I recently met with my financial advisor to “rebalance” my … retirement portfolio. Based on my “age and stage of life” his allocation model showed a 50% bond allocation. I laughed and asked him if the company allocation model assumed interest rates would rise over the next 10 years? His answer was “yes- of course.” I showed him the graph below which shows lower than average TOTAL returns in a rising interest rate environment and he checked his long-term data and found that bond holders between 1953 and 1980 had actually lost money. We all know that as interest rates rise, bond values decline and thus the total return can be small or negative. Not to mention that a 10-year treasury at 1.5% is below expected inflation and thus a NEGATIVE REAL RETURN. He agreed that a bond allocation did not make much sense, but since my investor profile was conservative what was the alternative?
Mark Hanson of MHanson Advisors, researchers and strategists focused on North American and Australian real estate and finance markets, has a very good piece out questioning the recent calls of a housing bottom. His research shows that 20-30 million current homeowners (half the market) either cannot sell and net enough for a downpayment on another house or could not qualify for a new mortgage if they did have a downpayment.
He also charts that out in relation to the over all supply:
Here’s Mark’s breakout of the zombies:
1) “Effective” Negative Equity – 25 million borrowers / houses. These borrowers are dead to the housing market, as they don’t have the equity to pay a Realtor 6% to sell and put 20% down on a new house. They were once the most active participants, the repeat buyers. Now they are “zombie homeowners”.
Bill ‘The Bond King’ Gross, founder of PIMCO says that the long run of stocks outperforming the overall economy is done and that the only policy option left for the ‘advanced’ economies in the world is inflating their way out of debt. Since Inflation = Higher Interest Rates and rising rates reduces the value of existing bonds issued at lower (currently near zero) rates, they don’t look to good as a long term investment either. See his letter here PIMCO Investment Outlook
So what’s a saver or investor to do, especially those nearing or at retirement? Chase yields in emerging market bonds? Who would you trust for information about those issues? Have those economies really decoupled from the US and Europe? Where could you find a decent stream of income with inflation protection build in and appreciation potential on top of that?
Apartment building investments. As we’ve laid out previously apartment owners can benefit from even small increases in rents, have demographics and social trends on their side and new supply has been quite limited over the last decade (see here, here and here for the details). Does the prospect of high single digit current income with inflation protection and even appreciation potential warm your retirement spreadsheet?
In this example, raising rents $25 or about 3% increases the value and owner’s equity $190,000 or almost 12% plus the income goes up more than 9%. That is the power of apartment building investment. Notice that in this example that the building is nearly full, if we were to buy a building that had more vacancies we could have paid a lower price based on the lower Net Operating Income and we would have the opportunity to create even more value by improving the management to bring in more renters. That is why we like apartments.
When I talk about investing in apartments I am not talking about being in the landlord business, I am talking about being in the property owning business and one of the expenses we gladly pay is for professional property management. We’re not in the tenants, toilets and trash business; we hire the pros to handle that and our job is to manage the managers…. And reap the rewards. Find out how we invest in apartments and how you can too by contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local and regional banks are working hard to fund ‘small’ apartment building investments in their local markets. Small loans in the $1-3 million dollar range are the ‘sweet spot’ for these lenders and investors looking for loans in the $3-5 million range are finding even more choices. For loans under $1 million the market is still pretty fragmented with lenders there averaging only five loans of that size.
“Banks are trying to create more aggressive lending programs in the small-balance multifamily financing space.”
Apartment building investments are a top choice according to Gary Shilling, one of the world’s foremost economic forecasters, a long-time Forbes columnist, publisher of Insight Newsletter with his editor Fred Rossi, and author of “The Age of Deleveraging,” (http://amzn.to/L9hm7W on Amazon) the perfect playbook for America’s new Age of Austerity.
Rental apartments. A huge inventory still overhangs the housing market as prices continue falling. The American dream of homeownership may be history. Renting is the affordable option. And with REIT prices running high, “direct ownership of rental apartments may still be attractive.”
See the whole post for more ideas for investing in these turbulent times.
A WSJ article on the flubbed Facebook IPO article linked by Barry Ritholtz on the TBP blog had this quote: “Since the flash crash [ in May 2010], $370 billion has been withdrawn from U.S. stock funds by small investors, according to EPFR.”
THE past couple of years have left many people staring in disbelief at the returns on their individual retirement accounts. Consider last year, when the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index finished the year essentially where it started.
So it makes sense that people are looking for ways to earn more for retirement — or to make up for losses. Yet when I heard that an increasing number of people were moving money from traditional I.R.A.’s to self-directed I.R.A.’s that focused on real estate, I was skeptical that this was a good idea.
First, I wondered, how could this be done with retirement money? Was it even legal? And were people who had worked and saved money for their retirement really putting it into real estate so soon after the bubble burst?
Could you really have a conservative investment in your IRA today that earns 6, 7, 8% or higher? That’s legal? Yes you can, here’s the secret that your Wall St. broker and banker don’t want you to know: You can open a Self-directed IRA. That is an IRA account set up with an independent Custodian who makes the investments you direct it to (clever name huh?) instead of steering you into the products that earn them the biggest commissions and bonuses.