27 May, 2007

My fairy tale romance has come true!

Initially we met in person in NY at the US OPEN.....Of course there was some attraction, but most definitely some apprehension from my part being that he was 30 years older than me...We had a great time that week. He went home to California, and I went home to Miami...We kept in touch (although very briefly) until we somehow rediscovered each other on Millionairematch.com! By that time, I had certainly reconsidered dating an older man. As a result, I realized that he was indeed my Prince Charming! My fairy tale has begun. He asked me to come out to visit him in July 2006 and I have been here ever since! In October 2006 he proposed with a 5carat diamond engagement ring! We are getting married Memorial Day Weekend(2007) in Vegas, at the Bellagio! In one week actually! I am totally esctatic! For my fairy tale romance has come true!

17 April, 2007

Creating Wealth with Real Estate: A Simple Plan

Several real-life millionaires are profiled in the book, “The Millionaire Real Estate Investor,” by Gary Keller. Collectively they reveal several ways to become a millionaire by investing in real estate although each of them took a different path.

That alone is reason enough to read the book. For those of us who are serious about real estate investing, is there anyone better to learn from than someone who has actually achieved the goal and provided a roadmap? The simple answer is that there is no one better to learn from. You model their attitudes and beliefs and follow their proven plan and ultimately you’ll achieve the same results. It’s as simple as that.

One of the plans from the book stood out from the rest so that’s the one I’ll focus on in this article. But first you need to decide what you want to create with real estate: income or wealth? They are not the same thing.

Basically income is what you earn and wealth is what you keep. It’s not uncommon for six-figure income earners to be almost bankrupt because they spend, spend, spend. On the other hand, it’s not difficult to find others who have become millionaires on meager wages because they were smart enough to invest all they could and watch it grow.

OK so what’s the plan? This particular investor and his wife began by paying the mortgage on their personal residence. Each month, they paid the regular mortgage payment plus whatever they could afford to pay extra. I believe it took or years. Considering the average mortgage is 30 years, that’s excellent.

Then they bought an investment property and put a renter in it. Since their own house was paid off, they had more cash flow to pay off their first investment home. The rent plus the cash they had been paying towards their own mortgage went to pay off this mortgage. This house was paid off in or years.

They simply repeated this process over and over again. However, each time they bought another investment house, they had more cash flow to pay off the mortgage and consequently they owned the house free & clear more quickly with each property. For example, on the third house, they had not only the money that had been going to pay off the house they lived in, but the rent from the second house (since it was owned free & clear) plus the rental income from the third house itself. They owned the third house free & clear in less than 3 years.

It’s not a way to get rich quick, but it’s a practical plan for creating wealth. They owned two investment properties free and clear in about 10 years. In 15 years, they owned about 4 houses free and clear. And they’d own 8 houses totally free of debt in around 20 years. How much is the median home price in your city? Multiply that by or by. You could live quite comfortably off that, right? If that average price of a house where you live is $250,000, you’d have one million dollars in real estate free & clear in only 15 years.

Appreciation, the annual increase in value, is one of the best qualities of real estate and we haven’t even mentioned that yet. If you needed cash, you simply take out a mortage on one of the properties and deposit the proceeds in your bank account…tax free!! That’s a fact. The IRS does not impose taxes on the proceeds of a mortgage. That’s a fabulous plan

How Many Millionaires are There in the World?

The word millionaire is generally used to describe a rich person. When we speak of a millionaire, we think about mansions, limousines and yachts. But what is the most accurate definition of a millionaire? The most recognized definition of a millionaire is a person who has financial assets of at least US$ 1 million, excluding the home value. Despite of the images that we associate with this word, the amount of US$1 million nowadays is no longer what is used to be some decades ago. Many people who have this amount today live without luxuries and do not feel rich. However, this amount is used as a measure to differentiate privileged people, who are known as HNWI (High Net Worth Individuals).

Becoming a Millionaire Investing $5,000 – Reality of Fantasy?

Assuming that history will repeat itself, if you invest $5,000 in the 25 top performing stocks you will be a millionaire in less than 25 years! What is the catch? We are not talking about today’s top performing stocks. We are talking about the top performing stock in the next 25 years. A quarter of a century ago if you had a crystal ball and had invested $200 in each of the top 25 performing stocks, today you would have $1,370,000!

