The world’s out of control …

The second decade of the last century are known as The Roaring Twenties.

Good times were fueled by abundant currency from the newly formed Federal Reserve … and the resulting debt and speculation which ran rampant.

As you may know, it ended badly.

The Great Depression ensued … an event which ruined lives, fundamentally changed the United States government, and took decades to recover from.

Today, we’re on the threshold of the second decade of this century.

And once again, the United States is “enjoying” a Fed-fueled party of absurd debt and speculation.

Will it end badly this time?

Or will the lessons learned from the 1929 and 2008 debacles provide the necessary wisdom to ride the free money wave without an epic wipe out?

No one knows.

But as we say often, better to be prepared for a crisis and not have one … than to have a crisis and not be prepared.

Last time,  we discussed some of the gauges we’re watching on the financial system dashboard such as gold, oil, debt, the Fed’s balance sheet, bonds, and interest rates.

But of course, we can’t control any of these things.

That’s why we think it’s very important to control those things you CAN control … so you’re better positioned to navigate the things you can’t.

Fortunately, real estate is an investment vehicle which is MUCH easier to control than the paper assets trading in the Wall Street casinos.

And if history repeats itself, as Main Street investors who are riding the Wall Street roller coasters get spooked … many will come “home” to the Merry-Go-Round of real estate.

For those of us already there, this migration of money creates both opportunities and problems.

Like any investment, when lots of new money floods in, it lifts asset prices.

While this generates equity, unless you sell or cash-out refinance, your wealth is only on paper. And equity is fickle. Cash flow is resilient wealth.

Meanwhile, when prices rise higher than incomes, finding real deals that cash flow is much harder. We’re already seeing it happen.

The key is to move up to product types and price points where small, inexperienced investors can’t play.

Of course, this takes more money and credit than many individual investors have. That’s a problem, but also an opportunity.

Another strategy is to move to more affordable, but growing markets.

This also takes an investment of time and money into research, exploration, due diligence, and long-distance relationship building … unless you happen to live in such a market.

So once again, this is better done at scale … because the time and expense of long-distance investing is hard to amortize into one or two small deals.

Bigger is better.

It’s for these reasons, and many more, we’re huge fans of syndication

Syndication allows both active and passive real estate investors to leverage each other to access opportunities and scale neither could achieve on their own.

But whether you decide syndication is a viable strategy for you …

… to take more control going into what history may dub “The Tumultuous Twenties” …

… it’s important to have a game plan for developing both yourself and your portfolio.

So here’s a simple process to take control of your investing life, business and portfolio heading into a new decade …

Step 1: Cultivate positive energy

It takes a lot of energy to change direction and compress time frames.

Building real wealth with control requires learning new things, taking on new responsibilities, and building better relationships.

So it’s important to put good things into your mind and body …

… be diligent to put yourself in positive environments and relationships, while limiting exposure to negative ones …

… and stay intentional about focusing your thoughts and feelings.

That’s because what you think, how you feel, and what you believe all affect your decisions and actions. And what you do directly impacts the results you produce.

Improving results starts with a healthy body, mind, and spirit. More positive energy allows you to pack more productivity into every minute of the day.

Step 2: Establish productive structure

This also takes effort. That’s why we start with cultivating energy. But being effective isn’t just about expending energy.

There’s a big difference between an explosion and propulsion.

Structure helps focus your energy to propel you to and through your goals.

Structure starts with getting control of your schedule. Time is your most precious resource … and you can’t make more of it.

But structure also includes your spaces … your home, office … even your vehicles and devices. They should be organized to keep you focused and efficient at your chosen tasks.

Yes, you can and should delegate to get more done faster.

But even if delegation is your only work (it’s not … learning, monitoring and leading your team, making decisions … those stay on your plate) …

… you’ll need spaces conducive to focus, with access to resources and information, so you can organize and delegate effectively.

Then there’s legal, financial, accounting, and reporting structures.

Once again, all these take time and energy to get together. So start by cultivating energy and taking control of your schedule.

Step 3: Set clear, compelling goals with supporting strategies and tactics.

You might think this comes first, and perhaps it does.

However, you can cultivate energy and establish fundamental structure as a universal foundation for just about any goals.

But whenever you choose to do your goal setting, it’s important to establish a very clear and compelling mission, vision, set of values, and specific goals for yourself, your team, and your portfolio.

