Dave Barry's Money Secrets: Like: Why Is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar?

Overview

Did you ever wish that you really understood money? Well, Dave Barry wishes that he did, too. But that hasn’t stopped him from writing this book. In it, Dave explores (as only he can) such topics as:

• How the U.S. economy works, including the often overlooked role of Adam Sandler
• Why it is not a good idea to use squirrels for money
• Strategies that will give you the confidence you need to try for a good ...

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Dave Barry's Money Secrets: Like: Why Is There a Giant Eyeball on the Dollar?

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Overview

Did you ever wish that you really understood money? Well, Dave Barry wishes that he did, too. But that hasn’t stopped him from writing this book. In it, Dave explores (as only he can) such topics as:

• How the U.S. economy works, including the often overlooked role of Adam Sandler
• Why it is not a good idea to use squirrels for money
• Strategies that will give you the confidence you need to try for a good job, even though you are—let’s be honest—a no-talent loser
• How corporate executives, simply by walking into their offices, immediately become much stupider
• An absolutely foolproof system for making money in the stock market, requiring only a little effort (and access to time travel)
• Surefire tips for buying and selling real estate, the key being: Never buy—or, for that matter, sell—real estate
• How to minimize your federal taxes, safely and legally, by cheating
• Why good colleges cost so much, and how to make sure your child does not get into one
• How to reduce the cost of your medical care by basically not getting any
• Estate planning, especially the financial benefits of an early death
• And many, many pictures of Suze Orman

But that’s only the beginning! Dave has also included in this book all of the important points from a book written by Donald Trump, so you don’t have to read it yourself. Plus he explains how to tip, how to negotiate for everything (including bridge tolls), how to argue with your spouse about money, and how much allowance to give your children (three dollars is plenty). He also presents, for the first time in print anywhere, the Car Dealership Code of Ethics (“Ethic Seven: The customer is an idiot”). Also, there are many gratuitous references to Angelina Jolie naked. You can’t afford not to buy this book! Probably you need several copies.

What kind of financial shape are you in right now? This scientific quiz will show you.

Be honest in your answers: If you lie, you’ll only be lying to yourself! The place to lie is on your federal tax return.

What is your annual income?
1. More than $50,000.
2. Less than $50,000.
3. However much I get when I return these empties.

Not counting your mortgage, how much money do you currently owe?
1. Less than $10,000.
2. More than $10,000.
3. Men are threatening to cut off my thumbs.

How would you describe your portfolio?
1. Conservative, mainly bonds and blue-chip equities.
2. Aggressive, mainly options and speculative stocks.
3. My what?

When analyzing an investment, what do you consider to be the most important factor?
1. The amount of return.
2. The degree of risk.
3. The name of the jockey.

How do you plan to finance your retirement?
1. Savings.
2. Social security.
3. Sale of kidneys.

—from the Introduction: “Why You Need This Book”

Also available as a Crown eBook.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A book so funny it may be dangerous to your health."
– Janet Maslin, New York Times

“Read this book. It will make you laugh.”
Washington Post

From the Hardcover edition.

