February 1, 2015

Weekly Book Scan

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Updated: 46 min 21 sec ago

Successful Women Think Outside the Investing Box

Thu, 01/15/2015 - 15:14

What would you do if you never had to work again? What if you had all the time in the world to spend exactly as you wanted? How would your life be different if money were not a worry? These are just a few questions posed by Kim Kiyosaki in her book Rich Woman: A Book on Investing for Women, Because I Hate Being Told What to Do! (Rich Press, 2006).

Honestly, when I first read that title, I was a little insulted. Why can’t it just be a book on investing? Why does it have to be different for women? But I was curious.

Ryan McGuire/Bells Design, 2014

I recognized the author’s name instantly. Kim’s husband is the famous (or infamous) entrepreneur Robert Kiyosaki. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Rich Dad Poor Dad. He is also the author of Cashflow Quadrant and many other books covering real estate, business and investing. So it is quite possible she knows a wee bit about investing.

Turns out, Kim Kiyosaki is more than worth her salt. She began her career in advertising, started her own business venture in her 20s and subsequently began numerous businesses with Robert.  Her passion is teaching women the importance of investing and taking control of their financial futures. She believes the key to freedom for women is becoming financially free.

“We’ve spent our entire lives taking care of our families but have no ability to care for ourselves in this vital way. We are either depending upon someone else to do it for us—a husband or partner, a boss, a family member, or the government. Or we figure it will all work out. The fairy tales we grew up with were just that.”

We’ve all heard that supposedly half of all marriages end in divorce. But Kiyosaki adds some startling statistics to the conversation, in order make her point about the importance of independence.

  • Nearly 7 out of 10 women will at some time live in poverty.
  • Of the elderly living in poverty 3 out of 4 are women—and 80 percent of them were not poor when their husbands were alive.
  • 47 percent of women over the age of 50 are single.
  • In the first year after a divorce a woman’s standard of living drops an average of 73 percent.

The book details a wide variety of investment strategies that include but are not limited to real estate, paper assets, businesses, and commodities. It is written as a casual conversation among close friends. It begins with Kiyosaki sitting down for lunch with three of her girlfriends, which represent a single working mom, an overworked business owner and a stay-at-home mom, respectively.

Chapters 1 through 4 detail Kim’s personal story, wherein she describes Robert’s “cashflow quadrant.” This quadrant represents the four types of people in business: employee, self-employed worker, business owner, and investor. The final quadrant is the goal, where your money is working hard, so that you have more time for living.

Chapters 5 through 17 deal with her friends’ objections to and fears about investing. Kim’s argument is that, “When it comes to money, men and women are different—historically, psychologically, mentally and emotionally.” It is interesting to note that she doesn’t start to explain the actual how-to of investing until chapter 18. The first half of the book focuses on getting her friends—and readers—into the investor mindset.

She also spends a fair amount of time asking readers to uncover their “big why.” Why is investing important to you? What makes it personal for you? She uses a male friend’s reason why as an example, “I’m an engineer. I see my son for a few minutes in the morning, then he gets picked up for school by one of the other child’s parents, and I go off to work. If I’m lucky I get home before he goes to bed. The reason why I want to become financially free was very simply so that I could drive my son to school every day.”

Chapter 11 asks you to take an honest look at your finances. Kiyosaki uses Buckminster Fuller’s definition of wealth: “A person’s ability to survive X number of days forward.”

She then suggests that the reader create a personal financial statement and use it to determine how many months they could survive without working:

Savings + income coming in without you working
                   monthly living expenses

This number might be eye opening. As a real estate professional you might earn a substantial income with many commissions coming in monthly. But how would you afford your expenses if the commissions stopped? In sales we are all too familiar with the ebb and flow of the market and how they affect our paycheck. But what if you didn’t work because you were injured, wanted to raise a family, needed to take care of an ailing parent or just wanted to take a month off to travel? Is this possible in your current financial situation?

