To Carter Randall, figuring out what to do with your money is as simple as taking a walk along the Chesapeake Bay.
Look at the rowboats. Those "belong to the savers and lenders of the world," he said. Then look at the yachts, which he said belong to people who "own something." And that, Mr. Randall said, is why even average people should be in stocks.
"Participating in a business is a better way to make money than renting your money to someone else for a rate of return," said Mr. Randall, a 22-year panelist on public television's Wall $treet Week and a former executive of Equitable Trust of Baltimore, who was visiting to promote his new book "Up on the Market."
"Everything has some risk. It's a question of how much. There's lower risk in stocks -- relative to reward -- than anything else."
None of this is surprising. Wall Street is big on no-guts, no-glory talk. But Mr. Randall, in his book and in person, is ready to explode what he calls myths: that the stock market is too hard for you and me to handle without a mutual fund, for example; that bonds are a lot safer than stocks. And he even said that books predicting the end of the financial world are wrong.
"I thought it was time to put a little common sense into [writing books on money] instead of talking about crash-of-the-market stuff, I view stocks as having almost no risk at all for the long-term holder. You've got to own something."
Along with the fruits of a career in banking and investing, Mr. Randall owns a reputation that helped him get a publisher for his book, written with Chicago reporter and securities analyst William Gianopulos. And, although he has lived in Florida since the late 1970s, he still burnishes that reputation locally through Wall $treet Week, which is filmed at Maryland Public Television in Owings Mills.
"Given Carter's name recognition, a good basic-to-intermediate level book on investing made sense to us," said Pamela van Giessen, senior editor at Probus Publishing of Chicago, publisher of the $21.95 book.
Mr. Randall said Wall $treet Week, on which he is scheduled to appear tonight (8:30 p.m., Channels 22 and 67), has become much bigger than he thought it would when it started in 1970.
"The Bond Club of Baltimore wanted to do a local show about the stock market," he said. Even when public television insisted on a more regionally or nationally oriented show, he said, the original cast still had a heavily local flavor.
It was because he still appears on the show that Probus made the book deal, Ms. van Giessen said. And market research on where Mr. Randall is popular helped Probus decide where to sell the book, which is available at about 600 bookstores, including 15 in Maryland and Washington.
"Carter plays very well in the South and Southwest, and somewhat in California," Ms. van Giessen said. She said the book sold 20,000 copies in its first month on the market.
The book's key message is that investors have more to fear from inflation and taxes that eat into the income from bonds and bank accounts than they have to fear from the risk that their stocks will lose value. The subtext is that the stock market isn't such a big, complicated ocean that small fish can't swim it alone.
"There are just as many mutual funds as there are stocks on the New York Stock Exchange. If you can pick the right mutual fund, you know a lot," he said. "I don't think it's hard to pick individual stocks, as long as you stick to the high-quality ones."
The stock market gets complicated for typical investors when they try to get too slick and time its moves, he said. But the way to stay out of that trap, he said, is to take a long-term view.