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Ralph Block, a.k.a. Reitnut, manages a real estate investment trust mutual fund in Westlake Village, Calif. When he isn't managing money or sharing his wealth of knowledge on the Fool's REIT board, he enjoys spending time with his wife, walking his golden retriever Sammy, and reading crime fiction. Ralph has written several books in addition to the monthly newsletter he publishes.

We've been very lucky over the years in the Fool Community to have the very best Real Estate discussion on the Internet. What began six years ago with former Fool Michael Dowd is now being continued by Ralph and a host of other REIT professionals and amateurs. If you're ever looking for information about real estate, and REITs specifically, you need look no further than the Fool Community.

Check out Reitnut's most recommended posts.

Interview with Reitnut

How did you first stumble across the Fool and what kept you coming back?
I learned about the Fool's message boards through a friend about five years ago, at a time when it was officially hosted by TMFs. I have always found the boards a very friendly and congenial place, where fellow investors very much enjoy sharing observations and strategies on how to cope with the joys and frustrations of the investment world.

Virtually all of my board time has been spent on the Real Estate board, which I think is one of the very best that the Fool has to offer. I take a great deal of pleasure in sharing my thoughts and experiences, as well as learning from others. Even investment professionals such as myself can learn from those who take the time to post thoughtful insights and observations. And it's not all just learning; the seriousness is leavened by a great deal of humor.

What about the Fool Community do you value most? How would you describe it to a friend who is completely unfamiliar?
The Fool Community is unique; it's a place where investors of similar interest can come together, on their own time, and share their concerns, beliefs, observations, and suggestions in a "collegial" and friendly environment. There is no other place like it, as it offers everyone the opportunity to learn from others and to test their own thoughts and ideas in an open forum. It is indispensible to the intelligent do-it-yourself investor, and the time spent there is well worth it.

Big or small, everyone has done something they are very proud of. Tell us about your proudest moments, greatest achievements, or special talents.
I think I am most proud of the books I've written, both on REIT investing. The first book, The Essential REIT, was self-published, but then Bloomberg Press asked me to do a follow-up book on the same subject, entitled Investing in REITs. It took me about two years to complete, but it has sold quite well and I have made many friends among those who have taken the time to read it.

A newsletter that I publish, which is sent out via e-mail, has also been well-received, and I am very proud of that also. In my "prior life," I was a business lawyer, but my second career in the investment advisory world has been much more fun and satisfying. I seem to have this need to help others learn a subject (REITs and REIT investing) that has been very good to me, and the Fool Community is an excellent way (beyond the books and newsletter) to share my thoughts with others. And, of course, when I post on the board, I learn from other interested investors as well. Beyond that, and much more important, I am proud of my family and my two boys (ages 35 and 33), who are now out on their own and contributing members of society.

Do you have specific life ambitions or goals? What are they?
Through my success in REIT investing, and my ability to save and invest, I have become financially independent (and I work because I enjoy it). My goal today is to live the balance of my life (I am 60 and have a third of it left!) as a productive member of society and, more specifically, to help others who are interested in becoming financially independent as well, particularly on a basis where they can sleep easily at night along the way. The trick is to achieve that financial independence without taking undue risk.

Have you gotten together in person with any of the friends you've met at the Fool? What was it like to put faces and voices to online nicknames and personalities?
Yes, I have, on at least five or six different occasions; indeed, I have even arranged to meet with fellow posters from as far away as Boston and Florida, while there on business or vacation (I live in Southern California). In each case, it has been a valuable and unique experience. At times, their personalities were very different from what I had imagined, but we invariably got along well. These contacts have developed into friendships, which I very much value. They have added another dimension to my life.

Put on your CEO goggles for a minute and look into the future of the Fool Community. Will we still be posting on discussion boards in five years? How do you see our peer-to-peer interaction developing?
There is no question in my mind that the Fool Community fills a very, very important need in the investment world, i.e., it is the only place where individual investors can come together to learn about a specific sector of investing, where investors of all experience levels can discuss the major issues within that sector and everyone can learn from one another.

And it is remarkably free from commercialism or hidden agendas. The sell-side firms haven't exactly distinguished themselves during the past few years, and there is an urgent need for investors without an axe to grind to trade thoughts, ideas, impressions, and investment strategies. Our own REIT board is a very special place, and I would hope and expect that it will continue to grow in participants for many, many years into the future. I intend to visit it often, now and after my eventual retirement. I only hope that other individual investors are perceptive enough to recognize the importance of the Fool Community.