In the late 1990’s it was difficult to picture the major stock market averages staying down for a full year. We saw 20-30% gains each year in the price of stocks from 1996-1999. However, in the post technology bubble and 9/11 era we’ve seen some important changes in the world economy. In light of this, investors need to do more than throw a dart at the stock market and expect to make money. You must think logically about where money is flowing and what businesses will thrive in their sectors. Fortunately, I’ve done most of this research for you and am willing to share it. What I’ve found in many cases are alternative investments which can potentially outperform your traditional stock and bond investment or at least improve your diversification and round out your portfolio. Here are some of my ideas:
REIT’s – You may have heard chatter about this type of investment at some point. It stands for Real Estate Investment Trust. This is a great way to invest in real estate without the headache of actually buying and selling property. Granted, better opportunities for making money may exist if you purchase real property, but there are a string of other problems that come along with that- namely liquidity. People like to have access to their money and have it working for them at the same time. REIT’s may provide this opportunity. When you buy into a REIT you are taking a small fraction of ownership in a portfolio of properties. Some REIT’s invest in shopping centers, others in apartment complexes, golf courses, or even vacant land. You can pick and choose the type of real estate you are investing yourself in based on your preferences and risk tolerance. One key feature of investing in REIT’s is annual dividends. Because of regulation and their corporate structure, REIT’s are required to pay out at least 90% of their taxable earnings in the form of dividends to investors. You can often get 6% or more dividends annually (depending on the type of REIT you invest in) on top of having your shares appreciate in value. REIT shares have outperformed all the major stock market indexes, on average, for the past four years. Most investors don’t understand that owning real property is different from owning shares in a public corporation. There are tangible assets behind these investment trusts and often times their breakup value (if you actually sold off all of the property) will be worth more than the “market price” of the REIT. The best part is, you can buy these in your IRA and have the dividends and share price grow tax-deferred!
Invest in Gold – Because of the difficulty in buying actual bricks of gold to store your money, several “gold trusts” which invest primarily in bars of gold, precious metals, and mining companies have recently been introduced. They allow investors to easily invest in gold in a setting which allows the investment to track the price of gold. Gold has remained one of the best inflation hedges in history, buying a nearly identical basket of goods both 50 years ago and today. The stock prices of gold mining companies can do better than the actual bullion, because the companies are leveraged: A rising gold price turns into pure profit for the mining companies. They can sell their product at higher prices without incurring higher costs. Investors like gold shares because many of them pay dividends, while simply owning gold bullion or coins involves storage costs, and the foregoing of interest on your investment dollars.
Start Focusing More on your Retirement Fund – Are you fully acquainted with what your company is offering in the way of a retirement plan? Even if you’re self-employed, you have a bunch of great options in terms of tax-deferred investing. If you don’t have an IRA and are within the income limits to open one, you should. If you run a small business and have questions regarding cash management and how to set-up a group IRA or 401k plan, ask me. Don’t pay tax on investments when you don’t have to. Further, you may find it more fun to throw some post-tax dollars from your checking account into an E-trade account and dabble in stocks. This is not a good idea if you’re not maxing out your IRA, 403(b) or 401(k). This is especially true if your firm offers an incentive such as “matching contributions” which you aren’t taking advantage of. These are the accounts you’ll have when you are grayer and looking for tax-deferred cash. Don’t worry so much about your dabbling in stock market. There will be time for that when you have extra liquid assets to invest.
Pay Down Expensive Debts – You won’t always hear me tell you to pay down debts before putting away some of your money towards investments. I’m a firm believer that you should always pay yourself first before paying your creditors. I would probably be among the last people to start paying down debts rather than invest my money, but the big question is your risk tolerance and how much the debt bothers you. A good example is your fixed mortgage. If you have a mortgage at 7% and the stock market has returned 2.5% for the year, you’re actual opportunity cost of investing is negative 9.5%. You should be paying down that mortgage instead! Take a few thousands dollars and check off the box on your mortgage statement which asks if you’ve included additional money to pay off principal. It will be one less month that you have to write out that big check that includes your 7% annual interest. You can do the same thing for student loan interest (if you have old student loans) but these are generally such low interest rates that it makes more sense to keep your money
For more information on alternatives to traditional stock and bond investments, feel free to e-mail me.
Premier Financial Advisors, Inc
14 E 60th Street, #402
New York, NY 10022
P: 212-752-4343 *31
Securities and certain investment advisory services offered through: First Allied Securities, Inc., a registered Broker/Dealer. Member: FINRA/SIPC. Premier Financial Advisors, Inc. is a Registered Investment Advisor. First Allied Securities & Premier Financial Advisors are not affiliated entities.