Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The quickest way to $1,000,000 – Stock Market? Real Estate? Business?

Unless you’re a doctor, lawyer, or work on wall street most people will never be able to become millionaires without one or more of the above methods for generating wealth. As a matter of fact, less than 12% of millionaires get that way by virtue of their “jobs” according to The Millionaire Next Door. So what’s the easiest/best path to becoming a millionaire? Keep in mind, that we’re not talking about a get-rich-quick scheme, but instead the old fashioned way to make $1,000,000 as I blogged about before.

The most important concept to understand is leverage. The goal is always to do more with less. Whether that’s make more money with less invested or more money with less time, the more you can leverage your current assets the more quickly you’ll be able to acheive millionaire status. Now which option – stocks, real estate, or small business provide the greatest leverage?

In reverse order:

  1. Stock market – Once you acheive $1,000,000 in your bank account you can put that into a CD at your local bank for 5% and live comfortably off of your $50,000 per year in interest. Also, once you acheive a net worth of over a million with income of over $250,000 your stock broker can get you access to buying public shares at wholesale prices. In other words, the more money you have to invest the cheaper your per share investment will be. The problem with stocks is that you have to have money to leverage the stock market. Unless of course you can convince a bunch of other people to invest with you in which case you can leverage their money. However if you did that you would no longer be an investor you’d be in business. 😉 Typically a stock market investment prior to becoming a millionaire might look something like this. You invest $5,000 after doing your thorough research on EBB LLC and after a year manage a 20% return. That’s a VERY ideal situation but if you did that you’d cash out in a year with $6,000 or $1,000 profit. Not bad but not a whole lot of leverage there. If instead you invested $20,000 and you’re the next Warren Buffet who can sustain a 20% annual return for 21.5 years you’d be a millionaire. That’s before taxes of course.
  2. Real Estate – If you’ve been around real estate at all you’ve heard the often touted “statistic” that “real estate makes more people millionaires than anything else.” I say “statistic” because I’ve never seen hard evidence to back this up and even if someone produced it, I believe they’d be showing that people are paper millionaires. In other words, on paper their real estate is worth $1,000,000 if they sold it for a $1,000,000 but they don’t exactly have a million smackers in the bank. Real estate is beneficial however in that it gives you much greater leveraging power than the stock market. For instance if you buy a $100,000 property with $5,000 down (which would be tough these days) you would then have around a $600/month mortgage. If you then rent the property to someone else for $1000/month you now have a positive monthly cashflow of $400. Now here’s where the leverage comes in, if the property appreciates 5% in one year and then you sell it (by yourself of course since a realtor would take your profits), you would cash out with $14,800. Let’s say after insurance, maintenance, taxes and other expenses you actually walk away with $10,000. You invested $5k to begin with so you made $5,000 or a 100% return on your investment. Obviously this is an ideal situation however I’ve personally done nearly 100% in less than 22 months so it is definitely possible. If you were able to maintain a 50% return on your real estate investments every year by acquiring positive cashflow rental properties (with the first one worth $200,000) that appreciate at 5% annually you’d be a millionaire in a little less than 10 years. As a matter of fact, in Robert G. Allen’s book Nothing Down for the 2000s, he proposes just such a strategy to help you become a millionaire within 10 years. It’s actually a very good book that I personally credit for inspiring me to buy my first rental property at 21 while enrolled in engineering school. Obviously real estate offers quite a bit more leverage…
  3. Small Business – Here’s the bottom line, with around $5,000 out of pocket I’ve structured a business purchase that has yielded me in perks and compensation more than a 14 fold return on my investment within 12 months. That’s right, a 1400% increase on my initial investment in less than 12 months. Keep in mind, that’s on my very first business purchase and that’s without even selling the business yet. Since I’ve nearly doubled the profits in the business in my first 12 months, I would tend to think that my ROI will actually be well in excess of a 20 fold increase on my money. To make the math a little simpler, a 20 fold increase would be like investing $5,000 and getting back $100,000.

Now to make the comparison more accurate we need to take into account 2 more crucial pieces:

  1. Time
  2. Taxes

The only time I ever made money in the stock market required me to invest a lot of time in research before investing. Once I make those investments I should just be able to stick with them for years and so very little “maintenance” is needed. However that’s the get-rich-slowly method since we have little to no leverage of our money. So if your time is very limited this may be what’s best for you. However with capital gains around 35% your actual profits will be much smaller since when you cash in your stocks you’ll be taxed around 35% on the profits. There are creative ways to reduce that number but in the interest of simplicity we’ll leave it as-is.

When I had my rental property while studying engineering I was able to sufficiently manage my house, classes (while averaging over 21 credits per term), and racing so, though the time investment was constant and sometimes unexpected (like the time when the toilet exploded when I was a state away), it shouldn’t take over your life. Once you get 10-15 properties that’s a different story. As for taxes, real estate actually can be a great tax shelter however if you’re making money and your properties are appreciating you’re probably looking at close to 30% in taxes. I say that because capital gains on your profit will still be 35% however you have more deductions and, if you run it like a business, you can give yourself perks like business travel, laptops, mileage reimbursement, etc.

