Seven lessons for better investing …

With less than 7 weeks remaining in 2018, we’re taking a short break from our obsessive-compulsive perusal of the financial news.

Because with an exciting New Year about to begin … full of hope, challenges, and opportunities … it’s a great time to focus on some important fundamentals.

Lesson# 1:  Invest in yourself first and frequently

Think of the amount of money you put into fixing up a property in the hopes of generating a few thousand dollars of profit or cash flow.

How much MORE important are YOUR education, skills, and network over the rest of your career?

For a fraction of what you’ll spend sprucing up just a single property, you can increase your sales skills, gain more strategic clarity, expand your economic education, and grow your professional network.

Any ONE of those things can pay you back 10x or more in just a few years.  Plus, investing in your education and networks sets you up for …

Lesson #2:  Focus on relationships, not transactions

Sure, we understand you need to do deals … to produce profits … so you can pay the bills and keep investing.  But transactions are really just a by-product of great relationships.

When you put the transaction over the relationship, you risk killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

And remember, every person you know knows MANY more people you don’t.

So even if the person in front of you isn’t ready to do a deal today, someone they know might be.

This is where YOUR education and network come into play …

When you know things other people don’t, but need to … or when you know people other people don’t, but need to …

… YOU have something of great value to enhance a relationship or work through one contact to reach another.

Most people won’t give you a referral if they think you want to sell their referral something.

But they’ll happily connect you if they think you will HELP their referral.  That’s based on trust, which is based on the relationship.

It sounds so easy … and it is.  But for some reason, most people focus on the small value of the transaction and miss the HUGE value of the relationship.

Lesson #3:  Emphasize mission and values

The old adage says, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

It’s true.  But it goes further …

People do business with people and brands they trust.  And when you focus on mission and values, and filter all you say and do through them …

… over time, you’ll create a trustworthy reputation.

Of course, a good, trustworthy reputation will attract more people into your life … and that means more relationships, and ultimately, more deals.

Lesson #4:  Build a business and portfolio that works for YOU … and not vice-versa

We’re old enough to remember when Michael Gerber’s now classic title, The E-Myth, was the hot new business book.

But the timeless lessons are as applicable today as ever.

Too many people … employees, entrepreneurs, and investors … do the “two-step.”

They set out to do whatever they can find to make money based on the belief that if they can just make enough money, THEN they can go do what they REALLY want.

The problem is when you don’t love what you do, either you let off the gas and never really succeed …

… or worse, you lose yourself in service to a business, portfolio and lifestyle you don’t really enjoy.

And then you just hold your breath until the day you can sell it or retire on your investments.

Better to ask yourself EARLY what’s really important to you … how you want to live … what you love to do … and then build a business and/or portfolio around THAT.

It’s a harder problem to solve, but you’ll LOVE the answer when you find it.

Lesson #5:  Develop and maintain a clear vision

We all run around with pictures in our mind. How we see the world … how we see ourselves … what we’re working to accomplish.

The challenge for many is the picture is fuzzy.

It’s like driving in the fog.  You have a sense of direction … but aren’t exactly sure how to get there.

You’re feeling your way … scared to go too fast and miss a turn or fall into a ditch.

Yet some people are taking bold action and moving aggressively through life.

What’s the difference?

Clarity.

Bold action takers can “see” exactly where they’re going, what they’re building, and WHY … and that vision inspires and emboldens them to move towards the goals with enthusiasm and confidence.

We say, “When you have clarity of vision, strategy and tactics become evident.”

So when you’re not sure what to do, focus on your vision.  Just seeing the end from the beginning is often enough to tell you what to do next.

Lesson #6:  Always see the downside

Really?  Doesn’t focusing on the negative create paralysis?

Only for amateurs.  Pros are more afraid of what they DON’T see than what they do … because you can’t avoid or manage risks you aren’t aware of.

Billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell says everyone sees the upside.  That’s what they look for and what motivates them to go for it.

