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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Harvard study reveals surprising trends in rental housing …

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University recently released a special report on America’s Rental Housing 2020.

There are lots of reasons to pay attention to housing … rental or otherwise … even if it isn’t your primary real estate investing niche.

Housing is much less a driver of economic health than it is a gauge of it.

When people are doing well, they buy homes or pay their rent. When people are struggling, it shows up in housing.

Sure, employment and wages can be up … but if rising wages aren’t providing REAL purchasing power, they’re deceptive.

When housing costs rise faster than wages for an extended period of time, it’s a clue that society is headed towards a problem.

This report reveals some of this is happening right now.

No society can be considered economically sound if its people can’t afford a place to live.

And no matter what niche you’re in, as an alert investor, it’s wise to consider how the overall economic environment affects you directly or indirectly.

Of course, there are ALWAYS reasons to be concerned … and there are ALWAYS opportunities. So no indicator is inherently good or bad … it’s just a clue to guide better investing decisions.

The report is 44 pages, but worth the read. You can download our marked-up copy here.

For now, here are some of our more notable takeaways …

“After more than a decade-long run up, renter household growth seems to have plateaued.”

ANY time a long-term trend shifts, it can be hard for nose-to-the-grindstone investors to see it … until it’s too late to adjust. That’s why we read studies like this.

And while the cause of the shift is yet to be disclosed …

(it could be more renters are becoming homeowners … or … more renters are becoming homeless … or something else altogether …)

… the important thing is demand for rental housing and apartments is declining for the first time in over 10 years.

Economics 101 says when demand declines, prices will probably follow. So landlords counting on growing demand for their properties should pay attention.

Of course, the flip side of demand is supply, and the report says …

“… continued strength of new construction …”

“…constraints in new supply …”

Hmmm … at first glance, this seems contradictory. Are more units coming or not?

The concern is a glut of new supply hitting the market just as demand is declining …

… because this would drive rents down and potentially negatively impact a landlord’s incomes and occupancy rates.

As an aside, remember what we call the “production lag”. This lag is often the cause of little booms and busts.

What happens is demand temporarily overwhelms supply and prices rise.

Then suppliers (builders) see those higher prices and high demand as an opportunity to feed supply to the market a profit.

So they ramp up production. But it takes time to build. There’s a lag.

And if too many builders all jump into the market with new construction …

… when all those units eventually hit the market, they can suddenly reverse the supply and demand dynamic … causing prices to retreat.

So tight supply triggers a price boom followed by a construction boom leading to over-supply … which triggers a bust. And it’s easy to get lost in the lag.

This is a normal ebb and flow every investor should pay attention to.

But this report talks mentions strength of construction at the same time it describes constraints in new supply. Weird.

Or maybe not …

The reason is found in market segmentation.

As we find in the report …

“New rental construction remains near its highest level in three decades … with a growing share in larger buildings intended for the high end of the market.”

Meanwhile, there’s a …

Dwindling supply of low-cost rentals …”

So there’s growing abundance in one segment… and constriction in another segment. But this still isn’t the whole story.

The report points out …

“… rising costs of housing development are a … key factor … particularly the soaring price of commercial land which doubled between 2012 and mid-2019.”

Another reason builders are focusing on the high income renter is …

“… the cost of labor, materials, contractor fees, and local taxes, also jumped by 39 percent over this period, or three times the rise in overall consumer prices.”

You may have heard policy makers proclaim there’s no inflation … or not enough.

But when it comes to housing, which is a significant and important personal expense …

… there appears to be LOTS of inflation … and it’s not just a supply and demand problem.

When it takes more dollars to buy land, labor, and materials … important components of cost … you have higher prices in spite of declining demand.

In fact, you have declining demand because of rising prices.

That’s inflation.

Of course, gold has been signaling inflation.

Gold was “up” nearly 19% in 2019 … which really means the dollar fell. So now it takes more dollars to buy the same stuff … and it’s showing up in real estate.

The important thing to remember is inflation doesn’t make anyone richer. In fact, as this report is pointing out, inflation makes most of society poorer.

This is probably the real reason why there’s an affordability crisis in housing.

But policy makers either don’t understand this, or they deny it, or they aren’t willing to fix the root cause (a failing monetary monopoly) … so they attempt to legislate away the symptoms.

