Sign Seeing

Signs.1

Over the past couple of weeks three themes have kept popping up everywhere I look!  I’ve had lots of time to sit and reflect on where I am in my life, how I got here and what I need to do to move forward .  The universe seems to be in agreement with me as the same ideas have popped out at me in scripture, social media posts and even Sunday service.  On social media I have commented that the collective unconscious is working overtime right now.  I’m not the only one to notice.  Having a break from “busy”ness has allowed my mind to rest and me to get more centered and focused.    Below are the three ideas that have resonating around me.  The first two I touched on in last week’s blog post.

michellemavour_1563075548518271149

  1. Missed Opportunities.  There’s nothing worse than a missed opportunity.  Hindsight is 20/20 As I look back (which I do very carefully!) I can see many of the opportunities I missed either by not grabbing them when I had the chance or not putting myself in the position to create them.  I acknowledge the self-doubt this was rooted in.  Looking back is only useful if you gain lesson to apply to future decisions.  It is an opportunity to fine-tune one’s intuition, ability to reason, and make better life choices.  journeytolaunch_1561592622500438037
  2. Preparation.  Last week I wrote that in business an elevator pitch is valuable tool that will allow the business person to be prepared for a chance encounter with someone who could in some way be instrumental in achieving their business goals.  The meme above was posted on Instagram by a financial coach; it was a post about being prepared financially for life’s emergencies.  This of course ties in to missing opportunities.  Some opportunities come with a cost.  I saw in my past opportunities I missed out on because I was not ready financially – and I could have been.
  3. FOMO.  When I read about the concept of FOMO, a light bulb went off.  When I read it a few days later in the intro to the verses assigned for one day’s bible study, it was like my mind was blown after being struck by lightening!  It perfectly pinpoints something I have sensed about myself while taking an honest look at the past three years.  FOMO is the Fear Of Missing Out.  Patrick McGinnis, who coined the term, describes FOMO in the Disrupt Yourself Podcast, Episode 21.

“an inward struggle and it impedes you from disrupting yourself because I think you lack focus. There is a positive side to FOMO in that it can tell you what your hidden dreams and desires are. If you feel FOMO when you see somebody start playing the piano maybe you should go out and take piano lessons….But I find that it is a great way to distract yourself from doing the hard things in your life you need to do. Rather than sitting down…and dealing with that big challenge that you need to deal with, you spend a bunch of time running around doing other things to stay busy.”  

I’ve been reading the book The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield, Mark Mansen and Les Hewitt.  In one of the first chapters they write about not being distracted by the next shiny new thing.  But the question is ‘why’ do we do that?  The answer is FOMO.  FOMO will eat up lots of opportunity, ironically, because when you’re chasing all you will catch none.  It is futile.

So once the signs are acknowledged the next step is to apply what they teach.  These signs have reiterated a nagging feeling that I need to be doing less, not more.  Being busy isn’t the same as being productive.  I’ve been noticing that the more busy I have become the less satisfied I have been feeling with the results of my efforts.  So now, mid-2017, is a good time to assess my priorities, strategies and activities, make sure they are in line with my goals.

Have you noticed any signs instructive this summer?

Advertisements

The Paper Chase

ChasingMoneyMotivational posts are a big thing on social media.  Type in hashtags like “motivation,” “inspiration,” “hustle,” “grind,” “quoteoftheday,” and so on, and a plethora of slick memes will show up with quotes from business leaders and motivational speakers through the ages.  You will find many quotes from Jim Rohn, Robert Kiosaki and Tony Robbins, to name a few, extolling the virtues of persistence, focus, planning, how to build wealth, and the like.  Entrepreneurship has exploded as the internet has made education more accessible than it has ever been.  Technology has lowered barriers to entry for many industries in terms of knowledge as well as start-up capital.  In theory the playing field of capitalism is far more level than it has ever been before.  My inbox and social media accounts are flooded with offers to take a look at some idea to build wealth using the wonders of modern technology, usually with a rags-to-riches testimony.

