NOW Magazine (Nov.20-26/08)
If truth be known, Bush inherited, as Obama will soon, deregulated financial, agricultural, trade and social policies. Put in place by Bill Clinton and Al Gore, these were the achievement of the 1990s - a period that needs to be understood not, as greens once hoped, as the "turnaround decade," but as the "regression decade."
Clinton's government was the juggernaut behind this decoupling of national and human rights from food. "We blew it," Clinton admitted, speaking to a UN group in New York celebrating World Food Day on October 16.
"Food is not a commodity like others," Clinton said in a widely unreported speech. "It is crazy for us to think we can develop countries around the world without increasing their ability to feed themselves," he said, lambasting trade rules that forbid governments in poor countries to subsidize agriculture.
Another Clintonian icon, Alan Greenspan, also admitted to some errors of his ways. Greenspan, appointed chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve by Ronald Reagan in 1987, was regarded as the wizard of high finance until his retirement in 2006.
Greenspan confessed to congressional investigators in mid-October that he was "in a state of shocked disbelief." The "whole intellectual edifice" behind the paradigm leading to unregulated derivative markets "collapsed in the summer of last year," he said.
That was a mild confession compared to the thoughts he blurted out during a mini-crisis in 2002. "There's been too much gaming of the system. Capitalism is not working!" the wizard screamed at colleagues, according to author Ron Suskind.
Bush's final days may be the end of an era, but to become the end of an error, the wild capitalist days of the 1990s will also have to be tamed.
In five years, he has paid back $14 million of the $110 million he owes.
JORDAN BELFORT (b. 1962) was the CEO of of brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont. He served 22 months in federal prison for a "Pump and Dump" scheme. As part of the scheme, falsely purportedly profitable stocks were sold to investors at inflated prices. He is now an author of the 2007 book The Wolf of Wall Street, which details the havoc wreaked upon both others and himself as he fell under the influence of his addictions.
Belfort made at least $50 million from Stratton Oakmont, and acquired a beautiful motor yacht originally built and named for Coco Chanel. Belfort sank the yacht, "complete with seaplane and helicopter, after overruling the captain and taking it into a Mediterranean storm."
Belfort's story may be adapted into film. Martin Scorsese is possibly looking to direct Leonardo DiCaprio in the film adaptation the The Wolf of Wall Street book for Warner Bros. Pictures, with The Sopranos scribe Terence Winters possibly aboard to write. (Wikipedia)
The Wolf of Wall Street The book's main topic is the vast amount of sex, drugs and risky physical behavior Belfort managed to survive. As might be expected in the autobiography of a veteran con man with movie rights already sold, it's hard to know how much to believe. The story is told mostly in dialogue, with allegedly contemporaneous mental asides by the author, reported verbatim. But it reports only surface events, never revealing what motivates Belfort or any of the other characters.CNBC Interview
...crossing over the line of right & wrong in tiny, imperceptible steps until one day you turn around & you're so far over the line everything seems normal.
Every average street kid's dream is to be a Gordon Gekko.
A pioneer in promoting office bonding activities, Belfort thought it would improve morale if staff were encouraged to have sex with each other whenever they could, even under the desks. There were mid-afternoon "coffee breaks" with a troupe of hookers in the office car park. One office junior agreed to have her hair shaved off on the trading floor in return for $5,000 for a breast job.
Bringing Down the House
The story is told through the eyes of the author, who met one of the students at a party and was so intrigued by his outrageous tale that he was compelled to put it into a book.
This is a story of a group of math whizzes, most of Asian descent, who used the art of card counting, worked as teams, and legally won as much as 4 million dollars during the few years they spent their weekends in the Vegas casinos, living the high life.
From the author who brought you the massive New York Times bestseller Bringing Down the House, this is the startling rags-to-riches story of an Italian-American kid from the streets of Brooklyn who claws his way into the wild, frenetic world of the oil exchange.
After conquering the hallowed halls of Harvard Business School, he enters the testosterone-laced warrens of the Merc Exchange, the asylumlike oil exchange located in lower Manhattan. A place where billions of dollars trade hands every week, the Merc is like a casino on crack, where former garbagemen become millionaires overnight and where fistfights break out on the trading floor.
