Remembering How I Found The Fool

It's easy to forget that before the Internet -- and for me, before the Fool -- we invested on our own, with scarce information, without others to easily learn from, or bounce ideas off of, let alone others to emulate and profit alongside.

Aug 4, 2014 at 3:37PM

I remember the day very clearly. A sunny, temperate August afternoon in Chicago, when I hopped into my car and drove to the local Best Buy to pick up a bulky, state-of-the art IBM PS 2 desktop computer.

I was going to use it for word processing, and a back-to-school sale drove me to make the purchase. I had no thoughts of going "online." The computer box barely fit into the back of my small Ford, and I wheeled it back to my apartment in Lincoln Park with the windows open, enjoying the trees moving in the breeze (the excitement of buying my first computer after college clearly heightened my senses, as I remember it all so well). After setting up the monstrosity on my small desk, I plugged it in and fired it up. A few minutes later, the screen was alive, and suddenly I was looking at a bright blue America Online icon, in the shape of a stylized "A." 

I had heard of AOL, and my curiosity was piqued. It arrived with a free trial. To the chagrin of my roommates from that day forward, I unplugged the phone and put the cord into the back of the computer, then used the 14 baud modem to dial into AOL and set up an account. As the AOL welcome screen finally greeted me, the one, large icon on the front page was that of the Fool jester -- the same one the Fool uses today. The short promo copy said something like, "Talk about stocks on The Motley Fool!"

I had bought my first shares of stock in 1987, and had been hooked ever since, but I felt largely alone in my interest. A community of fellow investors, under the name of The Motley Fool? It was an instant click for me, and I don't believe I ever truly explored any other areas on AOL. Within minutes, I was visiting The Motley Fool boards, and then reading about the new Fool Portfolio.

Two brothers, investing $50,000 of their own money, announcing all buys and sells beforehand, with explanations behind each one. And, they were shorting shares, too. They were short Bed, Bath & Beyond. It was the first public short I had ever seen. The writing for the Fool Portfolio was fresh, fun and logical -- and helpful. The investment reasoning was already on display: Be long term, buy great businesses, don't be afraid to take risks -- in other words, buy AOL (fortune-making advice right from the start). Plus, the Fool Port column was published daily. Reading it quickly became a habit, as did the Fool discussion boards.

It's easy to forget that before the Internet -- and for me, before the Fool -- we invested on our own, with scarce information, without others to easily learn from, or bounce ideas off of,  let alone others to emulate and profit alongside.

Bound together by the Fool Portfolio, the Fool community took off and never looked back. Within two years, I myself was a full-time Fool employee, working on the Fool Portfolio with David and Tom as we bought stocks like Starbucks and eBay. It's hard to believe those "buy orders" were entered so long ago (and sell orders for them, never). If there's one thing that's been made clear, it's that investing for the long term in great businesses is one of the surest ways to grow real wealth -- and the long term isn't even all that long. It goes by like that. Alongside investment returns, the biggest reward has been meeting thousands of other investors online and later in person. As we mark this great anniversary, recommit to getting on board with your fellow Foolish investors, owning your favorite companies, and enjoying the ride!

Chime in! Click here to tell us how you discovered the Fool! And then let us know how we could improve the Fool for the next 20 years.

Jeff Fischer owns shares of Starbucks. The Motley Fool recommends Bed Bath & Beyond, eBay, Ford, and Starbucks. The Motley Fool owns shares of eBay, Ford, and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of fool.com.

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to www.fool.com/beginners, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at www.fool.com/podcasts.

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.


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