Now we can “monetize” just about anything.  Industries are growing for motivational speakers, business coaches and trainers, for which clever entrepreneurs will provide instruction on how to tap into the market, for fees small and large.  Usually potential clients are lured into listening to the sales pitch with a free webinar or ebook download.  Somewhere within the material, usually at the end, there is a sales pitch – an up-sell – to turn the free information into a revenue stream through memberships, subscriptions or further coaching.  That sales pitch usually includes at least one quote from a “guru”, such as those mentioned above, to imply that the person shares that winning mentality; they have the thing that you don’t think you have.  It is a very effective tactic as it taps into the deep-seeded self-doubt many of us live with; our desire to be perceived as and feel successful; and guilt over not achieving our full potential.  When I was in network marketing we were taught to always search for the NEED and posit the product as the solution.  The need that motivates many people to pour hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars into these trainings is freedom from the imprisonment of financial struggle.

But even with the abundance of opportunity at our fingertips there is still a pervasive sense of lack in our society.  Increasing abundance of opportunity has not resulted in increasing satisfaction or happiness.  Why is that?

Ecclesiastes 5:11       

As goods increase, so do those who consume them.  And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them?

gold-dollar-sign-on-groundI decided to call this blog The Financial Fashionista in part because I recognized that I myself had a conflict between my desire to acquire things and my desire to establish a solid financial foundation.  I have an economics degree and experience in high and low finance. (That’s a joke.)  In my head I have a very clear understanding of how money works: the concept of compound interest, investing in the financial markets, financial products and services, saving, interest expense, depreciation, the difference between cost and value.  In college my focus was mortgage-backed securities, the same product that brought down the world financial markets. But when it comes to personal finance emotion is almost inextricably linked.  This is why most people pull their money out of the market during a correction, as happened in 2008, marriages fail, and even cause business owners to make poor management decisions.

I am now looking very closely at the ‘why’ in my spending habits and attitude toward money in general.  What lessons from my past must I un-learn?  How do I bridge the gap between my rational understanding and my emotions?  I have rooms full of “stuff” that I never have to look at or touch for the rest of my life.  The older I get the more I realize that it is all meaningless.  Whatever satisfaction I receive from purchasing a new dress or some other thing is absolutely fleeting.  And as such the process must perpetuate to reach the same high.

What motivates us to do this?  I know I’m not alone.

Ecclesiastes 4:4

And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

1408460746917_4_150317135330456_700x

Chasing after the wind.

Another thing that social media brings to the forefront is the deep desire to be simultaneously approved and envied by others.  We lament the unrealistic standards of beauty and lifestyle promoted on the medium but those who do it best gain the most followers, by which they are able to creative highly lucrative businesses.  Posts and hashtags about grinding and hustling extol the value of pushing to reach goals and measurable achievements; we respect most the people who seem to be accomplishing big goals and dreams and the wealth that comes with it.  But that value system is based on outward signs of a success that can disappear even faster than it came; not character or the virtues of community, humility, patience, temperance and generosity.  It is inherently inauthentic.  No wonder it  cannot bring forth lasting satisfaction and happiness.

Motivation in this day and age is temporary because it tends to be based on comparing ourselves to others and wanting what they have.  Inspiration is more authentic and long-lasting because it is based on the vision and purpose that is uniquely suited to the individual.  As the saying goes, “chase your passion and the money will follow.”

 

How to Turn Your Home Into A Personal ATM

One of the goal posts for what we have accomplished in this life is the ability to enjoy a long, happy retirement.  But as the years go by and the horizon gets closer we look at what we have in cash and assets, and discover that we may not be able to retire comfortably and independently, if at all.  If you add up your annual living expenses – including personal care, mortgage, groceries, car notes and insurance, all of your fixed and variable costs – you will likely find that if you retire at 67 years old and live another 20 to 30 years beyond that, you will need over $1million in today’s money to maintain your current lifestyle throughout your retirement.

Most Americans are looking for ways to supplement their income to try to make up for the shortfall.  We max out our contributions to retirement plans at work.  We hold 401K’s, IRA’s, money markets and other investments, hoping that the market will keep going up (which it won’t) and we don’t lose significant value in our accounts; the closer you are to retirement the less time you will have to make up for any losses.  You may even try to adjust your lifestyle downward to conserve cash to save and invest but would you be able to make enough of an adjustment to make a real difference?  Many approaching retirement age have to be concerned about which direction the market is headed in the next few years.  In the stock market the investor has no control.

