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Small Business

Lifestyle, Small Business, Taxes and Investing

Investment Commercial Real Estate Profits and Pitfalls

Residential investment property is forgiving for the most part. Professional managers exist in most markets and except for the very worst of conditions it is possible to fill most apartments even if it is not at a profitable rate.

The number of residential properties available is large and unloading a single family home or duplex is fairly quick and simple. Many economists consider a six month supply of homes on the market a healthy balanced market.

Things get slightly less forgiving when you graduate to multi-unit apartment complexes. There are fewer to select from, they cost significantly more, there are more tenants to manage and it usually takes longer to sell the more expensive buildings. Not as many investors can swing a multi-million dollar deal or even finance one.

It might not be intuitive, but the more expensive the property the more likely it will be purchased as a cash deal. Big buildings carry big responsibilities and risks, but also are coupled with larger rewards.

Generally the rules are straightforward with residential rental properties. Lease contracts are generally standardized in most states and the landlord/tenant rules are clearly defined. The laws tend to protect the tenant more than the landlord. Still, the landlord, if she bought right, should turn a tidy profit.

Real estate investors usually start small, a single family rental or duplex, moving up to multi-unit buildings later. Most landlords stop at the duplex level with maybe a 4-plex or so tossed in for good measure.

The next leap takes courage. Financing a large deal is more difficult. Only a select number of banks are willing to fund a seven figure project. You need good credit, experience and a documented plan. At the end of the day the multi-unit complex is still a forgiving animal in the real estate world.

Then there is the commercial property.




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Embrace Failure

Show me a successful person and I’ll show you someone with deep seated pain. Pain is a powerful motivator. Few can reach lofty heights and keep pushing without underlying pain driving them forward.

Steve Jobs said you have to be “. . . insane to do this. . . ” when he discussed why he worked so hard to achieve so much because “. . . it hurts so much.” He expanded the insanity to include all successful people. It doesn’t matter what it is you are the best in. Being the best and marching forward after attaining the top is an exercise in pain regardless the field.

Some are satisfied with “good enough”. They are the lucky ones. Normal people attain a certain level of success and sit back and enjoy it. You see these people everywhere. They are the upper middle class people lucky enough to have reached the level of “having it” or “made it” without the grinding pain from earlier in life driving them on.

Then there are the people we see in the news on a regular basis. These are the business leaders and entertainers who never are satisfied with their performance even when they have reached so high they have cut new ground. They climbed to the top of the mountain and started building the mountain higher. What drives these people? And are you one of them?




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You’re Using the Wrong Definition for Retirement

Students are ready.

Old dogs can learn new tricks. Preconceived notions are not reality or facts.

Several years ago life was going fine for me. Business was good, the sky was sunny and I thought I had a firm grasp on how the world worked. An avid reader, I chanced across a blog that pulled me in deeper than any before. Normally I read several blogs with no blog standing out from the crowd. I digest what I can and move on. Then along came Mr. Money Mustache.

Some blogs are better than others. Quality is frequently an issue, but personal taste is too. To make matters worse, this Mustache guy had a serious following. High quality suited to my tastes with a massive audience started me questioning some of those preconceived notions.

Most issues I was in complete agreement with. There was one stand-out: retirement and what the word meant. At first I had an identity crisis. Was I really retired all along and didn’t know it? Is it wrong to have gainful employment?

The only way to figure this thing out was to attend personal finance conferences with like-minded people. That was two years ago. In the beginning it made the confusion worse and the crisis more acute. Then I developed my own definition of retirement to suit my needs. Finally, last weekend, I made what I feel is the final leap in my evolution toward a retirement definition I can use in my personal life.




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Outsourcing Payroll

It had to happen. Reading personal finance blogs finally paid off. Your side gig or business idea exploded to the upside. Maybe you decided it was time to hire a household employee (nanny or groundskeeper).

Worse, you started reading this blog and finally pulled the trigger on your own accounting/tax firm. Now you have clients with payroll issues and you don’t want to spend the time or deal with the headaches of payroll. Your goal was a side gig, not an albatross.

You might have your own small business turning a tidy profit, but the taxes are killing you. You stumbled into this room and discovered there is another way, a way where you can earn the income and pay only a small portion in taxes.

Then you hear about this crazy accountant from Wisconsin promising to share his strategic alliances with readers only to discover he is a slacker. Until today.

There was more work involved than originally anticipated. It was all worth the effort. I have a major national payroll service with dedicated staff trained in my tax and wealth building philosophy.

