You can afford it

Sunrise from my balcony

One of the biggest separations from reality between those with money and those without is an understanding of the size and value of money.  Put simply, a rich person knows the difference between $1,000, $100,000 and $10,000,000.  A poor person sees $10,000 the same as $10 billion.  This is why so many lottery winners go bankrupt in 5 years.  They win $10 million and think that the money will last forever.

Lets do the math: if you spend a million dollars a year, you’re broke in 10 years.  But since the average poor person can’t see the difference between a large amount of money and a King’s ransom, they can easily burn through $10,000 because in their mind, the money will last forever.

This comes to mind because a year ago, one of my best friends asked me a question.  He had seen that I had retired a year earlier and really had no means of income from a traditional source (like a 9 to 5 job).  He asked me, out of the blue, “Do you have seven figures?”  And like an idiot, I answered yes, and (feeling good about myself), I added, “Just in cash.”

The very next evening, when the bill came at the restaurant, he and his Wife looked away as though they were so poor and just expected me to pay.  My buddy’s Wife and her Mother approached my Wife about a donation for some charity that they worked in.

In their eyes, I have a million bucks, the $ will last forever, so surely I can share some with them.

What most poor people don’t realize is that it takes 50 to 100 times longer to save money than to spend it.  And once the spending begins, it is hard to stop.  This is why most poor people are poor, they can’t save and just “have” to spend.

Some six months later, we were shopping for a new car for my Wife an I was working hard to find a good deal.  I don’t believe in buying new cars as a year old car is a MUCH better value.  And so, I was dealing and negotiating and my buddy asked about my progress and I told him.  He, and then his wife began to chide me, “Don’t be so cheap, go and buy her a new car. You can afford it.”

What you can afford is relative.  If I buy a new car, a new this and that, soon, you’ve spent a hundred thousand dollars.  Do that a few years and you’ve burned through a million.  But this is the difference between my buddy and I.  This is why I have seven figures in the bank and he doesn’t.  I used a large part of the money I saved (like buying a used car instead of a new) to afford a 6 bedroom apartment on the beach (see photo above).  And in my buddy’s mind, now, more than ever, I can “afford” most anything.  But in reality, I am able to live at this “million dollar house” because I didn’t have the blase attitude that I could afford anything.

Think about this: how much money can you save each month?  For most people, it is only $500 or $1,000 per month.  And so, $50,000 is TEN YEARS OF SAVINGS.  If you get a large bonus at work or you win a lottery scratchier, if you blow through $50k, you didn’t just spend fifty thousand dollars, you spent TEN YEARS OF SAVINGS.

You will never accumulate a million dollars if you always have the attitude, “You can afford it.”  If the goal in your mind is to save a million dollars or to have a house on the beach, YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT.

One of the biggest impediments to your financial success is family and friends.  Family members don’t understand how money works and as soon as you have a few thousand dollars “extra,” they think it is the same as a billion dollars and won’t understand why you can/t/won’t share it with them.  You have to be brutally firm with friends and family.  Don’t ever give the idea that you’ll pick up the tab or pay their bill because you’re financially successful.  Guard your money.  Not only will they spend their money, they’ll freely spend yours too – if you let them.

Good luck!

Thanks for dropping in, I’d love to hear your comments on this topic!

Playing like a Bigshot

Big shot

Have you ever made a bad decision and later wondered why you made it? Have you ever done something that, even though you know it is wrong, you just couldn’t stop yourself?

How we react to daily situations is a combination of our hard wiring (genetics and how we were raised) and the intellect that we use daily to make decisions. Deep down inside of each off us, we feel a certain way about ourselves (ego) and we act according to this self perception and about how we feel perceived by those around us.

When it comes to money, this is a powerful combination. We may know in our brain that we should act in a certain way, but the desire to feel loved, recognized and appreciated often undermines actions that we (know that we) should take.

Last summer I was overseas working with two colleagues. We were in a hotel (company paid) that had a free laundry service. The workers in the laundry were from Pakistan or Bangladesh. By Western standards, they were quite poor. I believe that their monthly salary was about $300 (US). This might not seem like a lot off money but as I talked to some of the them, I learned that it is quite a fortune. The average worker in their country earns about $50 per month with nothing left over for savings or luxuries. Working at this hotel, the worker could send home $50 to pay the family’s bills, take $50 for “spending money” and still save $200 per month. After a year long contract, the worker could return home with $2,500 and start a business. This one year long sacrifice could change that family’s situation forever.

