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Voter turnout for

last week's poll was comparatively light, in proportion to the multitudes reading the column. Go figure -- maybe a whole bunch of readers didn't want to click the mouse a few more times. It's an enigma wrapped inside a mystery as to why more than twice as many people voted for question No. 1 and then neglected to follow up by voting on the next two questions.

Hanging chads? Pregnant digital chads? I dunno. But I can tell you this: A vocal contingent of readers in Florida has already demanded a hand recount of the ballots.

Also, readers were able to check on the tabulated results


voting, which could have easily biased their own vote, as they then selected the choice most popular with others. The disgruntled Florida readers based their challenge on this flaw in the tabulation mechanism.

This "join the herd" mentality no doubt helped account for the overwhelming majority of votes cast for answer E on the first question ("Burst out laughing, excuse yourself, and head for the closest bar"). This answer received 58% of the vote, by far the highest percentage on any of the three questions.

This "protest" vote reflects investors' frustration -- not only with their losses, but also with their lack of confidence in the guidance received from brokers. It's unclear how much of this vote represents playing along with the lightheartedness of the spirit of the quiz. There's also an implication to be made regarding all that interest in heading for the closest bar. But let's not go there, as some readers who


neglected to stagger back and complete the quiz.

The results of the second question confirmed readers' negative evaluation of their brokerage reps, as about 38% believed that their broker would "look totally baffled" when it came to identifying a 401(k) for a one-person business. This answer was the leading vote-getter for this question. Not exactly a strong vote of confidence.

The correct answer, however, was E: The broker would know what a 401(k) was but "neglect to mention that since Sept. 11 and the terrorist threat, there is no longer any such thing in this country as a safe harbor."

The rationale here is that this answer gives the broker credit for having the common knowledge of an important new option for one-person businesses along with giving the author credit for wordplay with the term "safe harbor." This answer received about 25% of the vote.

The third scenario proved to be the real horse race, with the results running neck and neck among three of the answers for a number of days. B held the early lead and continued to maintain an edge, but E kept creeping up over the weekend and finally pulled even by Monday morning. B was the safe answer on this one, reiterating a lack of readers' confidence in their brokers' common knowledge and expressing hostility at how poorly they've been guided in protecting their assets over the past three years.

The correct answer, however, was E. Why? Because any answer on any quiz that offers you a Krispy Kreme donut has to be the right one! (Remember, five seconds in the microwave delivers perfection.) About 25% of you got this one correct. At the time this was written, the final result was too close to call.

Reality Quiz, Part 2

Now, let's continue the quiz with the last three questions. Choose the best answer for each.

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Scenario 4:

In the brokerage slogan, "There's always a smart place for your money -- together we will find it," the smart place being referred to is:

    The result of a mutually respectful and informative dialogue between broker and investor. Safely tucked between the investor's box-frame and mattress. Determined by an analysis of the latest duplicitous analyst reports. A swirling black hole in the mutual fund universe from which it never returns. The craps tables in Las Vegas.

Scenario 5:

In the brokerage slogan, "You've got to


before you can


" the learning referred to is:

    Never believing that someone else will care about your investment capital as much as you do. Never assuming that the fox won't devour the hens when the prospect of getting richly fed is worth the risk of getting caught with blood on its whiskers. Never again thinking that money invested for the long term can be left to sit without judicious use of sell and stop-loss orders. Never trying to manage your own investments without first earning an MBA from Wharton. Knowing that buying on margin sucks and should be avoided like the plague.

Scenario 6:

The cautionary note that accompanies performance statistics reads: "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." That phrase



    Riding the bull in the '90s doesn't guarantee you'll end up with anything left in your account after being mauled by the bear. If you thought you were in bad shape last year, wait until the end of this year. The stock market behaves according to a random walk model: No one knows what to expect from one year to the next. Calling the Psychic Hotline for a prediction may be as good as poring over Morningstar, Barron's, etc. As a trader, until you shatter your crystal balls, you're impotent.

Question and Answer

Dear Shrink Rap: I think I've figured out what you're up to. With all the serious stuff on the sites and misery in the news, lately you've been offering something lighter, to help investors laugh -- especially when the bear market has been so excruciating; and what you've labeled the "market complex" begs for ridicule and humor. Am I on to you, Doc? -- G.A.

Shrink Rap:

Guilty as charged.

Steven J. Hendlin, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in Irvine, Calif. He has been in private practice for the last 26 years, investing for the last 20 years, and actively trading online as a position trader and long-term investor since 1996. He is the author of

The Disciplined Online Investor and maintains a site at He is pleased to receive your comments and questions for publication in his public forum columns at, but please remember that he is unable to provide personal counseling or psychotherapy through the mail. has a revenue-sharing relationship with under which it receives a portion of the revenue from Amazon purchases by customers directed there from