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QA with authors of 'Loaded,' a parody of financial self-help books

Willie Geist, Boyd McDonnell lampoon the get-rich-quick schemes with the 'Dollar Bills'

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Are you ready to be rich? Really rich? Archipelago-owning, influence-buying, Kardashian-dating rich?

Q&A with authors of "Loaded"
Q&A with Willie Geist and Boyd McDonnell, authors of 'Loaded' mce_tsrc=
 
Geist
 
McDonnell

Longtime friends Willie Geist and Boyd McDonnell were tossing around ideas for making millions as dot-com entrepreneurs back in the Internet's go-go days. Their ideas got sillier and sillier -- but not nearly as silly as the advice they saw being offered in get-rich-quick books. So they parodied the genre in their book, "Loaded."

Now you can be, thanks to the life-changing financial advice contained in "Loaded: Become a Millionaire Overnight and Lose 20 Pounds in 2 Weeks, or Your Money Back!"

But good luck getting your money back.

In "Loaded," authors Willie Geist, host of MSNBC's "Way Too Early with Willie Geist" and co-host of "Morning Joe," and his L.A. pal, TV production executive Boyd McDonnell, share their tongue-in-cheek money apprenticeship under a pair of unrepentant Wall Street ballers known as the Dollar Bills.

In this book-within-a-book, each chapter is written as advice from the Bills -- obnoxious faux gurus Bill Lachey and Bill Richter -- followed by notes from Geist and McDonnell on how each helping of advice is working out in real life -- or not, as is more often the case.

Among these nuggets of questionable wisdom are such get-rich-quick secrets as: Always wear a Bluetooth earpiece (even during sex), always stand while talking (ditto) and always pay off your credit cards with other credit cards (duh!).

The Dollar Bills also cut through all those meaningless financial terms with a handy glossary. Therein you'll learn that Fannie Mae is a maker of fine baked goods, Freddie Mac was a hard-hitting, two-time Pro Bowl safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and APR is a primary competitor to NPR.

No wonder Donald Trump was moved to utter, "These guys are idiots."

Via phone, Geist and McDonnell shared a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the writing of the book, during which they were possibly fully loaded.

CreditCards.com: I assume we're speaking on a disposable phone.

Willie Geist: Yes, Jason Bourne style. Move quickly. Move quickly.

CreditCards.com: And you're both standing, no doubt.

Boyd McDonnell: Exactly. Never sit.

'Loaded' glossary term No. 1:
Margin
A low-fat substitute for butter. Tastes a little bit different, but totally worth it.

Geist: Always, in all meetings. This is a power play, even when the person can't see you.

CreditCards.com: Willie, you are rockin' those HD shades on the cover photo.

Geist: Those are my skeet-shooting glasses.

CreditCards.com: Same for Boyd with the Bluetooth earpiece.

McDonnell: I have it on right now. I never, ever take it off. They tell you to wear those Bluetooths 24/7 if you're to be taken seriously.

CreditCards.com: "Loaded" thoroughly skewers the financial self-help book. Did you gain perverse inspiration from any one particular author?

Geist: I hate to use names, but I think there is a general trend of a promise in a book title that if you simply read these pages, you will be rich, your family will be rich, your children will be rich for all eternity, and the key to unlock this wisdom is within these pages. It's as though the person who wrote the book is the first person to discover all these secrets. Ours is a spoof of the financial book, but also the self-help genre. It just was funny to me that all these people claim to have the answers. Even though none of them had previously worked, this finally would be the one that would unlock the secret.

'Loaded' glossary term No. 2:
Prime rate
Killer steakhouse in Hilton Head, S.C. Don't miss the garlic fries!

CreditCards.com:  How did this craziness begin?

Geist: Boyd and I went to college together at Vanderbilt in Nashville. Then we lived together -- well, I say "lived together" with a group of other people as well -- for several years after in Atlanta; we weren't holed up in a bungalow together. So we got to be good friends there and that's really where this started, maybe '99, whenever the dot-com boom was.

We noticed that it seemed like everybody was getting a website, and there was all this venture capital floating around and all you had to do was come up with some loosely-constructed concept and you were going to be a millionaire. That was sort of the thinking at the time. And we would have these very earnest, serious meetings with our friends. We'd get together at night and it was like, what's our big idea? What's our plan? What are we going to do, guys? How do we jump on this train?

CreditCards.com: Apparently Facebook didn't come to mind. 

Geist: No, the ideas were just horrendous because you had a bunch of creative types who didn't know anything about business, and they'd throw out, 'We need to start a high-end travel agency!' And we'd just look around at each other and like, why? How would we go about starting a high-end travel agency? So there were all these awful ideas.

'Loaded' glossary term No. 3:
Maturity
Finally taking the Guns 'N' Roses, Dan Marino and Kathy Ireland posters off the wall.

And behind the scenes, when everybody else was taking it seriously, Boyd and I would email each other just completely mocking the entire proceedings. That's how these bad business ideas started going back and forth, and then it just kind of morphed into these two characters, the Dollar Bills, who we set up as financial gurus peddling their idea.

