Is THIS the next crisis?

We’re just back from yet another EPIC Investor Summit at Sea™.  If you missed it, be sure to get on the advance notice list for 2020.

It’s hard to describe how transforming and powerful the Summit experience is.  So we won’t.

Instead, today’s focus is on the flip side of the Fed’s flop on interest rates … in context of the #1 thing Robert Kiyosaki told us he’s MOST concerned about.

We recently commented about the Federal Reserve’s abrupt reversal on plans to raise rates and tighten the supply of money (actually, credit … but that’s a whole other discussion).

The short of it is … there’s more air heading into the economic jump house. 

Based on the mostly green lights flashing in Wall Street casinos since then, it looks like the paper traders agree.  Let the good times roll.

Real estate investors care because the flow of money in and out of bonds is what determines interest rates.

When money piles into bonds, it drives interest rates LOWER.

Not surprisingly, as we speak … the 10-year Treasury is yielding about 2.3% … compared to nearly 3.3% less than six months ago.

While a 1% rate change may not seem like much, it’s a 43% decrease in interest expense or income (depending on whether you’re borrower or lender).

So as a borrower, your interest expense is 43% lower.  Obviously, with record government debt and deficits, Uncle Sam needs to keep rates down.

But as a lender (bond investor) you’re also earning 43% less.  And yet, lenders (bond buyers) are lining up to purchase.

That tells us they probably expect rates to fall further and are speculating on the bond price.

But whatever the reason, they’re buying, so bonds are up and yields are down.

As you may already know, lower Treasury yields mean lower mortgage rates.  So this headline was quite predictable …

Mortgage Rates are in a Free Fall with No End in SightWashington Post, 3/21/19

Falling mortgage rates are bullish for real estate values because the same paycheck or net operating income will control a bigger mortgage.

This purchasing power allows buyers to bid up prices … IF they are confident in their incomes, and IF their incomes aren’t being directed towards rising living expenses.

So lower interest rates don’t automatically mean a boom in real estate equity.  But they help.  We’ll probably have more to say about this in the future.

For now, let’s take a look at the other side of falling rates …  the impact on savers and especially pension funds.

Remember, if you’re investing for yield, your income just tanked 43% in only six months.  Unusually low interest rates creates problems for fund managers.

During the Summit, Robert Kiyosaki revealed he’s VERY concerned about the global pension problem.

Low interest rates are only one part of the problem.  A much bigger part is the demographics and faulty model underneath the pension concept.

The net result is there’s a growing disparity between pension assets and liabilities.  And it’s not a good one.

Like Social Security, both public and private pensions worldwide are on a collision course with insolvency … led by the two largest economies, the United States and China.

This problem’s been brewing for a long time.  But it’s a political hot potato and no one has a great answer.  So the can keeps getting kicked.

But we’re rapidly approaching the end of the road.  And this is what has Kiyosaki concerned.

Yet few investors are paying attention … probably because it all seems far away and unrelated to their personal portfolio.

However, the pension problem has the potential to affect everyone everywhere.

The reasons are many, but the short of it is the problem is HUGE and affects millions of people.  The pressure for politicians to do SOMETHING is equally huge.

Peter Schiff says the odds of them doing the right thing are very small.

Our big-brained pals say it probably means 2008-like mega money printing and bailouts … except even BIGGER.

So what does all this mean to Main Street real estate investors?

Keep in mind that some of the biggest pension problems are states and local municipalities.  California and Illinois come to mind.

Unlike private corporations, public pensions don’t have a federal guarantee.

But even if they did, Uncle Sam’s Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) is in trouble too.

According to this government report, the PGBC will be broke in 2026

“ … the risk of insolvency rises rapidly … over … 99 percent by 2026.” – Page 268

Sure, the Fed can simply print all the money needed to save the PGBC … and Social Security … and more … but at the risk of ruining faith in the dollar.

As we detailed in the Future of Money and Wealth, China’s been systematically moving into position to offer the world an alternative to the U.S. dollar.

Will they succeed?  No one knows, but it’s yet another story we’re paying close attention to.

Meanwhile, unlike Uncle Sam, states and municipalities can’t just monetize their debts away with a little help from the Fed.

Of course, we’ll bet if the stuff hits the fan, the Fed will “courageously” attempt to paper over it … just like they did with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in 2008.

But many observers contend the Fed’s recent inability to “normalize” either rates or their balance sheet means they might not have the horsepower.

In other words, it may take MORE than just the full faith and credit of the United States to persuade the world the dollar is still king.

Oil and gold might be more convincing.  Perhaps this explains some of Uncle Sam’s recent foreign policy moves?

Of course, that’s conjecture FAR above our pay grade.

But until the pension problem becomes a full-blown crisis and federal policy makers attempt to ride in on their white horses …

cash-strapped states and municipalities are on their own … and likely to do desperate things in their attempts to stay solvent.

Some will adopt policies designed to attract new business and tax revenue.

But we’re guessing most will push the burden onto consumers, businesses, and property owners.  That seems to be the way politicians roll.

So when you’re picking states and cities to make long-term investments in, pay attention to the fiscal health of the local governments.

And if your tenants are counting on private pension benefits, they may not be aware of 2014 legislation allowing a reduction of those “guaranteed” benefits.

If YOU have any direct interest in private pensions, you should read this page.

You’ll discover that plan participants can vote against a reduction. But even if most who vote reject it … if not enough people vote, it can pass anyway.

For retired carpenters in Southwest Ohio, benefits drop on April 1, 2019 … along with their ability to pay you rent.

The bad news is the pension problem is a slow-motion train wreck.  It’s rolling over small groups of people a little at a time … but it’s building momentum.

