Keep an eye on the Investment Clock …

You probably wear a watch … it tells you where you are (time-wise) and hints as to where you should be (running late for an appointment, of course!).

But, did you know that there’s also an Investment Clock?

The investment clock is one of the best indicators on the movement and condition of the finance, property and equities markets. It was first published in London’s Evening Standard in 1937 and showed the movement of markets within a decade cycle. Many people, however did not readily accept the probability of events turning out in a cyclical fashion so it took a while for some to warm to this new area of thought.

As late as last year, I was reading articles that said that we were at One O’Clock on the Investment Clock: rising interest rates and fear that stocks were on the verge of falling (and, fall they did) …

… then, something surprising happened: the clock did a ‘fast-forward’ to where I think we are today:

At the bottom of the cycle when fear and bankruptcy are abounding and interest rates are down, remember that this is the time to be positive. It is the time when there are bargains galore, ready for the taking.

The driving factor behind the business cycle is the capitalist system itself. Recessions are a way of ridding itself of excesses. Things like speculative lending by banks, high risk real estate trading and inflation. Society simply starts going a bit faster than the economy and places a lot of strain on resources. This means we are left with inflation and high interest rates. The bank then imposes a credit squeeze for a period, long enough for those excesses from the system to force inflation down.

Always remember that during a slump the price of most things will fall, but the value of cash does not. In fact, the value of cash goes up because it is measured by its increased ability to buy things more cheaply. This is the best time to hold cash and come out of those holdings when the economy is in the doldrums.

Nobody knows how long we will languish in the ‘doldrums’, and if you count the recent stock market rally as a ‘good news’ indicator it may be almost over, but it’s clear – at least to me’ … we are already in the cycle where assets are cheap … both stocks and real-estate with the added bonus that interest rates are also cheap …

… Bargain Hunter’s Heaven.

Here’s what to do:

1. Start looking for good quality companies with a strong history of earnings growth that are undervalued (did you know that GE has produced 10 years of 10%+ year-over-year earnings growth?) that are selling for low P/E (that’s the price compared to earnings … if you can pick up GE at P/E’s of 13 and hold for a long time, you have a sure-fire winner!) and HOLD. Don’t feel obligated to borrow to buy these, but increasingly, this will be a good strategy as stocks will be the first to rebound.

2. Start looking for good quality income-producing real-estate that you can afford to HOLD … these will be the last to recover (could be a 7 to 10 year cycle to fully recover) but, prices will begin to steadily increase. So, buy soon to lock in these yummy low interest rates before they, too, start to rise. The combination of low prices and low interest rates is equally a sure-fire winner.

3. Start a service business that helps large corporates – as they recover, they will need to outsource more and more services. It can be tough (corporates can be tough to deal with) but they can also pay off big and provide a ready exit strategy (as the outsourcing ‘fashion’ begins to swing back to ‘insourcing’ and your largest customers fight to buy you out).

Just don’t forget to always keep an eye on the clock …

AJC Live Thursday @ 8pm CST (9pm EST / 6pm PST)!!

Josh # 2 Asks:

Hey, my name is Josh and I am 24 years old and I am a huge personal finance junkie. I really enjoy reading your site so far. I was particularly intrigued about your post about renting vs buying real estate. To make a long story short, my dad owns commercial/rental property (3 housing units, bottom floor is for business) that is mortgage free. It is in a great up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn. If he were to sell it today it would fetch in the 2 million dollar range. He makes pretax annual income of about $100,000+ in residual income from the business and the 3 housing units. I have been for the past couple of years been trying to convince him to take a loan from the equity from his property and reinvest in other commercial properties or other properties, but he refuses claiming that it is too risky. I don’t how else I can try and sell him on this. Maybe you can help? I am just trying to help my dad become more cash rich, instead of cash poor, asset rich?

