Motley Fool Answers: What Do Hedge Fund Managers Do?

Hedge funds are a bit mysterious to regular investors, since they're not something most people ever have anything to do with.

One this episode of Motley Fool Answers, Ron Gross joins Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp to get inside the mystery. They examine what a hedge fund is, how it gets started, and why it's easier to start one of these than other forms of investments. In addition, the group talks about regulations and what the risks are for an individual investor.

Finally, the trio looks into just when you should diversify, and how much is too much of your net worth to have in any one investment. In answering that question, the team also looks at how someone should start investing and exactly how slow he or she should go when first getting into the market.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Alison Southwick: This is Motley Fool Answers. I'm Alison Southwick, and I'm joined, as always, by Robert Brokamp, personal-finance expert here at The Motley Fool. Hi, Bro. How are you?

Robert Brokamp: Just fine. And how are you, Alison?

Southwick: I'm good. I'm good. Now, for the last couple of weeks, Bro, you have regaled us with your list of the best investors of all time, most of which ran hedge funds. And that prompted you to say things like, "So the average investor can't really do what they do."

Ron Gross: Did he say it like that?

Southwick: Yes, he did!

Brokamp: That's what I sound like on the radio.

Southwick: You wish you sounded like that. So I want to know. What is it that hedge fund managers do? And what can I do to invest like a pro? And do I even want to? So that's why we brought Ron Gross in to help us answer those questions. Hi, Ron.

Gross: Hey. Good to be here. How are you?

Southwick: It's great to have you back. So all that, and more, on this week's episode of Motley Fool Answers.

It's time for "Answers, Answers," and today's question comes from Bud. Bud writes: "About a year ago, I put some money into the market but only purchased two stocks, Apple and Under Armour. Consequently, now that I realize the error of my ways by ignoring the principle of diversification, I'm wondering if you think I should sell a portion of my two previous purchases in order to purchase other companies, thus more favorably rounding out my modest portfolio. Or should I just stay put and make other purchases down the road as I'm capable? I'm definitely a buy-and-hold kind of guy." Well, that's our kind of guy.

Gross: Absolutely.

Brokamp: Our kind of guy. Well, Bud, it depends on how much of your net worth you put into it. So if you had a $500,000 401(k) and you split it between two companies, I'd say yeah, you should probably sell a little bit and diversify a little bit more. But if you're a new investor, and you're just getting into the market with a few hundred dollars, maybe a thousand dollars, I think it's probably fine. I've mentioned in previous episodes that I think it's still a good idea for a new investor to still have an index fund somewhere, so you could add that to it. But I'm also going to turn to Ron, our expert, and get his thoughts on this. So with ...

Gross: The word "expert" always worries me.

Brokamp: So when someone is starting out investing, what do you generally recommend? Do you recommend they just buy one or two stocks, or do you think they should jump in with a few more?

Gross: So obviously, you have to start somewhere, and I love the idea of starting with an index fund, because you get instant diversification. If you buy, whether it's an index mutual fund or an index ETF like the S&P SPDRs, SPY, all of a sudden, you own a tiny piece of 500 companies, and you're nicely diversified. And then you can get into your lifetime of investing into individual companies.

One, two, three, try to get to 15, we like to say. We say that usually, even if you don't have an index fund, because that's when diversification even becomes more important. If you own an index fund, it becomes perhaps less important, but I like the number 15. David Gardner, here at the Fool, always likes to quote that number.

One thing I think you should be careful of, though, as you start investing in individual stocks, is the amount of capital you're going to put into each company and the amount of commissions you pay. So I wouldn't recommend buying $100 worth of stock and paying a $9.99 commission, because that percent is way too high. You'll have to make 10% on that stock just to break even. So try to keep your commissions to under 2%, we like to say -- the lower, the better, so you're not fighting against those commissions before you even get started.

Brokamp: So, Bud, I hope that helps. Unless these two investments are a huge component of your net worth, I think it's fine to hold on to them, but with additional investments. Try to get a little bit more diversification.

