Be the Millionaire Next Door

We don't advocate greed at Motley Fool Hidden Gems. But we also know you're not averse to becoming financially independent, and this article will show you a road map to becoming a millionaire.

Our search for the best small companies in the world is about both financial reward and investment mastery. Over the first two years of the service, Tom and our guest analysts have generated cumulative gains of 45% vs. S&P 500 returns of 15%. While that margin of victory may not be sustainable, we're strong in our belief that market outperformance in thoroughly researched small- and micro-cap stocks is the most efficient way for individual investors to make millions and master business and investing.

These stocks are truly neglected by the large institutional investors that own the vast majority of the S&P 500. And that's good news for us.

Our aim is to explain to our members each month precisely how to orchestrate that success and exactly what sorts of companies to own. If you haven't researched small businesses like Hidden Gems Watch List denizens Natus Medical (Nasdaq: BABY  ) , Tuesday Morning (Nasdaq: TUES  ) , and Strayer Education (Nasdaq: STRA  ) , you're missing what we think could be some of America's great companies of tomorrow. Natus is forging a monopoly in newborn screening products, Tuesday Morning is an innovative closeout retailer selling at a reasonable price, and Strayer Education is a small company with more than 100 years of history that stands to profit from growth in for-profit education.

We encourage you to look into these promising businesses at your own pace. But in order to really win with these investments, you have to understand the precepts that have created extreme wealth and erased financial concerns for average people like Theodore Johnson, Hetty Green, Peter Lynch, and Anne Scheiber. You must learn to emulate their behavior.

It all starts by being a patient, long-term owner of high-quality, low-profile small companies. Every one of those qualifications counts:

  1. patient
  2. long-term
  3. owner of
  4. high-quality
  5. low-profile
  6. small companies

Tap those ruby slippers and say that 10 times quickly.

As you master these precepts with us, some of you may earn millionaire status through regular savings and investment anywhere from 12 to 30 years down the line. What's important, though, is that you mix a formula for non-temporary success. We're here to help you make that happen.

Learn from Shelby Davis' dynasty
Our dual roles are to teach you the principles and then do the heavy research lifting for you. We want to relieve you of the necessity of sorting through the more than 6,700 small-cap stocks trading on the U.S. stock markets to find the very best. Many of today's multinational titans -- Target (NYSE: TGT  ) and Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) , to name two -- grew from relative obscurity. Target, for example, was an experiment in discounting by The Dayton Corporation. Within 13 years, it was that company's biggest revenue producer. The Nike juggernaut was at first nothing more than a distribution outfit operating out of the trunk of founder Phil Knight's car. Despite these humble beginnings, both of these public companies have earned their owners market-thumping returns.

But finding the greatest small companies is only half the battle.

The other half is captured beautifully in the investment career of Shelby Davis Sr., who was featured in John Rothchild's book, The Davis Dynasty. Davis formed a philosophy that helped him turn a $50,000 account into $900 million over his lifetime. How? By constantly buying new stocks and rarely selling any. For example, he bought into American International Group (NYSE: AIG  ) and Aon Corporation (NYSE: AOC  ) very early and rode them to simply unbelievable returns. Davis treated investing and ownership like a game -- a very serious game, mind you, but a game nonetheless. He stayed within his areas of expertise, didn't worry about whether the market was overvalued or undervalued from one year to the next, and methodically saved and invested new money each month.

That's your commitment -- to save and invest perpetually. Our commitment in Hidden Gems is to try to earn you something on the order of 15% yearly returns (with very low transaction costs and most taxes deferred for a minimum of three to five years). What follows are examples of how Hidden Gems can help four different investors, of different ages and financial means and earning different levels of income, to make a million bucks. Chances are, one of these will be right for you.

Scenario 1: Start with $350 and add $350 in new savings each month. Do so for 25 years. You will end up with $1 million.
So you're fresh out of college and just starting your first job as a cubicle vassal in the big city. Dreams of millionairedom seem as "pipe" to you as the canned air you breathe Monday through Friday. But never fear, young capitalist. Take your present savings, what's left from Grandma's graduation gift, and every month put away just 17.5% of your monthly $2,000 paycheck. In 25 years -- and my, how they'll fly -- you'll be able to afford that house on the hill.

Hint: If you're unable to find an online broker that will let you open an account with your initial stake, Sharebuilder.com offers low trading fees and no account minimums. With a stake greater than $5,000, additional brokers offer very low trading fees (TDAmeritrade's IZone, for instance). The good news is that trading costs seem to come down every day.

Scenario 2: Start with $30,000. Add $350 per month for 20 years.
Thirty thousand dollars is a great place to start. You can slash five years off your timeline while investing no more every month than our recent college graduate. Just think: You put $350 a month into your retirement fund, and you'll likely be a millionaire long before you've even paid off that mortgage.

Scenario 3: Start with $100,000. Add $225 per month for 15 years.
Now we're talking. You're already 10% of the way to millionairehood, my friend. Just 90% to go and you're set. How to do it? If you've managed to save up $100,000 already, putting away an extra $225 a month for the next 15 years should be a piece of cake. No pain, all gain. Shave five years off the 20-year plan because of your present circumstance. You're there in 15 years.

Scenario 4: Start with $150,000. Add $500 per month for 12 years.
What?! You've already got $150,000 stashed in the bank, but it's only earning 0.9% in a money market fund? Well, there's no need to be embarrassed. Wealth preservation has been the primary aim of history's greatest investors. But with retirement looming, you should earn at least a market rate of return. If you can stand the volatility of small caps and can add $500 in new savings per month, we think you can get there in 12 years.

Conclusion
The goal of Hidden Gems is simple: to encourage our members to save money each month and to help them achieve market-beating returns on their savings. We've based each of the above scenarios on a belief that we can earn about 15.5% per annum over long periods of time.

Now, you may have heard that the stock market averages 10% annual returns, and perhaps you think that 15.5% goal is pretty aggressive. And it is. We're confident of our abilities. But, heck, let's assume we're wrong and that after a few geopolitical calamities, we've earned you only 10% yearly returns in Hidden Gems. Well, by regularly saving and investing, you'll still be a long way toward a million bucks.

The key, as we see it, is to gain complete financial independence and investment mastery by methodically saving and perpetually investing, by taking long-term ownership in sound small companies at attractive prices, and by rarely selling.

So do you want to become a millionaire or don't you? Take a gander at Hidden Gems for one month -- for free. If you like the service, sign on for a year or two, or for life. If not, cancel with no obligation. It's as simple, and as easy, as that.

This article was originally published on Dec. 1, 2004. It has been updated.

Fool co-founder Tom Gardner and Fool contributor Rich Smith do not own shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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