How to guarantee a higher return on real-estate …

About 10 years ago, my wife’s two nephews came to visit their “Uncle Adrian” to discuss potential investments.

They had decided to buy two apartments (in the USA, called ‘condominiums’) together – I advised them to buy one each, but they decided to go 50/50 on one, then another one a short while later.

I remember being quite proud of them, because they were both still in their early-to-mid-twenties at the time and were already investing in real-estate rather than taking the easy options of either not investing at all or speculating on stocks.

My wife’s nephews have since each married, and they each have two children under the age of 5 …

… and, they still own the two condo’s together.

I was taking one of my grand-nieces [AJC: makes me seem VERY old; I’m 53, which is only SLIGHTLY old] swimming this morning, and we got to discussing how the apartments are going.

My nephew-in-law said: “we’ve made a profit, but I don’t think they’ve been a very good investment”

Let’s examine this in a bit more detail, because I think it explains my last post quite well …

He (and, his brother) bought 2 apartments for about $200k each about 10 years ago; they are now worth about $400k each (they were worth as much as $500k each about 12 months ago, but prices have pulled back from their peak).

The apartments are still generating a small loss on a monthly income v costs basis, but he’s comfortable with a small level of negative gearing … and, he has an interest-only loan, so has not paid off ANY principal in the ~10 years that he’s owned 50% of each apartment.

He has calculated his return as about 7% (before tax) compounded, which I feel is pretty good but he feels that “opportunity costs” are such that he could have done a little better, elsewhere.

All in all, it doesn’t sound impressive …

… to him.

To me, the return is outstanding and explains what my last post is all about!

You see, I asked him how much (a) his loan is, and (b) how much cash he has put in so far (since the property has been making a small loss each month for 10 years).

He says that he put in a 25% initial deposit (interest-only loan), and has put (including the deposit), about $100k in cash (before tax costs/benefits).

This is how I think it breaks down (these numbers are now approximate):

– Property purchased for $200,000 (let’s assume this includes closing costs) with a 25% (i.e. $50k) deposit.

– Loan is interest only, so still stands at $150,000

– Total cash put in to date is $100,000 (made up of the $50k deposit plus another ~$50k negative-gearing losses over 10 years)

Now, let’s look at the analysis:

Cost to my Nephew-in-law:

1. $50k deposit

2. $50k losses

Profit if property sold today:

3. Property is worth $400k

4. Property purchased for $200k

5. Loan to pay off is $150k

Total Return:

6. Cash OUT is: 1. + 2. = $100k

7. Cash IN is: 3. – 5. = $250k

[AJC: notice that the price that he paid for the property doesn’t even figure – directly – into the equation; all that matters is what he owns (current value) less what he owes (current loan + the cash he puts in)]

This is no different to putting $100k in the bank (or some other investment) and getting $250k back after 10 years.

Using a compound growth rate calculator, this is  a 9.5% annual compound return, not 7% as first thought!

You see, he was making the common mistake of thinking that the apartment ‘only’ doubled in value in 10 years (from $200k to $400k, which is a still amazing 7% return in today’s depressed investment climate).

But, you simply need to look at how much cash you put in, against how much cash you get back out when you eventually sell (or, you can still do this calculation on the likely selling price, if you want to keep the investment) to find your real return …

… i.e. the less cash you put in, the greater the return.

It’s usually as simple as that!


How to ruin your return by paying off principal …

A while ago, I did a three-part ‘anatomy of a commercial real-estate deal’

Drew wanted to know:

You mentioned 63k income that you can spend, but I don’t see you including principle payments. Wouldn’t that cut into your cash flow?

You’ll need to go back and read the three-part article, but this question goes to the heart of whether to pay off your mortgage, and is somewhat the same argument whether you want to do this on an investment property or even your own home.

It boils down to return:

The building that I was looking at buying would have generated $255k in rents – $192k in expenses (including $130k bank interest) = $63k net ‘profit’ p.a.

