The Feds raised rates … now what?

If you’re old enough, you may remember the old Pee Wee Herman movies … where Pee Wee falls off his bike and with brash bravado claims, “I meant to do that!”

Well to no one’s surprise, the Fed inched up their “target” Federal funds rates by 25 basis points.

So now, instead of just one-quarter of one percent (.25%), the rate is now a whopping one-half of one percent (.50%).

Of course, as we’ve previously discussed, the market already beat them to it.  So like Pee Wee Herman, it seems the Fed is not in as much control as they pretend to be.

Investor Summit at Sea™ faculty member Peter Schiff had some great commentary on this topic in a recent podcast.  You can listen to it yourself, so we won’t repeat it here.

But one of his best points is that the Fed’s own forecasts are WORSE going into 2017 than they were going into 2016.  Yet last year, the Fed projected FOUR increases for 2016.

In fact, in a panel on last year’s Summit, Peter and Jim Rickards debated this very point.

Jim said yes, the Fed would raise four times.  Peter said no raise in 2016.  Both were wrong, but Peter was closer to right.

So it seems even super smart guys have a hard time figuring out what the puppet masters are going to do.

But just because no one can say for certain what will or won’t happen … doesn’t mean we don’t pay attention.

We just don’t go ALL IN on any one outcome.  Why? You NEVER know what will REALLY happen.

Right now, both the stock market and real estate have been on multi-year booms… after HUGE declines in 2008.

According to data compiled into this nifty chart by the Pew Research Center, U.S. home prices “have almost recovered from the bust.”

Of course, the daily financial news is constantly blasting about the stock market … with the Dow flirting with 20,000 … in spite of the Fed’s interest rate “increase.”

Apparently people are continuing to pile into the stock market at these nose-bleed levels.

So that’s a lot of EQUITY happening in both stocks and real estate.

It’s no secret we’re equity guys.  We LOVE equity.  When we’re not talking real estate on the radio, we’re forcing equity through real estate development.  Equity’s AWESOME.

BUT … as we often point out … equity comes from cash flow.  They aren’t mutually exclusive.  In fact, they go hand in hand.

However, there’s another kind of equity out there.  The kind which comes from what David Stockman would call “bubble finance.”

That is, when central banks pump cheap money into the system, it can cause asset prices to rise WITHOUT underlying cash flows to support it.  It’s AIR.

This is a REALLY important concept, so PLEASE don’t tune out …

Think about it.

It’s easier to understand with stocks, but the principle is the same with real estate.  When buyers are paying MORE than the income justifies, it’s NOT sustainable.

But it IS tempting.  When you can buy a stock or property, hold it for a short period of time, and sell it for much more than you paid to a “greater fool,” the checks still cash.

However, when you stay in the casinos too long, the house (not yours) usually wins.

So YOU need to know how to tell the difference between real value and a bubble.  And then you need to have some strategy tools in your kit, so you can take appropriate action based on what you see.

Here’s how income creates equity:  If an asset is valued at some multiple of earnings, i.e., a rental property selling for 10 times gross rents, and the rents go UP $2,000 per year, the property’s VALUE just went up $20,000.

That’s cash-flow-driven equity growth.  (We know in the real world, properties are valued by Net Operating Income, but you get the idea.)

What if properties are going up but rents are NOT?  At some point, that’s a problem.

With home prices, in spite of still record LOW home ownership rates, values are still largely driven by affordability.  That’s REAL wages and mortgage rates.

We already know mortgage rates have been on the rise.  Those are easy to see.  There’s no massaging the numbers.  No seasonal adjustments.

Discerning real wages and inflation is a completely different matter.

The Fed says we have a “tight” labor market with a claimed unemployment rate of 4.6%.  Of course, you have to look at that in the light of a decades-low labor participation rate.

We’re not going to attempt to dive into any of that.  If you go too macro, you can’t see the ground anymore.

Here’s the point …

There’s a lot of equity happening.  Hopefully a lot of it is happening to you.

But if the Fed is really going to turn down the air to the jump house, some of your equity might leak out.

As real estate investors, our job is to proactively manage debt, equity and cash flow.  We let the property manager worry about tenants and toilets.

And when the wave machine of cheap money starts receding … potentially washing some of our newfound equity out to sea … we think about what we can do to protect it.

The GREAT NEWS is that mortgages in bubble equity markets are still cheap and readily available.  It’s a big part of why bubbles form.

But easy mortgage money means you can take equity off the table … even if you want to hold the property for the long term.

Accessing the equity isn’t the danger.  It’s what you do with the proceeds, how you manage the cash flow, and the risks.

Before he was President-elect Trump,  Donald Trump told us it’s ALWAYS smart to keep a little dry powder.  We’ll see how he does as a politician, but he’s got pretty good cred as a real estate guy.

So it’s probably smart to stash some cash … or other highly liquid assets (preferably without counter-party risk) … arbitrage the debt (loan out a chunk at a rate higher than you paid) … and/or reposition the equity into income producing properties in NON-bubble markets.

Yes.  Non-bubble markets exist.  These are markets where there’s very little if any financing and the income is real … not dependent on cheap money from central banks.

We know this idea may be getting a little repetitive.  But that’s partly because of the nature of real estate.  It moves SLOWLY.   So it’s easy for investors to nod off.

The bond market and the Fed’s rate hike are reminders for us to PAY ATTENTION.

And then … like The Real Estate Guys™ motto, use your Education for Effective Action™.

We know it’s a lot to absorb.  We have fond memories of living in our own little bubble from 2001 to 2007.  It was fun. It was easy.  Everything worked.  We were geniuses.

Then WHAM!

We didn’t see the problem until it washed away huge amounts of our portfolios.

We’ve been at this a LONG time.  But there are people in our audience who started their investing careers in the run-up since 2008.  They’ve only seen sunshine.

We’re not saying rain clouds are forming.  But they might be.

So we think it’s a good idea to be prepared no matter which way the wind blows.

That means investing in education, networking… being attentive to cash flow…and sometimes getting chunks of equity out of harm’s way.  Just in case.  And it’s better to be early than late.

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.

What do Trump and Sanders primary wins say to real estate investors?

Trump and Sanders and a Bigger Economic Picture

In the recent New Hampshire primary vote, Trump and Sanders brought home big wins. Donald Trump summed it up in his New Hampshire victory speechTrump and Sanders NH Primary Wins - Donald Trump won the New Hampshire Republican primary by a large margin

If we had 5 percent unemployment, do you really think we’d have these gatherings?

He could be right.

In spite of “glowing” employment reports and a Fed so confident in the “strength” of the economy it raised interest rates a “whopping” 25 basis points for the first time in nearly a decade…the ire of the electorate (and the stock market) could be telling a much different story.

John Burns Consulting recently issued a report confirming something we’ve been projecting for quite some time:

Americans Are Leaving Big Cities for More Affordable Cities in the South and Northwest

When it comes to real estate, for homeowners or renters (and therefore for landlords), the basis for growth isn’t from foreigners snapping up U.S. real estate as a safe haven…or from hedge funds pumping billions of dollars into single-family home speculation…The real driver underneath fundamental real estate strength is real growth in both jobs and wages.

But in spite of the 4.9% unemployment rate touted by the government, that same government says labor participation is historically very low.

Look at this chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

trump and sanders win - U.S. labor participation rate has seen falling substantially for the last 10 years

U.S. Labor Participation Rate – Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Boomers to blame? 

Some say the decline in labor participation is due to baby boomers retiring, but the government’s very own stats don’t support this assertion…

From 2004 to 2014, the only age group to INCREASE in labor participation was age 55 and OLDER.

Labor participation for anything UNDER 55 was actually NEGATIVE.

Clearly, baby boomers aren’t driving down the labor participation rate.  They’re the main group propping it UP!

What about wages?

Back in October 2014, Pew Research revealed that real wages have been stagnant (at best) for decades:

Trump and Sanders and the economy - purchasing power chart

Source: Pew Research Center

More recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported real earnings notched up a tad, but a big chunk of the tiny gain came from a lower CPI (Consumer Price Index).

So small pay raises supplemented by lower prices produced a slight increase in purchasing power.

Is that enough to sustain the robust rental increases landlords have been enjoying the last couple of years?

No.  That’s probably why people are moving to more affordable markets.  A trend we expect to continue.

As you can see, it’s easy to get lost in the statistical weeds.

But the New Hampshire results are telling an easy to understand message on both sides of the aisle.

This economy isn’t booming for working class folks.

Trump and Sanders NH Primary Wins - picture of bernie sanders

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders

So the voters want to kick the bums out, make America great again, return the power to the people, and stick it to the Wall Street elites…which explains (at least partly) the surprising popularity of candidates like Trump and Sanders.

Will the Fed continue to raise rates in an attempt to instill confidence?  

Based on the market’s reaction, it’s hard to imagine they will.  After all, the stock market’s been throwing a hissy fit since the December “hike”.  Just like Peter Schiff said they would.

As we discussed in a recent newsletter, the Fed rate increase resulted in a DECREASE in mortgage rates.

That’s because investors dumped stocks for the “safety” of bonds, pushing yields down (yields or interest rates DECREASE when the prices of the bonds are bid UP by growing demand).