Mutual funds have for decades been heralded as the best way to benefit from the financial markets without a lot of knowledge about investing and without taking on too much risk.  This investment vehicle is touted as the best way to earn double-digit returns on your money, but OVER THE LONG TERM.  If you look at CD rates at bankrate.com you will see that the highest-yielding CD will return 2.3% compounded over a 5-year period.  As for money markets, for a deposit of $5,000 one bank will pay a grand total of 1.11% interest for the first year only; then the rate drops to 0.61%.  Meanwhile, what are banks doing with your money?  They’re lending it back to you and your neighbors at higher interest rates; they’re investing it in multiple ways, including lending to other banks overnight, to earn a higher rate of interest than they’re paying you, and profiting massively from the difference.

3466307-House-sitting-on-money-with-puzzle-Understanding-mortgages-Stock-Photo

Did you know that you have the power to do the same thing?  It’s called Private Lending, and you can use the equity in your property to do it.  Private lending a vital lifeline for real estate investors. And as a private lender you can participate in real estate investing without “getting your hands dirty” while earning a much higher rate of return than you ever will with banks or likely will in the stock market.

Since the market crash of 2008 real estate has picked up speed, and certain markets, like Philadelphia,  are moving at a feverish pace.  If you are in that region I am sure you have noticed and even been inconvenienced by the deluge of construction going on in and around the city.  Somebody is getting very rich!  Do you ever wonder how they do it?  Do you ever wonder how YOU could get in on the action, without having “important’ friends and millions in the bank?

As a homeowner you are potentially sitting in a bank of your very own.  If you have significant equity built up from years of paying down your mortgage you can access it through a home equity line of credit (HELOC).  You use the proceeds to help real estate investors like fix-and-flippers, for example, fund deals while you earn returns in your sleep, often well into the double digits!  It is perfectly legal and perfectly legitimate.  Moreover, you will be paid back your investment plus interest in four to six months. It is as simple as agreeing on a contract that explicitly lays out the terms on each side.  You hold either the first or second mortgage, and if for any reason the deal goes south the house is your collateral – just like a bank.  Private investing can provide virtually limitless financial growth, as you are able to compound your returns by continually lending.  Did you ever dream you’d grow up to own your own bank??

Sextant Financial Solutions, LLC (www.sextantfinancials.com) is a company positioned to take advantage of investment opportunities in some of the hottest areas of Greater Philadelphia, including Delaware County and Philadelphia County West and Southwest.  If you would like to learn more about ways to earn significant returns using your home’s equity or cash sitting in low interest-earning instruments such as a 401K, IRA and CD’s call 484-461-0114 or send an e-mail to sextantfinancials@yahoo.com.

No Man Is An Island 

“No man is an island. No man stands alone.”  I will always remember singing that song in a choir competition in high school. It is a valuable message, always relevant. As I examine the things that have kept and are keeping me back in my business goals, it has become even more clear to me that the longer I keep doing everything myself the longer it will take to get where I want to go, no matter how hard I work. No one accomplishes great things all on their own.

I have seen the destructive consequences of a business owner relying solely on their own efforts to run their business. Ego,  stubbornness and lack of education will stunt all potential.  Everybody needs a team – and not only entrepreneurs. But for people in business for themselves especially, it is important to be willing and able to delegate responsibilities. Nobody is good at everything. Nobody knows all things.  It takes humility, wisdom, and even common sense sometimes, to be willing to acknowledge our shortcomings.

For many of us it’s easier to contribute to other people than to allow others to contribute to us. But if you look at the greatest business leaders who are nearly universally admired, they all give credit to some mentor or colleague(s) – other people, whose input helped them to succeed. Working with a good team or partner allows you to leverage everyone’s time and get more accomplished.  It also allows other people to fill in for your deficiencies.

Ego can cause a person to resist getting help in their business but so can past experiences. At a recent real estate event an investor warned me profusely about going into partnerships.  He insisted on the importance of doing everything yourself. I’ve seen instagram posts regarding the same sentiment.  Yes, when we put ourselves out there to trust someone else, with it comes the opportunity to be burned. But clinging to the past just keeps you stuck there. And you, the business owner, will waste time and money doing tasks that don’t generate income and can easily be done by somebody else.