Janet Maslin
Dave Barry's Money Secrets is more than just a string of gags. It's a rib-tickling recapitulation of the way these books actually work, beginning with the use of straw men to dumb down their authors' reasoning. Suppose "Bob" and "John" have much in common, including the use of quotation marks around their names. Why is John a big success while Bob can't even afford name-brand toilet paper? What secret method does John have? Simple: he is stealing Bob's cash, food, electricity, cable and small appliances, and also having sex with Bob's wife.
— THe New York Times
Publishers Weekly
After tackling such varied topics as marriage, sex, home ownership and Japan, Barry invests his jocular style in lampooning the wealth of personal finance guides out there. Mocking these books in format and tone, Barry addresses such important fiscal matters as the workings of the U.S. economy ("the U.S. workforce is engaged in the service economy, consisting of 83 million people in cubicles furtively sending and receiving personal e-mails"), how to get a job ("prove to a prospective employer that you possess the skill and knowledge necessary to string meaningless hyphenated buzzwords together into sentence fragments") and talking to your children about money ("explain to your child that if he buys lemonade from some other kid's stand, then happens to choke on a lemon seed, then you would be in a position to sue the other kid's parents for thousands of dollars"). Barry's satire will have readers laughing at themselves and at high-profile targets like Donald Trump, Alan Greenspan and Suze Orman. Some material, particularly his insights on dealing with spouses or his ideas for innovative pet products, will be familiar to fans, but it will hardly keep them from enjoying another humorous sendup that's right on the money. B&w photos. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In his recognized deadpan comical approach, widely known humor columnist Barry (Dave Barry Hits Below the Beltway) explores how the U.S. economy works; why corporate executives immediately become much less smart by simply walking into their offices; how to minimize paying taxes safely and legally-by cheating; how to reduce the cost of medical care by not getting any; and numerous other common money topics. In keeping with Donald Trump's Think Like a Billionaire, Barry also dives into other finance-related points: how to tip, how to negotiate for everything, including bridge tolls, and how to argue with your spouse about money. The lively, overzealous narration by Dick Hill strives to embellish the material and replicate a comic standup routine, but this quickly becomes tiresome, begging the question of why the author could not read his own book and also proving that Barry's columns read far more humorously than they sound. Barry again succeeds at hilariously poking fun at money tips, but the work should be considered only for its hilarity, not its advice. Recommended for public libraries.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307351005
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/26/2006
  • Edition description: Reprinted Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 951,176
  • Product dimensions: 5.19 (w) x 7.95 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Dave Barry
Dave Barry has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. His columns for the Miami Herald were syndicated worldwide, and he is the author of a number of bestselling books, including the recently published Peter and the Starcatchers with Ridley Pearson. He lives in Miami, where he drives very nervously.

Biography

In the introduction to Dave Barry Is Not Taking This Sitting Down, the author addresses the desirability of his job as a humor writer and syndicated columnist. "It looks so easy!" he wrote. "...Every year, hundreds of thousands of people try their hand at this demanding profession. After a few months, almost all of them have given up and gone back to the ninth grade."

Yes, Barry is juvenile at times -- but he has achieved the kind of success that can only come from combining a juvenile mind with intelligence, timing, and a keen eye for the absurd. Favorite Barry targets include government inanity, dogs, guys, the Internet, and other oddities of life. He also specializes in weird news and urban myths involving UFO hunters, Pop-Tart science, and toilets. Many of these essays feature the line that has become his catchphrase, "I am not making this up." (Unless, of course, he is introducing something serious and daunting such as a book about the federal government, in which case he reassures that he has made everything up.)

Usually, though, he's not making it up. What he's doing is making it very funny. Whether the target is Congress or commercials, Barry refuses to take anything seriously, least of all himself – but he manages to convey some pretty indicting truths in the process. He's a master of irony and visual punchlines, sometimes interrupting himself with lists, snippets of dialogue, or other on-topic digressions. On the subject of turning 50 and dealing with waning eyesight (a "good thing" about aging, because "you can't read anything"), Barry describes finding restaurant menus suddenly printed "in letters the height of bacteria." He continues: "For some reason, everybody else seemed to be able to read the menus. Not wishing to draw attention to myself, I started ordering my food by simply pointing to a likely looking blur.

ME (pointing to a blur): I'll have this.
WAITER: You'll have "We Do Not Accept Personal Checks"?
ME: Make that medium rare."

Barry has had the most successful and prolific publishing career of any working newspaper columnist, and his humor never seems to go out of style. In 1999, he decided to try his hand at fiction. The result was Big Trouble, a comic thriller à la Carl Hiassen (though filled more with gags than guns) that Entertainment Weekly proclaimed "... not only very funny, [but] sure-footed, even-handed, levelheaded, and other leading book review adjectives." In 2004, he and Ridley Pearson collaborated on Peter and the Starcatchers, a clever prequel to Peter Pan that spawned two additional novels and a series of spin-off children's chapter books.

Along with several other published authors, Barry is a member of the musical group Rock Bottom Remainders. In assessing the band's talents, he has been quoted as saying: "They are not musically skilled, but they are extremely loud."

Good To Know

The Rock Bottom Remainders was originally organized by a publicist to perform at the 1992 American Booksellers Association convention. The members -- which include (or have included) Barry, Stephen King, Amy Tan, Ridley Pearson, Barbara Kingsolver, Mitch Albom, and Matt Groening -- even took their show on the road at one point, turning it into the now out-of-print Mid-Life Confidential: The Rock Bottom Remainders Tour America with Three Chords and an Attitude.

