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040 : Interest Rates, Mortgages and Apartment Buildings with James Eng

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Wherever you stand on the political spectrum, you must admit that the Trump presidency has already demonstrated that it is going to do things differently over the next 4 years. Curiously, history shows us that presidents have very little to do with the state of the economy. Mostly, they are just in the right place at the right time or vice versa.

Let’s take Bill Clinton for example. Clinton’s term coincided with the rise of the internet and the dotcom economy. Lucky for him, he got out before that bubble burst. During his 8 years in office, Clinton dismantled some of the most significant pieces of financial regulation we had and we did not see the negative implications of those choices until 2008. For example, the repeal of Glass-Steagall legislation occurred in 1999. Glass-Steagall was enacted by the United States Congress in 1933 as part of the 1933 Banking Act and separated commercial and investment banking. It restricted affiliations between banks and security firms. What does that mean, you ask? Quite simply, the repeal of Glass-Steagall made it possible for the big banks to become “too big to fail.” Without this repeal, the global financial meltdown of 2007-2008 would not have been possible. But in November of 1999, Clinton declared “the Glass-Steagall law is no longer appropriate.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dissing Willy. My point is that most people judge presidents based on things with which they had little to do (ie. the dotcom era). The first George Bush got elected just as we were entering a recession…was that his faulty? Economist will tell you that he simply got caught in the cross-hairs of an oncoming recession. What if he was elected in 1992 instead of 1988?

Now, in the case of Trump, we may actually being something a little different. If indeed he goes through with massive infrastructure projects, we will see a direct impact, for better or for worse, on the economy. The Trump effect already has made an impression. The dollar saw it’s worst month in decades because Trump has repeatedly suggested that other currencies are undervalued. That necessarily means that Trump believes the dollar should be weaker and, going against the strong dollar policy that has been the rule since the Reagan administration, Trump is clearly advocating for the “weak dollar” and the markets see that and a sell-off of the dollar was the result. By the way, he wants a weak dollar to make our exports more attractive to other countries.

Anyway, as an investor, the infrastructure projects have many implications. First, infrastructure projects mean inflation, almost by definition. Quantitative easing did not work well and you might wonder why printing billions of dollars would not have created inflation in and of itself. The reason is that the money was lent to banks. The bank, in turn, used it to improve their balance sheets and never really started lending the way the fed anticipated. Infrastructure projects, on the other hand, mean that the government is going to inject money directly into the economy. Think of the construction of bridges, etc. You put a lot of people to work along with manufacturers and ultimately, that money spills over into the rest of the economy as people spend their new earned money on things they want and need. That’s why this kind of fiscal policy is referred to as helicopter money. If done, it will stimulate the economy and also INFLATION.

So, as a real asset investor, we don’t fear inflation because we are hedged against it. If you own rental property and inflation goes up, so do your rents. In fact, inflation will erode your debt and so having a mortgage is a great idea when inflation increases. How do interest rates behave through all of this?

Well–everyone is so fixed on what the federal reserve is saying and doing. The reality is that interest rates have much more to do with bond markets than they do with the fed’s yearly 25 basis point increase. So what determines what interest rates will be and how will that affect you and your ability to buy real assets in the coming years? Find out by listening to this week’s episode of Wealth Formula Podcast as we discuss these concepts with James Eng of Old Capital Lendin