In this podcast, we dig into the latest Rule Breaker Investing mailbag and check in with Jennifer Gennaro Oxley to answer your questions about the Fool Foundation.
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This video was recorded on April 27, 2022.
David Gardner: There was a lot going on this April in the world at large, and a lot going on on this podcast too. For the world at large, wow, a European war creating economic conditions increasingly harmful to the stock market, which has been really weak. Let’s talk about that up front this week. But for this podcast, two critical subjects like financial freedom which kicked off this month, and our own mortality, which featured an entire dinner dedicated to it, a first for this podcast, maybe for any other, played a big role in Rule Breaker Investing this past month. They generated responses, yours, some compelling thoughts, stories, reactions as always, because it’s Mailbag, only on this week’s Rule Breaker Investing.
FEMALE_1: It’s the Rule Breaker Investing Podcast with Motley Fool Co-Founder, David Gardner.
David Gardner: Welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing. What a week. A lot happening in the world this week. Of course, the Russian aggression into Eastern Europe continues to dominate the headlines. But wow, so too did Elon Musk buying Twitter and Elon is such an attention magnate anyway, and Twitter is a platform of a lot of people who make noise. I hope mostly productive. I try to make some productive noise and I appreciate Twitter. Some people avoid it like the plague. Some people may want to start avoiding it as a consequence of Elon’s purchase, assuming that goes through. Others may be attracted to it for the first time. I think Twitter is a wonderful company. I appreciate the platform. Whether or not it was a good deal at $44 billion, I don’t have a strong opinion there, but it certainly is an interesting topic. I’m not going to spend too much time talking about it because I think if you want to your anybody say what they think about Elon buying Twitter, well, you can find that information. It is headlines everywhere, at least those of us who are stock market clients. I feel like it has been beaten to death already. But for this podcast this week, well, it’s our Mailbag episode. Of course, the April that was was a really interesting, a unique April.
Looking back at other April’s, other April’s may have looked like other April’s in this podcast in its seven years. But this April well, it began with the first day of the month, April Fool’s Day, and an announcement that we have launched the Motley Fool Foundation, whose purpose is financial freedom for all. I hope you enjoyed the first podcast this month, which was introducing the Motley Fool Foundation with our Executive Director, Jennifer Gennaro Oxley, and George Khalaf, our program director was a wonderful conversation. I got some tweets and some mailbag item speaking to that. The theme there, it’s going to be financial freedom if there are two big themes to this month’s mailbag, one of them, It’s financial freedom. Then if you were listening to this podcast, either or both of the past two weeks. I could imagine some people may have intentionally avoided this podcast either or both of the past couple of weeks, which in a way is part of the problem, but I’m not judging, refocused on death. Or another way of thinking about it is your mortality, my mortality and inevitability. But especially the value of talking about, especially with those who are going to come after you. They understand your intentions and desires. There’s so much human tragedy born of a surprise diagnosis or outcome stressful decisions having to be made by loved ones who don’t feel fully prepared because we never talked about it. While we did talk about it over dinner on this month’s podcast, Michael Hebb joining us for the second week talking about his wonderful book.
Let’s talk about Death over Dinner. Then last week, I think it was a tour to force. Think this one’s going to make besties 2022. That was an actual Death over Dinner with me, my wife Margaret, Michael, RMC, and several talented friends, including return of periods by Jennifer Gennaro Oxley among others. Jennifer is going to be joining me this podcast to talk some about financial freedom. We probably won’t talk too much about death, but the second chapter of this month’s podcast was certainly about mortality and the importance of acknowledging it and discussing it. On the backend of this show, I have a few wonderful mailbag items speaking to that. That’s really where we’re focused now. If you’re a Mailbag veteran, we’ve been doing these dozens of times. You probably would expect me to start to show how I usually do, which is hot takes from Twitter, speaking of Twitter. Let’s do it.
I have to speaking to the Financial Freedom part of this month’s podcast and at this week’s Mailbag, the first one from @HarleyMCarol. Harley, I appreciated this defining financial freedom. Harley says, “I often say that financial freedom is doing what I want, when I want, with whom I want, and how I want.” I think that’s a wonderful definition of financial freedom. Thank you for that, Harley. Doing what you want, when you want, with whom you want, and how you want. Then Alice, @Alice73116809, “I wonder if those numbers have meaning. I’m not that into numerology,” but Alice love this as well. She defines financial freedom this way. It’s when you have money left to buy you the time you need to do what you like. Some nice overlap between those two definitions. Defining financial freedom is a creative act. It’s something that a lot of us probably bringing our own unique angle on, and yet like other big topics like leadership, there are probably about a 100 different ways to define leadership and at least a 100 different ways to define financial freedom. But thank you, Harley and Alice, for those thoughts and Jennifer is coming up shortly to discuss more about financial freedom and react to some of your wonderful questions and thoughts about the Motley Fool Foundation introduced earlier this month. But before we get there, let me share two more tweets. This one is from Mark Katz @actualkatz talking about Death over Dinner. Mark wrote really good show, didn’t know about Michael Hebb or hashtag Death over Dinner. “This topic is top of mind,” Mark writes, “We surveyed 10,000 t people and found that 50 percent of men and 51 percent of millennials actively avoid thinking about death. The lists findings that report.wealth.com.
