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Recession-Proof Your Life; How to Fight Your Way Out of This Financial Crisis; Protecting Your Jobs and Savings; How Did We Get Into This Crisis?

Aired October 18, 2008 - 13:00   ET


ALI VELSHI, CNN HOST: Welcome to YOUR MONEY. I'm Ali Velshi.

Let's get off the roller coaster that is the stock market and the economy. It is time to recession proof your life.

VELSHI: Over the next hour, our special edition of YOUR MONEY will focus on how you can fight your way out of this financial crisis.

ROMANS: We are going to focus on protecting your jobs, your savings and of course we're going to take a good, long, hard look at what got us in this mess in the first place.

VELSHI: Now, why is it time to recession proof your life? Well for starters Fed chairman Ben Bernanke warned Americans this week that the U.S. economy needed time to recover, but a growing number of economists say we're already in a recession.

ROMANS: It feels like it already for many people. To tell us what we can do to protect ourselves we turn to our panel, Stephen Leeb is president of Leeb Capital Management and Diane Brady is a senior writer at "Business Week." And Louis Barajas is a personal wealth adviser.

Thank you for coming on here. We want to really give people the tools that they're going need because if you watch the stock market, it's just sickening and maddening up and down. You watch the economy, every day there's another gloom and doom report. Steven, what can people do first and foremost, what do they have control over that they can do to be recession proof.

STEPHEN LEEB, PRESIDENT, LEEB CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: One thing they really shouldn't do, Christine is panic. I think that's the worst thing to do and to hold a tremendous amount of money in cash is probably a mistake especially with yields so low. I mean that really is not going --

ROMANS: That's what Warren Buffett said. Warren Buffett went to the "New York Times" and said buy American, I am. And if you stash cash long-term that is not a good move.

LEEB: It may even be shorter than really long term. You have so much stimulation coming into this economy and if there's an Obama victory on November it's likely we'll have another major stimulation package by the end of November. Nancy Pelosi has said that. This could result in the economy getting better a lot sooner than expected.

Now, the stock market, when people think of the stock market, they just think of this monolith. The stock market's going up and down and lately that's been the case. Everything's been going down and up, but what's been going down are some companies that are really tremendously high quality and it's very hard to conceive of this scenario, for instance, in which Johnson & Johnson, let's say, won't be able to pay its dividend and its yield right now is 3.5 percent.

VELSHI: Listen. You make an interesting point. One of the things we don't talk about, we talked about the stock market and the stock market as we say is made up of companies. Those companies make money or lose money depending on how the economy is going along, but there's a way to value what those companies are at, Diane, in many cases there are many people going in saying these stocks shouldn't be as low as they are based on traditional ways to value a company.

DIANE BRADY, SENIOR WRITER, "BUSINESSWEEK:" One way to value it is companies that have more cash on their books than their stock price. And I think there are about 30 at the moment that we've looked at. These are companies that are over 500 million. That's one way, unfortunately some of those are GM and you have to basically be secure about the future of those companies, but there are a lot of sectors that are doing well. The railway sector, the food sector. We've seen Costco, Wal-Mart, and a lot of plays in this economy that really will rise.

ROMANS: Beyond stocks, what can people do? There are a lot of people who are watching saying I'm not in a position to be recession- proofing my stocks or trying to play the stock market. I'm just trying to save money every month.

LOUIS BARAJAS, PERSONAL WEALTH ADVISER: There's a saying that all progress starts by telling the truth. You need to know your personal truth. How much do you really have in savings? How secure is your job? Are you afraid? Are you hiding because you don't want to hear the truth? Until people know their real truth they're not going to be able to move forward.

VELSHI: We do call ins, we do a radio show every week. I take call ins when I'm on "Headline News." And the number of people who say why don't they just take all that money and give it to us? Why don't they just give it to homeowners, why don't they pay my mortgage?

BRADY: It is not that easy. You know one thing about people say we have to basically renegotiate these mortgages. These are these knots that are tied up. The fact that it has been secured, you actually need permission from a lot of different people in some cases to renegotiate these mortgages.

LEEB: Right and it is also the case. Ali, I agree with that sympathy. Why don't they give it directly to the homeowner? But one reason is that that isn't the problem. The problem is you want to get new buyers into the market and if you look at where adjustable rate mortgages are today, they're around 7 percent. The last time short- term interest rates were at 1.5 and adjustable rate mortgages were 3 percent. So you have the lock up in this system.

The low rates are not beating through and there's what they are trying to do, there is no wood to knock on, but lately, lately it seems - I mean lately meaning in the last week or so it seems like interest rates are starting to fall and that could feed through the whole system and help everybody, not only existing homeowners refinance what they have but it also can make housing more affordable.