If you are curious to know what great stocks you may have missed, here is a list of the top 25 performing stocks and their corresponding percentage growth in the last 25 years as reported in the USA Today:

    1. Franklin Resources - 65,224%
    2. Danaher - 47,913%
    3. Eaton Vance – 38,444%
    4. UnitedHealth – 37,672%
    5. Cisco Systems - 33,632%
    6. International Gaming Technology - 33,436%
    7. Biomet - 30,531%
    8. Microsoft – 29,266%
    9. Best Buy - 28,703%
    10. Oracle – 28,535%
    11. Stryker – 25,383%
    12. Countrywide – 24,160%
    13. Expeditors International – 23,860%
    14. Home Depot – 23,845%
    15. Dell – 23,048%
    16. Robert Half – 21,170%
    17. Credo Petroleum – 20,180%
    18. Adobe Systems – 19,989%
    19. Precision Castparts - 19,437%
    20. Berkshire Hathaway – 19,424%
    21. Smithfield Foods – 19,414%
    22. Paxar – 18,923%
    23. Time Warner – 18,158%
    24. Paychex – 17,920%
    25. Harley-Davidson – 17,808%

Obviously looking back in the rear view mirror is much easier than looking forward. In order to achieve the results above not only would you have needed the fortitude to select these stocks before they became household names, you would also have had to hang on to these stocks even when their prospects were bleak. Today they are considered super stocks, but back in the early days their future prospects were not so clear. Oracle for instance had a near death experience during this 25 year period.

If you are like most people, guessing the next 25 top performing stocks in the next 25 years is nearly impossible. Your best shot is probably to invest in a few potential super stocks and, if you have some luck, you may just find one that becomes a top performer. How do you go about finding such a gem? Perhaps you can start by looking for the next megatrends that will drive the growth of the next super stocks. In the article Megatrends-Based Investment Ideas.we share some potential areas that you may want to investigate. You probably have observed other magatrends yourself that may become a good investment theme.

Once you have identified a good investment theme you should follow the advice of those that have already succeeded. In the article achieve success with your investments, we share some advice from one of the most successful investment families in America. Notice that the very first advice in that list is to set realistic expectations. Therefore, you shouldn’t expect to repeat the spectacular return of any of the stocks listed above. Historically stocks have retuned on average 10-11% per year. At this level of return, you can expect to double your money about every 7 years.

So, with an average return, you should expect your $5,000 investment to be worth somewhat less than $80,000 in 25 years. This is still a very good return on your investment. But if you are looking to become a millionaire in the next 25 years you will probably need to invest more than $5,000.

Unless of course you are one of the lucky few who can find a super stock and will hold it for the entire period.

Millionaire chess player plans moves to eliminate Missouri income tax, St. Louis earnings tax

