It's a new day in America.
On street corners, hungry men and women now clutch shards of hand-lettered cardboard reading, "Will evaluate portfolio diversity for food" and "Disabled Vietnam veteran needs your help ascertaining market trends in the communications sector for the upcoming quarter."
Out on the highways, compacts and pickups sport bumper stickers proclaiming, "I might be slow, but I bought my Internet stocks ahead of you," "My boss is a Jewish carpenter. My CEO, however, is a Unitarian broker with Morgan Stanley."
The latest overpass graffiti? "Schwab happens."
Clearly, Wall Street has taken over Main Street.
And then there's you. To you, the NASDAQ, the Nikkei, the Russell Index, stocks, bonds, T-bills, mutual funds, hedge funds, derivatives, precious metals, venture capital, IPOs -- come on, admit it, the whole shebang -- are a mystery. You have no market savvy. No grasp of market dynamics. Don't know the DJI from DJ Jazzy Jeff. You're convinced a 401(k) is a European shoe size.
Well, dammit, it's time to change. Time for you to climb aboard the investment gravy train before its overstressed wheels shatter and fall off, sending engine, cars and passengers all plunging down a mountainside only to be pulverized by a meteor, which triggers the avalanche that buries them.
Step 1: Get familiar with a few basic investment terms.
E-trade -- Electronic (that is, Internet) trading, most often used by Web-heads who need new revenue streams to pay for their online pornography habit.
Blue Chips -- The perfect companion investment for those who are heavily into salsa stocks.
Growth Fund -- A mutual fund that so consistently underperforms the market that the severe angst and bad energy it causes shareholders results in the development of a cancerous, inoperable, deadly growth in his/her brain.
Socially Responsible Fund -- Mutual funds that will not put any money into defense contractors, tobacco companies and/or the next Crosby, Stills and Nash comeback.
P/E Ratio -- Poindexter-to-Everybody Else Ratio. A numerical comparative expressing how much more money Bill Gates owns in stock than every other person on Earth put together; currently 4-to-1.
Puts -- What your broker calls you behind your back, though it's actually spelled putz.
High-grade/Medium-grade/Low-grade Bonds -- Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, respectively.
Member Firm -- How a male trader describes his genitalia when his portfolio value rises by more than 12 percent in a single day.
Inactive Post -- How the same stockholder describes the same organ when his portfolio value falls by more than 12 percent in a single day.
Fanny Mae -- Where the overwhelming majority of small investor stories end, e.g., "The stock took off like a rocket, then damn if it didn't nosedive before I could unload it, and I wound up taking it right in the Fanny Mae."
Soybean Futures -- The place to put your money if you find "immediate soybeans" not quite sexy enough.
Face Value -- System by which older investment bankers rate and compare their trophy wives (also see: Bazoom Value; Ass Value).
Want to know more? Visit this space next week and take Step 2 toward market enlightenment, as I reveal Wall Street's greatest secret, specifically, who Smith Barney really is and why his name is always backwards.