After a hiatus from book writing for more than 20 years, Tony Robbins released Money: Master the Game in 2014. With this book, Tony coaches you through a step-by-step process on how to win at the game of money and investing.
Tony is perhaps best known for being a motivational speaker, a term he dislikes. He prefers “personal coach” and has used that term since long before it became a popular catchphrase.
Some have said Tony’s entrance into the personal finance and investment world was new, but as I’ve known from direct experience, he’s talked about this material at some level for years. Tony’s material has always had a financial component since money is a critical part of your wheelhouse in life. His focus in this realm is nothing new, or unexpected that he would publish a detailed book on investing.
Tony is disrupting investing and putting costly financial advice on notice.
After releasing a 700-plus page book on finance you would think Tony would be finished covering the topic of investing, but you would be wrong. Tony has more distinctions to cover in his latest book.
I sat down with Tony and co-author Peter Mallouk to discuss Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook.
We also discussed why people are so poor at managing their money, Tony’s unexpected source of the best financial advice he’s received, and the most difficult financial challenge he has experienced.
Peter Mallouk: I think it’s a shame. I think there was a lot of debate about whether or not it went far enough — or if it went too far — but I think the standard that someone has to act in their client’s best interest is a pretty basic standard. They have it in the United Kingdom. They have it in Australia. We should have it in the United States. In the United States, we have it for doctors. We have it for lawyers. We have it for accountants. So it’s unique to financial advisors in the United States, and we debate it like it’s a debatable topic.
But if you transport the debate to any other respectable profession and say, “Do doctors have to act on their patients’ best interest all the time?” everyone would be like, “Why are we even talking about this?” That gives you an idea of how silly the whole thing is.
Larry: Let’s talk about 401(k) fees and how excessive they are. How do I know if my 401(k) fees are excessive or not?
Peter: America’s Best 401k, which is a company Tony and I have partnered with, prices the whole thing out for you. Basically, you go to the website and you’re able to put in your information, learn what your fees are, and compare them to the alternatives.
Unfortunately, [401(k)s are] very confusing because you’ve got several layers of fees. You’ve got the admin fees, you’ve got the financial advisor fee, and then you’ve got the fund fee. Breaking them all out and figuring out what they really are is a complex deal. You can’t even type a mutual fund into Google [to find out] because there’s so many different ways to price a mutual fund. So it’s not an easy thing to figure out on your own.
Larry: In some cases, it winds up being excessive, over 2%. And people think it’s free.
Peter: It’s ridiculous. I get that all the time. Somebody goes, “I’m retiring,” and they’re interviewing us as their advisor. They go, “Well, my fee on your schedule is 0.85%, but it’s free now.” It’s not free now. We have to break out for them what they’ve been paying all these years. It’s usually pretty surprising.
Larry: Let’s talk about your client’s irrational fears — for instance, not investing in the stock market. Do you talk about what issues are valid concerns and/or what issues are just not rational and why you have to asset-allocate, regardless?
Peter: I’m really not big on risk-based investing. A lot of people go, “The client’s aggressive, so they go here. They’re conservative, so they go there.” I really don’t care about that profile too much, because if you’re conservative and investing conservatively, we’ll ensure you accomplish your goals. We’ve got to invest you in a different way.
“So a big part of getting the client to buy into that is you educate them. If you educate them, you empower them. If you empower them, you remove uncertainty. Uncertainty is what creates the fear. So you’ve got to get rid of the fear.”
Larry: How do you eliminate that fear?
Peter: There’s always this noise in the background saying all these horrible things that are going to happen. I’m sure the next one will be “Inflation’s going to drive markets down.” There’s always a narrative building in the background about housing or energy or Europe or whatever. So when it happens, people go, “Oh, well, that was true.” Sure, there’s always somebody saying something’s going to happen, but it doesn’t mean the market stays down.
The most current one is Trump. I had a client who was a private equity manager call me and say, “I’m going to cash.” This seems really unlikely.
Larry: Was this before or after the election?
Peter: The day after the election. Oh, it was very common. Same thing happened with President Obama. We talked about how presidents don’t control a lot of things that impact stock market prices and other prices in different markets.
