What this legendary real estate investor is buying NOW …

Even though most of us will never become billionaires, it’s sure fun trying.

But if we want to have a chance of making it BIG, it’s probably smart to watch and listen to those who’ve actually done it.

After all, as Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues.”

To which the Godfather of Real Estate, Bob Helms, adds … “You don’t need to give natural childbirth to a good idea … you can adopt!”

So when multi-billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell has something to say, we pay attention and take notes.

In a recent appearance on Bloomberg News, Zell reveals what he’s doing right now and why.  It’s a short clip, and you can watch it here.

There are some great pearls of wisdom to glean … and if you’ve been followingThe Real Estate Guys™ for a while, some of them will sound familiar.

But that’s not because we’re super smart.  It’s more because we’re well- informed from spending quality time with lots of really smart people.

Sam Zell is buying gold … for the first time in his life.

We think that’s REALLY interesting.

Of course, we’ve been following gold for quite some time … for a lot of reasons.

So while it’s interesting that Zell is buying gold for the very first time in his long and uber-successful investing career … what’s even MORE intriguing is WHY.

In the interview, Zell offers up two reasons.  One is obvious.  The other is more subtle … and leads to some even more subtle lessons.

All this from a guy who wrote a book titled Am I Being Too Subtle?

First, Zell says he’s buying gold because of the supply and demand dynamic.  He overtly states he sees gold supply constrained going forward.

It’s obvious from Zell’s comments that it’s important to understand supply and demand when investing in anything, because …

When supply is low relative to demand, there’s opportunity.

Yes, we realize that’s Investing 101.  But it’s also a GREAT reminder that even at the billionaire level, successful investing is based on basic, timeless concepts.

However, there’s MORE to be gleaned from Zell’s comments about gold …

While he openly explains that he sees the supply being constrained, he onlyimplies his confidence in persistent demand for gold.

 After all, if supply drops … but demand drops too … there’s no imbalance, and therefore, no opportunity.  Zell’s too smart to miss that.

So Zell must see gold demand holding … or increasing.

That means the supply and demand dynamic in gold is SO compelling that billionaire Sam Zell is buying gold for the FIRST time in his EPIC career.

That’s telling in and of itself.  But wait!  There’s more …

In addition to constrained supply combined with persistent and growing demand going forward … Zell must think the opportunity in gold is quite good right now relative to other investment options.

Which begs the question …

What’s different in TODAY’s world to push the prospects for gold so high up Sam Zell’s priority ladder?

After all, he’s been around a LONG time … through stock market crashes, recessions, financial crises.  What’s different NOW that makes gold alluring? 

That’s a topic too big for this commentary … and our limited brains …

… but it will be a hot topic of discussion with gold experts Brien Lundin, Dana Samuelson and Peter Schiff aboard the upcoming Investor Summit at Sea™.

We’re guessing part of the answer is wrapped up in Sam Zell’s second subtle comment …

Sam Zell is buying gold as a “hedge.”

Hmmmm … that’s interesting.   A hedge against what?

Investopedia defines a hedge this way …

“A hedge is an investment to reduce the risk of adverse price movements in an asset. Normally, a hedge consists of taking an offsetting position in a related security.”

Well, THAT’S interesting.

So Zell is using gold to “reduce the risk of adverse price movement in an asset.”

And he apparently considers gold to be highly useful as “an offsetting position in a related security.”

Which begs yet another question …

What asset / related security is Zell worried about … for the first time in his long and illustrious career?

Our guess is it’s the U.S. dollar.  In fact, we’d bet a beer on it.

And there’s one more clue we think bolsters the argument Zell is hedging the dollar …

Zell is bullish on oil.

 Wow.  What a coincidence …  our recent episode on precious metals was immediately followed with an episode on oil and gas.

Maybe Zell’s been listening to The Real Estate Guys™ radio show???

Um, probably not.

More likely, we’re learning a lot from all the smart folks we hang out with and listen to … and we’re starting to think like billionaires.  We hope so.

So why oil?

Also coincidentally … just a week before the Sam Zell interview was published, we published our weekly newsletter and talked about … oil.

So we won’t take time here to explain why we think oil could be a big story going forward.  You can read our thoughts here.

But this Zell interview affirms what we and many of our big-brained pals have been monitoring carefully for several years …

The dollar is under attack … from both internal and external forces.

So anyone who earns, invests, borrows, lends, or denominates net worth in dollars … most likely YOU … should probably take steps to become more aware and better prepared.

After all, if multi-billionaire real estate investor Sam Zell is hedging against the dollar … it’s smart to pay attention and consider doing the same.

Until next time … good investing!

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Preparing for the mega-trends of the next decade …

We realize it’s only the START of 2019 …

But 2019 is the LAST year of the second decade of the 21st century.

And with our annual goal setting workshop coming up this weekend, we’re in the mood for thinking ahead.  Like a decade ahead.

Perhaps you should too …

After all, real estate investing is based on long-term commitments … to markets, to properties, and often to financing.

Right now, there are more than a few reasons to think there are probably some MAJOR shifts coming … things which are important to consider in today’s investing decisions.

Consider this recent headline …

U.S. economy could slip from top spot in 2020 and keep slipping, analysts say – MarketWatch, January 14, 2019

Standard Chartered predicts that China’s GDP will overtake the U.S. next year. What’s more, within another decade, India is pegged to push the U.S. even further down the list

Think about that.

This isn’t some routine wave in an economic cycle.  This is a complete global shift of economic (and probably military) power and influence.

Virtually NO ONE investing today has ever done so in a world where the United States and its almighty dollar aren’t the undisputed dominant economy and currency.

Of course, we’ve been talking for quite some time about preparing for the possibility of the U.S. dollar losing its unique and powerful position as the world’s reserve currency.

There are several internal and external forces working against it, in spite of recent relative strength.

In fact, Russia just dumped all its dollar holdings and traded them for Chinese yuan …

Russia Buys Quarter of World Yuan Reserves in Shift From Dollar – Bloomberg, January 9, 2019

These are both MEGA-trends … major shifts that are gradually taking place over a long period of time.