ROMANS: Are we in for an ugly 2009? I mean when I talk to economists and when I talk to other people who I had on a panel this week with a veteran economist and veteran journalists who said 2009 is going to be rough.

BARAJAS: Absolutely. I got hurt. You can't change what you don't acknowledge. We're not acknowledging that the average guy, the little guy doesn't know about vesting and we're not acknowledging that they want to privatize Social Security and look at what happened to the average investors. What would happen if the average investor were investing in their own Social Security and their own investments? We need to educate America and we need to educate the average person.

VELSHI: That's by the way an interesting point in that when you talk about the average person, we're not talking about the uninformed. We're talking about people panicking who work with us. People, who hear us saying all of the time, don't panic and put it in your house. We get people saying I'm taking my money; I'm keeping it in my house.

BRADY: I think two things make people feel poor. Seeing the value of their homes decrease which will continue through 2009 and seeing their paycheck decrease which will happen through higher taxes and the fact that wages are going down. So people will feel more and more poor as the year progresses and certainly through next year so we're not going to see any bump in spending and as you said, that's what supports our economy.

LEEB: I think within six to nine months we'll be more worried about inflation than recession.

VELSHI: Really?

LEEB: Yes. I think that basically we are putting so much money into this economy with the massive stimulus.

VELSHI: OK. Let's hold that thought. Let's pick up that on the other side.

ROMANS: Because you have every right to be angry about the rapid home foreclosures that have led us to these crises. Who deserves more blame? Greedy banks or homebuyers. Come on, they knew they couldn't afford that house.

VELSHI: Let's talk about that, it is a big topic. Stay with us, you are watching a special edition of YOUR MONEY. How to recession proof your money.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) VELSHI: Well the banks are on their way to getting their bail out, but the root of all the financial kasius actually could lie in the families who in many cases simply could not afford to remain in their homes. Before you start throwing things at me I'm not saying that they were necessarily at fault, but it does start with the home owner and their inability to pay their mortgage.

ROMANS: Who can bailout the home owners when they need a capital injection of their own? The answer may surprise you.

Carol Costello has a look.


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): In the Macomb County, Michigan $150,049.

There's a fire sale going on.


COSTELLO: Hundreds of homes seized by banks are being auctioned off.


COSTELLO: At bargain basement prices.

JENNIFER WARD, BANK FORECLOSED ON HOME: That just breaks -- breaks my heart. It does. You know, seeing it like it is.

COSTELLO: The Ward's lost their home to foreclosure in 2007 after refinancing. They say they thought the interest rate was fixed. It was not. Today their lost family home sits empty, bought at auction by a bank for $20,000.

It's not only devastating for the Ward's, but to their former neighbors who are seeing the value of their own homes plummet. It irks real estate agent Donna Caumartin.

DONNA CAUMARTIN, SCHULTES REAL ESTATE: This home went up on the market and it was listed for $109,900. Now it's listed for $45,000. It's the same house. It's a tremendous loss to the bank. Why wouldn't they try to do a loan modification or something or refinance it at different terms?

COSTELLO: Why do you think the banks won't negotiate with people?

CAUMARTIN: I don't know. I really don't know.

COSTELLO: Groups that help troubled homeowners say it's because many banks don't own the mortgages. They simply handle the paperwork for investors. BRUCE MARKS, NEIGHBORHOOD CORP. IF AMERICAN: The servicers who the homeowners make their mortgage payments to, they're overwhelmed and they're not willing to staff up and frankly they have no skin in the game. So if someone goes to foreclosure, they don't lose anything.

ROMANS: The Ward's did try to renegotiate with their lender, Washington Mutual, a bank seized by the federal government last month because it handed out so many bad loans.

KEITH WARD, BANK FORECLOSED ON HOME: I spend hours, days on the phone with our finance company, our bank asking them what I can do, and the only thing they told me was they need, in the amounts of $20,000 up front and then they wanted to double our house payment also. On New Year's Eve at 4:00 in the afternoon a gentleman came and put a notice on my home that there was a sheriff sale on my home.

COSTELLO: Both presidential candidates want to help people like the Wards. John McCain wants to use taxpayer money to buy and refinance troubled mortgages. Barack Obama wants a 90-day payment break for struggling homeowners. But it's too late for the Wards. Their house has already been auctioned off. They rent now, nine blocks from their old home and yes, they found a way to cope.

K. WARD: A lot of patience and a lot of love. It's the only way we can do it.

Carol Costello, CNN, Macomb County, Michigan.


ROMANS: So, is it the banks? Is it the home owners? Who's to blame? We turn once again to our panel; Stephen Leeb is president of Leeb Capital Management. Diane Brady is a senior writer with "Business Week" and Louis Barajas is a personal wealth adviser.

