I just finished reading the latest book from Tony Robbins, MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom. It’s a long title for a book, but it’s also a large book (almost 700 pages in length). This is the first book from Tony Robbins in over 20 years, so I was excited to read it.
I’ll first say for full disclosure, I’m a fan of Tony’s previous work and have attended an Unleash the Power Within Seminar. This book is in a style similar to his other books.
For this review, I purchased the hardbound book and the Audible version. Be forewarned if you purchase the audiobook version of the book: Tony Robbins reads only the first and last chapters. Most of the book is narrated by Jeremy Bobb. I thought Jeremy did a good job of reading the material, but he’s no Tony Robbins.
What’s MONEY About?
Robbins starts off the book with many of the pain points we experience with investing: high advisory fees, actively managed funds, and how the market is “rigged.”
It’s great that someone like Tony, who has mass appeal, is discussing an important topic like investing. So many individuals aren’t educated on the subject, and even basic 101 investing can be profound to the average person.
On the positive side, for readers who are just starting to invest, the book does have a lot of information that you’ll likely find helpful. For the intermediate-to-advanced investor, there’s some great insight as well. Unfortunately you have to get through a lot of filler, repetitive information and some contradictory statements, but for the most part it’s worth it.
I do like how the book is organized, listing specific steps while presenting the material in a neat and logical order. Though Tony does repeat himself quite a bit throughout the book, he summarizes every step of the way — which might be needed for some readers.
The same can be said about the psychology and motivations of investing being money. The “why” is always more important than the “how-to,” especially for long-term goals like retirement planning.
Where MONEY Goes Wrong
As Tony does with all his other material, he’s constantly mixing education, entertainment, name dropping and upselling of other products and services throughout the book.
I can see how this might be off-putting for some who are not used to Tony’s style of writing.
While reading, I did note a few inaccuracies and inconsistencies. For example, Roth IRAs were recommended for individuals who qualify under the income requirements, but no mention was made of the backdoor Roth IRA method.
Tony recommends using passive low-cost index-based investments, yet some of the experts he interviewed either are against it or could be considered some of the same insiders he’s railing against at the beginning of the book. Also, hedge fund managers like Ray Dalio, whom Tony interviewed for the book, might offer great returns, but as an investor you’re paying through the nose with the 2/20 fee schedule.
The interview section of the book, in my opinion, was mostly useless. While there are some nuggets of information that an advanced investor might get from reading some of the best-of-the-best investors, the average investor will get confused from conflicting advice.
One advisor from JP Morgan recommends active management, whereas Jack Bogle states indexing is the way to go. For most readers, I recommend skipping this section.
The inconsistencies are perhaps the most annoying aspect of the book and might confuse the beginning investor.
Where MONEY Gets It Right
It’s great how Tony discusses that if you do use a financial advisor you should get one that’s a fiduciary — one that puts your best interests first. For many individuals this might be a shocker, but typically most advisors in the finance space do not put your best interests first.
Chapter three of the book discusses end-goals. This section was actually somewhat enlightening even for my skill level. I got a better grasp of how much I need to save and the exact dollar amounts to reach those goals. For most financial planning, it’s pretty much an unknown. This section gives a much stronger reason why we should save and the intermediate goals to get to my final destination.
The best investing nugget I got out of reading the book was about asymmetric risk/reward. While I’ve heard the term before and know about it, I’ve never really implemented it when investing.
The idea with asymmetric risk is to minimize your downside risk, while having a much greater upside potential. Unfortunately Tony doesn’t really mention how one could implement this with your personal investments. From my experience, one method to invest in asymmetric risk/reward is via tactical asset allocation.
The All Seasons Portfolio
Throughout the book Tony pumps up hedge fund manager Ray Dalio’s All Seasons Portfolio. When Tony finally does present the asset allocation, it is a pretty simple portfolio:
- Stocks — 30%
- Intermediate US Bonds (7–10 years) — 15%
- Long-term US bonds (10–25 years) — 40%
- Gold — 7.5%
- Commodities — 7.5%
Tony did a back-test of the portfolio, and it appears to be somewhat useful for a long-term investor hoping to minimize volatility while offering decent returns (not earth-shattering, mind you). I agree with others who’ve commented about the portfolio design: It is very heavy into US Treasury bonds, not just short-term bonds but long-term bonds as well.
If you’re any reader of history, you’ll know that during the last 30 years, we’ve seen one of the greatest bond bull runs of all time. Will this continue in the future? No one really knows for sure. Traditionally with asset allocation, any portfolio with over 40% in one specific asset class is not balanced.
I’m not suggesting the All Seasons Portfolio is bad, just that there are many other portfolios that might be a better fit for your investing risk profile. This portfolio is better than what most individuals have — which is nothing.
Overall I’m going to recommend reading this book. It’s not as good as I was expecting but is still an interesting read.
If you can get past the filler and the promoting of various products Tony may have an interest in, the book presents the information in a nice logical format, though for example, there’s nothing earth-shattering about the All Seasons Portfolio. In my opinion, the dream/goal setting section is the most useful section of the book.
Overall, the advice in the book is good and better than what most have — which is no financial plan and little knowledge about investing.
If this book gets you to take action on your goal to become a better investor, then it has served its purpose, though you’ll have to look elsewhere for much more in-depth discussions.