Tag Archives: history

Investing in Gold: Should You do It?

There are usually two camps to the gold issue. One group says that gold has always been a medium of exchange and that, as a physical resource, the demand for gold will never go away. The second group argues that gold isn’t really worth much except what people are going to pay for it. It just sits there, collecting dust, not producing income or ROI.

So which is it? Is gold a legitimate investment or should we consider it a gamble? Well first let’s look at a brief (very brief) history of gold and how it has been used.

For thousands of years gold has been seen as a valuable resource. The ancient greeks at around 700 B.C. valued it enough to issue the first gold coins. This was under the reign of King Croesus of Mermnadae, who was a ruler of Lydia. They formed coins using a mixture of gold and silver that is called electrum.

As time progressed, more and more civilizations recognized the value of gold as a medium of exchange. For example the use of gold spread to Asia Minor as well as Egypt. The next big champion of gold were the Romans. They developed more technology that helped mine it in their vast empire.

As China and Indian economies developed, they began trading their valuables like silk and spices to the western countries for gold and silver. Gold continued to be used by civilizations for trade. It was always seen as a “precious metal.”

Fast forward a bit and we come to the early U.S.. The largest advancement in the case for gold occurred in 1792 when the U.S. adapted gold and silver as our currency standard. For decades after the U.S. used these two forms as money until paper currency was adapted in the United States. However even when we adapted paper, the backing behind it continued to be gold.

Eventually in the late 20th century, the gold standard was ended and fiat money took over as the form of currency for our country. Ever since gold’s price has moved up and down with demand and supply.

So, has it been a good investment?

The answer depends on what time frame you look at. For example after the crash of 08 and 09 gold skyrocketed in price. However recently the price has been dwindling. Overall, since we went off the gold standard, gold has gone up around 3% per year. How does that compare to stocks? Pretty poorly. Stocks have produced around a 6% return above inflation during that period.

So, does gold have any place in a portfolio? The answer is maybe. Looking at how modern successful investors view this resource, we can see that gold is best used as a small percentage of any portfolio. It can balance out times of panic when the stock markets plummet. Ray Dalio, a successful hedge fund manager and billionaire, has invested in gold only as a small portion of his overall investments.

Finally, the choice is really up to you. Talk to your investment advisor and do some research on your own. You may find that a 10% allocation of gold can significantly reduce the risk for your retirement account. Or maybe you decide not to because you realize you can produce better returns without it. Either way, don’t consider gold a true investment for any meaningful percentage of your investments.

How Much Should I Put in Savings?

As interest rates have risen considerably over the last year or so, many people have come to wonder if saving now “makes sense”. The characteristic of saving as a give or take isn’t quite right because saving should always be a part of someone’s financial picture. Let me describe the reasons one would want to save and ways in which to go about doing this.

1. Emergency Fund

The emergency fund is one of the universally required parts of any financial plan. Without emergency reserves the risks of anything, whether a personal household or a business operation, increase exponentially.

Savings for an emergency fund need to be accessible at a moments notice. Keep them in either a bank account or money market account.

2. Short-term savings

Short term savings, for things like buying a house are usually best placed in a short-term CD or money market. For example if you know you want to purchase a home in three months or so, getting a three-month CD can make sense.

If the timeframe is less certain, stick with a money market or basic savings account.

3. Long-term savings

For savings intended for expenses that are further out in the future, your best bet is in either a CD, government note, or a combination of more riskier investments. For example if you’re saving up for a car in 3 years, it might make sense to put the whole thing in a CD.

However if you’re able to take a little more risk, you might consider putting 25% in an S&P 500 index, 25% in a short-term government bond index, 25% in a gold bullion ETF and 25% in a money market. These four together over the last forty years haven’t lost money over any 3-year period as long as their rebalanced annually. (However past returns doesn’t guarantee future performance.)

4. Other Savings Goals

Any other goals should be taken in a case-by-case basis. Talk with your financial advisor about any questions you have before making investing decisions that you aren’t sure about.

3 Factors to Look at When Determining Where to Live

As a financial blog, I have dealt a lot with individual personal finance issues, like what to invest in, how to budget, and what to do in different areas financially. Here I want to step back and cover 3 financial factors that you should think about when considering a city to live in. While these three aren’t the only things to think about, they certainly will cover the broad range of financial determining factors:

Job and Career Potential

Here you’re just trying to get an idea as to how easy or hard it will be to have employment, and sustain employment in your chosen career field. Two of the things to consider are the unemployment rate, which is a good indicator of how many people who want jobs have them, and job growth. With job growth you want to look at the number of new jobs being created, specifically in your career field, over the last decade.

Cost of Living

Housing costs will be broken down into to two big areas: housing and everything else. When looking at housing, there are usually two broad options available. You can either rent or you can buy. You are going to want to compare the costs of rent vs the rest of the country. Pay special attention to the rent increases. For example maybe your area currently has slightly higher rents than the national average, but over the last couple years the rents have been skyrocketing. You want to be mindful of areas in which the costs of living, including rents are rising quickly.

The second housing option to look at is homeownership. What is the average costs of a home in the area. This can vary greatly from one neighborhood to another. For example one neighborhood might costs $300,000 but just across the road might be $250,000 for a similar house. Find the area you’re thinking about and start comparing prices.

