Published May 17, 2011
Are you ready to be rich? Really rich? Archipelago-owning, influence-buying, Kardashian-datingrich?
Longtime friends Willie Geist and Boyd McDonnell were tossing around ideas for making millions as dot-com entrepreneurs back in the Internet's go-go days. Their ideas got sillier and sillier -- but not nearly as silly as the advice they saw being offered in get-rich-quick books. So they parodied the genre in their book, "Loaded."
Now you can be, thanks to the life-changing financial advicecontained in "Loaded: Become a Millionaire Overnight and Lose 20 Pounds in2 Weeks, or Your Money Back!"
But good luck getting your money back.
In "Loaded," authors Willie Geist, host of MSNBC's"Way Too Early with Willie Geist" and co-host of "Morning Joe,"and his L.A. pal, TV production executive Boyd McDonnell, share theirtongue-in-cheek money apprenticeship under a pair of unrepentant Wall Streetballers known as the Dollar Bills.
In this book-within-a-book, each chapter is written as advice from theBills -- obnoxious faux gurus Bill Lachey and Bill Richter -- followed by notes from Geist and McDonnell on how each helping ofadvice is working out in real life -- or not, as is more often the case.
Among these nuggets of questionable wisdom are suchget-rich-quick secrets as: Always wear a Bluetooth earpiece (even during sex),always stand while talking (ditto) and always pay off your credit cards withother credit cards (duh!).
The Dollar Bills also cut through all those meaninglessfinancial terms with a handy glossary. Therein you'll learn that Fannie Mae isa maker of fine baked goods, Freddie Mac was a hard-hitting, two-time Pro Bowlsafety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and APR is a primary competitor to NPR.
No wonder Donald Trump was moved to utter, "These guysare idiots."
Via phone, Geist and McDonnell shared a behind-the-scenesglimpse into the writing of the book, during which they were possibly fully loaded.
CreditCards.com:I assume we're speaking on a disposable phone.
Willie Geist:Yes, Jason Bourne style. Move quickly. Move quickly.
CreditCards.com:And you're both standing, no doubt.
Boyd McDonnell:Exactly. Never sit.
Geist: Always, inall meetings. This is a power play, even when the person can't see you.
CreditCards.com: Willie,you are rockin' those HD shades on the cover photo.
Geist: Those aremy skeet-shooting glasses.
CreditCards.com:Same for Boyd with the Bluetooth earpiece.
McDonnell: I haveit on right now. I never, ever take it off. They tell you to wear thoseBluetooths 24/7 if you're to be taken seriously.
CreditCards.com: "Loaded"thoroughly skewers the financial self-help book. Did you gain perverseinspiration from any one particular author?
Geist: I hate touse names, but I think there is a general trend of a promise in a book titlethat if you simply read these pages, you will be rich, your family will berich, your children will be rich for all eternity, and the key to unlock thiswisdom is within these pages. It's as though the person who wrote the book isthe first person to discover all these secrets. Ours is a spoof of thefinancial book, but also the self-help genre. It just was funny to me that allthese people claim to have the answers. Even though none of them had previouslyworked, this finally would be the one that would unlock the secret.
CreditCards.com: How did this craziness begin?
Geist: Boyd and Iwent to college together at Vanderbilt in Nashville. Then we lived together --well, I say "lived together" with a group of other people as well -- for severalyears after in Atlanta; we weren't holed up in a bungalow together. So we gotto be good friends there and that's really where this started, maybe '99,whenever the dot-com boom was.
We noticed that it seemed like everybody was getting a website, and there was all this venture capital floating around and all you had todo was come up with some loosely-constructed concept and you were going to be amillionaire. That was sort of the thinking at the time. And we would have thesevery earnest, serious meetings with our friends. We'd get together at night andit was like, what's our big idea? What's our plan? What are we going to do,guys? How do we jump on this train?
CreditCards.com: Apparently Facebook didn't come to mind.
Geist: No, the ideas were just horrendous because you had abunch of creative types who didn't know anything about business, and they'dthrow out, 'We need to start a high-end travel agency!' And we'd just lookaround at each other and like, why? How would we go about starting a high-endtravel agency? So there were all these awful ideas.
And behind the scenes, when everybody else was taking itseriously, Boyd and I would email each other just completely mocking the entireproceedings. That's how these bad business ideas started going back and forth,and then it just kind of morphed into these two characters, the Dollar Bills,who we set up as financial gurus peddling their idea.
CreditCards.com:Did you model the Dollar Bills after any well-known money gurus?