“In the last few years, states and localities have increasingly turned to rent control as a means to protect households from larger rent hikes.”

But rent control doesn’t address the components of cost.

All rent control does is discourage builders and investors from putting capital into affordable housing in rent-controlled areas … making the problem worse.

Another “solution” revealed in the report … one which property owners of all stripes should pay attention to … are zoning changes allowing more density.

In other words, if land is too expensive, cram more units onto each parcel. As the report points out, local cities and states are changing laws to …

“… allow construction of duplexes and triplexes on lots zoned for single-family housing.”

Of course, these changes affect property values and communities where homeowners and investors already own properties.

This is another thing to watch for in areas where you already own residential properties … especially single-family homes.

It could be an opportunity to build a little infill project… scrape an SFR and build a multi-unit … or dump an SFR and get out before values fall.

There’s a LOT more in the report … including remarkable data showing the fastest growing demographic of renters is age 65 and up.

One of the challenges of rentals for seniors is that much existing inventory isn’t properly configured to meet their unique needs.

Of course, challenges create opportunities for real estate entrepreneurs.

The bottom line is the rental housing market is changing for economic, demographic, and political reasons.

Real estate investors are well-served to pay attention … and look past their recent experience or current market conditions in looking forward.

These trends are often subtle, but powerful.

When you can see them forming early, you have more time to make moves to capture opportunities and mitigate risks.

But you MUST be paying attention … and talking with other alert investors to help you interpret the data and hash out viable strategies.

The pension problem is about to get REAL …

Our good friend, multi-time Investor Summit at Sea™ faculty member (who’s back again for 2020!) … and greatest-selling financial author in history …

Robert Kiyosaki thinks pensions are the greatest threat facing the financial world today.

Of course, it’s not like pension problems are breaking news. The whole crisis has been unfolding for a decade as more of a slow-motion train wreck.

But over the last few years, the looming disaster is getting hard to ignore …

America’s utterly predictable tsunami of pension problems
– The Washington Post, 2/22/17

Pension Fund Problems Worsen in 43 States
– Bloomberg, 6/30/17

States have a $1.4 trillion pension problem
– CNN Money, 4/12/2018

The Pension Hole for U.S. Cities and States is the Size of Germany’s Economy
– The Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2018

“Many retirement funds could face insolvency unless governments increase taxes, divert funds, or persuade workers to relinquish money they are owed.”

And it’s not just government pensions. Some of the biggest corporations are also struggling under the weight of their pension burdens …

GE’s $31 billion pension nightmare
– CNN Business, January 19, 2018

Here Are 14 Companies Getting Crushed By Pension Costs
– Business Insider, 8/15/2012

You get the idea. Huge storm clouds have been forming for quite a while … in both the public and private sectors.

In an election year, you’d expect to hear some chatter about it. But we’re guessing you won’t because there’s no politically palatable solution.

Of course, ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

That’s why Kiyosaki is shining light on it. You can’t prepare for or profit from a problem you don’t or won’t see.

So this is a situation we’ve been watching more closely of late. And clues in the news tell us pension problems pose a threat to real estate investors.

Desperate politicians have already proposed funding their shortfalls with property taxes and cuts to benefits for pensioners … some of whom could be YOUR tenants.

Meanwhile, major corporations like General Electric and United Airlines have already cut their pension benefits.

Of course, the flip side of bad news is GOOD NEWS …

Pension problems also create opportunities for real estate investors.

We think pension managers will eventually concede that for a chance to save their funds from the Federal Reserve’s war on yields …

… they’re going to need to get REAL … real fast.

Pension fund managers will need to funnel more money away from Wall Street and into Main Street.

Think of all the reasons Main Street investors LOVE real estate …

… reasonably consistently achievable double-digit total returns 

… inflation-hedged yields much higher than bonds and without the counter-party-risk …

… assets which aren’t practical as gambling tokens in the Wall Street casinos, and therefore much less volatile in terms of yields and principal value.

We know. You’re already convinced real estate is awesome. And you may be wondering why everyone doesn’t invest in real estate.

But don’t under-estimate the seductive allure of Wall Street marketing and the pervasive political pressure to promote paper assets.

