The next stop in the coronavirus cascading crisis tour …

If you’re tired of hearing about the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis … get over it.

We’re on the front end of a series of cascading crises that will likely affect every investor on the planet … including YOU.

Pretending it’s not happening … or blindly trusting the great and powerful wizards behind the curtains … or pulling the covers over your head and hoping for the best …

… will NOT make any of it go away.

Of course, HOW it affects you could depend on how well you pay attention, understand what’s happening, and take effective action.

There will be WINNERS … and LOSERS.

We’re far from experts, but we’re fortunate to have access to some of the smartest folks on the planet. And they’re ALL monitoring the crisis VERY closely. Seems like a good idea.

As you may know, we’re organizing an EPIC mega-webinar featuring discussions with MANY of our big brained friends to find out what they’re seeing, thinking, and doing.

We realize you’re being bombarded with information … we all are … so rather than just pile more on, let’s focus on creating some context to process all the info better.

It’s important to think about how the crisis is likely to spread …

What started out as a health crisis quickly mutated into an economic crisis as cities, states and nations worldwide virtually shut down in unison.

These lock-downs have suppressed both the supply and demand for all kinds of good and services.

Because the decreases in production and demand aren’t perfectly synced, there have been both shortages (toilet paper) and gluts (oil) … the effects of which range from inconvenient to devastating (no toilet paper?!?).

But that’s just the beginning …

Lock-downs stop revenue, profits and paychecks … which stops debt service.

This is where the economic crisis mutates into a financial system crisis. 

But unlike toilet paper and oil, the signs of stress in the financial system are harder to see. That’s why financial system failures blind-side many Main Streeters.

Yet there are many clues in the news IF you know what to watch for.

It starts with obvious headlines …

Coronavirus-caused spike of homeowners in forbearance surges on
– Fox Business via Yahoo Finance, 5/4/20

Of course, this surprises no one.

When people don’t have jobs and incomes, they can’t make mortgage payments. For those old enough, this elicits flashbacks to 2008.

Except now, it’s not just mortgages. It’s corporate debtconsumer debtmunicipal debt, public and private pensions, and much more.

Basically, virtually all IOU’s everywhere are in danger of going bad.

This is counter-party risk … when your asset is someone else’s liability … if they fail to perform, your asset loses some or all of its value.

Even your bank account (your asset) is your bank’s liability (they owe you). If the bank fails and you have more than the insured amount, YOU could have a problem.

Counter-party risk is EVERYWHERE in today’s debt-based system.

Yet while bad debt is one level of awful, it gets worse when gamblers in the Wall Street casinos use derivatives to magnify their gains.

Of course, the extreme leverage created through derivatives cuts TWO ways.

Sure, extreme leverage turns tiny gains into massive profits … but it can also turn bad bets into a systemic crisis.

We’ve gotten into the weeds of how all that works in the past, so we won’t rehash it now.

But the first clue in the news indicating stress in the financial system is when asset prices are falling and cash is running low …

… as everyone is madly selling everything and the kitchen sink to raise cash to cover margin calls on their bad bets.

Of course, that’s also when quality assets get caught in the downdraft, so if you’re aware and prepared (i.e., liquid), you can step in and snap up bargains.

Which leads to another clue in the news … savvy investors sitting on huge war chests of cash.

According to a recent Bloomberg article …

“assets in money-market funds have soared to a record $4.77 trillion amid a flight to safety by investors this year.”

Business Insider reports Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway has a record $137 billion cash pile.

Yet as Buffet explains …

“Berkshire’s cash pile isn’t overkill given the cataclysmic risks posed by the coronavirus pandemic.”

(Buffet is the same guy who called derivatives “weapons of mass financial destruction.“)

Now, with all these demands for cash, it isn’t surprising to see headlines hinting that there’s not enough to go around.

Interestingly, as you may recall, the current cash crunch didn’t grow out of the coronavirus crisis. It preceded it.

We noticed this back in September when the Federal Reserve started pumping billions of dollars per day into the repo market.

(The repo market is like a pawn shop for banks to hock T-Bills for dollars.)

Since then, the Fed has injected trillions of dollars directly and through Uncle Sam … driving interest rates down to zero … and perhaps negative …

… and stepping in to buy debt no one else can or will, including U.S. Treasuries, and now for the first time ever, corporate debt.

This is very similar to how the Fed put in a bottom to the free-falling mortgage-backed securities market back in 2008 … except WAY bigger.

All this suggests the financial system could be far more stressed than the wizards behind the curtain let on.

Which brings us to the final stop in our progression of dominoes from health crisis to economic crisis to financial crisis …

… a dollar crisis.

As we’ve been pointing out, the financial bondo the Fed is slathering all over the dents in the economy and financial system are dollars.

ALL the pressure is on the dollar, which should concern EVERYONE who earns, owes, spends, and denominates wealth in dollars.

The coronavirus health scare alerted the American politicians and public to a sick dependency on China for critical supplies like masks and medicines.

Naturally, Americans are uncomfortable with this dependency and lawmakers are preparing bills to bring the medical supply chain back to the USA.

Of course, as real estate investors, this interests us because it could mean the creation of new jobs in whatever regions land these factories.

But our point today is that just as Americans realize they don’t want to depend on an adversary for something as critical as life-saving medicines …

… Chinese (and Russians and others) similarly don’t want to depend on the U.S. for something as essential to commerce and prosperity as currency.

So as we first pointed out way back in 2013 in our Real Asset Investing Report, and later updated in our Future of Money and Wealth presentation, The Dollar Under Attack …

… the calls continue for a global alternative to the U.S. dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

And with the Fed conjuring trillions of new dollars out of thin air to prop up sagging asset prices, hold together collapsing credit markets, backstop virtually all insolvent corporations, states, plus the federal government, and suppress interest rates …

… the final stop on this cascading coronavirus crisis tour could be a dollar crisis.

So don’t get tired or bored of watching a slow-motion train wreck. Slow means you have time to get out of the way.

If you’ve been asleep up until now, it’s time to wake up. Because things are picking up speed.

Are you aware and prepared? Stay tuned …

Crossbreeding billionaire brilliance …

Personal development guru Tony Robbins reminds people …

“Success leaves clues.”

The idea is that success isn’t purely a product of blind luck or extreme innate ability. For guys like us, that’s REALLY good news.

Success is much more a matter of developing the knowledge and discipline to take aggressive action based on proven patterns and principles.

So if you carefully observe both what a successful person does and how they think, you can often replicate their thinking, behavior, and results.

Similarly, if you’ve had success in one area of life, you can probably apply those principles to other endeavors and achieve success there too.

That’s why we pay attention to successful people … even those who aren’t real estate investors.

So we perked up when we saw this headline …

Warren Buffett offers his 2 best pieces of advice for aspiring young investors

– Yahoo Finance 4/28/20

Of course, notwithstanding his investment in Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Warren Buffet isn’t really a real estate guy.

But Warren Buffet is arguably one of the most successful, famous, most admired investors in modern history. There’s probably a lot to learn from him.

And since we need a timeout from our intense monitoring of the macroeconomic tsunami forming on the horizon …

(we’ll do a deep dive on our upcoming Crisis Investing webinar)

… today we’re looking at what real estate investors can learn from Warren Buffet.

After all, at nearly 90 years old, Buffet has seen his fair share of crises. Few people on earth are as experienced at navigating stormy economic times and building wealth in spite of frail financial infrastructure.

So according to the Yahoo Finance article and accompanying interview video, Buffet’s first tip is to learn accounting.

