Stocks Versus Real Estate: It Depends On Your Luck

Fortune (fu) in Mandarin

Always Lucky

I’ve written a pretty detailed post about analyzing whether it’s better to invest in stocks or real estate. Check it out if you’re wondering where to put your money. I tried to be unbiased in my analysis, but due to my experience investing in both asset classes for over a decade, I came to the conclusion that real estate was my preferred choice to building wealth.

Once acquired, real estate is pretty straightforward. Maximize rent, minimize expenses, let inflation take its course, and keep tenant turnover to a minimum. You are the King or Queen of your asset. Stocks, on the other hand, require constant re-balancing, trust in management, trust in a fund manager if you buy an active fund, and careful analysis of competitive forces that may hurt your investment. Think about how many great companies have disappeared over the years. This is why I recommend keeping most of your equity investments in low-cost index funds and focus on asset allocation instead.

One commenter pointed out the reason why I prefer real estate is because I was lucky to have bought in San Francisco in 2003. In this post, I’d like to address his beliefs and see if we can all just get lucky with our investments. After all, it’s always better to be lucky than good!

Candid Advice For Those Joining The Startup World: Sleep With One Eye Open

Eyeball

Sleep w/ one eye open

Ever since college graduation in 1999, I’ve had equity ownership in every single company I’ve worked for. When you get equity, no matter how small it is, you tend to pick up the litter in the hallway, champion your company outside of work, and work harder than the actual value of your total compensation. In short, having equity makes you care more!

Pride of ownership is important for maximizing employee production. There’s just one problem: sharing. If you’re a founder, you’ve got to have the generosity and foresight to let your employees share in your company’s equity. Giving up equity is one of the hardest things a founder can do because we are all naturally greedy. We want everything for ourselves despite the need for great people to make our company a raging success. Sometimes, we’d rather fail and hold onto everything than give up equity in order to succeed. Irrational.

As an owner of an online business and as a consultant/advisor for startups, I straddle both sides of the fence. And, for the first time in 16 years, I’m doing some work with no equity. Sure, it’s rare for consultants to gain stock options or RSUs, but that’s exactly what I got from my first client after 1.5 years of service. In this culture of moving around every 1-3 years, why shouldn’t a consultant who’s stuck around longer than some employees also deserve something similar?

Working with no equity feels off. It makes me want to do only 101% of what is expected, not 130%. I wonder if this is how much of the workforce feels where they don’t have any stake in the organization they are working for? Please let me know.

This post offers up some candid advice for people looking to join the startup world, either as an employee or as a founder. It’s the sexy thing to do nowadays given people want more excitement, more purpose, more control, more money (?!?) and more flexibility. Be forewarned. This post is a 2,700 word beast that will make you see the world a little differently by the end. 

The Top 1% Net Worth Amounts By Age

Mega Mansion - What Is Considered Rich?

Tom and Gisele’s mansion

People like to throw around random net worth figures all the time when asked how much is considered rich or how much they would need to never work again. Often, the figures just sound nice, like saying “one meeeeleon dollars” without any mathematical justification.

This post puts some numbers behind ascertaining how much wealth one needs to be in the top 1%. Remember, having a large net worth is better than having a high income. The government goes after income more than it goes after wealth. For example, you can live in a $8 million mansion and get Universal Healthcare subsidies if you make less than ~$94,000 a year with a family of four.

So what do we know?

Based on my Top 1% Income Earners post, we know that in order to be in the top 1%, you’ve got to earn at least $380,000 in gross income a year. The data comes from the all-knowing IRS.

Based on my Net Worth For The Upper Middle Class post, we learn that the net worth range for the top 15% of all Americans between the ages of 45 – 74 is around $700,000 – $830,000.

Finally, I’ve shown numerous examples as to why earning roughly $200,000 – $250,000 gross a year per person and $300,000 a year per couple is the ideal income for maximum happiness. Being rich is sometimes a state of mind, and I’ll use these income figures in my analysis as well.

Given these data points, I’d like to construct two simple models to demonstrate what I think should be considered top 1% rich. All wealth and no income is not ideal. Similarly, all income and no wealth is not ideal either. There needs to be a balance.

Want More Money? Ask Yourself This One Question

Believe In Yourself, Squaw Valley

Once you believe, it’ll start raining money

In order to get rich, one of the most important things is believing you deserve to be rich. There are trillions of dollars out there for the taking. Why shouldn’t you enjoy some of the world’s prosperity as an honest, diligent, and talented individual as well?

I began developing my money mindset after reading countless stories of CEOs earning millions of dollars while driving their companies into the ground. They would get massive multi-million dollar severance packages for crap work that even a baboon could do. As soon as I started believing in my worth, my confidence shot up and the money started coming in.