Back in 2016, Business Insider published an article about four mega-trends that could change the world by 2030 … including the U.S. losing top status.

Of course, we’re only a few years in.   But IF you’re paying attention, you’ve been watching these trends slowly and surely develop.

Most people don’t even see it happening, much less have any understanding of what it might mean to them … or how to prepare.

We think that’s a mistake.

There’s an old investing adage which says, “the trend is your friend.”

In other words, it’s generally a losing proposition to invest against the trend.  It’s just too powerful.  Especially a mega-trend.

Sure, you can be contrarian and buy when others are selling or vice-versa.

But that’s just navigating cycles.  If you get it wrong, you can simply wait it out because time often heals those wounds.

But a mega-trend isn’t a cycle.  It’s a major long-term shift in the landscape.  It fundamentally changes the way the world works.

The gradual erosion of the United States exclusive status is a powerful mega-trend.

Artificial intelligence is another.

In a recent news report, a leading expert predicts AI will displace 40 percent of world’s workers as soon as 2035.

That kind of disruption has the potential to impact economies, political systems, and your real estate investments.

So when thinking about the New Year ahead … we encourage you to start thinking about the next decade as well.  Because big change is on the horizon.

Fortunately, real estate moves slowly … just like a mega-trend.

And because real estate is a permanent and essential part of human existence, there’s likely to be investment opportunity … so long as private property rights survive.

So what might all this mean to YOUR real estate investing?

It’s obviously way too much to unpack in a weekly newsletter, but here’s some food for thought as we approach the 3rd decade of the new millennium …

U.S. real estate could grow in appeal as a preferred wealth preservation haven for foreign investors.

Sure, the U.S. economy and dollar might get knocked out of the top spot.  But the U.S. has a long and stable history of strong private property rights.

The same can’t be said for some these up and coming economies.

However, if the dollar loses reserve status, then dollar-denominated asset prices … along with interest rates … could surge in response to inflation.

So anyone who uses long-term fixed debt to acquire real estate BEFORE it happens could end up a two-time winner.

Rising prices against fixed debt makes equity happen.  We like it.

The key is to pick markets and product types likely to see increased demand if economic conditions become more challenging for working class folks.

Of course, if economic conditions improve then all the better.  But best to prepare for downward pressure.

These are themes we’ve been talking about for years … because the mega-trends driving them have been slowly developing for quite some time.

Be careful not to let routine cycles, political winds, or investing fads blind you to the mega-trends underneath it all.  Mega-trends transcend all those things.

The good news is mega-trends move slowly.

So IF you’re paying attention, you’ll almost always have plenty of time to adjust your position to capture opportunity and mitigate risk.

The even better news is real estate is a tangible, essential asset … with a unique status.  All stakeholders in society have a vested interest in keeping it valuable.

Not all investments can say that.

Of course, all investing involves risk.  But so does NOT investing.

So it’s a matter of  being strategic and taking well-calculated risks … which is why we think it’s critical to keep a keen eye on mega-trends as well as cycles.

When you play off the big picture, it smooths out short-term gyrations which can sucker Pollyanna investors to jump in … or spook skeptical investors into missing out.

That’s why we’re REALLY looking forward to spending a week with our incredible faculty members on our fast-approaching 17th annual Investor Summit at Sea™.

Of course, we hope you’ll join us.

But whether you do or don’t, we encourage you to get together with smart, experienced investors and discuss the way the world is changing …

… and how YOU can best position yourself to survive and thrive as the future unfolds.

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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A potentially big real estate story for 2019 …

While most Americans are fixated on the brouhaha surrounding the government shutdown, we’re thinking about something even MORE slimy …

Oil.

Long time followers know we’ve been watching oil for quite a while … and for a variety of reasons over and above the amazing tax breaks.

Oil and energy have a substantial impact on the economy, inflation, geo-politics … even the health of the financial system. 

We’ve observed that as oil prices rise and fall, the specific area of their impact shifts.   There are important clues and opportunities to be gleaned from watching these dynamics.

When oil prices rise, it’s a drag on economic growth and can also be a sign of inflation.   It’s no secret President Trump wants to lower cost inputs to help fuel economic growth.

The Trump formula is lower taxes, lower oil, lower interest rates, a weaker dollar, and less regulation.  Labor is the only input he wants to see rise.

You may agree or disagree, but that’s what Trump wants.  Of course, there are some conflicting goals in the Trump recipe …

Specifically, low interest rates and a weaker dollar generally mean rising prices (inflation) … and oil is one of the first places it shows up.

Also, more economic activity leads to more energy consumption, which means higher demand … and rising prices.

So … the only way to keep oil prices low in an environment like this is to increase oil production to where supply overwhelms both higher demand and a weaker dollar … and pushes oil prices down anyway.

Perhaps obviously,  a domestic agenda which needs lower energy costs will affect U.S. relations with oil rich nations.

We think Trump’s stance towards Saudi Arabia … in spite of denials … makes it clear low oil prices are a high priority for the White House.

It’s consistent with what Trump told us when we asked him about his vision for housing and real estate.  He said, “Jobs”.

Remember, oil and energy were the largest drivers of job growth in the United States coming out of the 2008 financial crisis.

Many real estate investors who recognized this trend and got involved in Texas real estate in 2009 …and  have done very well over the last 10 years.

We think that party’s probably not even close to over.

One less obvious, but very important connection between oil and real estate is in the financial system … specifically, the debt markets.

As we’ve discussed several times over the years, LOTS of loans were made to oil companies when oil prices were over $100 per barrel.

But when interest rates rise and oil prices fall … it’s the worst of both worlds for heavily indebted domestic oil producers.

MANY billions of oil-related debt has the potential to go bad … and crater the financial system just like bad mortgage debt did in 2008.

And when credit markets seize for whatever reason, liberal users of debt, such as real estate investors … are directly affected.

We don’t think it will happen.

First, there’s too much upward pressure on oil prices.

Second, as we’re about to discuss, there’s BIG motivation to stimulate domestic production … which provides a lot of cash flow to service debt.

Of course, we could be wrong … as Ben Bernanke was about the dangers of sub-prime … so real estate investors should pay attention to oil.

