What You Can Learn About Investing By Reading Schwarzenegger’s Biography?

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I just finished reading Arnold Schwarzenegger's biography – “Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story” – and really enjoyed it. Without question if you are a fan of him, I recommend reading his book.

It's not widely known but Arnold has lots of investing prowess and business expertise. I can see some of you shaking your head saying… “Arnold is a real estate mogul? I thought he got all his money from his movies and the Shrivers.” Arnold was already wealthy before he became a highly paid movie star. He came to the U.S. in 1967 with just a gym bag of clothes, and in less than 14 years, he had a net worth of over $1 million dollars. In today's dollars, that's about $2.5 million.

I've followed Arnold over the years, so I already knew a lot about the bodybuilder/actor/governor. After reading his bio, it gave me some additional insights to what makes the man tick and what could I learn from him.

I'm always fascinated by what motivates someone. What makes someone like Arnold, against many odds, succeed? With his heavy German accent, weird sounding name, and huge muscles, who would have thought he could be a leading man actor? In addition, he is one of highest paid actors of our modern times. Life isn't fair, and he turned what many others thought were negatives against him into his advantage.

From a very young age the Austrian Oak had a specific clear vision in his mind of what he wanted to achieve. Regardless of what the nay-sayers said, this foreigner achieved the American dream many times over. It's been documented having a clear vision is critical for your goal setting success. Arnold would annually write his goals on a set of index cards.

Granted Arnold has some huge character flaws that are as big as his Mercedes Benz Unimog. I thought cheating on his wife and his love child was just awful. His term as governator of Kalifornia was OK at best. Politically even though he labels himself as a Republican, he's really just a RINO.

I also don't get how one can be for the environment, yet drive a gas guzzling SUV. Hypocrisy comes to mind with many areas of his life. So some areas of his life are a lesson, but other areas are a warning. Just like with other books I've read, I take in the good stuff and throw away the garbage.

Over the years Arnold has been involved in many aspects of investing and business ownership:

  • Multiple rental properties – residential and commercial
  • A construction company
  • A mail-order business
  • Restaurant chain
  • Owned commercial jumbo jets for leasing

It's been estimated his net worth is over $450 millon.

Here is what I learned by reading Arnold Schwarzenegger's biography and how it helps with investing:

1. Clear Vision And Goal Setting

Arnold would set specific goals with timeline and would put 110% effort into achieving that goal. So instead of just wanting to find a rental apartment, he knew wanted to buy a multi-unit apartment complex and bought one after only a few years living in California.

2. Become an Expert Salesperson

Sales is part of every aspect of your life, even if you work for someone else. Arnold is a business man first, actor second. Unlike many other actors, Arnold would analyze the results from test screenings and use the highlights for the promotional tour.

As Ted Turner said, “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, and advertise.” So I made it my business to be there for test screenings. A theater full of people would fill out questionnaires rating the film, and afterward twenty or thirty would be asked to stay and discuss their reactions. The experts from the studio were concerned primarily with two things. One was to see if the movie needed to be changed. If the questionnaires indicated that people didn’t like the ending, the marketers would ask the focus group to elaborate so we could consider changing it.”

Many actors get their cues from the marketing department, but I wanted it directly from the viewers, without the interpretation. Listening also made me a more effective promoter. If someone said, “This movie isn’t just about payback. It’s about overcoming tough obstacles,” I would write down those lines and use them in the media interviews.

3. Psychology Is Critical to Success

From his early days of bodybuilding Schwarzenegger understood the mind-body connection and how psychology plays a big role achieving your goals and with investing.

4. “To Be Successful… You Must Be Brutal With Yourself and Focus on the Flaws.”

You can only be successful with your goals if you realize what you are weak at. For Arnold during his bodybuilding days it was his calfs. So to put more focus on them he cut off all of his sweatpants to show his flabby legs.

5. Research Before Investing

You have a better chance of success if you research before you invest. For his first rental property his studied the market and newspaper for months getting to know the area he was buying.

6. Don't Listen to Nay-Sayers

It's easy to think of all of the possible negative scenarios. Arnold gives an example in his book about buying his first rental property. A friend of his couldn't understand how he had the guts to buy the rental property. His friend didn't want to take any risk in his life.

“How can you stand the pressure? You have the responsibility of renting out the other five units. You have to collect the rent. What if something goes wrong?” Problems were all he could see. It could be terrible. Tenants would make noise. What if somebody came home drunk? What if somebody slipped, and I got sued? “You know what America is like with the lawsuits!” and blah, blah, blah.

I caught myself listening. “Artie, you almost scared me just now.” I laughed. “Don’t tell me any more of this information. I like to always wander in like a puppy. I walk into a problem and then figure out what the problem really is. Don’t tell me ahead of time.” Often it’s easier to make a decision when you don’t know as much because then you can’t overthink. If you know too much, it can freeze you. The whole deal looks like a minefield.

I’d noticed the same thing at school. Our economics professor was a two-times PhD, but he pulled up in a Volkswagen Beetle. I’d had better cars for years by that time. I said to myself, “Knowing it all is not really the answer, because this guy is not making the money to have a bigger car. He should be driving a Mercedes.”

7. Reps, Reps, Reps

To become an expert in any area it's just a matter of rinse and repeat. Arnold applied this philosophy obviously to bodybuilding, but also to acting and business.

8. It's Not How Much You Make; It's How Much You Keep

Over the years we've all seen famous actors, musicians and sport stars who are wealthy enough where they would never have to work again, only to find when the money runs out they are broke.

I always felt that the most important thing was not how much you make, but how much you invest, how much you keep. I never wanted to join the long list of famous entertainers and athletes who wiped out financially. It’s a staggering list, including Willie Nelson, Billy Joel, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Bjorn Borg, Dorothy Hamill, Michael Vick, and Mike Tyson. All those people had business managers; I remember Burt Reynolds and his manager showing up in Palm Springs each driving a Rolls-Royce. Then the money was gone. No matter what you do in life, you have to have a business mind and educate yourself about money. You can’t just delegate it to a manager and tell him, “Half has to stay locked in investments so that we can pay the taxes, and I’ll keep the other half.” My goal was to get rich and stay rich. I never wanted to have the phone call where the manager says, “Something went wrong with the investment. We can’t pay our taxes.” I wanted to know the details.

Larry Ludwig

Larry Ludwig was the founder and editor in chief of Investor Junkie. He graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor of science in computers and a minor in business. Back in the ’90s, I helped create some of the first financial websites for firms like Chase, T. Rowe Price, and ING Bank, and later went on to work for Nomura Securities. He’s had a passion for investing since he was 20 years old and has owned multiple businesses for over 20 years. He currently resides in Long Island, New York, with his wife and three children.

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One Comment

  1. As an investor he did very well. I think athletes are more focused than the rest of us. They seem to have the ability to focus on a goal and do everything necessary to reach their goal. I would like to think I am as good with lot less than what Arnold earned.

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