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Investing well isn't easy, but it is possible. My goal in life is to make it easier for you to make money. I want to help out regular people with paying a mortgage, or college tuition, or hey, if we really do well, maybe buying a boat. Picking the right stocks is one of the hardest parts of investing, and every night on Mad Money, I try to take some of that burden off your shoulders. If you watch the show, I can give you good stocks. I can help you understand where the market's going. My last book, Jim Cramer's Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World, gave you the disciplines and insights I had developed over the course of my long career as a money manager. Since I wrote Real Money, it's gotten harder to be a regular investor. We live in a more dynamic, more economically integrated world, and that means it takes more effort to know all the facts you need to invest wisely. In this book, I'll show you how you can best use Mad Money to make money in this new, more complex global economy, and I'll also teach you the many new lessons about investing that I've learned from putting the show together every weekday for more than a year. I hope Mad Money, and this Mad Money book, can give you a life that's richer in wealth if not necessarily in spirit.
But if you think just watching Mad Money alone can make you rich, you're dead wrong. If you think that watching the show and maybe doing a little research on the side can make you money, I'd bet you're off the mark there too. It's not enough just to process what I say on the show. You need to know what to do with it. And that, my friends, is what this book is all about.
I want to help you take the advice I give out on Mad Money and show you how you can turn that advice into money in your pocket. That's what I'm all about: helping everybody get rich. There's a method you need to use, there are protocols to follow. Sometimes you'll need a translator to understand what I'm saying on the show, because I get a little caught up with the idea of being on TV and start making lots of incomprehensible references to things only a few hundred people have ever heard of. But if you watch the show, and if you use this book to turn my advice on the show into real investment strategies, I think you'll be able to make yourself some serious dough. I don't want to knock the show -- it's fun to watch -- but there's more to investing than I can convey in an hour a night of TV, especially when I have to keep from being too didactic in order to hold everybody's attention.
This book is about maximizing what you can do with the market advice I freely distribute on the show -- advice that comes out of two decades of experience playing the market, and playing to win. This book is the necessary complement to Mad Money, and the even more necessary sequel to Jim Cramer's Real Money: Sane Investing in an Insane World. In Real Money I wanted to help individual investors make money in the stock market. I wrote that book before I had Mad Money, and in the last year and a half, things have changed. I learned more in the first year of making my show than I learned in any five years I spent running my hedge fund. Now I've got a new approach to stocks. It's pretty simple: there's no such thing as the market. Whenever people talk about "the market," they're really talking about a very small group of large institutions: hedge funds and mutual funds. Because these funds control so much of the money in the market, they're the ones who determine stock prices. A stock is only worth what the big institutions are willing to pay for it. Mad Money and this book are both meant to help you, the individual investor, understand what these big players are doing and to help you try to beat them at their own game. In this book, I'll tell you how to make the best use of my show in light of my new philosophy, and I'll teach you the important new lessons I've learned since I wrote Real Money. The market's changed; my new rules will help you capitalize on my most recent experience with stocks, and they'll help you deal with a stock market that's gotten harder.
Now, sometimes I've got to toot my own horn just so you guys will listen to me. I have a few talents: I am a pretty good stock picker and a successful investor. Just so you don't think I'm conceited, I'm also not the most considerate guy on earth, and I'm a bad sport when playing Monopoly. The point is, I know how to make money in the market, and I want to help you make as much money as possible. I'm not doing it to be famous, and I'm not doing it for the pay, because I've already got more money than I feel comfortable having, and I say that as an incredibly greedy capitalist. I need to make you rich. I don't know why, maybe it's out of a pervasive sense of guilt, maybe I'm a nice guy -- it doesn't matter. You will need more than just Mad Money if you're going to make the money I want you to make.
Originally, back at the end of 2004 when we first started throwing ideas together to make the show, I had a plan. There are a lot of people out there who need reliable, honest advice about stocks. You can't be sure about research from this or that brokerage house. They've all been tarnished; they've been tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail for colluding with their clients. And business journalism has the same problem as every other kind of journalism. Nobody ever takes a side, expresses an opinion, or even evaluates the validity of the press releases they get. No one ever puts his neck in doctor guillotine. Instead, they present these bland pseudo-analyses that in the end tell you nothing. Reporters want to tell you the news. You can't make a dime off the news unless you know what to do with it, and that's why Mad Money was born. I wanted to do something different and more helpful.