Using the gas pump as an indicator, you probably already know oil prices have been a little soft.

Of course, businesses and consumers (including your tenants) LOVE this because it makes everything more affordable.

U.S. car manufacturers love it because it means they can sell more gas guzzling SUVs and trucks.

But bigger picture … oil and energy are major cost inputs on virtually all products.

After all, it takes energy to manufacture and transport everything.

And many products are made from petroleum derivatives, such as plastic, roof shingles, and asphalt.

So even though energy is left out of the “core inflation” index, the effects of changes to oil pricing are still reflected in it.

And so partly due to subdued oil prices, concerns about excessive inflation have been muted … even in the midst of a red-hot economy.

Obviously, sellers of oil would prefer higher prices. 

But you can only charge what the market will bear … which is a factor of supplydemand, and capacity to pay.

It’s also important to note that energy, like real estate and food, isn’t a discretionary purchase.

People MUST have energy to survive and thrive.  Therefore, demand for energy is ever-present.

So when it comes to oil … the thing to watch is supply and capacity to pay.

Breaking out capacity to pay from the traditional supply and demand model is something we started doing a long time ago … because there’s no effective demand without it.

Just because you want something, doesn’t mean you can afford it.  Think of it like debt-to-income ratios and interest rates in real estate.

Just because someone makes an offer on a house (demand), if they can’t quality for the loan (capacity to pay), there’s no sale.

And when mortgage rates rise, but wages don’t, the dynamic negatively impacts qualifying ratios … thereby decreasing capacity to pay and ultimately, effective demand.

That’s why observers often expect rising interest rates to lead to decreased housing demand.

It’s similar with oil.

When oil prices rise and wages don’t, then lack of  “real” wage growth (incomes outpacing inflation) makes it hard for the market to bear price increases.

That’s why the recent blowout jobs report was notable.

Not only were lots of jobs created, but wages grew at the best rate since 2008.

That means capacity to pay improved.

As you may recall, Saudi Arabia (the leader of the middle-eastern oil cartel OPEC and one of the largest oil producers in the world) INCREASED production …

… which meant MORE supply and LOWER prices (and thanks from President Trump).

But just recently, Saudi Arabia reversed course, calling for a target price of $80 per barrel … and a REDUCTION in production to make it happen.

Now before your A.D.D. kicks in … remember, this ALL has ramifications for real estate investors …

The point is there’s some real pressure on oil prices to rise … and a lot of motivation by President Trump to take steps to push prices down.

We think BOTH will happen and lead to interesting opportunities for real estate investors … in spite of the pressure higher oil prices puts on your paycheck-to-paycheck tenants.

If you invest in oil for the tax breaks and oil prices go up … there’s big potential for a double dip … tax breaks and profits.

Nice.  You can use both for your next down payment.

Higher oil prices reduce the risk of oil debt imploding credit markets.  Healthy credit markets are essential to vibrant real estate markets.

If oil prices rise on the international stage, we’d bet President Trump will do whatever he can to further stimulate domestic production to counteract it.

And that means more U.S. jobs and robust regional economies … with increased demand for real estate to in those areas.

All this to say, we think it’s smart to pay attention to oil … as an investment, as an economic gauge, and as a treasure map to potentially hot markets.

Oil will be a big topic of discussion on our upcoming Investor Summit at Sea™.

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.


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Taking on the New Year …

A brand-new year brings with it both anticipation and apprehension.  Both are emotional responses to the unknown.

There are MANY things we could discuss in this year’s opening missive …

… tariffs, trade wars, a new Congress, the Fed, interest rates, the stock market, the bond market, gold, oil, taxes, Opportunity Zones, and on and on.

Most of those things are completely OUTSIDE of your control.

So as we stand together at the threshold of the New Year, rather than dive into the weeds of the daily news or pontificate on predictions of the future …

… we think it’s important to consider how to use things WITHIN our control effectively to make the MOST out of the next twelve months.

The goal is to OPTIMIZE your odds of success by focusing your best efforts on the few things you can control, and which create the most positive leverage in your endeavors.

Read that again and let it sink in.  It’s something we work on all the time.

Now let’s take a look at this idea from a real estate investing perspective …

Everything starts with your goals.  But not really … because before you can set a MEANINGFUL goal, it’s critical to choose your values, mission, and vision.

Values, mission, vision, goals, focus, and effort are all things YOU can control.

Sadly, most people don’t proactively and strategically identify their values, mission, and vision.

Instead, they bounce from thing to thing … role model to role model … idol to idol … hoping to stumble onto the secret to happiness.

That’s why we put so much emphasis on taking time to create your future.

Once you have your values, mission, and vision clear, NOW you can set meaningful goals … what are often referred to in business as “key objectives.”

These are activities YOU can control … things you CAN do … which are specific, measurable, and have a deadline for completion.

For example, “owning more real estate” is NOT a goal.  “Buying four properties by the end of the year” is better.

But “acquiring 100 doors by the end of the year” is even more powerful because it creates possibilities and leverage … while focusing your activity on the REAL heart of real estate investing.

Think about it …

If your goal is to “buy four properties”, you might end up with four single-family homes … which is only four tenants, or “doors”.

And saying “buy” puts a subconscious limitation on HOW you acquire the properties.

But focusing on “acquiring 100 doors” is VERY different because you might achieve it through only ONE property, which provides time leverage.

This goal also focuses you on what REALLY matters … acquiring TENANTS.

Remember, it’s not real estate that makes you rich … it’s the rent.  Even equity is a derivative of income.

And when you think in terms of “acquiring” instead of simply “buying”, it opens your mind to seeing alternative acquisition possibilities … like options or syndication.

After all, you can acquire a property without paying for it. 

For example, if you syndicate 1,000 doors for a 10% share, you effectively gain 100 doors personally.

But instead of paying to own them, you get PAID to own them.  BIG difference.

So it’s actually easier and faster to think bigger.  Yet most people believe just the opposite.

Of course, thinking and feeling are interconnected.  That is, how you think affects how you feel … and how you feel affects how you think.

Blair Singer says, “When emotions run high, intelligence runs low.”

