When you're plying your trade in the investment world, calling yourself Foolish (note the capital "F") is normally inadvisable. As you've probably surmised, we think quite the opposite.
The short version of where we got our name is this: We copped it from Shakespeare.
The slightly more detailed back story is this: Our name is in homage to the one character in Shakespearean literature -- the court jester -- who could speak the truth to the king and queen without having his head lopped off. ("A fool, a fool, I met a fool i' the forest, a motley fool," says Jacques in Act II, scene VII of As You Like It.) The Fools of yore weren't simply stand-up comics sporting belled jester caps -- they entertained the court with humor that instructed as it amused. More importantly, the Fool was never afraid to question conventional wisdom, particularly when popular thought was detrimental to the kingdom's people.
See where we're going with this?
Back in 1993, when The Motley Fool debuted (first as a print newsletter which later moved online), we looked around and saw all the conventional Wall Street "wisdom" in the financial world and we wondered why no one was crying foul. So we blatantly ripped off Bill Shakespeare (after consulting a few lawyer friends), donned our jester caps (a job requirement), and set out to expose what was wrong with Wall Street and counter it with a healthy dose of honest, commonsense Foolishness.
Our mission has always been and will continue to be to educate, amuse, and enrich. We've taken the liberty of scribing a mission statement just for you, too: Get smart(er), make money, and have fun.
But first, you may be wondering exactly what we get out of all this feel-good-empowerment-join-our-team-aww-shucks stuff. We're glad you asked ...
What's in it for us?
Navel-gazing warning: The following section may seem rather self-indulgent. That's because it is. For those who are curious about our company, our business model, and the main difference between us and the rest of the financial trade, read on. If that's not you, skip ahead to the next section. No hard feelings, we swear.
In all seriousness, The Motley Fool truly is a place with a passion and a purpose. We are dedicated to educating, amusing, and enriching every single person who visits Fool.com, our award winning podcasts, picks up one of our books, sees our syndicated newspaper column, or happens to catch one of us on TV (in full Fool regalia, if there isn't a dress code).
Our workplace has won awards and been highlighted as one of America's great places of employment, and we settle debates at the foosball table. There is a lot of laughter within the walls of Fool HQ. But we are serious about the business of financial education and advice -- after all, your money is on the line, and so is ours.
We are a commercial enterprise, we have investors, a board of directors, and goals -- just like any other company. We have services that we are proud to sell -- a suite of premium stock-picking and personal finance services. (Our CFO kindly requests that you click that link and take a free trial.) We also offer a mutual fund through our affiliate, Motley Fool Asset Management. Finally, we have advertisers (that we vet) who pay us to get access to your eyeballs to pitch their services. (Clicky-click, hint, hint.) But we also never, ever forget that our measure of success is whether we have enriched people's lives in a direct way. We do this every day with the free articles and tools we provide on Fool.com.
Oh, and there's one big difference between us and all the other folks pitching financial products and services to you: We want our members to talk to each other -- to talk about us, even. Can you imagine AIGLynchBrothers urging its customers to compare notes? Not a chance.
But enough about us. Perhaps you're wondering what's in it for you? What exactly will you get by trading wisdom for Foolishness?
Become a better investor
We know that most people have never formally been taught much about finance or investing. That's exactly how Wall Street likes it. It's better for them if you think what they do is rocket science -- that it's too difficult to make your own financial decisions, so just entrust your hard-earned dollars to them so they can generate fat commissions for themselves.
Obviously, we think that's bunk. The harsh reality is that there is really only one person who has your best interests at heart -- you. Our job is to show you how to take control of your own financial life so you can make confident, well-informed decisions about every dollar that passes through your hands, whether you're saving it, spending it, paying it back, or making it grow by investing.
Make money in the stock market
Most everything in Fooldom is here to fulfill this part of your mission. And you've found the exact right place to start: The next 11 steps of our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishly will help you along the way.
In this series of articles, we lay out a systematic approach to investing that should benefit novice and seasoned investors alike. We cover almost every money situation you can imagine -- paying off debt, finding no-brainer ways to save, exactly what accounts you should use to invest, smart asset allocation, finding the right investing strategy for you, and even the pitfalls you should avoid.
But, of course, our job is not complete unless you have some fun along the way.
Back in 1994, we hyped a fictional penny stock called Zeigletics on the Prodigy discussion boards (one of the Internet's first "chat rooms"). "Zeigletics" manufactured "linked sewage disposal systems for the central African nation of Chad." Literally, it shoveled excrement.
Our aim was to "out" the penny stock hype-sters that were abusing the money discussion boards. Their electronic pyramid scheme -- pumping tiny, thinly traded stocks to get other investors to load up so they could dump shares at the first sign of an uptick -- was not just harmful to investors, but it also degraded the real conversations people were having.
So we fought them the only way we know how: We tried to kill them with humor.
A few posts was all it took to get investors excitedly looking to buy shares on the Halifax Stock Exchange (which doesn't exist). Many of the hype-sters were duped, and they were furious at our little joke. The weekend project -- our first April Fool's Day prank -- landed us a spot in the Wall Street Journal and introduced Foolishness to Wall Street and Main Street. But the real triumph wasn't the press attention or the prank -- it was the amazing thing that we witnessed during the weekend of our Zeigletics gag: People started playing along with the joke.
We're all Fools
The investors we had come to know by their screen names joined the gag, hyping Zeigletics, hinting at their "inside information," and bragging about their "amazing returns" investing in the fictional sewage disposal outfit in Chad.
Zeigletics showed us what a group of like-minded individual investors could accomplish by banding together. Even better, it created a bona-fide Foolish community where honesty, optimism, teamwork, and innovation thrived. That's right, pretty soon we noticed that people were identifying themselves as Fools -- just like us. A movement had begun.
And now, a hot penny stock
We hope that we've made a strong case for Foolishness -- and that you're ready to join us and the hundreds of thousands of Fools who ask and answer each others' money questions, rate stocks, blog about the companies they follow, and invest to secure their financial futures.
Like you, we're in this for the long haul. So let's have a blast every step of the way. Without further ado, let's get smarter, make money, and have some fun, Fool!
Action: Become a Fool! Get into Larry King mode (or Barbara Walters, if you prefer), and tell us a little about yourself and what we can do for you. To get started, set up a Fool Profile (it's free), and grant us an interview -- answer three questions from the interview page of your Fool Profile.
Then come join the conversation. We've set up a dedicated "13 Steps to Investing Foolishly" discussion board for introductions and huzzahs.