. Both of you, I know you both agree on this. And I've been saying this for months. If you have found money, if you have money to spend, if you're going to give yourself any kind of gift, Ryan, it has to be to start paying off your high-interest credit card debt first.

RYAN MACK, PRESIDENT, OPTIMUM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: Yes, well, definitely. I mean, individuals at least say in previous segments that as much as $78 have been spent this holiday season so we might have (INAUDIBLE) absolutely. We might have a little recovery time to do. What we've done better this season, 10 percent less acquired debt this season than before. People using more debit and more cash.

But some of the thing that you should do after you start paying down your debt, look at your state plan. Have you invested in some will, a living will, healthcare policy, powers of attorney? Have you looked at what type of insurance you can have to mitigate your risk? Have you looked out to see, put a budget together in your household to see exactly how much you're spending to see exactly what your surplus is?

I think the 2011 new year's resolution should be I'm going to do my own personal financial statement to see exactly what my net worth is moving forward so we can see exactly how much on paper and six months from the day after we start putting money in that savings account, make sure we have more --

(CROSSTALK)

ROMANS: And doing that is not just a new year's resolution, I mean, the thing is you got to watch what you're spending for a full 30 days.

MACK: Yes.

ROMANS: And then you have to start making the budget the next 30 days when you should dedicate your first quarter of the year to figure out what's coming in, what's going out. Savings incredible key. MACK: Absolutely.

ROMANS: Tell me about that.

MACK: Well, we need to have at least six to nine months of living expenses. I used to say as much as three to six months of living expenses but the simple fact that the emergency fund has been so imperative in making sure that if we lose your job, if you have a leaky roof, if you have to get your car repaired, all of these things, individual unemployment is still a very prevalent problem. We don't have a lot of liquidity in this economy. So credit card is hurting a lot of individuals.

ULRICH: It's really, really hard. You know, sometimes, it's much harder to get a job. That's why the emergency fund have become so important and so much bigger because it takes that much longer to get a job.

ROMANS: Three months used to --

ULRICH: Can you imagine?

ROMANS: Not when you're going 30 weeks unemployed before the average person is finding a job. You need to have 30 weeks, at least, of living expenses.

MACK: Make mole hills of your mountain. A lot of individuals -- let's say if your emergency fund is $12,000, don't look at it as trying to save $12,000, let's look at it saving $1,000 12 times or $500 24 times and so forth so we can start making our goals more manageable.

ROMANS: There's another way to think about trying to beef up your 401(k).

MACK: Yes.

ROMANS: Put more money in your 401(k). You don't have to say there's no way I can put away $16,500.

ULRICH: You can't. If you think about too big of a picture, right, it can be intimidating.

ROMANS: You can do automatic increases, your 401(k) provider's probably going to have something to help you to get over the --

ULRICH: Yes, a little bit of at a time.

ROMANS: One percent this six months, one percent the next six months putting more money in. Just to say a little bit about, you know, how to budget and getting motivated this year, making this year the time you budget.

It's kind of like a diet. It has to be a lifestyle change. It's a commitment. If you want to stay at that weight for the rest of your life, this is a commitment for the rest of your life. The same thing with money. You have to figure out what is it? What are you? type of money person are you that you can change the way you treat your money, whether it's envelopes online. This is a place where you could go and put virtual envelopes in the budget. That sort of thing.

Use tools to help you but know thyself. Know how you function and how you work so you know just like how you eat, what do you like the most? What don't you do best? So that's what you can improve on.

ROMANS: Also, if you think it's impossible to put more money away in your 401(k) this year, you think you are using every dollar that's in your paycheck, you cannot put more away.

Remember you're going to get more money in your paycheck this year because of the payroll tax holiday from the tax bill that was just signed. So somebody who makes $40,000 a year, you're going to get $800 extra this year. Think about putting that towards your retirement. You can find it that way.

Ryan Mack, Carmen Wong-Ulrich, thanks to both you.

