Tag Archives: shopping

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.

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!

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.