Tip number two is do NOT invest based on charts (an approach referred to by stock traders as “technical analysis”), but rather to focus on “buying good businesses instead.”

As with most brilliant people, there’s a lot of wisdom packed into just couple of sentences. So let’s take a moment to unpack it and look for principles we can apply to real estate investing …

TRADERS attempt to buy low and sell high … going from cash to asset to cash. The mindset is to accumulate cash.

INVESTORS seek first to acquire a stake in a profit-generating enterprise. They focus on accumulating cash FLOW … or what we call the ongoing efforts of others.

Of course, they’re happy to buy low and enjoy some capital gains too. But the purpose of buying is to acquire cash flow.

In real estate, flippers and wholesalers are TRADERS … they hustle to go from cash to asset to cash.

The difference between a stock and real estate trader is the real estate trader has the ability to improve the asset (add value).

So the real estate trader has some degree of control over creating the capital gain they wish to realize. The stock trader does not.

But whether in stock or real estate trading, the long-term financial performance (the accounting) is less important than the short term “mood of the market” (the technicals).

If the market is hot and new buyers are piling in … especially if those buyers are equipped with cheap credit … then it’s a lot easier to sell high to the next guy.

This investment philosophy is sometimes called “The Greater Fool” because your exit always requires someone coming along willing and able to pay more.

And when rising prices are dependent upon healthy credit markets and abundant jobs, and one or both crash, the line of greater fools gets short real fast.

So the challenge, as many traders just discovered, is hot markets can turn cold quickly … and you can end up a reluctant long-term holder.

Of course, with leverage (margin on stocks, or mortgages on real estate), you may not be able to hold on for the long-term. Then it’s a wipe out.

Mortgages are far more forgiving than margin debt on securities, but negative cash flow on a negative equity property is no fun either.

On the other hand, real estate INVESTORS are much more like Warren Buffet 

… except instead of buying businesses, real estate investors are looking to populate portfolios with profitable cash-flow producing properties.

This is a very timely discussion, because in challenging times like these, QUALITY matters.

And when it comes to sound investments, quality is cash flow.

To survive and thrive long-term, it’s important to look for sound properties … in relatively strong markets … managed by great teams … and serving a viable demographic.

Yes, many markets are weak now … and getting weaker. Ditto for demographics. But some aren’t. And some are well-positioned to bounce back better when things open up again.

So it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, markets which are dipping now, but positioned to bounce back soon, could present great acquisition opportunities.

This isn’t the time to sit out or tip toe through the trauma.

However, you’ll need to know how to look at the operating financials of an income property … the accounting of real estate.

Warren Buffet says, “that’s got to be like a language to you.”

In other words, you’re not looking at the entrance price, exit price, and profit potential. You’re looking at how to hold for the long term in between.

The Yahoo article refers back to an annual letter Buffet sent his investors way back in 1988 …

“Our favorite hold time is forever.”

– Warren Buffet

In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Steven Covey explains it’s important to “begin with the end in mind.”

When you approach real estate as a commodity to trade with your end game being cash … then you’ll focus on short term circumstances and structures to produce short term results.

Then, at the end of the transaction all you end up with is cash.

Worse, cash in the bank pays next to no yield, and with the Fed printing trillions, there’s a possibility (probability) cash will lose value.

So to protect your “profit” you’ll need to quickly find another asset to buy.

But when you approach real estate as a “going concern” … a business … then you underwrite, structure, and manage it very differently … for the LONG term.

It’s not a date, it’s a marriage.

This matters more than ever right now …

It’s not a stretch to think prices for many properties will be falling as the damage done by the COVID-19 shutdown permeates through the economy.

We expect a big chunk of the damage to metastasize through credit markets, further weakening the economy and letting a lot of air out of property prices.

This is a very challenging environment for real estate traders. It’s hard to buy low and sell high when prices are falling faster and farther than any value you might add.

Meanwhile, many investors will sit on the sidelines and let viable deals go by because they don’t want to “pay too much”.

But if you have a 10 or 20 year hold horizon (remember … “our preferred hold time is forever”) …

… it’s less important what you pay today versus having a viable property and structure you can live with long term.

Sometimes prices can fall so you could theoretically buy lower. But if it’s because the availability of capital or credit if limited, it might hider your ability to buy with an optimal structure.

Also, real estate isn’t a static commodity. If the property is in good shape and you pass at the higher price, the lower later price could be because the condition of the property or tenant mix deteriorates.

So sure, you might wait and get the lower price, but is it a better buy? Maybe not. That’s why we say if the deal in front of your make sense, buy it.

Lessons from Warren Buffet’s career suggest that quality is present in all markets.

The time to buy is when an individual deal makes sense and can be structured for the long haul.

If the bust becomes a boom, all ships rise with the tide.

But if the boom becomes a bust, only the well-structured property ownerships will survive to the next boom.

Investing is different than trading. And success is simply a matter of focusing on the relentless execution of the boring basics.

Sure, it’s fun to flip the hot property and find yourself neck-deep in a pile of green paper.

And if you’re short on liquidity, you may need to do that from time to time (though we prefer syndication as a preferred path to having more cash to invest with).

But if you’re aspiring to build a portfolio of properties and a pile of passive income, then it’s wise to take a long-term approach and focus on fundamentals as a proven path to resilient prosperity.

Until next time … good investing!

Inflation or deflation? That is the question …

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any more insane, the price of oil dropped all the way to NEGATIVE $37.

Of course, it bounced back to a positive (but still very low) price of about $12.

We’re guessing there’s a big opportunity somewhere in all of that … just like if rents crashed temporarily. We’ll look into it.

Meanwhile, Uncle Sam is rolling out Free Stimulus Money Phase whatever … all freshly printed by the (privately owned) Federal Reserve.

We’re not sure how many dollars the Fed can print before dollar-holders start moving into something else. Russia dumped dollars for gold quite a while ago.

Looks like Bank of America thinks more investors will follow suit …

Bank of America recently RAISED its 18-month dollar price target for gold to $3,000 an ounce … 50% higher than gold’s all-time high …

… because “the Fed can’t print gold.” (the title of B of A’s report).

So it’s not just Peter Schiff, Robert Kiyosaki and Jim Rickards who think the dollar could be headed down … and gold is where many will flock for safety.

If you’re a nose-to-the-grindstone Main Street real estate investor and haven’t paid any attention to the dollar, gold, and oil …

… it’s time to wake up and smell the crisis.

Because as we discussed in our last muse … and the one before thatthe fundamental flaw in the financial system is too much debt.

We won’t beat that horse again except to say it seems the Fed is betting the dollar is strong enough to paper over all of the debt and neither will implode.

So the question every investor … including real estate investors … should be considering is …

will this economic shutdown and money printing result in inflation or deflation?

Inflation makes your rents (and expenses) go up. At least once it makes its way through the entire system.

Of course, wages haven’t seen much inflation in a long time. So demand-driven rising rents actually pushed some people down the ladder or out onto the streets.

Inflation causes equity to happen all by itself … no hammer, paint, or new carpet needed.

Inflation makes debt easier to pay off.

That’s why all borrowers, including indebted governments, LOVE inflation … and central banks work furiously to create it.

Of course, deflation is the opposite of all that.

Deflation causes equity to disappear and wages and rents to decline. It makes the mortgage payment harder to deal with.

Deflation causes debts to go bad, which is why banks (lenders) are scared to death of it.

Once a deflationary spiral begins, it’s really hard to stop it. Ask Japan.

Deflation (or preventing it) is what the Fed’s “price stability” mandate is REALLY all about.

