Make money when you buy!

There’s an old saying that you may have heard. It’s used particularly in relation to real-estate, but it can be applied to many forms of investment. It’s:

You make money when you buy, not sell.

One of my new readers asked me to explain what it means:

Could you expend on this statement a little or maybe you have some related blogs about this on your site? “…buy at the right price you make money when you BUY not when you sell.”

I don’t think I’ve ever written explicitly about this age-old investment adage, because it’s almost a tautologogy …

… after all, an investment is something that you should never need to sell!

To me, a true investment is something that generates ongoing income. So why would you ever sell it?

Any ‘asset’ that you buy, specifically to sell to (hopefully!) generate a profit, is in reality a SPECULATION, not a true investment.

Business makes these kinds of speculations all the time: buying trading stock (or labor) with the expectation [read: hope] of selling it at a sufficient price to generate a healthy profit.

Businesses take a calculated risk in doing so, hoping that the potential profits justify the risk, but …

90% of business owners are wrong!

They say that 9 out of 10 businesses fail within their first 5 to 10 years. They fail for lots of reasons, but one of the main ones is that these simply cannot make enough money when they sell due to competitive pressures, new products, outdated manufacturing techniques, low volumes, etc., etc.

As investors, we cannot afford to make the same mistake, otherwise we are just gamblers – gambling that: red will hit more times than black; we will roll a natural 7; AAPL stock will go long this month; Las Vegas house prices will continue to climb.

On the other hand, as true investors, we have to buy well, then hold on for the long run.

It is the income from our investments that makes us rich (by funding our dream lifestyle), not the amount that we could sell the investment for.

How about you? Are you an investor or gambler? Do you see the difference?

Installing an ATM in your business …

I met a small business owner a few weeks ago …

He was a smart young guy [AJC: aren’t they all?] who was setting up his own Internet design studio, building Internet-based software projects for other business owners.

His business is essentially a professional service business, and my advice to him was pretty much the same as I give to all professional service business owners (consultants, accountants, attorneys, doctors, etc.):

Except in rare circumstances, you don’t have a business, you have a high-paying job … with perks!

[AJC: the perks are around the tax benefits that attribute to business owners but not to paid employees; ask an accountant for examples.]

Most of these kinds of businesses don’t scale very well i.e. they can’t grow very large; they rely on the owners’ personal exertion (sometimes called ‘partners’); and, either can’t be sold, or can only be sold for small multiples of annual profit or turnover.

In short: you can’t rely on selling these businesses to fund your retirement.

But, what they do generally provide is income …

Because they are professional services, the owners are able to sell their own labor – and, those of their employees – at high multiples, usually generating excellent recurring revenue.

And, because they often take years of hard work and relationship building over many, many clients they can be quite “bullet-proof” (if well managed) in terms of providing that income reliably.

This was certainly the case for the young guy that I met.

Even though his agency was still quite young/small, it was already generating a nice income and showing signs of growing well.

My advice for him was to grow his personal income very slowly (this is advice that I would give to any business owner), and to pull as much money out of the business as possible (this is not advice that I would give to other business owners) …

… my advice was to treat the business as his personal ATM

[AJC: but not to the detriment of the business, or his partners, employees, clients, backers, etc.]

But, my advice was not to spend that ATM-cash on personal lifestyle building (homes, cars, vacations, etc.), but on passive investments.

I recommended that he use that cashflow to fund an aggressive investment portfolio, outside of his business: one that would one day grow to replace his personal income as generated by the business.

When the day comes that his passive income surpasses his personal business income, he becomes free.

What would you advise?

Are wealthy people more unethical?

It’s nice to see science magazines writing about money 🙂

This time , it’s trying to find a link between wealth and (a lack of) ethics.

This is not a new notion, just check out Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” and it’s offshoot – and my favorite cartoon character – Scrooge McDuck and you need look no further.