This clarity will help you more quickly decide what and who should be in your life and plans … and what and who shouldn’t.

When you have clarity of vision, strategy and tactics become evident.

Step 4: Act relentlessly

We think it’s important to “keep your shoulder to the boulder” … otherwise it rolls you back down the hill that you’re working so hard to climb.

Fortunately, as you use your newfound energy and structure to act relentlessly towards your goals, you’ll eventually enjoy the momentum of good habits.

Lastly, be aware that this is a circular process … not a linear one.

You’ll keep doing it over and over and over. That’s why having an annual goal setting retreat is an important time commitment on your calendar.

We don’t know if the 2020s will be terrible or terrific at the macro level.

But history says those at the micro level who prosper in good times and bad are those who are aware, prepared, decisive, and able to execute as challenges and opportunities unfold.

Those are all things each of us can control.

The world has gone MAD …

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a LOT going on in the world as we sail into a brand new investing decade …

In addition to wars and rumors of wars, a growing number of notable people are publicly expressing concerns …

… not just about the economy and financial markets, but the system itself.

Perhaps the most notable is Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world.

In a recent article, Dalio warns …

“The World has Gone Mad and the System is Broken”

Dalio’s essential thesis is the system of free money has created a series of negative trends that will eventually converge into a fundamental and epic re-set.

“This set of circumstances is unsustainable and certainly can no longer be pushed as it has been pushed since 2008. That is why I believe that the world is approaching a big paradigm shift.”

Of course, just because he’s successful doesn’t mean he’s right. But Dalio is certainly well-qualified to have an opinion worth paying attention to.

But as we’ve learned from studying smart people, understanding what they’re saying takes some time and effort.

We think it’s worth it. Because any “big paradigm shift” involving the financial system affects EVERYONE … including lowly Main Street real estate investors.

If you’re new to this discussion, consider making a modest investment of time and money to watch our Future of Money and Wealth presentation, “The Dollar Under Attack”. It’s helped a lot of real estate investors see a bigger picture.

It’s important to understand the difference between the “economy” (activity) and the “system” (the structure supporting the activity … including currency, banks, credit, and bond markets).

Remember, the economy was humming along leading into 2008 … booming, in fact. But the system was faulty under the hood, and ultimately broke down.

Just like a car, the economy can go faster or slower … but only while it’s mechanically sound.

If the vehicle’s systems fail, then the car is incapable of speed … and may not even run at all.

Then, when the car breaks down, your skill as a driver is meaningless, except perhaps for avoiding catastrophe when it happens.

In all cases, you end up on the side of the road going nowhere.

The same is true with the financial system and your skill as an investor. If the financial system fails, it can sideline a lot of people … including you.

Of course, the financial system, like a car, has gauges … indicators of performance, health, or impending failure.

But not all gauges are easily seen. And reading them requires education.

That’s why we hang out with smart people like Chris Martenson, Peter Schiff, Brien Lundin. G. Edward Griffin, and Robert Kiyosaki.

Even better, each of these guys are connected to lots of other smart people like Danielle DiMartino Booth, Mike Maloney, Grant Williams … and many more.

You may not yet be familiar with some of these names. Except for Kiyosaki, none of them are serious real estate investors … and that’s GOOD.

As we learned (the hard way) in 2008, when you live in an echo chamber of people who all hope … even need … the economy and financial system to be functional …

… there’s a tendency to ignore or discount even the most obvious problems.

As Upton Sinclair said …

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

There were warning signs leading up to 2008. Peter Schiff and Robert Kiyosaki both saw them and publicly warned people. Very few listened.

Unsurprisingly, both Schiff and Kiyosaki stopped getting invited on to mainstream financial shows. Wall Street’s not likely to advertise on programs outing a failing system.

And people making millions in the mortgage business weren’t interested in hearing how the mortgage markets were about to implode. Ditto for real estate, stocks, and bonds.

However, smart investors are wise to look beyond their own normalcy bias and the filtered news which is produced by people whose livelihood depends on a rosy narrative.

Risks are ever-present … and the worst are those you don’t see coming.

But before you go full fetal freak out, we’re NOT saying the end of the world is nigh. After all …

“A bend in the road isn’t the end of the road … unless you fail to make the turn.”
Helen Keller

But if Dalio and others are correct, then there’s more than a reasonable probability of substantial changes to the financial environment we’re all operating in … then it’s worth preparing for.

