Where the rubber meets the road.

Part of the reason for writing these posts is to record my own history, for reference. It is likely all a flash in the pan, and could be useless, or could help someone. Richard Branson recommends it.

The posts are intended to be more personal to fill the internet void of what I generally experience – and I imagine most of us do! Most of what I see is written or shown with a motive to sell or convince: to buy, to vote, to do. And then the top money-making bloggers provide robotic instructional ‘how-to’ articles that make me want ‘not-to.’ They spam my inbox and now I feel that I am just treading water, so to speak.

I have JOMO (Joy Of Missing Out) for most of those. And the ‘respected’ publications are selling you to advertisers by carefully editing their marketing articles to their audience to sell them… something. Ideally, I’d like to make money but have to tread the fine line of being true to myself. Hence, why I gave up on affiliate marketing.

Then you have compelling gurus. That goes for Tony Robbins with the direct email marketing. He will say the great phrase to get you off of your ass and move towards your dreams, that I love, and which we all need: Take Action. And then it is followed by a buy proposal. Conflict of interest?

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From a Tony Robbins direct email. Take action?

He literally says in his new book that he realized that even though he was rich, he could make even more money. And he proceeded to do so…

And I can clearly see how he is trying to make more money from all of the proposals and marketing to the people that he is helping. It is positioned as helping and serving more people in the book, but it doesn’t feel as such from the point of view of the customer, as I am.

While, on the other hand, I feel that I should be able to do that too. Maybe it is beneficial in terms of an inspiration for others!

This book was originally linked for affiliate marketing but my affiliate marketing account has since expired. Also, I don’t recommend this book.

The 7 simple steps to Tony’s Financial Freedom:

  1. Buy my book
  2. Buy my older books
  3. Buy tickets to my events
  4. Subscribe to my coaching
  5. Subscribe to my email newsletter
  6. Support other rich guys that helped me to craft the book
  7. Keep generations of Tony financially free

Jokes aside, maybe I am a curmudgeon. Maybe I am like my father who repel’s money in the pursuit of noble causes.

I enjoy writing and documenting these different thoughts and experiences, and sharing them. But I don’t enjoy writing a dedicated article with the strict intention to sell something unless I truly enjoy and recommend it. I guess that’s where my idealist nature clashes with reality. A conflict of interest doesn’t sit right.

I like Jim Carrey’s advice that he had learned from his father’s choice.

You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love. – Jim Carrey

Further on the book, Tony interviews successful investors for their advice and also their recommended investment portfolios. Each investor gives their own advice… each is different. Perfect.

Let’s say the example is how to get to the other side of a fence. Here are the recommendations of people who successfully did it:

  • Person 1: You should jump over it.
  • Person 2: You should stand on something and then jump over it.
  • Person 3: You should blast through the fence. Use your shoulder.
  • Person 4: You should dig down in the dirt and crawl under it.
  • Person 5: You should go around it.
  • Etc.

Frustrated yet? While reading this tome I felt generally annoyed with the conflicting advice and felt insulted when the direct emails would recommend seminars and personal coaching courses for frustration or unhappiness. I needed to garner regular, zero-technique courage to keep pushing through the book. It is tough to wade through and process all of the advice, but Tony calls Ray Dalio’s All Weather portfolio the Holy Grail. Thanks to Tony for pushing him to hand out a timeless, generational portfolio. I am posting that here to save you from reading his book, while I would recommend reading one of his others as general self-help.

I selected ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) in parenthesis that were conceived more than 10 years ago for back-testing, preferred liquidity and low expense ratios to test Ray Dalio’s All Weather portfolio, the risk-parity approach:

  1. 40% Long Term US Bonds 20-25 year (TLT)
  2. 30% Stocks; for growth (VTI)
  3. 15% Medium US Bonds 7-10 year (IEF)
  4. 7.5% Gold (IAU)
  5. 7.5% Commodities (DBC)

As for the asset classes, stocks are for growth, bonds are to hedge the risk of stocks, and gold and commodities are to profit from inflation; where the other assets suffer.