Ugly Americans documents the "Wild East" of the mid-1990s, where young, brilliant, and hypercompetitive traders became "hedge fund cowboys," manipulating loopholes in an outdated and inefficient Asian financial system to rake in millions. Using a concept called arbitrage, they made their fortunes mainly on minute shifts in stocks being sold on the Nikkei, the Japanese stock market, collapsing banks and nearly bankrupting the Japanese economy in the process.
Probably the best way to look at this book is like a travel book - you're not visiting a country, you're visiting a world. Great travel books are not word-perfect descriptions of a place, they are representations of what the author felt like when he was there, and they give the reader a feeling of what it was like to be there. If you read this book, you will understand what it feels like to work inside a big bank, and you'll enjoy the ride, even if you have no interest in actually working there.
Den of Thieves
Den of Thieves is a snapshot of human nature showing its seemy side. Stewart's book has a cast of characters you couldn't believe if it were a work of fiction.
The most brilliant thing about "Den of Thieves" is the range of villians in the book; no two come to their law-breaking in the same manner or embrace it to the same degree. All of them find temptation (usually in the form of large heaps of easy money) too hard to resist.
I once worked for a newspaper that was nuking the bureau I worked in. We were taken out to lunch and when we returned the managing editor was waiting for us. One by one, we walked into the office to hear our fate (I was retained, but sent to a crappy place, hastening my departure.) Prick that he was, the managing editor gave each of us (15 people) six minutes of time, so that he could leave in 90 minutes and beat rush-hour traffic. -DaeSu
>Whoa, did your boss actually time that? -DakotaCadiots
>Yes, he did. He had his watch propped up against a stack of files so he could keep track of the time, and 90 minutes later --having told more than half the staff that they "no longer fit on the team," he was in his BMW and gone. -DaeSu
2002: I walked into my office late one morning (I had been to the dentist) and a coworker tells me that the director had called everyone to an immediate meeting by the front door. He informed them that people would be laid off that day. I was one of the unlucky ones, and had to hand over my key card and clear out my desk that day.
Even the poor guy who had worked there for 10 years and whose office was stocked with plants and books was asked to leave that day.
Director: We need you to leave today.
Poor Guy: Well, that's not very compassionate. And you know how volatile this business is. Why don't you consider that one day you could be working for me?
I still love this guy for saying that. -Squirrelwars
My boss didn't know how to save anything into different folders, so it all went into her "Annie's Stuff" folder on the shared drive. I had access, so I spent many merry months reading her Christmas letters, letters to an ex-baby daddy, and the performance reviews of my coworkers. One day I saw a new file with "Sylvia Fired.doc" on it. The dismissal form she'd filled out was full of misspellings and grammatical errors—I spent my last few hours at work copyediting my own dismissal letter. It was the most fulfilling project I took on during my time there. -Anon.
At my pre-ordained weekly meeting with my supervisor I was told I was being let go because the company was "going in a different direction". That direction, however, was not eliminating my position, but rather giving it to the intern who just graduated two weeks prior. I assume that move is saving them some salary payout and increasing their eye-candy quotient. -Anon.
My husband got laid off unexpectedly—on his birthday, no less. He had been traveling for work for two straight weeks, then they made him sit through a full day of bullshit meetings that were supposed to continue into a company dinner that night. They dropped the ax right before he was set to leave for the restaurant.
Again, on his birthday, after he'd been away for over two weeks. I had sent his birthday cards to his office because I knew that he would get them before he would see me. They wouldn't let him go through his mail to get them. He was allowed to take only the personal photographs from his office and then was forced to sign a form that stated that they did not owe him any money — even though they owed him all his expenses from his two weeks on the road. It took three months and we finally just got that check.
There were a few other layoffs earlier this year, and those people got more in their severance packages. However the company must have realized that they were losing money at an alarming pace so they cut the severance packages drastically... To top it off, he was unable to sell his stock in the company because the timing of his layoff was during a "blackout period." He probably would have only made like a dollar a share. Now, the company's stock is trading at fifty cents a share and so there is nothing of value to sell anymore anyway.