Southwick: When I think of the '80s, a few things come to mind. Keds. Koosh balls. Tom Cruise being totally normal.

Gross: Wow!

Southwick: I also think of hedge fund managers in French cuff shirts drinking three-martini lunches and talking about leveraged buyouts and spreads on orange juice futures.

Gross: Hmm!

Southwick: Is that accurate? Was that what it was like?

Gross: I did have French cuff shirts. I did not drink during the day, but I am a former hedge fund guy. Don't hold it against me.

Southwick: I know. That's what I have in my little description here. Hedge funds -- so elite, so secretive, but not today. Ron, a recovering hedge fund manager, joins us to explain what hedge funds do and how they aren't as bad as all those movies in the '80s made them out to be.

Gross: Or are they?

Southwick: Or are they? Dun-dun-dunnn! Did you really have ... the shirt that is so hedge fund manager to me is where it's blue. Like a light blue.

Gross: Yes. Blue with white cuffs.

Brokamp: With the white cuffs, yes.

Southwick: It was blue with the white cuffs ...

Gross: And the white collar. I swear I had it.

Southwick: Oh, I don't doubt it.

Gross: And loved it. I loved it. I felt like I was so cool. Being a Fool is way better -- I've got news for you.

Southwick: So tell me a little about your background. You ran a hedge fund?

Gross: I ran two. I was co-portfolio manager of one, and then I started my own for my second one back from the year 2000 until about 2008, 2009, when I joined the Fool. So yeah, a lot of fun. A lot of good experience. A lot of hard work. But it was a good time.

Southwick: Yeah. Well, we're going to get into that good time a little bit here and start off with the question of what makes a hedge fund a hedge fund.

Gross: Hoo! Are you ready? Buckle up.

Southwick: Here we go.

Gross: Here we go. So first of all, I wish they weren't called hedge funds, because it gets everybody confused. They should be called private investment partnerships, because that's really what they are. They're not publicly traded. They are actual partnerships in form. The investors are limited partners. The fund manager is the general partner. The investors put money -- the general manager pools it all together and makes investments on behalf of the limited partners.

Some of these investment partnerships utilize sophisticated strategies that help to hedge the market -- hedge against a downturn in the market; hedge against a specific stock going down -- but many, many of these investment partnerships do not hedge, and that's why I wish they weren't called that. And there's as many strategies as you can think of. There's so many ETFs out there now -- exchange-traded funds -- and there's a million of those strategies. Hedge funds, the same way, have a million different strategies.

The long-short strategy is kind of what made hedge funds famous, where you own some stocks long, you sell some stocks or indexes short. That hedges it out. So that's kind of how the industry grew up, but it's diversified so far from that one particular strategy that "hedge funds" is really a misnomer at this point.

Brokamp: So just to be clear, "long" means you own the investment and you'll benefit if it goes up ...

Gross: Yep.

Brokamp: When you sell it short, you're basically looking to profit if the price of that goes down. So that's where the hedge comes in, right? So if it goes down, you're limiting the risk on what you own long.

Gross: Right. If I own $1 million worth of stock and I'm concerned about the stock market, as a whole, going down, I could short an S&P 500 index fund, or ETF, really, so if the market does go down, that short would make money and offset the loss of the stocks that I own.

Brokamp: Right. And if it doesn't, then that short will have been an unprofitable investment. Sort of like insurance.

Gross: It's insurance. Exactly.

Southwick: So if we wanted to start our own little hedge fund, Bro and I are like ...

Gross: OK. I've done that.

Southwick: Yeah, yeah, So, and actually, it's not going to be a small little hedge fund. It's going to be a massive, popular, successful hedge fund. And Bro and I have a ton of money, and we want you to manage it.

Gross: Done.

Southwick: Do we basically all go in together and we're like, "Here, Ron. You manage our money." And you're like, "OK, I'm going to manage it." And that's it? And then we all live happily ever after?