Great!  Cheaper money is always nice for real estate investing.

It’s a reminder that bad times can be great times for investors, so don’t be dismayed by economic uncertainty.

Oil’s still not well…

Another big concern for 2016 remains the impact of lower oil prices on the credit markets.Falling oil prices threaten to implode the bond markets.

If oil prices remain suppressed for whatever reason, while it’s great for consumers (your tenants), it makes it harder for indebted oil companies (employers) to meet their debt obligations.

No surprise U.S. oil bankruptcies have spiked 379%!

And if Wall Street levered up on oil bonds the way they did with sub-prime mortgage bonds, a meltdown in oil bonds could trigger another epic financial crisis…maybe even The Real Crash Peter Schiff has been warning about.

We don’t know.  We just keep watching.

For real estate investors, the message is the same as it’s been for a while…

Affordable properties in tax and business friendly states with good infrastructure, diverse economic drivers, and quality of life amenities will probably see a disproportionate influx of people and businesses.

So while real estate, like everything else, will be impacted by a financial crisis…it isn’t an asset easily dumped by panicked investors.

And the powers that be, from governments to central banks to big business, are all highly motivated to prop up real estate.

Even better, if you’ve locked in super cheap mortgage money for the long term, and picked properties which conservatively cash flow, you’re in a position to ride out a storm.

And if you’re really prepared, you may have converted some of your equity into cash in case prices fall.

As he told us before he was a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump says in the down times, it’s always good to have some cash on hand to go bargain shopping.

For now, the Trump and Sanders freight train seems to be telling us Main Street isn’t drinking the “all is well” Kool-Aid.

So our focus remains on markets, properties and financing structures which position real estate investors to prosper in an economy that isn’t yet on solid footing for Main Street.

After all, that’s where our tenants live.

Until next time…

Good Investing!

What Does a Chinese Yuan Reserve Currency Mean for Real Estate Investors?

While American media is focused on the chances of a Thanksgiving weekend terrorist attack (not to make light of those concerns)…a group of international bureaucrats will be meeting to decide if the world will take a step closer to a Chinese yuan reserve currency.

On Monday November 30th, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) votes on whether the yuan (the currency of China, also known as the renminbi) gets into the Special Drawing Rights (SDR) basket.

Who cares?

China does.  They care a LOT.  And YOU should probably care too…even if you don’t know it yet.

What is an SDR?

Special Drawing Rights (SDR) are the currency of the International Monetary Fund.

The SDR “basket” is a collection of “premium” currencies whose values collectively determine the value of the SDR using a special formula.

Confused already?  That’s okay.  Just don’t give up….

Remember all those real estate investors in 2005 that didn’t pay attention to Wall Street…thinking what do stocks, bonds and derivatives have to do with Main Street real estate investing?

In 2008 we all found out.  Oops.

So here’s a quick primer on the situation (for a better understanding, read Jim Rickards’ books Currency Wars and Death of Money)…

In the U.S., when an individual bank runs low on cash, they can borrow from the central bank (the Federal Reserve).  All major countries have a similar system.

But where do central banks go when they need to borrow?

So here’s where it gets a little complicated. But stick with us because we plan to show how it matters to you and your Main Street investing.

A little history…

What is the IMF?

The IMF is the International Monetary FundPrior to 1944, countries settled trade in gold.  So if you imported more than you exported, you owed someone a pile of shiny yellow metal.   Or at least a claim ticket for it.  Makes sense.

After two world wars, most of the world’s gold and remaining production capacity was primarily in the United States.

After all, it’s hard to export anything when all your production capacity and infrastructure was bombed to smithereens.  So almost by default (not that Americans weren’t smart and didn’t work hard) the U.S. had the world’s dominant economy.

In 1944, at the Bretton Woods conference, a NEW financial order was set up…and the U.S. took over for Great Britain as the financial capital of the world.

Remember the golden rule?  He who has the gold, makes the rules.

That’s what happened in Bretton Woods.  The U.S. had the gold, so King Dollar was crowned.  For most folks reading this, it’s the only system you’ve ever known.The dollar become the world's reserve currency at the Bretton Woods conference in 1944

But that doesn’t make it permanent.  In fact, history tells us that dominant economies, currencies, governments and systems eventually change.

Anyway, the idea of a central bank for the central banks also came out of Bretton Woods.  They called it the International Monetary Fund or IMF.

Five years later, it launched.  Keep in mind that these things take time.  It’s easy to miss…or forget…that fundamental change is happening.

Basically, the IMF is the central bank to the central banks.

Twenty years later, in 1969, the idea of a special currency for the IMF came up.  They called it “Special Drawing Rights” or SDR.

Lame name, but lucky timing (probably just a coincidence…) because just two years later, in 1971, the U.S. defaulted on the Bretton Woods agreement with the “Nixon shock”.

That’s when President Richard Nixon shocked the world on national TV announcing he was closing the gold window “temporarily”.  (Still closed today by the way…)

But don’t take our word for it…watch Nixon make the announcement yourself:

The ORIGINAL Bretton Woods deal was that countries holding paper dollars could turn them into Uncle Sam and get real gold.  In essence, the dollar was as good as gold.

But when Nixon suddenly changed the deal (reminds us of the exchange between Darth Vader and Lando Calrissian in Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back below), it meant all countries holding U.S. dollars formerly redeemable for U.S. gold now simply held green pieces of paper with pictures of dead U.S. leaders.

Now…to no surprise…no one wanted or trusted U.S. dollars.  So the dollar crashed.  Gold and inflation soared.  The U.S. economy and stock market tanked.  “Stagflation” became the term to describe a new strain of economic malaise.

Research it yourself.  There are many important lessons to be learned about how a major economic policy change ripples through economies.

And sometimes the UNTHINKABLE happens.

For example, in a vain attempt to contain the inflation unleashed by his default on the gold dollar, Nixon instituted a wage and price freeze:

After defaulting on the Bretton Woods gold dollar standard, Nixon imposed a freeze on wage and price increases

Who would think that in the Land of the Free, it would be a FEDERAL CRIME to give an employee a raise…or to raise the price of the merchandise in your OWN store?!?

But it happened.  In America.

The point is that defaulting on the Bretton Woods promise to redeem dollars for gold was a HUGE reset.

The gold dollar was dead.

BUT…the U.S. still had a strong balance sheet, a big army, huge manufacturing capacity…and a plan.

Shortly thereafter, the petro-dollar was born.

“Petro-dollar” just means that the U.S. dollar became the currency which worldwide oil transactions were settled in.  It created a huge and ever-present permanent new demand for U.S. dollars.

Now there’s SO much more to say about that…but not today.

Again, we encourage you to study the history of the dollar, gold and oil.  Or come to a live event and buy us a beer or two or three…and we can talk about all this until the wee hours (that’s what happens after a few beers…)

Back to our story…

So now we’re in the petro-dollar era and the IMF is there with its SDRs and the SDR value is based on a “basket” of currencies it’s indexed to.

The SDR basket is made up of all the “best” currencies…the U.S. dollar, the British pound, the Japanese yen, and the European Union’s euro.IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDR) are valued based on a basket of currencies including the U.S. dollar, Japanese yen, British pound, EU Euro. China wants their yuan (renminbi) included.

That’s a pretty exclusive club considering there are 190+ countries out there.

China wants the yuan to join the SDR club.

But at the last vote in 2010 (these things only get looked at every 5 years), they got voted down.

Not dissuaded, China went to work.  We chronicle much of this in our special report on Real Asset Investing.

But this time, it seems China has a Plan B…in case the IMF slams the door again.

So while they’re working to comply with IMF requirements, China’s also taken steps to go independent if need be.

Does China want a yuan reserve currency?

We don’t know.  If Beijing calls us with a heads up, we’ll be sure to pass it along.

But how often can you trust anything ANY government says?  It’s better to WATCH what they DO.

Right now, it seems to us that China looked at what the U.S. did to be top dog at Bretton Woods and are copying it as best they can.

It’s a long list, but some notable items are:

Pay close attention to that last one.  We think this will be a BIG story in the not too distant future.

In 2015, China formed its own international bank (the AIIB – Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) in spite of U.S. resistance…and wooed dozens of countries to join, including Uncle Sam’s “pal”, Great Britain.

It’s kind of like, “If you can’t join them, beat them.”  Or at least show you’re ready to beat them if necessary.

But no one wants to fight the U.S. toe to toe…including China.  Better to get voted in with a yuan reserve currency.

Of course, the U.S. has an effective veto with over 16% of the IMF voting rights (it takes 85% to pass).  So even if Uncle Sam’s buddies don’t back him again, he can still stop China from getting in the club.

But we think China’s ready for that.  And we think Uncle Sam knows China’s ready.  So we wouldn’t be surprised if Uncle Sam cries…well, uncle.

But who knows?  We’ll find out soon enough.

THEN…it will be interesting to see what happens next.

If China gets in, it’s like adding a new stock to the S&P 500. It creates an immediate spike in demand for the new stock…and something gets dumped to make room.

