• How the U.S. economy works, including the often overlooked role of Adam Sandler
• Why it is not a good idea to use squirrels for money
• Strategies that will give you the confidence you need to try for a good job, even though you are—let’s be honest—a no-talent loser
• How corporate executives, simply by walking into their offices, immediately become much stupider
• An absolutely foolproof system for making money in the stock market, requiring only a little effort (and access to time travel)
• Surefire tips for buying and selling real estate, the key being: Never buy—or, for that matter, sell—real estate
• How to minimize your federal taxes, safely and legally, by cheating
• Why good colleges cost so much, and how to make sure your child does not get into one
• How to reduce the cost of your medical care by basically not getting any
• Estate planning, especially the financial benefits of an early death
• And many, many pictures of Suze Orman
But that’s only the beginning! Dave has also included in this book all of the important points from a book written by Donald Trump, so you don’t have to read it yourself. Plus he explains how to tip, how to negotiate for everything (including bridge tolls), how to argue with your spouse about money, and how much allowance to give your children (three dollars is plenty). He also presents, for the first time in print anywhere, the Car Dealership Code of Ethics (“Ethic Seven: The customer is an idiot”). Also, there are many gratuitous references to Angelina Jolie naked. You can’t afford not to buy this book! Probably you need several copies.
What kind of financial shape are you in right now? This scientific quiz will show you.
Be honest in your answers: If you lie, you’ll only be lying to yourself! The place to lie is on your federal tax return.
What is your annual income?
1. More than $50,000.
2. Less than $50,000.
3. However much I get when I return these empties.
Not counting your mortgage, how much money do you currently owe?
1. Less than $10,000.
2. More than $10,000.
3. Men are threatening to cut off my thumbs.
How would you describe your portfolio?
1. Conservative, mainly bonds and blue-chip equities.
2. Aggressive, mainly options and speculative stocks.
3. My what?
When analyzing an investment, what do you consider to be the most important factor?
1. The amount of return.
2. The degree of risk.
3. The name of the jockey.
How do you plan to finance your retirement?
2. Social security.
3. Sale of kidneys.
—from the Introduction: “Why You Need This Book”
Also available as a Crown eBook.
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About the Author
Date of Birth:July 3, 1947
Place of Birth:Armonk, New York
Education:B.A. in English, Haverford College, 1969
Read an Excerpt
Dave Barry's Money Secrets
By Dave Barry
Random HouseDave Barry
All right reserved.
How Money Works
Or: Everybody Clap for Tinker Bell!
Why is money valuable? Why are people willing to work so hard for it, lie for it, cheat for it, go to prison for it, fight for it, kill for it, give up their children for it . . . even marry Donald Trump for it?
I mean, look at the dollar bill. What is it, really? It's a piece of paper! What's more, it's a piece of paper that appears to have been designed by a disturbed individual. On one side, you have a portrait of George Washington, who, granted, was the Father of Our Country and a great leader and everything, but who looks, in this particular picture . . .
. . . like a man having his prostate examined by Roto-Rooter. And then on the other side of the dollar you have:
What is that about? Why is there a picture of a pyramid, instead of a structure traditionally associated with the fundamental values of the United States of America, such as a Wal-Mart? And why is the pyramid being hovered over by an eyeball the size of a UPS truck?
Whatever the explanation, the design of the dollar would not seem to inspire confidence in its value. And yet if you drop a few dollars from an overpass onto a busy freeway at rush hour, people will run into traffic and literally risk their lives in an effort to grab them. Try it!
What does this tell us? It tells us that people are stupid. But it also tells us that money is more than just pieces of paper. But what makes it valuable? To answer that question, we need to consider:
The History of Money
In prehistoric times, there was no such thing as money. When people needed to buy something, they had to charge it. And then when the bills came, nobody could understand them, because there was also no such thing as reading. This led to a lot of misunderstandings and hitting with rocks.
The first form of money that we are aware of by looking it up on the Internet was animals. From the start there were problems with this type of money, particularly the smaller denominations, such as squirrels, which were always biting the payee and scampering away.
By 9000 b.c., the most commonly accepted form of animal money was cattle. When you bought something, you would give the other person a cow, and the other person would give your change in calves. This was better than squirrels, but still not an efficient system. The cash registers were disgusting.
By 3000 b.c., the Mesopotamians had invented two concepts that revolutionized economic activity: (1) writing and (2) banking. This meant that, for the first time, it was possible for a Mesopotamian to walk into a bank and hand the teller a stone tablet stating:
GIVE ME ALL YOUR COWS AND NOBODY GETS HURT
These robbers were captured quickly, because they had to make their getaways at very slow speeds. Still, it was clear that a better medium of exchange was needed.