So if you’re afraid of an uncertain future or of making a mistake, you’ll tend to think about avoiding risk.

But investing is about navigating risks … not avoiding them.

Similarly, if you’re hyper-enthusiastic, you may only think about the upside and fail to think about the risks  … or strategies for navigating them.

We think passion and logic go together.  The most successful investors we’ve seen know how to balance both effectively.

It comes down to knowing the difference between what you can and should control, and what you can’t.

The future is always in motion and largely out of our control, so we can NEVER be certain.  Striving for certainty in an uncertain world is a recipe for paralysis.

On other words, it’s ineffective to worry about things we can’t control.

Better to stoically observe uncontrollable events, and then focus our passionate attention on things we CAN control in a way which maximizes possibilities and leverage.

We KNOW there will be LOTS of things happening in the new year.  We just don’t know what they are.  However, we can sure they’ll present both challenges and opportunities.

But it’s not the uncontrollable events themselves which most effect our results … it’s how we choose to react to them.

History tells us there will be ups and downs, and there will be winners and losers.  In the same set of circumstances, some will prosper and others will fail.

The individual challenge is figuring out how to define what winning looks like on a personal basis, and then doing what’s in our control to win on our terms … in whatever environment we face.

It takes clarity, knowledge, connections, emotional control, and the discipline to focus on those few strategic things under your control that provide the most leverage.

It’s simple, but not easy.   If it were, more people would do it.

Our experience and observation is that the best place to start is by putting great ideas in your mind, getting around the right people as much as possible … and narrowing your focus to the very few things that make the most impact.

So as you enter the new year … be sure the time and resources you invest in developing the real estate between your ears is commensurate with the size of your investing goals.


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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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The role of housing in economic growth …

Some people think housing is a driver of economic growth.  But that doesn’t make sense to us.

Sure, a robust housing market creates a lot of jobs from construction all the way back through the supply chain.

But housing itself is a by-product of prosperity, not a creator of it.  After all, who buys a house first … and then gets a job?  It’s the other way around.

So we think housing is not a leading indicator, but a trailing indicator.

With that said, in addition to reflecting economic prosperity, housing definitely plays a role in driving economic activity.  But not in the way most people think.

So let’s take a look …

Economic activity isn’t about asset values.  It’s about velocity … transactions … how fast money is flowing through society.  That’s why they call it currency.

But it isn’t really money that’s flowing.  It’s credit. It’s a subtle, but important difference because you can’t create money from nothing.  Only credit.

If you’re not familiar with the VERY important difference between money and credit, you should strongly consider investing in the Future of Money and Wealth video series …

… because G. Edward Griffin (author of The Creature from Jekyll Island) does an amazing job of explaining it all in an easy to understand way.

The fundamental principle to understand is that a loan is an asset to a bank.

When a bank makes a loan, they effectively create “money” from nothing by issuing credit.

Obviously, the biggest loans in most people’s lives are mortgages on houses.  So that means banks are creating LOTS of “money” by extending credit.

Meanwhile, governments issue bonds, which are simply humungous, glorified IOUs … like a mortgage.  Except the collateral isn’t a house … it’s the citizens’ earnings.

And when the mother of all banks, the Federal Reserve, buys government bonds, they are effectively creating “money” by issuing credit.

Now when all this “money” gets into the financial system it pushes asset prices up.  But not evenly.  And no one know for sure where it will all end up.

If lots of the new “money” goes into bonds, bond prices go UP and interest rates go DOWN.  There was a LOT of that going on over the last decade.

Similarly, if it goes into stocks, then stock prices go up.  There was a lot of that over the last decade also.

One big driver of rising stock prices has been corporations pigging out on cheap debt and then using the proceeds to buy back their own stock.

But remember, this isn’t economic activity … it’s just inflation of asset prices.  So it’s a mistake to think a rising stock prices means a booming economy.

In fact, “stagflation” occurs when prices go up, but economic activity is slow.

And just last week, former Fed chair Alan Greenspan said he sees stagflation coming to an economy near you.

At the same time, fellow former chair Janet Yellen is warning of excessive corporate debt.  We were just talking about that in our last commentary.

Funny.  Neither Greenspan or Yellen has said anything about the Fed going insolvent.  Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

Meanwhile, Fannie Mae’s economics team recently announced their prediction of slowing economic activity in 2019.

And just so you don’t think they’re merely jumping on the bandwagon, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan predicted this in his Future of Money and Wealth presentation on our last Investor Summit at Sea™.

All this to say, there are some notable experts saying the economy could be in for some headwinds in 2019.

So back to housing and its role in goosing economic activity …

Anyone paying attention knows housing prices have bounced back nicely from their 2008 debacle.

And almost everyone who bought early in this last run-up has built up gobs of equity.  Good job.

Unsurprisingly, consumer confidencecash-out refinances, and consumer spending all surged in 2018 … as households became equity rich … and then tapped that equity to SPEND.

In other words, credit flowed through housing to consumer spending which drove a lot of economic activity.

So it’s not housing construction that’s a leading indicator … it’s rising prices and equity.

But as housing price appreciation slows … it’s no surprise consumer confidence is dipping too.

Remember, consumers are usually the last ones to realize what’s coming.

So again, it’s the flow of credit into home prices and equity … and then the flow of credit through home equity to consumers … and then from consumers into the economy … that be a leading indicator of what’s coming down the line.

There’s one more nuance to consider …

As we’ve been pointing out for the last few months, there are LOTS of reasons to think more money is heading into real estate.

A combination of the best tax breaksOpportunity Zones, and nervous stock investors fleeing Wall Street in record numbers to seek a safer haven in housing … all could have real estate setting up for a nice run.

But be cautious.

Because if Alan Greenspan is right about stagflation … rising prices without rising real wages and economic activity …

… then real estate PRICES could rise from big money seeking safety … while the rents you use to control the property could be under pressure.

Consider RentCafe’s recent year end report, which found the most popular things renters searched for in 2018 were “cheap” and “studio.”

So as we’ve been suggesting for quite some time …

… it’s probably safer to focus on affordable markets and product types… using long-term fixed financing … and focusing on solid cash-flows to position your portfolio to ride out a slow-down.