After all, it’s better to be prepared and not have a crisis, then have a crisis and not be prepared.

Remember … ignoring risk isn’t optimism, it’s foolishness.

Legendary real estate investor Sam Zell says one of his greatest assets is the ability to see risk and move forward. You can’t navigate a hazard you don’t see.

So what are some things our smart friends are watching heading into 2020?

Gold, oil, debt, the Fed’s balance sheet, bonds, and interest rates.

These are like the dashboard gauges for the health of the financial system.

Right now, at least three are blinking red … gold, debt and the Fed’s balance sheet.

It’s also important to note that those three are also leading indicators for bonds and interest rates.

That’s because if the world loses faith in the dollar, they won’t buy U.S. debt, which is growing at a staggering rate.

In spite of all their bickering, Congress and the White House manage to agree to big time spending.

And if the world loses its appetite for U.S. debt, then either interest rates rise (something which directly affects nearly all real estate investors) …

… or the Fed needs to buy up the new debt with freshly printed money. This is called “monetizing the debt” … and would show up on the Fed’s balance sheet.

Some say this “monetization” could lead to hyper-inflation. Others think it means the U.S. could go into decades-long stagnation like Japan.

Maybe.

The difference is Japan doesn’t issue the world’s reserve currency and enjoys a friendly relationship with the country that does (the United States).

So we’d say the United States situation isn’t exactly the same as Japan. But what do we know? We’re just two dudes with microphones.

Maybe there are clues in the news …

The world’s super-rich are hoarding physical gold
Yahoo Finance, 12/10/19

Hmmmm … it seems the “fear” trade … those looking to park wealth someplace “safe” are choosing gold … in addition to, or instead of U.S. Treasuries.

If instead of Treasuries, you’d expect interest rates to rise as bond prices fall due to less bidding.

But while there’s currently only a little upward pressure on rates, it’s not much … so someone must be buying them. Chris Martenson says it’s the Fed.

In other words, the Fed might be starting to monetize the debt.

So it’s notable the “super-rich” are following the lead of the world’s central banks in acquiring gold. No surprise, as of this writing, that gold is trading at a 7-year high.

In other words, if Chris Martenson is right, everyone (except the Fed) would rather own gold than U.S. debt denominated in U.S. dollars.

But we know Uncle Sam can’t default. The US can print an unlimited number of dollars. So no one is avoiding Treasuries because they don’t think they’ll get paid back.

The concern must be the value of what they’ll get paid back with … the dollar.

Think about your paradigm of wealth. Do you denominate wealth in U.S. dollars? Are you ready for a “big paradigm shift”?

Buckle up.

The new decade should be an exciting ride … scary and dangerous for those not strapped in with the right education, information, portfolio structure, and tribe.

Education, preparation, and tribe have never been more important. If you’re not seriously investing in those things, perhaps now is the time to start.

Meanwhile, we’re bullish on Main Street.

We think real people who do real work and own real assets will fare much better than those counting on paper promises from Wall Street, bankers, politicians, and pensions.

If you’re a fan of real estate and other real assets, you’re already on the right track. Now it’s time to take it to the next level.

Podcast: New Orleans Investment Conference – Money, Metals and More!

Interviews recorded live at the 2019 New Orleans Investment Conference!

Host Robert Helms talks with an outstanding array of experts on precious metals, the Federal Reserve, economics, and investing including …

Money manager Peter Schiff, former Fed official Danielle DiMartino-Booth, billionaire Rick Rule, renowned economist Mark Skousen, and gold expert Brien Lundin.

Listen in and gain valuable perspectives into the many factors affecting the economy, jobs, interest rates, the financial system and more!


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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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Clues in the News — The Fed, the Repo Market, and Real Estate Investing

When you’re an investor … the state of the financial system is always on your mind. 

The Fed shocked the world when it pushed an emergency infusion of cash into a distressed financial system. 

In 2008 … it took $85 billion per month to stabilize the U.S. financial system. 

Today, the Fed is injecting $75 billion PER DAY. 

Does this mean our financial system is in trouble? 

We’re searching for Clues in the News about the Fed, the Repo Market, and what it could mean for investors like you. 