Now add to the mix, about 100 American expat workers. Along comes the first “big shot” who “tips” the laundry guy $3 to wash the laundry that the worker is already paid a salary to wash. The American worker feels justified paying $3 for a tip because, after all, the laundry was “free” (paid by his employer). And then, the next guy thinks, “Oh yeah, he tipped, so I should tip too.” And a year later, when I arrived, EVERY guy was tipping $3 per week to get his “free” laundry done. Now, do the math. This $300 per month Bangladesh worker is now taking in his salary PLUS $3 per guy in tips per laundry load. Multiply this x 100 guys for four weeks per month. The “American do-gooders” were giving this guy, outside of his “normal” pay, an extra $1200 a month. This is a 400% tip on top of his regular salary that is already 600% of his national average!

Later, I refused to tip at all and the Bangladesh worker gave me a dirty look. When we picked up our clothes the next day, everyone else had folded clothes and mine were a half-wet ball in the laundry bag. His job was to wash and and fold. But because I didn’t tip, he REFUSED to do even the basic service that was required of him. We had spoiled this worker so that now he expects a tip. No, he demands a tip. My one colleague Matty tipped him $20 one day. I was livid. I told Matty that he was wasting his money and was “screwing the rest of us” because soon this worker will come to expect $20 each time he does our laundry. Matty’s reply was, “Well, don’t be so tight, you can afford it.”

Think about the logic of that. I can afford it.

That’s what poor people say.

I’m a millionaire and I doubt that Matty will ever be. He will constantly chase credit card bills, struggle to pay his mortgage and will complain that he “can’t get ahead.”

Think about the logic of this:

This Bangladesh worker is already earning 600% of his “normal” wage at home. This is the equivalent of an American worker taking a job overseas and getting $270,000 per year (six times national average of $45,000). Now, imagine if you took a job overseas making $270,000 working in Saudi Arabia. And then, as Saudis came in to get your services, they handed stacks of $100 bills. By the end of each month, your tips amount to a million dollars in cash. Does that seem reasonable to you? Well, that’s what we did with this man. We were giving him, when compared to the wages of his country, about a million dollars per month when compared to US wages and living standards.

Later, we went for a $5 haircut and matty paid $20 ($15 tip).

I debated with Matty and some other colleagues. I explained that we were giving this guy a fortune, and for what? Matty explained that he was “helping” the guy. I said that his regular salary was a small fortune and that his “help” was just a waste of his money. Matty then said something telling and I immediately understood WHY he tipped. He said, “When I give that guy the $20 and his face lights up, it makes me feel good.”

Ah ha. The reason why Matty was tipping was because it made him feel like a big shot. It made him feel rich compared to this lowly Bangladesh worker. I then realized that Matty didn’t care about helping this guy, he was showing off in front of him. I thought about how so many people love to over tip in America and I realized that it has less to do with manners and showing appreciation; it has more to do with showing off one’s success and wealth.

Now. If your net worth is over a million and you earn over $100,000 in passive income, your house and cars are paid, you have enough $ for your children’s college education and your 401(k) is maxed out, then go ahead. Tip away.

But, if not. You’re taking money out of your retirement, out of your children’s education, out of your gfamily legacy AND YOU ARE GIVING IT AWAY TO A STRANGER.

Think about it. To stroke your ego and to make you feel “rich,” you’re giving away your family’s legacy.

Some days, I walk around in a t-shirt and flip flop sandals. I still wear my expensive watch, but I dress comfortably. I might be at the mall and I’ll see some young guy with his Rolex, expensive car and I know that he’s up to his eyeballs in debt. I know INSIDE of myself that I’m the big shot. I don’t need to drop a 600% tip on a stranger to feel like a big-shot.

There is a difference between the two and they both revolve around your confidence level. People who are not confident in themselves need the placebo of success that comes from the 30 second “approval” they get from the waiter when they over tip. And in the end, that $3 here and that $15 there add up. If saved and invested, over a decade or two, they can mean the difference of having enough $ to buy that distressed rental property or to snatch up a choice asset in a fire sale. That one asset can turn into an income stream or a sale with a big dividend that can be invested again and again.

People who tip big always seem to be broke and complaining about money. I’m smart with my money and I don’t feel the need to impress anyone. I’ve impressed myself. That is all that is important.

How Less Consumption Leads to Early Retirement

From Yahoo Finance:

Do you want to retire early? Then spend less and save more. You’ve probably heard this advice preached countless times and completely agree with it in principle. But you know how it goes. Saving money makes perfect sense, until you actually see something you want, and then every urge you’ve learned to control goes swiftly down the drain.

