"Greatest of all time" is a title thrown around a lot, but in very few cases is there a clear consensus on who qualifies as a GOAT. Some would even debate whether Muhammad Ali, the man who coined the term, deserves to carry the title. So putting the mantle on an investor is not an easy thing to do, but that's exactly what Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp do on this episode of Motley Fool Answers.
The pair also answer a question about how to decide how much of your net worth to put in the hands of a single investment advisor. They suggest that having a good person to rely on is important but note that there is one source of financial advice and planning that's even better to have as part of your mix.
A full transcript follows the video.
Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick, and I am joined by Robert Brokamp, personal-finance expert here at The Motley Fool. And he is also the advisor on The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. Hi, Bro.
Robert Brokamp: Hello, Alison.
Southwick: So Bro, last week you introduced us to five of the greatest investors of all time, and today Bro introduces us to five more investors you should know. Actually, seven.
Brokamp: Even more people you need to know.
Southwick: This is so exciting. You're getting more for your money. We'll also answer your question about how much money you should hand over to a new financial advisor, and in a role reversal, Rick and Bro get advice from you. All that and more, in today's episode, "The GOATs of Investing, Part 2: Revenge of the GOAT." It's a working title.
This is "Answers, Answers," and today's question comes from Mike Z. He writes: "Hi there. I've been in the market for a financial advisor, and I think I finally found a good one. My question is, now that I have found this advisor, do I need to diversify away from him/her?" Are you not sure whether she's a him or a her?
Brokamp: I thought about that too, but ...
Southwick: That's fine, that's fine. "Should I hedge my bets and leave a chunk of change in an index fund? Leave my 401(k) untouched? Or give all of my funds to the advisor? Thanks."
Brokamp: Well, Mike, congratulations on finding a good financial advisor, and I think your instincts are also good. And that is, you don't want to put all your future financial well-being in the hands of one person. So it is good to diversify away from the advisor. And the first person to diversify away to is yourself. And that is becoming an educated investor and educated consumer of financial services and advice, and then maybe keeping some of that money in your 401(k).
You might have to, by the way, because some advisors, depending on the way they are paid, they actually can't manage the 401(k), they can't provide any advice on it. So it's a good idea to learn enough so that you can manage it on your own anyhow. I've talked about in previous episodes how, even if you're an individual stock picker, it makes sense to own some index funds just to hedge against the possibility that maybe your picks won't work out.
I read a discussion board post not too long ago about a guy who said he's been picking his own individual stocks, he's been picking his own mutual funds, and then he looked at his wife's 403(b), which had a target retirement fund in it. It turns out that, actually, that has outperformed all his stock picking and fund picking, which made him rather sad. But actually, I think that just showed how smart he was by having some of his other assets in a target retirement fund. So if you don't want to even make the decisions on your own as to your 401(k) or elsewhere, a target retirement fund is a good way to have a good, solid investment, a hedge that this financial advisor won’t be doing a good job for you.
I’ll also add that a few years ago, one of the things I did very briefly here at The Motley Fool was, we offered a service by which we would analyze the accounts that were managed by professional advisors for our members. And most of them were pretty good, but some of them, the advisors were making extreme calls. Because this was a few years ago, it was only a couple of years after the Great Recession, and some people took continued very bearish stances in their portfolios. It was all strongly in cash, or they felt that inflation was going to go crazy, and it was a lot of real assets in gold.
That did not work out very well, so I would say the more your advisor is recommending sort of an extreme stance, or making a big market call, the more you should have some of your other assets invested in some other way.
Southwick: If I had a financial advisor and I just wanted to go get, like, a second opinion from someone else, is that something that I could do easily -- to just be like, "Here, here's 500 bucks. Give me a second opinion on if my guy or woman is doing well."
