Growing up with an abusive and financially unstable mother, Tony Robbins decided at a young age that he wanted to be rich someday.
"One day, I said, 'This is it: I am going to earn enough money so I can not only do what I want, but take care of anyone I want to,'" the motivational speaker told personal finance site Grow in 2016.
Robbins has turned that idea into a reality. The self-made millionaire is a founder of more than 12 businesses, a best-selling author and a successful life coach who has advised everyone from former president Bill Clinton to hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones.
But that doesn't mean Robbins didn't make mistakes along the way.
When he was 25 and living in Marina Del Rey, California, Robbins met a wealthy woman driving a Rolls Royce through an upscale neighborhood, he told Reuters during a 2016 interview. He struck up a conversation with her and she revealed that her husband owned a penny stock investment firm. Robbins asked if she had any advice to pass along.
"I took her advice and put my money in those stocks," he says. "And I lost everything."
Looking back, Robbins cites the incident as his worst financial mistake. But although the experience made him empathetic to millennials who fear that the stock market is dangerous or risky, he still encourages everyone to invest.
"If you don't invest, you will lose," he told Grow. "The most important thing is to get into the game. The second is that you have to understand the rules before you do."
For Robbins, those rules are simple. He breaks investing down to three steps any young person can follow: Capitalize on compound interest, diversify your investments and automate everything, as he explained to Business Insider.
Robbins emphasizes that you don't need a lot to invest. "Everyone says, 'I don't have 15 or 20 percent to save [or invest],'" he tells Grow. "But you don't need to start with 20 percent. Save for tomorrow — set aside 3 percent now, and then commit to saving the first 3 percent of any raise you get."
With this strategy, you can gradually work your way up to a solid 15, 20 or 25 percent. The most crucial thing is to get started with whatever you have as early as you can.
"Time is on your side if you're just starting out because of compounding," Robbins says. "But you have to start."
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