Join AJC as answers this question – and, more – as he shows how he went from ($30k) in debt to over $7 million in the bank in just 7 years … no scams, no schemes … just good-old-fashioned free advice … LIVE THURSDAY @ 8pm CST (6pm PST / 9pm EST)!

This is your chance to ask AJC @ your personal finance, real estate investing, or business startup questions. Or, if you feel the need, go ahead an criticize him … AJC just loves a good, clean fight 🙂

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Due to the volume of e-mails he receives, AJC cannot reply to all e-mails or cover them on his show, but he will TRY to get to yours!

The Cash Cascade ™

I wrote a series of posts about Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball, and have found this great summary / illustration on Blueprint for Financial Prosperity’s blog (does he just sign his checks BFFP to save ink?):

One of Dave Ramsey’s most popular ideas is that of a debt snowball. The idea is that you pay off your smallest debts first, then roll that debt’s monthly payment into the next smallest. When the next smallest is paid off, you roll the two former payments into the next smallest debt.The snowball grows and grow with each debt that’s repaid.

Here’s a real life example; here are your three debts and minimum payments:

  • $10,000 @ 20% APY, $500 minimum monthly payment
  • $4,000 @ 10%, $200 minimum monthly payment
  • $1,500 @ 12.5%, $75 minimum monthly payment + EXTRA PAYMENT

The debt snowball method states that you should put all extra debt payments towards the $1,500 balance. When you finally pay off that debt, your new payment schedule should look like this:

  • $10,000 @ 20% APY, $500 minimum monthly payment
  • $4,000 @ 10%, $200 minimum monthly payment + $75 + EXTRA PAYMENT
  • $1,500 @ 12.5%, $75 minimum monthly payment

I have only added the words “EXTRA PAYMENT” to both examples, because I want to clarify – then expand upon – BFFP’s example.

First, though, what Dave Ramsey is saying – and, what BFFP is trying to illustrate – is the concept that you take one of your debts (the highest interest rate in the traditional ‘Debt Avalanche’ or the smallest balance owing in Dave Ramsey’s more psychologically-friendly ‘Debt Snowball’ method) and pay that down completely … merely making the required minimum payments on any other loans (but no more!) to stop them from going into default.

The credit card companies will love you for this!

Then when that loan is paid off in full you apply the payment that you USED to make on the first loan that you tackled to the next remaining debt, and so on …

… it ‘snowballs’ because you are applying more and more to each remaining debt, while never having to commit more (or less) to debt servicing than when you first started budgeting.

So, in both examples we are paying $775 (i.e. $500 + $200 + $75) towards debt repayment until all debts are paid off … THEN – conventional financial wisdom will tell you – you get to start INVESTING that $775 a month and you are FINALLY debt free and on your way to … what?

Well, let’s go back and make the small correction: if you only make the minimum payments, you will never pay off any of the debts (or, way too slowly), so you need to find some extra money and make some extra payments to the first loan that you decide to tackle; let’s use an example of $225 a month as an extra payment …

… and, from now on you commit to that monthly $1,000 i.e. $500 + $200 + $75 + $225 EXTRA PAYMENT + C.P.I. + 50% of any ‘found money’ (second jobs, part-time business income, loose change, IRS refund checks, etc., etc.) for your entire working life!

So, we are on the road to success! Or, are we?

The problem is that we have to decide where we’re heading: if our aim is to become a Ramseyesque Debt-Free=Happy clone, then well and good. Your financial plan is set.

[sign off now]

But, if we intend to get rich(er) quick(er)™ we have two huge limitations, neither of which the Debt Snowball or Debt Avalanche address:

1. Time to invest, and

2. Money to invest.


We all know the time value of investing early and investing often:

If we lose just 10 years to our investing plan by delaying investing while we pay down ALL of our debt and/or pay down our mortgage we can halve our potential return.

Do you think that might be significant?

So, we don’t want our debt-repayment strategy to unnecessarily delay our investment strategy.


Where are we going to get the money to invest?

