Last week as I picked an abundant fig harvest, I couldn’t help but think about how much my fig harvest parallels the wealth building fundamentals I’ve learned (many the hard way!) from investing in dozens of different assets and strategies over the past few decades as a personal investor.
These wealth building fundamentals are priorities, maximizing financial resources, capitalizing on low cost opportunities, being prepared, cycle awareness, smart leverage, and realistic investment return expectations.
In this post, I’ll expand on each of these wealth building fundamentals and beyond.
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Wealth Is More Than Money
I have such fond memories of picking hundreds of figs from the beautiful old fig trees at my mother’s house in Tupelo. The delicious jam my young boys and I made jam out of the figs enhanced the experience even more.
There’s something wonderful and rich about summer memories that are so dear to our hearts.
This reminds us that sometimes real wealth has nothing to do with money making this the first wealth building fundamental.
Wealth is about creating a life based on our priorities.
Money is, however, what allows us to do and have much of what we want, so let’s explore how to have and keep more of it with more tactical wealth building fundamentals.
My mother’s senior neighbor, Mr Stevens, inserted a hook into the end of a pole so we could reach up into the tree and pull down branches, allowing us to gather figs that were previously out of reach.
Years later, when Mama died, I brought that fig pole back to Austin with me. It became a valuable resource for me to increase my fig harvest each summer.
Sometimes we need investing resources to help us increase our financial harvest, too. The good news is that investing resources are abundant today, unlike past decades.
For example, it used to be we could only buy stocks through a stock broker at a brokerage firm, often paying commissions over $100 for the one transaction! That sounds crazy now when compared to free commissions from online brokers for instant security purchases.
Just over two decades ago, the only available investment research was from paper publications that were dated by the time they arrived. Finally, CNBC kept us informed throughout the day, and it became the go to timely resource.
A lot of people complain they weren’t taught wealth building fundamentals, and this is the reason they don’t have any savings.
Nowadays, however, there’s so much financial information, anyone who wants to learn can do so.
Use Caution When Chooosing Investment Resources
Tread carefully, however, among the plethora of financial resources.
Here are questions I ask myself to climb out of the frequently visited financial resource rabbit hole.
First, I’ve found that the massive number of investment resources can lead to paralysis analysis. Identifying the very next step you need to take to edge toward your investment goals will steer you in the right direction.
Second, can you trust the resource?
Third, what is the information source’s bias? That bias is almost always selling wealth management services or financial products, such as insurance or software.
Just so you know, my bias is to fulfill a desire to share what I’ve learned from investing over the decades while getting paid through coaching, my book or advertisements. I don’t, however, sell wealth management products or services, (like insurance or advisory services) and choose my associations very carefully so I can remain unbiased and true to my own research and experiences.
Discern these 3 questions wisely, and use the best investment resources to improve your harvest immediately.
My post How to Create a Wealth Plan can help.
A Change in Perspective
When picking figs, sometimes I don’t see any new figs at all. When I climb up or down my ladder, however, I can instantly see dozens of ripe figs ready for the taking.
Similarly, sometimes we can’t see the many opportunities available to build wealth from our current perspective.
We’re conditioned to look straight ahead and in the same direction we’ve always looked.
Plus, with our investing, it feels safe to do what mainstream and everyone else is doing, stock and bond investing using asset allocation or perhaps annuities.
Sometimes we need a change in perspective, however, because this doesn’t work all the time, and certainly not for everyone, for two reasons as explained below.
Your Personal Financial Goals
Everyone has needs and circumstances making a successful one-size-fits-all investing strategy impossible.
Economic Cycles and Financial Markets
What most everyone else is doing (long-term buy and hold investing in s&p 500 and treasury bond index funds) works brilliantly during certain time frames.
This strategy hasn’t, however, worked so well during other time frames, as confirmed in simple historical data.
Yet we repeatedly hear the virtues of passive buy and hold index investing and treasury bonds using age and risk appropriate asset allocation for everyone regardless of circumstances.
Does it work?
It depends on your time frame and income needs so you can live how you want for life, yet investors will vehemently defend this strategy until it doesn’t work.
Read my post Beginner to Advanced Investing Strategies to see the 6 different levels.
No Investment Strategy Is Perfect
Sometimes I’d pick a fig that looked perfect initially, but a closer look revealed lots of imperfections.
