Through his books, audios, videos, and live events Tony Robbins has helped more than 50 million people from over 100 countries to achieve breakthroughs and transform their lives. He has coached some of the world's finest athletes, entertainers, Fortune 500 CEOs, and even presidents of nations. He has advised and touched the lives of people as diverse as President Bill Clinton, tennis legend Serena Williams, Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela and entertainers ranging from Usher to Hugh Jackman to Oprah. His live arena events sell out months in advance, with average attendance ranging from 5,000-10,000 people around the world.
Robbins has now directed his enormous force of energy on a vital topic that affects everyone's lives: money. In Money: Master the Game, which is his first book in nearly two decades, Robbins set out on a four-year immersion mission to interview 50 of the most influential financial minds in the world on a quest to empower people to take charge of their own financial destiny through practical advice, relatable stories, and insider tips from experts including Ray Dalio, Charles Schwab, Carl Icahn, Paul Tudor Jones, Mary Callahan Erdoes, T Boone Pickens, Warren Buffett and Steve Forbes. Using metaphor and story to illustrate even the most complex financial concepts to make them simple and actionable, Robbins walks readers through a 7-step blueprint to achieve their financial goals by creating a lifetime income plan. As he told me, "If you don't master money, it's going to master you."
The key to this book, says Robbins, is that you don't have to be wealthy to start implementing these strategies. He put it to me this way: "I don't just show you 'This is what rich people do.' I say, 'This is what rich people do, and I worked hard to figure out how you can do this even with a tiny amount of money.' I'm going to arm you and show you how to make the decisions with whatever amount of money you have to truly grow to where you're going to be financially secure."
Robbins himself is a testament to the ability to overcome ones circumstances: he came from a childhood of poverty. In the book, he writes, "I can vividly remember, as a kid, not picking up the phone or answering the door because I knew who was there - it was the bill collector and we had no money to pay him. As a teenager, I was embarrassed to have to wear school clothes we bought for 25 cents at the thrift shop." An epiphany occurred for Tony when he was 11 years old and a kind stranger delivered a holiday meal to his family on Thanksgiving, which he says sparked within him the desire to one day be able to do the same for others. With his work with the Anthony Robbins Foundation and Feeding America, over the course of 38 years, Robbins has fed more than 42 million people. As Robbins was writing his new book, he heard the news that Congress had slashed $8.7 million from the food stamps budget. Robbins knew the devastating impact this would have on the volunteers and nonprofit organizations that work in the fight against hunger, and saw an opportunity to use this book to help those "forgotten by society." As the humanitarian that he is, Robbins is donating all of the profits from the book in advance, as well as an additional personal financial gift, in order to provide 50 million meals this year through Feeding America, and he is also hoping to get matching funds so that he can ultimately provide 100 million meals to those in need.
In the last chapter in his book, Robbins says that this is the underlying message: it's not about how much money you have to spend, but "how you spend it that matters" and that the greatest thing you can do with your money that will bring you happiness is to "give it away." As he writes in his book, "Research shows that the more you give to others, the happier you are." He devotes his last chapter on ways to "use your spare change to help change the world" and states, that no matter your circumstances, "There are so many simple and enjoyable ways in which you can give and create a legacy you can feel truly proud of."
I spoke with Tony about what he is hoping to achieve with his new book and movement, and what drives him.
Marianne Schnall: This is your first book in twenty years. What inspired you to write this book in particular on this topic?
Tony Robbins: Well, most people ask me why I haven't written a book. It's not because I don't have a couple of day jobs. I've been on a plane on average every four days for the last few years going to fifteen countries and I love the live interaction of being with a real audience, raw and real, doing things in real-time, seeing the impact. So I haven't written a book primarily because I love what I'm doing.
But what pushed me over the edge was -- and you know enough about my background -- I have a pretty tough financial background, emotional background, and I had a lot of suffering. And so, when the 2008 financial crisis happened, I felt like I was going back to my own childhood: people not being able to afford food, people not being able to send their kids to school, people that lost half their savings overnight. And everybody kept talking about how the system is going to be changed, and in 2010 when it didn't change and it was pretty obvious, I started getting obsessed about how did this really come about, and I started watching every documentary, every story about it. I watched a documentary called Inside Job, which ended up winning the Academy Award; Matt Damon was the voice-over for it. It was probably the most powerful of anything I ever saw. What it did was it walked through how the world economy was completely at risk, taken to the edge by a very small number of people. And then the crazy thing was the punishment they received was to not only have all of us be taxed and bail them out, but in addition, they were put in charge of the recovery. At the end of watching this film, depending upon your personality, you either want to kill somebody or you're just going to be angry or you're really, really depressed because there are no solutions in the film.
