10 Essential Investor Controls

Become a Sophisticated Investor with These 10 Controls

How hidden fees destroy billions of wealth each year—and how you can avoid them

In his recent letter to investors, Warren Buffett, considered by many to be the smartest investor in the world, shared one thing that he believed has destroyed a massive amount of wealth in the United States.

This massive wealth destroying force was something that seems so small and inconsequential on the surface. It is something that almost every average investor pays. It is the simple brokerage fee.

Falling victim to the fees

According to Buffett's estimates, brokerage fees have decimated more than $100 billion over the last decade.

As ABC News reported:

"The bottom line: When trillions of dollars are managed by Wall Streeters charging high fees, it will usually be the managers who reap outsized profits, not the clients," Buffett wrote. "Both large and small investors should stick with low-cost index funds."

By mentioning low-cost index funds, Buffett is simply pointing out that unmanaged funds consistently outperform high-fee managed funds. As "The New York Times," reported :

"Underscoring his long-held thesis that, over time, highly paid hedge-fund hotshots lose out to a cheap index fund, Mr. Buffett presented the latest results of a bet he made nine years ago. Since then, a standard S & P index fund overseen by Vanguard is up 85 percent, easily outpacing the hedge funds' return of 22 percent. Annually, the gap is just as wide: 7 percent for the index fund and 2.2 percent for the hedge funds.

As you may know, I'm not a big fan of paper assets, and I wouldn't promote doing the majority of your investing in index funds. Why? Because I think that with a high financial intelligence you can get a much better return that 7% per year.

But if you don't plan on increasing your financial knowledge and becoming a sophisticated investor, then Buffett's advice is probably very good for you.

How can this happen?

One thing I did key in on, however, was this line from "The New York Times" article, "As usual, Mr. Buffett did not mince words in expressing his astonishment as to how elite investment professionals could register such mediocre returns while raking in steep fees."

The answer is simple: most people don't know how much they are paying in fees, and they don't know much about how money and the financial system works.

Take for instance the following stats from Tony Robbins' new book, "Unshakable," as reported by Inc.:

The nonprofit organization AARP published a report in which it found that 71% of Americans believe they pay no fees at all to have a 401(k) plan. (Put another way, more than 7 out of 10 people in America today are completely unaware that they are even being charged a fee to participate in their 401(k) plan!)

92% admit that they have no idea how much they're actually paying.

According to Tony, nearly two-thirds of a retirement nest egg can be destroyed by hidden and excessive fess that average investors have no idea they are paying. And as I've quoted before, Tony share's this insight from Jack Bogle, the founder of Vanguard (a low-cost index fund):

"Let's assume the stock market gives a 7% return over 50 years," he began. At that rate, because of the power of compounding, "each dollar goes up to 30 dollars." But the average fund charges you about 2% per year in costs, which drops your average annual return to 5%. At that rate, "you get 10 dollars. So 10 dollars versus 30 dollars. You put 100% of the capital, you took 100% of the risks and you got 33% of the return!"

Ultimately, the problem with the average investor is that they have a very low financial intelligence. They are, in fact, intimidated by money. So, rather than truly invest, they choose to hand their money over to a broker so that it's out of sight and out of mind. Much like sending a prayer to a saint, they hope that the broker will work miracles with their money. Unfortunately, saints probably have better track records with prayer than brokers do with investor money.

Moving from an average investor to a sophisticated investor

If you don't want to be a victim of such wealth-killing fees, it's imperative that you move from being an average investor to a sophisticated one.

Rich dad often spoke of the sophisticated investor. "A sophisticated investor is an investor who understands each of the ten investor controls," he said.

The keyword here is control. When "investors" lose billions of dollars to fees they aren't even aware they are paying, that is a sign of who has control-the brokerage. If a true investor-a sophisticated investor-wants to be rich, he or she must have control over the investment.

These ten controls were the key to making huge sums of money in the markets.

  1. Sophisticated investor control #1: Control over yourself

    "The most important control you must have as an investor is control over yourself," said rich dad.

    Most of us were taught in school to become employees. There was only one right answer, and making mistakes was horrible. We were not taught financial literacy in school. Once you leave school, it takes a lot of work and time to change your thinking and to become financially literate.

    A sophisticated investor knows that there are multiple right answers to any given situation, that the best learning comes through making mistakes, and that financial literacy is essential to be successful. They do not become flustered when they make a mistake. Rather they have control over themselves to learn from and get better from mistakes. They know their own financial statement, and they understand how each financial decision they make will ultimately impact their financial statement.