So the Fed’s not interested in keeping prices low … it’s trying to keep them HIGH and rising at least 2% per year.

But as the Rolling Stones said and the Bank of Japan can attest … you can’t always get what you want. At least not exactly when, where and how you’d like.

So will it be INFLATION or DEFLATION?

Yes. At least in terms of prices. Both can be present at the same time, and we’re already seeing it. Gold is up while oil is down.

That’s because rising and falling prices are factors of currency supply, leverage, and supply vs. demand.

When the Fed prints money, it increases currency supply. If you focus solely on that, you see hyper-inflation. After all, they’re printing TRILLIONS.

But when credit markets collapse (the reason the Fed is printing), leverage decreases … letting air OUT of prices.

That’s why real estate values plummeted in 2008. Anything dependent on financing falls when financing fails.

And when supply is short in the face of demand … prices rise … if you can get product at all. Think of recent price gouging in medical masks or toilet paper.

Conversely, when demand disappears in the face of strong supply … prices collapse … as just happened in oil.

Currency supply, leverage, supply and demand are like three tension wires holding an old-fashioned TV antenna upright.

The trick for the wizards behind the curtain is to balance them so prices remain “stable” … which for the Fed means plus 2 percent per year.

The trick for a lowly Main Street investor is to watch all this …

… and then accurately anticipate what’s likely to happen and auickly position to avoid catastrophe and capitalize on opportunities.

It’s also important to consider whether the factor causing the shift is permanent or temporary.

Will oil demand be this low forever? For a while? For a season? What about unemployment? Dollar demand?

We know … it’s a little complicated. But it’s not rocket science. And it’s worth the effort to gain context for all the non-stop info in the daily financial news.

Armed with context and information, your mission is to thoughtfully consider what to do in different scenarios.

This is a VERY IMPORTANT exercise RIGHT NOW … because everything is changing so fast.

The time to design the fire escape isn’t when the house is on fire. And there’s already a fair amount of smoke. This is no time to hit the snooze button.

We’re going to leave you with some questions to ponder for now, while we get back to work on the upcoming Coronavirus Crisis Investing webinar …

If unemployment remains high and wages fall, then which geographic markets, demographic markets, and product niches are likely to win and lose?

If credit markets seize up as badly or worse than 2008, how will your current portfolio of deals, debt and equity be affected?

If real estate prices collapse, what can you do NOW to mitigate the risks and capitalize on opportunities?

And the super-bonus extra-credit question …

If the dollar loses reserve currency status, what happens to your portfolio, liquid net worth, and purchasing power? How can you hedge?

Hey, no one said real estate investing is paint by numbers.

Diligent investors need to think, imagine, and mastermind with each other to find creative ways to survive and thrive.

You can’t control external factors, but you can decide how to react. Do your best to accept the challenge and enjoy it.

After all … “We’re all in this together.”

Until next time … good investing!

An economy in triage …

(Here’s a 5-minute money read)

You probably know the global economy caught a virus and suffered a massive heart attack. Cash stopped flowing, creating a cascade of problems …

… including individual cell damage, organizations and systems in danger of failing, and almost certainly … brain damage.

So the monetary doctors at the Federal Reserve are infusing enormous volumes of liquidity … perhaps hoping sheer pressure will force cash to flow.

Concurrently, Uncle Sam is injecting free money right into Main Street bank accounts …

… while local governments are selectively allowing certain chosen industries to provide “essential” products and services.

We’re not criticizing or complimenting. It’s simply an observation of what’s happening.

In recent rants, we suggested that insane, absurd, unsustainable levels of systemic debt is the primary vulnerability …

… the kryptonite of the “super” economy the United States was purportedly enjoying … right up until it wasn’t.

It’s a long, convoluted rabbit trail to explain, but the short of it is simple … when cash stops flowing, debts go bad.

That’s bad enough. But of course, it gets worse …

All that debt is underpinning artificially inflated asset prices (yes, that’s where the inflation ended up … they just call it “the wealth effect”).

As debts go bad, asset prices PLUMMET …

… UNLESS, the Wizards behind the curtain conjure many trillions of new dollars out of thin air to prop up … EVERYTHING … and push asset values back up.

Of course, all those dollars aren’t really free.

But no one in the White House, Congress, the Federal Reserve, or the mainstream financial media will say it, because …

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.”
– Henry Ford

But YOU should know it.

It’s the reason real estate investing has been arguably the most powerful and reliable builder of real wealth for many decades.

Properly structured income-producing properties allow investors to hedge deflation, ride inflation, and enjoy high after-tax yields on equity along the way.

Of course, there’s risk. And real estate investing is more work and takes more education than “invest and forget” or “buy low/sell high” paper asset investing.

But with ALL forms of investing … when external factors change, your investing strategy and tactics need to change too.

Right now, external factors are changing FAST. But it’s too early to tell if we’re facing an unpleasant cold front … a deadly blizzard … or a new ice age.

However it’s safe to say storm clouds have formed … and inclement economic weather is threatening to engulf the entire world.

This is notable because it usually takes a strong lead dog to pull the pack and sled through the snow … though that sometimes comes at a price.

China took on nearly $33 trillion in new debt to help pull the world out of the Great Financial Crisis of 2008. It’s doubtful they’ll do it again.

So contrary to popular myth, this 2020 crisis-in-waiting is probably NOT 2008 all over again.

Of course, the how and why won’t be clear until we’re on the other side.

But YES, the sun will come back out … eventually. Right now, it’s cloudy and cooling with very limited visibility.

So rather than delve into tactical details for right now …

(we’re interviewing many of our boots on ground teams and we’ll be talking on the radio show about what they’re seeing and doing right now)

… we think it much more useful to share what we’re watching and why …

Jobs

The MOST important thing is jobs.

When we interviewed then-candidate Donald Trump and asked about his housing agenda, his one-word answer was, “Jobs”.

But jobs are only the start of the financial food chain.

Tenants’ jobs provide your rent, which provides your mortgage payments. Obviously, homeowners’ jobs are the source of their mortgage payments.

Mortgage payments often get made to servicers, who in turn forward the income to investors often via mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

But when enough payments get missed, those MBS lose value. And if they’re leveraged, that loss in value triggers margin calls.

Margin calls then force leveraged paper investors to post cash or face a forced sale of their pledged assets at a loss.

(This is where all the excessive systemic debt is the biggest problem … in that regard this IS 2008 all over again … only bigger)

If you’ve ever been on the wrong end of a leverage stock investment and received a margin call, you know exactly what that’s like.

Sometimes, highly-margined paper traders need to sell anything and everything at ANY price in order to raise cash … or end up bankrupt like Lehman Brothers in 2008.

These fire sales cause paper asset prices to collapse, triggering more margin calls, and a vicious downward cycle of asset price deflation.

That’s financial system contagion and when you see RED flashing across all the financial market indices.

The “patch” is for the “Plunge Protection Team” and/or the Federal Reserve and their proxies to step in and bid up prices … the Fed’s “asset purchase programs“.

Of course, when this happens, markets see a blip up, and cash-starved traders “sell the rally” … which of course, creates more red.

Right now, the Fed is SO active, paper traders default to buying anything the Fed’s buying just to catch a free ride.

We wish real estate underwriting were so simple.

The REAL solution is productivity (jobs), NOT printing currency.

But neither the government nor the Federal Reserve can “create” jobs. The best they can do is foster an environment where private enterprise creates jobs.

Right now, just the OPPOSITE is happening. They’re shutting everything down.