Art Cashin, Director of Floor Operations at UBS and famed commenter on CNBC has been quoted saying…

Art Cashin is the Director of Floor Operations for UBS and has traded on the stock exchange for 50 years. He says a yuan reserve currency would mean trillions of dollars would shift into yuan denominated assets“If [SDR] approval were given, we could be looking at shifts in the trillions of dollars.”

We’re not that bright, but when a BIG shift happens we know to pay attention.

In that same article, Lombard Street Research’s chief economist and head of research, Diana Choyleva was quoted…

“’If the yuan goes in the basket, then the likelihood is that the Chinese would prefer a gradual depreciation of their currency against the US dollar.’”

And if the yuan is NOT accepted?

Choyleva says…

“The Chinese leadership is not going to wait another five years…And they will not be so keen to be such a responsible global citizen….If the yuan is not accepted in the SDR, they will go for a one-off large devaluation and that would then be … a financial crisis, specifically, a real-economy crisis with the resulting impact on the …markets.”

Another financial crisis doesn’t sound like any fun.

It SEEMS like Uncle Sam and China are actually working closely together to gently ease a Chinese yuan reserve currency into the club.

But like raising kids, adolescents always think they’re ready too soon…and parents always hold on too long.

China’s clearly growing up.  And China’s financial decisions affect Americans…even real estate investors on Main Street.

This headline is a case in point:

U.S. Steel to Lay Off Thousands of WorkersU.S. Steel announced thousands of layoffs partially because of a strong dollar against the Chines yuan

“…U.S. Steel blamed the temporary closure on tough market conditions ‘including fluctuating oil prices, reduced rig counts and associated inventory overhang, depressed steel prices and unfairly traded imports.’”

“Earlier this year, U.S. Steel permanently shuttered a longtime plant outside of Birmingham, Alabama, laying off 1,100 workers. That closure came on the heels of a string of layoffs in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, among other states.”

Those are all working class jobs in great rental property states.

Getting closer to home now?

The article continues…

“[China’s] recent slowdown threatens to exacerbate problems for American steelmakers, as Chinese policymakers look to boost exports and more steel hits the global market.”

The Chinese policies referred to include tweaking the relative strength of the yuan…because a cheaper yuan means cheaper goods into the U.S., which costs U.S. jobs.

And this is just ONE industry.  Think of ALL the other industries China is involved in…especially in any markets YOU are invested in.

So what’s an investor to do if there is a Chinese yuan reserve currency?

Pay attention.

Watching two elephants dance isn’t exciting.The United States and China are two elephants locked in a strategic dance for dominance. Will the dollar remain the reserve currency of the world or will the yuan become the reserve currency of the world?

They aren’t graceful and they move slowly.

But when you’re locked in the same economy and those elephants can crush you, you’re wise to stay alert.  And everyone knows we need more lerts. 😉

So REALLY get to know YOUR markets, demographics, ultimate income sources, and critical dependencies.

You want to see weakness or opportunity before others so you can move in or move out ahead of the crowd.

Remember, it takes time to tweak a real estate portfolio.  Of course, compared to the dancing elephants, you’re a water bug.  But you still need to be looking and moving ahead

Focus on macro trends.

China’s been working on getting into the SDR club more than a decade.  The dollar’s recent strength is an aberration in a well-chronicled 100 year slide.

You’ll lose sleep…and hair (we know)…trying to understand every tick in some chart.  Looking at the big picture smooths out a lot of  the noise.

Watch for game changers.

A yuan reserve currency could be a real game changer for U.S. investorsBretton Woods in 1944 was a game changer.  A fundamental change to the global financial system.

The Nixon Shock in 1971 was a game changer. Another fundamental change to the global financial system.

China’s ascension has been a slowly developing game changer.

It used to be Americans could just go about their business.  The rest of the world was too puny to really severely impact the mighty U.S. economy and dollar.

Now, when China gets a cold, so does Uncle Sam.  You can read it in the news everyday.

Is adding the Chinese yuan into the IMF SDR a game changer?

We don’t know yet.  Could be.

Or maybe the Chinese will do a reverse Nixon shock. We’re pretty sure THAT would be a game changer. (Think about it…)

Invest in things that are REAL and ESSENTIAL.

It’s our recurring theme.  Housing, food, energy, commodities.  All have roots in real estate.  Sure, they can go boom and bust.  But they’re ALWAYS needed.  Pets.com?  Not so much.

Use financial structures which can withstand economic pull backs.

The flirty girl at the frat party might get a lot of attention, but she’s not the one you take home to Mama.

Bubbles and leverage create lots of sexy opportunities, but when the glitter rubs off, you want to be with markets, product types, demographics and teams which are in it for the long haul.

Credit lines, equity and buyers all can (and usually do) disappear when you need them the most.  They’re fickle.Sometimes cash in hand is the best way to prepare for a financial crisis

A little cash on hand can be your best friend in a downturn.  If you have your chips on the table and get a bad roll, you’re out.  Donald Trump told us he learned it’s ALWAYS good to have some cash available in the down times.

So don’t envy the guy getting lucky with the hot deal when it’s all sunshine.   Otherwise, you’ll certainly be envying the guy with the stable portfolio when the clouds come.

Now if you’ve read this far, we’re guessing you’re SERIOUS about understanding these chaotic times.  We are too.

So if you REALLY want to jump start your learning…

We invite you to invest a week to sharpen your understanding of economics, investing and real asset portfolio strategies aboard our 14th annual Investor Summit at Sea.

One of our discussion topics will be The Future of Money and Banking…with Robert Kiyosaki, G. Edward Griffin and experts in economics, precious metals, crypto-currency and alternative banking.  Not to mention real estate, tax and estate planning, asset protection and more.  Your brain will hurt.  But you’ll LOVE it.

>>> Click here now to learn more about the next Investor Summit at Sea.

Meanwhile, stand by….and we’ll let you know whether there’s a Chinese yuan reserve currency in your future.

Bulls, Bears and a Broader Perspective from Three Big Brains

Will the Fed raise interest rates?  Will gold go up?  Will stocks crash?

Inquiring minds want to know!  And so do real estate investors.

So we sit down to chat with three of the smartest guys we know…a Bull, a Bear and a Bug (gold that is).  And then we discuss what it all means to YOUR real estate investing.


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


Divining the tea leaves of financial markets is an imprecise science at best…and probably much more of an art.

But whether science or sorcery, when you’re busy building a portfolio of assets, liabilities, cash flow and savings, you need to pay attention to a lot of moving parts.

Broadcasting from the New Orleans Investment Conference in (you’ll never guess…) New Orleans, Louisiana:

  • Your divine host, Robert Helms
  • His imprecise co-host, Russell Gray
  • Renowned economist, author and stock guru, Mark Skousen
  • Best-selling author, outspoken financial pundit and Fed critic, Peter Schiff
  • New Orleans Investment Conference promoter, newsletter publisher and gold guru, Brien Lundin

Each of our guests have been with us before.  But in case you’re new to the show, you should know that NONE of them are real estate investors.  And for our purposes, that’s a good thing.

Bull and bear markets provide different challenges and opportunitiesWe’re looking for peripheral perspectives on the financial markets which affect us all…no matter which segments we’re invested in.  That’s because all these markets are part of a fluid sea of funds which ebb, flow, circulate and mix.

All but the most inexperienced real estate investors understand the bond market sets interest rates.  And as you accumulate a portfolio of properties, unless you’re a cash buyer, you’re also accumulating a big portfolio of loans.

So interest rates and the bond markets should be of great interest to you.

Why are interest rates low?  Will the Fed raise interest rates?The monetary wizards at the Federal Reserve pull all kinds of financial levers trying to manage the economy.

Some think that the Federal Reserve sets interest rates.  That’s not technically true.  At least not for mortgages and many other market rates.

But the Fed has a HUGE impact on interest rates through their open market manipulations…er, activities.

The Fed adjusts bank reserve requirements, sets the Federal Funds rate (that’s the one you hear about all the time on the news), and manipulates various and sundry other levers to expand, contract and coerce the costs and motivations of lenders and borrowers.

So watching the Fed is an obsession for many investors.  That’s why the Fed is in the financial news all the time.

Right now, the Fed keeps TALKING about raising interest rates.  They haven’t done it in 10 years.  But they keep talking about.

Peter Schiff is bearish on the dollar and US stocks, and bullish on gold and foreign stocksPeter Schiff thinks the Fed probably won’t raise rates.  He says if they do, they’ll prick bubbles in stocks, bonds and other markets …and expose a phony economic recovery.

What about the stock market?  Will stocks go up…or will they crash? 

Of course, interest rates affect more than the cost of money.  Rates affect how money is used, stored and borrowed.

Companies are borrowing cheap money to buy back their own stock.  And why not?

If your company earns anything above the cost to borrow, then every dollar you borrow to buy your own stock makes you a profit.  It’s just like when a real estate investor can borrow 4% mortgage money and buy 8% cash flow properties.  You’d do that all day long.

Plus, stock buybacks improve a company’s EPS (earnings per share) because they divide the same earnings over less outstanding shares.  This can look good to unsophisticated stock investors and make a company look like its sales and profits are growing, when they could actually be shrinking.

