Foolish Wisdom?

Foolish Wisdom - By Matt Argersinger

So my lesson to the intern — and to myself — was this: Attention, activity, and arbeiten (it’s German, look it up) are often no match for a simple, consistent, and yes, boring, plan.

The article makes the case that buy-n-hold gives winners time to win big, while actively managing a portfolio leads to overthinking, mistakes, higher taxes and fees. Clearly, the SID board is presenting a very serious challenge to this wisdom. To the author’s credit he does not speak in absolutes, just shares his experience.

In the spirit of camaraderie that makes the Fool the MOTLEY Fool - a place where all ideas are welcome, I am not comparing the SID board to the Fool in a negative way. The SID board is the very essence of Fooldom. With its spirit of generosity and fraternity, the intelligence and quality of its best contributors, it couldn’t exist anywhere else. And of course, Saul has often gotten ideas from the newsletters. We’re all in this together.

Bottom line - Isn’t it long past time for a major sit down interview with Saul? And possibly GauchoChris, Bear and Tinker to name a few?

These results are astounding. So much so, I find myself wanting to look in people’s actual portfolios to confirm results. Putting 15+ % in any individual company frankly scares my underpants into an extreme wedgie. And yes, I am very curious to see what happens if the market goes South. Will this method get slaughtered a 100x worse than Buy-n-Hold? Will the people here post their monthly portfolio result if - heaven forbid - they are down 30, 40, 50%? Is the SID method more risky or does it just appear that way? Might it be less risky because the quality of these companies is actually so much higher?

These are tough questions but they need to be asked and debated. This is the security and dreams of our families on the line. The implications of what’s happening here are profound and will impact Fools’ results for years to come.

Buffalo Springfield - For What its Worth



So my lesson to the intern — and to myself — was this: Attention, activity, and arbeiten (it’s German, look it up) are often no match for a simple, consistent, and yes, boring, plan.

The article makes the case that buy-n-hold gives winners time to win big, while actively managing a portfolio leads to overthinking, mistakes, higher taxes and fees. Clearly, the SID board is presenting a very serious challenge to this wisdom.

I don’t think so.

  1. His high attention/activity account was in an after-tax, non-sheltered account. Therefore, his frictional costs were significantly higher than if he had been doing so in a tax-sheltered account.

  2. Saul and others on this board buy with the intention of holding for the long-term and only sell under two conditions: either something drastically better comes along, or something changes with the company making it no longer a great investment (see Saul’s discussion on why he sold out of SHOP).

I was recently in a discussion with someone who was absolutely convinced that one “couldn’t beat the market”, and “Even Buffet says so, he won that 10-year bet with HEDGE FUND managers! If professionals can’t do it, no one can!”.

I considered these fairly ignorant statements on a number of levels to say the least. But it did really get me thinking about the whole index fund idea. Why is it such a good idea if it’s merely an average of the returns of the entire market? And, if it is easy to beat the market, why would people bother with an index fund?

I also had a discussion with another Fool the other day about a CNBC article discussing how much money you’d have had you invested in AMZN in 1997 and just left it there. The jist of the conversation was how CNBC and the mainstream media don’t teach anyone anything about investing. They provide click-bait articles that prove that hind-sight is always and make you feel regret and inadequacy.

Combining all these disparate thoughts, here is my main point…

Every investment thesis is highly dependent upon the audience it is intended for:

  • The Index Fund thesis is intended for the “average person” who knows nothing at all about business, investing, finance, etc. They have no knowledge of these things and no interest at all in learning about them. But they do know that they need to survive on whatever they can save, and since they can’t possibly beat the market without knowledge of these things, the best they can do is match the markets.

The mainstream media re-enforces this, as do people like John Bogle, Warren Buffett, and now the various mutual fund companies like Vanguard and Fidelity. Though, if you actually listen to what both Bogle and Buffett say, you will hear them point out that this thesis is specifically for people who want to know nothing and just let their money compound over time through no effort of their own. The do NOT actually say “you can’t beat the market”.

  • The long-term-buy-and-hold thesis, aka “Foolish Investing”, as preached by The Motley Fool, is geared toward those who may not know anything about business, investing, finance, etc. yet but are interested and willing to learn. For these people, beating the market can be as simple as buying the latest Stock Advisor recommendations or Best Buy Now stocks and just letting it ride with little to no effort for a very long time. Eventually many will start to learn and understand what makes a Foolish investment and take a little more active participation in their portfolios and beat the market handily by adding to their winners, culling their losers, and consistently adding new money to their portfolios.

