Minimal risk, big reward.

Screen shot 2013-01-16 at Jan 16, 2013, 11.56.18 PM
I was chatting with a close friend a few days ago about the housing market. Big surprise right? We know what the median household income is in Seattle ($66,000), and we also know the median sales price of a home in Seattle right now is $380,000. What we don’t know is how the crap people can afford a $380,000 mortgage on a $66,000 annual income! There are only a few logical conclusions…

1. They inherited the property

2. They received a financial windfall

3. They are house poor. 

4. They are risk takers.

If they inherited the property, or received a financial windfall, good for them.

If they are house poor, I can’t say I’m jealous of them. Nothing about living paycheck to paycheck appeals to me. I would never want to be in a position where I have to sacrifice traveling, eating out, or skiing just so I can make a mortgage payment. No thank you.

But what about the people who are just willing to take a risk?

Debt has a pretty bad rap. Heck, I even named my blog Punch Debt In The Face because I think it’s so dumb. But reality is, debt can be a powerful tool for building wealth; like when one takes out a line of credit to start a business, or when someone finances a rental property.

Sure it’s risky. If the business fails, or the real estate market crumbles, you could lose everything. But how bad is that really? It’s not like you have to worry about going to jail. Maybe you get sent to collections and settle your debt for less than you owe, maybe you walk away from your house and get foreclosed on. Maybe you have to consider filing bankruptcy. While none of these things are particularly enjoyable, they are solutions.

Maybe I’m too conservative for my own good?

I mean, if we bought a $500,000 house in 2012 we’d have about 15% equity in the thing based on recent market appreciation. That’s a $75,000 gain in less than two years!!!

What did I do?

Oh that’s right. I decided to keep saving money so we could easily afford a 20% down payment on a house priced $150,000 under what we were qualified to borrow. At last check, my savings account earned a paltry 0.75%. 

Do you see what I’m saying friends? It seems to me that the risk/reward comparison of using debt to leverage one’s financial position often favors reward. Think about it.

We buy a $500,000 house and sell it a year later for a $50,000 profit (after commissions). Or we buy a $500,000 house, watch the markets tank, and walk away from the property and let the bank deal with it (Washington is a non-recourse state). The system is set up to protect one against their own stupid decisions, so much so, that these stupid decisions are no longer necessarily stupid.

Interest rates are low, and house prices are still lower than pre-bubble days. Why not use the depressed market, and government bailouts (quantitative easing), as an opportunity to make some extra dough?

Oh that’s right, because I’m a wuss.

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at Jan 17, 2013, 12.02.52 AM

Being conservative might not make me rich, but I guess it beats the possibility of being poor?

No easy way around extra paychecks

For those of us that get paid every two weeks, we face a battle of epic proportions. Managing a budget is no easy task, especially when all months AREN’T created equal. Ten months a year we might bring home $4,000, but two months of the year we bring home $6,000. Why must such cruel things exist!?

Although an extra paycheck is definitely a good problem to have, there is no denying it adds a little hiccup to the budgeting process. Us “three paycheckers” really only have two options…

  1. We can mentally break up the two extra paychecks. Say for example you take home $2K every two weeks. Instead of budgeting your expenses around $4,000/month, you can pretend you make $4,333/month (since that is your average monthly income over the course of a year). In my opinion this method sucks. It takes a lot of work, discipline, and patience. It also causes you to spend money you don’t necessarily have yet. My first third paycheck month doesn’t come until March each year, so by this rule, I’d be spending money in January and February that I have not yet received. It would be like spending your tax return before you actually got it. Sure, you know it’s coming, but it’s best you wait for it to get deposited in to your bank account.
  2. I like to pretend the extra paycheck is a bonus. If you take home $2,000 every two weeks, I recommend you budget your expenses around a $4k per month income. When March and August roll around, you suddenly get an extra $2,000. Two thousand dollars that does not have a budgeted purpose. You can spend it on a vacation, a unicorn, or even be responsible and open a Roth IRA. Booyah for unicorns and responsibility!

If you haven’t noticed…it’s almos August, which means I’ll be getting an extra paycheck next month. Perhaps I will buy a few thousand McChickens from McDonalds, maybe I’ll give this extra paycheck to one of my lucky readers, but most likely I will be boring and throw it in the good ol’ savings account. Totally un-sexy… I know.

I know I’m not the only person that gets paid every two weeks. How do you manage? What works best for you!?

Markets at an all time high? Jump in.

I’ve been doing a lot of blogging lately about real estate and the stock market. The last two years have been insane for both markets. Epic and unsustainable are some of the adjectives that come to mind for the recent  gains.

The general consensus amongst PF nerds is that one should strive to buy low and sell high. Today, I’ll make the argument that one should Buy low AND Buy high.

One of the Seattle Real Estate blogs I read repeatedly says this is a terrible time to buy a house in Seattle because of the recent market appreciation. This bothers me for a few reasons: 

A house is a home first, an investment second.

I have to pay to live somewhere, right? Real estate is one of the only investments I can think of that satisfies a basic human need, shelter. Even if my house lost all of its monetary value, it still provides ME value. If your WaMu stock loses all of its monetary value, you have nothing.

As long as you can afford it. Who cares how much it costs. 

Just cause the market went up doesn’t mean your budget should. If you find a house that you like – in your price point – you should not refrain from buying it just because it was $20,000 less last year. Milk was also cheaper in 1995, so are you not going to pick that up at the grocery store next time you run out? Which leads me to my next point…

Buying high is a good thing.

I mean, that’s they way the stock and real estate markets works right? They should both be setting new highs every day. Okay well maybe not every day, but over the long haul the trend is supposed to be (and always has been) up. Why do we act scared or surprised when the Dow sets a new record?

THAT’S WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO DO!!!!

I get that one might argue the importance of buying low and selling high when it comes to short-term investments. But who the crap buys a house with the intentions of selling it two years later? That’s stupid, or at least speculative at best. Two years from now the housing market may be down, but I bet you a billion dollars twenty years from now the market is up. I don’t really care if my house is worth $300,000 or $320,000 today, when it is going to be worth $700,000+ thirty years from now. Sure, it would be nice to time the market, unfortunately no one can do that without taking a gamble.

Moral of the story kids: The market being at all time highs should be reassuring that the market is performing as expected.

Financial summary in 140 characters

If you don’t have a Twitter account then you can’t follow me on twitter. And if you aren’t following me on twitter, you’re super lame.

The thing that makes Twitter so interesting is you have to communicate an entire thought using no more than 140 characters. Sometimes this is easy, for example,

“Cats are the worst thing to ever happen to society.”

Other times it can be quite difficult.

Let’s make things a little interesting and try to communicate our entire financial history via a 140 character (or less) sentence. Here’s mine….

$28,000 student loan debt. Punched Sallie Mae in the face. Saved hard. Bought a house. Baby on the way.

See that was easy wasn’t it!!! Alright I have to get off this iPad before Girl Ninja starts beating me (she’s been known to be abusive :)).