Friday, July 13, 2018

Hey! Where should I invest?

I often get a question:

"Hey, I'd like to invest in .... 
plug in any town or city you are wondering about - Toronto, Milton, Hamilton, Windsor, Oshawa, Montreal, Ottawa, Rochester, Buffalo, etc... - 

... what do you think?"




To be honest, in most cases, I think absolutely nothing. I'd really have to do some homework and educate myself about the market before I can answer such a question.

Sometimes, I have a gutt feeling. Especially, when I've had some previous experience in a certain city. Still markets are so fluent and I'd need to look up latest stats and information, in order to provide an educated opinion.

I'd like to share a few questions that I research, whenever I'm getting ready to expand into  a new location.

If you have questions or would like to share your own tips on how to choose a great location to invest in, please add a comment below or send me an email!

1. Do People Want to Live There?

Ideally, population should be 100,000 - 200,000. If it's smaller, you'd really need to study the demand and supply carefully and make sure you know who your tenants are and how you'll find, attract, and keep them. You’ll also need to verify current inventory. Last week, I came across a city that had 26,000 vacant units while the total number of households is around 85,000 and has been declining. This tells me that supply drastically exceeds the demand and I’d have issues filling in units. Prices will not go up for a while in this market. 

There should be evidence and factual proof of recent and upcoming population growth. There are many great cities that, for one reason or another, have experienced population decline. Study latest trends in detail, before deciding to invest in them.

For example, if you come across a town that has been losing people over the past 50 years, I wouldn't bet on a sudden popularity spike. Watch out when you see outward migration, job loss, crime rate increase, poverty climbing up, vacancy rates sky-rocketing, lots of unused or abandoned inventory, etc. All these signs show you that you will likely have difficulty finding quality tenants. 

On the other hand, if you see population decline slowing down, flattening out, and notice people  starting to flood back in, you are onto something! Projected population spike might be a potential gold mine. If you start investing at the right time and get your property at a price that works, you might catch the wave of appreciation. 

Even though appreciation is always a bonus and should not be used in your assessment calculation as a given, it still makes sense to look for areas with high probability of growth and stay away from dying towns.

Projected population growth, recent considerable increase in population, new jobs and businesses opening, new or refreshed infrastructure changes, nearby city or town becoming hyper expensive and over-populated, and vacancy rates dropping are some signals of an emerging market.





2. Lots of Diverse Positives 

Look for social and economic diversity with lots of positives. Be careful when you see a location that has only one great thing going for it. An example of this is all the single big employer cities as well as cities majorly supported by a single industry.

I know that it might seem highly improbable for a giant company to shut the doors, yet we’ve seen so many examples. Windsor, Detroit, and Rochester are some examples of cities that went through a relatively long down town due to larger employers leaving.

One of the ways to find cities with lower risk of over concentration is to look for diversified and balanced list of positives across a wide spectrum: diverse demographics, income levels from entry to high, education from high school to PHD, household sizes from single person to families with kids, several unrelated employment industries, various types and levels jobs - white color, blue color, small businesses, large businesses, new technologies, and established employers, etc.





3. Who and How is Helping the City Grow?  


Lastly, I do a lot of research regarding economic development plans for each location that I plan to invest in. 

Looking at the plans of a City gives you a lot of insight into upcoming trends. For examples, some cities would promote latest technologies, set up programs to attract businesses, implement solutions to upgrade skills of the population to meet incoming businesses' requirements. You'd come across articles when agreements are made between various levels of the government to fund major infrastructure improvement programs: build new bridges, highways, and train stations; grow wind mills farms; re-build airports, etc.

On the other hand, you might come across a town that has its entire budget dedicated to fixing some pot holes in the roads. Most achievements listed on their website would be outdated or insignificant. No major partnerships with outside investors would surface, when you search for news on economic development. You'd realize that no one cares if the city grows. The focus is on status quo. In this case, you'd need to make sure you are good with the status quo and it works for your strategy. Momentum might last a few more years and this may be sufficient.


To recap, since my strategy is mainly based on buy-fix-rent-and-hold-long-term, I focus on finding locations with a high probability of market appreciation due to:


  • Sufficient market size for my needs
  • Recent, current and projected positive trends in population growth
  • Lots of evidence for finding quality renters and demand for the type of units I offer
  • Good supply/demand balance and trends 
  • Minimal risk of economic collapse due to over-concentration in a single niche/industry/social group/etc.
  • Great leadership and people interested in helping the city grow with budgets dedicated to major improvement projects that will attract jobs, people, businesses, and money. Work already under way! 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Expectant Parents: How to Create an Effective Financial Plan




Foreword

The following article was submitted to me by Sara Bailey and I believe it's priceless. Sara shares her experience after losing the love of her life and the father of their two children, Greg.

I hope Sara's story helps you take a step back, pause for a moment, and be grateful for and cherish every minute of every day with those you love.

Also, I truly hope that the article will urge you to take action and protect yourself and your loved ones from preventable financial hardship in case of an unexpected life change. 

Thanks to this article, my husband and I saw our Insurance Advisor a few times over the past couple of weeks. We learned a lot about the benefits of various types of insurance coverage and were able to set up a plan that will help our loved ones to keep going, should we die or get sick "yesterday". 

When your family member is sick, you should be able to take as much time off as needed, to help them get better! You should have a plan to help you keep your business or your career safe, until you are ready to get back to them. It's not a secret, that we all have an expiry date and get sick every once in a while. Why not plan for it? 

Lastly, I insist that you TAKE CONTROL AND ACTION towards building your own successful future - whatever your definition is - and live your life fully, for many-many years to come! There is no excuse not to plan and execute your personal success strategy. 

Cheers to planning, executing and being prepared!

