Today, CEOs and CFOs of companies reporting annual revenues in excess of $1.2 billion have to begin signing off on their financial statements as per a mandate from the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's a total of 945 CEOs swearing that their books aren't cooked.

But the heck with them. What about you and your books? How are you doing financially? All week we've been running a special feature on certifying your own finances. Today, you can finally verify your results (we even have a handy form you can sign off on).

Hey, you can't control the stock market, so control what you can. Speaking of the market, it had a banner day with the market indexes reaching for the sky. The FOOL 50 gained more than 4%.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Bush Says Nothing at Economic Forum

One noteworthy thing about President George W. Bush's Economic Forum held in Texas yesterday: There was apparently so little worth noting about it that this morning nary a mention of the event was to be found on the main page of The Wall Street Journal's website.

According to reports, there were an ambitious eight topics covered (such as health care, corporate responsibility, economic recovery, and job creation) for 90 minutes each, with the president and Vice President Dick Cheney each attending half of them. Bush reportedly spent about 15 minutes in each session. In total, about 240 experts, executives, and ordinary citizens (but few politicians or economists) were invited to the affair.

Bush tried to instill confidence in America, saying, ''Even though times are kind of tough right now, we're America.... I'm incredibly optimistic about the future of this country because I understand the strength of this country.... We got a lot going for us.''

Wow, if that doesn't make you want to contribute more to your 401(k), nothing will. The president spends exactly two hours addressing the economic challenges facing the nation during a made-for-media event (read: lacking in substance) and tries to assure the nation by reminding us of our Manifest Destiny. Now there's leadership.

Bush also vowed to not spend the $5.1 billion that Congress had earmarked as "emergency funds," explaining that, while he agrees with some of the spending, "We won't spend $4 billion we don't need to unlock $1 billion we do need."

Democrats were not impressed. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said, "Under this administration, we've lost nearly 2 million jobs, $7 trillion in the market, and more than $5 trillion of the surplus.... A made-for-TV economic forum isn't going to solve our problems or ease families' concerns."

Once upon a time the Clinton campaign's internal slogan was "It's the economy, stupid!" We tend to blame our politicians for bad times and praise them (or ignore them) when we prosper. Yet the economy and the stock market move in cycles that more often than not are beyond Washington's control. What do you expect from our political leaders when it comes to the economy? Let us know in our poll.

Quote of Note

"Life would be stunted and narrow if we could feel no significance in the world around us beyond that which can be weighed and measured with the tools of the physicist or described by the metrical symbols of the mathematician." -- Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington, 1882-1944, British astrophysicist

V Is Not for Victory

How do you water down what once was little more than a water utility company? Vivendi Universal(NYSE: V) had ambitious global intentions once, but now its struggling conglomerate is under water. With big bets leading to even bigger debts, the French company that grew to become the world's third-largest media empire is now in a cash crunch. It's doing what anyone else would do when money is tight: looking around its house for assets and pitching a garage sale.

The fact that Vivendi was setting up for a massive asset sale has been known for some time. However, it became a fire sale earlier today after the company posted a 12.3 billion euro ($12 billion) loss for the first half of the year and Standard & Poor's downgraded the company's debt to junk bond status. The bulk of the deficit comes from writing down the value of its acquired assets. That's an ironic zinger given the fact that the company is now out to talk up the value of its assets to interested suitors.

Vivendi's properties are certainly valuable. Between its Houghton Mifflin educational publishing division and the Universal entertainment behemoth chock full of interests in movies, music, and theme parks, Vivendi is well-stocked. If stateside media conglomerates weren't so strapped for cash -- and Vivendi so desperate to land some -- the company would have been able to name its price back in the entertainment sector's heyday. But we are far removed from those times so Vivendi will have to get what it can, in hopes that it will be enough to get back to sea level. You know, where the water is.

Discussion Board of the Day: Vivendi

What would you sell if you were Vivendi? With other interests in pay-per-view and popular Internet sites property, is this the wrong time to be selling marked-down entertainment assets? All this and more -- in the Vivendi Discussion Board. Only on

Wheelin' and Dealin'

Thinking of getting a car? Here's our standard advice: Don't do it. As we explain in Buying a Car, cars are expensive, depreciating items, and you may be better off running your jalopy into the ground. Even if you have to pour a thousand dollars a year into your Gremlin, that's better than the $4,740 you'd spend a year if you borrowed $13,000 at 6% to buy a new ride.

Of course, cars eventually reach the point of no return. If your wheels would look better on blocks than on the road, now's a good time to find a replacement.

According to a report by Comerica Bank, cars and trucks haven't been this affordable since 1978 (taking inflation and rising incomes into account). Plus, dealers are offering plenty of incentives, such 0% interest and/or cash back. And it's time for the 2003 models to roll out, so dealers need to clear space.

For those looking for a used car, now's an especially good time to find a bargain. Due to a wave of trade-ins and expired leases over the past year, there are used cars aplenty. To move that inventory, dealers have lowered prices. Due to improved workmanship, cars now last an average of 13 years, so buying a "pre-owned" vehicle may be your best bet. A 2-year-old car can sell for less than half the price of a new car.

With any purchase, knowledge is your best weapon. This is especially true with cars, and super-duper especially true with used cars.

Shameless Plug: 60-Second Guides

Sixty seconds can take you farther than you think. None of us has enough time to do everything we want, and, unfortunately, we put off too many financial decisions. Have you wanted to open up a brokerage account, sock away some money in a CD, start an IRA, or just get out of debt but not had the time to figure out what to do? Don't be daunted. You can take on all these and many more (are you looking for a mortgage?) quicker than you think. Our 60-Second Guides are here to make it easy, so stop procrastinating.

Quick Takes

Today's deadline for executives is already having a cleansing effect. Since the closing bell yesterday, no fewer than three companies have revealed the need to restate past earnings. Capital One Financial(NYSE: COF) says "certain computational errors" caused it to overstate net income -- adjusted for stock options -- by 9% and 3% over the past two years. Reuters says the company's reported net income, excluding the cost of options, remained the same.

Fellow financial firm Household International(NYSE: HI) lowered reported profit by $386 million for the period 1994 through its recent second quarter. CEO William Aldinger said new auditor KPMG advised him to change the accounting treatment of certain "MasterCard/Visa co-branding and affinity credit card relationships."

Meanwhile, Interpublic Group(NYSE: IPG) is also doing the restatement thing. It turns out the advertising giant improperly accounted for $68.5 million in charges over the past five years, but the gaffe was "not material to any prior period."

On the earnings front, News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) reported a fourth-quarter loss of $1.7 billion, a figure that included a write-down of $2 billion for the company's investment in Gemstar-TV Guide International(Nasdaq: GMST). News Corp. shares rose slightly after Chairman Rupert Murdoch made some positive remarks about improvements in the advertising market.

Federated Department Stores' (NYSE: FD) second-quarter earnings of $0.66 per share beat estimates, but the parent of Macy's and Bloomingdale's said sales this fall will be a bit disappointing.

And Finally...

Today on If you don't get your finances in order, you'll pay dearly later.... Bill Mann chortles as American Express defies its former boss.... How to save money as a family, in Fool's School.... What do you expect from politicians in economic matters? Take our poll.

Bob Bobala, Robert Brokamp, Jeff Hwang, Tom Jacobs, Bill Mann, Selena Maranjian, Rex Moore, Rick Munarriz, Jackie Ross, Reggie Santiago, Dayana Yochim