What is Stock Gumshoe, and Who Are These Authors?

By Travis Johnson, Stock Gumshoe, October 22, 2020

This is a general explanation of the world of Stock Gumshoe, I update it every few years.  No big news here, but we have new folks coming through the door every day… so, FYI:

Stock Gumshoe’s primary reason for existence is to help investors think for themselves, and to avoid swallowing the hyperbole-laden investment ideas that are touted and teased by the investment newsletters and other pundits. That’s not because the ideas are bad — sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t, in my judgement — but because the influence of marketing and group-think short-circuits our ability to think critically about almost anything, and that goes double for investments and money.

So although we offer something a bit extra to our paid members — a bit more of my opinion, and my more thoughtful and more fully researched writeups of stocks that I own or am considering, a few other tidbits here and there and, in the case of other authors or columnists we might feature from time to time, some outside perspective — I am a strong believer in individual research, in open discussion and debate about stocks and valuations, and in the importance of critical thinking for investors.

Our paid membership, the folks who I call the Stock Gumshoe Irregulars, was started not because we have something brilliant or secret to sell to you — but because, soon after I started writing these teaser solutions and sharing them with people, readers started sending us money. I didn’t know what to do with it, but after a few months of checks in the mail we started more formally inviting people to be paid members to help support the future of Stock Gumshoe, allow me to invest in the site… and, in exchange, get a bit more from Stock Gumshoe as a reward. The Friday File and the other writings I share with our paid members are my way of saying that although we value our free readers greatly, I promise to spend at least one day a week writing just for the Irregulars as a way to, well, repay them for helping Stock Gumshoe to survive and thrive.

So in that vein I share my Real Money Portfolio with our readers, and write about my reasoning when choosing to buy or sell a stock, and often write about my asset allocation or other decisions as well… but I specifically do not have a recommended portfolio or trading alerts that I think other people should follow, and any guest columnists we host will not not offer that kind of guidance, either. We are sharing information and research and opinion, not guiding individual investment decisions that you might make. I am not the world’s best trader or investor, not by a long shot, and I may well be below average some or all of the time — all I can offer is my thought process and my research, and hope that our readers find it valuable, interesting, entertaining, or profitable.

Most of what I write here at Stock Gumshoe involves the solving of investment “teaser” ads, the critical discussion of ideas that are hyped by newsletters, and quick explanations of investing concepts that might be sold by pundits as mysterious secrets. But I also write some about my portfolio, and we have guest columnists who write about a variety of topics. I choose guest columnists based on their ability to explain, follow, and discuss interesting stocks and ideas, and because I like to read what they write.

For those who don’t know me, I am an individual investor, I read a lot and attend investment-focused conferences sometimes, but have no experience as a “Wall Street insider.”   I was a direct marketer long ago (I got some of the same training as the copywriters whose work I decipher, I imagine — though I was raising money for charities, not selling newsletters), and I’m more recently a recovering academic.  I had been blogging about my investment research and my strategies for a few years, as a side project, before I started Stock Gumshoe in 2007 as a venue for deciphering and demystifying the ridiculous hype and promise of investment newsletter ads.  I found it more rewarding than the tenure track, so after a while I left my faculty position and started working on Stock Gumshoe full time.  Stock Gumshoe was born in Washington, D.C., where I lived for a long time, but now makes its home in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.

I don’t manage other peoples’ money or buy all the stocks I write about, and I’m not a particularly active trader, but I invest my family’s portfolio and write about that, and I continue, with most of my time, to write about and decipher the promotions and hype of the stock teasers… which, despite (or perhaps because of) our best efforts, have grown only more ridiculous in Stock Gumshoe’s first dozen years.  Some years I “beat” the S&P 500, as I have for the past few years, some years I don’t (2014-2016 were pretty weak for me, for example).  I just turned 50, and most of my investing is done with a long time horizon as I try to build a nest egg for my family and pay for future obligations like college tuition and retirement (though this work is pretty fun, so maybe I won’t retire) — but, like most of us, I can’t resist being opportunistic when something looks interesting as a shorter-term bet.

Sometimes when I write about a teased stock, particularly if it’s a small capitalization company with a big, loud marketing push behind the teaser, the stock goes up in part because we’re “revealing” it — there’s not much we can do about that, but I do try to make sure that I don’t profit from any movements like that, which is why all paid Stock Gumshoe authors, including me, have a three d