  2. Sophisticated investor control #2: Control over income/expense ratios and asset/liability ratios

    This control is developed through financial literacy. My rich dad taught me the three cash flow patterns of the poor, middle class, and the rich.

    The poor spend every penny they make and own no assets. It is simply money in and money out.

    The middle class accumulates more debt as they become more successful. A pay raise qualifies them to borrow more money from the bank so that they can buy things like cars, vacations, boats, and more. As their income increases, so does their personal debt. That is what we call the rat race.

    The rich have assets that work for them. They have gained control over their expenses and focus on acquiring or building assets. Their businesses pay most of their expenses, and they have a few, if any, personal liabilities.

    Sophisticated investors focus their time and energy on buying assets that put money in their pockets-not chasing liabilities that take money out…like brokerage fees. It's just that simple.

  3. Sophisticated investor control #3: Control over the management of an investment

    An inside investor who owns enough of an interest in the investment to control the management decisions has this type of investor control. The investor can be a sole owner or own enough of an interest that he or she is involved in the decision-making process.

    The skills learned through building a successful business using the B-I Triangle are essential to this investor.

    Once the sophisticated investor possesses these skills, he or she is better able to analyze the effectiveness of the management of other potential investments. If the management appears competent and successful, the investor is more comfortable investing funds.

  4. Sophisticated investor control #4: Control over taxes

    The sophisticated investor has learned about the tax laws, either through formal study or by asking questions and listening to good advisors. The right side of the CASHFLOW Quadrant provides certain tax advantages that the sophisticated investor uses thoughtfully to minimize taxes paid and to increase tax deferrals wherever possible.

    For instance, in the United States, people on the B (business) and I (investor) side of the quadrant enjoy many tax advantages that those on the E (employee) and S (self-employed) side do not.

    Much of the sophisticated investor's income is in the form of passive and portfolio income, so they do not have to pay social insurance taxes like social security and Medicare on that money.

    They can use tax laws to defer tax payments, sometimes indefinitely.

    They can pay for expenses with pre-tax dollars and be taxed only on the net income.

    These and many other advantages give the sophisticated investor a huge head start over those investing in the E and S quadrants.

  5. Sophisticated investor control #5: Control over when you buy and when you sell

    The sophisticated investor knows how to make money in an up market as well as a down one. In building a business, he or she has great patience. I sometimes refer to this patience as "delayed gratification." A sophisticated investor understands that the true financial reward is after the investment or business becomes profitable and can be sold or taken public.

  6. Sophisticated investor control #6: Control over brokerage transactions

    Sophisticated investors who have inside influence can direct how the investment is sold or expanded.

    As outside investors in other companies, sophisticated investors carefully track the performance of their investments and direct their broker to buy or sell appropriately.

    Average investors rely on their brokers to know when to buy and sell. That is not sophisticated. It's foolish.

  7. Sophisticated investor control #7: Control over the E-T-C (Entity, Timing, Characteristics)

    "Next to control over yourself, the control over the E-T-C is the most important control," said rich dad. To have control over the entity, timing, and characteristics of your income, you need to understand corporate, security, and tax law.

    Rich dad truly understood the benefits offered through choosing the right entity with the right year-end and converting as much ordinary income into passive and portfolio income as possible. This strategy combined with the ability to read financial statements helped rich dad build his financial empire more quickly.

  8. Sophisticated investor control #8: Control over the terms and conditions agreement

    The sophisticated investor is in control of the terms and conditions of the agreements he or she makes when on the inside of the investment. For instance, when I rolled over the sale of several of my small houses into a small apartment building, I used a Section 1031 exchange (U.S. law), which allowed me to roll over the gain. I didn't have to pay taxes on the sale because I controlled the terms and conditions of the agreement.

  9. Sophisticated investor control #9: Control over access to information

    As an inside investor, the sophisticated investor again has control over access to information. This is where the investor needs to understand the legal requirements of insiders imposed by the SEC in the United States (other countries have similar oversight organizations).

  10. Sophisticated investor control #10: Control over giving it back

    The sophisticated investor recognizes the social responsibility that comes with wealth and gives back to society. This may be through charitable giving and philanthropy. Some of it will be through capitalism, by creating jobs, and expanding the economy.

    As you can see, it takes a lot of financial knowledge and intelligence to become a sophisticated investor. If you're not up to the task, by all means lower your fees by investing in index funds like Buffett suggests. But if you are up to the task, I invite you to grow your financial knowledge, starting with joining the Rich Dad Community.

    Mastering these ten investor controls make the difference between settling for 7% returns and making infinite returns possible. It's your choice.

Original publish date: February 28, 2017