Q: What drives the online investor?

A: The same thing that drives Hollywood, according to John Malkovich: "Those identical twins, greed and stupidity."

Q: But if you were really greedy, would you buy stocks online without gathering much information?

A: No. In fact, maybe a large number of online investors aren't greedy at all — maybe they just don't value money enough to resist throwing it around carelessly. That's sort of admirable and anti-materialistic, at some level. As long as you don't think of all the people who could really use that money. But then, who does?

Q: Why do people start investing online?

A: My theory is they really like feeling organized and in control. It's hard to feel like you're organized and in control with a mutual fund that sends you a statement every quarter along with a prospectus you can't understand. Such situations provoke guilt and anxiety. Going online and buying stocks gives you the illusion of more control.

Q: Does this feeling of control continue?

A: No. After a while, your stocks stop doing incredibly well, and you start to feel like you should read the business section, which you do — for a few weeks. Then you stop reading it, and you feel guilty and anxious again.

Q: So why not transfer all that money to a mutual fund run by someone who has the time to read the business section?

A: All what money? I don't have a lot of money. We're talking hypotheticals here.

Q: But when you do save enough money, you might want to invest online after all, because the truth is it works for some people. This one guy I know ...

A: If you tell me an anecdote about someone who bought eBay at $10 a share or someone who sold the domain name for over $1 million, I will beat you to a bloody pulp.

Q: What's so good about money?

A: I'm not sure. If I had a lot of money, I'd probably stop writing Filler every week.

Q: But you'd be miserable if you quit because you love your job. Most people hate their jobs.

A: Tough shit for them, huh? Ha ha ha.

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