And so, I got really angry, thinking, This is insane, this is still going on and nothing is being done. And I thought, I can't change the world all by myself but I do have something unique: I have access to the smartest people in the room, so to speak. The richest people that started with zero, the people that really run the economy, because for 21 years now I have been coaching Paul Tudor Jones who is one of the top ten financial traders in the history of the world. Literally every day he communicates with me and we have a series of elements that we measure and I go sit down with him. I've been with him over the last 21 years through every kind of market you can imagine, and he has made money for 21 straight years. There is nobody in his class of that nature. He's never lost a dime, never lost money in that time.
This is quite extraordinary because during that time, you've got to think about it, we've been through the stock market crash of 2000, the tech crash, 9/11, the subprime crisis, the world economic crisis, the experience of gold dropping its largest drop in decades plus. And I've been with him shoulder to shoulder, learning from him as I watched him make money over the decades every single year no matter what happened in the market.
So because of him I have access to a lot of people. And I thought, I'm going to go interview 50 of the most influential, brilliant financial minds on earth and find out, is it really possible for the average person to still win? We live in a world today where you go to click on your little e-trade to buy some shares in Apple. It takes you half a second to click that. In that half a second, the big boys with the supercomputers who do things in 1.4 microseconds, literally, they'll buy and sell, they know what the price is, they go buy it in front of you, they sell it to you, they make a profit, they do that hundreds of times, and they make a fortune. So how is the average person going to make money? Can they make money? That was really my question.
The good news is I found out that the average person can absolutely do well. The system is not designed for the individual investor to be most rewarded; it's designed for the organizations, the companies that run the system to be rewarded. But in spite of that, there is a way for you to win and win big. And it's not Tony Robbins saying that. Because I didn't want to write a book that was Tony Robbins' view of this, I wanted to write a book that was unassailable by going to the people that are actually shaping the economy and getting them to share with me how they made money in both good times and bad.
And I knew that it was a big task, A: to get their time, B: to get them to share with me real insights. But I'm proud to tell you, my average interview was supposed to be 45 minutes, but the length of my interviews on average end up being three hours. And I had people share with me things that they've literally never shared before with anyone, and I put them in the book. I'm talking about all the way down to me asking a question like, "If you couldn't pass on any of your money to your children, not a dime, and all you could pass on was a set of investment strategies or rules and/or a portfolio, what would it be?" They shared with me exactly what people could do. And we went back and back-tested it in the financial organizations and there are some strategies in here that are unbelievable.
Ray Dalio [for example]; most people know of Carl Icahn or Warren Buffett, they know of names like that, but the average person has never heard of Ray Dalio even though he's been called "The da Vinci of Investing" and some people have called him "The Steve Jobs of Investing." The President of the United States knows who he is; Janet Yellen, the head of the Fed, knows who he is; China knows who he is because this guy is the largest hedge fund in the world, everybody reads his weekly briefing. This guy, to give you an idea, a large hedge fund where wealthy people put their money might be fifteen billion dollars. This is 160 billion. So it's in a different size from anybody else. You haven't heard of him because in order to sit down with him ten years ago you had to have a five billion dollar net worth and you had to have $100 million initially to start or he wouldn't talk to you. Today, it doesn't matter how rich you are ten years later, he won't talk to anybody--he has closed the funds.
I sat down with him for almost three hours. It turns out he was a fan of my work and had listened to my audios over the years. I prepared for fifteen hours in advance so I can pitch and catch with him back and forth, and at the end I gave this question. He began to reveal to me things. And I pushed him. I said, "Share with me how you've been able to make money." He has made 21 percent a year for 23 straight years. I mean how can an average person do this? He told me they can't get it by going to your broker. They can't get it through a wealth adviser. There are only a few unicorns that can beat the market. How would people do this? He said, "Well, I've developed a strategy that I've been able to make money on in virtually every environment--good times, bad times, in-between times. It's different than anything else. It's called the 'All-Weather' portfolio."
