Things I Like: Podcasts

I love my job, but my commute is less than ideal. It’s about an hour to and an hour from work. That’s a lot of time stuck behind the wheel of a car during the course of a week. I probably spend more time commuting each week than I spend doing anything else beyond sleeping and working. In fact, I estimate I’ve spent roughly 5% of my life commuting during the past year, which is actually a rather depressing way to think about it.

The silver lining on all of this is that it provides me plenty of time to listen to podcasts, and I’ve found quite a few that I enjoy.  I’ll even work out ways to listen to them during weeks where I’m not stuck in a car for hours. I thought I might share some of my favorites with others who also suffer through long commutes, on the off-chance they find something they like. It also lets me give some love to the podcasts for providing me countless hours of entertainment for free.

I’m desperately waiting for my affordable, level 5 self-driving car, but until then I’ll be listening to the following podcasts.

The Fifth Columnfifth_column_podcast – A greatly informative and very entertaining almost weekly political podcast hosted by Matt Welch, Kmele Foster and Michael Moynihan that just might be my favorite podcast right now. I almost always listen the day a new episode comes out, not only because the content is often very timely, but also because it’s so good. I do have to warn everybody up front that the podcast definitely contains adult language and is not at all for the easily offended. The podcast very simply involves three journalist (journalo?) friends who get together, sometimes with a guest, to discuss the compelling political stories of the day. As you might imagine, the past few months have provided a lot of interesting material. All three are libertarian leaning and the podcast is very much infused with a libertarian perspective, but it’s not all simply about regurgitating political ideology. The hosts are well-read and well-traveled and do a good job of backing up their opinions with knowledge and experience. Non-libertarians might have a hard time stomaching some of the political trash-talking (of which there is a lot), but I believe anybody who listens with an open mind can learn something or find something that makes them think. Also, just because the hosts are libertarian leaning doesn’t mean there isn’t spirited disagreement. Some of the best and funniest moments are when the hosts not-so-gently rib each other about issues they disagree about. A recent episode (“President Trump: Worst Tuesday Ever?“) provides an excellent example of what makes The Fifth Column great. It had me alternately laughing out loud, fired up to resist the incoming Trump administration, and also questioning whether Trump’s rhetoric is actually that much worse than what we often hear from Democratic candidates. It’s rare to have such varying emotional and intellectual responses from a single podcast episode. Intrigued? Listen to an episode and find out why #Kmele2020 is trending.

freakonomics_podcastFreakonomics – A podcast that explores the hidden side of everything, Freakonomics is based on the book of the same name by Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt. Host Stephen Dubner covers every sort of topic imaginable, but does so from an economist’s perspective, oftentimes challenging conventional wisdom and coming to different conclusions in the process. It’s very rare for me to listen to an episode and not have it leave me with something to think about afterwards. Sometimes the topics are relatively trivial things like “How did the belt win?“, which explores why people generally use belts over suspenders. Other times they touch hot-button political issues like in “The True Story of the Gender Pay Gap” (it’s not all about sexism) and “Are Payday Loans Really as Evil as People Say?” (probably not). Some of the best episodes, though, are ones that address issues that hardly anybody seems to be thinking about. In “Is It Okay for Restaurants to Racially Profile Their Employees?“, they explore why ethnic restaurants more often than not have matching ethnic wait staff and  “Are You Ready for a Glorious Sunset?” tackles the heavy issue of whether people should forgo costly end-of-life treatment in return for a cash rebate from their health insurance.

Fantasy Focus Footballfff_podcast – This one could be a little niche, but for serious fantasy football players it’s a must. It’s a daily ESPN podcast during football season, with timely episodes during the off-season. Host Field Yates does his best to reign in analyst Matthew Berry to go over all the relevant fantasy football news, including some great injury insight from physical therapist Stephania Bell. Matthew Berry can be a bit much and dominate the show at times, but he also lends the show much of its energy and humor. There are also a lot of inside jokes, so if you’re a new listener, be prepared to be very confused as to why listeners are sending directions to Field Yates and why Matthew insists on referring to every concussion as a “mild” one. There are a few fantasy football leagues organized by the show (including a celebrity one), so some episodes have interviews that can be hit-or-miss and often not very fantasy football related. Luckily, they’re often placed at the end of episodes so they can be easily skipped.

