* You’ll learn why a rising Fed Funds rate doesn’t necessarily mean rising mortgage rates.
* The main determinants of buying a home.
* Where we are in the property market cycle.
* You can always refinance. You can never change the purchase price of your home.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has signaled her crew will be raising rates by 2016. As a result, you are hearing everybody from real estate brokers to market pundits in the media say, “Buy now before it’s too late!” There’s nothing like a little Fear Of Missing Out to get people to make big decisions without thoroughly thinking things through.
The instant response everybody should have when fed this line is: Don’t higher interest rates make homes less affordable at the margin? If homes are less affordable, doesn’t that hurt property demand? And if demand for property declines, doesn’t that mean prices might go down instead?
Whenever you are talking to someone whose main source of income is through transactions, be a little suspicious. After all, from a real estate broker’s point of view, it’s always a good time to buy or sell!
This post aims to explain how to think about a home purchase (or sale) in a rising interest rate environment. We’ve already discovered how to invest and potentially profit in the stock market when rates rise.
My hope is that this post educates future homebuyers, reduces the number of future debt welchers, and creates a stronger America as a result!
We all suffer from financial insecurity to some degree because society can be cruel and the future is always unknown. Financial insecurity is the reason why we tend to stay in cash long after the signs of a recession are over. Financial insecurity is the reason why we work long after we need to because we fear some financial disaster might wipe out all our wealth. Financial insecurity is why we buy insurance!
In a positive light, being financially insecure helps us become more financially secure because we take action to get rid of such an uncomfortable feeling. But after a certain point, financial insecurity may become debilitating – ruining relationships, limiting potential, and creating a sea of regret.
Here are some signs you might be overly insecure about your finances:
* You constantly tell others how much you make for the purpose of making yourself feel better.
* You crave constant adoration or at least reaffirmation that you aren’t one of your insecurities e.g. weight, education, product.
* You enjoy constantly checking yourself out in the mirror, taking selfies, and posting pics of yourself for all to see. There’s a correlation between physical fitness and financial health.
* You sometimes lie awake at night, unable to sleep because you’re worrying about your liabilities or potential liabilities.
* You buy nice cars, fancy clothes, expensive jewelry, and nice watches to show off your wealth or make up for shortcomings.
* You have multiple-years of living expenses saved away, but still work at a job you hate in order to save more money you don’t need.
* You feel your friends are all more successful than you, despite having an income or net worth well within in the top 25% for your age.
Let’s see if we can provide some help to a reader who writes in about his financial insecurity!
When we’re young, we have this idealist image of the way the world should be. Then we enter the work force, get beaten down by the system, and fork over a good amount of our earnings to the government. Suddenly, we’re no longer as much about helping other people or higher taxes anymore. Instead, we’re trying to figure out things for ourselves.
During the summer of 2014, I got to know several MBA interns. One of them went to Harvard for undergrad and was attending Stanford for her MBA. Before Stanford, she worked at a private equity firm, one of the highest paying industries today.
She was now interning at a startup that paid much less than what she earned before business school. She was a dreamer who longed to do more.
It’s been three years since I first released How To Engineer Your Layoff to the world. It’s become a niche product specific to helping people break free from a job they no longer care about by negotiating a severance. Growing old and being filled with regret is a terrible way to live.
Negotiating a severance is not easy, and this bull market has made jobs more bearable as people more often get the raises and promotions they hoped for. Ironically, it’s during a bear market where book sales will probably skyrocket as employees nervously try to figure out what’s in their future. I just realized that my book is actually an income hedge. Sweet!
I never planned to drive for Uber. It just happened. When I pulled up to a gas station to fill up Rhino, my 2015 Honda Fit, there was a fella setting up a tent that promoted a free $50 gas card if I signed up to become a driver.
“No obligation to drive!” he tempted me, so I figured why not. With gas prices rebounding from their lows, what used to cost me only about $26 to fill up now cost $35. Moose, my old 2000 Land Rover Discover II sucked down $80 – $100 a tank, so in comparison $35 isn’t so bad.