I said, "Explain it to me." He explained to me, and I got chills because at the end I said, "This is amazing, I understand it." And I'm good at simplifying things, but I said, "This is like giving somebody a recipe and saying, 'Use some dairy product, use some chocolate, use some flour.'" I said, "It's the amounts and qualities that matter." I said, "Give me the secret sauce." And he says to me, "I can't do that." He gives me this whole five-billion dollar net worth, the 100-million thing. I said, "Yeah. But you just told me you wouldn't take anybody's money anyway. You're giving away half of your fortune. You've got fourteen billion in net worth and you're giving it away." I said, "I know you care. Help the little guy out. Give me your secret sauce!" He goes, "Well, I can't really. It's more complex than that." I said, "Well, give me a simplified version." He goes, "Well, it won't be perfect." I said, "Your idea of not perfect will be better than anybody else's idea of perfect."
And so he started giving me this strategy and here's what came out of it. It's in the book, it's mind-boggling. We back-tested it, which means you go back and compare this strategy all the way back to how it's performed year by year for the last 75 years. What we found was truly amazing. His strategy has made money 85% of the time over the last 75 years! And the few times it lost money, the average loss was 1.6%. And the largest single loss in 75 years was less than 4%, minus 3.95%. That, by the way, was in 2008 when from peak to trough, the market was down over 50%! The overall average return was just under 10% over 75 years. Truly amazing. This is one of the smoothest rides you can imagine. The ability to get great returns without the crazy volatility that makes people get out of the market! I mean, think about it, this is something that a college student could apply or a baby boomer who wants to figure out how to still get great returns but is looking for a way that is less volatile than the average approach to investing in the stock market by itself.
I wrote this book with one major goal: to level the playing field. I wanted to answer the question, "How do I bring the insights of the ultra wealthy to the average person? And how do I keep it simple enough that they can truly take action on it?" So that someone who has little money, or plenty of money, could take these lessons and transform their life financially. I broke it down into 7 core steps. And it doesn't matter how little or how much money you have. It truly can help you to achieve financial security or financial freedom.
MS: So this book isn't necessarily aimed at people who already have substantial wealth?
TR: No, it's not written for those people. I went to the financial experts to find the information they could share. The illusion that you have to have this big chunk of money is why I wrote the book. The biggest illusion that I destroyed with the book as the first principle is you've got to tap into the power that makes people really wealthy, and it isn't making a lot of money all at once.
I actually give examples in the book of people like Curt Schilling from Red Sox. This guy is one of the greatest pitchers in history. The Red Sox, he takes them to the World Series twice, he makes $100 million. And then went bankrupt! Kim Basinger was one of the highest-paid actresses in the 1990s making $10 million a picture, also went bankrupt. Mike Tyson made half a billion dollars, $500 million in income. He went bankrupt. I can give you story after story after story. That idea that you need a bunch of money is the biggest bullsh--. What I walk you through is, is really understanding.
I went and met with Burton Malkiel who wrote a book called A Random Walk Down Wall Street about 25-30 years ago. It's still one of the great investment books of all time. He is a professor at Princeton, brilliant man--a guy who helped to instigate index funds which is now one of the cheapest and most effective ways to invest in the stock market with a small amount of money. Again, it doesn't matter--you don't need a lot of money to get in the game. I sat down with him and I said, "What's the biggest mistake that people make?" He said, "They don't become investors. They think, 'I have no money' and they're consumers." He said, "You want to become an investor and you not only want to become an investor but you want to tap the power of compounding."
The force of compounding is magnificent. So in the book I explained that process and I show for example a guy that never made more than $14,000 a year, Theodore Johnson. He worked for UPS and in his senior years, his net worth was more than $70 million. All he did was the principles that we teach in this book in the most fundamental level.
This is a book for a millennial saying, "I'm in deep debt out of college. What the hell do I do?" This book is for a soccer mom who is also trying to be responsibly an investment person saying, "How do I do this?" I'm going to arm you and show you how to make the decisions with whatever amount of money you have to truly grow to where you're going to be financially secure.
Also, what this book helps you to do is figure out what does financial security and independence and freedom look like for you? It's different for every person. These pictures that you see in commercials of people retiring with their own wine vineyard, that's not the average person.