Until that’s fixed and businesses have time to rebuild … economic malaise and financial system (credit markets, banks, currency) instability are likely.

Sorry to burst your bubble … oh wait, something else already did that.

The Dollar

As we’ve been pointing out for some time, the Federal Reserve is using their printing press to “borrow” trillions of new dollars from the purchasing power of ALL dollar holders worldwide.

Read that again. And if you don’t CLEARLY understand it, then make a note to study this topic until you do.

It’s probably the most important financial concept most people don’t understand, but should …

“By a continuing process of inflation, government can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.” 
– John Maynard Keynes (look him up)

A fantastic resource for understanding the foundation of all this is The Creature from Jekyll Island by G. Edward Griffin.

Creature is a much more useful horror experience while sheltering in place than binge watching The Walking Dead.

And while you’re digging deep into the design of the dollar system, be sure to study its ascendancy to world’s reserve currency status in 1944.

Then go even deeper and consider what YOUR world will look like if the dollar loses that reserve currency status. Most Americans are NOT ready.

However, as we chronicled way back in 2013Russia and China have been on a mission since 2010 to knock King Dollar off the throne.

As pointed out in the opening session of the Future of Money and Wealth program, Russia and China are in a MUCH better position to pull it off today.

Are they? Will they? Maybe. Maybe not.

But it’s no secret they want to … and have been working on it for a long time. They’ve reiterated it in word and deed on many occasions over the last 10 years.

Which brings us to …

Gold

Gold is the oldest and most universal form of money.

“Gold is money. Everything else is credit.”
J.P. Morgan

And apparently, the rest of the world is adding to their gold savings ….

 

 

Again, this has been going on since 2009, when China publicly warned the U.S. about protecting the value of dollar.

But Uncle Sam’s debt swelled nonetheless.

And the Fed’s balance sheet exploded from $800 billion to $4.5 trillion in 2012 … and is now $6.6 trillion and still GROWING. That’s all freshly printed dollars.

No wonder the world went to work on breaking their dependency on the dollar.

You may know gold is at all-time highs against every major paper currency in the world … except the dollar.

Stated inversely, paper currencies have collapsed to their all-time lowest values against gold … and the dollar is getting there … probably soon.

The ultimate currency insiders … central banks … accelerated their gold acquisition over the last two years. Hmmmm ….

What’s in YOUR safe?

Bringing it Home to Main Street

It’s no secret all us outsiders are on the front end of what looks to be a severe economic contraction.

Individuals, businesses, industries, asset classes, and even countries …are going to feel it. Real estate is not immune.

But even as you prepare for the worst, there are bright spots …

U.S. Manufacturing and Agriculture

In the short term, it’s ugly.

But long term, it seems policymakers and John Q. Public realize it’s important to have more manufacturing back in the United States.

Shortages of masks and medicine sent a message. We’re guessing many industries will consider or be coerced into moving.

So we’ll watch for opportunities in currently overlooked geographies where a migration of manufacturing might create a resurgence in real estate.

Energy

Again, energy is depressed right now because of a temporary collapse in demand.

But that also means choice assets are on sale. Meanwhile, less efficient production is going off-line … perhaps permanently.

So unless you think economic activity has ceased forever, then at some point the demand for energy should rebound … even more so if more manufacturing makes its way back to the USA.

Cheap Debt

Stimulus almost always means free money.

While borrowing to spend is stupid, borrowing low and long to invest high and short can be very smart … and profitable.

And right now, credit markets haven’t collapsed … yet.

So, it’s probably still a great time to quickly load up on cheap dollars, some precious metals, and high-yield debt secured by real estate you wouldn’t mind owning.

Distressed Assets

Of course, tough times means wrong-footed investors will need to let go of nice properties in good markets because they’re only structured for sunshine.

They’re selling because they have a problem, and when you buy … even at a discount … you help solve their problem.

And while it’s nice to buy at the very bottom, what really matters is where everything is at 10-20 years from now.

So, don’t be shy to buy if a deal makes sense … even if there’s a chance more air will come out. After all, you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

Until next time … good investing!

 

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)!

The root of the real crisis is being exposed …

It’s no secret we’re a couple of older dudes who got creamed in 2008. But like the economy, we bounced back. Unlike the financial system, we got the lessons.

Read that again and think about it.

If you got on board the real estate gravy train after the last crisis, congratulations … and welcome to your first crash. It’s looking to be a whopper.

For those who went through 2008 like we did, welcome back! We’re about to take a wild ride … and it should be a THRILLER.

The big message is: this is NOT the time to take a wait and see approach to portfolio and opportunity management. Things are moving too fast.

Investing intelligence is a blend of emotional control technical knowledge, and intellectual discipline.

Stress in the real world is where you test your skills. And yes, it’s a little unnerving.

Anytime the stakes are high and you’re pressed to edge of your confidence, it’s tempting to hide, deny, procrastinate, or complain about things you can’t control … to the detriment of diligently working on the things, you can control.

So rather than dive into the weeds of the plethora of clues in the news … they’ll always be there … we think it’s a good time to do some diagnosis.

After, all prescription without diagnosis is malpractice. You can’t know what to work on if you don’t understand the root of the problem.

In this case, we think there are two primary roots of the current crisis … one you can control, and one you can’t.

Let’s start with the root cause of the current crisis that you can NOT control.

It may or may not be interesting to you … and you might not agree with the premise … but be patient and work through it.

It’s arguably the most obvious yet misunderstood contributor to the malaise the coronavirus crisis is exposing.

In one word … debt.

Absurd, insane, unfathomable and unsustainable levels of debt … which has spread like a cancer throughout the global financial system.

The current metastasization started in 1913 with the founding of the Federal Reserve system, which gave bankers and politicians the ability to create unlimited amounts of debt.

The Federal Reserve Act and the 16th Amendment also created the income tax and the IRS, effectively equipping the government to use the productivity of the people to make the debt payments on all that debt.

Armed with this powerful new temptation, it took less than two decades to blow up a bubble known as the Roaring Twenties.

The expansion of credit led to mass consumerism, a stock market boom, and the nation’s “wealth” (based on inflated asset values) to double from 1920 to 1929.

Of course, the party ended in spectacular fashion leading to the Great Depression.

Sound familiar?

When debt bubbles implode, asset prices collapse … and the FIRST place this symptom manifests is in the stock market.

The Great Depression led to an unprecedented consolidation of power when President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a “war on poverty” and gave America “The New Deal”.

So before there was World War II, FDR was already a wartime president.

Wait, we’re having deja vu.

FDR’s New Deal included Social Security, a proliferation of agencies and regulations, and the effective confiscation of the citizens’ gold.

FDR’s initial phase-out of the gold standard allowed the Fed to print virtually unlimited amounts of dollars.

In fact, the Chairman of the New York Fed admitted in a 1946 speech that there was no need for taxes to pay for anything because the Fed could print unlimited amounts of dollars.

He confessed the only reason for taxes was to “express public policy in the distribution of wealth and income” and in “subsidizing or in penalizing various industries and public groups”.

In other words, taxes allow the government to pick winners and losers in what is supposed to be a “free” market.

Wait, we’re having deja vu again.

Events like the Civil War, the Panic of 1907, the Great Depression, and 9/11 … demonstrate how crises always result in bigger, more powerful government and less personal freedom.

We’ll leave it up to you to decide if big government and less freedom is good or bad, but the facts are indisputable.

After 1933, it was illegal for Americans to own gold, while foreign holders of U.S. dollars and bonds could redeem dollars and U.S. bonds for physical gold.

