Book Reviews Mad Money Watch TV get Rich by Jim Cramer

The Bottom Line: read it now or forget about it. This book is very dated and much of it may be obsolete by 2008.

The lack of depth gives a feeling that Cramer is luring his viewers into buying a $25 book or else you’ll feel left locked outside the gates of Cramerica. This book is not as enlightening as the average Cramer fan probably expects. After regularly watching the show for over a year now, I would say Cramer has already relentlessly preached about 70% of this book’s content on the show.

It’s like reading a textbook; Cramer’s dry authorship has the opposite personality of his show. He doesn’t write like he lectures, no obscure references to movies, pop culture, or European history (excluding chapter eleven). His penmanship puts me to sleep, and he only partly describes the ‘rigorous research’ details that I was seeking. Even after reading the book, the Cramerican needs truckloads of their own common sense to slither their way through the 21st century market.

Sure, Cramer lays down his methodology of what to research before buying, during ownership, and when selling. This info is useful and should remain valid for several years to come. On the other hand, the book was written in the summer of 2006, so much of the book makes you feel like you’ve been watching CNBC market coverage on some trading day in August of ’06. He also discusses BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) in multiple chapters. Who knows how long these nations will remain the fearsome foursome of outsourcing and non-domestic growth? Some journalists are already saying to forget Brazil and Russia, for all the action in 2007 will take place in ‘Chindia’.

The chapter covering his CEO/CFO interviews is quite an eye opener. He proceeds to list two dozen examples where an executive interview could have either helped you make some cash or save some loss. By remaining skeptical, one should wonder if this chapter is a ruse to get his viewers to continue watching the show after the Lightning Round. This rating dropout trend is also why he added an abbreviated Lightning Round, dubbed Sudden Death, to the very end of the show.

There is a gaping hole in this book: IPOs. He should have devoted an entire chapter to the anomaly of researching IPOs after his 2006 discussions of Under Armour, Burger King, Vonage, Mastercard, the New York Mercantile Exchange, etcetera. You can’t do the conventional ‘homework’ steps that he lays down in chapter two: what to research before you buy. This is because IPOs have neither historic earnings nor projected earnings, so most IPO picks are pure speculation. Finding other information on forthcoming public companies can be a challenge in itself. Where do we look, Cramer?

Rules, rules, rules. We are handed twenty new rules on top of the twenty previously prescribed rules from his penultimate book. Several of these new rules are based on one isolated incident during the show’s tenure; does one mistake justify generating a rule covering the entire market? Let’s say you formally follow Cramer’s method of research. You have spent days completing his worksheet and checking each rule for applicability to your candidate stock and oops, you just missed your trade window!

And then there’s chapter ten: how Cramer picks his stocks. This is a popular point of discussion in internet forums. People wish they could stay one step ahead of Cramer thereby beating him to a stock recommendation. This would allow them to trade on the Cramer Effect: when a (usually small-cap) stock jumps 5-10% before the opening bell the day after his blessing. If we could figure this out, we would make more than Cramer ever made, and he has “already got more money than I feel comfortable having” (pg 3). However, he concludes this chapter by shrugging us all off and telling us he’s too hot to keep up with, so don’t frustrate yourself with futile attempts to read his mind.

Finally, there was no need to index his props and button board. Several of his buttons documented at the time the book was written have already been swapped out. Some of the new buttons are the ‘ghost wail’, ‘electrocution’, and the ‘punching bag’. Gone are the days when he would spin off into a rant and simultaneously pound on the ‘shotgun’ and ‘machine gun’ buttons. The only buttons guaranteed to remain forever are the ‘bull’ and ‘bear’ animations, as I type with crossed fingers.

At the rate the show has been evolving since first airing in March 2005, I won’t be surprised when the format, flow, and set will have completely changed by 2008. There are plenty of examples to list: I haven’t seen Cramer debate with Herb Greenberg for months, the ferocious chair throwing was the highlight of the show, and his arsenal of weaponry (knifes, blades, axes, and power tools) continues to grow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no Cramer hater; he’s got the most entertaining show since Spongebob. I’m saying with all of his warnings about remaining flexible in an ultra-dynamic market, his readers need to remain just as flexible and recognize when aspects of the book go defunct.