Tag Archives: risk

Meeting A Different Donald: Real Estate and Ways to Invest

Most people, if not almost everyone, has heard of Donald Trump. As the 45th president of the United States, he has been a real estate developer and the previous host of the Apprentice show.

But have you heard of Donald Bren? He grew up as the son of two relatively successful parents. His father was a movie producer and real estate developer like him. His mother was a civic leader. After majoring in Economics and Business a the University of Washington, Bren attempted at Skiing in the Olympics but had to quit due to an injury. In addition, Bren became an Officer in the U.S. marine Corps.

After that he took a $10,000 loan out in 1958, he began developing and flipping homes until he had built up a business which he sold. He started another one, sold it, and then took the proceeds to buy a third stake in the Irvine Company. He eventually bought the outstanding ownership and now has a net worth of over $16 Billion.

Donald Bren took one path to real estate. But there are others. I want to briefly cover the three main ways you can approach real estate investing.

1. Direct Investment

A direct investment in real estate, like what Donald Bren did, involves purchasing property either directly or through a business entity. Either you focus on property appreciation, resale, or cashflow. With these metrics in mind, you seek to partner with others to produce above-average returns over the long-term. This is what Bren did.

2. Indirect Investment

The second, more modern way to invest in real estate is less direct. With an indirect investment you buy a company that invests in real estate. Usually this is either a REIT (real estate investment trust) or some sort of real estate syndication.

3. Hybrid

The last option is some sort of mix. It involves partnering with others so that you own the real estate but you don’t necessarily control management of it directly. An example might be a partnership between a handful of people in which you own, say, 20% of the upfront investment. You put a shared investment with say, 2 other people. One person is in charge of management, and the other two people sit passively by but provide the capital.

A hybrid between direct and indirect is usually less risky but also less financially rewarding if your investment becomes a success.

Conclusion:

Part of investing in real estate is understanding yourself. How much involvement do you want? Often the answer is not much, but for those adventurous few, you never know, you might become the next Donald Bren.

Becoming the Squirrel of Personal Finance: 4 Places to Stash Your Cash

Most folks around the world understand the concept of saving more; you can only increase savings when you either increase income or decrease spending. However if instead of investing, what if one were to put the money into savings? Where should they put it? That’s what I’d like to explore.

When considering where to put your savings there are two main factors: Risk of Inflation, and Risk of the Need for Capital.

Risk of Inflation:

When you put money into savings there’s not really a real risk of losing your money to a drop in the stock market. That’s a good thing. But the risky part is that with slower interest and growth on your money, you’ll have a harder time keeping up with inflation. Often the savings interest won’t even be enough to cover the different.

Therefore with saving there is always a risk your purchasing power can do down.

Risk of the Need for Capital:

What if you put money in a CD (Certificate of Deposit) and find out a few days later that you need the money for an emergency?

First, at least some of your money should have been in a liquid asset for emergencies. But secondly, if you have to take the money out, a CD will usually penalize you. So you should always be aware of the chance you’ll need the money and what you’ll do if you do.

With those to risks in mind, the need for capital and inflation, let’s explore the options for saving:

Conventional Saving Accounts

These usually command the lowest interest rates because of the relative liquidity of funds.

Online Savings Accounts

These are online accounts that you set up in which you usually receive higher rates of interest because there isn’t any brick and mortar building to maintain.

Certificates of Deposit

These are the best for funds you’re sure you won’t need for a short period of time. For example if you know you’re going to purchase a car in 3.5 months, then maybe taking out a 3 month certificate of deposit isn’t a bad idea if it gives you are larger return of interest.

Conclusion:

Decide your reason for saving and how much liquidity you’ll need. If you can stomach tying up your money for months or even a year at a time, maybe a T-Bill or CD is worth it. Otherwise, consider a regular bank account or Money Market.

Stock Market Sectors: Is This a Wise Investment Move?

There are some investment advisors who scare away from the idea of sector investing. However, with adequate research, one might find that certain areas of the overall market tend to outperform others in various economic seasons. But is the risk of overexposing ones’ self to sectors worth it?