Cheap money also empowers mega mergers and leveraged buy outs.

In a low interest rate environment, mergers and acquisitions become more common. Sometimes it means layoffs.You’ve probably heard about AT&T and DirectTV, American Airlines and U.S. Airways, Anheuser-Busch and Miller, and the big one currently under consideration between Pfizer and Allegra.  And that’s just off the top of our head.

These deals need to be financed.  Cheap money makes the debt load easier to cover from operational income.

It’s no different than when a real estate investor borrows to buy a property and then pays for the loan with the rents.

Hopefully, the property cash flows at a rate higher than the cost of the funds.  So the lower the cost of the funds, the more properties qualify to do a deal.

Now you might choose to go in thin as long as you have a viable plan to increase net operating income.  Guys like Ken McElroy do this all the time.

But guys who take over companies do the same thing.  And often their plan to increase profit, means cutting back on things like payroll (layoffs) and long term investment (research & development and capital expenditures).

M&A (mergers and acquisition) guys argue the “acquire and fire M.O.” helps make companies more efficient.

Maybe.

Sometimes it makes companies less competitive.  Because when you lay off people, you lose intellectual capacity.  And when you cut R&D and Cap Ex, you don’t have new products or state of the art equipment and efficiency.  Eventually, all this can make you LESS competitive.Merging companies can eliminate competition, which can improve profits but sometimes at the expense of innovation, quality and efficiency.

But we’re not here to judge.  We aren’t that smart.  We’re just pointing out what’s going on so you can anticipate and react accordingly.

For real estate investors, it can mean entire employment bases being shut down.   When Company A buys Company B, sometimes they shut down an entire campus.  Jobs are lost.  That affects the local real estate market.

Are any major employers in YOUR market in talks to merge?  Pay attention!  It could affect the local economy…and YOUR bottom line.

Low interest rates also affect Mom & Pop stock investors…

Right now, low interest rates are forcing people out of savings and into the stock market.

Many boomers are forced into the stock market because bank savings interest rates are too lowThe stock market is the only place most paper asset investors know to go to try get enough earnings from their savings to live on.  Otherwise, they have to eat into the principal.

Of course, if they eat too much principal, they run out of money before they run out of life.  This is one of the greatest fears of the HUGE baby boomer generation…which is retiring at the rate of over 10,000 per DAY.

Of course, helping these folks discover how income producing real estate can provide better cash flow, lower taxes, and a long term hedge against inflation is one of the GREATEST OPPORTUNITIES going right now.  And with the new law opening up your ability to market to potential investors, there’s never been a better time to get into the syndication business.

Mark Skousen is an economist, author, stock guru and the promoter of Freedom FestMark Skousen thinks as long as rates stay low, the stock market will stay strong.  And speaking of strong…

Why is the dollar strong?

This is SUCH a GOOD question.  But before we tackle it, let’s consider what it means.Relative to other currencies, the dollar is king....for now.

The “strength” or “weakness” of the dollar can be measured against many things.

If you go to the gas station and can fill up your tank for $20, you might say the dollar is “strong” against gasoline.  You can buy a lot of gas for fewer dollars.

But if it takes $200 to fill you tank, you’d probably say the dollar is “weak” against gas.  It takes a lot MORE dollars to buy the same gas.  Or you could say gas is strong.  Or gas went “up”.

The point is that “strength ” is relative.  Compared to what?

Right now, many other currencies are even WEAKER.  In fact, some countries’ interest rates have gone NEGATIVE.    And most other countries’ economic growth is even more anemic than that of the United States.

Of course, the U.S. has a trump card…and it’s not the guy running for President.

The U.S. dollar is still the world’s reserve currency.  And U.S. Treasuries, which are denominated in dollars, are considered by most to be a “safe haven” asset.

You’ve probably  noticed, there’s been bit of instability in the world.  And it’s been going on for awhile.  So (allegedly) paper asset investors worldwide are piling into dollars and Treasuries…for safety.

Of course, not everyone thinks dollars and Treasuries are the safest place to be….

Will gold go up?

China and Russia have been dumping dollars and Treasuries and buying gold.  Meanwhile, U.S. mint sales are at record highs.  Physical inventories are dropping.

Gold is an indicator of the relative strength or weakness of the dollarYet the price of gold FALLS.  That’s weird.

But actually, gold is only falling when measured in dollars.  In terms of other currencies, gold is actually rising.

We know.  It’s hard to get your mind around.  But we think it makes sense to try.  Go back and think about the gas example.  When you have to trade more dollars for the same gas, you can say the dollar fell…or you can say gas went up.

Think about what you’re doing by investing…

You’re working at earning or raising dollars to use as down payments.  So you’re probably being paid in dollars and saving in dollars, right?

Then you go out and borrow…in dollars…to buy a piece of real estate that will generate income in…dollars.

Along the way, you’ll take in deposits, build reserves, set aside money for contingencies and capital expense…probably all in dollars.

And even if you’re reinvesting by adding more properties, you’re still going to be building up bigger and bigger CASH balances…in dollars.

So now your EXPOSURE to the banking system and the dollar is GROWING.

Therefore, it seems sensible for you to be concerned about the strength of the banking system and the dollar, right?

BUT…you say…what difference does it make?  What choice do I have?

GOLD.Gold is an alternative to the dollar as a liquid store of value

Precious metals are an alternative to dollars as a place to store liquid reserves.  It’s where people (and countries) go when they’re concerned about the dollar and the banking system.

So we pay attention to gold because it’s an indicator of the strength and direction of the dollar.  Make sense?

It used to be good enough to simply watch the PRICE of gold.  If it was down, then demand was down.  If the price was up, then demand was up.  So you could accurately use price to gauge demand.

Not today.

That’s because physical gold prices are impacted by paper derivatives in the futures markets.  That is, there are people who buy and sell physical gold.  And there are those who buy and sell contracts (paper) which are allegedly backed by gold.

We know.  It’s heady stuff.  But please don’t gloss over.  It’s not as hard as it seems.  And it really does matter to your long term financial health.  Really.

Understanding gold prices and how gold futures work can be challengingWe won’t get into all the mechanics of the gold futures markets.  This is already a marathon blog (THANKS for sticking with us this far!)…

Suffice it to say that when paper traders sell highly leveraged paper contracts they are able to push down the price of gold in both the paper AND the physical markets.

But when the price of physical gold drops, physical buyers show up and claim physical gold.  As long as those orders get filled, people trust the paper contracts.  The paper guys may not want the physical, just like you may never want all your cash out of the bank.

But the minute you don’t think the bank has the cash to give you, you want it all.  Right now.  And if you can’t get it, you lose trust in that bank statement you have that says the cash is really there.

Well, when we first started watching the gold market, there was twice as much physical gold in the warehouses and there were about 40 claims on every ounce of physical gold.

Today, the physical inventory is half what it was and the outstanding claims are pushing THREE HUNDRED for each ounce.

This makes us suspicious that the PRICE of gold may not really be “free market”…which means it’s less useful for determining what’s really happening with the dollar.

If the demand for physical market were to exceed the ability of the warehouses to deliver the gold, then the true price of gold in dollars could be revealed.

Going back to our gas example, it means it would take more dollars to buy the same gold.  Gold would go “up”.  Really what’s happening is the dollar would be “down”.

But we’re just real estate guys and we’re clearly out of our league when commenting on gold.

Brien Lundin is the promoter of the New Orleans Investment Conference, the published or Golden Opportunities and an expert on precious metals like gold and silver.Brien Lundin is one of the smartest, most connected gold guys we know.  He tells us the gold investors he knows think gold has put in a bottom.  Which really means the dollar compared to gold has peaked.

That would mean gold will be going “up” and the dollar will be going “down”.

If so, it explains why governments (Russia and China in particular) and individual investors are using dollars to buy gold now.

And as if all this wasn’t enough, consider it’s being reported that China’s currency (the yuan) may be about to be included as one of the world’s reserve currencies, joining the U.S. dollar, the British pound, the Euro and the Japanese yen.  Of course, the U.S. would need to approve it.  Which might explain why China set up its own international bank.

As we discussed in our Real Asset Investing report, this is a trend we’ve been watching develop for several years.

What does it all mean to real estate investors?

Okay, for you marathon readers, let’s try to wrap all this up and put a bow on it.

Interest rates have a big and direct impact on your mortgages, your cash flows, your tenants and the local economies which support your properties.

The Fed’s motivations and maneuverings impact interest rates.  And the Fed is influenced by the stock market and the dollar (and vice versa).

Gold is one of a few indicators of the strength and future of the dollar, which has been slowly losing its grip as the world’s reserve currency.

If there is hidden weakness in the U.S. economy and U.S. dollar, rising interest rates and/or a failure to deliver on physical gold shipments could quickly expose it.

The result could be rapidly rising interest rates or a rapidly falling dollar (inflation, i.e., rapidly rising prices).

In any case, you want to be ready for ANYTHING.  And dollars, bonds and bank accounts probably won’t be as safe as many think they are.

So we continue to think real assets which serve essential, transcendent needs (shelter, food) in markets with good infrastructure, population, business climate and low costs will be the safest (and probably most profitable) places to be.

