Take My Investing Advice--Please Market tips from a man who doesn't know the meaning of the word "hedge." Let alone "fiduciary." And who has no idea how long his bonds are.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – It's difficult to know what to do with all your money, even in the best of times, which these most certainly are, probably. On the other hand, when things go south, or at least trend in a southeasterly direction, the strategic value of one's investments becomes ever more important as part of a strategy of wealth maintenance, at least, when growth seems out of the question all of a sudden.

But are these good times or bad? Many pages in this issue are dedicated to assessing what the status of the market is, bull- or bear-wise. After all is said and done, I believe we can state without fear of contradiction that it's either one or the other, or possibly both. This being a full-service magazine, we view it as our responsibility to help you whether we know what's going on or not. I'm proud to say that I've been asked to contribute to that effort.

Fortunately, there are many things a savvy investor can do to accrete funds even in the most challenging environment, if armed with the right information and guidance. Sadly, I can provide neither. I do, however, have some ideas. And in a market where nobody knows what's going on, am I not as qualified as the next person to advise you? Think about it. Now go have a drink.

Let's begin with the assumption that we're in either a continuing bull market or a cleverly disguised bear market. What this means is that either your stocks will go up or they won't. If they won't, it's better to invest wisely than stupidly. If stocks are going up, you can invest as stupidly as you want. We're going to help you with that too.

The first sector we'll focus on is chips. If we're in a bull market, you should be spreading your chip investments judiciously across a wide range of chips, from those that are guaranteed pretty much to return at least part of your money, to those that will either lose it for you immediately or make you insanely wealthy by next Tuesday. They might include blue chips such as IBM and GE, as well as smaller chipmakers, like Intel and Frito-Lay.

In a bear market it's more important to be careful and stick with absolutely safe options, like the kind of chips Warren Buffett is purchasing, which could be either small, undervalued chips or the kind of big blue chips you put into certain tangy dips. Smart money managers like Mr. Buffett wait until other investors are throwing themselves out of windows, then go down to street level and pick up their chips.

Next you'll want to get into the high-tech arena, because that's a sector that will either send money careening through your doorway or dispatch you to the nearest heating grate outside your office. If we're in a bull market, which would be nice, you'll want to focus on companies that have no cash flow and market inexplicable services using the words "gateway" and "portal." Medical stocks based on redefining the concept of "human being" are also a good bet, as are products that make it possible for people to have sex, or at least appear capable of having sex at some time in the future because they have hair. Of course, all these are risky, and this should not be taken as an offering, unless you're interested, in which case, when do you get off work?

But seriously, in a bear market, if we're in one, and I'm not saying we are, you'll need to be a little less daring and "out there." This means watching the high-tech area very, very quietly from a corner of the room, then sneaking up and surprising it when it's sleeping, preferably on its back with its furry white belly exposed. Nothing is safe, of course, but an investment in AOL is probably going to see you some returns, eventually. I mean, half the population under 18 is up after your bedtime clacking away on that thing.

Now for entertainment. For bold bulls, no media company need be ignored, since there is scarcely one that does not enjoy margins larger than your belt size. If the economy is doing well, which it certainly seems to be doing, unless it isn't, all advertising-based businesses provide a good upside, and nobody doesn't like the cable business. To hedge one's bets in this arena, a small but tasteful foray into Direct Broadcast Satellite is advisable as your basic backyard dish becomes increasingly small and affordable, and somewhat less likely, now that certain technical advances have been made, to run away with the spoon.

Media investors in a bear market will need to be more circumspect and focus on broad-based companies from Australia with an enormous mix of assets and a staunch commitment to cover their own activities quite positively in this competitive environment, and no shyness about attacking their competitors daily with gusto.

Have I mentioned bonds? The rules governing investments in that area are extremely complex and understood by a very few people who do not agree among themselves about them. It is possible, as some have attested, that long bonds are generally the best. This makes some sense, since it is much easier to shorten bonds that come long than to lengthen ones that come a little too short. We're still looking into this issue. When we get all the data, we'll let you know. Until then, it's safe to say that, as long as they're fresh, bonds are good in just about any market. Keep a keen eye on their expiration date and go to town!

Finally, no portfolio would be complete without a wedge dedicated to the lifestyle sector. Bulls will want to purchase the securities of any company that serves people over the age of 35 or between the ages of 0 and 22--that is, individuals who either have money for themselves or are actively supported with other people's. Folks in their 20s and early 30s tend to receive less money than either parents or youngsters, and have little chance of improving their economic lot while people like me still have an ounce of ambition left in them. Videogames, theme parks, rock & roll CDs, sugared breakfast cereals, diapers--all serve both the younger and older ends of this demographic.

If the bear market is indeed here, on the other hand, or has been here, or will be, and persists, as it might, and probably will, why not skip intermediaries and just fork over your cash directly to the next generation? Sure they'll waste it idiotically, but at least they'll wipe your chin as you dribble away your golden years. And that's a kind of security that money can't buy.

By day, STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name.