"Like many people who have lost the love of their life, I never in a million years thought I’d be here. On my 40th birthday — which I spent with my husband and our two kids bowling, devouring cupcakes, and laughing more than I ever thought was possible — I never dreamed that by my 41st, I’d be a grieving single mom raising a son and daughter on her own. But here I am, and with each passing day, I get a little stronger, and life gets a little easier.", 

Sara Bailey, The Widow, thewidow.net



Expectant Parents: How to Create an Effective Financial Plan


A baby changes everything. The minute you learn you are expecting comes with a whirlwind of excitement and new worries. Suddenly, you are faced with a massive to-do list in order to prepare for their arrival. Between prepping the nursery and buying baby gear, there are the less fun tasks that need to be addressed, too. Creating a financial plan during your pregnant months is a vital step in preparing for your new child.

Start Saving Now


It is always wise to have an emergency fund. Life can be unpredictable: You or your partner could lose your job; one of you could get injured or sick, or the car may need to be replaced. When you have a child, these costly unexpected situations are twice as stressful. Most money experts advise you to have 3 to 6 months of expenses in your savings account for these occasions.

However, even if you already have a comfortably padded savings account, you should set aside even more money during the pregnant months. Having a child will increase your monthly expenses. In fact, according to CBS, the average cost of raising a child is $14,000 yearly. The best time to add to your savings is before your baby is born.

Build a Budget


Children are expensive, which is why creating a budget is key. Some studies have found that parents who do not plan their spending run into financial issues around when their child turns 6 months. This can put a serious strain on your relationship.

Before you have your child, keep meticulous track of your spending to help you identify where you can cut back. Then estimate how much your child care expenses will be, this includes items such as diapers, clothes, formula, and toys as well as larger one time purchases such as the crib and stroller. To make things easier, try using the baby cost calculator at Babycenter.com.

Crafting your budget provides a great opportunity to evaluate if it is more beneficial for you or your spouse to stay home. Child care such as babysitters and daycare on average cost around $200 a week. Crunch the numbers to see what makes the most sense for your family.




Prepare for the Worst


Though it may be unpleasant to think about, you need to make sure that your child will be taken care of if something were to happen to you. Time magazine encourages couples to sit down together and have a serious discussion about estate planning.

Take a serious look at all your assets and create an itemized list of what you would like to go into the will. Do not forget to include investments such as property or art and retirement and savings accounts. To get an accurate measure of their worth, you may need to bring in an appraiser. You could also calculate the value of your home by looking at similar homes in your area and what they recently sold for.

Now is also the time to update your beneficiaries, write or adjust your will, and invest in life insurance. Taking these steps now will save your family members a lot of grief, stress and confusion in the event of a worst-case scenario.

 Invest in Their Education


It is never too early to start planning for college. The earlier you start saving, the better. Treat their college fund as an investment and set up their savings in a college savings plan in their name. These are designed to make sure your child does not miss out on financial aid or end up owing thousands of dollars in taxes. Instead, this money will go directly toward their education.

Get Ahead of Schedule


The sooner you establish a financial plan for your family, the more relieved you will feel. Money problems are often cited as the number one stress factors between couples and this only amplifies when you have a child. Take the time now to come up with a successful money strategy so that you can later enjoy your time with your new baby.

Photo courtesy of Pexels. 





Tuesday, June 19, 2018

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck


2012 was the year my husband and I  decided to take control over our financial destiny.

At the time, Anton worked for a small start up. The start up didn’t make it, so Anton had no job and no income.

I was running a small consulting firm – we implemented Human Resources systems for companies around the world.

I was a workaholic and drove myself into the ground – I was extremely exhausted, depressed, and had to close the business.

You know what? Our three kids couldn’t care less that we didn’t make any money. They still wanted to eat, drink, do sports, buy Pokemon cards, etc. It was pretty horrible!

That was the rock bottom for us. 


So we made two decisions:


  1. We decided to write our resumes and get ourselves proper jobs. Like grown ups do.
  2. We decided that we will find a way to make sure that this type of financial disaster never-ever-ever happens to us again





 That’s when we realized that we had absolutely no idea about money.

We knew very well how to spend it. But that was it!

So we started educating ourselves.







Some of you might have heard about the Law of Attraction and Bob Proctor.

Bob Proctor is considered to be one of the world's greatest authorities on attracting wealth. What he says is

 “Thoughts become things. If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand”,
- Bob Proctor 

Maybe it was the law of attraction, or maybe I was just click happy on the Internet.

But one day we got a call from Rich Dad Poor Dad coaching team. So Anton and I signed up for an 8-week real estate training program with Rich Dad Poor Dad.




Taking that course and committing to do as we were taught, was one of the best decisions we ever made.

We learned about assets.

An asset is something that puts money in your pocket. 



I’ll show you an example later.


We learned that to become financially independent, you need to acquire assets. Assets will work for you and put money in your pocket. If you own some assets, you’ll have income from them and you will no longer be at the mercy of your employer or your next paycheck.


We also found out about liabilities.

A liability is something that takes money away from you.


For example, traditionally, we think that our house and our car are assets. 

But the reality is that both of them are actually liabilities.


That’s because we have to pay money to maintain them every month - mortgage, insurance, utilities, gas.


Here’s an example of an asset.

This is a small house in Chatham, Ontario.

It rents for $800.

All expenses add up to about $700.

Cash in your pocket is $100 every month.
By show of hands. 

Who would like to have an asset like this? Right, most people think that 100 bucks isn’t worth the effort. 




Audible, Netflix and a Sushi Buffet for up to 4 people cost about $100 bucks.

All three of these liabilities together can be covered by the cash flow from the tiny Chatham house we looked at earlier.

You can look at it this way: if you stop going to work and never get another paycheck, you’ll still be able to afford Netflix, Audible and Sushi.


Let me ask you now. Who would like to have the tiny Chatham house, so that you can get free Netflix, free Audible, and free Sushi for the rest of your life?




Based on the concepts we reviewed:

Assets put money in your pocket. 

Liabilities take money away from you.





The formula to financial freedom is: 

Acquire assets and eliminate liabilities until the cash from assets covers all the expenses from your liabilities. Then you are financially free.