You hear each of these individual tales and you get frustrated and there are millions of people out there who didn't get into a mortgage that they couldn't afford, that knew what was in the paperwork and you wonder about if we bail out home owners who have these bad mortgages, what about the people that play by the rules? It's a knot. You said it's a knot.

BRADY: I think it's easy to blame homeowners. I think there were a lot of deceptive marketing practices I can tell you when I went to get a mortgage, a 30 year jumbo; they pushed us to get an adjustable rate mortgage because the rates were better. People assumed values would go up, zero money down. I think the blame has to lie primarily with the people who marketed these loans to a very vulnerable population.

LEEB: I don't want to say Diane was smarter than I was because I did take an adjustable rate mortgage initially and then I said uh-oh, things are not going stay this way and I refinanced and got a fixed rate mortgage.

ROMANS: You manage money for a living. LEEB: I do.

VELSHI: That's the story.

BARAJAS: The point is right now we're all blaming -- everybody -- somebody is responsible for all of this. We have to take personal responsibility because if people are in your home you have to do something, if the banks aren't negotiating go to the Internet and go to hope now. I would call that number, I would double check that somebody would pick up the line and they did.

VELSHI: But there are a lot of people who don't qualify under the hope now provision.

ROMANS: If you defaulted on a payment you don't qualify.

VELSHI: The people who call us are in trouble and I go through that list with them on hope now, there is a bunch of criteria you have to meet.


VELSHI: There are a whole lot of people in trouble.

BARAJAS: OK, but we have to respond and we can't react. We're all panicking and responding. Look, if I can get help then we have to ask. Fear is paralyzing everybody.

VELSHI: Here's a question. I think Carol Costello's point is right. Both candidates would like to somehow find a solution to this problem. I'm not sure if I'd get John McCain's solution entirely because it is going to mean renegotiating mortgages, and he wants to renegotiate mortgages at a rate that's reflective of the value of the home.

Barack Obama would like a moratorium. I don't know what that solves because it sounds to me like that you get yourself 90 days more and then you got yourself in the same pickle. Diane you looked at these, is one of these the solution or does the solution lie somewhere else?

BRADY: I think there is probably a combination of the two. Obviously, we've seen the government take radical action in the last few weeks. They can take action to make sure we can renegotiate mortgages. People talked about how in bankruptcy court your primary home cannot be renegotiated, but your yacht can in terms of the loan. That can change. There's a lot of impetus right now in Congress to basically make sure that the homeowner gets some relief. You probably need some combination of the two. People will need longer to pay. That's why you restructure your debt.

LEEB: He said fear paralyzes and that's true. There are probably are people that no longer qualify for hope now, but there are a lot of people that do that are just sitting back just so fearful and they don't know where to turn. People are scared to death right now, and I have to say one thing, come November 4th, whatever happens, we're going to probably have someone, almost know is who will unfreeze fear to some extent because he will be much more popular than the current president.

This has been one of the problems here. We have somebody with a 20 percent approval rating, deserved or not, I'm not making a comment on that. You can't inspire people with that kind of approval rating, so there is some hope out here.

BRADY: It's not just fear because in the last ten years Americans have overspent by $3 trillion. $3 trillion. We bought things we could not afford whether it was the flat screen TVs or whether it was the homes. There are a lot of people out there who simply cannot afford to live the lifestyle.

VELSHI: Are we changing the behavior?

BARAJAS: As soon as the economy goes back up. They'll go backs to doing the same thing they have always done. I waited such a long time not to buy those shoes and they start getting them and going back to the old habits.

BRADY: It is not just the consumer, the government over borrowed and business over borrowed. So this is not just a question about the consumer. All of us were living this giddy, Rome is burning lifestyle and it's now come back to haunt us and we will have to pay and I don't think it will be over in six months.

LEEB: I actually, do and I think that over in the sense that we'll be out of a recession within six months because of the money being poured into the system and also because of the emerging economies will keep things going, but, you know, the consumer issue is a very difficult one because, one, people are taught that the American dream should be more and it's the fact that actual wages and income in real terms were not going up and people except expecting that to change, so I don't think that the consumer was really spending -- the consumer was living the American dream I don't think excessively.

ROMANS: It was a dream, actually, an actual dream. It was an American dream.

LEEB: Wages were not rising in real terms and -- that, you know, was what went wrong in this country.

ROMANS: Stephen Leeb, thank you so much. Diane Brady, Louis Barajas, thank you so much all of you for joining us.