Sure we can accumulate $1,000 a month (after paying off debt) – and, grow that amount through C.P.I. and ‘found money’ strategies -but, will that really set us off on the path to financial riches?

The same graph shows that for every $1,000 A YEAR we invest, we can expect $100,000 after 20 years … so, our $1,000 A MONTH strategy should yield $1.2 Million over the same time period … unfortunately, that won’t be enough for a DEPOSIT on the Number that you really need …

… and, inflation will take at least a 50% chunk of that (not to mention taxes)!

So, the solution for most people – who don’t want to lower their expectations to match this depressing, but debt-free (!) scenario – is to move INTO debt … to invest!

This is so-called ‘good debt’ and I’m not sure what Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman’s take on this is, but most financial pundits call it ‘good debt’ for a reason. Assuming that you agree, read on [AJC: if not, I’m guessing that you hit <delete> about 4 or 5 paragraphs ago]

So, here’s what we need …. a different mind-set:

Since we already know that we will more than likely need to incur SOME ‘good debt’ as part of our investment strategy (i.e. some safe level of leverage for investment purposes e.g. a loan on a rental property) …

why pay off OLD debt now in order to accumulate NEW debt later?

It doesn’t make sense, does it?

We merely waste time and money … instead, we should resolve the following:

1. To treat all Consumer Debt as ‘bad’ and incur no further such debt, unless it’s not really Consumer Debt at all (e.g. we need to buy a car to run our catering business, and public transport or a bike really won’t cut it)

2. To apply the minimum required payments + extra payment(s) + c.p.i. + ‘found money’ not merely to the lesser goal of paying down debt, but to the greater goal of helping us get to our Number (i.e. the financial representation of our Life’s Purpose [AJC: if you don’t buy into that philosophy, then simply insert the words “helping us become financially free”])

3. To, from this day forth, look at all debt as an INVESTMENT in your financial future: and, simply ‘invest’ where you get the greatest returns: is that in paying off an old debt? Or, is it in acquiring a new debt?

Example 1

In the example above, we have three debts of 20%, 12.5% and 10% (are they tax deductible? If so, look at the after tax cost which will be 25% to 35% lower than the nominal interest rates circa 14%, 8.5%, and 7% respectively) …

Compare these interest rates to the cost of money for the types of investments that you want to make …

… in this example, all three are higher than current mortgage rates so you will probably want to keep paying them off (although a good argument can be made for paying off the 20% loan first, then buying an investment property BEFORE paying off the others).

Example 2

Let’s make two changes to our example:

Let’s assume that one of the loans is a 2.5% Student Loan, and swap the amounts owing (so that the Student loan is now the ‘biggie’) and, let’s assume that we have at least 5 more years before it HAS to be paid back (so we have time to make an investment work for us); here’s our starting position:

  • $1,500 @ 20% APY, $500 minimum monthly payment + $225 EXTRA PAYMENT
  • $4,000 @ 10%, $200 minimum monthly payment
  • $10,000 @ 2.5%, $75 minimum monthly payment

In this case, we tackle first the 20% loan; I can’t imagine an ‘investment’ that will provide such a quick & safe 20% post-tax return! Then, we tackle the 10% loan.

Again, an argument could be made for leaving it in situ; however, it is only $4k – and, we’ll pay it off in just 4 months – so let’s go ahead do just that:

  • $10,000 @ 20% APY, $500 minimum monthly payment
  • $4,000 @ 10%, $200 minimum monthly payment
  • $10,000 @ 2.5%, $75 minimum monthly payment
  • $10,000 Reserve #1 @ (1%)  + $200 + $500 + $225 EXTRA PAYMENT

See what we are doing?

