Wednesday, October 6, 1999

The 50,000% Milestone


This past Monday, one of my stocks touched a milestone. The overall gain on this stock crossed the 50,000% mark. I'll bet you'd like to know how I found it. It was given to me.

My wife's grandfather and great-grandfather started a business about 60 years ago. Her grandfather worked it for 60 years. He was over 90 when he died, having worked there until the last year of his life. He lived frugally but comfortably in the same house for most of that time.

Over the course of her life, my wife received some stock in the family business from her grandmother and grandfather. Her grandfather, in his final years, gave the maximum $10,000 tax-free annual gift to each of us and to our children in the form of stock in the family business. The business was sold to a publicly traded company the year before he died. The sale of the business dramatically increased the value of these gifts. And since the sale, the stock has more than doubled.

The receipt and management of this amazing gift was what brought me to the Fool. Realizing that I knew nothing about how to deal with this windfall, I searched for help. I understood the inherent conflict of interest that financial sales people work under. So I managed to avoid anyone who worked on commission and instead ended up at the doorstep of a fee-only financial planner. Her advice: sell it all and invest in a combination of mutual funds selected by her screening program. At $75 per hour, I considered this advice to be severely overpriced.

Having 99% of your assets in a single security can be a little nerve-wracking. But why sell all of it, and why mutual funds? What about the capital gains we would pay? Why do anything? Even at $75/hour, answers were not very forthcoming.

I read. I researched. I talked to people. But I just wasn't finding the solid advice I wanted. I had heard of the Fool, but it seemed too good to be true. It just seemed like another scam to get rich. But, having exhausted all other avenues, this student, now ready, gave in and read the Fool.

It has been about three years now. We've learned about the slow and steady road to wealth, the tax advantages of letting your winners run, mechanical methods, and valuing potential investments. We've sold some of the shares and invested in the Foolish Four and other stocks. We've also given some of the stock away. But much remains unsold and sits as stark evidence to the benefits of buy-and-hold, proof of the magic of compounding.

As I mentioned, the gain on the stock now stands at better than 50,000%. Our personal gain is immeasurable. My wife's grandfather has provided us with the ability to do virtually anything we desire. It's an opportunity we never imagined. As a result, we have been able to help family members, friends, and our favorite charities as well as upgrade our lives a little. We still try to live below our means (meaning my salary), though that's never been our strong suit.

By the way, do you know what a 50,000% gain over 60 years works out to in compounded annual terms? About 10.9% a year. Sounds pretty close to the market average, doesn't it? I'm hoping to do even better over the next 60 years for my grandchildren. And I'm hoping to teach them how to save $75/hour and manage it themselves.
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