VELSHI: Well all signs indicate we could be in a recession. We'll tell you how you can start saving right now even if your wallet is stretched to the limit and how to protect your retirement money when we come back on this special how to protect yourself against a recession in this edition of YOUR MONEY.


ROMANS: Warren Buffett, probably the best investor in the world ever is behind American stocks in a "New York Times" opted this week he said, "A simple rule dictates my buying: Be fearful when others are greedy, and be greedy when others are fearful." He said there are so much fear out there he can't tell you what is going to happen short term, it doesn't matter. Longer term, these companies will do better and the economy will do better and don't count off the United States. In his personal account which is usually full of treasury, he is switching stocks.

VELSHI: His personal account, you remember back in the dot com boom everyone was saying why isn't Warren Buffett investing in tech stocks, and he wasn't he felt others were being greedy and he turned out to be right about that.

How are you, not being Warren Buffett, manage your long-term investments in this volatility? For that we turn to more experts here, Lakshman Achuthan is the managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute and co-author of "Beating the Business Cycle: How to Predict and Profit From the Turning Points in the Economy." Literally the book on business cycles and Ryan Mack, the president of Optimum Capital Management who was able to boil us.

ROMANS: They have a few billion each less than Warren Buffett, but other than that, they're very similar.

VELSHI: One of the things, Lakshman, you really have written a book on this, on recession, I sort of almost stopped saying, some people think we're in a recession, most people think we're in a recession. You were the first one around here to say so and even though you're not the National Bureau of Economic Research, they've got the crown of who decides; most thinking economists think we're in a recession at this point.

LAKSHMAN ACHUTHAN, ECONOMIC CYCLE RESEARCH INST.: Absolutely, just by way of background very quickly, my mentor used to date the business cycles up until '79. He would do it at lunch, he said. Go down to the cafeteria and say here's where it started and ended through '79

Then they started the committee. To what Buffett is saying, obviously, he's dead on and I'm not going argue with him although I'll point out a couple of differences other than the billions. One is he was in Treasuries before all this stuff happened so that's a really important thing to have done. I'm not sure everybody did that.

VELSHI: Right. A lot of our view had 401(k) s or are worried about stocks already.


VELSHI: It was the same loss.

He's very prescient and he was averse to this risk before the market went down. The other thing is even if he loses on his bet he'll be able to pay for his retirement home, I'm pretty sure and not everybody will be in that situation.

VELSHI: Good point.

ACHUTHAN: Our risk kind of profile will be different.

ROMANS: Let's talk about risk. Let's talk about what kind of stock exposure investors should have at different stages of their life because obviously the people who are really concerned right now are closer to retirement, which have money still in the stock market and their housing prices have gone down and they might not be able to get a part-time job around the holidays. So let's start young. What should a young person, just out of college or still in college, what should the stocks exposure look like?

RYAN MACK, PRES. OPTIMUM CAPITAL MANAGEMENT: When you have an accumulation phase and you're able to take a lot of risk and you are able to sustain the ups and downs. There's nothing wrong to having 80 to 90 percent of your exposure in the stock market and as you are getting older where you're not able to take as much risk of before and maybe closer to the distribution stage where you will start pulling your money out for retirement, you don't want that much exposure in the market because at the end of day if you're not able to sustain the and flow of this market you lose all of your funds.

VELSHI: Let's think about this. Let's say you're in your 30s and you're in the accumulation phase. You should be able to be fully invested in stocks, but you are just sick when you look at this market. You can't handle it. You can still be in mutual funds that are not entirely risky. This is a market where we've seen all boats rise and sink at the same time, but fundamentally you can be fully invested in stocks more conservatively than someone else invested in stocks more aggressively.

MACK: There are different types of stocks to invest in and one of the things we used to do on Wall Street is what type of stocks are you investing in? Are you investing in stocks that have lower debt to equity ratios compared to their competitors? Do these stocks make money? A lot of times individuals fall prey to these penny stock scandals and schemes and they're not making money right now.

The Microsoft's, the Dells, the Intel's. A lot of these companies have solid earnings potential over time and you know they'll be around in the long run and so we don't want to look at those stocks as not necessarily making money.

ROMANS: Forty-five to 55-years-old, you need to have, what? Sixty percent in stocks, the rest in bonds and cash maybe.

MACK: Around there, give or take. There's no specific asset allocation that will be the same for anybody depending on the risk tolerance level, but definitely you want to start decreasing your amount of equity exposure and increasing your fixed income exposure as you are getting closer to retirement.

ROMANS: Let me ask you something. You gave me some really great advice when this crisis first exploded. It's been going for some 14 months now, but in the past month or two it's really gotten scary for some people. ACHUTHAN: True.

ROMANS: You said, look, you've got to control what you can control and that is your spending and your job. Do a good job at work and pull in on the spending. You've got to protect yourself.