This is the 2022 of the state planning report. The state planning trends and Mark obviously working doing surveys within that industry. Thank you for sharing that. Yes, half of all guys don’t talk about it and half of all millennials actively don’t want to talk about it. I guess that’s something good about women and older people. I’m assuming by inference that women and older people do a better job at this. I think we should follow their example. My fourth and final tweet, this one certainly brought a smile to my face. This is from NYC Fool, @foolnyc. Now this is not one of our employees. This is just a fan, but thank you @foolnyc, this was sent six days ago, “Was feeling down about the market and the general trend of things. Thought I turned to my favorite optimist at David G. Fool’s podcast to see what he’s talking about.” NYC Fool writes, “Death. He’s talking about death.” NYC Fool includes that emoji, the face with tears of joy emoji. Well, I’m going to use that as an opportunity to speak to the market right now with Rule Breaker Investing Mailbag item number one this month. Because I think we should talk about the stock market which has been horrific. It has been a horrible six months. I was just checking my own numbers.. I don’t know about you, but my net worth is down 38 percent since early November. So six months down 38 percent. That never feels good. Over the last seven years of doing this podcast, week-in and week-out, we’ve had quarters like that. I remember the last quarter of 2016. So December 2016-ish about six years ago.
I remember my portfolio was down 25 percent that quarter. This is not unprecedented at all. By the way, this has all happened before and it will all happen again. Which leads me if I want to say three things about this market, I think thing number one is just acknowledging that. People think it’s Epic to live through and hold through hard times. You’ll see people on social media. You might meet somebody near a water cooler and they’ll say things like, who would have held Amazon in the 90’s into 2001 when it went down from 95 to seven? Or who would have held Netflix back in 2011, remember Qwikster, when that high-flying stock lost more than two-thirds of its value inside a year. I hope you know this about me. I’ve have done both of those things. But it’s always made the sound like an epic achievement or something nobody would do. But not only have I done it, but I bet a lot of you have too. If you’ve been following the Motley Fool, knowing that the only term that counts is the long term. If you don’t try to time the market and the if you’re willing to sit there and look silly for six months or 18 months, if you’re open to the pain of a 38 percent drop in six months, practically getting cut in half inside a year, which really hurts. As I’ve said, on the roller-coaster, if you’re strapped in as a stock market investor for life, it’s a huge mistake to start guessing whether you should hop off or when.
The best thing that you can do is stay focused on great companies holding them through good times and bad because you’re going to see a lot of both. By the way, more good times than bad. There are a lot of bad things happening in the world right now. I see justification for the stock market having been so weak. I’m not just talking about high multiples, which we’ve all been living through, not just in 2021, but for years and years now with very low interest rates, as I’ve often taken pains to say, you’re always going to have very high multiples. People are pointing out the stock market looked richly valued in 2015 and ’17, ’19 and that’s because interest rates were so low with inflation. The highest it’s been in a few decades, which is not a good thing. Those are all reasons for the stock market to have come down. But really, I’m looking at the world at large, and I’m looking at the pain of unnecessary human conflict brought on by aggression, which is really old school and not called for anymore, I don’t think, and I’ve already spoken to this on this podcast and I hope you agree with me. I think this world needs more peace than violence, but that’s a big reason why the stock market should be weak.
Supply chain logistics already a problem coming out of the pandemic, all of a sudden has been greatly exacerbated by war in Europe. A phrase I wasn’t expecting to say in the latter half of my lifetime and something that I trust won’t last too much longer and I believe in happy endings, we’ll see how things play out. I know it’s going to take longer than most people would think. But overall, yeah, there are a lot of reasons the stock market should not be strong and we should not be at 52-week highs. I’m accepting of that. By the way, if you’ve been on this earth for more than a few decades, you’ve seen other bad times and other logical reasons why your stocks won’t be at their new highs. But you also, I hope, share my optimism. Making your portfolio reflect your best vision for our future. I believe the best force we have for good on this earth is entrepreneurship.
Are entrepreneurs the people who in each society think of a better new product or a better new service, a solution. The more we can enable the business world to solve our problems, the more we trade with each other and don’t want to attack each other, the better off things are going to be. I think there are very logical reasons why right now, your stocks in mind aren’t doing so well. Yet I have a profound optimism of the goodness of our future together. Thing number 1 is just understand that it’s not really that epic and achievement to hold through hard times. To hold individual stocks like Amazon or Netflix when they had really hard times in the past. Boy Netflix has had two horrible sell-offs. The last two quarters, it’s reported earnings that hasn’t felt good at all to me. But really forget about individual stocks, really just the whole market has been acting this way and it’s part of life, it’s happened before, and it will happen again in future. Yet, the stock market has averaged through good times and bad, nine percent or so annualized returns for the last century. I guess my two other things I want to say are really quicker points.
The first is if you’ve listened to my old podcast or read my essay, which you can google using Google, Meet the world’s worst investor. You know exactly how I’m feeling right now. For those of you for whom that phrase reminds you of that podcast which you can Google or that article which you can google and reread, you’re probably feeling it too. I just want you to know thing number two is everybody’s feeling this right now. It’s not just you and me or any regrets that you could’ve sold in 2021 or you should have solved. I don’t feel that way about myself even though I’m well down, but just recognize that everyone’s feeling and part of what I love about the Motley Fool, this podcast, our company, the culture that we’ve built up with a million-plus members over the years is there are so many others you can connect with who’re feeling the same way that you are. So many Fools have stayed connected through social media.
Even during times where we, as fellow employees, couldn’t see each other at work, or we have alternative face-to-face member gatherings. But it is that power of community. We’re going to speak to that a little bit later in this podcast, but that’s such an important thing to be reminded of. Please, if you’re feeling down, recognize that everybody else’s feeling the same, don’t let those feelings feed on yourself. Remember your inner Scheherazade and especially I’ll say the media, you’ll see financial media or the more trader oriented types often will make you feel like you’ve been at total fool small f for being invested in high-priced stocks that have also dramatically sold off. A lot of that, of course, is both true, but it’s Monday morning quarterbacking. That same mentality, those same people never did buy Amazon back in the day in the first place, or never did pay up to own many of the great companies like MercadoLibre or Etsy or other temporarily fallen stars that I think will rise once again. I would just counsel you not to let other people’s opinions that you’ve been a small f fool for being invested. I wouldn’t let those affect you too much. I hope you can get past that and just recognize I too feel like the world’s worst investor right now. But this isn’t the first time I felt that, it won’t be the last. Just take solace in that. As I’ve said a number of times, just keep swimming. Which reminds me of thing number three I wanted to say, which is, I did do a full podcast on this topic a month ago. It’s called market got you down. For a lot of you, I think you appreciated that podcast, I got a lot of great feedback around that. For those who need to hear it again, it’s there for you.
