Tag Archives: importance

Lending Investments: Are They Worth It?

When it comes to investing money for retirement two of the most common investments are stocks and bonds. Today I want to focus on the latter.

When it comes to investing in debt investing there are a few main types which I will briefly mention:

1. Corporate Bonds

These are a form of debt security that is issued by a corporation. Because they aren’t backed by the government, there is a higher risk and therefore higher yield associated with this kind of loan. There are many forms of this kind of bond.

2. Government Bonds

These can refer to Treasury Bills (T-Bills) which are debt securities lasting less than a year, Treasury Notes (T-Notes) which are debt securities lasting between 1 and 10 years or Treasury Bonds which are debt securities lasting more than 10 years. In addition there are also something called Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) which involve lending money to the government in return for small payments and ultimately principal that is indexed to inflation.

Under this category I will also place Government agency bonds. These are bonds that are issued by Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE’s) and/or Federal Government Agencies.

Bonds issued by GSE’s usually have the following characteristics: 1) A small return that is slightly higher than treasuries because 2) they have credit/default risk. Examples of Government Sponsored Enterprises: Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac) and Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Fannie Mae).

The second kind of agency bonds, which are issued by Federal Agencies have the following characteristics: 1) less liquidity and therefore 2) slightly higher yields than treasuries but 3) are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States. Examples of government agencies: Small Business Administration, Federal Housing Administration and Government National Mortgage Association.

3. Municipal Bonds

Municipal bonds are debt securities issued by states, cities, counties and smaller government entities. There are two types, General Obligation Bonds (Bonds issued by small local governments that are backed by their full faith and credit), and Revenue Bonds (Bonds backed by specific revenue sources like tolls). These will always have yields higher than government bonds because of the slightly higher risk.

4. Bank Debt Assets (mortgage-backed, asset-backed and collateralized debt obligations)

This is a type of asset-backed security that is secured by a mortgage or collection of mortgages. It can get complicated to explain but for now you just need to know that banks and financial institutions usually own these.

5. Peer-to-Peer Lending

This is by far the most recent debt invention. Peer-to-Peer lending refers to a means by which individuals give and borrow money to each other usually over the internet to produced higher returns than can be given by other bonds or get a loan they otherwise couldn’t get.

Conclusion:

So should you invest in lending investments, and if show which ones? The answer really depends on your goals, risk profile, capacity for risk and the options available to you. Talk to your finical advisor about this or refer to one of my upcoming posts on the subject of asset allocation.

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.

The Most Advantaged Retirement Account

When it comes to picking a place to keep your retirement savings, there are two basic types of accounts to be aware of. The first is what is called a taxable account. This simply means the growth is taxed like most other investments. The second type of account is what is called tax-advantaged. In other words, this account has tax advantages like either  tax free or tax deferred growth.

In the category of tax advantaged accounts, there are a few popular names. Names like 401K and IRA are often used. When setting up a retirement account you can either set one up through your employer, or independently through a broker.

The types of accounts usually provided through an employer are 401K’s and 403B’s. Essentially these accounts are the same, but talk to your tax advisor about the differences and what applies to your specific situation.

If you decide to take the route of setting up a retirement account on your own, you can set up what’s called an IRA  (individual retirement account). IRA rules, for this current year, allow you to put up to $5500 of income away, tax deferred. In other words, you can avoid paying taxes on $5500 of income this year.

So the major employer-sponsored plans are 401K’s and 403B’s. The major independently funded retirement accounts are IRA’s. Within these options there is what’s know as a Roth. Whether it is a Roth 401K or a Roth IRA, the Roth has a few characteristics:

  1. Instead of deferring taxes upfront (and deducting the contribution from your taxable income) you pay taxes from the start.
  2. Instead of paying taxes on the growth, you avoid paying taxes in the future if it is taken out after 59.5.

In other words, Roth accounts are different in the fact that you pay taxes up front, but avoid paying it in the future if all the requirements are met. In recent years, the Roth has become more popular for these reasons.

Generally speaking, the Roth is better than the conventional account because of the power of “tax free” withdraws”. There are a few other types of accounts, but for most people, some form of IRA or 401K is the best option. I hope this helps on your retirement journey, whether you’re starting out, or in the midst of major changes.