Some consolation: The assholes who are in charge don't stand to make any money on their stock options barring a miracle buyout, which would probably never happen because the place is such a mess and the people who are now in charge are completely incompetent.
If you print this, please keep it anonymous... unless it's after Friday when the severance package runs out. Then we can say whatever we want about those DICKS. -Anon.
May I vent?
I just had to lay off one of my favorite staff members. I've let people go before, but because they sucked at their job. Today, for the first time, I had to take someone I find talented, smart and generally entertaining because our clients are leaving in droves.
How did this happen? When did I cross the line from rank-and-file to management? It happened quietly and so subtly that I never really noticed it. But it crystallized for me today.
I'm sorry anonymous staff guy. Sorry to do this before the holidays, and sorry that our clients suck at running their businesses enough that I had to let you go.
Note: not looking for sympathy from anyone here, since I'm still getting paid (for now, anyway). But I know how much traffic these posts are getting and just hope that someone knows that at least one management person hates this shit as much as you do for getting shafted. -Larry Bird Flu
> I think my boss enjoyed it when she laid me off Tuesday morning. She was so cold I got a brainfreeze. -GregorMendel
Thread: Surely there must be such a thing as workers' rights? Why didn't they get notice? Do they get a severance package? -Vivien Smith-Smythe-Smith
Let's Use One of These Hot Blondes
My favorite story was a few years ago and involved Mercedes Benz. They scheduled a group of managers for an off-site "conference" at a local hotel/conference center. When the victims were seated an HR persons told them they had been fired and to go straight home. Their offices would be cleared out and their personal stuff sent to them. -Weegee's bored
>I knew layoffs were coming when all of a sudden half of us didn't have network access. -it takes a lot to laugh
With reference to corporations' access to legally restricted, confidential personnel files, such as insurance companies, company consultants and HIPAA. Oh, yes, certainly. Firms never break the law to save pennies or their ass, whether in times of crisis or prosperity. Is anyone familiar with what took place at humans-are-our-most-valued-asset..., progressive culture word speak giant Hewlett-Packard? They tapped phones and surveilled their own people. Where corporations, especially their balance sheets, are concerned, company policy or legal obstacles generally do not prevent them from infringing on individuals' privacy. Yes the perps at HP eventually got caught, but how many firms get away with it? To think this doesn't happen often is naive. -JillianParis
Thread: When bosses do shit like this, don't they worry that eventually someone is going to snap and do something really, really bad in the office?...-drunkexpatwriter
Thread: All these layoff stories are heartbreaking. But at least we live in the Land of the Free, right? Free to enter the workforce with $100k in student loan debt. Free to remain shackled to a job because your kids need the health care benefits. Free from awful pushy unions. Free from socialized medicine....-Baroness
Laid Off Just in Time for the Holidays
First off, this is the first time this has ever happened to me so my heart grows colder each day.
I was laid off this week from a large company and most of the points made here are true, except I would like to not think of myself as the dead weight amongst the ones that were let go.
Being the last hired they thought it would be easier to let me go instead of one of the 2 useless people they are keeping. There's a good chance that it had to do with me getting paid a higher rate than them, who knows.
All I know is that I tried hard to stay out of a corporate entity but it seems as though they own your ass one way or another.
My anxiety from a job loss is magnified greatly because of both the current economic state as well as right before 2 major holidays which make job hunting hard.
I'm beginning to understand why people dive off bridges! -Cheap Shot
>@Cheap Shot: The sting is bad at first, but it gets better! Also, try to take some time for yourself--especially if you've been working crazy hours and haven't had time to do so recently. And be creative in looking for new jobs--I totally sent my resume to local, fun places (like wine shops and cheese shops) if for no other reason than to get resume feedback and to get the feeling that I'm putting myself out there.
And keep in mind that usually, being laid off is a long-term blessing because you may be given one of the few lifeboats ahead of a monstrous Titanic-like sinking. -bellethellama
It's true, and it's horrible. I work in a bookstore and we've seen a complete and total marked dip in sales and there are times when we can go an hour or more without anyone buying anything, or seeing a customer at all.
