Motley Fool Review: Can the Stock Advisor Beat the Market?

Motley Fool Review

Product Name: Motley Fool

Product Description: Motley Fool has been offering stock recommendations and investment advice since 1993. Over two decades later, they are still one of the largest financial media companies in the world.

  • Price
  • Resources Available
  • Ease of Use
  • Quality of Research
  • Credibility


Motley Fool has been offering stock recommendations and investment advice since 1993. Over two decades later, they are still one of the largest financial media companies in the world. We did an in-depth review of their stock advisor program to see if it was worth the money. Here’s what we found.


  • 20-year track record
  • Consistently beats the market
  • Stock picks are easy to follow
  • Members get instant access to 20 starter stocks
  • 2 new stock picks monthly
  • Money-back guarantee


  • Upsells get annoying
  • Some stock picks are repeats

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About Motley Fool

Motley Fool is one of the most well-known multimedia companies in the financial industry. The company was originally founded in July 1993 by David Gardner and Tom Gardner, who still run the company today. The company provides a combination of both free news (similar to sites like MarketWatch and Yahoo Finance) as well as premium financial advice and investment newsletters. This is no small operation. Our Motley Fool review takes a closer look inside this operation to see whether or not the company is legit.

Tom and David Gardner

Motley Fool now employs over 300 people and is recognized as one of the top companies in the space. In addition, the company has maintained a positive reputation and is most well-known for its stock-picking service, Stock Advisor.

Motley Fool Stock Advisor Program

Motley Fool’s Stock Advisor program is a subscription service that offers premium stock picks backed by extensive research. Members get two new stock picks every month, as well as access to a list of all of the stock picks the company has ever made.

The Stock Advisor service claims to beat the returns of the S&P 500 by selecting high-growth stocks that are set to outperform the overall stock market. Since its inception, the stock advisor picks have returned 522%, compared to 103% returns from the S&P 500. This is no small feat.

Using the program is incredibly simple. The company tells you the best stocks to buy, and then you can purchase them in your brokerage account.

So, what exactly does the program offer? Keep reading our Stock Advisor review for an in-depth analysis of the program and its effectiveness.

Monthly Stock Picks

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor service offers a few benefits, but the biggest value comes from the monthly stock recommendations. Subscribers will receive two new stock picks every month. These stock recommendations come from Motley Fool’s team of analysts.

If you are just starting to build your stock portfolio and you would like to start diversifying right away, Motley Fool has two options for you.

First, there is the “starter stocks” report. The starter stocks report includes a list of 10 great stocks you can use to build a strong foundation for your investment portfolio. These stocks include time-tested companies that have proven to be great investments in the past and are likely to remain great investments in the future.

The Motley Fool also includes a list of the “Best Stocks to Buy” right now. This list includes recent Stock Advisor picks that still present great buying opportunities. Similar to the Starter Stocks, these can be added to your brokerage account right away (vs. waiting for the two new picks every month). Below is a screenshot of the best starter stocks and best stocks to buy from 2018. Two years later, these stocks have yielded exceptional returns (more on this later). Shopify (SHOP) alone is up over 700% from the time of the recommendation.

Motley Fool Stock Advisor Dashboard

Of course, this list of starter stocks is updated regularly, and the current 2020 list includes stocks that should yield exceptional returns in the coming years. For example, here is the 3-month performance of the 12 starter stocks I invested in recently:

Motley Fool 2020 Performance

36% returns in three months is an impressive return!

Here are the returns one year after creating the initial portfolio:

Motley Fool 2021 Performance

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor service offers a handful of subscriber benefits, but these Stock Advisor picks are the reason I’ve been a subscriber for years. Most members sign up because they want simple stock picks and investment advice that is easy to follow. Motley Fool certainly delivers (we will get to this in detail later).

If you are looking for stock recommendations that beat the market, Motley Fool absolutely delivers. Feel free to sign up using the discounted link below.

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If you want to learn more about the company, keep reading our Motley Fool review to learn everything you need to know. Of course, you can feel free to skip around the review to find the sections you are most interested in. If you have any additional questions, just leave a comment below.