Prior to reading this book, I had followed Marc Faber for some time and even subscribed to his Gloom Doom & Boom Report monthly for a year. I enjoyed his report but didn’t make enough money in investment advice to pay for the $300 subscription. Admittedly, I had tried to quickly profit from some of his tips in the short term while it seems that his behavior is more medium-long term horizon. His portfolio was more simplistic and I had selected some corresponding ETFs to test:

  1. 25% real estate (IYR)
  2. 25% gold (IAU)
  3. 25% stocks (VTI)
  4. 25% bonds and cash (TLT)

It is a little unclear on real estate whether Marc is investing in physical real estate, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), or both, but he is clear on recommending to hold physical gold bullion. For that, I assume that real estate is a combination of physical and REITs, as he had mentioned specific REITs in the publication and prefers the physical.

And then, what perhaps triggered all of this portfolio analysis was my uncle recommending, via my mother, Dave Ramsey’s investing process about 1 month ago. He leads the video with a Bible quote, which made me crack a smile. I wonder if there is a Jesus Portfolio, as there is a Jesus Diet?

What would Jesus eat? The foods that come to mind are fish, bread, and wine. But DuckDuckGo search results approximate a Mediterranean diet consisting of kale, pine nuts, dates, olive oil, lentils, and fish.

I couldn’t tell you what the Jesus Portfolio would look like but it might be a business opportunity.

I watched a few of Dave Ramsey’s videos that generally give good advice. Most of the advice is geared towards how to get out of debt. I don’t like the approach that he uses of paying off the nominally smaller debt amounts first. This method is to cater to human psychology of feeling good about paying off loans; loan by loan. I personally used the approach of paying off the higher interest loans first, twice, to pay off my loans. This approach is mathematically superior to save more money.

I also agree with the criticisms found in this blog post especially around Dave’s contradictory stock diversification strategy in mutual funds, but zero asset class diversification. Dave beams diversification in his 100% stock portfolio in mutual funds. Despite the generally good advice in his videos, and good intent, I was disappointed in this advice.

Mutual funds have been discredited in my professional and personal education with high fees, pressure for the fund manager to include famous stocks, and a propensity for successful fund managers to leverage their success and leave. I believe that Dave Ramsey avoids one or more of these downfalls by choosing funds based on longevity of track record.

The portfolio itself was comprised of the following mutual fund categories of stocks with my selection of corresponding ETFs in parenthesis:

  1. Large cap mutual fund (VV)
  2. Mid cap mutual fund (VO)
  3. Small cap mutual fund (VB)
  4. International mutual fund (VEA)

On a positive note, and similar to Tony’s advice, Dave tells his listeners to take action. Most people mull over different approaches and the rubber never meets the road, exactly this blog post and perhaps most readers of it.

Where to go from here? A three-way head-to-head brawl: Ray Dalio versus Marc Faber versus Dave Ramsey.

Let’s look at net worth in US dollars. Well, the sources widely vary on these and all 3 people could not be found on a single source. For what it’s worth, Ray Dalio’s net worth was quoted to be 14 and 18.4 billion, Marc’s was 15 million and also unknown, and Dave’s was quoted as 55 and 200 million. Ray Dalio is a clear winner, perhaps with Dave in second place.

Next, the real numbers. Here are the full results in a PDF thanks to this Portfolio Visualizer website. The winner depends on your goals. For me, it was Ray Dalio’s All Weather portfolio with a decent annual growth rate, lowest standard deviation, highest worst year return, and highest max draw-down, despite having the lowest annual growth and total return among the three portfolios and also control portfolio of the Vanguard 500 Index Investor.

Portfolio Analysis

As mentioned, my ETF selections each have been around for more than 10 years so that we could capture the most recent market crash, the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008.

Based on the chart, Marc Faber’s portfolio appears to win for the majority of years but had a greater draw-down during the period. This is easier to compare in the table:

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Portfolio’s 1,2,3 are Ray, Marc and Dave respectively.

Funny enough, the control portfolio, Vanguard 500 Index Investor, is a better strategy in almost all metrics than the Dave Ramsey approach, and is much simpler too.

I should mention that Warren Buffet and his mentor Benjamin Graham (The Intelligent Investor) recommend to avoid mutual funds and simply buy the stock market index, similar in asset class as Dave Ramsey’s approach, except not mutual funds. Of course, this is their advice if you don’t want to engage in full time investing study. You can invest in the index and then watch TV or play games.

In this case, you could invest in the portfolio of your choice (hint: Ray Dalio), re-balance to the ratios above once per year, continuously feed the portfolio with a regular contribution, and then watch Netflix, or Dave Ramsey, or Marie Kondo.

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