Betting the Ranch

As stocks have soared, so has home-equity borrowing. Are you risking your prize asset?

People have always wanted to be rich. It's no crime. Wealth as a goal is even noble when pursued honestly and patiently. Yet in these marry-a-millionaire times, the pursuit of instant and effortless fortune is being hammered home like never before: state lotteries, legalized gambling, day trading, Internet IPOs and, you guessed it, high-stakes game shows on every network. The message is clear: Patience is for losers; grab your share now. If you can't get past the qualifying round of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, take out a loan and spend anyway--as though you never even needed a lifeline. Trouble...

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