The ancient Chinese tried to solve the problem by using seashells as money. The advantage of this system was that seashells were small, durable, clean, and easy to carry. The drawback was that they were, in a word, seashells. This meant that anybody with access to the sea could get them. By the time the ancient Chinese had figured this out, much of their country was the legal property of gulls.
And so the quest continued for a better form of money. Various cultures experimented with a number of commodities, including tea, grains, leather, tobacco, and Pokemon cards. Then, finally, humanity hit upon a medium of exchange that had no disadvantages--a medium that was durable, portable, beautiful, and universally recognized to have lasting value. That medium, of course, was beer.
No, seriously, it was precious metals, especially gold and silver, which--in addition to being rare and beautiful--could be easily shaped into little disks that fit into vending machines.
Before long, many cultures were using some form of gold for money. It came in a wide variety of shapes and designs, as we see in these photographs of ancient coins unearthed by archeologists:
The problem was that gold is too heavy to be constantly lugged around. So, to make it easier for everybody, governments began to issue pieces of paper to represent gold. The deal was, whenever you wanted, you could redeem the paper for gold. The government was just holding your gold for you. But it was YOUR gold! You could get it anytime! That was the sacred promise that the government made to the people. That's why the people trusted paper money. And that's why, to this very day, if you--an ordinary citizen--go to Fort Knox and ask to exchange your U.S. dollars for gold, you will be used as a human chew toy by large federal dogs.
Because the government changed the deal. We don't have the gold standard anymore. Nobody does. Over the years, all the governments in the world, having discovered that gold is, like, rare, decided that it would be more convenient to back their money with something that is easier to come by, namely: nothing. So even though the U.S. government still allegedly holds tons of gold in "reserve," you can no longer exchange your dollars for it. You can't even see it, because visitors are not allowed. For all you know, Fort Knox is filled with Cheez Whiz.
Which brings us back to the original question: If our money really is just pieces of paper, backed by nothing, why is it valuable? The answer is: Because we all believe it's valuable.
Really, that's pretty much it. Remember the part in Peter Pan where we clap to prove that we believe in fairies, and we save Tinker Bell? That's our monetary system! It's the Tinker Bell System! We see everybody else running around after these pieces of paper, and we figure, Hey, these pieces of paper must be valuable. That's why if you exchanged your house for, say, a pile of acorns, everybody would think you're insane; whereas if you exchange your house for a pile of dollars, everybody thinks you're rational, because you get . . . pieces of paper! The special kind, with the big hovering eyeball!
And you laughed at the ancient Chinese, with the seashells.
So what does all this mean? Does it mean that our monetary system is a giant house of cards that would collapse like, well, a giant house of cards if the public stopped believing in the pieces of paper? Could all of our "wealth"--our savings, our investments, our pension plans, etc.--suddenly become worthless, meaning that the only truly "wealthy" people would be the survivalist wing nuts who trade all their money for guns and beef jerky?
Yes. But that probably won't happen. Because, fortunately, the public prefers not to think about economics. Most people are unable to understand their own telephone bills, let alone the U.S. monetary system. And as long as we don't question the big eyeball, Tinker Bell is safe.
OK, now you know what money actually is. (Don't tell anybody!) The next question is: How come some people have so much money, while others have so little? Why does the money distribution seem so unfair? Why, for example, are professional athletes paid tens of millions of dollars a year for playing silly games with balls, while productive, hardworking people with infinitely more value to society, such as humor writers, must struggle to make barely half that? And above all, how can you, personally, get more money?
We'll address these questions in future chapters,3 which will be chock-full of sure-fire, can't-miss, no-nonsense, common-sense, easy-to-apply, on-the-money hyphenated phrases. You'll be on your way to riches in no time! All you have to do is really believe in yourself! Come on, show that you really believe! Clap your hands!
Also, just in case, you should get some jerky.
Why Does the Back of the Dollar Have a Pyramid and a Giant Eyeball?
There is actually a simple explanation for these two seemingly odd symbols:
Back when the Founding Fathers were designing our currency, they were looking for an image for the new nation, an image that would symbolize the concept of something strong and massive being watched over by something all-seeing and wise. After much discussion, what they came up with--as you have probably guessed--was a picture of an owl standing on an elephant.
