Which rabbit to chase?

The person who chases two rabbits catches neither …

Another week and a thousand sub-plots and angles to the COVID-19 story and how all this might affect real estate investors.

In a run-of-the-mill market gyration, those are usually fun and relevant rabbit-trails to go down. But there will be plenty of time for that later.

Sometimes it’s more important to stay focused on the main thing … even if it’s a little boring, redundant, or even (gasp!) political.

This is one of those times.

Think about it …

Virtually all major factors impacting the future of the economy, financial system, and currency that your portfolio and financial security depend on are being driven by policy.

Market participants like buyers, sellers, investors, tenants, and businesses all seem to be left out … or perhaps “locked down” is more accurate … of the process.

And the “gauges” most people focus on to determine the national, state, corporate, and individual health are questionable at best.

Whatever is going on right now is a far cry from “free” markets. It’s all driven by Federal Reserve and government (again, they’re not the same thing) policy.

So are we here to critique policy or rant about what “should” be?

Heaven forbid.

We’re not that smart … or brave. Besides, no one in charge is asking us what we think, so our opinions don’t count much in the real world anyway.

But with a thousand things to distract you, we’re simply pointing out that policy matters … and it’s a good idea to pay attention to policy so you can pivot to avoid problems and capitalize on opportunities.

As of this writing, we’re waiting to see what the Fed will say and do. They’re the makers of those important monetary policies which affect everyone everywhere.

For the uninitiated, the Federal Reserve is the issuer of U.S. dollars. The U.S. dollar currently serves as the reserve currency of the world.

Even though a lot of people know this … very few really understand it … and that’s a problem for both individuals and societies …

“By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

– John Maynard Keynes

The Fed expands and contracts the amount of dollars in the system to directly or indirectly manipulate interest rates, inflation, asset prices … including stocks and real estate.

If you’re paying attention, you’re watching a hyper-active Fed operate in real-time.

The Fed underwrites the United States government’s debt and deficits … including all the stimulus spending, bailouts, and vote-buying handouts by both parties.

If you think of dollars like blood … a currency that flows through the body of the economy supplying nutrition to individual cells (people) and organs (organizations) …

… then it’s easier to understand the impact of the quantity, quality, and velocity of those dollars.

There are MANY issues at play in today’s world. But we think the dollar may well be the most important developing story.

Of course, long-time followers of The Real Estate Guys™ know we’ve been watching the dollar for quite some time.

The long-term demise of the dollar is a mega-trend which began in 1913 …

SO much we could say about this one chart, but we’ll save it for future rants.

Profiting from the dollar’s persistent decline is the essence of leveraged real estate investing and the main thesis of Equity Happens.

Yes, we know we need to re-release Equity Happens. It’s on the to-do list. But it’s kind of flattering to see used copies trading for hundreds of dollars.

In fact, let’s use Equity Happens as a quick case study in inflation …

Right now, the supply of Equity Happens books is small. Apparently, the demand is high, so the price has been bid up.

(Note: We don’t get any of that premium. We wish. But it goes to the used booksellers. We’re still rummaging around the garage looking for copies so we can get in on the action.)

But the high price of Equity Happens isn’t the result of inflation. It’s the result of limited supply against relatively high demand. A copy of Equity Happens is rare.

Compare that to Rich Dad Poor Dad, the best-selling financial book in history.

At the same time Equity Happens is selling for over $400 per copy … nearly a 20x premium to the retail price …

… Rich Dad Poor Dad is selling for $5.39.

Does that mean Equity Happens is the better book? Or the demand for Equity Happens is higher than Rich Dad Poor Dad?

Not at all. In fact, far from it.

Now stick with us because this is the important lesson …

The disparity in price between Equity Happens and Rich Dad Poor Dad is a function of how many copies of Rich Dad Poor Dad have been printed.

While we only printed less than 100,000 copies of Equity Happens … untold millions of copies of Rich Dad Poor Dad are in the marketplace.

As a product, abundant supply is fantastic for the consumer. Mass production creates abundant supply which produces low prices and allows more people to acquire the book.

In other words, falling prices are a boon to consumers. It expands the ranks of the “haves”. Cheaper books mean more people can afford them. Remember this when some official tells you deflation is a threat. It is … but not to you.

What if Rich Dad Poor Dad wasn’t a book, but a currency that you were earning and saving … how’s it working now?

Let’s say you went into the market and traded the blood, sweat, and tears of your labor for 100 copies of Rich Dad Poor Dad at a time when the book sold for $12.

Then suppose Robert Kiyosaki prints another 10 million copies because his printing cost is only pennies per book.

This printing increases supply and drives the book price down from $12 to less than $6.

Yes, more people get copies of Rich Dad Poor Dad. In fact, maybe Kiyosaki deposits books directly into the libraries of readers everywhere.

But you … you worked for your copies at a time when the value of your work was based on a price of $12 per copy.

And you saved your copies in your library so you could trade them later for other books you’d like to read. But now, your copies are worth half as much.