After uploading my driver’s license, registration, and inspection form, I waited to get a confirmation via text or e-mail. Twenty-four hours later and nothing. I went back to the nearby gas station the next day and asked what was up? He said he didn’t know, and that I should e-mail support. So I did. He gave me another $50 gas card for my troubles. And then another $50 gas card for referring my friend in my passenger seat. YES! Who doesn’t love free money baby?!
Several days later, I finally heard back from Uber via e-mail, and they said they had wrongly entered my information. But if I simply logged in and re-uploaded everything again, all would be fine. When I logged into my account via my laptop it said, “Get a $100 bonus if you go down to the driver center at 130 Vermont Street to get everything set up.” So instead of re-uploading everything myself with no guarantees, I just went down to the driving center given I planned to be close by anyway.
After about 10 minutes of paperwork, the inspector said I was good to go. “All you’ve got to do is download the Uber partner app, take a selfie, and Go Online! After your 10th ride, you’ll get a $100 bonus for coming down to the driving center, and another $300 bonus after your 20th ride for signing up via our gas station promotion.”
Wow! $400 worth of bonuses plus another $150 in gas cards. So that’s where Uber is spending all their billions raised. The offer was too tempting to not try things out. Now let me share with you my first Uber passenger experience, some earnings figures, and the emotions I experienced over the next couple of weeks driving.
I’ve highlighted in a previous article how living off $200,000 a year in an expensive city is really just an average lifestyle. In this article, I’ll discuss how one couple is living paycheck to paycheck while making a combined $500,000 a year.
$500,000 a year is a level which I think is considered rich. Anybody who thinks otherwise has no concept of financial reality. Even the government almost agrees after compromising by raising the income level for when the highest marginal tax bracket kicks in to ~$400,000 from $200,000.
Although making $500,000 a year may sound like a Herculean task, you’ll be surprised to know there are plenty of regular folks who hit the half million mark every year. This article will discuss how many folks who earn a large income won’t be retiring any time soon.
Do you really know how much you need to retire? A lot of people like to throw out random numbers without really doing the math. One million dollars is a nice round number that often gets brought up for retirement. Unfortunately, $3 million is the new $1 million thanks to inflation in rent, property prices, tuition, automobiles, and food.
Even if you come up with a retirement number, chances are high that your number will change due to unanticipated life events. Maybe you’ll become unemployed for a year and draw down most of your savings. Or maybe you’ll find an amazing new job with a 50% pay raise. Maybe you’ll end up having triplets due to the latest $20,000 IVF procedure when you were hoping for just one baby. Who knows? Life has a great way of keeping us on our toes.
What we need is an interactive retirement calculator that is dynamic, has multiple adjustable variables, and also incorporates real data. Let’s first have a look at some current retirement concerns by the public at large.
Mance Rayder, The King Beyond The Wall once said, “The freedom to make my own mistakes is all I ever wanted.” After three years of being away from Corporate America, his words have never rung more true.
If I wanted more money, I would have stayed in my investment banking job for the rest of my career. But I longed for the freedom to choose after my 13th year. Being absolutely free is priceless. Unless you love what you do, it doesn’t matter how much money you have if you’ve still got to take direction from someone else.
But besides glorious freedom, there are also incredible health benefits I’ve noticed after leaving the permanent workforce. Let me share some with you.
Do you know what one of the first things an employer does before interviewing a prospective employee? They Google your name to learn all about you. If they happen to forget searching your name beforehand, if you’ve made a good impression, they’ll certainly search afterwards.
Sites like LinkedIn and Facebook flourish because people have decided to provide these sites massive amounts of content for free. Unlike Financial Samurai, where I’m the main creator of content.
If you don’t have a LinkedIn account and are interested in employment opportunities, you best open one up ASAP. LinkedIn has become the defacto source for all employers today. You can look for jobs, login to various applications with your LinkedIn profile, and so forth.