For example, in the book, one of the biggest reasons that people don't succeed is because the number in their head they've got to make is so big that their brain says it's never going to happen. So what I do very simply and easily is I say, "Listen. I've learned this over the years. Let's get a goal here that would really feel good, not the ultimate goal, you could achieve in your life." So I say, "Let's try this. Answer this for me: If you could have an income without working, if you could be able to have enough money that the income off your investments could provide for these five things, how would you feel--if you never have to work again to pay for your mortgage as long as you live, never have to work to pay for your utilities, never have to work again to pay for food for your family, never have to work to pay for your transportation cost, and never have to work to pay for your basic insurance cost, how would you feel, those five things? Other parts of your life you work for. You work part-time or full-time if you want. But if you never had to pay for those five things again, how would you feel?"
Most people are like, "That would be incredible!" But I can tell you right now that number is 60 percent less than whatever number that the person is trying to tell you need to have. And I call that financial security. It's not absolute financial independence or absolute financial freedom, but when you get yourself there and you say, "Wow, I can get there in five or seven or eight years, in three years or ten years!" instead of some number that maybe you'll get to if you're lucky in 30 years, it gets people in the game.
I can show you how to do that. I did this with a woman who was 48 years old--she has never invested in her life, she's smart as a whip, and this was a woman who literally has sailed around the Cape of Africa, she has sailed 20,000 miles around the earth on a small little sailing boat. This is a courageous, smart, strong woman. But in the area of money, she told me, "I'm embarrassed because people know I'm smart, I'm strong. But I just feel overwhelmed in this area and I just let it sit on the side. I'm 40 years old and I have no money."
So we sat down and I had her actually go through the first version of this book and I said, "I just want you to go through these steps." By the time she got to the fourth step she has laid out a plan, she has absolutely completely changed her life. She's changed her life today. She's got a brand-new car. She has never saved anything before, but she's now saving fifteen percent. She's on course right now with a stable base of investments that will get her financial security by the time she's 65. And she can have financial freedom if she steps it up a little bit which now she's enthusiastic to do.
This book is a plan. It's a blueprint. It asks simply, "Where are you now? Where do you want to go? And let me show you a plan for how to get there." And the fact that I went to the best investors on earth, all I want to do is give you what they know--the insights that nobody else knows. The second principle of this book is really simple: you need to become an insider. You've got to know the rules of the game before you get in because otherwise, we've all heard the story: when a person with money meets a person with experience, the person with the experience ends up with your money. That always happens. That's the way the system is set up. So I walk through it and I show people the lies that are marketed that you don't understand that are costing you a fortune.
What I do in this book is I show you, "Here is how to start with nothing." And I go to the best economic people and say, "Here are some little tricks you can do so that even if you think you don't have any money start with, you can start by saving as little as 3 ½ percent, here's how in a few years it could be ten or fifteen percent without it costing you anything. Just like taking that money out of your future growth." And I explain that in the book, "Here's how you automate it. Here's how you make it work." And then I show you how to protect yourself. And then I show you to make the game winnable as the third step. Then I show you what all these investors have told me are the most important things, how to diversify, how to protect yourself, how to maximize. Then I show you how to create an income for life because that's what you really need. In the end, you need to have income so you don't have to work. And even if you don't have to work, most people who are in that position do work. Why? Because doing nothing makes us crazy. But freedom comes when you don't have to work.
And then I show you the very best on earth and what they do different than anybody else and how you can do it. I don't just show you, "This is what rich people do." I say, "This is what rich people do, and I worked hard to figure out how you can do this even with a tiny amount of money." I give that to people and in the end I show them how to not only implement it but enjoy it with a sense of contribution and impact. That's the essence of what this book is about.
MS: Was there anything that surprised you or some new insight you personally learned in writing the book? Or even one story or recurring theme that stood out to you?
TR: If there was a theme, I'd say it's that most people think that very wealthy people take huge risks and that's why they have huge rewards. But the very best on earth are completely obsessed with not losing money. That sounds overly simplistic, but they know that if you lost 50 percent, it takes 100 percent to get even. Most people don't make that math in their head, so it takes years and years. They are obsessed with not losing money. And because they're obsessed with not losing money, the thing that surprised me the most is most of them take very small risks but they do it with things where there is very big upside. There's a term they use for it amongst the wealthy, they call it "asymmetrical risk/reward." It's a big word. All it means is "little risk, big reward."
