The Real Economy

Roger Schlesinger
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Posted: Jul 06, 2007 2:30 PM

Blackstone buys Hilton Hotel chain for $26 Billion; World Series of Poker opens in Las Vegas with winner expected to win multi-millions; Carlos Slim (sp.) now richest man in the world with $64 billion; a gallon of whole milk on sale at $3.99; You can win a million dollars on Deal or No Deal and Joey Chestnut ate 66 hot dogs in 12 minutes to win the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

What of the above is real and concerns you and I and what is fluff? The price of milk is what the real economy is all about. The rest is there to entice, make you wonder and helps to keep your eye off the ball. George Will once made an interesting point when he said 19 guys were sitting in a bar with an average net worth of around $100,000. Bill Gates walked in and joined them and their average net worth jumped to $2.7 Billion. It is statistically correct but doesn't mean anything. Your next raise is 100 times more important.

Do you have any idea how few millionaires there are in this Country in relation to the population? And forget billionaires! (374 living in the United States according to Forbes Magazine). The population of the United States is currently 302,264,786 + or - Tiger's daughter Sam. There are approximately 2,418,118 millionaires according to CNN money in 2004, which is .8%. That is about 1 in 125 people. At a typical Super Bowl of about 100,000 people there would be 800 millionaires. I have had other reports attesting to 9.5 million people who fall in the millionaire category. That is a little over 3% or about 4 in 125 people. At the same Super Bowl that about 2500 people. Not that many in any case when you stop to think about it!

Should you take becoming a millionaire out of your mind? Absolutely not. But you have to realize that there are only a few way's to achieve this. Inheritance is nice, but if you are anything like me getting bills of less than $5000 from your parents when they go to their reward is great. Winning something is not even worth mentioning. Working for a new growth company that awards you with stock options prior to their public offering is great, but unfortunately not that realistic. The stock market itself generally doesn't work because people are impatient and you need a rather large stipend to invest if you want to become wealthy. It is easier to have a 100,000 shares of stock that goes up 10 points equal ling $1million than it is to have 10,000 shares of stock go up 100 points to get the $1million. !00 shares going up ten thousand points is very unrealistic.

That gets us realistically to real estate. Real estate has two advantages: one is you have to live somewhere and two, you have amazing tax benefits from deducting the interest on your loan to a major exclusion from taxes when you sell your residence. You can accumulate a lot of money by simply paying your mortgage (the shorter the amortization the more you will accumulate quicker - more accumulating on a 15 year fixed than on a 30 year fixed.) You also get the increase in value in your house to add to ever increasing equity.

Before I get into some of the tax benefits, which I have mentioned many times in other columns, I want to identify where we are financially in this Country. In 2005 the median household income was about $46,300 and has probably risen in the last year and a half to a little over $47,000. Also another note which isn't pleasant: there are more people unemployed than there are millionaires even at the higher millionaire figure.

To put matters more into perspective the average billionaire is around 55 years old and the millionaires are seven years older on average. So even if you are planning to get there and don't make it, you probably will be too old to do anything else that would be meaningful for yourself. You have got to get started planning and moving toward financial independence. Who knows the future of medicare and social security? Your future is in your hands.

Real Estate affords great tax benefits. First you can deduct interest on your loan up to $1 million dollars in loans. You can offset the interest on your rentals against the income from same. You can deduct the property tax you pay from your income. When you are ready to sell the property, if you have lived there for at least 2 years, you get a $250,000 of profits excluded from your taxes if you are single and a $500,000 exclusion if you are married and hold the property jointly. On a rental you can get a tax free exchange (1031 exchange) to defer the income tax due on sale.

I think real estate is generally the answer for everyone. If you don't find something that you think can work for you. Whatever you do plan for success and then do it. The results will be the financial cornerstone of the rest of your life.