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.

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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.”

 

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The 4 Hooks of Motivational Training

Speaker at Business Conference and Presentation.I have attended many educational events – conferences, workshops, online courses and webinars – for several industries over the past few years.  I was for a short time an agent for a network marketing company in financial services: I hold a Series 6 license and am life insurance licensed in ten states.  Although I have gained eye-opening insight and understanding, attending these events has also been a very valuable lesson in the strengths and weaknesses of the mindset conditioning that the network marketing and real estate industries in particular use to “hook” reps and students, respectively.  I have become very familiar with what I will call “motivational training.”

I believe that this style of training sprouted from the self-help movement of the eighties and early nineties.  Susan Powter of ‘Stop the Insanity’ fame comes to mind.  Her brand of tough love in encouraging people to change their eating habits to gain control of their lives and health earned millions from books, tickets to speaking engagements and exercise videos. During this time Tony Robbins’ star was also on the rise. He too had lengthy infomercials on how to take control of your life, but his approach was far more “gentle,” for lack of a better word, and holistic.  Even though their approaches were very different, in my mind they built the framework for the motivational style of training so popular today.  Ms. Powter and Mr. Robbins showed how profitable “motivation” can be.

Today, “gurus” are all over the place.  They have learned to combine the tough-love and gentle approaches.  They are usually people who have achieved demonstrable success at something and have built a following based on their story of how they accomplished their goals.  The point and purpose of motivational training is the up-sell.  These events follow very familiar layout that will conclude with an “ask” – buy a book, a course or series of courses or mentorship/coaching.  Whether the story of the road to success is entirely true or not, clearly the story in and of itself can prove just as profitable, if not more so, than the work itself.

Success on hook

The following are four common “hooks” you may hear when attending educational industry events.

Hook #1: The Warning

The idea is that they will help you avoid the costly and painful mistakes that they made.  This idea is reinforced by the altruistic desire help as many people succeed as possible.  I am not doubting anyone’s sincerity.  I just believe that we have to be our own teachers.  When you have your own experience, including failures, then you are in the best position to know what works best for you, given your unique set of skills, talents and interests.  And that is what a person will be able to make the most out of an investment in coaching.

The Warning:

  • You can’t do it by yourself
  • Mistakes can ruin you

Hook #2: Cost Versus Value

“If you paid $30,000 for coaching that leads you to 3 deals that earn $10,000 each or even 1 deal earning $30,000 and you can build a fortune going forward on the lessons you learned, what did it really cost you?”  That would make the service in effect free.  However, there is a huge caveat – “if.”  If you’re given an action plan; if the coaching is personal; if the coach follows through with what has been promised; if you follow the action plan; if you are able to devote the time and effort necessary.  The truth is, only about 5% of the people who attend such workshops will take action and of those few achieve the results they were expecting.  For most it will be nothing more than a very large donation to that guru’s bank account.

Cost v. Value

  • Hand-hold coaching from an industry expert
  • It pays for itself

Hook #3: Impatience

We want to see results fast.  Diet companies make a fortune every year on our desire to see results fast, with little effort.  Patience requires discipline.  Discipline involves consistent long-term implementation of a plan toward a goal.  The gurus know how to tap into this tendency in our culture to want to jump ahead and enjoy the evidence of hard work, without actually doing the hard work.  And that very well should be expensive.

Impatience

  • Huge profits in 30 or less days
  • Be the envy of suckers slaving away for “the man”

Hook #4: Insecurity

Many of us don’t believe we can do great things.  Guilt in knowing that we are not living up to our full potential is an extension of that self-perception.  Flashes of motivational quotes and inspirational videos are meant to dig into the sore spot and bring home the point that the program, product or service offers a way out.  The gurus know this feeling is fleeting.  We are very good at settling back into a comfortable, familiar routine.  So it is imperative for the speaker to pull on the string of insecurity to compel as many in attendance as possible to pull out the credit card or take out the HELOC or pull cash out of a retirement account to pay handsomely for the promise of finally attaining the success and feeling of accomplishment that so many lack.  They also know that there is at least $3trillion sitting in liquid and a little less than liquid accounts in this country.

Insecurity

  • Yes, this is great training, but you still won’t make it on your own
  • Winners recognize opportunity and take decisive action

Konferenz Saal

Now, there is nothing wrong with seeking help and inspiration.  I am not at all against doing the weekend-long workshops on real estate investing or conferences by networking marketing and other companies.  But I have also become hyper aware of the emotional and psychological hooks that can be very manipulative and often lead to disappointment down the road.

Remember:

  • Everyone starts at the beginning and there is no substitute for work.
  • If the gurus could do the work to get where they are, so can you.
  • Don’t let fear of making a mistake cost you.  You can only grow from mistakes.
  • Don’t worry about “advice” from people who cannot relate to what it’s like to take a chance.
  • Take advice and get ideas from people who relate to fighting for a vision.
  • Take advice from people who don’t give up.
  • Take advice from people who have failed a million times but have the courage to get up and keep going; their failures have provided a treasure trove of wisdom and great ideas!
  • Don’t take advice from people who talk nonsense.
  • And please do not believe people who are boastful because they are likely embellishing to create envy and false authority.