Some of the best gifts this year could also expose you to some very real dangers. What they are, plus how to protect yourself and your family next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: No matter what you think, your private information is not safe online. Just look what happened to CNNMoney's Poppy Harlow when she decided to turn the focus on her.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

POPPY HARLOW, CNNMONEY.COM (voice-over): Every day, millions of Americans are getting their backgrounds checked and their private information collected. If you're online, and especially if you're on social networking sites, your privacy is at risk.

Yes, I'm a public person. I report on television and I report online. But personally, I'm a very private person.

(on camera): So I did something I've never done before, I put myself right in this story to try to find out just how much information is out there about me.

(voice-over): We gave Michael Fertik, the founder of Reputation Defender, my name and e-mail address. His company dug around to see what they could find.

MICHAEL FERTIK, REPUTATION DEFENDER: You're a very private person, and the average person, the average viewer is going to be much less private than you, especially in social media. They don't know they've been opted in by the machine. Even you has been opted in such a way that the system can find out very deeply personal and private information about you, some of which you're not willing to share on the air.

HARLOW: He's exactly right. They pulled information about my family's health history, that my father passed away at 49 from cancer and other issues just too personal to share. And --

FERTIK: Your religion, we believe, and seemed to be right, that you are Episcopalian.

HARLOW (on camera): Right.

FERTIK: Which is not something you advertise.

HARLOW (voice-over): They also got my parents' names, my college education, and whether or not I was married or not. But on other things they were wrong, like my salary, current address and phone number. And here's what shocked me, Reputation Defender came back with words on the Internet associated with me. They say it's just because these are things I've reported on as a journalist. But the bottom line, whether the information out there is correct or incorrect, it's being used to make decisions about you.

FERTIK: Whether they want to hire you, fire you, date you, market to you, sell to you, insure you or not. The important lesson to take away is that it would be very easy for a machine to make a mistake about who Poppy Harlow is.

HARLOW: We should know that Reputation Defender did this report as an experiment. The company actually operates solely to protect people's information on the Web.

FERTIK: Anything you share on any kind of social media can and will find its way into a data base and ultimately into a score that is going to be the basis of major life decisions about you.

HARLOW (on camera): It's going to define you.

FERTIK: It's going to define you forever.

HARLOW (voice-over): This turned out to be much more personal than I expected. In some ways, it was invasive. But what it showed me is just how much personal information is out there, true and untrue, and many of us have no idea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: And Poppy's with me now.

You know, people don't realize that their information is stored, first of all, in thousands of places. If I buy a pair of shoes and that information is stored, a lot of it. This story troubled you, but they didn't find your Social Security number.

HARLOW: They didn't. It troubled me so much we were talking before -- I almost didn't do it because I am so private and I thought what's the benefit here? But the benefit is showing people just what's out there. They weren't able to find my Social Security number, which they were surprised by. I guess they can find it for most people and they said that's because the disconnect was that I don't have a personal Facebook page, I don't have a lot of social networking sites that I'm a member of, so I don't put a lot -- or almost any of my personal information out there. That was the disconnect, Christine. And the fact that that is so important, that that can secure someone from not having their Social Security number out there, that was critical.

ROMANS: This is Poppy Harlow, Poppy Harlow who all of those words associated to you because you've written these stories before.

HARLOW: Right.

ROMANS: But he said that the average viewer even more information is going to be available.

HARLOW: Much more information. He said, Reputation Defender said, looking at me I was the most private person they'd ever tried to dig into to find this information about. The bottom line here is they believe, this company is based on being able to keep your private information private. You pay this company to take things off the Web. So they believe that this is happening on a mass scale in the future that health insurance companies are looking at this, employers are looking at this. What it means is that, just do the math. What's the value add of putting any information about yourself online?

ROMANS: So that's the advice. The advice is, why am I putting this out there --

HARLOW: Why am I doing it? Who can see it? Another piece of advice is spend the time, 10 minutes, really read the privacy agreement. Why not? Because if you're agreeing to terms online, then you've agreed to them forever and if you don't really agree with what they mean, it can change your life.

ROMANS: All right. Poppy Harlow, thanks. Important advice, especially since we're getting so many of those gadgets under the tree this morning and we've embraced technology, but it's very, very important to recognize how far your information is spreading.

