Pay Your Returns Forward

Just nine more days till we get to bid good riddance to 2008. Yippee!

What a miserable year for investors this has been. We've seen a housing bust, a credit crunch, a bank bailout, a recession, and now, an auto bailout. Welcome to the pity party, Detroit. Grab some sock-it-to-my-portfolio punch. We've spiked it good to dull the pain.

Thanks to credit-crunched panic selling, the S&P 500 is down roughly 40% year to date. Indisputably great businesses such as Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) and General Electric (NYSE: GE  ) have been cut in half. Did anyone who owns stocks make money in 2008?

Believe it or not, yes. Congratulations if you hold any of these current-year winners:

Company

CAPS Stars (5 Max)

YTD Return

Dollar Tree (Nasdaq: DLTR  )

***

68.6%

Quality Systems (Nasdaq: QSII  )

*****

43.0%

First Cash Financial (Nasdaq: FCFS  )

****

23.2%

Hot Topic (Nasdaq: HOTT  )

*

37.5%

Myriad Genetics (Nasdaq: MYGN  )

***

40.3%

Sources: Capital IQ (a division of Standard & Poor's), Yahoo! Finance.

And a very big high-five if you invested in Dollar Tree or five-star stunner Quality Systems, a Stock Advisor selection made by Fool co-founder Tom Gardner. Many in our 125,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community agreed with his thesis:

Metric

Quality Systems

CAPS stars (5 max)

*****

Total ratings

2,166

Bullish ratings

2,104

Percent bulls

97.1%

Bearish ratings

62

Percent bears

2.9%

Bullish pitches

284

Bearish pitches

8

Data current as of Dec. 22, 2008.

CAPS All-Star Har1en likes Quality Systems still. Quoting from this Fool's early December pitch:

Another great company with a niche -- medium to large medical practice sales and upkeep of medical records tech. And another No Debt team member! Why do I like companies with no debt? Come inflation or deflation, these companies will be able to reprice their products to fit the new landscape and won't be slowed down by debt servicing. It also shows that the company not only has cash, but uses it to reinvest in the business or pay shareholders (in this case, to pay handsome dividends).

Agreed, but I'm more interested in why you invested. Was it to beat the market? Get rich? Both? Certainly, those are valid reasons.

Yet there's more to investing than money, says Tom and brother David, Fool co-founders. They're like Warren Buffett in that they believe you should also invest to make a difference -- to leave the world a better place for having hosted you. Why not put a portion of the gains into a charitable investment with the potential for world-changing returns?

Here are a few ideas if you're short on time:

  • Give to a school. If you have kids, as my wife and I do (three, to be specific), you know how needy schools have become. Volunteer to be a room parent and sponsor a common need.
  • Clean up a highway. Have you ever driven on a sponsored portion of highway? Thank the national Adopt-A-Highway program. It administers litter removal on behalf of companies that pay a regular sponsorship fee.
  • Protect an endangered species. Zoos are great, but how about protecting nature's finest where they live? The World Wildlife Fund acts on behalf of dozens of endangered animals around the globe. Donations can be made in the form of "adopting" a certain species.

Or you can help others learn to invest as you and I have -- to pay it forward, you might say.

Your turn to educate, amuse, and enrich
That's what we're aiming for in our annual Foolanthropy campaign, through our sponsored charity, DonorsChoose.org. It's a brilliant program. Teachers post projects for citizen philanthropists to bid on. Students win.

At the Fool, we'll be helping DonorsChoose with financial and economic education. Why not join the cause? You can either donate now or, if you're still among the up-and-comers, share your knowledge at Motley Fool CAPS or our discussion boards. David and Tom will contribute $0.02 to our charities for every post you make during December.

Don't be a Scrooge. Be a Fool. Help to give others the gift of financial freedom that you and your family enjoy. Happy Holidays!

Need help developing a Foolish giving strategy? Say no more:

This article was originally published on Dec. 11, 2007. It has been updated.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is slowly improving his CAPS score. Thankfully, he's doing better as an analyst for Rule Breakers. Tim had stock and options positions in Apple at the time of publication. Check out his portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Apple and Quality Systems are Stock Advisor selections. First Cash Financial is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems Pay Dirt pick. The Fool's disclosure policy enjoys a little melted butter with its croissant.


Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (3)

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  • Report this Comment On December 22, 2008, at 1:27 PM, kamuirei wrote:

    On schools: I know that the Texas Legislature hasn't increased funding for schools since 2005. Then they wonder why hundreds of teachers are laid off due to budget shortfalls...

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