Once we have paid off our two HIGH INTEREST loans, instead of paying down the low interest student loan, we continue to make its minimum monthly payment, and instead apply all of the previous / extra loan payments (from our OLD loans) to building up a ‘reserve’ in a bank account (it pays us a – low – rate of interest!) …

… at this rate, we will have a deposit on a small rental (or our own first studio apartment) in less than a year, then our financial picture will look something like this:

  • $10,000 @ 20% APY, $500 minimum monthly payment
  • $4,000 @ 10%, $200 minimum monthly payment + $200 + $500 + $225 EXTRA PAYMENT
  • $10,000 @ 2.5%, $75 minimum monthly payment
  • $10,000 Reserve # 1 @ (1%)
  • $40,000 @ 6% FIXED, $240 required monthly payment
  • $10,000 Reserve # 2 @ (1%) + $185 + $500 + $0 EXTRA PAYMENT + $185 Rent

Keep in mind that if you used Reserve # 1 to build up a deposit on a small apartment to live in, then you will have no rent to pay, so you can apply part to home ownership expenses (rates/utilities/taxes) and part towards your next Reserve!

And, if you bought a rental, then you may be in an excess rent situation and have more to apply to building your next Reserve, as well … if not, then you will need to decrease the amount going towards your next reserve to cover any rental shortfalls (e.g. mortgage payment deficits, vacancies, repairs & maintenance fund, etc.).

Now, you know why this is not a Debt Snowball, a Debt Avalanche, or even a Debt Meltdown:

It’s the Cash Cascade …

… the new way to look at paying down debt!

In the two years that it would have taken you to pay off your Student Loan and buy your first property, you now own two properties and are well on your way to financial freedom!

What do you think? Will it work for you?

Your employer may be stealing from you!

Intrigue over at! Who’s the Millionaire … In Training leaving? And why? Click here to find out


“Oh, little 401k, how I hate thee … let me count the ways” (2008, Anon.)

I don’t know who first uttered these words 😉 but, they strike a chord with me; here are some (admittedly, slightly cynical) reasons NOT to like the humble 401k:

1. Little or no choice of investments

2. Have to wait to traditional retirement age to receive the benefits

3. Stuck with low-returning investment choices

4. Little or no opportunity to ‘gear’ (I guess the employer match and tax benefits counts as a kind of gearing)

5. Fees

6. Your employer may be ‘stealing’ from you


Yeah, in a way … but, first let’s take another quick look at fees [AJC: Inspired by a comment left on a post by Dustbusterz … thanks ‘Dusty’!]; in 1998 (!) the Department of Labor received and published an independent Study of 401(k) Plan Fees and Expenses.

It found the following average fees being charged by the larger 401k funds:

Total Annual Plan Fees

Lowest       0.57%
Mean         1.32%
Median      1.28%
Highest     2.14%

(Source: Butler, Pension Dynamics Corporation, in Wang, Money, April 1997)

Now, this goes back to 1997, but I just covered some very recent work by Scott Burns, noted financial columnist, and published in his new book, Spend ’til the End, which points to the fees continuing to trend up, citing average (mean? median?) fees of 1.88% now.

Remember that, according to Scott, even a “1% increase in a fund’s annual expenses can reduce an investor’s ending account balance in that fund by 18% after twenty years”!

I calculate that a 1.88% fee reduces your returns after 20 years by a whopping 38%

But, do you know how your employer actually chooses your funds / 401k provider? On the basis of better returns to you? Given the possible 38% ‘hit’, you would assume at least on the basis of lowest fees for you?


Nope … not a chance. In fact, the study quoted an earlier report that found that “78% of plan sponsors [employers] did not know their plan costs” (Benjamin) …

… Great! You are putting your financial future into the hands of your employer, 3/4’s of whom don’t even know what the plans that they are choosing will cost you!

So how do they choose the plan that’s right for you [AJC: ironic snicker]?

The study found, one of two ways:

1. In my opinion, an unethical way: The Study of 401(k) Fees and Expenses quoted a prior report that found employers most often choose “the institutions that furnish the firm other financial services – banking, insurance, defined benefit plan management – to provide their 401(k) plan services and may not make an independent search for the lowest cost provider.”

Your employer feathers the bed of their own business relationships with your retirement money. Nice!