ACHUTHAN: It's great advice on the investments here, and in terms of your day to day activity, right? Most people have a job. Most people will not lose their job. Some people will and if you go into work every day and you say hi to your boss and do a good job, focus on the things that you have immediate control over, the chances are if there needs to be a cut it won't be you and that is Darwinian, but we have to watch out for yourselves, too.

The second thing is in terms of your spending, there are things that you absolutely must have and there are things that you can do without for a couple of months and this is why you're seeing savings rates starting to rise. This typically happens because when the uncertainty goes up, it's a natural instinct to pull in. Let's wait for the dust to settle and ride out this downturn, and I think you're seeing that here. I think it probably goes on people's personal intuition anyway and just, I think trust your gut on this one and you'll make it through the next couple of quarters and that's probably what you'll have to do.

ROMANS: Great advice.

VELSHI: Remember that distinction of what you must have versus what you could have is a great way to make some of your investing decisions.

Ryan Mack is the president of Optimum Capital Management, and Lakshman Achuthan is the manager and entering editor of the "Economic Cycle Research Insit." Thanks for being with us.

ROMANS: All right. Forget the polls which candidate has a better plan to lead you out of this crisis. We check next on YOUR MONEY.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta now.

Live pictures of Barack Obama in St. Louis, Missouri, on the campaign trail after making a stop in Virginia earlier today. John McCain is also stumping in swing states of North Carolina and Virginia. You see him there earlier. Much more of the candidates unfiltered in the "BALLOT BOWL." That's about 30 minutes from now at the top of the hour at 2:00 Eastern time.

Now back to more of YOUR MONEY.

ROMANS: Welcome back to this special edition of recession proof your life with only a few weeks until Election Day, voters want a candidate with solution. Have Barack Obama and John McCain done enough to convince you? VELSHI: We are joined by Allan Lichtman, he is a professor in history and author of "White Protestant Nation" and Stephen Moore, senior economics writer for the "Wall Street" editorial page and co- author of "The End of Prosperity" You guys have dire names on some of your books or at least provocative names on your books. Let's start with you Stephen.

ROMANS: Hey, that's what sells them.

VELSHI: Where are we going with this thing? We are so close to this election, Americans are so concerned and to some degree panicked about this economy and what they would really like to know from you, Stephen is an answer to which one of these guys will be safer for my personal economy before the economy of the nation, for my job, my house and all of that.

STEPHEN MOORE, SENIOR ECONOMICS WRITER, "WALL STREET:" Well I think for the first time if you look at that debate, this was the first debate that John McCain really contrasted and won a match with Obama on the economy. Obama is not able to answer this issue about how do you create more jobs in an economy if you want to raise taxes on the small businesses or to create the jobs.

I was looking at the figures myself just yesterday and I wrote a piece on this. Fifty percent of the small businesses that have over 20 employers would have to pay higher taxes. This is a tax plan that puts a big bull's-eye on the small businesses and they create 80 percent of the jobs.

ROMANS: Let me ask you, do you agree that McCain won the economy debate at the debate or do you take issue with that?

ALLAN LICHTMAN, PROFESSOR, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Hey, I'm right there with the voters who said overwhelmingly they trusted Obama more on the economy and here's why. They want fundamental change. McCain will continue the current approach. He wants to keep in place the Bush tax cuts which overwhelmingly favor the wealthy, have more business tax cuts for the big corporations.

What Obama has side he is going reduce taxes on 95 percent of Americans and 95 percent of small businesses and he's going invest in the new growth areas of the future and that is the new green economy and the infrastructure that's crying out for more? All Stephen did was what John McCain did, attack Obama and he didn't give us one thing --

ROMANS: Let's talk about this for a second. Steven it may turn out to be good wisdom that John McCain decided to focus on Joe the plumber even though Joe the plumber doesn't --

MOORE: The most famous man in the country.

VELSHI: But because your argument about small businesses and Barack Obama's idea of raising minimum wage which could be hurtful to small businesses might be key, but John McCain couldn't answer the other problem that Allen has just stated and that is that the greater tax cuts under his plan will, let's just be plain about this, the top 5 percent of earners in this country are the rich.

MOORE: Here's the thing with respect to taxes. What Obama is talking about, his whole agenda is one of redistributing income. He said let's share the wealth. So the problem with Obama is he doesn't have any wealth creation aspect of his plan. It's all taking from Peter -- robbing from Peter and giving to Paul. You know Allan your right.