My goal is to create hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people who diligently invest their money in stocks and come out of it with some mad money. I happen to think my TV show is great. I think it's the best thing on TV short of 24, The Shield, and most of what's on HBO. Good as I think it is, you need more. You need a supplement, you need something that lets you convert what I give you on the show into money in your pocket, and that's why you need this book.
Here's how it all comes together. I may play a total madman on TV, but I'm really just a very unbalanced guy at home. However, when it comes to stocks, I believe in being rigorous and methodical, not crazy. There's no madness to my method. If you want to watch Mad Money and then turn around and make yourself a fortune, you have to understand that method. You have to know what to watch for -- which observations are significant and which ones aren't.
That's the way this book will make you money. The great thing about Mad Money is that it's an up-to-the-minute show. Real Money, my last book, has great general advice about the strategies you should be using to make money in the market, but it has no up-to-the-minute, immediate component. What you're getting in this book is a way to take the detailed, immediate recommendations and observations from the show and turn them into money in your pocket.
I want this book to guide you through the nitty-gritty details of researching the stocks I recommend every single night on the show. I don't just hand you money on a silver platter. I wish I could. I wish it grew on trees, but it takes hard work to make money. I think I'm giving great advice on the show, but you still have to do your homework if you're going to turn that advice into the one thing we're after: money. So in this book, I'll tell you how to do the homework and how to decide which stocks are for you and which stocks you should stay away from, given your age or your personality. I want to guide you through the process of purchasing the stocks you like and then deciding when, where, and how to sell those stocks. I never have time to get into this sort of thing on the show, but it's just as important to know how to buy and sell the right stocks as it is to know how to pick them. I want to take some of the more complicated concepts and ideas that I use on the show and break them down for you, because knowing how to decode genuine Wall Street gibberish, and genuine Cramer gibberish, will improve your game.
I'm writing this book because I want you to feel like you've got me sitting right next to you, guiding you every step of the way when you buy and sell the stocks I pick on the show, or when you just try to implement my more general advice. But I want to do more with this handbook than just teach you how to follow my marching orders. Just as I do on the show, I want to educate you. Making Mad Money has been an education for me, and I have twenty new rules for investing, rules that I've formulated by rigorously analyzing my successes and failures. These rules explain how to invest in a market where the big hedge funds and mutual funds run the show. They're new disciplines that will let you anticipate the behavior of the big institutions. If you can do that, you can get rich. I'm not repudiating my rules in Real Money -- they're still valid -- but the world has changed. My twenty new rules are a supplement to my Real Money rules, not a substitute for them.
That's not all. If you want to get the most out of Mad Money, you need to understand how I operate. Every night I take dozens of calls in the "Lightning Round," a segment where callers ask me what I think about their stocks. I don't know what the stocks will be beforehand, but I still manage to give out decent advice. In this book, I'll show you exactly how I can tell people whether to buy or sell something with only five or ten seconds to think about the stock. I'm revealing all the secrets of the "Lightning Round" and all the tricks I use to pull it off every night. Not only that, I'll even show you how to do your own Lightning Round -- not in order to impress your friends, but because the preparation necessary for a good Lightning Round may be the best way for you to sharpen your stock-picking and investment skills. It's stock market strength training.
Almost every night, I interview a different CEO or CFO on the show. A lot of people tune out for those interviews because they don't think they can get anything out of them. In this book, I'll tell you exactly how to watch my CEO interviews because they're an incredibly useful asset -- but they're an asset you have to learn how to exploit.
I know that many people want to game the show. You want to be able to figure out what I'm going to say before I say it, because the show moves stocks. You want a trick that will let you read my mind so you can buy stocks before I recommend them. I'll tell you straight out: there is no trick. There's no real way to game the show. But you can learn how to think like me. I'll tell you some of the ways I pick stocks for the show. You'll get a glimpse of my thought process as I try to put together good picks that I think will make you money. If you know how I pick stocks for the show, you probably still won't be able to anticipate Mad Money's recommendations. But you will learn how I decide which stocks to feature, and that's not a bad thing to know.
