Wetzel's Pretzels employee Emperatriz Orozco hands out free samples at the Westfield Valley Fair Mall. Steve Henn/NPR hide caption

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Mel Watt, director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, says many homeowners who could qualify to refinance their mortgages under HARP are suspicious. Jacquelyn Martin/AP hide caption

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Retailers are optimistic about back-to-school sales because the job market has been strengthening and gas prices have been falling. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

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Anthony Matthews collects letters from dissatisfied customers — including himself — at his website, Dear Customer Relations. He's crowd-funding a book based on the site. Courtesy of Anthony Matthews hide caption

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After two kids and her husband's bouts with cancer, Claire Shrout's family was wracked with debt. Instead of declaring bankruptcy, they worked themselves out of it and hope to be relatively debt free by spring. Courtesy of Claire Shrout hide caption

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