Fribble

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Wednesday, May 5, 1999

Finances For All To See

by Lydia Vorsteveld

Virtually anything can be found on the Internet. For example, anyone can click into the Rule Breaker Portfolio and see what 's happened to $50,000 of David Gardner's money since 1994. I take it for granted that I can access some of Tom and David's personal financial information -- both the stellar returns and the wart-like losses. Would I be willing to do the same? Would you?

We're willing to post lots of information on the Internet: recipes, pictures of our families (and more), our opinions, and dreams. But, when it comes to money, that information's private, triple-socket-layer-lose-the-key-encrypted! Why is that? Why is it so difficult to reveal our monetary assets? Is it partly because somehow we equate our net worth, our salaries, and our investment returns with our actual value as people? Short of breaking and entering I can't peek at anybody else's investment portfolio.

What if we revealed our real money portfolios -- even anonymously? The portfolios would create an investing database. We'd view how others are investing and possibly learn from them. The portfolios could be another topic for the message boards! Maybe it would be instructive to see that even when everyone knows we've made 1500% on Company ABC, we don't become instantly successful, happy or famous. Maybe more importantly, when it's revealed that we lost 80% on Company XYZ we'd see that the world doesn't end and our lives go on as usual. We'd just be minus some cash we can afford to take a loss on anyway. (You are investing money that you don't need for at least three to five years, right?) Maybe we could have portfolio "fire drills." The Fool could announce these in advance, and then simulate the stock market taking a 30-40% loss. It might be valuable to see how we'd hold up when our portfolios' little green smiley faces turn red and sad.

Maybe if our portfolios were just hanging out there on the Internet, after awhile we'd realize that, heck, it's only money. Without a doubt, in our material world money is important, but it's not the entire value of our existence. I think how we spend our time on Earth is more valuable than the bottom line of our brokerage accounts. And we all have time, every day we even get more. So, how about posting our portfolios? Well, it may never happen, it was just a thought. I'm in. Anyone else?


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