We’re not saying there will be slow down.  But others are.

And it’s better to be prepared and not have a slow-down, than to have a slow-down and not be prepared.

And remember … asset prices and economic activity are NOT one and the same.

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.


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The big story for 2019 will be …

As we’re winding down 2018, it’s time to rub our crystal balls and peer into the new year … and we see …. 

Taxes.

For most high-earners, taxes are their biggest expense.  And almost everyone who has to pay taxes would prefer not to … or at least pay less.

So while there are MANY trends and developments real estate investors should pay attention to in the new year …

… the biggest story may well end up being how market participants respond to their growing understanding of the revised tax code.

Thanks to tax strategy advocates like Tom Wheelwright, many people ALREADY investing in real estate are cashing in on the amazing tax benefits the new law gives to real estate investors.

But as investors of all stripes close the books on 2018 and start looking for tax breaks in the new year, we’re guessing many will discover real estate for the very first time.

Meanwhile, it’s quite possible stock investors will trade in their “buy the dip” strategy for “drop the falling knife” … and look for other, less volatile places to invest the proceeds.

While YOU may not be interested in the stock market, its recent tribulations are noteworthy because it may portend a shift of capital from Wall Street stocks to Main Street real estate.

And if you’re a syndicator talking with prospective investors, you should really have more than just a cursory understanding of what puts downward pressure on stocks.

After all, some of the jittery money still stuck in stocks just might be inclined to move your way … if you’re able to explain the case for real estate.

Besides tariffs and rising interest rates, there are two factors putting pressure on stocks but aren’t discussed much on mainstream financial news.

First, as interest rates rise, it’s less profitable for corporations to borrow heavily to buy back their own stocks.

Besides, many have already gorged themselves on cheap money while taking corporate debt to record levels.  This alone is causing some concern.

And if rates resume their climb, debt service will begin to take a toll on corporate earnings as interest expenses rise. 

There’s a second factor sucking the wind out of the corporate buyback sail …

The big tax break offered to corporations enticing them to bring their offshore money back to America has already worked most of its magic.

And a lot of the money ended up in stock buybacks.

But with the dual air pumps of cheap debt and repatriated offshore funds both losing pressure, stock buybacks are slowing … letting air out of the stock bubble.

Remember, asset values (prices) are largely based on “air pressure”.  There always needs to be more money coming in to keep prices elevated.

On the other hand, income producing assets … like rental properties … derive their value from income.  And because those incomes are relatively steady, so are the prices.

That’s why jilted stock investors often migrate into real estate. 

Sure, they like flirting with the hot stocks when the punch bowl is full.  But when the bowl runs dry, many investors choose to go home to old faithful … real estate. 

And when you add in the new tax breaks, old faithful got a face lift … and is even MORE attractive.

But it gets better …

The world is really starting to buzz about Opportunity Zones

O-zones promise huge tax breaks … and much of it is likely to provide long-term benefit to real estate in those designated areas.

Of course, like anything new, it takes time for folks to figure it out, to get in position, and make their moves.

That’s the advantage of being small.  You can study fast and out-hustle the big money to get into position. 

Then when big money finally shows up, you get to ride a wave.

So when we look at the upcoming year, we think the impact of the tax laws will continue to magnify a movement of money into real estate.

And even if the overall economy slows, it’s our guess real estate will continue to attract its unfair share of investor interest.

Now we’re starting to understand why Tom Wheelwright and Robert Kiyosaki get so excited about taxes, real estate, and infinite returns.

Until next time … good investing!


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Social Security, Inflation and Real Estate …

If you’re relatively young, Social Security is probably just an abstract concept and another bite out of your paycheck.

But before you tune out,  consider that the U.S. Social Security program creates both problems and opportunities for real estate investors of ALL ages … including YOU.

Big picture …

Social Security and Medicare make up about 42% of federal program expenditures.  They’re a BIG chunk of Uncle Sam’s spending.

According to this Congressional Research Service report on Medicare and this Social Security Administration Trustees’ Report … both are headed towards insolvency in the not-too-distant future.

That’s bad.

Worse … both are “pay as you go” programs.  That’s not our description.  That’s exactly the way the U.S. government describes them.

The programs don’t really have any money.

The only “assets” these programs have are YOUR taxes … and IOUs from Uncle Sam.  The CRS report explains it on page 5.

Of course, IOUs from Uncle Sam are also backed by taxes … and the Federal Reserve’s printing press (which means inflation).

According to recommendations by the SSA Trustees in their report, the answers are … wait for it …

… raise payroll taxes and reduce benefit payments.  

Shocker.

You probably know payroll taxes are paid by working people (your tenants) and their employers.

Higher payroll tax obviously means less take-home pay to live on … including paying their rent to YOU.  So you may want to pay attention to the direction of payroll taxes.

But what about benefit reduction?  How does that matter to real estate investors?

There’s the obvious impact on tenants who rely heavily on Social Security, disability benefits or Medicare to help them with their routine living expenses.

Reduction in subsidies means those tenants have less money to pay rent … and less flexibility to absorb increases to rent or other costs of living.

But there’s a less obvious angle to consider … one we pay close attention to … and that’s the Fed’s printing press.

We trust at this stage of your financial awareness, you’ve heard of John Maynard Keynes, the father of the “Keynesian economics” you hear about.

Here’s a long, but powerful statement made by Keynes in his book The Economic Consequences of the Peace …

“Lenin is said to have declared that the best way to destroy the capitalist system was to debauch the currency. By a continuing process of inflationgovernments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens.  By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security but [also] at confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth.

Those to whom the system brings windfalls, beyond their deserts and even beyond their expectations or desires, become ‘profiteers,’ who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, whom the inflationism has impoverished, not less than of the proletariat.  As the inflation proceeds and the real value of the currency fluctuates wildly from month to month, all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless; and the process of wealth-getting degenerates into a gamble and a lottery.

Lenin was certainly right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency. The process engages all the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

There’s SO much we could say about that quote … but read it and re-read it a few times.   You’ll view the news in a whole different light.

