On Your Bottom Line

We have the best advice on getting out of debt, finding jobs, securing a better mortgage, saving for college, paying off student loans, managing your retirement dollars, and a whole lot more.
August 4th, 2012
09:53 AM ET
August 3rd, 2012
09:29 AM ET

Explore the July jobs report

Businesses stepped up their hiring in July, but the unemployment rate ticked higher anyway.
Employers said they added 163,000 jobs in the month, according to a Labor Department report released Friday, much better than the 95,000 jobs economists had forecast.
But at the same time, the unemployment rate unexpectedly rose to 8.3% as households claimed they lost 195,000 jobs.

Read more from CNNMoney

Explore the jobs report on your own! Click the infographic to expand.

Designer: Samira Khoshnood

Filed under: State of Your Job • Web Extra
July 31st, 2012
02:55 PM ET
June 11th, 2012
09:42 AM ET

Fact check: Is the private sector "doing fine"?

Six words that launched a weekend of politicking: "The Private Sector is Doing Fine."

His opponents called him tone deaf and out of touch. The president and his team furiously backtracked and hit back. Forget the politics, let's look at three gauges of health.

Jobs, profits, and business loans.

The White House says the private sector has created 4.3 million jobs over the past 27 months. Correct. But economists say a healthy, growing economy should have created more. University of Maryland economist Peter Morici says we should have created 4 to 5 times as many jobs. And over the past two years, the largest U.S. companies added jobs overseas at three times the pace they added jobs here in the U.S.

How about profit? Corporate profits have risen 58 percent since mid-2009. So yes, big companies are making money. But they're putting it right into the bank, not back into the economy. The Federal Reserve says companies had $1.74 trillion dollars in the bank at the end of March. Twice what is normal.

And finally - businesses need loans to grow. Since the end of the recession, loan growth has been historically weak, and small businesses have bitterly complained that they can’t get the loans they need to expand.
The private sector is not a homogeneous monolith. It’s everything from General Electric all the way down to your local electrician. Depending on where the business is, how much exposure it has to credit, and how robust its demand is, there remains unprecedented uncertainty since the end of the recession.

Filed under: Web Extra
May 25th, 2012
04:21 PM ET

Buyers are picky: 5 steps to stage your house for sale

By Christine Romans

Housing is healing.

The spring real-estate selling season is well underway and in hot zip codes multiple offers are back. (This time it looks real, not the typical Realtor self-interest "this-is-the-bottom" mantra. Home prices are up 10% year-over-year and sales are up, too.

Four years after the recession, Americans are on the move again - for jobs, to retire, to get married, or just to move. Interest rates are at record lows and buyers are coming back. But they are picky. And they have a lot of inventory to choose from. When you are getting ready to sell, you've got to make the price and the product look better than the neighbor's.

1. Take one piece of furniture out of each room
Jack Otter, author of Worth It... Not Worth It? (Business Plus, 2012), says if you've been in the house more than ten years, consider taking two pieces of furniture out of every room. Clutter is your worst enemy.

2. Put away personal stuff
The last thing you want during an open house is potential buyers distracted by looking at your diploma, your baby's pictures, or the kitchen bulletin board with all your bills and to-do lists. Scott Nooner is a New Jersey seller who had more than 100 people go through his recent open house. He put everything personal in the basement, but was still surprised to see that potential buyers had opened his books and desk drawers. Assume these buyers will touch and open everything. You want their eyes focused on the house, not the homeowners.

3. Decorate in threes
Strip all the surfaces clean of knick-knacks, and then gather pretty things together three at a time. Homeowner Kate Nooner went to thrift stores and Goodwill for pretty colored glass bottles to arrange on shelves. She bought inexpensive bright pillows from Target to freshen things up and she kept the whole scheme very simple.

4. Maximize your curb appeal
Spend some time looking at your house from the street. If you don't hire an landscaper, plan on at least a few weekends working in the yard, filling bare patches with impatiens, overseeding the grass, trimming and shaping the hedges. Pay special attention to your front door and the walkway leading up to it. Kate Nooner took off all her screens, so the newly-clean windows glistened.

