Can you imagine the following story ever happening to you?
An elderly lady came into my office a while back and told me that she was a novice investor who was very lucky. “Lucky?” I asked. She explained that she was lucky enough to meet a nice, kind person who had sold her a unique investment of raw land that was destined to be converted into a major city one day. When I asked her more questions, she had no idea, claiming that she didn’t understand investments, but was just so lucky that one day she would be rich.
“So what’s the problem?” I asked.
“I need more monthly income,” she admitted.
Here’s what really happened to her: The client was approached by a salesman who said that if she bought into his raw land deal, she would quintuple her money. Since the deal was raw land, there were no renters, and therefore no income from the deal. Thinking that there was a great future to this proposition, the client bought one unit of the deal. Then, when she realized how rich she could become, and since she desperately needed more money, she went to the bank and borrowed some money to buy another unit. Now she owned two units of raw, non-producing real estate, and had to make monthly payments to her bank to pay off mortgage she had taken out to purchase it.
When the client realized that she had used up all of her money for a high-risk investment and, as a result had negative cash flow, she came to me. I called the salesman and asked how she could get out of the deal. He said that the units were not sellable until the whole project was complete. The deal never worked out and now, years later, this poor lady is still suffering.
I don’t know if the raw land will ever be converted into a city. It seems unlikely to me, but I’m not an expert in real estate or city planning. However, I do know that even if the investment itself isn’t dumb, it was a poor idea for the salesman to sell it to this lady. It certainly wasn’t appropriate for her.
When you read these stories, you may think that “it could never happen to me.” However, anyone can make a mistake in judgment when it comes to investing, just like anything else in life. Therefore, when it comes to your own financial dealings, don’t just examine the potential return of an investment. Rather, consider whether the investment program itself is right for someone in your situation. If you have stories like this to share, please send an email directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through my website.
Doug Goldstein, CFP®