Tag Archives: investing

When Should You Sell Stocks?

The old saying, “buy low and sell high” is a very noble goal to have as an equity investor. And during times of extreme prosperity, when the stock market is regularly reaching all time highs, it can seem easy to turn a little into a lot. However, most of the time, history has shown, investors get the timing wrong.

I made this mistake as well in my own life. When I was 16 or 17 I got $100 for Christmas along with a brokerage account, in my parents name, that I was allowed to trade with. After adding $10 of my own I opened it with $110 of fresh money to invest. I was excited!

My first trade, which wasn’t really researched, was the Walt Disney Company. The first month or so it went up. I became so elated as it continued to climb that after I took a “brief” fall I panicked. I told myself, “You’ve got to think long-term.”

So I didn’t sell. As the stock continued to fall gradually I continued to tell myself it would rebound eventually. At some point I caved and sold the stock, regrettably at a $5 loss. After this I purchased a Vanguard real estate ETF along with two shares of GE, which had recently been plummeting.

I have held onto these stocks for a while now and they have finally rebounded back to around $110 in value where I started. The real bummer though, is what the Disney stock has been doing. After I sold, it dropped a little more and then has continued to rise to around $117 per share.

If I had just held on I’d be $7 richer!

This silly little example shows that investing isn’t a day-by-day or even a month-by-month game. It’s a long-term play. When you buy a stock you’ve got to be willing for it to go down temporarily and eventually rebound. The important thing is making sure the fundamentals of the business are strong and then buying at a discounted price.

So, when exactly should you sell a stock?

You should sell when the stock is overpriced. And when is that? When the value you place on the overall business is significantly lower than the value the market is placing on it. That’s when you should run.

 

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.

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!

Reading: Things That Will Change Your Life

As simple as it sounds, reading will change your life.

As I have lived on campus I have seen many different views when it comes to reading. Most students prefer to avoid it altogether if possible. A few people enjoying reading fiction, and then there are the true readers.

As part of this “club” of true readers I have seen firsthand how the books we read can change our life. And I don’t mean just any books, I mean nonfiction. Why nonfiction? There are two reasons nonfiction is more beneficial in our life over fiction:

1. Fact-based learning

When it comes to reading in general you are uncovering stories, facts and emotions. With nonfiction specifically, the base of your reading is centered around actual facts, not something made up.

2. Nonfiction books are often more relatable to real life

Whether it’s a nonfictional story, or a self-help book, reading nonfiction has a much greater footing in reality, and therefore more relevancy in our lives, than simply another story out of someone’s head. And often, depending on if it’s a self-improvement book, you’ll receive applicable steps for your life as well.

Other benefits to reading in general:

a. Learning and experiencing human emotion

This is by far the most dynamic and variable part about reading. As soon as you dive past the writing structure and all the mechanical, necessary aspects of the text, you are left with the “meat on the bone” so to speak. This gives us exposure to real or conjured human emotion, whether you’re reading fiction or nonfiction.

b. Inspiration

When you open the pages to a book, you are often met with unanticipated emotional boosts of energy, or inspiration. It is these sparks that can make all the difference in either our professional or business lives. Mark Cuban, Billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, is quoted as saying, “I’ll read hours every day because all it takes is one little thing to propel you to the next level.”

c. Literacy

The last major benefit to reading is the learning and literacy is brings to a person’s life. Learning new words, exposure to new ideas, and learning in general all enhance the reader’s perspective and knowledge about the world. The benefits apply whether you’re reading a nonfiction book or not.

Conclusion:

Frankly I don’t dislike fiction either. I certainly have enjoyed many bestsellers over the years like Harry Potter and others, that have inspired and entertained me. However I believe while reading fiction is good, reading nonfiction is better.

3 Fun Things To Do With Your Money

Give it

If you’re a Christian this can be represented by tithing. However for non-christians generosity can still play a big role. Consider giving to charities, friends, organizations, causes and people in need.