Remember, an argument can be made that government and Wall Street sometimes work together to the detriment of Main Street.

But when Main Street gets mad … it’s every politician and pension manager for himself.

So when poking around the crevices of the internet looking for credible clues …

… and being mindful that things NOT being talked about in well-publicized political discourse is probably more worth paying attention to …

… and we came across a couple of interesting articles …

CalPERS gets candid about ‘critical’ decade ahead
– Capitol Weekly, 8/27/19

Yes, we realize this article isn’t “fresh” … but it’s still relevant today. After all, they’re talking about the “decade ahead” … and again, this is a slow-motion train wreck.

Here’s a notable excerpt …

Quoting a letter written to CalPERS by a third-party consulting company brought in to help figure out what to do …

“ ‘The financial world is changing, and we must change with it,’ said the letter. ‘What we’ve done over the last 20 years won’t take us where we need to go in the future. New thinking and innovation are in order.’ ”

Of course, who knows what they mean by that. “Change”, “new thinking”, and “innovation” are all buzz words that lack meaning apart from a suggestion or context.

But one thing is perhaps becoming clear to the pension managers … Wall Street’s not the answer …

“ Meanwhile, a line [the] letter is a reminder that CalPERS remains at the mercy of the market, as when the stock market crash and recession struck a decade ago: ‘The value of the CalPERS fund fell 24 percent in a single fiscal year, to about $180 billion.’ ”

So it’s against this backdrop that we found the second, more recent, article noteworthy …

Sacramento County launches tender for alternative assets consultant
– Institutional Real Estate, 2/11/20

“The $10 billion Sacramento County (Calif.) Employees’ Retirement System (SCERS) is seeking a consultant for its alternative assets portfolio …”

“The alternative assets consultant works with the pension fund’s investment staff to help develop and maintain strategic plans for the system’s absolute return, private equity, private credit, real assets, and real estate investments.”

Pension problems are rampant in governments … from nations to states to counties and municipalities, as well as corporations all around the world.

As pension managers realize there’s opportunity to grow absolute returns through private placement and real estate 

… it opens up a potential floodgate of money into Main Street opportunities.

Of course, if you’re just a Mom & Pop Main Street investor … or even a fairly successful real estate syndicator doing multi-million-dollar deals …

… you may wonder how YOU can get in on the action.

Like Opportunity Zones, pensions pointing their portfolios at specific markets and niches have the potential to provide a tailwind to EVERYONE already there … or going along for the ride.

So pay attention to pensions … not just for their potential to torpedo the financial system …

… but for the opportunities created as they act out on “new thinking and innovation”.

Lastly, keep in mind that like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac back in 2008, and the FDIC today …

… the Pension Guaranty Benefit Corporation is a horribly underfunded quasi-government enterprise backing TRILLIONS in potentially failing pensions.

If a substantial number of pensions fail (a VERY real possibility) …

… it’s all but certain the Federal Reserve will need to step in to paper over the mess with trillions in freshly printed dollars.

This weakens the dollar and among the biggest winners are borrowers and owners of real assets.

This makes real estate investors who use mortgages double winners.

So while you may not be able to calm the stormy seas …

… you can choose a boat that’s seaworthy and equipped to sail faster when the winds of change (and a falling dollar) blowhard.

Until next time … good investing!

The horrible housing blunder …

If you sometimes feel like a small fish in a very big ocean … it’s because you are.

There are LOTS of big, bigger, bigger-still, and downright ginormous other fish … some with very sharp teeth … circling all around you.

There are also mostly hidden forces creating powerful currents and waves … speeding you up, slowing you down, or taking you completely off course.

That’s why we look for clues in the news.

And because mainstream financial media doesn’t cater to Main Street real estate investors, we need to stay alert to notice things often hiding in plain sight.

In a recent trek through an airport on our way to speak at an investment conference … a notable magazine cover hit us in the face like a brick …

The Horrible Housing Blunder
Why the Obsession with Home Ownership is So Harmful
The Economist Jan 18-24, 2020

If you’re not familiar, The Economist is one of those highbrow publications ginormous fish and wave-makers are reading.

The Economist articles provide insights into how powerful people think about small fish like us and the things we care about … like housing.