In the heat of the moment, you don’t think too much about the impact of a seemingly small purchase. But how much are you really giving up when you give in to small purchases? Here are a few reasons daily spending lengthens the amount of time you will spend in the 9-to-5 grind:

Your expenses are directly tied to how many years you need to work. The fewer dollars each paycheck that go to spending, the more you have left over to invest. No surprises there. But a smaller monthly outlay also lessens the load your nest egg will need to pay for in retirement. Spending just $5 per day on a coffee fix or other convenience food will cost you $1,825 per year or $54,750 over a 30-year career. For people who earn around a $50,000 salary, that’s an entire extra year of work just to pay for $5 worth of daily discretionary spending. If that worker spends close to 9 hours a day at work or commuting and works 20 days per month, that’s 2,160 extra hours of dealing with work, boring meetings, incompetent bosses and the commute, just to finance a daily $5 purchase.

Avoiding discretionary purchases could help you retire sooner. If you instead saved that $5 per day, you could not only retire a year earlier, but perhaps much earlier than that due to the compound interest on that $1,825 you tuck away each year. Saving just $5 per day in a 401(k) will grow to $178,856 over 30 years, assuming 7 percent annual returns. That’s about three and a half fewer years you would need to work if you earn $50,000 per year. And if you also get an employer match of 50 cents per dollar contributed on that money, you will have $268,284 after 30 years, which is 5 and a half years’ pay for the same worker.

You don’t need to save up as much. When your expenses are less each year, you can live well with a smaller nest egg in retirement. If you learn to live on $40,000 a year, even if you earn much more than that, you only need to save up enough to cover the $40,000 per year in retirement, not enough to replace your current salary. In fact, living on $40,000 per year, working hard to earn more than that and saving the difference is one of the fastest ways to retire early.

It’s much easier to come up with income to replace the smaller lifestyle. A smaller monthly budget can also add to your peace of mind in retirement. When your standard of living is entirely dependent on what the markets do, it’s hard to not be nervous whenever valuations gyrate. But what if your spending is so low you can easily come up with the difference by working part time? Obviously you can still aim big and try to get a large salary back. But if an easier to find and less stressful job can fulfill a possible income shortfall, then you don’t have to worry so much about investment performance and can concentrate on enjoying retirement.

For some people, spending less is extremely hard. We all live in the same modern society that celebrates consumption. But think about what you are giving up whenever you click the “buy” button. Is years of working worth the extras that you will forget about after owning them for a while?

Visit MoneyNing.com for more personal finance discussions. This site also helps readers decide whether a 0 percent balance transfer card is worth signing up for and keeps a good list of helpful promotion codes.

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net

Getting financial advice

Stansberry

Probably 90% of the advice dispensed from brokers, financial planners and pundits on CNBC is liable to make you broke. The guys on Wall Street don’t care 1 bit about you or whether or not you make money. What they do care about is making money for themselves.

For me, as an investor and business man, this has always been a problem. Who’s advice can you trust?

Really, the only way that you can get good, unbiased advice is to pay for it. Being as frugal (cheap) as I am, even I have a hard time breaking out my credit card when there are free alternatives on the internet. I just love the internet for all of the freebies that you can get. But sometimes, it pays to spend a little money. I would never go cheap for a lawyer if I was in trouble or if I was buying a million dollar house. So why should I go cheap when I’m managing a million dollar portfolio?

I’ve read articles on The Motley Fool and Seeking Alpha and I can say that most of these articles are written by amateurs who know little about the market and have (themselves) never had a real stake in a Wall Street position. Many of these guys are novice traders but they sure talk a big game.

I’ve gone back and read many of the :”old” MF & SA articles and checked the success rate and I’ve found that the number of winners depends solely on the overall market. When the overall market is up, about 70% of these picks make money. When the market is down, only about 30% of these pics make money. When the market is flat, about 1/2 of the recommendations make money. And so, throwing darts at the Wall Street Journal stock page is just as likely to yield winners as some of these “free” websites.

I tried a few investment services on a short trial basis and I found that Stansberry Research offered me a new and fresh look at the market. I found that Porter Stansberry and his team(s) don’t tell you what you want to hear, they tell you what they believe. They don’t have an sponsors to satisfy, any government lobbyist to appease, they just tell it like they see it. For some, this doesnt’ work, especially for “sheeple.”

Sheeple are part human, part sheep. They move along with the crowd. They want public acceptance and to “fit in.” These people will rarely become financially independent and will rarely become rich. These people buy at market highs, sell at lows and are afraid to do anything different from their golf buddies or colleagues at work. Stansberry writes what he thinks is happening in the stock market and for some people, this is very upsetting.

