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A mattress may be best bet for safe investment

When you write about current events, you always run a real risk that events will change so drastically between writing and publication that you will wind up looking foolish . . . okay . . . more foolish than usual.

What, I thought, if I write about the stock market's troubles and it rallies completely and everything is hunky-dory by the time this paper hits the street this morning?

After a quick look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday afternoon, I realized that I had more important concerns to worry about, like being abducted by aliens, drafted by the Chippendale Dancers or being placed in charge of the Homeland Security News Bureau.

But surprises can happen.

Things will change on you sometimes.

Ask the now blessedly nameless-in-history editor who made the decision to run the "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline on Page 1 of the Chicago Tribune in 1948. Truman won, the headline became infamous.

Or, take this little ditty from the semiannual report issued by a mutual fund in which I have invested. I just recently received it, although it is dated April 30 of this year.

The report says that WorldCom used large amounts of debt to fund its business, was hurt by fallout from the Enron scandal and has been punished for its high level of leverage and decline in earnings.

"However, in our view," the report goes on, "we believe WorldCom is a strong competitor in long-distance telecommunications, it has many strengths and the earnings situation appears likely to turn around later in 2002. In fact, despite the losses sustained we have selectively added to our WorldCom holdings throughout the period."

What with WorldCom having filed for Chapter 11 protection in the biggest bankruptcy filing in U.S. history, I am less than thrilled at the foresight of the folks I have handling that particular investment.

WorldCom executives, by the way, on Monday told CNN they expected the company to survive the reorganization, and CNN quoted one stock expert (not the one, I hope, who wrote my mutual fund report) as saying that the company should continue to function fairly well "since . . . it has a strong recurring revenue base."

I admit to being a financial amateur, but I think the theory is that the company can live off its cash flow as long as it doesn't have to pay any of its bills, which, incidentally, so could I.

If the WorldCom recovery should occur, I am paying in advance for Super Bowl tickets to see the Buccaneers play, a parking space at the 2004 Republican Convention in Tampa, playoff tickets for the Devil Rays, applying for a seat in the Janet Reno Cabinet and trying to prepare my wife for the news that I am being stalked by Jennifer Lopez.

And if anyone is selling front-row tickets to the apocalypse, the arrival of which I consider all of these things to be omens of, I want them, too.

I believe that the market as a whole will recover, although some fortunes never will. The only advantage I see right now, however, is that I can convert my entire 401(k) into cash and carry it home _ if I get it in small bills _ in my glove compartment.

If I get it in large bills I can just slip it in between the pages of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Investing Like a Pro. I bought a copy to give a lawyer because I'm not sure they have the right to use my image (and I'm talking about the idiot image, not the "pro" image) without my permission.

Actually, if things recover even modestly, I'm going to be cashing in a lot of my stuff and using an entirely new investment vehicle.

I'm not going to get in trouble by saying what it is and then being accused of hyping it, but I can tell you that it is easily accessible and comes with several large tags saying "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law."

And it can't be worse than any other idea I've had lately.