But Zell says his success comes from being able to see the DOWNSIDE too …  and then making plans to mitigate it … even if it means walking away.

Pessimists ONLY see the downside and can’t act.  Optimists only see the upside and hope for the best.

We’re pretty sure hope is not an investment strategy. Be a realist and get good at seeing and managing risk.

Lesson #7:  Always pay attention to cash and cash flow

Profit and net worth are important.   Cash and cash flow are essential.

A business mentor of ours once taught us that cash is like oxygen, while revenue is like water, and profit is like food.

You can survive for a long time without profit … if you have revenue and cash.

You can survive for a little while without revenue … if you have cash.

But run out of cash … and you’ll be dead very soon.

Pre-politician Donald Trump once told us it’s always good to have cash in the downtimes. We say, “Cash Flow controls and Cash Reserves preserve.”

So have some liquidity at all times. Write off the lost opportunity cost on the cash as an insurance premium.

And do NOT count on credit for liquidity. We did that once … and it didn’t end well.  Lenders tend to cut off credit when you need it the most.

Bonus Lesson:  Use firewalls to avoid portfolio contagion

Let’s face it.  Some investments are more risky than others.

But if you don’t have firewalls, then just ONE risky investment can implode your entire portfolio.

You might have a solidly built, cash-flowing portfolio of properties, and a high net worth with good liquidity, and hedges against inflation and deflation.

But just ONE lawsuit, or personal loan guarantee on just ONE risky deal, or pulling money out of performing property or business to feed a loser …

… and EVERYTHING goes … UNLESS you use legal structures, mental discipline, and emotional control to isolate risk.

It’s a bigger topic than we have time for here, but we address it in ourIntroduction to Strategic Real Asset Investing webinar.

You can get the webinar as a free bonus when you order the Future of Money and Wealth video series … which is a great primer on several risks ALL investors should be paying attention to right now.

Until next time … good investing!


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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training, and resources to help real estate investors succeed.


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Can you handle the truth?

“You can’t handle the truth!” 

 – Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men

Neither optimists or pessimists can handle the truth.Optimists refuse to acknowledge the part of reality that’s negative …

… while pessimists can’t see the ever-present opportunities hidden behind the problems.

While we’d rather be optimistic than pessimistic, maybe it’s better to be BOTH.“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” 

 – F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Here are some thoughts about risk and opportunity from legendary real estate investor Sam Zell …

People love focusing on the upside.  That’s where the fun is.  What amazes me is how superficially they consider the downside.”  

“For me, the calculation in making a deal starts with the downside.  If I can identify that, then I understand the risk I’m taking.   Can I bear the cost?  Can I survive it?” 

You can only take calculated risks if you look carefully at both the upside AND the downside.

Today, the entire global financial system is largely based on “full faith and credit” … primarily in the United States dollar.

And there’s a gigantic investment industry that’s built on perpetual optimism …and a belief non-stop debt-fueled growth FOREVER is actually possible.

Even worse, the entire financial system’s fundamental structure literally REQUIRES perpetual growth to avoid implosion.

That’s why central banks and governments are COMMITTED to debt and inflation … at almost ANY cost.

But as Simon Black points out in Future of Money and Wealth 

History is CLEAR.  Empires and world reserve currencies don’t last forever.

And irredeemable paper currencies and out-of-control debt ALWAYS end badly … at least for the unaware and unprepared.

Optimists can’t see this.  So they take HUGE risks they don’t even know exist.

Pessimists can’t act.  So they miss out on the HUGE opportunities that are the flip-side of the very problems they obsess over.

Robert Kiyosaki stresses the importance of being REALISTS …

… standing on the edge of the coin, seeing BOTH sides … and then being decisive and confident to ACT in pursuit of opportunities while being keenly aware of the risks. 

We created the Future of Money and Wealth to gather a diverse collection of speakers and panelists together … to examine the good, the bad, and the ugly …

… so YOU can have more context and information to make better investing decisions. 

