This ONE chart tells a BIG story …

Most investors don’t really know what it means … or what to do about it …

Real estate investors are more likely to be interested in grading slopes than yield curves. And the Fed’s balance sheet? That’s REALLY esoteric and boring.

BUT … the Fed is the most powerful and influential financial force in the world … affecting the stock and bond markets (where mortgage rates are set), the economy, and even geo-politics.

The Fed seems to prefer hiding in the shadows …

… except when diverting attention from charts like the one below with cryptic congressional testimony and occasional PR appearances on TV.

This chart shows the Fed’s ballooning balance sheet 

Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve

The numbers might be too small to read, but they’re too big to comprehend … with over $7 trillion of assets (nearly double from just 4 months ago).

You may or may not know what it means, but set that aside right now … and just look at the slow and stable trajectory leading into the end of 2008 …

… and the “big” spike at the beginning of 2009.

Bring back any memories?

We found flipping the chart over helps …

Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve

Now, instead of looking like a positive, happy, upward trend … it looks more like the way it felt …

… like you were paddling along on a river until late 2008 when … whoosh! You went into a rough patch of white waters.

Then after a bit of a bumpy ride, you settled into a deep but slow descent into “the eye of the storm” (yes, we just mixed the metaphor) where it seemed stable and trending up.

Then some headwind … you might say your momentum was tapering … and then a little teaser turbulence right before …

WHOOSH!!! Over the waterfall.

This is what it FEELS like for investors riding waves of Fed liquidity via “quantitative easing” (Fedspeak for printing unfathomable amounts of dollars).

Of course, the Fed doesn’t really “print” … that’s so 20th century.

Here’s the official explanation straight from Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s appearance on 60 minutes:

60 MINUTES: Fair to say you simply flooded the system with money?

POWELL: Yes. We did. That’s another way to think about it. We did.

*** (ANOTHER way to think about it? What’s the first way???) ***

60 MINUTES: Where does it come from? Do you just print it?

POWELL: We print it digitally. So as a central bank, we have the ability to create money digitally. And we do that by buying Treasury Bills or bonds or other government guaranteed securities. And that actually increases the money supply.

Hopefully, that’s VERY clear.

The Fed, by their own admission, simply conjures dollars out of thin air and uses them to buy government-backed debt.

Keep this in mind when you’re perplexed about why the government not only grows its own debt but seems all too willing to guarantee private debt also.

But don’t think about all that too much now. Let’s focus on the discussion at hand …

The Fed’s balance sheet shows HOW MUCH digital money the Fed conjures out of thin air … as reflected by how much government-backed debt they own.

Think about this …

The Fed creates dollars out of thin air at no cost. At this point, it has no value because it cost nothing to create.

Those fresh dollars only become valuable later when someone who did real work and produced a real product or service is willing to trade their product for those previously worthless dollars.

Doesn’t seem quite fair to the person doing real work. But that’s a rant for another day.

Of course, the Fed doesn’t actually put the money directly into circulation. They loan it to the government, who then must spend it into circulation.

Seems like a pretty good deal for the government. They get to spend lots of money to buy nice things … like votes.

If we didn’t know better, we’d be tempted to think the Fed and Uncle Sam have a bit of a racket going.

Nah.

So if the Fed prints dollars for free and then loans them to the government, wouldn’t this make them separate parties?

Good catch. Yes, they are. Of course, that’s also another rant for another day, and not our point right now.

Today, we’re less concerned with who the Fed is … and more focused on what they’re doing and what it REALLY means to Main Street real estate investors.

It’s a bit more complicated than just interest rates and inflation. Sorry. But it’s important because what’s brewing isn’t your run-of-the-mill financial crisis.

Back to our story …

So the Fed prints money from nothing and lends it to Uncle Sam. But when the government borrows money, who pays it back … and how?

Hint: The Federal Reserve, the income tax, and the IRS were all created at the same time as part of the 16th amendment in 1913.

Why?

Well, it seems there was a financial crisis in 1907, and the politicians and their funders decided to “fix” the situation.

Of course, “fix” is a word subject to interpretation …

“Repair, mend” … OR … “to influence the actions, outcome, or effect by improper or illegal methods”.
– Merriam-Webster Dictionary

And since we’re quoting …

“Never let a crisis go to waste.” 
– Saul Alinsky

“Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
– Winston Churchill

“You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
– Rahm Emanuel

You get the idea. Exploitation of a crisis is a standard operating political principle that’s been around a long time. And the consequences often land on Main Street.

And speaking of principles that have been around a long time …

“The rich rules over the poor; and the borrower is servant to the lender.” 
Proverbs 22:7

Interesting.

We’re guessing you’re smart enough to put all that together for yourself. Must be nice to print money out of thin air and buy up trillions in debt.

Meanwhile, back on Main Street …

You don’t need to be a rocket surgeon to know you can only extract so much tribute … even at zero interest … before the burden is simply too much.

As we noticed last September, there were signs of severe systemic stress BEFORE the COVID-19 crisis hit.

Now everything is moving much faster … so it’s important to pay close attention and be ready to react to both the approaching dangers and opportunities.

Obviously, dollars are nearly free right now. It’s probably not a bad idea to grab all you can while credit markets are still functioning.

We’re noticing small businesses and commercial properties coming on the market at an increased pace … and with “price reduced!” in the pitch.

That’s a clue the crisis sale might be starting.

You also may have noticed precious metals are catching a bid in dollar terms. That’s talking head jargon for gold and silver prices are going UP on dollar price.

This indicates more dollar-denominated investors are choosing to keep some liquidity in precious metals versus currency.

This makes sense as every other currency in the world is already at all-time lows versus gold (i.e., gold is at all-time highs in every currency except the dollar).

When the Fed is printing trillions of dollars each year … and Uncle Sam is aggressively putting them into circulation … the historical result is a falling dollar.

And despite what you may hear on financial TV … we think it can be strongly argued this is setting up a perfect storm for leveraged income-producing real estate.

Remember, Wall Street and the TV gurus who promote them believe investing is “buy low, sell high”.

But real estate investors think “cash flow” … which is the only reliable source of equity. Income creates real equity.

Meanwhile, strategic real asset investors put it all together into a bigger picture …

Real estate (especially residential) is a sector strongly supported by the most powerful constituencies … politicians, bankers, and voters.

That’s a lot of love … and a great place in line when emergency help is doled out.

More importantly, debt is the real investment.

Income property mortgages are essentially a big short of the dollar with a great feature: the income from the property makes the payments.

So while you may not be able to print money like the Fed, using the right real estate debt is pretty close. And …

… the Fed is ALWAYS working on making debtors winners.

And when you use debt to convert real estate equity into precious metals, you have a very powerful shield against a falling dollar.

Yes, it’s true the dollar is catching the “best last paper currency standing bid” …

… but the dollar’s relative strength against other paper currencies at the same time it’s showing weakness against gold …

… is a major clue there’s some real-world weakness likely coming for the dollar in the not-too-distant future.

Yes, we know this is a lot to absorb. It’s why we keep repeating ourselves.

But rather than getting bored, we hope you’re getting inspired to study and prepare. This is a whole new ballgame.

This four-phase cascading crisis is still very early in its life-cycle.

It’s not the time to succumb to a short attention span.

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

And now the REAL contagion begins …

Although there may be some debate about the true origin, cause, and date of the COVID-19 virus … there’s no doubt about its presence and impact today.

