• Good news first: The Atlanta metro area is now the eighth-largest in the nation, and bigger than Washington, D.C. Last year, nearly 115,000 people moved to the Atlanta metro area (28 counties). From 2000 to 2008, the Atlanta area added 1.13 million people, a total that was second only to Dallas, TX (which added 1.14 million people). Los Angeles county is the largest in the country, with a population of 9.8 million, which is larger than the entire state of Georgia. Fulton County, however, has officially passed the 1 million mark (with 1.014 million people), and Forsyth County continues to rank as one of the fastest-growing in the U.S., with a growth rate of 6.3 percent, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Georgia unemployment rate is at 9.3 percent, up from 8.5 percent last month. It’s a record-breaking number. The silver lining (if there is one) is that nationally, new jobless claims fell more than expected this week to 646,000 (still a huge number). Continuing claims jumped 185,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 5.7 million (more than economists expected). More people than ever filed for unemployment benefits.
  • The Treasury said it would buy $1 trillion worth of bonds this week. Mortgage interest rates fell nearly half a point to about 5 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. If you’re interested in refinancing, it’s time to find a good lender. Shop around at a credit union (if you can join one or belong to one), a national lender, an online lender, a local bank and a good mortgage broker. Compare what they’re offering on an apples-to-apples basis to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
  • And if you’re wondering how far property prices have yet to fall, consider this: Last month (Feb. 2009), the median home price in the San Francisco Bay Area dropped below $300,000 for the first time in a decade, according to MDA DataQuick. That’s down a record 46 percent (from $548,000) a year earlier. Prices are now where they were in 1999. A spate of foreclosures are pushing down prices big-time in California. At the same time (and here’s the silver lining), property sales rose 26 percent from a year earlier. A total of 5,032 new and existing houses and condos sold in the Bay Area last month. In Southern California, house and condo sales increased 41 percent last month, and prices were down 39 percent from a year ago.

Today on the show, we welcomed Ed Slott, America’s IRA expert. Ed’s website, IRAHelp.com, has also just had a redesign. We talked about his new book, Stay Rich for Life. Ed is incredibly knowledgeable about taxes (he’s a CPA) and he believes we’re at a historic low in terms of the tax rate. On page 7 of his book, he takes a historic look at the tax rate in the U.S., which hit a peak of 90 percent at one point in time (our maximum tax rate is currently 35 percent, but will go up soon, he thinks). He believes that in 2010, when everyone can convert IRA cash to a Roth IRA (and pay the taxes at today’s relatively low rates), that everyone should. The book is great. If you missed the interview, you can listen to the podcast here.

Stay tuned.