I'll give you an example. Paul Tudor Jones who I've coached for 21 years, has a strategy called "five to one." What he does is, when I'm going to invest a dollar I've got to be certain I could make five dollars. Why? Because he knows he's going to be wrong. So if I risk a dollar and I don't make my five dollars, I can now risk another dollar and I've got two dollars and I could still make five, I've got three and if I'm wrong I can do five. He can be wrong four to five times and still break even. He can be wrong three times out of five and still make 20 percent. But the average person risks a dollar in trying to make a dime, 10 percent, or a dollar to try and make 20 percent. How many times can you lose?
I'll give you another example. Kyle Bass who is an extraordinary human being, he took $30 million of investors' money, turned it into $2 billion in two years during the worst economic crisis, the subprime crisis that we had. Everybody has gone bankrupt, he made $2 billion out of 30 million. And those numbers are really huge. To give you a perspective, a million seconds ago, if you want to do it in seconds, was twelve days ago. So when people say "million and billion" like the president will say "millionaires and billionaires"--they're not in the same universe. Twelve days ago was a million seconds ago. A billion seconds ago was 32 years ago! They're different universes. So 30 million to 2 billion is mind-boggling. Here's how he did it: he never risked more than six cents to make a dollar. That means he can be wrong fifteen times and still make money! And he wasn't wrong fifteen times, which was why he was able to do it.
Most of us are trying to be right all the time. The smartest people in the world, the Ray Dalios, they all say, "I'm going to be wrong." And so saying "I made the right investment in Apple," or something of that nature doesn't matter. It's your risk/reward and it's your asset allocation, the way you divide up what money you have, whether it's $100, $1,000, $10,000, $1 million, $10 million, it doesn't matter. The principles are the same. And if you educate yourself in this process, you can do something once a year for fifteen minutes to adjust what you're investing in and you can literally set up a portfolio that could give you an incredible return because you're modeling the people that spent 40 years doing this stuff and they've never shared it before and in this book they're sharing with you directly what they do.
MS: As you know, I do a lot of work around women's issues, and having done all of these recent interviews around women and leadership, it kept coming up how much the role of money is related to accessing power and influence. In the U.S. women still only earn .78 cents for every dollar a man makes, and worldwide women earn on average less than 50% of what men earn. I was aware that there weren't that many women's voices in your book--was it because there are not as many high level women executives in the investment/financial expert world to pull from? And how do you view the reasons behind the disparity around women and money and what we can do to shift that?
TR: Well, out of the 50 people that I interviewed, I interviewed five women. There's only one woman in the top 50--Mary Callahan Erdoes, and she's one of the twelve people profiled in the book. I went to the best on earth and I didn't do it based on gender. I said, "Who is producing the greatest result?" I went to people who all had built it from scratch. That was on my criteria. I wanted somebody that made that happen or I wanted somebody who's grown from the ground up and produced such results that they now were in a position where they were responsible for trillion, T not B, trillions of dollars. Even if there weren't a billionaire, I wanted that.
I interviewed the youngest female billionaire and I also brought in Mary Callahan Erdoes because she's considered to be one of the most powerful women in finance. She manages 2.3 trillion dollars offered to J.P. Morgan. So I really worked hard to do that. I was very conscious of that process, but if you ask Mary Callahan--I did, I asked her about this issue. I said, "Your business is dominated by men. You've dwarfed just every man you have competed with. Now, you probably would describe it that way, but you have to just beat them and you've done it by producing extraordinary results. Tell me, what's been the toughest thing for you to be able to move up here? What were some of the obstacles you run into?"
She said, "There are no obstacles on financial business." She said, "And I'm not being politically correct because this is a business where you're rewarded for one thing, can you produce economic results? If you produce results, you move up. It's that simple. Now, that's not true in every industry, that's the beauty of the financial industry." She said, "That's why I'm in a position that I am in."
I also interviewed Alicia Munnell who is the head of Boston College Research Department for the Study of Retirement. She's probably the number one woman in the world in that area and she used to work with the Fed. I interviewed Teresa Ghilarducci who's also a student of that area, one of the best people on retirement issues. I interviewed Helaine Olen who's considerably one of the best experts on how people view the system. I interviewed Sara Blakely who is the youngest female billionaire in history. So they are all in the book.
MS: You end the book with an inspiring chapter about how the whole point of having all of this wealth is to give. What is your philosophy on that, for you personally, and for how wealthy people in general can be guided or encouraged to support philanthropic causes?