Brokamp: That's a great question, and you can do that. There are some financial planners who will work on an hourly or project basis. You can find them through the Garrett Planning Network or also through NAPFA, and it's worth it to pay that extra $500 or so -- maybe it might be a little bit more -- but to get that second opinion on how your other advisor is managing your money.
Southwick: No offense.
Brokamp: No offense. None at all.
Southwick: Last week, Bro introduced us to five of the greatest investors of all time. Some you probably knew, like Warren Buffett and John Templeton, and some I definitely did not know, like James Simons.
Southwick: The "Quant King."
Southwick: Today Bro introduces us to even more investors you should know, in today's episode of "GOATs of Investing, Part 2: The Quickening on Patrol Take Manhattan." OK, so who's the first investor you're going to introduce me to today?
Brokamp: Well, I'm going to introduce you to four main investors and then a few honorable mentions, and I'll just say right off the bat this was a tough, tough project.
Southwick: What was your original intent with this project?
Brokamp: Well, I wanted to see, could you really identify the greatest investors of all time? And it was difficult because, as I mentioned in the previous episode, it's actually kind of difficult to pin the actual performance, depending on whether someone's running a publicly managed mutual fund, or a hedge fund, or running their own personal money, which a lot of these hedge fund folks do after a while.
And also, they invest in different ways. So some people make a lot of money in the bond market and are exceptional bond investors, but their total returns won't compare to someone who invests in, maybe, stocks. So it was difficult, but I have to say I found it very enjoyable.
I have identified four people that I'll highlight in greater detail, like I did in the last episode, and then the three honorable mentions. And the first one is Joel Greenblatt. Have you ever heard of Joel Greenblatt?
Brokamp: No. So he grew up in New York, got his B.S. and his MBA from Wharton, and he started a hedge fund in 1985 called Gotham Asset Management, mostly, by the way, with money from ...
Brokamp: From Batman, and Michael Milken, the junk-bond king, who eventually went to jail for a couple of years. It started in 1985, and depending on the source you consult, he earned anywhere from 30% to 40% a year. So that's a lot of money. He eventually stepped aside. He was a big disciple of Warren Buffett's and was taking extremely concentrated bets, at some points only owning five to eight stocks. But he had such strong conviction about them, and he was right. It generally worked out pretty well.
He eventually started teaching, and he continues to teach a class at Columbia. And a lot of Motley Fool folks will know him for two books that he wrote. One is You Can Be a Stock Market Genius, which advocated investing in so-called special situations, like spin-offs or companies coming out of bankruptcy. So whenever we do a survey among The Motley Fool analysts' group of some of our favorite investing books, that's there.
The other book is called The Little Book That Beats the Market, and it featured what he called his "Magic Formula" for investing.
Southwick: Sounds too good to be true.
Brokamp: Well, it's very interesting, actually. And it's rather simple. Basically, it's designed to identify, in his words, "above-average companies, but only when they're available at below-average prices." To determine the quality, he looks at return on invested capital. In other words, when the company is buying, whatever it does with its capital -- whether it's expanding, buying an acquisition, building a factory -- does it get a good return on that?
And then at valuation, he's looking at the earnings yield, which is essentially the inverse of the price-to-earnings ratio. His formula was basically, get the 30 stocks that rank highest on this and rebalance it once a year. When you backtest it, it does very well compared to the S&P 500.
And you can actually get the Magic Formula at www.magicformulainvesting.com. Free registration, and then it will even list the stocks for you. So it's a rather interesting way to look at it. Even if you are not going to follow that, it's a good way to highlight companies that are generally good, quality companies but are trading at relatively low valuations.
Over the last few years, he's launched some mutual funds, traditional mutual funds, but you have to have about $250,000 to get in, and they charge over 2% a year. So they actually have not been doing so well over the last few years, but like a lot of value-oriented funds, they haven't been doing well -- this is actually a different strategy, where he is buying cheap stocks and shorting very expensive stocks. Part of why that hasn't worked out is because it's been sort of a growth-oriented market over the last few years, but I think over the long term he'll probably do OK. The expenses are still, though, pretty high.