In The Economist table of contents, the housing blunder topic is introduced this way …

“The West’s obsession with home ownership undermines growth, fairness and public faith in capitalism.

“Housing is the world’s biggest investment class … at the root of many of the rich world’s social and economic problems.

Wow. We didn’t know home ownership is so harmful to our fellow man. We’re ashamed.

But before we dig in, take a minute and simply consider their conclusion …

…and what happens to YOU if powerful people decide to implement policies to protect the world from the evils of housing.

Now you know why we pay attention.

So, on page 9 of The Economist, under their “Leaders” section (think about THAT) …

… they assert housing markets CAUSE both sudden economic crashes AND chronic economic “disease”.

Then they support their conclusion by claiming “a trillion dollars of dud mortgages blew up the financial system in 2007-08”.

Maybe you’ve heard that one before.

Of course, they make no mention of the trillions of dollars of Wall Street concocted derivatives of those dud mortgages …

(Warren Buffett called derivatives “weapons of mass financial destruction” … NOT the mortgages underneath them)

They also don’t account for the dangerously weak lending “standards” (we use the term loosely) Wall Street used to entice weak borrowers.

Nor do they mention the reckless, speculative and highly leveraged bets placed using those mortgage derivatives by arrogant gamblers in the corrupt Wall Street casinos.

Of course, the greed behind all of it is simply a “derivative” of the moral hazard created when everyone in the market KNOWS the Federal Reserve will paper over any problem with freshly printed “money”.

Back to The Economist special report on the horrible housing blunder …

Besides the terror of housing threatening the entire financial systemThe Economist says …

“… just as pernicious is the creeping dysfunction … housing created …” which they define as …

“… vibrant cities without space to grow; aging homeowners sitting in half-empty houses …

… and a generation of young people who cannot easily afford to rent or buy and think capitalism has let them down.”

So it seems cities which selfishly vote to preserve green space for themselves, their families, and the environment are … financial terrorists.

As are old folks who have the gall to stay in the homes they raised their children in … long after the children have successfully (and presumably permanently) moved out.

And speaking of all those independent young people … apparently because of these selfish homeowners, they can’t “easily” afford to put a roof over their head.

Of course, there’s no mention of the terror created through government sponsored student debt which both inflated the cost of college and enslaved a generation into inescapable debt …

… making home ownership … or even renting … far from “easy”.

Ummm … sorry, but how is that housing’s fault?

And what do the social scientists at The Economist suggest is the answer to the horrible housing blunder?

For that we need to flip over to page 44 where we discover that …

“Over the last 70 years, global house prices have quadrupled in real terms.”

For those keeping score, 70 years ago was 1950. Store that for future reference.

“Real terms” means adjusting both incomes and prices for inflation. In other words, prices rose four times faster than incomes.

The solution to all these ills is threefold says the author …

First, is “… better regulation of housing finance …” so that “… people are NOT encouraged to funnel capital into the housing market.”

Yes, every business person knows when you need MORE of something you should starve it of capital. Brilliant.

Next is … wait for it … a better train and road network” to “allow more people to live farther afield.” …

… because who doesn’t enjoy riding public transportation 100 miles a day to go to work?

And last but not least, our personal favorite …

“… abolishing single-family-home zoning, which prevents densification …” and “…boosting the construction of public housing.”

Makes sense (not) because clearly, the only thing better than riding public transportation to and from work for hours a day is coming home to relax in “the projects”.

Of course, as you’ve probably discerned, we think the whole thing is absurd.

But while it’s laughable, it’s also scary … because this is the way those ginormous fish think.

Worse, they’ve assigned the symptom (high housing prices and stagnant real wages) to the wrong disease … so they’re prescribing the wrong medicine.

Housing prices took off in the ‘50s because Bretton-Woods handed the U.S., and then in 1971, the entire world, a completely unaccountable ability to go into unlimited debt.

Worse, it requires the perpetual, unrelenting growth of debt … or the system collapses.

So the wizards must continually find new ways to fabricate affordable debt 

… through mortgages, student loans, government spending, endless wars, or (insert boondoggle of your choice) …

… plus, 40 years of falling interest rates … to zero and beyond!

