Monday, November 11, 2013

GETTING SOMETHING FOR NOTHING

Just how valuable is something to you if you didn’t have to invest anything to get it, if you didn’t have anything to lose regarding it? Do you care for, maintain, and cherish the old car that your grandmother gave you? She had poured her heart into seeing that car was maintained, oiled, gassed and cleaned on a daily basis, but when she gave it to you, did you do the same?

My guess is that if she gave it to you, no strings attached, free of debt you did not see the value in it. You didn't have to put in any work, or put up any collateral to get it therefore there was no value. Maybe you took care of the car, or maybe you didn't.

Because we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and one of the stablest economies (though current events might deny that fact), we as parents often want and do give our kids things that we did not have growing up. I seldom go into a household that doesn't have at least two televisions and a WII and a XBOX and a PLAYSTATION, and at least one or more computers.

But we as a group are doing a miserable job of teaching our kids that there is no free lunch. Even from a Biblical sense, God gives us everything we need, but “our” job is to manage and use his gifts for good and to be good stewards. In other words there is a responsibility that goes along with the gift of life and livelihood. Modern day teens have practically no concept of what is required to own or rent and maintain a reasonable standard of living.

There is always a give and take, always a ying and yang. If you want nice things you have to work for them; you have to earn them. Everything we do has consequences. We think by “being generous” with gifts to our children that they will be generous with others; but sometimes that backfires and instead of our child being generous they are simply being “used” by others. The “others” see their gentleness and generosity and zero in on them.

Or the opposite is true and our child is the “user”, feeling they are entitled and that other people are there for their benefit.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying, “Don’t be generous.” What I am saying is that you have to be generous in a way that will benefit the other person. I never give to a panhandler on the street unless I give them food. I have given a can of food to a person or offered to share my lunch with one and had it thrown back in my face because they did not want food, they wanted money to buy their drugs or alcohol. I give through United Way or to the Food Bank or the church.

This brings me to the subject of investing whether it be time, energy or money. I am sometimes amazed at the words that I hear come out of the mouths of our youngest generation. They think they are entitled simply because they exist.

We live on a street that has a very large set of apartments restricted to Section 8 tenants. The grounds are always immaculate because the management runs a tight ship. They have nearly 45,000 people on a waiting list to get into their complex. Now before you all jump down my throat because I am about to say something that is not very complimentary, I know there are many reasons that people are in Section 8 housing sometimes due to one’s own actions, sometimes not.

I can’t afford to live in my own rental house because I don’t have $1800 a month tax free that I did not earn to pay the rent. We only charged our Section 8 person $1650, but when she decided that she was not getting all that she wanted from our house she was able to move to a newer house have the government pay $1850. I only bring up this tenant because I liked her and her family and that she was trying to make a better life for her family. She was attending college. She had no intention of staying on welfare and Section 8 indefinitely.

But she did not have any respect for my property. She wasn't paying for it. I went by the house numerous times to collect the rent or check on a problem. Boxes were stacked in the back yard and on the covered patio for the two years she was there. The second year of her tenancy, the Section 8 case worker came to complete the yearly inspection of the house, took about 3 steps into the house and then walked out. The tenant was told the house was so filthy the case worker was giving her one month to clean the house, get it re-inspected or she was going to lose her benefits.

When she moved out of the house, it reeked of dirty clothes and body dander and other smells of animal even though there wasn't supposed to be any animal in the house. We had the carpet cleaned twice. The next tenants moved in and ultimately we had to pull out all the carpeting and padding and replace everything to get rid of the smell. (In hind sight, I should have pulled and replaced padding and carpet before the next tenants moved in. I won’t make that mistake again. If carpet smells take it out.)

I can hear the synapse in your brain firing, what does this have to do with investing in real estate (other than the obvious of “get good tenants”). The many programs that I have reviewed all require work. There isn’t any free lunch. You might be able to get a free dessert by asking, but even the owner of the restaurant is going to ask you why they should give you a free dessert. What value do you bring to the table?

I believe in the circle of wealth though I am not sure if I define the phrase the same way that other people do. Wealth is given to us in abundance. We are to take that wealth, invest it, and then redistribute it to others by helping them to see their value and the wealth that they have already been given. Wealth is not an end in itself, it is only a tool. 

People like Melinda and Bill Gates are extraordinary philanthropists along with Warren Buffet. It is not an accident that Bill Gates is so generous. Just has his grandparents and mother (Mary) and father (Bill Gates the 2nd), Bill Gates, III was trained and conditioned to respect the good fortune they had been given and to return that fortune to society in a meaningful way. An excellent 6 part BBC documentary and biography on Bill Gates can be viewed on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Dt_oVCSJ_c. He learned at an early age that having an abundance of wealth was a great responsibility that should be recognized and acted upon. His mother Mary was on the national board of United Way as well as other charitable and corporate organizations. His parents taught him well the value of money and hard work. He would fly coach instead of first class even when he was head of a million dollar corporation.

I get rather disgusted with people like Paris Hilton. She actually believes that she is entitle to all the wealth she has instead of recognizing that she was at the right place at the right time to inherit it. That’s all. She didn't do anything to deserve it. That is not entitlement; it is just luck. After all how many pairs of shoes does one person need?

Anyway, getting back to the issue of investing and real estate, recognize what Napolean Hill once wrote: “There are no limitations to the mind except those we acknowledge.“ Work hard, learn, advance, and then plan to give back by bringing in the next generation of entrepreneurs because you now have something of value to pass on to them…Your Knowledge.


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