Since I subscribed to his newsletters about 3 years ago, I’ve seen my net worth grow about $300,000. And I can honestly say that 95% of that gain is due to the insights that I’ve received reading three of his newsletters.

I recommend that you give it a look. Maybe try one of his one month specials wherein he offers one of his newsletters at a discount for one month to let you try it out.

A bit of a disclaimer: the “main” newsletter is about $30 a year and it offers some basic overall market instruction and a couple of good buy ideas. But most of his really good material comes from his “premium” newsletters that can run from $50 a year up to $4,000 per year. Each daily email from the standard newsletter is usually accompanied by one or two sales pitches to buy a premium newsletter. And this is sometimes (really) annoying. But, if you just get in the habit to delete the sales emails, its really worth it.

Once in a while, he offers a good price to try out a premium newsletter; I’ve tried 4 and kept the subscriptions for 2 so that in total I now have 3 newsletters coming from him. I think I pay $30 + $60 + $50 per year. Not bad when held up to $300,000.

I don’t make a nickle from advertising for this company. Have a look at it if you want. Like I’ve said before, I’ve offered this website as a way to give some of my experience to others. So take it what its worth: the honest recommendation from a guy from a poor family who managed to save a million bucks.

Stansberry Research

Good luck, and good investing!

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net

Its all about your attitude

Happy grimmace sad

As I think more and more about the road to financial independence, I become more and more convinced that your attitude is the primary factor for success. Unlike the graphic above, whether or not you are happy or sad won’t decide if you will make a million dollars but your attitude towards getting to that goal will be everything.

At my work I’m surrounded by colleagues who make six figure salaries and barely can put together ten thousand dollars for a house down payment. There is NO reason why they can’t be financially successful (savings I mean, not earnings) except for their attitude. They treat money like air, something to be breathed in and out without a thought to saving, investing or planning for the next step in their lives. Opportunities about; the average person probably has about a half dozen opportunities in their life to stake a claim on their fortune. Whether or not you are prepared will mean everything.

I have one old buddy from high school who started real estate investing in the last 6 or 7 years. I even went in on one of his deals and it is paying off nicely. He first bought a 3 room house and then rented it followed by a one bedroom apartment. He paid enough down so that his monthly cash flow was positive on both properties. Later he bought (also with positive cash flows) a 3 unit condo complex and later a 4 unit apartment building (the unit I helped to finance). He has just informed me that he closed on an 18 unit apartment building. Each property has a positive cash flow and I estimate that he is earning somewhere between $6,000-8,000 per month in EXTRA income.

I say extra because he still has his job and his wife still has hers. Because the cost of financing is cheap (rates in the 4% range), he uses the extra $6k each month to finance new properties. After a year, you have an extra $80k – this can be used for a down payment on a new property. I guess that he will hit his million in a decade.

Realize now that he started with NOTHING. He and his wife worked, skimped and saved until they had enough to buy their first rental property. After that, they skimped and saved more. And over time, it is paying off handsomely. I suppose that in a few years he will be so busy managing his properties that he won’t have time to go to work. What a glorious day that will be when he can quit his job and be self employed.

The American Dream.

And so, what set him apart from his friends and colleagues who aren’t growing their net worth like him? It was all his attitude. He made a goal to own 20 properties and started with just one. When his first was bought, he set his sights on the next.

It was all ATTITUDE.

If your attitude isn’t such that your mindset is that you’re ALWAYS looking for your chance to stake a claim to one of your life’s jackpot opportunities then you’ll probably never succeed. Have an attitude check on yourself and ask if you’re motivated and focused on becoming a millionaire. If you are, you can find a way. If you aren’t, someone else will take that opportunity that you pass. They’ll be the “lucky” one who was “at the right place at the right time.”

Luck is when preparation meets with opportunity.

Good luck!

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net

You are what you eat

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “You are what you eat.” In many ways it is true; you need only look at the diet of an athlete and a couch potato to see that each looks much like what they eat. An athlete who eats chicken in rice is thin whereas a couch potato looks a bit like a soft & fatty cheeseburger.

Much in the same way, with finances you are what you eat. More exactly, you are what you think. This idea came to my mind as I was on break at work. I shuffled through some investments, made some options trades and netted about $250. As I sat back, happy with my financial gain, I looked around the room. Three of the other guys were playing fantasy football and comparing how many “points” they earned on Sunday’s games and one guy was gun shopping. Specifically, he was shopping for a Kalashnikov and he was calling out the prices that he found on each website. It seems that the going rate for an AK-47 is about $750 in America.

