Lost a job and facing mounting bills? Well, if you can correctly guess what the Dow Jones Industrial Average will be at the close of business Jan. 30, you could find yourself with more than $2,000 to help stay afloat.
The only catch? You have to join the Wesley Chapel-based Web site www.traderplanet.com, although membership is free. The site is giving away $2,009 cash prize, plus $10,000 worth of trading software.
"Who couldn't use $2,009?" asked Lane Mendelsohn, the site's founder.
The 28-year-old vice president of Market Technologies, his father's software company, came up with the contest as a way to beef up membership on his advertiser-supported site, dubbed a MySpace for people interested in trading. He also wanted to help people and possibly help the charities listed on the Web site. The winner gets the money, no strings attached, but Mendelsohn hopes he or she will use some of it to do good.
"It's like a bailout, because people are suffering," said Mendelsohn, who got the idea in late December, "on the spur of the moment."
The contest plays off a phenomenon called "the January Effect."
It has been documented that since 1802, stocks tend to move higher in January following a drop in prices from December tax-loss sell-offs.
Mendelsohn is using advertising revenue to provide the cash prize. The site now has three large advertisers, including Chicago brokerage firm Lind Waldock. As for registrations, he just hit 2,300.
The contest is open to anyone who registers, except employees and relatives of Trader Planet or its affiliates.
Mendelsohn has fun wondering who will claim the prize.
"Will it be an experienced trader or someone who's never traded a dime?" he asked. "I hope it's someone who can really use it."
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.