I speak at more length about this. I hope I encourage you, I remind you of the importance of staying invested all the way through good times and bad. Of course I rack my inner Dory just keep swimming. I tweeted out, I’m @DavidGFool, if you want to follow me on Twitter. I tweeted out in the past week this, I said in bull markets, I get busy tracking. In bear markets, I get busy living. Hashtag it works and it really does. I think it’s a lot of fun. I admittedly spend too much time checking how my stocks are doing when the market’s going up and recalculating all of the financial implications of that because it is real and it feels great. When the market start selling off, I’d do not obsess about those downtimes. I know the good times outweigh them and so I really swap getting busy tracking for getting busy living. In some sense is that NYC pool. That’s maybe why it was great to talk about depth this month. It was always part of the plan. By the way, I plan on my podcast a few months ahead of time, so I had no idea what April would actually be like when Michael had signed a board a few months ago to talk to us this month, but I’m really delighted that we had those important conversation. There it is. Rule Breaker Mailbag, item number one, so I felt compelled to speak to this horrible market, and I hope that was helpful. All right. Well, let’s go to Rule Breaker Mailbag item number two. Before I start reading this lovely note from Jason Moore, I want to say hello to my friend and compadre. Jennifer Gennaro Oxley. Jennifer, welcome back to Rule Breaker Investing.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Thanks, David. Happy to be here.
David Gardner: What a month for you? I mean, you were not just there at the start though. You were April Fool’s Day, the launch of The Motley Fool Foundation, but we had a memorable supper together on a totally different note last week. Thank you for being in it to win it all the way through.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: All the way.
David Gardner: All right, well, let’s stay in it to win it here and provide some winning responses to a number of thoughtful notes we got. As long as you can give me 20 minutes or so, Jennifer, let’s go over four together. Four mailbag items. A lot of interest certainly in the foundation, that’s announcement. Some good questions too. Let’s start off with this one, Rule Breaker Mailbag item number two, it comes from longtime fool Jason Moore. Hi David. I’m ready in about the April 6th episode highlighting the Motley Fool Foundation. I love getting to know a bit about the team and hearing the passion from both Jennifer and George. When you all speak about the work that the foundation is going to do in the upcoming years, your voices really come alive. It’s awesome to hear. I first want to just highlight what George said. Jason writes about how The Motley Fool has helped to demystify investing.
Now how the Motley Fool Foundation will be able to help demystify money. What a tremendous insight, the ability to bring financial literacy to a broader audience and help them understand, that finance doesn’t have to be a mystery, but instead can be predictable when you know what to look for. I also want to touch on the five key drivers of financial freedom and Jason, you’ll be glad to know Jennifer Jason does list them accurately housing, health, education, work, money. We often present them in that very same order, housing, health, education, work, money. But you spoke to a sixth and more abstract driver being mindset. It is indeed a critical piece. The one thing that the Motley Fool does well is connect it’s members and help build up the community. Jason writes and I love this. We’re going to discuss this. He writes I think this is a seventh driver, community that can act like the glue for the previous six.
A community helps people immediately feel welcomed and supported as they start their journey to financial freedom. As members grow and learn, they will find new roles to help both learn and explore, but also start to support the others around them. This in turn will help to build confidence in their knowledge and skills. As they become financially free, they’ll provide the opportunity to give back and stay connected by serving others. I love this model, Jason. I think he actually have came up with it himself, but anyway, I love it too, congratulations to the whole team and I look forward to seeing what lies ahead. Fool on Jason Moore. Well Jennifer, you and I have talked about that sixth driver, which we do often label as mindset and The Motley Fool, I think really does a good job with that. Do you still agree that even if you have housing, health, education, work, and money, which are the key drivers they must all be present. For financial freedom, if you don’t have the right mindset, you could probably make bad decisions about those and quickly fall out of financial freedom. But more to Jason’s point here. How about that seventh? Awesome. What do you think? What do you see as the role that community has in the Motley Fool Foundation?
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: I really appreciate Jason’s point of view and I’m just going to be clear. I came here because of the Fool community. One of the main reasons I came because two-thirds of Americans remain financially unstable. It’s a very stubborn number. Something’s not working. I think we have the key and something we call Fool fuel in our community. It is those five drivers. Are they connected? Are they working well in their own system? Do people have the mindset and the agency? The financial literacy? Which we’ll talk about maybe later, and do people have the community that they need to not only be the glue, but also the fuel to actually accelerate change and their own change and that. Let me just give a quick example.
I just came back from an event in South Carolina where earlier we talked about our dinner at your house, which was amazing group of people talking about financial freedom and the possibilities. I’m down in South Carolina with two Fools. I’m going to talk about them here because they are amazing Neal and Joy Grayson. Those Fools hosted a reception for the foundation speaking of community. As a woman, women organized in community. This is also a concept that I know at the core. They invited friends from all walks of life in Greenville, South Carolina. The outcome was a community of people and Fools that are already fueling the movement. They are already doing major things and financial that are seeing credit building, etc, and they were raring to go with us. They were so excited to potentially work with the Fool Foundation to scale the work nationally and locally. The biggest thing that happened at the end of that dinner was not only this recognition that we can do something about this, it needs to be done in that community is the best way for us to make it happen.
David Gardner: I love that you say that I love that Jason underlying that. I especially appreciate that the Graysons were living demonstrations of that by bringing members of their community in Greenville, South Carolina. A wide mix of people, all of whom see the power and benefits of financial freedom for all. All in your neighborhood, all in your county, all in your state, all in our nation, which is at least our initial focus is just domestically, primarily for the Motley Fool Foundation. We did talk about Death Over Dinner, but it sounds like you’ve just got back from, let’s talk about financial freedom over dinner or at least cocktails. Did anything jump out to you? Is there a story or anything that reminds you of the importance of community?