TR: My view is my entire life has been shaped by giving when I didn't have it. Some idiot who's wealthy and doesn't give, they'll rot in their own selfishness. I'm not worried about them. What I'm really interested in is the day-to-day person, human beings who want to go to another level of their life.
In this book, what I'm really saying is, "If you want a fulfilled life, stop thinking about wealthy people and what they have and you don't. Stop thinking from a place of scarcity." In fact, at the end of the book, I wanted to get across what this book is really about. And so I decided to finish the book with a story about the moment my life changed forever. I'd been working my tail off for a few years. I was very young and I was building a new business. And when you have big goals, they don't always come about as fast as you want, and I felt extremely frustrated at the time, and frankly a bit overwhelmed, that I was working as hard as I was (18 hour days) but it wasn't coming together. And I remember I was driving near midnight down a freeway in a place called Pomona, California, and I'll never forget. I kept asking, "Why am I not prospering?" And all of a sudden, it hit me. I pulled over on the side of the road and pulled out a journal I carried with me, and I wrote on one page one giant phrase: The secret to living is giving.
I actually got extremely emotional and I started to realize that I was so focused on what I was doing, that I wasn't focused enough on what I was truly giving. I knew what I wanted, but I wasn't focused on what difference I could really make. It made a significant shift inside me. And then, I started doing better for about 6 months and then I ran into some new challenges and I went broke. And when I got broke, when I literally had no money, I started to get frustrated and angry with the people who I felt had not helped me along the way.
And I was particularly pissed off at a friend who had borrowed $1,200 from me when I was doing well, but never paid it back. Now I was broke, but when I asked for the money, he'd turned his back on me. He wasn't answering my calls! I was furious, thinking, "What the hell am I going to do! How am I even going to eat?"
But I was always pragmatic. I thought, "Okay, when I was seventeen and homeless, how did I get by?" I'd go to a smorgasbord and load up on the all-you-can-eat buffet for as little money as possible. That gave me an idea. My apartment wasn't that far from a beautiful place called Marina del Rey, where LA's wealthy dock their yachts. There was a restaurant called El Torito that had a fabulous buffet for about $6. I didn't want to waste any money on gas or parking, so I walked the three miles to the restaurant, which sat right on the marina. I took a seat by the window and loaded up plate after plate of food, eating like there was no tomorrow--which might have been the case!
While I ate, I was watching the boats going by and dreaming about what life could be like. My state started to change, and I could feel layers of anger melting off me. As I finished my meal, I noticed a small boy dressed up in a little suit--he couldn't have been more than seven or eight years old--opening the door for his young mother. Then he proudly led her to their table and held out her chair. He had a special presence. This kid seemed so pure and so good, he was such a giver--you could tell by the respectful, loving way he treated his mom. I was deeply moved.
After I paid my check, I walked over to their table and said to the boy, "Excuse me, I just want to acknowledge you for being such an extraordinary gentleman. It's amazing how you're treating your lady like this."
"She's my mom," he confided.
"Oh, my God!" I said. "That's even cooler! And it's great that you're taking her to lunch!"
He paused and in a quiet voice said, "Well, I really can't, because I'm only eight years old--and I don't have a job yet."
"Yes, you are taking her to lunch," I said. And in that moment, I reached into my pocket, took all the money I had left--maybe a grand total of $13 and some change--and put it down on the table.
He looked up at me and said, "I can't take that."
"Of course you can," I told him.
I looked at him with a big smile and said, "Because I'm bigger than you are."
He stared up at me, shocked, and then he started to giggle. I just turned and walked out the door. I didn't just walk out of that door, I flew home! I should have been freaking out, because I didn't have a dime to my name, but instead I felt totally free!
That was the day my life changed forever. That was the moment I became a wealthy man.
Something inside of me finally got past the feeling of scarcity. I was finally free of this thing called money that I had let terrorize me. I was able to give everything without any fear. Something beyond my mind, something deep in my spirit knew that I--as we all are--was guided. And this moment was meant to be.
I realized I had been so busy trying to get that I had forgotten to give. But now I had recovered myself; I had recovered my soul. I gave away my excuses, the blaming others, and suddenly I wasn't angry anymore. I wasn't frustrated. You might also have said I wasn't very smart! Because I had no idea in hell where I was going to get my next meal. But that thought wasn't even in my head. Instead I felt an overwhelming sense of joy that I was released from a nightmare--the nightmare of thinking my life was doomed because of what other people had "done" to me.
