JUPITER, FL (Nov. 5, 1999) -- The Drip Companies message board has been hopping even more than usual since Wednesday's column asked if Drip Port needed to invest in more companies than our current four. Thank you to everyone who posted. I read every post and found myself continuously nodding: "Uh huh. Yes. Good point. Uh huh. Great point."

The Fool community recommended some posts very highly:

Fool bhellweg got nine recommendations for this post as of Friday afternoon; Steve Wallen earned seven recommendations for his post that was made in relation to the topic (but was in response to another post, so I won't link to it here); DODEA posted clear-headed and Foolish thoughts on the topic in this post, saying that four stocks can be diversification enough and coining the term (as far as I know) "Atlas stock." "Atlas stock" is used to describe the one stock that can carry much of a portfolio. I like that term.

Next, GLSmyth summed up most of our collective thoughts with his post, saying that we should only add more stocks to the portfolio if they can create more value for us than the current holdings. In the same breath, he suggested Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB) be sold because we're not investing in it. By the way, I believe that GLSmyth is leading the Drip board contest for "most recommendations" that Vince launched this week. Finally, Fools like devine1 made smart points about the education involved in researching companies. Thank you again to everyone who shared thoughts. They are most appreciated!

We are, of course, going to continue seeking new companies to better our portfolio, and as new options arise for us, our opportunities compound. What do I mean? Rather than being limited to buying only companies with direct investment plans, opportunities are presenting themselves that will allow us to buy any company in small amounts at a low fee. Will the fee be low enough? We'll see. What kind of companies could we invest in to increase our potential return (and our risks!): perhaps companies like Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO), Sun Microsystems (Nasdaq: SUNW), or -- GASP! -- eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY). Is eBay a good 17-year investment? I sure think it could be.

But those options are not in the immediate for us. Our current focus is food and beverage firms. We're down to two more companies in our initial study. We'll continue to look at Brown-Forman (NYSE: BF.A) next week, followed by Philip Morris (NYSE: MO). Either company could be added to our finalist list that currently consists of Wrigley (NYSE: WWY), PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP), and Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO). As many of you suggested on the message board, we should only buy a new company if we believe that its performance will better that of one or more of our current holdings, not just equal it.

One of our finalists might prove to be a good replacement for Campbell Soup. Part of the reason that we're studying this industry is to replace our "stagnant" food and beverage holding. We haven't added money to Campbell since the summer of 1998. I still believe that management at Campbell Soup has its head screwed on straight in regard to growing the business and creating shareholder value (eventually), but the fees in the company's direct investment plan seem a little crooked to us. Hence, our "lockout."

Whatever company we find to be most attractive in the food and beverage industry, it will take some luck to achieve 15.5% annual returns for the next 17 years. We've always known this, but the point was recently reiterated to us.

The next 17 years is precisely what Warren Buffett discussed in a recent article published online. If you haven't read the article yet (it is in five parts, but five short parts), you might consider it "required investment reading" this weekend. The article can help all of us set expectations for the next two decades, even though we always strive to beat our own expectations. Mr. Buffett rarely speaks about the stock market in public. It is even more unusual for him to share what he expects could happen on Wall Street in the future. What a coincidence that in this interview he discusses the next 17 years, and 17 years is precisely the time remaining in our 20-year goal.

You can read the Buffett article by clicking here. The thoughts contained in it will be on our minds here in Drip Port over the coming years, so it is important that we all share this same background. We will likely talk about Mr. Buffett's long-term assumptions soon.

Finally, if you haven't yet, read Vince's great column from Thursday and e-mail it to anyone who may benefit from it; or, print it and show it to friends who "pay" the lottery (that's more accurate than saying "play") as if it could be their last salvation. Foolishness has a long way to go before it touches everyone who needs it, and you and I can go a looooooong way to help.

Have a wonderful weekend. Be Foolish!