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Yes. First of all, there are people in the room from corporate, political, nonprofits, and what I found in that room, is that three of the organizations had already partnered to launch financial literacy programs at organizations where we typically see the coping segment. Restaurants and otherwise where people really are working hard and struggling. These people had actually connected already to do this kind of thing. They knew people are falling through the cracks, and when they told me about it, I thought, oh, this is just exactly what we need to be doing at the foundation in the sense that one of our roles is to highlight the amazing work these communities are doing, especially our full members like Jason and other listeners. Then to look at those interventions and say which ones we really need to double down on, and that’s something we’ll talk about later as well. But there are many examples.
David Gardner: But I know how much energy you bring and Jennifer, and it’s in part, I think as you get so much energy from the community, which as you mentioned, is a big reason why you are with us at The Motley Fool, and I’m just excited to hear that story and to think about the importance of doing it with others. I do think my own tenancy to a fault sometimes as the bootstrap it, roll up my sleeves be cowboy, figure out how to do it myself American West, even though hopelessly East coast. But I really think a major trend, not just for the Motley Fool Foundation, but I think for the world at large is increasing amounts of doing it with the community. If you want to get healthy, the best way to get healthy is to hang out with a community of people who eat healthy or to join someone else’s yoga class and be there in a community. The list goes on.
So if community is stock, I’m definitely a buyer and community for The Motley Fool Foundation with an existing worldwide community, we built up over 29 years. Yeah, I will take me some of that. Well, thank you, Jason Moore, for that. Jennifer, let’s move on to Rule Breaker Mailbag item number three. Now this one’s a horse of a different color and I love this. Martin Kion, thank you. Hi David, I’m excited to follow along, possibly be involved as you start up the Motley Fool Foundation. As soon as the website was up, Martin writes, I love this, Jennifer, I know you do too, listeners. As soon as the website was up, I read through every page. Afterwards, he writes, I was somewhat flummoxed as to what the foundation is going to do. I was thrilled when you devoted an entire podcast to accompany the launch. After listening again, get this, after listening to the podcast twice. Thank you, Martin. Unfortunately, he goes on, I’m still confused. [laughs] I feel like I do after hearing people talk about cryptocurrency a bit cross-eyed. To close, here’s what I understand and can get behind and I’m actually going to reach of these and ask you, yes or no, Jennifer, does he have a right or not. We’re going to numerate these and you’re going to give a checker or not, and then we’re going to answer this final question. Here is what I understand and can get behind. One, you are centering the work around the people you intend to serve. Jennifer, yes or no?
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Centering them in the solutions. Yes and.
David Gardner: Yes and. Okay, good. Next one. Number two, he says, those people are going to be the third of people who are financially coping rather than the third that’s financially successful and the third that is financially vulnerable. Jennifer, yes or no?
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Yes.
David Gardner: Third, I understand the five drivers of financial freedom that you hope to address. Jennifer, yes or no?
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Big yes, Martin.
David Gardner: We have to assume he’s got that one. But any closes, we’ll put beyond partnering with people and organizations who are already doing good work in these areas. He says I don’t get what actions the foundation intends to take. Here’s the question we’d love for you to answer, Jennifer, and again, this is from somebody who read every page of the website and then listened to our podcast twice. I Martin, first of all, I hope you enjoyed it. I try to make these podcasts stand the test of time, whether they are worth listening to twice in a single week. I don’t know, but I think it’s because you were confused, so that’s my fault. Jennifer, his closing question. How would you describe what you were going to do if you were describing it to the people you intend to serve, he closes, maybe then I can understand it. Thanks for taking on these herculean efforts. Jennifer, how would you describe what we are going to do if you were describing it right now to the people we intend to serve.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: First of all, Martin’s passion for this topic and his loyalty, your loyalty, Martin, to the Fool and to helping others obtained the same financial freedom is exactly why we’re here. This is the community that we want to full fuel. Try not saying that three times fast. [laughs] When you were asked this question and I’m glad that you mentioned that you were it was confusing because it is confusing. I just want to be candid about it, is not an easy answer. It never has been. I think we always have to strive to articulate that better and better, so I’m going to take a shot at it. I’m going to get in the wits a little bit, and I hope that’s helpful for the listeners and know that our organization is a test-and-learn organization, the foundational execute our work. Very similarly to the Fool, and that we have a rigorous process for assessing what we are going to do.
David Gardner: Yeah and let me just add that that’s always been what we do at the Fool. We’re very much, let’s try something, see if it works or not. Gathers and data were a data-driven operation as well, but that sense that we might not have it right from the start. We always try to have it right, but we might not and so let’s test and learn and tweak as needed. Martin is asking a question really at the outset. Here we are in the first month of our foundation and who knows what will actually be saying in doing three years from now, Jennifer, but I love his question and I hate that I laughed him at all, confused but as you’re saying, we have a few different strategies. We know who we’re serving. There’s no question about that. But how best to serve them we have theories about that, but we can’t say we haven’t nailed it yet because we’re just starting.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Let me add onto that and be a little bit more clear. Martin, really appreciate your lens and wanting me to describe this as if I was talking to someone who we would be serving. Let’s expand that. Actually, let’s talk about someone who’s maybe running a social enterprise or a small non-profit that services people in their local community. David, less to a role-play.
David Gardner: Great.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: If you could be that person, that would be great. I will give you an example of someone who we are currently funding. Our first financial freedom fellow is José Quiñonez of the Mission Asset Fund, which many of your listeners may have heard on our podcast, and so you will play a role of another José, of someone else that’s in need in this financial freedom space. So David, there are three areas that the foundation is working on. We’ve designed that largely based on your feedback. Because we constantly ask you what you need, what is the root cause of the challenges that you’re facing and how can the full and our community support your work?
