Dear Santa,

I've been a good Fool this year.

I was never accused of profiting from late-trading mutual funds. I never threw lavish birthday soirees and sent Tyco (NYSE:TYC) the bill. Last I checked, no one was accusing me of abusing my power under the hypothetical scenario that I was heading the New York Stock Exchange.

I never sold a load fund or downgraded a stock from "buy" to "hold" when I really meant "sell." I never cooked books, much less cracked open a cookbook. I should also point out that I never raidedHollinger's (NYSE:HLR) coffers. Never. Ever. So please don't go sticking a lump of coal in my stocking this year. Save that for the "naughty" list of errant mutual fund managers and thirsty executives that drink greed out of Big Gulp containers. They have forgotten the meaning of fiduciary, but are about to brush up on the meaning of judiciary.

I'm not saying that I'm a no-brainer for the "nice" list, but, hey, if you're grading on a curve, I think I'm due for a gift or two. To make things easy on you, I went ahead and made a list of the things I would like this year. It's the usual stuff. A shiny new bike. A motorized scooter. A time machine to go back and change some of my high-profile stock picks.

Don't get me wrong. I'm more than happy with the way most of them have panned out in the past. When I singled out Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) for the October 2002 issue of Hidden Gems, I never thought it would go on to quadruple in price so quickly. Yet my Stocks 2003 performance wasn't up to snuff. While my slice of Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) fared well, my video-rental industry pick of Hollywood Entertainment (NASDAQ:HLYW) was a dud.

Thankfully, my Stocks 2004 selection is off to a good early start. But why take chances when I've got you packing a sleigh full of good cheer, right? You've got a job to do, and I'll do the selfless thing and let you go about your business. So, if at all possible, please flesh out my portfolio with more Comets and Blitzens than Dancers and Prancers.

I know. Most folks my age don't exactly believe in you. My 10-year-old son started off his Christmas list with the two words that make me think that he's caught on: Dear UPS (NYSE:UPS). I can't say I blame him. Those blasted partial shipments from Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) that find parcel delivery drivers in brown trucks coming by daily would make me suspicious, too.

But, yes, I still believe in you. I'll leave out a plate of cookies and a glass of milk for you only to wonder why I wake up on Christmas morning in a bed of cookie crumbs wearing a milk moustache. I mean, why not believe. Eggnog just tastes better when I believe that there is some seasonal system in place to reward goodness. Reality as an alternative, quite frankly, blows.

So, getting back to that wish list of mine. Did I ask you for a Hokey Pokey Elmo yet? No? Good. I don't want one. However, I wouldn't mind the ability to make common sense contagious. That would rock. Just imagine walking in on a mutual fund manager, in the process of negotiating some hush-hush late-trading and market timing deal, and letting out a sneeze.

"What am I doing," the manager would realize. "I can make a million or two at the expense of losing billions in assets under management? That's ludicrous. I might as well go hock my eyelids on eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) because I sure can't count on sleeping much if I ever did that."

Walk into the HeatlhSouth (NASDAQ:HLSH) or Tyco boardrooms, just before the CEOs helped themselves to the corporate loot, and stand akimbo within spraying range.


"Hey, this is wrong," one would say. "I get paid plenty as CEO, last I checked. Maybe running this company efficiently and with integrity will go a longer way towards growing my net worth by way of capital appreciation from my company stock holdings. It may sound retro but I like it, baby."

But if you can't get me a time machine or a common-sense thingy, I'm guessing the Hokey Pokey Elmo would be fine after all. I mean, there's an investing lesson in there. What you get out is what you put in. Spend some time on due diligence, and you'll get the same kind of respect in turn from stocks that are less likely to spring unwelcome surprises on you. Spend some time on educating, and you will be duly enlightened.

And that's what it's all about.


Rick Aristotle Munarriz doesn't know the difference between mistletoe and missile tow. He happens to own shares in Netflix. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.