Only so many times you can shelve a book. :/ We're all screwed, huh? -Eldritch
My company is one of those companies that's profitable and getting moreso, but still laying people off pretty much just because everybody else is. They're basically using the recession as an excuse to cut staff and freeze salaries. I just had my evaluation and even though I'm underpaid by about 25% and asked for a larger raise (before the recession really hit), I was told the company couldn't afford it. This even though the company is profitable, we'd just laid off a bunch of people and everybody who remained was being asked to do a ton more work. I got the classic "we'll have to do more with less" line - yes, my boss actually said this to me! He may as well have given me the "it's not you, it's me" speech - I mean Jesus Christ, talk about cliches.
Literally that *same day*, my department had a meeting where my boss solicited ideas for what we could do with an extra $20,000 per month that we had had added to our budget.
Needless to say, morale is pretty goddamn low at my company, and NOBODY wants to work for these a-holes. -badasscat
Workers: Just Sit Quietly and Wait to be Laid Off
You know, with more and more of my friends being fired, it's totally increasing my productivity. I'm so petrified of it happening to me, I've been working harder than ever. Anyone else doing that?
@__: If you shoot one horse, don't the rest run faster?
@__: Who fires HR people? The God of Karma?
Why do people still bring personal effects to work? Seems insane in this environment. My desk is spotless and empty - my exit will be the quick rustle of my coat on my way to the bar.
@__: I've got a couple of tons of engineering books and papers. Other than that, just pics of the kids to keep the gun barrel out of my mouth.
Yea, my family in Israel were part if Irgun. In fact, my aunt's parents met in jail! Her parents also happen to be the nicest most benign people I have ever met.
And before people start bugging out, guess what? We did this, too. It's called the American Revolution.
@__: You know, I bet there are a lot of nice and benign Palestinians who are part of or sympathetic to Hamas. But we're trained in America to view them all as "evil."
I wonder what Folke Bernadotte's grandkids might think about your "nice" and "benign" relatives? He was a hero during World War II, negotiating the release of 10,000 Jews from concentration camps -- saving their lives. After the war, he was deputized by the U.N. to forge a cooperative settlment to the exploding situation in Palestine. Of course, Irgun and the other Zionist terror groups wanted no part of a "cooperative" settlement -- they wanted all of the land. So they assassinated Bernadotte.
Such lovely people.
@__: Zioterror doesn't count, much less exist, for Americans.
@__: Exactly. I wonder what would happen if every Palestinian who died at an Israeli checkpoint while trying to get to a hospital received the same coverage in the U.S. media as every launch of a crude rocket from Gaza.
@__: You are really treading on thin ice here. Those rockets were launched every fucking day I was in Israel this year and the media did NOT report it. Stop saying the media is biased towards Israel - IT IS NOT. It is biased towards Palestinians. Visit Israel before you run your mouth.
Aren't there special places you can comment? Like, say, some anti-semetic website? You forgot "Death to Israel" in your little rant.
@__: Please, please, please do not reduce all criticisms of Israel to anti-semitism. __ did not advance an anti-semitic argument. I know you have a vested interest in Israel (family, right?), as do I, and I hate to have to plead, but can we please not go down this path?
@__: denouncing zionist terrorist groups is not the same thing as being anti-semetic and the sooner you figure that the fuck out, the sooner you'll stop coming across as a raving racist every single time this topic comes up.
@__: Shut the fuck up about your commingling of anti-semitism and criticism of Israel. Nobody cares about your emotional connection to the land and that special feeling you get from seeing Jeff Seidel wandering around HaKotel no Friday afternoons. That type of kneejerk bullshit is a bigger obstacle to meaningful dialogue than anti-semitism is. @__: You make some sound points, but to be fair, the checkpoints wouldn't be chokepoints if they weren't targeted by suicide bombers posing as dialysis patients and whatnot. Doesn't make them just, nor does it mean that the media bias isn't a problem, but it is helpful, like my homeboy Rashid Khalidi to consider some of the Palestinian contributions to the problems.