5. Paint
And don't blow a new paint job or a touch-up with a horrible light-bulb. A garish fixture or a too-bright light will undo all your hard work. And if you have to limited money to spend, spend in this order: curb appeal, painting, fixing. You can do-it-yourself or you can hire someone, but these are the investments that will sell the house.

We want to hear from you! Tell us what you are seeing in your neighborhood, and whether you think the housing market has bottomed.

Filed under: America's Housing • Web Extra
May 21st, 2012
10:43 AM ET

Commodities prices drop

Oil prices are pulling back and gas prices have dropped $.18 a gallon since April, but President Obama may soon tap the Strategic Petroleum Reserve anyway.

Over the weekend , the G8 countries said in a joint statement they would release oil from their strategic reserves if tougher new sanctions on Iran put a strain on supplies.

That way prices can be kept under control if the conflict with Iran over its nuclear arms program escalates.

The national average for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline fell to $3.69 over the weekend. But it's not just oil and gas on the decline.  The commodities bubble appears to be deflating, and you could see prices drop at the supermarket. Sugar and coffee futures were both down last week.

Kraft Foods announced it's lowering prices on many of its U.S. coffees, including its Maxwell House brand and some instant coffees.  J.M. Smucker said it's slashing prices on its Folgers and Dunkin' Donuts brands too. So drink up!

Filed under: Smart is the New Rich • Web Extra
May 18th, 2012
10:19 AM ET

Green shoots in housing?

The value of the average home in America is down 25 percent since the peak in May, 2007, and $7 trillion of homeowner wealth has been wiped out since then, but the relentless slide in home prices is slowing, and some surveys predict prices will rise a little next year.

Easier to Afford?
For family earning $61,000/yr

– Can afford $325,000 home
– More than double natl. median
– Mortgage: 13.5% of income
Source: National Assn. of Realtors

Housing starts for the month of April were up and home builder confidence is at a 5-year high. Another report found home affordability at the highest in 40 years. A family earning just under $61,000/year, the median income in the U.S., can now afford a home costing more than $325,000, more than double the median price of an existing home right now. A monthly mortgage would be just 13.5 percent of what the family makes. It's still harder to qualify for mortgages, but rates are at record lows. The average 30-year fixed home loan was only 3.83 percent last week. The average 15-year rate was just above 3 percent, and 5 year arm was 2.81 percent.

A true recovery in housing though depends on a recovery in jobs, and that's what is still missing.

Filed under: Smart is the New Rich • Web Extra
May 12th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

What you need to know about Facebook's IPO

Ryan Mack tells Christine Romans how investors should approach the social media giant's initial public offering.

Filed under: Web Extra • Your Bottom Line
May 7th, 2012
10:24 AM ET

A primer on buying Facebook shares

By Christine Romans

Should you buy Facebook shares? Maybe the better question is CAN you even buy Facebook?

Facebook starts its road show this week, meeting with potential big buyers of its stock, mainly Wall Street banks. It plans to sell 337 million shares of the company at $28 to $35 a share. A final price will be set the night before it begins trading on May 18th.

How Facebook's IPO will work
1. Underwriters have first chance to buy
2. Institutional clients get access
3. Retail investors buy in last

Here's how it works: Institutional investors who are underwriting the IPO - mainly big banks and brokerages - get the first crack at shares. Most of the time, their shares then go to their top clients: hedge funds, big money managers and insiders. They get the IPO price.

Then we get our chance. Usually brokerages only set aside 15% of their initial offering to retail investors to get in at the IPO price. Facebook has reportedly added E*Trade as an underwriter so there's a hope that more regular people can get the IPO price.

May 5th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Rules for raising boys

Author & attorney Lisa Bloom says today's culture "hammers boys." She tells Christine Romans how parents can raise a strong son.

Filed under: Web Extra • Your Bottom Line
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