Paying down principal doesn’t change that dramatically: it does lower my interest expense, which should increase my net profit, hence my return …

… in $$$ terms.

But, when you do the math, it can lower the % return  that I am getting on my money.

Aldo says:

Continuing with the comment from the previous reader, can you elaborate a bit more on why principal payments would not affect this deal? On the previous article you mentioned going for a 7yr financing or so, which will represent about 250-300k of additional capital you need to put each year. After the first year you would have invested 700 + principal (let’s say 250k) = 950k. The 63k you make then will become a 6.6% return on your own money… Then down to 5% the next year… And so on…

Aldo has forgotten to allow for the reduction in interest expense as my equity increases (and, the bank’s loan decreases), but he points to the % return on my overall investment decreasing …

… whereas, an investor should generally be looking to increase their % returns.

In simple terms: if I can buy a $100k property with 20% down (i.e. $20k), when I find (e.g. by saving) another $20k, am I financially better off:

1. Putting it into this property to pay it off quicker?

2. Putting it into my home mortgage to pay my home off quicker?

3. Putting it into another $100k property that I can buy with 20% down?

In order of decreasing return, it’s generally 3. then 2. then 1.

I know which I would rather do. How about you?



How to start with next to nothing in cash and build up from there?

Ken H asks:

I am just starting my journey to the concept of making money when you buy. Can I get more examples of what can be bought to use this concept? Where do I learn a strategy that I can start with next to nothing in cash and build up?

Great question, Ken!

The short answer is that you need a source of cashflow.

The long answer:

A high-paying job is ideal (but, only if you invest 30% to 50% of it after tax) …

… if not a high-paying job, then a second source of income.

I like the idea of starting an online business ‘on the side’ and reinvesting 100% of the profits (a) back into the business to help it grow and, whatever’s left over, (b) in income-producing investments.

The ideal investments, of course, are ones where you can get a silent partner to put up 75% – 90% of the money required. That way you can get more investments quicker.

Also, when the bank puts in 80% of the funds required to fund a real-estate acquisition, and it goes up in price by 20%, you have just doubled your money (less the bank’s interest).

And, the best ‘silent partner’ that I know is The Bank. But, the investments that The Bank likes the most – hence, they will lend by far the most on these – is good old-fashioned real-estate.

So, I would reinvest as much of my savings as possible into real-estate, and then wait 10 to 20 years (unless my business grows really fast, in which case I might wait 5 to 10 years.

Sure beats ‘working for The Man‘ for 40+ years, doesn’t it?

Why sell property?

Richard sent me an e-mail [ajc AT 7million7years DOT com] asking:

I have read through most of your past posts. 2 questions come to my mind. Hope you can clarify.

1) You always tag a 30% return for real estate. If one puts 20% down on a prop and add in all the closing costs, capital up front will be like 25%. Assuming a 6% capital appreciation like you like to use, I don’t see how you can come out with 30% return on capital. My assumption is that we breakeven on cash flows. I did the calculation a while back and I think 15% is about the max.

2) I read that you have sold off your commercial properties and are looking to get back in. Why do you sell it of if real estate investing is for the long term? Can’t you refinance to tap into the equity and use it for other investments? Why do you want to “time” the market? Transaction costs are heavy in RE.

Let’s deal with the first part of the questions first: 30% is a very hard ask for any traditional investment, let alone real-estate. But, it can be done … if you’re a highly geared and successful [read: lucky] property developer.

More typical maximum investment returns can be seen in the following table:

By putting Franchises into this table – which many would consider more business than investment (but, I treat as an investment IF you can be an absentee-owner and acquire multiple franchises under the franchisor’s rules) I guess that I’m framing that you need to do a lot more than simply buy your own home and pay off your own mortgage to get these kinds of returns.

Real-Estate sits in the middle of this part of the growth table and, I agree with Richard, is probably closer to the 15% compound growth rate end than 30%.

But, the key question is: how does this kind of growth occur?