The MOST IMPORTANT INVESTMENT you can make right now is…

Your own education and network.  Because if things get crazy, you’ll want to see it sooner, understand it better, and be connected to lots of smart people you can collaborate with to navigate a rapidly changing environment.

We know you’d probably like everything to be simple and easy.  But that’s not the world we live in today.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be scary or boring.  Personally, we go out of our way to create fun and educational events to bring great people together to learn, share, connect and work on a building a brighter future.


Listen Now: 

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The Fed FINALLY admits it…

Could the Fed’s decision NOT to raise rates be basically an admission this “recovery” is a farce?

Janet Yellen swears to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truthIf the economy can’t absorb even a token rate increase, it must be FAR from robust.

As we’ve discussed, there’s simply not enough income (productivity) to service all the debt.

It’s like a sub-prime borrower using a teaser rate to squeeze into a home they can’t afford.  When rates re-set, their income’s not enough to cover the new payment.

In other words, we have a sub-prime economy hooked on teaser rates.  An interest rate increase could push it over the edge.

Of course, the flip side of every problem is opportunity.

Right now, Janet Yellen has a BIG problem.  And she thinks housing can help her get out of it.

Check out this headline from Bloomberg…

Janet Yellen Sees a ‘Very Depressed’ Housing MarketJanet Yellen has a big problem

 “The Fed chief noted… housing ‘plays a supporting role’ to bigger drivers such as consumer and business spending.”

“The central bankers ‘recognize that the housing market is sensitive to mortgage rates’ and that an increase…will eventually impact consumer borrowing costs.”

In other words, Yellen didn’t raise rates so she could prop up housing.

Great!

But…proceed carefully.

First, we’re not sure Janet Yellen will succeed at goosing housing.  And that’s okay.

Encouraging consumers to go into debt based on home equity isn’t a smart path to long term economic “recovery”.Encouraging homeowners to go into consumer debt based on home equity is a bad idea

Isn’t that how we got here in the first place?

And with interest rates already so low, there’s no room to push up debt based solely on lowering interest rates.

So incomes need to rise.

But competition from low overseas wages and technology put a drag on American wages.

So Yellen might be tempted to revert back to money printing…or more “quantitative easing”.

Long term that’s bad for the dollar.

So mortgages and real estate could be very good things to have in the years to come.

Because, as we discuss in our Real Asset Investing report, mortgages are a way to short the dollar.  And in spite of it’s recent “strength”, the dollar has a one hundred year history of loosing value over time.  This makes sense because the Fed has a stated goal to create long term inflation.Real Asset Investing explains how to protect yourself from a falling dollar

Real estate is a great way to hedge against long term inflation.

Just be mindful of the fundamentals of value.

REAL value comes from income.  The more income, the more value.  The less income, the less real value.

But after nearly seven years of artificially low interest rates, trillions of dollars in “stimulus”, and zero meaningful reform of highly leveraged derivative speculation…asset values for stocks and bonds have risen without corresponding increases in income.

So this CNBC article says Wall Streeters turned to Main Street for more real returns…

Investors Snapping Up New Homes for Rentals

Hedge funds and foreign investors are buying U.S. houses…large-scale investors buying thousands of discounted foreclosed properties…turning them into single-family rentals….The housing market is recovering…but these investors are not selling. They are buying more, and now they are buying new.”

This perplexes mainstream pundits who only understand “buy low, sell high”.  But the article explains…

 “‘…institutional capital is still looking at … a long-term hold…there’s yield and…appreciation to be had.’” 

Exactly.  Welcome to real estate investing.

Of course, Bloomberg reports that all that big-money bids up prices and takes inventory off the market…

Previously Owned U.S. Home Sales Retreat on Limited Availability

No wonder Wall Streeters are buying new…which of course, makes home builders happy.

As John Burns reported, home builders are beginning to cater to investors instead of only home owners.

But if real value is based on income, how are incomes doing?

Not so good…according to a Bloomberg article:

Americans paychecks are shrinking “Wages and salaries in the U.S. rose… at the slowest pace on record, dashing projections that an improving labor market would boost pay.”

“Private wages were little changed…, the worst performance since those records began in 1980.”

Is this headline from Market Realist provides a little glimmer of hope?

Wage Growth Could Possibly Be Ticking Up

Could…possibly…maybe…kinda sorta…

But then we dig deeper and find:

“Despite falling unemployment, one of the conundrums of the current labor market is flat real, or inflation-adjusted, wages.

And right in the same article we find out why it matters…

“Historically, real estate prices have correlated closely with wage growth…Recently, home prices have been increasing again, but that’s due to low inventory….the ratio of median home price to median income is again approaching bubble-type highs. As the Fed removes accommodation, further home price appreciation will be dependent on wage growth.

Of course, rents also come from wages, and this Associated Press article says…

US rental prices up 3.8 pct. in past 12 months; pace slows but still faster than wage growthRents are becoming unaffordable for many Americans

“…rental housing costs have been rising nationwide at roughly double wage growth…The result is an affordability crunch for renters.”

This means long term resistance to rental increases…and even pressure to lower rents as people look to move to more affordable housing.

Here’s the bottom line…

The Fed’s decision tells us the economy is weaker than advertised.

Wages are soft.  People can’t afford higher debt paymentsor higher rents.

But they NEED housing.

So housing and rents are rising.  But without wage growth it may not be sustainable.

You shouldn’t count on rising rents or lower interest rates to improve your cash flow.

So it’s REALLY important to BUY RIGHT.
  • Choose affordable markets with a good local economy, low taxes and living expenses, and an attractive quality of life for people leaving expensive areas in search of affordable housing.
  • Avoid paying too much. Be disciplined. Don’t chase the market.
  • Lock in low fixed rate long term financing. The difference in adjustable and fixed rates probably isn’t worth the risk right now.
  • If you want an equity pop, force it by adding value.  Ditto for rents.  Maybe the market will push prices higher, but don’t count on it.  The equity tide can rise…and it can recede.
  • If you can get available equity out at today’s cheap interest rates, it’s probably a good idea…as long as you have someplace to conservatively invest the proceeds for more than it costs to borrow.  Right now, that’s pretty easy.

When we look at the investment landscape, we agree with the contingent of defectors from Wall Street…stocks, bonds and bank accounts look very scary right now.

But investors have to store their wealth somewhere.

Real estate provides income, long term equity growth, tax breaks and the most affordable form of conservative leverage.

In today’s climate, it’s hard not to like properly structured real estate in the right markets.

So if you have wealth you want to protect and grow…consider real estate.

If you know how to invest in real estate, but are already fully invested…think about starting a business to help other people get into real estate while the getting is still good.

Until next time, good investing!

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The Fed’s Plan Revealed…

Will the Fed Raise Interest Rates?

Global stock markets continue to convulse as participants and pundits try to divine whether Janet Yellen will really pull the trigger and raise interest rates.

Our bet is no.  Or if so, maybe by only a quarter point (25 basis points in bank-speak) just to prove the Fed hasn’t forgotten how to do it.  After all, it’s been about 8 years.

But we think not.

The list of reasons is far too long for this missive, but here’s a few:

The Dollar is Too Strong

We’re not saying WE think this is bad.  But the people in charge think so.Some say the dollar is too strong and that's bad for the economy

They say a strong dollar makes it harder for U.S. companies to sell exports…because it takes more foreign currency to buy anything denominated in dollars.

And U.S. companies doing business abroad are losing out when converting their foreign sales back into U.S. dollars.  So they say a strong dollar is bad for earnings and stock prices.

Also, a strong dollar means the U.S. government is paying more real interest on all its debt to foreigners.

The goal for a borrower is to receive strong dollars today and pay back weaker dollars later.  It’s why policy makers (and real estate investors) like a falling dollar.

A strong dollar is deflationary, which is the polar opposite of what the Fed wants (more on that in a moment…)…though most consumer we know LIKE IT when prices fall.

But when prices on things like houses, cars, stocks, bonds, etc., drop in dollar terms…and those things are being used as collateral, it means the value of the collateral drops.

That forces painful margin calls and creates a temptation for borrowers to bail on the debt.  Just think back to the sub-prime crisis which triggered the Great Recession.  It all started when debt went bad.

And speaking of debt, there’s the other major reason NOT to raise interest rates…

Uncle Sam is Drowning in Debt

When interest rates rise, payments go up.  That puts downward pressure on spending, which the financial brainiacs believe is the key to economic expansion.

The US government is carrying a large debt burdenThe problem today is that interest rates are SO LOW that even a 25 basis point increase is a substantial percentage increase.

Do the math.

If you have debt at 2% and rates rise by .25% that effectively increases your interest expense (and payment) by 8%.

That doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re Uncle Sam and you’re already paying out $381 BILLION in interest each year…an 8% increase costs an additional $30 BILLION.

Now if interest rates were to rise 100 basis points, say from 2% to 3%, that’s a 33% increase…or a whopping $125 BILLION increase in interest payments.

And because Uncle Sam is already running in the red, it’s all debt compounded on debt.  Just like using your credit card to pay the credit cards you used to pay the credit cards you used to pay your house payment.

In financial terms, we call this a “train wreck”.

