Next Time You Want to Lose Money, Call Me First


The business news story of the year so far is that a bunch of professional investors lost more than $9 billion when a bunch of amateur traders squeezed their short positions, which is not as obscene as it sounds.  This makes prior screw-ups (“London Whale” Bruno Michel Iksil dropping $2.3 billion for J.P. Morgan Chase, and Nick Leeson blowing $1.3 billion for Barings) look like senior citizens arguing over the early bird special at Applebee’s.

“Sorry about that $9 billion!”

The sad part is that the professionals were using other people’s money, albeit people who had a minimum of $700,000 lying around the house to invest.  Ordinary folks–just like you and me!

Memo to high-net worth investors:  You guys are paying way too much to lose money.  Take advantage of my everyday low prices for big savings you won’t find anywhere else!  I’m willing to spend your money unwisely for much, much less.

My bad investments have all cost less than $100, as follows:

Glow-in-the-Dark Secret Decoder Rings:  In retrospect, not a wise decision, but based on information available at the time, the move to become the first on my block to own the entire set was consistent with past performance of collectibles in a low-interest rate environment.  All-in cost: $1.25, but that includes the slab of pink bubble gum that came with each one!  So I say to all you 20-20 hindsight types out there–blow it out your leveraged shorts.

Steve Miller Band albums:  I loaded up on these bad boys back when a vinyl LP cost $4.95.  A cross-genre gypsy–part blues band, part acid-rock, part AM radio pop–Miller is still touring but he’s the equivalent of those overextended 60s conglomerates like Textron that were darlings of the era’s stock market, only to be viewed as a lumbering jack of all trades, master of none when the euphoria wore off.  Just goes to show you what happens to those who have the courage to speak of the pompitous of love.

“Who’s yer favrite Beatle, luv?”

Skinny ties:  Take my word for it–nothing looked cooler on a teenage male at a high-school dance circa 1965-1969 than a skinny tie.  I accumulated a collection that would match the camel and maroon blazers my mother insisted would serve me well during four years of frat parties at our state university.  Neither bet paid off; my entire wardrobe fell to junk bond status when I went off to a liberal arts school where “formal wear” consisted of bell bottoms with stitching.  While slowly making a comeback in the 20-teens, I’ve long ago written off these dogs in my haberdashery kennel and can’t recoup my investment because of accumulated chin-goo at the point where the knot is formed.

Umm–you can almost smell the glue, can’t you?

Model cars:  I went long on plastic model cars in the mid-60′s, hoping to reap the big cash prizes I read about in Model Car Science, the Wall Street Journal of the glue-and-spray paint set.  Little did I know that the market was about to be flooded with chopped-and-channeled, candy-apple-blue street machines made by other plastic hot rod fanatics.  Some had miniature bars and TV sets in the trunks, making my ham-handed spray painting job look like something Picasso would produce while high on plastic cement.

Picasso’s “Guernica”:  Not as bad as it looks.

Star Wars Collectibles: 
 Here’s one area of the market where I’m still kicking myself that I didn’t go all in when the time was right.  In 1978 the first Star Wars film appeared to immediate acclaim.  Star Wars fever gripped the nation, or at least that part of the nation that didn’t get out much and knew what the word “grok” means.

Princess Leia collectible hot-cold drink cup

I snapped up collectible drink cups featuring Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia et alia with nary a thought to their long-term prospects, like penny tech stocks.  But one day, coming out of my local supermarket, I espied the Holy Grail of Star Wars memorabilia: a ceramic Chewbacca Beer Mug.  A graduate student at the time, I thought I would never recoup the $7.95 it would have cost me, and I choked.  I did the “prudent” thing, and walked away from what could have been the most lucrative investment of my life.  No risk–no reward.

So here’s the deal:  I’m willing to invest your money not for $9 billion, not $900 million, but the paltry sum of $9 million, one-tenth of one percent of what you just blew.  Trust me–even if you lose money, you’ll still have hours of wholesome rainy-day fun putting your model cars together.

Not to mention the bubble gum.

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