3 Things Investing Newbies Should Know About REITs

3 Things Investing Newbies Should Know About REITs

The current rental market is so hot that it makes me wish I had a rental property of my own to lease or list as an Airbnb. Then I think of the duties and responsibilities that come with being a landlord, and it’s a hard pass for me. As a homeowner, it’s irritating enough to deal with fixing my own toilet or sink from time to time, so I imagine it’d be a nightmare to get that panicked call from a tenant in the middle of the night.

While active real estate investing may not be my jam, I’m happy to say I’m still able to dabble in the real estate market thanks to my investments in real estate investment trusts (REITs — pronounced “reets”). I’m a real estate writer, not a financial advisor, but I think REITs are a great way to build a solid income-producing investment portfolio. 

REITs are companies that own and operate income-producing real estate in a variety of sectors, including office, retail, health care, warehouses, and hotels. For example, Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG) is one of the largest retail REITs, owning most and operating most of the shopping malls and outlets in America. 

You can buy and sell REIT shares through a brokerage — more on that in a bit — just like other stocks. However, you’ll want to hang on to them for the long term so you can benefit from the dividends. REITs are legally required to pay 90 percent of their taxable income to investors by way of quarterly payments based on the current value of the stock and the number of shares owned.

Office and retail space have taken a hit during the pandemic for sure, but there are other REIT sectors that have thrived. Data centers in particular can be a solid investment because companies will always need secure places to store their data servers. In fact, investment experts have touted data center REITs as recession-proof investments, because companies must sign long-term leases, which guarantees income for the data centers. 

If you already have a retirement plan or work with a financial advisor, it’s worth a discussion to see how REITs might factor into your investment strategy. Here are three things to consider:

1. REITs make it easy to diversify your investments.

One of the hallmarks of a good investment portfolio is diversification. You don’t want to put all of your proverbial eggs in one basket when it comes to your money. With stocks, this would mean concentrating all of your investments in one industry or area, which is risky in case the entire sector gets impacted, as we’ve seen with office and retail space during the pandemic.

Here is a more expansive list of REIT sectors. If you were to buy even one share of a REIT in each of these sectors, you’d be well on your way to building a diverse portfolio:

It’s important to do your research so you know at least a little bit about the industry and the company. Nareit is a good resource for learning more about the various REIT sectors. 

2. You can make money in two different ways.

The quarterly dividends are why most people get into REITs in the first place. Granted, with my modest holdings — I’ve made some small investments in self-storage, healthcare, and data center REITs — I’m not exactly raking it in right now. But I hope to grow those holdings over the years and decades, and one fine day my REIT investments will offer me a nice, passive income stream. 

Of course, if I decide to sell my REIT shares, that’s the other way I can make money. By holding REITs for the long term — at least five years and preferably much longer — they’ll increase in value. When I am ready to retire, I can sell off my REIT shares at a tidy profit.

The best part? I’ll be making this money without collecting rent from tenants, paying maintenance costs, or dealing with any of the other many headaches that come along with being a landlord.

3. You can save on taxes with the right investment account.

Technically, you can open up any brokerage account and start buying REITs, just as you would with any other type of stock. But you’ll want to add yours to a Roth IRA (individual retirement account) so you can take advantage of the tax benefits. 

Traditional IRAs take your pre-tax dollars, so you’ll be taxed when cashing in later. The Roth, however, allows you to withdraw them tax-free during retirement. That is still decades away for me, but I know my silver-haired future self will thank my smart young(ish) current self for choosing wisely. 

Investing in the stock market is not a get-rich-quick scheme; it is a long-term game. There are some harrowing headlines about the economy lately that likely have you worried. Me too. But I haven’t dumped any stock. In fact, I’m continuing to “buy the dip,” as the cool kids like to say — buying shares as they go low to hopefully catch them on the rebound — and I’ve been adding more REITs to my Roth IRA account. If you’re looking to get started in investing or diversify your current investment strategy, REITs are worth considering.

All financial investments carry some level of risk. The information presented here is for educational purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Connect with a financial advisor to discuss your own risk tolerance.

Barbara Bellesi Zito

Contributor

Barbara Bellesi Zito is a freelance writer from Staten Island, covering all things real estate and home improvement. When she’s not watching house flipping shows or dreaming about buying a vacation home, she writes fiction. Barbara’s debut novel is due out later this year.