David Gardner: Thank you.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Thanks, you are welcome. We’re going to focus on shifting minds, systems change, the drivers we talked about, and money. What I know is that you, your team, and the people you serve are hurting today. David, just a sign, why this is maybe a little bit easier for me is that I spent so much time running nonprofits in very vulnerable communities and have experienced hands-on in this space, and so in talking to you as if you were another José, it’s really about being very clear about how we’re helping you right now and this is how we’re going to do it. Three areas, shifting minds, systems change, and money. Shifting minds and systems changes take time. Money is our euphemism for what we’re doing now. We’re going to be doubling down with our financial freedoms in three areas: developing credit, long-term savings, and access to capital for entrepreneurs, specifically vulnerable entrepreneurs. Our goal is to give you the funds that you need to be able to scale your work. But also connect you with our members that are in your local communities that can help remove barriers and scale your growth. Our goal, David is to see you in as many states, as many local areas as we can. Because your work is amazing.
David Gardner: I think what I’m hearing from you is that, and I’m staying within my role. I’m social entrepreneur who is doing some good work in some upstart context and you’re telling me you can help scale me. I think that’s what I’m hearing. It almost sounds like venture capital. We’ve had Ollen Douglass certainly on this podcast before. He’s also a member of The Motley Fool Foundation Board of Directors. But Ollen gives out millions of dollars to people who are entrepreneurs for profit to improve the world. I think what you’re saying is you’re very similar in that regard, at least working with somebody like me, because I’m somebody who’s creating a change within my context. I’ve identified like Jose, especially Hispanic population, especially immigrant population. People who are hard working, good people who just didn’t have access to capital, who didn’t have a credit score in a lot of cases, even though they’re upstanding, I would say fellow Americans. You’re telling me that you can help shift minds and system, but especially in the near-term, it sounds like you’ve got some money for me.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Yes.
David Gardner: I like that.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Well, when you’re running a non-profit, the thing you need immediately is money, almost always. At the same time, you need those connections and the pressure on the systems to make the change so that it’s not so hard. I think we have the opportunity at The Fool to uniquely handle both, that systems change, that connections piece, and doing the thing on the ground. Just the connections, but even the funds, funds connections, systems change. But in the end, what does this all do? It shifts minds. And so we hope the next round, the next city we go into isn’t as hard.
David Gardner: Well, thank you for that, Jennifer, and I appreciate that. I’m going to step back into my role of podcast host, but I want to close this went up just by saying, Martin, thank you. I hope you’re less flummox, by the way beautiful word. I did look up the etymology because I have used the word perform myself, but I really didn’t know where it came from. It’s from the mid 19th century. It’s like the Midlands in the United Kingdom, they used a verb flummoc, which was to make untidy or confused. I hope Martin and everybody listening, we made things slightly tidier and less confusing in terms of how we’re working. In particular, Jennifer’s emphasizing how we’re finding successful people with new Rule Breaking models in context and communities that you can help us identify, and that we can then partner with fund.
Let’s say Jennifer in closing that they’re amazing at housing. We’re maybe going to be able to hook them up with somebody who is amazing at employment or amazing at education. As a convener and a connector, we can stand up some previously unforeseen models that we hope will be more successful than anything yet to-date. I see you nodding a lot, so I’m just going to keep moving because we should keep moving on to Rule Breaker Mailbag item number three. This one comes from Ryan Dyke. Thank you, Ryan. “Hi, David and Jennifer, thank you for all that you and your team do. I just finished listening to the most recent Rule Breaker Investing podcast about The Motley Fool Foundation, I cannot think of a greater mission to support than unlocking financial freedom for all.” Thank you, Ryan. He goes on, “Before donating to a charity. I like to understand how donations will be used. Will donations, Ryan, rights be put toward education materials, books, classes, etc, or used to buy groceries for families in need or something entirely different? Thanks again for all you and the team do. I look forward to donating to The Motley Fool Foundation. Fool on.” Well, thank you, Ryan. Jennifer, I assume Ryan and so many others listening to right now will feel even better about donating if they know how their funds are going to be used. Could you shine a little light here and give us some Fool Foundation transparency on that topic?
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Ryan, I’m really glad you asked that question. It’s very important. As a bankers’ daughter, I don’t think numbers ever lie, and you should always know where they go. I will tell you that the foundation aspires in general to invest 65 percent or more of our annual funds in programming as a non-profit best practice. We are a new organization, so we are developing and launching new initiatives. We anticipate achieving that target in the next five years. The Motley Fool has made an initial investment in the foundation to set it up for success. In fact, thanks to David, Tom and the Fools everywhere.
David Gardner: Especially Tom. [laughs]
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Especially Tom.
David Gardner: But lots of Fools too.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Lots of Fools too. It was one of the largest that we’ve made in any of our new ventures. It’s the right time, it’s the right initiative, it was the right thing for us to do. This investment was made to cover operating expenses and give the foundation seed funds for sustainable programs.
David Gardner: I almost think we need to play some music or harps right there because I want to make sure nobody missed that Jennifer. Such an important thing for us at The Motley Fool, was to have that investment from, of course, our for-profit company that drives everything at The Motley Fool. It has enabled us to fund operations. It’s paying your salary, Jennifer, it’s paying for a lot of the work being done. Therefore, the funds that Ryan and others are bringing to the foundation are pretty much going out to the field, the vast majority of it.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: The vast majority. Absolutely true. Just to be clear, this is a 501 c3 public charity. Even though it has been the word foundation, which makes all think it’s a corporate foundation. I am actually raising at least 33 percent of my annual budget from Fools like Ryan and others. That has been a wonderful experience to learn from all of you and visit with so many of you over the last 15 months. We’re very lucky and very fortunate to have the Fool fund, the majority of the overhead expenses so that whatever we raise goes directly to the people we serve to scale people like Jose.