CreditCards.com: Did you model the Dollar Bills after any well-known money gurus?

McDonnell: Not specifically. We just wanted to characterize old money, in Willie's character Bill Lachey, and new money in my guy Bill Richter, more the aggressive Wall Street broker guy. We wanted these guys to be very aggressive, very outside the box and guys who are still living in that '06 mentality. That's really when the book evolved to be more character-based and more of a commentary on what was going on in the economy and society, versus just a collection of really, really dumb business ideas, which is what we started with.

Geist: Boyd mentions the '06 mentality. The country was doing great in 2006. Everybody had a house, a big house. Everybody had a car, all leased, of course. They could have whatever they want; put it on a credit card. And then it all came crashing down. The Dollar Bills want us to get back to that 2006 mentality, the one that made us great in the first place, before we ran into all this trouble.

They're not aware of the problems of, like, buying a car on your Diners Club card, which is what people were doing back then. They think it's what made America great. They're sort of the last men standing from that era.

CreditCards.com: They certainly hold appearances in high regard.

Geist: That's exactly right. If you look at the pie chart in the book, it's 80 percent appearance, 15 percent actual wealth, and then there's another 15 percent; their math isn't good. You've just touched on their entire world view, which is that if you look rich, people will think you're rich and then eventually you will be rich.

McDonnell: They really are averse to any sort of minutiae; numbers, facts. They don't like any of that. They're really-big-picture guys who really preach you've got to get out of the norm and start acting like you have money.

Geist: Don't get lost in the numbers, that's what they always told us. And don't allow yourself to be confused by these scary financial terms, whether it's CDO or foreclosure. These words don't mean anything; it's just financial jargon that the smarty-pants on CNBC like to throw around.

CreditCards.com: They have a particularly effective system to overcome the childhood money memories that keep us from the riches we deserve.

McDonnell and Geist: "Shift and drift!"

'Loaded' glossary term No. 4:
SEC
Hands down, the toughest conference in college football.

McDonnell: It's important to erase your money fears from childhood. Shift and drift, just like "Tokyo Drifters 4," one of their favorite movies.

Geist: They love -- LOVE -- Vin Diesel flicks. That's one of their big things.

CreditCards.com: Willie, your day job must have allowed you access to many financial wizards over the years, yes?

Geist: We do have our share, and I know you're trying to get names out of me, and you can keep trying! Let's just say there are people who perhaps have appeared on the MSNBC airwaves from time to time who have authored and penned such books. It doesn't mean they're all bad. It just means we wanted to have a little fun with them and just shine a little bit of light on the people who said they had all the answers before 2008 and then looked a little silly afterward.

CreditCards.com: Donald Trump's book blurb, "These guys are idiots," is certainly a selling point of sorts.

Geist: We want to be very clear: the quote on the front, he's not talking about Willie and Boyd. He's talking about the two Dollar Bills, Richter and Lachey. He lends a certain credence to the book, if you will.

CreditCards.com: How are your money skills in real life?

McDonnell: We are both extremely wealthy...

Geist: No, actually, part of the genesis of the gag was that Boyd is a TV guy, he's a musician, I'm a TV guy; we just don't know anything about personal finance or money. All these ideas were being thrown around and Boyd and I were like, how do you even start that? The ignorance of the Dollar Bills is actually a reflection of our own personal ignorance, although not as bad as theirs.

'Loaded' glossary term No. 5:
Yield
You don't have to come to a full stop, but slow down and check for traffic before proceeding.

McDonnell: It was very fun to do a book like this based on our limited interest and knowledge of that space. By doing it through the mouthpiece of these two characters, the dumber, the better. So we didn't really have to do any research on what we were saying. We could throw out facts and ideas and as long as it was funny and incorrect, it worked for the book.

CreditCards.com: A personal favorite was the Bills' tip to start a celebrity restaurant.

Geist: That's one of my favorites because people keep falling into that trap; if I can just get into bed with Justin Bieber, this is going to be a great restaurant, and the food stinks and the service is awful, and they had a huge, expensive red carpet gala to open it and then it lasts for like two weeks.

McDonnell: Just make sure there's a line out front and a huge aquarium...

Geist: And Ashton Kutcher should probably be at the opening.

CreditCards.com: Is America ready to laugh at itself yet?

Geist: I think we're far enough away, hopefully, from the calamity of 2008 that people can laugh about it a little bit. If we'd done it in 2006, I'm not sure people would have recognized the joke. They were still living in houses that they'd paid no money down for and didn't have to pay for for five years and driving cars they couldn't afford. If you did it in 2008, it would have been a little close to home. But hopefully three years later, people can laugh just for a minute. The economic problems obviously aren't a laughing matter, but the excesses of our society and how stupid we now look five years later are hopefully something that can be laughed at.

See related: QA with 'Super Rich' author Russell Simmons, QA with Matt Taibbi, author of 'Griftopia'

Published: May 13, 2011



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