“If you want to learn how to be rich, don’t ask a financial advisor who makes $60K a year and lives in the suburbs. Ask the person who’s earned $10M.” – Guy Kawasaki
NOTE: there are no affiliate links here and I do not benefit whatsoever from this post. Please know this is purely objective and my own thoughts.
The other weekend I read Anthony Robbins’ latest book Money: Master The Game. For the last 6 months, one of my biggest focuses has been on investing and understanding how money works. This seemed like a good book to read.
Beyond just money management, I think this sort of education is really important for anyone in the app business. Here’s a general overview of what happens to many people (both in our industry and any digital business):
- You start out with the hustler mentality. Learn, fail, strengthen, progress. You all know that story.
- Eventually something clicks and you start making money (HOORAY!)
- Your entire life centers around driving more revenue. Speed, systems, scale, etc. You start making more.
- Your monthly deposits start to come in and you re-invest in the company
- A few months go by and you wake up one day and say “Huh. I’m making all this money…why am I still working 100 hours a week? Why isn’t this money working for me?”
- You don’t really know what to do next, your business is pretty disorganized due to the nature of building fast, and you start to fear the day you stop making lots of money.
- You look for new businesses, opportunities, and feel sort of “stuck”
Of course, this isn’t exactly how it goes for everyone, but most of us can agree that this sounds familiar (or you can imagine it would).
Over the past 2 years, I’ve been schooled in the world of money. I made a lot…and I lost a lot. Often it was because I was just a newbie and didn’t know how this world works. I never went to business school and I didn’t have anyone telling me what I should be doing.
Luckily, I fixed that and have a rock solid system in place now. It’s changed everything and has become a real passion of mine.
Most importantly, it’s something I can help teach many of you so that you don’t lose hundreds of thousands of dollars like I did. I’m going to do a full out business course in 2015, but for now, I want to give you a rundown of what Tony Robbins talked about and give you a step by step instruction guide on what you can do.
I’m not here to give you a full synopsis of the book. If you want that, go read the reviews on Amazon. What I am here to do is tell you the most important things you need to know PLUS do the one thing Tony didn’t do – exact instructions on what to do next.
If you want a good overview of the book, you can watch an interview here:
Here’s the best piece of advice he gives in the book:
- Automate your investing
- Diversify (there are two templates you can use, see below)
- Invest mostly in low cost index funds
Really sexy, huh? Well, unfortunately nothing about investing is sexy. It’s boring and built on security NOT growth (the exact opposite of marketing) which is why so many people in our industry fantasize about investing but often fail at it.
So why would you want to do that? Because psychologically, as much as you hate to admit it, you want security. I don’t care how much of a badass you think you are, you will feel 100x better when your Chartboost revenue isn’t as much as you expected if you know you have an automated investing system in place + money saved. That’s just how it is.
The book goes through all sorts of investment vehicles – stocks, bonds, annuities, retirement accounts, real estate, and everything in between. What’s funny is that we work in an industry where retiring at 40 seems like you’re an old man (or woman). Even funnier is that statistically, very few of us actually will. So you should probably be smart about your money.
The automated investing process that is discussed works like this:
- Each paycheck (or pay period), you automatically allocate a percentage of your income to the investment areas. For example, every 2 weeks you take 5% of your income and send it to your investment account.
- This money collects in the accounts and is allocated accordingly based on your goals
- Repeat. Don’t touch it.
Then Tony talks about different strategies, portfolio allocations, types of investments, how it all works. how you’re getting screwed by mutual funds, mindset, beliefs and why you should start doing this.
Well, yeah. But if you’re like me, you want DETAILS. Like, exact steps on how to do this. We’re all smart people, but when there are a lot of moving parts, you want to make sure you do it correctly.
THIS is where the disconnect has always been for me – I read (literally) hundreds of books a year about topics…but rarely do they get into actionable details on what to do. That’s why I want to show you how exactly how I do it so you can copy me if you so choose.