You can do it yourself and take a chance you get it wrong; you will. Or you can cough up a hairball buying payroll software that is more expensive in many cases than hiring a professional team to do all the work for you. Time value of money, folks. Time value of money.




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The Knuckle Dragging Neanderthal Meets Uber and Airbnb

Tax Collector? They opened an office for me when I visited Florida!

Earlier this year Mrs. Accountant and I attended Camp Mustache in Gainesville, Florida. We were offered a ride to the Camp, but we also had several additional days planned around the event. Renting a car in such a situation is expensive since the car would just sit there for days while my wallet was financially abused.

My youngest daughter rolled her eyes when I mentioned I needed the phone number to the Gainesville taxi service. She grabbed my phone and started working on it. This is an unusual event for anyone who knows me. I use my phone as a phone. Period. I don’t care about, nor do I want to know about any of the other things smart phone can do. I make my own breakfast, thank you.

In a few minutes my daughter completed her assault on my virgin phone. She added an app to my phone. (To this day I have no idea what an app is. Whenever the kids talk about apps I joke that we are living on The Planet of the Apps.)

I told her it was nice of her to put an app on my phone, but I’ll never use it. Another eye roll. “Here, dad,” she said pointing to the Uber icon now conveniently located in the middle of my screen. “All you do is touch the icon and tell the phone where you want to go.”

Huh?

Well, my fingers don’t work well with all the small letters and stuff on a phone so I have made a habit of avoiding the issue. Now I find out I can talk to my phone and it responds. Awesome!

I know, I know. You readers are rolling your eyes like my daughter. This stuff has probably been around for a long time. Somehow I missed it. I refuse to blame my stubbornness on “missing it” even though it is probably the reason why.




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Fighting the Profit Train

One of the mantras of the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community is the owning of income property. With rare exception, investors do it all wrong, taking on extraordinary risk for no reason.

Side gigs are handled the same way. Whether you run a full-fledged business or a side gig, you probably make the same mistake real estate investor’s do.

Americans love to invest at home. There is a tendency for people from all countries to focus their investment dollars in the domestic market. The comfort of understanding the local business climate clouds the investor’s judgment. American’s are the worst. For decades I have recommended 70% S&P 500 index fund/ total market index fund and 30% international index funds for my American clients. This is still weighted heavily toward U.S. companies. The diversification in broad-based index funds with a third of the portfolio in international is a good mix in my opinion. Small business owners and real estate investors rarely make such a sound decision.




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The Dangers of a Side Gig

Tax season is officially over and not a moment too soon. As much as I love the work, when months go by without a day off it begins to wear on me. The worst part is the sitting. Too many hours planted in a chair coupled with sleep deprivation and health is not getting the attention it needs.

Loving something as much as I love tax work is also a challenge for people around me. Mrs. Accountant is an angel, allowing me the opportunity every year to disappear for months to help complete strangers and semi-strangers with their tax, accounting and financial problems. My daughters have learned from an early age dad is a very intense man when it comes to his work.

Work has never been a four letter word for me. (Considering my profession you would think I could count to four better.) Growing up on a farm meant everything was work, but not work. Running to the creek to fish was something you did. Planting in spring was fun, not really work. Harvesting was an addiction; sleep was hard to achieve until the crops were off the field. I know of no greater pleasure than watching a barn filled with bales of hay, placed there by my own hands. There is no greater thrill than to see the milk cooler fill each day to the rim. A full bulk tank meant money, and therefore, life. It was a good life and I had no idea what the real world was like outside my vision horizon.




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It Pays to Have a Hobby

The demographic reading this blog does the things necessary to retire early. The same demographic believes in a side hustle to retire even earlier or to fill time once work becomes an elective. These facts make hobby rules an important consideration. The tax law has a massive loophole few use.

Accountants in the room will understand what I say next. A client walks in the door and his hobby finally turned a few dollars of revenue. No worries, the client says, I can lose money in my business for three years before I have to shut it down and start over. The client actually thinks there is a rule saying you must make a profit 2 out of every five years. By this yardstick, Tesla, a publically traded company, would have to shut down. (Tesla has a decade of loses as I write this.)

The rule people think applies to small businesses actually is a hobby rule meant to serve the IRS, not you. If the rule wasn’t there, people like me would have a field day. Self-employment tax would be a thing you only read about.

People want to be a business when they lose money and a hobby (if they knew the rules) when they have a profit. Race car drivers want to write-off $48,721 of expenses because they won $2,100 of prize money racing. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

But there is a strategy here you can use to seriously reduce your tax burden.




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