Jim Cramer, with his Mad Money program running more than ten years at CNBC, is about as famous as big-name money managers like George Soros or Warren Buffett. While he gets to pull numbers and tickers out of his head on demand (when his staff aren’t preparing graphics on the fly), dress up in strange costumes and punch the buttons of various odd sound effects, such as a man falling off a cliff and a sexy woman’s voice crooning, “The House of Pleasure, ” he might have had less fun, but likely would have made more money, had he stayed at his hedge fund.
“My aim is not only to entertain but to educate, ” Cramer exuberantly exclaims at the head of each episode, and it is often his callers on the Lightning Round thank him for helping the “little guy” and the “home gamer.” Given that he must be raking it in as a CNBC celebrity, his motives may not seem entirely altruistic (who is a perfect altruist, anyway?), but taking into consideration how well he could have cleaned up as a hedge fund manager, it seems there must be something else besides cash motivating him, whether it is trying to promote stock investing in general, helping the average Joe or Joanne make a few extra bucks or just the ability to engage in live performance art with a financial theme every night.
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Jim Cramer had no formal training in finance, began as a journalist, at one point was living out of his car, and then went to Harvard as a Law student. His interest in stocks was something self-cultivated, and he often left stock picks on his answering machine. One friend was so impressed with the success of his recorded picks that he got Cramer a job at Goldman Sachs, and after a 3 year stint at the investment bank, Jim Cramer started a hedge fund. The average yearly returns were astounding, a 24% average over 14 years compared to Warren Buffett’s 19.7% compound rate of return during the same time period. Of course, Buffett has many decades of investing, with compounded gains, but one wonders, like As Matt DiLallo of Motley Fool posits, if Cramer might have left the party too early? Cramer took home $10 million annually from his hedge fund, gains which are outshone by the biggest financial gurus, but it seemed that, for whatever reason, Cramer quit while he was ahead. Now as host of Mad Money, he is restricted from investing his own money in stocks, but runs a charitable fund.
So perhaps Cramer did leave the game early, but he keeps us entertained and informed.