But when the world realized the Fed was printing WAY more dollars than there was gold, it became obvious that the “official” gold price of $35 was too low.

So the world, led by French President Charles de Gaulle, started showing up at the U.S. “gold window” to redeem paper dollars for real gold.

By 1971, the U.S. gold reserves had dropped from 20,000 tons to less than 9,000 tons with no end in sight to the hemorrhaging …

… so President Nixon abruptly “closed the gold window” … effectively defaulting.

Of course, Nixon knew the dollar would collapse causing inflation.

So in an attempt to preempt inflation, Nixon also made it illegal for private businesses to raise prices or pay higher wages.

Yes, history buffs, in the “land of the free”, the government, unilaterally and without warning, mandated price and wage restrictions to private businesses … to “protect” everyone.

Of course, price controls didn’t last because they don’t work. More recently Venezuela tried it, and it didn’t work there either.

The Venezuela government said stores couldn’t raise the price of things like toilet paper. So when you showed up at the store, there wasn’t any.

To find toilet paper in Venezuela, you had to buy it on the street … and it cost a lot more than the official price.

Wait … we’re having deja vu again … again. That’s so weird.

So back to the dollar collapse after Nixon’s default …

In just a few years, gold went from $35 per ounce to $800 per ounce. Or more accurately, the value of the dollar crashed against gold.

Dollar holders smart enough to redeem their paper dollars for gold early did well. Those who didn’t, not so much.

By now, you may be recognizing some eerie parallels between the past and present. History doesn’t always repeat itself but often rhymes. That’s why we study it.

The point is these events kicked off an entire 49-year history … from 1971 to 2020 … of unhindered, exponential, and unsustainable expansion of debt.

If 49 years rings a bell for you, go look up the biblical concept of jubilee. It’s weird how all this is unraveling after 49 years. Probably just a coincidence.

(For more perspective on how the past helps predict the future, consider investing in our Future of Money and Wealth programYou’ll probably wish you bought it two years ago, but better late than never.)

Of course, YOU can’t stop Uncle Sam from spending trillions of dollars …

… or the Fed from printing trillions to fund government spending, push down interest rates, buy up toxic assets, and pump up asset values.

They’ve already begun doing all those things. The big question is whether the dollar can carry the load. It survived the 70s … mostly.

Time will tell what happens this time.

For now, it’s important to realize what the Fed is doing … and what history says is likely to happen when they do. Being confused or afraid isn’t a wise option … it only feels safer.

It’s like standing at the beach watching the distant tsunami coming toward you … it seems slow at first … then it’s on you. It can be hard to believe and scary.

But turning around so you can’t see it won’t make it go away.

So today, the COVID-19 coronavirus has stopped the economic heartbeat of the globe. Cash is not flowing, which means debt service is going to become a real problem real fast.

Remember, back in 2008, it only took a relatively few sub-prime mortgage borrowers to miss payments … and the financial system nearly collapsed.

The current debt crisis is probably going to be a LOT bigger. It could easily be The Real Crash Peter Schiff has vociferously warned about.

Of course, if the world had less debt and more savings, we could all shelter in place for a few months and everything wouldn’t unravel.

But the world is awash in debt, has little savings, and without productivity to service all the debt, a chain reaction of defaults seems virtually certain.

The government, the Fed, and the banks all appear to realize the gravity of the situation … and unlike 2008, they’re sprinting to get in front of it.

It really all comes down to the Fed and the dollar. The Fed is willing to print as many as needed to buy up everything and send everyone money.

It seems like either the debt will go bad (deflation) or the dollar will (inflation) … or both. And it’s all out of your control.

So what’s a real estate investor to do?

We’ll take that up in Part Two. Stay tuned …

Welcome to uncharted territory …

Even for a couple of old dudes, we’ve never seen anything like what’s happening now.

And we’re not just talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, though it’s proving to be the proverbial “black swan” financial pundits have been watching for.

Preppers (financial and otherwise) are feeling slightly vindicated, while mockers perhaps a little foolish. Peter Schiff is suddenly getting popular again.

Meanwhile, folks who were asleep at the wheel are snapping awake to find they’re on a collision course with a financial crash … and they’re not buckled up.

Of course, there’s the news … and the news underneath the news that the clues in the news help us find.

With all the chatter right now, it’s a little scary.

It’s important to stay calm, think clearly, and engage in quality conversations with experienced, informed, and diligent investors.

That’s what we’re doing … and because our ability to travel and attend conferences is currently curtailed, we’re using alternatives.

It’s more important now than ever to get and stay connected.

Our mission this muse is to point out some things we think are very important for investors and entrepreneurs to consider as we all sail into stormy uncharted waters together.

First of all, we’re thankful to live in a world where news and perspectives are readily available.

Access to information and ideas helps each of us find our tribe and feel connected … even in the midst of isolation and potential quarantine.

Thank you for being a part of our tribe.

In a world full of fear, uncertainty, and doubt, there’s likely to be some emotional conflicts about what’s right, who’s right, what should be done.

The truth is … nobody really knows.

So here are a couple of principles we mutter to ourselves in those times we get upset or stressed out …

“There are three sides to a coin. Head, tails, and the edge. The only way to see both sides of any issue is to stand on the edge.” 
– Robert Kiyosaki

“When emotions run high, intelligence runs low.” 
– Blair Singer

In times like these, we think you’ll find those principles useful.

While we’re on the topic of helpful principles gleaned from the minds of smart people …

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.” 
– Warren Buffet

Most of the world is hunkering down. When you don’t know what to think or do, it’s easy to sit out and hope … or to follow the herd.

We’re not fans of either approach. Just like a physical disaster requires brave first responders, so do financial and economic disasters.

We’re not saying this is a disaster … yet. But it’s not fear-mongering paranoia to suggest it could turn into one pretty quickly.

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

Of course, bad times aren’t the end of the world. They’re just part of the cycle of life.

Our friend and history buff Simon Black often reminds us that over centuries, through wars, pandemics, oppression, and natural disasters … somehow, someway, humans rise to the occasion.

We come together, we figure it out, and we go on to build a better world.

Sure, there are a lot of rocks, potholes, and pitfalls on the road to recovery. But as a little orphan once said …

“The sun’ll come out … tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow … there’ll be sun.”
– Annie

With all that said, we’re going to take a quick tour through the HUGE amount of clues in the news. If you’re new to all this, it might seem confusing or irrelevant.

That’s what we used to think before 2008.

Then after getting smacked down, we realized the warning lights were flashing the entire time. We just didn’t know what they meant.

So don’t get bored, irritated, or discouraged. Just dig in and keep studying … especially if you’re in the camp of people caught flat-footed by the recent turn of events.

The stock market is tanking. Everyone can see it. It’s what most people talk about.

But contrary to popular tweets, the stock market isn’t a proxy for the economy … or the financial system.

The news is warning us the financial system is in deep distress …

The Fed’s hair is ON FIRE. Back to back emergency rate cuts.

And they’re putting ONE TRILLION DOLLARS PER DAY into the repo market … which was flashing trouble way long before COVID-19 showed up.

The Fed also cut rates to ZERO and pledged to buy up $700 billion in Treasuries and mortgage bonds. The last time they did that was the 2008 financial crisis.

The Fed also dropped bank reserve requirements to ZERO. So your bank doesn’t need to have a single penny in reserve to back up your deposits.

Meanwhile, the Federal government (which is different from the Federal Reserve) is planning a $1 trillion fiscal stimulus (spending) plan to help boost the economy.