So, a couple of quotes from our good friend Joel Greenblatt. One is, "Companies that achieve a higher return on capital are likely to have a special advantage of some kind. That special advantage keeps competitors from destroying the ability to earn above-average profits." So that's why he looks at that. And another good quote from him was, "You have to screw up a bunch and learn from it." And I point that out because just about every one of these great investors that I have studied emphasizes that there is a lot of value in making mistakes, as long as you learn from them.
Fun fact: So we all, most of us, I assume, are familiar with Michael Lewis' The Big Short, or the movie. And in that was profiled Michael Burry, who was a doctor who became a hedge fund manager. He was starting to write on these sort of investing blogs, and he decided he was going to start his own hedge fund. Joel Greenblatt was one of the first people to put money into his fund. Gave him $1 million to run it.
He was also one of the people who, if you've read the book or watched the movie, started to doubt Michael Burry a little bit and wanted his money back. And in Michael Lewis' book, Joel Greenblatt is kind of portrayed as somewhat of a villain, to a certain degree, although Joel Greenblatt would disagree with that characterization, of course. And while researching this, I found out, one of the first articles I could find on Michael Burry was written by Zeke Ashton for The Motley Fool.
Brokamp: Back in 2003. I'm sure Rick remembers Zeke. He left the Fool to manage money. So The Motley Fool, very early in on Michael Burry.
Southwick: Who was not who we were just talking about, but I see where we got there. I see, we took a bus, we got off, we changed, we got on another bus ...
Southwick: ... and back around. All right, cool.
Rick Engdahl: The Little Book That Beats the Market -- it really is a little book.
Brokamp: It is a very little book.
Southwick: It's very physically tiny, and ...
Engdahl: Tiny. Easy to read. It's all about lemonade stands, as I recall.
Brokamp: Oh, yes. I forgot about that part. Yeah. Very easy book to read.
Southwick: All right. Let's move on to the next investor.
Brokamp: And that is Ray Dalio, who is the founder of Bridgewater Associates, which is the largest hedge fund firm in the world -- which manages two hedge funds that are the biggest hedge funds in the world. The main one is the Pure Alpha fund, which has made more money than any other hedge fund ever.
So growing up, Ray's father was a jazz musician and played in Manhattan.
Brokamp: Ray, as a young lad, was a caddy. He heard all the golfers talk about investing, so he made his first investment when he was 12.
Brokamp: He bought Northeast Airlines. It was soon taken over, so he tripled his money. He was hooked.
Brokamp: By the time he went to college, he already had a portfolio of several thousand dollars. He went to Long Island University and then to Harvard Business School. At the age of 26 he started Bridgewater, in 1975, in his two-room apartment.
Southwick: Wow! Really!
Brokamp: He was trading currencies, commodities, things like that, but he was advising clients how to manage risk. One of his first clients was McDonald's, because they were worried about rising chicken prices, because they were about to launch something called the McNugget.
Brokamp: So he helped them find a way to hedge out that risk. And then, since then it's become basically a macro fund making bets on the economy. Different aspects of what they see happening. For example, they were well positioned before -- they saw the housing boom coming and made some money off that, at least the Pure Alpha fund. They also have something called the All Weather fund, which is more widely diversified and designed to do well in any sort of environment.
He also started off writing this thing called "Daily Observations," which apparently is read by heads of state and central bankers all over the world, but you can only get it if you are a client of one of the hedge funds.
Brokamp: People would start, of course, to forward it on and stuff like that. And back in 2009 they tried to create some sort of thing on their website that would prevent you from being able to forward it. I don't know if that was successful or not.