For now, let’s get back to Social Security, inflation … and YOUR real estate investing …

As you can guess, cutting benefits overtly is not a politically popular solution.

Neither is raising taxes.

Yet according to the people in charge of these programs, that’s EXACTLY what needs to happen.

And it is happening … but “in a manner which not one man in a million is able to diagnose.”

That is … cutting benefits and raising taxes are both cleverly hidden inside how Uncle Sam and the Fed handle inflation.

When most people think of “inflation,” they think of Uncle Sam’s official gauge of inflation … the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

It’s well known that the Fed has a stated goal of 2% per year inflation … every year … year in and year out.

That doesn’t sound like much. And whether it’s good or bad depends on which side of the coin you’re on.

If you own real assets, you get richer in nominal terms.

If you use long-term debt, like mortgages, you get richer in real terms.

That’s too big a concept for today, but one EVERY real estate investor should know like their name.  In fact, it’s a big part of what Robert Kiyosaki will be talking about at our next Investor Summit at Sea™.

But just because you own properties doesn’t mean you’re home free (punny, we we know) because …

… for folks who don’t have assets (like your tenants) … inflation means it costs more to live.  To see it in dollar terms, use Uncle Sam’s inflation calculator.

Based on the CPI, a tenant in October 2018 would need $1,542 to purchase items that cost only $1,000 in October 1998.

That’s means they need more than a 50% increase in take-home pay over 20 years … just to keep the SAME standard of living.

Similarly, for programs like Social Security … with  built in cost of living adjustments (COLAs) … a $1000 benefit in 1998 now costs Uncle Sam $1542.

No wonder the debt is swelling.

Of course, it didn’t take Uncle Sam long to figure out keeping the CPI lower than real-world rate of inflation, would effectively cut benefits without political fallout.

In other words, as Peter Schiff often points out, the CPI probably UNDER-reports the ACTUAL rate of inflation … which means the reality is even harder for the working class than the CPI indicates.

So it’s important for investors of all types to get the best measure of real-world inflation possible.  And the CPI is arguably not it.

That’s why many investors turn to Shadow Stats or the Chapwood Index.

The Chapwood Index is handy for real estate investors because it breaks inflation down by city.  That’s important because unlike stocks, bonds, and commodities … real estate is a LOCAL investment.

Here’s where it all comes together …

Even though Uncle Sam is motivated to keep inflation LOW for CPI purposes, they have no choice but to print gobs of dollars to fund the huge and growing debt and deficit.

Meanwhile …

Income producing, leveraged real estate is arguably (and by far) the safest, most powerful hedge against long-term inflation.

But again, rental property investors must stay alert to the pressure inflation puts on their tenants.

Remember … just because nominal GDP is growing, it doesn’t mean your tenants are getting more purchasing power.

So be careful to select markets, product types, and tenant demographics that fit well into what’s happening in the big picture.

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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Oil and Gas for Real Estate Investors

Energy is the key input for all economic activity. And as populations and economies grow worldwide, there’s an increasing demand for energy.

So listen in as we chat with an experienced oil man and discuss the nitty-gritty of investing in oil and gas for profits and tax breaks.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, you’ll hear from:

  • Your well-oiled host, Robert Helms
  • His slightly creaky co-host, Russell Gray
  • Oil and gas businessman, Bob Burr

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How we got into oil and gas

We’re often asked how we transitioned from real estate to other real assets.

We started studying economics after the ’08 financial crisis. We were looking to see what we could have done … to better survive the crash.

We realized we needed to be more careful about structuring our portfolios so they weren’t vulnerable to the ups and downs of Wall Street.

We also realized the dollar, gold, and oil were all interconnected.

And, we looked at the tax benefits, and realized the tax path leads to oil.

Our guest today is basically the Godfather of Gas and Oil. Bob Burr started out in the gas and oil industry working on rigs as a young man in Louisiana.

“It was my life’s mission to find out the other end of the business,” Bob says.

Well, he’s made it … Bob now has several cumulative decades on the money-making side of the oil and gas industry.

And he’s still at it … technological innovations and new oil discoveries have made the U.S. one of the top places in the world for oil extraction.

Bob’s decades of experience have led him through ups and downs, mistakes and discoveries, and he has come out wiser on the other end. He met us on the Summit at Sea™ … and now he’s here to share his knowledge with YOU.

The tax benefits of oil investing

So … why oil and gas?

“The tax shelter is just tremendous,” Bob says. Oil and gas investing is the only business today where you can put in a dollar and write off 70 to 80 percent of that, whether you win, lose, or come to a draw.

There are risks inherent to investing in the industry, but the federal government makes it much more approachable by subsidizing heavy tax breaks.

“Every time you drill a well, you’re gambling,” Bob says. But since oil drives the economy, Uncle Sam is willing to place some bets.

Bob does a lot of due diligence before he even starts digging to make sure a potential well has a high chance to be profitable for him and his partners.

First, he explores the land and picks out a bunch of prospective sites.

Then, he sends those prospects to a third-party geological team and says, “Kill it.” Really. If the geological team comes back and says no go, Bob moves on.

After the geological team gives the A-OK, Bob does yet another evaluation. His sons do a due diligence inspection to examine specific site issues.

“We’ll have some bad ones regardless, but I’m doing everything to avoid that,”  Bob says.

Oil and gas exploration is a numbers game, but Bob is shaving the odds in his favor. He’s eliminating 90 percent of the bad options … before the drilling starts.

Oil and gas investing is an industry that requires high responsivity to partners.

Because it is a high-risk industry, Bob makes sure he is being attentive to his investment partners’ needs.

“We need to shut up and listen and let them present the facts,” Bob says. If there’s ever a point where he disagrees, he consults with specialists and experts first.

Bob has been in the business a long time. “I would be lying if I never did anything wrong,” he says. “I had to climb the mountain and fall back down, climb the mountain and fall back down.”

But now, “You can’t play any tricks on me,” he declares.

Who gets a cut?

How does oil and gas investing work for everyone involved?

First, there are the land owners. In usual oil and gas terms, the land owner owns the surface and minerals. The oil extractor … that’s Bob … gives the owner a bonus for each acre used, plus royalties … a percentage of the total proceeds.