Gross: Kind of. It's certainly easier to start a hedge fund than it is to start a mutual fund, because hedge funds are very lightly regulated. You need to really only file a form or two with the SEC. If you want to do it right, you write up a private placement memorandum to tell your potential investors what you're going to be investing in and what your strategy is. If your investors think that's interesting, they will write you a check, and you'll deposit it into your brokerage account along with all the other checks. Then the hedge fund manager will start to manage that money on behalf of the partners, taking a nice fee along the way.

Southwick: Yes. Let's talk about the fees, shall we?

Gross: Sure. So hedge funds are notorious for high fees, and theoretically, the performance you'll get is worth those fees, although in reality, it certainly, lately, appears that's not the case. There's two typical fees associated with hedge funds. The first is an annual fee based on assets under management, and that, historically, has been a 2% fee. My first fund was 2%. My second fund was 1%. It's really up to the fund manager what they want to do, and it's up to the investor whether they want to accept that or not. But that's an annual fee.

The more controversial fee is the hedge fund manager gets to take a percent of the annual profits they make for the investors, and that historically has been 20%. Sometimes nowadays you'll see 10. Sometimes you'll see 40 if the person is so good ...

Southwick: Wow.

Gross: ... that they can command that type of a fee. But that fee is a little bit controversial from a tax perspective, and during election season, you'll hear lots of talk about it, because the fund manager gets favorable tax treatment on that reallocation of gains. You're just taking 20% of your investors' gains, so that's taxed as a capital gain. It's not taxed as ordinary income, so you benefit from that.

People say, "No, no, no, you hedge fund guys. You're making enough money. You should pay taxes the normal way like everybody else." That's constantly a battle. Eventually this will probably be changed, but then the hedge fund guys are smart enough. They'll figure out some other way to kind of skirt around that. But that's the controversial part of the fee.

Southwick: So 20% of the profits. So your hedge fund manager could not even be beating the market.

Gross: Correct.

Southwick: Like if the market is on a tear, and he's not even beating the market, he could still be getting ...

Gross: Correct.

Southwick: Twenty percent of

Gross: Now remember, it's all about what that manager writes into his memorandum to say, "This is how we're going to operate," and you can take it or leave it. Very often, especially in the olden days, you would have a hurdle rate, where the fund manager would say, "I'm not going to take anything until I get 6%," or whatever number he chooses. "After that 6%, I'm going to take 20% of the profits." So sometimes you'll see that. The hurdle rate started to go away kind of in the late, like, around the 2000 area, I feel, early to late 2000s, but you start to see it creep back in, especially as hedge fund performance gets weaker and weaker, and people start saying, "Hey, wait a minute. What am I paying for here?"

Southwick: Yeah, because it sounds like it's very hard for an investor in a hedge fund to make a lot of money, but in theory, you're supposed to make a lot of money. Like, these are supposed to be the smartest guys in ...

Gross: And they often are. Performance lately, as I said, wouldn't show you that. But another thing we should mention is that you have to be what's called a sophisticated investor to be able to invest in hedge funds.

Southwick: Is that an official ...

Gross: And the technical term for that is "accredited investor," which means you have a net worth of $1 million excluding the value of your home, or you make $200,000 in income. You've done that over the last two years, and you expect that that will continue into the future. So the idea is that these are relatively wealthy people who should be somewhat sophisticated, which is not necessarily the case ...

Southwick: Not necessarily true, yeah.

Gross: And should be able to understand what they're getting into. When they read this sometimes very intricate private placement memorandum, they'll be able to understand the strategy, understand what they're getting themselves into, and hopefully that's the case.

Southwick: Yeah. Some of the articles I was reading about hedge funds ahead of this, were really making -- two major headlines were that hedge funds tend to be hemorrhaging assets under management. They're not performing well lately. But there's also so many of them. There's, like, somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 hedge funds.

Gross: Yep, and that's actually one of the reasons you'll hear hedge funds say that the performance is weak. That there's too much money chasing the same ideas, and that kind of arbitrages them out of the system.