3 Ways to Invest in Real Estate Without Being a Landlord

3 Ways to Invest in Real Estate Without Being a Landlord

If the idea of being a real estate investor conjures up images of receiving a frantic phone call at 2 a.m. from a tenant about an overflowing toilet, think again. While owning a property — including your own home — is certainly part of real estate investing, it is not the only way. In fact, there are real estate investing options that don’t involve home maintenance or even paying a monthly mortgage. See if any of these three options will make you rest easier at night.

The metaverse is not just the creation of sci-fi books and movies like “Ready Player One.” This 3D virtual world is here and we’re already living in it — or at least our avatars are. What’s more? You can invest in land there, and you can build whatever you’d like because here we’re dealing with screen pixels, not square footage. 

“The metaverse could very well become the first step on the property [ownership] ladder,” says Kristi Waterworth, who writes about metaverse real estate investing for finance site The Motley Fool. That’s good news for those who currently find themselves priced out of the real real estate world. Of course, land in the form of a non-fungible token (NFT) might not exactly warm your heart, but there are ways of renting said land to make real money in the form of cryptocurrency, another investment opportunity. Decentraland and The Sandbox are two of the more popular virtual gaming platforms in which to do this.

The metaverse is all very speculative stuff, and you’ll have to have some risk tolerance to get in on it — though to be fair, any type of investing involves risk. Still, the global bank Citi has projected that the metaverse economy could be worth $13 trillion by 2030. The takeaway? Buy now and plan to hold onto those pixels for a while.

Waterworth does have one note of caution: It’s tempting to get in on a brand-new metaverse platform with the hopes of being the first, but it might not pay off.

“Part of what makes the metaverse worth something is the community,” Waterworth says. “And if you go into a new metaverse platform that’s empty, you’re taking a gamble that anyone else is going to be interested in it.” 

If trading in crypto on the stock exchange is too much of a wild ride for your wallet, you can invest in the real world through real estate investment trusts, or REITs. REITs are companies that own real estate across various sectors, including retail, office, hotel, industrial, health care, data centers, self-storage, and more. 

REITs are a solid bet for many investment portfolios in that they are required by law to pay back 90 percent of taxable income to investors in the form of dividends. Of course, the pandemic has not been kind to retail and office REITs, but there are other REIT sectors that offer more stability for your investment. Like with other real estate investing strategies, plan to buy and hold REITs for at least five years or more.

Explore crowdfunding platforms.

If you’ve ever donated some money to an online fundraising campaign, whether it’s to help launch a new product or help out someone in need, you’ve gotten a taste of crowdfunding. It’s a rather social way of getting people and their wallets together in support of a common goal, and real estate investing has taken to it in a big way. 

Platforms like CrowdStreet and Fundrise make investing in commercial and industrial real estate accessible to people who don’t have the benefit of millions of dollars in spare cash. With either one, you can set up an online account, learn about investment opportunities throughout the platform’s network, and make an investment that makes sense for your financial situation and risk tolerance level. (Note that there are fees based on the level of your investment.)

Is it possible to get in on any of these opportunities with smaller investments? Yes. Are you going to make millions with small investments? No. Can you build and grow a portfolio that will see some nice returns over time? Quite possibly. Real estate investing is very much a buy-and-hold strategy, so if you don’t mind having your money tied up for the next five years or more, it could be a good option for your investment portfolio.

All financial investments carry some level of risk. The information presented here is for educational purposes and should not be taken as financial advice. Connect with a financial advisor to discuss your own risk tolerance.

Barbara Bellesi Zito

Contributor

Barbara Bellesi Zito is a freelance lifestyle writer from Staten Island, NY, covering all things real estate and home improvement. When she’s not watching house flipping shows or dreaming out about buying a vacation home, she writes fiction. Barbara’s debut novel is due out in early 2022.

How To Start Investing Your Money in 4, 3, 2, 1…

How To Start Investing Your Money in 4, 3, 2, 1…

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There’s been an understandable uptick in investing, thanks in part to the gamification of investing (ahem, enter the GameStop millionaires) and plenty of viral personal finance TikToks. According to Fortune, more than 67 percent of women are investing outside of their retirement accounts — a number that has nearly doubled since 2018. While welcome news, there’s still a large population of people who want to invest but don’t know where to start. 

