Finding Wall Street's pot of gold

The American flag and a sign for Wall St. are shown outside the New York Stock Exchange, Monday, July 15, 2013 in New York. Weaker-than-expected U.S. retail sales sent most world stock markets lower Tuesday July 16, 2013 as investors awaited congressional testimony from Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke later in the week.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

(MoneyWatch) Can you find that Wall Street pot of gold? Wall Street makes it look so simple, especially with the right help. Ron DeLegge, host of the The Index Show, illustrates this illusion brilliantly in the maze below, from The Wall Street Coloring Book.

Try navigating through this simple maze.

Easy as it starts, it's not long before the player realizes that this is a financial game that can't be won. If only it were as easy to realize that the odds of winning the real investment game using Wall Street rules aren't much better. Wall Street is a master of illusions and these are just a few:

    • CNBC tells you what stocks to buy and which to sell now.

    • Financial advisers stay attuned to the economy and know the direction of the stock market.

    • Harry Dent's "uncanny accuracy" can make you a lot of money.

    • Our $199 a year newsletter will make you wealthy.
    • You can have market upside without downside by buying this annuity today.

    • As an accredited investor, you are one of the select few we are letting in on this investment.

    • Rich Dad seminar can show you how to build riches.

    In my observation, following the advice of these simple roads to wealth has only a slightly greater chance of leading to that pot of gold than navigating DeLegge's maze. And like DeLegge's maze, though the start is simple, the journey quickly comes to a dead end. Thus successful investing requires us to avoid these roads to quick wealth. Especially since the odds of losing wealth are much higher than the odds of gaining it.

    Figuring out why the odds are so low comes down to nothing more than common sense. If the Wall Street experts actually knew how to deliver on the promises above, they wouldn't need to be constantly selling.

There is no shortcut to that pot of gold. First, you need to make a good income and live below your means. Next, you need to maximize diversification and discipline while minimizing expenses and emotions. Those boring broad index funds with some disciplined rebalancing assures you are going against the herd by buying low and selling high.

Part of minimizing emotional mistakes is avoiding get rich quick illusions likely to transfer your wealth to others.

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    Allan S. Roth is the founder of Wealth Logic, an hourly based financial planning and investment advisory firm that advises clients with portfolios ranging from $10,000 to over $50 million. The author of How a Second Grader Beats Wall Street, Roth teaches investments and behavioral finance at the University of Denver and is a frequent speaker. He is required by law to note that his columns are not meant as specific investment advice, since any advice of that sort would need to take into account such things as each reader's willingness and need to take risk. His columns will specifically avoid the foolishness of predicting the next hot stock or what the stock market will do next month.