No fig is perfect, just as no investing strategy is perfect.
In the past, I thought a certain low risk strategy I’d discovered was perfect, or another high return strategy was perfect.
I learned that no investment strategies are perfect all the time.
Offensive and Defensive Investments
Buy and hold investment strategies that work well during bull markets under perform during bear markets.
Buy and hold investment strategies that work well during bear markets under perform during bull markets.
While there could be some rare exceptions to this, my experience has been that no buy and hold strategy breaks this wealth building fundamental consistently over repeated market cycles.
This awareness led me to be a more tactical investor investing around cycles for most of our assets.
Most post What Are Defensive Investments? explains this more.
Be Prepared for Investment Opportunities
My memory of fig harvesting was that the best month to harvest figs in Austin, where we live now, was early August. This year the fig trees were most plentiful in mid-July.
I needed to be ready to pick those beautiful figs right when the opportunity appeared or they would have become bird, or worse, squirrel, breakfast.
In the same way, I need to be prepared when investment opportunities appear.
For example, I need to have funds and time available to capture wealth building opportunities when they present themselves.
Since the opportunities may not be what I thought they would be or when I thought they would surface, I need to always be prepared.
Examples of wealth building opportunities were stocks in 2009, and then real estate in 2010 and 2011.
Other opportunities I’ve seen over the decades are:
- Cheap quality bonds with high yields
- Covered call strategies with unusually high yield during high volatility
- Real estate properties from estate sales
- Real estate properties due to local economic changes, such as oil or industry
- Stocks after bear markets
Some of these opportunities I’ve taken and others I haven’t, mostly because I wasn’t prepared in one way to another.
Read my related post Wealth Building after 50.
A Shift in Perspective
Sometimes opporunities require a major shift in perspective.
Over the past decade, for example, online businesses have been a one time and exceptional opportunity for those ready and willing to take advantage of it. This opportunity still exists today based on the valuations that I’m seeing and the income we’ve been able to generate while doing something that we enjoy.
Online business is way outside the norm and comfort zone for most investors yet it’s a screaming opporunity.
Read my related post Starting an Online Business After 50
Preparation Steps for Wealth Building Opportunities
None of these wealth building (and or income generating opportunities) can be taken unless investors are prepared and:
- Have funds available (and or time, in the case of starting an online business)
- Are knowledgeable ahead so they can spot opportunities
- Have the confidence to act(which comes from knowledge)
Generational Wealth Building Opportunities
My white Labrador, Blanco, loves to eat the figs that drop off the tree. A wealth building fundamental which parallels this dynamic is creating or buying assets that other family members can step into or own one day.
This fundamental can apply to paper assets, like stocks and bonds, of course. It can apply to other opportunities, such as real estate rental property or online business, in particular.
Read my related post Owning a Business Vs Real Estate
Expecting a Harvest
While some harvests are better than others, I expect to have figs in the summer.
As a whole, however, we tend to be conditioned with a negative bias for a couple of reasons.
First, our brains needed a survival mode or we would have never survived the cave dwelling days.
Second, we created stories from fear and lack to keep us safe when we were young. These stories play out for life until we clear them which most investors never do because it sounds both too weird and too good to be true.
Third, as mentioned elsewhere in this post, it feels safer to do what everyone else is doing.
While this may sound rather woo woo, my experience has been that when I expect abundance and/or good things to happen, they are more likely to.
Maybe this is because I see things differently when I’m expecting opportunities. Not only do I see them, but I see them as achievable.
If I’m expecting lack that’s what I see and seem to get.
My fig tree is the perfect example of leverage. I planted the tree once.
I organically fertilize the tree once or twice in the spring. Then the fig tree produces hundreds of figs which would cost north of $300 at the grocery store in any one season.
An example of the leverage wealth building fundamental is investing in dividend stocks that also allow the investor to sell covered calls for monthly income. With this strategy, leverage occurs when the same asset is generating multiple yields.
Another more common example might be dividend stocks that also have capital gains. That same asset has provided the investor wih two different returns.
Another leverage example is an online business that has various revenue sources.
The most common example of investment leverage is purchasing rental real estate with only a down payment. That real estate can then go on to produce income for decades. It can also have capital gains as well as tax benefits, adding yet more layers of leverage.