David Gardner: Awesome. I’m going to cut that one-off right there. Let’s go to the final one. This is from Brandon Gerock. Now, Brandon is somebody who Jennifer, I’ve seen on a Zoom session or two when we’ve gathered people who are helping already with the foundation. I didn’t know much about Brandon until I got to read this note. We’re all going to get to know Brandon and also his viewpoint. I’m so interested to hear how you’re going to respond to this one. Rule Breaker Mailbag item number five. The last one that will be about the foundation and financial freedom this week from Brandon Gerock.
I hope I have your last name pronounced properly. Brandon, “Dear David, you write, been such a thrill to be involved with the foundation at such an early stage. I wanted to answer your call for imagining the possibilities with a brief musing on our educational system and what stands in the way of financial freedom for all.” Brandon writes, “As a former teacher myself, I believe I provide a unique perspective. Getting financial literacy in the schools is a monumental task that will take collaboration I can barely fathom. Standards drive everything that teachers do in the classroom. They are the baseline for every educational experience and what curriculums are built around. A first step is getting key financial literacy concepts into the standards in every state, Brandon writes, has different standards. Another key step is requiring teachers to have financial literacy as part of their licensure. Every state again, Brandon writes, has different requirements. How will they effectively teach if they themselves don’t understand it?”
Before I continue with Brandon’s note, I will say that’s something that we’ve learned in the past decade or two as we thought about The Motley Fool Foundation work a long time ago. Often we thought, why don’t our kids get to learn this stuff in school? What we discovered to be the answer and I believe Brandon is confirming here Jennifer is the reason it’s not ubiquitous in our schools is because we don’t have enough teachers who themselves feel confident to teach financial literacy, to teach the material. Now of course, there are many competent teachers, so we’re talking more about quantity here, maybe than quality, but I’ll let you speak to that in a sec. I’m just interposing my own thought there, but I see you showing some ambiguous body language and I’ve learned to listen to you as an expert, not me, so we’re going to open that one back up in the second. Let me finish up Brandon’s note. He says, “I cannot tell you how many times people have pointed the finger at schools and teachers and said, why didn’t you teach us about personal finance or when will I use this math in real life?
One of my students was so frustrated by it that she wrote her state representative a letter with my encouragement, Brandon writes, asking for personal finance to be taught in schools. I agreed with them, but I was often tied to the standards more than they could really understand, especially in Maths. Without adding personal financial literacy, what a mouthful, he says, ha to the standards and the licensure. I can only imagine this education in schools is coming from only a select few Rule Breaking teachers in schools, currently. Our current system means many have no idea how money functions and they interplay between the five drivers of financial freedom. I’m imagining the possibilities of 50 states building out a robust set of standards and licensure requirements leading to a personal finance curriculum in every classroom that speaks toward a Foolish mindset and addresses the five drivers of financial freedom.” Here’s the payoff. Here’s the question, Jennifer, how, if at all, is The Motley Fool Foundation planning on working with state and federal governments to advocate for these changes? Do you believe this is a path to any type of success? Brandon signs his note, paying it forward. Thank you, Brandon. Jennifer.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Thank you, Brandon. In short, the answer is yes. We do believe this is a path. But here are some statistics that I think will validate what Brandon is saying and then talk to the possibilities. According to the Council of Economic Education, only half of the states in America require even a single course on personal finance as a prerequisite for graduation. That said, there are currently 55 bills in 25 states addressing three areas. One is adding financial literacy as a part of the curriculum, it’s almost like graduating with biology, math, social studies, and financial literacy. We on this podcast would probably advocate and will advocate in the future for that being part of the curriculum. The second piece that’s happening in these bills across the United States is that there is funding for that to happen for the students, for that class, and fundings for the teachers. To your earlier point, David, I think the teachers are a big part of this training teachers. Really I often think to myself, are our teachers financially stable?
David Gardner: Well, I certainly think since we’re talking about one-third of Americans today who are financially coping, there’s so near being net savers, there’s so near being investors and I have to believe a fair number of those are teaching at various levels of education.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: We all know politicians don’t often agree on many topics. However, historically, financial literacy has been a bipartisan issue because getting people to be self-reliant earlier, self-aware have the avenue to understand how to manage your risk, how to handle a credit card, how to invest. We all know that that helps people in their lives, there are plenty of studies that validate that financial literacy done consistently actually works. But what it also does is relieve pressure on the system later and I think that’s where you have bipartisan agreement. There are some interesting thing happening, I mean, financial literacy, 55 bills, 25 states, 10-plus states have passed financial literacy bills with all three of those areas, teacher training funding for the program, adding it to their curriculum in 11th grade in 2020 and 2021. All these years we’ve talked about this, it actually is gaining a lot of momentum, I don’t know if that’s the window of COVID where we all really saw the inequities, we saw that education is the way to go. Maybe people didn’t believe that financial literacy actually works, but done from an immersive perspective with trained teachers, it really does work and I think that that’s maybe one of those myths we need to dispel because, over time, we know that this is the right way to go.
David Gardner: It’s a great cause for optimism. I mean, in a lot of ways it’s commonsensical, really I mean, we assume education works now not everybody who learns something, even something good necessarily remembers it or acts on it 100 percent of the time we’re all human but I think most of us are under the implicit assumption that education is worthwhile because once people get it, they act better, they make better choices, they have some awareness of history, they have an understanding of science, they get better jobs. I would also have to believe and I’m loving that you’re saying this, Jennifer, that financial literacy does work. I bet lab-tested with the behavioral scientists out there, I bet they’ll discover the classroom is where people understand how to open up a brokerage account, the importance of staying out of credit card debt, etc. Those classrooms produce a lot more success than those that don’t get there.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Speaking of community thinking about Brandon’s idea, if this law was passed and even this piece was part of the curriculum in every state then your friends would be talking about it. Then talking about it and working on apps like Sogou and other apps that are out there that are helping Gen Z and otherwise actually stay engaged, make it fun to learn financial literacy.