If you’re hoping to enter the world of investing or want to diversify your portfolio in 2022, here are the books to read, people to follow, and attitudes to drop to finally get comfortable with money.

When it comes to building financial literacy, picking up (or listening to) a book is one of the best first steps a beginner can take. They can help expand a reader’s vocabulary and demystify otherwise foreign money concepts. And reading about money shouldn’t be tedious or complicated. That’s why we’ve curated a list for the investing beginner who appreciates no-nonsense advice, easy application, and relatability. Bonus: You don’t have to read a book cover-to-cover before getting started with investing. Consider these reads as helpful guides; flip to the pages when you need them, and dog-ear other chapters for future endeavors.

If books aren’t your first choice of learning, or you simply want a daily dose of digestible information, following personal finance influencers is a great option. However, it is the internet, and there are certainly scammers to be wary of. Here are three people worthy of space on your timeline. 

Amanda Holden, aka “Dumpster Doggy” 

If you’re looking for wealth management advice and want to laugh in the process, Amanda Holden needs to be your next follow. The online influencer spent years working in investment management, and now teaches women to invest sans a suit or condescending attitude. She’s a miracle worker for the individual who thinks they’re “not smart enough” or “not rich enough” to handle the topic of investing. 

Tori Dunlap of Her First $100k

Known for her candor and no-BS communication style, Tori is a personal finance expert specializing in “financial feminism.” She’s taken her expertise to airwaves, hosting the “Financial Feminist” podcast. If you want to make more money this year or become less timid when talking about money, Tori is a great person to follow.

Bola Sokunbi of Clever Girl Finance

If you’re curious about investing but also crave more wealth management resources such as advice on everyday “necessities,” weekly personal finance challenges, and free guides, Clever Girl Finance must be on your list of accounts to follow. Ran by author Bola Sokunbi, her CGF brand delivers daily articles, encourages conversation, and takes an “everygirl approachability.”

“I need a fancy corporate job before I start investing.”

Personal finance and self-care expert Maya Fleming of the Gentler Podcast highlights narratives individuals need to unlearn as they begin to invest. “I think we’ve all [begun to unlearn] the false narrative of Oh, I need to be rich to start investing, but there is still a misconception that investing is a white-collar activity,” Fleming tells Apartment Therapy.

She shares that her current boyfriend works a blue-collar job and recently overcame this common mental block. “Some will wait until they’re at a ‘big girl job’ or an established company before investing. However, most of my career has been in the non-profit space. [From experience], I know there are options for those in differing fields.” 

Fleming encourages investing beginners in adopting the belief that while the options can look different, the opportunity to invest is still there. “Even just understanding what your employer offers is a good first step. Many employers will bring in a financial expert once a year to explain company-sponsored investing options and hold space to talk about wealth management.” 

Similarly, Tori Dunlap of Her First 100k emphasizes the value of time over money in the world of investing. “I cannot stress this enough: when it comes to investing, time is way more valuable than money,” she says. “Thanks to this really cool thing called compound interest, your money has the ability to significantly increase in value over time, and the sooner you start, the better!”

“I need to know everything about investing before I start investing.”

Fleming points out that many individuals don’t explore investing because of the false belief that you must know everything before doing anything. Beyond this being a self-limiting belief, Fleming shares that some of what is being taught online is cringe-worthy. “Examine the advice you’re getting. For example, I’m not a big fan of the advice to invest in the companies you love. You should be researching where your money is going.” She attributes her own literacy to platforms like The Financial Diet, Broke Millennial, and Your Money BFF.

Bola Sokunbi, author of “Clever Girl Finance,” shares a similar sentiment. She advises beginners to simply get a handle on the basics first. “To become a more confident investor, it’s important that you educate yourself on the basics of how investing works so you can minimize any fears you might have around investing, especially with all the short-term news about investing dips and spikes,” she says. “It’s also important that you truly understand your risk tolerance and that you view any investments you make with a long-term approach.”

To kick off your investing journey, sign up for a virtual workshop or online course. Taking your first step toward a financial glow-up can be intimidating, and a classroom environment might help with that. From self-guided teachings to virtual seminars, there are endless options for beginners. Consider signing up for one of the courses from the can’t-miss list below.