Monday, June 18, 2018

Pocket Deal: You make money when you buy! Literally


Got a property with 20% off!
In one of the real estate training programs I took, we learned about pocket deals.

I knew, in theory, that if you build great relationships with real estate brokers, you'd start getting deals off the market, which they call pocket deals. But so far this has never happened to me until today.

Today is my lucky day!

Because... I GOT MY FIRST EVER POCKET DEAL!


These deals are supposed to be great because:




  • Price is low - you get a gigantic discount
  • No one else even knows about the deal
  • No competing offers even in the hot seller market!

Here is how it happened.

One of my friends focuses of flips. It's essential for him to find properties at super low prices. So, he  designed a system of finding deals off the market and putting them under contract. His system works great!

He gets houses ch-e-e-e-e-e-a-a-a-a-a-p. Then, fixes them. And flips!

Occasionally, he comes across a house at a good discount, but the discount isn't big enough for a flip. The cost of the transaction would eat most of the profit. These situations are best for those who buy-fix-rent-&-hold, like myself.

So instead of flipping, the deal was assigned to me. In this transaction, my friend plays the part of a wholesaler. He adds a profit (aka assignment fee) for himself before re-selling the deal to me.

Here are the numbers:

Market Price
290,000 [1]
Sold to Whosaler At217,500 [2]
Assignment Fee15,000 [3]
My Price232,500 [4]
Downpayment54,375
Closing Costs10,875
Renovation15,000
Total Investment80,250 [5]
Instant Gain31,625 [6]
ROI at Purchase39%[7]





1) Comparable houses are currently selling for 290K

2) My friend was able to purchase the property off the market at 217.5K

3) He charged finders fee,  which is called assignment fee, of 15K when he assigned the deal to me

4) I am paying 232.5K for the house

5) To get the property, my total investment will be ~ 80K, including dowanpayment, closing costs, and a renovation

6) Based on current market prices, I'll have immediate gain of 31.6K:

Gain = 290K - 232.5K - 10.8K - 15K = 31.6K

7) The moment I buy the property, my return on investment (ROI) is almost 40%:

ROI = 31.6K / 80.25K = 39%.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Cash and Other Benefits of Refinancing

Refinance - a way to convert Real Estate equity to cash
I can't believe it's already June and half of 2018 has zoomed by! May was a productive month. One of the big accomplishments was re-financing two of our properties.

Real Estate isn't very liquid type of investment. This means that you can't easily convert the value of your real estate properties into cash and go buy some groceries. This value is called equity.

Equity equals to current market price of your property minus the mortgage / loan balance that you have against the property.

As you hold a property, equity grows as market prices go up and as your mortgage principal is paid down by your tenants. If market drops, equity drops as well.

There are several conversion mechanisms to convert equity to cash. Re-financing is one of them. Another method is selling the property.





When you re-finance a property, you are basically starting over with a new mortgage.

As a result, your monthly mortgage payment will change. In my case, it went up considerably because interest rate has gone up from 2.95% to 4.39% and also because the size of the new mortgage is a lot higher than previous mortgage balance.

It might seem on first glance that re-financing and getting a higher monthly mortgage may be a very bad thing. If you think about it, your level of debt goes up. Your interest costs go up. Your cash flow from the property goes down. There are also various costs associated with the refinance transaction including mortgage broker fees, lender fees, and lawyer fees. Why would you do it?!?

Here are the reasons why this worked for me:

1) Getting Your Money Back 


Several years ago, when I originally purchased the property, I put in some money as a down payment. After purchase, I invested some additional money to renovate the place.

Refinancing helps me get all of my money back.

Once you have your money back, you can use it however you please. You can put it as a down payment for another asset, for instance. Or maybe you are nearing retirement age and would like to spend the money on your day-to-day expenses. Or perhaps, you have higher interest debt and you could use the money to pay off the lenders.


2) Maximizing Return on Investment


Let's take a look at an example. Suppose you buy a property for $100,000 with $20,000 down payment and suppose the market goes up by 2% every year.  Let's also say that principal pay down is negligible, for simplicity of calculations.

Then, after the first year, the property will appreciate to $102,000 and you would've gained $2,000.

Return on Investment (ROI) = $2,000 / $100,000 = 10%.

In this example, the market went up by 2%, but you made 10%.

This is because even though you provided only 1/5th of the money (20% down payment), you benefited from the growth of the entire house - and you got all of the gain.

What if you re-finance and pull all of your investment money out? In that case, you no longer have any of your money in the property, yet again you benefit from the appreciation of the entire house. This is when you get maximum returns:

Return on Investment (ROI) = $2,000 / almost nothing  = Infinity!






3) Doubling # of Assets That Work for You


Suppose, you buy another asset using the money that you pulled out at refinance.

Now, you have two assets working for you. Together, the gain from appreciation is $2,000 + $2,000 = $4,000.


Here are sample numbers for a refinance transaction:


The numbers above show you key numbers behind a refinance transaction. In this example;

New lender approved a loan of 255K. Out of this loan, previous mortgage of 135.5K was paid. Almost 7K was paid in fees.

Investors got all of their money back.

There was 63.7K of cash pulled out of equity. This is ~ 115% return on investment since the start of the project. Or, 29% annualized ROI.

Note: mortgage debt increased from 135.5K to 255K.

If you have any questions or would like more info, please comment below or contact me.



Friday, May 18, 2018

Finally! A movie STAR!

Red Carpet Time!
As some of you may already know, in the past I attempted to become a movie star!

Like many aspiring stars, I signed up with a couple of agencies.

This was a great experience with some lessons learned!

On the positive side, I did feel great going to a couple of photo shoots, where a professional make up artist made me look amazing. The pictures turned out awesome as well.

On the reality side of things, I went to about 20 auditions and then gave up.

At the auditions, I felt seriously average and slightly worn out when applying for youth roles. When trying to go for Canadian parent type of roles, I felt puppy-ish and unqualified. It wasn't a surprise to have never been called back.