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, hear from:

  • Your stable host, Robert Helms
  • His fabled co-host, Russell Gray 

Listen


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Staying Smart in a Changing Market

We look at a lot more than just real estate. That’s how we stay smart in an ever-changing market. 

This week, we’re looking at what’s going on at the Federal Reserve … and we’re not just talking about the interest rate change. 

But let’s start there. 

The Fed came out and dropped interest rates by 25 basis points … which is one-quarter of one point. 

It’s important to note that the Fed doesn’t actually drop interest rates, because they don’t set interest rates. 

What they do is set a target and a range. 

They dropped the high end of the range down 25 basis points … and that manipulates the markets. 

The Fed also goes into markets and buys and sells bonds … again manipulating interest rates. 

So what is the effect of those actions on a real estate investor?

Sometimes it can be confusing … but it starts with understanding that yields … which are interest rates on bonds … are a function of supply and demand. 

When money floods into the bond market, it means that the interest rates come down. When money leaves the bond market, it means that interest rates go up. 

Many people think that if the Fed lowers the interest rates, mortgage rates are going to go down … BUT really the opposite is what would happen. 

Today, it’s different. 

The money that is moving around isn’t coming from the market. The Fed is putting more money into the system. 

That means investors are playing with new money that is in the system … and bonds go up and stocks go up. 

For the last decade, there has been a big infusion of money into bonds … so much so that it has driven interest rates yield down. 

There are $250 trillion of total bonds out there … $17 trillion of them are negative yields. 

It’s important to understand because, at the end of the day, a real estate investor is a user of debt. 

As investors, we have to pay attention to what the Fed is doing … and we should watch other investment categories like stocks and oil and gas and metals. 

All these things play together and play off of each other. 

The Repo Market

Now, something happened this week that hasn’t happened since 2008 … and it has got a lot of people nervous. 

The repo market dried up. People were going in to raise short-term cash … and there was no money. 

The repo market is like a pawn shop. It’s where Wall Street traders go to hawk a bond. It’s the same thing that house flippers do … but it happens in a day instead of over the course of several months. 

Remember that the bond that you hold is valuable because it has a rate of return. 

There’s a payment associated with it. It’s a poker chip in the Wall Street casino. 

Healthy markets require certain components. There has to be cash. There has to be assets. There have to be buyers. There have to be sellers … and there has to be trust. 

If any one of these components breaks down, then the system locks up until people fix whatever the problem is. 

On September 16, 2019, people showed up at the repo market … and there wasn’t enough. 

So, in order to get cash, they had to start bidding up or discounting what they were selling. 

Interest rates went all the way up to nearly 10 percent … and the Fed’s target is about 2 percent. 

So, the Fed had to step in. They pumped in $53 billion the first day. 

It wasn’t enough. The next day they had to put in another $75 billion. 

Still not enough. The third day, the Fed added in $75 billion more. 

That’s more than $200 billion in three days. And it STILL wasn’t enough. 

So, the Fed lowered the rates … and every single day of the following week they pumped another $75 billion into the market. 

The question for investors is … why did this happen?

Well, nobody knows. It’s a big mystery. 

Ultimately it all comes back to those key components … buyers, sellers, cash, assets, and trust. 

If there’s no cash, you can’t have buying and selling … and people don’t trust the marketplace enough to come in. 

What You Can Do To Prepare

Every listener out there that didn’t live through 2008 really needs to wake up and understand what can happen. 

For those of you that did live through 2008, this is probably like deja vu. 

But there are things you can … and probably should … do to be prepared just in case this is a real crash. 

It may not be. It may be just a little crash … but if you’re prepared, a crash is a great wealth-building opportunity. You can go into a marketplace and pick up bargains. 

The best thing you can do is get educated. Education is not just consuming knowledge and perspectives … it’s processing and thinking and conversing with experts. 

The second thing you can do is pay attention. We obsess about the news because there is so much you can learn from what is happening around you. 

From a practical portfolio management standpoint … right now you can lock in low rates for the long term. Take advantage of that. 

And you can take the combination of cheap interest rates and equity and pull some of that equity out and get liquid. 

Store that liquidity in something that allows you to pivot to other currencies. 

All of this is so you can be prudent as you look ahead into the unknown. 

Listen to the full episode to learn more about today’s Clues in the News!