It occurs because of leverage:

1. Financial leverage – You can use the bank’s money  to gain a ‘free additional compound return’. Here’s how it might work:

You put 20% (or $20k) down on a house that costs $100,000 (ignoring closing costs for the sale of simplicity).

IF property only increased by 6% per annum, as Richard suggests (it’s actually a historical, US-wide growth rate quoted by a number of analysts in the past), and mortgage rates are around 4%, then the house will increase in value by $6k, but your mortgage will cost you $4k (actually, only 80% of that, since you put in $20k cash). Fortunately, this is a rental, so let’s say that you earn another $4k (4%) in rent.

Your total return is $6k, which doesn’t sound like a lot for a $100k asset (but DOES sound like Richard’s 6%), but you forgot one thing: you didn’t put in $100k … you only put in $20k, which you have just grown to $26k (in some mix of cash and/or equity) which is an ‘easy’ 30% return.

Now, you may not have picked this up, but who said that you needed to put down 20%? If the bank, fair enough …

… but, what if the bank allowed you to go with 10% (or, $10,000) down? Then your return almost doubles.

Even so, because real-estate is rarely cash-flow positive in the early years and appreciation isn’t always all that you expect, you need to add other kinds of leverage.

Here are some examples:

2. Knowledge leverage: If 6% is the average increase in home values across the entire country, do you think that you may be able to do better with a little research? For example, could you choose an urban area rather than a rural area (urban areas typically grow faster than average, and rural areas grow less)? Could you choose an upcoming neighborhood to invest in (one with lots of new families moving in, rather than one with an aging population where people are moving out)? Could you choose a high-demand location (one near a beach, near a park, near transport, near schools, near a mall, and so on) rather than one near factories and warehouses?

3. Value-added leverage: Could you take the least-loved house in the street and add value by: adding a bedroom? Painting the house? Cleaning up the garden? Upgrading the kitchen and bathrooms?

4. Opportunity leverage: could you find a house that nobody wants and buy it at a discount before it even comes onto the market? Could you find a poorly managed rental and be a little more hands-on in terms of looking after the property and tenants in order to increase rents over time?

Any ONE of these factors could positively influence your compound growth rate well over the averages. Combining as many of these factors as possible could positively hit your real-estate returns our of the ball-park.

As to the second part of Richard’s question, he is quite correct: buying real-estate and holding for the long-term is usually the right strategy.

However, circumstances may arise where that strategy does not make sense: e.g. I owned my office building, but once the business was bought and the tenants (my former company) moved out, I didn’t want to hold the commercial property while I was overseas and look for tenants.

In hindsight, I should have kept it.

How to structure a real-estate partnership?

MoneyRunner asks:

A friend and I are in the process of writing an operating agreement for an LLC and I’ve got a question for you. We have raised capital for the down payment on an apartment building. I have raised $15,000 ($10,000 my own and $5,000 from family) while my friend has raised $25,000 (all from family). We both have a 50% ownership in the LLC. Once we start to produce income, is it fair to distribute funds according to initial capital invested? Is it even possible to do 50/50?

Firstly, I don’t like buying long-term assets in partnership … times change … longer times change even more 😉

For example, to help a friend out (really!) my wife talked me into buying a half share in a downtown property. In ordinary circumstances it would have been a great, long-term hold.

However, two brothers-in-law had gone into partnership to acquire it and some years later one of the brothers-in-law wanted OUT. The problem was, the other B-in-L couldn’t afford to buy him out, and didn’t want to sell.

These sorts of decisions break up families … and was threatening to do exactly that to this family. Our friend, the third brother-in-law (and the only one of the three NOT involved in the deal) asked us to help out by buying out the one B-in-L who wanted to sell.

