When Life Gives You Lemons...

The real story of one investor who has come back from heart-breaking setbacks to take control of her financial future

Mar 18, 2014 at 2:13PM

Every year at The Motley Fool, we have a specific company challenge. In 2013 it involved employees gaining a better understanding of our business. As an investing company that puts a focus on deeply understanding the strengths and opportunities of companies you're investing in, we wanted to give our employees the tools and information to understand our own company just as well.

This year, we're focusing on the members we serve. Hundreds of thousands of investors subscribe to our investment services, and we try to our best to offer a unique product that best serves them. News reports focus on manic short-term gyrations of the market, overlaid on stock footage of shouting traders. This all serves to make investing look like a daunting task, especially to those who have never bought shares before. That's why we've always built our products not just around recommending different stocks, but also educating investors on long-term investing temperament, and encouraged a sense of community within our products so investors can learn together.

Our hope is to get more investors investing for the long term. That is, resisting the urge to get overly greedy when markets are frothy, and likewise resisting the urge to retreat from the stock market in periods of despair, such as back in March 2009. It'll never be easy to sit through some of the swings of the stock market, but by educating investors on having the correct investing temperament, consistently investing through periods of market ups and downs, and buying great companies with solid management and long-term competitive advantages, investing is the most attractive – proven over a long track record – way to build money for an enjoyable retirement.

For our 2014 challenge, the company was split up into more than 40 teams, each focusing on the story of one member. Some were new members who had just begun the process of investing. Others were success stories, longtime Fools who had patiently invested with the company since the mid-'90s and were now enjoying a comfortable retirement.

The group I'm in found a story that's more complicated. It featured Tamara Lemmon, an investor who first bought stocks in one of those periods where greed rules the landscape. She put her entire life savings into tech stocks right before the dot-com bubble crashed, and lost everything.

In the subsequent years, she built back her life savings. Having been burned by stocks in the dot-com bubble, she instead poured her money into real estate. Once again, her investment choice was less than fortuitous. As the real estate bubble burst in 2007, her real estate purchases plummeted in value and she was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Many people in Tamara's position would have sworn off any efforts to grow their money through investing in that point. They may have felt the industry was rigged against them and never returned. However, Tamara wasn't ready to give up. Finding savings of as little as $20 a week, she began building up a small savings account. Once it hit $1,500, she once again began investing. However, this time, she also began educating herself on long-term investing and selecting stocks she felt had long-term advantages.

Just two years later, thanks to fortuitous investments and continued savings, Tamara has built her account to more than $28,000.

Tamara's full back-story can be found on a message board we've built for investors to share their stories, we've named it "When Life Gives You Lemons." We hope you enjoy it, and it begins discussions around other investors' experiences with setbacks in investing, and how they've grown as an investor from them. 

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