Southwick: Or too much money going to dumb people.

Gross: It could be. There are a lot of funds. And, as you said, it's because, really, it's pretty easy to set one up and just begin. Raising money is another story. That's hard to do. But there's so much capital out there, as you said. But even though you'll hear managers blame the fact that there's too much capital chasing too few ideas, I don't know if that's the real reason for underperformance. I think underperformance is because of plain old bad stock picking.

Southwick: Yeah.

Gross: And, you know, let's call it what it is.

Southwick: Let's. So Bro, talk to me a little bit more about what the difference is between a hedge fund and a mutual fund. Is it mostly just the fees and regulatory differences?

Brokamp: A big part of it is the regulatory differences. So after the Great Depression, a lot of laws were passed to regulate investment companies, and mutual funds have to comply with those. First of all, they do have to file with the SEC. They have to have a board of directors or board of trustees. They have a lot of limitations on how much they can invest in any one security, so they have to be diversified, and they have to be relatively liquid.

Anybody can sign up and invest in a mutual fund. There are no requirements on whether they're a sophisticated investor or not. The minimums tend to be as low as $500. And the fees, while they're not necessarily regulated, tend to be a lot lower, so the average fee on a mutual fund is around 1% or so, and you can get the money out any day the market is trading. So you just put in your order. You don't know what the price of your share is going to be yet, because mutual funds are valued at the end of the day, when the market is closed, based on net asset value, but they are required to give you back your money within a week. And that is also a big difference with that and hedge funds.

Gross: Huge contrast. Hedge funds are not publicly traded, so if you want your money back, you have to submit a letter in writing asking for it back. You could maybe do that quarterly, or semiannually, or even annually, depending on what that hedge fund manager has decided to put in place.

And you're often subject to an initial lockup of one or two years. So you say, "Here's my money. Please go ahead and invest it for me. I understand that I can't ask for it back for one or two years." That's called a lockup, and so you could be subject to that as well. So it's extremely different versus a mutual fund, which is you're basically liquid every day.

Brokamp: Right. How much, Ron, would you say people go into the hedge fund industry because it is more difficult to open a mutual fund? And really they'd be fine running a regular old mutual fund. It's just more difficult.

Gross: It's also the fees. One percent -- you need to have a lot of money under management for 1% to pay all your overhead, all your salaries, and you make the living that you want to make.

Southwick: That's with a mutual fund, typically.

Gross: Yeah. The hedge fund's fees at 2 and 20, that gets lucrative pretty quick, as long as you do a good job.

Southwick: Someone's got to pay for those French cuff shirts. They aren't cheap.

Gross: That's very true. You know, it's interesting. Starting a fund, as we said, is not hard, but raising capital is, and that's because there are so many great or famous, let's say, hedge fund managers out there that capture most of the capital.

Back in my day, hedge funds, to stay on the right side of regulations, weren't even allowed to advertise or market. You kind of had to go out, kind of person by person, explaining what you are, and what you do, and hoping you can get that person to invest. So without the ability to advertise, it made it even harder to get any significant assets under management. Over the years, more recently, those rules have been lightened up on, and hedge funds can now market. Whether that's good or bad for the world, I'm not sure, but it's easier to get capital.

Southwick: Yeah. Let's talk about activist hedge funds, because those are fun. They put the "fun" in hedge funds.

Gross: Wow! Both of my funds are activist, so I'm happy to talk about that. Activist investors are investors that either own a stock and have identified some things that the company's not doing well, that if they just did, the stock would likely go up in value. Or, these are funds that actually look for companies to buy that they think have a problem, and if they bought it and then demanded some changes be made, the stock would go up in value.

Carl Icahn is probably one of the most famous. In more recent years, Bill Ackman. Nelson Peltz. Starboard Value. Jana Partners. These are all hedge funds that are pushing for value-creating endeavors to be pursued by these companies, but they're also interested in corporate governance issues. Making sure the boards of directors are doing what the boards of directors should be doing. Making sure that the CEO and the chairman roles are split. Making sure that compensation is appropriate for the C-level executives. So there's a lot of corporate governance associated with activists.