To me, it’s all about education. It’s not telling them to hang on and all that stuff. It’s educate, educate, educate, and make sure that the investments match the time horizon.
Part of the advantage of getting people to stay the course, and I think we’re exceptional at that, is because we’ve gone through this custom-portfolio process where the asset classes meet their specific needs. So clients know why they own what they own.
Larry: In the book, you mention the types of funds you like and ones you don’t.
Peter: I like funds that are low-cost and extremely tax-efficient. If you’re looking at the public markets, there’s a lot of research that says, “Cost is a major factor.” Especially in the large-cap/mid-cap space, it’s hard to beat the index. So we like ETFs. We like individual securities. When you get to small-caps, we like dimensional funds — there’s a lot of research that shows that their strategy works primarily in that space. When it comes to master limited partnerships, we like individual securities because you get the full tax benefit of owning those.
I think it’s kind of an inefficient market too because you don’t see a lot of foundations, endowments, all these pensions. They don’t buy it because they lose the tax benefit. So then it’s like buying municipal bonds. You have a bunch of individual investors in that space. They’re not very knowledgeable. Even if they buy it, it’s either by the ETF or mutual fund, and they don’t realize they’re losing a full third of the tax benefit of owning the thing. So it’s an interesting space because almost everybody buys the space incorrectly.
“I think we’re trained to be consumers from the time we’re children, and we’re not trained to be owners.”
To have people work a lifetime and end up with nothing but Social Security, to me, is insane. So that’s why I wrote these books. For Money: Master the Game, for five years I interviewed the 50 smartest people, literally, in the world, financially: Carl Icahn, Warren Buffett, Ray Dalio… You name it. But I wrote that book, and I was proud of it. It was a No. 1 bestseller. Helped a lot of people, but it’s primarily because of these guys. It was their content.
I wrote this because I saw so much fear, and because we’re eight years into this bull market now, and we all know a crash is coming. You don’t need to be reactive, but you need to be prepared. A millennial who’s got tons of college debt thinks they’ll never get to live free… Even though it sounds counterintuitive, the next winter, the next season, the next crash…
Larry: You talk about that all the time.
Tony: It’s the biggest opportunity to leapfrog from where you are to where you want to be.
“If I say to somebody, ‘Ferraris are your favorite car, and they’re on sale for 50%,’ you’re out of your mind. The stock market’s on sale for 50%. People freak out.”
Larry: Certainly. I mean, most people look at the stock market differently than the consumer stuff.
Tony: Exactly. So they have to train people to think differently. What I tried to do with this book, though, was educate them. This is not positive-thinking bullshit. It’s just like you can’t time the market. It’s impossible. Warren Buffett will tell you that. Every person I interviewed will tell you that. You know? Warren Buffett told me the market forecasters on CNBC are “only there for one purpose, and that is to make fortune-tellers look good.”
No one could do it. So what I want to do, though, is show people: “Look. You’re not getting in the market, or you’re limiting your participation in the market because you’re fearful.” Well, if you’re fearful, you’re going to be fearful the rest of your life because, since 1900, on average, we’ve had a correction once every year, for 116 years.
So how old are you? May I ask?
Larry: I’m 45.
Tony: So your life expectancy is 85. I’m sure you’ll blow through that, but that means you’ve got at least 40 more corrections to go through.
Larry: Not only that, but the whole idea of retirement has changed over the years. It used to be you got the gold watch, the pension plan, and you were done with it.
Tony: When I grew up, I thought everybody was like, “Get rich so you don’t have to work again.” Now, my dearest friends are, like, Peter Guber, who owns the L.A. Dodgers and the Golden State Warriors, and Steve Wynn, who built most of Las Vegas. They’re 74. Peter’s busier than I’ve ever seen him his entire life, and he’s one busy son of a bitch. So today, it’s “Get rich so you can work until you’re 90 or more.” Right?
Larry: Warren Buffett’s what, now?
Tony: I think he’s 86. So it’s the same thing. So I love that the whole goal is so you don’t have to work. Then what I found, myself and almost everybody I know, you work harder, but it doesn’t feel harder because you’re doing it just because you love it. You don’t have to do a damn thing. I’m donating 100% of the profits, you know — $5 million, $5 million from the last one — and I’m writing additional checks. I can feed 100 million people a year. I’m going to feed a billion people, between myself and Feeding America over the next eight years. We’ve fed 250 million so far.
