Hold The Motley Fool in your hand, turn it over and around, peer at it from every angle, and you may notice that -- hey, these folks seem to contradict themselves! Well, it can certainly look that way. Since our founding more than a decade ago, we've been championing the individual investor. We've said that the best person to manage your money is you -- because the talking heads on TV and the analysts on Wall Street don't have your best interests at heart.
It's all true. It may look like we think you should rely on yourself for everything when it comes to investing. But that's not the case.
We believe you can manage your own money, but we also understand that it's easier to do so with the help of others. That's why we created a lively online community of discussion boards, where you can see what thousands of people think about thousands of stocks and topics. That's why we've published free, educational articles on our website for years and years. That's why we launched an affordable personal financial advisory service that offers you access by telephone to financial pros with expertise in matters regarding taxes, retirement planning, saving for college, estate planning, investing, and much more.
It's also why we offer a handful of investing newsletters that give you stock and mutual fund recommendations every month. We know that not everyone has the time or interest or mind-set for studying companies and picking the ripest ones for your investment dollars. We know that not everyone likes to spend free time analyzing balance sheets or income statements. Sometimes, the advice of experts can make our lives easier.
Bad reviews, good reviews
Amazon.com has long impressed me with its customer reviews of nearly everything. I can tap into the opinions of others who have gone before me. If I'm thinking of buying a foam mattress topper, I can see whether others like the ones they bought. (In doing such research, I learned that they may smell of burned bacon. Hmm ...)
There are certain purchases that I regret making without having done more research -- like when I bought The Bridges of Madison County, which was too treacly for me. I wish I'd read some of the Amazon.com reviews before that purchase.
Experts in the garden
It's noble to want to go it on your own in many endeavors, to see how well you fare. But that's not the best course in every arena. Surgery, for example, comes to mind. I'm a budding gardener and have been informed by savvy observers that I'm growing a little poison ivy along with dahlias and tomatoes.
When it comes to investing, there's clearly no shortage of "experts" who are eager to advise you. Some are just out for your money, while others make a living by actually helping others make money. Not all financial advisors are alike.
When it comes to people recommending stocks or mutual funds to you, make sure you take some time to do a little research before signing up. If you can try a newsletter for free, for example, do so.
Consider our Motley Fool Champion Funds newsletter (which you can try for free for 30 days), headed by Shannon Zimmerman. Shannon's picks, as a group, have roughly doubled the S&P 500's total return -- 13% vs. 7%. Of his 27 recommended funds, only two are in the red since they were recommended, and those are each by less than 3%. Meanwhile, more than half are up by double-digit amounts, and 11 by more than 15%. This certainly suggests to me that Shannon isn't just lucky, and that he's serving his customers well. (You can see all of Shannon's picks with a free trial.)
Part of the problem with investing experts, especially the ones you run across on TV or in the press, is that you won't know what they think of a recommendation a few months later. If it has slumped, are they still bullish? Who knows. If you're considering listening to some expert, make sure they're serving your needs. Are they making the kinds of recommendations you seek, such as, perhaps, stocks to hold for the long term or mutual funds with lots of international exposure? Will you be able to find out what they think of their recommendations later? Experts are very handy -- just choose yours thoughtfully.
Consider evaluating the advice, too. One of the funds that Shannon recommended is Brandywine (BRWIX), a mid-cap value-oriented fund. It's up about 13% since Shannon picked it about six months ago and its top holdings include StarwoodHotels & Resorts
Seek trusted help
Investing is a critical area. Just as you don't want to break out in a painful rash for a few weeks, I bet you don't want to see your mutual fund investment tumble by 56% in a single year, either. Such a move would turn a nest egg of $10,000 into $4,400, and that's quite a difference. Similarly, even if you guide your own returns to a market-matching return, why settle for that when you may be able to do much better? Take advantage of available help from experts you trust.
If, via Champion Funds, Shannon Zimmerman can grow your $20,000 by an average of 12% per year instead of the market average of 10%, you may end up with $62,000 instead of $52,000 in 10 years. (Of course, Shannon may end up doing better or worse than 12% -- the future is still unwritten.) An average gain of 12% over 20 years will yield $190,000, instead of the $135,000 that 10% will generate. Seemingly small advantages offered by experts can make big differences in your life.
The mutual fund world is more interesting than you may think. Learning more about it can help you make a lot of money -- or at least not lose too much money. You can learn more by trying out Champion Funds for 30 days -- without paying a dime. Or you can get started with these Foolish articles:
- The Case for Mutual Funds
- Slam-Dunk Mutual Funds
- You're Paying How Much?
- Champion Funds Still Beating the Market
- When Good Funds Go Bad
- Is it Time to Sell?
Selena Maranjian 's favorite discussion boards include Book Club , The Eclectic Library, and Card & Board Games. She owns shares of no companies mentioned in this article. For more about Selena, view her bio and her profile. You might also be interested in these books she has written or co-written: The Motley Fool Money Guide and The Motley Fool Investment Guide for Teens . The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.