Step 2: Trade Wisdom for Foolishness

When you're plying your trade in the investment world, calling yourself Foolish (note the capital "F") is normally inadvisable. As you've probably surmised, we think quite the opposite.

The short version of where we got our name is this: We copped it from Shakespeare.

The slightly more detailed back story is this: Our name is in homage to the one character in Shakespearean literature -- the court jester -- who could speak the truth to the king and queen without having his head lopped off. ("A fool, a fool, I met a fool i' the forest, a motley fool," says Jacques in Act II, scene VII of As You Like It.) The Fools of yore weren't simply stand-up comics sporting belled jester caps -- they entertained the court with humor that instructed as it amused. More importantly, the Fool was never afraid to question conventional wisdom, particularly when popular thought was detrimental to the kingdom's people.

See where we're going with this?

Back in 1993, when The Motley Fool debuted (first as a print newsletter which later moved online), we looked around and saw all the conventional Wall Street "wisdom" in the financial world and we wondered why no one was crying foul. So we blatantly ripped off Bill Shakespeare (after consulting a few lawyer friends), donned our jester caps (a job requirement), and set out to expose what was wrong with Wall Street and counter it with a healthy dose of honest, commonsense Foolishness.

Our mission has always been and will continue to be to educate, amuse, and enrich. We've taken the liberty of scribing a mission statement just for you, too: Get smart(er), make money, and have fun.

But first, you may be wondering exactly what we get out of all this feel-good-empowerment-join-our-team-aww-shucks stuff. We're glad you asked …

What's in it for us?
Navel-gazing warning: The following section may seem rather self-indulgent. That's because it is. For those who are curious about our company, our business model, and the main difference between us and the rest of the financial trade, read on. If that's not you, skip ahead to the next section. No hard feelings, we swear.

In all seriousness, The Motley Fool truly is a place with a passion and a purpose. We are dedicated to educating, amusing, and enriching every single person who visits Fool.com, picks up one of our books, sees our syndicated newspaper column, or happens to catch one of us on TV (in full Fool regalia, if there isn’t a dress code).

Our workplace has won awards and been highlighted as one of America's great places of employment, and we settle debates at the foosball table. There is a lot of laughter within the walls of Fool HQ. But we are serious about the business of financial education and advice -- after all, your money is on the line, and so is ours.

We are a commercial enterprise, we have investors, a board of directors, and goals -- just like any other company. We have services that we are proud to sell -- a suite of premium stock-picking and personal finance services. (Our CFO kindly requests that you click that link and take a free trial.) We also offer a mutual fund through our affiliate, Motley Fool Asset Management, as well as a Motley Fool credit card (yes, you can use credit Foolishly!). Finally, we have advertisers (that we vet) who pay us to get access to your eyeballs to pitch their services. (Clicky-click, hint, hint.) But we also never, ever forget that our measure of success is whether we have enriched people's lives in a direct way. We do this every day with the free articles and tools we provide on Fool.com.

Oh, and there's one big difference between us and all the other folks pitching financial products and services to you: We want our members to talk to each other -- to talk about us, even. Can you imagine AIGLynchBrothers urging its customers to compare notes? Not a chance.

But enough about us. Perhaps you're wondering what's in it for you? What exactly will you get by trading wisdom for Foolishness?

Get smart(er)
We know that most people have never formally been taught much about finance or investing. That's exactly how Wall Street likes it. It's better for them if you think what they do is rocket science -- that it's too difficult to make your own financial decisions, so just entrust your hard-earned dollars to them so they can generate fat commissions for themselves.

Obviously, we think that’s bunk. The harsh reality is that there is really only one person who has your best interests at heart -- you. Our job is to show you how to take control of your own financial life so you can make confident, well-informed decisions about every dollar that passes through your hands, whether you're saving it, spending it, paying it back, or making it grow.

Make money
Most everything in Fooldom is here to fulfill this part of your mission. And you've found the exact right place to start: The next 11 steps of our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly will help you along the way. 

