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There is more than 1 right answer! May 2, 2017

Posted by shaferfinancial in Finance, mutual funds, paradigm shift, Retirement Income.
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I recently pulled out and wore an old t-shirt. It was a t-shirt from an old friend who is now deceased. He was a jeweler who made fine items for folks. The ultra-wealthy from all over the east would come to buy his wares. He was a mountain of a man with huge hands. I was always amazed that those club hands could make such fine jewelry. When he walked the beach he lived on, most people thought he was some biker and stayed away from him. He like it that way.

On the back of the t-shirt is his saying: It’s better to be a well known drunk than an anonymous alcoholic.

You can imagine the looks I got when I took my son to the playground wearing this t-shirt. ūüôā
Anyway it has spent way to much time tucked into my closet and now I just don’t care what looks I get.

But the saying on the t-shirt it speaks to perspective. He lived the life of a rich and somewhat famous person and pretty much did what he wanted to do. While 12 step programs are all about conforming to society’s norms around substance abuse.

Where is this all going? Well most of us conform to the norms of society in our everyday life. We go about our business never really questioning the reality taught to us by those in power. Now I am not saying that we should all go around drinking excessively and doing what we want without regards to others. But I am saying that there are always alternative ways of thinking that are just as valuable as what we have been taught.

I dedicate my life to helping people understand that in the financial world. I am grateful that so many people come to understand what I am teaching them and have found financial success as a result.

As my son is now a freshman in HS, we often have discussions about the world. I find myself having to play “devil’s advocate” with some of his now strongly held beliefs. I hope he will learn from our discussions and not be so quick to buy into what is being told to him whether it is political, financial or the propaganda from the medical system about what is good for him and what is not. I hope he learns to be a critical thinker. He will need to be.

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How Theories can help or hinder your investing. October 18, 2012

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I have been a big critic of efficient market theory, still am. Here is a link to a book review that you might find interesting.

But the most recent theory

of human behavior that has caught my eye is chaos theory.
First described by a meteorologist, it is simply the idea that small, seemingly inconsequential variables, can create huge differences in outcome. Often the idea is explained by the thought that butterfly’s in a meadow in Asia can cause weather patterns over North America to deviate. In science “chaos” is described as underlying interconnectedness that exists in apparently unrelated events.

Moving from a rational theory like efficient market theory to a theory that states you can never totally record the variables that create change is a difficult one for investors. That is why EMT is held on so tightly by many. This scientistic culture that sees the world in terms of analysis, quantification, symmetry and mechanics has really created a prison of the mind or an allusion that we can control outcomes.

Embracing chaos theory is really embracing what we experience of the world. The first allusion that must be dealt a death blow is control. This is where the EMT has really led folks down a wrong path. The thought that by rational explanation one can create an investment strategy that will control risk is a faulty assumption as we got recently reminded. If we give up the thought of controlling all risk with a single investment strategy, then we can open ourselves up to a more creative and ultimately satisfying investment life.

As we see the devastation brought on to individuals retirements by adherence to these rational investment theories that didn’t account for the real risk [it was known] and certainly didn’t see the 2008 melt-down in all asset classes some folks have stepped away from the common strategies in surprising ways.

Unfortunately, many folks are simply ignoring the reality or so emotionally tied to the old ways of thinking that they can’t change. Worse, is the new generation of folks that are being pitched the same old tired ideas like buy term and invest the difference [in mutual funds] or asset allocation theories or buy and hold stocks that have failed. I am shocked when I talk to people who either don’t remember or have pushed 2008 out of their memory. Especially coming on the heels of 2000 tech break down. Did you know that in 2000 the Nasdaq was over 5000 and now resides at 3100+? People forget that in the 1990s tech stocks where all the rage and investing in the Nasdaq considered a no-brainer for indexers.

Truth is that the government and Wall Street have created a perfect storm convincing people to invest in stocks for their retirement. And small seemingly inconsequential variables will to continue to crop up and destroy those folks happiness.

Recently, I had someone tell me about a particular strategy where a relative had received double digit returns for 3 years. He also seem to indicate that double digit returns were a logical expectation. I didn’t ask him if that was 10-12-15 or 20%!

