Real Estate: My Favorite Investment Asset Class To Build Wealth

Small apartments

Can you spot the tiny rental?

Real estate is all about asymmetric risk and reward. When the government gives you subsidies in the form of mortgage interest tax deductions and bails out overextended homeowners over and over again, you’d be silly not to invest in real estate! When you can invest lots of other people’s money and not have to split the proceeds if you make a killing, that’s a wonderful thing!

There’s a reason why every rich person you know owns multiple properties. There’s a reason why enormous fortunes have been made through real estate as well. How can Donald Trump still be a billionaire after declaring bankruptcy? Asymmetric risk and reward!

It’s no wonder property owners were once called lords, or now more colloquially, landlords. The wealthy own assets, while the not-so-wealthy lease assets. After 30 years of paying $2,000 a month in rent, your return on $720,000 is negative 100%. At least through a mortgage you’ve got an asset which you can live in rent free or pass on to your children once paid off. You might not make money as the downturn has certainly shown, but at least you have a chance.

When it comes to making money, if there is no risk, there is very little reward. After a lifetime of working, not owning might be one of the biggest risks of all!


The Ideal Mortgage Amount Is $1 Million Dollars (If You Can Afford It)

Talin EstoniaWhoah, that’s crazy! I can hear some of you who don’t live in an expensive part of the world say. Meanwhile, some of you are surely thinking you can’t get anything livable with a $1 million mortgage. The ideal mortgage amount of $1 million is based on the premise that the ideal income for maximum happiness is $200,000 per person.

Back in 2002, a $1 million mortgage cost around $50,000 to $65,000 a year in interest expense given mortgage rates were 5%-6.5% for a 5/1 ARM or a 30-year fixed. Multiply the annual interest expense by three, and you get $150,000-$195,000, the minimum annual income recommended to take out such a loan.

In 2015, a $1 million mortgage costs around $22,500 to $35,000 a year in interest expense given mortgage rates are now 2.25%-3.5% for a 5/1 ARM or a 30-year fixed. Multiply the annual interest expense by three again and you get $67,500 to $105,000, a far cry from the $150,000-$195,000 you originally needed to make! Note, banks still only lend out 3-4X your income despite a drop in rates.

It is aggressive to think that someone who only makes $79,500 a year in gross salary can afford a $1 million mortgage, but it’s also absurd that one can borrow $1 million dollars nowadays for only 2.625%! I’m not recommending everyone with impecable credit scores, great financial habits, and steady savings rates all get $1 million mortgages. I’m just saying that it’s now possible for someone making $79,500 a year to service $1 million worth of debt at 2.625% if the bank approves.


How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye

How To Engineer Your LayoffIt took me two years to engineer my own layoff because I was concerned and didn’t know how. There were no resources on the market that could guide me to quit my job with money in my pocket. What was I supposed to say, “Hey Boss!  If you give me $200,000 I’m outta here!” over coffee one morning?

What if I quit and my bank account goes dry in six months? What if I can’t find a new job in a new industry that I really love? What if my entrepreneurial endeavors fail miserably and some exogenous variable knocks me out for the count?  What if I turn into a deadbeat with no more motivation to do anything again?

I didn’t hate my job, I just didn’t love it anymore like I once did 13 years ago. Nothing is worth doing for an extended period of time if you don’t love it. Ten years in a row is the maximum amount of time I can truly commit to one occupation or firm with full enthusiasm. To go much longer would be unfair to my employer, to others who have a deeper hunger, and ultimately to myself.

I kept questioning what type of idiot would quit a good job in this type of economy? After a while, I started asking myself what type of idiot not to quit in this economy! Wages are down, profits are abysmal, and industries are going through multi-year consolidation phases that won’t be pleasant.

With no kids, a 16-18 year financial safety net, and a clear idea of what I want to do after my separation, I decided to make the move in 2011 after creating a healthy stream of passive income over the past 13 years. I was so close, but couldn’t pull the trigger because I was STILL too unsure. What I needed was that one last kick in the pants to send me on my way to entrepreneurship.


Taking A Leap Of Faith And Retiring On My Own Terms

Hawaiian SunsetTonight I do not have to set the alarm because tomorrow I do not have to go to work. After 13 years of climbing the corporate ladder, I finally reached the roof and discovered everything was as imagined.  A lot of sun with the occasional pigeon cooing out yonder. I can now see through the entire valley, down towards the ocean. I am officially retired!

Ever since my first job in 1999 I’ve been saving like a juggernaut so that one day I might retire early. I’ve definitely had my ups and downs with the internet bubble, housing bubble, financial sector meltdown, and now the European debt crisis. There were several times I wanted to quit due to the immense pressure. But despite all of this, I stuck through it and “The Nut” continued to grow to the level of self-sustainability.

When I first graduated from college, I was presented with two choices. Choice number one was to go to Shenzhen, China and become the head of operations for a family friend’s new eyeglass factory after two years of training. It wasn’t a sexy job, but I would be able to fulfill my goal of working abroad, becoming fluent in a second language, and riding the China boom. The idea was to get some work experience and then do something on my own in the wild, wild East. Just two years prior, I got a chance to experience China for the first time as an exchange student and loved it.

The second option was equally exciting, working for a powerhouse firm in New York City to get rich the old fashion way. I was told around 8,000 people globally applied for 60 spots and for some reason, I got one of them. Although I had nothing to lose by going to China, I decided to play it safe and stay in the United States.

