Cheers! Sort of Wall Street is set to make record profits in 2003. Can you say the same of your portfolio?
By Stephen Gandel

(MONEY Magazine) – If you're a big-cap stock and fund investor like me, you'll probably remember 2003 as an okay year. Sure, stocks rallied. Some tech issues even doubled. But while my brokerage statement tries to call those 2003 returns "gains," you and I know the ugly truth: We are just beginning to refill the $3 trillion hole the stock bubble's bursting has put in our collective net worth.

So it's been hard for me to get excited about a bull market that's paying me with my own money. Until I saw a press release from a Wall Street trade group called the Securities Industry Association. According to its ledgers, 2003 will not be average at all. It will be record breaking. That's right: The SIA says Wall Street firms will earn more money in 2003 than ever before--a cool $22.5 billion. This is more than three times what they earned last year, and $1.5 billion more than they earned in 2000 (the last time my account hit a record). And those profits come after Wall Street executives pocket their eight-digit salaries. Heck, even the average Wall Streeter is expected to go home with a year-end bonus of nearly $60,000. My $60,000. Well, a portion of it is, at least.

If securities firms truly want to regain the average investor's trust, I modestly propose that they adopt my We're All in this Together (even Execs) Rule. Under WATER, CEOs could not accept a salary until every investor is back to even. It may sound extreme, but it has precedent in financial markets: Most hedge fund managers get only a meager fee if clients suffer losses.

Critics will say it could be years, even decades, before we see Nasdaq 5000 again. CEOs would be turned into penniless slaves. Perhaps. But had WATER been in place in the 1990s, I'd bet those same execs would've thought twice before sending out legions of analysts to peddle worthless stocks in the first place. --STEPHEN GANDEL