Chapter 20 reveals the nine keys to being a successful investor:

  1. Arm yourself with education: Kiyosaki lists a variety of resources available to you, including books, CDs, DVDs, seminars, newspapers, newsletters, websites and investment organizations.
  2. Don’t dive in head first: “Start small and expect to make mistakes.”
  3. Put a small amount down: “A little money means little risk.”
  4. Stay close to home: It is much easier to get to know the market in your hometown. You will spend less time travelling and more time learning.
  5. Set yourself up to win: Start with small deals, knowing that “a little success early on builds your confidence as an investor.”
  6. Choose your circle wisely: “Surround yourself with people who will cheer you on, who will be honest with you, and who will encourage you to keep going, during the ups and downs, to achieve your goals.”
  7. Ignore the get rich quick schemes: Remember that investing is a process and that financial independence does not happen overnight. “You don’t become fluent in the language in one day. You first learn a few words and phrases and you keep expanding your vocabulary.”
  8. Always be open to learning new things: “Nothing stays static. The markets are always changing. The rules are always changing. To be a winning investor you’ve got to change as the market trends change.”
  9. Have fun: “Celebrate each win along the way. Acknowledge yourself when you have successes.”

A helpful glossary of financing and investment terms follows at the end of the book. Overall this book is a great introduction to the investing world. Some of the dialogue feels sappy, but it is definitely food for thought. Even if you love your job as a real estate professional so much that you would do it for free, you have to have a plan B.

Gaining this investment knowledge will give you options. If you can master investing you won’t have to work as hard for money, because your money will work hard for you.

Stay on Track With Productivity Plans

Wed, 01/07/2015 - 11:42

If you made a resolution this year to be more productive, there’s a new book out from the company that practically defined “productive people.” Three Franklin Covey staffers share the bill on The 5 Choices: The Path to Extraordinary Productivity, which promises to supply a “renewed sense of engagement and accomplishment.”

It’s only January. You shouldn’t be at the end of your rope already!
Photo credit: imelenchon, 2012/Morguefile.

Back before any of us were thinking about “inbox management,” I always kind of felt like the Franklin Covey library existed mostly to sell leather-bound day planners. But I was actually somewhat impressed with this book. It’s certainly not revolutionary, but it does contain some solid methods for evaluating one’s performance in a variety of roles in both personal and professional life, and contains ideas for how to balance obligations and streamline complex processes.

Several chapters begin with a character speeding haplessly through their day without really being able to be productive. I’m not sure if all the Franklin Covey books follow this pattern, but I found it surprisingly effective and true-to-life. Self-help type books often try this tactic, but it usually comes across as cheesy for anyone who’s used to reading decent fiction. Though it does peter out to shorter snippets as the book grinds on, the initial narratives read almost as if they hired a ghostwriter to handle the creative end, with little details that make you believe the characters are at least somewhat real.

The writers also appear to have done their research in citing science to back up their assertions, with a decent end notes section to connect readers who want to follow up. I especially appreciated the explanation early on about why our brains are drawn to solve crises first. I thought I just tended to consume a block of unread e-mails from top-to-bottom because my inbox is organized that way. But a big part of why I don’t start at the bottom of the list has to do with how satisfying it is to put out the proverbial fires. Similarly, being able to resolve an e-mail that’s marked urgent immediately (even when it’s not urgent at all) gives us a rush of dopamine, which makes our brains feel awesome. This is certainly not a scientific statement, but the authors use a powerful comparison to show why being aware of this tendency is even more important this day in age:

Technology can amp up the addictive power of urgency tenfold. It’s like smoking crack cocaine, which is immediately more stimulating…addictive [and] dangerous.

The fifth chapter also includes some helpful research on how good proteins and fats help us think and act more clearly, as well as evidence of how work-life imbalance and sleep deprivation can hurt productivity even more that was previously assumed.

The book also contains simple but effective ideas for how to better organize yourself to tackle meetings, to-do lists, and scheduling, though a lot of these items rely on a willingness to explore productivity hacks that exist in the e-mail/calendar/task management software you’re already using.