A good resume is still standard to go along with any employment application. But I’m going to argue that in addition to a LinkedIn profile, you should also register your own domain name and create a dynamic site.
Back in 2000, many investors were cocky, much like investors today with the stock market at record highs. I remember asking my Director at the time what he thought about the concept of the mortgage as a forced savings account? At the time, as an investor, it appeared he could do no wrong.
He said, “I don’t need no forced savings account. Only irresponsible people who don’t have the discipline to save every month would consider their mortgage as savings. I’d rather have as big of a mortgage as possible so I can make money in the stock market!”
My Director ended up losing millions when the dotcom bubble collapsed. He no longer looked down on people who slowly grew their wealth. At least, unlike most people, he had millions to lose!
If you have a traditional mortgage that pays down principal and interest, the mortgage “forces” you to save because you are forced to pay your mortgage every month if you want to keep your property. A percentage of each mortgage payment goes towards principal, which can be considered savings.
I’m also in the camp that it’s better for most people to receive a tax refund, even though it’s like giving the government an interest free loan, because most people can’t save for crap!
After 34+ years of declining rates, you now believe that interest rates are finally going to start increasing. After all, the Fed Funds rate is at 0.25% and the 10-year yield is at ~2%. How much lower can they go?
I’m in the camp that interest rates will stay low for years to come because of the following reasons:
* Information efficiency
* Economic slack
* Contained inflation
* Coordinated Central Banks
* The growth of China and India and their continued purchasing of US debt
* The growing perception that US dollar denominated assets are the safest assets in the world
* A 30+ year trend of declining rates that is telling us we’re more adept at managing inflation with each new cycle that passes
But let’s say I’m wrong. Let’s say rates start rising aggressively? Where should one invest? What else should one do? To answer these questions, let’s first look back at history and get smart!
After about the 30th day in a row of working 12+ hour days and eating rubber chicken dinners at the free cafeteria down at 85 Broad Street, I decided I had enough. There was no way I could last for more than five years working in a pressure cooker environment like Wall Street. I became obsessed with generating passive income starting in 1999.
We’ve discussed how to get started building passive income for financial freedom in a previous post. Now I’d like to rank the various passive income streams based on risk, return, and feasibility. The rankings are somewhat subjective, but they are born from my own real life experiences attempting to generate multiple types of passive income sources over the past 16 years.
The passive income journey is a long one. But thanks to innovation and technology, the ability to generate meaningful passive income is accelerating!
The rich get rich by buying appreciating assets like stocks, bonds, real estate, and fine art. The people who don’t get rich spend their money on depreciating assets like cars they can’t comfortably afford, and clothes that are never worn more than a few times a year. It takes discipline doing research on investable assets, which is probably one of the reasons why many people don’t even bother.
One of the biggest push backs I hear from readers who want to get rich, but don’t have enough disposable income to invest, is that investing costs too much and is too complicated. This post eliminates one more excuse people have for not building additional wealth.
It’s been a while since I’ve had to carefully watch my cash position, but since I spent a lot of money buying a fixer last year, cash flow is tight. I have a goal of rebuilding my liquid cash hoard to $100,000 in 2015, while also paying off roughly $85,000 in rental mortgage debt. It won’t be easy because I don’t want to cheat by selling assets to pay off debt.
Despite my debt elimination and savings goals, I want to continue investing in stocks and bonds when I see opportunity. With the recent volatility in the market, I see A TON of opportunity right now. Oil and energy stocks have gotten crushed, but aren’t going to zero. Market darlings such as Tesla, Pandora, GoPro, Yelp, and Lending Club have all taken a beating, and I love all their products and services. Interest rates have collapsed, providing a tailwind for a couple industries. I want to invest!
The only problem is, I’ve only got about $10,000 I can spare in this market volatility vs. a normal investment of $50,000 if I want to reach my savings and debt pay down goals.