But the Federal government doesn’t have a trillion dollars. Apple probably still has more cash than Uncle Sam.

And because there’s already a huge cash crunch, the Federal Reserve will need to print all those dollars … and buy Uncle Sam’s bonds, so Uncle Sam can spend.

But how do you boost an economy that’s shut down? You can’t step on the gas of a parked car and expect it to go fast.

Worse, many businesses and jobs may not survive an extended shut down … or even a substantial slow down.

For example, the oil industry was almost the sole job creation vehicle for the U.S. coming out of 2008. To get there, the shale industry took on TONS of debt.

You could argue whether the debt made sense at $60 a barrel.

But at less than $30, many oil companies will go bankrupt. Until and when they do, lots of jobs will be lost.

Perhaps, it’s obvious that job losses make it hard for tenants to pay rent … which will eventually make life hard for landlords.

So although real estate is insulated from the price declines Wall Street is facing, it’s not immune. And some of these “cures” could be worse than the disease.

But we’re not saying the Fed or Uncle Sam should or shouldn’t be doing what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter what we or anyone thinks SHOULD happen.

This isn’t a policy discussion. It’s a REALITY discussion because it’s happening.

But if the Fed blows up its balance sheet to ten trillion or more, what happens to the dollar? Over-printed currencies fail. The dollar isn’t immune.

And if production is shut down because no one’s going to work, what happens to production? Are empty shelves the exception … or the rule?

Lots of cash and empty shelves in Venezuela. Yikes.

There’s more bad news, but we know you can only handle so much.

So take a deep breath …. exhale slowly … ahhhhh …..

The world isn’t ending. It’s changing. The pace of change just accelerated, which means you need to process and react faster.

It’s not too late to look at your portfolio, sources of income, strategic direction … and do a SWOT analysis … Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats.

They’re all present … if YOU are.

People, businesses, and money will all migrate in search of safety.

So certain markets, asset classes, investment vehicles, and structures will lose.

Some will win.

Your mission is to look at the landscape of the changing reality and make good decisions about where YOU go from here. Get in a position to thrive.

We’ll be talking about this a LOT in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned!

Is this a cure for coronavirus?

There are SO many things happening in the financial news and markets right now, it’s hard to focus on any one thing and say it’s the biggest story.

Obviously, the coronavirus panic is dominating headlines and airwaves everywhere.

And many of the other major stories such as stocks, bonds, interest rates, and oil prices all seem to be considered somehow a derivative of the coronavirus.

Of course, we just keep asking … what does all of this mean to real estate investors?

Two weeks ago, we posited interest rates would fall as investors piled into U.S Treasuries for both safety and speculation.

Of course, we were right … but not because we’re brilliant, but because it was SO obvious.  As Treasury yields collapsed, mortgage rates followed.

And because you never know how long these “sales” on cheap money are going to last, it’s a good idea to watch for clues … and then move quickly when opportunity presents itself.

The odds are the coronavirus scare will last months … but your uber-cheap mortgage can last for decades. Nice.

Last week, we dug a little deeper into the WHY behind collapsing rates after the Fed came out with an “emergency” rate cut.

Though billed as a preemptive strike to stop recession, most pundits viewed it as a lightly veiled attempt to calm traders and boost stock prices.

How’s that working out so far?

Of course, WAY before coronavirus, we’ve been pointing out …

… the financial system is fragile,

… the Fed’s intervention in the repo market is a potentially ominous sign,

… and gold could be flashing a “bridge is out” warning even as the U.S. economy is hurtling down the highway at a decent clip.

In other words, the coronavirus might not be a cause, just a catalyst.

Which brings us to the theme of today’s muse …

Insulation matters. And when the climate is extreme, people who don’t have it, want it.

Right now, MANY people are discovering their portfolios are naked and exposed to the extreme hots and colds of publicly traded financial markets.

Equity investors are experiencing nauseating drops and dizzying bounces … all within an overall trend which is flirting with becoming the mother of all bears.

Income investors are watching yields collapse 30-50% from already anemic levels. Savers and income investors were already suffering. Now it’s torturous.

When yields aren’t enough to live on, you have no choice but to consume equity.

And it’s hard to ride the equity roller coaster back up if you to get off at the bottom to eat.

It’s like a starving farmer who eats his seed corn has nothing to plant for food in the future. He eats now but is doomed in the long term. Equity consumption is suicidal.

So while the coronavirus might threaten your physical health, the vast majority of people who catch it will survive and go on to thrive.

But the effects of the panic on fragile financial markets are definitely making paper asset investors’ portfolios sick … and recovery could take a LOT longer.

Of course, most real estate investors are doing what they often do when these things happen … much popcorn, watch the fireworks, and cash rent checks.

Sure, if the storm is bad enough, it can blow your insulated, brick real estate portfolio over too.

But compared to the poor folks living in straw portfolios built only for sunshine, real estate looks pretty darn secure.

So it’s no surprise, that even the mainstream financial media are pointing out the safety features of real estate … at least what they think is real estate …

Don’t Panic – Buy REITs
Forbes, 3/9/20

These are the safest and highest dividend-yielding REITs as the coronavirus spreads, BofA says
– MarketWatch, 3/7/20

REITs And Bonds Rose Last Weeks As Global Stocks Fell
Seeking Alpha, 3/10/20

Of course, REITs are still publicly traded stocks … essentially a mutual fund collection of individual properties all put into one fund and offered in the Wall Street casinos.

So, while real estate is attractive in times like these, REITs are still subject to Wall Street volatility …

REITs fall in February amid broader market sell-off
Institutional Real Estate, 3/10/20

Perhaps obviously, the further you are away from Wall Street, the more insulated you are from insane volatility.

Of course, as a real estate investor, YOU already know this. That’s why you read commentaries like this, and probably don’t have much exposure to Wall Street.

But remember there are MANY MILLIONS of people who haven’t discovered real estate investing … yet. Or only think of it as Flip This House.

Of course, true real estate investing is about using low cost, long-term debt to acquire passive income and generous tax breaks …

… and enjoying superior cash-on-cash yields (compared to bonds), while benefiting from long term inflation … insulated from short term deflation.

Real estate is slow, boring, and STABLE. And right now, stable is sexy.

As we’ve said before, you’re not seeing headlines announcing rents have collapsed 50% in the last 90 days because of coronavirus. That’s short-term deflation.

And ten years from now, when this current panic and its ramifications have joined all the other freak-outs of the last 100 years in the dust bin of history … do you think it’s more likely rents and real estate values will be up … or down?

History says “up” in dollar terms … because the dollar has a 100+ year history of losing value against REAL assets.

And most of what’s going on right now … more printing, more debt, more deficits … is BAD for the dollar in the long term.

Sure, most people can’t escape the temptation to gamble. “Buy low, sell high” brainwashing makes it nearly impossible to resist Wall Street volatility.

But SOME people … especially more seasoned folks … will decide the Wall Street roller coaster is more nauseating than intoxicating … and they’ll want off.

So while we’re concerned about the coronavirus panic and its near term effects on the economy and the financial system …

…. we’re SUPER EXCITED about the lessons being learned by Main Street Americans.

Because when more of Main Street gets back to real investing … in real assets and cash flow …

… it could create a big flow of funds out of Wall Street into Main Street … where the real wealth comes from and belongs.

Last time we looked, there’s usually BIG opportunity when money starts moving. The key is to put yourself in a good position to help facilitate it.

So whether you choose to borrow lots of money flowing into bonds and acquire properties in your own account …

… or you decide to start a syndication business to raise private equity to pair with abundant and cheap debt …

… this isn’t a time to be hiding under your sheets with a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Yes, be careful and stay healthy.