And, that’s what we did: bought 50% of a building that we know that we can never sell without causing the same situation to erupt again. My wife talked me into in … that’s my only excuse 😉

But, if you still DO want to go into partnership, here’s what I suggested to MoneyRunner:

All is fair and possible in business and investing … as long as you both agree!
You will most likely need a shareholder’s agreement drawn up by your attorney, if the equity and/or profits are not to be split equally.
However, a simple way to deal with your situation is:
1. Both put in $15k as capital (it makes no difference HOW or WHERE you each got the money).
2. Let your friend put in the extra $10k as a loan.
3. Agree a rate of interest (say, mortgage rate plus x% e.g. if the current mortgage interest rate that you are paying on the property is 6%, your friend might get 10% for his $10k).
4. Split the equity and remaining profits (i.e. rent MINUS mortgage + interest owing to friend + expenses) 50/50
Here’s why you will still need a shareholders agreement:
– Rules as to how/if/when your friend’s loan is to be repaid,
– Rules as to who can force a sale of the property and how you deal with each other’s share in the property in the event of a dispute.

However, there are other ways to enter a ‘partnership’ that stop all of these issues:

My first real-estate purchase was with a friend of mine who found a new condo development in foreclosure; the bank was selling off the individual condos. My friend thought that we would get a better deal if we bought two condos together.

… and, we did!

We negotiated a price of $55k for each condo.

How did we deal with the partnership issue? Simple!

We each bought one codo in our own names. Then, when I stupidly decided to sell (I was still young and reckless, and this was my first ever real-estate purchase), I didn’t need to ask him. I sold it for just over $75k about 2 years later [AJC: But, it would be worth closer to $500k now, 25 years later] … not a bad deal, and no stress on our ‘partnership’.


A formula for investing in real-estate …

People are always looking for “magic formulas” to get rich. Even I’ve had a go at sharing mine

But, when it comes to real-estate, the formula is simple: buy/hold/reinvest.

That means:

1. Buy positive cashflow ‘20% down’ real-estate in an area that can appreciate

2. Hold on to it until it does appreciate

3. Refinance using the extra equity plus any accumulated rental profits to create your next deposit

4. Goto 1.

Here is a guy who has a very conservative (and, sensible I might add) real-estate investing strategy [AJC: for those who take the trouble to read the whole post, they will find the ‘magic formula’ they are looking for]:

I went from zero to more than one hundred units between 1977 and the early eighties by seeking tired rental property owners with free and clear buildings who were willing to finance the sales.

The early eighties was a financial climate not too unlike that today in there was really no mainstream lending occurring. It was the savings and loan crisis, Jimmy Carter and 18%+ FHA mortgages.

At the time I paid a bit more than the properties were “worth” in cash. But I operated with a buy and hold strategy so the properties became free and clear off the rents while providing me an above average income. We still own almost every property we purchased in the past 33 years.

In the early 2000’s every kid entering the business had Excel spreadsheets with estimated returns that would have them richer than Bill Gates in a decade. Every waiter, barber and auto mechanic you ran into was on their way to be the next Donald Trump or so it seemed.

Even buddies of mine called me a “dirt farmer” because I wasn’t taking advantage of easy lending and apparent ever expanding market, rather I stuck with the hard work of landlording. But the prices were unsustainable compared to rent. So I kept with what I knew worked and withdrew from buying. Between 2002 and 2010 I bought just three properties, two of which were commercial units for our own businesses. I’m still here and they all went belly up.

Usually you can’t go wrong if you are headed in the opposite direction of the majority. So that means today, with everyone shunning real estate it is probably a good time to buy, just as it was in 1982.

This year I reentered the market , but only on limited basis as there are some good deals, but for the most part the market still is in somewhat of a free fall.

My math in the beginning, which remains so today is: Assuming that you financed the whole purchase at 12% for 15 years, even if you paid cash, the property had to net $100 per month per unit after all expenses including at least $100/unit/month for maintenance. Did I get every deal? No, but why own if ownership will not help you reach a financial goal.

[AJC: 12% is very conservative; if you used 8% in the USA and 10% in Australia you would still have plenty of margin for error; remember, this guy was investing in an era with 18%+ interest rates]

It may not be ‘get rich quick’, but it is sensible 🙂

Asset rich, cash poor …

Philip Brewer makes an interesting observation – a correct one – that land is only worth the income that it can produce.