Since the last great re-set in the 80’s when then Fed chair Paul Volcker jacked rates up to over 20%, the government has gone aggressively into debt and lowered interest rates steadily for three decades.

But now we’re at the bottom of the interest rate barrel.

So if you can’t lower interest rates to leverage your payments into servicing higher loan balances (just like you do when you refinance your mortgage to a lower rate and keep the same balance …or grow it…while reducing your monthly payment)…

Then the only other options you have is to make more money.Uncle Sam needs to ask its taxpayers for MORE money...again

For Uncle Sam, this means raising taxes.  And there are two ways to do this.

The small government faction says lower rates to grow the private sector and take a smaller percentage of a bigger pie.

That is, lower tax rates, which they believe will leave more profits in the hands of entrepreneurs who will use it to expand their businesses (if they can find customers).

Then, when the pie is big enough, the smaller percentage of tax yields more absolute dollars to Uncle Sam.

Go red team!

The big government faction says raise taxes on the entrepreneurs and uber-rich and funnel that money through the government to the poor and middle class.

Then, when those everyday people spend all that money, it will provide customers and profits for the businesses, which will in turn result in even more tax revenue.

Go blue team!

Obviously, these two policies are polar opposites and each one enrages the proponents of the other.

So everyone beats up on each other and nothing gets done.

Go purple team!

BUT…there is another way…Ben Bernanke says the Fed can print as much money as it wants...at essentially no cost.

And on November 21, 2002 a guy named Ben Bernanke (who later took over for Alan Greenspan to become the chairman of the Federal Reserve) explained it in a speech before the National Economists Club in Washington DC.

Big Ben said….

“…the U.S. government has a technology called a printing press (or, today, its electronic equivalent) that allows it to produce as many U.S. dollars as it wishes at essentially no cost.”

“By increasing the number of U.S. dollars in circulation, or even by credibly threatening to do so, the U.S. government can also reduce the value of a dollar in terms of goods and services, which is equivalent to raising the prices in dollars of those goods and services.”

The Fed can print as much money as it wants...for free.“We conclude that, under a paper-money system, a determined government can always generate higher spending and hence positive inflation.”

“…sufficient injections of money will ultimately always reverse a deflation.”

Our emphasis.  Always.

And just so you know we don’t make this stuff up, you can read the whole thing here.

So we think the Fed will find some excuse to turn the Quantitative Easing (QE) printing presses back on.

But, you say (correctly) didn’t they already do QE?  Like, 4 times?  Then why didn’t prices rise?

Great observation.

Here’s the short of it…and why it matters to real estate investors RIGHT NOW

The Fed expanded its balance sheet (printed) by about 4 TRILLION DOLLARS since 2008.

Most of the money ended up in bonds (causing bond prices to rise and interest rates to fall)…or stocks (causing stock prices to rise to record levels)…and on banks’ balance sheets (as reserves parked at the Fed).

Of course, when you read Big Ben’s 2002 comments, he expected the banks to lend.  That’s the way all the new money was supposed to get to the market.

But frightened borrowers weren’t anxious to take on more debt.  They were inclined to save or pay off debt, rather than spend.

So there’s not been a long line of borrowers to lend to.

On the lender side, with the politicians busy POUNDING on the banks (and rightfully so)…banks decided it was safer NOT to loan…except to only the very BEST borrowers.

But now that all the very best borrowers have taken on their fill of debt, Uncle Sam is back to making nice with the banks…hoping to get all the money pushed out into the market.

And guess which sector they’re focused on?

Yep.  Real estate.  And it’s happening as we head into an election year.  But that’s probably just a coincidence.

Check out this headline:

FHA Offers Olive Branch to Hesitant LendersWall Street Journal 9/1/15

The government is trying to coax banks back to making mortgage loans to risky borrowers…”

This makes sense because we already have construction lending surging.  But builders can only borrow if they have buyers to sell to.  And most buyers can only buy if they can get financing.

So Uncle Sam can see that the bottleneck in the pipeline is at the street level…where real estate investors like you invest.

All this to say (and thanks for reading to the end) that the stock market gyrations could actually be GOOD for real estate in the mid-term.

When nervous stock investors seek safety, they’ll go to bonds and push interest rates down.  Great!  Borrow all you can and lock in LOW FIXED rates.

Make SURE your properties cash flow conservatively and focus on big, affordable markets with low taxes, a friendly business environment, and a diverse local economy.

Some frightened stock investors will pile into real estate…just like they did in 2001 after the tech bubble deflated.  The Chinese already are.

So, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a run UP in prices in the near term…which could be a chance to grab some equity and move it to safety…once again taking advantage of increasingly liberal lending.Is another housing bubble forming?

Eventually, the real estate bubble that’s beginning to inflate now will “pass a little gas”.  Or maybe a lot.

Sure, it will stink.  But it won’t kill you if you’re prepared to hold your breath and go in and do some bargain hunting.

Meanwhile, as all this unfolds, it’s a good idea to continue to watch and prepare.  You can’t control it.  But you can roll with it.

Good investing!

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Presidential debates IGNORED this important issue…

GOP presidential hopefuls met for a debate moderated by Fox News

Last night seventeen GOP presidential hopefuls showed up for two different debates to discuss “the most important issues” facing the American people.

Among them were Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and a whole gaggle of candidates who hope to face off against the presumptive Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

But despite all the hooplah, including 6 million Facebook visits and 40,000 questions from John Q. Public…

The MOST important issue was completely IGNORED.

The Fed and money.

Okay, these are really two issues. But together, they affect EVERY person and business on the planet.

Thank about it.

Most of your time and efforts are invested in earning, spending, managing, investing…and worrying about…money. Right?

And the cost of money…interest rates…have a HUGE affect on the price of EVERY financial asset there is…everywhere.

The Fed has been AGGRESSIVELY intervening in financial markets for decades…with “mixed” results (to be kind).

And there was NO MENTION of it.

Keep in mind that since the Fed arrived on the scene in 1913, money has devolved to nothing but debt.

How can you have a conversation about the “debt problem” without talking about the Fed and money?

Of course, unless you’re a geeky student of economics and history, with a dash of conspiracy theorist, you might not understand the problem.

And with only one-minute answers, it would seem impossible for a mainstream debate to address them.

But it’s really quite simple.

Our “money”, which is really only currency, (click here to understand the difference) is BORROWED into existence.

And it comes with an interest expense, albeit very small right now.

When you understand this simple concept, you know why it is IMPOSSIBLE to pay off debt. Because doing so would extinguish all the money.

Think of it this way…

Let’s say we’re at the very beginning of the economy and there is no currency. Just like starting a board game.

To get things started, the issuer of currency (the Bank) prints a bunch of pieces of paper and LOANS them to the players.

And to keep the math simple, let’s say the interest rate is 10 percent per round of play.

Suppose the game begins with a total of $1,000 being handed out to all the players. It doesn’t matter how many players, or who gets what. All we need to know is the Bank loaned out $1,000.

Play begins. Players buy and sell. They even create new products. All kinds of commerce occurs over the course of the game.

Now, at the end of Round 1, it’s time to settle up.

Some players accumulated more currency. Others have less than they started with. But because there was only $1,000 distributed, that’s ALL there is at the end of the round.

Now it’s time to pay the banker back ALL the principal PLUS the 10% interest.

It doesn’t matter how much each individual player owes because we’re simply looking at the aggregate of ALL players.

So there’s $1,000 of principal owed… PLUS $100 of interest… for a total of $1,100 owed.

Everyone tries to pay off their debt, but with only $1,000 in circulation, the society of players is $100 short.

And of course, even if they could pay off the debt, there would be no currency available to play Round 2 with.

So because they can’t pay off the debt with interest, and because they want to keep playing, the players collectively decide to borrow MORE.

So to start Round 2, the society of players borrows $2,100 from the Bank (who simply prints it).

This would be enough to pay back the original $1,000 plus $100 interest owed from Round 1…and still leaves $1,000 available to play Round 2.

Now the players’ collective total debt is $2,100 as they enter Round 2….up from $1,000 at the start of Round 1.  And no matter what they do while playing the game, they end each round owing MORE than the total amount of currency held by all the players.

Do you see the problem?

When you borrow your currency into existence and owe interest, the ONLY way to keep playing the game is to ALWAYS increase the debt. To pay it off, ends the game.

This is why, for decades, no matter what party’s in place, no matter what anyone says, the debt NEVER shrinks. It only grows…because it MUST. Or the game ends.

Maybe the candidates don’t get it? Or maybe the Fox news moderators don’t. Maybe it’s the American people who don’t understand or don’t care…and the candidates and mainstream media just follow their lead?

We don’t know. If you think the candidates and media are controlled by sinister behind-the-scenes forces, then go ahead and put your tinfoil hat on. We’re right there with you.

It doesn’t matter.

But until we can change the system, we need to be skilled at playing the game the way it’s run today.

For us, it means using the abundant and affordable debt to accumulate real assets which produce real income that remains top of the priority list even in hard times.

It’s hard to imagine anything more real than real estate. Or any stream of income much higher on the priority ladder than keeping a roof over your head or food on the table.

