Internet Investor: The fool's approach to investment is not to be jeered at

After the way the stock market has been behaving recently, plenty of investors, both professional and private, may be feeling a little foolish about some of their investment decisions. However, there is one website which glories in its foolishness - The Motley Fool.

The original Motley Fool site was first established in the US in 1993, which makes it positively ancient by web standards. In an interview on the business television channel CNBC, one of the Fool's founders, Tom Gardner, commented: "It's your time horizon, really. We concern ourselves with 15 and 20-year returns. And the market has often focused just on the next 15 to 20 minutes."

The Motley Fool name comes directly from Shakespeare's As You Like It. Jacques says in Act II, scene VII: "A fool, a fool, I see a fool i' the forest, a motley fool", going on to say "I am ambitious for a motley coat" and "Motley's the only wear".

Motley was the particoloured garment worn by Elizabethan court jesters.

The jester, as well as being a sort of medieval stand-up comedian and clown rolled into one, was also the only chap who could get away with telling home truths to the monarch without having his head removed from his shoulders.

The Motley Fool's stated aims are to educate, amuse, and enrich the individual investor, "to prove to you that the best person to manage your money is YOU on the grounds that no one will have your financial well-being as close to their heart as you do yourself".

The site looks to demonstrate that the key to investment success is doing one's homework and that such "homework" can be fun.

The website is dedicated to creating wealth by investing in shares and only shares: not options, not futures, not commodities. The Fool is not even particularly fond of unit trusts and other mutual funds, given the costs of poorly performing fund managers.

Unusually, the Motley Fool is "foolish enough" to put its money where its mouth is. In addition to all the information and instruction the site carries, it also runs three real-money model portfolios: the Fool Portfolio; the Boring Portfolio and the Drip Portfolio.

These demonstrate methods of portfolio management and are the closest the site actually comes to giving stock "tips". However, to ensure that it is not laid open to charges of price manipulation, any changes to the portfolios are announced in advance of trade.

On the web, the Motley Fool is targeted at a US audience. However, it also offers a service designed for UK investors. Fool UK is part of the services offered by AOL UK.

It does not tout specific investment products. The website makes its money from carrying advertising, usage charges paid by AOL, and selling books and a variety of other products in the Foolshop online.

Fool UK includes share prices, a guide to "Beat the Footsie", what it claims is an idiot-proof 10-step guide to investing in the UK market and daily market news.

In addition to this site content, Fool UK offers message boards where AOL members can share their own investment ideas.

If you already have web access you can see the US Motley Fool site but you will not be able to view Fool UK unless you are a member of AOL.

AOL, which used to call itself America Online but now prefers the acronym, claims to be the largest internet service provider in the world, with 10 million members, including more than 250,000 in the UK. If you are not an AOL member, you can download AOL software and take out trial membership from the AOL website.

The Motley Fool website:

www.fool.com

AOL: www.aol.co.uk

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