So here are a couple of quotes from him, and then we'll get into the sort of fun, quirky facts about this guy. So one quote is: "There is a giant, untapped potential in disagreement, especially if the disagreement is between two or more thoughtful people." And the other one is: "Maintain," quote, unquote, "'baseball cards' or 'believability matrixes' for your people. Imagine if you had a baseball card that showed all the performance stats. You could see who did well, who did poorly, and you could call on the right people at the right time in a very transparent way."
This is basically how he runs his company, and it's sort of why I'm interested in this guy in general. They have something that they call "radical and extreme transparency." All meetings are videotaped ...
Southwick: Oh, that's right. I've heard of this.
Brokamp: Yes, and anyone can watch them. Now I should say, internally, it's extreme transparency. Externally it's very hard to see what's going on.
Southwick: I think it's all meetings of, like, three or four or more people.
Brokamp: Right. And it has 1,500 people, and they all work at a campus in Connecticut. And everyone is encouraged to read his document called "Principles." It lays out 210 principles of, basically, of life and management. One of the core tenets is "Pain plus reflection equals progress." People are very encouraged to be very honest with each other about how they're doing. And one of the core principles is "Never say anything about a person you wouldn't say to them directly, and don't try people without accusing them to their face." And here's another great quote: "If you talk behind people's backs at Bridgewater, you are called a slimy weasel."
Brokamp: And this came into the news, I think, within the last year or so, when Ray Dalio's co-CEO and chief investment officer, Dalio accused him of talking behind his back, so the employees were able to vote on whether the co-CEO, a guy by the last name of Jensen, had integrity.
Brokamp: And then Jensen was also, then, was allowed to basically put Dalio's integrity up to a vote on whether he was really going to follow through on the succession plans that they had. Now of course this sounds extreme to us, but both of them said it's being blown out of proportion and "this is just the way we work, and this is why we're so successful." So I thought that was very interesting.
Southwick: How did the vote turn out?
Brokamp: I think what they ultimately decided was that Jensen was doing these two roles of co-CEO and co-CIO, and he just went to the CIO role, which I guess was sort of like a demotion of some kind. Anyway, you can read ...
Southwick: So everyone in the company voted, and they're like, "I don't know if he has as much integrity," and so he got demoted to CIO?
Brokamp: I think so. Again, from the outside ...
Brokamp: ... we're not always sure what's going on there, but definitely Jensen's role changed. Anyway, you can read, you can go to www.principles.com, you can read the 210 principles ...
Southwick: They own Principles.com?
Brokamp: Yes, they own Principles.com.
Brokamp: As well as www.economicprinciples.org, which is this fascinating video that Dalio did about how the economy works.
Southwick: I think I've seen that video.
Brokamp: You may have.
Southwick: It was a super good video.
Brokamp: He's an interesting guy. He practices transcendental meditation. He will pay for any employees who want to learn how to do it. Their complex out in Westport, Conn., is on a lake, and it's very peaceful, I guess.
Southwick: And everyone's confronting everyone all the time.
Brokamp: Yeah, but they walk around with iPads. When you do a push-up, you push a button to indicate what your pain index is, and whether you're -- it's a very interesting place.
Southwick: OK. All right, who's the next investor?
Brokamp: The next investor is someone likely everyone has heard of, and that is George Soros. I won't get too much into his portfolio so much, because he invests in a way that most of us can't do, but I think he's a fascinating character, and I also wanted to highlight him because he arguably does have one of the best investment performance records of all time. Plus, we've all heard of him, but we probably don't know a whole lot about him.
So basically, he was born in Hungary in 1930. His father was taken prisoner during World War I ...
Southwick: Not a great time to be born in Hungary.
Brokamp: Well, especially because he was Jewish.
Southwick: Yeah. Wow.
Brokamp: He actually was born with the last name of Schwartz. It was changed to Soros partially because it translates to "success" in Hungarian, plus it's a palindrome, which I guess pleased his father to some degree. Eventually, he had to go into hiding during World War II and then took on another identity as another Hungarian's grandson to escape from being deported.
