Superior Investment Ideas for You

Our newsletters' performance just might surprise you.

Selena Maranjian
Selena Maranjian
Feb 18, 2005 at 12:00AM

Have you noticed that your friend The Motley Fool has developed a suite of investing newsletters? If you've spent any time in Fooldom lately, you're probably aware of them. But you may be wondering, reasonably, whether they're any good and which one(s) would serve you best. (Hint: They're pretty impressive indeed -- keep reading.)

After I wrote an article a few weeks ago about investing and plumbing (of all things!), I heard from a reader who asked me how to go about choosing one or more of our newsletters.

As I replied to this reader, it occurred to me that many others might have the same questions, wondering what the differences are between our offerings and how good they are. I suspected that more than one person might be interested in my answer, so I've expanded it here. Please keep reading, because all these resources are available for you to try for free, and there's a good chance you can benefit greatly from them. Really.

The rundown
First, here's a quick look at each newsletter:

Rule Your Retirement : This newsletter, headed by longtime Fool personal finance expert Robert Brokamp, is critical for many of us. You may be investing in some terrific stocks and funds, but if you're not investing enough, or are investing inefficiently, you're at best leaving some money on the table and at worst setting yourself up for a bumpy retirement. This newsletter can help you get on track to planning and preparing for a comfortable retirement. It covers lots of financial planning and personal finance topics. Robert and his guest writers offer specific stock and fund recommendations, along with guidance on Social Security, pensions, asset allocation, diversification, and other critical topics. Try it right now for free, and we'll toss in a free copy of our book Money After 40.

Rule Breakers : Headed by Fool co-founder David Gardner, Rule Breakers is not the best choice for beginners. This is aggressive investing and should be only a part of a portfolio, if you do it at all. That said, when Rule Breaker investing pays off, it tends to do so in a big way, rewarding investors handsomely. It just won't always pay off. Last time I checked, one Rule Breaker recommendation, Taser International (NASDAQ:TASR), is down 53%, while another, Steiner Leisure (NASDAQ:STNR), is up 53%. The newsletter pays special attention to biotech companies and early adopters. It's where you may run across articles on exciting new fields, such as nanotechnology.

Hidden Gems : This newsletter could serve you quite well. Know that it focuses on smallish companies, which can be a bit riskier than their larger counterparts, but their size also means they can grow more rapidly. Last time I checked, the total average returns for Tom Gardner and his guest analysts were 49% and 34%, respectively, compared with 10% for the S&P 500. The newsletter features a watch list of intriguing companies, as well as a section on "Tiny Gems" with a lot of promise. Tom also includes many investing lessons in his writings for the newsletter. Of the first 40 picks, six have more than doubled in value, three nearly tripling -- for example, Mine Safety Appliances (NYSE:MSA). Some 23 are up more than 20%.

Inside Value : Value investing pays particular attention to paying a good price for investments, so you may find a greater margin of safety in these recommended stocks. This newsletter is not a bad choice at all for beginners -- and everyone else, too. Lead analyst Philip Durell fills each issue with close examinations of several undervalued and attractive companies, explaining his thinking about their business, risks, competition, and valuation. He also maintains a watch list and offers educational articles, such as one on the effect of employee stock options. His total average return is 13%, compared with 5% for the S&P 500 over the same period (of less than one year). Five of his first 14 picks are up more than 20% since he recommended them -- including credit information provider First American (NYSE:FAF).

Income Investor : This newsletter represents, in some ways, a more conservative approach to investing, as you earn dividends or other income from your investments while you also hope that many of them will increase in price. The newsletter is especially worth checking out for beginning investors, though we can all profit from it. If you choose to invest via Drips -- dividend reinvestment plans -- then finding good stocks with significant dividends is extra valuable. The newsletter will end its second year this summer, and the total average return of its picks (regular common stocks and REITs, mostly) is 18%, vs. 11% for the S&P 500. Of lead analyst Mathew Emmert's first 36 picks, only two have lost money, and recently, about 19 were up 30% or more. Eight were up more than 30% -- such as Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW).

Champion Funds : If you have an interest in mutual funds, and they make a lot of sense for most of us, especially those who'd rather not spend hours studying and selecting individual companies in which to invest, this newsletter is worth considering. It's true that most mutual funds don't do as well as index funds -- but that doesn't mean there aren't outstanding funds out there. This newsletter is nearly a year old, and its total average return is 10% vs. 6% for its benchmarks. In Champion Funds, lead analyst Shannon Zimmerman will introduce you to many great investing minds -- ones who can invest your money for you via their funds. I don't think any of his picks have lost ground yet, and one, Dodge & Cox International Stock (FUND:DODFX), is up 36% in less than a year.

Motley Fool Stock Advisor : This newsletter, our oldest, is a nice mix of approaches, with both Tom and David recommending stocks in it. David tends to favor smaller, more aggressive investments, while Tom looks for more established good values. As of December, the overall average return for each brother was about 50%, compared with 18% for the S&P 500 in the same period. Tom's big winners include building materials maker Trex (NASDAQ:TREX), while David's include China portal firm Sina (NASDAQ:SINA). (Of course, there are inevitable losers, as well, which you'll probably find among any newsletter's recommendations.)

Other extras
You get more than monthly stock and fund picks with these newsletters. You'll also get access to the online nook maintained for each one, which features a scorecard for picks, articles and interviews by and with our analysts, dedicated discussion boards where you can interact with our analysts and other readers, and special reports and updates. One such special report for Champion Funds readers is "3 Funds to Sell," while Hidden Gems readers can learn "How to Win With Small-caps."

Why we charge, and don't
If you're bummed, thinking that it's annoying that you have to pay for all this great information, here are some things to consider:

  • We're a business. We have to charge for something if we want to keep the lights on. (Few people bought our Motley Fool Cheese, so we're putting out newsletters instead.) That said, we're taking our responsibility seriously, working hard to offer you superior investment ideas that are well worth what you pay for them. Spend $100 or several hundred on our newsletters, and we'll be trying mightily to help you make several thousands of dollars -- if not more -- in return. So yes, they cost money, but they should prove well worth it.

  • We don't charge you for everything. Our website is full of free guidance and education and even some investing ideas (make this page a favorite and check it regularly for our news stories). You can learn some basics in our 13 Steps to Investing Foolishlyand in our Investing Basics area. You may also find this page useful, though it has a lot of resources on it. I created it for teens, but it should serve post-teens just as well.

The bottom line
Whether you're now sold or are merely curious, you owe it to yourself to at least give one or more newsletters a whirl. We make it very painless and you'll be able to see many of our stock and fund recommendations and how they've done. I wouldn't subscribe to all of them -- that would be information overload and you might find yourself paralyzed by too many options. Instead, take some time to get more comfortable with investing and decide which approaches make sense to you. It can't hurt to take advantage of free trials of various newsletters, too.

Here are some additional related reads of interest:

Selena Maranjian's favorite discussion boards include Book Club , The Eclectic Library , and Card & Board Games . She owns shares of no firms 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.