You lose. The act of printing more books diluted the value of the books you already earned.

Now, go back and re-read the story of Equity Happens and Rich Dad Poor Dad … but replace Equity Happens with gold, Rich Dad Poor Dad with dollars, and Robert Kiyosaki with the Federal Reserve.

Monetary policy … the printing of dollars … affects you and EVERYONE earning, borrowing, saving, and investing in dollars.

And just in case you didn’t hear, the Fed is printing TRILLIONS of them … more and faster than at any other time in history.

There are a LOT of angles to the cascading crisis created by COVID-19, so it’s easy to take your eye off the main thing. We could be wrong, but we think the main thing is the dollar.

Unfortunately, most Americans and the pundits who inform them aren’t really talking about the dollar. So we are … and have been for years and years.

Today, everything is moving bigger and faster. Extreme policies are likely to produce extreme results.

Whether those extreme results harm or benefit you and your portfolio depends on how aware, prepared, and responsive YOU are.

But your results also depend on what everyone else in the eco-system does … and the policies they support. So talk with your family and friends. Encourage them to pay attention too.

Spreading financial awareness and preparedness helps flatten the curve of economic impact to the financial system.

Like COVID-19, bad ideas are highly infectious … especially when people are highly vulnerable. Ideas affect individual actions and institutional policies.

We’re not telling you what to think or do.

But if you’ve been hitting the snooze button up to now, it’s probably time to snap to attention and start studying. Think and do is better than wait and see.

There’s a lot more to this chain of events to come.


Thanks to all of you who’ve taken the time to send a little sunshine our way.  It means a lot to us!

Here’s what The Real Estate Guys™ Radio Show community is saying … 

Awesome analogy for gold, dollar, and the Fed! … ” – John Y., 6/10/2020

2/20/11: The Coming Wave of Inflation – Profiting When the Levee Breaks

Central banks around the world have been pumping “liquidity” into their respective economies since 2008. In the USA, the Fed has gone through two rounds of “Quantitative Easing” (QE1 and QE2) and has been talking about a third.  Meanwhile, the government is piling up debt at a record pace.

What does it all mean?  And where is all this “liquidity” going?

Slogging through the headlines in our galoshes:

  • Your host and rainmaker, Robert Helms
  • Your co-host and chief drip, Russell Gray

Have you ever wondered where the Fed gets the money it uses to purchase government debt or toxic assets?  We’ve heard it said they have a magic checkbook – one whose checks NEVER bounce.  Hey! We want one of those!

So when the Fed buys stuff in the “open market”, where does the money go?  And once it enters the economy, how does it spread around?  Will any of it puddle up in real estate?

If you’ve been baffled by all of this, but can see gold, oil, gas, groceries, clothing and your Big Mac and Starbucks all going up, then you already have part of the answer.  Maybe those pundits who proclaim no inflation are really all wet?

Tune in to this episode as we explain how the added liquidity created by expansionary monetary policy dams up and then overflows through a series of levee breaks, eventually bringing a wave you can ride.  But you need to be on your board and paddling well before the dam flood comes.

Remember:  when asset values go up (denominated in dollars), equity happens. If you want it to happen to you, you have to get in while the tide is low, then be lifted by the rising waters.  So grab your rubber ducky and let’s get our feet wet.

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12/27/09: A Glimpse into the New Year with Ken McElroy and Kim Kiyosaki

In our continuing quest for real estate wisdom, The Real Estate Guys catch up with two of the most active real estate investors around.  As 2009 closes and we look forward to the new decade, what do the experts think?

Gazing into their crystal balls for this episode:

  • Your senior seer, host Robert Helms
  • Chief ball polisher, co-host Russell Gray
  • Rich Dad’s Real Estate Advisor, best selling author and real estate entrepreneur, Ken McElroy
  • Best selling author, prolific real estate investor and entrepreneur, Kim Kiyosaki

We like to talk to people who know what they’re talking about.  Not just because they’re smart, but because they have wisdom that only comes from experience.  We kick off with an honorary member of The Real Estate Guys, Ken McElroy.  This is a show worth listening to with a note pad because he gives us some great pearls of real estate wisdom!

Ken starts out telling us what he’s excited about as we enter the new year.  While many people are licking their wounds, Ken says 2009 was his best year ever!  Then he goes on to explain why the unraveling of the mortgage industry has provided extraordinary opportunity.  He also discusses his strategies for market selection, tells us what NOT to do, and then reveals some of the markets and product types he’s most interested in right now.  Plus, he gives us the one key item he looks for to find markets that are more likely to provide lower marketing and turnover costs, and a bigger pool of quality tenants.

Ken wraps up his appearance by sharing what he sees coming in 2010 in terms of interest rates, foreclosures, rents, inflation, the dollar and more!  Really good stuff!