Before I answer this question I’d like to list the 11 major stock sectors:

1. Industrials

2. Real Estate

3. Consumer Discretionary

4. Consumer Staples

5. Healthcare

6. Financials

7. Tech/IT

8. Telecommunication

9. Utilities

10. Materials

11. Energy

Before someone considers investing in specific sectors, they must recognize that over time there are periods and seasons in which one sector performs better than others. Some of the worst sectors to own in bear markets is Technology stocks like Google, FaceBook, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft. However as times get better, this sector usually outperforms the rest of the market.

My recommendation is to not invest in specific sectors and sector funds unless you are comfortable risking a significant portion of your portfolio. If you do decide to invest in sectors, pick one that is both posed to do well over the next few months as well as the next decade. You want both the fundamental and technical analysis working in your favor. Overall, stock sectors can be a very lucrative strategy for investing.

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.

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.

4 Aspects of Creating a Financial Forcefield

Who doesn’t like defense? We always talk about it when it comes to football, politics, war and most importantly our personal health. But how often do people talk about defending their finances?

Nearly all the financial advice is geared towards offense (how to make more money and make it grow) but hardly any time is spent on defending what we have. While nothing can ever be 100% safe, there are four steps or assurances you can take that will put you in the best financial position to succeed in your financial offense.

First though, what kind of things are their to defend against? There are three main groups that can sabotage your financial future: The government, other people/businesses and yourself. The four steps I will outline address each of these potential risks…

1. Documentation

While certainly the least exciting form of protection, keeping your records organized can go very far in keeping your legal, and tax responsibilities clean and clear.

2. Legal Entity or Investment Accounts Choice

Where you keep your money can be even more important than how you invest it. Whether you’re a business looking for legal protection (deciding between an LCC or C Corp.) or you’re an individual deciding how to protect your assets against taxes (Taxable Account vs IRA vs Roth IRA), deciding where to hold your resources can become increasingly important as assets grow.

Proper Reserves

Most people in the U.S. don’t have even a couple thousand dollars in case of emergency. What kind of protection do you think they have against unforeseen financial bumps in the road? Not much. Businesses need reserves as well. Setting aside money each month in what’s called a sinking fund (an account designated for a specific purpose) is a responsible step for any business or person.

Insurance

The last of the four main lines of defense is insurance. Why isn’t insurance first on the list? Because by nature, insurance is meant to be a last resort. Using the first three steps and therefore not relying entirely on insurance is a fantastic way to secure yourself. However if all else fails insurance is a great last line of defense.

Conclusion

In each of these categories there are many specifics that I don’t have space to get into. However talking with your financial ¬†or tax advisor about these things is certainly an overarching prerequisite to each of these forms of defense. Never take anything for granted. Finance is just as much defense as it is offense.

Can Debt Ever Be Good?

Most people have heard of Dave Ramsey. His financial advice has helped millions of people get out of debt and free up their financial inflow (their income). So is this simplistic advice the whole picture when it comes to debt?

The list of successful people who have made fortunes with debt says otherwise. When’s the last time you heard of a wealthy person who built a massive business without borrowing money in some sort of way? It’s not very common. In fact, the three richest people in the US, and the world for that matter (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet) have all built businesses or bought businesses that used debt regularly in their operations.

But why is Dave Ramsey so against debt? While I can’t get into his head, there are three legitimate reasons I can think of why he dislikes the idea of borrowing money entirely:

  1. Debt has to be payed back. While the future ability to pay off debt is uncertain, the requirement to pay it back is definitely certain. This represents risk.
  2. Debt gives control and responsibility of part of your financial life to someone else. While you are still responsible for taking care and utilizing whatever you purchased with the debt, you are no longer owning this thing altogether by yourself.
  3. Debt costs money and time. To borrow money it usually takes time and complications. On top of that there are costs associated with borrowing like origination fees, legal fees, and (of course) interest. While the rate of return you get on your money might be greater than the interest rate, you are involving more risk into your financial picture.

So, after close examination, do Dave Ramsey’s probable reasons and concerns for not using debt seem pretty well founded? I’ll leave that up to you. However they can be summarized in one word: Risk.

Debt represents risk. Whichever way you borrow money, whether for a home, real estate property, or college, recognize that debt is a risk that cannot be overlooked. While I believe debt cannot or should not be eliminated from our lives completely, taking a careful look at it can go a far way in eliminating pitfalls.