You may find it surprising but I think one of the Rule Maker Portfolio's main performance advantages is our meticulous portfolio accounting. We record every cent of interest, dividends, commissions, and taxes. It may seem unimportant, and it may be boring, but scrupulous portfolio accounting develops a certain rigor that pervades our entire investing approach.
To be honest, I really only figured out the importance of detailed portfolio accounting after joining the Fool. There used to be a day when all I really paid attention to were capital gains and losses -- the "big stuff," as I saw it. By comparison, a discount brokerage commission seemed far too small to make a fuss over. Same with dividends and interest. And taxes -- I paid those out of current income so I didn't really think of them as investment expenses.
This attitude was shortsighted, and most of all, unbusinesslike. In hindsight, I see that my early unbusinesslike approach wasn't a matter of stupidity or ignorance, but rather was the product of impatience and haste, without heed to the cost.
Oil titan John D. Rockefeller, Sr. -- a lifelong lover of detailed accounting -- said of his less prudent rivals, "Many of the brightest kept their books in such a way that they did not actually know when they were making money on a certain operation and when they were losing" [emphasis mine]. Similarly, you may be a smart investor but without a businesslike approach, you won't know whether or not you're beating the market's average return after all the frictional costs.
Counting all the costs and sources of income is key. After joining the Fool and spending over a year in which I personally logged each and every "little" $1.17 dividend from Intel and $2.43 of interest income and $5.23 dividend from Schering-Plough and $5.94 dividend from Pfizer... I finally realized, "All these nickels and dimes are really adding up." I was equally struck by our efficiency on the cost side of the ledger as I logged our tax bill of only $55.39 this past April.
In a world where we could be investing in the S&P 500 and matching the market's return for only 17 cents per every $100 invested, you better believe that every cent counts in accomplishing our goal of outperforming the S&P 500.
But the real benefit of a businesslike approach to investing, I believe, comes from the mindset it creates for each and every portfolio transaction. Consider that once you gain an appreciation for a $5 dividend, you'll find that you REALLY scrutinize a $500 buy decision.
So how do you treat your portfolio like the serious business that it is? All of the Fool's real-money portfolios use the My Portfolio investment tracking tool. It was designed specifically for scrupulous, businesslike portfolio accounting. The tool has just been revamped and now has a number of cool new features, such as the ability to track your portfolio against a variety of market benchmarks, including even the returns of our real-money Rule Maker and Rule Breaker portfolios.
To get started with My Portfolio, just click over to the Portfolio Setup page. From there, the process is pretty intuitive, but here are a few links that may come in handy along the way:
- Instructions for Getting Started with My Portfolio
- My Portfolio Help -- Table of Contents
- My Portfolio Help -- FAQ
- My Portfolio Discussion Board
-Matt Richey, TMF Verve on the Discussion Boards