I may be a good stock picker, but I'll admit that I'm not the most polished broadcaster on earth, and sometimes I can be, let's say, incomprehensible. That's why I'm giving you a guide to all the weird terms I use and some of the esoteric, even obnoxious cultural references I make. Can this stuff make you money? If you think hard enough, probably. But the real point is that it makes watching the show more fun, and if watching the show is fun, then investing will be fun. As long as you enjoy investing, you'll be willing to do the homework and stay in the game. That's why I try to make the show so entertaining, because if you aren't interested, you'll either miss the opportunity to make money in the market or not pay enough attention and end up losing your shirt.
And in the interest of keeping things fun -- because again, where there's no fun, there's won't be any money (hey, the reverse is true too) -- I've got a glossary that explains all my props and, even better, my sound effects and what they're supposed to mean. I want you to know what you should do when I push a given button. It's a science: it's Cramerology.
At the end of the book, I give you a stock worksheet that will help you keep track of all the steps you need to take if you want to own a stock. The worksheet is a template, a way to organize your thoughts so that you can follow the instructions I lay out in the first part of this book for buying and selling stocks. You don't have to use the worksheet, but if it helps even just a little bit, then why not?
I'll try anything to help make you wealthier than you are -- you know that if you've ever seen the show. I just can't stop myself; I'm addicted to making you money. I should be spending all day in a country club or never getting out of my pajamas like Hugh Hefner. But here I am, writing this Mad Money book, because I have a categorical imperative to help you get rich, and the show is not enough. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it helps you get that house or that car. Or, let's get really ambitious and try for the yacht.
Copyright © 2006 by J. J. Cramer & Co.
Chapter One: Buying a Stock Mad Money Style Step One: Know Yourself and Your Goals
Chapter One: Buying a Stock Mad Money Style
Step One: Know Yourself and Your Goals
Let's cut to the chase. I come out on my show and I tell you to buy a stock. I give it a big, triple-buy, I give you the whole shtick about why it's great and why you should own it. What should your response be?
Well, if you really want to get the most out of Mad Money, and I'm not talking about literary value here, or even entertainment value, you need a pretty good understanding of who you are, where you are in your life, and what you're after. I don't want this to be a self-help book. The last thing in the world I want is to turn into the Dr. Phil of investment advice. But if you don't know what your priorities are -- and I can give you an idea of what they should be if you need help in that department -- then trying to invest will be a lot harder than it should be, and Mad Money, for all its virtues, won't help you at all.
When I recommend a stock on Mad Money, I don't have time to go through exactly what type of person should own that stock. And even if I did have time, the legal department at CNBC has some problems with my giving out individualized investment advice. That's why I'm devoting some space in this book to helping you figure out what kind of investor you want to be. That way, when you watch the show, you can have a perspective that will not only help you make money, but, beyond that, will let you measure your own successes and failures. Let me give you a quick example. If I tell you to buy a stock that I believe will double over the next eighteen months, and you really just want to make some quick trades that will give you smaller but quicker gains, you shouldn't buy that stock. You won't get what you're after, and when you don't get what you're after, I get angry e-mails. So let's do our best right now to set you up for success at whatever it is you're trying to do. The goal is always to make you Mad Money, but there are different ways to do it, and Mad Money doesn't mean the same thing at twenty-five that it means at fifty or seventy-five. I want you to figure out where you're coming from. Maybe you think this is intuitive, that you have a visceral sense of your goals and your financial position, but it pays to be careful.
A lot of people who are trying to make money in the market don't have a sense of their own identity as investors. Some people think they do. I've made this mistake countless times, which is why I'm the guy to help make sure you don't. Before you watch the show and try to take my advice, you need to ask yourself a set of questions, and I'll lay them out right here.
First and foremost, how old are you? If I come out on the show and recommend Conexant (CNXT), which when I first came out in favor of it was a debt-laden, under-two-dollar speculative company that made parts for television set-top boxes, I'm not necessarily recommending the stock for you. As it happened, Conexant could have made some people a lot of money in a very short time. I got behind it on September 19, 2005, at a buck sixty-three a share, and four months later, on January 19, it closed at three dollars and thirty-four cents a share. Now, even though I got that one right, that was not a stock that you should've put any retirement savings into. It's not a stock that I would recommend a sixty-year-old buy, unless he or she happens to have a whole lot of extra money to put on the table and risk losing.