And just as the health crisis began quietly, before exploding onto the scene, so it may be with the subsequent financial crisis.

After all, if you’re not both an epidemiologist and paying attention … or listening to one … like our friend Chris Martenson at Peak Prosperity …

… you probably didn’t know anything about COVID-19 until there was no toilet paper on the shelves at your local store.

Clearly, there were people who knew and acted sooner than others …

… and we’re guessing most folks would prefer to be in the group who’s aware and prepared.

Fortunately, being late to the toilet paper run didn’t result in being completely wiped out. (Sorry, we couldn’t resist.)

But as the health crisis and resulting lock down has mutated into an economic crisis …

… and is already showing signs of spreading into a financial crisis 

… the consequences of being ignorant and ill-prepared could be a whole lot messier to handle than a toilet paper shortage. (Okay, we’ll stop now.)

Punning aside, our point is there are abundant and alarming clues in the news that a financial contagion has already begun.

But preparing for it is a lot more complicated than simply stocking up on paper products … including cash.

Preparing is also a lot bigger than just looking out for you and yours.

Just as society rallied to “flatten the curve” … slowing the contagion to preempt the number of afflicted from overwhelming the health system …

… we’re “all in this together” and need to flatten the curve of people going broke and overwhelming the financial system.

Because while you might be able to get along in life not exchanging germs with other people …

… it’s impossible to live in a world of free enterprise without trading with others.

We all need each other to be financially healthy if we want to build resilient prosperity.

So, it’s in everyone’s enlightened self-interest to both prepare individually … and help others prepare to prosper through the wild ride looming on the horizon.

That’s why we’re organizing a Crisis Investing webinar … featuring a STELLAR faculty, including …

Richard Duncan – Economist, best-selling author, former consultant to the IMF

Peter Schiff – Money manager, best-selling author, podcaster, financial pundit

Robert Kiyosaki – Mega-millionaire investor, greatest-selling financial author in history, host of the Rich Dad Radio Show

Nomi Prins – Former Wall Street insider, geopolitical financial expert, investigative journalist, best-selling author

Danielle DiMartino-Booth – Former Fed insider, popular market commentator, financial newsletter publisher, best-selling author

Brien Lundin – Gold expert, publisher of Gold Newsletter, New Orleans Investment Conference producer

And that’s not everyone. The Crisis Investing webinar is a big and important project.

We’re working hard to collect the thoughts and perspectives of a large, well-qualified group of thought leaders, insiders, and seasoned investors.

By the way … this isn’t a pitch … because the webinar is totally free.

So, be sure to tell your family, friends, neighbors, associates and total strangers to get on the Advance Notice List ASAP.

Remember, most of the “experts” on mainstream financial media are directly or indirectly underwritten by and beholden to Wall Street and the big banks.

So, most don’t understand or value Main Street investing … especially real estate. Yet that’s where most people live … and where all the fallout lands.

Of course, it’s possible to see danger coming in time to get in position to avoid most problems and capture many opportunities.

Of course, this requires focus and diligence because these are truly unprecedented times …

Fed’s balance sheet tops $7 trillion, shows increasing buying of corporate bond ETFs
MarketWatch, 5/21/20

Not sure what that means to you? You’re not alone … and that’s the point.

The wizards behind the curtain are pulling levers, flashing lights, and using smoke, mirrors, and fancy words to manipulate the currency, credit markets, and interest rates YOU depend on.

Hint: The Fed’s balance sheet represents how many dollars they conjure out of thin air … and it’s nearly doubled since the COVID-19 crisis hit just a few months ago.

But anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of economics knows that no amount of money printing creates products and services.

If it did, then the Fed could just print money and everyone could stay home and watch Netflix.

But like any form of debt, money printing is simply a claim on existing and future products and services.

If you earn, borrow, or measure wealth in dollars, this should concern you.

Meanwhile …

Over 4 million Americans are now skipping their mortgage payments
MarketWatch, 5/24/20

With nearly 40 million jobs lost in the last few weeks … defaults on rent, mortgages, car payments, credit card payments should surprise no one.

Sure, the Fed can print money for Uncle Sam to direct deposit to everyone.

And MAYBE they’ll use it to make debt payments … versus less important things like say … EATING.

But you may recall …

Alarming number of Americans don’t have enough savings for unexpected expenses

New York Post, 1/30/20

“One in four Americans do not have enough money saved to cover more than two months of expenses, according to a recent poll.”

Many of those folks are your tenants. But it’s not just the little guys who are struggling as the economic contagion spreads …

Default Notices Are Piling Up for Retailers Unable to Pay Rent
Bloomberg, 5/22/20

Hertz, slammed by coronavirus, to continue under bankruptcy protection
Chicago Tribune, 5/26/20

‘No business is built for zero revenue.’

NO business is built for zero revenue. Neither is any city, state, or nation.

No society can survive long without production AND commerce.

So, while it’s good that the world is coming out of its COVID-19 induced economic coma …

… the extent of the damage … and what’s temporary vs what’s permanent … will not be known for some time.

But with so much uncertainty remaining about whether the health crisis at the front end of this chain of calamity is past its peak …

… there’s no rational reason to think the subsequent economic crisis is even close to over.

And even if it was, all those missed payments and printed money is likely to create a financial system crisis … and perhaps even a currency crisis … down the road.

So our bet is things get MUCH choppier before they get better.

BUT … that’s not all bad news. In fact, there’s likely a lot of opportunity in all this mess.

So rather than go full-fetal freak out … or waste a bunch of time blaming (pick a perp or scapegoat) … or philosophizing about what the people in charge should or shouldn’t do …

… we think you’re better served to stay focused on what YOU can do NOW.

We’re sorry if this is a little repetitive …

… but if you were on the deck of the Titanic, would you want the crew to stop boring you with repeated directions to the lifeboats?

Of course, no one knows exactly the “best” way to mitigate risks and capture opportunities … there’s still too much unknown.

But as we often say, focus on being diligent to control what you can so you’re in the best position to respond to what you can’t.

And listen to as many smart people as you can who are also diligently preparing and paying attention. That’s what the Crisis Investing webinar is all about.

The follow up to the webinar will be to take all these expert perspectives and then come up with the best ideas and action plans.

But be patient. With MANY hours of interviews, the project won’t be ready for a few more weeks. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, we still think it’s wise to get as liquid as you can while you can … especially with respect to equity and taking advantage of the cheapest mortgage money you may ever see.

Take a good look at your portfolio … and think about how it would respond to rising rates, a banking crisis, a credit market collapse, or a substantial decline in rents.

Remember, “no business is built for zero revenue”.

Sometimes you simply can’t save everything from a worst-case scenario. So it’s also important to know when to retreat and preserve capital … so you can live to invest another day.

But if you’re liquid, conservatively structured, well-educated, and connected … you’ll probably hold onto most of what matters …

… and easily make up any losses by grabbing the bargains likely to be littered across the landscape as this all unfolds.

And if this turns out not to be as big a deal as it seems … how are you worse off for being prepared?

Doing what you can to weather the storm …

Welcome to Part 2 of our discussion on the root cause of the current coming financial crisis and what you can do to survive and thrive.

We got a lot of positive feedback on Part 1 (thanks for that!) and folks have been anxiously waiting for this Part 2.

Fair warning: This is a whopper … and we didn’t get to everything. This easily could have been a three- or four-part series … or even a book or full day webinar!