The good news is that real estate is also one of the easiest and safest investments you can acquire using debt.

Just remember, the value isn’t in buying low and selling high. When you do that, all you end up with is a pile of currency.

Mainstream financial pundits focus on asset prices, which are often bubbles expanding and contracting. Buy low! Sell high! Generate commissions for Wall Street! Generate taxes for Uncle Sam! Rinse. Repeat.

They can’t play that game with real estate, so they don’t like it. And they focus on the price, which is smoke and mirrors…like most asset prices in a funny money economy.

The real value of real estate is in the income.

Income is what drives the equity. And it’s what frees the equity, so you can use debt to protect profits without realizing a taxable gain or relinquishing the property.

And when you pick the right properties and structure your financing properly, you can weather virtually all of the economic and political uncertainty.

So stay tuned to The Real Estate Guys™ radio show. We’ll continue to bring you ideas, information, perspectives and strategies to help you keep it real…in an unreal world.

AND…if you REALLY want to talk about money and the Federal Reserve…

Join us on our 2016 Investor Summit at Sea™! We’ve just confirmed that G. Edward Griffin, the author of The Creature from Jekyll Island – A Second Look at The Federal Reserve will be returning for his second appearance on the Summit.  Click here to learn more.

Good investing!

03/22/15: The Death of Money – A Conversation with Jim Rickards

Think about the role money has in your daily life…

As real estate investors, we buy, rent, sell and refinance…all to acquire dollars…which is currently the money de jour.  And because, since 1944 the dollar has served as the world’s reserve currency, the health of the dollar affects virtually everyone…everywhere.James Rickards is on the record saying that currency wars have already begun

Lately, we’ve seen a lot of headlines proclaiming the “strength” of the dollar.  Some say it’s good.  Others say it’s bad.

But what happens if the dollar gets “sick”?  Or worse, if it dies?

Could that happen?  How?  Why?  And what does it mean to investors…real estate and otherwise?

In this episode, we’re excited to talk with a guy who’s hugely qualified to have an opinion on the subject of the relative health and future of the dollar.

So, in our radio reposing room undertaking the conversation for this edition of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show:

  • Your minister of monetary musing, host Robert Helms
  • The coroner of conversation, co-host Russell Gray
  • Best-selling author, former CIA advisor, lawyer, Wall Street veteran and a REALLY smart dude, James Rickards

If you’ve been paying ANY attention at all to alternative (i.e., not “mainstream media”) financial news sources, you’ve probably already heard of Jim Rickards.  We were going to include his bio, but we ran out of space on the server…so you can learn more here.

Rickards came to our attention through his two best-selling books, Currency Wars and The Death of Money…both of which have been on The Real Estate GuysRecommended Reading List since they first came out.

The message is straight forward…although understanding the mechanics underneath Rickards’ conclusions takes some study…

The U.S. dollar is vulnerable to being supplanted as the world’s reserve currency.  And while that has HUGE implications for everyone, it could be DEVASTATING for unprepared Americans.

That’s the BAD news.

The GOOD news is that there will be BIG OPPORTUNITIES for those who are paying attention and in a position to act decisively when the time comes.  We obviously want to be in THAT club!

Of course, if you’re a skeptic…and there’s nothing wrong with some healthy skepticism as long as you’re willing to do the research and go wherever it takes you…you might wonder why Rickards would share his strategic intelligence with anyone and everyone who will listen.

We wondered that too.

And the answer is really pretty simple….

Jim says the international monetary system has collapsed three times in the last 100 years.  Each collapse was followed by a period of civil unrest…and in some cases, war.

That’s not good for ANYONE…even guys eager to use insider knowledge to gain personal wealth.  So it’s in everyone’s enlightened self-interest to make sure as many people as possible are prepared for the possibility of a mega-shift in economic order.

So what does that look like?

Again…it’s pretty simple.  In fact, it’s so simple that many people won’t do it.

First, it’s important to understand the risks.  So listening to this broadcast and reading Jim’s books is a GREAT place to start.

When ALL your wealth is denominated in a single currency (like the dollar) and most of your liquidity is stored in banks or other institutions or instruments which expose you to “counter-party risk”, then you’re NOT well-prepared.

“Counter-party” risk simply means that your asset is simultaneously someone else’s liability.  In other words, you don’t actually possess the wealth…but merely a claim to it.  And if the person who owes you the wealth…the counter-party…fails to perform, you have nothing.

Just ask the depositors who lost huge chunks of their savings during the Cypress banking crisis in 2013.  They found out that “money in the bank” isn’t the same as money in your pocket (or safe).  In other words, having a claim to cash isn’t the same as having the cash.

So Rickards says it’s smart to have some of your wealth stored OUTSIDE of the banking system…and even outside of currency itself… in things like precious metals, art and real estate.

And as our friend Simon Black from Sovereign Man rhetorically asks, “How are you worse off by taking these precautions?

In short…you’re not.  In fact, it can be readily argued you’re MUCH better off.

However, it’s easy to get caught up in the fear, uncertainty and doubt about the future.  After all, the only thing certain about the future is that it’s uncertain.

So worrying about it to the point of paralysis is useless.  If you’re not going to do anything anyway, you might as well eat, drink and be merry.

BUT…

Every day of our lives we routinely take precautions against potentially catastrophic events…including wearing seat belts, looking both ways when crossing the street and (at least for some people) exercising and eating well to stave off illness.

However, when you’re in an unfamiliar environment where you might not be as readily aware of the risks…like on an airplane, in a factory tour, or on a firearms training range…you count on more experienced people for critical safety guidance.

As a financial insider, Jim Rickards is far more aware of the dangers lurking in the financial system than the man-on-main-street real estate investor.  And he’s saying there’s a high probability of stormy weather ahead.

Of course, it’s always up to you whether or not you care to heed the advice.  But step one is being aware of the potential danger.

So when it comes to your personal wealth…and all the efforts you put into building and protecting it…we think it makes sense to pay attention to a guy like Jim Rickards.  We are.

Because if Rickards is right and the dollar is truly vulnerable…or worse, actually under a current attack (and we think it’s EASY to make that argument simply based on the daily headlines)…then putting the effort into preparing yourself might just be one of the best investments you ever make.

Listen Now: 

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show.  Subscribe to the free podcast!
  • Stay connected with The Real Estate Guys™ on Facebook!

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

11/2/14: Clues in the News – Election, Market Direction and Alan Greenspan’s Warning

There’s lots of news affecting real estate investors…and most of it doesn’t have anything to do with real estate.

In this episode, we read between the headlines to what’s in the news that real estate investors should be paying attention to.

In the broadcast newsbooth for this informative edition of Clues in the News:

  • Your anchor and host, Robert Helms
  • His dead-weight co-host, Russell Gray

In case you were in a coma the first week in November, the Republicans took over the U.S. Congress by winning a majority in the Senate and strengthening their hold on the House of Representatives.

Maybe that makes you happy.  Maybe it doesn’t.  But it doesn’t really matter how you, or we, feel about the results.  It happened.

So the next questions are…what does it mean, what happens next, and how is it likely to affect real estate investors?

The Election Results are a Barometer of the Mood of the Market

We think it’s pretty obvious the electorate isn’t happy with the state of the Union.  After all, happy prosperous people don’t vote to rock the boat if everything is smooth sailing.

So all’s not well on Main Street in spite of a booming stock market, allegedly low unemployment and continued low interest rates.

Since your tenants are part of the electorate, we’re guessing their pocket books aren’t overflowing with joy…or money…right now.  So we continue to favor affordable markets and product types, and nothing in the election or other news changes our mind.

The Maestro Sings a New Song

As we discussed in a recent blogpost on Alan Greenspan’s Shocking Confession, Alan Greenspan seems to agree that Fed policy hasn’t done much to help the real economy.  No wonder the voters threw a fit.

Also, Greenspan said that the timing of rising interest rates might be outside the Fed’s control.  If so, this affirms that it’s a good idea to grab as much cheap money as you can reasonably control with conservative cash flows and lock in fixed rates for the long term.

Last, but FAR from least, according to the Wall Street Journal, Greenspan said, “gold is a good place to put money these days given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.”

Considering gold was tanking as he was talking, it seems like Alan Greenspan is concerned about “the policies conducted by governments”.

So in spite of the dollar’s recent surge and gold’s recent decline, for long term investors, it seems that even Alan Greenspan is a fan of real asset investing.

Maybe one of the governments he was talking about is Japan…

Bank of Japan Stuns Financial Markets with Massive Stimulus

So the whole world watches the Fed announce tapering and then, to many pundits’ surprise, actually do it…all the while touting the “robust” U.S. economy (funny…seems no one told the voters, who apparently missed the memo).

Then, as soon as the Fed’s expected tapering is done, the Wall Street Journal reports Japan’s “stunning” announcement of a MASSIVE stimulus package.

According to the Wall Street Journal article, “Japanese policy makers jolted global markets” by taking “Japanese economic policy into the uncharted territory of extreme stimulus“.

How extreme?

Well, according to Bloomberg, who also published an article on the move, the Bank of Japan “plans to buy 8 trillion to 12 trillion yen ($108 billion) of Japanese government bonds per month.”