If you look at the polls, the post-election polls, people said they thought Obama won the debate and what's happening in the last two days is McCain has actually closed the gap with Obama and I think it's because a lot of Americans are very nervous about two things. The overspending in Obama's plan and you know Allan Lichtman calls it investment. I just call it more pork barrel spending and the fact that most Americans still don't believe they can grow the economy with higher taxes.

LICHTMAN: Did you listen to that? He didn't say one thing that McCain was going to do for the economy just like McCain. Let me finish. You had your chance.


LICHTMAN: You had all of that time to point out what McCain would do for the economy. You haven't said one thing. These are vital investments that we need. If we're going to have a future it's got to be in green energy and if this economy is going get going, we have to fix our infrastructure and it is the middle class, the 95 percent of hard-working Americans who are going drive this economy, giving to the rich of eight years and it's been a crash ago --

VELSHI: I have a question for both of you, give me 30-second answers. How do you create a job? Because they both talk about how they're going to create a job, McCain by cutting taxes or building nuclear power plants and how do you create a job? Allen let's start with you.

LICHTMAN: You create a job by giving people incentives by giving in high-growth areas in areas where we have a competitive advantage and that's got to be the new green economy. The old smokestack economy ain't coming back.

MOORE: The problem with that Ali is how do you warm? That is good if you're raising taxes. The Obama plan raises taxes on dividends, raises taxes on capital gains and when you ask me what McCain wants to do to grow the economy, don't forget, he wants to cut the corporate income tax from 35 to 25 percent so we're closer to the international average and he also wants to cut government spending. The biggest problem with our economy right now and this whole show has been about the over debt in this economy, the biggest debt is the federal government which could run a trillion dollar deficit.

LICHTMAN: He is going to keep those wars going abroad. Which are costing us $200 billion dollars a year?

ROMANS: We could talk to you guys all day long. Thanks so much, Stephen Moore and Allen Lichtman.

VELSHI: These two guys make me think we should have a separate Internet streaming that just continues.

ROMANS: We could have our own presidential and vice presidential debate with these guys.

VELSHI: We will always talk about Joe the plumber, how does his salary compare to yours? Recession proofing your job is next on YOUR MONEY.


VELSHI: Joe the plumber is about the most famous guy in politics these days. A guy from Ohio who asked Barack Obama about tax policy and became a talking point in the final presidential election debate.

ROMANS: Whether he liked it or not. Forget the politics let's talk about what a good job that is in this economy.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Joe the plumber!

ROMANS (voice over): The plumber is more than just a political talking point.



MCCAIN: Joe, I want to tell you.

ROMANS: Plumbers are virtually recession-proof.

DAVID MADLAND, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: It's certainly a pretty good job. It's expected to grow over the next 10 years. It's been -- it pays better than average and probably most importantly about plumbing is it's a career ladder. It's not a dead-end kind of job.

ROMANS: From apprentice to plumber to small business owner, the job market is tough, but the labor department says opportunities are good for plumbers, along with pipe layers, pipe fitters and steam fitters and should stay that way in coming years. Hourly pay is better than average, more than $20 an hour, you can't export plumbing jobs to cheaper over seas labor markets and plumbing -- is not discretionary spending. What else is the recession proof? Almost anything in health care. Also, jobs in education and security. Not so recession proof though is that other Joe.


(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: If Joe six pack is a factory worker or works in retail, he may have already lost his job, ditto if he is any job related to finance and also grim for technology as companies delay big computer upgrades. So what's an average Joe or Jane, for that matter, to do?

Well, we asked. Experts say even college graduates should consider some of the skill trade, plumbers, electricians, and anything related to the equipment they use in hospitals.

Aging baby boomers have those jobs in demand. There is something about hospital jobs. We bring in Jennifer Westhoven, who is here to talk a little about jobs. But something about hospital job, I found interesting about half of the 30 fastest-growing careers are in hospitals, just be careful because some of those are home health aides or they're medical assistants or they are even like janitorial in hospitals so they can be very low paid, but the stuff that takes the training and can be done in a trade school and is around the equipment these are good-paying jobs.

JENNIFER WESTHOVEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even if we're not talking about the good paying jobs is that you have some security which is something that so many people right now who always thought they had a steady and a solid job may find themselves in some kind of trouble because if people reign in their spending we saw the huge drop in consumer confidence.

ROMANS: And we know that the people who are really concerned most about jobs right now are the people who are close to retirement, maybe ten years out from retirement, right? Who maybe they want to take an extra retail job to augment their -- their pay before they -- they're not going to be able to get that job because retail is so weak right now or their house prices are falling and their retirement is falling and now they are worried about their job at the same time.

There's a lot of different ways to be concerned about this, but at the same time trying to show people where there is growth and what you can do about it.