The Motley Fool podcasts – At first blush this would appear to be a clear case of bias since I work at The Motley Fool, but I assure you it’s not. I listened to (and greatly enjoyed) many of their podcasts before even thinking of working there and I still do. They are interesting, informative, and best of all, fun. They played a big role in my decision to sign up for one of their premium services and undoubtedly influenced my decision to decide to work there as well.

Motley Fool Moneytmf_money_podcast – A weekly 40 minute podcast that comes out every Friday and is also broadcast on radio stations across the nation. Motley Fool Money is a great resource for individual investors or even people just interested in following what’s going on in the market. Host Chris Hill interviews a trio of Motley Fool analysts about the most newsworthy business and investing stories to have come out in the past week. The show strikes an excellent balance of covering just the right number of topics in just the right amount of depth so that if you’re ever bored by a specific topic, it doesn’t take too long for them to move onto a different one. Most episodes also involve an insightful Chris Hill interview where he speaks with an author, journalist, critic or other personality. The interviews are sometimes related to investing, but oftentimes are about such various topics as: the current state of television, how to be more productive and how to better influence people. During earning season, the interviews are sometimes swapped out for additional analysis. Episodes are wrapped up with the analysts discussing stocks that are on their radar, but always remember: “people on the program may have interest in the stocks they talk about, and The Motley Fool may have formal recommendations for or against those stocks, so don’t buy or sell anything based solely on what you hear”.

tmf_foolery_podcastMarket Foolery – I like to think of Market Foolery as the daily (Monday through Thursday) and less formal version of Motley Fool Money. It’s alternately hosted by Chris Hill or Mark Reeth as they interview one or two Motley Fool analysts about the important business and investing stories of the day. Oftentimes stories covered during the week on Market Foolery will end up being covered on Motley Fool Money, so if you listen to both be prepared for some overlap. However, the smaller number of topics sometimes permits the analysts to go more in-depth. Also, unlike Motley Fool Money, Market Foolery isn’t carried on the radio, so the format is much looser. Shows range in length from 15-30 minutes and it’s not unusual at all for the hosts and analysts to go on lengthy tangents (particularly if Bill Barker is on the show). Come for the discussion on Twitter’s earnings report. Stay for the debate on under- and over-rated Halloween candy.

tmf_answers_podcastMotley Fool Answers – Co-hosted by Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp (Lead Advisor of the Rule Your Retirement newsletter), Motley Fool Answers is there to answer whatever questions listeners might have about investing, personal finance, retirement, budgeting or anything else. There’s something for everybody as the hosts address questions from beginning investors as well as diving into complex topics such as backdoor IRAs and the intricacies of hedge funds. The hosts have great chemistry. There doesn’t appear to be anything retirement related that Bro doesn’t know and Alison has seemingly endless amounts of energy and a bottomless well of accents to draw upon. They can make even the most boring topics at least tolerable if not outright interesting. Don’t let the strange obsession with loofahs scare you away. Check it out.

tmf_rbi_podcastRule Breaker Investing – Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner talks mostly about investing (particularly his unique style of investing, dubbed Rule Breaker Investing), but also about a number of other things he enjoys that are only tangentially related to investing. Past investing themed episodes have involved analyzing what the top stocks of 2015 have in common, how to judge how risky a company is, and a Brexit inspired stock list. However, David Gardner has also spent episodes talking about his Pet Peeves, Mental Tips and Tricks and 5 board games that will make you a better investor. There are also recurring mailbag and greatest quote podcasts. Rule Breaker Investing is a bit of an anomaly for a Motley Fool Podcast because, with the exception of the occasional interview, it’s mostly just David Gardner speaking by himself. Still, the man and subject matter are interesting enough that it rarely gets boring.