From spreading the word on safety to spreading holiday cheer. Meet a CNN Hero providing the best gift of all this holiday season. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Tonight, you can catch an encore presentation CNN HEROES, AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE, hosted by our own Anderson Cooper where we'll honor 10 remarkable individuals making a difference. One of those CNN Heroes, Dan Wallrath, turned his retirement plans into a new life of service, serving the honorable men and women who fight for this country, he builds custom homes for free when injured veterans finally come home.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SGT ALEXANDER REYES, U.S. ARMY: Baghdad ended up being a hell of a ride. I sustained a very severe blast injury. My life just came to a complete halt.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing? How's everything? You look sharp today.

REYES: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been building custom homes for 30 years. One of the most important things for a family is a home.

I want you to read a sign for me.

REYES: Future home of Sergeant Alexander Reyes, United States Army.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations.

Giving these folks a new home means the world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just thank you. That's all I can say.

DAN WALLRATH, CNN HERO OF THE WEEK: My name is Dan Wallrath. Five years ago, I had a friend of mine call me. A friend of his, his son had been injured in Iraq.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the day after he graduated from boot camp.

WALLRATH: And he showed me some pictures. His son was a big strapping Marine. Then he showed me pictures of Steven in the hospital. It just broke my heart.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Steven was wheelchair-bound. We were going to have to remodel. I had no idea how I was going to pay for it. Dan just said we're going to take care of it.

WALLRATH: We remodeled that home, and I realized this is not an isolated case. So, I went back to my builder buddies and said we've got to do something.

We build homes for returning heroes from Iraq and Afghanistan. The houses are mortgage-free. It changes the whole family's life. It gives them just a new start so that they can move forward.

These young men and women are doing this for you and me. How can I not help them?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: And we're delighted to have Dan with us from his hometown of Houston.

Dan, I got to tell you. This is what I love about this country. Because Americans are people who want to -- see a problem and want to fix it. And that's exactly what happened. You saw a problem and you said I'm going to go to my builder buddies and we're going to fix it. Why did this start with one home and build into more than that now? What has been the kernel for you that's been driving this?

WALLRATH: Well Christine, the -- first of all, Merry Christmas.

ROMANS: Thank you.

WALLRATH: And -- the -- this has just been something that I truly feel that God is calling me to do and when that first -- with Steven, the first incident we had to be exposed to what these young men were going through, it just changed my life. And we knew we had to do something. And, you know, God has led the way and he's changed a lot of lives so far with these new homes.

ROMANS: The cost to build a house from the ground, it can be costly. These are what $250,000 homes, $300,000 homes, custom homes, you have to do special adaptations to ensure wheelchairs can get in here, there's wide enough doors for any kind of -- whatever the situation is of the soldier who is coming home and his family. You're able to do it a fraction out the cost, though because of other peoples' generosity. Tell me a little bit about that.

WALLRATH: Well, the way our program works is that we -- being a builder for 30 years, have the connections with the suppliers and manufacturers and what we do is reach out to those folks first. And try to solicit enough materials and things to build a home. And then we have fundraisers and raise -- try to raise enough money to pay for the labor and other incidentals that we occur to build a home. And we go through our home builders associations throughout the country and we get them to solicit their help and the program works. It's catching on all over and, we're just -- couldn't be happier that we're --

ROMANS: There's no mortgage on these homes. You're giving these homes no mortgage on them. I mean, this is a gift to these people and their families. You pay taxes and insurance for two years to help them get on their feet. How many of these have you built so far? How many are you working on right now?

WALLRATH: Well, we've -- I think we've completed 13 and we're working on another 14, I think it is, right now. And they're scattered all over the United States from Illinois to North Carolina and just different places, so it's real exciting.

ROMANS: Exciting. And Dan, is it fair to say that you see a little bit of yourself in these veterans? I mean, I know that you told our Heroes folks and you said that you -- you know, you came from a childhood where there was some abuse and substance abuse and there are two ways that can go. I mean, that can go you fall into the cycle or you just fall under the, you know, under the heat of a bad situation or turn it around. And you see these guys turning things around too.

