How To Make More Money By Doing Nothing

Infinity Pool Makes More Money Doing Nothing

A still pool does nothing in Sao Paolo, Brazil

It’s been over a year since I swapped property management companies for my Lake Tahoe vacation rental (it’s snowing buckets btw), but it was only recently that I marketed the property here to help boost its income for the second year. The property used to be managed directly by the hotel, which would obviously garner the most amount of incoming calls and online inquiries compared to an outside property manager. When reservations were booked through the hotel, they randomly assigned which units those reservations went to. So when I was in their rental program, the only way I used to benefit was when the overall volume of guests increased.

That all changed when I moved to an outside property management company who charges a lower commission. They market my specific units on their website. Therefore, the challenge is for them (Vacasa Rentals) to get well known enough to be a favorable company for vacationers to book living arrangements vs. the hotel’s challenge of simply marketing The Resort At Squaw Creek as the premier Lake Tahoe vacation destination.

I used to try and help my cause by advertising my property on Craigslist while it was still managed by the hotel as well, but I stopped because it takes a lot of time dealing with inquiries and bookings. You would think I’d be worried about seeing a drop in income by switching management companies, especially if I didn’t market my unit on the side. But I wasn’t because I wanted to let them earn my business for the first year, so they wouldn’t take me for granted. They gave me a guarantee that I would earn at least as much as I did from the hotel, or else they’d refund the difference.

Should I Invest In P2P Lending? Prosper Performance Review

live-long-and-prosperAt long last, Lending Club went public recently with an estimated $5 billion market cap. It’s the first really big new generation fintech IPO, and boy is it going to make a lot of people a lot of money. To give you some perspective, at a $5 billion market cap, Lending Club is ~$1.3 billion larger than Yelp! I’ve been following both Lending Club and Prosper since their inception as their offices were right next to mine in downtown San Francisco.

In 2013, I finally decided to invest some money into P2P lending with Prosper to see what the fuss was all about. I had a friend working at Prosper at the time who helped teach me about the market place and the company over several lunches. I’ve written a post on tips for P2P borrowers from a lender’s perspective, a post highlighting the P2P lending returns by borrower rating and credit score, and how P2P lending can even get a little addictive due to the ability to pick and choose who gets to borrow your money.

I was relatively gung ho about allocating several hundred thousand dollars to P2P lending, but I didn’t because I still wanted to do more research given I expected rates to stay low and the stock market to outperform as a result. I also ended up buying another house, so I only invested several thousand in P2P lending as a result, and basically ignored the account for much of the year until now.

MY EXPERIENCE WITH PROSPER ALMOST TWO YEARS IN

Here’s a snapshot of my current performance: Prosper Annualized Return

A 7.43% overall return isn’t too shabby for 2014 given the stock market has returned about ~9% over the same period. I’m a very conservative investor with P2P lending since it’s only been about two years of actual investing. As a result, I pretty much invested in A and AA Prosper Rating borrowers along with several B Ratings to get some juice.

Motif Investing Review: The ETF And Index Fund Killer?

Various MotifsAfter spending 13 years in equities on Wall Street, I’ve been able to personally speak to some of the most successful institutional investors around on how to invest and manage money. The one consistent piece of advice I always hear is to invest in long-term trends and forget about the day-to-day minutiae. For example, shorting/underweighting Japanese equities since the late 1980s and going overweight commodities in the 1990s have been great winning decisions.

As a result of my experience working with successful fund managers, I weaned myself off of trying to constantly trade around the market after the NASDAQ burst and have been focused on long-term, idea-driven investing ever since. I’ll always have a Unicorn Fund to punt around for the next multi-bagger stock, but the fund is always less than 5% of my net worth or 10% of my entire equity exposure.

Motif Investing is a fascinating company based right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. I’ve been following them for the past couple of years after they raised a $25 million round of funding led by Goldman Sachs in 2013, won the Finovate Fall 2013 and Finovate Spring 2014 “Best In Show,” and raised another $35 million round in 2014 led by JP Morgan. Motif Investing makes most of its money off transactions (trades) when you buy or sell one of their “motifs” based on an investment idea you have. They might also expand into the money management business as well.

A motif is essentially a basket of 30 stocks you can invest in, which are aimed to profit from a specific idea or underlying theme. Let’s say you think new housing construction is going to quicken in the US next year. You could buy a housing motif which might contains Lennar, KBH, Home Depot, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Zillow, and more in various weightings. Given my focus on buying winning long-term ideas and ignoring the short-term volatility, I really like Motif’s value proposition for retail investors.

Invest With Investors You Respect And Trust: I’m Following USAA’s Lead

US Military - Fallen Soldier MemorialWhen the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, my grandfather was there to serve as a Captain in the Army. During the Vietnam War, my father also served in the Army and was sent overseas to be a stockade prison guard in nearby Thailand. Then there’s me. A man who did not carry the family tradition of serving one’s country. I felt unworthy.

I wanted to join the US Foreign Service to help America in a more diplomatic way, but I felt too stupid to pass the Foreign Service Exam, so I did not try. One of the duties my father had while serving at the State Department in Washington D.C. was to be an oral exam examiner. He shared with me stories of the difficulties in making it through.

I’ve discussed a lot about having money guilt in the past, and I think part of my guilt comes from not being able to serve our country as my father and grandfather have done. A part of me is driven to make up for my lack of contribution by helping people with their personal finances. Money is a means to a better life, and I hope to make some sort of difference.

It’s an atrocity that there are homeless veterans in America. The government needs to do more to make sure that every single veteran finds a job when they come home. The private sector has to take the lead as well. If there are veterans out there who would like to share their story or become a writer for Financial Samurai, shoot me an e-mail.

Should I Contribute To My 401K Or Invest In An After-Tax Brokerage Account?

foragingThe great thing about a 401k is that you are contributing with pre-tax money. The higher the tax bracket you are in, the more tax savings you will have. If you can start withdrawing from your 401k when you’re in a lower income tax bracket, then you’ve successfully conducted some tax engineering to boost your wealth.

The problem with the 401k is the 10% early withdrawal penalty before age 59.5. If the government gets desperate, they can raise the early withdrawal penalty percentage or increase the age limit. I ascribe a 75% chance one of these two things will occur over the next 30 years.

It’s easy to understand why saving for retirement is difficult. The value proposition is that you put your money away in an institution like Fidelity, which operates under the confines of the omnipotent government, who punishes you if you err from their rules, all for the chance that your money will grow decades down the road.

With no assurances from your money manager or the government that your money will be there in retirement, spending money now on instant gratification makes perfect sense. Give me the latest iPhone vs. the potential to have $25,000 more in retirement! Therein lies the dilemma of the 401k contributor who can’t max out his or her account every year, and who therefore doesn’t have excessive after tax savings for liquidity and other purchases.