That night, I committed to a plan of massive action. I decided exactly what I was going to do and how to get myself employed. I felt certain I'd make it happen--but I still didn't know when my next paycheck would arrive or, even more urgently, my next meal. And then a miracle happened. The next morning, the old traditional snail mail arrived, and I found a special letter in my mailbox. In it was a handwritten note from my friend saying he was so sorry he'd been avoiding my calls. I had been there for him when he needed me, and he knew that I was in trouble. So he was paying me back everything he owed. Plus a little more. I looked inside the envelope, and there was a check for $1,300. It was enough to last me a month or more! I cried, I was so relieved. And then I thought, "What does this mean?"
I thought, I never stopped to think before I take a breath, Will there be oxygen there? You know what? I'm never going to stop to think again whether the economics is there. I'm going to make my life everyday about being a blessing in people's lives. If I'm a blessing to people's lives, then there will be nothing to worry about again. I don't know if it's really true, but I choose to believe so. I've been through good times, bad times, up and down times economically over the years, but I've never gone back to that scarcity. And it's when you have nothing and you make the investment--that's when you'll be free.
MS: I know you are donating all proceeds of this book to feeding the hungry and you also have a very ambitious and generous charitable campaign associated with the book. You have already given millions of dollars over the years toward this cause through your foundation as well as the organization Feeding America. What can you tell us about that?
TR: Over the last 37 years, I've fed 42 million people but what happened this last year is what really upset me. So last summer, while I was working on the book, I saw they've cut food stamps by $8.7 billion and nobody even talks about it. Then you look at what that impact is on people in this country. There are 47 million people in this country, seventeen million children in this country, that go to bed every night unsure--will there be meal for them tomorrow? I mean, that's insane in the richest country in the world, and we just cut food stamps. I went crazy. I support these organizations. My foundation feeds two million people a year, and I always match it with an additional two million. It was a big goal for me. I've been doing that for almost five years now.
So it's like, we feed four million people a year and I know all these non-profits are already struggling and you're going to take this out? So I thought, What can I do? What if I just donate all the profits of this book, but not wait and see if the book sells. Let me just donate everything in advance, every dime on the book. How many people can I feed? By negotiating a big price point by that, when you're in charge of that big, I went to the largest hunger organization, a relief organization in the United States called Feeding America and I've thought I could feed ten million people. I was like, "That's cool." But then as the years have gone by and I kept working, I got more and more inspired. So now, I've decided I'm going to feed 100 million people, I'm writing a check for 50 myself, 50 million people, and 50 million meals. Then I'm working with Feeding America to get matching funds to feed another 50 million.
I want people to be inspired to do what's in front of them. If you won't give a dime out of a dollar, don't talk to a billionaire about giving their money away because if you don't give a dime out of a dollar, I can promise you, you're not going to give a 100 million out of a billion. It's a lie. I really think that this mentality that when you get other people to do stuff, it's like so many people are not where they want to be financially. You've got to take control of your life. I've got to tell you, the system is not just. But, you can learn to use the system if you educate yourself and not let the system use you. You can learn to take control and make your financial life exactly how it deserves to be.
I'm obsessed in saying, "I know the system is messed up guys, but here's what you can do to be empowered instead of just talking about that system and hoping it'll change." So I'm pretty passionate about that. As far as wealthy people, I've been in that category now for some time. But I'm proud of it because I've worked to create financial freedom and I've been a good custodian of the wealth that I have. And I got here by adding a massive amount of value to people's lives. In the Bible it says, "If you wish to become great"--and there's nothing wrong with wanting to be great--"then you must learn to become the servant of many." If you could help millions of people, you can certainly make millions of dollars. I try to influence everyone I know to be a giver because the person that benefits most by giving is the giver.
MS: What is the meaning of money to you?
TR: To me, money is a vehicle; it's a tool. I could use it as a weapon to destroy things or money can create--you can create an opportunity, you can create a charity, you can create things for your family, you can go do something for your family that nobody else would ever do. You can create educational opportunities, you can feed people overseas. And there's a tremendous leverage with money, or you can destroy people with it. If you're mean, you've got more to be mean with. If you're giving, there's more to be giving and loving with. So money is like a canvas or a shape shifter. It's like whatever you project on that canvas, that's what money is for you. Really, in its essence it's power. Most people relate to money the way they relate to power. They either think other people have it, and they don't and they're mad about it, or they feel fearful of it like having it would be a burden or a responsibility. I think you just want to learn how to utilize it for a greater good.