I have spent a lot of time trying to find reliable help from people I know but find it frustrating as I discover that they are either not serious or mistake my offer as a request for advice. But I know I need help if I am ever going to really soar.  So I have decided to invest in a virtual assistant. It suits my mobile lifestyle, is economical and there is no previous relationship baggage. It’s very straightforward.

In my corporate life I was able to increase both productivity and profitability of organizations by transforming the environment through team building. I know what can be accomplished with the right talents and the right leadership. I know it is impossible to build something great all alone.

Debt Bad, Leverage Good

Big money stack. Finance concept

Sometimes in life a concept can either mean something good or mean something bad, depending on the person’s perspective.  A word like “debt” can illicit pangs of dread or a spark of promise, depending on the listener’s mindset.  The difference between the two is in some combination of observation, education and experience.

In our consumer-driven society, there is a lot of anxiety around debt.  The media regularly reports on the financial habits of American households and how much we are beholden to creditors.  The types of household debt of greatest concern seems to be credit cards (consumer) and mortgages.  The data tell us that Americans do not save – for the most part – which is the inevitable result of the simultaneous accumulation of large amounts of credit card debt.  At the same time, many homeowners are upside down on their mortgages or own homes they cannot truly afford.  We are losing value hand over fist: first, to high credit card interest rates, then to loss of property value.  We are trained to believe that debt in and of itself is bad, and there is no shortage of evidence that seems convincing.

But, this presidential election brings to light an important truth about debt that often goes un-reported: debt can also be good for you.  One of the two candidates in this race is an unapologetic debt enthusiast.  He has grown an empire built on debt (other business practices aside.)  Almost anyone who has amassed a fortune in business has done so by utilizing the power of debt, but they call it leverage.

According to a recent Inc. article, “the only way to get rich rapidly is to understand the principle of leverage.”  The author describes leverage as the financial secret of the super wealthy.  In simplest terms, leverage allows a person the potential to exponentially increase the benefit, or return, received from putting an asset to work; it can be your time, energy, money or other resources.  A person utilizing the principle of leverage has acquired more of what they need to accomplish a goal, but that additional resource is not derived from their own effort.  In the case off money, the resource is, of course, debt.

Leverage is the bread and butter of the capital markets.  There are many financial instruments (options, futures, etc) that increase the buying power of an investor’s dollar, thereby allowing the investor to own more shares of a company than would otherwise be possible.  Businesses use leverage to operate, expand and improve when they borrow.  In real estate, investors use leverage to acquire, rehab and flip properties.  An investor or developer who pools funds from other investors will be able to do much bigger.  Real estate investors even fund acquisitions and rehabs with credit cards (which for most people is on par with a 4-letter word.)  The key to leverage in your finances is to “buy things that will appreciate in value. When you can leverage your time and your money and then put your money to work, you are on the road to riches.”

Leverage is a valuable mechanism for maximizing output and efficiency in the functions that impact profits.  The author gives an example of how this works.  It’s also the concept behind network marketing: on your own you will make a certain income.  But if you duplicate your efforts via a team that you develop to work with you, each of whom will develop teams of their own,  your income will expand exponentially.  An entrepreneur may start off doing all the labor him/her self, but when he/she is able to hire staff to do the work instead, he/she will have created an opportunity to significantly increase both the client base and the amount of work that gets done within the same time frame.  This way time, energy and money are leveraged, which can quickly escalate one’s income and grow wealth.

The Mortgage Is Just The Beginning…

I am in the process of becoming a 1st-time homeowner.  I’ve been approved for a mortgage with a great fixed interest rate; because I’m getting a chunk of equity I won’t have to come up with a down payment; and I don’t even have to pay closing costs.  Plus my mortgage payment will be very affordable.  I got a great deal.

The decision to buy a home for the first time is a big one and once it is made the focus is usually on getting the paperwork and financials together to be able to apply for a loan.  Applying for a mortgage itself is a bit of an intimidating prospect.  And when we get approved for a loan our main focus is on what the monthly payment will be.  But in reality, the mortgage is just the tip of the iceberg.