Tony: Well, what I did is feed 42 million people on my own until 2014. Then, when I was interviewing all these people, they cut the SNAP programs, which was food stamps, by $6.9 billion. So it’s the equivalent of every family that gets support giving up a meal, three meals a day, for one week a month, for their family, for 12 months.
So I thought, “I fed 42 million people. What if I fed 50 million in one year?” Then I just got more excited and said 100 million, and then I used Feeding America as a partner because I could do it so efficiently with them.
Larry: Let’s talk about investing now — most people think it’s complicated, that they’ll never learn this. In your books Unshakable and Money: Master the Game, you break down investing into simple terms that anyone can apply, from beginner to expert. Do you think investing is made too complicated on purpose by Wall Street? Or do you think it’s a lack of education? Or something different?
Tony: I think all of the above play a role, but let’s just talk about Wall Street for a second. Let’s be honest. There clearly isn’t enough transparency in this industry. That’s why things happen the way they do. It’s one of the few industries this can occur, but it’s not made up of evil people. Most of the people in this industry are damn good people who work their asses off and really do care, but you have the wirehouses, where their job is to maximize profits for shareholders. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do. You are not the shareholder. So how do I expand my profits? I’ve got to get more people to do business with me, and I’ve got to get them to spend more. It’s pretty obvious. How do I get you to spend more? Charging more fees. How do you charge more fees? Not educate you about how I’m doing it.
“Seventy-two percent of Americans* think they pay nothing for their 401(k), and it’s the most important financial device that people have because more people have a 401(k) than a home. The people who do know they’re charged, 92% of them don’t know what it is.”
For 30 years, the $6 trillion 401(k) industry did not have to tell you what they charged. So four years ago, the Department of Labor changed the rules and said, “This is unconscionable. You must tell people what you’re charging them.” So how do they do it? Thirty-five- to 50-page documents, fine print, that unless you’ve got a Ph.D. you might not figure out.
I did 100-plus interviews for Money: Master the Game two years ago. I asked every single person at that time because I was so focused on fees. Two out of 100 knew what their fees were. When I say “knew their fees,” I mean they knew the range of their fees. They didn’t know exactly what they were. I’m talking about people in the financial industry. I interviewed registered investment advisors and they didn’t know what they’re being charged, which just blew my mind. Blew my mind. And fees matter.
Larry: One of the things that have stuck with me over the years is that you’ve always said no one cares more about money than you do. Why do you think it’s so hard to find trusted advisors to help manage your money?
Tony: I can tell you easily. First of all, there are 310,000 financial professionals in the United States. That’s a lot. They have 200 different names, according to The Wall Street Journal, from wealth manager to senior wealth manager, to private wealth manager. Ninety percent of them are brokers. So out of 310,000, only 31,000 are true fiduciaries.
So you look at this situation, and you say, “OK. Is it the industry?” Yes. They make it as complex as possible so you give up and give them your money, and then they charge you what they want. That’s true. There’s part of that. But we’re responsible, as individuals, for not educating ourselves. So instead of pointing the finger at Wall Street, wake up. Spend four hours. You can’t afford not to read a book like this. Four hours.
“Educate yourself, so you’ll never get screwed again. Put together a plan. Figure out how to protect yourself for the bear market that’s coming. Figure out how to take advantage when it does, so you can leapfrog. Then you have no complaint about the financial industry because you’ve educated yourself.”
Larry: Let’s talk about millennials. They obviously have a mountain of debt and have experienced not only one, but two corrections in the stock market.
All the data shows they’re obviously gun-shy about investing in the stock market. Why is that the worst thing they can be at this moment?
So what I tell people is: “What you really have to understand is you don’t earn yourself there. You’ve got to tap in,” and millennials have the greatest opportunity. I actually put an example in the book, early on, for millennials. What I did was give an example of a kid. His dad convinces him to work and then save $300 a month, which sounds like a lot, but once you automate it, you’ll forget about it. Right? He does it. I think it starts at 19, if I remember correctly, and goes to 27. So eight years, he invests $4,000 a year. Right? So he’s got $28,800 total. He never invested another dime after the age of 27.