But the other side of that strategy is you'll see them saying, "You should sell this piece of your company," or "You should acquire that other company," or "You should start to pay a dividend," or "You should buy back stock." These are some of the more common things that activists will demand, and if need be, you'll often see them running a proxy contest, which is where they ask for seats on the board of directors so they can kind of push their initiatives through, and sometimes that can get nasty. And the proxy fights get a little heated, and you win or you lose, but it's always interesting.

Southwick: What's one of the more recent high-profile cases? I feel like -- was Valeant one of them, and then there was ...

Gross: Yahoo! was pretty big.

Southwick: Oh, really?

Gross: Starboard Value. Jeffrey Smith over at Starboard was demanding that Yahoo! sell itself for the most part, or create value there, and they were trying to push through. They were trying to put themselves on the board, which they were successful at doing, I believe. And that was pretty high profile. Any time there's a large company that gets an activist, you'll see it in the press. I typically went after small- and micro-cap investments, so those don't typically make the news.

Brokamp: Were you ever on the board?

Gross: We used to put representatives on the board, but I never personally went on boards.

Brokamp: I always think that must be very uncomfortable to go into those meetings, because the activist investors basically are disagreeing with the CEO ...

Gross: Yes.

Brokamp: And the chairman, and saying, "You're not doing a good enough job."

Gross: And sometimes you end up kicking the CEO out as a result. But in the beginning, those meetings are pretty contentious and uncomfortable, but once, usually the company says, "Fine, let's just roll up our sleeves and get this done and create value," things tend to calm down. But I always think behind the scenes, there's always still that animosity.

Brokamp: Which, by the way, I think is how Warren Buffett took over Berkshire Hathaway. It was a textile manufacturer, right?

Gross: Yeah.

Brokamp: And he just accumulated shares, went in, and fired the president. Eventually they had to close all the mills. I think the last mill was closed in 1985. Actually, Warren Buffett has said Berkshire Hathaway, the actual company, was one of his worst ...

Gross: Yeah.

Brokamp: ... investments of all time, but then he just started using it as a holding company.

Gross: And the whole activism -- as I said earlier, there's kind of two ways to look at it. If you're an owner of a company, an owner of stock, then you have every right as a shareholder to say, "I don't like what's going on here. I think these changes should be made." These are public companies, right? They're not private, and if the board and the CEOs are running them as if they're private companies, that's not appropriate.

It's kind of another thing to identify a company first and say, "That company has trouble. I'm going to buy it now and then make some noise." It's kind of two different things. You can end up in the same place, but one is you're being a conscientious, vocal shareholder, and the other is you're being an opportunistic hedge fund manager. Two different things.

Southwick: So for the average individual investor out there listening, what -- activist hedge funds, or hedge funds in general, is it just good theater? Is there a lesson to be learned here? The headlines are telling me that they maybe should not be investing in hedge funds.

Gross: You have to be careful and invest in one with a track record. There's so many start-ups out there that I would probably say to stay away from. I know that Bro has asset allocation models and recommends certain types of investments and certain percentages.

A lot of investment advisors will say to affluent clients, "I think you should have" -- let's just make up a number -- "5% of your portfolio in what's called alternative investments." That's usually something like a hedge fund, or a private equity fund, or a venture capital fund, which all of these partnership structures are. Is it necessary to have that allocation? I believe it is not. I don't know if you have a thought on that, Bro.

Brokamp: Yeah, and that's about what I recommend in our model portfolio, so maybe 5% to 10% in some sort of alternative strategy. It can be as simple as real estate, like real estate investment trusts, but something a little different than standard stocks and bonds.

The problem I have with hedge funds is if you're looking at a hedge fund that's basically just a stock-picking mutual fund with higher fees, the stats show they're probably not going to do a good job for you.

Gross: Right.

