Book Review
Title: "Laughing at Wall Street: How I Beat the Pros at Investing (By Reading Tabloids, Shopping at the Mall, and Connecting on Facebook) and How You Can, Too"
Author: Chris Camillo
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, 2011; 240 pages; $24.99 (hardcover), $11.99 (e-book)

I’m constantly fascinated by how widely approaches to Facebook seems to differ, from my own personal vantage point.

My entrepreneurial friends mostly use it to broadcast their business goings-on; my church friends to publicize upcoming events and pics from the annual cookout; and just about everyone I know published photos of their kids, dogs or loot this holiday season. Some people mostly post "meme"-y images; others post inspirational quotes; and still others lurk, only commenting when I post my own monthly canine pics.

And then there’s my mom, who is nowhere near old and loves her iPhone, Kindle and laptop, yet is very concerned that there’s a fine line between simply signing up for a Facebook account and actually becoming a Kardashian sister.

Enter Chris Camillo, a family man-turned amateur investor who, looking to lock down his finances in 2007, made a $20,000 investment and grew it to more than $2 million using his own homegrown market research techniques, including using Facebook as a "trend-spotting network."

In his new book, "Laughing at Wall Street: How I Beat the Pros at Investing (By Reading Tabloids, Shopping at the Mall, and Connecting on Facebook) and How You Can, Too," Camillo seeks to demystify stock market investing and share his own approach to money matters and investment strategies.

Here are three of the strategies Camillo used to "beat the pros":

1. Simplify your money thinking. With all the investor newsletters, advisory reports, market indices out there — not to mention the complicated portfolio strategies, reallocation recommendations and such — Camillo advises readers to focus on two buckets of money: the lockbox account and the "Big Money" account.

The lockbox account is "a relatively risk-averse pool of money to which you make regular contributions with a goal of providing long-term financial security for you and your family," which Camillo recommends managing age-appropriately, not using his investment strategies.

The Big Money account is "a risk-tolerant" pool of money (gleaned from saving on investment fees, among other cost cuts) "that is leveraged and invested to provide you and your family with the opportunity to reach your desired financial goals within a concise time frame."

Your lockbox money could be a savings account, low-fee and low-risk mutual funds or, if you’re older, cash and certificate of deposit accounts (CDs). Your Big Money account is money you find by cutting current monthly costs and investment fees or even selling stuff on eBay. However, instead of funneling it into your latte fund, you are willing to invest aggressively for the potential to change your family’s lifestyle.

2. "Buy when you know something that others don’t." Camillo believes that Wall Street investment advisers might possess the skills of technical and fundamental stock-price analysis, but that Main Streeters like you and me can beat them when it comes to discovering trends in gaming, food and fashion by simply by doing our own research and observing what’s trending in the consumer habits of the people we know and watch everywhere from the mall to on "TMZ."

Camillo calls his approach "information arbitrage:" using your Big Money account to buy stocks when you see potentially game-changing information in the marketplace that Wall Street hasn’t yet seen and selling "when the game-changing information becomes widely accepted as fact on Wall Street."

Camillo’s easiest-to-understand example: When Michelle Obama dropped J. Crew’s name on "The Tonight Show" during the 2008 campaign, J. Crew stock was around $9 — that would be the time to buy. A few months after "Mrs. O" also dressed her daughters in the brand for the inauguration, the stock price had climbed from around $9 to more than $25, and financial press was blaring headlines about the uptick; a year later, it was at $50 a share.

Camillo provides a deeper, more systematic approach to following up on such pop-culture observations with research before making an actual investment decision.

3. Believe what you see. Whether you’ve noticed that every preschooler in your kid’s class is obsessed with an otherwise little-known character, or that everyone on your Facebook page is buying a particular mixer, mattress or phone, Camillo exhorts you to pay attention to these cues from your own networks as to trends in buying behavior that the stock experts simply cannot yet see.

Camillo encourages readers to begin practicing the discipline of cutting costs and compartmentalizing savings into Big Money and lockbox accounts, and to get familiar with the research and action steps he provides for following up on trends spotted and executing investment decisions in advance, so that they can act nimbly on new investment opportunities as they become apparent.

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