The argument is that if you live in a house, the equity that it produces (by increases in market value) is imaginary, because you have to live somewhere and all land is equally increased in value.

Yet, I still suggest that you should buy a house!

My reasoning is simply insurance: if all else fails, your 401k and the equity in your house can help to fund your retirement … or, earlier, fund your comeback from a failed venture etc. etc.

Again, my reasoning is simple: you can release equity in your house by down-sizing (moving into a smaller, cheaper home), cross-sizing (moving into a cheaper neighborhood), or simply borrowing against your equity (remember the good old HELOC?).

However, the general principle of ‘asset rich, cash poor’ still applies …

My grandmother was an immigrant after the war: from rich beginnings in Europe, she emigrated to Australia with her husband and teenage daughter, virtually penniless.

Yet, she and my grandfather managed to build up a property portfolio worth many millions of dollars.

The problem is that the properties – whilst in prime, downtown areas – gradually became run-down and weren’t bringing in enough income. She became the classic ‘asset rich, cash poor’ person always struggling to pay her tax bills.

My wife’s mother was the same, although in a different financial class: her only asset was her house, her only income her meager pension, yet she refused to sell or refinance the house and lived a virtual pauper.

Ironically, dividing the house into three when she passed on was not really life-changing for any of her three daughters, so it was a financial sacrifice IMHO not worth making … she should have taken a reverse mortgage; even $10k would have made a dramatic difference in her own life, especially since she was too proud to take handouts.

In both cases, Philip’s “house [or asset] rich, cash poor” certainly holds true.

But, it need not be so …

Philip points to times long passed by, where “land was wealth because it produced income–crops, grazing, timber, game, etc.  If the land didn’t produce an income, it wouldn’t be considered especially valuable”.

Nowadays, this is simply called ‘rental real-estate’.

If you buy land/real-estate, you no longer need to till the soil yourself to generate an income, you can be the middle man who ‘introduces’ the land to the person (nowadays, usually a business) who is willing to till the land and pay your fee – called ‘rent’.

You still run risks:

1. Related to the land: repairs and maintenance, depreciation, floods, fire, vandalism, and so on, and

2. Related to the business: If the business goes under, you will be left with an empty building.

But, these risks are one step removed from the ‘feast or famine’ risks of land ownership such as for a farmer, that Philip talks about: “it was possible to ruin the income from your land through poor management or bad luck.  That was how you found yourself land rich but cash poor.”

These days, as a landlord, you can manage these risks through good selection and management of tenants, provisions (i.e. put aside money for a rainy day to cover vacancies, repairs and maintenance, depreciation, etc.), and insurance (e.g. agains floods, fire, public liability and malicious damage).

If you buy right, add value, manage your real-estate investments well, and allow some time for your investments to ‘mature’ a little (i.e. your loans to be paid down a little, and rents to go up a little) there’s no reason why you can’t be both asset rich and cash rich.

I’m speaking from personal experience 😉

The classic argument against real-estate …

Wisebread publishes an article by Antar Salim (an MBA who teaches business at the Rasmussen College School of Business, MN) that mounts the classic argument against investing in residential real-estate:

Depending on your sources, the average home price in the U.S. at the beginning of the millennium was approximately $160,000. Today, that same home will sell for approximately $200,000. If we explore the change in home prices, the average home increased by $40,000, or 25% over the decade. If you do the math — considering present value, future value, and time — this equates to a 2.2% compound increase year over year. Congratulations, we’re now in the positive rates of return.

Just one moment. We haven’t considered the rate of inflation, which we know historically is greater than 2.2%. Not only that, we haven’t taken into account that it cost us approximately 5% to 6% a year to borrow the money to purchase the home.

Granted, we all have to have a roof over our head, and I’m not suggesting that real estate is a bad investment, but it is my personal opinion that if your home is your best and biggest investment, then you may be in trouble.