Some things never change: Barry was elected class clown by his Pleasantville High School class in 1965.

Barry got his start in journalism at the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pennsylvania, then worked as a business writing consultant before joining the Miami Herald in 1983.

Attempts to convert Barry's humor to the screen have been less than memorable. The early '90s CBS sitcom based on two of his books and starring Harry Anderson, Dave's World, was short-lived; the spring 2002 release Big Trouble, starring Tim Allen, didn't fare well at the box office. Barry did, however, get a cameo in the latter.

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    1. Hometown:
      Miami, Florida
    1. Date of Birth:
      July 3, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Armonk, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Haverford College, 1969
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

How Money Works

Or: Everybody Clap for Tinker Bell!

Why is money valuable? Why are people willing to work so hard for it, lie for it, cheat for it, go to prison for it, fight for it, kill for it, give up their children for it . . . even marry Donald Trump for it?

I mean, look at the dollar bill. What is it, really? It’s a piece of paper! What’s more, it’s a piece of paper that appears to have been designed by a disturbed individual. On one side, you have a portrait of George Washington, who, granted, was the Father of Our Country and a great leader and everything, but who looks, in this particular picture . . .

. . . like a man having his prostate examined by Roto-Rooter. And then on the other side of the dollar you have:

What is that about? Why is there a picture of a pyramid, instead of a structure traditionally associated with the fundamental values of the United States of America, such as a Wal-Mart? And why is the pyramid being hovered over by an eyeball the size of a UPS truck?

Whatever the explanation, the design of the dollar would not seem to inspire confidence in its value. And yet if you drop a few dollars from an overpass onto a busy freeway at rush hour, people will run into traffic and literally risk their lives in an effort to grab them. Try it!

What does this tell us? It tells us that people are stupid. But it also tells us that money is more than just pieces of paper. But what makes it valuable? To answer that question, we need to consider:

The History of Money

In prehistoric times, there was no such thing as money. When people needed to buy something, they had to charge it. And then when the bills came, nobody could understand them, because there was also no such thing as reading. This led to a lot of misunderstandings and hitting with rocks.

The first form of money that we are aware of by looking it up on the Internet was animals. From the start there were problems with this type of money, particularly the smaller denominations, such as squirrels, which were always biting the payee and scampering away.

By 9000 b.c., the most commonly accepted form of animal money was cattle. When you bought something, you would give the other person a cow, and the other person would give your change in calves. This was better than squirrels, but still not an efficient system. The cash registers were disgusting.

By 3000 b.c., the Mesopotamians had invented two concepts that revolutionized economic activity: (1) writing and (2) banking. This meant that, for the first time, it was possible for a Mesopotamian to walk into a bank and hand the teller a stone tablet stating:

GIVE ME ALL YOUR COWS AND NOBODY GETS HURT

These robbers were captured quickly, because they had to make their getaways at very slow speeds. Still, it was clear that a better medium of exchange was needed.

The ancient Chinese tried to solve the problem by using seashells as money. The advantage of this system was that seashells were small, durable, clean, and easy to carry. The drawback was that they were, in a word, seashells. This meant that anybody with access to the sea could get them. By the time the ancient Chinese had figured this out, much of their country was the legal property of gulls.

And so the quest continued for a better form of money. Various cultures experimented with a number of commodities, including tea, grains, leather, tobacco, and Pokémon cards. Then, finally, humanity hit upon a medium of exchange that had no disadvantages—a medium that was durable, portable, beautiful, and universally recognized to have lasting value. That medium, of course, was beer.

No, seriously, it was precious metals, especially gold and silver, which—in addition to being rare and beautiful—could be easily shaped into little disks that fit into vending machines.

Before long, many cultures were using some form of gold for money. It came in a wide variety of shapes and designs, as we see in these photographs of ancient coins unearthed by archeologists:

The problem was that gold is too heavy to be constantly lugged around. So, to make it easier for everybody, governments began to issue pieces of paper to represent gold. The deal was, whenever you wanted, you could redeem the paper for gold. The government was just holding your gold for you. But it was YOUR gold! You could get it anytime! That was the sacred promise that the government made to the people. That’s why the people trusted paper money. And that’s why, to this very day, if you—an ordinary citizen—go to Fort Knox and ask to exchange your U.S. dollars for gold, you will be used as a human chew toy by large federal dogs.

