The Rule Breaker portfolio surged 4.19% today, well outpacing the market's average gain of 1%. Helping us along were jumping almost $11 to $109 1/4, and eBay continuing its recovery, back up $8 3/4 to $117 3/4. Only two other stocks were up for us today, but they were AOL and Excite@Home, and when you put those four together you see a lot of leverage in this portfolio. Result: a 4% gain.

Tonight I present a simple recap to make a simple point. And that is... what are you doing reading this?

Seriously. What are you doing, reading this?

Are you an experienced investor looking for insight into some of today's most dynamic growth stocks? Excellent. That's our bag. Many of our insights come from our community at large, so if you're not already following the message boards on your individual stocks, get at it!

Are you anything else other than an experienced investor?

Then what are you doing reading this?

OK, perhaps you like Foolish commentary on the world at large, which occasionally comes to this space. Hey, Foolishness applies to a lot more than investing. (I think I might take a Foolish look at the Kansas Board of Education removing evolution from its standardized tests, tomorrow night. We'll see.) Or maybe ya like Jeff's off-beat humor. Or our talented outside writers. You're here for the ideas or the writing. Not so much investment ideas.


Because if you're coming here to pick stocks and you're anything other than an experienced investor, back off. Understand what we do here.

For calendar 1999, the BreakerPort is up 14.88%, ahead of the S&P 500 (up 9.93%) but behind the Nasdaq (up 21.82%). We're not even first in the running in our Hall of Portfolios (if you aren't following the daily sweepstakes, bookmark that baby -- the numbers are up by 6:00 PM ET every night, and you can track our Foolish performance using a number of contrasting approaches).

You know who's winning this year? Yep, the Foolish Four, up 31.65% this year. Crushing the market. This is the premiere mechanical investing strategy of our time, primarily because it consistently whomps 90%+ of all mutual funds (most of Wall Street and its pack mules don't like the approach, generally for that reason), and because, well, how much time and expertise does it really take to use this strategy every year?

Fifteen minutes, and not much expertise at all. Just common sense.

If you don't know about the Foolish Four, you shouldn't be reading this article. Seriously. Here at The Motley Fool, we have designed a systematic investment approach (our 13 Steps) that we believe every investor should follow in the explicit order that we created it. The neat thing about our 13 Steps is that you can stop moving up the staircase anytime you like. In fact, you should.

To quickly review, the first real investment step is to buy (to hold) an index fund; we continue to believe that for many Americans that's all they ever need for their long-term investing. Just regular monthly saving plowed regularly into a single S&P 500 index fund. For decades. Case closed. That's why you can stop reading right there; you can just plant yourself there on our Foolish staircase and go about your own business.

Any further steps into the investment world involve more time and more risk. The Foolish Four (Dow Dividend Approach) is the next step, and has beaten the market for years. It's dynamite in an IRA plan, where you don't have to pay taxes until the end, but works well outside it too. (We have the Foolish Four right here in this portfolio, in fact. For some new readers, I hope this clears up why you see Goodyear and Caterpillar in the Rule Breaker portfolio -- because we have always included our winning Dow heavyweights in this portfolio to provide simple market-beating robustness. And no, they're not Rule Breaker companies.)

Familiarizing yourself with the Foolish Four approach is one of the most important steps to getting comfortable with long-term self-directed investing, whether you elect to use it or not. It's a key early step toward becoming a Fool, but for many people, I believe their investing can end right there as well, if they don't want to spend any more time at it. (We also provide a quick and easy Foolish Four guide in FoolMart.) One of the top recommendations for the approach recently came from Money Magazine. Money didn't like the approach... not at all. (Neither do its managed-fund advertisers.) There are few greater endorsements!

Most every other night of the year we write about Rule Breaking and Rule Breakers. Nights like tonight, though, I occasionally like to remind us all of the context under which Rule-Breaking investing occurs. It's a later-stage, high-risk approach for sophisticated investors seeking to maximize their long-term returns.

Just make sure you're reading this for the right reasons. If you find that you aren't, click on any of the links I included above. Fool on!

-- David Gardner, August 17, 1999