Stock Research

The Gardner brothers and the Motley Fool analyst team do extensive research on the stocks they recommend. These aren’t basic “stock tips” you may get at a family dinner or business luncheon. Motley Fool’s Stock Advisor picks are all backed by extensive research. As a member, you will have access to a report that explains the stock recommendation and rationale. This research is thorough and includes commentary on the company, sector, and general market conditions.

While some people just want the stock picks, others prefer to understand why the stocks are being recommended. As an investor, it can add some peace of mind to understand why you are buying a stock (vs. simply following a recommendation). Regardless, the newsletter caters to both groups. You don’t have to read the research reports, but they can be helpful.

The research can make you feel more confident in the stocks you add to your portfolio. The reports also shine a light on how the Motley Fool analyzes stocks, which can be an educational experience.

Motley Fool Amazon Report


Stock Advisor membership comes with access to additional educational resources related to investing in the stock market. The members’ area contains market news as well as general investment lessons. While the stock tips are the star of the service, the educational content is a nice perk.

There are articles that explain the methodology the Gardner brothers and the Motley Fool team use to research stocks. There are also a few basic guides to investing. In addition, you can get access to investing information that may help you if you want to better understand the investment advice and stock picks you get from the company.

Stock Advisor Education

Community Forum

The website’s members’ section offers a community forum where members are free to discuss stock picks and general investing concepts. The forum is surprisingly active and serves as a nice community to network with other investors and exchange ideas.

You’ll find members talking about stock ideas and supporting new members who have questions about the service or investing in general. The forum is a good place to go to talk shop, ask questions, or get stock tips from other members. Of course, you should never rely on financial advice from strangers online, but it’s nice to get feedback from an investment community from time to time.

Community Forums


How Good Are Motley Fool’s Stock Picks?

As mentioned above, most investors sign up for the Stock Advisor subscription to receive stock recommendations. Investors are looking to recoup the cost of the subscription through superior stock picks. As part of our Motley Fool review, we wanted to see how well these stock picks performed.

We are happy to report that, over time, the newsletter’s stock picks have outperformed the stock market (and the company has a 15+ year track record to back it up). In addition, the stock recommendations are generally large-cap companies with lower risk than small caps and micro caps.

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Additionally, the company provides multiple stock recommendations every month, giving investors the opportunity to choose from multiple stocks. As a member, you can find a list of all stock picks, including data about:

  • The stock recommendation date
  • The company ticker
  • The market cap
  • The risk level
  • The performance since the recommendation (and relative to the S&P 500)

It’s beneficial that all stock picks are listed in a convenient table. This allows new members to analyze the performance and make decisions accordingly. Here is an example (to be fair, I’ve included historical picks instead of the most recent picks):

Motley Fool Historical Recommendations

Some of the stock recommendations are companies you would expect to find on the list (such as Amazon and Apple), while others are hidden gems. Every stock recommendation is well-researched and backed by a full research report.

The team does a great job of presenting the “full story” in the research reports. They do not hype up positions in an attempt to get investors to buy the stock immediately. Instead, they share their bullish arguments while addressing any bearish counterarguments. A risk rating accompanies most stocks to allow investors to decide whether or not the stock fits their strategy.

Motley Fool Risk Scale

The company is also quick to jump on shorter-term market trends with special reports (such as its recent cannabis stock boom).

Motley Fool Special Report

Overall, the stock recommendations are well-researched. However, it’s important that new investors understand broader market conditions before entering a position in any of these stocks. Because most of these stocks are large caps, they tend to fluctuate relative to the broader market. While their performance is not interlinked, there is still a correlation. For example, during a strong bull market, most stocks will perform well (and the program’s picks are likely to outperform). However, during correctional periods, investors should be more cautious.

Motley Fool Performance 2020

At Top Trade Reviews, we pride ourselves on our thorough, up-to-date reviews of financial services. Accordingly, we wanted to update our Stock Advisor review to reflect the Fool’s performance in 2020.