“You have to look at the economics,” he says, in reference to the royalty rate.

If an oil person is pulling in millions of dollars, the reserve rate … what they take home to investors and their own business … will be less, perhaps closer to 50 percent. For a smaller pull, it’ll probably be closer to 80 percent.

“You have to play every hand differently,” Bob says. There are a lot of variables that affect each situation.

Now, what about the investors?

Becoming a partner to Bob or another oil person requires taking on a lot of risk. But regardless of the outcome, investors still get tax benefits.

Bob says he does turn-key deals on each well, and he takes on the responsibility of figuring out completion costs and risk.

If he runs into problems, he doesn’t go back to his investors to ask for more money, he says … but if there is a chance to drill deeper and get much higher profits, he will sometimes give investors an opportunity to put more money in and play the game.

As for the profits? “I’ve never had one problem having a market for oil at a premium price,” he says.

Bob recently got about $70/barrel for West Texas crude, but he says he can make money at as low as $25/barrel … so there’s a lot of flexibility. Twenty-five is still a good, solid return, he says.

The oil industry is all about developing relationships … after all, we only got to know Bob through the great relationships we form each year at the Summit at Sea™.

“I’m a team with my partners, and I’m the captain of the team,” Bob says. “And I want to score.”

Think you want to learn more about oil and gas investing? You can start your research with Bob’s custom report. And of course, you can meet Bob and other experienced investors at our annual Summit at Sea™!


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.


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Bitcoin, gold, oil, stocks, real estate, and popcorn …

It’s hard to watch the financial news these days and not get the feeling the fragility in the financial system we’ve been concerned about … is starting to show.

We grew up in California and learned as kids how to react to an earthquake …

Get away from glass and hide under the shelter of a desk or doorway … because stuff was probably going to start falling.

Fragile things shatter in an earthquake.  They can’t handle the pressure.  The key to safety is to get to the sturdiest parts of the structure until the shaking subsides.

Of course, when it’s clear and bright … the windows are the most fun.  You can bask in the sunshine of hope and opportunity.

But when the foundation is shaking, it’s time to find shelter … FAST.

You’ve probably noticed stock prices slipping.  Even the fabled FAANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) are ALL now in bear markets.

So what?  After all, we’re real estate investors.  What do we care about stocks?

We don’t.  At least not directly.  But all these markets are like gauges on our financial dashboard … and when they start flashing red, it’s wise to investigate.

This is a newsletter, not a seminar, but let’s see what we can reason together in the next few minutes about what’s shaking in the financial world … and where it might be headed.

The first place to look is the most important financial market there is … bonds.

Of course, real estate investors should watch the bond market for clues about the direction of interest rates.

But while interest rates are interesting … credit markets are what REALLY matter.

That’s because credit markets both create and price the currency which fuels everything else. 

Credit markets are like the big reactor core in the Star Wars Debt Death Star.  They’re both the fuel source and the weak spot at the same time.

To take the metaphor a conspiratorial step further … credit markets are also the source of the Emperor’s power.

And as Peter Schiff persistently points out … when the original Debt Star blew up in 2008, the Emperor wasted no time in building a bigger, deadlier version.

The obvious implication is the next explosion could be a LOT bigger.

Now in a plain vanilla stock market dip, some (usually innocuous) event spooks highly-leveraged paper traders.  They sprint to the exits … and stock prices fall.

But then they calm down and the next day they’re back out there snapping up bargains.  This “buy-the-dip” strategy has been the name of the game for several years.

But the longer-term downtrend suggests something is different this time.  Perhaps worries the Debt Star is running out of power?

The Bitcoin crowd has been chanting “buy the dip” also … but here too, it seems the Farce is strong … and the downtrend has more gravitational pull than past dips.

Clearly, nervous stock investors aren’t piling into Bitcoin for safety.

Of course, the usual safe space for snowflake stock investors to hide is bonds.

But if gobs of money were pouring into bonds … interest rates would be falling.

While rates have certainly moderated the last few weeks from their upward trend, it’s hardly a serious decline.

So … nothing happening now has us disagreeing with our recent conversation with David Stockman on the direction of rates.

And we certainly would NOT be using short-term debt on tight-cap properties hoping to re-fi to lower rates in a year or two!  If that’s your plan … be careful.

Then there’s oil.  You’ve probably heard the price has fallen.  We’re guessing your tenants like it at the pump.  Businesses too.

Obviously, energy costs … just like interest and taxes … RAISE the costs of operating a business, a household, and an economy.

President Trump’s a business guy.  So to no surprise he prefers ALL three lower … so more profit gets to the bottom line.

But oil … like gold … is MUCH more than just a commodity. 

Both have significant connections to the future of the U.S. dollar … and all three are powerful tools in geo-politics.

Just last year, we pointed out China’s noteworthy moves with both oil and gold.

And just because things are moving slowly, doesn’t mean they aren’t moving.

All that to say … we’ve been paying close attention to this for several years … and it seems to us things are picking up speed.

We keep them on our radar … and yours … for TWO reasons …

First … major financial events often seem to show up suddenly and shock the world … but they usually had a long and obvious (in hindsight) build up.

We’ve learned to look further out so we have more time to re-position.  After all, the blessing and curse of real estate is it moves slowly.

So real estate investors are wise to pay attention to early warning indicators … and then rearrange portfolios to both mitigate risk and capture opportunities.

Second … when economic and financial earthquakes first tremble … it’s smart to seek shelter under sturdy structures.

For that reason, we think it’s likely to see MORE money moving into real estate in search of stability (and tax breaks).

But just because real estate is stable doesn’t mean YOUR portfolio is.

As we learned in 2008, bad portfolio structure crumbles when hit with tremors from a Debt Star explosion.

However, when those market forces clean out weak portfolios, there are bargains galore … for those who are ready, willing, and able to take advantage.

Ironically, consumers are tapping home equity like it’s 2007.  We’re guessing holiday shopping will be solid.  But it won’t make those borrowers wealthier.

Savvy investors are grabbing equity too … and using it both to purchase strong cash flows … and to hold in reserve.