ST. LOUIS — Multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield has deep pockets and an even deeper interest in Missouri politics. And his retirement strategy meshes both. After making a fortune as an investment banker, Sinquefield is prepared to spend millions in the next few years to influence the Missouri public and help elect state and local officials who share his disdain for income taxes and troubled urban public schools. Missouri's elimination of campaign-donation limits could further help his cause and those of others with bankrolls big enough to wield influence in the state. Sinquefield's moniker and money are expected to be prominent on this week's campaign-finance reports, the first for statewide candidates since the limits were removed. The St. Louis native moved back to the state just two years ago after being away for 35 years. But he's swiftly making up for lost time. Sinquefield already has spent a bundle to help establish the Show-Me Institute, a free-market think tank based in Clayton. With an eight-member board of prominent bankers, economists and some Republicans, the institute pays for research studies into many of the issues that Sinquefield cares about, from the state's minimum wage to St. Louis' earnings tax. (He opposes both.) The institute, and the prospect of generous contributions, are among the reasons why Sinquefield has swiftly found himself on a first-name basis with most of Missouri's top elected officials in both parties. Many of them have been invited to the 1,000-acre estate that Sinquefield and his wife have built within the past five years on the banks of the Osage River, just a few miles from Jefferson City. The couple recently purchased a three-story mansion on one of St. Louis' historic private streets in the Central West End. Sinquefield plans to spend half of each week in the city to pursue his interests in philanthropy, sports and politics. "My whole motivation is to try to make Missouri a better place,'' he said. "I have no secret issues. I have no secret agenda." Sinquefield's direct approach has won him admiration, even from those wary of his objectives. "We just click on so many levels, on so many issues,'' said Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who agrees with Sinquefield's quest to abolish Missouri's income tax. Gov. Matt Blunt calls him a friend. So does House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, who added, "People draw attention sometimes because of what they are worth, but Rex is a guy who achieved a great deal of success on his own and has gotten a lot of attention because he shows passion about some big issues." Former Gov. Bob Holden and current Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, both Democrats, also have dined with Sinquefield although both note they disagree with many of his stands. Holden, who's known Sinquefield for years, calls him a "generous and thoughtful person who wants to give back in his own way." Carnahan offers similar praise, but adds, "My sense was that he hasn't done a serious study of how his proposals would affect real people and the vital services that they expect from state government." Jim Kottmeyer, a consultant with several groups who have actively opposed Sinquefield's ideas, says there's no doubt that the multimillionaire's presence — and his pocketbook — are rapidly affecting the state's political landscape. Some of Sinquefield's political critics, for example, are afraid of attacking him in public out of fear that he'll heavily bankroll a political opponent. Said Kottmeyer: "I don't think they've seen anybody like him in Missouri.'' Raised in orphanage Sinquefield's rags-to-riches life is one of his attractions. Born in St. Louis, he spent six years in St. Vincent's orphanage — roughly ages 8 to 14 — before reuniting with his widowed mother and older sisters. He graduated from Bishop DuBourg High School near St. Louis Hills. Sinquefield attended Cardinal Glennon Seminary for three years before deciding the religious life was not for him. "I was studying to be a bishop. They said, 'Wait a minute, you have to be a priest first,'" Sinquefield recalled with a chuckle. He transferred to St. Louis University, graduating in 1967 with a business degree. In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, Sinquefield was drafted into the Army. But instead of being sent overseas, he was placed in the finance corps based at Fort Riley, Kan. After a two-year military stint, Sinquefield worked for banks in St. Louis and Chicago, the latter while also acquiring an MBA at the University of Chicago. He spent nine years with the American National Bank of Chicago, working his way up to be the head of its investment section and later, the trust department. His love of investing prompted Sinquefield to leave the bank in 1981 to co-found Dimensional Fund Advisors with business partner David Booth. The firm quickly grew, and now employs 330 people worldwide. In 2006, it managed at least $138 billion in funds. A spokeswoman confirmed that the firm's owners include employees, board members and 28 outside investors, including California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Long based in Santa Monica, Calif. — which Sinquefield dubs "Soviet Monica'' because of its high taxes — the firm now is relocating its headquarters to Austin, Texas. The draw: Texas doesn't have an income tax. Income tax battle Two years ago, Sinquefield retired from the firm to pursue his political and personal passions. His mantra, which he preaches to everyone he meets, is that state income taxes hurt job growth and economic prosperity. He makes the same argument about the earnings taxes levied by the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City and the minimum wage. In the case of state income taxes, Sinquefield points to the rapid growth experienced the nine states — including Florida, New Hampshire and Washington — that don't impose an income tax. The state income comes from other taxes, such as sales taxes. "The absence of that (income) tax is a powerful magnet,'' Sinquefield said. He also seeks constitutional restrictions on state spending. But Kottmeyer asserts that eliminating Missouri's income tax is "a dangerous idea for the state's economy. It's a giant tax break for the rich and a giant tax hike for consumers'' who would be saddled with higher sales taxes. As for St. Louis' earnings tax, Sinquefield proposes replacing it with a land tax that would be separate from a property tax. He notes that many city officials and corporate executives are looking for alternatives to the earnings tax. On the education front, Sinquefield is among several institute board members who have intervened in court against the 250-plus Missouri public school districts who are suing for changes in the state's aid-allocation formula. The Show-Me Institute has issued studies that generally agree with Sinquefield's views. But the experts who conduct the studies say he wielded no undue influence. "I have dealt with people who tried to direct research once they've commissioned a report from me,'' said Joseph Haslag, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia who has conducted several studies for the institute. "My relationship with the Show-Me Institute and Rex has been the exact opposite.'' Among Sinquefield's disappointments was last year's overwhelming statewide vote in favor of Proposition B, which increased Missouri's minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, up from $5.15. He agrees with business groups that particularly oppose the measure's mandate of annual cost-of-living increases, which Sinquefield contends will cost jobs. Kottmeyer advised the groups in favor of Proposition B, and says last fall's results were evidence that Missouri voters disagree with Sinquefield's views. "Rex has certainly got an agenda that has been rejected by a majority of Missourians,'' he said. Sinquefield replied that when it comes to a minimum wage, "Some things have common sense appeal, but they're just wrong." Known for chess, charm Sinquefield's passion for government change is softened by what even his critics describe as charm and compassion. Holden, for example, said Sinquefield offered one of the buildings on his estate for a Holden family reunion held when the former governor's mother was gravely ill. And Sinquefield and his staff emphasize that he's donating far more money to other personal passions besides politics, such as the symphony, St. Vincent's and after-school programs for the urban poor. A chess fanatic, Sinquefield is offering to start and bankroll a regionwide chess program for children. He's also honing his own chess skills to return to the tournament circuit. Sinquefield often plays chess online with other chess experts, in games that can take days for a single move. He appears to be adopting the same methodical, patient approach to state and local government. Sinquefield said he recognizes that it may take years for his vision to take hold. But he also is upfront about his political expectations. Sinquefield acknowledges that he's willing to pour millions of dollars into the campaigns of like-minded politicians. But he added that he'll contribute to campaigns only "as long as it advances this agenda." "If it doesn't," Sinquefield said with a smile, "I won't."