More From The Real Estate Guys™…

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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!


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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Podcast: Clues in the News – The Fed, the Repo Market, and Real Estate Investing

The Fed shocks the world with an emergency infusion of cash into a distressed financial system.

It took $85 billion per month to stabilize the financial system in 2008. Today, the Fed is injecting $75 billion PER DAY.

Is the financial system in trouble? What’s an investor to think … and do?

Listen in as we search for Clues in the News about the Fed, the Repo Market, and what it could mean to real estate investors.


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.


Love the show?  Tell the world!  When you promote the show, you help us attract more great guests for your listening pleasure!

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 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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Hidden costs that hike housing prices …

As the political cycle ramps up, housing affordability might get some attention. And it’s more complex than you might think.

Obviously, housing policies have the potential to affect YOUR real estate investing … so it’s smart to pay attention.

Of course, there’s always risk in talking politics. Everyone has heroes and talking points. Sometimes it’s hard to take the filters off and consider all perspectives.

Fortunately, we’re not here to promote or protest a policy or a politician. Life’s too short for that.

Instead, our focus is on what people in power are thinking and doing … and how it affects our strategic investing.

In case you missed it, President Trump recently signed an Executive Order to take on the lack of affordable housing.

According to the announcement, the EO establishes a White House Council tasked with “tearing down red tape in order to build more affordable housing.

This ONE sentence reveals much about how the President views the problem … and reflects his background in real estate.

So let’s put our red or blue foam fingers down and consider the landscape the way it’s being planted by the powers that be … and how things might change if a new sheriff comes to town.

Components of Affordability

Housing affordability is a relationship between incomes and mortgage payments or rents. It’s not about price as much as it is the gap between income and housing expense.

It’s no secret housing prices and rents have been rising faster than real wages.

And the longer this goes on, the more people get pushed off the back of the affordability bus.

Ironically, it’s often the attempts at creating affordability which inadvertently makes things unaffordable. Will that happen this time?

Past national policy efforts focused on increasing the availability of financing, while many local efforts include legislating lower rents.

History shows easy financing actually makes housing more expensive … just like student loans made college more expensive.

This confounds typical politicians.

But it’s simple. Financing increases purchasing power … and newly empowered buyers bid prices up. Of course, sellers are happy to oblige.

Consider what happened to housing after the Clinton Administration lowered government lending standards in late 1999 …

Looser lending combined with the Fed’s then unusually low interest rates (trying to reflate stocks after the dotcom bust and 9/11 attacks) …

… drove real estate prices up, up, up in the early 2000s.

Everything was great until derivatives of those sub-prime mortgages imploded the bond market and crashed not only real estate prices, but the global economy.

So again … easy money doesn’t make things affordable. It inflates price bubbles which eventually collapse. Not a great plan.

Interestingly, President Trump is badgering the Fed to drop rates.

He says lower rates are necessary to keep the U.S. competitive in international trade … and to lower the interest expense of ballooning federal debt.

Some claim Trump’s trying to prop up the stock market heading into the election cycle, which is probably true.

In any case, based on this EO, Trump’s push for lower rates doesn’t appear to be intended to drive housing prices UP.

Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean he wants to drive prices down either.

After all, there are many constituencies with vested interests in keeping values stable or growing.

Banks depend on property values to secure the mortgages they make.

Local governments depend on high values for property tax calculations.

And of course, property owners (who also happen to be voters), use high property values to feel rich or to tap into for additional purchasing power.

On the other hand, there are a growing number of disenfranchised voters who struggle with rising rents and are watching the dream of home ownership become more elusive.

When we asked then-candidate Donald Trump what a healthy housing market looked like in a Trump Administration, he simply said, “Jobs“.

Fast forward to today, and we know President Trump has been trying to re-organize the economy to produce more higher paying jobs.

Of course, the jury’s still out on whether he’ll succeed. But that’s the plan. And if he is successful, it will help close the housing affordability gap.

Of course, rising wages are useless if housing prices continue to outpace them … which brings us back to this affordable housing executive order.

When we put all this in a blender and hit puree, it seems to us crashing housing prices can’t be the goal.

Instead, we suspect the purpose of increasing supply is to moderate excessive price growth … while giving incomes a chance to catch up.

So on the housing supply side, President Trump’s Executive Order presumes to stimulate development by REDUCING regulation.