Brokamp: He eventually did escape. He left Hungary in 1947 and went to England. The London School of Economics. Worked his way through by being a waiter and a railroad porter, and he got some charity from the Quakers. Then he eventually makes it to America and starts working for brokerages but then opens up his own fund, which he eventually renamed the Quantum Fund, after Heisenberg's principle of quantum mechanics, for those Breaking Bad fans.
Southwick: I was going to say, I know that from Breaking Bad.
Brokamp: So he became, he's invested in just about everything at some point over the last many decades. He became famous mostly for currency trading, and in 1992 he became known as the man who broke the Bank of England, because he shorted the pound.
In light of what's happened in Brexit, it's kind of an interesting story that I won't get into, but basically, there was a preliminary European currency exchange system to build up to the eventual creation of the euro. But he basically helped to drive the pound down to where they had to leave the exchange. He made $1 billion. It ended up costing the taxpayers of the U.K. about 3 to 4 billion dollars ...
Brokamp: He also did some currency betting against the baht in Thailand in '97, and then also made a lot of money off the yen in 2013-2014. So he's known for currency, but even just recently, there's an article today in Bloomberg saying that he just sold most of his holding in Barrick Gold, which, if you've been looking at gold, it's actually been doing very well recently. So he just basically finds what he thinks will work.
And one interesting thing is I read this interview with his son, Robert. And he said his dad will talk about all his theories about why he invests, but he knew that about half of it was B.S. and that a lot of it is, basically, when his back aches. And I've read this a few times before. George Soros will say he could tell just by the ache in his back -- there's some sort of tension there -- that it's time to make a decision about an investment.
Brokamp: I thought that was pretty funny. So a couple of quotes. When he was held responsible for the role in the 1997 East Asian currency crash with his bet on the Thai bhat, he said, "As a market participant, I don't need to be concerned with the consequences of my actions."
Brokamp: Yeah. And then another quote: "The financial markets generally are unpredictable, so that one has to have different scenarios. The idea that you can actually predict what's going to happen contradicts my way of looking at the markets." I think this is fascinating, because this is another thing that I read from all kinds of great investors. They've made a lot of money by being right, but they know that it's very, very difficult to do it consistently, and many of them will say, basically, "I'm smart. I have a process. But I also got pretty lucky."
So, fun facts, and this may not be fun, but people know George Soros as a big supporter of Democratic causes, but if you look at, really, where most of his money goes, it goes into opening societies around the world, particularly in former Communist countries. So he actually played a role in the transition from communism to capitalism back in the '90s. Supported a lot of NGOs in Georgia -- meaning the country where Stalin is from, not the state -- during the Rose Revolution. Supported black students during the days of apartheid.
So I think George Soros is an interesting character, not only because of his investment success, but because I think you'd be hard-pressed to find an investor who's had a bigger global political impact than George Soros has had.
Southwick: Yeah, it sounds like it. All right, that was No. 3. All right, time for No. 4.
Brokamp: No. 4 is a fellow named David Swensen, and he is the chief investment officer at Yale. He's been managing their endowment since 1985 to tremendous success. He has done it so well that the way he invests is now called the "Yale model" or the "endowment model," and most other endowments follow it to some degree, partially because many of the world's biggest endowments are now run by people who used to work for him.
So both his grandfather and his father were chemistry professors. His mother became a Lutheran minister. He bought his first two stocks, Kodak and AT&T, with money he got from his church confirmation, so investing very young in life. He got his undergraduate degree at Wisconsin and then got his Ph.D. at Yale.
And when he began managing the endowment, it was mostly just stocks and bonds. And his innovation, which he co-created along with a fellow named Dean Takahashi, was that you should move into alternative investments. And for them that meant hedge funds, private equity, timber, things like that. They were early investors, before these companies became public, in some companies you may have heard of, like Google, [Amazon.com], Facebook.
Southwick: Yeah. That probably turned out well for them.
