But Cramer's most challenging point was while in San Diego, after his apartment was robbed and he lost everything. He spent six months living out of his car while he rebuilt his life, but continued to put money away -- enough so that 35 years later those mutual funds total well into the six figures.
Cramer's next life lesson: Start small and do your homework. He recounted how he started his career as a stock picker in 1979, making his first trade in an orange grower in Florida. He bought 10 shares for a total of $9, he recalled. A week later, an early frost wiped out the orange crop and he lost 50% of his investment. Not to be discouraged, Cramer said his next trade was in Bob Evans Farms ( BOBE) after eating at one of its restaurants and doing a lot of homework on the company's outlook. That trade proved to be successful as the company had a good quarter and shares split shortly thereafter. Cramer's lesson learned: Know what you own and why you own it. He didn't know anything about oranges, he admitted, but a good breakfast made sense to him. Cramer recalled an investment he made shortly thereafter in SPS Technologies, a company that made airplane fasteners, now part of Precision Castparts ( PCP). He said a buddy had worked there and told him the company was hiring like mad. Cramer again did the homework and deduced that SPS was a win, especially with no news yet to be filed on the hiring binge. Combine what you know with what you can find out, he concluded.
It's All in the Trade
Cramer's next lesson was all about trading, something that has become more difficult over the years, he said, but that's also been helped along by low commission rates, readily available information and lightning fast trading. Cramer said that while in college he taught himself discipline by committing to coming up with one trading idea per week. That idea, he said, eventually made it into his "Mr. Bullish" newsletter, which he mailed to his parents every week. Eventually he put the tips onto his voicemail message as a sign of his commitment to his ideas.