Anyway, fuck you both for dragging me into this.
2:06 - Puppy cam perspective makes Shibas look like deliciously browned breakfast sausages in a large, round pan. POPE NOW HUNGRY FOR SAUSAGES.
2:09 - Shibas motionless. The anticipation of motion leads me into a trance like state where I understand the Tao. Motion without motion. Energy without movement. Always ready to move but still, like the clarity of water in a deep pond. Still hungry for breakfast sausages though.
@__: They're all lined up sleeping (again) but I think they left a gap for you to crawl in.
Pink slips are the new black.
You left out the part where one CEO raised his hand and Rahm leapt from his chair, hurled it across the room, kicked the CEO next to him and shouted "Does it look like I'm anywhere near finished spreading your wealth yet?!?".
I saw this at 7:00 PM on Friday night - the epicenter of the teenage girl vampire riot. My thoughts on the experience:
1.) If you're a teenage boy, go see this. Girls your age will outnumber you 20:1. Free advice: put on a black hoody and go stand in line for this.
2.) Virtually every scene involving Richard Pattinson arriving or doing something sexy/heroic will elicit a shriek from the audience. If you can't stand that, go when the little 'uns are past curfew.
3.) Suburban/semi-urban parking will actually be quite good, because most of the audience is being dropped off.
4.) The movie is 121 minutes, and you will feel every excruciating second. The book is interminable, and the movie has opted to keep that dynamic. Bring your iPhone/BlackBerry/laptop/cyanide.
5.) Kristen Stewart is the most wooden actress I've ever seen get this much screen time. She has fewer facial expressions than Ben Affleck.
6.) For the menfolk/ladies in search of lipstick: they have a tremendously attractive woman named Ashley Greene playing one of the vampires. Perk up if you hear the name "Alice." She's off-the-charts beautiful.
7.) You know what the star of this movie is? The Volvo C30. The car had me swooning. Perk up if you hear tires.
8.) Drink beforehand. It helped.
Nearly 200 Dead
I suppose it depends on how you define terrorism, but 200 dead is a drop in the bloody bucket of India's ongoing Hindu-Muslim-Christian circular firing squad. [...]
I go to the same pubic hair combover stylist as Mr. Trump, and I can assure you that there is at least one bill he pays on time every week.
But for serious, this might actually be close to the end of the road for Don. His "borrow-default-sue" scheme has made it impossible for his to do business in Atlantic City. Banks won't loan to him anymore without collateral, and his only collateral is real estate which is now all underwater from previous borrowings/equity lines. Service providers (IT, construction companies, etc.) will only do work on his casinos if they are paid in advance because he's burned so many people with defaults. The Chicago building loan probably came on the heels of the success of the first Apprentice, but that gravy train dried up pretty quickly.
I'm probably full of shit, but I really, really hope I'm right.
I have seen the good and the awful side of Six Sigma. In quantifiable verticals, I felt some of the managers and practices might be good medicine for smokestack era companies that have become torpid.
But, in creative, agile, rapid response solutions practices, Six Sigma zombies were the numero uno poison pills in the cocktail.
I had to make an agreement with some of the older consultants that maintained their own client books that if we got hassled and blocked by the Six Sigma koolaid, we would break some kneecaps in the parking lot.
Christie's Auction Girls
These ladies will be laughing all the way back to mommy's house when Christie's lays off hundreds of staff this year, largely because... wait for it... all the finance money that was fueling the art boom has dried up.
I wonder if they and their ex-banker friends talk about how many jobs Christie's could have saved if they hadn't given alpha-finance-douche Dick Fuld $20 million worth of guarantees on works from his collection that had to be bought in by the house during last fall's disasterous sales? [...]
What I don't understand, though, is why Conde Nast insists on neglecting the only hedge it has against the decline of print. With the resources they have, they should be making loads of money off the web--and putting the rest of us out of business. I get that they don't necessarily *need* to (i hear you, Peter Feld) but if the opportunity is there, why not take it?