This is an unusual tactic for a politician. Politicians of both stripes are infamous for MORE government, not less.

Maybe Trump is still thinking like a real estate developer.

In any case, we visited the National Association of Home Builders website to see what active home builders think of the Trump approach.

They describe Trump’s EO as “a victory for NAHB” because “it cites the need to cut costly regulations that are hampering the production of more affordable housing…”

According to NAHB, regulations add SIGNIFICANT costs to development

“… regulations account for nearly 25% of the price of building a single-family home and more than 30% of the cost of a typical multifamily development.”

Think about that. These are YUGE numbers. 😉

Of course, the odds of reducing regulations and their costs to absolute zero are … absolutely zero. There’ll always be some regulation.

But even if regulatory costs are substantially reduced, there are other factors to consider (we told you it was complex) …

Components of Cost

When bringing a real estate development to market costs include land, material, capital, labor, taxes, energy, and regulation.

Once built, you can tack on marketing, sales, and costs of operation until the product is sold or leased up. So, regulation is just one of many pieces of the equation.

Watching President Trump operate, it seems he attempts to manipulate components of cost as you’d expect from a typical real estate developer … making trade-offs to get things done in time and on budget.

The Opportunity Zones program is an attempt to move economic activity to where land is less expensive.

As mentioned, he’s aggressively calling for lower costs of capital (interest rates).

And the already passed Trump tax reform is delivering tremendous tax incentives for real estate investors.

As for energy, Trump opened up domestic oil production while pushing for lower oil prices.

And with his recent EO, Trump is going after costly regulation in the home building sector.

All that checks a lot of boxes.

Of course, there’s the issue of tariffs … which (at least temporarily) are adding to the cost of building materials.

(There’s much we could say on the touchy topic of tariffs … but we’ll save it for another day.)

Meanwhile, we’re chomping popcorn watching this play out … and trying to decipher what it means for Main Street real estate investors.

Here’s our bottom-line (so far) …

While interest and energy costs are macro-factors which affect the broad market, a reduction in federal regulation makes a smaller dent.

That’s because regulation is both a federal and regional phenomenon.

Our guess is markets with more local regulations will continue to attract less investment than those with less. Conversely, markets with less regulation will attract more.

This push to stimulate development is an obvious opportunity for real estate developers.

Meanwhile, we’re not staying up at night worrying about a supply glut collapsing housing prices any time soon.

If housing prices fall, it’ll probably be because credit markets collapse again.

For that reason, we continue to think it’s a good time to liquefy equity, lock in long term cheap financing, and tighten up operational expenses.

If prices do happen to fall … for whatever reason … as long as you have resilient cash flow and low fixed-rate financing you can ride out a storm as an owner.

And with some dry powder, a collapse isn’t a crisis for you … it’s an opportunity as a buyer.

Of course, you can stand at the plate all day waiting for the perfect pitch. Meanwhile, the market might continue to boom.

You can’t profit on a property you don’t own.

So even though there’s arguably some frailty in the financial system, it’s an ever-present threat you need to learn to live with and prepare for.

But as long as deals you’re doing today are structured to weather a storm, you’re probably better off collecting base hits than taking strikes.

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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Jerome Powell has spoken … now what?

In our last edition, we discussed what gold might be revealing that the Fed isn’t … while waiting to see what Fed Chair Jerome Powell would say to Congress.

But now the great and powerful Powell has spoken … and there are a couple of notable nuggets worthy of an inquisitive real estate investor’s attention.

According to this report by CNBC, the Wizard of the Emerald Printing Press told Congress …

“… the relationship between … unemployment and inflation … has gone away.”

If you’re not a faithful Fed watcher (and therefore have a life), you might not know about the Phillips curve. It’s been a guiding principle for the Fed interest rate policy for a long time.

It goes without saying (but we’re saying it anyway) that interest rates are important to real estate investors.

After all, debt is arguably the most powerful tool in the real estate investor’s toolbox. And interest rates profoundly affect both cash flows and pricing.

Many investors rely on their mortgage pro for interest rate guidance. Most mortgage pros watch the 10-year Treasury. But Treasury prices are strongly impacted by Fed jawboning and open market activities.

By watching further up the food chain you can get more advance notice of the direction of rates … and better position yourself to capture opportunity and avoid problems.