IBM’s CEO got a $100,000 base pay raise to $1.6 million in 2015 along with a $3.6 million bonus in 2014, and a $13.3 million stock incentive reward payable in 2018. Meanwhile, IBM is down ~20% over the past two years while the S&P 500 is up 40%, a 60% underperformance! For half the compensation, you and I could do just as good a job as the IBM CEO. I’m picking on IBM here because I bought the stock in my active portfolio. One day this dog will bark!

On a more common level, I’ve seen people who are utterly unqualified get hired for jobs making multiple six figures with multiple six figures in stock options. Every time I see such an event I’m thinking to myself a couple things. The first is, What the hell were they thinking?!

The second question is the subject of this post.

Median Income By Age And Sex In America

median-salary-by-age-and-sexDo Americans have an earnings problem or a savings problem? Unfortunately, I think we’ve got both. Take a look at the median salary by age and sex compiled by Motley Fool from the Census Bureau.

The obvious points are 1) people make more the older they get and 2) men make more than women at every single age group. Making more as you age is nothing insightful. What is insightful is how the difference between men and women’s salaries really start to grow in their 30s. A 25% pay gap is huge!

So what’s going on here? The answer must be biological (life). For example, I have a female friend who was the most gung-ho worker ever. She was an Electrical Engineer in college (one of the hardest majors) and told me that she planned to work “forever” after Harvard Business School. Two years after HBS, she was pregnant, and when I asked her whether she still planned to go back to work she said, “No way! Raising my children is the most important thing in the world to me.”

It’s been five years since she’s been out of the work force. If she decides to return at age 37, it’s logical to assume that she will have to start at a lower pay and title than colleagues who kept working while she was away. Regarding finding a solution to the gender wage gap for equal pay for equal work, the fix I’ve come up with is to have equal paternity leave rights for men and women. With equal paternity leave rights, employers are more blind to discriminate.

What’s interesting is that women have more money in their 401k on average up to the $150,000 income mark, according to a 2014 report by Fidelity Investments with 13 million tracked accounts. Women earning between $20,000 and $40,000, for example, have saved an average of $17,300 in their 401(k) compared to $15,200 for men in the same income range.

From Welfare to Well-Off: My Journey To Financial Independence

The journey to financial independenceThe following is a guest post by Samurai Dominic. He shares his story about escaping the life of trouble and poverty towards one day reaching financial independence. Reading different perspectives is what makes the Financial Samurai community so awesome. – Sam

They say the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. You know when the second best time is? TODAY!

As you are about to discover, it doesn’t matter where you start in life, what matters is how you play the hand you were dealt. You can stand around and complain how the world is unfair, and yes it is very unfair…get over it. Complaining and dwelling on your dire circumstances will do nothing to improve your life, so don’t waste your time. The thing to remember is that successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.

We live in unprecedented times with more opportunity than any other time in history. You just have to decide if you are willing to put in the work to achieve your vision of success.

You could say I am one of those rags to riches stories in the making. I entered this world like most, in a hospital room naked and screaming. However, I entered the world with absolutely no advantage. Some might say I was dealt a crap hand. I grew up in a low income area, where my family and most other families were on welfare or some kind of government support. Growing up I slept on the hard-floor of my grandmother’s 2-bedroom apartment with my 3 brothers, while my grandmother and mom shared a bed, and my uncle had the other room.

Shit, we were so poor that my grandmother would use the oven to heat the apartment (not cooking for, but cracking the oven door while it was on with nothing in it). That could not have been safe. And to this day I don’t really know if it was actually cheaper to heat the apartment using the oven vs. the actual heating unit. Either way my grandmother was determined it was the best and cheapest way to heat the house.

The State Of The Union Address 2015 Cheat Sheet

State Of The Union President Obama 2015When President Obama gave the State Of The Union Address at 6pm PST, I had just left the office to go eat some yummy butter chicken and garlic naan at Amber Restaurant in downtown San Francisco. I assume many other hard-working West Coasters missed the SOTU address as well. Alas, living through an East Coast centric TV schedule is something we’ve grown used to.

But as any true patriot would do, I DVRed the SOTU address, watched the one hour long speech, took notes like a good student, and spent several hours putting together this 2,000 word article to help others think about our nation’s issues.

It’s important we all know and have an opinion about the main topics our nation faces. We don’t have to all agree, but having the knowledge helps us make choices about how we want to live, what occupations we should pursue, the type of investments we should make, and how others might view Americans on a global stage. Oh, and after reading this article, I promise you’ll be able to hold your own at any stuffy cocktail party on the planet.

Knowledge is what will set us all free!