(We’re working right now on the webinar … stay tuned!)

For now, we’re guessing most HIP (Hunkering In Place) people have more time these days, so we’re hoping you won’t mind the “bonus” material in this edition.

Last time we highlighted how the world is saturated in absurd, insane, unsustainable amounts of debt.

Debt is the cancer the Coronavirus crisis exposed, but the financial system disease pre-existed the virus. It’s been a concern of alert investors for years.

That’s because even the slightest disruption of payments can trigger downward spiral contagion of margin calls, fire sales, asset price deflation, and a lock down of credit markets.

That’s what happened in 2008 … and this portends to be MUCH bigger.

With global economies operating skeleton crews, commerce has declined precipitously and cash has stopped flowing.

It’s a global economic heart attack.

And with layers and layers of hypothecated debt daisy-chaining balance sheets of governments and financial institutions around the world …

… a wide-spread disruption of payments is an abject financial catastrophe of biblical proportions.

That’s why the PTB (powers that be) are desperately funneling freshly printed money directly to anyone (which is everyone) who has payments to make …

… while concurrently putting a faux bid on critical credit assets to prop up values and balance sheets.

And that’s just what we can see. Who knows what’s happening behind the curtain.

One thing few people are tracking or preparing for is the possibility the dollar might not be strong enough to paper over a global debt implosion.

It’s unnerving … yet important to pay attention because it takes time to react and things are happening big and fast.

So ready or not, the storm is here. However, the worst hasn’t hit yet … and when it’s over (this too shall pass), we expect there will be lots of opportunity.

Your mission is to get in position NOW so you can cash in when the clouds clear.

So if you haven’t read part 1, click here now to catch up.

Remember, there’s nothing you can do about events and circumstances outside your control. So while politics and philosophy are interesting …

… it’s best to focus on the short list of things you CAN control … so you can better react to those things you can’t.

Here are some suggestions …

Get Centered

First and foremost is MINDSET. How you think and what you believe affects your actions … and your actions determine much of what happens to you.

Mindset matters even more when facing adversity and chaos. Times like these can quash your enthusiasm and optimism.

You won’t see opportunities you don’t believe are there. And you won’t work or sacrifice to prepare if you’re convinced your efforts are futile. Hope is powerful.

Hope isn’t an irrational fantasy. In addition to the prescient warnings history gives us about the possible and probable dangers in the future …

… history tells us that tough times don’t last because humans always find a way to both survive and thrive. If they didn’t, we wouldn’t be here.

Of course, just because some people thrive … doesn’t mean YOU will. But if some can, then so can you … and it starts with mindset.

Get Smart

Equip yourself with knowledge, wisdom and perspective. It’s important to increase your education in the things that matter most.

If all this financial system, macro-economic, geo-political mumbo-jumbo is new to you, it can be overwhelming. But so was algebra … and most of us figured it out.

Think about how much time, effort, energy, money, and thought you put into earning, spending, saving, and managing “money”.

Then remember that all those activities fit inside a complex system … with powerful people and institutions either influencing or directly controlling critical factors.

Can you afford NOT to take your financial education SERIOUSLY?

Of course, you’re reading this, so we’re preaching to the choir. Your mission is to go evangelize to the world.

Every person you inspire to take effective action to grow and protect their wealth makes the very society YOU live and invest in more prosperous … both for you and everyone else.

We’re all in this together and we need each other to succeed. And speaking of others …

Get Connected

The next thing you can work on is your network … or what our friends Chris Martenson and Adam Taggart at Peak Prosperity call “social capital”.

The old cliché, “It’s not what you know, but WHO you know that’s most important” became cliché for a reason. It’s TRUE.

Your network of fellow investors, mentors, advisors, and boots on the ground teams are essential sources of wisdom, intelligence, deals and capital.

Yes, it’s temporarily harder to get together physically in today’s wild world of compelled isolation …

… but it’s also never been easier to find and connect with other people through technology.

Of course, reconnecting with your party friends from college and complaining about being locked down isn’t what we’re talking about.

Be diligent to build relationships with the RIGHT people … those who are realistically optimistic, studious, thoughtful, connected, and active.

Just go watch It’s a Wonderful Life to remind yourself of the value of social capital.

Okay … we’re guessing by now we’ve already lost some of the left-brained engineers. But if you don’t make mindset, education, and strategic relationships a priority …

… all the tactical training in the world can’t help you because you probably won’t have the emotional, intellectual, or relationship capital to take action.

If money solved all the problems, we wouldn’t be having a crisis.

Now with all that said, let’s take a look at a few things the window of opportunity could be closing on. If you can’t focus on everything, these are worthy of top of list consideration …

(Remember … we don’t give professional legal, tax, or investing advice. We simply share ideas for your consideration as you consult with your own advisors and mastermind group.)

Get Liquid

Cash is like oxygen.

If it stops flowing in from commerce, you need to breathe from your balance sheet … by either liquidating assets or tapping into credit lines.

When you know you’re headed underwater, it’s smart to take a DEEP breath … before it’s too late. History says when you need credit the most, it’s least likely to be there for you … in spite of the marketing slogans.

Look at an experienced player like Ford Motor Company. They borrowed heavily in 2006 ahead of the 2008 crisis … and survived without a bailout (unlike GM).

And Ford just did it again.

They’re not the only ones. MANY seasoned CFOs are drawing down credit lines even as credit markets are tightening.

Meanwhile, in a desperate attempt to keep credit markets open and backstop everyone, the Fed is printing as many dollars as it takes … and it’s taking a LOT.

We think investors who get liquid while they have equity and access to affordable credit will be happy campers down the road.

After all, in a crisis cash is king. Or is it?

Actually, it’s liquidity that’s king. So while dollars are the life-jacket du jour right now, they may not be the lifeboat you’re looking for.

Get Real

Even though we’re The Real Estate Guys™, we’ve been around long enough to remember when dollars and money were the same thing.

The coins we’d buy our comic books with were made of silver. And dollars the U.S. printed were simply coupons redeemable for the real money … gold for foreigners and silver for citizens.

Of course, all that changed decades ago. In 1965, the United States stopped minting money and started minting zinc-plated copper tokens.

Gresham’s Law says when bad money is introduced into an economy, the good money goes into hiding. Good luck finding a silver coin in your change at the grocery store.

In 1971, President Nixon told the world their gold-backed dollars were no longer gold-backed. But while the dollar stopped being money, gold didn’t.

That’s why that $35 ounce of gold in 1971 is now worth $1600. The gold didn’t change. It’s still 1 ounce. It just takes a lot more dollars to buy it.

So an ounce of gold in 1971 was a better long-term store of value than 35 dollars.

There’s SO much to say on this one topic. For now, we’ll focus on just a few important points …

Precious metals give you a place to park liquidity outside of counter-party risk where you can pivot into virtually any currency. Those are two nice features in many forms of crises … including a dollar crisis.

Precious metals are real … just like real estate. When currencies fail, anything real is worth more than paper money. Look at toilet paper in Venezuela.

People are confused and confounded by metals because they think of them like a share of stock or a piece of property … just a something to flip for capital gains … in dollars.

Part of getting real is learning to think of wealth and profit in non-dollar terms. It’s not easy … especially for Americans.

So while traders use metals (or more accurately, futures contracts) to flip for dollars … cash flow investors complain precious metals don’t produce a yield, so what good are they to hold?

