Early Money Forms Foundations

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By Jeff Fischer (TMF Jeff)
June 30, 2000

It was either Brian Graney (TMF Panic) or it was Jean De La Fontaine who said, "Patience and time do more than strength or passion."

Or else they both said it.

Either way, there is truth to the statement, and the statement can be translated many different ways.

First, it can be translated in a depressing and hopeless way: Why bother doing anything with any passion at all!? In time, won't it all end badly!? Or, it can be translated in a bright, positive way, and a way related to investing: If I'm patient following a few smart decisions, my investment career should turn out very well — in fact, it should turn out much better than it would if I sweated and strained to flip-flop on my investments every few months, or even every few years.

Today, we'll translate the quotation in this second, positive light.

Our food and beverage study has taken nearly 11 months worth of patient, slow columns and thinking (of course, intermittently, not constantly), but we are not concerned about the time spent. Nor are we concerned that we haven't reached a conclusion yet.

One of the reasons we're not concerned is that we already believe that we have made a few good decisions in the past, and hopefully those decisions alone could carry us forward to our end point without disappointing us. So, if we never did much more than split our money among our three main holdings month after month over the coming years, with some luck, we'd be happy with the results in 2017. Patience and time would grant us our reward.

Maybe we would reach our aggressive goal of over 15% in annualized returns. Or maybe we would land shy of it, like a javelin thrower with a beautiful arc to his throw, but one that lands 10 feet shy of the record. Either way, I believe that we would create meaningful value by simply saving regularly and investing the money in what we already own — as long as the companies merit this.

Given this, at this early stage, Drip Port investments in new companies are going to be made mainly in order to spread our risk, but only if we believe that these new investments don't provide much risk of damaging our potential return.

Typically, strong food and beverage companies grant an investor a greater-than-average amount of long-term visibility (regarding where the business is likely to go) with a lower-than-average amount of risk. On the flip side, telecommunication companies, for example, grant much less visibility (where will all these companies be in 10 years?), much higher levels of risk, and potentially (but far from guaranteed) higher returns. Food and beverage companies typically promise lower returns than leading technology-selling companies, but the best companies in the food industry should be able to beat the S&P 500 while offering lower risk than many stocks — and while paying a dividend, too.

Many Fools are bypassing food and beverage stocks because they don't promise to grow quickly enough over the next 17 years. There are many other opportunities out there, they argue. This is true, and we're going to consider at least some of those other possibilities. Before we do so, however, we want our earliest funds (money from our first handful of investing years) already invested and compounding in some of the most certain investments that we can find. We first want to own companies that are all but certain to grow, and all but certain to create meaningful long-term value for us.

Why is this important to start?

Our earliest dollars have the longest time to compound. If we misplace any of these early dollars such that they don't grow, we'll seriously lessen our potential to reach our goals. For example, buying a young telecom or biotech company during our first five years would be a disaster if that company ultimately failed to lead. Our early dollars — our most valuable dollars — would have been gambled on something far from certain, and we would have lost.

On the other hand, our later dollars have less time to grow and (on the good side) present less lost opportunity if we fail to invest them well. Given that, we do want to consider putting at least some of these later dollars in some aggressive investments in order to try to make up lost time (in a reasonable fashion, of course). Overall, we hope that we'll have a strong enough investment base that we'll be confident to take some bigger risks (if we find the right investments) with some of our later money.

As Drip Port turns three years old in July, we're still investing our "early" dollars. We're putting these dollars into large, dividend-paying leaders that may not be growing 35% a year but are typically growing earnings per share 10%-plus annually. As we get a little older and become comfortable with the stakes that we have in the ground, we'll be likely to venture farther from our immediate fields of investing knowledge. We'll take the time to learn about new, promising but riskier industries, and we'll be able to do so because we'll have a lower-risk investment base in place. (I feel that we're already largely there. Now we just need more time to build up what we own a little more.)

I was able to speak with Brian yesterday and we're confident that we'll have a conclusion about out food and beverage study next week. We'll be writing about it next week after the Fourth of July.

So, have a great holiday weekend! We'll return on Monday (the stock market is open a half-day) with a new column from George Runkle. If you'd like to discuss Drip investing anytime, visit us on the Drip discussion boards linked below. Until Monday, be Foolish!

Drip Portfolio

6/30/2000 Closing Numbers
Ticker Company Day Chg % Chg Price
CPBCAMPBELL SOUP-1/16-0.21%$29.13
INTCINTEL CORP15/161.47%$133.69
JNJJOHNSON & JOHNSON5/163.36%$101.88

  Day Week Month Year
To Date
Drip .97% 2.52% 5.31% 31.03% 70.23% 19.93%
S&P 500 .85% .91% 2.39% -1.00% 54.94% 16.14%
S&P 500(DA) .85% .91% 2.39% -1.00% 57.57% 16.81%
S&P 500(DCA) n/a n/a n/a n/a 26.35% 8.32%
NASDAQ 2.29% 3.14% 16.62% -2.54% 152.69% 37.26%

Trade Date # Shares Ticker Cost/Share Price LT % Val Chg

Trade Date # Shares Ticker Cost Value LT $ Val Ch
  Cash: $0.08  
  Total: $6,119.67  

• S&P 500 (DA) = dividend adjusted. Dividends have been added to the total return of the index.

Drip Port launched with $500 on July 28, 1997, adds $100 to invest every month, and the goal is to own $150,000 in stock by August of the year 2017. Due to the slow nature of dollar-cost-averaging and our relatively significant starting costs, we do not expect to seriously challenge the S&P 500 for the first three to five years as we build an investment base. The long-term advantages of dollar-cost-averaging still overcome the short-term disadvantages, however. Final note: our investment in Campbell Soup is frozen due to fees instituted in its investment plan. Click here for a history of all Drip Port transactions.