West leaving Grizzlies as St. Charles millionaire tries to refocus franchise

A day after St. Charles multi-millionaire Michael Heisley said he will pull his Memphis Grizzlies team off the NBA open market if he can’t find a buyer this month, Jerry West announced he will leave as the Grizzlies’ director of basketball operations July 1.

West said he’s “not a youngster” and weary of the turmoil surrounding the team.

West, one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, will end a five-year stint with the Memphis franchise. The NBA legend, who turns 69 in May, had been under contract only through this season and said Tuesday many factors played into his decision.

“I think the wear and tear of the season, particularly like this (has been tough). There’s been a lot of turmoil here. The ownership thing have made it very difficult to concentrate on what we need to do here to improve our basketball team.”

He did not indicate any immediate jobs he was considering in the NBA.

Michael Heisley
The Grizzlies (21-60) have the worst record in the league and their troubles on the court have been compounded by the possible sale of the club. West fired Mike Fratello in December and hired Tony Barone as an interim coach.

The announcement of West’s departure came a day after Heisley, the team’s majority owner, said he would abandon his yearlong pursuit of selling the franchise if he does not have a viable offer by May 1.

“I think (Heisley) pretty much said it (Monday) night when he said he wanted me to put in place a future management team,” West said.

West added he had told the owner: “I thought it was very important that we have a new voice here.”

West will advise the team through the draft and the hiring of a new coach. Barone was given the job on an interim basis after the firing of Fratello. He said he believes two people should be hired to take over his duties - a general manager and a vice president of basketball operations.

West, whose silhouette from his playing days is featured on the NBA logo, won eight NBA titles as either a player, executive or consultant with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Monday, Heisley explained his situation with the franchise, saying “I’m just basically tired, and I’m a little worn out. “I’m going to get re-involved, and we are basically going to run the team.”

Former Duke players Brian Davis and Christian Laettner tried to buy the team, but they couldn’t come up with the $252 million needed to purchase Heisley’s controlling share or the $360 million necessary to purchase the team.

Heisley said he has talked to two or three groups about the sale, but nothing has been accomplished.

Heisley said the team will now concentrate on the draft, hoping to land one of the top picks.

“We have a chance in this draft to get a tremendous player,” he said. “This is probably the strongest draft since I’ve been in the NBA. Hopefully, God will shine on us and give us the pingpong ball.

“Obviously, we’re very anxious and hopeful that we will get either one or two.”

Heisley said he still thinks the franchise would be better with a new owner.

“I truly believe Memphis deserves to have an owner who lives here, who’s active, who’s really involved,” Heisley said. “Someone like (Dallas Mavericks owner) Mark Cuban, who would basically energize the situation. I think that would be better than having a guy like me, who’s 70 years old.”

The Millionaire Myth

You could say rugged individualism is the American way. It's the story we see all around us. It's the ethic behind Hollywood's power hitters, and it's behind the Horatio Alger mantra that, no matter what, we can all pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We're told all we have to do is buckle down and work hard, and eventually we'll succeed.

That's the story we're told -- and it's the story we believe when we read about John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and a few women such as Mary Kay, Martha Stewart and Oprah, or any of the millionaires and billionaires whose stories surround us on television and in magazines.

The usual line is that these people struggled against terrific odds, alone against the world. They achieved the American dream and became extremely wealthy because they were extraordinary individuals. To make it in this world, we're told, you've got to make things happen on your own. We've all been taught that the way to make money is through individualism. To get ahead, you have to do it on your own -- it's all up to you.

There's only one problem with this story: It's not true. The financially successful people you see all around you did not get there on their own.

