Step 90: Investing in Gold and Commodities

Step 90 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Investing in Gold and Commodities
Step 90: Investing in Gold and Commodities

In the previous step we looked at how investing in Real Estate can be an interesting addition to your portfolio in order to spread your risk more and generate another new income field. In this step we will look at another way to diversify your investment portfolio which is through commodities and gold.

Investing in commodities

Commodities (or natural resources) are important for the stock market in two ways: firstly many companies rely on commodities. If you have any Coca Cola shares then of course sugar prices at some point affect Coca Cola profit and therefore share and dividend prices. For any shares you might have in big retail or fashion stores wool prices will affect these share prices at some point in the chain and many other companies might rely on such commodities as oil, copper, grains and aluminum.

Apart from their importance to the companies that trade on the market, commodities play another part on the market as they too can be invested in directly, just like shares and bonds!

There are generally two commodity classes:

  • Soft commodities – cocoa, wool, cotton, wheat, rice, coffee etc. These prices can fluctuate a lot, especially when a shortage exists (think about a bad harvest for grains, rice, potatoes or coffee for example and how this can drive up prices). Apart from the weather, also a growing population as well as people’s eating patterns effect these prices.
  • Metals – zinc, aluminum, copper. Prices are less volatile as their time takes much longer: a new mine takes much longer  to open and operate. It’s easier to predict how prices are affected, also if new technologies such as microchips are developed that require more or different metals.

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Step 89: Investing in Real Estate

Step 89 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: Investing in Real Estate
Step 89 of the 100 Steps Mission: Investing in Real Estate

We’ve looked at investing in the stock market in detail and how stocks and bonds offer the opportunity to create and maintain wealth over time (but remember that investing in the market always has the risk of losing a lot of your money too…). In order to spread risk when investing in the market, creating a balanced portfolio is generally the recommended way to go, in which your money is divided over many different companies, industries and markets and investing opportunities.

Whereas many investors have big chunks of their money (if not all) invested in a mix of bonds and shares, there are also other investment options to consider in addition to stocks and bonds that offer an extra diversification to your portfolio. In this step we’ll discuss one common alternative or addition: real estate, whereas the next step looks at investing in gold (and precious metals) as well as commodities to complement investment portfolios.

Investing in Real Estate

We have of course already discussed the option of buying another property and renting it out to a tenant as a way to invest your money in order to generate an additional income stream as well as the possibility of a capital gain on the estate itself in the long-term. This is one way of investing in real estate, but there are other market options to invest in real estate, including:

  • REITs – Real Estate Investment Trusts – similar to a mutual fund, REITs trade on the market. A trust pools together investors’ money in order to purchase real estate and rent it out to generate income. The advantage of REITs is that they must pay out a big chuck of their profits as dividend in order to keep their status as a REIT, meaning that returns can be very interesting. You of course don’t own the property but own a part (like a share) in the trusts’ property portfolio. Like stocks and bonds you can sell your part to other investors and REITs go up and  down in price similar to the rest of the market.
  • Real Estate Investment Group – This option is ideal if you want to actually own another property to rent out but don’t want to deal with the hassle that comes with it: finding tenants, collecting rent, dealing with maintenance issues etc. As an investor in a real estate investment group you buy one or more units or flats of a bigger apartment complex owned by an investing company. By buying a unit, you become part of the Real Estate Investment Group and become the owner of the flat, but the investing company will deal with all the day-to-day issues and operating of the units on a collective basis. They will take a part of the rent you generate so you still profit from renting out your property, but you have very little to do with the day-to-day operating.
  • Real estate trading – Also known as Flipping, this is a practice in which somebody buys a property, hold it for just a short amount of time, usually only a few months and then sell it again at a higher price. This is especially effective if one is able to buy a property in a hot spot or if one acquires a building that is highly undervalued and therefore a bargain to buy and then sell again. This is a different way of investing in real estate and contrary to capital gains over a long period of time, real estate trading is focused on capital gains made in just a few months. Bear in mind that taxes on short-term capital gains can be significantly higher though.

Investing in real estate can be housing, but can also include other types of real estate such as commercial property (think about offices and factories) as well as old age pensioner’s homes for which demands are increasing all the time due to aging populations.

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Step 88: Annuities

Step 88 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Annuities
Step 88: Annuities

Let’s look at one more pension option before we round off the pension series: Annuities. Sounds like something complex (and they certainly can be when they want to be!) but this step will break down their characteristics and benefits, as well as some of their disadvantages.

What are annuities?

