Living up to his "Mad Money" moniker, Jim Cramer has made a living the past eight years talking -- and yelling -- about stocks. As the flamboyant, stock picker on CNBC, he dishes up daily pronouncements of what's good, what's hot, what's not.
With two Harvard degrees, the 58-year-old investor-turned-TV-host is bright, opinionated, animated. In a tie and rolled-up shirtsleeves, he peppers his daily, hourlong cable TV show with rapid-fire chatter about stock companies and interviews with CEOs. A former newspaper reporter, he ran a successful hedge fund that boasted annual profits of 24 percent before he shut it down in 2001, largely for stress-related reasons.
In a new book -- "Jim Cramer's Get Rich Carefully," his first book in five years -- Cramer isn't shying away from any of the topics that have repeatedly put him in the critics' dunk tank. We talked with him by phone from his office at TheStreet.com in downtown Manhattan, New York.
Q Last year was off the charts for the stock market. Are we in for another blockbuster year in 2014?
A No. I've been saying that we could be up about half of what we were last year. We've had a very big move. If the economy doesn't pick up from here, we will not be able to make a lot of headway. It's gotta continue and it's not clear to me that it will. It should. We're on the right course.
Q In your book, you vividly describe the financial meltdown that drove many out of the stock market. You criticize Wall Street's "machine gun bandits" whose reliance on high-frequency trading can distort the market, as well as the "wealth-destroying flash crashes, flash freezes and Facebook fiascoes" that have shaken investor confidence. Despite all that, you're still encouraging Americans to embrace the stock market?
A Carefully. Your first $10,000 should be in an index fund, so you're diversified. Only after that should you be investing in a portfolio of your own. Index funds are great because of their low fees. The book is how you can invest wisely if you spend the time. If you try to do it quickly, you'll lose money.
Q Your book lists the 21 "bankable" CEOs, company leaders who can "transcend the (current) toxic environment" and "inspire their companies to thrive, no matter what." What makes them different?
A In more than 2,000 shows, I've interviewed some (CEOs) over and over and have seen how they've been able to triumph over different scenarios. They're basically head coaches who run NFL-like teams. They've won more than they've lost. Leadership does matter, but it tends to be underrated. ... We accept it in sports and we should accept it in business.
Q Some of your critics say you're an experienced insider exhorting mere mortals into buying/selling stocks in ways that can be dangerous, if not downright destructive, to their financial well-being. Are you encouraging day trading or reckless investing?
A Day trading is the biggest sucker game in the world. I hate day trading. I want people to have a five- to seven-year horizon on investing, showing great discipline. ... It's a sobering time. But there's a longer-term approach that you can profit from. You have to do some homework and not do it blindly.