  • The Aggressive Growth/Saul Approach - This is clearly an approach that is designed for those who are very hands-on and actively seek out great companies at great prices and are not at all hesitant to dig into company financials, SEC reports, quarterly earnings, read all sorts of news articles and understand and know who the leaders of their companies are and how they think.

Matt’s article was very much intended for that middle group, which is probably the vast majority of the Stock Advisor and greater Motley Fool community base. Saul’s board, and his investing paradigm are not that type of person. The people in the first two groups actually can not do what is done here on this board. They don’t have it in them. It’s actually impossible for them to even comprehend how it’s done, and likely wouldn’t even believe what they read here were they to be confronted with the evidence.

I experienced exactly that reaction from the person I was discussing the index fund thesis with. He was going on about digging into researching different index funds, all to squeeze out an extra couple of points of performance by investing in 3 or 4 different indexes vs. just one. When I asked him why he bothered, he said because index funds are proven to be the best investments. He thought I was insane for claiming to have have averaged a 30% ROI over 10 years. He thought I should write a book, because even the best hedge fund managers can’t achieve that! And he nearly flipped out on me when I told him that what I do wasn’t hard, and that I’m nothing special at all. Lots of people do this, and way better than me!

So, no, I don’t think that this board presents any challenge to this wisdom, since this wisdom is meant for people very, very different from those on this board. We have a different type of wisdom those people are not yet ready to hear, and many may never be ready to hear it. The wisdom here is only for those ready to hear it, and ready to act on it.

Paul - who was ready for this wisdom a decade ago, but found it barely 10 months ago…


The topic is OT and will likely get a gentle boot if it goes on, but from my experience since my '91 start, it does work. And almost comparable gains without doing much. Stock picking and timing are extremely important for best results. This is a great board and has a place for everyone, some more than others, but if you don’t think these companies can/will experience major drops - 50+% - then there are lessons ahead. But a topic much discussed here…when you are up 400%, it’s still good if it drops to 200% and so on. Most of them will recover.

Anyhow, my '97 AMZN shares have gained 100,000% (cost basis $2). You won’t get that without holding long term, and admittedly, it does take a certain mindset. All purchased 8-10 years ago and all up anywhere between 600 and 3000+% is aapl, goog, bkng, cost, unh, sbux, ipgp, isrg, nflx and exel. Solid companies. Many others on the same timeline with 3-500%. The Great Recession was very good to me, as I had cash, but the one amzn investment was a life changer.

I really like this board, it’s one of the best ever here, and I’ve been around these boards for a very long time. But the chatter about ltbh not working is a bit misguided and gets old for me.



Conifer - hear you loud and clear. I could have spoken more directly. It’s extraordinary to me that what appears to be, by far, the most successful method in the history of Fooldom is not given more publicity, ideally even a newsletter “Concen-Trader” or whatever the heck it would be called. 99 out of 100 Fools don’t have the time, temperament or skillset to execute this method alone. I will not post on this further, but calling for a bigger spotlight to be shone on this incredible performance is about as on topic as any post in the history of Fooldom. This is beyond whether or not LTBH is best or not. Okay, I’m done now. I will clog the board with this no more. Fool On! BD

1 Like

I think we have to characterize somewhat this idea that Saul buys to hold it. Certainly he says he has the intention but he never does hold more than 1 or 2 years because his criteria to hold cannot be satisfied over the short period he is looking at things.He also go back and forth (trading in and out) trying to decide if he wants to up his position. Again the short timeframe he is considering cannot allow anyone to really clarify anything about the business direction.

Lately if one does not see >50%(or something like that) top line growth or if the growth softens for 1 or 2 quarters, it would be concluded that ‘growth is decelerating’ so it is ground to sell especially if the stock has a >20 P/S or very high forward expectations.
Most of the time, the situation cannot really be assessed in a few quarters time. The decision is taken considering what happened over too short a timeframe (e.g. 1 or 2 quarters). Expectations can be formed at lightening speed but the realization and the reflection in the numbers are never that fast. Also, the business trajectory is never a straight line up, and the stock is volatile as expectations are changing or flipping over a dime.

The other good reason why the stock is not held is because one thinks he can put that money in faster growing stocks: ‘I have better places to put that money’. It always baffles me how one can know that.