2. In my opinion, a criminal way: That would have been enough for me, if I hadn’t accidentally come across what is regarded as the Retirement Industry’s ‘Big Secret’ … it’s a doozy: it’s where the 401k provider shares some of the fees that you pay them with your boss!

Think about it; your employer provides you with a match to encourage you to remain employed then gets back some of that in fees, rebates, ‘free’ services, or just good old ‘relationship building’ at your expense, literally!

How do the funds and your bosses get away with this? Simple, nobody’s looking: “Revenue sharing is a poorly disclosed and relatively unregulated practice, which falls into the gap between Department of Labor and SEC oversight.”

OK, so does this mean that you shouldn’t participate in your employer’s 401K?

Not at all … it just means that you should do the following:

1. Decide if the 401k is going to do the job for you … will it get you to your Number? At a maximum ‘investment’ of $15,500 per year and a compound annual growth rate of 8% – 12% less fees, this is highly unlikely … you run the numbers then make your choice!

2. If not, is it still wise to continue your 401k (consider it a backup plan) as well as more aggressively investing elsewhere?

3. If you can’t do both, you have no choice but to decide which investing strategy is going to have to give way to the other?

4. If you do decide to continue with the 401k, choose any ultra-low-cost Index Fund option that may be on offer over any other selection; if not available, choose a ‘no load’ fund (be careful … some ‘no loads’ are actually just ‘lower load’). And, do your own homework on fees, because you just know your employer ain’t doing it!

5. Lobby your employer to pass back any revenue-sharing back to the employees

6. Insist that your employer choose funds that work best for you over the funds that work best for them.

What you do with this information is entirely up to you; I don’t need a damn 401k … never have and never will 😉

The Lazy Way To Riches


I am indebted to KC for showing me the lazy way to riches

… well, I already live like this (have done so for years) and it hasn’t appeared to have hurt my bank balance – indeed, it seems to have helped!

But, it’s always nice to see all of these Great People of History who agree with me 😉

The reports of real-estate's 'death' are greatly exaggerated …

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

The text of a cable sent by Mark Twain from London to the press in the United States after his obituary had been mistakenly published.

Just like Mark Twain, I think that real-estate has been prematurely ‘written off’. Do you need proof?

Just check this often-cited graph (I think that it’s from Irrational Exuberance by Robert Shiller) floating around the internet:

It purports to cover a period from 1900 to 2005 in a linear fashion … a clear bubble-spike, right?

What could one reasonably conclude from this?

A long downward trend and/or an even longer flattening until house prices catch up with, say, 3% – 4% inflation?

Now, take the period covered by the red line beginning roughly in line with where the ’10’ starts in the phrase on the graph that says “Yields on 10-Year …” – got it?

That’s roughly 1987 until today …

Now, let’s look at an a national index of housing prices covering that same period from a source that I trust – Standard & Poors (the same rating agency that produces the S&P500 stock price index):

This picture tells a slightly different story, doesn’t it?

One reason is that this one, I don’t think, is inflation-adjusted whereas I believe the Schiller one is (or at least ‘adjusted’ for something … any of our readers know what that might be?). In either case, a definite ‘bubble’ can be clearly seen in both charts from, say, 1999 to 2007.

But, have a look what happens when you break this second chart into three sections:

1. We see the tail end of a rise from (we don’t know when, because S&P apparently only started collating this data in 1987) to the end on 1989 … the extent of this rise is pretty important, because we then see …

2. … a ‘flat’ line (or worse) from the end of 1989 to roughly the end of 1998, then …

3. … all hell breaks loose from the beginning of 1999 to somewhere towards the end of 2006 when a clear crash occurs.

So, was the flattening in 2. a correction for 1. OR was the growth in 3. an over-correction of 2.?