Expect the unexpected is the only rule to investing today. Don’t try to control it, just adjust your strategy assuming it will happen. Look for creative investing strategies even if that means taking on old ideas that were thrown on the dust bin of history by the experts pushing mutual funds, asset allocation, etc.

In the near future I will explore what this all means to me and why I have done the things I have done for my finances.

Design Your Life to Be Exactly How You Want It! March 11, 2008

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Yesterday, my son and I rode downtown from our home to get a couple of items at the grocery store.  My neighborhood is right on Tampa Bay, so we ride through the neighborhood waving at our neighbors and stopping occasionally for a short chat while gazing on the water.  We then go past the Salvador Dali Museum, riding on the back side looking for dolphins in the bay.  Next is a marina with sailboats gently rocking back and forth and then a university.  Finally, past a condominium project and into the Publix parking lot.  The whole way accomplished on sidewalks, a must for the safety of my five year old.  On the way back I think, I could not have planned my life any better!  Then it hit me.  I did plan my life.  When my wife and I bought in our neighborhood, downtown St. Petersburg was not developed in any way like it is now.  There was no grocery store, no ice cream stores, no upscale condominiums.  Truth is, much of that was just starting to be put on the planning board when we bought.  But, we purchased in our neighborhood specifically because it was urban.  We felt all along that we did not want to buy into a suburb or a gated community.  We imagined, even back then, being able to walk/ride downtown to go to restaurants, art galleries, etc.  We felt strongly that if we were able to have children that is the life we would want for them.  And it happened!  Perhaps we got lucky.  But the bottom line is that we took a chance at creating our life exactly how we imagined it and it happened. 

I have taken another chance recently.  I have mentioned before that I have taken advantage of the slowdown in mortgage origination to build a new business.  This business allows me more freedom than ever thanks to modern communication methods.  It also combines my love of teaching with my wealth creation knowledge.  The Shafer Wealth Academy is now officially up and running.  If the idea of having a Wealth Coach is intriguing to you please check out my web site (www.shaferwealthacademy.com).

Helping¬†people build wealth¬†is something I have enjoyed doing immensely.¬† I think this is a step forward in that goal, allowing to more directly impact people’s¬†wealth creation.

Please know I will continue to blog and am very thankful for my readers!

Yours  in Wealth Creation,

David Shafer

True Wealth December 19, 2007

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On the eve of my rollout of the Shafer True Wealth Academy, I thought I would put some thoughts on my blog about what “True Wealth” is about.

First, I need to digress a little.¬†¬† For years I worked as someone’s employee.¬† Sometimes this relationship was good, and sometimes it wasn’t, but the real issue was that I wasn’t particularly happy.¬† For me it was loss of control of my life.¬† My last job, when a client wanted us to work for them, it usually meant travel and overnight stay, many times on short notice.¬†¬†When our son arrived, this situation became a source of unhappiness.¬†

When circumstances dictated a job change, I came to believe that being someone’s¬†employee was not where I wanted to be, so I started Shafer Financial.¬†¬†Since that decision it¬†has been both emotionally and financially up and down, but the bottom line is that I am a happier person¬†because I have control over my time.¬† When my dad died, I was able to grieve and deal with closing down someone’s life without having to worry about a boss’s expectations.¬† When there was a school function for my son, I went.¬† When my wife needed me I was there.¬† I am able to prioritize what is important to me.

That is the core of what “True Wealth” is about.¬† I believe in order for¬†people to have more control over their lives they must start with their financial life.¬†¬†¬†Once control over one’s financial life is established, it¬†works its way outward to all other parts of their lives; their personal relationships, their health, intellectual, and spiritual lives.

In my mind, creating¬†true wealth is dependant on the confidence and security that comes with seeing your net worth increasing year after year.¬† And that is dependant on getting one’s mind around a new way of thinking.¬† Unfortunately,¬†developing a new way of thinking (a new paradigm) is not as simple as reading a book or two or going to a weekend seminar.¬†¬†For me it took several years of reading, thinking, and introspection to start to see that change.¬† Had I had¬†a mentor to help me through this process, I believe it would have happened more purposefully, and ultimately been a quicker process.