The next day, most of the guys were playing “fantasy football,” and my other colleague finally pulled the trigger on his AK purchase and gave his credit card number over to the tune of $750. I made another option trade, this time netting $500. He called over to me and told me that he bought the AK. I smiled and told him that I just made two options trades in the last two days for $750. In essence, he spent $750 and I made $750. The rest of the guys, they just spun their time along in football fantasy land.

As I talk to most of my colleagues, friends and relatives at parties and others that I meet here and there, I find that most people don’t focus or concentrate their efforts on finance. They are busy with fantasy football, golf, fixing up their pet car project or whatever else it is that people do when they aren’t working. I have my own hobbies: travel, writing, going to the movies, gym, etc. But, a good portion of my day (at least one hour) is spent studying finance. And it shows: I am financially successful. Now, if you don’t study finance, how can you expect to be financially successful? Just like the couch potato who eats and never exercises, as he is what he eats, your finances are what you think.

I might look at the markets for 6 or 7 days and never see a trade, but when one jumps out, I play it and make a few hundred bucks, its only because I’m studying the markets that I see the opportunities as they come up. My colleagues, well, they see good fantasy football and gun deals – but this won’t make them a million dollars.

If you want to grow your own million dollars, you need to be studying finance every day. You need to focus on it, think about it, you pretty much need to sleep with finance in your mind. If you invest in real estate, you should study real estate. If you are growing a car business, you should be thinking cars all day and night.

My point is, if you want to make a million dollars, you should be focusing on it every day, not on fantasy football or some other distraction. Remember, you are what you eat!

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net

Don’t buy junk

crap

On average, women outperform men in stock market investments.  The reason for this is quite simple: women tend to buy and hold whereas men trade stocks more often.  The average investor (probably 90% or more of small investors) sell when the market is down and buy when the market is up.  I remember in 2008 as most of my colleagues freaked out and bailed out of the market.  Most women held their stocks through the market sell-off and continued to dollar cost average through 401(k) investments and had positive returns by 2010.  Many of the men who tried to “market time” the market sold at the bottom and then returned to buy at the top.

I count myself among the “guilty” when it came to second guessing the market – and eventually missing great market gains and suffering stock market drops after buying too high.  I’ve sought knowledge, read and studied and only in the last few years have I begun to enjoy strong market gains, whether the market advances or declines.

In this article we will cover the first of the big mistakes that investors make.  If you avoid these pitfalls, you will GREATLY improve the returns on your investments.

1.  Don’t buy junk.  This sounds obvious, but the vast majority of stock investors own “junk” investments.  I’m not talking about junk bonds, those can have a place in a well diversified investment portfolio, I’m talking about bad investments.  Before you know what a “bad” investment is, you need to know first what a good investment is.

To understand what a good stock investment is, you need to stop thinking about investments as buying stocks.  Instead, you need to focus on buying businesses.  Imagine for a moment that you just won the lottery for $8 million dollars.  After taxes you take home $5 million.  You decide that you want to buy some businesses in town.  Let’s say that the “average” business in your town sells for a million dollars.  Let’s say that you decide to buy 1 bar, 1 retail store, 1 restaurant, 1 auto repair garage, and an apartment building.

We will start with the restaurant: you have a choice of a “popular” bar that has a flamboyant owner who is often in the news.  He regularly drives around in his convertible and has several girlfriends.  This guy is well known in town and very popular.  His bar is “the place to be” on Friday nights and often has a line formed up outside on weekend evenings.  Everyone wants to get into this bar on the weekends, it is popular and there is a lot of “buzz” about this place.  Most investors would love to be a part of this business; it is exciting, it is sexy.

And so, you begin to look at the books of this business.  You see that it has a strong cash flow on the weekends but during the week, it draws significantly less in revenue.  You see that the rent on the building is VERY high, the wages paid to the staff are quite expensive and the liability insurance for this “popular” watering hole eat up most of the profits.  Despite the “colorful” lifestyle of the owner, you see that he barely turns a profit.  Moreover, because of several fights at the bar in past weekends, some lawsuits are pending.  This business “looks good” from the outside, but in reality, it does not return much money to the owner.

Take a look at many stocks that are “popular.”  Many pay low dividends, have weak earnings and are priced very high.  I am regularly astounded that stocks with no earnings and high P/E (price to earnings ratios) sell at such high premiums.  And why?  Because  idiots like “Kramer” on CNBC and silly online companies like Motley Fool recommend them.  As I talk to more and more small investors I find that most people are buying stocks based on what’s in trend, what’s en vogue and what is “popular” on CNBC.  Over time, these investments return very little to the owner.

