A cool million

July 24, 1996|By Dick George

LAST MONTH I got a call at home from a man I did not know. He told me he had an initial public offering that was going to be just as successful as the recent IPO of the restaurant chain Planet Hollywood, which did well and got a lot of press.

He said he knew I was a ''discerning investor,'' and he wanted me to know about this opportunity so I could enrich myself, with his assistance. What a nice guy.

I asked him, what made him think I was a discerning investor? There was no answer. I asked where he got my name, but I must have overstepped my ''discerning investor'' question limit, because he hung up.

A few days later, I'm at a party. My neighbor Dave tells us about his brother, a mid-level government bureaucrat, who took out a home-equity loan last year and invested the money in a technology company that went from 30 to 200.

According to Dave, his brother made a quick $375,000, and his objective is to turn that into a cool million by the end of the year.

I'm wondering if Dave's brother will be living in a tent by the end of the year. Or maybe with Dave.

Dave plays the market himself; he says that everybody knows that the only way for poor shlubs like us to gain real financial independence -- the kind that includes foreign travel and early retirement -- is to score big in the market.

All we have to do is invest in tomorrow's Microsofts. That's it.

Taco salad

Jim, who's visiting from Chicago, offers up a tip about a company that has isolated the gene for a major disease, but he can't remember the name of the company or the disease. This half-baked news sets everyone to salivating. I head for the taco salad, which was delicious, and by the time I get back, three people who didn't know Jim 20 minutes ago are making him promise to call with the name of the company as soon as he gets back to Chicago, so they can check it out. You never know. It might go through the roof.

Since these conversations, the market has ''corrected'' somewhat, but there's never a correction on the desire for instant wealth.

I never took a shortcut in my life that worked out. I go by the book, I touch all the bases -- I'm a financial chickenheart. But we have bills and loans and tuition to pay, and I have to admit, I wouldn't mind hitting the jackpot on a high flier now and then. Right now might be a good time to buy. It's tempting. Because the next Bill Gates is out there -- somewhere -- starting the next Microsoft. This is America, where extraordinary gains are possible.

And also, extraordinary losses. Don't you just hate that part of it?

Interested brokers can find Dick George in Baldwin.

Pub Date: 7/24/96

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