Overall, The 5 Choices is a good place to restart if you feel like you’re beginning to falter on your promises to change your distracted ways in the new year. Bring on week two, 2015!

Top Real Estate Stories of 2014

Tue, 12/30/2014 - 10:35

Here at the Book Scan, my job is to not only review books and keep you in the loop with pertinent book news, but to learn what real estate professionals want to read about. In that spirit, I wanted to look at the top ten full-length articles published in 2014 (in terms of unique visitors) at REALTOR® Magazine Online.

As you’ll see below, our top ten is an interesting mix of design trends and business/technology advice. But another phenomenon that became clear when looking at all of the favorite blog entries and shorter Daily News pieces was your intense focus on safety in 2014. Readers were extremely engaged in stories about slain Arkansas REALTOR® Beverly Carter in the daily news and in our blogs. Stories about staying safe on the job and other real estate pros facing harrowing situations in the field ranked high in our daily news feeds as well. And in the article list below, one piece on how to help clients stay safe was also a popular read, coming in at number six:

  1. 21 Hot Housing Trends for 2015: Everyone wants to be hip, and the latest trends in design can help distinguish one home from another. And it’s not all flash; many new home fads are geared to pare maintenance and energy use and deliver information faster. Here’s a look at what’s coming.
  2. 5 Reasons You Won’t Make it Selling Real Estate: Unless you are fully committed to real estate and have a solid business plan, you will have trouble finding success. Sales coach Jared James outlines five situations that can bring down your career — and how to avoid them.
  3. 10 Things Real Estate Pros Need to Stop Telling Themselves: Words are powerful, and the words you say to yourself can make or break you as a real estate professional. Here are 10 things you need to stop saying immediately.
  4. 10 Facebook Dos and Don’ts: Facebook is a great marketing tool, if you use it wisely.
  5. Smartphone Photography Gets an Upgrade: At the 2014 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, several manufacturers are introducing ways to upgrade your mobile photographs with attachable lenses, cameras with more megapixels, and portable printers.
  6. The Safety Talk You Need to Have With Clients: Keep all parties safe in a transaction by offering buyers and sellers these important tips.
  7. 2013-14 Cost vs. Value: Remodeling Pays Off Big Time: Home improvement projects across the board are giving home owners a greater return on their investment when it comes time to sell. Find out which projects “open the door” to buyers and where remodeling dollars stretch the furthest.
  8. How to Avoid Total Self-Destruction: You can’t miss out on an epic deal because you were too busy meditating. But you also can’t give yourself a heart attack. What is the answer?
  9. A Dozen Ways to Make Kitchens Sizzle: Whether they’re getting their house ready for the market or creating a dream kitchen in a home they just bought, clients considering a major kitchen redo will need guidance. Here are 12 tips and trends to help you serve as their resource.
  10. What Millennial Buyers Want (Now): Here are 10 trends in home amenities and interior design that elicit interest from the newest generation of buyers.

What were the most important stories to your business in 2014? What do you think will be the big themes of 2015?

The Top Business Book of 2014

Thu, 12/18/2014 - 14:58

The Financial Times has come out with its list of top financial books for the tenth year, and I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read one of them! Granted, none are specifically about real estate. But being as concentrated upon economic issues as the British publication is, it shouldn’t surprise me that almost every one of FT’s choices seem like they are about large systems of finance, where one of the cogs is undoubtedly real estate.

©Andalusia, 2006. Morguefile

Reading their reviews, it looks like I’ll have to pick up a few of these for review here at the Book Scan in 2015. I’m especially interested in their top pick: Capital in the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas Piketty. The synopsis promises “his findings will transform debate and set the agenda for the next generation of thought about wealth and inequality.” A tall order indeed.

In the meantime, let me know if you’ve read and/or enjoyed Piketty’s book or any of these on this year’s short list:

Or just for fun, check out my post about the FT best financial book list last year. And a hap-py new year!