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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Clues In The News – Crisis and Growth Opportunities

Warren Buffet. Also known as the Oracle of Omaha, this investing heavyweight spends a lot of his time doing one particular thing.

It’s not scoping out new investments. Not chatting with folks in the investment industry. Not attending board meetings … although we bet he does spend a bit of time doing all of those things.

This investing genius spends 80 percent of his time reading.

From trade-specific journals to general financial news, reading and listening to the headlines is essential to staying informed. But just as important is reading between the lines.

That’s why we bring you Clues In The News … our take on how recent headlines affect real estate investors like YOU. In this edition, you’ll hear from:

  • Your media examiner host, Robert Helms
  • His (slightly OCD) news peruser co-host, Russell Gray

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Mortgage rates for single-family homes rising

Many articles are saying it … mortgage rates continue to climb and show no signs of stopping soon. Note, this information applies specifically to single-family homes.

This is important news … but before you react, stop and ask yourself the question, “If interest rates were guaranteed to rise, what would I do?”

The answer is probably buy a deal that makes sense today and lock in the interest rate so you get a competitive advantage.

Data from this Redfin survey shows less than 4 percent of potential homebuyers would cancel their decision to buy if interest rates increased … so people will keep buying even if it squeezes their bottom line.

But buying at a too-high interest rate means high cost inputs, higher rents, and potentially more vacancies. Getting in while the interest rate is lower is an important factor for success.

We also suggest you consider the advantages of adjustable-rate mortgages versus fixed-rate mortgages. Adjustable-rate mortgages may start lower depending on the market, but have no certainty of staying the same.

Fixed-rate mortgages, on the other hand, allow you to lock in a predictable rate that won’t rise or fall with the market. And when you’re locked into a rate for 10-15 years, having consistency is particularly important.

An equal concern is the strength of the dollar. If rents are sliding upwards faster than wages, your tenants are in trouble.

That’s why investing in A-class properties can be a poor strategy (more on that later).

Tighter guidelines plus higher mortgage rates can mean good things for landlords because fewer people are buying their own homes. So pay attention and think strategically … because a large part of success is getting in at the right time.

Is the multifamily sector overheated?

Multifamily properties have attracted a lot of money. We’re now hearing from many investors who wonder whether the sector is overheated.

Interest rates are rising, and since multifamily properties typically have 10-15 year loan periods, investors do need to be careful here.

If you’re a multifamily investor, you also need to keep in mind that rising interest rates not only affect you … they affect your tenants too.

According to a CNBC article, half of all renter households pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent. That means there’s no real wiggle room for inflation … and no real wiggle room if YOU need to raise rents.

One apartment developer interviewed in the article above says, “There is an acute crisis headed our way.” We can see this in the high numbers of luxury apartments being developed … and then standing empty.

At the same time, we’re seeing a shortage in B- and C-class housing.

Because of today’s costs, it’s difficult for developers to build new buildings for non-luxury buyers. And Wall Street investors see luxury as a safer investment … even though it typically brings 2-3 percent yields.

If you’re a syndicator, all of this information can help you understand the economic world you’re operating in. A development explosion in the high-end apartment space DOES NOT mean you should be investing in that space.

This information should be the start of your research. Read between the lines, look for the wise voices, and start following them … but mostly importantly, talk to the people who have boots on the ground.

And remember, just because the economy looks bad does not mean investment options are bad. In fact, a downturn can be the best time to buy.

What’s happening on Wall Street?

We like to read trade-specific news. But we also think it’s important to read and watch mainstream financial news because that’s what everyone else is seeing.

The difference, though, is that we always attempt to delve into what’s beneath the headlines.

An article published by Bloomberg notes that Wall Street investors are beginning to snap up cheaper single-family properties they had formerly ignored.

After focusing on a particular niche … “safer” luxury-class homes and apartments … Wall Street is now lowering expectations.

Realize that what Wall Street investors are essentially doing is speculation.

They’re trying to “buy low, sell high” without investing the time and effort to research their product and control outcomes the way real estate investors can do.

But Wall Street’s foray into single-family homes affects YOU … because sourcing inventory is harder when there are more hands in the game.

It is possible to get in front of Wall Street investors … in fact, Wall Street by nature is essentially following in the steps of smart real estate investors.

But now you know what the big players are doing … and you can think about where you can step in before the market becomes saturated.

All it takes to spot the right clues is a bit of attention.

How does the tech industry affect investors?

The retail apocalypse has caused a huge shift in the industrial and office space. Products are being sold online … instead of in buildings.

But the industry behind this shift can bring boons to real estate investors.

According to the National Real Estate Investor, tech firms continue to seek out new markets for expansion.

Expanding tech companies bring huge job numbers wherever they go … and with jobs comes a need for housing.

Other markets, like office and retail space, are also impacted directly and indirectly with population and industry shifts.

To get ahead of the game, look at what factors make a market appealing to tech CEOs. A great example is Amazon’s list of market criteria, although each company will seek out different qualities.

A tech hub creates critical mass. Tech companies not only create tech jobs, but attract and are attracted to various other industries, like airlines and shipping companies.

As you pay attention and understand where businesses are growing, your ability to align yourself strategically with market shifts and new hot spots will improve dramatically.

The headlines in this episode of Clues In The News bring both challenges and opportunities. Now it’s your turn … get out there, do some research, and start reading between the lines! It’s the only way to get ahead of the game.


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.