McDonnell: Notspecifically. We just wanted to characterize old money, in Willie's characterBill Lachey, and new money in my guy Bill Richter, more the aggressive WallStreet broker guy. We wanted these guys to be very aggressive, very outside thebox and guys who are still living in that '06 mentality. That's really when thebook evolved to be more character-based and more of a commentary on what wasgoing on in the economy and society, versus just a collection of really, reallydumb business ideas, which is what we started with.
Geist: Boydmentions the '06 mentality. The country was doing great in 2006. Everybody hada house, a big house. Everybody had a car, all leased, of course. They couldhave whatever they want; put it on a credit card. And then it all came crashingdown. The Dollar Bills want us to get back to that 2006 mentality, the one thatmade us great in the first place, before we ran into all this trouble.
They're not aware of the problems of, like, buying a car onyour Diners Club card, which is what people were doing back then. They thinkit's what made America great. They're sort of the last men standing from thatera.
CreditCards.com:They certainly hold appearances in high regard.
Geist: That'sexactly right. If you look at the pie chart in the book, it's 80 percentappearance, 15 percent actual wealth, and then there's another 15 percent;their math isn't good. You've just touched on their entire world view, which isthat if you look rich, people will think you're rich and then eventually you willbe rich.
McDonnell: Theyreally are averse to any sort of minutiae; numbers, facts. They don't like anyof that. They're really-big-picture guys who really preach you've got to getout of the norm and start acting like you have money.
Geist: Don't getlost in the numbers, that's what they always told us. And don't allow yourselfto be confused by these scary financial terms, whether it's CDO or foreclosure.These words don't mean anything; it's just financial jargon that thesmarty-pants on CNBC like to throw around.
CreditCards.com:They have a particularly effective system to overcome the childhood moneymemories that keep us from the riches we deserve.
McDonnell and Geist:"Shift and drift!"
McDonnell: It'simportant to erase your money fears from childhood. Shift and drift, just like"Tokyo Drifters 4," one of their favorite movies.
Geist: They love-- LOVE -- Vin Diesel flicks. That's one of their big things.
CreditCards.com: Willie,your day job must have allowed you access to many financial wizards over theyears, yes?
Geist: We do haveour share, and I know you're trying to get names out of me, and you can keeptrying! Let's just say there are people who perhaps have appeared on the MSNBCairwaves from time to time who have authored and penned such books. It doesn'tmean they're all bad. It just means we wanted to have a little fun with themand just shine a little bit of light on the people who said they had all theanswers before 2008 and then looked a little silly afterwards.
CreditCards.com:Donald Trump's book blurb, "These guys are idiots," is certainly aselling point of sorts.
Geist: We want tobe very clear: the quote on the front, he's not talking about Willie and Boyd. He's talking about the two Dollar Bills, Richter and Lachey. He lends a certaincredence to the book, if you will.
CreditCards.com:How are your money skills in real life?
McDonnell: We areboth extremely wealthy...
Geist: No,actually, part of the genesis of the gag was that Boyd is a TV guy, he's amusician, I'm a TV guy; we just don't know anything about personal finance ormoney. All these ideas were being thrown around and Boyd and I were like, howdo you even start that? The ignorance of the Dollar Bills is actually areflection of our own personal ignorance, although not as bad as theirs.
McDonnell: It wasvery fun to do a book like this based on our limited interest and knowledge ofthat space. By doing it through the mouthpiece of these two characters, thedumber, the better. So we didn't reallyhave to do any research on what we were saying. We could throw out facts andideas and as long as it was funny and incorrect, it worked for the book.
CreditCards.com:A personal favorite was the Bills' tip to start a celebrity restaurant.
Geist: That's oneof my favorites because people keep falling into that trap; if I can just getinto bed with Justin Bieber, this is going to be a great restaurant, and thefood stinks and the service is awful, and they had a huge, expensive red carpetgala to open it and then it lasts for like two weeks.
McDonnell: Justmake sure there's a line out front and a huge aquarium...
Geist: And AshtonKutcher should probably be at the opening.
CreditCards.com: IsAmerica ready to laugh at itself yet?
Geist: I thinkwe're far enough away, hopefully, from the calamity of 2008 that people canlaugh about it a little bit. If we'd done it in 2006, I'm not sure people wouldhave recognized the joke. They were still living in houses that they'd paid nomoney down for and didn't have to pay for for five years and driving cars theycouldn't afford. If you did it in 2008, it would have been a little close tohome. But hopefully three years later, people can laugh just for a minute. Theeconomic problems obviously aren't a laughing matter, but the excesses of oursociety and how stupid we now look five years later are hopefully somethingthat can be laughed at.
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