Yet, Mr. Cash Flow himself, Robert Kiyosaki, is a serious collector of metals. Think about that.

We find it easier to think of precious metals as equity.

And when we have equity in properties and we’re not ready to use to buy more properties, we’d rather have it in metals than in dirt.

As much as we love real estate equity… it’s very fickle, fragile, illiquid, non-private, and accessible to predators.

At the Future of Money and Wealth conference, we explained a simple strategy to convert real estate equity into precious metals …

… while improving cash flow, privacy, asset protection; reducing taxes and counter-party risk;

… and simultaneously hedging equity against both inflation and deflation.

Whew! That’s a lot of output from one simple strategy. And you can’t do it with paper assets.

Folks who were there in 2018 and acted on this idea are likely VERY happy they did. They probably made MANY times what they invested to attend the conference.

Of course, there were also those who “saved” by NOT attending. Remember, how you think affects what you do, which affects your results.

The MAIN point is it’s not too late to take a good look at precious metals as an alternative to cash (especially in the bank) for your liquid reserves.

Get Protected

This is probably the most boring of preps, but still super-important for anyone with a lot to lose. Crises can make people crazy.

Frightened people are buying guns, dogs, and security systems to protect against the possibility of desperate and hungry street thugs from taking their treasures.

But when stuff gets weird, street thugs aren’t the only people who are desperate and hungry.

So are opportunistic tenants, employees, customers, and their lawyers.

If your lawsuit protection and insurance structures aren’t updated and robust, NOW is a great time to evaluate them.

The best time to repair the roof is while the sun is shining. The next best time is when dark clouds are forming, but the deluge hasn’t hit yet. Like NOW.

Get Going … and Going … and Going …

You probably know there’s a WHOLE lot more to riding out this storm.

Here are some closing tips … and we’ll have a lot more in the Crisis Investing webinar we’re putting together.

This is probably a great time to revisit your financing and lock in low rates long term on properties you plan to keep.

It’s a great time to review or develop a serious tax-saving strategy to help pay for your “roof repairs”.

Explore all your options under the various stimulus bills and loan programs.

Consider helping your tenants explore their options for financial help. After all, some of those funds can be used to pay you rent.

Be proactive with your lenders to be sure you understand your options if you do suffer a reduction in rents.

That’s defense. But you can’t score without paying offense.

Even if you’ve restructured and gotten liquid, you might need extra reserves to ensure your own stability through the storm. But it’s hard to play offense without resources.

So if you don’t have enough funds to capture all the opportunities you anticipate, the timing has never been better to learn to raise private capital.

Sure, lots of stock market millionaires may find themselves demoted to the thousandaire club.

But the multi-millionaires … the millions of people with a few million or more left over … even after a nasty bloodletting … are going to be eager to rebuild.

Those folks have capital to invest. And while they may be interested in real estate, they may not want to get their hands dirty.

YOU can help them … for a slice of the pie. When you get a few of those people on your bus … all your little slices add up, so you can play big without taking big risks.

Lastly as we’ve been saying since 2008, markets and teams matter.

Picking the geographies, demographic, product types MOST likely to prosper in the coming economic environment is a more important than ever. And wherever that is you’ll need to have (or be) a great boots on the ground team.

With all this stimulus still rolling out, it’s not yet clear where, when, and how the trillions will make its way to Main Street.

But the Fed and the politicians are DESPERATE to get the cash into circulation.

You can bet we’ll be watching how all this plays out and which markets benefit most … as should you … and all the people in your strategic network.

One thing is certain …

No matter how the world changes, people will still need real estate to live, work, farm, and play on.

So stay tuned because as you can tell, we have a LOT to say on this topic. After all, we’ve been preparing for this time for over a decade.

Until next time … good investing (from a safe distance)!

Now the Fed’s up to $400 billion …

Last week the Fed pumped over $200 billion of freshly printed cash into the repo market.

Since then, the Fed’s upped the ante to $400 billion … and counting.

For those young or asleep during the 2008 financial crisis …

… back then, the Fed provided an infusion of $85 billion per month to keep the wheels on the financial system bus.

Today, they’re pumping in nearly that much PER DAY.

That’s MIND-BOGGLING.

They’re trying to keep interest rates DOWN to their target. Of course, interest rates matter to real estate investors. We typically like them low.

But this isn’t about real estate. It’s more about banks who hold debt (both mortgages and bonds) on their balance sheets.

As we explained last time, when interest rates rise, bond values fall

… and a leveraged financial system with bonds as collateral is EXTREMELY vulnerable to collapse if values drop and margin calls trigger panic selling.

The Fed seems willing to print as many dollars as necessary to stop it.

And that brings us to an important question …

If the Fed can simply conjure $400 billion out of thin air in just a week … is it really money?

This matters to everyone working and investing to make or save money.

For help, we draw on lessons learned from our good friend and multi-time Investor Summit at Sea™ faculty member, G. Edward Griffin.

Ed’s best known as the author of The Creature from Jekyll Island. If you haven’t read it yet, you probably should. It’s a controversial, but important exposé on the Fed.

In his presentation in Future of Money and Wealth, Ed does a masterful job explaining what money is … and isn’t.

In short, money is a store of energy.

Think about it …

When you work … or hire or rent to people who do … the energy expended produces value in the form of a product or service someone is willing to trade for.

When you trade product for product, it’s called barter. But it’s hard to wander around town with your cow in tow looking to trade for a pair of shoes.

So money acts as both a store of value and a medium of exchange.

The value of the energy expended to create the product is now denominated in money which the worker, business owner, or investor can trade for the fruits of other people’s labor.

This exchange of value is economic activity.

Money in motion is called currency. It’s a medium of transporting energy. Just like electricity.

When each person in the circuit receives money, they expect it has retained its (purchasing) power or value.

When it doesn’t, people stop trusting it, and the circuit breaks. Like any power outage, everything stops.

So … economic activity is based on the expenditure and flow of energy.

This is MUCH more so in the modern age … where machines are essential to the production and distribution of both goods and information.

Energy is a BIG deal.

This is something our very smart friend, Chris Martenson of Peak Prosperity, is continually reminding us of.

Here’s where all this comes together for real estate investing …

New dollars conjured out of thin air can dilute the value of all previously existing dollars.

It’s like having 100% real fruit juice flowing through a drink dispenser.

If someone pours in a bunch of water that didn’t go through the energy consuming biological process of becoming real fruit juice in a plant…

… the water is just a calorie free (i.e., no value) fluid which DILUTES the real fruit juice in the dispenser.

Monetary dilution is called inflation.

Legendary economist John Maynard Keynes describes it this way

“By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.”

Inflation waters down real wealth.

Fortunately, real estate is arguably the BEST vehicle for Main Street investors to both hedge and profit from inflation.

That’s because leverage (the mortgage) let’s you magnify inflation’s effect so your cash-on-cash ROI and equity growth can outpace inflation.

Plus, with the right real estate leverage, there’s no margin call. Meanwhile, the rental income services the debt.

Even better, the income is relatively stable … rooted in the tenant’s wages and lease terms. Those aren’t day-traded, so they don’t fluctuate like paper asset prices.

Effectively, you harness the energy of the tenant’s labor to create resilient wealth for yourself. And you’re doing it in a fair exchange of value.

Of course, the rental income is only as viable as the tenant’s income.

