ALEXANDRIA, VA (Jan. 4, 2000) -- "We didn't tell 'em about the gain, yesterday? What?!"

Those were my thoughts as I perused Jeff Fischer's BreakerPort recap yesterday.

We're not into celebrating daily performance, here at The Motley Fool, knowing full well that a day is really only just a day.

But... was the first market day of the year 2000

...Celera rose 33 bucks, or 25%

...AOL and Amazon, our two biggest holdings, each rose about 10%

...our overall portfolio rose, on the first trading day of the year, in excess of 11% -- an entire year's worth of average market return obtained with no effort, in a single day! Possibly our best day ever. (Haven't checked the record books.)

If this wasn't worth mentioning, I had thought, what is?

Until today.


The Rule Breaker Portfolio dropped about 6.7% Tuesday, worse than the Nasdaq's stiff 5.55% drop and quite a lot worse than the S&P 500, which had no great day itself surrendering 3.83%.

A day's worth of market commentary is worth very little in the grander scheme, but if you're going to spend some time looking at individual days, I suppose it makes sense to look at the ones where stocks move by 5% or more either way.

Tide goes in, tide goes out.

It could happen this entire year. Are you prepared for that?

What if, amid all the excitement and hype (by the way, "hype" can be a positive word, too; it always seems like it has such a negative connotation, but Michael Jordan was the most hyped basketball player of all time and Michael Jordan also not coincidentally happens to be the best player of all-time), what if during the crescendo that the year 2000 represents in so many peoples' minds (new millennium, the FUTURE, high technology, revolution) -- what if the market actually bombed this year?

What if the market steadily dives 20% by the end of March, rises to an overall loss of 6% by August, and then closes out the year falling away at the finish, down a solid 23% for Y2K?

Will your life be different?

Will the choices you make with your money, particularly the choices concerning your spending and your way of life, have to change?


I can honestly say mine will not, significantly. The Foolish investor is investing his or her own money, not sitting on anyone else's money (margin) in any significant amount. The Foolish investor is invested in great businesses, and feels a part owner of them. The Foolish investor, further, is only investing money that he or she will not need for at least five years, preferably five decades. But, at least five years.

(By the way, if you're retired or near retirement and want to know what this means for you, we have answers! Check out the Motley Fool's outstanding new Retirement area, particularly our new real-money Retiree Portfolios.)

If you're on margin, if you're investing in ways that make you yourself nervous, stop. Now. Because if the year 2000 proves the first market year in the past six NOT to have sported 20% gains -- NOT to have sported any gains at all -- but in fact to have sported a LOSS of 25%, you will greatly regret the brief dally you had with stocks.

I know people who've sworn off the stock market because they were taking ridiculous risks on margin or with options or investing in penny stocks or investing in stuff they didn't at all understand, and when it whacks them up the side of the head and bruises them for the following several years of their lives, they let that bruise bruise them forever. Previous huge fans of the stock market -- or, their own rather strange version of it -- they swear it off altogether. Extremists to the end.

I am not particularly stoic -- I have not read Marcus Aurelius's Meditations (which I suppose should be undertaken dispassionately) -- but I do believe in moderation. Erasmus, that Fool, was infatuated with the Latin phrase Festina lente, "make haste slowly." He scrawled it over doors, and in different places in his daily life. I think it takes that kind of balance, that kind of moderation, to achieve true success in life for you and for those you love.

All that said, perhaps now the market goes up 20% for a SIXTH consecutive year. I'd certainly not object. But I'm not banking on it, either.

And thanks, Jeff, for not over-celebrating yesterday. Neither will I under-celebrate today. The markets got thrown for a loop, but hey, thank God we have markets!

Fool on.

David Gardner