It would take so much more space than this modest muse permits to delve deeper into the mindset, motives, and methods of the wizards behind the curtain …

… and to explore the MANY opportunities for Main Street investors who are aware and prepared.

For now, we simply encourage you to PAY ATTENTION and THINK. And look for every opportunity to talk with others who are doing the same.

Way back in January 1988, the cover of The Economist boldly warned the world to “Get Ready for a World Currency”.

As we chronicle in our Future of Money and Wealth video, The Dollar Under Attack, and is easily seen through MANY headlines since …

… the dollar’s role as currency of the world is steadily being attacked RIGHT NOW by both friendfoe, and technology.

Here in January 2020, The Economist is overtly prodding the world to take on the threat of housing …

“Bold action is needed. Until it is taken, housing will continue to weaken the foundations of the modern world.”

This hits us all right where we live and invest. We should all be paying attention.

Housing market conditions create challenges … and opportunities …

Housing is the sector of real estate most watched … and worried about … by economists, politicians, journalists, bankers, and investors … from Wall Street to Main Street.

That’s because housing, quite literally, hits us all right where we live.

We can all relate to it and housing is both an objective and subjective measure of individual and national prosperity.

Housing has certainly been in the financial news of late …

Housing Starts Surged in December. Don’t Expect It to Last
MarketWatch, 1/17/20

Housing market falling short by nearly 4 million homes as demand grows
CNBC, 1/21/20

New Risk to World Economy: Synchronized Housing Slowdown
Wall Street Journal, 1/28/20

As you can see, there’s both “good” news and “bad” news. Of course, buried inside of all that is opportunity.

So we think it worthwhile to look at housing through the lens of a tried and true investing strategy which could prove timely in today’s market conditions.

But first, let’s set the context …

Despite low interest rates (and largely because of them), housing is expensive relative to incomes.

That’s a problem for both renters and prospective home buyers … and why affordable housing is a hot topic today.

It’s also why we’re strong advocates of leaning towards affordable markets, neighborhoods, and price points. Demand tends to be stronger there.

We think it wise to be positioned below the top of the range. If interest rates rise or there’s a recession, people above will flow downhill to you.

Meanwhile, be prepared to survive a notch or two below your current price point. Otherwise, you may lose more demand leaking out the bottom of the range than you gain flowing in from the top.

In other words, ALWAYS compete for the loyalty and rent checks of your tenants … even in a high demand market.

Those who push rents to the margin of the range are the first to feel the pullback. Like equity, all rent retraction is at the margin. High rents hurt first.

That’s because when tenants start to feel a financial squeeze, giving a 30-day notice and moving to someplace more affordable is a relatively easy thing to do.

And don’t get suckered into thinking there’s no inflation or high employment based on the highly publicized and potentially “adjusted” official data.

Pay attention to the real world … because that’s where your tenants live.

From a home buying perspective, demand comes from first-time home buyers entering the market and pushing things up.

That’s why pundits are concerned that the average first-time home buyer age has risen to 47 years old.

Perhaps young people would rather rent than own? Maybe. But even if true, we wouldn’t bet on that lasting.

Sure, Millennials saw their parent’s real estate experience turn sour in 2008 … but that’s now 11 years ago … and a LOT of equity has happened since.

Most Millennials we know would like to own. They see prices rising and affordability getting away. Meanwhile, rents are climbing.

So we think Millennial demand will be a substantial factor in housing going forward. Demand is already growing … and it’s a wave you can likely ride over the next 10 years or more.

Also, Millennials are among a large group of Americans standing to inherit about $764 billion THIS YEAR alone.

We’re guessing next to paying off student debt, buying a home is near the top of the wish list for some of those heirs … adding some additional capacity-to-pay to fuel demand.

And speaking of capacity-to-pay …

Interest rates remain crazy low … and aside from a collapse of the dollar or a seizure in the bond markets (which could easily happen somewhere down the road) …

… there’s not much in the near-term to suggest interest rates will rise substantially.

In fact, with the amount of debt in the system, it could be argued there’s FAR more downward pressure than upward.

Still, because you don’t know, it’s not a bad time to stock up on inexpensive good debt. Just be VERY attentive to marrying it to durable income streams to service it.