tmf_focus_podcastIndustry Focus – Industry Focus is a daily podcast which provides a deeper dig into companies and topics versus Motley Fool Money or Market Foolery. Each day, a different sector of the economy is covered: Financials, Consumer Goods, Healthcare, Energy and Tech. A rotating cast of hosts interviews an analyst; each episode runs about 20 minutes and is generally constrained to a single topic. Industry Focus is great when you’re looking for more information on a specific topic instead of just the main talking points. Want to know all the details behind Alphabet’s self-driving car program? Industry Focus is there. Interested in the drugs in Celgene’s pipeline and their potential market? Industry Focus is there. Full disclosure: I don’t listen to every Industry Focus episode because some of the topics just don’t interest me (yet), but when there’s an episode that does cover a topic that I’m interested in, Industry Focus is invaluable.

By my count, that’s over 9 hours of podcasting goodness per week. Not every podcast will appeal to everybody, but hopefully there’s something there you might be interested in trying out. If you find something you end up liking, let me know in the comments. Thanks!

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Paul Essen
Founder and Chief Discourse Officer at Rampant Discourse
Proud geek. Trekkie. Browncoat. Entil'Zha. First human spectre. Hokie. Black belt. Invests Foolishly. Loves games of all types and never has enough time to play as many as he wants. Libertarian who looks forward to the day he votes for a winning presidential candidate. Father to two beautiful daughters.

This article has 6 Comments

  1. I only subscribe to one podcast, and that is the Two Plus Two Pokercast. Keeps me in the loop on what is going on in the poker world and the occasional strategy tip. Also fun to hear a poker player’s view on life events when thinking purely from an expected value perspective and logically understanding odds and variance keeps you level headed. Such as why it is “plus ev” to not fill up your car until it is past empty because over the long run you save yourself a fill up or two which saves 10 minutes of your life to use towards something else.

  2. Sounds pretty interesting, and reminds me a bit of the Freakonomics podcast, where they look at normal life things from a different perspective. I’ve fallen out of the habit of following poker (like many of my hobbies, it didn’t survive the time sink that is having kids) and I don’t really have time for more podcasts right now, but I’ll keep it in mind if my commute were to increase.

  3. And your joke about having a level 5 car – have you seen the new videos from Tesla where their car navigates neighborhoods and driving directions to get the guy from home to work, and even parks itself after dropping him off at the front door?

  4. Key word being “affordable” level 5 self-driving car. 🙂 The Model 3 doesn’t count yet because it’s not out yet.

  5. I remember back in the day when the Motley Fool preached “Don’t pay for financial advice, when most of it is common sense”. Now they’ve come around to pushing individual stocks for some reason. Maybe it’s because no one is going to pay for a newsletter that says “Buy VTI and hold it as long as you can” every single month? Instead of their podcasts I listen to Planet Money. They don’t give you “hot” stock advice (which will actually increase the odds that your net worth goes down over time) and instead just provide insightful and interesting stories about the economy at large.

    1. I’m not sure how long you’ve been following the Motley Fool, but I’ve been following them off and on for many years (even before working there) and while their marketing has gone back and forth, I believe their underlying message has always been fairly consistent if you dig past the marketing and look into their content. The Fool has been a consistent messenger of index funds beating most mutual funds and big proponents of low fees for funds. Heck, just this month the Rule Breaker Investing podcast had an episode entitled “Love letter to Jack Bogle” ( which discussed the great work he’s done with Vanguard and promoting low fee index funds. Yes, the Fool does believe that it’s possible to beat the market by purchasing shares of individual businesses and holding them for the long term (and I believe most if not all of their newsletter services are beating the market), but they also believe that for people who don’t have the time and inclination (or emotional temperament to ride out market volatility) that consistently buying into a low fee index fund and holding it for the long term is the way to go.

      From what I understand of their history, they’ve been recommending individual stocks from pretty much their inception as a company (I believe their first product was a stock newsletter), so I don’t think there has been a change in their advice, but perhaps changes in perception brought on by different marketing tactics. I encourage you to check out some of their content (particularly the Answers podcast or RBI podcast episode I linked to). One of the consistent messages of the Fool is still avoiding unnecessary fees and long term holding.

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