It’s the yield, stupid!

habit-saving-moneyWhen it comes to building retirement wealth, you must keep your eye on the ball. What does that mean? Simply put, your goal is having the biggest after-tax cash flow when you reach retirement. Cash flow now, 25 years before potential retirement, is foolish. If you take a step that results in MORE cash flow today but produces LESS cash flow in retirement, then it was the wrong step.

Something to look at is the yield you currently receive. In essence, at any given time, you have a pile of cash. Your pile of cash should be earning some degree of cash. The rate it earns is the YIELD. If you have $100,000 and it nets you $5000 a year, you have a yield of 5%. We can discuss lots of different assets and their various yields. Real estate, CDs, mutual funds, bonds, stocks, whatever. Bottom line: your cash needs to be put to work. And the higher yield the better.

Duh! That part is obvious. What is more subtle is that you need to always look at all money coming in as cash flows. You may have a daytime job, which is one cash flow. But you may also have real estate properties generating cash. Your stocks may generate dividends and distributions. But at the end of the day, you need to know what your total yield. And then you need to be willing to investigate options that can increase your yield.

At that point, it becomes easy to evaluate whether or not debt will help or hinder your growth of wealth. When real estate can generate 5% growth and you leverage it 4-to-1, you dial things up to 25%. Borrowing money at 4.5% becomes a no brainer. The remaining hurdle is hedging the inherent risk that higher yields produce. One of the biggest ways to immunize yourself from real estate risk includes:

  • Having a big bag of cash sitting at the bank. How much? Think about 100% vacancy for a year.
  • Buying top quality property. This draws top quality tenants. It costs more but reduces the risk of renting to non-payers that must be evicted.
  • Renting in a landlord-friendly state. Hot tip: I don’t own rentals in California, and won’t in the foreseeable future.
  • Become a macroeconomic investor. Invest where the big indicators show a good rent-to-cost ratio (like Texas).

And never, ever, ever pass up opportunities to sell one asset if you find another that shows a consistent, sustainably higher yield. Because the higher the yield, the fast you can put that cash flow towards buying MORE quality assets to generate cash.

Good luck.

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