Brokamp: That turned out very well for them. So basically, his performance has been among the top performances of any endowment over the last -- since he started in 1985.
He authored a couple of very interesting books. One was Pioneering Portfolio Management. And that's really geared toward more people doing institutional money, like endowments. But then in 2005, he came out with a book called Unconventional Success. And this was intended for the individual investor. And the main conclusion was that as he looked at the financial-services industry, and particularly the mutual fund industry, he found that basically it's a big waste of money. And he ended up saying what you really should be doing is just going with a nonprofit mutual fund company, of which there are only two.
Southwick: Vanguard ...
Brokamp: Vanguard, and another one is TIAA.
Southwick: Oh, I didn't even know that there was a second. OK
Brokamp: Yes. And it was very interesting, because he really did want to be able to give more -- I don't know about exciting, but a different type of advice, but he just could not find any argument for doing anything other than going with index funds from either of those two companies.
Southwick: No timber. No investing in timber. No tech start-ups.
Brokamp: Well, see, here's what he said. Part of his secret to success is that they manage some of the money, but then they go out and find the best managers they can find to do the private equity or the timber and things like that, and the average person just doesn't have access to that. And the folks who do offer their services to individual investors are generally not top-flight quality.
In an NPR article from a year ago, this is what he recommended for the average investor, in case people are curious. So 30% of your portfolio should be in U.S. stocks; 15% in foreign developed -- so you're talking, like, Germany, Britain, France -- 10% in emerging-market stocks; 15% in U.S. Treasury inflation-protected securities, better known as TIPS; 15% in just regular Treasuries; and then 15% in real estate investment trusts. So he does think you should have something in real estate through trusts.
So a couple of quotes. And this came from, he was actually, back in the day, when The Motley Fool had an NPR show ...
Brokamp: ... he was on our show.
Southwick: We now have the phone number.
Brokamp: That's right. MRS-FOOL.
Southwick: MRS-FOOL. (866) MRS-FOOL.
Brokamp: But in an interview he said, "The mutual fund industry is not an investment management industry. It's a marketing industry." That was fascinating.
So a couple of fun facts about David Swensen. During the credit default crisis of 2008-2009, you may have heard the term "swap." He actually engineered the very first swap, back when he was working for, I think it was Salomon Brothers, before he went to Yale. In 2009, he was named to President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Committee. He is probably the top-paid employee at Yale.
Brokamp: Which is interesting, because, depending on what year you look at, it's, like, $2 million to $5 million a year, which some students have protested, because it's a lot of money. But then other people said, "Listen, if he went to Wall Street, he would be making ..."
Southwick: So much money ...
Brokamp: ... so much money, but he chooses to stay at Yale. So that was an interesting controversy. And then the last fun fact. When he went to Yale to get his Ph.D., he was apparently a little turned off by the snobbery. Wine tastings and things like that. So he organized a beer tasting, and it is now an annual event that he hosts every year at Yale.
Southwick: And now beer tasting is just as snobby as wine tasting. Am I right, Rick?
Engdahl: Well, it depends how you look at it.
Southwick: Keep your pinky out. All right, so those were the four, that finishes off the list of the nine investors that Bro thinks you should know, but you said you had three honorable mentions.
Brokamp: Yeah, still three people, right. So No. 1 on that is Carl Icahn, which, according to an article on Forbes by Bryan Rich, he made a persuasive argument that Carl Icahn is actually probably the greatest investor of all time. He's known as an activist investor, also known as a corporate raider. Like he goes in, he tries to take over the company and kick out the CEO. If I had more time, I probably would have looked more into Carl Icahn, but he's definitely someone to take a look at.
The second honorable mention goes to two people -- the father-and-son team of Robert and Jeff Bruce. Ever heard of them?
Brokamp: I hadn't, either, but as you may recall from the last episode ...
Engdahl: Robert the Bruce!