I can’t say for sure, but I can say this:

If you draw a compound growth curve between two points: a 20 year period when the market moved from an index of 75 (roughly at the end on 1987) to an index value of 200 (roughly at the end of 2007), we can see that that represents an average compound growth rate of just on 5%

Given that real-estate compounds at 3% to 6.5% annually, depending upon which source you believe (I’m firmly in the 6%+ camp), here’s what all of us as investors have to decide …

Buy now (or soon) while the going is cheap (particularly, if you think that interest rates will also start to go up soon), or wait because you believe that real-estate is still overpriced.

Be warned: if you wait too long (is that 6 months or 6 years?), the ‘real estate discount party’ might be over!

Buffett's motivations questioned?

Last month, as a reader service, I published one of the most important financial statements made in recent years, but it wasn’t made by the Treasury, the Feds, or even the Banks (!)  …

… it was made by Warren Buffett – to give the average US investor confidence by sharing his personal financial strategies for today’s ‘crisis’ market.

Naturally, there were cynics: isn’t it amazing that people who usually have nothing (like one particular financial journalist) like nothing better than to criticize those who have everything (like one particular multi-billionaire investor)?

It’s the same counter-intuitive, yet all-too-human, failing that sees us buy when the market is high and panic/sell when it is low. Sad … but, true.

Here are some comments by, where “David Weidner penned an article about Warren Buffett” that Motley Fool thinks is “equal parts sad and stupid”; Motley Fool says:

Weidner responded to Buffett’s article by making the following points/accusations:

  • That because Buffett can get better terms than you, his advice does not apply to you.
  • That Buffett wrote the Times article to talk up shares because his recent investments in General Electric (NYSE: GE) and Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) preferred shares were underwater, and he needed to “stir up some buying” to get their prices back up.
  • That the stocks Buffett’s buying for his personal account are irrelevant, since he made his fame with his gains at Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-A) (NYSE: BRK-B).
  • I am not going to report here all the reasons why this is short-sighted bunkum, when Motley Fool have already done such a good job for me 🙂

    Deal or No Deal – Part 2 – Reader Poll

    Gotta love a show that dangles a $1 Million ‘carrot’ in front of people’s noses and all they need to do is make some sensible life choices – on the spot, and in front of millions of people 😉

    Tomorrow Rodriguez (that’s her name … really!) is a sensible girl: married, been in the army, put herself through school, has a Master’s degree in something-or-other (obviously, not math).

    And, she’s made it on to one of those ‘special episodes’ – you know, the ones where they put up 9 suitcases with $1 Million in each of them, rather than the usual single suitcase: that’s 9 chances in 26 … 35% or roughly a 2-to-1 chance of walking away with $1 Million.

    Deal or No Deal?

    OK, but there’s a twist … first you get to pick some suitcases and the ‘Banker’ makes you a take it or leave it offer:

    He’ll give you $43,000 to walk away right now! In fact, that’s exactly what he offered Tomorrow very early on in the show …

    Deal or No Deal?

    You say “No Deal!” (do you?) and pick a few more suitcases … the offer goes up and up, but you keep turning the Banker down, down, down, until the money gets serious.

    Now, more than half the suitcases are gone (and 3 or 4 of the ones with $1 Million in them, as well) but you still have a few ‘million dollar suitcases’ as well as a few lemons left … but, you have chosen well (birthdays, tarot readings, and horoscopes are really working well for you today).

    The Banker offers you $134,000 to walk away, right now!

    Deal or No Deal?

    Of course, you say “No Deal!” (are you sure that you do?) and Howie asks you to pick just two more suitcases … the offer goes up to …

    … the amount in the photo above!

    Deal or No Deal?

    If you haven’t dipped out already, here’s something interesting to note; it may or may not change your mind, but it’s interesting nonetheless:

    There are 6 suitcases left [AJC: one suitcase, also containing ONE MILLION in the bottom right has been cropped in the photo at the top of this post]:

    3 suitcases containing virtually nothing (max. of $400) AND

    3 suitcases containing $1 Million

    So, the odds are exactly 50/50 that’s you’ll pick one of the suitcases that guarantees you $1,000,000 so the banker should offer you $500,000 (give or take a few bucks) …

    … BUT, the Banker’s Offer is only $349,000

    Deal or No Deal?