This brings us back to energy …

Robert Kiyosaki and Ken McElroy taught us the value of investing in energy … and markets where energy is a major industry.

First, energy jobs are linked to where the energy is. You might move a factory to China, but not an oil field. This means local employment for your tenants.

Your tenants might not work directly in the energy business, but rather for those secondary and tertiary industries which support it. But the money comes from the production of energy.

Further, energy consumers are all over the world, making the flow of money into the local job market much more stable than less diverse regional businesses.

It’s the same reason we like agriculture.

While machines consume oil, people consume food. Both are sources of essential energy used to create products and provide services.

So when it comes to real estate, energy, and food … the basis of the investment is something real and essential with a permanent demand.

Though less sexy and speculative, we’re guessing the need for energy and food is more enduring than interactive exercise cycling.

Real estate, energy and agricultural products, are all real … no matter what currency you denominate them in.

And the closer you get to real value, the more resilient your wealth is if paper fails.

Right now, paper is showing signs of weakness. But like a dying star, sometimes there’s a bright burst just before implosion.

Remember, Venezuela’s stock market sky-rocketed just before the Bolivar collapsed.

Those who had real assets prospered. Those who didn’t … didn’t.

Are we saying stocks and the dollar are about to implode? Not at all. But they could. Perhaps slowly at first, and then suddenly.

If they do and you’re not prepared … it’s bad. It you’re prepared and they don’t … not so sad. If they do and you’re prepared … it could be GREAT.

Real assets, such as well-structured and located income property …

… or commodities like oil, gold, and agricultural products (and the real estate which produces them) …

… are all likely to fare better in an economic shock than paper derivatives whose primary function is as trading chip in the Wall Street casinos.

So consider what money is and isn’t … the role of energy in economic activity … and how you can build a resilient portfolio based on a foundation of real assets.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
John F. Kennedy

Until next time … good investing!


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The Fed pumps $200 billion into system in THREE days …

It’s been a busy week of alarming financial news!

Of course, events that rattle financial markets sometimes barely register to real estate investors. That’s because rents and property values aren’t directly involved in the high-frequency trading casinos of Wall Street.

So while paper traders frantically scramble to avoid losses or skim profits from currency flowing through the machinery …

real estate investors calmly cash rent checks and wonder what all the fuss is about.

However, as seasoned investors discovered in 2008 …

Wall Street’s woes sometimes spill over and become Main Street blues … primarily through the linkage between bond markets and mortgages.

So even though the Saudi oil almost-crisis garnered a lot of attention …

something BIG happened in an obscure corner of the financial system which has alert observers concerned …

Repo Market Chaos Signals Fed May Be Losing Control of Rates
Bloomberg, 9/16/19

Repo Squeeze Threatens to Spill Over Into Funding Markets
Bloomberg, 9/17/19

And no, this isn’t about people losing their cars or homes. It’s about systemically important part of the financial system.

Before you tune out, remember …

… when you see words like chaos and losing control and “spill over” in the context of interest rates and funding markets … it’s probably worth digging into.

When credit markets seize up, asset prices collapse. While this is troublesome for Main Street … it’s DEVASTATING to the financial system.

And when the financial system breaks down, it affects EVERYONE … even smug real estate investors who might think they’re immune.

So grab a snack and let’s explore what’s happening …

Wall Street operates on obscene amounts of collateralized leverage. Real estate investors use leverage too, but there’s an important distinction.

There are no margin calls on real estate. So when property values collapse temporarily for whatever reason, positive cash flow let’s you ride out the storm.

Not so in bond markets. When the value of a bond that’s pledged as collateral falls, the borrower faces a margin call.

This means the borrower needs cash FAST. This is a risk of the game they play.

But when traders are confident they have ready access to cash at predictable and reasonable prices, they stay very active in the market.

This is important because healthy markets require an abundance of assets, cash, buyers, sellers, and TRUST to keep things moving.

When any one falters, markets slow down … or STOP … credit markets can freeze, economic activity stalls, and it hits real estate investors too.

The head Wizard at the Fed says not to worry … just like they said about the sub-prime problem back in 2007.

Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

But we’re far from expert on the repo market, so we encourage you to read up on what it is and why everyone’s talking about it.

Meanwhile, we’ll hit the high notes to get you started …

In short, the repo market is where short term borrowing happens. It’s like a pawn shop where market participants hock bonds to raise some cash.

But when repo rates spike like this …

image

 

Source: Bloomberg

… it means there’s not enough cash to go around.

Cash is like oxygen. You can live for a while without food (profit) or water (revenue) … but when you’re out of cash, it’s game over.

No wonder Wall Street freaked out …

‘This Is Crazy!’: Wall Street Scurries to Protect Itself in Repo Surge
Bloomberg, 9/17/19

Of course, we don’t really care if Wall Street takes it on the chin.

But when craziness on Wall Street has the potential to spill over to Main Street, we pay attention.

In this case, the situation is dire enough the Fed stepped in with $53 billion of emergency cash … in ONE day.

This is the first time since the 2008 financial crisis the Fed’s needed to do this.

The next day they added another $75 billion.

Then the Fed announced another rate cut … and hinted at more rate cuts … and suggested a willingness to print more money.

Then the VERY next day …yet ANOTHER $75 billion.

$53 billion here. $75 billion there. Pretty soon you’re talking serious money … in this case about $200 billion in THREE days … and quite possibly a serious problem.

So what? What does any of this mean to real estate investors?

Maybe not much. Maybe a lot. We certainly hope the Wizards behind the curtain pull the right levers the right way at the right times.

But if this is a pre-cursor to The Real Crash Peter Schiff is concerned about, things could become more complicated than “just” a 2008-like collapse of asset prices.

As we chronicle in the Real Asset Investing Report and the Future of Money and Wealth video series, the world’s faith in the Fed and dollar were shaken after 2008.

Meanwhile, negative interest rates on nearly $17 trillion in global debt is a symptom of a huge bond bubble today.

Here’s why …

Just as rental property cap rates fall when investors bid prices up … so do bond yields fall when investors bid bond prices up.

And just like when over-zealous real estate speculators bid property prices up to negative cash flow … so over-zealous bond speculators have bid bond prices up to negative yields.

Negative yields are a symptom of a speculative bubble.

These unsustainable scenarios typically end badly when there’s no greater fool left to bid the price up further.

And then, when the market goes “no bid” … prices collapse. Bad scene.

Remember, bonds are the foundation of the credit market and financial system.

This repo problem is like finding a big crack in the foundation of your favorite property.

The bigger concern is the size of the building sitting on the faulty foundation … and how much it might take to patch the crack.

So here’s the inspection report …

Global debt is around $250 TRILLION. These are bonds … many of which are pledged as collateral for loans … creating an almost incomprehensible amount of derivatives.

Worse, many of those pledged bonds are subject to margin calls.

This is a HIGHLY unstable situation and operates largely on trust.

Think about what happens if bond prices fall …

Borrowers who pledged bonds are upside down and need to raise cash fast.

When they get to the market, they find there aren’t enough dollars to go around. Cash starved sellers start discounting to attract buyers … causing rates to rise.

Again, it’s just like trying to sell an apartment building in a slow market. As you lower the price, the cap rate (yield) goes UP.

As yields rise, bond values everywhere fall … triggering more margin calls, more demands for cash, more desperate sellers … and a dismal downward death spiral.