WALLRATH: Absolutely. And -- you know, right now there's a Hollywood production company that's making a movie about our family's life, right now. And it's -- that's what it's about. You can take these circumstances and you can either let them drag you down and fall into a pit where you can't get out, or you learn from these circumstances, just like these young men and you move forward and in spite of their handicaps, in spite of their injuries, you know, they're moving forward and all we want to do is give them a hand up not a handout.

ROMANS: Well, on behalf of CNN and all of our viewers, thank you for extending that hand, because you are, you're changing lives. And Merry Christmas to you, Dan Wallrath at your family. Thank you so much for joining us, today.

WALLRATH: Well, thank you, and Merry Christmas.

ROMANS: Tonight's airing of "HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE, just part of the special programming we've got in store for you, here today, on CNN.

Also on the menu at 4:00 p.m., "GIVING IN FOCUS," CNN photojournalists are look at traditional ways people are giving their time, their resources, and their love. And at 5:00 p.m., big stars, big giving, or very own Alina Cho takes a look at celebrity philanthropy and how some big stars are making an impact. It's not all about getting today, folks, it's about giving, too.

Safety, safety, and safety. Simple steps you can take right now to keep your family and friends safe at your Christmas dinner. That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Everyone wants their home to be comfortable and welcoming at holiday time, but as guests come in, you want them to have a good time and be safe. Danny Lipford is a home improvement expert and host of "Today's Homeowner with Danny Lipford."

Welcome to the program. Merry Christmas.

DANNY LIPFORD, HOME IMPROVEMENT EXPERT: Hey, thank you very much. Merry Christmas.

ROMANS: OK, first thing, the door knocker, you've got people coming to your house. You've got to make sure your hinges, door knocker, everything is in shipshape condition.

LIPFORD: Right.

ROMANS: Especially, a lot of people, you say, come in the side door. You might not even know you're not ready there.

LIPFORD: Right, well, so many people do use the side door for guests and that kind of thing, but during the holidays, they may be coming to your front door, don't be embarrassed but a squeaky door or a lock that does not work very well. that can happen and all you have to do is spray it with a dry lubricant. This one from Liquid Wrench is pretty cool because it doesn't have all of the residue that drips down like a lot of the multi-purpose type things, so you can quiet it down, the lock will work better. All of those things are important with all those guests coming over.

ROMANS: And the indoor air quality, now's the time to take a look at your filter, your furnace filter.

LIPFORD: Absolutely. And whether it's for parties or families, spend time inside this time of year, this is the best way to really capture the particles and the contaminants that you have floating around in the house. And I wouldn't recommend getting one of those cheap filters from the grocery store that's $1 or $2, they're completely worthless. This one is only about 15 or $18 and it's electrostatic and it's a heck of a lot better.

ROMANS: It makes a difference.

LIPFORD: Yes. And you only have to change this every three months. And to emphasize how important that is, every cubic foot of air you have in your house is going through this filter four times per hour, so it shows you how you can really improve the air quality, plus if you want a little nice fragrance, put a little vanilla extract on it or even some pine oil and it'll smell like a fresh pine tree all throughout the house.

ROMANS: Danny Lipford or Martha Stewart? Christmas morning, for you.

LIPFORD: Oh boy.

ROMANS: No, and two things that you and I both, besides wearing red on Christmas morning, we both have found that we are simpatico on, the wonders of water and vinegar.

LIPFORD: I'll tell you why.

ROMANS: Water and vinegar in a spray bottle, this is where you need to be -- your windows, your doors, this is how a lot of people are going to be coming in and out.

LIPFORD: Exactly. Now's the time just to go ahead and clean all the mirrors in your house or maybe you have some glass around your front door, make sure you clean it up well. Simple newspaper, a little water and vinegar, it really does --

ROMANS: It's cheap.

LIPFORD: It's very inexpensive and you can use it for all kinds of things around the house.

ROMANS: Tell me about the one for the garbage disposal. This is a free one.

LIPFORD: Oh yes, this is pretty cool. You put that in some ice trays, make ice cubes out of vinegar, put it down your garbage disposal, turn it on it cleans it and makes it smell a lot better.

ROMANS: I love that. I love that. OK, silicone spray, that's a very good one.