    Let me know where you stopped … click on one of the options in the poll … if you’re up for it, you can also drop the reason for your vote into the Comments section below … this should be fun!

    In the meantime, do you want to know what Ms Rodriguez did? We’ll talk a little more about that next week 🙂

    Special Announcement!


    I have been working on a project … call it a labor of love (when you find out what it is, you’ll decide that if this is my idea of ‘love’, I need psychiatric treatment) … and, I want you to participate!

    Let me take you back to where this project had it’s genesis:

    In 1998, I was struggling financially and directionally … I had my two break-even businesses, a lovely wife and two babies, but no money and no major prospects: it would take a miracle to get the businesses above break-even.

    Then I came across the concept of the Number.

    A simple idea: your Number is the amount of money that you need to have set aside (by whatever Date you happen to decide upon) so that you can be financially free to [insert goal of choice: retire; play golf professionally; write a book; volunteer abroad; move into the old-people’s home or Florida, which pretty much amounts to the same thing; etc.].

    At the same time, I found my Life’s Purpose: to be constantly traveling mentally, physically, and spiritually …

    … which means nothing to you, but meant everything to me (which is all that counts, right?).

    Understanding my ‘life after work’ dream (in my case, it meant discovering my Life’s Purpose) told me that I needed $5 Million within 5 years. A major wake-up call considering that, at the time, I was $30,000 in debt!

    If you’ve read my $7 Million Dollar Journey you will know that, because I found my Number, I made it.

    I decided that I had to give back, by helping others to understand, find, and achieve their Numbers, as well …

    … so, to help you figure out your own Number (and, Life’s Purpose … if you so desire) I have created a new web-site.

    I have also created a unique home for you on the Internet, a place where you can Share Your Number with like-minded people … hopefully, you will connect with others who can help you on your way, and you may even be instrumental in helping them!

    Take a look at these sites, then join up and Share Your Number … it’s easy, fun, and could be very, very rewarding for those who actively participate.

    As readers of this blog, and ‘charter members’, your membership will always be free. And, tell your friends, they can be charter members, too 🙂

    The only ‘catch’ is that I have not officially launched this site, yet, so you will be the ‘beta testers’ … try it out and let me know what you think using the form, below (just type then ‘submit’):

    When is the right time to own a business?

    I wrote a post about the habits of the rich; it was really just an excuse to show a video interview of the ‘rich v the poor’ by Michael Moore that I thought was quite funny.

    However, my take on this video drew some sharp criticism, so I countered with some comments by Prof. Thomas J. Stanley  (author of The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind) in a later post. To which Jeff said:

    I’m only a couple chapters into the book but my big take away thus far is that being a moral person of high standards who owns and invests in their own business has been a key success factor. This is similar to the tone you take here at 7M7Y and one I’ve seen espoused in other books (e.g. “Get Rich, Stay Rich and Pass It On”).

    Well, my experience is actually a little different to the findings put forth by both books – The Millionaire Next Door and Get Rich, Stay Rich and Pass It On – which, each in a slightly different way, are both attempts to interview wealthy families and ‘codify’ their findings into whatever the authors believe is the ‘true path to riches’.

    As I replied to Jeff:

    Just because that’s how MOST made their money, doesn’t mean that it’s the BEST way to make YOUR money … that’s what we want to talk about here. Of course, the Millionaire Mind does lay down some useful groundwork.

    By the way, the ONLY thing that I found useful about “get rich, stay rich, pass it on” is their Benchmark (even that, I have some disagreement over … for example too much of these millionaires’ net worth is tied up in their personal real estate (home, second/third homes, etc).