We look at another bar.  The local Irish pub.  It has a steady and loyal customer base, it is “busy” 7 days a week, has low overhead and expenses and returns a cash flow to the owner.  The current owner (who is now retiring) draws $8,000 per month in owners’ equity (salary) and leaves several thousand in the bar for improvements and to grow equity.  You realize that if you draw $8,000 per month, each year you will “take out” $96,000 per year.  In about 11 years you will return your initial $1,000,000 investment.  Starting in year 12, you have a “free bar” and the income that comes in is all profit.  Imagine now that the intrinsic value of the bar has grown in these last 12 years so that now you can sell it for $1.5 million.  Now, not only have you taken all of your money back, but you’ve made a 50% return on your basic capital.  Meanwhile, the “popular” bar had its business slow and after a year or two, it went out of business.

I ask people, “Why did you buy that stock.”  What I hear astounds me.  They ALWAYS have a “story.”  Something someone told them, something their broker told them, something they saw on CNBC or read in Fortune Magazine.  I ask them about the stock’s earnings or its dividend and they have a blank stare on their face.  These people – and I might be talking about you – aren’t investing, they’re gambling.

When you buy a stock you should look for a company with strong earnings, little competition, a strong return of capital (strong dividend) and good future business prospects.  I’ve had this conversation at work a dozen times and every time, I’m asked the question, “Well then, what stocks fit this description?”  And when I answer, I see eyes roll over, sighs of sarcasm and chuckles as though I don’t know what I’m talking about.  To most investors, these investments are “boring” and they don’t have the patience for them.  But good stocks are considered by most to be boring.

Let’s take a look at some “good stocks.”  These are stocks that pay ever increasing dividends, have little competition and increase owner equity through the practice of paying a strong dividend and share buy-backs:

Walmart

Coca Cola

McDonalds

Microsoft

Hershey’s

Sysco

Procter & Gamble

I’m sure you get the idea – fat companies with thick profit margins.  If you buy the stock of one of these companies and reinvest the dividends into more shares, you’ll average about 15% return.  And considering that much of the gains will be long-term capital gains, you’ll never pay tax on the growth of the price of the shares until you sell.  Warren Buffet bought 5 or 6% of Coke back in the 80’s and has reinvested his dividends ever since.  His dividends now pay back the entire cost of his investment EVERY SIX MONTHS!  Think about that for a minute, lets say he invested $10 million, he’s getting back $20 million every year just in dividends!  That initial Coke purchase paid for itself and now pays dividends year after year while the base value of the stock continues to grow.

And yet, I hear of other “investors” buying this or that stock because of some crazy idea they heard on TV.  Example, one of my clients bought Remington (the firearms manufacturer) because Obama’s plans for more gun controls = increased sales.  Maybe.  But does Remington have the fat profit margins and increasing dividends each year like McDonalds has?  No.  Not even close.  When I suggested that he sell his Remington and buy Coke or Walmart or McDonalds, he looked at me as if I had a bullet hole in my forehead.  Again and again, I share the “logic” of buying good companies and people nod in agreement and then tell me how they’re buying Ford or GM because, once upon a time, it traded for 3x what it trades for today.  How silly.  You want a company that pays you to own it, not the company that is popular or has a good story.

The BULK of your portfolio should be boring Blue Chip stocks that are fat with profits, insurance companies, oil & energy transport and some real estate investments that pay you regular rents.  The way to win in the market is slow and steady gains without taking massive losses.  If you can earn 12% year in and year out, you’ll beat all of your co-workers who are chasing Apple to $600 a share.

More on this idea later – but if you own a bunch of junk – stocks that don’t earn (and pay) rich profits, you should consider shifting the bulk of your portfolio to some boring stocks that pay you and pay you year after year.

Good luck.  Good investing!

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net

The Morality of Wealth

Religious symbols

In talking with others about wealth and investing I find that there is a HUGE pressure on American Christians to be, act and remain poor.  I did a Google search for Bible verses on wealth, money and materialism and I found quite a few results that included many admonitions to be poor and to give up all of your wealth and possessions.