LIPFORD: I'll tell you, this is great for a lot of different things. One thing is if you're out there shoveling away on the snow, spray your snow shovel first with the Liquid Wrench silicone spray and it'll keep all of that wet, ice, and snow from gathering on your shovel and you're not shoveling quite so much.

ROMANS: It's clean like a knife as you're going through.

LIPFORD: It's much, much easier and also if you're doing things like candles, where you get candle wax going down, if you spray it ahead of time with the silicone spray, then it peels off, it cleans up very, very easy. A lot -- this is really a good way --

ROMANS: This is like handyman party prep. I like it.

LIPFORD: It is, and it is very inexpensive. All these kind of things are very cheap.

ROMANS: The ceiling fan, now. This is time of year you're supposed to switch to the clockwise, counter-clockwise? Which way makes the warm air move?

LIPFORD: OK, always think about it as you're looking up during the wintertime, it should be going clockwise and basically that's pushing the heat up against the ceiling, wrapping it around the walls and returning it so that whether you have your guests over your family gathering, it's a lot more even heat , you're saving money and it's just a real easy way to distribute that heat that's hanging up there above your head.

ROMANS: Yes, we like saving money. We also like the fact that you can anger your neighbor's malpractice attorney by making sure that your front steps are properly deiced before you have all those people coming over, right?

LIPFORD: Well, it is a good way of prepping before the ice hits.

ROMANS: No offence to attorneys, of course, of course, but you know, you want to be safe.

LIPFORD: But if you can think about that before you have that freezing weather and use a deicer on you main path into your house, then ice and the snow just won't form as much, and it makes it very easier to use your shovel that you sprayed with silicone spray to clean everything up.

ROMANS: I love it. Danny Lipford, thank you so much for dropping by. Merry Christmas to you.

LIPFORD: Same to you.

ROMANS: And happy New Year as well.

I don't have to tell you that eating healthy this time of year is tough, today in particular, but you can start, after today, of course, and you don't have to spend a lot of money doing it, we'll explain, with help from a furry little friend. Well there's my friend.

ROSITA, SESAME STREET: Hi.

ROMANS: Good morning and Merry Christmas.

ROSITA: Good morning and Merry Christmas to you too. Look, they're fluffing my hair.

ROMANS: Oh, I love it. Getting ready in hair and makeup, waiting for my biggest interview of the year, that's coming up next.

ROSITA: Oh wow, I'm so important.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GROVER, SESAME STREET: I am starting to feel better already. You were right, eating a healthy breakfast really did do the trick. I think I am strong enough to lift that suitcase, now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: That was a clip from "Sesame Street's" latest initiative, Jeanette Betancourt is here to talk about it, straight from the Sesame Workshop, Dr. Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for Outreach and Educational Practices. And you kids probably recognize my friend, Rosita --

ROSITA, MUPPET: Hola, kids.

ROMANS: -- from "Sesame Street."

Welcome to the program and Merry Christmas to both of you. It's such an incredibly important topic on a day of excess like today, to talk about the one in four children in this country, Dr. Betancourt, who don't have the food requirements everyday to actually have the nutrition that they need. This, you call an "invisible crisis."

JEANETTE BETANCOURT, SESAME WORKSHOP: We do, we call it an invisible crisis, because it's really the number of children the kids that don't have access to nutritious food on a consistent basis and it's really a shame that we don't as much about the number of children and families that are impacted.

ROMANS: So, what are you and Rosita and "Sesame Street," what are you trying to do to change this, to bring awareness to this?

BETANCOURT: We're doing a couple of things. We're bringing awareness, first, to the topic and the number of children and families impacted, but more importantly, we are giving wonderful tools, such creating a kit and an entire initiative, really, around food and security and helping families, really, understand ways that they can get access to nutritious food and also reduce the stigma of food insecurity. ROMANS: Rosita, how does it make you feel that there are children out there in this country, the biggest country, most prosperous country in the world, don't have enough food to eat?

ROSITA: Well, you know, I was sad to know that there was hungry kids like. You know, I'm not hungry, but there were some kids out there. But, I met some superfoods and the doctor here told me there is ways for kids that don't have access to healthy foods and stuff, that there are ways of getting food. Right, there's some (INAUDIBLE) foods.