I must be mad, because after multiple mortgage refinances, I’ve decided to take my own advice on improving my cash flow further by trying to refinance my mortgage again! I say “trying” because getting a mortgage or refinancing a mortgage is still not a slam dunk like it was pre-2007.
Lending standards are strict with ~729 being the average credit score for denied mortgage applicants. Furthermore, my debt-to-income ratio could be a problem because 100% of my 1099 (freelance income) won’t count for 2014 because banks require two years of 1099 income, and I’ve only got 14 months worth.
Can you believe that? Even if I made $800,000 in freelance income over the past twelve months, big banks would still disavow all of it and likely reject even a small mortgage refinance amount if I had no other income. Banks should discount 1099 income by some amount, but not by 100%. There’s a growing misconception now that full-time income is more stable. A full-time employee is betting on one horse. An independent contractor can bet on multiple horses.
Now is absolutely the time to refinance because the 10-year treasury yield has fallen below 1.8% (1.68% as of 2/2/2015). We’re back to all-time lows. Volatility is up, collapsing oil prices are stoking fears of weak global consumer demand, and chaos reigns once again in Europe. I’m glad there isn’t anymore US government shutdown drama at the very least.
I’ve got two years left on a ~$1 million dollar jumbo 5/1 ARM at $4,338 a month at 2.625%. My goal is to refinance this puppy down to a 2.25% 5/1 ARM at $3,822 a month, for a cost of less than $3,000. The annual interest savings is $3,750, and the monthly cash flow increase is $516 or $6,192 a year. That’s a good move towards my unwavering quest to generate $200,000 a year in passive income.
With the average savings rate below 5%, a median 401(k) of only $100,000, and an average 401(k) balance at retirement age 60 of around $230,000, most Americans are financially screwed in 2014. Just do the math yourself. Add the average Social Security payment per person of $18,000 a year to a 4% withdrawal rate on $230,000 and you get $27,200 a year to live happily until you die at 85.
Let’s think about this some more. You spend almost 40 years of your life working just to live off minimum wage in retirement. Hopefully you were able to live it up during your working years, otherwise, how else can we explain a national sub 5% savings rate? Blowing lots of money for fun is fine if you expect to live like a pauper when you’re old. The better way to do things is to smooth out your spending across your expected life expectancy to reduce stress and live a much steadier lifestyle.
We’ve talked in detail about the proper asset allocation of stocks and bonds by age. Just know that stocks should be a minority portion of your net worth by the time you are middle age. If you so happen to have 100% of your investment allocation in stocks before retirement and 2009 happens, well then you are poop out of luck. Calculate how much you lost, equate your loss to how many years it took you to save the value of the loss, and expect to work that many more years of your life. Now that’s depressing.
We also found out that the median net worth for 2010 plunged to $77,300 from a high of $126,400 in 2007. Surely the median net worth has recovered since 2010, but such data from the government only rolls around every three years. The main nugget of information is that from 2007 to 2010, the median home equity dropped from $110,000 to $75,000. In other words, the median American’s net worth almost ENTIRELY consists of home equity! What another bad idea.
Finally, despite a 120%+ rebound in stocks since the bottom of the crisis and savings interest rates of only 0.1% due to a dovish Fed, a lot of people missed out on the recovery as evidenced by a tremendous amount of cash still sitting on the sidelines due to fear. Billionaire hedge fund manager David Einhorn is suing Apple for hoarding their $134 billion in cash due to a “grandma depression mentality.” Anybody who has lived through the 1997 Russian Ruble crisis, the 2000 internet bubble, and 2006 housing correction probably has a good portion of their net worth in CDs, bonds, and money markets because they’ve been burned so many times before.