And then it spreads …

As the demand for cash grows, anything not nailed down is offered for sale … often at a steep discount to compete for a limited supply of dollars.

This is contagion … falling prices spreading like wildfire across daisy-chained balance sheets.

Yikes. (Of course, if you have cash, it’s a shopping spree)

Enter the Fed’s printing press to save the day. But this ONLY works long-term if the market TRUSTS the Fed and their printed product.

In 2008, the world worried as the Fed took its balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.5 trillion. And that was just to paper over the now relatively small sub-prime mortgage mess.

It worked (temporarily) partly because the world didn’t have much choice. Dollars were the only game in town.

Today is much different than 2008. The world is wiser. Alternatives to the U.S. dollar and financial system exist or are being developed.

And the SIZE of the potential implosion is MUCH bigger than 2008.

Meanwhile, the Fed has already returned to lowering rates … and now is injecting substantial amounts of fresh cash into the system.

The question is … can the Fed print enough dollars to paper over a serious bond implosion … and if they do, will the world still trust the U.S. dollar?

Perhaps this is why central banks have been loading up on gold.

Coming back down to Main Street …

Whether the repo market is a canary in the coal mine signaling looming danger … or just a friendly wake up call to stay aware and prepared for something else later …

… there are some practical steps Main Street real estate investors can take to build a little more resilience into their portfolios.

First is education. The more you understand about how things work and how to recognize warning signs, the sooner you’ll see shifts so you grab opportunity and dodge problems.

It’s why we constantly encourage you to study, attend conferences, and get into meaningful conversations with experienced investors.

Next, it’s important to pay attention.

Most of what’s happening is widely publicized. But things are easy to miss when events don’t seem directly relevant to your Main Street life. They often are.

From a practical portfolio management perspective, it’s probably a great time to lock in low rate long-term financing, cash out some equity and retain a good level of liquidity.

When prices collapse, cash is king … and credit doesn’t count.

Be attentive to cash flows in current and future deals.

Invest in keeping your best tenants and team members happy. Look for ways to tighten up expenses and improve operations. Cash flow is staying power.

Focus on affordable markets and product niches supported by resilient economic, geographic, and demographic drivers.

Real estate is not a commodity or asset class. Certain markets and niches will outperform others. Be strategic.

Most of all, stay focused on the principles of sound fundamental investing. Be careful of having too much at risk on speculative plays.

As we’ve said before, an economy can be strong based on activity, but fragile based on systemic integrity.

If the system breaks down, then economic activity slows … sometimes dramatically … and if you’re only geared for sunshine, the storm can wash your wealth away quickly.

Until next time … good investing!


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The system is dead. Long live the system!

The ghosts of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008 still linger (as they should) in the minds and hearts of seasoned real estate investors …

… even though it’s been a an equity party for the last 10 years.

Of course, no one wants to hear it might be ending. Then again, every new beginning comes from another beginning’s end.

And as we recently noted, a bend in the road isn’t the end of the road … unless you fail to make the turn.

Right now, it seems like the global financial system is flashing caution lights all over the place.

Consider these recent headlines …

U.S. Treasury bond curve inverts for first time since 2007 in recession warningReuters, 8/14/19

Ex-Fed boss Greenspan says ‘there is no barrier’ to Treasury yields falling below zeroMarketWatch, 8/14/19

China Prepares Its “Nuclear Option” In Trade WarOilPrice.com, 8/13/19

Some real estate investors see these headlines … and yawn. Probably a mistake.

Experienced real estate investors and their mortgage professionals know mortgage rates pivot off the 10-year Treasury yield.

And because mortgages are the most powerful tool in a real estate investor’s toolbox and interest one of the biggest expenses, interest rates matter.

Regular listeners know we like fixed rates now because the risk of rates rising is greater than the benefit of them falling further.

It doesn’t mean they will. There’s a LOT of effort to keep them down.

In fact, just a year ago, 10-year Treasury yields were nearly 3.5 percent and today it’s half that. But at just over 1.5 percent, how much lower can they go?

You’d be surprised.

After all, the venerable Alan Greenspan himself is publicly raising the possibility Treasury yields could fall below zero.

How is that even possible?

Who makes a loan (buy a bond) not just for free (no interest income), but knowing they’ll get paid back LESS than the principal amount?

You might think no one in their right mind would do that, yet …

Negative-Yielding Debt Hits Record $14 Trillion as Fed Cuts
Bloomberg, August 1, 2019

And in Denmark, home-buyers can get a 10-year mortgages at NEGATIVE .5 percent interest

More good news for homeowners: Mortgages below 0% at fixed interest rates

(Unless you’re fluent in Danish, you’ll need to run this one through Google translate)

Home-buyers are being PAID to borrow.

So you can add negative interest rates to the list of items under “this time it’s different” … because this has never happened before.

What does it mean?

We’re still working on figuring that out. but we think it’s a clear sign something is broken … or least seriously different.

One of our favorite Brainiac economic commentators and an unconventional thinker is Keith Weiner at Monetary-Metals.

In a recent essay, Keith argues that based on the Net-Present-Value calculation, when interest rates hit zero, the value of assets become infinite.

We’re not sure we agree, because the limiting factor is the ability to debt service … even if all you’re doing is repaying principal.

But we do agree the result of cheap money is equity growth.

And this creates a HUGE and unique opportunity for income property investors.

That’s because when you get a mortgage to buy an income property, you’re also purchasing the income to pay down the loan.

Of course, this doesn’t mean it’s a risk-free ride.

If you lose your self-control and pay more for the property than the property’s income can service, you’ve transitioned from investor to speculator.

Now you’re banking on the equity growth in the property to compensate you for the negative cash flow … a subsidy that must come from someplace else.

This structure is most likely to occur with 1-4 unit residential properties because those lenders will let you supplement the property’s income with your own.

A word to the wise …

Unless you have a very specific, high probability plan to raise rents post-purchase …

… be VERY careful about buying a negative cash-flow property in an uber-low interest rate environment.

It’s doubtful lower rates will come along to reduce your interest expense and boost cash flow.

Of course, most commercial lenders won’t make a negative cash-flow loan, so if you’re playing at the pro level, you’re less likely to step on that landmine.

But the aforementioned headlines have some even MORE CONCERNING things to consider

First, yield-curve inversion has preceded the last five recessions.

Fortunately, those recessions don’t usually show up for about year and a half.

So if you pay attention today, there’s no reason to be blind-sided in two years. Hopefully, you’ve got time to prepare. But the clock is ticking.

Recessions mean softer employment and less Main Street prosperity.

Remember, when things are tight, people and businesses tend to move where the cost of living and tax burdens are lower.

Keep this in mind when picking markets, property types, and price points.

It’s always good to have some people above you on the food chain, who will move down and bolster demand in your niche during tough times.

Of course, that’s just your run-of-the-mill market-cycle awareness. Nonetheless, it’s always good to remember the basics.

But what if the system breaks down? What if the “this time it’s different” items tell a different story?

We’ve been watching this for quite a while.

We first spoke about it at the New Orleans Investment Conference six years ago.

We got into more detail on it at our Future of Money and Wealth conference. Of course, we’ve been writing about it regularly.

Now we’re talking about it even more because mainstream financial media is finally taking notice. Maybe we’re not crazy.

So even though we just wrote about it last week, when you hear about “nuclear options” in a trade war between the two biggest economies, would you rather hear the warnings multiple times … or risk missing it altogether?

