Just so you know, I'm going to talk about the upcoming Motley Fool's Roadmap to Retirement Online Seminar in this article. This isn't a cleverly disguised promotion, but a poorly disguised one, since I'm a big believer in the retirement portfolio and retirement seminar as teaching tools.

If you're at all interested in learning how to pack your own retirement parachute -- we recommend packing early, on the ground, and far away from your brother's laundry bag -- consider signing up. You get 12 lessons in four weeks, Motley Fool staffers and community members to help answer questions, and a poke in the eye if you don't like it. (Actually there's a money-back guarantee.)

Other than talking about the seminar, I want to draw some lines between what we're doing in the Rule Maker and retirement planning. If you're not interested, no problemo. Phil Weiss will be writing about JDS Uniphase (Nasdaq: JDSU) in tomorrow's column.

It's worth highlighting key differences between the Rule Maker, a real-money teaching portfolio, and retirement planning, since I can see where the two might intersect.

What does the Rule Maker Portfolio have to do with retirement? Everything and nothing.

Everything -- because the basic thinking we use in the Rule Maker Portfolio is similar to retirement planning (i.e., a long-term horizon, a disciplined approach to investing money, and a strong belief in the average investor's ability to manage personal finances).

Nothing -- because it would be a huge mistake, strike that, a 10-car-pileup kind of mistake, to mimic the Rule Maker Portfolio and figure your retirement is secure.

Our goal in the Rule Maker is to beat the S&P 500 over the long term by a few percentage points, and to have fun studying the businesses in our portfolio. We hope to beat the market by investing $500 monthly in high-quality stocks, which aligns our interests with those of the world's best companies, minimizes our exposure to taxes, and eliminates all but the most basic trading fees.

Since roughly 80% of actively managed mutual funds underperformed the S&P 500 over the last five years, our teaching portfolio, or one of your own construction, may seem like a nice alternative. After all, we're buy-and-hold investors and, until recently, we were beating the S&P 500. (As far as I can tell, we slipped into negative territory for the first time ever yesterday. Alas, it may be the first time, but it's not the last. We're patient. We expect to underperform some years, since only General Electric (NYSE: GE) goes up year after year.)

However, stop right there if you think the Rule Maker is a retirement portfolio. The main purpose of this portfolio is to teach investors one investing style, not to prepare for retirement. That may seem contradictory. After all, if we beat the market over the next 30 years, even by a smidge, we'll be sitting on a nice little pile of capital. If that's not retirement money, what is it?

Well, we don't pretend to take into account the dynamics of retirement planning and investing in the Rule Maker Portfolio. We aren't considering time to retirement, required returns, personal taste for risk, tax consequences, or many of the questions David Braze and the retirement folks tackle on their side of the fence every day.

We hope investors interested in Rule Maker companies will study the strategy rather than mimic our purchases. After all, investing is a subjective game and I'm sure you have different ideas about many companies than we do, even if you're influenced by the Rule Maker principles. If the Strategy Discussion Board is any indication, that's certainly true.

There are two other dangers here regarding the Rule Maker and retirement. One, the Rule Maker hasn't been around long enough to have a meaningful track record. Two years doesn't cut it, nor five. Ten is a better number, and we're more than seven years away from that milestone. That doesn't mean you can't have any reliance on the principles, which are based on commonsense business basics rather than beta or stock chart mumbo-jumbo. Just understand it's a teaching portfolio and an online experiment.

Finally, it's useful to realize there's a wide range of stocks in our portfolio, even though we call them all Rule Makers. It's not a homogeneous bunch. The only thing Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) has in common with JDS Uniphase is that neither rhymes with "chicken."

Intel generated $8.6 billion in free cash flow over the last 12 months, and JDS generated just $1.1 million. Sure, they're both great companies, but would you want either in a retirement portfolio? Maybe, maybe not. Just remember, they're very different investments based on where each stands on the growth curve, the state of its industry and, yes, the price we paid.

We have a place for companies like JDS Uniphase in our holdings, but it's a highly risky investment, even in a portfolio salted with more conservative bets such as Schering-Plough (NYSE: SGP) and T. Rowe Price (Nasdaq: TROW).

This is one aspect of Rule Maker investing I like best: The criteria allow a wide range of possibilities. We don't pretend all Rule Makers are cut from the same cloth, and we don't believe Rule Maker investing is the whole enchilada. It's one strategy, one way to pick a few stocks that could make up part of a retirement portfolio, depending on your taste for risk.

Have a great day.