(Foreword to: Be Smart, Act Fast, Get Rich published by Wiley)
There is something very refreshing about my friend Charles Payne. As a kid, he just wanted to be rich. I guess it was because he wasn’t. As he told me many times, and eloquently puts forth in this book, Charles wasn’t only from the wrong side of the tracks, he was from the wrong side of life! But experiences that might have made others bitter made Charles stronger. He didn’t take it out on his country. He served his country.
Now I’m not here to extol Charles’s four years in the Air Force, or the myriad of odd, low-paying jobs he had before that. Nor am I here to recount how rough it was for him in those days. Life was and is rough for lots of folks. The world is full of such rags-to-riches stories. If that’s all there was to Charles, I’d say save the money on this book.
But that’s not all there is to Charles, or to this book. There is something much deeper, more meaningful, more thoughtful. This isn’t about a man who says you should be rich like him. He shows you how – clearly, lucidly, even humorously.
That’s what Charles is all about. He wants to give something back – not with silly platitudes about buying low and selling high, but by discussing how to buy low and when to sell high. He wants you to learn from his mistakes and pick up on insights real money pros rarely share. Most hot-shot investors speak vaguely. It’s as if they’re protecting the Temple. Charles opens that Temple. And like Dorothy visiting the Wizard of Oz, you come to realize there’s just a man behind the curtain – playing games and keeping secrets.
Charles is pulling back that curtain on Wall Street, stopping the games, stopping the secrets, stopping the Wall Street doublespeak, stopping the ridiculous condescension, the we-know-and-you-don’t elitism, and stopping the nonsense, period.
But what makes this book so wonderful is he’s telling you that the secret to success really isn’t a secret at all. It’s hard work and dedication. It’s day-in and day-out – sticking to principles and strategies that don’t go out of fashion. To be a pro, Charles reminds us, you have to act like a pro, dedicated to the craft and studious as to the world and the markets that reflect it. Great stocks just don’t happen. Many have been bubbling for years. Charles is the guy who sees them bubbling when most of the experts don’t see them at all.
Charles knows a mutual fund won’t get you rich, but a keen investment insight will. A momentarily hot stock won’t retire you to Tahiti, while a winning combination just might. He knows that, and let me tell you something: The real pros know that, too. They won’t say it. Charles will. So many Americans spend their lives dreaming about making money, hoping that they dough they have in their house or that retirement plan will set them on the easy street. They put their faith in averages that aren’t average and government programs that aren’t guaranteed. They depend on others to provide answers without ever asking so much as a single question themselves.
The reason why Charles has grown to become my favorite commentator on these matters is he lives these matters. He doesn’t separate them. Pursuing financial security is as much a mission as it is a goal. He readily admits he works way too many hours and misses far too many vacations. I can’t imagine the dinners he’s canceled or the cocktail parties for which he’s had to send his regrets! I’ve heard the same said of giants like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, who put in the time because they’re having the time of their lives.
In all my years covering the business, I don’t think I’ve ever run across anyone else quite like Charles Payne. Whatever the story I want to share, Charles has read it. Whatever the rumor I want to pursue, Charles has heard it. Whomever the Wall Street whispers have cited, Charles has called. In panel shows, debate shows, all shows, Charles is the guy in the know whom others want to know more. Wall Street legends stop and listen. High-and-mighty politicos stop and write.
I think it’s because Charles doesn’t parrot the consensus line. Shortly after 9/11, when all the experts were talking deep, lasting recession, he was the guy who promised a quick economic turnaround. He was right. When the media said Enron and Tyco were the tip of a financial iceberg that would send corporate America reeling, Charles pointed out they were the exception, not the rule. Touché again. To a world and media that seem to endlessly trash us, Charles sticks up for us – oftentimes by sticking it to them!
Charles defies conventional wisdom the way he defies tired and lazy reporting and analysis. If everyone’s saying it, Charles once told me, it’s distinctly possible, even likely, everyone’s wrong.
What’s more, Charles gets the things that matter. At the height of the Internet stock boom, he was the one guy who reminded us all that profits do matter; all the promises in the world do not. If he doesn’t understand a company, he doesn’t buy that company’s stock, and if he falls in love with a concept, he doesn’t fall in love with no return.
He gets the big things right – like the war on terror. It’s more than our financial fortunes at stake, he once told me; it’s our very lives! In an age when so many put so much trust in government to solve the problem, Charles takes great risks saying maybe we are the problem. He’s warned me about social programs we can’t afford and a clueless naïveté about terror we can’t allow.
You see, Charles is a patriot. What’s more, Charles is a good man, who sees nothing wrong with being rich but everything wrong with acting rich. I remember joking with him once that there are rich jerks and there are poor jerks. I said on-air once that “jerkery knows no pedigree.” It’s not money that corrupts the wallet, but indifference and dismissiveness that corrupts the soul.
There’s a soul to my friend Charles – a very real earthiness that few I’ve ever encountered in this world come close to sharing. Charles is the real deal – a guy’s guy, who loves boxing, loves playing cards, and loves staying in touch with childhood chums.
He’s the same guy he was then, only richer, and with this book, a lot more enriching. To read this is like talking to Charles. To hear the funny mistakes and wicked lessons along the way… well, that’s like being Charles. And you can’t do much better than that.
Invest with my friend. But more, learn what it’s like to be a friend – a friend who helps democratize Wall Street and embodies all the simple, decent values of Main Street. He’s the kid from Harlem who hasn’t forgotten his roots, his friends, or his priorities. Charles is that friend. And this… is that book.