But keep your eye on the long-term big picture. It’s easy to get lost in the hype and miss big opportunities that grow out of the chaos.

Fed drops a BOMB … but will it work?

You probably heard the Fed just dropped their interest rate target 50 basis points … which is economic geek speak for half a percent.

If you’re a devoted market observer, you’ve probably seen a dozen reports with as many interpretations about why they did it and what it means to everyone … except YOU.

That’s because mainstream financial media doesn’t talk to real estate investors. In fact, they barely acknowledge we exist …

… and they surely have NO idea how we think or what we really do.

They just look at investing through their “buy low, sell high” paradigm …

… and are therefore understandably obsessed with trying to divine which direction the next bloviation from the Eccles building will send the paper trading lemmings scurrying.

To Wall Street, “investing” is sprinting in and out of positions faster than the crowd. Miss a step and you get trampled.

And MOST of what they think and say means NOTHING to Main Street real estate investors.

Meanwhile, issues critical to real estate investors (and syndicators) go completely ignored … leaving you to read between the lines for clues in the news.

Not to worry! Your friendly neighborhood compulsive-obsessive newshounds here at The Real Estate Guys™ radio show are here to fill the gap.

So … what’s a real estate investor to think … and do … in the wake of this latest extraordinary tactic by a clearly concerned Federal Reserve?

Let’s break the topic into bite size pieces …

First, the CONTEXT …

This is the Fed’s first “emergency” action …

(at least in terms of a big, unscheduled rate cut … pay no attention to the billions in “not QE” printed to plug the ongoing problems in the repo market)

… since October 2008.

Hmmm … that date seems oddly familiar … didn’t something big happen back then?

And if the economy is really as strong as everyone claims, WHY is this “shock and awe” unscheduled cut needed?

We’re being told this is in response to the Coronavirus threat to the economy. Some say the Fed’s move validates the fears of a global pandemic.

Weird. Weren’t all the recent press conferences designed to calm such fears?

But there’s a MUCH bigger question to consider …

If the threat of a pandemic has closed factories and broken supply chains, how does printing more money fix that?

Hint: It doesn’t. But it does create some other side effects investors … real estate and otherwise … probably want to pay attention to (more on that in a moment).

We think there are a couple of issues at play …

First, as we’ve been saying for the last few years, there’s an important difference between economic activity (the speed of the vehicle) and the financial system it runs on (the vehicle itself).

If your car is zipping down the road to riches at 75 miles per hour, you’re feeling like you’re making great progress.

But if you don’t notice the oil pressure dropping and engine temperature rising, you won’t know the vehicle is breaking down … and your trip is in jeopardy.

Make sense?

Gold, oil, the dollar, and interest rates are all important gauges on the financial system dashboard …

… right alongside the speedometer and tachometers of employment and GDP, which measure the speed of the economy.

We think there’s a possibility the Fed is injecting liquidity trying to lubricate an engine that’s on the brink of breaking down.

Remember, the repo market crisis all happened BEFORE the coronavirus showed up.

The second major issue helping put the Fed’s latest move in context is a variation on the same theme … interest rates.

But not the “let’s lower interest rates to stimulate this already red-hot economy” use of interest rates.

More like the “let’s put a bid on bonds to prop up fragile credit markets” kind of interest rates … the “black hole event horizon” kind (which is a much bigger discussion we’ve had before).

For today’s discussion, here’s what you need to know …

The Fed doesn’t “set” interest rates. They simply set a target at which to aim their “open market operations”.

This is a confusing way of saying the Fed will buy or sell bonds in the open market in order to manipulate interest rates up or down.

When the Fed sells, it adds to supply, driving bond prices down and interest rates up. That’s clearly NOT the plan right now.

So the flip side is the Fed plans to BUY bonds, bidding UP the prices, and driving interest rates DOWN.

Here’s the important point …

Bond traders KNOW this. And they also know the Fed will pay ANY price to make it happen.

Rising interest rates would be like SAND (or worse) in the financial system’s engine … triggering a wave of defaults, margin calls, and a liquidity crisis of biblical proportions. It would make 2008 look like a bad hair day.

So what do bond traders do? (And yes, you should care …)

Bond traders FRONT-RUN the Fed and PILE into Treasuries, bidding them up, driving interest rates DOWN … to ALL-TIME lows.

Yes, we realize many headlines claim “scared” investors are fleeing the “dangers” of the stock market to the “safety” of bonds.

Maybe … but we think not.

Our guess is it’s not fear, but greed driving the flurry of Treasury bond buying.

Meanwhile, let’s now quickly consider the potential ramifications for Main Street real estate investors 

The most obvious is what we discussed last time … low interest rates create a big opportunity to restructure debt and acquire new cheap debt.

We also think TRUE safety-seekers will start migrating into real assets … like precious metalsoil, and real estate.

Of course, we’ve been talking about this for years. But these macro trends roll out slowly, so we’re pretty sure there’s a lot of room to get on the long-term trend train.

And while we could (and probably should) discuss what the rise of precious metals and oil say about the dollar, we’ll probably save all that for the Summit … when he have all big brains with us.

The more germane discussion for real estate investors is the effect of low interest rates on income producing real estate.

Three words: Shrinking. Cap. Rates.

As Treasury yields fall, they pull down the yields on ALL investments, including rental properties.

Of course, as any seasoned real estate investor knows, falling cap rates mean RISING prices … and EQUITY for those who acquire real estate at the front end of the cycle.

As insane as it seems, this move by the Fed suggests the bull market in cash-flowing real estate might actually be getting a booster shot.

But BE CAREFUL … because it’s easy to get sloppy with underwriting and market selection when things get hotter and even more competitive.

Always remember, unlike stocks and bonds, people still need real jobs to make income properties perform. It’s hard for unemployed tenants to pay rent.

While admitting we’re far from experts on the matter, our guess is the coronavirus crisis will come and go like the many others before it.

So the real lasting impact may not be (hopefully) loss of large numbers of human lives … or even major disruptions to America’s economy or individual lifestyle and freedoms.

But it may wake America up to the vulnerability created by an over-dependence on Chinese manufacturing …

… and a renewed enthusiasm to bring more manufacturing back to the United States.

These are the kind of durable jobs with the potential to drive a sustainable surge in demand for real estate of all kinds.

Smart investors will be watching to see if and where these jobs end up … and will jump in to ride the wave as those markets revitalize.

Yes, these are troubling times. But they’re also full of lessons and opportunities.

The odds are good that the world will not just survive, but thrive, despite the consistent parade of threats and temporary turmoil.

Real estate investing is a long-term game played best by watching the long-term trends … and letting real estate do for you what it does best …

… providing investors with a way to profit from the long-term decline of the dollar while staying mostly insulated from the wild volatility of the Wall Street casinos.

Coronavirus could be coming to Main Street …

By now you’ve probably heard about the coronavirus. It’s big news and appears to be getting bigger … and there are MANY angles on the story.

Of course, we’re just The Real Estate Guys™ … not the virus guys … so we’re not qualified to have an opinion on the health risks or odds of a global pandemic.

But whether the coronavirus is truly an existential threat to all humanity … or just another run-of-the-mill frightening event that fades into obscurity …

… it’s certainly creating some economic upheavals all investors (even real estate investors) should be paying attention to.

And as long as we all survive long-term, the coronavirus crisis is raising notable concerns and creating short-term opportunities.