Chris Martenson opens our eyes to the physical limitations of long-term perpetual exponential growth which depends on unlimited supplies of clearly LIMITED resources.

Of course, as these critical resources dwindle, they’ll become very expensive as too much demand competes for too little supply.

When you see nation’s fighting over scarce resources, it’s a sign of the times.

But of course, there’s OPPORTUNITY hidden inside of crisis.

And to seize the opportunity, you must understand it … or it just sits there like a hidden treasure under your feet.

But it’s not just recognizing trends.  It’s also TIMING.  And being a lot early is much better than being even just a little late.

To beat the crowd, you can’t wait for the crowd to affirm you. 

To get timing right, it’s important YOU know what the signs are.

What does it mean when Russia dumps Treasuries and buys gold?  What caused Bitcoin to sky-rocket in 2017?  Why are there bail-in provisions in U.S. banking laws?

Peter Schiff saw fundamental problems in the financial system back in 2006 … and screamed from the rooftops that the financial system couldn’t support the then red-hot economy.

Few listened … then WHAM!  In 2008, the weakness of the financial SYSTEM was exposed … and MANY people were CRUSHED.

Peter insists the REAL crash is still yet to occur … and everything that made the financial SYSTEM weak in 2006 is MUCH WORSE today.

Yet small business and consumer OPTIMISM is at all-time highs.  The ECONOMY appears to be BOOMING … again.  And Peter’s still screaming out his warnings.

The Fed is RAISING interest rates to cool things down.  But history says EVERY SINGLE TIME the Fed embarks on a rate raising campaign it ends in RECESSION.

In Future of Money and WealthFannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan reveals when he thinks the next recession is coming … and WHY.  We listen to Doug because he’s got a really good track record.

The 2008 crisis exposed real estate investors to the REALITY that what happens on Wall Street, at the Fed, and in the global economy … can all rain down HARD on Main Street. 

Ignoring it doesn’t make it go away.  And you’ll die of old age waiting for the storm clouds to blow away.

There will ALWAYS be risk.  There will always be OPPORTUNITY. 

It’s not the external circumstances which dictate what YOU get.

It’s really up to YOU … and your ability, like Sam Zell, to see both opportunity and risk, so you can aggressively reach for opportunity while carefully navigating risks.

Education, perspective, information, and thoughtful consideration are all part of the formula.

That’s why we created the Future of Money and Wealth video series.

Future of Money and Wealth features TWENTY videos … over fourteen hours of expert presentations and panels …

… covering the dollar, oil, gold, real estate, crypto-currencies, economics, geo-politics, the new tax law …

… PLUS specific strategies to protect and GROW wealth in the face of potentially foundation-shaking changes to the financial system.

Just ONE great idea can make or save you a fortune. 

Future of Money and Wealth might just be one of the best investments you’ll ever make.

To order immediate access to Future of Money and Wealth … 

Click here now >> 


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Forecasts, fallacies and fortitude …

As of this writing, the Fed hasn’t yet announced their economic forecasts or whether they’ll raise interest rates.

The talk on the street says the Fed will raise by 25 basis points (.25%).

History says a recession is coming … because 10 of the last 13 times the Fed engaged in a rate hike campaign, that’s what happened. They’re not particularly skilled at “soft landings”.

The Fed also has a dismal record for economic forecasts. They chronically see sunshine even when clouds are forming. But that’s not why Wall Street pays attention to them.

Day traders, hedge fund managers, and other players in the Wall Street casinos fixate on the Fed … hoping to be on the right side of whatever flow of cash results from anything they do or say.

Their mantra is “buy low, sell high” to generate cash flow. It’s a fast-paced, high stakes game perfect for adrenalin junkies.

It’s also a game which generates brokerage fees, highly taxable capital gains, and big bonuses. So both Wall Street and Uncle Sam love it.

Meanwhile, real estate investors sit off to the side … casually interested in what the Fed does … but much more concerned with collecting rent, watching expenses, and managing cash flow.