So what I try to do with people, is I say, "If you don't master money, it's going to master you." It's the subject that brings so much emotion to people. It's like religion, politics, sex and money. Those are four topics you'll get anybody animated about. But people are irrational. What I want to do is let's take the irrational aspects out of it and let's just break this down. And you and I, let's go and see if we can't master this thing, a few steps at a time without giving up your day job, without having to give up your whole life. But if you don't educate yourself, this is an area of your life that it is a game.
Some people, what they do is they sit on the sidelines in the game. They do the same thing in their lives. Some people get in the game. Some people play to win. Some people just wonder how it's all working out. Which one are you? And what I tell people, just focus. This is a game you cannot afford to lose for your family. If you don't spend the time, this is the place where ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is poverty. Ignorance is pain. I don't want you to go through that. So what I'm trying to do is save you decades of time by bringing you the best. Not from talking about it on television, telling you to put your money in some mythical mutual funds that make twelve percent per annum, which hasn't existed in decades. Not somebody who's screaming at you to buy the Microsoft stock, but really, let you hear directly from those that have built it from the ground up where you can do starting with next to nothing or nothing to get yourself the way you want to be. That's the mission. Let's use this as a tool so that ultimately the people that society's forgotten, we can bring some attention to them and bring some hope to them. My life has changed because somebody fed my family on Thanksgiving when I was eleven years old. It wasn't the food that changed me, it was the fact that a stranger cared. That's what changed my life. That made me the person I am today and have been for the last 37 years. All that came out of that, that simple act of getting a result. That's my hope of what would come out of this book.
I will tell you one other thing about money: when you don't have it, it sure as hell affects the quality of people's health, and their relationships. And paper money isn't even real today, right? It's all really ones and zeros in computers today. But at the same time, if you don't have it, it certainly affects the quality of your life.
I tell people that when people say money doesn't matter. I do a lot of research and I even tell people, "Look, it doesn't matter how much money you have. All the research shows." If you doubled your income from 25,000 to 55,000 you only have nine percent more happiness. So don't think about it as money. But when I was writing this book, I read all the newest research, and those researches show that money does matter. That all the research projects left out the most important aspect: It's not how much you earn, it's how you spend it. For example, if you spend money on "things" you get very little happiness, very little lasting happiness at all. If you spend money on experiences like your university education, a trip with your family, whatever it is. Experiences give a geometric return compared to money because there's something that we're able to store, take in and have a spiritual, emotional, relational quality to them.
The other thing where money makes a difference is when you can spend it to save time, because if you can get rid of a drudgery in your life or something you hate to do, that doesn't tap your passion--I don't know if it's cleaning the house or whatever it is you do. But someone else, they love it. You can hire them to do it and it gives you a geometric increase in the level of your happiness. Finally, one that most people miss out on that sounds trite, but is proven to be biochemically accurate, is what gives you the greatest level of long-term happiness is to spend money on other people. Both people you love and people you don't even know! You can take $10 and increase your happiness level if you spend it on somebody other than yourself and you do it with some specific criteria that I show you in the book.
I'm so excited that a kid who couldn't eat and have his own meal on Thanksgiving can now feed 50 million people himself and may be responsible for 100 million people. And I'm working to sustain that beyond that timeline. That's giving me unbelievable joy. It gives me joy to see these kids lit up. It gives me joy to think that my life matters in some way beyond just the day-to-day. People don't realize how much it does. In fact, one study shows that you can, by making a small contribution to things that matter to you, get the equivalent of the tripling of your salary in terms of increase in happiness. So, it really is understanding how to use money, and not let money use you.
To order the book, and download the first chapter and a series of three videos, visit moneymasterthegame.com.
Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer whose writings and interviews have appeared in a variety of media outlets including O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, CNN.com, the Women's Media Center and many others. Marianne is a featured blogger at The Huffington Post and a contributor to the nationally syndicated NPR radio show, 51 percent The Women's Perspective. She is also the co-founder and executive director of the women's website and non-profit organization Feminist.com, as well as the co-founder of the environmental site EcoMall.com. She is the author of Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice based on her interviews with a variety of well-known women. Marianne's new book is What Will it Take to Make a Woman President? Conversations About Women, Leadership, and Power. You can visit her website at www.marianneschnall.com.