It’s always good to have some cash if market tides turn.

YOUR mission is to be among the aware and prepared … and NOT among the unaware and unprepared.  It could be a good time to increase liquidity.

Are we saying another crash is coming?  No.  But we can’t say it’s not.

Right now, there are tremors.

So while you’re thinking about your goals for next year … including how to invest your educational time and money …

… we encourage you to make getting better educated, better connected, and better structured a top priority … so IF things turn quickly …

… YOU can sit safely inside your reinforced portfolio chomping on popcorn and watching the fireworks.

And if the fireworks turn out to be a dud … you’re really no worse off for being prepared.

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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Preparing for the Future of Interest Rates and the Dollar

We’re concerned about interest rates … and you should be too.

Consistently rising interest rates affect your ability to borrow money for investments.

In this episode of The Real Estate Guys™ show, we dig into how the Federal Reserve and central banks affect interest rates. We talk about the future of the dollar. And we discuss how rising interest rates affect YOU.

We met with two knowledgeable experts in the economics field. You’ll hear from:

  • Your interested host, Robert Helms
  • His uninteresting co-host, Russell Gray
  • James Grant, economic expert and author of eight books on the U.S. financial system
  • Nomi Prins, former Wall Street analyst, journalist, and six-time author

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James Grant on interest rates and securities

James Grant was named by Ron Paul as his likely candidate for Chairman of the Federal Reserve. Over the years, he has been a voice of reason … he calls himself “a ‘yes, but’ guy in a ‘gee whiz’ world.”

We got right into the subject of interest … interest rates.

Are rates going up? “Rates tend to trend over the long term,” James says.

They’ve been on the down-swing since the 1980s, but they may be on the up-swing again … and although rates are currently rising, James emphasizes we’ll have to wait and see whether the trend continues.

James says investors should look to the bond market for clues.

A 10-year treasury bond delivered a yield of 1.37 percent in 2016 … the lowest yield since the year 1311, according to a study by the Bank of England.

In the early 80s, a 30-year security would’ve netted you a 14 percent yield. That’s a big difference.

Today, almost every security is priced next to nothing when investors account for taxes and inflation, James says.

Who manipulates interest rates? The Federal Reserve.

“It’s an act of malpractice that the Fed and central banks worldwide are manipulating these rates,” he says.

And real estate cap rates are driven by interest rates.

To James, this means we now live in a world of great danger. “We live in a kind of hall of mirrors,” he says.

On forecasting the future and investing in gold

James notes forecasts are for people who think they know what’s going to happen … when the reality is, no one actually knows.

“We can’t know the future, but we can know how it’s being handicapped in the present,” James says.

He finds it helpful to remind himself of how our descendants will think of us.

And he says, “Successful investing is about having everyone agree with you … later.” Investors must imagine plausible outcomes before the market catches up.

We asked him his thoughts on gold investing. “Gold is interesting because it’s where people flee,” James says. “But it’s really an investment, not a flight asset.”

Gold is a way to step outside of orthodox institution investments. “Gold is simply money to me. It’s a cash balance. It’s something the central bankers can’t debase.”

To hear more from James Grant … and keep your eye on interest rates … check out Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, an independent journal covering financial markets.

Nomi Prins on the Federal Reserve and the world market

Journalist Nomi Prins was a member of Senator Bernie Sanders’ panel of advisors on Federal Reserve reform. She’s coming at this from a different angle than James Grant … but both guests are incredibly informed, with lots of great things to say.

In 2007, Nomi wrote that there could be a problem if financial institutions and the government continued the credit derivative system and high leverage.

No one wanted to hear it. But then ’08 happened.

Nomi says that over the last 10 years, “The Fed has subsidized a lot of credit problems that existed before the ’08 crisis by creating electronic money.”

That has raised the level of artificial leverage.

And THAT means the next market collapse will come from an even higher height than in ’08, she says.

Even worse, many central banks around the world created electric money and dropped rates when the Fed did. Nomi examined this situation in her book Collusion.

“We’re in a very precarious situation going forward,” she says.

Quantitative easing … the introduction of new money onto the market … causes inflation and collapses markets, starting with emerging markets.

In order to retain capital, central banks in these countries have to raise rates and increase the value of their currency. That’s what’s happening now.

This, in turn, lowers the value of foreign currencies relative to the value of the dollar. So, any debt these countries have has to be paid back or renewed at a higher rate.

Apparently, however, the U.S. is back to quantitative tightening now, says Nomi.

The Fed’s statements and its actions and reports tell different stories.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell SAYS current quantitative tightening is official. That means the government will continue to sell … but not re-invest … assets.

But in reality, the Fed is selling much more slowly than they’ve said they will.

The reason? “They know that if they sell too much too fast, rates will increase too fast, and the value of assets will go down too fast,” Nomi says. “They want to be in a holding pattern.”

More on quantitative easing, coming crisis

Nomi wants people to know there is NO correlation between GDP growth and quantitative easing. However, there is a very high correlation between quantitative easing and the stock market.

She thinks the next financial crisis will look like a bunch of smaller crises that add up to big gaps in liquidity and credit availability.

Nomi says she sees a few things happening around the world … bond defaults are creeping up in emerging markets, and certain countries are starting to have major credit problems.

“I think all of that will come to bear on the Fed.” And because of that, Nomi says, “I think their language will start to move toward growth slowing.”

Think two rate raises over the next year, instead of the forecasted four.

She predicts extreme appreciation is not going to happen. Rates will stay low, although they might continue to rise a bit relative to the Fed.

What about real estate? “Commercial real estate may have more leverage, so rate hikes will have more impact.”

Instead, Nomi recommends “any area where rent can overcompensate for an increase in cost.”

She says there are currently opportunities in emerging markets where there’s still room for upward growth in prices.

Mexico City, for example, is a place where prices are low, the government has a strong growth strategy, and there is opportunity in the near team.

Lessons learned

Debt doesn’t operate in a vacuum. Interest rates have a HUGE impact on whether your investments will be successful.

You don’t need to understand ALL the mechanics … but you should have a basic understanding of WHAT will affect interest rates and WHERE they’re headed.


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.


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