Brokamp: It's more interesting, to me, when you're looking at a hedge fund that really is doing some sort of hedging or adding some diversification to a normal stock-bond portfolio.

Gross: The market, technically, should weed out the folks that are just stock-picking, because if you can get stock-picking at a mutual fund for 1%, but you've got to pay 2 and 20 at a hedge fund, theoretically that hedge fund, if it's not doing something special, should not be able to raise capital. Is that always the case? No, but the market really should take care of that over time.

But for the average investor -- for the Fools out there -- I think you can live a perfectly successful, normal investing life never even touching a hedge fund. Individual stocks, index funds, mutual funds, perfectly acceptable, and I don't think, really, the ambition should be "I've got to get wealthy enough so I can put money into a hedge fund."

Southwick: It sounds like the easier path to get wealthy is to just start a hedge fund, rather than invest in a hedge fund.

Gross: Be careful what you wish for. It's not so easy.

Southwick: So we've had a lot of fun mail come in. The first letter I want to talk about came from Steve. Steve listened to your episode of "The Greatest Investors of All Time," and he wanted to know why you left Peter Lynch off the list.

Brokamp: Well, one of my criteria was that they had to have an investment record of at least 20 years, and Peter Lynch ran his fund to great success, I think it averaged 29% a year, but it was just for 13 years.

Southwick: Just 13 years.

Brokamp: Just 13 years. And so the reason I chose 20 years is because there really are a lot of examples of people who ran hedge funds for a decade with spectacular returns only to totally flame out. One example, nowadays, is Bruce Berkowitz, who runs the Fairholme fund. He was, for the first decade of the 2000s, Morningstar named him "Manager of the Decade," and since, then his fund has been horrible. It has been outperformed by, like, 98% of other funds.

So I felt like 20 years was a good time frame. That if you really did well over two decades, then there's something there. But I don't doubt that Peter Lynch is a great investor.

Southwick: What's he up to these days? Is he still alive?

Brokamp: Peter Lynch?

Southwick: Yeah, is he still alive?

Brokamp: Oh, yeah, he's still alive.

Southwick: I thought he was still alive.

Brokamp: Yeah, he's still alive. His wife recently passed away ...

Southwick: Aw!

Brokamp: And I say that because she was a fascinating character. In her 50s, she was actually in an elevator that basically crashed, and she got very injured.

Southwick: Oh!

Brokamp: While she was in the hospital, she learned how to play bridge, and she eventually became one of the best bridge players in the world.

Southwick: Oh!

Brokamp: So she and Peter Lynch, I think, they played bridge once a week at the country club, but she became one of the tops in the world. She was second in the world during this one competition, lost to a German team. And then someone found out that the German team was giving signals to each other ...

Southwick: Oh!

Brokamp: So they got kicked out and they took first place. But Peter Lynch is still alive, and he lives in a very nice house in Massachusetts.

Southwick: But he's not investing?

Brokamp: His own money.

Southwick: Oh, yeah.

Brokamp: So he made a lot of money. So like a lot of these folks, they have their own wealth, and they just manage their own money at that point.

Southwick: All right, that's probably more about Peter Lynch than anyone wanted to know, but it's still interesting. I found it interesting.

All right. And also, Steve wanted to know: "I've listened to NPR for over 20 years. When did the Fool have an NPR show? I wonder how I missed it." I wonder how you missed it, too, Steve. I wasn't around at The Motley Fool when we had the show. Because this was back, it looks like the last episode aired in 2006?

Brokamp: Yeah.

Southwick: Does that sound about right?

Brokamp: First we had a radio show, I think it was on CBS Radio. That was one of the first ways I heard of the Fool, because "Weird Al" Yankovic was on. I joined some contest the Fool had, and that was one of my first interactions, I think, with Mac Greer. So we had that on, and in a later episode of that show, I sang the Laverne & Shirley theme song. Thank you very much.