And what if the Fed is really lowering interest rates to preemptively buffer the impact of China pushing the nuclear button? Will it be enough?

There’s a lot of hype about “the best economy ever” … and perhaps statistically it’s true.

But if interest rates spike suddenly, all that “best ever” talk goes away, along with trillions in equity … and it’s a whole new ball game.

Our pal Peter Schiff thinks the Fed will create trillions of dollars in a desperate attempt to reflate asset prices and keep rates down.

Gold is suggesting foreign central banks are preparing for trouble.

Those aware and prepared will make fortunes. Those unaware and unprepared will likely take a hit … or worse.

It’s not the circumstances that are good or bad. It’s how well you’re prepared and how quickly you respond when things start moving quickly.

The warning lights are flashing. Better to be prepared and not have a problem, than to have a problem and not be prepared.

Now is the time to expand your education, understanding, and network … and fortify your portfolio, just in case.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training, and resources to help real estate investors succeed.


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The future of interest rates …

Interest rates are a big deal for real estate investors … for many reasons.

The first and most obvious reason is because interest rates are the price of the money you borrow to invest with.  Higher rates mean higher payments and less cash flow.

Of course, even when you pay cash for your properties, your tenants probably carry consumer debt … car loans, credit card, and installment debt …

Higher rates mean higher debt payments for your tenants, so less of their monthly budget is available to pay you rent or absorb rent increases.

Also, your property values, exit options, and liquidity are all affected by interest rates.

Higher rates mean buyers have less capacity to bid up comparable properties … and fewer buyers can afford to buy your property when you’re ready to sell.

For these reasons and others, most real estate investors and their mortgage advisors pay very close attention to interest rates …  especially when financing or re-financing.

But there are other very important reasons for real estate investors to care about the future of interest rates …

Interest rates are a barometer for the health of both the currency and the overall economy.

Last time we looked, most real estate investors transact and denominate wealth in currency (dollars for Americans) … and your rental properties, tenants’ incomes, and overall prosperity all exist inside of the broader economy.

So the potential for big changes to either the currency or the overall economy matter to real estate investors just like they do to paper asset investors.

In fact, based on the amount of debt most real estate investors use, interest rates are arguably even MORE important to real estate investors.

We’re just a couple of days away from our Future of Money and Wealth conference … with nearly 400 people coming … and right now we’re thinking a lot about the dollar and interest rates.

Peter Schiff is speaking.  Peter wrote Crash Proof in 2006 and released it in 2007.  Back then, he loudly warned of an impending financial crisis whose roots would be in the mortgage market.

Sadly, back then we didn’t know Peter, and we didn’t read his book.  Then 2008 happened, and we were blindsided by the financial crisis.

So now we read more … a LOT more.

We make time to listen to people like Peter Schiff, Robert Kiyosaki, and Chris Martenson.  And we work hard to share them with our audiences.

A very interesting book we just finished is Exorbitant Privilege by Barry Eichengreen.  He’s Professor of Political Science and Economics at Cal Berkeley.

Eichengreen published Exorbitant Privilege in 2011, which means he probably wrote it in 2010.

Keep this in mind as we share these prophetic excerpts from Chapter 7, “Dollar Crisis”…

“What if foreigners dump their holdings and abandon the currency [dollar]?  What, if anything, could U.S. policymakers do about it?”

“It would be nice were this kind of scenario planning undertaken by the Federal Reserve and CIA … it would have to start with what precipitated the crash and caused foreigners to abandon the dollar.”

Note:  Eichengreen probably didn’t know at the time that James Rickards, former attorney for Long Term Capital Management (the hedge fund at the center of the near financial meltdown of 1998), was participating in precisely this kind of planning, which Rickards describes in his book Currency Wars, published a year after Exorbitant Privilege.

Back to Eichengreen’s prophetic 2011 commentary …

“One trigger could be political conflict between the United States and China.  The simmering dispute over trade and exchange rates could break into the open …

“… American politicians … could impose an across-the-board tariff on imports from [China].”

WOW … Eichengreen wrote that at least 7 years before this March 22, 2018 headline from CNBC:

Trump slaps China with tariffs on up to $60 billion in imports: ‘This is the first of many’

Back to Eichengreen in 2011 …

“Beijing would not take this lying down.”

CNN Money on April 3, 2018:

China to US: We’ll match your tariffs in ‘scale’ and ‘intensity’

Eichengreen in 2011:

“Or the United States and China could come into conflict over policy toward rogue states like North Korea and Iran.”

If you’ve been following the North Korea drama, you probably know this one’s been back and forth.

Last summer, China seemed to side with North Korea.  Then they tried to take a neutral position.

But recently Kim Jong Un paid a secret visit to China.  Of course, no one really knows what that was about.

But based on recent trade policy it seems the U.S. isn’t sucking up to China for help with North Korea.  So maybe the U.S. and China disagree on North Korea?

Now STAY WITH US … because the point of all this is … according to Eichengreen …

China’s relationship with the United States and the U.S. dollar has a DIRECT impact on the future of YOUR money, interest rates, and wealth.

And if you’re like most Main Streeters, you may not completely understand the connection …

… just like we didn’t understand what Credit Default Swaps had to do with our real estate investing in 2008 … until everything suddenly imploded …

… despite reassurances from the wise and powerful man then behind the curtain of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke.

And the point here isn’t Iran, or North Korea, or tariffs, or trade wars … it’s about whether China gets upset enough with the U.S. and opts for the nuclear option …

Eichengreen in 2011:

“… China [could] vent its anger and exert leverage … by … dumping [Treasuries] … would send the bond markets into a tizzy … interest rates in the United States would spike.  The dollar would crater … could cause exporters, importers, and investors to abandon the dollar permanently.”

Obviously, there’s a LOT more to this topic than we can cover today.

Our point for now is that way back in 2010-11, Eichengreen envisioned a scenario in which conflict with China could create a dollar crisis.

As you can see, today’s headlines are living out his concerns.

When you read Eichengreen, like Jim Rickards, he talks about things reaching a tipping point … where everything happens fast.

We lived that in 2008 and it was NO FUN.  But that was only because we were on the wrong end of it.  While we got slammed, others made fortunes. They were informed and prepared.  We weren’t.

So be cautious of normalcy bias and complacency when it comes to contemplating the possibility of a dollar crisis.

Better to be prepared and not have a crisis … than to have a crisis and not be prepared.

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training, and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

When worlds collide …

Real estate investing is a VERY different approach to wealth building than paper asset investing.  You could say they’re two different worlds.

But the paper world has far more impact on real estate investing than many real estate investors realize.

And when those worlds collide, it’s often a painful shock to real estate investors.

The 2008 financial crisis is a perfect case in point.

When the paper world started securitizing mortgages on Main Street real estate, and then created derivatives from those securities in order to place HUGE paper bets in Wall Street’s casinos …

… when the bets went bad it decimated Main Street real estate.  MANY surprised real estate investors were CRUSHED.

Of course, central banks around the world fired up printing presses and papered over the whole mess … reflating stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Those who got in the game AFTER the crash … or got in position BEFORE the crash … have ridden that reflation wave to build big fat balance sheets.

So it’s all good … right?

But there’s been some tremors in financial markers which make us think it’s a good time to check our financial earthquake preparedness.

