By Peter Switzer

I sometimes wonder why we read, listen to and watch stuff. Sure I get it, lots of time it’s about getting some ‘compatainment’ (company plus entertainment) when you’re on your own in a car or home, or when you just want to chill out. 

News and TV stuff absorbs so much of our time but what good does it do?

Recently, I thought that we don't commit enough time to self-improvement and it bugs me that we waste time on the dumb stuff instead of the smart and valuable things of life.

I know why: few people in our life actually get in our ear and encourage us to do so. Of course, we might have a parent or boss who says we should study, do training, get fit, eat better, etc. but most of us don’t have someone who actually mounts the case for investing time and/or money in getting smarter, fitter, healthier and so on.

We lack life coaches, objective commentators who are out to help you, and people who really show you the way.

I was knocked out by US leadership speaker, John Maxwell, when I emceed him around Australia a few years back. John revealed to the audiences he spoke to that he was knocked out as a young man when he was asked by his mentor: “What’s your plan for self-improvement?”

He was embarrassed as he didn’t really have one, even thought he doubted if anyone else he knew had one either! I must admit I’m surprised he did not say: “Having you and taking your advice is my first step to creating one!”

Yep, having a mentor is a significant step. I’m yet to meet someone who has one, or has invested in a business or life coach, who hasn’t impressed me as someone with high aspirations.

The same applies to those who seek out groups that are designed to help fellow business people network, share ideas and get insights, or even customers.

All these moves are stepping stones to what I think is the ultimate big step of writing down your self-improvement plan. Something like this would cover fitness and diet to cover health. You might commit to reading or listening to inspirational educators on subjects that will make your smarter and wiser, while you should have a money plan to make sure your wealth is heading in the right direction.

Imagine having a single person who acted as your caring inspector on these subjects. What if they got you out of bed for a hard 30-minute exercise routine every day, stopped you eating processed and sugar-laden food, found great YouTube mind-expanding videos to listen to on the way to work and delivered you books on highly successful people that gave you clues on how to be a success yourself?

I was lucky to marry someone like that and I owe a lot of my success to Maureen. In all honesty, I’ve been better at receiving than giving but I am in the process of changing that — better late than never!

So why all of this life coaching and self-examination from Peter Switzer today?

Well, Tony Robbins has a new book called Unshakeable, which he wrote with a financial adviser to try and dispel financial fears with facts that hold people back from building wealth.

"I really wanted to write a book to show what you can do when everybody else is afraid to get that peace of mind," Robbins told Forbes.com. "I want to protect people, but I also want them to see how this could be an opportunity for the greatest growth."

In looking at some of the big mistakes that people make with money, he pinpointed out four biggies:

1. Failing to cash in on compounding. He uses an example similar to one I used when I wrote the Aussie version of the US book A Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Rich. “Robbins uses the example of someone who invests $300 monthly for eight years until he’s 27, investing a total of $28,800. Even if he doesn't invest another penny, says Robbins, he’ll have close to $2 million when he retires at 65, if the market continues to compound like it has over time, at 10 percent or more annually on average.” (Forbes). And the later you start, the less you’ll get when you retire or the more you will have to save to catch up.

2. Time in the market is the next great piece of advice. Again, it’s something I’ve educated people about for decades. You see, if stock markets gain about 8.2% per annum over a 20 year, despite some shocker years over that time, if you missed the 10 best trading days over a 20-year period, your returns drop to 4.5%, according to an analysis by the Schwab Center for Financial Research. Fear after a crash drives people out of the stock market and they often miss the rebound year, which can be anything from 30-80% here in Australia!

3. Don’t pay too much in fees. While income compounds in the right direction, fees compound your nest egg in the wrong direction. As Robbins points out, generally, if you’re paying more than 1%, you’re paying too much.

4. Robbins has discovered what all financial advisers know makes sense: be diversified. Having property, stocks, term deposits, bonds and even collectables can be a way to be more protected when, say, the stock market goes haywire because other markets might be gaining nicely. Perth house prices are under pressure now when the stock market is rising but when the GFC hit, house prices were heading up, thanks to China and the building boom in mining.

Robbins is a master at motivating people and in reality, I’d be surprised if he tells me anything I don’t know, though I’m always up for a new lesson. What I like about him is that he knows how to provoke people to self-improve.

If you can master that, there’s a damn good chance you will be happy, healthy, wealthy and wise.