2020 has been a crazy year for the stock market. Stocks have been on a wild ride over the last 12 months. We saw one of the most rapid declines in the stock market, followed by one of the most rapid recoveries. So, how did Tom and David Gardner’s picks hold up during this time? Let’s take a look.

Subscribers have access to the company’s full track record. You can see every single stock recommendation and how the stock performed.

As of August 2020, the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service has offered 15 stock picks. You can find the full list of 2020 Motley Fool stock recommendations below (with the company names removed out of respect for paying subscribers):

Motley Fool 2020 Performance

This table shows the recommendation date, the recommendation price, and the stock’s return since the time of the recommendation. This is benchmarked against the performance of the S&P 500 from the date of the Fool’s recommendation. As always, you can see that the company is transparent and shows both winners and losers.

Let’s dive into these results to see how well the program’s stock picks really performed.

  • The average share price of the stocks was $206.67. (Note: a stock’s share price doesn’t really matter, but some people like to know this)
  • Of the 15 stocks, there were 10 winners and 5 losers
  • The average return of a winning stock pick is 70%
  • The average return of a losing stock pick is -25% (Note: this is weighed down heavily by one really poor stock pick that had a -94.1% return)
  • The average return overall is 38%
  • The average return of the S&P 500 is 11.75% (using the same “buy” dates as the stock recommendations)

Notable stock picks include:

  • Tesla (TSLA) – Recommended on January 1, 2020 (Up 848.4%)
  • Zoom Video Communications (ZM) – Recommended March 19, 2020 (Up 249.9%)
  • Shopify (SHOP) – Recommended (again) on April 2, 2020 (Up 320.3%)

What does this mean for your portfolio?

Let’s assume you put $1,000 into each stock pick for a total investment of $15,000 throughout 2020.

  • As of today, your $15,000 investment in Motley Fool stock picks would be worth $20,740, representing a profit of $5,740.
  • If you had invested that same $15,000 in the S&P 500, it would be worth $16,762, representing a profit of $1,762.

Motley Fool’s stock picks would have made you an extra ~$4,000 over the year.

If you only put $100 into each stock pick for a total investment of $1,500, here’s what the results would look like:

  • Motley Fool Stock Picks: $574 profit
  • S&P 500: $176 profit

Even with a small $1,500 portfolio, Motley Fool’s stock picks would have made ~$400 more than an investment in the S&P 500 (via an ETF or mutual fund).

This is quite an impressive feat. Even with small accounts, it’s relatively easy to recoup the membership fee.

Motley Fool Performance 2021

So far, in 2021, the Motley Fool has made a few new stock pick recommendations. The top-performing pick is up 86% in the past 30 days alone.

One recommendation is particularly interesting, seeing as it is a recent IPO. The company has also issued updated buy alerts on some recommendations from previous years.

As of today, members have access to:

  • 11 “Best Stocks to Buy Now”
  • 10 “Starter Stocks”
  • 18 Stock Picks (2 alerts issued each month)

Meanwhile, last year’s stock picks continue to perform exceptionally well. Six stocks have generated returns of over 100% (with the top stock pick generating a return of over 600%).

We will continue to update our Motley Fool review as more picks are made throughout the year.

Motley Fool’s Investment Strategies

Some investors simply want to know what stocks to buy and at what times. Other investors prefer to learn more about the rationale behind the financial advice they receive. There’s a wide range of investing strategies, such as momentum, value, and growth. So, how do David and Tom Gardner choose their stocks?

Motley Fool Investing Principles

Motley Fool Investing Principle 1 of 7

The company takes a well-rounded approach to its investment research. They account for broader market factors, sector trends, and the overall health of the companies they recommend. Fundamental research plays a major role in the decision-making process. The research team tends to assign a weight to both value and momentum plays. They seek to identify undervalued companies with positive catalysts on the horizon.