Because the government changed the deal. We don’t have the gold standard anymore. Nobody does. Over the years, all the governments in the world, having discovered that gold is, like, rare, decided that it would be more convenient to back their money with something that is easier to come by, namely: nothing. So even though the U.S. government still allegedly holds tons of gold in “reserve,” you can no longer exchange your dollars for it. You can’t even see it, because visitors are not allowed. For all you know, Fort Knox is filled with Cheez Whiz.

Which brings us back to the original question: If our money really is just pieces of paper, backed by nothing, why is it valuable? The answer is: Because we all believe it’s valuable.

Really, that’s pretty much it. Remember the part in Peter Pan where we clap to prove that we believe in fairies, and we save Tinker Bell? That’s our monetary system! It’s the Tinker Bell System! We see everybody else running around after these pieces of paper, and we figure, Hey, these pieces of paper must be valuable. That’s why if you exchanged your house for, say, a pile of acorns, everybody would think you’re insane; whereas if you exchange your house for a pile of dollars, everybody thinks you’re rational, because you get . . . pieces of paper! The special kind, with the big hovering eyeball!

And you laughed at the ancient Chinese, with the seashells.

So what does all this mean? Does it mean that our monetary system is a giant house of cards that would collapse like, well, a giant house of cards if the public stopped believing in the pieces of paper? Could all of our “wealth”—our savings, our investments, our pension plans, etc.—suddenly become worthless, meaning that the only truly “wealthy” people would be the survivalist wing nuts who trade all their money for guns and beef jerky?

Yes. But that probably won’t happen. Because, fortunately, the public prefers not to think about economics. Most people are unable to understand their own telephone bills, let alone the U.S. monetary system. And as long as we don’t question the big eyeball, Tinker Bell is safe.

OK, now you know what money actually is. (Don’t tell anybody!) The next question is: How come some people have so much money, while others have so little? Why does the money distribution seem so unfair? Why, for example, are professional athletes paid tens of millions of dollars a year for playing silly games with balls, while productive, hardworking people with infinitely more value to society, such as humor writers, must struggle to make barely half that? And above all, how can you, personally, get more money?

We’ll address these questions in future chapters,3 which will be chock-full of sure-fire, can’t-miss, no-nonsense, common-sense, easy-to-apply, on-the-money hyphenated phrases. You’ll be on your way to riches in no time! All you have to do is really believe in yourself! Come on, show that you really believe! Clap your hands!

Also, just in case, you should get some jerky.

Why Does the Back of the Dollar Have a Pyramid and a Giant Eyeball?

There is actually a simple explanation for these two seemingly odd symbols:

Back when the Founding Fathers were designing our currency, they were looking for an image for the new nation, an image that would symbolize the concept of something strong and massive being watched over by something all-seeing and wise. After much discussion, what they came up with—as you have probably guessed—was a picture of an owl standing on an elephant.

The Founding Fathers passed this idea along to the artist hired to do the engraving of the printing plates for the dollar, whose name was Phil. As it happened, the day he did the dollar, which was his birthday, Phil consumed what historians now believe was at least two quarts of whiskey, and for whatever reason—the only explanation he ever gave was “the squirrels made me”—he engraved a pyramid with a giant eyeball on top of it. Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers, who were in a hurry to get the dollar printed so they could spend it, failed to notice this until it was too late. Fortunately, however, they did catch the error on the front of the dollar, where, instead of George Washington, Phil had engraved a fish playing tennis. Otherwise we might live in a very different nation today.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    DAVE BARRY IS A HUMOR COLUMNIST AND A GENIOUS ONE AT THAT

    I gave my Dad (who works in banking) this book for Father's Day and as a man who I can count the number of times I've heard him laugh uncontrollably on one hand, laughed uncontrollably through this entire book. As a HUGE Dave Barry fan, I can honestly say that this is almost my favorite book of his, it is extra hilarious and it is obviously not meant as real financial advice (unless you buy into the 'it's so crazy it might actually work' motto). But it is NEVER boring or technical and definitely worth your time if you enjoy laughing and being happy.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2008

    not a serious financial book -

    This book is a complete waste of time if you are wanting a serious financial book. The author has some good points, but they are hidden.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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