9 Things You Should Do Instead of Buying Stocks

Most know Scott Adams only as the creator of Dilbert. But after a recent meeting with him at his Silicon Valley office, we think we know him a lot better than that.

We watched him draw Dilbert on a touch-sensitive PC that we're still salivating over. We got a closer look at one of the two local eateries that he owns. We heard first-hand about his new book, Dilbert 2.0. It was an engaging and entertaining conversation -- right up to the moment one of us mentioned stocks.

Whoops.

Here's what really caught our attention
Adams' passion for personal finance is matched only by his utter disdain for stocks. That's right, this keen observer of business and management trends believes that most people, himself included, cannot beat the market buying individual stocks -- especially when the companies behind those stocks are run by drunken chimpanzees.

It's a fair point -- drunken chimps can't do much. And yet, according to finance professor Kenneth French -- one-half of the team that revealed the market-beating potential of small-cap value stocks such as Middleby (Nasdaq: MIDD  ) -- investors paid $99.2 billion in fees trying to beat the market during 2006 and were on pace to spend more than $100 billion this year.

Confusing the confusopolies
And that doesn't even address today's business climate. After meltdowns at Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae (NYSE: FNM  ) , and Freddie Mac (NYSE: FRE  ) , it's easy to imagine Dogbert, CEO of Confusopoly Corp. (Ticker: HUH), convincing the world's bankers that an active market for commercial paper would melt Greenland. Or that ritual cat sacrifices are the key to global liquidity.

Laugh all you want, but bankers at Bear Stearns, JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM  ) , and elsewhere are the same Harvard-stupid morons who thought that credit derivatives weren't all that risky. Who's to say they wouldn't believe a cartoon character? Or that they wouldn't find synergies between CDOs and cat sacrifices? They're eerily similar, after all -- both begin with the letter "c."

Adams cites a severe distrust of weasels -- er, management -- as his reason for swearing off individual stocks. Makes sense to us. Investors were right to distrust the optimists at National City (NYSE: NCC  ) and Ambac Financial (NYSE: ABK  ) .

So what should you do?
Adams has nine steps that he says, when performed in order, can help you to generate -- and protect -- your wealth. We think his suggestions are pretty Foolish and thus, with his permission (thanks, Scott), we publish them here:

  1. Make a will.
  2. Pay off your credit cards.
  3. Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
  4. Fund your 401(k) to the maximum.
  5. Fund your IRA to the maximum.
  6. Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it.
  7. Put six months' worth of expenses in a money market account.
  8. Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker, and never touch it until retirement.
  9. If any of this confuses you, or if you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues), hire a fee-based financial planner.

You're not in Elbonia any more, Dilbert
Adams' nine steps look pretty familiar to us Fools -- we've always advocated paying off debt, saving for retirement, and having a substantial emergency fund. But avoid stocks altogether? We respectfully disagree.

But we do agree that if you're going to try to beat the market with stocks, you need to know what you're buying -- and you need to understand and trust management. That's why we and several of our Rule Breakers teammates recently spent a week in Silicon Valley meeting with executives at CV Therapeutics (Nasdaq: CVTX  ) , VMware, and several of our other scorecard companies.

If you'd like to get the full story on what we discovered, read in-depth write-ups of each company we visited, and gain full access to our exclusive members-only website, we invite you to take a free, 30-day trial of Motley Fool Rule Breakers. To get started, all you have to do is click here -- there is no obligation to subscribe.

Neither Tim Beyers nor Austin Edwards owned shares of any of the stocks mentioned in this article at the time of publication. Tim is a member of the market-beating Motley Fool Rule Breakers team, which counts CV Therapeutics and VMware among its recommendations. Middleby is a Hidden Gems pick. JPMorgan Chase is an Income Investor selection. Our disclosure policy is thinking up new torture devices for Catbert, evil HR director, who jut took a gig consulting to some of Wall Street's biggest firms.


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  • Report this Comment On November 19, 2008, at 10:35 PM, dividendgrowth wrote:

    Instead of shoveling more money into that hole called 401k (or is it 201k already?), maybe it's time to dig a hole in your backyard to store some cash, gold, and gasoline.

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