Now, I’m not going to get into a religious or philosophical discussion here – that’s a whole other website and I’ll leave it to someone to tackle those issues.  But I can say that almost my entire family comes from (very) religious stock & they are all quite poor.  I’m guessing that if you’ve come here, you are probably interested in getting rich.  If you are a Christian, you will have to balance your Biblical beliefs with your desire for wealth and how to merge the different philosophies.  Aside from Americans, this website is most visited by Chinese.  So, to my Chinese readers, whether you are Atheist, Buddhist, Christian or some other religion or philosophy, having a positive subconscious view that money and morality can coexist will be easier for you.

If you are a Christian person and you struggle with the idea that Jesus told the disciples to be poor and give up their possessions, you may consider some other logic.  Personally, I believe that any religious texts, if they were divinely inspired, have quite a bit of “influence” added by the writer.  And when I say influence, I mean distortion.  Now, if God’s hand came materialized and came down from the sky and wrote the book, it would be one thing.  But when a man puts it to paper, after first hearing it from someone else, there is a bit of distortion.

And, you have to look through a lens of context: when was the text written?  The Bible used to command people to stone those who worked on the Sabbath, but that has been done away with.  When Jesus told the disciples to “go poor,” did he mean EVERYONE or just those who personally followed him?

Is it possible to be rich and at the same time be religious?  Of course.  Provided that you’re smart with your money.  Giving it all away to your church isn’t smart.  Actually, I think over-donating (to your church or ANY other cause) is irresponsible.  If God gave you children and you give all your money away and your child becomes ill or you can’t afford to clothe them or pay for a good education, then you’re really a bad parent.  Good church-goer, but bad parent.  Bur really, this is what the New Testament says.  It says for the disciples to give up EVERYTHING for Jesus.  Does that mean that God expects ALL Christians WORLDWIDE to abandon their spouses and children?  Of course not.

When you look at what was written in context, you can see that there is no prohibition to wealth.  When looked at, in its totality, the Christian scripture warns against love of money more than God.  In other words, if you are so hungry for money that you will lie, cheat and steal, then, that is a bad thing.  And I can honestly say that I haven’t lied, cheated or stolen to save my first million dollars.

The good book does warn against indebtedness yet I see most Christians in debt.  Funny, so many Christians will chastise affluent people for violating God’s rules but a page later, when it says not to be in debt, they do the same thing.

And so, in our American culture, we have an inset bias against wealth and affluence.  it is no wonder that the immigrants to this country regularly beat Americans in the wealth competition game.  The average American seeks a “job” and the average immigrant seeks “opportunity” (often to start their own business.

I suggest that it is morally right to be affluent.  Have a look at God’s “chosen people,” the Jews.  They are, by capita, the richest people on Earth.  They don’t have any guilt trip when it comes to being wealthy.  This is an interesting paradigm because if they are God’s chosen (as believed by most Christians), how can they also be so wealthy?

Remember, all things in moderation.  God wants you to be happy and prosperous.  Saving enough money so that you can set up your children and grandchildren in their life is a good thing.  It is a moral thing.  Don’t let anyone tell you that having money goes against God’s will.  That is just silly.  If you look closely at your own religious beliefs and take them into the context of your whole religion, you will probably find that become affluent is good and it is moral.

Good luck, and good investing.

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net

7 percent

7 percent

I recently read an article explaining the benefits of long-term compound interest.  In the article, a situation similar to the one that I used in my post Compound Interest was used, but in the example in the article, an interest rate of 7% was quoted.  As I often do, I read some of the comments at the bottom of the screen and I saw over and over again that people were “complaining” that it was impossible to earn 7% interest today.  I am sure that most of these people only know of two places to invest their money, one is under their mattress at home and the other is at an FDIC insured bank.  After taxes and inflation, both offer negative rates of return.

I thought to myself, “It isn’t so hard to earn 7%” interest.  And so, here are a few places where I’ve invested in the last year and the interest rates that I have experienced:

Symbol / Name / Interest Rate / Description

TWO / Two Harbors Investment Corp. / currently pays 18.10% dividend / This is an Interest Rate REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) that borrows short term money (low interest rate) and then buys long-term treasury backed securities.  As long as Bernacke keeps rates low, this stock will continue to pay fat dividends.

LendingClub.com / The Lending Club / I am currently earning about 16% return on my investment / Allows investors to lend directly to borrowers – most loans are used to consolidate credit cards.

NLY / Annaly Capital Management / currently yields 12.2% / same as TWO.

ETP / Energy Transfer Partners / 7.8% dividend yield / Natural Gas and Oil pipeline company – this company charges big oil to move their product and collects a steady and dependable income.

(no symbol) / Selling uncovered puts and covered calls / I have earned an annualized yield of 19% writing options contracts on stocks, gold, silver and the Australian Dollar / More about this strategy later – but it is one of the safest and highest yielding investments I know of.