I'm going to tell you in this book exactly how people in the Millionaire Zone got there. And I'll tell you exactly how to make this solution work for you, just like the real-life stories you'll read.

After years of working with, talking to and observing very wealthy individuals, I began to see a common theme. Successful people don't get there alone. That's the revolutionary message behind this book.

There are thousands of theories espousing the next great way to get rich, but you have to execute them on your own. You have to get into real estate on your own, you have to daytrade on your own, you have to do X or Y or Z on your own. It's always all on your shoulders. The experts say, "Here's how, now go out and get 'em!" That's very simplistic and of little real value. You either get it or you don't. Good luck!

The typical working American rarely achieves anything substantial by going it alone. We're too busy with our kids, dragged down by our jobs, fearful of the risk, unsure of what to do, or confused. Sound familiar to you? You're not alone. According to my research, 53% of Americans say they'd like to supplement their income or start their own business but feel anxious about venturing out on their own.

The Rules Have Changed

Even when I attended business school, the fundamental philosophy seemed to be to just go out, find a job and make money. That usually meant to go work for someone else.

But these days, that's dicey advice. Who wants to be at the mercy of a company for the rest of their working lives when jobs are being sent overseas, mergers and buyouts are wreaking havoc with employees' lives, and "right-sizing" (i.e., slashing jobs) is the name of the game?

It's harder than ever to get ahead, now that the loyalty bond between employer and employee that was there during our parents' generation has evaporated -- the victim of a global economy, the technological revolution, disappearance of pensions and corporate America's never-ending search for higher quarterly earnings.

Companies such as United Airlines (UAUA - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr) and Bethlehem Steel, which promised generous pensions and medical benefits in retirement to the workers who were loyal to them for decades, have since reneged on those promises.

These days, even financially healthy companies such as IBM (IBM - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating) and Verizon (VZ - Cramer's Take - Stockpickr - Rating) are freezing their pensions, meaning that workers will end up with far fewer guaranteed benefits than they were expecting. Meanwhile, half of American workers don't have any kind of pension at all, and most of the rest are relying on a 401(k) plan -- the very epitome of go-it-alone.

With a traditional pension your benefits are guaranteed, but with a 401(k) all the risk is on the individual to save enough (your employer's matching contributions notwithstanding), make the right investment choices and figure out how to make your nest egg last through your retirement.

And trust me, even if you did save through your 401(k) during your career, chances are you wouldn't be close to having what you need for retirement: A 32-year-old who makes $30,000 a year until age 67 would have only $102,750, assuming he or she contributed 3% of salary to a 401(k) and received a company match of 1.5%, according to Vanguard. So much for the golden years.

Here's another sign that it's only getting harder to get to the Millionaire Zone, especially if you're trying to do it on salary alone: The inflation-adjusted income of the median household in 2004 was 3.8% lower than in 1999, according to the Economic Policy Institute's analysis of census data.

The reality of our wages situation, combined with disappearing pensions, higher college costs and rising health-care costs, is hitting our savings rate hard: Personal savings has been running negative for 16 straight months. How do you get a negative savings rate? By borrowing money or selling assets to support your spending habits.

Now take a look at the returns on your own money. How have you done? Have you handled your savings like millions of others, leaving it in a checking or savings account at, maybe, 3%? Are you among those who, even if you've stashed money aside through your 401(k), didn't carefully choose which funds you're invested in? Is what you're stashing in your retirement account going to get you through retirement? Get your kid to college? Enable you to start that nonprofit you always dreamed of?

Obviously it's important to keep some money invested in low-risk, low-return investments. You want a balanced portfolio, and you want to invest according to your risk tolerance. But you also need to consider your future and decide whether moving yourself closer to the Millionaire Zone requires taking some steps toward higher returns.

Yes, these statistics are depressing. But rather than letting these numbers beat you into submission, consider them a wake-up call. The American dream is still very much attainable. The impact of the economic dislocation our society has undergone in the last 20 years just means we need to change the rules of the game, so that the dream remains ours.

What about turning $5,000 into $1 million? Many have done it, and you'll hear some of their stories in this book.

My experience is that average working Americans are severely disadvantaged. Even if they've dedicated 20 or 30 years of their life to one company, it's unlikely they'll ever create a seven-figure fortune. And many of them seem to know it: 50% of employed Americans surveyed for this book said they are "very" or "somewhat" pessimistic that they will make a lot of money in their lifetime. For most of us, to achieve real financial independence, the only way up is out!