Data: CCH It looks like a filing cabinet on wheels with an umbrella on the top. Hilton Hotel's new, easy-to-set-up mobile office unit, featuring a desk, laptop outlet, wireless Internet and network connections, cordless phone, and cell-phone adapter, is available for $25 per hour at two Caribbean properties (in the Bahamas and Puerto Rico). The workstation lets you stay productive at poolside. But it doesn't exactly add to the beauty of the beach. If only you could go back in time and dump all of your dot-com stocks or buy Microsoft (MSFT
) at its initial public offering. You can't turn back the clock, but you can play Mr. Bigshot, a new video game that lets you act out some of those investment fantasies while learning about trading stocks.
The CD-ROM costs $19.95 at Mrbigshot.com, but first try the demo at the site. A cartoon bull in a double-breasted suit is your broker as you try to invest an imaginary $100,000 in one of two stocks and be the first to reach $1 million. In each round, the game takes you back to Jan. 1 of a random year (as early as 1969 and as late as 1998). You get real data on the two companies--but not their names--and you can trade the stock of either. You compete against either your friends or the game's electronic traders. According to the game's creator, Courtney Tudor, the virtual player named Big Al, a bespectacled economist who bears a passing resemblance to Alan Greenspan, is the toughest to beat. Other challenging opponents are "Buff," à la Warren Buffett, and "Pinch," as in "Peter Lynch."
On Wall Street, the odds of beating a Buff or Pinch would be slim, but here you can trade like a pro. The number of Dividend Reinvestment Plans (DRIPs) offering direct purchase of stock has doubled since 1997. With most companies, DRIP investors had to be shareholders already to buy stock directly. Now, more plans let outsiders buy the first share, too. Some helpful sites: dripcentral.com, netstockdirect.com. Have you been really bad when it comes to overusing your credit cards? Here's a tip from a new book, Good Advice for a Bad Economy (Berkley, $13): Put your cards in a sandwich bag full of water. Then, stick the bag in the freezer. By not going the cut-them-up-with-scissors route, you still have the cards for emergencies. Impulses must wait for the ice to thaw.