Brokamp: Robert the Bruce! That's right. Braveheart. Braveheart is a great investor. I asked Morningstar to send me, of mutual funds that have been run by the same people for 20 years, send me the top 25, performance-wise. And No. 2 is the Bruce Fund, which I had never ...
Southwick: The Bruce Fund ...
Brokamp: The Bruce Fund.
Southwick: G'day, Bruce.
Brokamp: Which I had never heard of before.
Southwick: 'Ello, Bruce.
Brokamp: It's an asset allocation fund, so it invests in stocks, bonds, cash, depending on what they see as the perfect place to be. It's been around since 1983. The reason you probably never heard about it is they don't advertise. They don't do interviews. You can only get the funds -- you can't go to Schwab or any of those platforms to get them. You have to contact the company directly through its very bare-bones website run out of some small town ...
Southwick: Robert Bruce probably answers the phone himself.
Brokamp: If he wants to talk to you at all.
Brokamp: So I just thought it was funny. It's a great fund, and they're just very happy doing, flying far under the radar and managing money very well.
And finally, the last person is Irving Kahn, and the reason Irving Kahn is so interesting is because he died last year at the age of 109.
Brokamp: Continually being an investor and working at his firm. He was actually a teacher assistant to Benjamin Graham back in the '20s and '30s, was going to work every day well up until he was about 106 or so.
Southwick: Oh, that's adorable!
Brokamp: Yes. But what's most interesting is that he comes from a family of people who live that long.
Brokamp: So he had three siblings that also lived to over 100.
Brokamp: So they were studied often, and interviewed. And one of his sisters, whose nickname was Happy, she would say, like, "I smoke every day. I don't know what's going on." And I think, from what I understood, there was a theory out there that they have a gene that makes them a little less prone to any diseases related to, like, dementia or any cholesterol-related disease. But nonetheless, he could have sat around ...
Southwick: But he stayed busy.
Brokamp: Yeah, but he worked his entire life, and that just emphasizes that whole investing for the long term.
Southwick: So out of all the investors you have listed this episode and last episode, which one would you most want to have dinner with?
Brokamp: That's an interesting question. So I have an interest in World War II history. It's one of my side interests, so George Soros would probably be up there, just to know what it was like to live among the Nazis of that time. And then probably Ray Dalio, because the way he runs his firm is so interesting. And the whole idea of, if you read his principles, a lot of it is basically, just, suck it up. Take whatever criticism anyone gives you. It's going to make you better. Stop having your feelings hurt so much. It's probably good advice.
Southwick: Cool. Well, this has been a really good list. I would love for you, though, to come back at some point with a list of the greatest lady investors.
Brokamp: I will ... maybe.
Southwick: I know. I know this is not something that there's a lot of women in, but, you know, it's a boys' club. Finance has been a boys' club for most of its history -- but there's got to be some women investors out there that are crushing it silently and secretly.
Brokamp: I'm sure there are, and I can think of a couple, but part of it was, my criteria was that they had to be very long-term investors, and when you're looking back at Wall Street in, like, the '50s and '60s, it was pretty difficult to get a good job on Wall Street if you were a woman.
So this show is called Motley Fool Answers, and we tend to provide answers to questions that you give us, or we just talk about whatever we want to talk about. But sometimes you guys write us with answers to our problems, and what we're dealing with. Maybe not problems.
So I wanted to highlight a couple of listeners who wrote in with some helpful solutions for Rick and Bro. So we're going to start with Rick. Longtime listeners to the show will remember that one of Rick's financial bugaboos was setting up his kids' 529 plans. So one of our listeners wrote in and offered, as a carrot -- although I was really pushing for sticks at this point in time -- he provided the carrot of funding, putting in some money into your kids' 529 plans. Was that correct? If you would just do it!
Engdahl: Yeah, I think I said as a joke that if anybody wants to fund my plan, that'll push me over the edge, and he actually followed through.