But, I think that these scientists – and authors and cartoonists – miss the point:

You do not have to be unethical to make money …

… and, I think that it actually harms your chances as people often can spot unethical tendencies and will take that (correctly) as a sign that they cannot trust you.

However, if the study is correct, I think one explanation may simply be that wealthy people have been exposed to more opportunities to make the “should I be ethical or unethical in this situation?” decision.

More exposure simply means more unethical behavior evidenced.

For example, working on a production line may not produce wealth …

… but, it also may not produce many opportunities to take unethical action during the 8 hours a day that you are at work.

[AJC: although, you may have plenty of opportunity to indulge in unethical behavior after hours if that is your bent]

However, being in business or running around making real-estate investments may give you plenty of extra opportunities to (a) become wealthy and (b) exhibit unethical behavior both during and after hours, thereby giving you twice the exposure to both potential outcomes.

So, I think it is a case of increased exposure rather than cause and effect …

What do you think? Do you need to be unethical to make money? If so, is that a ‘cost’ you are willing to carry?

Another reader question …

Eddy asks:

I am 21 years old living in Los Angeles CA. I dropped out of [college] after 2 years of studying because of lack of stimulation. I’ve had a job since I was 15 and have been in sales since I was 18. I currently work as an account manager at an IT outsourcing company. Oh, and I forgot to mention one small detail, I am also $40,000 in college debt.
My only plan right now is to gain enough experience and a set of skills in sales to make six-figures. After that I will begin investing. I know its to early to doubt myself, but I am constantly reminding myself where I am and where I am going to make sure I am on the right path.
My question is this, am I on the right path? A lot of my colleagues do a great job reminding me about the glass ceiling above me because I don’t have a college degree. Also, once I start making six-figures, how do I learn how to invest?

I told Eddy that I don’t/can’t give personal financial advice (laws aside, I simply don’t know enough about him … or any other reader).

BUT, I can make some general observations about the e-mailed question:

To succeed in life requires tenacity … and, to make any sort of large Number (e.g. $7 million) in any sort of soon Date (e.g. 7 years) requires super tenacity; if it didn’t, everybody would be rich!

More on this a little later …

Eddy’s second problem seems to be his unwillingness to even begin investing until his income reaches the “6 figures”.

But, it’s important that Eddy begins investing NOW.

[AJC: if you haven’t already done so, Eddy, please read this post]

If Eddy does, one day, it may not even matter that he didn’t complete college 😉

Back to Eddy’s first problem …

The first thing that I look for in anybody who tells me that they wish to succeed financially is “show me evidence of your ability to follow through”.

With this e-mail, I see a couple of red warning flags:

The first one is, what sort of return on investment is there in a $40k college loan for a college degree not completed?

I’m guessing none … after all, you don’t need two years of college to work from age 15, nor to get most typical 18 y.o.-level “sales” jobs. So, by not completing college, Eddy seems to be $40k worse off than anybody else entering the same sales job at the same age!


A reader question …

A reader asks:

… [I have] a question on your Blogpost “Advice for a new Multimillionaire” you stated something that grabbed me “Wealthy people spend capital. What they should be spending is income.”
My question is this… when you were first starting out how did you determine how much of your income to turn into capital and at what point did you decide to change that ratio.

This is an excellent question because it ties into the common notion of “paying yourself first” i.e. putting aside a set portion of your income into debt reduction and/or savings.

For a very long time, I didn’t save anything …

Then I discovered my Life’s Purpose (a very expensive one at that!) and realized that I would need to make $5 million in 5 years [AJC: I overachieved, although it took me a little longer than hoped, hence the title of this blog].

That made me rethink everything in my financial life, including starting to save.

So, I pumped as much as I could spare into buying mainly real-estate and a little in stocks and other investments … and, as my income increased, I pumped almost all of that increase into more investments.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have much of a strategy at that time beyond “save as much as I can”.

Now, I recommend that (if you are still earning income) you should pay yourself twice.