The actual techniques used to build net worth are individualistic, and that is also a new concept for many people.¬†¬†Warren Buffet, perhaps the greatest investor ever, Donald Trump, Robert Kiyosaki,¬†all uniformly think that the “save and invest in mutual funds” thought pattern is not likely to create wealth, nor in my opinion¬†create the security needed to be able to move successfully into new paradigm thinking.¬†

The aim is to move our way of thinking into a place that can see opportunity when it comes by, act on it without fear, and end up in a place of control over our lives.  

Hope, everyone¬†has a happy holiday season.¬† My family and I will leave for our condo in New Hampshire soon.¬† There is already good snow up there.¬† You should see the smile on my son’s face, when told of this.¬† He loves to ski and snowboard.

  

Paradigm Shift III December 13, 2007

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How does a banker make money?¬† Well they borrow money from folks who put money into savings accounts and Certificates of Deposit or they borrow money from the government.¬† Then they loan that money out at a higher rate.¬† It is called arbitrage and is the basis for wealth creation for bankers over the last several thousand years.¬† Do banks incur risks?¬† Yes, their main risk is if people don’t pay them back what they owe.¬† Periodically, bankers forget about this risk and the result is disastrous.¬† Like in the 1980’s with the S & L’s lending money to real estate developers who just happen to be their buddies.¬† Or now, lending money to people who have a history of not paying their bills.¬† But the bankers do something else; they require collateral in most cases.¬† So, they reduce their risk this way.¬† They really don’t like to, but if forced they will foreclose and resell an asset to recoup as much of their money as possible.¬†¬† But here is a key.¬† If bankers don’t think they can get their money from the asset, they will work with the borrower to avoid taking a loss.¬† Donald Trump tells the story of owing $100 million dollars and not being able to make his payments.¬† He told a room full of bankers¬†he couldn’t pay them back.¬† What did they do?¬† They restructured his loan.¬† Did they take his yacht from him (yacht was his collateral)?¬† No.¬†¬†Now here is the point.¬† It’s good to have a banker as a partner.¬†¬†When they¬†have a large amount of risk in the deal they will become very good partners, willing to work with you to insure that you become successful.

How do investors make money?  They buy assets.  These assets range from businesses to real estate to bonds.  Quite simply they put money to work for them.  Successful investors can create extreme wealth by infusing young businesses with capital (money).  For example Mitt Romney, Republican presidential candidate, and his company Bain Capital which turned 57 million dollars into 50 billion dollars.  The famous financier JP Morgan, along with being a banker also put together deals turning his bank into an equity investor creating tremendous wealth.

Now both of these ideas have been around for a long time.  Yet, they seemed to be reserved for only a special few.  But the new emerging paradigm is about extending these ideas to a larger percentage of the people.  Now on top of this is the fact the tax laws privilege business owners and investors.   

One of the biggest financial hoaxes is that you can achieve financial peace by being a consumer, either a spender or a saver (who saves so they can consume later in retirement).  Financial peace can only come from becoming an investor, using the arbitrage method of bankers, and using the power of leverage.  Now I know that most people view these ideas as extraordinarily risky.  But the financial truth is that they are far less risky than the risk most folks take every day with their finances. 

Now you might be thinking that you are an investor because you buy mutual funds inside your 401K.  Technically, you are and this is a good thing.  But I argue that becoming an investor is more about your state of mind, the way to see the world, than whether you own a microscopic piece of some corporations.  In short Wall Street has done a great job convincing us that investing in mutual funds is the way to riches (in order to retire), but behind this veil of propaganda is the reality that the only folks getting rich off of mutual funds is Wall Street.  I mean study after study has documented that 99% of mutual funds under perform the market over time (15 years or longer), that stock pickers are routinely beaten by darts thrown at a board (chance), and that you are best off finding a low expense index fund that will mimic the market.  In other words the best you can really hope for is average returns.  Yet, most people think that they can identify (buy) mutual funds that will turn them into automatic millionaires; or at least that is what the financial gurus are selling these days.  The facts tell a different story. Despite having been told to save and invest in mutual funds for a generation, despite having a good amount of folks retiring with a defined benefit retirement plan, despite living through the greatest economic expansion in the history of the world, less than 10% of folks retiring today are self sufficient.  Why?   Because they have the mindset of the consumer paradigm.  They shop.  They get caught up in the minutia of consuming, even to the point of consuming investments/retirement plans. 