Personally, I find this to be a favorable strategy as it provides the best of both worlds. Investors can take advantage of undervalued stocks without waiting years for the markets to recognize the companies’ true values. While the recommendations are designed for long-term investors, they can also yield exceptional returns in the short run if you would like to take profits early.

The stock picks of this investment newsletter are time-tested. The company has been researching stocks for over two decades.

Here’s a great video of the company’s co-founder, David Gardner, explaining his process in more depth:

While you don’t need to understand the company’s investment methodology fully, you should understand how to make the most of the stock picks. Motley Fool makes two key recommendations for investment success.

Rule #1: Hold Positions for At Least 5 Years

Motley Fool recommends holding any stock you buy for at least five years. These are long-term stock picks and should be treated as such. The company’s research shows that holding the recommended stocks for at least five years can significantly increase the probability of generating positive returns.

Motley Fool Investing Principle 1

While many stocks perform well from the dates of the recommendations, the most impressive returns come from holding a stock for many years.

This rule also protects investors from short-term stock price fluctuations that can diminish returns. For example, Apple’s stock dropped 35% in the first few months of 2020, but it is now up close to 200% from its 2020 lows. Investors who “panic sold” paid the price. Investors who held for the long run are still reaping the rewards.

Rule#2: Diversify Your Portfolio

Motley Fool also recommends the widely accepted investment strategy called “diversification.”

The stock market is inherently risky, and the stocks you buy can drop in price. Diversification helps investors minimize risk by spreading it across multiple stocks. Think of it as the investing equivalent of “not putting all of your eggs in one basket.”

Motley Fool Investing Principle 2

Motley Fool recommends building a portfolio of at least 25 stocks (which you can choose from the recommendation lists)

Is The Motley Fool Legit?

Motley Fool brings to mind different things for different investors. Motley Fool is the reliable stock picker for maverick investors who have been around for over a decade. For newer investors, the investment media giant is more known for “double down stock picks” and “triple buy alerts.” So, which side is more accurate? Is the company a legitimate stock picker or simply a promoter?

In short, The Motley Fool is absolutely legit.

While the Motley Fool has become more aggressive with its marketing over the past few years, the company’s core services remain the same. The Stock Advisor program is still as effective as ever, and it remains one of the best-priced programs on the market. There is one caveat, though.

As a diligent investor, you need to be able to look past the hype and avoid FOMO (fear of missing out). In our Motley Fool Review, we were focused on the quality of the Stock Advisor program. So we ignored the hype and focused on the quality of the information and the program’s recommendations.

Motley Fool will try to upsell you on certain services through marketing emails and promotions. While you’re welcome to explore these other Motley Fool services, I recommend sticking with the Stock Advisor service. It’s simple and effective. Plus, how many stock alerts do you really need? If you build a portfolio with a few great stocks, you will be good to go. You don’t need to sign up for a bunch of different investing services to make money in the markets. While the company offers a lot of great services (like Motley Fool Options), don’t get carried away with the hype. Instead, focus on getting the investment advice you actually need.

Is the Stock Advisor Program Worth the Money?

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor Program is one of the most fairly priced programs available. Some research services and investment newsletters charge hundreds of dollars per month for their stock recommendations, but Motley Fool is affordable. One of the things we were most impressed with during our Motley Fool review was the pricing. We have reviewed investment newsletters that charge upwards of $1,000 per year, but Motley Fool’s pricing is much more affordable.

A Stock Advisor subscription can be purchased for $19 per month or $99 for the year (for new members only). Both plans renew automatically unless canceled.

Stock Advisor Pricing

At this rate, the Stock Advisor service is absolutely worth the money. At only $99 for the year, Motley Fool Stock Advisor is easily our top-rated stock picking service. A single stock recommendation can make back the cost of the subscription ten-fold.

I recommend going for the annual subscription for a few reasons. First, it is a way better price. You can purchase a full year of access for the price of five months on the monthly plan.

Second, the annual subscription is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you are unhappy with the service within the first 30 days, you can reach out to the customer service team to request a full refund. The 30-day money-back guarantee allows customers to take advantage of the better annual pricing without getting locked into a subscription they don’t want.