As a parting thought, Dunlap shares, “Finally, remember that investing is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Investing is an extremely valuable resource for preparing for your financial future and building sustainable wealth, but it takes time, consistency, and patience.”

4 Money Lessons the Pandemic Taught Me — That Helped Me Save $10,000

4 Money Lessons the Pandemic Taught Me — That Helped Me Save $10,000

At the beginning of 2020, I decided to make the lofty goal of paying off the rest of my student loans before I turned 26. The thought of having to pay both health insurance and student loans at the same time put me in an anxious budgeting tizzy. Plus, it would seriously reduce the amount of interest I would pay over time. 

I had approximately $15,000 of loans left at the time, so I knew I’d have to be a bit aggressive in my payoff: I would pay about $900 a month as opposed to the $220 required for the 20-year loan payment plan. While my plan seemed to be going swimmingly, albeit on a tight budget, things took an even tighter turn. 

My company gave us five weeks of furlough and I decided to escape the city to live with my parents temporarily (while still paying rent). I was nervous I wouldn’t complete my goal, but I found myself spending a lot less, and with the government pausing interest on student loans until May, it’s allowed me to stay on track.

Despite not fully paying off my student loans (yet!), the money is there waiting to pay them off the second the interest rates kick in again in May. Here’s what the pandemic taught me about money.

Reevaluate what’s important.

Like most people, a lot of my IRL activities got temporarily canceled because of the pandemic, including both my gym membership and pricey barre subscription. When I transitioned to that GFH (gym from home) life, I had no idea what workouts to do. I ended up buying a discounted eight-week fitness guide from an influencer and decided to do the workouts in the ample space in my parents’ home. 

While I did miss the class atmosphere and form corrections from instructors, I found myself getting stronger doing more bodyweight exercises a few days a week — even more so than from those costly barre classes. Because of this, I’ve decided not to commit to an expensive gym or a boutique workout class pack, but I take the occasional drop-in class. I still prioritize fitness, just in a more affordable way.

I’ve taken a similar approach to other things I was frivolously spending on, from clothing, to makeup, to quarantine games. I definitely cut back on all the above, but I still splurge from time to time — when there’s a sale.

Because of my at-home, not-doing-much lifestyle during the beginning of the pandemic, I found myself in the lucky position to not spend as much money. I decided to keep as much in savings as possible for the big student loan payoff plan. Later, through improving my financial literacy, I learned that money wasn’t doing much sitting there collecting $0.02 in interest each month in my savings account.

I knew I didn’t want to invest said money because, hello, I need to pay off my debt. But I found that this important cash would do better in a high-interest savings account where I get 0.50 percent annual percentage yield (APY). It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done to “make” more money each month and my savings feel even nicer with some padding.

Side hustle, but not too hard.

With a lack of a commute and more free time, I decided to finally take the plunge with freelance writing, which I had been putting off starting for a while. Things began slowly as I excessively pitched different media outlets, but after a few months, I started to earn a consistent income. It almost became addicting watching my monthly side hustle money hit a different goal each month. I’ve learned since then that it’s important to actually say no to some opportunities or to ask to push deadlines in order to not be working all the time. I’ve also started putting 30 percent of each freelance check into savings, so I can use that money later when I file my taxes.

Money goals are great, but so is life.

Through my mix of prioritization, extra cash flow, and smart savings, I now have more than enough to pay off my loans. However, I would never let it stop me from still enjoying my current life, especially as things begin to open up again, allowing me to take an in-person workout class or actually want to dress up for the first time in months. I now find myself weighing my social engagements with my finances a little more to decide what is actually valuable enough to be worth my time and money. There’s no need to live a FIRE (​​Financial Independence, Retire Early) life, when I can enjoy life now.

5 Things You Should Be Doing With Your Side Hustle Money

5 Things You Should Be Doing With Your Side Hustle Money

When I first started freelance writing a few years ago, I had one goal: Pay for an unlimited PureBarre membership. I figured if I commissioned a story or two each month, I could cover the pricey classes I couldn’t afford but desperately wanted on my entry-level salary. And anything extra, I could use to chip away at my student loans. 

My plan was a success and I was able to afford classes with only a little bit of extra side hustling. But when I started seriously revving up my freelance work in 2021, I realized I was way over my head when it came to what I should do with the extra cash I didn’t necessarily need to make ends meet — and dealing with paying my own taxes on them. I did want a few nicer things that brought me joy, like those bougie workout classes, but I also didn’t want to be too frivolous in my spending.

