Is Motley Fool One Still Worth It?

I recently wrote about my Motley Fool One membership expiring and as a result I need to figure out not only what will become of this site but also what this will do to my own investing process.
To begin answering those questions I need to think back to why I initially signed up for Motley Fool One.

In 2013, I got what in hindsight was a very good deal. I paid $2,000 per year for 5 years which was a significant amount of money, but compared to the current rate of $4,6001 per year seems like a steal2.

At that point in time I had been a member of various Motley Fool premium services and had been investing on my own for many years using varying strategies with varying degrees of success. I had learned quite a lot from the Motley Fool over the years, and I had reached a point in my life where I wanted to focus more on investing. At that same time, Motley Fool launched their revamped version of their all inclusive premium service, including Tom Gardner’s Everlasting Portfolio. It seemed like a great opportunity to leverage the resources of the Motley Fool while fine-tuning my investing strategy. So I signed up.

At the same time, I launched this site as a way to bring some transparency to the Motley Fool services. As much as I appreciated what Motley Fool had done for me and countless others, it had it’s shortcomings, most glaringly it’s misleading marketing and lack of transparency on it’s real performance. So I figured this site could serve two purposes – not only did I see this as a way to help other amateur investors out there, but it also served as a way for me to focus my own attempt at figuring out how to maximize the value I received from Motley Fool. At the time, Motley Fool One was definitely worth it for me.

Five years later, the Motley Fool One has changed in many ways.

They’ve invested a lot in the site itself, modernizing the look and feel, and adding some more sophisticated tools for tracking and researching stocks. Philosophically, they’ve maintained much of their core as a purveyor of various flavors of buy and hold investing in their classic services, but they’ve also begun expanding by repackaging much of their content in ways that are both more sophisticated but also much less high touch. It’s a much more effective business model for them if they can pull it off, but provides less value to the average unsophisticated investor, which is the market they’ve typically targeted.

So is Motley Fool One worth it now?

To answer this question, the good news is that I can turn to some of my own coverage. If I look at one article titled “Is Motley Fool One Worth It?” and my follow up “1 Year Review” I cited these main considerations:

  1. Cost / Portfolio Size
  2. Time available to allocate to spend on the service

And these primary selling points:

  1. VIP membership within the community including invitations to member events
  2. Access to all their premium services, including any new ones they develop in the future.
  3. Access to Tom Gardner’s Everlasting Portfolio

Taking these somewhat out of order, in the five years I’ve been a member I have never attended a single member event. But I knew that I likely never would, even at the time I signed up, so it was never a real selling point for me.

Regarding access to the Everlasting Portfolio, I have never purchased a single recommendation from the EP, and I rarely even read their content. Whereas the original philosophy of the Everlasting Portfolio was appealing to me, they’ve since started offering option trade suggestions and most recently, a short selling component. At this point it begins to feel gimmicky and unfocused and if you’re looking for options trades and shorting, they’ve already got a service that does those things better, in an integrated fashion, called Motley Fool Pro.

Access to all their services. This always was the main attraction for me. Being able to see every single stock recommendation and read all the analysis was key to my investing education and development. But having analyzed the various services in depth, this aspect has become less valuable to me. First, there are a number of services that I have come to realize don’t provide any real investing advantage and/or don’t fit into my investing strategy. Their track records tend to be spotty, relying on a handful of mega successful stocks to inflate their returns. While that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing as most portfolios are driven by the success of a minority of investments (the 80/20 rule of investing), most of the mega-winners overlap across services and therefore make the remaining picks for those services even less relevant. As a result I have come to ignore a number of services entirely.

As it relates to the new services they’ve rolled out in recent years (Discovery, Total Income, Explorer, etc.), these services are generally just repackaging existing content without much value add beyond that. In the case of Discovery portfolios, while these do offer new picks and are of some interest to me, the coverage they provide is extremely limited and therefore of limited value.

Availability of time. As mentioned previously, I am spending less time on investing, and the amount of content that is part of Motley Fool One, which was always difficult to manage, has become even more so with the expansion of services. From the point of view of this website, the expansion of services is also challenging – how to provide quality and timely analysis across all these services?

So where are the bright spots? There are a few services that I still think provide real value. A couple of the portfolios they run have been successful, and follow a solid investing process. Some of the advisors are top notch and the educational value from their community forums is still really high. And ultimately, having access to a staff of research analysts vetting and making me aware of investing opportunities, even if I ultimately ignore them, is incredibly useful, especially as I look to spend less of my time on investing.

So all of this brings us to the first consideration: the cost of Motley Fool One. With the price of Motley Fool One now up 130%, is it’s value to me up at least the same? Based on all of the above, it’s fairly clear that the answer is no.

So if Motley Fool One is not right for me anymore, which, if any, of the Motley Fool services are right for me, and what is the future of this site?

More to come in the following weeks.

