Finance and investing is one of my main passions these days, and I’ve written extensively about my experiences on this blog.
Many people think that their money is safe at the bank and they don’t need to do anything with their savings. Well, here’s the inconvenient truth: by leaving money in the bank and not investing it, you’re actually losing money every year, to the tune of around 3% in most developed nations. This is due to the effects of inflation.
Here’s the way inflation works. One euro today will buy more products than one euro next year, and the effect is compounded over the years.
If you’re 30 years old or over, you will probably remember clearly the times when everything was much cheaper. I remember, for example, the price of a pizza around 25 years ago being just a quarter of what it is now. That means that if I had kept all my money in the bank without investing it, over this period of time it would be worth much less, hence I would have actually lost a lot of value.
The obvious remedy to the problem of inflation is therefore that of investing our savings. Before you rush out and invest everything, make sure you know where you’re putting your money and have a proper strategy in place. I suggest you learn as much as possible about investing, without relying too much on financial advisers, as typically they will be looking after their own interests not yours.
Apart from traditional investments where you get a yearly return in the shape of dividends, profits or returns on loans, many people are now deciding to convert their fiat currencies into cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. The major attraction in Bitcoin is that it is deflationary rather than inflationary. Since it has a limited supply, as time goes by the value of each bitcoin will increase rather than increase. This is the total opposite of fiat currencies, where, as we mentioned earlier, one dollar/euro today will be worth less tomorrow.
How are you fighting the effects of inflation?
I get this question frequently enough from friends and people who land on this blog. To provide a quick reference, if you want to start investing your money through online platforms, there are a few different ways you can do it:
- Property crowdfunding
- Business and personal finance (loans)
- Stock market
- Online properties (websites, apps etc)
The level of risk and expertise needed to operate in the above markets differs wildly, so I’ll try to give some further pointers as to what to start off from. I will also include the expected level of return per year one should be aiming for.
I think this is a pretty safe and low-risk investment given that you are purchasing real estate, which historically has held its value very well. As always, you need to be vigilant in what properties you invest in and diversify as much as possible.
I recommend diversifying geographically, for examples having properties in various locations around the UK, Spain, and Italy. You can also diversify on property types, such as buy-to-let, flipping, and even property-backed loans.
These are my favorite platforms:
You can read about my favorite real estate platforms in Europe as of 2020, where I go into more depth about these platforms and online real estate investment in general.
I have already posted about how to invest in the Spanish property market, and I think it is one of the hottest markets at the moment, so definitely give that article a look if you’re interested in this asset class. If you’re interested in other markets, check out my guides on investing in the German market, the Portuguese real estate market, and the Italian property market.
Expected yearly return: 4-12%
Business and Personal Finance (Loans)
This might initially sound like a fishy area, but really it’s not. After the last financial crisis, banks tightened up their lending procedures, and while that was, in general, a good thing, it also left a lot of people out in the cold and unable to get a loan.
In Europe, this is a big problem in many Eastern European countries as well as other Western European countries like Spain too. With interest rates being as low as they are at the moment, the situation created was that of people in Western Europe having money to invest and on the other hand people in Eastern Europe needing cash for business or personal needs. The resulting opportunity created the rise of loan platforms that are doing so well today.
With these loan platforms, you can choose to diversify your investments over hundreds or thousands of loans across many countries. You can also choose to diversify as to what types of loans you want to invest in. For example: business loans, car loans, home refurbishing loans, bridging loans, etc.
My recommended platforms in this space:
Expected yearly return: 8-12%
The stock market is one of the most well-known ways of investing, so I won’t spend much time on it. I will only say that you should really think twice about using financial advisors and investment brokers, as they are mostly just salesmen who make money on the amount of products they manage to sell to you. In other words, they aren’t really on your side.
Research has shown that most index funds perform better than actively managed funds, so you don’t need to be paying hefty commissions every year for someone to manage your funds. You can use index investing to your benefit, especially now that roboadvisors are taking the place of fund managers. A great European platform for roboadvisor-based index investing is Finizens.
Another great strategy would be to go for dividend growth investing. There are tons of websites of investors who detail their month to month earnings using this strategy. I like the idea of dividend growth investing when compared to index investing for the following reasons:
- No yearly commissions to pay (indexing can cost 0.5 to 1% of your total sum invested)
- You choose which companies to put in your portfolio. You can thus avoid companies that you don’t want to support. For example, being a health-conscious person, I don’t want to invest in and support Coca-Cola. So that company would be out of my dividend growth portfolio, even though it has a great track record. Same goes for McDonalds.
- It’s more exciting, depending on your personality, to actually choose which companies you want to be a part-owner of, and track them year over year. On the downside, it also takes more time.
If you’re interested in learning more about dividend growth investing, I would recommend the Dividend Growth Investor website.
With both strategies, you would then use an online stock broker to purchase your shares or ETFs.