These folks who consume investments are perhaps the saddest of the consumer paradigm, thinking they can save enough from their paychecks to retire wealthy by buying mutual funds.  Even the salesmen/financial planners are no longer arguing this is possible.  They now tell you that your goal should be to save enough to replace 60%-80% of your current income.  But of course they still tell you that you can beat the market with mutual funds, some arguing that you can get a return of 12% or more!  Here is another fact that should shock you.  Study after study has indicated that consumers of mutual funds’ total rate of return is approximately 10% below what the market returns! Why?  Because folks think like consumers, selling their mutual funds to change to the hottest funds of yesterday, cashing in their 401K’s to bid them over in times of trouble, and moving out of the market after a large drop in value.

Investors do not chase yesterday‚Äôs good investments.¬† They don‚Äôt panic when their investment dips.¬† Warren Buffet, perhaps the most successful investor ever, sums it up nicely: ‚ÄúYou should invest like a Catholic marries-for life.‚Ä̬† The point that Warren Buffett has made succinctly is that you should do your homework on what you want to invest in, look for true value, and hold on to it for a long time until the fundamentals of the business don‚Äôt make sense anymore.¬† That is what being an investor is really about.

Bankers work a little differently, but ultimately it turns out to be the same viewpoint.  Their arbitrage strategy is based on taking money in at a fixed cost and putting it to work at a higher rate than their cost.  Now in all interest rate environments this works because interest rates move in tandem.  For example, in the early 1980’s bankers were issuing Certificate of Deposits that paid over 14% interest.  However, they were charging for their residential mortgages up to 18%.  Their commercial mortgages were over 25%.  Now you can get at Certificate of Deposit for 5% and a mortgage for 6% so the margin has gone down, but the strategy still applies.  The strategy works as long as no malfeasance occurs as when the Savings and Loans lent money to folks with no track record of commercial success or when some lenders lent money to individuals with bad credit.  But as long as you have accounted for the ability to be paid back on a loan the arbitrage strategy will create value and wealth.  If you don’t believe this, just take a look at any downtown center in the country and note the names on the large buildings.  Bet you they include bank names!

Now paradigm change is a very difficult thing to accomplish.  It takes much intellectual and emotional work.  You don’t accomplish this in a weekend seminar or by reading any single book.  For me, it took years of research, reading, thinking and yes mistakes to fully pull my financial viewpoint to the place it is now.

The question for your consideration is do you want to continue doing what hasn’t worked?  Or, are you ready to move forward in your understanding of financial principals?

Next blog on paradigm shift I will offer a suggestion on how to move forward.

  

Paradigm Shift II December 5, 2007

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You might be asking at this point, what this all means to my financial life?

First, we need to look at why you need to be concerned about this shift to the investor/banker paradigm.  The mortgage industry has suffered from bad press lately.  And it deserves the bad press it gets because consumers have been hurt by bad mortgage advice and Wall Street firms have also been hurt by lax underwriting standards. But the naked truth is that the mortgage industry labors under the assumptions of the consumer paradigm. Remember, the underlying assumptions from the consumer paradigm are competition for a limited amount of wealth, and the need to overcome someone else for the limited resources.  Hence the lenders set up a system that generally guarantees what is best for them is not best for their customers.  And of course the customers react by not trusting, or even worse, hating the mortgage company so much that they do things that are counter-productive to their wealth building.  This is in a nutshell what the consumer paradigm has come to for not just mortgages but for just about everything.

But on the fringes of the mortgage business are folks that have recognized the destruction of this way of doing business and have started to introduce different ways of doing business that break down the destructive cycle. In the finance world I call this the investor/banker paradigm.

The change it engenders for both the folks selling financial services and the folks on the consumer side is incredible.  But first a little explanation as to how to put the general ideas outlined in my first post to work.