His best friend, at 27, starts investing $300 a month, to 65. Well, you know how this works. Which one has more money? Clearly the guy who only invested for 10 years and never put another dime in. He literally will convert that $28,800 into just under $2 million, having never added another dime.
Here’s what people don’t understand, and it’s totally counterintuitive when you say it. They think you’re full of crap. It doesn’t take a lot of money to become wealthy. What it takes is some time to become wealthy. It’s like Warren Buffett said: The stock market is a game of transferring money from the impatient to the patient. If you’re willing to hang in there and put a small amount of money in, there’s no one who can’t get financially free, as long as you diversify.
One other piece that is really important, that’s in the book, is a great guy who taught me something incredibly valuable:
We all know the importance of diversification. Fifteen uncorrelated bets, though, produce an 80% reduction in risk, and they produce a risk-reward profile that’s five times greater than you can get without that diversification.
It’s mind-boggling. You want to know what to do? You go to the best on Earth and they’ll tell you. Unfortunately, most of us turn on the TV and talk to somebody who’s hawking a particular stock or a forecaster. They’re not gonna help you. They’re really not. They’ll help you part with your money, but I don’t think they’ll help you build your wealth.
Larry: What is the best financial advice you’ve gotten, and why?
Tony: Ironically, from a source you wouldn’t expect. I’ve had great financial advice, obviously, from Paul Tudor Jones, because I coached him for 24 years. But I would say, before Paul, it came from a guy named Ken Blanchard. You may know the name because he wrote those One Minute Manager books.
I helped him take five strokes off his golf game. I don’t play golf, so he thought I was a god. He kept saying, “I’ve got to give something back to you. I mean, five strokes. This is unbelievable.” I said, “Don’t worry about it. Had a good time.” So he called me a month later and said, “I’ve been racking my brain how to pay you back, and I’ve got it. Come have lunch with me.” So I had lunch with him.
Long story short, he says, “Tony, I got some advice when I was first writing my book One Minute Manager, and it saved me financially, and I’m going to give it to you now. It’s my way of giving back to you.” I said, “What is it?” He said, “A very wealthy man told me, ‘Ken, a company, your company, will always eat up whatever resources it has. That’s just the way companies are when they’re growing fast. You need to mark this book out and not let a dime go to the company. They’ll get all the clients, but that money should go in an investment account that you don’t even touch, and it will build up over time until it gets you wealthy.’”
Ken said, “Tony, I took him seriously. I put it in an automated account. I made sure none of the money went to the company. Sure enough, there were two or three times my company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Things happened in the economy, and I had plenty of money. So I didn’t panic. I stayed centered, and I ran my business successfully.”
Ken Blanchard, before I did any of this other stuff, made me a wealthy man because I did that with my very first books. (Now I give all my money away from my books.) And I did those early-day infomercials. I was on TV, like, every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, somewhere in North America, for eight years, when we had 50 channels. All that money got put aside. That made me set for life. I’m obviously a lot more wealthy than I was then, but I didn’t need more than what I got from that. I made more when I would sleep, and then I’d go work my tail off, doing what I love all day long, but it would never make as much as while I slept.
Larry: At your seminars you talk about modeling someone who’s got what you want. Whom do you recommend we model for investing?
Tony: I’d look at the very best of the best, not just one. Now they all invest differently. That’s the thing you’ve got to know. Figure out where the world’s going. I did research on Sir John Templeton multiple times before he passed in 2008, and he was a blood-in-the-streets guy. Maximum pessimism. That’s when you invest.
If you look over at Carl Icahn you know he’s an activist investor — “Let me buy in and threaten you until you do what I’m promoting.” But all of them are different. So I model them all. But when I try to model them, I try to see what they have in common, because they have radically different approaches to investing.
There’s a chapter in the book called “Core Four” about the four things they have in common.
One, pretty simplistic sounding, but it’s really important: Think as if you’re a pilot. You know how to fly. But no matter how good you are, if you leave out any part of the checklist, you’re going to die and you’re going to kill your passengers. Finance is like that also. So Ray Dalio has second and third and fourth in command. Warren Buffett has got his 92-year-old partner that’s there. It’s the checklist that you’re looking for.