3 Things to Have in Your Wallet

While most Americans are saddled with credit card debt, student loans, and monthly car payments, the underlying issued usually relates to how we view money in general. Most people would like to say they are responsible with their finances, but their actions tell a different truth.

Out of this basic mentality toward money often comes many damaging habits we see today. For example the uncontrollable, erratic spending that characterizes consumers can go back to the root cause of lack of responsibility.

Responsibility over every area of your financial life, especially what is in your wallet, comes from an understanding that personal finances are a crucial area to match with your values.

When someone takes responsibility over their wallet they should be aware of three items:

1. Cash

Most have heard the saying “cash is king” whether on the Dave Ramsey show or elsewhere. But is cash really that powerful? The truth is that sometimes yes and sometimes not so much.

For example if you’re buying a table on craigslist, cold, hard cash will probably be the most powerful negotiator. However if you’re buying a home, pulling out cash might make you look a lot like a drug lord…

Make sure to always have a good amount of cash in case an expense comes up that you can’t use your cards for.

2. Debit cards

Even more important than the credit card is the debit card. A debit card gives you access to your bank checking account and can often be the most popular means of payment. While you certainly don’t need to have multiple debit cards and different banks, there is certainly a case to having at least one.

3. Credit cards (maybe)

Some of the most daunting debt in the US is the credit card loans. According to the NY post, credit card debt in the US is approaching $1 Trillion. Why would you want to have a credit card?

When it comes to credit cards I believe that about half of people should not have them because of lack of discipline. The other half of people should have a few quality cards that are used regularly but sparingly to build credit. There might be some points or cash back in there, but that’s just icing on the cake.

Ultimately your use of credit cards should depend on your discipline and self-control. Everyone should have debit cards. And everyone should carry an adequate amount of cash in both fives, ones and a ten (maybe $50 total?).

Besides the payment-related items there are of course things like ID and insurance cards but I hope you have enough common sense in those areas. I hope this helps your spending habits on your financial journey for many years to come.

2 Things I learned from Ray Dalio’s Book

While often seen on TV and financial journals, Ray Dalio is somewhat of an unheard of figure outside of the financial world. He started broke, developed his skills, knowledge and habits, and today is the billionaire funder of the largest Hedge fund in the world.

In his new book, Principles, Dalio focuses on the principles or set of beliefs that have been the baseline of his success in both life and business. Throughout the chapters he illustrates just how crucial principles are, not matter the principles, to how you perform in each area of your life.

From his book I have taken 2 main points:

1. The things we do know are much smaller than the things we don’t know

While everyone would say they believe this idea in theory, when it comes to the actions we take, many of us, including myself, will puff up our egos higher than is actually the case.

Dailo states that people who have more knowledge, success and experience on a topic, should carry more weight in our decision-making.

2. Set up systems, or processes that help make decisions and see around emotions

While emotions are a natural and good part of life and human interactions, when it comes to making the best decisions, especially the business decisions, logic should be the ultimate decision maker.

Two of the greatest roadblocks to making quality decisions are the ego and the blind-spot barriers, which are both covered by the entrepreneur’s planet in their post: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/150799291/posts/16

Ultimately being committed to integrity, open-mindedness, and self-improvement, are the largest factors that have contributed to Ray Dalio’s success and the principles he teaches.

 

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!

3 Different Ways to Look at Your Money

Often part of the natural inclination towards money is to view it as something that just pays the bills. While this perspective is certainly valuable in certain context, I want to share 3 different ways you can look at money that will change the way you see your financial life.

The 30,000 feet approach

When you look at any area of your life, health, emotions, mental health, relationships, spiritual journey, your money, etc… it’s easy to view them up close. But when we step back and view the specific situation through the perspective of our whole life, we can see how much it really matters or doesn’t matter.

Ask yourself, “Does spending $120 on a box of extra wineglasses fit into the overall priorities of my life?” If it does great, but more often than not, the priorities don’t align.

The time perspective

When you look at your finances through this lens, you imagine how your decision will look at the end of your life. For example I am thinking of buying a new vehicle that looks and feels cooler. However this expanse will postpone some of my retirement savings.

When looking at it though the time perspective you imagine how you’ll view this decision 40 years down the road. Ask yourself, “When I’m 80, how will I view this decision?” Often our decisions are based on short-term thinking, so this view can really help us realize the consequences behind our actions.