There are three intellectual/emotional changes that need to occur:

1. We need to change our understanding of what is¬†financially important from income to net wealth.¬† Let me give you a personal example of how this works.¬† A couple years ago I changed careers.¬† In that particular year I spent more money than I made to the tune of $30,000.¬† Now the old way of thinking is that you should never spend more than you make.¬†¬†There are myriad of folks out there that ask you to track spending and compare it to¬†how much you make.¬† They insist¬†that if you spend more than what comes in you are on the¬†way to financial ruin.¬† From the consumer paradigm this is a fact.¬† However,¬†for me I didn’t care.¬† Why?¬† Because the proper metric to look at is net wealth.¬† Net wealth is the total worth of all your assets minus your debts.¬† In that year my net wealth went up $50,000.¬† Hmm, how could that be?¬† Well, I control some real estate that appreciated.¬† I control some stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that appreciated. So even though my income from work did not cover my expenses, the appreciation of my assets was so much that it drove my net worth up.¬† I will take that kind of year any day over a year that my income and expenses were evenly matched, yet my net wealth stayed the same.¬† Now the funny thing about net wealth is that you¬†have a great deal of control over it, compared to income.¬†¬†Income for most people is controlled by a boss, a company, geographic area, education, career choice, etc.¬† But¬†you can design your assets any way you want to.¬† And this is what creates wealth.¬† From a practical view, you should always know what your net wealth is.¬†¬†This should be a part of your daily regime, calculating net wealth in your head for the day.

2. The mental image of ownership should be replaced by control.¬† You don’t own your home,car,truck, etc. the bank does!¬† How many times have you heard that?¬† That is the consumer paradigm speaking loudly.¬† Are you in competition with¬†your mortgage lender over your home? With the bank for your car?¬† Some people think so.¬† The reality is you control your home, your car, or any other item that someone loaned you money¬†in order to purchase.¬† The lender doesn’t want it.¬† It is a royal pain for them to get it back.¬† They are in the business of¬†selling money, not in selling distressed homes, or repossessed cars.¬† The truth is that the¬†bankers of the world are your greatest asset, not your enemy (not that they think this way).¬† They make it possible to control assets without having the money to buy them outright.¬† By controlling assets you¬†get the benefit if they appreciate.¬† You get the benefit of using them.¬† And you share the risk of this control with the lenders.¬† Personally, I care less whether I own assets, because I only want to control them so I can benefit from their¬†appreciation and cash flow.¬† Now here is¬†where the hard emotional work gets done.¬†¬†The consumer paradigm has infused us with fear.¬† We fear losing things that we own.¬† But it is only things.¬† What makes a home?¬† Is it the brick, wood, cement, dry wall, and paint?¬† Or is it the people that live in the home?¬†¬†I believe it is the people that make a home.¬† If a hurricane came and wiped out¬†the structure I live in, I could easily find another one.¬† And it would become my home because my family would be there.¬† My job would be to replace an asset that I controlled.¬† It could be anywhere.¬† Fear of losing¬†THINGS we own is what keeps most people from obtaining happiness and security.

3.¬†Victimization and scarcity¬†are the keystones of the consumer paradigm.¬† Currently there is much talk of mortgage companies who victimized consumers by putting them into bad loans.¬† People are¬†going to lose their homes because of these¬†sub-prime or variable rate or interest-only or option arm loans.¬† Earlier in the decade it was all those folks who got victimized by financial advisors who had their money in the stock market.¬† Every few years it is a new set of victims.¬† No discussion of¬†why these “victims” knowingly entered into these mortgages.¬† Nor is there any discussion of¬†who and what was really lost.¬† These “victims” are portrayed, somewhat accurately, as passive actors in life.¬† Bad things happen TO them.¬† They are blown by the winds of¬†society to and fro.¬† This can only happen to folks working under the consumer paradigm.¬† Folks who have move beyond this are not victims because they understand there is no scarcity.¬† Human beings all have the capacity to act upon things, to control our destiny, to create wealth.¬† There is abundance out there for anyone to obtain.¬† Move beyond victimization and scarcity and you begin to see it, understand it, and make it possible.

Next blog post I will drill down to the core of the investor/banker paradigm.   