Lastly, you really need access to a Stock Advisor subscription for more than a month to get the true value out of it. The company makes two new stock picks per month, and members are encouraged to build a diversified stock portfolio. It is recommended that you sign up for a full year to get the most value out of the service. If you only join for a month, you may miss out on some of the year’s best picks.

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How to Make the Most of the Service

I have been a member of the Stock Advisor service for the past few years. While the service is straightforward and easy to use, I have found a few tips and tricks that help me make the most of the membership. Here are some insights:

Diversify Your Portfolio

In the stock market, diversification can help you minimize your potential risk. By building a diversified portfolio with multiple stocks, you will not be exposed to too much risk from a single company. If you look at the Fool’s track record, you will see that the portfolio succeeds in part by diversification. There are both winning and losing positions, but the winners far outnumber (and outperform) the losers. This is achieved by spreading risk across a variety of different investments vs. heavily weighting a portfolio on a single stock. While it would be nice to maximize your return by only choosing the best picks (i.e., “Amazon” and “Zoom Video”), it’s unlikely that you will be able to predict that type of performance accurately. The best thing you can do is diversify.

Here is the portfolio allocation the company recommends for your brokerage account:

Motley Fool Stock Portfolio

If you are new to investing, start by checking out the Fool’s starter stocks and best buys now so you can build a strong foundation. From there, you can continue to add new stocks as the company issues new alerts.

The Motley Fool’s official recommendation is that members should buy at least 25 stocks with a five-year time horizon.

Focus on the Long-Term

If you are investing in the stock market, you need to focus on the long-term. Day-to-day price fluctuations are just noise, and, as an investor, you need to be able to handle them. Just take a look at the S&P 500 chart from the past 50+ years:

SP500 Long-Term Chart

The market dropped almost 50% during the 2008 recession before nearly quadrupling into 2020. At the time, investors were panicking. In retrospect, we can see that the market recovered as always. Investors experienced a similar shock in early 2020 when the market dropped ~35% in a month. Here we are in October of 2020, and the market has already recovered.

When you invest in Motley Fool stock picks, focus on the bigger picture. Decide how long you want to hold the stocks for and then leave them alone. If you are particularly risk-averse, set stop losses wherever you are comfortable (i.e., 10%).

How Does the Service Compare?

If you’re still unsure about using Motley Fool’s Stock Advisor program, see how it compares to similar investment services below. We’ve reviewed all of the top stock advisory services, and these are our insights.

Motley Fool Stock Advisor vs. Rule Breakers

The Motley Fool offers a handful of premium investment services, but the most popular are the Stock Advisor and Rule Breakers programs. Many investors are torn between the two, so we felt it necessary to make a quick comparison. You can read our full Motley Fool Rule Breakers review here.

Both programs have the same membership fee of 99/year or $19/month. The main difference between the services is the investment methodology used to pick the stocks.

The Stock Advisor program is the company’s flagship service. This service offers investment recommendations based on the methodology that made Tom and David Gardner renowned figureheads in the world of investing. Rule Breakers is a follow-up service primarily built on David Gardner’s methodology.

Both programs seek to identify stocks poised for exceptional long-term returns. However, Rule Breakers is more focused on growth stocks. In this sense, Rule Breakers is just a more narrowly-focused stock picking service.

We believe that the Stock Advisor program is more favorable to Rule Breakers for a couple of reasons. First, you get access to more stock picks and resources. Second, the Stock Advisor program is clearly the flagship service. It’s the service that made the Fool famous, and it even contains a lot of the elements of the Rule Breakers service.

When in doubt, you can’t go wrong with the Stock Advisor program.

If you sign up for the Motley Fool Stock Advisor service and find that you want even more stock picks, you can check out the Rule Breakers program. These programs actually work out very well together.

Motley Fool vs. Zacks

It’s hard to make an “apples to apples” comparison between Motley Fool and Zacks. While the services share similarities, they are also very distinct. Zacks is best for investors who want to combine their own research with Zacks’ proprietary tools. For example, Zacks gives every stock an automatic “Zacks Rank” rating. This rating is convenient when doing research on a lot of stocks. However, it can also make it difficult to narrow down the best stocks.