The Step By Step Investment Process – Automated and Allocated
OK – let me be clear: this is not perfect. I cannot and do not take responsibility for anything you do based on this. It’s just what I do. It works REALLY well for me and I hope it does for you. I don’t endorse any of these companies specifically, they’re just what I’ve been using.
Like I said, next year I will do an entire business course that talks about building a digital business from the ground up and I’ll do crazy detail on topics like this. But for now, hopefully this answers some questions. Mostly I just wish someone had written this for me a year ago (or 10 years ago for that matter).
Let’s assume you want to save some money and create a personal “fund” that will compound over time and make you rich enough to be able to live off the returns that fund puts out each year. Here’s the exact process on how I’m doing that:
- Setup an investment account. I use Scottrade (only bc I’ve had an account for 10 years) but you can also use Schwab, Fidelity, E-trade, whatever. There isn’t a “best” solution here – mostly just keep in mind minimum balances, trade costs, and ease of integration to your bank (not a huge deal). They’re all pretty similar.
- Determine how much of your bi-weekly or monthly income you want to send over. If you don’t have a payroll system setup for yourself, no problem – it may be better for you to just do a fixed dollar amount. The only thing that matters is that it’s tracked and it is automatically recurring.For example, if you make approximately $5,000 a month, you may want to automatically deposit $500 of that. This may be 10% one month and 8% the next, but it’s close enough.
- Go into your investment account (Scottrade) and setup a “Recurring Deposit.” This may have different names in different businesses, but just search for “Recurring” or ” “Automatic investing” and you’ll find it. Set it up to withdrawal a certain dollar amount from your account each month.Keeping with the example, let’s say $500 each month. This means that Scottrade is going to AUTOMATICALLY take that money out of your bank account and put it in your investment account.
- Let this system run for a few weeks/months and watch the money accumulate in your investment account.NOTE: this is what I didn’t understand the first time – depositing in your investment account DOES NOT mean you’re investing your money. It just means it’s now in the account so that you CAN invest it when you’re ready. The only time this is different is with a 401K which I’m not going to talk about here.So, you’ll be putting money in your investment account, but it’s not invested yet. That’s ok.
- Once you get a critical amount of money (let’s say $4,000) from both opening deposits and automatic deposits, you’re ready to invest. Tony’s recommendation comes from two top fund managers – David Swenson who runs Yale’s endowment and Ray Dalio who manages the biggest hedge fund in the world. Let’s take a quick break to walk through those portfolio allocations.
I’m going to show you exactly what the portfolio breakdowns are PLUS a link to an example index fund that represents these buckets. This is what the book is all about – using Vanguard (or other), low cost index funds. Of course, I cannot guarantee or predict future performance and these are ONLY as a point of reference. I would recommend doing your own research before making any final decisions (but this will help save you a lot of time).
1. David Swenson – Manages Yale endowment and grew it to $24B. Growth, Stock heavy. Here’s the breakdown of what Swenson recommends:
- Domestic Stocks – 20% –https://www.google.com/finance?q=VUG
- International Stocks – 20% – https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSEARCA:VEU
- Emerging Stock Markets – 10% – https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSEARCA:VWO
- REITs – 20% – https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSEARCA:VNQ
- Long Term US Bonds – 15% –https://www.google.com/finance?q=BLV
- TIPS (Treasury Inflation Protected Securities) – 15% –https://www.google.com/finance?q=VTIP
2. Ray Dalio – “All Seasons” which implies it’s goal is to mitigate risk. Here’s the breakdown:
- Stocks – 30% – https://www.google.com/finance?q=VTI
- Gold – 7.5% – https://www.google.com/finance?q=IAU
- Commodities – 7.5% – https://www.google.com/finance?q=NYSEARCA:VAW
- Intermediate US Bonds – 15% –https://www.google.com/finance?q=BIV
- Long Term US Bonds – 40% – https://www.google.com/finance?q=BLV
Both of these have been very successful. On average, Swenson’s is more growth oriented (which also has more risk). It’s your call on how you want to do this depending on your own tolerance and stage in life.
Now that you see these portfolios, let’s go back to the step by step instructions.
