I received the following email from TMF's Customer Service Department: Dear imdajunkman,If you haven't already seen it, please check out this week's issue of Hot Topics.http://www.fool.com/community/hottopics/2006/ht061102.htmWe chose one of your discussion board messages to spotlight in this week's issue, and I wanted to take a moment to extend my thanks for your participation in the Fool Community. I believe that the Fool Community has the most thoughtful, diligent, passionate, and intelligent discussions around. By participating, you raise the bar for everyone else. You also set a good example for how others should contribute. Thank you. As a small token of our appreciation, we're adding an additional month of membership to everyone whose message was selected. It's our way of saying thank you, and also hopefully ensuring that you continue to remain part of the Fool Community for a long time to come. If you receive more than one of these emails, more than one message was used, and you receive a month's service extension for each. Thanks again and I'll see you out on the boards!Richard Dressner TMFTwittyThe post they selected was the one I did on target-maturity funds. I don't agree with their choice. The post was light-weight. I was in a mood to argue. So I picked a straw-man to knock over. In subsequent discussion, genuinely important points were made, specifically, the demonstration, yet again, of the conceptual inadequacy of using the Lehmann Aggregate index –-which VBMFX tracks-- as a proxy for the total bond market. Its advocates fail to understand the difference between using indexes as economic tools and using indexes as portfolio tools. But investing is as much a faith-based endeavor as is politics, so arguing with believers is pointless. The post was the ninth one of mine that TMF has selected as HOT TOPIC since I rejoined the 'Fool on 12/27/05. Do the math. Today is 11/03/06, or a holding period of 0.85255 years (as computed by Excel's YEARFRAC function). An annual membership is $30, so a free month is worth $2.50. Nine free months times $2.50 is a YTD gain of $22.50 and an annualized return of 92.78%, which isn't shabby. The closest I'm coming to that kind of return on any of my other accounts is my ROTH. There, I'm up (as of yesterday) 33.9% or an annualized 41.8%. That is the kind of money that can be made in bond investing IF a person is willing to do his (or her) own thinking and his or her own work. This means taking risks and being willing to be wrong a lot of the time, all the while managing the losses so they are smaller than gains. Or as a trader would say, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to make money?” which is a distinction that academics persistently fail to understand and why what they say about investing is mostly worthless. Now, let's attempt to quantify that risk and that work. To date (but not including this post), I've put up 692 posts. 9 were selected as Hot Topic. That's a success ratio of 1.3%. I would say that 99% (or more) of what I post is throw-away material. No matter the effort I put into the post to create it, and no matter its length –which regularly averages 1,000 words and occasionally has hit 2,500 words, or the equivalent of a ten-page term paper— there will be little to be found of obvious value in those posts. At best, a sentence or two might be of significance. The trick becomes that of determining which are the sentences that might have usefulness to one's own journey. But rather than devise means for sifting the chaff from the wheat of others' posts, the better strategy is to do one's own thinking from the getgo, which is why I often won't defend a position against attackers. The position was provisional. It was an attempt to understand a very complex subject. It was only a tiny part of the whole puzzle. It was merely one footprint left along the shore of a lake as I passed by. The winds and sands of time and further exeperience will fill it soon enough, leaving all as it was before I came that way. Read my posts, or ignore them as you choose. I write for myself, because I'm trying to solve problems that interest me. That TMF selects some of my posts and gives them wider distribution is their choice and one that I don't necessarily agree with, however flattering it might be. It's their club, and they can run it as they choose. And if I can free-ride, I'll do so, because a writer needs an audience. No matter how silent an audience might for the most part be, or how dominated it might become by chatters, a writer has to believe, first, in his own integrity, and then, secondly, in that of his readers. The problems of fixed-income investing are interesting, and –-I would argue-- they are solvable as long as every thing and every one is relentlessly and mercilessly questioned, which –-you'll remember-- was the founding principle of the Motley Fool forum: to question the conventional “wisdoms” and to gain a bit of fun and profit. So, my thanks to those who read my posts in the spirit in which they were intended, as explorations, not as final truths. Charlie
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