Don't Own a House -- Build a Business Instead

One truism of investing is to follow the lead of those who are building wealth.This chart reveals the foundation of the wealth of the top 1% and the next 9%; business equity, i.e. ownership of enterprises. Compare the assets boxed in red:

ownership-assets2-16

The wealthiest households’ primary wealth is businesses and shares in businesses. The bottom 90% depend on the family residence as a store of wealth, and on debt as a means of funding asset purchases and consumption.

Primary residences were once a reliable store of wealth–a store that was accessible to working families who were willing to pinch pennies and save up a down payment.

But now that housing has been financialized and globalized, it is prone to boom and bust cycles like every other risk-on financialized asset. Unfortunately, recent history shows that many middle-class households bought homes at the top and rode the post-bubble burst down.

Those fortunate enough to own homes in bubble-prone regions may benefit from speculating in housing, but playing this speculative game requires cashing out at the top of the bubble–something few have the knack for.

Building a profitable business isn’t easy. That’s why many of the wealthy let entrepreneurs take the risk of starting businesses and then buy the business for a premium once it has proven to be profitable.

But many entrepreneurs refuse to sell out, preferring to hold their businesses as a family asset that can be passed on to the next generation.

It’s also worth noting that the wealthiest 10% own over 90% of the securities and stocks, 84% of trusts (essentially tax havens) and almost 80% of non-home real estate (i.e. second homes and income-generating properties).

Primary residences represent a mere 10% of the wealthiest 1%’s assets.

The key take-away: focus on owning income-producing assets, not a primary residence. The second key take-away:

Don’t finance your assets with debt; finance your income-producing assets with savings and sweat equity, not borrowed money.

It is not accidental that the wealthiest 1% hold very modest levels of debt.

Regards,

Charles Hugh Smith
for Of Two Minds

P.S. Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I’ve been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I’ve moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don’t have to be a financial blogger to know that “having a job” and “having a career” do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept “getting a job” has changed so radically that jobs–getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them–is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I’ve verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.