My business nearly consumes all of my time. Ironically, at the same time, I have more freedom now than I’ve ever had before as either a student or under the employ of someone else. In other words, I may have to trade a Saturday this weekend for skipping out next Friday for a long weekend but I don’t have to ask permission to do so. Overall my business is a full-time job that could still afford me the time for stock market investing and real estate speculation, but could not afford me (at this point) time for a normal full-time job. With 1-3 rental homes it’s very possible to have a normal full time job. The tax benefits of a business are so many and varied that I pay less than 20% of total income in income taxes.

If we take all of those into account here’s how our returns actually look:

  1. Stock Market – (after taxes and assuming a normal full-time job) $650 or 13%
  2. Real Estate – (after taxes and assuming a normal full-time job) $3,500 or 70%
  3. Small Business – (after taxes and deducting the salary I’ve been offered as an engineer) – $18,000 or 420%

So even after taking into account both my time investment (which wouldn’t be nearly as flexible working for someone else as an engineer) and tax consequences, investing in a Small Business as your first step to generating wealth is the best one because it offers by far the greatest leverage. Don’t forget that my ROI for Small Business still assumes that I make absolutely no additional profit when I sell the business. Obviously I don’t plan on that happening. 😉

To your wealth generating success, Bryan

P.S. My original out of pocket expenses for my business purchase were all lawyers fees that were reimbursed by my new business shortly after buying it which meant my inital cash investment was tied up for maybe 90 days versus the entire year for both stocks and real estate.

My best investment ever!

My best investment ever!

My best investment ever!

In less than 60 days I managed a 28% ROI netting me a quick $1400 in cash with almost no work and minimal risk.

Now of course these deals don’t come along everyday but you have to be ready for them when they do… And it wasn’t luck in the stock market, flipping a property (cause that takes lots of time and risk), or even growing my business. Nope – this investment was a motorcycle. 🙂 One that I bought, put 1444 miles on and sold for a quick profit.

Ironically, the formula I used to make this deal work has a lot of parallels to buying, building, and selling a business. Here are a few:

  1. The most important part is always the purchase. No matter how hard you work to build a business in a short time, the purchase price is what dictates your ROI.
  2. I knew a good deal when I saw one and acted quickly. Honestly, I know a lot more about motorcycles and engineering then I know about business so even though I knew the price was right, I did my homework and verified that the bike was WAY underpriced.
  3. I was in the right place at the right time. Granted, with business if you’re willing to travel you can always find the right place at the right time. If not, then sometimes you get lucky and find a no-brainer like I did with the bike.
  4. The bike required some minor maintenance and cleaning that I knew how to take care of.
  5. Selling the bike required knowing where to sell (i.e. craigslist), who the target audience was, and how to build value in the bike including negotiating a fair selling price and offering additional valuable services in addition to the bike (i.e a free helmet, thorough review of the bike, explanation, and inspection with an experienced mechanical engineer).
  6. I had to get the buyer and the seller to both like and trust me. The seller wanted cash and all I had was a personal check and a bank statement so he had to feel comfortable enough with me to accept that and let me ride off with his bike. The buyer had to trust that I was accurately representing the bike over the internet (to warrant a 3 hour drive to pick it up) and that my knowledge and experience with bikes was legitimate.

Some of those ideas may be a stretch, however I can’t emphasize enough that the most important part is the purchase price. With that in mind, you better spend time educating yourself on EBITDA and Free Cashflow calculations. EBITDA, as I’ve pointed out, is a bit of a farce, however Free Cashflow times some arbitrary multiplier is more “acceptable” though it’s not without it’s flaws.

Free Cashflow is basically your net income (or profits) with a few allowed add-backs such as 1 owner’s salary, vehicle and other perks. Interest is also an allowed add-back along with depreciation and amortization. At least with free-cashflow we all agree that everyone has to pay taxes regardless of the quality of your accountant. My issues with the free cashflow method (which are important to know when you negotiate the purchase of a business) are:

  1. Only 1 owner’s salary and perks can be an add-back, however what if the owner doesn’t take a salary because he has a great General Manager (Team Leader) in place? Isn’t that “automatic” business worth more then the one that requires the buyer to be the Team Leader?
  2. Very few people buy a business without some sort of financing whether it’s from the seller, bank, or rich uncle so completely discounting interest can be kinda silly.
  3. Depreciation as an add-back again is a bit ridiculous because those numbers represent legitimate expenses that had to occur before and will occur again (though hopefully not in the time it’ll take you to buy, build, and sell).
  4. The multiplier is “arbitrary”. As a business broker informed me a business is worth whatever a ready, willing, and able buyer is willing to pay. Most business owners think their business’ are worth 1 times revenue and, when you go to sell, if you can get somebody to believe that then more power to you. In reality most small businesses are worth 2-3 times free cashflow which means unless your business is making a NET profit margin of 33%-50% it’s probably not worth 1 times revenue.

Granted, my understanding and even experience with all of these is a bit limited, however the most important things I’m trying to stress are:

  1. Educate yourself completely
  2. Everything is negotiable (there are no hard, fast rules)
  3. Be willing to walk away if the seller doesn’t agree with your purchase price and go find another deal

To your success, Bryan