So their checklist is all them. They are obsessed, obsessed with not losing money. That’s simplistic, but the average investor is totally focused on “How much can I make?” So they make huge mistakes. These guys know if they lose 50%, it’s going to take 100% to get even. The average investor goes, “I want to make money. If I lose, I’ll find a way to make it back.”
The best investors know they’re going to be wrong. Ray Dalio will look you right in the face and say, “I’m going be wrong most of the time, but I’m still going to make money because my asset allocation is designed that even if I’m wrong, I make money.” That’s how they do it.
The second one they all have in common is most people think, to get big rewards, they’ve got to take big risks, and that’s a recipe for financial suicide. You don’t get many choices if you’re wrong. What these guys do is make asymmetric risk-reward their obsession. So they’re all looking at: “What’s the smallest amount of risk I can humanly take for the largest upside?”
Paul Tudor Jones made more money than God in 1987, and the market dropped the largest percentage drop in a day — 22% in a day. He made 60% that month and 200% that year for people in the worst economic times. Just total genius.
But the way he used to do it is, before he made an investment, he always said, “If I’m going to risk a dollar, I’m not going to do it unless I feel certain I could make $5.” “5-to-1” he called it. I know I’m going be wrong much, very often. So now I can risk $2, and I still make $4. He could get it wrong four times out of five and make money.
Kyle Bass is the best example of this. In 2008 and ’09 — worst economic time that we’ve had in eight years — he took $30 million and turned it into $2 billion in two years. How? Everyone thought real estate was going to go up forever. But he saw the bubble. It was the way he structured his investments. He never risked more than six cents to make a dollar. So he could be wrong 15 times and make money. Well, he wasn’t wrong 15 times.
But I asked him, “How would you explain asymmetric risk-reward to a child or to a young person or to somebody who’s not an investor?” He said, “I’ve been thinking about this for about four years, because I want to teach my children. For a year, I obsessed on a question, and the question is totally counterintuitive to the average person.” He said, “Where can I find a risk-less reward? Where in the world is there a risk-less reward?”
He said, “I finally found it in nickels.” I went, “Nickels?” He goes, “Yeah, Tony. Look at this. You buy a nickel, and it’s worth five cents, and it’s never going down in value. So whatever you pay, you’re never going to lose a dime. But the day you buy it, a nickel’s melt value is worth more.” It’s worth 33% more than you pay for it. I said, “That’s true.” So you can’t lose money, and it’s up 33% on day one. Where are you going to do that?
I said, “Yeah, but you can’t melt the money. It’s illegal, for about 10 years.” He goes, “Tony, that’s true. I don’t need to melt it. Look what happened to pennies. Pennies used to be made of copper. Copper is so expensive. They don’t make them out of copper. They make them out of tin now. You look at any penny that’s got copper in it, because it’s now an antique, because it no longer exists, the minimum value of it is 100% more.”
So he says, “Tony, I can’t lose money. I got 33% on day one. I’m going to get 100%. It’s only a matter of time because the average nickel costs 11.5 cents to make.” If you want to see why our government’s messed up, they spend 11.5 cents to make a nickel. It’s just the most insane thing in the world.
But he literally went to the Fed, and he bought as many nickels as they would sell him, which was 20 million nickels, and he’s got a room a piled to the ceiling with nickels. He said, “If I could push a button and convert all my wealth in nickels tomorrow,” he said, “I’d do it in a heartbeat, but they won’t do it for me.” He says, “I’m really pissed. I don’t know what to do because it will never go down. I got the total inflation hedge. I know where I am today.”
You know, the other example that I gave in both books because it’s such a good example, is Richard Branson. He’s a friend of mine. He is a huge risk-taker with his body, but he’s not a risk-taker in finance and investment. His No. 1 question is “How do you protect the downside?”
So when he went to compete with British Airways, the biggest risk he had was buying these 767 planes. So one of the cool things he did was he spent a year and a half negotiating with Boeing to get it so that if he failed in those first two years, he didn’t lose a dime. His credit wasn’t hurt. They took the planes back at no loss. So he had no downside, only upside. That’s asymmetric risk-reward.
