Pocket protectors 


The best book title ever is "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Near-Death Experiences." None of the idiots I know need instructions for practically killing themselves; they figure it out on their own. And while it's not exactly a self-help book, think of the fun they might have had if they'd packed it with ideas such as "Dart out in front of a car," "Drink things from under the sink" and "Jump off a bridge. Stupid."

I'm not an idiot, but I do own a copy of "Astrology for Dummies," a title that plenty of people find redundant. You gotta love those books for Complete Idiots and Dummies. They aren't half bad, are pretty simplistically written and have lots of icons and text that is
;thoughtfully broken up
;because people get intimidated
;by long paragraphs.

If I were to buy another one in the series it would be "Personal Finance for Dummies." People like me are, to use the PC term, mathematically challenged. OK, so we're financial boneheads. Listening to commercials that talk about venture capital, diversified portfolios and interest rates, we are reminded of that Far Side cartoon in which a guy is talking to a dog and you get to see what the dog hears: "Blah blah blah, Ginger, blah blah blah." We are the dog.

This is not a good position to be in as dot-com optimism goes down the drain like used soap and belt-tightening is so severe that businesses have no place left to punch a hole in their belt.

Don't bank on it

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Thankfully for those of us who have a gentle breeze blowing where our logical left brain should be, a few things can make us feel like we're taking action without actually having to go to the bank and hear the words "mutual fund," thereby being lulled into hypnosis. Confidence in the economy being what it is, these things are just as dependable as tips from your day-trader neighbor who's out of work and has nothing else to do all day:

* The Financial Advisor is basically a Magic 8 Ball dedicated to all things Wall Street. It doesn't prompt you with questions about your mutual fund. Instead, it relies on queries more in tune with those of us who got left back financially, such as this one on its packaging: "What should I do with the $5 grandma gave me?" If you're baffled by such executive decisions, shake up the ball and look through the window. You'll get answers such as, "Sell real estate," "One word: plastics" and "Out to lunch," which is what you already are if you're taking advice from a toy.

* "It's not what you know, it's when you know it," says Henry Weingarten in a Bridge News story on The Astrologer's Fund, which helps people manage their money according to movements of the planets. Bridge News also reports the fund manages up to $4 million a year. You can stick your financial posers to Henry online, and chances are he won't tell you to stick it in Uranus. (It was right there, I had to say it.) And at The Astrologer's Fund, you can chuck the talking heads who are so slow they're still talking about today and subscribe instead to the newsletter "Wall Street Next Week."

* Botanicas, the stores that sell the fascinating oils, candles and other tools of Santaria, always offer intriguing hope for whatever ails you. Lighting a simple candle bearing words such as "Money Drawing," "Your Wish Come True" and symbols like big bags of gold could work. Then there's Don Juan del Dinero, a candle topped with glitter that shows a picture of a guy in a suit clutching and surrounded by piles of cash. Light this one in the morning, and then sit back and wait for the wealth. It can't work any worse than a lottery ticket.

Voodoo economics

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* It takes more than a nose wiggle, but you might find help in "Witch's Brew: Good Spells for Prosperity," one in a series of pocket-sized books explaining The Craft and how it can put a jingle in your pocket. Prosperitea, for example, is just tea made with bergamot that helps revitalize the spirit and enhance morale and productivity. Rub almond oil on your wallet and "visualize it filling up with money," and it will. It also can't hurt to practice the Pagan principle of prosperity, "By giving so shall ye receive." If you give the $12.95 each of these beautiful little books costs, hopefully your bank account will receive a spiritual boost.

Those of us who don't have a kerjillion dollars to invest, or who drool like McMurphy at the end of "Cuckoo's Nest" when we attempt to learn something about doing it, might find, if not a windfall, at least a little hope in these more spirited methods. And sometimes that's all it takes to get you through to the next paycheck.


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