BETANCOURT: Yes, and also, Rosita, you learned about healthy snacks. Do you want to talk about your healthy snacks.

ROSITA: I have new friends. I have the "Super foods" and it was a broccoli and it was a banana and, and, and what else? It was --

BETANCOURT: You had a whole wheat bun and also low fat cheese.

ROSITA: Oh yes, and I find out that those foods are all-time foods and snacks.

ROMANS: So how, Rosita, do you choose those foods for a snack, and not something that's easy and quick like maybe fast food or a piece of pizza or potato chips or something that may have a lot of sugar in it?

ROSITA: Well, my mommy gives me those foods and they makes it a plate, and makes it fun for me and she says that they are the colors of the rainbow. And I love that, because, you know what, they give me a lot of energy. Yes.

ROMANS: Just like Grover. Grover, in that clip we showed.

BETANCOURT: Grover learned a very valuable lesson, right Rosita?

ROSITA: Yes, he did.

BETANCOURT: What did he learn? He learned that breakfast is the most important meal.

ROSITA: Important meal of the day.

BETANCOURT: That's right.

ROSITA: And you know what I also like? You know what I like?

ROMANS: What? Tell me.

ROSITA: To eat with my family. To eat together, all together.

ROMANS: That is incredibly important for parents watching, right now, Dr. Betancourt, that you need to sit down and have a meal everyday with your kids. You are their role model and you also need to be there, supervising what they are eating. BETANCOURT: It is not only the supervision but also that important time as a family. And sometimes there's a little bit misconception about mealtime, that it always has to be dinnertime. And the point is it could be anytime. It could be breakfast --

ROMANS: Because of busy schedules, breakfast, it could be lunch.

ROSITA: And my mommy told me that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

ROMANS: I also heard a story, Rosita, that you and Elmo, both tried new foods and you were surprised by the results?

ROSITA: Well, sometimes, you know, the first time is not, you know, the best.

ROMANS: What did you try? What did you try?

ROSITA: I try broccoli. I have to say that the first time I try broccoli and it took me a little while, just a little while to like it, but then, I tried it again and you know what, now, broccoli is my favorite vegetable, I have to say.

ROMANS: And it makes your plate part of the rainbow, like you say. Not just all one color, the color of French fries and chicken nuggets.

ROSITA: And you know what I like to do. I put all of my broccoli on the plate and I pretend it's a, it's like a forest, because they look like trees.

ROMANS: The president has recently signed, you know, some legislation or a push to -- gotten behind a push to make our school lunches more health. The first lady has pushed, "Get Out and Move," you know, getting us out there and having kids become more active. But how do we help the kids do this, too? There's only so much as a parent or a teacher or an adult you can do.

BETANCOURT: I think it's the valuable of this initiative, because it's talking to both children and adult, alike, so when you see Elmo trying a kiwi for the first time, or Rosita talking about healthy snacks or the importance of breakfast, you have these wonderful role models and words that you can share, both as adults and children, alike. It's also the role modeling we have as parents, the more that we show nutritious eating, the better.

ROSITA: Well, if I can do it, they can do it, you can do.

ROMANS: That's right, Rosita. Merry Christmas, Rosita.

ROSITA: Oh, Feliz Navidad. I am so excited to be here on Navidad.

BETANCOURT: (speaking foreign language)

ROSITA: Yes, Feliz Navidad (INAUDIBLE). ROMANS: Oh, beautiful. Thank you so much for joining us. And best of luck to you and the Sesame Workshop on this incredible project. We really appreciate you coming by and Merry Christmas to everybody.

Again, my biggest interview of the year. I am a bit star struck.

That's going to wrap things up for us this morning, but coming up at 1:00 Eastern, a special edition of "YOUR MONEY: Smart is the New Rich." Listen, with so much out of your control, going to boil it down for you into what you can control of your money for the New Year, everything related to your house, you job, you savings and you debt, so stay tuned.

Time now, though, to send it back down to CNN Center for more "CNN SATURDAY" and this morning's latest news.

Merry Christmas, everyone.