Southwick: Did he write you a letter? How did he give you money?
Engdahl: Well, after -- so that's more, that's the more recent part of the story, is that even though we said, "No, thanks, but thank you for the incentive and the ..."
Southwick: We did say, "No, but that's very sweet."
Engdahl: Yes, and it did actually push me to open the account, which was great. That's all I needed. But then he actually sent a letter with a check in it saying, "Here's some money for your kids' account." And he said that you have to accept it because it's not for you. It's for your kids.
Southwick: Oh, man. So thank you to Daniel. He did, also, when Rick emailed him back to say thank you, he wrote in a little bit more about his background. He is a teacher of math, physics, and German, and he lives in Hong Kong, but he wrote some advice for everyone else who's looking to save money for school.
"When the three of you talk about paying for college on the air, please do help your listeners develop the sense of urgency you lacked by stressing" -- that was a dig at you, Rick -- "by stressing that the most important contributions made to a college fund are those made before the age of 3." And he cranks out some numbers to show that if you assume a 15% rate of return, any money in the account by age 3 doubles three times by 18. That means you can pay a $40,000 tuition bill with $5,000 in it at age 3. And then, of course, if you wait, it only gets worse.
So anyone else out there who is suffering from the same issue Rick did of just not getting around to it -- get around to it, because Daniel is not going to send you money, but you're going to be basically sending yourself money ...
Brokamp: That's true.
Southwick: ... in 18 years. And now on to Bro.
Southwick: You're looking nervous. This isn't bad. So Bro, a couple of times on the show, you have mentioned that when you retire you want to go to medical school.
Brokamp: Yes, I have.
Southwick: And Chad wrote in, and he wants me to talk you out of it. So he says: "I am writing to give you some unsolicited advice," which is the best kind of advice.
Brokamp: The kind of advice everybody wants.
Southwick: "I heard you mention twice that when you retire you would like to go to medical school. I would discourage this decision. Med school is four years, and then three years of residency before you are practicing in primary care. That's a large time and financial investment. Also, your wife may not be too pleased with the time commitment. You have to work a lot of weekends, nights, and holidays. There's also very little control of your schedule, and that can be very stressful on your home life." And we do not want that, do we, Bro?
Southwick: So he suggests: "If you are determined to pursue your healthcare delivery dreams, I would encourage you to consider training as a physician's assistant. Training is much shorter, and you have many options once you finish." So ...
Brokamp: I have thought about that, and I think I may have mentioned one of the times when we talked about it being something other than a doctor. Maybe a nurse practitioner, and a physician's assistant is also a good option. It really depends on my goal and partially on my finances when it happens. This will all occur after my children have gone to school, so we'll see how much money I have left after that.
Southwick: Well, he wants you to consider a physician's assistant, even over a nurse practitioner.
Brokamp: Yeah. I'll think about it.
Southwick: You just want us to call you Dr. Brokamp, don't you? That's why you're doing this.
Brokamp: Kind of. A little bit.
Southwick: I'm still not going to call you Dr. Bro. I'll call you Dr. Bro. How about that?
Brokamp: That's good.
Southwick: I'll just call you that all the time anyway.
All right. Well, thank you guys for writing in. Of course, if you want to ask a question or offer advice like Chad and Daniel, you have a few options for doing it. You can post a question to us on Twitter. We're @AnswersPodcast. You can join our Motley Fool Podcast Facebook group and probably get an answer there quicker than we would on the show. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and, of course, you can call us and record a message that we might play on the show. And again, that number is (866) MRS-FOOL -- or NPR-FOOL, if you prefer, but I prefer (866) MRS-FOOL.
All right. The show is edited goatingly -- it doesn't even make sense, but we're going to go with it -- by Rick Engdahl. For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody.
Alison Southwick owns shares of AT&T. Richard Engdahl owns shares of Amazon.com and Facebook. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon.com, Facebook, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.