In this series of articles, we lay out a systematic approach to investing that should benefit novice and seasoned investors alike. We cover almost every money situation you can imagine -- paying off debt, finding no-brainer ways to save, exactly what accounts you should use to invest, smart asset allocation, finding the right investing strategy for you, and even the pitfalls you should avoid.

But, of course, our job is not complete unless you have some fun along the way.

Have fun
Back in 1994, we hyped a fictional penny stock called Zeigletics on the Prodigy discussion boards (one of the Internet’s first “chat rooms”). "Zeigletics" manufactured "linked sewage disposal systems for the central African nation of Chad." Literally, it shoveled excrement. 

Our aim was to "out" the penny stock hype-sters that were abusing the money discussion boards. Their electronic pyramid scheme -- pumping tiny, thinly traded stocks to get other investors to load up so they could dump shares at the first sign of an uptick -- was not just harmful to investors, but it also degraded the real conversations people were having.

So we fought them the only way we know how: We tried to kill them with humor.

A few posts was all it took to get investors excitedly looking to buy shares on the Halifax Stock Exchange (which doesn't exist).  Many of the hype-sters were duped, and they were furious at our little joke. The weekend project -- our first April Fool's Day prank -- landed us a spot in the Wall Street Journal and introduced Foolishness to Wall Street and Main Street. But the real triumph wasn’t the press attention or the prank -- it was the amazing thing that we witnessed during the weekend of our Zeigletics gag: People started playing along with the joke. 

We're all Fools
The investors we had come to know by their screen names joined the gag, hyping Zeigletics, hinting at their "inside information," and bragging about their "amazing returns" investing in the fictional sewage disposal outfit in Chad.

Zeigletics showed us what a group of like-minded individual investors could accomplish by banding together. Even better, it created a bona-fide Foolish community where honesty, optimism, teamwork, and innovation thrived. That's right, pretty soon we noticed that people were identifying themselves as Fools -- just like us. A movement had begun.

And now, a hot penny stock
Just kidding!

We hope that we've made a strong case for Foolishness -- and that you're ready to join us and the hundreds of thousands of Fools who ask and answer each others' money questions, rate stocks, blog about the companies they follow, and invest to secure their financial futures.

Like you, we're in this for the long haul. So let's have a blast every step of the way. Without further ado, let's get smarter, make money, and have some fun, Fool!

Action: Become a Fool! Get into Larry King mode (or Barbara Walters, if you prefer), and tell us a little about yourself and what we can do for you. To get started, set up a Fool Profile (it's free), and grant us an interview -- answer three questions from the interview page of your Fool Profile.

Then come join the conversation. We've set up a dedicated "13 Steps to Investing Foolishly" discussion board for introductions and huzzahs.


Read/Post Comments (49) | Recommend This Article (509)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2009, at 6:50 PM, orangtinggi wrote:

    simple straightforward easy to understand info

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2010, at 10:28 PM, jcjrent wrote:

    should have gotten here sooner,

  • Report this Comment On June 10, 2010, at 8:56 AM, Afaron wrote:

    Same here i wish i gotten here soooner great information

  • Report this Comment On June 26, 2010, at 9:56 PM, farku17 wrote:

    GReat info!!!

  • Report this Comment On July 08, 2010, at 10:22 PM, howardroark888 wrote:

    Why is it always a fight to do the important things,(saving/investing) , first?

    Well finally, with the help of some foolish friends,here goes!

  • Report this Comment On September 07, 2010, at 2:43 PM, ServusDei7 wrote:

    what's wrong with penny stocks? some stocks simply trade under $1 with good fundamentals, or have been beaten down (like Citigroup when it fell to 99 cents/share). Some penny stocks even pay dividends. I don't think the share price matters at all. You can also lower the share price by increasing the number of shares.

  • Report this Comment On December 11, 2010, at 2:27 AM, oneilda wrote:

    A penny for your stocks. Just being foolish.

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2011, at 1:07 AM, zwestnr55 wrote:

    Glad I finally joined you fools.