Through their comments, Fed spokespeople … chief among them Chairman Powell … send signals to those in the market who care to pay attention.

Of course, sometimes a little interpretation is needed. In this case, it seems to us Powell is being pretty clear.

The Phillips curve … which presumes that full employment leads to higher wages which leads to high inflation (prompting rate hikes to preempt it) … “has gone away”.

In other words, don’t assume high employment will trigger the Fed to raise rates.

But just in case the message wasn’t clear enough, Powell also added …

“… we are learning that the neutral interest rate is lower than we had thought …”

In other words, there’s a NEW normal in town … and the Fed is abandoning (just like Peter Schiff has been telling us they would) rate hikes and tightening.

But unlike Peter Schiff, the Fed is just now figuring this out.

So the great and powerful Wizard pulled not one, but TWO doves out of his hat.

(For the un-initiated, when the Fed is “hawkish”, it means tightening the currency supply by raising rates … while “dovish” is easing … like quantitative easing … and lowering rates)

It seems the Fed looked over the economic landscape … (and over their shoulder at the real estate guy in the White House) …

… and concluded the punch bowl fueling the longest recovery in history needs to be spiked again.

You might agree or disagree.

But it doesn’t matter what YOU think the Fed SHOULD do. We’re pretty sure they’re not asking you. They’re sure not asking us.

They think what they think. They do what they do. And THEY are the ones behind the curtain with their hands on the levers.

Our mission as a real estate investors (accumulators of mass quantities of debt used to control assets and cash flows), is to watch and react appropriately.

So here’s some food for thought …

Fed “dovishness” usually translates into higher asset prices … primarily stocks and real estate. Equity happens!

It’s EASY to get enamored of equity growth based on momentum (price changes) and not fundamentals (income). Be careful.

Sometimes the Fed loses control or misses a major problem until it rolls over the market.

If your portfolio is anchored with strong fundamentals, you’re more resilient.

Equity is wonderful, but fickle and unproductive.

If your balance sheet is telling you you’re rich, but your cash flow statement doesn’t agree, you’re not really rich.

Read that again.

The key to resilient real wealth is durable passive income. And rental real estate of all kinds is a time-proven vehicle for building durable passive income.

But wait! There’s more …

It’s no secret President Trump wants to weaken the dollar … and has been pressuring the Fed to make it happen.

Based on the Fed’s recent shift of direction, it seems it’s not just interest rates headed down … but the dollar too. The currency war could be about to escalate.

And remember … the dollar has a 100+ year history of losing purchasing power.

So if you’re betting on the direction of the dollar long term … we think DOWN is the safer bet. And right now it seems that what the Wizards are planning.

This is where real estate REALLY shines.

That’s because an investor can use real estate to acquire enormous sums of dollars TODAY (via a mortgage) which effectively shorts the dollar.

Those dollars are used to buy tangible, tax-advantaged, income-producing, real assets which not only pays back the loans from their own income …

… but unlike debt, grows nominally (in dollars) in both income and price as the purchasing power of the dollar falls (inflation).

That’s why we say, “Equity Happens!”

And when it does, it’s a good idea to consider converting equity into cash using low-cost long-term debt, and then investing the proceeds in acquiring additional income streams and assets.

Of course, you can only do that when the stars of equity, lending, and interest rates all align. Right now, it seems they are.

We think last week signaled an important change of direction. And while the financial system is arguably still weak, it’s working …

… so it might be a good idea to do some portfolio optimization while the wheels are still on.

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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Ask The Guys – Getting Started, Analyzing Deals, and Understanding Cycles

One of the best parts of our job is hearing from our amazing audience … and in this week’s episode we have more great questions from all of you.

That’s right, it’s Ask The Guys!

We’re talking about getting started in real estate investing, analyzing deals, understanding how economic cycles affect real estate investing … and more.

Remember, we are not legal or tax professionals. We don’t give advice … just ideas. Join our quest to answer your questions!

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, hear from:

  • Your book-smart host, Robert Helms
  • His street-smart co-host, Russell Gray

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Getting started in real estate investing

Our first question comes from Daryl in Boonville, Missouri.

Daryl wants to know the best ways to get started investing in real estate.

Lots of folks find themselves interested in real estate investing … but they don’t really know where to start.