5 Things To Avoid In Your First Year of Home Ownership

Owning a home for the first time will require an entirely new set of priorities that I have literally never faced before.  Perhaps the most important thing will be to expect and be prepared for the unexpected costs associated with owning a home.  There will be no super to call when the roof leaks, or the basement floods or the plumbing has a problem.  I will have to have the funds on hand, know who to call when I have a problem and how much I should reasonably expect a service to cost.  I will also have to be financially prepared for the things I should expect, such as property taxes, garbage and sewer fees, water and insurance.

Still, it’s a challenge I am excited about and I can’t wait to get the keys and step into the pride of home ownership!

Real Estate Investing, With Other Peoples’ Money (It’s a thing)

 

I am a hard-core multi-tasker, in life and in business.  For better or worse, I am happiest when I have several objectives to handle at once.  So I like the idea of having multiple streams of (potential) income.   I have a variety of really strong skills and I enjoy finding ways to grow and use them.

Last year I attended a very impressive seminar on real estate investing.  It was held over 3 days in 8-hour-long sessions.  The purpose was to show attendees how to become financially independent by investing in real estate, but at a higher level.  The scope of the information and the extent of the detail provided was stunning, and frankly a bit overwhelming.  So exceptional was the training and the skill of the trainer that a ballroom full of hundreds of people remained transfixed from the first minute of the first day to the last minute of the last day.  Some attendees were seasoned renters, rehabbers and flippers who found themselves blown away by the eye-opening education.

One of the biggest take-aways from the seminar was that it is possible to get started in real estate investing with little to no money out of pocket.  Even some of the most successful real estate investors began with hardly any money to their name. Below are a handful of ways that cash-poor self-starters can begin their journey to financial freedom through investing in real estate.

6 Real Estate Investment Money Myths, Busted!

1.  Wholesaling

Wholesaling is a  popular way to get started in real estate.  A real estate wholesaler is someone who helps investors locate the types of properties they are interested in buying.  The warehouser builds a database of homeowners who are looking to sell their properties as soon as possible, as well as active investors who have the funds to grab the right opportunity when it presents itself.  When you see a sign on the road with an offer like, “WE BUY HOUSES, ANY CONDITION” that person is a wholesaler.  A wholesaler is a type of real estate investing intermediary.

2.  Creative Financing

This is for someone willing to take on a bit of calculated risk. There are quite a few ways that a budding investors short on funds can find money to get started.  These methods may sound irresponsible because they contradict conventional wisdom.  For example, if investing for retirement standard guidance is to invest for the long-term and NEVER make withdrawals so you don’t miss out on gains.  But I have a saying, “It’s not the ‘what’, it’s the ‘how’.”  In other words, it’s the ‘how’ in what you want to accomplish, not the ‘what’ itself that counts.  With the right information and training, what may look like a questionable decision to someone else could be the best decision you will ever make.

HELOC

One way to begin investing in real estate is to tap the equity in your own home through a home equity line of credit (HELOC).  I won’t go into too much detail here but with the right amount of planning and skill to do it properly this can be a relatively safe way to begin investing without having to come up with cash out of pocket.

Retirement Account

A similar method that successful real estate investors have used to get started without having to come up with extra money is by taking a short-term loan from their retirement accounts such as the 401K.

Private Money Lenders

Real estate investors must always have a Rolodex (so to speak!) of sources of money to acquire more properties.  I call them the ‘investors’ investors’, but the official title for individuals who will lend their own money is ‘private money lenders’.  A private money lender is anyone you may know – a family member; wealthy associate; property owner; etc, who has money that they are looking to lend to others with the expectation, of course, of a certain return on that investment.  This is one way that individuals seeking to grow their portfolio can do so without having to go into the stock market, where value is largely arbitrary.  Private lenders include people who lend from their HELOC.

Long gone are the days when people could park their money in a savings account and watch the interest pile up, and not even conventional investing wisdom from the stock market gurus are panning out as they did in decades of the recent past. Today there is a new paradigm.  In this new world of constant uncertainty and upheaval it is imperative, in my opinion, to have a backup plan for our financial survival that is well-rounded and smart; calculated investing in real estate should one of the tools in that tool box.