Cramer: How the 2008 financial crisis changed my investing approach forever

  • "Mad Money" host Jim Cramer looks back at how the 2008 recession changed the way he viewed the market and his show.
  • Cramer says that after the crisis, he stopped highlighting individual stocks and started tracking market themes instead.
  • While he still favors stock-picking, Cramer shares another investing path to consider.

Every night, CNBC's Jim Cramer goes on "Mad Money" with the mission of helping people become better investors. Over the past 12 years of the show, that mission has transformed to match the surrounding environment.

The show first began as an outgrowth of Cramer's radio show called "Real Money." Back then, people craved specific investment ideas.

But everything changed when the 2008 financial crisis hit investors and tainted the way they viewed the market.

During that time, the downturn ravaged many big companies, especially in the financial sector, and caused a dramatic decline in economic activity.

"That era changed things, and it changed me. It changed the show," Cramer said.

"Mad Money" is no longer about just giving stock ideas, because, in Cramer's opinion, that is not enough anymore.

In fact, he now has deliberately minimized highlighting stock ideas. He would rather teach investors to understand the process and be able to pick stocks for themselves.

"Ever since we changed the show, we have tried to leave behind the so-called 'new ideas' or 'hot ideas,' and instead tried to give you themes that allow you to invest in more fertile sectors versus others, themes that I hope I can make come alive so you can do the homework on them," Cramer said.

Ultimately, Cramer believes that stocks can be one of the greatest investment vehicles out there. They represent the overall progress of a business and the prospects for that business going forward. Companies can also distribute their wealth to shareholders and be very rewarding.

Cramer wants investors to go along for the ride with stocks, but that means doing it in a responsible way. That is why he always suggests index funds as safe ways to invest.

"The show has changed over time from one where we pick stocks for you to one where we educate you about stocks so you can understand why an index fund might be worth investing in," the "Mad Money" host said.

WATCH: How the recession changed Cramer

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