WESTHOVEN: We talked a little bit about this before is not getting too -- maybe this is not the time to have a job in venture, because the headlines right now aren't about how terrible the job market is because it's 6.1 percent, but it's the people who were jobless and have been looking for so long they're discouraged. They know how bad it is.

VELSHI: We've seen all the job losses, three quarter of a million of them this year so far.

WESTHOVEN: We are probably going to get to a million by the end of November. Some economists say maybe we'll get to 9 or 10 percent.

ROMANS: We've seen manufacturing job loss, and housing job loss. It's interesting they were pointed out in the piece. Dentists I'm told, John Challenger of Challenger, Gray & Christmas was telling me, anything that is essential, teachers -- VELSHI: (INAUDIBLE) Plumbers, electricians and a physical therapist, he said. A lot of different jobs along those lines. Some of these things take training and take money. Dentists, you'll have to go to school and you'll graduate with some student loans, but community college training and trade school college training.

WESTHOVEN: This is why it is so important for even students right now to make sure they keep a decent credit score, it's such a hard time to do that when you're a student, but if they're going need more money for more education, trying to get a student loan.

ROMANS: Another quick report in my reporting on this this week too that I found was interesting, but you know your manager probably has a list in his or her head if he's got to get rid of jobs and where those jobs are -- this is -- you know, the experts are telling me this week, this is not the time to be telecommuting every single day of the week. You have to get in there and make sure you have recent successes and it's not --

VELSHI: And you know how to articulate them.

ROMANS: That's really important. It's not first in the company and last out the company, anymore, just because you've been there a long time doesn't mean that -- you know.

VELSHI: What if your successes are working with great people?

ROMANS: Good point.

VELSHI: All right. We will continue with this discussion. Who caused this mess? Were they greedy banks who sliced and diced mortgages into oblivion? Greedy homeowners who thought they could buy a house without any income? Lawmakers who pushed homeownership? Our CNN Money team joins us next.

ROMANS: Sounds like everybody, right?


ROMANS: You know some say its Wall Street, some say it's the federal government and some say its consumers, people, spending beyond their means for years.

VELSHI: So who is to blame for these currant financial crises? The CNN Money team is with us now to hash it out. CNN "Headline News" correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, CNN's Susan Lisovicz and Paul La Monica editor-at-large for

Paul, let's start with you. Who do you think is to blame for this? Bottom line is whoever caused this turns out the consumers, our governments and corporations are highly indebted beyond the point most people think it's logical.

PAUL LA MONICA, EDITOR AT LARGE, CNNMONEY.COM: Yes exactly. I mean I think it's overly simplistic to try and find one person, one entity to blame. ROMANS: People want to see someone --

LA MONICA: If we all try to feather ourselves that doesn't do any good. We had lax regulation from the government and we had greed and possibly fraud on Wall Street and with banks, but it all starts with the consumer, I hate to say. You have consumers that got loans they probably shouldn't have.

You also had people who maybe were in a more financial, secure place that started to think that, hey, the housing market is the new dot com. I'm going buy something and flip it; of course housing prices are always going go up. So everyone deserves to have blame. I don't think there should be anyone who is absolved here.

WESTHOVEN: Once you take the rules out, you know when you play Monopoly right we all know what the rules are. Nobody know what's rules are anymore. They took the rules away and I think we don't hear the people who got a house for 0 percent down and fixed it up in $5 grand and flipped it saying, I should be tarred and fathered? But actually people were all part of this.

But I think going out and blaming people does not necessarily work. But taking all those rules out of the game. I think it was a big problem and then turning it into like well everybody else was doing it; all the other banks were doing it so we had to. And I do think there is some blame to be had for congressional democrats who sort of said in the past, this is years ago they said you know we are going to change the rules of the game, we think more people should get home ownership, great intention, totally didn't work.

ROMANS: Even the Republican administration was really pushing for record home ownership. How many times s did the president stand up and say this is how we are measuring the health of our economy? We have record home ownership. Well we had record home ownership, clearly at a price.

VELSHI: Susan, you worked on Wall Street. You are on Wall Street every single day. America would like to tar and father Wall Street. What's the perspective from your side?

SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They are used to being the bad guys. Honestly, no within whined to me or complained. And it's human nature to put a human face on this problem. And it's not just a crisis, by the way, that is confined to our borders, it's a worldwide crises. It's much bigger than that.

And I would say it's all of us to some degree. And, yes, there's a belief in America that everyone should own a home. It's part of the American dream. That is not true. Everyone shouldn't own a home and people should recognize that. If you want to start, I agree exactly with what Paul and Jennifer are saying, no question about it.