Expected yearly return: 10%+
Gold and Silver Bullion
First of all, what the heck is bullion? Bullion is gold and silver that is officially recognized as being at least 99.5% pure and is in the form of bars or ingots rather than coins.
The word bullion comes from the French Minister of Finance under Louis XIII, Claude de Bullion. To create bullion, gold first must be discovered by mining companies and removed from the earth in the form of gold ore, a combination of gold and mineralized rock. The gold is then extracted from the ore with the use of chemicals or extreme heat.
See also: Should you invest in gold right now?
With that out of the way, we can now talk about where to buy, store and sell bullion online. The storage part is key here. Most probably, you won’t want to worry about storing your own gold or silver in a safe place. That’s why platforms like BullionVault take care of storage for you. Of course, you can also buy and sell on the platform.
One important factor to consider with bullion: Gold and silver have no intrinsic value. They aren’t a productive asset. Compare them to stocks. When you own a share of stock, you own a piece of a business that produces goods and/or services to consumers. A good business generates a profit. Every year that passes, gold remains sitting in the vault, but the owner of a company such as Apple or Nike might have a giant pile of cash from the profit generated over that same year.
When evaluating the performance of gold as an investment over the long term, it really depends on how long a term one is considering. Over a 45-year period, gold has outperformed stocks and bonds; over a 30-year period, stocks and bonds have outperformed gold; and over a 15-year period, gold has outperformed stocks and bonds.
Many investors don’t really consider bullion to be an investment at all. Rather, the precious metal acts as a hedge, or a way to try to protect wealth against the risk of loss in such asset classes as real estate, equities, and bonds. There’s the doomsday scenario reasoning too, which argues that in the case of a global financial collapse or armageddon, gold and silver will be some of the only things with value attached. People will first value food and shelter that cover their basic needs, and soon after demand will start again for gold and silver as people seek to build a store of wealth or impress others.
Needless to say, gold and silver are a very contentious asset, with strong arguments both for and against. In my opinion, if you have money to spare, it wouldn’t hurt to keep some of your net worth in gold as a hedging mechanism. I would give priority to nailing good investments in some of the other categories above, however.
You can use Bullionvault to invest in gold.
Expected yearly return: Nobody knows really, it could be negative returns to double-digit positive returns. It’s more of a hedging mechanism than something you invest with hopes of a specific rate of return.
By online properties, I mean websites or mobile apps. Chances are you know of a friend or friend of a friend who has achieved some degree of success by owning a website or a mobile app. This is your chance to do the same, but rather than starting from scratch, you buy an existing up-and-coming website, or indeed one that’s well established and turning a healthy profit.
You need to be careful in evaluating such online properties, but they can give returns of 40% plus per year, which is super attractive compared to other opportunities. If you know what you’re doing, the risk-reward ratio is very much in your favor.
Bew careful about pure Amazon affiliate sites. If you’re relying 100% on Amazon commissions and you think that you’re your own boss – think again. Amazon owns your ass. For example, they recently decided to cut the commissions for a set of categories by up to 80%.
It’s a good business move by them, IMO, and nothing new (link). Diversification is key. Sites that have multiple traffic and revenue sources are the ones that achieve the highest multiples. If you rely on one or two sources, you’re not playing the long-term game. You’re just looking for quick-wins.
I think that there are some niches that are better than others. I’ve been looking at several niches and so far the best I’ve seen are online marketing, personal finance, investing, and technology. Fitness websites also interest me a lot but it’s really hard to make a decent dime on those without ending up promoting rubbish products.
Expected yearly return: 40%+
This is probably the only current way to make really big profits (or losses) in a relatively short time. You can refer to my post about cryptocurrency resources to learn more about this area. It’s definitely a super interesting way to invest your money, and possibly cryptos will revolutionize our lives in the very near future. At the very least, you should keep yourself informed about what’s happening in this space, even if you don’t invest.
To get started with cryptos, read my guide to investing in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies and my opinion on whether you should buy Bitcoin now.
As for resources, you can check out my list of favorite cryptocurrency resources.
Projected returns are hard to predict in such a nascent space. David Fauchier, the founder and chief investment officer at Cambrial Capital, said 20% net returns is the benchmark for him in terms of crypto trading. It’s about being able to achieve those returns even when the overall market is flat, not just in times of volatility.
I think that 20% figure makes sense for a fund, but as an individual investor/trader, the returns can be much higher.
Expected yearly return: 100%+
I have very little experience in this area of investing, but from what I can gather you really need to know what you’re doing to be successful. It is also very hands-on and you need to be monitoring charts daily to buy and sell currencies for profit. I would suggest staying away from forex unless you’re really attracted to it and love technical analysis and charting.
Expected yearly return (with a good dose of luck): 30-40%
My recommended platform: eToro
The United States is a veritable treasure trove of investing platforms, and some of them are also open to international investors. Because there are too many to mention one-by-one, you can check this mega-list of investing platforms below and explore further on your own.
I hope this short summary will help you get a good idea of all the options available. If you have any questions or would like me to write more in-depth about any of these topics, please let me know.