But then we went to NPR. And people may not know about the way NPR works, but if you have an NPR station in Iowa, for example, you have a whole menu of NPR shows to purchase -- This American Life, whichever -- and you choose. So this fellow may be living in an area that very foolishly or unfoolishly ...

Southwick: Small "f."

Brokamp:... small "f," chose not to purchase The Motley Fool.

Southwick: But it looks like many of the episodes are still on NPR's website, maybe, I don't know. If you Google "Motley Fool" and "NPR," things come up.

Richard Engdahl: Can you search on Robert Brokamp singing Laverne & Shirley?

Brokamp: I certainly hope -- that was a ...

Southwick: I think they can pull that from the archives.

Brokamp: That was one of those things that I did, and then I immediately regretted it.

Engdahl: Maybe a reprise right now would be good.

Southwick: Someday ...

Brokamp: If I had my guitar, you know, maybe I'd do it.

Southwick: Someday I'm going to get you to sing "It's Not Easy Being Green" or "Rainbow Connection," one of those, because we all know you do a great Kermit the Frog.

Brokamp: Thank you.

Southwick: We also got a nice email from Dr. Rhodes. Stick with me on this one. He has a daughter, and she was listening to the show. Awesome! And she heard you, Brokamp, mention the after-tax 401(k). And his daughter was like, "What's the deal with that, Dad?" And he said, "I don't know. Let me look into it."

So he writes that after learning about it, he came up with a plan that neither his pension attorney nor his pension custodian had ever heard of. Not a great start there. They confirmed it is legal and could be done, to the best of their knowledge, and they called it a "modality." Have you ever heard of a modality?

Brokamp: Not in this context, but keep going.

Southwick: ... that they had never thought of. He said in deference to his tech-savvy daughter, he prefers to call it a "hack." His pension provider is one of the biggest in the country, and they have labeled this the "Dr. Rhodes After-Tax Roth Distribution Rollover Strategy," which is kind of cool. They are planning to recommend this to some of their other 59 1/2 high-income customers, and he wouldn't have thought of it if it weren't you, future Dr. Mr. Brokamp.

Brokamp: And thank you. Thank you very much. Reading the email, it was more complicated than what you just read, and I cannot take credit for everything that they figured out, but I'm happy that I planted the seed. How's that?

Southwick: So call up your pension plan and ask for the "Dr. Rhodes After-Tax Roth Distribution Rollover Strategy." And, as you know, I have been pleading with our listeners to send us a postcard from the Olympics, and guess what? We got one.

Brokamp: Oh, we did?

Southwick: No, but not from the Olympics you're thinking of. Cheryl writes: "Love your podcast. You are definitely educating and amusing. When I read your request for a postcard from the Olympics, since I live here, this is actually what I thought you wanted. Ha, ha, ha. Hope you get a card from the Olympic events, too." And she sent a picture of the Olympic Mountains in Seattle.

Brokamp: Very clever. We appreciate that.

Southwick: I'm counting it.

Brokamp: You can't see the postcard -- because this is a podcast -- but it is a very pretty picture.

Southwick: It's a lovely picture of Seattle, Washington. So thank you, Cheryl, for sending a postcard from the Olympics.

All right, that's the show. It is edited, hedgingly, by Rick Engdahl. You can email us your questions, of course, at We're going to have a Mailbag episode coming up soon -- an all-Mailbag episode -- so send us your questions on email to You can also call us at (866) MRS-FOOL, and you can also ask us questions on Twitter or on our Facebook group.

Brokamp: We're everywhere.

Southwick: We are everywhere.

Gross: Everywhere.

Southwick: For Robert Brokamp, I'm Alison Southwick. Stay Foolish, everybody!

Alison Southwick has no position in any stocks mentioned. Robert Brokamp, CFP owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Facebook. Ron Gross owns shares of Apple, Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Apple, Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), Facebook, Twitter, Under Armour (A Shares), and Valeant Pharmaceuticals. The Motley Fool has the following options: long January 2018 $90 calls on Apple and short January 2018 $95 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Yahoo. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.