@__: Hi- I can shed a little light here. The reason that Conde, and every other magazine co, are effectively absent from online as a cultural force is that they have a problem accepting the narrow (if any) profit margins that online media businesses return. At this point in time, readers won't pay at all and ad agencies will only pay less than they did last year (per individual). As the job of the heads of these companies is to grow profits, not just audience, you really won't see them making the kind of websites that they are capable of until there's real money to be made. numberwrangler
Peter Feld: @__: That is a good analysis. To be fair to Conde Nast, few if any other print publication companies have really solved the web puzzle. They get too obsessed with making print and web "work together" when they don't, and can't - if there's one clear fact about the web audience, it's that they don't want your magazine, and if there's one clear fact about the print audience it's that they aren't interested in your website. Audiences are more stratified by media habits than they are united by common interests.
The American Dollar is Dead
American Dollar = Toilet Paper
The Indian people could be the richest people in the world when this crisis is over.
Hank Paulson is a financial terrorist.
These guys will stop at nothing to keep their dirty laundry a secret.
What auditing companies?!?
These guys are wholesale thieving of trillions of dollars.
The US dollar is the only tether between the rest of the world & this criminal syndicate on Wall Street headed up by Hank Paulson.
Hank Paulson is taking the entire US economy into oblivion.
They're not going to stick around in the US when the Americans are going to have their pitchforks ready to go in & take back their country.
Under the Constitution, Hank Paulson qualifies as a tyrant.
Interview by Press TV (transcript)
US Dollar 'Backed by Bananas'
"The problems are here but the people who created this nightmare are gone. Cheney has already got his Halliburton corporation headquartered in Dubai. He's already out of the picture. All these crooks are going to be leaving this country. They're not going to stay for all of the rioting there's going to be in America."
Who's Max Keiser?
re: The Economic Crisis
This is going to be a big one.
Ordinary Americans don't have much of a role in this.
This is the denouement of a 25-year debt buildup which was undertaken mostly by the financial sector putting themselves on steroids to get bigger & bigger & bigger.
Moyers: You say it's the greatest story never told.
They (the financial sector) are the economy at this point.
The middle class is shrinking.
The financial sector has hijacked the American economy.
Finance has been preferred as the sector that got government support.
The rise of the financial sector is the rise of the debt industry.
Greenspan would do nothing to disturb finance...basically he gave finance what they wanted.
The people who were the arsonists are now racing to show up in fireman hats saying "We're going to solve it."
We're about halfway through.
Finance can bet on anything...they have figured out new ways to gamble.
I think it's (the economic crisis) another variation but on par with the '30s.
I don't think we have a sound economy at all. Not remotely, at this point.
He (Obama) doesn't seem to have anything very specific to say - that's part of the problem.
I'm sick of Washington.
We are on the wrong track.
Couple of decades coming up which are going to be very difficult for Americans.
A lot of people in the financial community that want to get rid of it (Social Security).
A lot of Democrats in the labour movement are very nervous about Obama. They see that the flesh of The Democratic Party carries a lunchbox but the new soul wears a pinstripe suit.
Who's rescuing the laid off worker? Nobody's rescuing them.
You don't rock the boat. You pretend it's a sound economy.
Harper's Magazine - May.08
Almost four decades have passed since the United States scrapped its last currency ties to precious metals. Our copper and nickel coinage still retains some metallic value, but not nearly enough for the purpose of currency tampering—the historic temptation of inflation-plagued or otherwise wayward governments, including, at times, our own. Instead, since the 1960s, Washington has been forced to gull its citizens and creditors by debasing official statistics: the vital instruments with which the vigor and muscle of the American economy are measured. The effect, over the past twenty-five years, has been to create a false sense of economic achievement and rectitude, allowing us to maintain artificially low interest rates, massive government borrowing, and a dangerous reliance on mortgage and financial debt even as real economic growth has been slower than claimed. If Washington’s harping on weapons of mass destruction was essential to buoy public support for the invasion of Iraq, the use of deceptive statistics has played its own vital role in convincing many Americans that the U.S. economy is stronger, fairer, more productive, more dominant, and richer with opportunity than it actually is.
