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Interview: Dr. Mark Tobak, Author of ‘Anyone Can Be Rich’

Who doesn’t worry about money? That’s why I made a point of doing a Q&A with someone who understands our woes from the inside and out — the financially savvy and sympathetic Dr. Mark Tobak. Dr. Tobak is a psychiatrist who wanted to help his patients — and others — grapple with this universal concern. So he decided to write a book, Anyone Can Be Rich: A Psychiatrist Provides the Mental Tools to Build Your Wealth, which I recently reviewed for this site. It’s filled with practical and effective investing advice — and was endorsed by Warren Buffet.

Can you talk about what prompted you to write this book?

Far too many of my patients were suffering with financial problems because they never learned about money and investment. Many had money and lost it. Others made money and did not know how to invest it. Some lost their money to unscrupulous people, many in the financial industry. 

I am not a financial planner but I do understand money, markets and the psychology of investment. I cannot advise people on money in a psychiatric setting, even though the issues are emotional and cognitive. So I decided to write a book. The catalyst was a wealthy patient who asked, “How many of your patients worry about money?” My answer: All of them. Then I got started.

What do you think is the single biggest mistake most people make when trying to build their wealth?

The very biggest mistake is not investing at all, but that goes without saying. For those who are investing, the biggest mistake is selling off when the market craters. The next biggest mistake is failing to diversify — putting all the eggs in one basket and thinking that basket will not go to ground one day, and getting a mess of broken eggs.

Can you talk about the problem with saving versus investing?

When I was a kid you could save money in the bank and get four to five percent on your money in a savings account. You could beat inflation and get interest and build your nest egg. Now if you save you get no interest and you lose your money to inflation. Inflation is supposedly only at two percent, but if you compound that over the years you slowly lose most of your money. 

The dollar I knew in my youth is equal to twenty dollars today. The dollar of today would have been worth about a nickel in my youth. I bought a slice of pizza for five cents when I was a kid.  Now it’s three dollars.

With your own patients, what were the biggest concerns they had about money? Did this lead you to put certain information in this book?

They were all concerned with not having enough to do what they wanted to do, and not understanding how to get it. They thought they just had to earn it, and did not understand how to grow it. That’s why the book presents investing like planting a garden with money that might otherwise just be spent. So simple, yet so easily overlooked.

Warren Buffett himself has endorsed your book — Kudos! Can you talk about how that happened?

His note is on my website. I sent him my book and got this wonderful note back. My office manager and I opened that piece of mail together and we could not believe our eyes. So honest and simple:

“Mark–Well done!  Warren E. Buffett.  PS: If anything, you underestimate Charlie [Munger]

Talk about Mr. Market. He seems like a great representative of the personality of the market. How come more people don’t know about him?

Yes, Mr. Market.  Again so simple and childlike that it couldn’t be the answer to the complexities of how to approach the market, yet it is. It is a way of understanding crowd phenomena. There are many famous books about crowds: LeBon, Freud, etc.  But we can all understand crowds intuitively by using Mr Market, a childlike man prone to wild moods and acting freely upon them. 

Not enough people read and listen to Bogle, Buffett and Munger. Instead they are drawn to the talking heads that tout stocks with wild overconfidence and can lead people to financial ruin.  B, B & M will tell you how to get rich. You just have to listen and read.  Most of what you need is free on the web.

How can people get over their fear of losing money — and actually start making money? 

Getting over the fear of losing money requires thinking the whole thing through. I go through the building blocks of that in each chapter of my book:

1) Reallize money is melting like ice on a summer’s day, just slowly.

2) Realize that you can grow money like a garden if you plant it.

3) Realize that if you grow money in a retirement account, untaxed, $5 a day turns to $2.5 million in fifty years at the ten percent market rate.

4) Don’t fear the downturns and the crashes. They are routine in a capitalist economy. Buy more in the crash, and you’ll build even more wealth. The money you invest you’ll never miss — and you’ll become rich in the process.

What do you hope people get from your book?

I want people to see how you get rich. It is really very simple — so simple that people miss it. I know two very rich men who learned the lesson of “The Richest Man in Babylon” as a child. They were taught by their parents and they obeyed. Just that simple. Plant your tree and nurture it all your life, and you will bask in the shade of the tree, eat the fruit of the tree and cease to labor for your money

Learn more about Dr. Mark Tobak at his website

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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