The Week in Review -- February 5, 1999

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  1/29 Close 2/5 Close Change %Change
DJIA 9,358.83 9,304.24 -54.59 -0.58
S&P 500 1,279.64 1,239.40 -40.24 -3.14
Nasdaq 2,506.37 2,373.62 -132.75 -5.30

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Good Karma
by Jerry Thomas (

Greetings, Fools.

It must be clear to everyone by now that Fools are taking over the world. At least it seemed that way to me last Tuesday when I caught The Tom and Dave Show at Border's Bookstore in Los Angeles, where I live.

The Brothers Gardner were in town to promote their latest Foolish best-seller, Rule Makers, Rule Breakers. The store was packed -- I'm guessing that at least 150 people were there, a standing room only crowd. The poor bookstore staffers were scrambling to find seats for everyone. They failed. Maybe on Tom and David's next sweep through town, the Fools will have to rent an arena.

David and Tom spoke earnestly to this very receptive group, explaining the rules of Foolish investing while trading their usual sibling insults. (Watch out, Smothers Brothers -- the Gardners are breathing down your necks!) The laughs came easy, and the crowd was lively. But what impressed me the most was the excitement in the room -- everyone there seemed so intent, so focused on the goal of taking charge of their financial lives.

Very Foolish.

The highlight of the evening for me was my chance to meet Adam Rifkin. Adam, a 29-year-old Ph.D. candidate in Computer Science at Cal Tech, is perhaps the prototype of this new kind of investor: independent, committed to learning, and dedicated to sharing his ideas with the wide community that is growing at an astonishing pace at More to the point, he is best known to readers of The Motley Fool as "IFindKarma". His thoughtful posts are sought out by other Fools at a rate that makes him one of our most popular contributors. I'm afraid I embarrassed him when I called his contributions to our message boards "legendary," but what other word did I have for it? In spite of his excellent work, he seemed genuinely surprised at the impact his efforts are having. "How do you keep up with all the email?" he asked me.

Like I should know? Hey, Adam, you're the legend here, not me.

Adam is at the front of a trend, a trend that represents a shift in the way the investment industry is structured. More and more, investing is becoming a cooperative endeavor, a community effort. Today's investors, instead of humbly offering the stewardship of their hard-earned capital to some high priest in the gold tower of some Manhattan cathedral, are more and more likely to organize themselves into groups, pool their information, and, with the counsel of their compatriots, make their own peace with their financial affairs in the comfort of their own hearts. If that sounds like the reformation of a centralized religion, then call me an evangelist. And if religion it is, you might be surprised at who is joining the congregation -- check out Bob Bobala's Fribble describing a Foolish encounter with John C. Bogle, founder of the Vanguard Mutual Funds. Somebody say "Amen!"

Let me direct the faithful to turn to the text of Jeff Fischer's Thursday Sermon. TMF Jeff's Rule Breaker Portfolio Report, "Stock Investing 101," smashes the idols of the old order. The Wise would have you gnashing your teeth over every twist and turn of the stock ticker. The old-line, off-line media would have you hanging on the edge of your chair, mesmerized with each passing second of the trading action. The old order is intent on increasing your anxiety over your investments. The new order is interested in increasing your confidence. And there lies the difference that makes all the difference.

You begin where you are, with what you already know. Do not be intimidated by the scope of your inexperience. Even children taking their first steps are able to cover some ground. If you're new to the prospect of stock investing, how would you like to overcome some misconceptions immediately -- as in right now? All too often investors are confused about the implications of stock splits; for some reason, when a company alters its number of shares outstanding, novices everywhere become confused. Read the piece Ann Coleman (TMF AnnC) wrote about the subject in Tuesday's Foolish Four Report, and you'll have sidestepped this pitfall that has hindered many would-be investors for far too long. Follow that up with a study of Wednesday's Post of the Day by Fool Community contributor "MagicMike," and you'll have banished this particular ghost from your investing life forever. You see what a powerful tool you have on this screen before you?

If you please, you may sum up all of the foregoing in one phrase: a commitment to learning. If you do not find the heart of The Motley Fool in that place, you will find it close by. It is that commitment that draws so many Fools to these live events.

As I write this, Tom and Dave still have several weeks of book touring ahead of them. They may be coming to your city. The complete schedule of dates and locations can be found here. You can also read the first chapter of Rule Breakers, Rule Makers on our website.

Until next week,
Fool on!


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