EXC / Excelon Corporation / 7.2% dividend yield / United States electricity utility, is a large nuclear power producer.

DPM / Midstream Partners / 6.6% dividend yield / Same as ETP.

TGP / Teekay LNG Parnters / 6.7% dividend yield / Owner-operators of large ships that transport liquified natural gas.  With cheap natural gas prices, the demand to move it around the world is booming; TGP has good prospects for future work & stock appreciation.  I also write covered calls on this stock boosting my yield into the 10%+ range.

These are just some ideas for you to check out.  Remember to always do your own homework; I don’t know your financial situation and you shouldn’t take my recommendation as your only source of income.  I do not guarantee any return nor do I take any risk for your investments, it is up to you to do your own due diligence.  Having said that, there is always risk and return and the two (sometimes) correspond, sometimes they do not.  Most think of an FDIC insured bank as a “safe bet,” but considering a 4% inflation rate, taxes and the .25% interest the bank pays, you’re losing about 4% each year in purchasing power.  Doesn’t sound like much?  Consider that if you put $100,000 in the bank today, in ten years, that $100k will be worth $60,000.  4% isn’t much this year, but over time it will eat up your investments.

Also consider some of the “safe” Blue Chip Stocks like Walmart, Coca Cola, McDonalds and Microsoft.  If you reinvest your dividends into additional shares of stock, most of these stocks have returned upwards of 10% each year in combined dividends and capital gains.

If you want to be a millionaire, you can’t look at life through a set of FDIC insured glasses – you have to look outside the “normal” arena for investments that will provide a  return that will propel you to the next level.

Good luck and good investing!

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net

Debt

If you are in debt, you will never get rich.

This is perhaps the most important reason that most Americans (and others around the world) have such difficulty attaining financial independence.  Your goal is to save money and have it work for you.  Think of the little green dollars as slaves, if you have a hundred of them and you put them to work, they will produce some returns for you.  You add to them and over time they add up.  But with debt, it is the opposite.  Whatever money you have in the bank and your earnings get swallowed up in interest charges.

The average credit card charges almost 20% interest.  If you put something on finance and don’t pay it off for 5 years, you will end up paying 200% the value of the item (5 years x 20% interest = 100% in interest).  If your “normal” monthly expenses are $2,000 and you put a portion of your living expenses on credit, your monthly costs may be $2,500 or more.  That $500 a month could be going into your savings account.

If anything, you want to be loaning money, not borrowing it.

I have one brother who has a great job (he is a co-owner of a fair sized corporation) and makes a fat salary.  But, he loves his credit cards and constantly carries a balance.  This “easy spend” lifestyle eats away at his savings potential and the interest charged on the rolling balance keeps him in perpetual debt.  If he would just cut his spending for 6 months and pay off the cards, he would be able to return to a “similar” spending lifestyle and be able to keep the savings (what he’s not paying in interest) and begin to build his savings.

Debt is just stupid, don’t do it!

In 20 years, I have paid my credit card off each month in full.  And the only reason I use a credit card is for the frequent flyer miles.  The ONLY debt I have carried in 20 years is my mortgage.  Even my car was paid for with cash.

If you can’t afford to pay cash for your next car, ask yourself, “do you really need it?”  I’d rather drive an old car and have people “think” I’m poor than to be poor and have people think I’m rich.

Live will bring you dozens of opportunities to get rich.  If you are in debt, you will miss them all.  A lot of people blame others for their lack of financial success – and most of these people are in debt.  Don’t make this mistake.  If you are in debt now, get out of debt.  Cut your spending, take some overtime or do whatever you must to get out of debt.  If you are considering taking on debt (credit card use or buying a new car), don’t do it!  It isn’t worth it.

I’m growing richer each month loaning money to others and rolling the interest back into new loans and investments.  My investment portfolio is monthly returning about 1/2 of what I receive in paychecks each month.  This money just compounds and some day, my investments will yield more than my salary.  At this point, I will be free to quit my job if I want, and I’m only in my early 40′s.  This journey to becoming a millionaire would NOT have been possible if I was carrying a debt load.

Good luck & good investing!

The use of copyrighted material in this website is protected by the Fair Use Clause of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, which allows for the sharing of copyrighted materials for the purposes of commentary, criticism and education.  All shared material will be attributed to its owner and a link provided when available.  All other comment on this site may be reproduced with the author’s consent.  Please source any references or quotes of this website to: http://www.my1stmillion.net