The biggest lesson I learned during my brief acting career was when taking a course in acting. Our acting academy teacher said one day:

"Guys! If you want to be in a movie, the easiest way to go about it would be to make your own movie!"

Since then, this is one of my core principals. If I really want something, it's on me to make it happen.

I think that this idea is one of the simplest concepts of life, which took me a long time to grasp.

Most of us probably agree with this concept on the subconscious level. This is why we often hear and believe expressions such as:

"Whoever needs it, does it",
- my Mom
"Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, it's at the end of your arm, as you get older, remember you have another hand: The first is to help yourself, the second is to help others."
- Audrey Hepburn
"Sink or swim",
- Wise people, often parents

Long story short, last week I partnered with a Canadian feature film producer and became one of the associate co-producers (aka investor) in his upcoming Canadian feature film.

This project is very exciting! It will be amazing to learn more about the entertainment industry from investor stand-point as the project develops. Here are some reason why I love this opportunity:


  1. Learn about a new industry
  2. Observe a production and launch of a new asset from start to finish 
  3. Acquire an asset 
  4. Differentiate into a field with great demand and lots of room on supply side
  5. Partner with an ambitious experienced team of people who have been successful in the past
  6. And lastly... have my name in movie credits and attend various film festivals!

Risks are everywhere of course! In this case, I strongly believe that the probability of success times reward greatly outweighs the probability of failure times loss.

If you are curious and would like to learn more, please let me know. There is still room for several film lovers to join the project.





Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Why I Love Assets!




I love assets! Imagine someone else going to work and then handing over the paycheck to you to spend? Well, this is how assets work. And this is why I love assets. When done right, assets work for you and put money in your pocket.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Are You Sitting on a PILE of CASH?





Watch this video to find out!

To watch on full screen, please visit Just Over Broke Channel.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Untangling a Messy Insurance Situation!

Look before you Leap!
When I was a little girl, my parents always expected me to run into trouble because I often rushed too much!

I would occasionally run into a corner of a wall or hit my shoulder on a doorway, just because of running and not looking ahead.

At school, I'd replace a minus sign with a plus mid way through solving a math problem or substitute a 3 for an 8...

Small mistakes lead to wrong answers and, in childhood, to a lot of bruises.


Well, some things are just a part of our nature. I have to admit that I'm still experiencing similar types of issues and hitting obstacles just because of going too fast and not looking ahead.

Found Really Cool Insurance Company


A few months ago, when interviewing market leaders on various topics as part of my book research, I discovered a very neat insurance company.

They specialize in home insurance and use technology to let average consumers choose exactly the coverage they need for their homes.

This process gives you an experience similar to how the rich would do it - a consultant walks with the rich through their home, pointing out fur coats and expensive vases and painting, and asking whether those should be insured and at what value.

This company repeats the same experience for every client using super friendly online application process.

For example, if you own a bike and live downtown Toronto, you can add bike insurance coverage. On a flip side, you can skip everything that doesn't apply to you and save some money. So, if you don't need jewelry or fur coat coverage, you won't be adding it to your plan.





Evaluating Risk can be Tricky! 


Another very neat aspect is that selections by default include all the necessary coverage. So you can't make a costly mistake accidentally.

For instance, even though earthquakes rarely happen around here in GTA, you shouldn't remove earthquake coverage to save a couple of bucks on your premium.

When dealing with insurance, always imagine what you'd like your coverage to be in case a certain disaster happens. Would you think saving two bucks a month was a great idea, when your home got shattered by an earthquake that no one even expected?

No! You'd want some money to get yourself a new place or fix those cracks in the foundation.

I learned during the interviews, that insurance providers already figured out adequate cost based on the likelihood of a certain event. They wouldn't charge consumers millions of dollars for earthquake protection in GTA. However, they do have a lot of data to validate the scenario and, if there is a slight chance that an earth quake is possible and can cause considerable damage, they'd offer the coverage.

So what I really liked about this new insurance company is that they wouldn't let you waive coverage of the type, where a typical consumer wouldn't have sufficient data to make a wise decision. They wouldn't let you take on a risk of losing everything just because your assumptions are based on day-to-day life and not backed up by lots of data with detailed analysis of trends and probabilities.

Instead they'd let you make very safe decisions such as increasing your deductible to save money on your premium or removing coverage that will not cause you to be out on the street in case of a disaster. For example, removing bike insurance and increasing deductible from 1K to 5K would be a great way to save money without putting yourself at risk of becoming homeless at the same time.





Saving $1,200 = A Week on Vacation


Now, at last but not at least, this new insurance coverage ends up being cheaper than what I currently have.

All the small savings from choosing the specific optional coverage I need and waiving safely components that I don't need, add up. Also, even though I have several properties, this company doesn't charge me extra.

Each of my properties still qualifies as a regular residential rental home and there are no extra charges for being a commercial client with more than 3 rentals. Traditional insurance providers would usually charge you extra, once you have more than three rentals.

I got quotes for the first three of my rental properties with a total saving of $400 a year. This might not sounds like much to you, but here is my math.

Saving across all of my properties would be around $1,200 a year.

$1,200 roughly equals to half a year of profits on one of my rental home. This is because my typical goal is to make $200/month on every unit. By tweaking my spending on insurance, I gain half a year worth of profits.

Let's see how the saving compares to what people usually make on a paycheck at a job. Let's assume 30% tax and 80K/year salary.

$1,200 equals to  $1,714 paycheck earned at work before tax. This is about 5 business days worth of work. Basically a week!!!

No matter how you look at this. The saving of $1,200 sounds HUGE in my mind and I wouldn't want to miss it.

Going Too Fast


Better Safe Than Sorry!
Obviously, I got very excited about this opportunity to streamline my insurance expenses and rushed forward.

I got three quotes for three properties and successfully transferred two of them to the new insurance provider: my primary residence and one of the rentals.

