Motley Fool One is the premier investment service offered by the Motley Fool. It’s the baby of Tom Gardner, the CEO of the Motley Fool, and has its roots in Duke Street, which was a more streamlined version of the service.
I’ve been a member of the service since March of 2013, the last time they opened up the membership to the public. Now at the 1 year mark, I figured it was a good time to take a step back and evaluate my experience. They are also opening up the service again in March 2014, so perhaps my review will be helpful to those of you considering signing up this time around.
For a quick view of whether Motley Fool One is right for you, see my post from last year: Is Motley Fool One Worth It?
As part of Motley Fool One, members can access every service Motley Fool offers. This to me has always been, and still is, the key selling point of Motley Fool One. You get full access to each and every newsletter, research report, interview, and trade recommendation that Motley Fool offers. One day you can read up on the latest strangle options trade from their Motley Fool Options newsletter, and the next day learn how to hedge your portfolio via shorts in Motley Fool Pro, or study up on the nuances of MLPs in James Early’s Income Investor.
Being the investing junkie that I am, I have been making full use of this unfettered access, and have been exposed to investment ideas and strategies I wouldn’t necessarily have considered otherwise. And since some investment recommendations overlap across multiple services, you get the benefit of extended coverage and multiple viewpoints of those recommendations. This access has already borne tangible fruit for my portfolio. For example, a few months ago I executed a short term options trade on a highly volatile stock recommended by Motley Fool Special Ops that I wouldn’t have otherwise felt comfortable pulling the trigger on without getting additional analysis from the Special Ops team. I’ve also invested money in a European stock recommended by Inside Value that’s up 19% already in just a few months. A few more option trades or investments like this and the all-access pass will have covered the cost of membership itself.
I would say 80% of my use of Motley Fool One has been this all access pass, and I’ve been very happy with it. That being said, it’s sometimes difficult to keep up with all the content and updates and I have found myself recently being much more selective in what I read. They do offer customization options whereby you can choose what content and updates you receive, so that can help you if you start feeling overwhelmed.
“Top Recs” & “Best of the Best Buys”
Motley Fool One has 2 features which attempts to curate the top recommendations across all the various Motley Fool services.
The Top Recs is a monthly feature where the Motley Fool One team ranks the best investment recommendations across all their services. The Best of the Best Buys is a quarterly feature which is similar to the Top Recs feature but provides a shorter list of recommendations with more in depth write-ups on those picks.
If you don’t closely follow all of the Motley Fool services, these two features are an easy way to get exposed to a ranked list of all the trades the Motley Fool has recommended. At some point, I will run an analysis to see how these “Top Recs” and “Best of the Best” have performed, but for now, I only casually peruse these lists, not making any trades based strictly on what they post here. If my analysis turns up anything interesting, I’ll post it here on my site.
But this is an example of where members can get confused by how to use Motley Fool One. For example, if these are the best recommendations across all the services, why not invest in these stocks as opposed to the Everlasting Portfolio? And if a member follows the Pro Portfolio, should they try to invest in some of these recommendations as well? There are 2 schools of thought here: one is that the more information made available, the better informed you will be as an investor. The other is that this proves Motley Fool One is unfocused and just throwing up hundreds of trade recommendations to see what will stick. Personally I am in the first camp, and appreciate the additional inputs. But if these lists were to go away, I wouldn’t consider it a big loss.
The Everlasting Portfolio is Tom Gardner’s portfolio of stocks that he intends to hold for the “ultra-long term”. They invest $100,000 each quarter in 5 stocks equally. Tom also invests his personal money in these same stocks, and has committed that these will be the only stocks he will ever own, and pledges to hold all stocks for at least 5 years. Although the portfolio’s performance has vastly improved over the last few months, I’m taking a wait and see approach and I have not made any investing decisions purely on what they are doing. Some of my personal investments do overlap with theirs however, and so it is helpful to get the additional coverage they provide on those stocks. Basically I use the Everlasting portfolio as another data point to guide my own investments.
Ayco Financial Planning and the Financial Planning Tool
So I will be honest that I have not really used these aspects of the Motley Fool One service. A lot of fanfare was made about the addition of this service (details described here) during the last membership drive, but it was never a draw for me. I did try to use the Financial Planning Tool when I first joined, connecting my brokerage accounts, and entering all the other manual inputs, but I found the process clunky. Then the system spit out its so-called personalized trade recommendations for me, and I did not find them helpful at all. It wanted me to sell most of my bond holdings and go almost entirely into equities. The equities trades the tool recommended also seemed to pick from the most risky of the Motley Fool recommendations. Then the Motley Fool One team followed up with a lot of announcements about how they would improve the tool and the recommendation engine, soliciting a lot of feedback. I am not sure why the Motley Fool released a financial planning tool that they acknowledged still needed a fair amount of development. Based on my brief experience, I would go so far as to say leaving the tool open to their members bordered on irresponsible. After a couple months and hearing that they had made a lot of improvements to the tool, I decided to give it another shot. However I immediately ran into some technical glitches, and it turned me off to the tool and I gave up.
So this aspect of Motley Fool One is a failure from where I stand.
I haven’t bothered to go back into it the last couple months, but will keep an ear open to see if they make substantial improvements.
In terms of the Ayco Financial Planners that members can access, I have yet to make a call to them. I’ve heard some positive things about the service however, but I have not yet been compelled to utilize it. There are a few financial planning questions I could ask them, but I never got around to it. It occurred to me that I should call Ayco before writing this review, but I think the fact that I have not felt compelled to call them, says something in itself. But again, you may find this more useful, depending on your needs.
I really like the EP One weekly audio podcast. Similar to the publicly available Motley Fool Money and Market Foolery podcasts, they cover investing highlights of the past week, often doing deep dives on a particular Everlasting Portfolio company or macro investing topics. Hosted primarily by Chris Hill and Jason Moser, it’s a nice, tight format, and the content is useful, and even entertaining at times. It’s a small part of the service but one of my favorites.
Is Motley Fool One worth it?
That of course is the most important question, and at the end of the day, the most difficult to answer. I think it very heavily depends on personal circumstances and interests. For me, yes, it’s been worth it, even though I’ve so far been using limited pieces of the service. As mentioned above it has benefitted my bottom line, and maybe more importantly, I am constantly learning something new.
I think the key from a cost perspective is signing up for the longest term membership available. It’s a bigger up front investment, but if you amortize the cost across a number of years, it makes a lot more sense. Alternative, and less expensive, portfolio services I would recommend are Motley Fool Supernova for beginner to intermediate level investors, or Motley Fool Pro for advanced investors.
I’m still within the limits of my one year money back guarantee. So if I chose, I could cancel today and get all my money back (which in and of itself is an amazing perk they offer!). But I am satisfied enough with Motley Fool and Motley Fool One that I will keep my membership.
Make sure to check out my performance posts here to see how the Everlasting Portfolio has done. And let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.
And take a look at some of my favorite investing books and blogs here.