Now, I agree with Antar’s last point: if your home is your best and biggest investment, then you are in trouble.

Regardless, here are the basic errors in Antar’s thinking:

1. Let’s say that the 2.2% compound growth rate will hold true for the next decade; this is an across the entire country average. Can you think of some areas that will grow faster than others? Look at your own town: can you name some suburbs that you can be pretty sure will grow faster than average, and others that will do worse? Of course you can.

2. Are you going to invest the entire $200k required for the house or are you going to borrow 80% from the bank? You are going to invest just $40k and make more than 25% profit on the entire property; that’s $50k+ back (less closing costs) on your $40k investment! Over 10 years, that smells more like a 7++% compounded return to me.

3. You are going to pay 5% to 6% (less 20% for the portion of the house NOT financed i.e. your deposit) of that return to the bank in mortgage interest.

4. You are going to claim tax deductions on the mortgage interest.

5. Here’s an investment that makes money by saving you money … because you don’t have to spend on rent elsewhere!

Not only is this such a good deal for you, even taking into account that 2.2% is a really crappy ‘look ahead’ estimate for housing over the next 10 years, that you should not just do it once …

… you should do it (at least) twice, making the second one a true rental (and, if it’s new, you may even be able to claim some additional depreciation allowances on your purchase).

Time to go back to (business) school 😉

A great retirement plan executed badly …

I have a good friend who had a successful business; while not exactly a retirement plan (as he still had the business), it would work as one:

He would buy a commercial property (e.g. office or warehouse) in a good near-downtown area, refurbish as necessary and put in place good tenants.

The next year he would buy another.

And, for the next three years after that he would buy another … until he had 5 such quality properties (purchase price around $1 million each).

Then he would do something pretty neat: he would sell the first (i.e. 5 year old property), taking about $1 million out to buy another property worth $1 million, and use the excess capital appreciation to fund his lifestyle.

Nice … except it didn’t make sense.

Because he was simply trading down one property (bought for $1 million 5 years ago so, hopefully, worth a little more now) for another (worth $1 million today), incurring all sorts of changeover costs and possibly even capital gains (unless he could qualify for a tax-free exchange).

He did this until I pointed out the obvious; I said: “Instead of selling one to buy another, why don’t you simply refinance the oldest property each year to release the capital appreciation, tax free?”


And, that’s what he did from then on …

People often come up with great, innovative ways to do things … but, it doesn’t mean that they’re the right way.

For example, in our former family finance company, my Dad used to give our clients a check for the full face value of their loan, and ask for a check back to cover our up-front commission.

His reasoning was that we would have the commission money in our hand and earn extra interest on it. Neat, until I pointed out that it was exactly the same as giving the client the net amount (i.e. face value of loan MINUS our commission): One check. Sensible.

Needless to say, that’s exactly what we did from then on.

Always evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing it, even if you are successful … you may be leaving (a lot) of money on the table.

BTW: I’m wondering if you picked it? There seems to be another flaw in the retirement plan executed by my friend and promoted my many a financial spruiker that I have listened to …

These real-estate investment ‘gurus’ say: “Buy lots of real-estate and when you retire you will have a LOT of equity available to fund your own retirement … simply take out a loan against this property every time that you need more money. Because it’s a loan and not income, you pay NO INCOME TAX on it, so it’s worth more to you than taking the money as rent; and, the excess rents will cover the mortgage payments. Of course, because it’s an investment loan, it’s tax deductible.”

Now, there’s so  many things wrong with this strategy that I wouldn’t even know where to start (how about vacancies, as one example?), yet I have been to at least half a dozen seminars where this exact strategy and tax-effectiveness argument was put forth.

However, I take issue with the last statement:

Just because a loan is taken out on an investment property, does NOT necessarily make it tax deductible.

In many countries, the real test is “what’s the PURPOSE of the money that you are borrowing?”

If it’s to refurbish the property to increase rents (hence, so that you can pay the IRS more tax … you win, they win!), more power to you!