Cash flowing real estate is pretty boring. And super sexy. Like a faithful wife or girlfriend.

But if the Fed’s likely hike is signaling a higher probability of recession, what’s a real estate investor to do?

Here are some thoughts gleaned from a Business Insider article quoting legendary real estate investor Sam Zell

“Sure, I’m always looking for unlocked potential … but everybody wants to look at how good a deal can get. People love focusing on the upside. That’s where the fun is. What amazes me is how superficially they consider the downside.

For me, the calculation in making a deal starts with the downside. If I can identify that, then I understand the risk I’m taking. What’s the outcome if everything goes wrong? What actions would we take? Can I bear the cost? Can I survive it?”

Zell also says, “… taking risks is really the only way to consistently achieve above average returns … in life, as well as in investments.”

In other words, success is not about avoiding risk, but rather in understanding, accepting and managing risk … and only taking it on when the upside is worth it and you can afford the downside.

Here are some things for real estate investors to think about in preparing for the possibility of recession …

Consider increasing liquidity

Right now, there’s a lot of equity in both stocks and real estate. If you’ve got excess equity on your balance sheet, it could be an ideal time to convert some of it to cash.

Yes, it’s tempting to be fully deployed in good times. But if things slow down, cash is king. And if asset values fall, the market’s going to take the equity anyway. Better for you to grab it first.

Emphasize durability of cash flow

It’s a lot more fun to push rents to increase net operating income, and you should always look to optimize income. But earn it by delivering better value and not just by riding a hot economy.

If times get tough for your tenants, they’ll start looking for value. When they do, make sure they find YOU at the top of the list.

Look for ways to trim expenses, lock in solid tenants with competitive longer-term leases, and restructure debt with an emphasis on stability.

You may leave a little on the table, but consider it recession insurance.

Gravitate towards affordable markets

If recession comes, businesses and households will be much more aggressive in seeking value.

Once you know you’re competitive in your current markets, consider expanding your portfolio into markets that are likely to be popular with people and businesses looking to save.

Over-priced markets and properties will probably recede. While affordable markets and properties will likely benefit from increased demand.

Watch for “Sea Change”

Sometimes recessions are just bumps on the road of business-as-usual.

Sometimes recessions are part of a much broader transformation.

There are MANY things going on in the world which are far from business-as-usual. Like recessions, they can be unnerving, but they also create opportunity.

The dollar’s future as the world’s reserve currency, technology’s impact on labor, unprecedented global debt, the ascent (and now slowing) of China … are some of the many macro-factors we pay attention to.

Each of these has the potential to change the investing landscape in substantial ways.

Consider this CNBC headline …

‘Made in China’ could soon be ‘Made in the US’

“Contrary to widespread belief, China isn’t the cheap place to manufacture that it once was, and rising costs have been forcing manufacturers to explore new countries to make their goods.”

The article quotes the president of a Chinese textile firm …

“Add in the possibility of a lower corporate tax to as little as 15 percent, as proposed by Trump, and the U.S. becomes a no-brainer for many manufacturers …”

Could hard times in China lead to a resurgence of the U.S. rust belt?

Here’s the point …

Recession in and of itself isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. It’s an event. In fact, it’s a regularly recurring event.

Recession isn’t necessarily universal or global. In other words, it doesn’t affect all industries, people or locations the same way at the same time.

A recession in one place can lead to a boom in another and vice-versa as people, businesses and money flow to and from challenges and opportunities.

Like winter, a recession is a season. It may not be as fun as the sunshine, but for the prepared it’s not a big deal.

Going back to the wisdom of Sam Zell … acknowledging the reality of the downside isn’t a reason to hunker down and do nothing. Doing nothing has its own downside.

The world is full of very real threats … and that’s GOOD. It creates movement from which pockets of opportunity emerge.

Because, as Sam Zell says “… taking risks is really the only way to consistently achieve above average returns …

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to become a well-informed and diligent risk-taker.

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.