  • Report this Comment On February 18, 2011, at 2:50 PM, mountain8 wrote:

    No regrets, even on the losses. Beating the S&P by a bunch.

  • Report this Comment On April 06, 2011, at 10:24 PM, lightgal22 wrote:

    I'm not sure where everything is yet, but I'm glad I'm here! Looking forward to the Foolish Game!

  • Report this Comment On May 27, 2011, at 9:31 PM, BONSAIOPS wrote:

    I feel like a fool. I need of guidance and getting it as I read on.

  • Report this Comment On July 28, 2011, at 2:02 AM, sgperformer wrote:

    ahhh, achmmmahhmmmm, hello?.............. Is this thing on?

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2011, at 1:48 AM, lightblue910 wrote:

    IM A FOOOOOLLLLL!!! YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On July 31, 2011, at 1:48 AM, lightblue910 wrote:

    lulz ;)

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2011, at 10:28 AM, Netahi wrote:

    I've been lurking around the Fool site since the mid 90's but somehow was always "too busy" (or too lazy) to take my finances into my own hands. I retired this year and looked at the miserable returns I had made with my investment firm and the IRA sitting in money market funds making nothing, and took the plunge on August 11 with 100 shares of BRK-B, followed with 50 shares of AMZN. Wow, it was easy. Of course, I lost money in the last turbulent week, but I'm in this for the long haul, and I have faith in these companies. Wow, this really is fun.

  • Report this Comment On October 22, 2011, at 4:52 PM, JNatey wrote:

    From fool to Fool.

  • Report this Comment On December 04, 2011, at 9:07 AM, korney11 wrote:

    I am ready to learn how to invest Foolishly

    Last year I was urged to put $4,800.00 into an I.R.A. it is now only worth $3,550.00± so much for puting my faith in Investment firms, I changed firms to try to stop the bleeding only to find out about the fee's involved, disapointing to say the least. I am now thinking about contacting Edward jones and having whats left of my account transfered to Vanguard S&P 500 index fund

    ticker VFINX, any thoughts, or coments out there would be appreciated.

  • Report this Comment On January 08, 2012, at 1:00 PM, dncingfool wrote:

    yahoooooooo!!! I,m a fool

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2012, at 7:16 PM, bigjay455 wrote:

    I ll stay with old cars ,, best return on investmebnt

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2012, at 8:00 AM, TeachMeHowToFool wrote:

    I'm glad to be here, looking forward to learning.

  • Report this Comment On September 07, 2012, at 1:00 AM, PQFoolish wrote:

    Just joined you Fools....I want to learn how to be a FOOL and not foolish any longer please.

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2012, at 4:05 PM, sammy1510 wrote:

    Looking forward to an education and a profitable experience. Let's GO

  • Report this Comment On November 13, 2012, at 12:27 PM, TheKing887 wrote:

    47 with good head-start as I have been investing steadily since 30. Introduced to the Fool about 4 years ago just got around to joining. I have been wise and lucky up to this point now I want to "foolish" and earn it.

  • Report this Comment On July 05, 2013, at 1:39 PM, teacher3646 wrote:

    Am newly Foolish. My Pop (age 86) has been a successful investor throughout his lifetime and believes that I will benefit from being a Fool also.

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2013, at 4:36 PM, delcasi wrote:

    My second day being a "Fool". I am ready to get paiiiiiiiiiiiid!!!!

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 1:18 PM, FoolKimmy wrote:

    I wish I met you people ten years ago before I lost a lot of money. You have convinced me that I need to work to make money, strange as this seems. Now I'm looking to have fun making money!

  • Report this Comment On August 12, 2013, at 9:12 AM, wdanskin wrote:

    Saw my smart, well-read dad pay thousands of dollars/year to an investment guy who was no smarter than my dad, or me. Now we have thousands to invest Foolishly and are doing well. And now getting my knavish son into the act. Thank you!