After paying for housing there are the rest of the general costs associated with living and breathing. These costs can include food, insurance, transportation, recreation, and especially taxes. Taxes are a huge part of your yearly expenses. There are income taxes (both federal, state and sometimes city), as well as sales tax and property tax. Look at these rates for you area.

Long-Term Stability

The last thing you want to look at after job potential and cost of living is the general stability in the area. The stability of the area is both the economic factors and the political factors.

For example look at one of the leading factors of growth for cities: population growth. Take a look at the recent trend in population. For example are massive amounts of people entering or leaving the area? This might be a sign that things are changing. With the change in demographics and population comes changes in political preferences.

Maybe these changes will lead to political leadership upheaval in the local government. Think about how these changes could potentially impact your life in terms of local taxes, regulations, social programs, and building projects in the future. Are you okay with these potential changes and the uncertainty that comes with them?

Conclusion:

Overall, these three factors can paint a pretty clear picture of the financial concerns about one area over another. After going through them, you should know whether this area is something you would want to consider moving to. Naturally though, there will be others things of concern, like climate, education, health and other issues. While these concerns might not directly impact your finances, most of them should be looked at closely for the effects they could have down the road.

R.E. Strategies: Investing Debt Free Vs. Leveraging Properties

When making financial plans there are two basic schools of thought to get your information from. One group says that debt is bad, and that you should limit or eliminate all debt as soon as possible. The other group argues that getting rid of consumer debt is wise, but that borrowing money to buy investment properties or start businesses can be a smart investment.

Who do you listen to? The answer is that it depends. For example let’s look at the debt approach.

If your strategy is to purchase single family homes at favorable mortgage terms, receive monthly cashflow, grow equity and increase the value of the property over time then this strategy may work. However the alternative, no-debt strategy would leave you saving up and purchasing the whole investment with cash. Sound difficult? You bet!

So which strategy is better? Well that depends on which provides a better, risk-reward ratio. The following are a few risks we should be aware of when investing in real estate: Law suit risk, credit risk(that we won’t be able to pay the mortgage, thus losing the property), cashflow risk (that costs will rise to the point where we don’t receive adequate cashflow). These are just a few risks.

Of these three risks, which ones are effected by taking out a loan? Credit risk and cashflow risk are both effected. Credit risk isn’t even a concern with the no-debt approach(because there’s no mortgage) and cashflow risk increases with the debt approach because there’s increased monthly expenses in the form of loan payments.

A different risk we haven’t discussed yet is the risk of loss of capital. For example let’s say you make the investment in a limited liability entity and are thus only able to lose the money you have into the deal. With the all-cash approach your risk is much higher than the debt approach.

Overall the risks of using debt are slightly higher. However in terms of returns the returns can potentially be much higher than if you only use cash. In addition, purchasing a property with cash takes longer to save up for , lengthening the time it takes to make the original investment in the first place.

So which is better? It all comes down to if you are willing to take slightly more risks to potentially make much more ROI. As long as you are sure to never borrow more than 80% of the value of a property, the debt approach will usually work slightly better. Lastly, the most important takeaway is that simply investing is the most important step. So stop waiting and start taking steps towards financial freedom today!

The Purpose of Investing

The whole purpose of investing is to turn money into more money – it’s to be able to buy more things than you bought in the past. However, why not put all your money into savings? If I can lose “all” my money in the stock market, why not play it safe and keep everything in savings? There are two reasons. 1) You probably want to grow your money, not simply keep it safe. And 2) the value of money goes down over time. Wait, you might be asking, isn’t $1 always worth $1?

Yes and no. While $1 will always be the same, the amount that $1 can purchase generally goes down over time. Let’s use an example. Let’s say you have a small collection of 10 Legos. While you really love Legos, you only have these 10, so you tend to be really careful with them – you like them a lot.

One of your friends offers you an apple for one of your Legos. You refuse because you don’t want to have 9 left. However, a few months later, after Christmas and a birthday, you have received 36 more Legos. Your friend comes to you again and asks to trade one apple for two Legos. While you don’t like the idea of giving away more Legos, you don’t mind as much any more because you now have 36. So you do the deal.

What changed? Why were you willing to give more Legos up for an apple when before you wouldn’t even trade one for one? That’s because the Legos became less rare. This has to do with supply and demand. While demand for Legos stayed relatively the same, the supply increased, which decreased the value of the Legos relative to the apples.

We could get really technical with economics but for now the general principle can ring true with money as well. As the amount of money out in circulation, both physical and electronic, increases, the perceived value, and therefore the purchasing power of those dollars, decreases. In the last 100 years, inflation has gone up at about 2 to 4% per year.

The scary thing is that inflation continues even when your money isn’t growing. For example in 2008 when the whole real estate market and stock market crashed, inflation continued. Meaning, not only did stock investors lose 37% on their money, they also lost an additional 3%+ in purchasing power! Ouch!

In times of great economic panic gold often increase in price because it can act as a fear mechanism for investors when times get tough. When people in the market see inflation increasing and economic certainty decreasing, they often view gold, which has been used as money for literally thousands of years, as a safer location for their money.

The bottom line: real estate and stocks are fantastic investments for anyone looking to outpace inflation over long periods of time.