Motley Fool takes a different approach. The stock advisor program is a true “hands-off” approach to investing. The Fool’s team does the research, and all you need to do is follow the stock alerts. Of course, you should do some of your own research as well, but you don’t need to waste time filtering through a bunch of stocks. Motley Fool is an easy-to-use stock picking service that gives you investment advice that is easy to follow.

Zacks is best for investors who do in-depth research, whereas Motley Fool is best for investors who want to be given stock picks.

Motley Fool vs. Jim Cramer

Motley Fool and Jim Cramer are easily some of the most well-recognized stock pickers. Tom and David Gardner run Motley Fool, whereas Jim Cramer runs Action Alerts Plus. We thoroughly reviewed and compared both programs to see what the absolute best stock picking service was. After our Motley Fool review and Action Alerts review, we came to a clear conclusion.

We found that Motley Fool’s Stock Advisor program was better than Action Alerts Plus in almost every category. Both services provide stock pick alerts, but we much preferred everything about the Stock Advisor program. The Stock Advisor program is more diverse, easier to use, and costs less money.

Motley Fool vs. Robo-Advisors

Robo advisors have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Services like Betterment and Wealthfront allow investors to create customized portfolios in a matter of minutes. Essentially, robo-advisors simplify investing for casual investors. Instead of choosing individual stocks, investors can choose their investment goals and risk thresholds, and the robo-advisory program will automatically create a portfolio (mostly consisting of ETFs).

While both The Motley Fool and robo-advisors cater to investors who want help building their portfolios, the two services are very different. For example, robo-advisor portfolios consist primarily of ETFs (funds), whereas the Stock Advisor program recommends individual stocks. Accordingly, this is not an “apples to apples” comparison.

Automated portfolios tend to mitigate risk through diversification, whereas individual stock picks aim to beat the market returns exponentially. You shouldn’t expect to see annual returns of over 20% on a robo-advisor portfolio, whereas those returns are entirely possible with an individual stock pick.

So, which one is right for you?

If you want a “set and forget” investing option, robo-advisors may be a good fit. However, if you want to beat the market and achieve exceptional returns, the Stock Advisor program is a better bet. Of course, you need to be able to monitor and manage your positions, but the potential upside is much higher.

Motley Fool vs. The S&P 500

Many investors are aware of the fact that the majority of funds do not beat the S&P 500 (also referred to as “the market,” “market index,” or “broad market”). This is generally the case with robo-advisors as well (which we discussed above).

In most cases, if you are looking at diversified portfolios and/or mutual funds, you’d be better of going with a broad market S&P 500 ETF, such as the SPY. Historically, these broad market funds and ETFs beat diversified and specialized funds. That said, the Stock Advisor program is not a fund.

The Gardner brothers, who run the SA service, aim to find stocks that beat the market and achieve exceptional returns – and they’ve been doing just that since 2002. They have a proven record of beating the market by a considerable margin. Since the launch of the Stock Advisor program, the Fool’s stock picks have yielded returns of ~374%, whereas the S&P 500 yielded returns of ~100%.

Final Thoughts on Motley Fool Stock Advisor

The Motley Fool Stock Advisor program is ideal for investors with long-term horizons. Over time, these stock recommendations have outperformed the market and provided exceptional returns. Motley Fool stock recommendations have beaten the stock market by over 400% since inception, and the company has been at it for over 15 years. That’s really all you need to know. We were pleasantly surprised by everything we uncovered during our Motley Fool review.

At only $99, you can’t go wrong with the Stock Advisor service. You will get excellent stock advice, great long-term stock recommendations backed by research, and two new stock picks per month. Furthermore, memberships are backed by a full refund guarantee to ensure customer satisfaction. It’s rare to find a stock advisory program that is effective, affordable, and time-tested, and this program certainly checks all of those boxes.

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