With technology there are now so many ways to connect and give to others. Giving can change the way you see the world around you, make you more compassionate, and just make you feel better about yourself in general.

Enjoy it

Enjoying money can be fun! I remember spending money to go out to eat at a nice restaurant. It felt like such a reward to myself for the work I had done. Enjoying money, specifically money you’ve earned, can feel very, very good.

Stop and thing the ways in which you could enjoy your life and your money today. Prioritize the fun with your long-term goals about investing, giving and leaving a legacy. Often people struggle with spending too much money on things that don’t actually provide enjoyment. That is just stupid.

If you’re buying something or going somewhere to impress someone else you are committing two mistakes: 1) You’re spending money you could be investing or giving (which in and of itself isn’t a crime) and 2) you’re spending money on something that doesn’t really matter to you. Leaving a little money for your future should always be at the back of your mind. Which leads us to the third thing…

Grow it

Not a lot of people in society enjoy investing. The truth is, not many people have really gotten into investing, which hurts them more than they know. When I opened my Roth IRA, I put $5,500 in it. Even in the first half year it grew to almost $6,000, a $500 increase. I was pumped.

Realistically though, investing in a well balanced, thought-through planned investment portfolio isn’t always going to go straight up. Sometimes, even often, the balance is going to go down a little. That’s part of investing.

But as your balance grows steadily over time, you will begin to see why so many people are hooked on investing.

Conclusion:

Prioritizing these three things is both a challenge and a beautiful dilemma. It can feel like a blessing to have resources (money) to mange for your future and for your family’s future. That’s why it’s so important to think about these three things.

7 Things That People Never Spend Enough Money On

1. Paper

That’s a strange thing to lead the list with. However paper represents a mentality in the U.S., and especially in other countries, that puts people in a scarcity mentality. I’ve been personally at fault of doing this. Often I’ll try to save paper by writing on the other side or cramming everything on to one page.

This is particularly true when I am in school. I’ll take notes by putting everything close together. Any learning and memorization expert will tell you that leaving space on the paper gives your brain room to process and compartmentalize concepts and facts in your brain.

You need to be comfortable using up more paper, even if that means spending a minuscule amount more.

2. Seminars

Honestly this type of personal improvement hasn’t been something I’ve looked into in the past. However in recent months and years I’ve begun to see how others have used these as networking, learning, and inspirational events.

3. Health

I hope most people value health over money. The natural outcome of this value priority is that you should be spending the money you need to to keep your health at its prime. Don’t forget about health.

4. Others

Pouring money into others, whether through time and experiences, or generous gifts of items and money, is both a heart-warmer, and a perspective-changer. As soon as you begin to look outside yourself to help others, life becomes a ton more meaningful.

5. Car Maintenance

Changing the oil, replacing break pads, and doing general maintenance on your vehicles is a responsible thing for adults to do. It feels like you’re throwing money away, but in the long-term it can save you money in emergencies, breaks, and issues.

6. High Quality Items

Often it is wise to skip the name-brand items and go with cheaper things. This is especially true with things that don’t matter as much like cereal brands or food in general. However if you find an item is cheaper than another, this doesn’t mean instantly that it’s a deal. It’s possible that down the road you’ll spend money on replacing that cheaper item.

7. Books

Call me old fashioned, but I find books are particularly useful in learning. I have personally read hundreds (yes hundreds) of nonfiction books in my free time. While spending $1,000 on books (both e-books and physical books) can seem like a big waste of money when the library is just down the street, I see books as an investment.

When you see nonfiction books as resources and insightful gems of knowledge, it becomes natural to look at the cost-benefit of each book as a more than worthwhile investment.

I personally find physical books to be easier on my eyes and simply to read than e-books.

Conclusion:

Seeing every purchase as an investment can be a fun game to get your mind racing on ways to save and spend money wisely.

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.

Two Twenty-minute Tasks That Will Boost Your Financial Confidence

Most of the financially successful people we read about in magazines, books or see on social media are often portrayed as charismatic, energized, stage magnets. While a lot of them share many of these characters, what these men and women share more than any other trait is confidence. How did they get this confidence?