Paradigm Shift; Consumer v. Investor/Banker December 3, 2007

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I make it a habit to read extensively about a host of subjects.¬† Currently, there is a major shift in human understanding of subjects¬†ranging from science, spirituality, finance, politics, to social relationships.¬† This paradigm shift is going on right under our noses, mostly unnoticed, and mostly uncommented on by the mass media.¬† For those that like to hang out at book stores, you have definitely noticed it.¬† Just walk the aisles of any subject in any bookstore; you will come across titles talking about this amazing change.¬† Want proof of this happening?¬† Up until last year General Motors, was insisting that American consumers would never base their car buying decisions on gas mileage.¬† Now, they are marketing their “green” cars.¬† Whether their cars are actually “green” or not is irrelevant to the fact that they are now telling us that American consumers want good gas mileage and lower polluting cars by the way they are marketing.¬† Now this paradigm shift has been in the works for a while, at least since the first hybrid car was introduced, but GM (and many of you) didn’t notice this shift until recently.¬†http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luopS-xmQYI

I have decided to spend some blog time talking about¬†the paradigm shift going on in the finance world.¬† This is the first of a series of posts to address this issue.For the better part of the19th and¬†20th Centuries citizens of the western world¬†were taught to become consumers.¬† This was a major change from what had existed before, self reliance.¬† No longer did we¬†build our own homes, make our own soap, kill/grow our own food.¬† With the advent of credit, we disconnected our purchases from our cash reserves.¬† Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that¬†credit did not drive¬†the success of our capitalistic system, which we all benefited from.¬† So that evil (according to the bible) of credit did much to benefit our society, but it also played into developing our consumer mindset.This consumer paradigm, or way of thinking, developed two sides; the saver mentality and the¬†purchaser mentality.¬† Now most people think that there is some moral superiority to being a saver rather than a purchaser, but it is really just two sides of the same coin.¬† One side, the saver, is able to put off into the future their consumerism, while the other side, the purchaser is incurring the cost of immediate gratification.¬† No doubt, one is better off in the long run by being a saver over a purchaser, but both labor under a dying way of thinking.The emerging paradigm is the investor/banker paradigm.¬† This paradigm was brought to the attention of millions most recently with the Kiyosaki, Rich Dad, Poor Dad series, but it has been emerging for quite a long time. ¬†Now there has been some critique on the veracity of Kiyoski‚Äôs original book, but it is really irrelevant to the message it articulates.¬† The¬†message in this and many other books is one of moving from a consumer paradigm to an investor/banker paradigm.¬† Now, this is important to understand.¬† We are¬†changing our way of thinking as a society whether you¬†personally change or not.¬† Like General Motors, you can deny what is happening for a good amount of time, but eventually you will have to change your way of being to match the new reality.What¬†does this investor/banker way of thinking¬†require of us?¬† Simply we will need to understand our lives and¬†our goals in fundamentally different ways.¬† This can only happen through an educational/emotional process.¬†

Let me outline what this process might entail.

Here are some of the mindsets that enable the consumer way of being:

1. The conscious or unconscious belief that money and material wealth is our primary directive;

2. The conscious or unconscious belief that we exist in a zero sum game, that our success is predicated on overcoming someone or something else;

3. The conscious or unconscious belief that material things have intrinsic value;

4. The conscious or unconscious belief that there is a limited supply of wealth that must be competed for; and

5. The conscious or unconscious belief that time and money have a direct relationship.

Compare this to the ideas that animate the investor/banker way of thinking.

1. Happiness for us, our family, and our community, is the primary directive;

2. Success is predicated on positive relationships with others;

3. Only people have intrinsic value;

4. There is unlimited opportunity and prosperity available for all; and

5. Time and money have only indirect relationships.

Now the truth is that many of us will deny that we engage in the consumer mindset.  But if we really are truthful with ourselves then we will recognize how deeply we are beholden to the consumer way of thinking.  The investor/banking way of thinking should not sound foreign to us.  That is because these ideas have been around for a long time, but we only give lip service to them.  Our job is to do the academic/emotional work of engaging these ideas and making them work on an unconscious level, just as the consumer ideas do for us currently.

The next post will delve into the why’s and how’s of moving to this new paradigm.¬†