The Step By Step Investment Process Cont’d
- Take your lump sum and purchase the corresponding amount of each fund. Using Swenson’s portfolio as an example with your $4,000, you would buy:
- $800 of Domestic Stock index fund
- $800 of International Stock index fund
- $400 of Emerging Stock Market index fund
- $800 of REIT index fund
- $600 of Long Term US Bond index fund
- $600 of TIPS index fund
- You do this by taking the amount of money you are going to spend (see above) and dividing it by the share price. That’s how many shares you will be buying (minus $7 or whatever the commission is to Scottrade).
- You exit out of your account browser and forget about it until you reach the next critical sum. Let’s say its $5,000 this time and happens 6 months later. You open your investment account and purchase the index funds in the same proportions. See you again in a few months.
- Every 6 or 12 months (depending on your portfolio size) you will also want to re-balance your portfolio. This means you will:
- Add up the value of all the shares you currently own
- Compare them to the percentages seen above
- Sell excess in the over performing shares, buy shares in the underperforming
- For example – if Domestic Stocks are making WAY more money than Long Term US bonds, they could start to account for 25% of your portfolio and bonds fall to 10%. You would sell off the shares in order to bring that number back to 20%, then buy more Long Term US bonds to bring it back up to 15%.
- That’s it.
Keep in mind that you want to do this ONLY when you have a “critical mass” because of the transaction fees. With Scottrade, $7 across 6 trades = $42. If I did that every 2 weeks, I would be killing my return potential. The more money you can invest at once, the better your fee structure looks (it’s $7 if you invest $500 or if you invest $50,000).
Once you have this setup, it really is pretty boring. But it works. The hardest part is just leaving it alone. The economy may bomb. You may get a hot stock tip. Doesn’t matter – you need to follow this system and stay objective.
By doing this, you will be on your way to “making your money work for you.” Eventually it will get big enough where the amount that it grows each year can be sold off and you keep the cash. So if it’s $1M in size and growing at 5%, you can potentially sell $50,000 worth of stock each year, every year because the $1M wouldn’t change. Make sense?
By no means is this the full picture. In fact, I feel a tinge of apprehension publishing this because the picture is SO much bigger than this. I would highly recommend reading Tony’s book and also reading Ramit Sethi’s book I Will Teach You To Be Rich. Between those two resources, you’ll learn everything you need to know. (Sidenote: Ramit’s blog is awesome, worth checking out here).
Read those books, then come back to this and you’ll see why I wrote it. Sometimes you just need to go through the steps ONE MORE TIME.
In any event, I really hope this helps! It’s super important and a big part of business that doesn’t get talked about in marketing because it’s so damn boring….but I can promise you it will be one of the best things you’ve ever done.
If you know anyone who would benefit from this, please share this post with them! Also comment below with any questions or experiences you’ve had – I’d love to know how this sort of information helps you.
Rock and roll,
Thank you Carter! Great breakdown. I’m almost finished reading the book myself. It’s an eye-opener in many respects, and the most important part is to actually go out and do something with your money! So your step by step is really useful! Would be interesting to know what your investment mix is, and if you go into other asset classes as well (like VC/seed funding)?
@Johannes – Yeah man, great book. Always good to read this kind of stuff. It’s so easy to forget how important it is to keep this at the forefront.
Honestly, my investment mix is pretty boring. My liquid cash is mostly in a Swenson style mix. I do a fair amount of P2P lending on sites like LendingClub which is less liquid but has returns that average 9-12% (3 year loans). Less liquid than that is seed/VC funding in startups in SF. I have sweat equity in a few apps/companies that I work with. And I actually have a bunch of money in straight cash. I think in the next few years there are going to be a LOT of opportunities to buy cheap investments, whether they be stocks, companies, etc so I want to be ready, pending inflation doesn’t force me to buy TIPPS or something.
I can also tell you that it is very difficult to do this long term style. I’ve made some epic deals on the stock market. I’ve also made some painfully bad moves on the stock market (for one, I invested my life savings in Apple stock in 2007 when it was $7, sold when it was $10. Would be worth about $35M now if I had held on. Oops.). My point is that unless it’s your full time gig, you’ll never be able win over the next 40 years. So it goes.