The good news is it’s slow-motion right now, so  there’s time to watch, learn, and react.

But Kiyosaki says it’s a big deal that’s probably going to get a lot bigger. 

From a real estate investor’s perspective, some markets will lose, and others will gain.

Choose carefully.

Until next time … good investing!


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North Korea and you …

With so much craziness in the world, we thought we’d consider what it might mean for real estate investors.

After all, why should paper asset investors get all the thrills of global instability?  Real estate investing might be stable, but it doesn’t have to be boring!

Biggest sword competition …

You may have heard that U.S. President Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un recently publicly compared sword sizes.

Since both the U.S. and North Korea are nuclear powers … this has the world understandably jittery.  Though things seem to have calmed down the last few days.

Still, geo-political jitters usually amplify the two basic emotions of investing … fear and greed.

Scared money tends to flee to “quality.”  (Trapped money flees to Bitcoin … but that’s a different discussion …)

Frightened investors are more concerned about preserving capital and purchasing power (which aren’t necessarily the same thing) … than making a profit.

For much of recent history, a flight to quality meant piling into the U.S. dollar and U.S. bonds.

But with another debt-ceiling debacle on the horizon, record debt at every level, pensions in crisis, huge unfunded liabilities, and an economy sending very mixed messages …

… it’s not inconceivable the world might not continue to see the U.S. dollar and bonds as the financial fallout shelter of choice.

Meanwhile, greedy money tends to focus on front-running the scared money, and buying up the scared money’s abandoned assets at bargain basement prices.

As for real estate investors …  we sit on the sideline munching popcorn and collecting rent checks.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks, opportunities and lessons for real estate investors to learn from all the drama.

War is expensive …

We recently discussed the potential shift from “monetary” stimulus (cheap money funneled from central banks to the financial markets) …

… to “fiscal” stimulus (government spending funneled into the economy on infrastructure and military spending).

Now we’re not saying Uncle Sam is purposely pursuing war to stimulate the economy.  That would be far too cynical for two happy-go-lucky real estate guys.

But IF more war happens, it’s sure to be expensive.  And because Uncle Sam already operates at a deficit and has no savings (technically “broke”) … it means a lot more borrowing.

The big question is … from whom does Uncle Sam borrow?

This matters because whom Uncle Sam borrows from to pay for more war … and how it’s done … will probably impact asset prices and interest rates.

Watch your monitors …

If Uncle Sam issues bonds (borrows) and the bids are soft, interest rates rise.  It also says something about the way the world views the dollar (not good).

Of course, this means rising interest rates in the whole swimming pool … including good debt (your mortgages) and bad debt (your tenants’ credit card and car loans).  Either or both of those affect your bottom line.

Another sign confidence in the dollar is declining will be a spike in gold prices.  

If gold catches a bid, it could mean scared money would rather hide in a barbarous relic with no yield … over stacks of paper with pictures of dead people printed in green ink.

(Not sure how green paper is less useless than yellow metal … but that’s a different debate …)

But if big money prefers gold over greenbacks, it’s a clue about the direction of the dollar.

And assuming your assets, liabilities, and income are all denominated in dollars, we’re guessing the value of the dollar is of interest to you … or should be.

Pre-emptive strike …

So what do you do when you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Here are some things to think about …

Uncle Sam already has a huge debt problem.  Another war doesn’t change anything … it just speeds it up.

In the short term, a flight to quality could be temporarily good for the dollar and drop rates by creating demand for both dollars and bonds.

If rates fall for a season (and even if they don’t … they’re pretty low right now), it might be a great time to back up the truck and load up on lots of good debt … and use it to acquire assets that conservatively yield more than the cost of the loan.

That’s effectively going “short” the dollar based at a time of temporary strength.

You can also go a little further short by adding some gold to the mix.  But remember, gold isn’t about profit … it’s about preservation of purchasing power.  

Sure, a falling dollar causes gold to go “up” in dollar terms, but so does everything else, so more dollars doesn’t put you ahead … it just keeps you from falling behind.

Side note …

If you’re not really sure about gold or how it fits into what you’re doing, join us when we speak at the New Orleans Investment Conference in October.   

Some of the biggest brains in precious metals and resource investing will be in New Orleans … along with our friends Robert Kiyosaki, Simon Black, Peter Schiff and Simon Black.  It’ll be like an Investor Summit at Sea™ reunion!

Back to our story …

Something else to consider carefully right now are the markets you’re invested in … because the idea of “flight to quality” applies to real estate markets too.

People and businesses will move to where they can get a better life at a better price.

We like affordable markets in low tax, business friendly, fiscally sound states …

… places with good infrastructure (transportation, utilities, medical, education, resources), strategic location (distribution, travel hub, geographic amenities), and diverse economic drivers.

Also, take a look at your current debt and equity structure.

It might be wise to harvest excess equity and lock in low long-term rates on properties you’re committed to owning long term.

You can then use the proceeds to pick up additional properties in growth markets … or add some cash, precious metals, or high-yield private mortgages to add some diversification into your portfolio.

Stay calm and invest on …

It’s easy to freak out when the world is weird.  But it’s been weird before and it’ll be weird again.

Meanwhile, unlike so many other styles of investing, real estate allows you to hedge most probable outcomes.

Plus, there’s the time-tested assurance that virtually every major power player in the food chain has a vested interest in supporting real estate.

No one wins when real estate loses … and even as we learned in 2008 … if a bomb goes off in real estate, the powers-that-be move heaven and earth to fix it as quickly as possible.

Sure, there’s risk.

But it’s risk that’s largely understandable, reasonably mitigated and … so long as you’re structured to weather the occasional economic storm …

… real estate is arguably the most stable and easily operated investment vehicle available to everyday people.

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.