  • Report this Comment On August 18, 2013, at 10:32 PM, jms999 wrote:

    My father passed away about two years ago leaving me as the beneficiary of a sizeable trust that is managed by the bank he did business with for most of his life. I've zero experience with the markets and, as happy as I am to have the money, I'm scared to death but am also afraid to move the money anywhere else. I'm almost paralyzed in that way as I don't want to make a "foolish" mistake and so I've come here in hopes of gaining some insight.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2013, at 5:19 AM, dansinsignguy wrote:

    im very new to all of this, always been kinda foolish in a cents......lol.....hopin to get find some info on those new printers...id like to find what 3 stocks are the best...WOOOOOOOOOOONCERFUUUUL TIMES TO ALL!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2013, at 10:53 AM, McCringleberry wrote:

    Imma be trollin crap yeah baby!!

  • Report this Comment On September 19, 2013, at 11:23 AM, Bobbyd58 wrote:

    So happy to be a fool, I am the recipient of a 300 K

    Estate managed( poorly) 2 to 3 % returns after commissions. In the last 4 months I have followed the foolish ways and slowly Reinvested about half the original amount with a return of 12.5% I'm moving the other half with some foolish advice in the next 12 months. Originally I felt a great responsibility, at risk of loosing this new found money from inexperience. until I found the ways of the foolish wow if I had only know how easy it is to take charge and be a foolish winner. You guys rock

  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2013, at 2:37 PM, mohan2013 wrote:

    never played with stocks.

    old fashioned man trusting the bank.

    thinking it is the sure thing.

    getting no where with that.

    not a big fan of gambling. or speculation.

    but want to see this new world.

  • Report this Comment On September 28, 2013, at 3:14 PM, newbyinvest33 wrote:

    This is my first post after joining MDP 3 years ago and recently switching to MDP 360. I had no prior stock experience. I started with $128K in 9/2010 and have grown it to $245K today. I'm currently 80% aligned with MDP, with the rest invested in other MF accounts (e.g., Rule Breakers, Advisor), including TSLA, NOV (sold in 2011) and a few others that went over 100% this year. I am now taking over my husband's IRA and hope to improve its poor performance (2-3% over the last 10 years). I love this service and have since recommended to friends and family. Fool On!!

  • Report this Comment On October 17, 2013, at 4:55 PM, Aojrocks wrote:

    Me a Fool?? I like it!!

  • Report this Comment On November 10, 2013, at 3:05 AM, tdhuria wrote:

    There is nothing wrong with penny stock. IDT Corp was around $.45 five years ago and now it is trading around $22 a share! Not bad for 45 times your money within five years and also get dividend every year.

  • Report this Comment On January 24, 2014, at 2:40 PM, Skidroe wrote:

    I've been a Fool for over a year and have not bought into the market yet. There is more pressure when you are 62 yrs old. The market has been really going up but seems so inflated. At my age I'm going to wait for at least a 10/15% correction. I've been studying and learning a bunch from all the FOOLS this past year. I know timing the market is not suppose to be the way to invest,but @ my age I need to guard my principle. "What goes up must come down" and I'll be ready because of the MF group. Thanks for all the Foolish knowledge that has been passed along these past 12 months. I've really enjoyed it. I missed out on a big run up but just wasn't educated enough then. I feel ready and the research I've done this past year will be put to good use but I need to be patient. When it drops I'll buy in and if it drops more(I hope) I'll just buy in more. At least I now feel comfortable and have a plan!! GO FOOLS GO!!!

  • Report this Comment On January 24, 2014, at 2:41 PM, Newjester wrote:

    This is my first time on the boards. I started my own Foolish future investing about one and a half years ago with MF-SA. After watching my IRA drop 30% and crawling ever so slowly (almost flat) back from 2008 with little to no gains. I felt foolish and sinking fast. And then came this precious group of Fools I joined and that started to change quickly. I must shout from the highest mountain top "this is without a doubt the investment of my life".That initial investment was embarrassing expensive to me at the time but now worth well over a 200 bagger and growing strong ever since. But really, the one big drawback that I've learned the hard way was wishing I'd been Foolish enough to join TMF years ago. I'm up 44%-51% in my bundle of small poisons so far...My hart goes out to Tom, Dave and this powerful courtyard of Fools helping me out of a hell of a hole.