To be clear, we’re not making light of it … or suggesting that economic consequences are the most important aspect of the coronavirus story.

But since we don’t have the expertise or ability to change what’s happening or to advise on how to avoid the health risks … we’ll just focus on the investing considerations.

It’s safe to say the coronavirus could be the proverbial “Black Swan financial pundits constantly obsess about.

No one saw it coming, and then … BOOM! It’s here. And it’s already having a profound effect on stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities.

Of course, the big question is … what does the coronavirus mean to real estate investors?

In the short term, it creates an opportunity …

As freaked out paper asset investors jump into safe havens, lots are ending up in U.S. Treasuries.

This is bidding bond prices UP, driving bond yields DOWN …meaning interest rates are falling.

This pulls mortgage rates down and provides real estate investors with an opportunity to restructure existing debt and take on new debt

… and lock in those low rates for the long term.

Meanwhile, some safety seekers are piling into gold … and we think there’s two parts to that story … maybe three.

First, gold is the ultimate safe haven because there’s no counter-party risk (assuming you take physical possession) and you avoid specific currency risk.

In other words, you can store wealth in gold, and later convert it into ANY currency … not just the one you bought it with.

American brains often tilt here … because they only think in dollar terms. But the rest of the world doesn’t.

Sure, the U.S. dollar is still considered the “safest” currency … but as we explain in our Future of Money and Wealth video, “The Dollar Under Attack” … there are reasons to be careful of the dollar long term.

And enough investors in the world appear to agree … and they’re bidding up the price of gold in their flight to safety. That says something about the dollar.

But the BIG coronavirus story isn’t falling interest rates, spiking gold prices, or crashing stock markets …

As is often the case, investors and mainstream financial media pundits fixate (and trade) the symptoms … sometimes missing the real problem.

There’s a YUGE difference between a booming economy and a strong financial system.

During this U.S. election cycle, you’re likely to hear about the “booming economy” … and it’s true.

But even more importantly, it’s NECESSARY … and that’s the concern.

A global economic slowdown isn’t just inconvenient … it’s systemically dangerous on an epic scale.

This is what our big-brained friends help us understand and navigate.

The world is piled nose-high in debt … most of it at very low interest rates. And yet, it’s barely being serviced.

There are many tapped out “zombie” businesses who don’t even earn enough profit to pay their interest … which means their debt is a slow-growing cancer.

A spike in interest rates or a decrease in prices or economic velocity accelerates their demise … but that’s just the beginning.

Besides the obvious ripple effect of job losses through communities and supply chains … some of which would affect Main Street real estate investors …

… the potentially bigger problem is the ripple effect through financial system balance sheets which are holding bonds as ASSETS … assets they’ve borrowed against.

This is EXACTLY what happened in 2008 with sub-prime mortgage bonds.

It wasn’t the direct losses from a relatively small number of sub-prime defaults that imploded the system. It was the contagion because those modest losses were magnified by leverage.

But unlike real estate, when the collateral (the sub-prime bonds) declined in value …

… Wall Street loans come with cash calls when the “margin” between loan and collateral value shrinks too much.

Margin calls exploded throughout the system … forcing everyone to sell everything to raise cash. This crashed prices, triggering more margin calls …

… creating a vicious downward cycle until the bottom fell out.

So the Fed (and other central banks) stepped in with MASSIVE amounts of “quantitative easing” to put in a bottom and stop the free fall.

They printed trillions and bought the “toxic assets” no one else wanted. And as we now know, they’ve been unable to withdraw the patch.

After 10 years, the Fed tried to “shrink their balance sheet” and “normalize interest rates” (i.e., stop propping things up) …

… and they failed miserably on both counts. In fact, they recently had to take emergency action to blow it all back up.

So there’s a LOT of air in the financial system right now … all propped up by record levels of debt … which can only be serviced by a “booming economy”.

And that booming economy keeps the frailty of the system off many commentators’ radar … while “alarmists” like Robert Kiyosaki and Peter Schiff don’t get much media time to warn people.

That’s the way it was in 2008 … and that’s the way it is now.

The setup is the same as 2008 … just bigger. WAY bigger. And it’s all rooted in gobs of global debt …

China has taken on enormous debt to fund its phenomenal growth the over last two decades.

The coronavirus could push China into even greater debt … not to grow … but just to prop things up as their economy slows.

Corporations took on records levels of debt to fund stock buybacks over the last decade. Of course, this helped boost stock prices, but is it reliable wealth?

Households are also carrying record levels of debt … probably feeling rich because of high home and stock equity on their balance sheets.

Sure, inflated assets can make people feel rich … boosting consumer confidence … but how stable is it?

Equity is awesome … but it’s fickle. The coronavirus is writing a reality check for stock investors right now.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is shutting down factories … even entire cities … which MASSIVELY slows economic activity … with global ramifications.

It’s like if you had a gigantic credit card with triple your annual incomes in consumer debt …

… but are barely able to make the payments working 60- or 80-hour weeks … and then your hours are cut.

Now instead of just getting by … you’re being swallowed by the debt.

Except it’s not just you … or a single corporation … or a few thousand sub-prime homeowners … or even a tiny country with a small global economic footprint.

It’s the ENTIRE globe … and it’s emanating from the second largest economy on the planet.

It’s hard for China to be the manufacturing engine of the world with closed factories and entire cities quarantined.

That means they use less energy, buy less commodities, export less products … which means shippers have less to ship, retailers have less to sell, and on and on.

ALL those businesses and employees in the chain … many of which are loaded with debt … take a big pay cut … putting all that debt in danger of default.

To “save” it all, central banks will need to print like crazy … and gold prices tell us smart investors are concerned about that.

Gold is at record highs against EVERY currency in the world … except the U.S. dollar (yet).

Ironically, the financial contagion has the potential to spread FAR faster than the coronavirus itself.

YIKES.

Okay, take a deep breath. It’s not Armageddon.

But as you might guess, a scary place to be is in investments that are front-line to fragile financial markets.

That’s probably why alert investors are exiting into safer havens.

Well-structured real estate investors are likely to fare better than most paper asset investors … because real estate’s fundamental model is far more stable.

Think about it …

Do you see any headlines that say, “Rents are crashing as coronavirus spreads” or “Tenants break leases to escape coronavirus”?

We don’t.

So while paper asset investors are watching their 401k wealth go up and down like a roller coaster …

… real estate investors are quietly endorsing rent checks.

But it’s not just the cash flow of real estate that makes real estate stable …

It’s the priority in people’s lives to make those rent payments … and the ownership of a physical, tangible asset that doesn’t disappear in crisis.

Yes, if the coronavirus destroys humanity, demand for rental property will implode. But that will be the least of your worries.

And if the financial system implodes … as bad as that sounds … it will be bumpy for awhile … but a new system will be put in place.

So as long as you’re structured to weather the storm 

… with competitive rents and great customer service in markets with solid infrastructure and fundamentals …

… and stable underlying financing with enough cash flow cushion to absorb temporary softness 

… you might not get richer on your current holdings, but you can probably ride out the storm.

Of course, if you’re properly prepared, you’ll be in position to go bargain shopping in such a storm … which is exactly what Ken McElroy did in 2009-2012.

The world is volatile. Real estate is relatively stable compared to most other investments. But you still need to see the big picture and think ahead.

That’s why we hang out with people like Robert Kiyosaki, Peter Schiff, Ken McElroy, Brien Lundin, and other super-smart people.

After all, it only takes one good idea or heads up to make or save you a LOT of money when things get crazy. And you never know what that’s going to happen.

Until next time … good investing!

 

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