The second half of the show features a conversation with Kim KiyosakiRich Woman author and big time real estate investor.  She gives us her take on the prospects for 2010, which includes both bad news and good news.  Then Kim shares some details on a huge real estate deal she just closed which exemplifies her forecast.  She reminded us that she started in 1989 in the middle of the last real estate “meltdown” with no money and no credit.  Unable to obtain conventional loans for the first 8 years, she explains how she had to be creative to get her deals done. When you hear the size of her latest deal, you’ll realize how much can change in 20 years!  As we said in Equity Happens, 20 years from now it’s going to be 20 years from now.  The difference will be what you choose to do between now and then.

We’re going to continue checking in with the biggest brains in real estate to see what they’re going to be doing in the new decade.  Stay tuned to The Real Estate Guys – and tell a friend!

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Home Construction Slows – Good or Bad?

The AP headline this morning says “Stock Market Slumps as Home Construction Slows”.  Oh no!  We can hear the pitter patter of mutual fund investors’ feet running to their computers to check the damage to their 401k.

Funny, but when we look at our computer, we see interest rates on 30 year fixed mortgages back under 5%.  Even jumbos are under 6%!  Meanwhile, gold, oil, car prices and CPI (Consumer Price Index) are all up.  (Hint: those are signs of inflation).

When you put all that in the blender, what do you get?  Well, it depends on what color glasses you’re wearing. (Too many metaphors? Sorry.)

Here’s the deal plain and simple: In the US, home and apartment construction is not growing as fast as the population.  Rents are not falling as fast as prices.  Interest rates are ridiculously low.  Toss in gobs of people unemployed, which means they’re missing payments and wrecking their credit.  They won’t be able to buy a home for awhile, so if they can’t keep the one they have, they will be renting.

So what do we have?

• A growing population and influx of people going from homeowner to renter means more demand for residential rentals.

• Less new apartments and homes coming on line mean less supply.

• More competition for fewer rental units means upward pressure on rents, in spite of a weak job market.  Why?  Because people need a place to live.  Next to food, it’s pretty high on most people’s priority list.

• Low interest rates means if you or your investment partners are credit worthy, you can get great (i.e., low) long term interest rates on loans just before what many believe will be an inflationary cycle.  Inflation means anyone in debt will win as the value of the dollar falls.  This is why China is a little miffed at Uncle Sam.   China holds a lot (if you think a trillion is a lot) of US debt and are concerned about a falling dollar.

• Low interest rates also mean lower payments.  Lower payments make it easier to get a property to cash flow without 80% down.  To quote from that fabulous book Equity Happens, “Cash flow controls mortgages. Mortgages control properties. Properties will make you wealthy over time.”  This is true with or without inflation (i.e., appreciation), because you are using the tenant’s money to pay off the loan.   No other investment lets you do that.

Additional opportunities exist for the extra ambitious.  We call it finding and forcing equity.  How?  With less new units coming on line and many banks and overextended owners letting their properties fall into disrepair, there are opportunities to buy someone else’s problem cheap.   Then, fix it up, rent it out and wait.  If things go your way, you may be able to refinance to get your original investment out – and now you’re in for free.  Kiyosaki calls this “infinite return”.  We like it.

Of course, it’s not all rosy.  Unemployment is still a concern.   And financing (especially refinancing) is harder to qualify for.  But, if it were easy, then everyone would do it and there wouldn’t be opportunity.  Hey, wait a minute.  It’s easy to buy mutual funds, isn’t it?  And everyone does it, don’t they?  Hmmmmm…..

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Is Gold All that Glitters?

The AP reports that gold hit an all time high of $1,118 per ounce today. Do you understand why?  Do you REALLY understand?  And what does gold have to do with real estate (besides that you dig gold out of the ground)?

Great questions!

Gold’s rise is a prime refection of a falling dollar.  Why?  Because when the dollar “falls”, it takes more dollars to buy anything that’s real.  It’s called inflation.  Supply and demand play a factor, so just because the dollar falls, doesn’t mean that gold is going to respond immediately and proportionately.  But in general terms, a falling dollar means inflation of things that are real.  Things like gold, oil and real estate.  Typically, gold really takes off when people are nervous about the dollar.  So take that for what it’s worth.

The Real Estate Guys don’t claim to be experts at gold, but it’s something we’re very interested in.  We watch the demand for gold, oil and treasuries because they give us insight into where cash is moving.  When cash moves into real estate or mortgages, then it helps push real estate values up and equity happens.  Do you see the connection?

Russ just got back from the Rich Dad Art of a Deal conference with Robert Kiyosaki. Rich Dad Gold Advisor Mike Maloney was there and we invited him to be on The Real Estate Guys show.  We figure it he’s smart enough for Mr. Kiyosaki, we’re interested in talking to him.  We want to pick his brains on your behalf and find out what he thinks about the movement of cash and its effect on real estate.  Sound interesting?  Then stay tuned to The Real Estate Guys!  To make sure you don’t miss an episode, subscribe to our free podcast.  And while you’re at it, sign up for the newsletter – and tell a friend.  When you help us grow the audience, we are able to continue to bring you quality guests and programming.  Thanks!

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