I was reading a little Thoreau, when I happened on an excellent quotation, most applicable to what we're trying to achieve here at The Motley Fool. On page 71 of Walden (great book!), H. David wrote:
"I would not have any one adopt my mode of living on any account; for, beside that before he has fairly learned it I may have found out another for myself, I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead."
The application of it will already be clear to our regular readers, but let me spell this quotation out for anyone who's just signing on to the Fool today for the first time. It is this: The Motley Fool's portfolios exist as teaching tools to help readers learn investing. The whole point of www.fool.com is to help you make your own investment decisions; the Rule Breaker Portfolio is here to show you what we are doing with our money.
However, "I would not have any one adopt my mode of investing on any account." My favorite emails are the ones from readers who say, "I don't own any of your stocks, but following your portfolio gave me the confidence to invest on my own, and I've gone out and begun with three other stocks that fit who I am and what I know, and they've done very well for me."
Perfect start! That's Foolish. Less Foolish is mimicking our portfolio in bits and pieces. I suppose I never mind hearing that someone owns a few of the stocks that are here in this portfolio. What I don't like to hear so much is that someone buys all the stocks in our portfolio, and jumps on board the morning after any new buy or sell move. That is unFoolish. Yes, had you followed this approach since the debut of our service, you'd probably not be complaining very much. That said, what would you have learned? The danger there is that the only thing you've learned is: "Follow the Fools." If that's true of you, you've missed the whole point of our efforts.
You see, we don't manage anyone else's money but our own. In fact, no one here at Fool HQ manages anyone's money professionally -- no hedge funds hiding behind our online content. Now, I might own some of our Rule Breakers in my own family portfolio, but I might pass over others. I believe in all these companies and, in fact, I care far more about the performance of the Rule Breaker Portfolio than my own family portfolio! (That's because so many people give so much attention to this portfolio's performance, that it affects me emotionally far more -- not that I would let raw emotion motivate my decisions.) The Rule Breaker Portfolio is, of course, our own real money, so I do own all its holdings. But, often nothing beyond that.
Do you own any of our stocks? If so, why do you own them?
I could be asking the same thing about any stock in your portfolio. Is there any stock in your portfolio that you don't really understand, or don't really know why you own (tip from a friend, broker put you in it, etc.)? If so, you're extremely vulnerable... you should take to heart my suggestion that if you aren't the one behind every decision made in your portfolio, you should either swap out what you don't know or turn the money over to someone else to manage.
You see, "I would have each one be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father's or his mother's or his neighbor's instead."
Thoreau was a Fool.
Fool on, everyone.