Some of you are probably saying to yourselves, money is money. Why should it make any difference how old I am if stocks like Conexant can deliver that kind of return? In most things I'm an egalitarian. I think that in all the important, essential ways, people are the same. But when it comes to money, you have to deal with some upsetting realities. We are not all financially equal. And not all stocks are equally risky. The young, I hate to admit at the ripe old age of fifty-one, are allowed to take a lot more risks with their money than the middle-aged or the elderly. And when it comes to money, this is the one place where it's not smart to lie about your age, although to look youthful I often claim I am sixty-two years old on air. It's not that young people are better at managing risk. The odds are good that if you're a young investor, you don't have the experience to manage risk as well as someone who's a bit more seasoned. In a way, it's ironic that young people, who have the least experience, also have the most latitude in how they can invest. It's ironic, but as far as I'm concerned, it's also financial gospel.
Young people can take more risks with their money, because they can afford to lose more money. If you've got more time to earn back your losses, you can afford to take bigger risks. A risky stock like Conexant is perfect for someone just out of college. You can count on me to give you honest and good advice, but I'll get it wrong sometimes, and when I do, if you're acting on my recommendations, it's possible you'll lose money. If I were in your shoes, I'd rather lose money as a recent college grad, who has a whole career to earn it back, than as a retiree who's depending on that income for rent, or medical bills, or food, or yacht fuel. That's why, on my "Back to School" tour, I offer college kids some of the riskiest alternatives out there. That doesn't mean you can't make money as you get older; it just means you should pay more attention to my conservative stock picks and a lot less attention to the sexy-looking speculative ones.
How old are you? is the first question that'll determine the way you approach my show and the way you should approach the market. It's a rude question, but making money can be a rude business. The second question, a two-parter, frankly is even more obnoxious: how much money do you have in the bank, and what's your income? I tell people never to put more than 20 percent of their discretionary money, which means the money that they're not saving for retirement, into speculative stocks. Those are the risky stocks like Conexant that can deliver the big gains or the big losses. That's a rule, and it's one I'm sticking to because I'm a law-and-order kind of guy. But to be honest, if you're really rich, if you're raking in a lot of money, you can afford to speculate with half or even all of your investment income. I don't recommend it. I don't think it's smart. You only need to get rich once. But this is another uncomfortable truth that has to be acknowledged: the richer you are, the less you need to worry about money. It's obvious on a gut level, but no one likes to be told that they don't make enough money to be taking real risks in the market.
It is a question of risk. Losing money means nothing to the really rich, so they can be more aggressive. The money you are investing is meant to increase your wealth, and it would be imprudent to take extra risk if you have less.
If you don't have a lot of money to invest with and you're approaching retirement, don't put your money in risky stuff. I get behind risky stocks all the time on the show, but they're meant only for people who have either the time or the money to be able to afford the risk. I want to make you rich, but I've got my own Hippocratic oath, and the first step to making you rich is keeping you from becoming poor. You can make money in stocks at any age, even with very little money. But you have to use different strategies depending on how old you are and how much you've got in the bank. In terms of how much money you should have if you want to start investing in stocks, I've always said you should have ten thousand dollars that you can afford to put into stocks. That's separate from retirement money. You can still make money with five thousand dollars, or even less than that, but once you get too low, even today's small commissions will eat into your profits, and the amount of effort necessary to beat the market won't end up providing you with commensurate gains.
We've gone over your age and your bank account -- not fun subjects, not polite subjects, but even when it's fun, making money is a serious game, no matter what kind of stunts I pull on my show. There are two more things you need to know about yourself before I'll let you approach my show as a serious investor. This stuff is a lot less touchy. You need to know your temperament. There's a certain level of calm that everyone needs to have to beat the market, but I've yet to meet anyone who couldn't relax enough to make money in stocks. You have to keep yourself distanced from the bad days, because sometimes you lose. Some people are just born more comfortable taking risks than others. Some of us are conservative, and despite how I act on the show, I'm actually a pretty conservative investor. I don't want you to lie to yourself here -- and I know this sounds like New Age garbage, but please bear with me, because I promise this is something that can make you rich. A lot of people who invest feel pressure to take bigger risks than they're comfortable taking; we live in a culture that celebrates risk taking. We love cowboys, and even though there haven't been more than a couple of decent Westerns made in the last fifteen years, this is still true.