It was a very smooth and easy process and only took a couple of minutes and clicks at the computer.


Unfortunately, there was a snag with the third property!

What I didn't realize was that the company only insures a very specific type of residential properties.

There is an underwriting process that takes place after you get a quote and before you get coverage confirmation.

Oops!!! Left With no Coverage!


My third property didn't meet the underwriting requirements and coverage was rejected.

This happened because this property is not a typical residence. It is a triplex and is on cultural heritage list.

Unfotunately, I rushed forward and had cancelled the coverage with the existing provider BEFORE I received a note from the new vendor that they would not cover this property.

I did so because:
  • I saw the two other properties transfer very smoothly. 
  • I loved the quote for the third property as well. 
  • It was the last day to cancel renewal with the current provider without any fees. 
  • I tend to rush!
Ouch!!!

To make matters worse, when I started looking for another new vender, it turned out that most insurance companies would not even quote you on rental properties insurance unless you also cover your primary residence with them.

So, now with only a few days left, before my coverage expires I have to find insurance coverage at reasonable cost and move two of the properties from the new vendor elsewhere.

The good news is that the new company that I describe above doesn't have the requirement of covering primary residence. So I can still take advantage of their pricing for most of my properties. In addition, their cancellation fee and process is easy.

Now, fingers crossed! Let's see how my search plays out.

Have any comments or questions? Please comment below the post or get in touch directly. I'd be happy to hear from you.


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

3 EASY STEPS: How to Make a Dream Come True





Above is a video digest of what I've resisted for the past 20+ years and finally came to piece with:

There is so much I still need to learn from all the people around me!!!

Childhood - Being a Sponge that Soaks In

Let's go back to our childhood. Growing up, we go to school for more than a decade to learn the basics. 

These seemingly basic ideas are in fact a result of thinking, trying, and failing of our predecessors during many previous generations. They worked hard to clear the road for us.

I am watching my kids grow up. 

All the way from birth through school, they are sponges soaking in numerous concepts that they are being taught. 

It's incredible to see them going from little smiley honey bunches to Homo Sapiens (Latin for "wise man")  so fast.

Working - A Sponge that's Being Squeezed Out

Some time later in life, we become the sponges that are being squeezed out for knowledge. 

We give back what we've learned. 

We contribute at work, at home, and in our personal life, sometimes to the point of complete exhaustion. However, in many cases we feel good about it. 

This is natural, since we want to be a part of the future! We'd like to contribute. 

Plus, it feels so great when you are so smart that you can teach or boss others around you, doesn't it?

Well, my husband and I certainly agree that it's fun to kick our kids around. Shhhhh, don't tell the kids...

What if You are Still Asking Yourself: 

How do I become successful?


What I realized recently, during my career change from an HRIS professional to an investor, is that the most certain method to succeed in anything you'd like to take on next remains the same as when we were little.

Whatever your new goal or aspiration is, learn from someone who already knows and is willing to teach you.

The difficult part is to stay open-minded and follow the recipe your teacher points out to you step-by-step, until you see yourself get it right and succeed.

When my 8-year old misspelled "bird" as "burt" this morning, he didn't question or argue. He laughed, took an eraser, and fixed his writing. 

Going back to myself now. I figure that if I could learn when I was eight, I can most certainly pick new things up when I am years wiser! 

This is why my three step approach has been:

1) Find a formula that works and that I believe in
2) Follow that formula exactly 
3) Repeat until I master the formula.

This works! I am learning one new formula at a time and feeling successful.

I wonder what you are thinking. Would you mind leaving a comment below?

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Time to Collect Your Money



As I summarize in the 1-minute video on the left,

last Sunday I woke up to an email 

from Shopify with the subject of...


drum roll...

champaign bottle pop...

hold your breath...



Time to collect your money


"Hmm. Really?!? " was my first thought.

My strategy is always to expect the worst. This approach helps me keep going and not take disappointments to heart. So, I told myself to chillax before clicking into the email.

Chillax is my new favourite word by the way. I learned it from my kids. It means exactly what it sounds like: calm down and relax.

And being as calm as I could be, I clicked into the email, which told me to finish my Shopify Payments setup to get paid for my first sale.

So, it was official: my online store had its first sale! I had my first customer who bought several digital products at 50 Doors. Yay! It worked!! I couldn't believe it.

My new online asset is starting to put money in my pocket. To be specific, here's how the math looks:

$20.00 from customer - $5.68 to google ads 

= $14.32 profit


As you may already know, asset is something that puts money in your pocket.

The theory is that if you own enough assets, the money from all of them will add up and cover all your expenses. 

Once that happens, you can consider yourself infinitely wealthy. 

A wealthy person has assets working for him or her. Per this definition, the wealthy can live forever without relying on going to work to make money. 

To measure how wealthy you are, just think how long you can survive for without working. 

My starting point was 30 days - simply because I lived paycheck to paycheck. I am still not a lot more ahead, but making some progress. 

My husband and I set out with our 50 doors goal: 50 assets, each putting $200 dollars a month into our pocket, so we have about 10K a month to feed our (always hungry) family. Boys sure do eat a lot!

There are many different types of assets. In my mind, the major categories include: 

  1. real property
  2. businesses and 
  3. financial assets.





Real Property Assets


The basic idea is that you own something tangible and get paid for letting others use it:

A house, car, vending machine, solar panels, fancy suite or dress, a parking spot, etc. 

Take an object, find someone who'd like to borrow it, lend it and collect cash.

Business Assets

Business is a system set up to solve a problem for a profit. 

Find something that will help others around you. Figure out how to attract people in need of the solution that you are offering and help them at a profit.  

This is what I hope my website is doing. It is helping people educate themselves and get their first real estate investment property in Canada smoothly.



Financial Assets

I recently came across this table (source: Desrosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. (“DACI”):

Automotive revenue in Canada 



What struck me is in the column highlighted with blue. Let's take 2015:

Imagine all the factories building new cars: that's 32% of revenue

Imagine all the dealerships selling used cars: that's 18% of revenue

Imagine all the servicemen helping us repair and maintain our cars: 10% of revenue.