The question we must all ask ourselves is, “What is the right net worth allocation to allow for the most comfortable financial growth?” There is no easy answer to this question as everybody is of different age, intelligence, work ethic, and risk tolerance. I will attempt to address this question based based on what has worked for me, and what I believe will work for anybody who is serious about building enduring financial wealth for the long run. I’ve spent over 10 hours writing this post in hopes that every Financial Samurai reader can build a rock steady net worth portfolio to make money in good times and lose less in bad times.
THE MENTAL FRAMEWORK FOR NET WORTH ALLOCATION
Do you know how much in mutual fund fees you are paying a year? I didn’t, so I ran my 401K portfolio through Personal Capital’s 401k fee analyzer and I’m absolutely shocked by the results! I always figured that from a percentage point of view, my mutual fund fees were small. But, when you take a small percentage multiplied by a big enough number, the absolute dollar amount starts adding up.
As you can see in the picture above, I’m paying $1,748.34 a year in fees across four mutual funds. In 20 years, I will have paid roughly $84,000 in fees based on only this amount. The second portion of the above chart shines a light on the specific fund that costs the most. In my case, it is the Fidelity Blue Chip Growth Fund with a 0.74% expense ratio.
I’ve got another fund worth about $22,000 as part of my 401K which does not show a fee, because it is a hedge fund whose fees are baked into the performance. Typical hedge fund fees are 2% of assets under management and 20% of upside. This is called 2 and 20, which is egregiously high, but it’s the only way I can get short exposure to hedge my bets.
I’ve been wanting to do a 401k/mutual fund fee analysis for the longest time, but was too lazy to do the analysis until I realized I didn’t have to do the calculations myself. Every year I want my portfolio to be as optimized as possible.
Everything 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 and a continued increase in 2015 so far, surely the average net worth has increased even further.
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.
There’s nothing better than being free to do whatever you want. However, unless you’re born with a multi-million dollar trust fund, you’ll unfortunately have to work for your freedom.
You can follow my savings guide to increase your chances of a wonderful retirement by 50-65. But, what if you want to retire earlier? Say at the age of 40 or 45? You’re in luck, because I have a very simple, yet effective plan for you. This is something I’ve been following for the past 13 years to allow myself the option to retire as early as 35-4-. I think you’ll like the option as well!
What’s important is recognizing your inner frugality, your Herculean discipline, the government’s generosity, and your enormous hustle. There’s nothing better than taking action and seeing results!
The 401k is one of the most woefully light retirement instruments ever invented. The worst is the IRA which limits you to contributing only $5,500 only for individuals making under $60,000 a year and married couples making under $116,000 a year. Meanwhile, you have to make less than $114,000 a year as a single or $181,000 as a married couple for the privilege of contributing after tax dollars to a Roth IRA, which I do not recommend before maxing out your 401k.
Give me a pension that pays 70% of my last year’s salary for the rest of my life over a 401(k) any time! With the government only allowing individuals to contribute $18,000 a year in pre-tax income into their 401ks in 2015, once again, our politicians fail us with their regulations.
The average 401k balance as of May 2015 is around $92,800 according to Fidelity’s 12 million accounts, thanks to an incredible 30% rise in the S&P 500 in 2013, followed by another 13% increase in the S&P 500 in 2014. We’re at new record highs in 2015, and balances have basically doubled since the depths of the financial crisis.
Even so, $92,800 is an incredibly low amount given the median age of an American is 36.5. As an educated reader who is logical and believes saving for retirement is a must, I’ve proposed a table that shows how much each person should have saved in their 401ks at age 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, and 65.
We stop at 65 because you are allowed to start withdrawing penalty free from your 401k at age 59 1/2. Meanwhile, I pray to goodness you don’t have to work much past 65 because you’ve had 40 years to save and investment already!
In early 2012, I made it a goal to try and achieve $200,000 a year in passive income by 2H 2015. The idea was to somehow make a large enough sum of money to comfortably provide for a family of three or four in Honolulu or San Francisco. With $200,000 a year, I wouldn’t have to go back to work ever again. Instead, I’d rest easy working on building Financial Samurai into a lifestyle business.