Annuities are a financial product somewhere between an insurance and an investment option. Like any insurance, you buy annuities – in this case it insures you against living too long. Yes, you read that right. Whereas a life insurance insures against dying too early, an annuity insures you against living too long. An annuity provides a set monthly income that you get for the rest of your life after a certain age. If you are fearful that you might outlive your pension, i.e. that you might withdraw too much from your investment and / or pension fund and end up without any money at some point in your retirement, an annuity is a good solution as it gives you a guaranteed monthly income.

How do annuities work?

There are many different types of annuities with many different characteristics. First of you normally buy an annuity from an insurance company, pension provider or broker who then reinvests your money. It very much works like a mutual fund and the company you buy the annuity from will add in a profit margin of course so your money won’t grow very much over time due to the fees you pay. You can buy an annuity with all of your pension savings just before you retire or you can buy several smaller annuities over time. Annuities differ in the way that they are set up and some of the key variables include: Continue reading

Step 87: Play the What If.. game

Step 87 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: Play the What If... Game
Step 87: Play the What If… Game

Being prepared for adverse financial situations is an important step to take on your way to financial freedom. Without wanting to sound demotivating (or even morbid), the “what if..” game forces you to think of unwanted but possible situations that might happen and that would set you back on your journey to financial freedom and in some cases would have far bigger consequences than just the financial effects.

We’ve already established the importance of an emergency fund for those times you have a big unexpected one-off expense you need to pay and you should also be well on your way to getting together a 3-6 month living fund in case you (or your partner) lose your main source of income and need to make ends meet until you find another job or income.

Whereas the emergency and living funds prepare you to financially deal with the consequences of a financial setback quickly and efficiently, the “what if…” game prepares you psychologically for any behavioural changes you might need to make to adjust to smaller or bigger changes in your life that might require you to adapt on a longer term.

So let’s get playing… Continue reading

Step 86: The 8 Stages of Financial Independence

Step 86 of the 100 Steps Mission to Financial Independence: The 8 Stages of Financial Independence
Step 86: The 8 Stages of Financial Independence

As with many things in life, if you start looking behind the simplicity of a concept there is more than just a black and white division, a yes or no, a fail or succeed. Even with financial independence the reality is that you aren’t just financially independent or not… Indeed there are many different financial phases that one can reach along the way.

Below are the 8 most commonly identified stages, starting with financial dependence going all the way up to and then well past financial independence. Continue reading

Step 85: Plan your Money Allocation Strategy

Step 85 of the 100 steps mission to Financial Independence: Plan your Money Allocation Strategy
Step 85: Plan your Money Allocation Strategy

A difficult question that many people on their mission to financial independence quickly encounter is “where they should get their money to work for them”: You’ve managed to cut down a little on your expenses, or to up your income or earnings from a side hustle. But the question as to what to do with the extra money you now have remains. Let’s review some of the avenues on how to “make money with your money” that we have looked at on this mission:

  • Paying off debt – saves you money on interest and compounded interested paid over the years.
  • Saving – generates money due to interest received and the power of compounding interest over the years.
  • Investing – generates money due to capital gains, interest received or dividends.
  • Pensions – builds up the income you’ll receive after your retirement age
  • Personal capital – increases your earning potential as a professional or entrepreneur.

These are the most common strategies to pursue in order to leverage what your money can do for you.

But where to start? Say you saved $100 this month and that you are happy to invest this money into your future and future earnings, where do you actually put this money? Which of the above options do you choose? And how do you mix these strategies?

If you haven’t yet fully read the previous steps on the above mentioned strategies, I invite you to read those first before continuing reading this step, to better understand all the pros and cons of each strategy. Just come back once you’re done!

Money allocation

The question of where to allocate your money doesn’t have to imply an “either …or…” situation. You can start investing whilst still having a mortgage. You’ll want to save an emergency fund together whilst still paying off credit card debt. And once you start investing in your personal capital, you’ll likely want to keep that up on a fairly regular basis and the fact that you are investing in the market doesn’t rule out this option. Continue reading

Step 84: Find a Mentor

Step 84 of the 100 steps mission to financial independence: find a mentor
Step 84 of the 100 steps mission: Find a Mentor

Once you get further down your mission to financial independence, finding yourself a good, trustworthy and inspirational mentor can be absolutely key to your success on this mission. Especially if your aspirations go beyond “getting more control over my finances” and if you have indeed set yourself the target to get somewhere between stages 4 and 8 of the 8 stages of financial independence, you might find that without a mentor it will often feel like treading water.

Note that a mentor is very different to a financial advisor: the latter you pay whereas the first one you don’t. An advisor is also more a person to give you practical advice whereas a mentor can be more inspirational, somebody who keeps you going even when the going gets rough.

The advantages of having a mentor

A mentor can help you in a myriad of ways, including some of the following: Continue reading