The third is tax efficiency. If you make that first, you’re an idiot. That’s like people in the ’70s trying to get a tax break. It first has to be the right asset allocation, then asymmetric risk-reward. Then the only money you have to spend is money you keep. So tax efficiency is everything. David Swensen from Yale told me, “Tony, it took us 200 years to get a billion dollars. But we couldn’t have done it without tax efficiency. If you take a dollar and double it, you know how that works.” Twenty doublings is $1,048,000. But if you pay just 33% tax each year along the way, how much do you have? Instead of $1,048,000, what would you get?
Tony: That’s a damn good guess. You’re still way off. $28,000 is what you’re left with. Out of $1,048,000, you have $28,000, and most of us pay more than 30% tax. We don’t double every year, most of us, but it shows you the impact of compounding fees and compounding taxes.
The fourth one is diversification, and not just within the asset class. So you don’t put it all in one real estate, one stock, one bond, one Apple, whatever, but across assets, across countries and across time.
Larry: What has been the most difficult financial challenge you’ve had to deal with? And what did you learn from it?
Tony: I really believe business requires that you continually expand your threshold of control. Think of it as if you’re an amateur skier. You think you’re going down a green or blue slope and suddenly you discover you made a wrong turn, and it’s a double black diamond. You know you’re gonna die, and there’s no other way down.
So what do you do? Some people start to go, and then they panic because they think they’re going to fall off the cliff and slam themselves on the ground and hang on for dear life. That’s what the majority of the people do. But in your deepest moment of fear, instead of focusing what you’re afraid of, focus on where you want to go. Force yourself not to look at what you’re afraid of, but focus completely on what you’re going to do. It doesn’t guarantee you’re not going to crash. But if you look down, you’re going to crash. If you look there, you learn how to turn. Once you learn how to make those turns, all of a sudden, double black diamond is nothing.
I started by learning Neural-Linguistic Programming, or NLP. A friend of mine who used to work for me went up to his home in Canada and was doing these study groups. He said, “You teach 10 times better. Come up here.”
So long story short, I went up. I did this free guest event. We filled it up. We did this event. At my second event, there were 500 people, which was huge. Then, afterward, I enrolled more people, and I had this huge seminar, and I had 200 people. It’s like I was out of my mind. I changed lives.
This guy from immigration came up and said, “Mr. Robbins, nice to meet you. Where’s your work permit?” I said, “What’s a work permit?” He said, “Meet me tomorrow.”
He showed up the next day, same day as the seminar. He wanted to meet at 5:00. It started at 6:30. He made me sit and wait, and then he told me, “You are taking Canadian jobs, and you cannot do the seminar.” I said, “It’s in an hour.” He said, “You’re going to have to refund all the money.” I said, “I can’t refund the money. I paid for the hotel with it. I didn’t make money on this thing. I just made enough money to pay for putting it on. I’m new at this stuff. I want to change their lives. I’m not making a profit.”
He said, “If you get on that stage, we will handcuff you and deport you.” So now what do I do? I’m at the threshold of control. I’m panicked. I have no money to pay people back. They’re going to be angry. Plus, I’m not doing this for money. I want to change these lives. I’m determined. I’m mad.
So what did I do? I came out, and I turned to my team, and I told them what happened. They said, “We’re over. It’s done.” I said, “It’s never done. I can’t do it in Canada. How close is the border?” They said the closest city was Bellevue, Washington. It’s about an hour-and-45-minute drive. I said, “Get four buses. I’ll handle the rest.” People showed up. I said, “I cannot legally do the seminar here. I’ve gotten a little education. I don’t have a work permit.” Told them the whole truth.
I said, “We have this new seminar. It’s going to be on the bus and then in America, and then we’re gonna come back each day.” I got all but four people to agree to do it. So that was the first one.
Then I had a guy who worked for me who made some mistakes and ended up in a lawsuit over $5 million. It was totally wrong. But three years later, it cost me $3 million, which was all the money I had. Then I had a partner in business with a very large firm who came in and said, “Why don’t you join us? We have this firm. We’re losing $1 million a day.” We’re losing $1 million a day, and Bill Nicholson is his name. He came in, turned around $1.5 billion in EBITDA profit.