I also recommend checking out JP Morgan’s market insights page for a deep and comprehensive overview of the world’s markets and expectations.
Lessons Learned in Investing
I’ll be keeping note of my lessons learned as a private investor and also my previous experience as a tech entrepreneur.
- In the market, only 1 thing matters: Supply & Demand. Never fight the present strongest force that drives price & direction. In Equity Markets, from 2009-2019, it was QE/Fed Printing pushing up Stocks. In 2020, again, the Fed has pushed up Stocks. Opinions don’t matter.
- Risk and worry go hand in hand. If you’re not worried then you’re probably not risking enough. Always play for meaningful stakes but don’t bet amounts whose loss would bankrupt you. Nobody becomes rich without some kind of big risk taken.
- I agree with Gerald Loeb, one of Wall Street’s great traders, when he once said: “All investment is speculation. The only difference is that some people admit it and some don’t.”
- Focus 70% of your resources on near term payoff base-hits, 20% on longer term doubles and triples, and 10% on transformational home runs.
- Always take your profit too soon: short modest winning streaks are the most common. Decide in advance what you want from a venture, and when you get it, get out. This is extremely important especially in highly volatile markets like crypto.
- Cut your losses; you are right at most 50% of the time. When the ship starts to sink, jump. Take small losses to protect yourself against big ones. Accept small losses cheerfully as a fact of life. Expect to experience several while awaiting a large gain.
- Be cautious about long-range plans. Planning is useful but you must adjust as you go. Periodically evaluate all that you have invested in.
- The majority is probably wrong: think things through on your own. Never follow a fad: the best time to buy something is often when nobody else wants it.
- Optimism is expecting the best, confidence is knowing how you will handle the worst. Never make a move if you are merely optimistic. Know how you will handle the worst.
- Your intuition can be trusted if it can be explained. First determine if you have a rich enough experience base to have formed a viable hunch. Don’t confuse a hunch with a hope: put more trust in hunches about negative outcomes.
- Beware of getting too comfortable. Do not become trapped in a souring venture because of loyalty or nostalgia. Keep your eyes open to better opportunities at all times.
As an investor for the long term, Buffett said the best move is the easiest: buy and hold. He quotes Rudyard Kipling’s “If”:
If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting …
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim …
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you …
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
Understanding Risk in Investing
Everything in life is risky, it’s a game of probability.
Although we have rules in our modern societies, at the end of the day we remain biologically programmed for self-preservation and protection of our offspring. I try to keep that in mind during my daily life, so as not to expect anyone to look out for my interests and do the job I’m supposed to be doing.
If anyone does happen to act in that way, then it will make my day. But it’s never my default expectation. I learned to think in this way from Stoic philosophy and it has served me very well in the past years when I’ve had to deal with adverse and uncertain situations.
Ultimately, I’ve made peace with risk and even grown to love it. I wake up every day excited to know what opportunities (and risks) I will come across during the day, knowing fully well that I will win some and also lose some.
My aim in business and investing is to be able to look back every five years and ask myself:
Am I significantly wealthier than I was five years ago?
If the answer is yes, then I’m happy with what I’ve been doing during those years. If not, then it’s time to see what I’m doing wrong. Over the long run, it is our actions that determine our destiny, but that is not necessarily the case in the short run. And that is why you need to adopt a long-term approach to not only investing but life in general.
Almost anything can be a good investment, for the right people at the right time. Say you got suckered into a pyramid scheme like Neways, which was popular in Malta when I was in my early twenties. The majority of the people lost their money, but those who got in early made some tidy profits. It all depends on the circumstances of your investment.
It is inevitable that you will make some bad investment decisions along the way. Just like in sport you will have bad performances that will cost you matches and championships. Of course, you should have known better, but that’s how you acted in those circumstances due to all the various factors involved. The only thing you can do is to try to learn a lesson and move on.
Life is such a continuous game of mistakes and lessons learned. A good base of education will ensure that we avoid getting wrecked, but there is no way to avoid making mistakes except not playing at all.
Those who have a lot of money can speculate. Those who have little money may not speculate. Those who have no money must speculate – André Kostolany
In investment, my approach is to learn as much as I can within a reasonable timeframe, then dive in. If it’s a new asset class that I’m interested in, I will spend 6 months reading everything I can find about the class, then go straight in with small amounts, leave another 6 months and hopefully learn some lessons along the way. After 1 or 2 years I’m ready to take bigger steps.
Make sure you do your own homework before you invest and don’t rely on other people’s advice. Be prepared to lose money and subsequently spend your time analyzing what went wrong and what you can learn rather than complaining or feeling bad and blaming yourself or other people for it.
Need further advice?
If you still feel lost or unsure on how to progress with your finances and investment, it would be a good idea to get some coaching or consultancy. I don’t offer such services myself, however, I can recommend my friend Shlomo Freund who does an excellent job and is truly dedicated to helping people with their finances.