Of course, another much discussed hindrance to Millennial home ownership is the now infamous and mountainous levels of unforgivable and inescapable student debt.

But in terms of student debt defaults and the resulting dings to credit, it’s only less than 15% of borrowers.

That means 85% of Millennials are chugging along making those payments … and presumably preserving their very valuable credit scores.

Of course, making those student loman payments hinders a young person’s ability to save for a down payment on a home. They start later and it takes longer.

And if a young person doesn’t have parents with equity they’re willing to re-position into a home for junior, or they aren’t on the receiving end of a chunk of that $764 billion inheritance …

… the lack of a down payment is perhaps an even bigger hindrance to Millennial home ownership than student debt.

And even though there are low down payment programs out there, they come with higher interest rates, private mortgage insurance, and larger loan balances …

… all of which converge to make the resulting mortgage payment much bigger than low interest rates can offset.

So that elusive 20% down payment dramatically increases the affordability of home ownership for many Millennials.

ALL this adds up to a great opportunity for real estate investors …

There’s a simple, time-tested strategy to leverage your cash into long-term equity … while preserving your credit and avoiding virtually all land-lording hassles.

It’s “equity sharing”.

In short, a cash rich investor supplies the down payment to a credit worthy owner-occupied home buyer.

The credit partner gets the loan, makes the mortgage payment, and lives in the house for the long term.

After a predetermined period of time … usually 3 to 10 years … an appraisal is done.

Any equity growth net of capital investments (reimbursed to the partner who made them) is split at a previously agreed upon rate such as 50/50.

Of course, there are some legal agreements which need to be put in place … and the borrower needs to work closely with a mortgage pro to make sure nothing is misrepresented in the loan application.

But equity sharing is a profitable way for Main Street investors to help the next generation of homeowners get into the market … so both can ride the long-term equity wave.

The borrower gets a home of their “own” … to live in, care for, and fix up for their personal enjoyment and prosperity.

They don’t feel or act like tenants … and they’re in for the long haul.

And with their name and credit on the line, they’re HIGHLY motivated to make the payment … even if it’s higher than they could rent a similar home for.

They don’t move to save a few bucks the way a tenant would because they have housing stability, tax breaks, long-term equity growth, and pride of ownership.

Meanwhile, the investor gets half the amortization and appreciation over the hold period … and next to no management headaches.

Plus, the investor has no property management expense, no loan on their credit report, no turnover or vacancy expense.

Equity sharing is a great way for an investor to leverage cash without as much risk as traditional land-lording.

Equity sharing is really just a form of syndication and a simple strategy for taking advantage of current market conditions.

For the cash partner, you get to invest in housing for the long-term, while mitigating much of the downside risk in the short term.

For the credit partner, you convert your housing expense into housing security and long-term equity. Half of something is better than all of nothing.

And when it’s hard to find rental housing that cash flows after expenses, equity sharing is a way to ride the housing bull with far less risk than traditional land-lording … while helping a young person get on board the real estate equity train.

WORST investing advice ever … or is it?

Do you know how five of America’s richest families lost it all? 

Neither did we … until we saw an article in our news feed promising to tell all. So down the rabbit hole we went. 

After all, we’re STILL stinging from the 2008 wipe out. So any lesson about landmines on the road to building and preserving wealth is an enticing topic. 

And if mega-wealthy families can lose nine-figures, it makes street rat investors like us feel less bad about our six-figure screw-ups. 

The author of the article briefly describes the lost fortunes of Cornelius Vanderbilt, John Kluge, George Hartford, Joseph Pulitzer, and Bernhard Stroh. 

Aside from Vanderbilt (as in University) and Pulitzer (as in prize), you might not recognize the others. 

Hartford was a retailer … creating what’s described as “Walmart before Walmart” … the biggest in the world in 1965. 

But the fortune he built was squandered by heirs who could act like wealthy business moguls because they’d inherited the trappings. 

But they didn’t really know what they were doing. If you’re going to fake it ’til you make it … keep the stakes small until you know you know you’re capable. 

Stroh was a beer-maker (we like him already), but when he died, his sons took over and decided to expand faster than their cash flow could support. 

Their $700 million fortune went flat … along with their beer. Tragic. 