He said, “I’m tired of working for these guys. I love the old guys, but they’re retiring. The kids don’t give a damn about anybody but themselves. I said I’m leaving, and they said, ‘Don’t leave. We’ll give you all the resources, and you can partner with Tony, but develop a nutraceutical company [that] is not network marketing. That’s retail, and we’ll give you all our resources.”
So he said, “Tony, we have $40 million in debt and put in $10 million. You’re a 25% partner. We’ll go clean this thing up, and we’re going to make a difference.” This guy, I really wanted to learn from and do business with. He said, “In order to do this, we have to take on one of the children of the founders of Amway,” not knowing this person was the black sheep that everybody couldn’t stand. He made all these huge promises. I wake up a year-and-a-half later, and I signed a document, joint-several. [I] didn’t know what that meant. I found out.
Larry: I don’t even know what that means.
Tony: “Joint-several” means I have four partners, and all three of them got in bad financial shape. So when we started, there was $40 million in debt, but we bought a couple of companies, Twin Labs. So now we had $125 million in debt, and three of my partners all got upside-down, and one was never a billionaire. It was the son of the billionaires, acting like he’s a billionaire, and he wasn’t. So I’m joint-several. It means I’m on the hook, not for $10 million.
Larry: The whole thing.
Tony: $125 million.
I would say to you I’ve been near bankruptcy multiple times, in multiple businesses, over the years, but those are not challenges anymore because I’ve dealt with them. It’s not to say I won’t have challenges in the future. Of course I will. Businesses always have challenges. But I always believe people have two businesses they should be working on: the business you’re in and the business you’re becoming. If you work only on the business you’re becoming, which is always fun and exciting, you don’t have the cash flow now you need to run the business. If you just focus now, you won’t be competitive because someone’s going to come and disrupt your business.
So I’m a disruptor by my nature. [Worth magazine] interviewed the 100 most influential people in global finance. I was like, “I don’t belong here.” They said, “No, you do,” and they showed me the disruption pattern that they looked at that made that thing happen. So disruption is a nice thing to do, but you can’t disrupt unless you’re running your core business and you’re willing to constantly anticipate what your client needs.
I always tell people, “You’ve got to fall in love with your client, not with your product or service.” Your product or service is going to become antiquated at some point, probably faster than you think. Most people live between their deepest desire and their deepest fear, like a dance between those two things. If you really understand those dynamics, you can serve people because you know what they need better than they do.
Larry: Final question. One of the things you’re known for is the fire walk at your Unleash the Power Within seminars. Obviously, the purpose of the fire walk is not, of course, to walk over hot coals, but to expand your belief system of what’s possible. Do you have a fire-walking metaphor for investing?
Tony: That’s a good question. I think for investing, it’s more like skydiving. Because for people who haven’t invested, it seems so huge. It seems so ominous. But you know, if you go skydiving, it’s a hit. It’s fearful. It’s crazy. But after you do it a few times, it still gives you a rush. The rush doesn’t ever go away, but you don’t have the fear because you’ve been in it enough. It’s just the unknown. So I think with the right equipment, with the right training, with the right setup, it could be one of the most fulfilling things of your life, and you’re missing out on it because all you’re seeing is, “Oh my god. I could die.”
You could die crossing the street today. You could be hit by a car. I think that what we have to do is fully live while we’re here.
“If you want to have financial freedom for your family, there is no way but by becoming an investor.”
You have to. It’s a skill set. Anyone can learn it. The industry tries to make it as complex as possible so you’ll give up. But you don’t have to be part of the industry. Just go educate yourself. I’m one person. There are many.
But what I’ve done, that I don’t know anybody else has done, is I brought you literally the best current investors in the history of the world and gave you their ideas, not Tony’s. What I give you is my psychology. That’s my expertise for, you know, 40 years now. So I can bring you that, but I’m bringing you their answers.
For more information about Tony Robbins, you can check out these sources:
- Unshakeable: Your Financial Freedom Playbook
- Money: Master the Game
- Tony Robbins Web Site
- Follow Tony Robbins on Twitter
- Follow Tony Robbins on Facebook
*Editor’s Note: According to a report from the AARP, which Tony cites in his book, this percentage is 71%.