(The writer is a Reuters contributor. The opinions expressed are his own.)
By Chris Taylor
NEW YORK, Nov 18 (Reuters) - It might seem odd taking serious financial advice from someone long associated with infomercials and fire walks.
Which perhaps is why Tony Robbins, one of America’s foremost motivational gurus and performance coaches, has loaded his new book “Money: Master The Game” with interviews from people like Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, investor Carl Icahn, Yale University endowment guru David Swensen, Vanguard Group founder Jack Bogle and hedge-fund manager Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates.
Robbins has a particularly close relationship with hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones of Tudor Investment Corporation.
“I really wanted to blow up some financial myths. What you don’t know will hurt you, and this book will arm you so you don’t get taken advantage of,” Robbins says.
One key takeaway from Robbins’ first book in 20 years: the “All-Weather” asset allocation he has needled out of Dalio, who is somewhat of a recluse. When back-tested, the investment mix lost money only six times over the past 40 years, with a maximum loss of 3.93 percent in a single year.
That “secret sauce,” by the way: 40 percent long-term U.S. bonds, 30 percent stocks, 15 percent intermediate U.S. bonds, 7.5 percent gold and 7.5 percent commodities.
For someone whose net worth is estimated in the hundreds of millions of dollars and who reigned on TV for years as a near-constant infomercial presence, Robbins - whose personality is so big it seemingly transcends his 6’7” frame - obviously knows a thing or two about making money himself.
Here’s what you might not expect: The book is a surprisingly aggressive indictment of today’s financial system, which often acts as a machine devoted to enriching itself rather than enriching investors.
To wit, Robbins relishes in trashing the fictions that average investors have been sold over the years. For instance, the implicit promise of every active fund manager: “We’ll beat the market!”
The reality, of course, is that the vast majority of active fund managers lag their benchmarks over extended periods - and it’s costing investors big time.
“Active managers might beat the market for a year or two, but not over the long-term, and long-term is what matters,” he says. “So you’re underperforming, and they look you in the eye and say they have your best interests in mind, and then charge you all these fees.
“The system is based on corporations trying to maximize profit, not maximizing benefit to the investor.”
Hold tight - there’s more: Fund fees are much higher than you likely realize, and are taking a heavy axe to your retirement prospects. The stated returns of your fund might not be what you’re actually seeing in your investment account, because of clever accounting.
Your broker might not have your best interests at heart. The 401(k) has fallen far short as the nation’s premier retirement vehicle. As for target-date funds, they aren’t the magic bullets they claim to be, with their own fees and questionable investment mixes.
Another of the book’s contrarian takes: Don’t dismiss annuities. They have acquired a bad rap in recent years, either for being stodgy investment vehicles that appeal to grandmothers, or for being products that sometimes put gigantic fees in brokers’ pockets.
But there’s no denying that one of investors’ primary fears in life is outlasting their money. With a well-chosen annuity, you can help allay that fear by creating a guaranteed lifetime income. When combined with Social Security, you then have two income streams to help prevent a penniless future.
Robbins’ core message: As a mom-and-pop investor, you’re being played. But at least you can recognize that fact, and use that knowledge to redirect your resources toward a more secure retirement.
“I don’t want people to be pawns in someone else’s game anymore,” he says. “I want them to be the chess players.”
Follow us @ReutersMoney or here Editing by Beth Pinsker, Lauren Young and Dan Grebler