At Motley Fool Hidden Gems, we're all about empowering the individual investor.
We aim to do that in many ways. First and foremost, we research and recommend small companies with tremendous growth prospects, minimal coverage on Wall Street, and, consequently, undervalued stock prices. Every month, Tom Gardner and a member of his crack team of guest analysts offer up their best stock ideas.
Those stock recommendations lie at the heart of our service, and have generated outstanding 31% gains over the past two years, vs. an 8% return for similar amounts invested in the S&P 500.
A journey of a thousand services
But while identifying great investment ideas is the first step to investing success, it's not the end. "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," as the old adage goes. And when setting out to earn a 1,000-fold return on your investment, finding a great stock idea is only the first step.
Today I want to talk about, and demonstrate, a simple way to help you invest smarter, more efficiently, and at the lowest possible cost. One of the key factors in outperforming the market is reducing "friction" -- the cost of making an investment in the first place. In a word: commissions.
Take your foot off the brake
To really accelerate your investing returns, you need to ease up on the brake. Sure, brokers need to eat. They're always going to take a cut of your profits in exchange for helping you to buy stocks. But your aim as an investor should be to put a Band-Aid on that cut. Stitch it up. Keep it as small as possible, so the scar isn't as noticeable on your returns.
As a general rule, try to keep brokers' commissions under 2% of your total trading costs. To put that in dollar terms, if you're investing $1,000, you don't want to pay more than $20 in commissions.
That shouldn't be too hard of a trick. Thanks to an ongoing "reverse" bidding war among the brokerage houses, you'll find it pretty easy to locate a broker willing to charge about $10 per trade: Ameritrade
When investing more than $1,000, you may even find that the slightly pricier commissions charged by the online brokerage divisions of American Express
Let the brokers eat cake
The Motley Fool applauds this bidding war, because it has made investing more economical than ever before. It's made it easier for our members to build their wealth -- rather than just hand it over to the Wall Street bankers with a smile.
We're all in favor of anything that helps you make money and build wealth faster. What's more, we're not just in favor of it -- we actively seek it out, jot it down, and make sure our members know about it. We've assembled the results of years of research on this subject into a handy-dandy guide on small-cap investing, our "10 Steps to Becoming a Master Small-Cap Investor" (which we give away to all who try our Hidden Gems newsletter).
And when we see news that can benefit our subscribers, we're going to shout it out. Speaking of which, for a lucky few investors, buying stocks has just become even easier.
The rich get richer
In an escalation of the brokers' wars -- you might call this the "nuclear option" -- Wells Fargo
Part 1: Wells has matched the low fees of the deep discount brokers by offering a $10 commission to any client maintaining a "Portfolio Management Account" (PMA) with the bank (requiring at least $25,000 in deposits, equities, credit card balances, and other assets).
Part 2: Here's the "nuclear" part. A PMA account valued at $100,000 or more gets you a reduced commission of just $3 on up to 50 stock trades per year. So if you're already rich, Wells is willing to help you get richer, faster, in exchange for your business.
Part 3: To attract the very wealthiest of the wealthy, Wells offers 50 free trades -- more than enough for a long-term-oriented Hidden Gems investor -- if you keep $250,000 worth of assets with the bank.
One special quirk of the plan is worth highlighting -- if you happen to keep your mortgage at Wells, the bank will let you count 10% of the mortgage balance toward the thresholds for discounted commissions. For many of us, that concession alone will get us the $10 commission, and go a long way toward netting a commission rate much lower than even the deepest discount brokers can offer.
How to use it
Wells is offering a great way to buy shares over time, to diversify your holdings widely, and to build wealth with minimal or even no transaction costs. While we don't necessarily endorse the service, on its face, it certainly seems like a good deal, and is well worth further examination.
Here ends our public-service announcement. If you'd like to read more of our ideas or check out "10 Steps to Becoming a Master Small-Cap Investor," sign up for a free trial of the Hidden Gems service. It's just one of several free reports to which you'll have access. As always at The Motley Fool, it comes completely free of obligation. If you don't absolutely love our service, you're welcome to cancel at any time.