Malcolm Wheatley reflects on a decade as a Fool.
A few days ago, I celebrated a small anniversary: it was exactly ten years since I joined the Motley Fool, back in early March 2000. And, as these things go, I can honestly say that joining The Fool was one of the smarter decisions that I've made.
Life-changing? In short: yes, without a doubt.
I can't, I have to admit, remember the exact circumstances. As far as I can recall, at some point I started receiving a daily e-mail newsletter -- not from The Fool -- but which contained links to it. And once I realised that the material on The Fool made more sense than the daily e-mail, I quickly ditched the e-mail and signed up for The Fool.
From that simple act, I can trace a whole chain of events and decisions, both financial and non-financial, that have had an enormous influence on my daily life.
In short, I'm wealthier and wiser, and have also received -- via over 2,000 posts on The Fool's wonderful discussion boards -- advice and guidance on a whole range of topics. Cooking, investing, saving money, gardening, advice on computer problems -- and that's in addition to the discussion boards that I 'lurk' silently on!
In short, the Fool's discussion boards are a wonderful resource. And I'm not alone in thinking that: many of the people I've "conversed" with over the years, both off-board and on-board, are still posting here too.
In the weeks after joining The Fool, I read voraciously about index trackers, and duly opened a FTSE All-Share index tracker ISA in July 2000. Over the years, I've poured a lot of spare cash into it, and I'm delighted to report that it's grown into decent-sized investment.
Trackers aren't perfect, but for many people they are a superb 'halfway house' between savings accounts in banks and building societies, and buying shares in individual companies. Cheaper than traditional investment funds, they offer low-cost diversified exposure to equities, with the flexibility of being able to chuck money into them as it becomes available.
And over the years, The Fool has emphasised not only the importance of index trackers, but low-cost index trackers. Thanks to what I've read (and written) here, all my tracker investments are now with the two lowest-cost providers in the market -- HSBC and Vanguard.
At the end of 2000, pensions giant Equitable Life crashed into the buffers. The Fool's Equitable Life discussion board, with its informal links to the Equitable Members' Action Group, was an invaluable resource for worried savers.
And while it wasn't immediately clear what I should do with the money I had invested with Equitable as it attempted to find a way out of the mess, it was clear that I shouldn't add any more to it.
Located via The Fool, I found a low-cost stakeholder pension, and began contributing to that, instead. Over time, too, that has also grown into a decent-sized sum.
And as SIPPs have become increasingly popular, it became clear from reading The Fool that both my Equitable pension and stakeholder pension investments would do better within a SIPP wrapper than where they were. Quite simply, SIPPs offer more control, better choice, lower charges and -- usually -- better returns.
Consequently, I took advantage of the stock market lows of early 2009 to swap my Equitable with-profits pension to a SIPP: at the time of writing, it's up by 48%. Earlier this year, my stakeholder was exchanged for a SIPP, too.
The Fool's coverage of individual shares is superb. From articles through to discussion board posts, the level of insight is immense. As I've written before, my own investing style is not one geared towards small AIM shares, although it's clearly a part of the market that appeals to many.
Large-cap dividend-paying shares are more my thing, and fellow-Foolish writer Stephen Bland's High Yield Portfolio strategy soon found another convert.
Like his Value strategy, it's not for everybody -- but to me, that is one of the strengths of the Fool: it's an incredibly broad church, in terms of investing styles. There are still die-hards posting about the mechanical investing strategies that were popular in the early days of the Fool, over decade ago.
Type a company's ticker symbol into the Quotes & Data screen, and a wealth of investment data is available -- including five years' worth of company accounts. Want to know more? Most large-cap companies have their own discussion board, too.
Finally, I reckon I've gained a lot knowledge from my time on The Fool. Some of that is "fun" knowledge -- the tips I've picked up from The Fool's Recipes & Cooking board, for instance. Living Below Your Means is another favourite board. I've had help configuring a digital television, assistance sorting out a network problem, and plenty of recommendations regarding software and hardware.
Predictably, though, a lot of that knowledge has been financial knowledge -- insights into how to value different businesses, for example. Articles are certainly one source of this information, but the discussion boards are (to me, anyway) just as important.
So to everyone who posts: Thank You -- and stick around for the next ten years, please!
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