Read my related post Wealth Building after 50
My fig tree was purchased over a decade ago for about $25. I have gotten thousands of figs from that one investment.
This wealth building fundamental parallels perfectly with starting an online business because it can cost less than $25 but can provide a harvest for decades, as we have personally experienced, even in our 50’s and 60’s.
Read my related post Is It Too Late to Start an Online Business?
Cycles Last Longer Than You Think They Will
Even though August has historically been the month for fig harvesting in the south, sometimes the harvest has lasted through September.
I vividly recall this from going out to pick figs for a reality break after leaving the hospital each day when my mother was dying. It was late September.
Thinking back over various bull markets, I’ve learned many times that cycles last much longer than the financial gurus think and say that they will.
For example, the end of the 2010 s bull market was predicted for years. The same thing happened in the 1990’s.
You never know for sure how long the cycle will last in either direction. The best investment strategies, however, capitalize on a long harvest while minimizing risk.
Read my related post Stock Market Return 2010 through 2019 and
As we relaxed by our pool following my best harvest day, my husband, Larry, offered yet another wealth building fundamental with a fig tree parallel to create passive income.
Fig trees require little care. We can especially appreciate that they need almost no water since we live in Austin with sweltering temperatures over 100° and strict water restrictions during the fig harvest.
You can certainly compare this harvest to creating passive income investments. Dividend stocks are an ideal example of a passive income investment.
Addmittedly, as you may have read here before, I don’t think there’s anything such as a completely passive investment since even dividend stocks require research, or, at a minimum selecting a talented financial advisor that purchases dividend stocks for you.
Dividend income, however, is certainly an almost completely passive investment.
Read my related post Wealth Building Vs Income
Plan to Harvest Around Seasons
The fig tree has distinct cycles that lead to harvest.
Fig trees don’t produce in December, for example.
A core wealth building fundamental is investing with an awareness of economic and financial cycles since reasonable expectations can be made about what will be harvested during these various cycles.
For example, in the depths of a recession, few companies grow, so they don’t produce capital gains for us investors. The company may also cut dividends during recessions.
As investors, expecting something different is somewhat crazy for the stock market as a whole.
Bear markets happen.
Black swans happen.
Accepting this reality allows us to plan and invest with less risk and better returns.
For more on this, read my related posts below and then finish this article.
I can manipulate my fig harvest a little bit by adding a little organic fertilizer. If I add too much fertilizer, however, I’ll kill my fig tree.
At a minimum, that year’s harvest will be destroyed as a result of too much attempted manipulation.
Similarly, too much manipulation of the natural financial cycles can lead to damage.
Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve has taken many actions over recent decades to manipulate and control the natural cycles and various events noted above, particularly since 2008.
We don’t know yet what will happen as a result of these manipulations but we do need to be aware that they have happened, and they are unprecedented.
They may lead to difficulties ahead for investors. Having this awareness gives us the ability to invest around them and limit the related risk.
Read my related post Advanced Investment Strategies You May Not Hear from Your Advisor.
Realistic Return Expectations
With only one fig tree now, I know I’m not going to get enough harvest to make preserves or supply the neighborhood with figs.
I can reasonably expect, however, to get a moderate to small annual harvest.
As a wealth building fundamental, investment return expectations kept realistic have led to the best results for us over the years.
Expecting too much investment return demanded too much risk.
Expecting too little investment return leaves us with negative after inflation returns and not reaching our investment goals.
Read my related post Retire at 55 with 2 Million
One Week Can Change Everything
There were more figs than we could eat in mid July, and one day later there were almost no figs on the tree. The season was abruptly over until the next harvest.
A wealth building fundamental is that change happens fast, sometimes without any warning. Occassionally, this happens in investing, like with Black Swan events.
More often, however, an immediate disruption in wealth building happens with income ceasing. A three minute call into the boss’s office which ends your job can change your life, for example.
Fortunately, just like with figs, there’s almost always a next season. If you’re older and thinking that there’s not, we’ve been there and done that. There is.
There are abundant opportunities to resume and even accelerate income well after midlife.
For those without marketable skills, for example, marketable skills are fast and easy to obtain online nowadays. Outsourcing work is abundant for putting those skills to work.
The Times We Are In
We live in a time of incredible opportunity to apply these wealth building fundamentals to live how we want with plenty of money.