On January 4, 1999, The Motley Fool unveiled a fictional investor, Harry Jones, and his nonfictional portfolio, which included 16 shares of the S&P 500 (AMEX: SPY), known as "spiders." The purpose of this real-money portfolio was to demonstrate how incredibly simple stock market investing can be. One of the chief cornerstones of Foolish investing is that, at the very least, you can match the market's overall performance without a broker, without any effort, for very low fees, and with very low taxes -- all through a simple index fund.
Here's how we originally told the story:
"Harry Jones is a full-time farmer who lives in the United States. He is 42, married, and has four children. A taciturn man who keeps mostly to himself, Harry does not include many more specifics about his background. We know he reads the newspaper pretty avidly, but doesn't use a computer as he doesn't see much use for one.
Harry Jones was a fun character for demonstrating the elegant simplicity of index investing, but on August 26, 1999, we announced the end of the Harry Jones daily feature, and we discontinued the portfolio shortly thereafter.
"Harry Jones began investing in 1999. On one fateful day in July 1998, he had a copy of You Have More Than You Think handed to him by his sister Rachel. Harry read the book in the late summer ('It was OK... had some good advice') and resolved to begin investing simply and Foolishly."
What went wrong
Nothing went wrong, per se. We simply realized that there were better ways to teach the value of index investing than a real-money portfolio built around a fictional character. (We weren't particularly good at writing about tractors and crops, either!) Nowadays, our Motley Fool Index Center has everything you need to know about the various types of stock indexes and how you can invest in them.
Some investment strategies are so simple that they don't require a daily feature. There was only so much that could be said about index investing beyond Harry's single investment principle. Even though we discontinued the Harry Jones Portfolio, The Motley Fool remains a strong advocate of index investing. The index fund -- whether the S&P 500 index or, better yet, the Total Stock Market Index -- is an important step in the ladder to successful investing (as taught in the 13 Steps). For many investors, it can be the only step taken.