I'm here to tell you that it's OK, when you watch my show, to write off all the speculative, under-ten-dollar, unprofitable, risky stocks I recommend if you don't feel right about buying them. It's OK to feel some trepidation at taking big risks, and if you aren't comfortable, you won't have fun if you do. When you don't have fun, you aren't as motivated to do the work, and when you ain't motivated, you ain't making money. That's half the point of my show. So please, I beg you, if you're not a big risk taker, just forget about the speculative stocks. There's nothing wrong with wanting to own big, solid, dividend-paying, stable companies. You can make of a lot of money that way, and you won't have to pull your hair out worrying about the risk. Let me tell you, at my hedge fund I would take risks that I didn't necessarily feel good about, and if I'd been more of a gunslinger at heart, I'd probably have a little more hair on my head today.
We've got age, income, and personality. The last question, before I let you listen to my stock picks, is about your priorities. And this is pretty simple stuff. Are you in the game for the long haul, do you want stocks that are going to make you money in the next year, or are you after trades that will make you money in the next week? I try to have something for everybody. Mad Money has been chock full of good trades, and I've also given you some great investments -- not to ignore the mistakes I've made along the way. If you want to trade, you need more free time. I don't believe in buying a stock and holding it -- you know, if you've seen the show, that you've gotta do at least one hour of homework a week per stock you own. But if you really want to trade some of my picks, that's more labor intensive. The shorter your time horizons for making money, the more time and effort you must put into the homework. I know people have said that my show is for traders and not longer-term investors, but the truth is that Mad Money is most useful for people who don't have a ton of free time to trade in. Again, I try to play Zero Mostel in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and have something for everyone, but if you're day trading, look, Mad Money is only an hour of show a day, and it comes on after the close. That means I have a lot less to offer you.
I went over a risky, speculative stock already, Conexant, but there are three other classes of good stocks worth owning that I want to go over with you so that you can easily identify them on the show and pick out the ones that are right for you. The other three types of good stocks, as opposed to bad stocks that will lose you money, are stocks with high growth, stocks with consistent growth, and value stocks. On the show I will try to identify every single stock I recommend as falling into one of these categories. High-growth stocks, obviously, have high growth, but that's not their only characteristic. These are the riskiest of the three types of nonspeculative stocks. As with almost everything involving money, more risk means more reward. High-growth stocks can make you a lot of money because the fund managers on Wall Street live for growth, and they adore any stock that can deliver really high growth. And by high growth, I'm talking about any stock that's growing its earnings at 20 percent or more annually. As long as these stocks keep delivering, they'll make you money, but it's not all milk and honey here. If a high-growth stock fails to deliver, if it disappoints the Street by reporting earnings that are a little shy of expectations or growth that's a little lower than what the Street wants, the stock will get crushed, even though in the case of great franchises like Starbucks or Whole Foods Market, they can bounce back. Sooner or later this happens to every high-growth stock, because a company can become only so big, and the bigger you are, the harder it is to grow. My sister's father-in-law was a crop duster, and he'd always say that there are two kinds of pilots: the ones who have crashed, and the ones who are going to crash. It's no different with high-growth stocks.
Don't get me wrong -- with a little homework, you'll be able to avoid getting seriously hurt in high-growth names. But they're more risky than consistent growers or value stocks, and you need to take that into account when you're trying to set up a portfolio that's right for you. Because consistent growers are less risky, unsurprisingly, they don't tend to make you as much money. But they have other good qualities that make up for the fact that they go up less. Here I'm really talking about stocks like PepsiCo (PEP) or General Mills (GIS). Consistent growers pay out dividends. I love dividends. What could be better than having a company hand you money for doing nothing other than owning the stock? I know, some of the daredevils out there will scoff -- as I write this PepsiCo pays out a 2-percent dividend and General Mills a 2.7-percent dividend. It's not a lot of money, I'll admit. But if you're aiming to make yourself a 7 to 10 percent gain in the market, which is beyond respectable for a conservative portfolio, or even a risky one, that dividend money will definitely help you get there. Consistent growers are very shareholder friendly: they don't just pay dividends, they also tend to buy back stock. This helps you out in two ways. First, by decreasing the number of shares out there, these companies increase the earnings per share and make your shares more valuable. That's the reason companies do buybacks. The second great thing about a buyback is that when anyone, including the company the stock belongs to, buys large amounts of stock, the stock goes up because buybacks tighten supply. In a bad market where no one wants to buy stocks, having the company there with a buyback in place creates an automatic buyer and keeps the stock from getting hit too hard. You can think of it as a cushion or a parachute effect, and it will keep you from getting discouraged in a bad market. These stocks probably couldn't have done anything for my hairline, but truth be told, I just shave my head because women seem to love it.