When life was good for Ritchie, it was very good. Twenty years ago he was 33, working as a bond broker on Wall Street in New York, and making loads of money. Then he switched firms and started making even bigger money as a stockbroker. That's when things started to go wrong.
For Ritchie, the stock market glittered like the world's biggest casino and there was no such thing as enough. "I was a Vince Lombardi kid - I had to win at any cost - and when I played with money, I played to win," he says. "I was completely out of control. I would bet on everything - stocks, indices, gold, silver, currencies. It was incredible."
When he began dipping into his clients' accounts to cover his losses, the end was near. "In the early 1990s I got to that day when I knew that a bunch of my clients' statements would be wrong. So I put on my jacket, walked over to my two secretaries, and wrote a note for my boss telling him I resigned. Then I walked out and never came back."
What went wrong with Ritchie? It turns out he was a compulsive gambler. According to psychologists who study gambling behavior, it's all too easy for an innocent investing habit to swell into a gambling problem if a person is so disposed. Both investing and gambling let you wager big money and win or lose huge sums within minutes. Indeed, it can be difficult for even a professional to know at what point a sincere interest in investing edges over the line and becomes something darker and more compulsive.
What ultimately distinguishes gamblers from investors, says Dr. Marvin Steinberg, executive director of the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, is a lack of control. Smart investors may decide to occasionally make big bets on a stock. But they can also go for months without buying a stock or even shuffling their portfolio.
"With any kind of compulsive behavior, you wind up being out of control," says Steinberg. "So if you tell yourself that you're going to do one thing and you wind up doing more, you have a problem. An alcoholic says he'll just have one drink and winds up having 12, a problem gambler goes to the casino with $100 in his wallet and winds up spending $3,000 on his credit card. In the same way, if you put more money into risky investments than you can afford to lose, that's a sign you have a problem."
Other symptoms include an inability to stop trading stocks, even while on vacation, using lots of borrowed money, and indulging in superstitious behavior, such as buying a stock because the symbol reminds you of your dog's name. Steinberg estimates that as many as 5% of investors have a mild to serious gambling problem. "There are Gamblers Anonymous meetings in New York and Chicago that are attended almost exclusively by stock market gamblers," he says. "It's a problem that needs to be taken seriously, but it's not well understood. Brokers don't want their clients to think of the markets as a place where you could become a problem gambler."
If you suspect you might have a problem, you can take Steinberg's questionnaire at CCPG.org. If you decide you need help, consult a mental health professional or contact Gamblers Anonymous, which has groups in many Canadian cities. You can also get referrals from Arnie & Sheila Wexler Assoc. (ASWexler.com), which is run by Arnie Wexler, a former compulsive gambler.
Ritchie only realized his investing was out of control after he lost his career. Thanks to Gamblers Anonymous, "I haven't made a bet in over 10 and a half years," he says. "And now I have a terrific life. I'm raising a child and taking care of my wife and running a business buying and selling art." But Ritchie knows he can never be fully cured. "I have to continue to go to the program, because I am what I am, and that doesn't change," he says. "So I'll never work for Caesars Palace - and I couldn't work for Morgan Stanley, either."
If you display five or more of these 11 traits, you may have a gambling problem, according to Paul Good, a clinical psychologist in San Francisco:
1. You engage in high volume trading,where the "action" is more compelling than the objective of your trade.
2. You are constantly preoccupied with your investments.
3. You need to invest more and more money or increase your leverage to feel excited.
4. You have repeatedly tried to stop or control your market activity and failed.
5. You become restless and irritable when you try to cut down or stop investing.
6. You invest to escape problems, relieve depression, or distract yourself from painful emotions.
7. You sometimes increase your position in an investment after a loss - that is, you chase your losses.
8. You have lied to conceal the extent of your involvement in the market.
9. You have committed illegal acts, such as forgery or fraud, to finance your market activity.
10. You are jeopardizing significant relationships or your job because of excessive involvement in the market.
11. You have relied on others to bail you out when you got into desperate financial situations.
Investor or Gambler?