The Founding Fathers passed this idea along to the artist hired to do the engraving of the printing plates for the dollar, whose name was Phil. As it happened, the day he did the dollar, which was his birthday, Phil consumed what historians now believe was at least two quarts of whiskey, and for whatever reason--the only explanation he ever gave was "the squirrels made me"--he engraved a pyramid with a giant eyeball on top of it. Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers, who were in a hurry to get the dollar printed so they could spend it, failed to notice this until it was too late. Fortunately, however, they did catch the error on the front of the dollar, where, instead of George Washington, Phil had engraved a fish playing tennis. Otherwise we might live in a very different nation today.
From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Dave Barry's Money Secrets by Dave Barry Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I use Monopoly money to pay my bills. It never worked and I never understood why. Then I read Dave's book. Now I pay my bills with real money which I get from 'a bank'. My employer puts it there occasionally. I also can request moneys from my bank. I know so much more about money than I ever learned in college.
I gave my Dad (who works in banking) this book for Father's Day and as a man who I can count the number of times I've heard him laugh uncontrollably on one hand, laughed uncontrollably through this entire book. As a HUGE Dave Barry fan, I can honestly say that this is almost my favorite book of his, it is extra hilarious and it is obviously not meant as real financial advice (unless you buy into the 'it's so crazy it might actually work' motto). But it is NEVER boring or technical and definitely worth your time if you enjoy laughing and being happy.
Over the years we have come to expect from Dave Berry some of the finniest prose in the English language, and this book does not disappoint. He has an incredible skill at turning even the most boring subject matter into something that we can laugh at with reckless abandon. In the "Money Secrets" he takes on the whole genre of self-help financial advice books and their self-appointed gurus. Two people who are particularly in his crosshairs this time around are Suze Orman and Donald Trump. By the end of the book you will not be able to look at these two with any level of seriousness (if you were ever able to do it in the first place that is). What is particularly disarming about this book is the vintage Dave Berry turn of phrase and the creation of ridiculous ideas out of the most ordinary circumstances. His skill at it makes it seem incredibly easy to write humor for living, but we would be well advised not to try it on our own. Humor of this caliber is best left to the professionals, and we are fortunate enough that Dave keeps coming up with book as often as he does. Be warned that while reading this book you will break out into fits of uncontrollable laughter which will leave all those around you perplexed and maybe even worried for your mental state of mind. It's best to read Dave Barry alone while no one is watching.
I remember enjoying Dave Barry's columns, and this book reminded me of why I did. However, reading this in only a couple of sittings is probably not the best method, as the humor becomes a little predictable.
I am not a fan of Dave Barry, I really have no knowledge of Dave Barry (sorry!) so I picked up this book with no idea what it was going to be like except that 1) it was about money and 2) it was probably comedic, judging from the cover. Well, I found it to be completely hysterical- laughing out loud, rolling on the floor, and fairly relevant to real life (such as, what AM I going to do with the thousands of pennies that have been collecting in that jar since the dawn of time in the hopes that they would one day pay for a trip to Disney World). The ratio of funny to actually true was not exactly what I was expected (there was so little that was actually true that when I stumbled across something I BELIEVED to be true, it immediately forced me to reconsider whether I actually knew it to be true at all), but that¿s not the point. The point is, if you want to read a book actually about economics that is also vaguely entertaining, read Freakonomics. If you just want a good laugh, the occasional picture of Donald Trump, and the frequent reference to Angelina Jolie (occasionally naked), stick with Money Secrets.
Dave Barry is funny as always, but this book seems to lose focus and get (really far) off the topic on a regular basis. Good material, doesn't always go with the theme.
Dave Barry puts out two kinds of books. The first being collections of previously written columns, the second (which this books falls under) is original material. I seem to enjoy his original work better than his columns. Maybe it's because he's allowed to go all out with no restraints. Nonetheless, this book doesn't disappoint. With the economy like it is today, it is a great relief to be able to laugh about it (and you may actually learn a little bit, too!). Highlights for me are the sections on the history of money as well as the constant references to our favorite financial guru, Suze Orman.
This book is a complete waste of time if you are wanting a serious financial book. The author has some good points, but they are hidden.
If I had a nickle for every time I chuckled while reading this book, I'd have a big bag of nickles. Barry's satire is as sharp and unfailingly funny as ever. Although Barry's a big wheel and rolling in the dough himself, his razor-sharp satire is as good as ever and proves again that he's flat-out the funniest humorist to ever live.
I loved the title of this book, as I've always wondered why there was a giant eyeball on the dollar. When I read the rest of it I'll be back with a full analysis! But it'll probably be great, or at least decently well thought-out.
I decided to rate this book before buying it to justify the expense.
ten dollors down the toilet