To solve this, I tapped three financial experts about what they recommend freelancers and entrepreneurs do with their “side hustle” money. Just keep in mind that since personal finance is, well, personal, each suggestion may not entirely line up with your individual goals.

Set aside money for taxes.

One of the most important things to remember when making any sort of side income is that your clients aren’t withholding taxes from your payments like your full-time employer does — which means you’re going to have to do it yourself. Haley Sacks, CEO and founder of Mrs. Dow Jones, recommends putting between 30 to 35 percent of your freelance income into a high-interest savings account. Depending on where you live and the city or state taxes you’re working with, you’ll have enough to cover your dues come April and will collect more interest compared to leaving it in a traditional savings account. 

“I feel like a lot of people have that shock of, ‘Oh, I have to pay taxes,’ and you don’t want that. It really makes [side hustling] less fun,” Sacks says. She also recommends separating these funds from your full-time job, just to make sure everything is a bit more organized.

“I always tell people to set up a separate bank account to funnel that side hustle finances through just so this money isn’t comingled with your nine-to-five money,” she says. “It’s nice to have different bank accounts and savings accounts for different goals and different cash flows.”

If your head is already in a tizzy thinking about tracking down 1099 forms and determining what business expenses you made throughout the year, Rachel Sanborn Lawrence, director of coaching at Ellevest, recommends investing in a tax professional for help — ideally one that understands your specific side hustle industry.

Start building an emergency fund.

Once you know the actual money you have to work with, Lawrence recommends putting aside at least one month of your expenses, especially after so many people were affected by a grave uncertainty like the pandemic. 

“We discovered there is data that shows even if you have one month of your average reasonable expenses set aside in cash, not invested, that is earning some interest in a high-yield savings account, that can help prevent severe financial hardship,” she says.

From there, you can build an emergency fund of anywhere from three to six months of expenses, leaning towards the latter if you have more risk in your life with kids or pets, and keep it in a high-interest savings account. Lawrence even recommends having nine months of expenses saved for those who fully freelance. 

Sacks also says to “build a business emergency fund so you can keep side hustling,” meaning having savings tucked away for unexpected costs like a broken camera if you’re a photographer.

Pay off any high-interest debt.

Reasonably, it’s a financially smart idea to use extra cash flow to pay off any high-interest debt, which is anything more than 10 percent, according to Lawrence. Even if you were to invest that money, you wouldn’t earn more than the interest. She recommends using the “debt avalanche” method where you pay off the highest-interest debt first. From there, you can choose to continue this method with lower-interest debt or “snowball” it by paying off the lowest amount of debt first, so you can get a quicker “win.”

Invest in yourself and your future.

Another smart money move? Investing for retirement — whether that be maxing out retirement accounts, purchasing mutual funds, or dabbling in stocks and crypto. 

But just like personal finance goals vary from person to person, your own financial goals can change with life events, according to Michelle Jackson, the host of the “Michelle Is Money Hungry” podcast. For example, if you plan to buy a home or have a wedding, some of these other savings and retirement goals can go on the back burner for a bit. “You have to constantly be evaluating your life and what your financial situation looks like,” she says. 

You should also consider reinvesting some of the side hustle money back into the hustle. That could mean getting better equipment, hiring an assistant, or even building a better website. Sacks recommends using the earnings to educate yourself on your money through courses and consulting. That way, as your hustle grows, you’re better prepared to handle more.

“If you have a good side hustle that’s doing well, I would definitely recommend investing in you.” she says. “Learn enough so you can manage it properly. It’s so important to have a system.”

“You don’t want to get lifestyle creep, which is when your income increases and then your expenses increase a lot, because then you’ll never make any progress in your finances,” Sacks says. But know that at the end of the day, it’s okay to use some hard-earned extra cash to treat yourself. 

“For some people, their side hustle money is for fun and I don’t think we talk about it enough,” Jackson says. “Sometimes people want to go to Hawaii. Sometimes people want to have a budget for a massage.”

Both Sacks and Lawrence agree that anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of your post-tax side hustle money should go to something you enjoy, whether that be barre class, a nice dinner with friends, or a bag you’ve been eyeing. That way you can hype yourself up for achieving financial goals and still enjoy life without overdoing it.