David Gardner: Well, Jennifer, thank you very much for your generous time that you spent with us this week, it was quite a month. We don’t need to talk about death because we did that over dinner in last week’s podcast, but I really enjoyed you there as well. I think a lot of it felt like we got to know you better. I sure have, even though I worked with you every day this month, it’s been special, so I want to close as we move on now to our final rule breaker, messy mailbag items by simply saying, again, Jennifer, thank you and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention foolfoundation.org, that is the website that at least one of us this week has read through every page of. You can also donate directly to the foundation, you can ask us questions, you can tell your story of financial freedom. We’ve got videos up of fellow members who tell their story. We’d love one from you, dear listener as well as we build this community and start this foundation here in April 2022. Jennifer continued best wishes, thanks for all you do and Fool-on.
Jennifer Gennaro Oxley: Thanks for inspiring us to keep going listeners and David pull on.
David Gardner: I’m not sure I have had a fellow employee on this podcast three weeks out of four, so I think I’m going to give Jennifer a break in May, but I’m really grateful for her insights, wisdom, and especially for vulnerability of that conversation that we had last week. I never do get to read all of the notes we get for the Rule Breaker mailbag each month but thank you for those notes and those items, fellow Fools, and I hope that was helpful. Well, we are going to close the page then on financial freedom and open up the page one more time this month and probably not talk about this too much in May. Go back to talking some about our mortality, about death, and specifically a Death Over Dinner that we did this month. I have three mailbag items to close with and let me start with Rule Breaker Mailbag item number six. Jason Moore here you are making a second appearance on this podcast, this doesn’t happen very frequently in mailbags but it’s not the first time it’s happened, but when somebody produces two great notes on different topics, sure, I’ll double feature them in a Rule Breaker investing mailbag and Jason, you certainly have earned it.
As I mentioned earlier this month, the way I found out about the book, let’s talk about Death Over Dinner was thanks to Jason Moore and so it’s natural probably that he’d write in this letter about the experience of hearing those podcasts this month. Hi, David. Well, of course, I have to write in about the tour to force doubleheader episodes from the past two weeks of the Rule Breaker Investing podcast, Michael Hebb’s book, let’s talk about Death Over Dinner. Found me at the right time in my life, Jason writes. It sounds like it may have done the same for you, and I hope it will do the same for many of the other listeners out there. After finishing the book, I was left to look at the many pieces of my life that I hadn’t shined a light on for a long time. I’ve never experienced such an emotional roller-coaster while reading before and I love the style of this book as much as its content, although I found that it’s quite hard to read, Jason writes through blurry eyes. Over the past year, I’ve spoken a lot about having a why to focus on. If there’s anything that will give you the ability to bring positive change into your life fellow Fools, it’s having a reason bigger than your obstacles. Michael gave us a gift in this book by helping us to identify the whys, that’s W-H-Y-S, the whys in life and build out from there. I also want to say a sincere thank you to you and your guests from last week’s podcast, Dan, Jennifer, Margaret, Michael, and Venard.
On a side note, after seven years of podcasts, it was great to hear David from your partner in life. Well, thank you, it was a delight to have Margaret joining us last week. Jason continues, it probably wasn’t an easy sell to go on a popular podcast and talk openly and honestly about perhaps the most vulnerable part of our lives, but everybody took the challenge head-on and it gave me a lot to think about, I especially connected with Dan, I want to say a sincere thank you to him. Also, hearing how the conversation can go. Well, you’ve inspired me finally to host my own dinner in the upcoming month. It’s a thing I’ve wanted to do from the moment I first read the book, Jason writes, but couldn’t get myself over that last speed bump. I’ll write to you to let you know how that goes, yikes. Thank you for all that you do to make the world smarter, happier, and richer, Fool on, Jason Moore. Well again, thank you for all of this, Jason, and two quick thoughts back for you. The first is it actually was an easy sell to go on a popular podcast for these friends that I invited and talk openly and honestly as you write about perhaps the most vulnerable part of our life. I admit to asking each of them with some apprehension, with the exception of my wife who knows this topic and is something of an expert on it herself, but I do want to say that each of the people, Dan, Jennifer, and Venard, these are very strong, independent people, they’re authentic, what you saw or heard last week is exactly what you’re going to get and so while I was a little bit sheepish with my initial invite, I asked each of them knowing who they are and knowing that it would come together and I hope it was something special.
I think hope that that podcast will be shared out, I’m sure Michael Hebb would appreciate that podcast being shared out as well because the more people that we can get thinking and having these conversations, especially with family members that they’re going to be called on to support or family members that will be supporting them, boy, that’s a better world and I’m trying to get us there. Thanks again to Michael Hebb, our talented MC and world-class author. But thank you to you Jason for leaning in as a fellow Fool, turning me onto this, and finally, good luck with next month’s dinner and if it’s a doozy or even just exceeds your expectations, I might even share one more note from you on next week’s mailbag because you have been curious. Best of luck friend. Rule Breaker Mailbag item number seven, this one from Joyce Browning, you never quite know how people are going to react to a podcast like last week’s.
Dear, David, writes Joyce. “I’m a longtime listener, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all Motley Fool podcasts, including Rule Breaker Investing. I’ve gleaned valuable information,” Joyce writes, “and I’m hoping to build generational wealth for posterity.” Well, good on you, Joyce. She goes on, “I felt compelled to write to you about this particular podcast last week’s not one word was spoken about investing and yet I gained more from listening to that podcast than from any podcast I have listened to bar-none.” Joyce goes on, “Believe me, I listened to a lot of podcasts. Thank you for continuing to find ways to make the world smarter, happier, and richer with deepest appreciation to all who participated. Joyce browning.” Wow, coming from your Joyce, that means a lot. It’s why we do what we do and I particularly loved the both Jason and Joyce, clearly articulated what drives me and everything I do and everything my fellow Fools do here at The Motley Fool, which is to make the world smarter, happier, and richer. Discussing every topic of important to hear your reaction to last week’s podcast, Joyce that makes my week. Thank you.