Now think about the money we borrow to buy all of the above:


Automotive finance produces 

the biggest chunk of revenue: 

40%



The point is that money can easily become one of your assets as well.

There is unlimited number of opportunities around you to put that asset to work for you. Examples include investing in private businesses, mortgages, equities, bonds, etc.

What I am now finding out is that you don't need a lot of money to start. You can make each dollar that you don't spend become an asset that works for you.

The trick is to educate ourselves, so that we can make decisions and balance risk and reward in each project. Then, act on our knowledge and get in the game.

Interested? Hesitant? Afraid? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. I can't wait to hear from you.


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Friday, April 13, 2018

Making a Difference - How You Can Deliver on Your Dreams!


In the last few weeks, I realized that I've been spending a LOT of time on Netflix.

I started watching "Gossip Girl" series and got hooked up on it! The problem is that there are years of episodes and each runs for about 50 minutes. So over the last ten days, I was watching Netflix almost all night long until my phone battery died, on three different occasions.

The consequence is that on the following day my productivity level plummets. I become super grumpy and very slow.

Not good.

Why Even Talk About Netflix?

Because it has become one of my biggest liabilities:

"A liability takes money out of my pocket." - Robert T. Kiyosaki
And since time is even more valuable than money, my Netflix addiction is very costly.

I still remember how I subscribed to Netflix back in 2013-ish.

I was on a business trip to California. I had a really awesome friend there, named Kell. 

Kell also goes by "the purple guy". He loves all shades of purple. Kell always wears everything purple: purple shoes, purple pants, purple T-shirt, purple laptop bag, etc.. He even can give you a pamphlet on the benefits of purple. Long story short, I love hanging out with Kell and hope to see him again soon. That day, we were at lunch.

Kell told me that he and his wife got a new house. The house was amazing (aka "Purple" in Kell's terms). Except for one little annoying thing: It took Kell two hours to get to and from work.

So, when I asked Kell how he could even survive being stuck in the car for this long, he told me that he was actually okay, thanks to Netflix.

Apparently, Kell was able to watch (or, I'm hoping, more like listen to) Netflix movies while he was  on stand still in traffic. And this made his commute very enjoyable!

A couple of days later, I was at the SFO airport heading home and all flights were cancelled. So I had to kill time until 6 AM the next morning. 

It took me 2 seconds to subscribe to Netflix. And I had the best time ever waiting for my flight!

Now, ever since that day, I became a vivid Netflix fan. 

Unfortunately, based on my theory of Assets and Liabilities, over time Netflix became one of my biggest liabilities.

Liability Takes Money Out of Your Pocket

Liability is something that takes resources away from you.

When you subscribe to Netflix, the monthly fee will automatically come out of your account. That's okay! As long as you have sufficient money coming into your account from your job or assets to pay for this liability.

In my case, last month was a bit out of balance.

When I sat down to do my finances and put money into my April buckets for car, groceries, home, etc., I realized that I was a bit short in March. So the money that came in from assets wasn't enough to cover all of the expenses that I have on liabilities side.

There are only three ways to fix this issue:

  1. Decrease what liabilities take away from you
  2. Increase what assets bring you
  3. DO BOTH

So, I looked at all the liabilities that are taking money out of my pocket.

And so far, I found three that I could trim:

  • Netflix @ $14.18 per month
  • Home Insurance - I found a new vendor and got more coverage while saving $26.21 per month
  • Insurance on two of my rentals - Saving $27.40 and $8.66 a month
These three changes save me almost $1,000.00 a year.

Small Changes can Make a Huge Difference



Netflix, only charges 10.99 USD per month. Seems like not that much!

Now, in Canadian plus tax dollars, that's actually CAD 14.18. On an annual basis, $14.18 x 12 = $179.88

Everyone measures value differently. But here's a drastic coincidental example that I came across, which got me thinking.

Small Tokens of Help Add Up! 
Last week, a young lady called Vinie stopped by my house. She is with Save the Children organization. In their "Be a lifeline" program, this organization collects 84 cents a day to feed a starving child.

$14 a month is enough to feed a starving child for over two weeks. 
Just consider this to realize how much difference re-allocation of small chunks of resources can make. 

Last weekend, I was at a Business Mastermind seminar. I was honored to learn from Gerry Robert, the Author of a classic motivational book, The Millionaire Mindset: How Ordinary People Can Create Extraordinary Income.

At the event, Gerry emphasized several times that for anyone who aspires to reach a goal - grow their business, write a book, or become a sought after speaker - it is critical to stop watching TV or cable or Netflix.

These two incidents helped me realize that stopping my Netflix subscription was absolutely the right thing to do.

Simply because it helps me re-allocate my time and a little bit of money.





Imagine How Much You Did in the Last 6 months at Your Day Job?


Many years ago, using the same logic my husband and I stopped paying for Cable. Just before we did that, we both had realized that most of all we watched Channel 5.

At the time, that was the weather / what's on channel. We would watch 'What's on' for a couple of hours almost every night before dozing off. Then, one of us would wake up in the middle of the night and switch the TV off...

Lately, aside from the Gossip Girl adventure, I've been mainly scrolling up and down through "what's on" on Netflix and was having trouble selecting an actual movie. What a waste of my own time!

If you re-allocate your time to acting on your aspirations, you will be able not only achieve your own goals, but also help others reach theirs.

Now, in my case, I watched at least 2 movies a week on Netflix over the past 5 years. This is over 1,000 hours of time. Being a human resources professional, I know that a year at work is considered to be 2,080 hours.

Imagine how much you can get done over 6 months at your day job??!?


Well.... that's how much I didn't do for myself.


Wake Up! Time to Make Your Dreams Come True!!
And this is why I urge everyone to consider their Time and Money liabilities to make sure you are spending your time on what matters the most to you.