But the fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac got so big, that when they were countering they were already in trouble for accounting practices, there were boundaries for their exposure to the housing meltdown, they were too big to let fail. And Congress was the enabler there. As well as rating agencies. And the SEC, Federal Reserve, letting interest rates stay --

ROMANS: We will be digging through the wreckage for some time and there is plenty of blame to go around. And our CNN Money team is going to return in a moment with a look at why the days of doom and gloom for the economy may be coming to an end. A ray of hope, dare I say?

But first, here is this week "Right on your Money."


ROMANS (voice over): These days Tom Sheehan has a view of the Connecticut shore from his garden. Tom retired two years ago, earlier than he planned due to cutbacks after 9/11.

TOM SHEEHAN, RETIRED: How are you? How was your day?

ROMANS: His wife Sandy works full time.

T. SHEEHAN: There's a tremendous after of - I won't say guilt but a comfortable feeling when your wife goes to work and you're staying home.

SANDY SHEEHAN, PLANNING FOR RETIREMENT: There's a financial change. We have to make adjustments of what our original long-term goals were.

ROMANS: "Money" Magazine's Janice Revell said their experience is not uncommon.

JANICE REVELL, SR. WRITER, "MONEY:" The harsh reality is that 40 percent of the time people are forced to retire long before they wanted to.

ROMANS: Tom and Sandy made it work by downsizing. They sold their house up state, knocked down their beach cottage and built a year-around home in its place.

REVELL: One of the things Tom and Sandy I think did really well is they didn't uproot themselves and move to a brand-new town.

ROMANS: When Sandy retires, they will start a new life in a familiar place.

S. SHEEHAN: The kids pretty much grew up being here.

T. SHEEHAN: Yeah, and now the grandchildren.

ROMANS: And that is this week's "Right on your Money."



ROMANS: We're back with CNN Money team. And they are giving us something to latch onto. Some reason for optimism ahead. VELSHI: CNN's Susan Lisovicz, CNN "Headline News" correspondent Jennifer Westhoven and Paul La Monica editor at large and in charge for

WESTHOVEN: He is large and in charge.

VELSHI: Let's go to Susan Lisovicz first. Susan you have seen markets for enough years that you understand that there often is enough opportunity for help in all of the wreckage.

LISOVICZ: OK. My optimism comes from a week earlier when it was as close to a crash, that Friday that I've witnessed and it's been scary lately. Let's be honest, folks. And the market was rallying back. I found a lot of hope in that. The Dow ended down 100-something- points on that day. But the fact it was able to rally back and go into positive territory, there was a huge cheer on the floor.

Some people say it was a bottom. It certainly will be tested. It's been tested this past week, no question. I found optimism there and I like the fact that oil has come down so substantially. That is something we have already feeling the effects of that.

VELSHI: Going under $70 for the first time since August.

ROMANS: It's not -- gas is not going down as fast as oil but it will catch up.

VELSHI: We are almost at $3 national average? We are definitely getting there.

WESTHOVEN: One economist told "The Wall Street Journal" that is $250 million rebate for consumers if oil prices stay where they are. That's a huge ray of hope.

VELSHI: Stimulus, yeah.

WESTHOVEN: I have to tell you what my real fantasy is. And it might be a fantasy is that the language around debt gets clearer. Because of this debt, you know you what be will be on the hook for, you know what the full cost of the house is going to be. When you're in credit card debt they will actually lay out all those fees for you and that maybe Congress will corral the kinds of tricks and traps that are in debt right now.

VELSHI: Paul La Monica large and in charge what gives you hope?

LA MONICA: First oil, that's obviously a good sign. I hope, though, that doesn't change the notion that we shouldn't look at alternative sources of energy.

ROMANS: Right on!

LA MONICA: Whippy.

VELSHI: Bring back the SUVs. LA MONICA: Right. And we saw the story on "CNN Money" that showed that Americans are slowly starting to save more again and that is a very good sign. It may be bad news for the short term in the economy but its great news for the long term.

ROMANS: Retail sales numbers that were down in September and everyone said who is me but maybe that's good.

VELSHI: It's good to not spend maybe for a little while.

ROMANS: But it might because their credit card companies aren't giving them any more money. And they can't pull the money out of their house. So they are not spending because they don't feel good, they are spending because no one is giving them borrowed money to spend.

WESTHOVEN: Spending is good when your house is in order. The house is so out of order now.

VELSHI: Great conversation. Thank you to all of you for being with us on this special recession proof your life.

ROMANS: Get your house in order we say. Economy is issue number one, we're here at CNN are committed to covering it for you. E-mail us your thoughts, questions concerned

VELSHI: Make sure you join us every week for YOUR MONEY Saturdays at 1:00 p.m. Eastern and Sundays at 3:00 p.m. right here on CNN. Have a great weekend.