The truth is that motivation comes from within.  Nobody can give it to you.  It requires constant self-evaluation to grow in the confidence that you are doing what truly interests you and for which you have the talent.  Just because someone else has done tremendously well at something doesn’t mean that you will too, even when you give it 100%.  No one thing is for everybody.  We were each created for a specific purpose.  If we are pursuing something that is not in line with our purpose it could remain an uphill battle.  If we are pursuing things that do not engage our best skills and talents it will likely remain a very difficult journey, no matter whose advice we 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.

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.

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.

The “Millennial Investor” Is A Thing…

Thirty trillion dollars. “Trillion.” With a “t.” That is the estimated amount that so-called millennials will inherit from their baby-boomer parents over the next few decades.  It is the largest transfer of wealth, possibly in human history.  By the way, who are these people?  Seriously.  The fact is most people are entirely unprepared financially for retirement!  Clearly these are not the kids of the millions of baby boomers who will be reliant upon social security to make ends meet.  But I digress.Wealth managers today focus a lot of energy targeting the baby boomers themselves, especially to help them protect whatever wealth they have amassed, to sustain their lifestyle after retirement.  It is a very large market.  But apparently the wealth that is going to be transferred to millennials will be an even larger market, and investment advisors are beginning to position themselves to capture the opportunity.  In the clip below, one such advisor talks about a program his firm offers called Backpacks to Briefcases.  It pairs millennial clients with their contemporaries in the wealth management game, whom they may better be able to relate.

Financial literacy is woefully lacking in our education system, even among the well-off, so this is a great idea.  The fortunate ones who will be coming into enormous sums of money will need the training that many of their parents didn’t receive in order that they may make wise decisions about managing, spending and donating their windfall.

Preparing Millennials for a $30 Trillion Wealth Transfer

You don’t have to inherit a large fortune for sound money management to be relevant to you.  Any amount of money you have earned or inherited should be handled properly.  True, we are more likely to blow through money that we have been given rather than money that we have earned on our own.  But no matter the circumstance, sound financial practices matter.  For example: a guy in his mid-20’s inherits the proceeds of a large life insurance policy, pension and 401K upon his mother’s passing, totaling several hundred thousand dollars.  He uses his windfall to live the large – traveling, partying, and everything else.  Fast forward five years, the money is gone and he’s worse off than he was before.  True story. There is an expression one of my friend taught me: “It’s not what you make (have), it’s what you keep.”

Make Your List. Check It Twice. (Or more)

 

We’re nearing the end of summer. In some places the public school year has already begun. And do you know what that means? Christmas is around the corner! Sure, back-to-school season is almost over and parents are happy, I’m sure, for the relief on their wallet.  But at the blink of an eye we’ll be gearing up again for that great shopping season that retailers and consumers alike wait all year for. In our debt-dependent, consumerist society we are most vulnerable to overspend during this time.

Christmas, for better and worse, can be a very emotional time. It raises sentimental feelings about family, friends and togetherness. Advertisers are masters at pushing those emotional buttons to create a strong impulse to buy things we often can’t afford to express to our loved ones how much we care.  The best defense is to devise a solid plan and commit an iron will, now, to resist the temptation to overspend later.  We certainly don’t want to experience another year paying off all the debt we accumulated in the name of the birth of our Lord!

Here are five things to do starting today to handle the next big shopping season like a boss!

  1.  Make a List

List all of the people (individuals, organizations, charities, etc) for whom you would like to buy a gift. Write down everyone you can think of.  You can pare down later.

2.  Get Ideas

Get an idea of what each person/organization would want or appreciate. Write down all of these ideas next to the name. If you’re really organized use a spreadsheet! As you know, vendors will be throwing huge deals at us to get our business.  This way you know what to zoom in on when your phone apps, inbox and mailbox gets inundated with offers.

3.   Estimate the Cost

So now that you have your list and some ideas about what kind of gifts each recipient may like, you can begin to put a budget in place.  Get estimates for the items.  Yes there will be sales, discounts, rewards and cash back promotions, but it’s still useful to determine how much it could cost without those benefits.  Give yourself a little cushion.  The grand total will be your Target Christmas Shopping Allowance (TCSA).

4.  Start a bank account

For the sole purpose of your Christmas budget.  This way, it won’t get mixed up with other money.  If you leave the Christmas funds in the same account that you shop and pay bills from it will be easy to have a memory lapse after a while and end up dipping into it.  Also, it will be easier to see how well you’re progressing toward your TCSA by keeping these funds separate.

5.  Save

Now comes the hard part: consistent implementation.  There are roughly three months between now and Christmas shopping season.  How much money do you need to save each month to reach your TCSA, and by what specific date would you want to accomplish that savings goal?

Knowing how much money you will need, and by when, along with clear ideas on the types of gifts you want to focus on will hopefully give you some sense of control and reduce stress when the season is upon us.  It will help with overall household budgeting as well because you aren’t waiting until the last minute to come up with a large sum of money.  You get to pace yourself.  And when the time comes you may be less likely to make hasty, financially wasteful gifting decisions.