Find a way to do more of what you'd like to do.

Find a way to do less of what you don't appreciate doing.

Now, since I have already watched ALL of the romantic comedies I ever wished to watch, it's time for me to re-purpose my movie-watching time to other activities.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Your comment below will be very appreciated.

It'll help more people find my blog and perhaps make a small positive change in someone's life.


Thursday, March 29, 2018

Tenant/Landlord Perspective on Rental Property Lease Agreement

Choose Great Tenants!
Starting April 30, 2018, all landlords in Ontario, Canada are required to use the standard lease agreement template for residential rentals.

Many investors and landlords are not happy about this new requirement.

They don't like the fact that the new lease agreement spells out all the rules that tenants may want to know.



These rules are designed to:
"provide protection for residential tenants from unlawful rent increases and unlawful evictions" and "for the regulation of residential rents" 
per Residential Tenancies Act, 2006
However, some of these rules are not at all landlord- or business- friendly. 

In this post, I’d like to recap what I learned from a lawyer and a paralegal presentation, who have been in the residential rentals business for many years and have seen a lot of landlord/tenant situations. I'll also share some of my own thoughts and findings on the rules landlords are supposed to follow in Ontario.

My goal is to share the key concepts that will benefit beginner landlords without sacrificing the happiness of their tenants. 

First things first:


If you are reading this post, finding it helpful and are not my Mom, please leave a comment at the bottom or share it. Your comment will make my day AWESOME and I am very grateful for it 😁🙏


The Term of Tenancy Agreement is Always Indefinite


Landlord specifies the term of the agreement in section 4 of the lease agreement template. The choices here are fixed length (ex., a year), monthly tenancy, or other (ex., daily or weekly).

Most new investors believe that it is beneficial to sign a lease for a year. Many landlords also learn at various real estate courses that it is a good practice to renew the lease for another year at the end of each term. 



"The tenant does not have to move out at the end of the term." 
- section 4 of Lease Template

The truth is that no matter what type or length of term you put in your lease agreement - a year, monthly, or daily - the tenant has the right to stay in your rental unit FOREVER. 

The tenant will leave if and only if he/she leaves voluntarily OR landlord goes through the process of ending tenancy using one of the very few permitted reasons.

Please note that in case of a problem one year lease really restricts the landlord from evicting the tenant early. For example, N8 form states that the termination date cannot be earlier than the last date of the fixed term - i.e. end of the year for an annual lease. While monthly lease can be terminate with a 60-day notice. Because of this landlord should try to stick with month-to-month leases and stay away from annual ones. 

Can a Tenant Break a Lease? Anytime


On the flip side, suppose you sign a one year lease, but your tenant wants to move out early. Per current rules, tenant is supposed to give landlord a 60-day notice, which has to be effective at the end of a month. 

But if your tenant is going through hard times, chances are they'll move out much faster and with a much shorter notice. In this case, they'll stop paying you rent as soon as they are out. If you try to insist on 60-day notice and they can't afford to pay you, they will not pay you.

In this case, your best course of action is to be thankful that the tenant has moved out on their own accord (rather than staying at your place for free until the Sheriff changes locks) and get a new paying tenant as fast as possible.

Having said that, more often than not, I see tenants giving sufficient notice and coming to a mutual agreement with the landlord to break lease early. This approach is most effective both for the landlord and the tenant. This is why it always helps to have a good business relationship with all your tenants, so they let you know as soon as they decide that they'd like to leave.





Can a Landlord Use a Non-Standard Lease? 


Yes, in theory a landlord can still use their own lease. It's against the rules, but possible if a tenant agrees to sign the non-standard lease and doesn't ask for a proper one. 

In case when the tenant asks for the standard lease and landlord doesn't provide it within 21 days, tenant has the right to leave and landlord would lose the tenant.

My analogy is: Can we drive above speed limit? Absolutely. But there may be consequences if we get caught. So everyone chooses their own boundaries and balances higher speed vs. # of tickets vs. safety.

In tenant/landlord situation, consequences usually come up when there is a disagreement between the tenant and landlord. In that case, Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) will make decisions based on the Act and other applicable legislation. All terms of any lease agreement that are in conflict with the legislation would be deemed void and non-enforceable. 

LTB officers are very strict in following the legislation. My prediction is that they will not be lenient towards a landlord who decides to break the rules of the legislation on purpose.

This is why I recommend that you find ways to incorporate your additional terms into the new standard lease template and do your best to comply with the rules. 


Rent / Deposit / Increases?


Most landlords are already aware of the boundaries on the money side:
  • We can can charge last month's rent, NSF fees up to $20 and key deposit
  • We can increase rent per approved guidelines every 12 months
  • We have to pay interest on last month's deposit.
Now, these same boundaries are listed in black and white on the standard lease template, so that all tenants are aware of them at the start of their tenancy. 

This certainly clarifies the rules of the game for both parties involved. Very transparent.

Conclusion

Tenant Perspective: Follow three rules and you'll always have a home in Ontario with reasonable annual rent increases:

  1. Pay your rent on time and in full
  2. Treat your home nicely
  3. Respect the neighbours.

Landlord Perspective: There are way more than three rules. Learn them!



GOOD LUCK!! 👋


PS Let me know if you have any questions about tenants, landlords, or lease agreements? Use "Comment" box to ask.




Tuesday, March 27, 2018

A day in life - Investor / Landlord / Parent

Spring is here! I can’t believe a quarter of the year has already gone by. Since the beginning of the year I started a few things but it doesn't feel like I finished a lot. Today was a productive day and I’m optimistic. I am sure things will start coming together soon. So here is a scoop of the day.


Morning at the LTB Hearing 


Related image
Getting to LTB hearing!
Mornings are easy when you work from home. Basically, on most days no one sees me. This is why there is zero pressure to look decent. But today was different because I had a Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) hearing at 9 AM in Barrie, which is about an hour away from my home.

