April 5, 2002

The currency markets far and away eclipse the dollar amount traded through any stock market. About $2 trillion per day of currencies is traded around the world.

Every country's currency changes hands, is equated to new terms, is, in fact, born again.

But if I gave Jury a dollar, she'd give me a dollar back. Nothing would change day to day. That's the irony. Out there, in the world, things are different. Inside here, a dollar can only be traded for another dollar. It's worth that much, or that little, depending how you look at it.

"At the end of the day it's all perception," Jury says. "If I perceive a currency to be going down in value, based on all the factors I just told you, then I'd sell it. If I perceived that value to be increasing, then I'd buy it."

In Paulos Coehlo's novel "The Alchemist," a young man goes out into the world to find a someone who can make gold. He has the ingredients. He has the alchemy. The point of the book is that it's the young man's experience of going out into the world that is the true alchemy. Out there, life is all one big foreign exchange.

It's what he perceives to be valuable that counts.

This column is excerpted from the book, "What Money Really Means." For more information, visit http://www.allworth.com/Catalog/BL270.htm