No secrets: Why you already know everything you need to know about money

If you’re searching for a financial “secret”, you’re going to be disappointed. You’d be better served by a better understanding of yourself.

I tend to roll my eyes at products that promise to tell you “secrets”.

Secrets of the ultra-rich!” “Secrets of the top-performing athletes!” “Secrets of weight loss (or weight gain)!

I mean, I understand that there’s a strong allure to finding out a secret. If there was something that you could find out that would allow you to do something you couldn’t do before, wouldn’t you want to know?

But I’ve found over and over that there aren’t any secrets out there worth considering when it comes to money. That’s what you think you need to know, but it’s not.

The information is out there

Eliminate debt. Build wealth. Invest in assets that produce returns. Minimize volatility to reduce risk of loss. Utilize tax-advantaged accounts to maximize return.


In general, all the personal finance info you need can fit on an index card.

People can disagree on the details (and disagree vehemently), but the fundamentals of personal finance are pretty much agreed upon. There’s nothing secret about it.

When someone claims that they have secrets, they’re probably trying to sell you something.

Often, the secret involves learning a way to “beat the market”, or earn a greater return than what the market usually returns.

But the secret asset is often a short term thing. Yes, gold may be up a million percent today, but what about the long term? Probably not.

Every portfolio manager that beats the market eventually doesn’t. The market, like the house, always wins.

Except, unlike the house, you share in the returns with the market.

Another secret is a way to “eliminate market risk”. You can’t do this. Or rather, you can, but who you buy from needs some returns to cover their own risk from a falling market, meaning that you’ll pay for this safety with much lower returns.

It’s not hard to find a place that will return a guarantee of 4% or under, but that’s not going to make you a millionaire. There is no long-term guaranteed asset that I’ve ever seen that will return over 8%. If someone tells you otherwise, check to make sure his name isn’t Madoff.

Tony Robbins got me

Even I’m taken in sometimes though. When I read Tony Robbins’ book, Money: Master The Game (with its broken app), I was intrigued by his persistent claims that he possessed the secret to the investment strategy that would never lose money, and if it did, it would only be a little bit, while the gains would be enormous.

In the end, his watered down version of Ray Dalio’s “All-Season” portfolio turned out to be anything but revolutionary. (You can read about what it is here, if you care.) Mostly bonds, some stocks, some commodities. Yawn.

At the same time, he spent the vast majority of the book hocking a specific investment company (who I won’t name here), who was standing by to take your assets and invest them. For a fee.

What you need is inside

Any financial information you need, you can find online. Full stop.

If there’s any knowledge you may lack, it’s not financial secrets, it’s adequate self-knowledge.

Why do you make the decisions you make?
How have you gotten to where you are today?
What are the most important goals you have for your future?
How are you getting in your own way?

People spend so much time looking outward for that one piece of information (the “secret”) that’s going to make everything work out for you, while completely ignoring that learning about your own behavior could make such a more powerful difference in your life, especially your financial life.

But that’s still not a secret. It’s right there, waiting to be uncovered.

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