Finally, best for last will you be the judge? Rule Breaker Mailbag, item number eight. She’s humorously referred to herself as my biggest fan for some years now and John it seems like a few times a year you write a wonderful note that I want to share through Mailbag and I think you add did yourself this month as we’re all about the here, for very understandable and logical reasons, I think as well, a beautiful note to close on. “Dear David and Rule Breaker Investing. My notes you this month is about your interview with Michael Hebb. First of all, thank you, Jason, for the book recommendation that led to this interview with Michael. You know how much I appreciate a writer. Michael is more than a writer. He created a platform and encouraged people to talk about one of the most taboo topics, I dare say, in the world.” John writer, “I grew up being very uncomfortable around depth. Although there isn’t a rule that prohibits talking about death, it’s just naturally scary and uncomfortable, and on top of that, in my culture,” she writes, “Talking about death can be superstitiously perceived as a curse, IE. if you talk about it, it will happen. So you can see how asking my parents what are their wishes regarding their end-of-life. Well, that can be very uncomfortable, if not impossible.
It’s not until I became a nurse facing many kinds of death and mortality that I realized how important it is to talk about it with my loved ones. As an ICU nurse, although I’m regularly dealing with depth and conversation around death and dying, it is by far still the most uncomfortable thing to discuss with the patients and their families. If the first-time the conversation is brought up is by a physician or a nurse, if that’s when it happens for the first time, it’s most likely too late, and again, this comes from an ICU Nurse.” John writes, “Your loved ones are not only facing the seriousness of your illness, but are also left facing difficult end-of-life decisions that may not align with what you want from being involved in a fair share of family discussions regarding the end-of-life. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there is a good death and a bad death. All depth is devastating and chaotic. The bad ones are very messy, and the families left with no closure or solace.
This happens a lot when the family is unclear on what the patient’s wishes are. It has never been discussed. Without that knowledge, family members made subject the patient to many uncomfortable and unnecessary procedures where even ultimately artificially prolonging his or her life, it can cause a shift in the family and extreme financial hardship. The good death happens when the family members have a clear understanding of the patient’s wishes. In many instances, it may not even have been a formal conversation, just a glimpse of the patient’s wishes can be so powerful. It keeps the family focused on what matters to their loved ones, and even eliminate skilled around choices of care. This ultimately provides clearer goals and allows medical professionals to care for your loved ones in ways that preserve their dignity and comfort.” John continues, “This episode couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time. It is absolutely one of the saddest times in my family. We have just lost our mother. She was my mother-in-law, but she’s like a mother to me. She was an exceptional woman, a matriarch. She was 88 when she passed. She raised eight wonderful children, eight grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. Losing her I can only describe it as if we lost the connection to a good old era. It was devastating. Although we didn’t have a formal Death over Dinner discussion, we were blessed to have had small conversations with her over many dinners and parties throughout the years. Her mind results are very sharp up until the very end. So she was able to tell us what she wanted or did not want.
With that knowledge, we were able to avoid unnecessary trips to the hospital at a range for hospice care where she spent her last few weeks. She passed away comfortably in her home, surrounded by people who mattered to her. This allowed each family member to spend plenty of time talking to and caring for her. After she passed, we gathered around as a family and exchanged her remarkable stories. As devastated and heartbroken as we were, we found solace in hearing her life stories and the fact that we had honored per wishes. Many, if not most of us think of death as something at a distance. So we put off talking about it. In reality, death is inevitable. It can be sudden and unpredictable. We may not be able to control when or how we want to leave this world yet, but we can at least prepare for it. I haven’t read Michael’s book yet, but it’s at the top of my list. I’m not sure if the book talks about Advanced Healthcare directives, I strongly encourage everyone regardless of their age to look into it.
It’s not very difficult to obtain and you don’t have to complete a state planning.” We’ll let me pause for a second. Just mentioned John that on pages 73-79 of Michael’s book, he talks about the importance of benefits of advanced healthcare planning directive. So John does include a URL, which I’m not going to right here, but it’s from the National Institute of Health.gov. But many of us, if you’re not already familiar with this, you can just Google Advance Care Planning and that will take everybody listening to me right now, especially if you’re a US citizen that will take you to a document that you can use to, I think you and your family will find really helpful anyway.
Anyway, let me go back to the end of John’s note. Also she said, “Talk to your doctor. They should have resources and guidance for you. In conclusion, I’m in full support of the Death over Dinner movement. Thank you very much, Michael, for leading this movement to help demystify one of the most uncomfortable, yet most important conversations. Thank you, David and Rick, my producer for always bringing great content until death do us part. Foolishly yours, John.” Is one thing to be a podcast host talking about this subject, doing interviews, trying to think my best thoughts, trying to share those with you my fellow Fools, but it’s an entirely different thing to be an on-the-ground healthcare professional in intensive care units seeing firsthand and not just seeing firsthand but confronting firsthand communicating, acting, reacting with real people in real distress, and often every day or every week maybe at least. So to me, those are the real heroes, and I’d like to listen to the heroes and share that out because we can all learn so much from them. Thank you, John, and so many others listening right now, who are beacons to others during dark times. [MUSIC] So long April, Fool on!
FEMALE_1: As always people on this program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against. Don’t buy yourself stocks based solely on what you hear. Learn more about Rule Breaker Investing at rbi.fool.com.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. David Gardner has positions in Amazon, MercadoLibre, and Netflix. Jennifer Gennaro Oxley has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon, Etsy, MercadoLibre, Netflix, and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.