Good luck to you!
@Robert – thanks!
WOW!!! …Carter …. that is incredible … no words!!!
A GREAT, GREAT gift ….
Thanks for sharing!
Pls help me i am trying to invest like Ray Dalio. I found no long term us goverment bonds with a maturity date of 20-25 years.But as an Investor from Germany you cant invest trough Vanguard unless you invest 100K.
I tried to invest in an ETF butthere are none in germany with 20-25 maturety date.
pls help me to find one because i want to make sure i do it right . its 40 % of the portfolio
@Marc – I don’t know too much about being international and investing with a company like Vanguard, but I wonder where you get that information. Might want to ping a financial planner to double check, but I’ll assume you did your research. Remember that Vanguard is only ONE of many index funds you can find – Fidelity and Schwab are two quick examples you can investigate. There may even be some German investment banks that offer this sort of service. ETFs by nature require no minimum buy-in (usually) unless they are actively managed.
As far as the Dalio question goes, don’t get too hung up on the EXACT profile of a fund. Government bonds with that maturity date are not entirely different from different maturity dates or straight up index funds that you invest for that time period. In other words, you could invest in a basic government bonds index fund and simply remove your position in 20-25 years. It wouldn’t be exactly the same based on the algorithm they bake it (risk profile), but it would be close.
Hope that helps!
Great blog post Carter. I just listened to the Lewis Howes Podcast with Tony Robbins in December and bought his book when it first came out. Still haven’t got around too reading it, but it’s patiently waiting for me on my Kindle. I agree, his big takeaway was trying to get out of mutual funds because of the high fees associated with them and just diversify in stocks and index funds. You really outlined this with incredible detail and thank you so much for creating this road map for us. You’re right too where so many of these investment books tell you the outlining idea but don’t give you true actionable advice. Your blog post does this with real clarity and will be very helpful to me and many others.
There has been some new investment company startups I’m thinking about trying this year as well. One is I signed-up for the new Robinhood App and now you can do $0 trades/sells. I just got approved and I’m excited to give this a shot. I too have had a Scotttrade account for years, but the Robinhood App should be a cheaper bet. Since you don’t have to worry about fees, you can rebalance more often if needed.
A few more outfits that have been getting a lot of buzz and I’m hearing folks that have seen great results is wealthfront.com and betterment.com. I think I”m going to try wealthfront.com as this one has more backing at the moment.
It’s great to see new company’s like Robinhood coming into this space and changing the way things have always been done (fees for trades). Without the fees, new investors mitigate risk and get a chance to play the stock game. One stock hack I’ve learned over the past year is to watch app company stocks such as GLUU, ZNGA, and KING. If you are always scanning the app store like us appreneurs do, then this is actually a fun process. When you see a new app that one of these three company’s launches and it hits the top charts, immediately buy stock in this company. The general public won’t catch up until a few days later and then the stock will jump usually 10-14% in just a few days. This happened with the new Words with Friends, Kim Kardashian app, Candy Crush Soda, and more. So to put this in perspective, if you would invest $10K the next time you saw them create a new app it hit the top charts, you could make about $1200 in just a few days. Now copy and repeat this for 5-6 more times a year and you’re making $7K for watching the app store. Now double down and invest $100K and you could make north of $70K. Now obviously do this at your own risk, but so far I”m seeing great results. Cheers.
@Trevr – Thanks for your feedback man! Awesome stuff. I know some guys who work intimitely with the Robinhood team – agreed that it would be a game changer. You’re right that there are a lot of opportunities with publicly traded app companies. I’ve made some big trades on those stocks myself.
One thing I want to highlight, however, is that often “trading velocity” is what sinks returns. Chasing the dragon of “buy low, sell high” is REALLY addictive, but often never beats the returns of “buy and hold” even with low trade commissions. I’m not saying that having good research and making smart bets is a bad thing (because I’ve done really well on some deals that way), but I am saying it’s not a long term strategy.
