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Financial Literacy - Financial tuneup
Phil Town's rules on investing
The author violates all the conventional rules and goes for broke in his portfolio. (Don't try this at home.)
Investment tuneup

Interview: Phil Town

If Wall Street were a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, Phil Town would be the little boy pointing and laughing at the emperor's new clothes, or lack thereof.

At a glance

By turns a Vietnam Green Beret, Grand Canyon river guide and spiritual seeker of enlightenment, Town's life on the fringes of society changed when he saved a raft from treacherous rapids on the Colorado River. One of the thankful survivors was a successful San Diego investor who, in turn, volunteered to save Town's financial future by teaching him the ropes of investing.

Blending Zen with Wall Street, Town's anyone-can-do-this advice, in his best-seller "Rule #1," amounts to: Don't lose money, find great companies, know their worth and acquire them at 50 percent off. Beyond that, he says the traditional advice -- invest in mutual funds, diversify, buy and hold -- is strictly for losers.

Let's cut to the chase: What's wrong with mutual funds?

First, if you intend to stay ignorant about investing, if you don't intend to get the education to tell a good business from a not-very-good business, you're going to have to give your money to somebody and let them invest it. In that case, the bad choice of the choices is mutual funds. They're going to take nearly a percentage point a year and they're not going to deliver anything that an index fund doesn't deliver. So just go and get an index stock fund. Buy SPDRs or Diamonds (Dow Jones ETFs) or the Nasdaq and be done with it. Then you won't have all these management fees and you're going to (earn) the index for sure, which is the best you can do in a mutual fund over any 20-year period of time anyway. So you might as well do an index.

-- Posted: Oct. 22, 2007
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