Footnotes

  1. This is my best estimate based on data points I have: a confirmed $4300/year for 3 years at a time when the one-year rate was $7000 vs. the current one year rate of $8500.
  2. Good thing to keep in mind that when they talk about prices potentially moving up, so lock in now, they aren’t kidding!
{ 9 comments… add one }
  • Bill Herndon February 12, 2018, 1:03 pm

    KEVIN/
    My thoughts are similar to yours…excepting I would like to chime-in on two incremental points….1) I joined solely for access to “Touchstone”…I spent endless hours working with them on improvements and fixes that would have made is an “OK” offering…and when they killed it, I almost took a refund but reluctantly stayed-on. I will definitely not renew MF1…perhaps one service only…perhaps none….and 2) I had a taxable and an IRA in two “they manage a/c’s” at Inieractive Brokers…both did satisfactorily well for me.

    Reply
    • Kevin February 12, 2018, 9:18 pm

      Yes, Bill, I didn’t even mention Touchstone, as I never liked the tool at all (agree it was an essentially unusable tool when rolled out), but that’s another part of the service that is no longer on offer.

      Reply
  • Deb February 12, 2018, 4:58 pm

    Hello Kevin,
    Thanks for the info you have been publishing. Over many years I have tried most of the MF services: Million Dollar Portfolio, SuperNova, MF1, Everlasting Portfolio.
    I was most impressed with the SuperNova portfolio. I’m not into Options. I’ve basically honed it down to Rule Breakers and Stock Advisor. My favorite public board is Saul’s. I am weary of the constant MF marketing/teases.
    Regards,
    Deb

    Reply
    • Kevin February 12, 2018, 9:19 pm

      Thanks, Deb. Agree on Saul’s board – it’s an amazing resource and one I’ll be using even more in the future.

      Reply
  • Andy February 12, 2018, 8:17 pm

    I haven’t used MF1, but have benefited from a year or two in each of Pro, Supernova, Options, and much longer subscriptions to MDP, SA and the other newsletters. One thing I started to really consider is my own “MER”; how much I’m spending on Fool, Morningstar, and one or two other sites, vs the gains from investments based on those subscriptions. I suspect quite a few subscribers can overindulge and spend more on investment advice and sources than the gains they might be making, or at least drag down the overall gains too much. I wonder how many are overspending?
    Your site was useful in understanding which services are closer to what I wanted, plus the commentary on why certain services had gains or Tom’s vs David’s style for example.
    Staying in a service only while it correlates with the kinds of recs that are useful or until one has learned as much on options or pro techniques as one actually want to exercise, makes sense. Right now I have SA, Pro Canada, SA Canada, added HG CA. Didn’t really like Discovery. Displeased at the hype for Crypto but it motivated me to look into that. Some services like SN only seem beneficial, if a large amount is committed to following their recs for many years.
    Even if you drop MF1 and can’t continue updating these performance stats, they’ll continue to be useful insight for other people for 2 to 4 years.
    Andy

    Reply
    • Kevin February 12, 2018, 9:25 pm

      Thanks Andy, I appreciate the comments. I agree on the overspending – there’s definitely an educational value to MF (and MF1) that shouldn’t be discounted but ultimately these services should be helping you make more money than you are spending.

      Reply
  • Lance Thompon February 14, 2018, 11:08 pm

    Just too much info and with my other news letters I have more than enough. Also it seems as soon as I take another MF service they soon follow with “something better”. I will be cutting back to just one or two of their basic newsletters.

    Reply
  • TW February 15, 2018, 4:17 pm

    Kevin –

    Thanks for this. I am curious to see which way you go. I wonder if you have an opinion on their latest crazy marketing scheme around crypto. It purports to be a less risky method to expose you to that space, all for the bargain price of 4k for one year, 6k for 2 years less discounts through other services you may already be subscribed to.

    I would love to see an one year comparison from now of someone who took 10k, spent 4 of it on this service, spent the remainder following their advice (which I assume is centered around securities which hold bitcoin and other cryptos, rather than investing in them directly) then compare that plan to taking the 10k and directly buying some combination of bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, dash, monero, and perhaps one or two of the other better known currencies. It would be fun to see if the Fool’s advice would be worth the price.

    Reply
    • Kevin February 15, 2018, 10:11 pm

      I understand that MF feels the need to address the cryptocurrency and blockchain phenomenon and provide some coverage and resources for their members (and general public) because whether you think it’s just a fad or not, it’s an investable asset that’s been dominating the headlines. If you are in the investing space you can’t just ignore it. But I would never buy those stocks they recommend because of their ties to cryptocurrencies and blockchain – for the most part their success is not going to be driven by their ties to this new technology. Better to invest a small amount of money in the actual currencies themselves and be directly tied into the success (or failure) of it. So yes, just take that 4k and invest $2k in BTC or ETH or LTC and put the other 2k in an online savings account and after 4 years you will at least have your 2k left and potentially a lot more.

      Reply

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