In any event, kick some ass and retire early!
Hi Carter. Love the blog. I was consulting this post while rebalancing my portfolio, but came across another post that compares Swenson’s portfolio against the S&P 500. In virtually every year, the S&P has beaten the portfolio he suggests.
If you’re interested, you can see the comparison chart here:
@Chris – very interesting, I’ll check it out. Thanks for the comment!
This might sound like a stupid question, but would you do the investment with private money – as in, it’s on my personal account – or also do this with your company money – it’s company profit sitting still and I’m investing with it… .
Thing is there’s a lot more money sitting still in my company account than privately held. But then profits with company money will be taxed again.
@Dries – this is an AWESOME question actually, not stupid. Answer is: both.
Personal – think of that as a way to create a “bank account” that gets consistently better returns than a savings account (by a long shot). Because these are all ETF and Index funds, they’re liquid so you can withdraw funds if needed. Yes, you will need to declare capital gains if you make any, but that also means you made money.
Company – You’re essentially doing the same thing, key is to keep funds liquid. Free cash is important in any business but there’s really no reason to have a LOT of cash sitting in a bank unless you’re in a business that fluctuates a lot. If you control your costs well, you should be all set.
Think of this as if you are creating a “Financial” arm of your business. Tons of companies do this – they are a really successful business in one field, make so much money that they start using that money to create a second business. This can be financial investment, venture capital, or loans.
Hope that helps!
I just read Tony’s book, and I like how you link to specific fund/ETF examples for each of the portfolios, very helpful!
I’m currently very overweight in stocks (85/10/5 stocks/bonds/cash split)…will be diversifying more as per Ray Dalio’s recco in the coming year.
I just finished the book, its packed with so much ‘nuggets’ of timeless wisdom. I will have to re-read the book again. I came across your post, I want to say thank you for summing it up.
I do have a question, once you accumulate your investment account, do you wait to buy at the lowest price to enter (Trader Mindset) or it does not matter if the price is at is peak (Investor Mindset)?
In other words, we automate a monthly contribution to the growth bucket and once it reach $4000, we distribute it accordingly to the ratio of Ray Dalio and ensure that the portfolio is re-balanced and we rinse and repeat the process?
@Ravi – Glad you found it helpful. Of course there is a bit of flexibility in those, but they are a good starting point. I think that’s a good move. Remember that right now we’re sitting on the 5th (maybe 4th now) hottest stock market period in history. That’s not usually sustainable. In recent years of hypergrowth (1970+) the “7 year cycle” seems to be a good indicator of highs and lows. 7 years ago was 2008….
@Wayne – I usually do the investor mindset. It’s easy to drive yourself insane trying to nail the winners with the trader mindset and all the data will tell you that you’ll never win over the long term…so it’s not really worth it. That being said, if I see a home run opportunity with great due diligence and knowing something about a company, then I might do a trade on that. But that’s more “funny money” than a strategy. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from a buddy on Wall Street who said “You’ll never make [real] money trading unless you know something that no one else does.
The way you just described is exactly correct for asset allocation. Always remember that this is a long term play, not a way to make money soon. Keeping that in the forefront will make the decisions a lot easier.
Good luck to both of you!
Thank you Carter for clarifying. May the year bring you much success in business, investing and prosperity in all aspects of life.
@Wayne – thanks man! You too.
Incredible advise. I was looking for someone to explain the steps Tony talked in his book. I am a newbie, never have traded before, but I want to start working towards my financial freedom. I am currently working in Scottstrade, but I am having difficulty selecting the investment you have advised. Any support would be appreciated.
@Carlos – Glad you enjoyed it. For those types of questions I’d contact them directly – either phone or in person. They’ll be able to help you out. Good luck!
Carter, I have quite a bit of money put sitting in the target funds and high fee accounts, do i leave that money or transfer it all to the index funds? Alot of it is in Roth IRA so i would have to make sure it was a tranfer and not cash it out.