    Also, the book’s authors appear to have confused CAUSE with EFFECT:

    Because so many millionaires have made their money in business, their conclusion is that if you are rich in some other way (say CEO, professional, consultant, etc.) and want to pass your wealth on to the next generation you should then buy or start a ‘real’ business … poppycock!

    Now this might sound confusing, because – on the surface – we seem to be saying similar things, as Jeff observed:

    Maybe I’ve misunderstood your philosophy. I read both 7M7Y and 7MIT and have used your methods to try and determine my own number. Through that process I have come to the conclusion that owning your own business is one of the best ways to achieve the necessary compound growth required to achieve my number.

    So, now we get to the crux:

    Making Money 101 : Business = Too Early

    Making Money 201 : Business = Good

    Making Money 301 : Business = Bad

    Firstly, let’s understand why, then I’ll point to some exceptions that I believe actually confirm my rule:

    Owning a Business As A Making Money 101 Strategy

    Many people do, and by default you may find yourself in this situation … but, it’s very high risk: if you are in business AND in debt, with poor financial ‘housekeeping’ then you really are at the mercy of luck and circumstance … a business failure will simply wipe you out.

    Unless you’re planning a very low cost part-time business as a way of helping you supplement your income – for the sole purpose of paying down debt, increasing savings, etc. – then I would recommend that you keep your ‘day job’, and get your financial house in order before plunging into a business of any kind.

    Owning a Business As A Making Money 201 Strategy

    This is all about increasing income and rapidly building up your net Worth … owning a business can be ideal (for some) for both objectives.

    Of course, owning a business is generally well-understood as being a risky undertaking; but, as Jeff points out, the right business can have such a great return that it (a) justifies the risk and, (b) can help you achieve a large Number … relatively soon.

    My advice is that you only undertake such a venture (and, adventure!) if you can stomach the roller-coaster ride that is inevitable.

    What the Millionaire Next Door talks about is actually quite different: it finds that most millionaires are those who have held onto a boring business for a long, long time, tightened their belts quite a bit (cheap houses, cars, suits and liquor), thus building up a fortune very slowly, over a very long period of time …

    … which may or may not suit your Number/Date requirements … or, your temperament!

    Owning a Business As A Making Money 301 Strategy

    This is all about maintaining your pre-retirement income after you stop working, while also maintaining your Net Worth … owning a business can be destructive of both objectives.

    Yet, through comparing families that own great businesses with those that sold out, the authors of Get Rich, Stay Rich, Pass It On erroneously and dangerously conclude:

    1. That you need to KEEP a business in order to maintain your wealth through both your retirement and the next generation/s, and

    2. That if you don’t already have such a business you should go out and find one; and, not any boring, old business of the Millionaire Next Door type, but a high tech / high growth business of the 7 Million 7 Years type!

    That is the surest way to put your hard-earned retirement at risk; because they recommend having 1/3 to 1/2 of your retirement net worth in such a high risk enterprise …

    … haven’t the authors ever heard of ‘business failure rates’, ‘credit crunches’ and ‘tech crashes’ ?!

    So, my strategy is very simple:

    By all means have your high growth / high risk business when you are starting your journey and have time to fail and recover … just in case you aren’t wildly successful the very first time you try 😉

    Then, if the business has ‘matured’ to the point that you are certain that you can leave it ‘safely in the hands of others’ (as I have for one of my businesses) to run for the next 100 years without you … then go ahead.

    But, I would still prefer if you sold it and invested the money elsewhere … and, would certainly ask you to have your head read before you even consider buying / starting a high growth / high risk business in retirement (except as a ‘hobby’ using very small amounts of your own money, as I am doing).

    The exceptions may be if you decided to buy a franchise or two (under employed management … unless living your Life’s Purpose involves you owning/managing such businesses yourself) or a car wash or other more ‘passive’ business purely as a potentially higher-returning ‘semi-passive’ investment, say, as an alternative or adjunct to a real-estate holding – if you happen to fee so inclined.

    That’s the 7 Million 7 Year Strategy … what’s yours?