There are so many books, blogs, podcasts, and seminars on the subject. It can be a little overwhelming … yet the basics of real estate are pretty simple.

What’s the best way to get started? Well, it depends on what you have to start with, where you want to go, and what you want to do.

But generally speaking, real estate is done with debt.

The first place to start is to take an assessment of where you’re at in terms of debt. Begin work on preparing yourself to be an efficient, effective borrower.

Go meet with a mortgage professional. Find out what your credit score is as far as real estate is concerned, what your documentable income is, and what types of loan programs you would qualify for.

Figure out what you need to invest.

Typically you need credit, a down payment, and technical advisors … like a football coach, you need to build your team.

Next, think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Most people want to grow … so it really starts with education and understanding your borrowing power.

Education doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money … but it will take your time.

Set aside and budget your time to be serious about investing. Go to a seminar or class. Join a local real estate investment club. Read books about the type of real estate that you’re interested in.

A great way to get started if you don’t have a lot of capital is to offer to help someone who is busy doing the thing that YOU want to be doing.

A lot of folks who are successful in real estate investing have more money than time … you might have more time than money.

The opportunity to lend a hand in exchange for learning can be huge.

You might even consider your first deal as a partnership in some way. One of our favorite ways to partner is through real estate syndication.

Syndication simply means a lot of people putting their money and their time together to do something.

Make sure that the person … or people … you are partnering with honestly know what they are doing.

Analyzing and understanding deals

Chris in Sun Valley, California, wants to know how to better analyze and understand deals.

First of all, there’s no such thing as a bad question … except the one you don’t ask.

Everybody who is at the front of the line was once at the back of the line … everybody who owns real estate today started with their first property.

It’s true that analyzing deals is one of investing’s critical skill sets.

If you’re analyzing deals for income, you need to understand an income statement for a piece of property.

One way to do this is to look at other deals. They’ll come with pro formas. You’ll be able to look at the financials … and then go out and look at other real world deals.

You’ll learn by doing that research … and once you feel like you’ve got the fundamentals down and understand the basics of financial analysis, you can take things to the next level.

The other side of the coin is actually analyzing the market, analyzing the physical construction of the property, and analyzing the condition of the neighborhood.

Like so many things in real estate investing, if you can find somebody who is active in the space and learn by helping them … you’ll pick up a lot.

You can’t get really good at analyzing deals by reading textbooks and taking classes … you will also need hands on experience.

So, start with basic education … and then, find a mentor.

Learning about the economic cycle

Laura in Austin, Texas, is looking to learn more about how real estate plays into the economic cycle … and how it’s affected by ebbs and flows. She wants to know what resources and topics we can recommend.

First up is a book by our dear friend Peter Schiff called How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes.

It’s a simple book that is done in a way that makes the economy easy for everyone to understand … but it is also super, super powerful.

It has taken us years to wrap our minds around this stuff. The reason we cover broader picture economics and not just real estate is that every real estate investor is first and foremost an investor.

We all swim in the economic sea of the financial system that we are blessed … or cursed … with. So, it is imperative that we understand it.

There is definitely a lot you can learn by listening to people who have different opinions.

The Summit at Seais a great place to do that. We get people who come in with so many different backgrounds and from many different niches and markets all over the world.

We also recommend studying the Federal Reserve and the bond markets … because that is where interest rates derive from.

Study demographics … because that dictates where the people are.

Then, understand the way CEOs think about business … and where they want to be and don’t want to be.

Taxes are another area you’ll want to learn about.

In the United States, we’ve now made real estate arguably the most tax advantaged investment anyone can make … which should attract even more money into real estate going forward.

Like any ecosystem, there are lots and lots of components … and you’re not going to master them all. But if you can understand the relationships between them, then you can get into conversations with the masters in each area.

There are lots of great books, podcasts, and conferences to expand your knowledge. Be sure to check out the resources available on our website. We particularly recommend a video series we did called “The Future of Money and Wealth.”

Brian Tracy says that if you read an hour a day in whatever area of interest you have, in 10 years you’ll become a nationally known expert.

We believe that’s true. It happened to us.

More Ask The Guys

Listen to the full episode for more questions and answers.

Have a real estate investing question? Let us know! Your question could be featured in our next Ask The Guys episode.


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.


Love the show?  Tell the world!  When you promote the show, you help us attract more great guests for your listening pleasure!

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