@Bill – this is a question for a licensed CPA or financial advisor. I can’t give you that advice. What I can tell you is that you’ll save a LOT of money in the index funds over the long term, but you also need to take capital gains into account. Because its a Roth IRA, you should be fine in that regard, but you should get a pro to give you advice.
GREAT ARTICLE! Thank you! I just watched some seminars of Tony’s and about to start reading the book! Thank you for your words and wisdom!
@Esther – glad you enjoyed!
Thanks for the post. I’m Australian and currently going through the book. Everything he talks about is related to Americans (obviously, the principles are the same) so I’m just learning how to apply it in this case. Who to go with and how to invest? Your points 1, 4, and 5 answer the questions I was hoping to solve.
Thanks for a great write up and for explaining the things that fell between the cracks! I really appreciated the breakdown as well… I am curious if you found your allocations tweaked at all since you wrote this, or if your ratio’s are still the same?
I really appreciate your detailed and actionable approach. I’ve just finished Swenson’s “Unconventional Wisdom” book. I’m 50, and my goal is to put my retirement funds in a “hands off” investment for 15-20 years, that will be visited 1 or 2x a year. I’m a mosquito expert (i.e., completely new to finance terminology), so please excuse my ignorance of your field.
So, here’s 2 very basic questions, if you have the time:
1. In your explanation, you mention VUG as an example of Domestic Stocks. I checked Vanguard’s site, and they offer approximately approximately 17 of which are some type of US Stock. I’ve found detailed descriptions on Vanguard’s website for each, but where can I go to learn which most closely follows Swenson’s goals of low fees, passive management, and “broadly diversified core asset exposure”?
(Honestly, I’m not 100% certain I understand what that means!). Are there some basics principles to guide me in deciding on a single one, or perhaps a few Domestic Stocks?
2. Should I be concerned about the data on this website? http://www.marketwatch.com/lazyportfolio/portfolio/yale-u-portfolio
I’m looking for 15-20 year horizon, so am hoping the performance is just short-term.
Check this out : http://www.wealthfront.com/tim
They manage your money for a very small fee and first 15000$ for free. They invest in index funds and rebalance your accounts for you!
Enjoyed your article. I too agree that Tony Robins book was very good, albeit the details of funds for the All Seasons portfolio seem to have been an oversight. Especially the 30% stocks.. a bit vague (S&P 500 index or other indexes for further diversification?) Also, on page 390 it states that you need 15% intermediate term Treasuries/ 40% Long term Treasuries. The fund links you have provided for the treasuries portion are only (Intermediate term) 54.2% US Treasuries and (Long Term) 39% US Treasuries; the rest are mostly investment grade Corporate Bonds . I would suggest VGIT (Intermediate Ts 99.4%) and VGLT (Long Ts 99.8%).
Best Wishes for 2016
@Bruce – good catch. As I said, this is only a reference point and I appreciate your taking the time to help improve it!
I am confused as to what investment account I should use being that I live in the UK, could any one recommend an account like Scottrade but based in the UK?
Any feed back is appreciated.
@Louis – any online brokerage account will work. I switched over to Vanguard actually. I would imagine any UK bank with online brokerage will provide the service you require.
I noticed you write that you’re into a fair amount of P2P lending. I’ve got $10,000 split between prosper and lending club. I use lending robot to invest in lower risk loans. Can I ask about how much money you have in p2p, who you have it invested with and summarize your strategy? Would love to hear your strategy.
@Robert – I don’t talk about amounts I have invested in anything but I can tell you that I did an even split between the two originally, now mostly in Prosper. I do a more aggressive investment profile but I’m honestly not sure what the long term potential is. Lending Club has been under the microscope recently and we’ve never seen these perform in down markets.
This is an exceptional post.
I’ve just finished the book, and have more idea on where to look in the stock market now!! For many years it was just a sea of confusion!!!
As an Aussie looking to replicate this strategy, I’m considering investing in the US markets through an international trading account – however in my mind this will bring another layer of complexity to the table in the form of periodic currency conversions for the lump sums which will have an impact on returns etc.
Do you have any resources that could assist with applying this strategy while dealing with (AUD/USD) currency fluctuations and detailing associated risks?