Kluge was a media mogul who sold a network of TV stations to what is now Fox for $4 billion. That’s a lot of popcorn. 

Divorce divided the Kluge fortune, and the ex-wife dumped ALL her money into a down payment on a vineyard … to which she added a big mortgage. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly the business failed, the land was lost in foreclosure, and some true real estate investor named Trump picked it up for pennies on the dollar. 

The lesson? 

Well, according to the article’s author, the former Mrs. Kluge should have put her fortune into … wait for it … 

“… low-risk investments like certificates of deposit (CDs), which are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) up to $250,000 per individual.” 

Really? 

But then an astonishing admission … 

“…CDs are promissory notes — essentially IOUs …” 

We’re guessing this author has never heard of counter-party risk, interest rate risk, or inflation risk. Savers take on ALL those … plus lost opportunity. 

Savings in the bank is FAR from safe. 

And while $250,000 of FDIC insurance is great … up to $250,000 … we’re pretty sure Mrs. Kluge was dealing in more sizable sums. 

So the advice in this article is HORRIBLE. 

Or is it? 

As dumb as it is to make a giant unsecured and uninsured low interest loan to a bank, for someone with no financial education, it’s almost reasonable. 

Of course, in the real world, when big money needs a place to “deposit” huge sums of cash … i.e., make low interest rate loans … they go straight to the source: government bonds. 

After all, if the bank fails, they’ll turn to the FDIC (which is woefully underfunded and arguably insolvent), which would then turn to Uncle Sam (ditto), who would turn to the Fed … who just funds everything with inflation (stealing from the workers and savers). 

Read that all again and REALLY think about it. 

But the bigger lesson from the article is … 

“Make informed investments …” 

However, rather than dumb down your investments to your current level of financial education … 

… we think it makes a LOT more sense (and dollars) to RAISE your financial knowledge by investing first and foremost in yourself, your advisor network, and an investor mastermind group. 

In other words, get smart and surround yourself with smart people. 

Money doesn’t make you smart. But smarts can make you money. 

The tragedy of our time is millions of people are facing a bleak retirement because of the pervasive fraud and mismanagement of pensions … 

… the hidden and misunderstood wealth-stealing cancer of inflation … 

… a dangerous ignorance of the important difference between speculation and investing … 

… and a false focus on net worth over passive income as the ultimate metric of wealth. 

You can read the referenced article yourself for the rest of the stories of the rise and fall of the rich families. You’ll find they’re all variations on a theme. 

Our reason for drawing all this to your attention is to remind you that most mainstream financial media is loaded with dumb ideas and devoid of any understanding of the wealth-building power and resilience of income property investing. 

Yet the need for Main Street investors to tap into the power of real estate has never been greater … 

The Fed continues to DESTROY savers. 

Yet ignorant (though perhaps well-meaning) journalists promote saving in banks … loaning money to broke and corrupt institutions which are backstopped by broke and corrupt institutions … as a panacea of safety in uncertain times. 

Wall Street continues to promote “buy low, sell high” speculation as an “investing” strategy. It’s not. 

Besides, Main Street investors are ill-equipped to swim in the shark invested waters of Wall Street for long without losing a few pounds of flesh … which is the entire reason they keep being invited to swim. 

Of course, we’re preaching to the choir. You’re probably already sold on real estate investing. 

But our point is the world needs YOU to be an outspoken, well-prepared, advocate for REAL real estate investing. 

Average people can produce WAY above average results with much less risk though well-managed income producing properties in solid markets and properly structured with optimal leverage for resilient cash-flow, inflation-destroying leverage, and tax-defying deductions. 

If you know real estate, we encourage you to teach it. 

And if you’re a proven producer of real estate profits, consider starting a syndication business to partner your skill with other investors’ money. 

No matter how you do it … join the crusade to move money out of banks and Wall Street and back where it came from, belongs, and does the most human good … on Main Street. 

Until next time … good investing! 

The world’s out of control …

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

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

As you may know, it ended badly.

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

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

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

Will it end badly this time?

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

No one knows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bigger is better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1: Cultivate positive energy

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

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

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

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

… and stay intentional about focusing your thoughts and feelings.

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

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

Step 2: Establish productive structure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 4: Act relentlessly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are all things each of us can control.

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