Value stocks are the third and most conservative kind of stock worth owning. All value stocks are cheap, but not all cheap stocks have value. Actually, let's not call value stocks cheap. Value stocks are inexpensive; they're low priced. Bad stocks are cheap. With a good value stock, you're getting great merchandise that's been put on sale for bad reasons, not shoddy merchandise that's been marked down because it's not worth very much. On Mad Money, when I go for value, I usually do a pretty good job of separating the wheat from the chaff. Value stocks often pay high-yielding dividends, not because the companies have nothing to do with their cash, but because they've gone so low that regular large-sized dividends turn into humongous ones. Not all value stocks pay dividends. Some are companies that, when you look at their underlying assets, are just priced way too low for bad reasons. I'll tell you all about valuation later on; right now I just want to give you a feel for the different breeds of stocks. Value stocks have usually come down for a reason, that reason being either something bad about the company or its sector or something irrational about the market. If you're going to buy value stocks, you want to be sure that they'll go up. Value investors have a longer time frame than growth investors, but it's not an infinite time frame. On the show, I don't recommend value stocks unless I can explain to you why they're going to come up. And you're not allowed to buy any stocks unless you can explain to a friend who knows nothing about the market why that stock is going higher.
A good example of a value stock -- again, as I write this book; it may not be a value stock when you read this -- is Walter Industries (WLT), which I talked about on Mad Money on June 23, 2006. At the time, Walter was a value stock because of the huge discrepancy between its value and the value of its underlying assets. Walter was a $2-billion company with a number of different businesses. It produced high-quality coal, the kind you use to make steel; it had a home-building business; and it also owned 85.5 million shares of a company called Mueller Water Products (MWA). When I recommended Walter, that position in Mueller was worth $1.3 billion. That meant the market was valuing Walter's coal and home-building businesses at just $700 million, and that was way too cheap. Walter became inexpensive because it had been beaten up during May 2006, a really terrible month for stocks. But even before it fell to 48.39, where it was when I recommended it, the stock was cheap. When I talked about Walter on the show, it was trading at less than nine times expected 2006 earnings, even though it was expected to have 20 percent growth going forward. It had a P/E of 8.8 and a PEG rate of just 0.44. (I'll define these terms more thoroughly when I tell you about the homework you should do on a stock in just a little bit.) Take my word for the moment, those two numbers made this stock inexpensive based on the value of its assets and its growth, and that's what makes a great value stock, that's what makes it a gift if it goes lower.
There's no reason that you can't own speculative stocks, high-growth stocks, consistent-growth stocks, and value stocks all at the same time. The name of the game is diversification -- you want to own different kinds of stocks. But, depending on those variables we talked about before -- age, wealth, personality -- you'll want to own different amounts of each kind of stock. If you're conservative, you want more value, more consistent growth, and less high growth, with maybe no speculation at all. If you're young and love to skydive, you'll want to own a speculative name and high-growth stocks, but you still should have some consistent growers and value stocks, just not as much exposure as someone who's more risk averse.
Now that you've taken a good look at how old you are, how much money you have, what kind of temperament you're saddled with, and what, given those three things, your investment goals are, you can get down to the business of watching Mad Money and trying to turn my advice into stock-market gold. If you know yourself, you'll know which stocks are for you. But if you want to buy a Mad Money stock, something I've pitched, then I'd really appreciate it, and I think your wallet would appreciate it, too, if you followed my standard operating procedure for researching, buying, and then selling stocks.
Copyright © 2006 by J. J. Cramer & Co.