And those early warning signs are in the PAPER world …

You’ve probably noticed the stock market’s been jittery.  Which is actually great for real estate … because more people are interested in it, and rightfully so.

But the stock market’s gyrations have baffled many financial TV talking heads.

Earnings are up, they say.  Jobs are up.  Hourly wages are up. Unemployment is down.  Taxes are down.  It’s all good … they say.

And YES … all those things are good.  Good for stocks.  Good for real estate.

But … the dollar has been falling … against gold, against the yen, and certainly against Bitcoin.

What might that mean?

It could that a weak dollar (in spite of a strong economy) means … for whatever reason … big dollar holders are selling.

Our friend Simon Black recently wrote an interesting piece on this topic.

But understanding the causes and opportunities is a BIG discussion … so we’re dedicating two full days with top experts to dig into it.

We realize compared to shopping for properties, negotiating deals, arranging financing, and getting properties prepped for sale or rent … all this financial jabber isn’t very exciting for real estate investors.

We get it.

We spend most of our time chasing opportunities as well.  Offense is fun.  And most of the events we promote focus on building wealth through real estate.

But twice a year, at our annual Investor Summit at Sea™ in the spring, and the New Orleans Investment Conference in the fall …

… we bring the worlds of real estate, paper, and commodities all together to compare notes, and get outside our real estate paradigm.

At the very least, we learn new things, meet new people, discover other interesting investment opportunities … and have a good time.

That’s a good investment right there.

Of course, if we pick up just one great idea, relationship, or insight that helps us avoid a problem or grab an opportunity sooner … it’s a GREAT investment.

We found the BEST real estate deal of our lives … at a conference.  Just sayin’…

Until next time … good investing!


More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training, and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

When it rains, it pours …

If you’re a mass consumer of financial punditry as we are, you’ve probably heard the term “black swan”. 

In the context of investing, a black swan is some completely unexpected event that has a substantial impact on financial markets and investors …

… like back-to-back mega-hurricanes which wreak many hundreds of billions of dollars of damage.

Even as the millions of affected people are working through the enormous task of sorting through the damage and cleaning up the mess …

… investors far away from the stricken areas are assessing the potential ramifications of these huge and unexpected events.

As we discussed in a recent broadcast, there’s certainly opportunity and a role for investors to play in helping these areas bounce back from disaster.

But it could be the affliction isn’t purely physical.

Consider this recent CNBC headline … 

Harvey’s hit to mortgages could be four times worse than predicted—and then there’s Irma

“As many as 300,000 borrowers could become delinquent on their loans after Hurricane Harvey …”

“The sheer volume of homes hit by Hurricane Irma will likely cause an increase in mortgage delinquencies as well …”

The article references a report produced by Black Knight Financial Services … so we took a look and found these notable excerpts:

More than 3.1 million properties are now included in FEMA-designated Irma disaster areas, representing approximately $517 billion in unpaid principal balances.”

“Harvey-related disaster areas held 1.18 million properties – more than twice as many as with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – with a combined unpaid principal balance of $179 billion.”

That’s $696 billion of mortgages that could potentially go bad because property owners are underinsured, have negative equity, or are owned by displaced people in financial distress.

For context, according to this 2007 article from Associated Press:

“Subprime mortgages totaled $600 billion last year [2006], accounting for about one-fifth of the U.S. home loan market. An estimated $1.3 trillion in subprime mortgages are currently outstanding.”

In other words, the value of outstanding mortgages on ONLY those properties inside the disaster areas is over half of what the TOTAL of ALL subprime mortgages were leading into the 2008 financial crisis.

But, you say, all those mortgages aren’t sub-prime.  Prime borrowers wouldn’t walk on their mortgages … potentially triggering another debt crisis … would they?

Of course, no one knows what property owners affected by the CURRENT crisis will do … or how helpful banks and the government will be this time …

… but thanks to a research report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, we know the REAL reason people defaulted on their mortgages during the 2008 crisis was … lack of equity.

“ … data show that the crisis was not solely, or even primarily, a subprime sector event.”

“… but … a much bigger and broader event dominated by prime borrowers …”

“Current LTV is a powerful predictor of home loss, regardless of borrower type.” (LTV is loan-to-value)

“… the role of negative equity remains very powerful.”

Basically, people who own underwater properties (no pun intended … okay, maybe a little intentional) are more likely to walk on their mortgages.

So if that’s true, and these afflicted area properties lose substantial value, it’s possible the next “storm” will be a surge of bad mortgages … to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars.

In other words, it’s not just the mortgages on PHYSICALLY damaged properties, but ALL properties in the region whose values are dragged down …

… the way prime borrowers’ properties were dragged down by sub-prime borrowers’ foreclosures in 2008.

Does this mean another bad mortgage fueled financial crisis is looming?

That’s hard to say.  If Wall Street has once again levered to the moon and issued trillions in derivatives against these mortgages, then things could get ugly.

However, this potential crisis is different than last time …

One major problem leading up to the 2008 financial crisis was household debt service payments as a percent of disposable personal income was sky high.

Back then, borrowers across the United States were tapped out.

Sub-prime borrowers were at the margin.  So when teaser rate loans reset higher, mortgage payments became unaffordable and sub-prime borrowers defaulted.

But these defaults were scattered over many markets because it wasn’t a geographic problem … it was demographic. So MANY markets were affected.

When prices fell, they took the values of prime borrowers’ properties with them … and prime borrowers began to default too … not because of affordability, but because of lack of equity.

Each new default put more downward pressure on home values, eroding more equity, and drawing more prime borrowers into default.

Today, at least according to this chart from the St Louis Fed, debt service to income is much lower.

Of course, if interest rates rise, wages fall, or inflation erodes purchasing power,  once again, borrowers at the margin could default … and that could trigger widespread defaults and collapsing prices.

But that’s a worry for a different day. 

As far as the fallout from these hurricanes, our bet is defaults and falling values are likely to happen primarily only in the affected areas.

However, we also suspect any spike in defaults is likely to be mitigated quickly because of the lessons gleaned from 2008.

Lenders know playing hardball with distressed borrowers only makes the problem worse. We’re guessing they’ll be much more flexible with loan workouts and short sales this time.

And because this is a physical disaster, not a financial disaster … government aid is likely to be fast and generous … at least on behalf of homeowners.

Plus, Uncle Sam knows if they don’t put out the fire fast, it could quickly spread and burn up their banker buddies.  We doubt they’ll let that happen.

Better to bail the bankers out BEFORE an implosion by helping afflicted property owners and preventing price crushing foreclosures.

So … with all that said, we think there could be some serious TEMPORARY downward pressure on prices …

…and opportunities for private investors to step in with fresh funds, pick up some bargains, and help distressed property owners out of untenable situations.

That’s because owners of investment properties may not get the same level of help as owner-occupants.  They’ll need to turn to private capital for assistance.

Fortunately, both Houston and most of the affected markets in Florida were strong investment markets before the disasters.

And in spite of the horrific damage, most of the basic market fundamentals remain unchanged.  So when rebuilt, they’ll probably solid investment markets.

Even better, these areas are likely to see a spike in economic activity as money is invested in reconstruction.  A lot of money will be pouring into these regions.

So we’re watching these areas carefully … because when the window of acquisition opportunity opens, it may only last for a short while.

Until next time … good investing!


 More From The Real Estate Guys™…

The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources to help real estate investors succeed.

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