Confidence is often portrayed as something you can act or be or do. But while you certainly can “be more confident” simply trying to act this way won’t create the lasting change you’re looking for. When trying to build more personal confidence in yourself you have to be drawing this confidence from somewhere.

For example, while hosting at a sushi restaurant I have often heard fellow employees give me advice to “be more confident.” While I was certainly able to heed their advice and stand up straighter and with more confidence for short periods of time, I never was quite able to stick with it long term.

However the days I found it easy to be confident were the days I was diligently working, succeeding in customer service, and completing restaurant tasks with excellence. In a lot of ways it was a self-feeding cycle. I’d begin my shift with energy and confidence in my abilities and as the shift progressed my confidence would be reinforced by continuous action.

In our financial lives as well confidence can’t come from self-talk alone. Your mind has to feel both the emotional side as well as the logical side telling you to be confident. When you know that you are working hard, and have a plan it becomes easier for your emotional mind to reconcile the feeling of confidence with the logical one. Here are two major tasks you can do that each take about twenty minutes to complete:

1. Make a general (very rough) outline of where you want to be financially.

This doesn’t have to be complicated or long. Just take a piece of scrap paper out or grab your tablet and start brainstorming what kinds of things you really want to get out of your financially life over your lifetime. This task isn’t a one time event. You should be reinforcing this plan as well as refining the details of it, over the course of your life.

However this first basic exercise should catch the gist of where you’d like to be in the next year or two to help you get where you want to be with your long-term goals (5, 10 or more years down the road).

Organize your finances to see where you are

This step is just to catch a brief overview of where you money stands at this point. Get out your bank statements, look at your investment accounts, estimate the rough value of your home and the mortgage you have on it. Once you know your assets, liabilities, and the rough monthly budget you take in (income) and the expense you take out (expenses) you’ll have a very general picture of where you are.

These two, first steps alone will give you a sense of clarity about what really matters to you and where you are financially, thus what is needed to get you to the next step.

3 Things to Value More Than $1M

As the U.S. continuous its decade-long economic improvement, it’s hard for many of the younger folks to remember a time where fear was prevalent and jobs were scarce. While I was much younger in 08 and 09 I remember the feeling and conversation around money during that period.

Not only am I confident that hard times will hit the U.S. economy again, I suspect (based on history) that some sort of crash or drawback isn’t too far away. Simply looking back at the last couple decades of market crashes gives us some picture of how rare the past 10 years have been.

We’ve seen relatively low turmoil in the market, particularly stocks. Except for a few difficult weeks, the U.S. stock markets haven’t experienced a real drawback since the mortgage meltdown. But just 5 or 6 years before that the markets were down in 2002. And just two years before that the markets were down in the technology bubble of 2000.

Consistently throughout history we’ve had market crashes or corrections every six to 10 years. Here we are in 2018, with trade fears on the horizon, wondering if another crash is near. It’s been about a decade.

With all the turmoil, fear, anxiety and uncertainty in the markets, it’s very easy to become focused so much on the world of money that 1) we lose historical perspective on a potential loss, but 2) we lose life perspective on the true importance of money as it relates to our life.

Which matters more, a 50% drop in the Stockmarket (which won’t be a permanent loss unless you panic and sell) or a loss of a close loved one? While most people would value the close relationship above a temporary financial loss, it’s strange that so many of us put more energy worrying about areas of finance we can’t control and less time improving our current relationships.

Don’t get me wrong, money is important. Money has power, both in our life (to buy things and help others we care about) and in politics (to influence people), but there are three big things more important than money we can’t forget:

1) God

2) Close relationships (friends and family)

3) Health (physical and emotional)

Deepening these areas of your life both in depth (deepened commitment and improvement) and in length (time spent improving and investing in) is a great first step in not only improving these three areas but also setting yourself up to improve the 4th area: Money.

Next time you’re planning or prioritizing your life in a way that isn’t consistent with your values, remember in what order your values lie.