Last fall, we joined several of our Motley Fool Rule Breakers teammates on a weeklong "innovation tour" through Silicon Valley, where we met with executives at InterMune
We also had the pleasure of meeting with Silicon Valley legends Guy Kawasaki -- an early software evangelist for Apple -- and venture capitalist Bill Gurley, who served as lead analyst on the Amazon IPO.
But perhaps our most interesting meeting was with another man, a figure no doubt familiar to just about everyone in the business world. We watched him work his magic on a touch-sensitive PC we're still salivating over. We got a closer look at one of the two local eateries he owns. We even got firsthand details on his new book.
Then we struck a nerve
Little did we know that his passion for personal finance is matched only by his utter disdain for stocks. You see, this keen observer of business and management trends believes that most people, himself included, cannot beat the market buying individual stocks, especially when the companies behind those stocks are run by drunken chimpanzees.
It's a fair point: Drunken chimps can't do much. Yet according to finance professor Kenneth French -- one-half of the team that revealed the market-beating potential of small-cap value stocks such as American Oriental Bioengineering
Confusing the confusopolies
And that doesn't even address today's business climate. First there were meltdowns at Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and AIG. Then came a record year for dividend cuts and suspensions, which burned investors in everything from Constellation Energy
So, it's not hard to see why Dilbert creator Scott Adams quips that Dogbert, CEO of Confusopoly Corp. (TICKER: HUH), could convince the world's bankers that an active market for commercial paper would melt Greenland. Or that ritual cat sacrifices are the key to saving America's auto industry.
Laugh all you want, but bankers at Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley
Bottom line: Adams told us that his severe distrust of weasels -- er, management -- is the main reason for his swearing off individual stocks. Makes sense to us. Investors were right to distrust the optimists at KB Home
So what should you do?
Adams gave us nine steps that he says can help you generate (and protect) wealth when performed in order. We think his suggestions are pretty Foolish, and thus, with his permission (thanks, Scott), we publish them here:
- Make a will.
- Pay off your credit cards.
- Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
- Fund your 401(k) to the maximum.
- Fund your IRA to the maximum.
- Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it.
- Put six months' worth of expenses in a money market account.
- Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker, and never touch it until retirement.
- If any of this confuses you, or you have something special going on (retirement, college planning, tax issues), hire a fee-based financial planner.
You're not in Elbonia any more, Dilbert
Adams' nine steps look pretty familiar to us Fools; we've always advocated paying off debt, saving for retirement, and having a substantial emergency fund. But avoid stocks altogether? We respectfully disagree.
But we do agree that if you're going to try to beat the market with stocks, you need to know what you're buying -- and you need to be able to trust the management of the companies you own.
That's why our Rule Breakers team traveled across the country to meet with management at many of our recommended companies.
If you'd like to get the full story on what we discovered, read in-depth write-ups of each company we visited, and gain full access to our exclusive members-only website, we invite you to take a free 30-day trial of Motley Fool Rule Breakers.
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This article was originally published Oct. 23, 2008. It has been updated.
Austin Edwards owned shares of Apple at the time of publication. Fool contributor Tim Beyers has stock and options positions in Apple and is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers team, which counts InterMune and Copart among its recommendations. Apple, Amazon, and Copart are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. American Oriental Bioengineering is an active pick for Motley Fool Hidden Gems and Motley Fool Global Gains. The Motley Fool owns shares of Copart and American Oriental Bioengineering. Its disclosure policy is thinking up new torture devices for Catbert, evil HR director, who jut took a gig consulting to some of Wall Street's biggest firms.