I was lazy yesterday, Sunday night, and didn't print and fill out the L1/L9 update form. So I had to run around like a headless chicken to get everything done - shower, get dressed, make lunches for kids, print the forms, fill in the forms, and leave the house. I had planned to leave by 7:15 AM, so I could have plenty of time in case of traffic. Well, I left at 7:59 AM. Sounds pretty bad, I know, but surprisingly I still made it on time to the hearing.

LTB Hearing Topic - Application to Evict a Tenant for Rent Non-Payment 


The reason I went to the hearing was eviction for rent non-payment. A tenant lost her job a couple of months ago. As a result, the family is going through some financial difficulties and fell behind on rent. 

Unfortunately, it’s part of my job to take action on rent non-payment. I sent N-4 form on Jan 24th because I haven't received January rent in full. I was optimistic about the delay and knew tenant would catch up - and they did. Unfortunately, once you start falling behind, it is very hard to get back on track and start paying on time. January rent was paid in full, but of course, it was practically impossible for the family to pay Feb rent by the 1st. So the vicious cycle of rent being late continued.

I filed an application to the board on Feb 14th and the hearing day is today - March 26th.

The tenant didn't attend the hearing. This was good for two reasons. First, it is emotionally difficult for me to negotiate with a tenant because I feel bad for them and understand how hard it is to survive. In the past, I used to always end up giving them an extension, which unfortunately didn't help anyone - the tenant still lived beyond their means and kept digging themselves deeper into debt while I kept losing money.

Second, cases with only one party present (as well as all cases when parties agreed on a repayment schedule) are heard at the very beginning of the day. So my case went second and I left LTB at 10 AM.

Key Take Away - Don't be Creative, Follow the Rules 


The Hearing Officer asked me several questions. One of them was about the method that I served N4 with. I stated on my forms that I emailed N4 to the tenant. Email isn't one of the acceptable methods according to LTB rules. Unfortunately, I did not have a written response back from my tenant, but I let the Officer know that the tenant and I spoke over the phone.

Lesson learned: Don't be creative! follow the rules and hand deliver or mail the N4!

Also, get a written confirmation of all your communications with the tenant. I should have emailed the tenant a summary of our phone conversation after we talked.

Precious Coffee
In addition, I got scolded by the security official for non-compliance with the HUGE sign on the wall that said that there was no food or drinks allowed. I have to admit that I saw the ginormous sign and consciously made a decision to hide my drink under my chair (which the officer spotted).

Lately, I've become so frugal that I didn't want to waste the coffee that I just got on my coffee points, thinking that the risk of being kicked out from the hearing room was low.  Luckily, the security officer was kind and let me keep my precious drink and asked me to wait for my turn in the waiting room, rather than inside the big court room.

My luck continued and the hearing officer was lenient as well. She made a decision to proceed with the order even though I used incorrect N4 delivery method. In a few days, my tenant and I will be getting the order in the mail. It will require the tenant to pay remainder of past due March rent and April rent within two weeks. In case of non-payment, I will have the right to request an eviction at the Sheriff's office. 

I truly hope that the tenant will figure out how to fully catch up and get back on schedule with rent payments.

Even though many of my fellow investors think that LTB rules are strongly in favour of the tenant and it is a bad thing, I believe that the system is fair and reflects the fact that Canada is one of the Happiest countries - in fact we are 7th in the World! There is a great responsibility on the landlord to find a suitable tenant and follow all protocols to make sure both landlord and tenant have an effective partnership.


Spent Afternoon Submitting Mortgage Application


Getting Mortgages requires LOTS of Docs and Info!!!
I got back home without much traffic as well.  I spent about an hour gathering up supporting documentation to send to a mortgage broker who is helping me refinance two of the properties. 

The purpose of the refinance is to pull out equity that has built up over the last three years. If all goes well and as per my initial calculations, my cash flow will still be $200 per property AND I should be able to get my down payment and renovation money back. Isn’t this amazing?!

This means that I’ll have the same money that I started with just over three years ago back in my pocket plus two properties that will continue to generate some cash flow. I’ll be able to re-use the same money and acquire new assets. My first properties will literally pay for a future new property. Neat! This is probably what the saying "money working for you" refers to.

Honestly speaking, this is the first time when I am trying to get my money back, so my knowledge is strictly theoretical at the moment. Let’s hope things will conclude as planned.

On a positive side, I was very proud last week when the mortgage broker complemented me on my AMAZING spreadsheet. It covers my portfolio and every bit of information that a mortgage broker might want to ask for.  In the last 4 years, I got 12 mortgages and 4 refinances done. No wonder, I am now a pro at predicting what questions a mortgage broker would ask.


Side Hassle - Networking Works!


A few weeks ago I started a side business hassle. It’s a small business that my friend and I are starting together. I had to do some work for it at the end of the day.

The interesting thing is that everyone who supports me on this side hassle are fellow investors and entrepreneurs who I've met at various real estate meet ups.

I’ve never been a networking fan, so every time when someone who I've met at a meet up helps me out, I’m super thrilled and excited. I have to agree that networking IS TRULY a great way of expanding your reach and range of possibilities. I am very grateful to my newly acquired partners, mentors, and like-minded people who share their thoughts and give me their honest opinions and feedback. 


Wrap Up - Kids and Karate


Now, changing hats and bragging a little bit on personal side.

My oldest son came back from school with a medal - 2nd place in a robotics competition. 

My youngest son scored in top 5 of 1,000 kids his age on a test. I am very proud of him. Also, I am happy because I no longer feel guilty about our policy on YouTube - kids basically have unlimited YouTube. As long as they do well at school and in their after school activities, they can spend all their free time as they please including being permanently glued to screens. 
Looks a lot more romantic than me sweating
in all the super-fat safety gear :)
And my middle son told me he wants to get a programming job. Can you believe it? That's purely his own initiative without any nagging from me or my husband :) He started putting a resume together!

I wrapped up the day by drafting this post and attending karate dojo. It was a sparing day! FUN!!