    So now I'M just Fool'en with my head on my shoulder (still) and loving it-dread free. I'm reading, investigating what I'm doing and learning a ton and look forward to joining the other TMF groups (Nova, etc) in the days ahead as I am able. When life deals you lemons, get smart (er) and make lots of lemonade.

    Fool-on!

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 5:51 PM, duster wrote:

    duster - When I first joined the Fools a few months ago I received a bewildering array of offers, SA, MDP, MDP360, options and foolishly joined three or so. What I need to do is use one service that is easily delineated. I think what I need to do is get refunds for these extra services and join one and stay focused on that one service without jumping all over the place.

  • Report this Comment On February 05, 2014, at 2:15 AM, Sweta012Kumari wrote:

    When your are playing with your trade in the investment world. You have to more concentrate about your your fund value ups and downs.

    www.realtycomapss.com

  • Report this Comment On March 14, 2014, at 11:34 AM, susanr22 wrote:

    Here is a penny stock to check out DUBL. They are an online shopping and travel portal that is Global-in every country yet new to the US. A year ago they had 1400 retailers, today they have over 4000 plus all the largest online travel websites. They are growing fast and the product just keeps getting better. What's better than a company helping everyone save money and everyone is getting cash back in the process. Check them out http://dubli-savings.com

  • Report this Comment On April 04, 2014, at 10:37 AM, Raitmet wrote:

    For the great world of fools!

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2014, at 11:10 PM, ohcrap100 wrote:

    new to this ready to fool around

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 10:38 AM, arcy wrote:

    Just joined, trying to figure out how things work. I notice with distaste that you have an ad in between this article and the comments that is fashioned to look exactly like the article text, as though it were written as part of the article. The text, examined closely enough, does not fit the article, and so did not Fool me this time. But I am disappointed that you allow advertising that masquerades as part of your text, and it make me EXTRA CAUTIOUS ABOUT EVERYTHING ELSE I READ HERE. If that was your intent, you have succeeded.

  • Report this Comment On May 15, 2014, at 6:55 PM, OBChristenson wrote:

    My mind is blown! It turns out that I've been a Fool since November 2000 and just gave up on it through different jobs, unemployment and computer changes too numerous to count. I've managed to save a small nest egg and am ready to retire (or so my body tells me) and I'm looking for good advice on what to do with the assets I struggled to accumulate. Glad to be back.

  • Report this Comment On June 08, 2014, at 1:28 PM, foolnaround wrote:

    I want to invest more and get bigger returns on MY MONEY!!!!!

  • Report this Comment On June 28, 2014, at 8:39 AM, macapple1 wrote:

    I'm back

  • Report this Comment On July 12, 2014, at 10:56 PM, Amond wrote:

    For those of us that have studied market intricacies for decades, I joined MF because a dozen sets of eyes is always more watchful than the one set I possess. Software doesn't think outside "the box".

  • Report this Comment On July 13, 2014, at 8:57 PM, ctowle501 wrote:

    I am 66 years old,

    retired,

    Mostly in cash value life insurance.$250,000 policy but have used some of the cash value during prolonged illness so repaying that at this time.

    Also my IRA, very small, about $1300.00 and I buy one share of WMT every month. At this time that is all I can do.

    My wife, 67, has $8000 and I put $100 into that everymonth. The broker is Interactive Brokers.

  • Report this Comment On July 19, 2014, at 11:40 AM, dshepgator wrote:

    I am 64 years old and have always been afraid of the stock market. All my investing so far has been done in the real estate market with buying rental properties. I have 9, 7 of which were bought well before the boom. They and my house will all be paid off in 5 years, so I will have a reasonable income along with Social Security. However, in order to make much I will have to continue to manage them myself, and do some of the repairs.

    I have no IRA's or anything of that nature. I know it's kinda late, but I would like to begin investing as a way to provide for the unexpected things in the future as well as a way to help with my grandkids education.

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