Pandemic, policies, preferences, prejudices, and YOUR portfolio …

We’re nearing the end of a marathon of back-to-back-to-back conferences. The world is different … but life goes on … both online and now back on the road.

When we started this year at our Create Your Future™ goal setting workshop, little did we know how BIZARRE and DISCONCERTING 2020 would become.

Yet here we are … still trying to discern what’s real, what’s happening, what’s coming, and how investors can best position themselves.

But that’s why we attend conferences with lots of smart people … and watch for clues in the news to help us make sense of all this uncharted territory.

Of course, we’re all deep into a very intense political cycle … and policies are having an outsized impact on Main Street business, incomes, and investments.

Usually, investors stay busy with “simple” Fed watching … obsessing over obscure comments, minuscule rate adjustments, or hints of easing or tightening.

Occasionally, there’s an update to tax or securities law to get excited about.

But for the most part, things which trigger tidal waves on Wall Street often dissipate to simply wash up on the edges of a real estate investor’s portfolio.

So real estate is often boring and insulated from the trauma and drama. This time might be different.

So with how fast everything is moving … and how little of it makes sense … we’re working even harder to gain actionable insights.

First stop was G. Edward Griffin’s Red Pill Expo on Jekyll Island.

Yes, it’s THE Jekyll Island … the one where The Creature from Jekyll Island (the Federal Reserve) was born.

Red Pill was two full days with 500 people live and in-person for a fascinating collection of speakers including Robert Kiyosaki and George Gammon.

But the hot topic wasn’t the Fed or financial system …

… it was the pandemic, the lockdowns, and whether or not the health threat is real enough to warrant continued economic pain.

As you might guess, the views of the doctors at Red Pill aren’t mainstream.

But they’re also not in a small or silent minority. In fact, there’s a large group of experts who question the wisdom of shutting down huge parts of the economy.

It’s a fair question … and very relevant to real estate investors.

For whatever reason, it’s become highly politicized … so much so that otherwise rational people struggle to openly discuss all sides of the issue.

Yet real estate investors must make decisions not based on their personal preferences, but on the probabilities based on the preferences of those in power.

Lockdowns have cost millions of jobs, threatened rental income, launched eviction moratoriums, and triggered the most mortgage delinquencies in 21 years.

The pandemic is definitely a hot topic for real estate investors.

We experienced a similar controversy when we first started investing in Belize fifteen years ago. The issue then was global warming and rising oceans.

Back then, some investors were convinced Belize would be underwater just ten years later … so they passed on investing in the market.

This was the right decision for them.

We looked at both sides of the issue and concluded the threat wasn’t there. So we proceeded. It doesn’t mean we’re right. We’re just not wrong yet.

But unlike the pandemic, the choice was ours.

Involuntary lockdowns imposed by those in power means our opinion … even the “truth” (whatever that is) … doesn’t matter.

What matters is what the people in power think, what they’re likely to think and do going forward, and what all that might mean for YOU.

At the recently concluded New Orleans Investment Conference, we caught up with several of our Crisis Investing faculty …

… including Peter Schiff, Danielle DiMartino-Booth, Robert Kiyosaki, Chris Martenson and Brien Lundin … along with a whole bunch of other smart people.

Of course, among the hot topics was (drum roll please) … the pandemic and its effect on the economy, financial markets, the system, and the dollar.

The consensus is that interest rates are highly unlikely to rise anytime soon … the Fed will do “whatever it takes” to keep rates down and fund the government spending they’re pushing for.

Of course, this puts a LOT of pressure on the dollar, which continues to be reflected in precious metals … despite the moderating of this year’s big spike.

Meanwhile, while we were there, mortgage rates hit an all-time low for the TENTH time THIS YEAR.

Perhaps obviously, cheap mortgage money is inflating housing prices and pumping equity into real estate. Whether it’s a bubble remains to be seen.

Another Main Street consideration is the impact of the ongoing pandemic and lockdowns found in some of the headlines we noticed this week …

Lower-cost metros continue to outperform pricey gateway markets

The article draws heavily on the September 2020 Yardi Matrix National Multifamily Report … but the gist of it shows expensive markets are losing.

The report makes an interesting distinction between “Lifestyle Class” (people who rent by preference) and “Renters By Necessity”.

Meanwhile, Zumper put out their National Rent Report for October 2020 … in which they concur …

“Expensive cities continued to decrease in rental prices last month.”

Of course, none of this is surprising.

After all, common sense says people will move to more affordable places when financially pressured … which drains the expensive areas while boosting the affordable markets and niches.

But then we got off the beaten path poking around one of our obscure news feeds and saw this intriguing headline 

Wage Growth Is Above Rent Inflation for First Time in a Decade for All the Wrong Reasons, Highlighting the Fed’s Fallacy

Really? Wage GROWTH … in the middle of pandemic induced job losses and business closures of epic proportions??? That makes NO sense.

But the article points out what happens when you deal with averages when one end of the dataset gets eliminated.

In this case, low-income workers laid off by the nearly 100,000 business permanently closed in the wake of pandemic lockdowns … no longer count.

So the average is now calculated using only the data from the higher paid earners still in the dataset. This graph from the article says it all …

As you can see, the same anomaly occurred in the 2008 Great Financial Crisis.

The economy crashes and the average wage goes UP. But not really.

The lesson is to be aware information put out as “data” … even “science” … needs to be evaluated in the context of the bigger picture and your own common sense.

According to the brainiacs we talk with … like Jim Rickards and Danielle DiMartino-Booth …

… even those in high levels of power … like the Fed … can misread data, fail to consider dissenting opinions, and end up creating strategies based on faulty “data” assumptions.

So be forewarned. There’s a lot of information and opinions coming at you …and more coming. Your conclusions will affect your decisions and results.

It’s wise to stay as objective as possible … because faulty assumptions lead to faulty strategies.

Maybe the most important lesson is to stay curious, remain thoughtful, and be wary of agendas and biases … even your own.

Until next time … good investing!

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