But, in this case, it’s not to derive more investment income … it’s so that you can go out and have a good time!

Q: Why would a government want to subsidize your personal spending habits?

A: They probably wouldn’t!

Find a good tax advisor before implementing this strategy … oh, and take what you hear from financial spruikers with a kilo-grain of salt 😉

Suffer any bad beats lately?

I have to admit that it’s very exciting seeing my two real-estate development projects coming to fruition [AJC: this is the architect’s rendition of just one of my two condo projects … click on the image to enlarge it … go ahead … do it … I’ll love you for it].

I’ll get back to that in a sec’ …

… first, let me tell you about a conversation that I just had with a friend, while we were playing poker today:

FRIEND: Do you find any parallels between business and poker?

AJC: It’s uncanny, but yes I do … and, it’s caused me to totally rethink the way that I think about money

Well, not so much ‘totally rethink’ as remind me about some important Making Money 301 lessons that I seem to have forgotten …

…. but, I keep getting side-tracked; back to the poker:

Case in point: I had quickly tripled my starting stack in a cash game but, just as quickly lost it on a series of bad beats; bad calls (by them, not me); and bad luck.

When you’re running hot, you feel invincible.

When you’re running cold, nothing that you do turns out right.

… and, your poker bankroll quickly slips away.

Well, it’s pretty much the same thing in business and personal finance:

Your investments and/or businesses are ‘on fire’ … the market’s running hot, and – if you’re smart – you cash out at the peak, building up quite a bankroll.

Maybe you even reach your Number.

What should you do then? STOP and smell the roses!

But, the trouble is, greed and the adrenalin kicks in … you believe that you’ve got the Midas Touch. And, you push for the next project.

… and, that’s the one that gets you.

You know, market downturn, bad luck, bad advisers, etc., etc. sob, sob, sob.

Which is, perhaps, why Ill Liquidity asked me:

I don’t get it. You make a tidy sum and retire from the rat race, paying yourself a salary… why go forth and try new money making ventures?

Given my own ‘stop and smell the roses’ advice in that regard, I agree, it’s hard to understand. Sometimes, it’s even hard for me to understand 😉

So, let me take a stab at explaining it; the story so far:

I made my $7 million in 7 years (mainly through reinvesting the profits of my businesses into buy/hold real-estate), and then made a heap more (by selling those businesses just before the 2008 crash), but ….

… then the crash hit, and here’s where my money went:

1. $1.5 million cash into my house in the US (you know I can’t sell that, right?)

2. $5 million cash into my house in Australia

3. 25% of what I sold the businesses for in taxes [AJC: sheesh!]

4. Lost 100% of my $3 million bonus on company stock price crash + taxes paid on the full $3 million [AJC: double sheesh! … but, it’s nice to know that I have a heap of capital gains tax credits to use for the rest of my life]

5. Gave my accountant $1 million to invest in the Aussie stock market for me … he promptly lost 75% in about 6 weeks. My fault for trying to time the market, not his 🙁

Don’t feel too sorry for me: when others try to get to sleep by counting sheep, I count millions!

My problem is this:

All of this bad luck and bad management has left me with assets – not including my $5 million primary residence – that I consider just enough to live my Life’s Purpose.

But, I am an über-pessimist and I really want a large margin for error.

Now, in my rational moments, I realize that my house provides me that i.e. as soon as the kids move out, in approx. 10 to 15 years, we will sell down into a, say, $2 million apartment, which would free up another $3 million (all in today’s dollars, but the price differential should still hold true).

But, even that’s not good enough for me.

So the question that I am wresting with – and, have decided to put off answering until I have building permits for both projects in my hands:

Will I take my own advice and sell both development sites (with permits) for a tidy profit (if all goes well), or will I pull the trigger and dump most of my net worth into these developments to get the Really Big Bucks?

Only time will tell … but, you will be amongst the first to know 🙂

In the meantime, have you suffered any ‘bad beats’ lately?