Despite appreciating the past 13 years, I’ve always wondered what it would be like if I took the other route. Perhaps it’s the reason why I’ve traveled internationally every year since graduation.  Too bad we can’t live two concurrent lives! I’m an adventure seeker who moved around as a kid every two to four years thanks to my parents’ work. Staying in one place longer than five years was absolutely foreign to me.

After playing things conservatively for so long, I finally feel like now is the time to shake things up!


The Average Net Worth For The Above Average Person

The average net worth for the above average person is largeEverything is relative when it comes to money.  If we all earn $1 million dollars a year and have $5 million in the bank at the age of 40, none of us are very wealthy given all our costs (housing, food, transportation, vacations) will be priced at levels that squeeze us to the very end.  As such, we must first get an idea of what the real average net worth is in our respective countries, and then figure out the average net worth of the above average person!

According to CNN Money 2014, the average net worth for the following ages are: $9,000 for ages 25-34,  $52,000 for ages 35-44, $100,000 for ages 45-54, $180,000 for ages 55-64, and $232,000+ for 65+. Seems very low, but that’s because we use averages and a large age range.

After a 13% rise in the S&P 500 in 2014, surely the average net worth has increased even further for 2015.

The Above Average Person is loosely defined as:

1) Someone who went to college and believes grades and a good work ethic do matter.

2) Does not irrationally spend more than they make.

3) Saves for the future because they realize at some point they no longer are willing or able to work.

4) Takes responsibility for their own actions when things go wrong and learns from the situation to make things better.

5) Takes action by leveraging free tools on the internet to track their net worth, minimize investment fees, manage their budget, and stay on top of their finances in general. Once you know where all your money is, it becomes much easier to optimize your wealth and make it grow.

6) Welcomes constructive criticism and is not overly sensitive from friends, loved ones, and strangers in order to keep improving. Keeping an open mind is critical.

7) Has a healthy amount of self-esteem to be able to lead change and believe in themselves.

8) Enjoys empowering themselves through learning, whether it be through books, personal finance blogs, magazines, seminars, continuing education and so forth.

9) Has little-to-no student loan debt due to scholarships, part-time work, or help from their parents. Our parents have saved and invested through the largest bull market in history. It’s understandable that parents want to help their children out.

Now that we have a rough definition of what “above average” means, we can take a look at the tables I’ve constructed based on the tens of thousands of past comments by you and posts I’ve written to highlight the average net worth of the above average person.

Achieving Financial Freedom One Income Slice At A Time

Experiencing Financial Freedom Dream House In Kahala, Oahu, Hawaii

Experiencing Financial Freedom

If you ever want to be absolutely free, you need to develop multiple income streams so that when the inevitable change happens, you’ll be covered.  I first recommend you start with the end in mind. What makes you happy?  From this question, now you can derive how much money you honestly think will make you happy.

Once you’ve digged deep to answer these two important questions, you can then start building your income goals.

What makes me happy?

Family, friends, experiences, travel, freedom to say and do what I want, sports, relationships, the online community, hot tubbing with drinks, food and enough money to not have to worry. Good old nostalgia really makes me happy too.

What makes me unhappy?

Racists, bigots, haters, lying politicians, bad bosses, cronyism, inequality, people who say one thing and do another, thieves, and zealots who impose their will on others.

How much money do I need to achieve what makes me happy?

Anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 a month after taxes to account for a single life to one that provides for a family of four.

I really don’t need much to be happy if I’m supporting only myself and have no debt.  I was super happy living on nothing while in school, so $3,000 a month after tax would be fine.

$15,000 a month after tax is a large nut that equates to about $235,000 in gross income a year, the income level where I think maximum happiness is attained. With $15,000 a month, I can afford private school tuition for two if necessary, go travel 8 weeks a year, get huge and eat whatever I want, have a paid off car, live in a comfortable home practically anywhere in the world, and continuously save for a rainy day. Furthermore, $15,000 a month after tax can be used to help my parents in case they need financial help for whatever reason.

Think about an after tax monthly income number you’d like to achieve and let me know. For now, it’s time to open up the kimono and see what can be produced after over a decade of saving and investing. This is a long post, so make sure you go to the bathroom first!


Disadvantages Of The ROTH IRA: Not All Is What It Seems

Passed Out Drunk Vomit Oozing From Mouth

If you contribute to a Roth IRA

For years I’ve been an opponent of the ROTH IRA after the government came out with its tricky dick way to let us all do a “one-time” conversion from our traditional IRAs. The government was so successful in getting people to pay huge sums of taxes on their IRAs during the financial crisis that I just shook my head in disbelief.

As a personal finance blogger who wants to help you achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later, it’s my duty to write this post to help you see the error in contributing or converting to a ROTH IRA if you have not maxed out your 401(k).

Of course if the choice is between NOT SAVING and saving via a ROTH IRA for your future, then the answer is that one should open up a ROTH IRA rather than piss their money away on stupid stuff that depreciates in value. However, do know that you are still pissing money away by giving some of your money to the government. And if the choice is between choosing a traditional IRA over a ROTH IRA, choosing the traditional IRA is hands down the way to go.

Please read the reasons why a ROTH IRA is not a good idea for the large majority of you. I really hope this article will wake you up to the tremendous government brainwashing that is being conducted to get you to part more with your hard earned money. If you’re still in favor, at least you know the other side of the story and Uncle Sam thanks you!