Creating a lifestyle business has always been a dream of mine because it helps mix entrepreneurial passion with the ultimate end goal: living a better life. Killing myself for the next 10 years to try to make something huge in order to live a nice life sounds a little backwards. Why not live a nice life now?
Growing passive to semi-passive income from ~$78,000 in 2012 to $200,000 is a daunting task, especially given our low interest rate environment. But when we write out our goals, I firmly believe we’ll figure out ways to eventually get there. Let’s see if I made it or not!
Spend an hour reading through my Budgeting and Savings category, and you’d probably consider me frugal if you are a nice person. If you are a nasty person, you probably think I’m a cheap bastard. I find no joy in spending money on fancy cars or designer labels. In fact, I feel stupid whenever I purchase an item with high profit margins. As an investor who has pored through financial statements of luxury goods companies in the past, it’s just shocking how much they make off people. I’d much rather spend money on experiences.
Despite my frugal nature, there is one area where I feel no guilt spending a large amount of money: everything housing related! We spend roughly half our lives in our house. Why shouldn’t we buy the best mattress to sleep on or pay up to rent a beautiful house with a balcony overlooking the water? After going through an unpleasant roommate situation when I first moved to San Francisco in 2001, I decided to “live it up” by getting my own $1,800 a month one bedroom in a nice part of town.
Living in a craptastic place for years in order to save money to one day live a better life seems a little backwards. You don’t have to spend $100,000+ a year to rent a nice place. But if you’re over 30 years old, perhaps the days of living like a college student are over!
This post highlights the true cost of constructing a dream master bathroom. Mine was really an expansion instead of a remodel, since the bathroom went from 36 square feet to roughly 170 square feet.
The following is a guest post by Sliced Investing co-founder, Mike Furlong. Sliced Investing is backed by Y Combinator, Khosla Ventures, TriplePoint Venture Growth, Data Collective, and Carnegie Mellon. I spent this past Spring consulting for them as I found their business objective of providing greater access to hedge funds and alternative investments through crowdsourcing highly intriguing.
My first job was a rather humbling one. I worked at a country club where I caddied for super rich bankers and traders. They were living the good life most people just dream about. They had tons of money to own fancy cars, top of the line clubs, luxury watches, designer clothes, and me to wait on them.
Meanwhile I was making minimum wage, lugging their 50-pound bags on my back, and trying to keep a constant smile on my face while sweating like crazy in the summer humidity and blinding sun. I tried to be as accommodating as possible and give them suggestions on which clubs to use, but most of the time they did whatever they wanted to without listening to me.
By voting “NO,” the Greek people have rejected austerity measures by the EU in order to receive bailout money to pay off their debts. It’s as if Greece gave a big middle finger to the EU!
It’s great that at least the people were able to vote on their future. You can see the jubilation in their eyes after the results were announced. However, the immediate consequence of the vote is an enormous amount of economic pain as foreign investors pull out, the stock market crashes, banks stop lending, retirement savings get trashed, and unemployment soars even higher. Ah, the sacrifices we make to stay free!
Unfortunately, all of us investors who have nothing to do with Greece will suffer as well. If you haven’t reviewed your asset allocation this year, I highly encourage you to do so today. The US stock market could easily correct by 10% as capital flees riskier asset classes.
The Greek people are not completely to blame for their economic woes. They simply operated in the confines of an inept government that promised too much. Voting for a politician who promises to give you a tax cut or allows you to retire by 50 with a lifetime pension makes logical sense. Who wouldn’t vote for such benefits?
Despite the upcoming difficulties for the Greek, we can look on the bright side. With close to a 200% national debt to GDP ratio, the Greek have been able to live way beyond their means for a very long time. And if you can get a debt haircut when it’s finally time to pay up, then all the better! Surely Portugal, Italy, and Spain are thinking of ways to gain more favorable debt terms with the EU as well.