The business perspective

Imagine your financial life is a business. If your name is John Smith, your finances are managed by John Smith, CFO(Chief Financial Officer) of John Smith Corporation. As CFO you are responsible in allocating capital (money) towards the respective goals of the business.

If your job was to manage money for yourself (which it is) would you be happy with the job you’re doing? Or would you fire yourself?

Base your actions on whether they provide appropriate return on investment (ROI) for John Smith Corporation. While the goal of John Smith Corporation isn’t necessarily to maximize profit, your decisions should be aligned with your priorities in order to fit your values. Sometimes this could mean going on vacation, but other times it could mean increasing retirement contributions.

These perspectives are meant to help improve your decision-making processes with your money. They certainly have helped me in my financial journey. In what other ways can we view our finances?

 

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.

Excitement and Saliency: Why Accounting Is Important for Everyone

…Well technically accounting isn’t crucial for everyone. But accounting and the field of financial as well as tax accounting are very useful, valuable, and foundational fields to study for the vast majority of people.

As a business major I might have a slight bias, but the argument still holds for any other career or academic path – accounting is foundational. Why, you might ask, is accounting so important?

Accounting is important for two types of people: Business people (people involved in business decisions, management, and keeping business records) and regular people who make logical financial decisions.

First I will lay out merits of accounting for business people (who I’m sure already know a lot of them). Secondly I will cover reasons for accounting for individuals in their finances.

Accounting, specifically financial accounting is highly useful from a business perspective. Accounting has been known by many as the “language” of business. Accounting is a world of financial terms and figures that mean precise, crucial things to business owners and managers.

The three things useful to “business people” are: 1) Analyzing where the business is at, 2) keeping the business legal for tax purposes, and 3) presenting the business to others in a clear, conscience way.

 

Moving on to personal finances, there is a different use for accounting which lies primarily in the realm of clarity and accountability. Accounting on a personal level with individual or household finances is a fantastic way to get on track with finances.

There are two primary uses for accounting on a personal level: 1) Tracking where you’re at financially and 2) where you want to go. In addition, just like business, accounting on a personal level can prepare you for tax season and take away a lot of the headache. To be clear, business accounting is presented and formatted in a different manner than personal finances, but nonetheless the principles still apply.

Where can you go from here? Begin taking accounting seriously! You don’t have to become a financial major or geek out about it. But you should definitely learn the basics, and as a result set yourself up for many wise decisions to come.

3 Ways to Limit Your Spending and Pursue Your Financial Goals

Most people who grew up middle class know the value of cutting spending. In fact, when you’re starting out in either business or with your personal finances, the only way to move up financially is to take control of spending.

Because of this fact, I want to cover three of the simplest ways I have cut spending in my personal life and ways you can implement these techniques in your own life.

Prioritizing expenses

This by far is the most direct way to begin controlling your spending. As soon as you have a clear vision and are able to align your purchases with your values, your financial journey becomes a lot clearer.

It takes about 20 minutes or less. Take a sheet of paper or a document on your computer. Write out the major categories: taxes, necessary expenses(food, shelter, transportation, insurance), optional expenses/fun (toys, sports cars, Netflix subscription, tv, hobbies etc…), and giving. Now you have the list of types of expenses, begin prioritizing areas or particular expenses that you value more than others. For example, would you rather have a Netflix subscription or put that extra money towards a long-term objective like retirement?

Tracking Expenses

After prioritizing expenses and seeing where you want to be with your spending, you can see where you actually are. This is a major step in establishing and contemplating where you currently are.

Making a Shopping List

After deciding your priorities, tracking your past spending, and setting your trajectory, the last and final step is to make specific spending lists, also called shopping lists. “Why would I write stuff down,” you might ask, “when I know exactly what I want?” The reason for this is because making a list can limit your spending to only things on the list.

An example of this is once I was shopping to buy things for college and as soon as I got to the store I began buying things I thought I needed. The truth was there were a few things on the list that I actually didn’t need. It taught me a lesson: going in with a list is a positive step towards controlling spending.

Ultimately spending money and controlling your expenses doesn’t have to be a boring exercise. In fact, in time as your budget and income expand, you should be able to have a little fun with your spending.