For perspective, the QE that the Fed just finished started at $85 billion per month and tapered down.  That means the Japanese QE is 27% bigger than the U.S. program at it’s PEAK.  That’s massive, especially considering that the Japanese economy is only 1/3 the size of the U.S.

The Bloomberg article quoted the chief economist at Japan Macro Advisors as saying, “The BOJ is basically declaring that Japan will need to fix its long-term problems by 2018 or risk becoming a failed nation.”

So we have a few observations…especially if you’re sitting there thinking, “What the heck does Japan have to do with my rental house on Main Street, USA?

First, we’re in a GLOBAL economy.  Just think about how much foreign money is buying U.S. stocks, real estate and bonds.  Not to mention, how many Japanese companies employ U.S. workers?  And how many U.S. companies earn profits selling to Japanese businesses and consumers?

In a global economy, when a major component (Japan is #3 behind the U.S. and China) fails, EVERYONE is affected.

Right now, no one is saying Japan will fail.  And if it did, no one knows for sure what that looks like for everyone else.  But it bears watching, which is why we are.

Also, Japan has been a major purchaser of U.S. Treasuries.  In fact, according to the Unites States Treasury website, Japan is the second largest owner of U.S. debt behind China.  If we had to guess, we wouldn’t be surprised to see some of all that stimulus end up in U.S. Treasuries.  After all, if the Fed and China are curtailing purchases, either bond prices will drop (interest rates will rise)…or someone (Japan?) will need to fill the void.

The point is that when ANY central bank prints gobs of money and buys bonds, it affects interest rates for everyone…including Main Street real estate investors.

But it isn’t just bond prices and interest rates which are affected…

Back to the Wall Street Journal article, which says that the Bank of Japan will expand its asset buying program to include “not just more government bonds, but also stocks and real-estate funds.”

In our travels, we talk to lots of Main Street real estate investors and agents.  We hear reports all the time that foreign buyers concerned about the safety of their money are parking it in U.S. real estate.

Obviously, when any central bank is printing money like crazy, smart investors in ANY nation move quickly to get into real assets. But here’s where it gets a little complicated.

Right now, the dollar is “strong” because major currencies like the Yen and the Euro are being destroyed faster than the dollar.  So any commodity denominated in dollars gets cheaper (gold, silver, oil, etc).

Worse, there’s strong sentiment, if not substantial proof, that nearly every asset market is largely manipulated by central banks, which makes investing in many asset classes a risky business.

So, in addition to the cultural appeal of real estate for Asian investors, even die-hard paper asset investors are looking at real estate as a solid place to store and build wealth.

In addition to foreign capital moving into U.S. real estate, lending is starting to loosen up both in government and private loan programs.  This means more purchasing power moving into real estate.

We think this is bullish for real estate prices in the near term, though it will be mitigated by the weakness of U.S. home buyers.

But before you get too excited about all the equity happening to you, remember to pay attention to rents.  Because right now, asset values are growing faster than incomes.  This means housing is becoming less affordable for both renters and home buyers.

The last time this happened, lots of us made tons of money on appreciation (get ready, because equity is happening again), but real estate quickly went from being a sound investment to simply being another hot money wave to ride.

We’re not saying don’t ride it.  Quite the contrary.

Just remember to structure your deals so that when the wave goes out again (and it will)…that you can hold on for the long term.  When the tide goes out, everyone can see who’s been swimming naked.

Meanwhile, we’ll be here watching the headlines for Clues in the News.

Listen Now:

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show!  Subscribe to the free podcast!
  • Stay connected with The Real Estate Guys™ on Facebook!

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

Alan Greenspan’s Shocking Confession

The Real Estate Guys™ just returned from the New Orleans Investment Conference where we (and some of our listeners) had a chance to hear from the Maestro himself, Dr. Alan Greenspan.

The Real Estate Guys Radio Show host and several listeners with former Fed chairman Alan GreenspanIf you’re a long time follower of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and blog, you know we pay close attention to the Federal Reserve because of it’s strong influence on interest rates, the value of the dollar, and asset prices (like real estate).

In fact, many economists and market pundits believe Alan Greenspan’s policies when he headed up the Fed (1987 to 2006) led to the real estate boom and ultimate bust in 2008.

Coming into the conference, we’d heard rumors that Greenspan was singing a strikingly different tune…about a great many things…than when he was at the helm of the most powerful financial institution on the planet.

Now it should be plainly obvious that Fed policy is hugely important to everyone who owns an asset, runs a business, earns a paycheck, has a savings account or pays on a loan.

So now that he’s on the outside, knowing exactly how it works on the inside, what is Alan Greenspan saying today about the Fed, the dollar, the future of interest rates, and what investors can and should do?

First, he says the bond-buying program known as QE didn’t help the “real economy” (i.e., jobs for the middle-class, real wage growth, or increasing purchasing power and consumer demand).

However, he admits QE did boost asset prices.  So stocks, bonds and real estate are all artificially higher because of easy money.

In other words, the Fed helped the rich get richer, while doing nothing for the middle-class and poor.

But as if THAT admission wasn’t enough, the Wall Street Journal’s article covering Mr. Greenspan’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on October 29th said this:

“He also said, ‘I don’t think it’s possible’ for the Fed to end its easy-money policies in a trouble free manner.”

Shortly after Greenspan’s comments, the Fed announced the end of its bond-buying program known as Quantitative Easing (QE).

Does this mean trouble is coming?

(Before you hit the panic button, remember that the flip side of every problem is an opportunity, so “trouble” is usually only bad for the unprepared…)

As real estate investors, not only do we care about jobs, wage growth and purchasing power (after all, it’s hard for unemployed poor people to pay rent), but we also care about interest rates.

So what does Alan Greenspan have to say about the future of interest rates?

Alan Greenspan says it's a good time to by goldBack to the Wall Street Journal article…

“He said the Fed may not even have that much power over the timing of interest-rate increases.”

“‘I think that real pressure is going to occur not by the initiation of the Federal Reserve, but by the markets themselves,‘ Mr. Greenspan said.”

What does THAT mean???

We’ve covered this in detail in previous blogs (just search our site for “Fed”), but the short of it is that without the Fed using QE to create demand by bidding (and buying) U.S. bonds, someone (the market) is going to have to step up and buy them…because if they don’t, the lack of bidding will cause bond prices to drop.

And when bond prices drop, interest rates rise.  So if the markets don’t bid strongly enough on bonds, then no matter what the Fed says, the markets will decide when and how much interest rates rise.

In other words, how the market feels about the quality of the debt (the likelihood of being repaid) AND the quality of the currency the debt is denominated in (purchasing power) makes a BIG difference in what yield investors will demand from the borrower.

Right now, investors still consider U.S. Treasuries as “safe”.  That is, there’s very little probability of default…in spite of past political posturing over debt ceilings. That’s because the Fed can print as many dollars as it takes to pay off the debt.

But when that happens, it reduces confidence in the dollar itself (the quality of the currency).  Because just like when a company issues more shares of stock against the same earnings and assets, the value of each share (in this case, dollar) is diluted.

Real Asset Investing - How to Grow and Protect Your Wealth Against a Falling DollarAs we chronicle in our special report, Real Asset Investing – How to Grow and Protect Your Wealth in the Face of a Falling Dollar, there’s already been substantial moves away from the dollar and dollar denominated assets and trade.

China has signed bi-lateral currency swap agreements with virtually every major country, which essentially facilitates their international trade without having to use dollars.  And China is the world’s second largest economy to the U.S….and closing fast.

Meanwhile, China and Russia have been stocking up on gold as fast as they can.  It seems they’d rather hold their savings in a tangible asset versus a paper asset…like the U.S. dollar or dollar denominated Treasuries.

And what does Alan Greenspan have to say about gold?

Back to the Wall Street Journal article….

“Mr. Greenspan said gold is a good place to put money these days given its value as a currency outside of the policies conducted by governments.”

It seems Alan Greenspan is a fan of real assets.  He sounds more like Jim Rickards (author of The Death of Money) than a former chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Yet gold tanked after the Fed quit QE!  And other real assets like real estate and oil have also been sliding.

So is Greenspan wrong…or does he know something is coming that will change the value of the dollar?

It seems that Greenspan is warning us that interest rates are likely to rise before the Fed is ready.  And if that happens, the Fed is likely to get back in the bond buying business to stop it.  Peter Schiff says there will be more QE programs than Rocky movies.

And every time the Fed exits QE, only to come back and do it again…and again (remember, this was QE3 with an Operation Twist thrown in between 2 & 3 for good measure), at some point the world loses faith in the dollar.

When THAT happens, interest rates go up, the dollar falls, and real assets like gold, housing, farmland and energy will be in demand…not just for their utility, but for their ability to retain value as currencies like dollars, euros and yen fail.

Fortunately, real assets are on sale right now.

  • Want more? Sign up for The Real Estate Guysfree newsletter and visit our Special Reports library.
  • Don’t miss an episode of The Real Estate Guys™ radio show!  Subscribe to the free podcast!
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The Real Estate Guys™ radio show and podcast provides real estate investing news, education, training and resources that help real estate investors succeed.

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