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  • Nate Carter

Investing: You Will Make Mistakes

No investor is perfect, we all make mistakes, and sometimes they are big ones. Part of becoming a successful investor is accepting this reality and learning from these mistakes. The key is not repeating the same mistake twice. Also, be cautious of potential partners who claim they never made mistakes. They are either misrepresenting themselves or their mistakes could soon be made with your money.

Below are three mistakes we made in our investing career. Each one was humbling, but offered valuable lessons. Smart investors learn from the mistakes of others. This is the way to advance an investing education without suffering losses.

Investing in a Start Up

On our path to financial freedom we wanted to learn about investing in a range of asset classes. We focused primarily on real estate and equities but were also interested in investing in startup businesses. We made a sizeable investment in a startup with a patented and innovative technology for advertising. The company used illuminated static panels that gave the illusion of moving images. The technology seemed like a game changer for revolutionizing advertising in transportation hubs across the world.

In the end, the company faced the challenges of a recession and competition from the arrival of smartphones, which moved advertising dollars away from walls and down to individual screens. The company was unprepared to effectively navigate these hurdles and we lost 99% of our investment.

Stick to What You Know or Bring in a Partner

At the time we made this investment we both had some business experience and were seasoned real estate investors, but we did not know about advertising. We were drawn in by the potential for a breakaway success. But in hindsight we could not adequately assess all the risks. The lesson we learned was to only invest in assets or businesses that we know and understand.

It is also preferable to focus on businesses where your skills and experience can add value to the company to help them succeed. We now only invest in businesses we understand well or we bring in an experienced partner to better ascertain the risks and opportunities.

Focusing on Yesterday's Valuation

The second lesson we learned was related to real estate investing. After the 2007-08 global financial crisis, real estate declined significantly. As investors panicked and sold real estate, we went against the herd and chose to buy. This turned out to be a great strategy. However, as prices recovered we became too anchored to the real estate prices that existed during the recession.

We saw properties appreciate quickly from $200,000 to $300,000. We thought prices were rising too quickly to be sustainable, so we slowed our pace of buying. The reality was there was much more appreciation to go. And many of these properties were still below the historic average had the global financial crisis not occurred.

Beware of Trying to Time the Market

Based on the rent being generated by these properties, we could have justified the higher prices. But, in the wake of the recession, we were overly cautious. We made a great call on anticipating the bottom of the real estate market and now were overly concerned about misreading the top. Trying to time the market is not the best strategy for investing. It is better to invest for the long term and look at the numbers of each individual investment. This approach will reduce the likelihood of missing out on profitable opportunities.

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

The third example also comes from real estate investing. Years ago were under contract to buy a small multifamily property. A few days before closing the seller asked for several thousand dollars more than our contracted price. The seller said he needed the money for personal reasons. We thought this was bad faith by the seller. We became concerned the seller might string us along demanding more prices increases or create other obstacles to closing.

Legally, we had the property under contract and if the seller tried to sell the property to another buyer at a higher price, we would get the difference. But, real estate law does not allow a buyer to force a seller to complete the sale. We were polite and professional but as a matter of principle we refused to pay the higher price. In response the seller refused to close. This led to a stalemate and the seller took the property off the market.

When Challenges Emerge, Check Your Numbers and Proceed

Looking back it would have been smarter to pay the higher price and close. The seller might have been genuine in his claim of needing extra money. And if it was a ploy and another price hike arose, we could have refused. At the time, we could afford the higher price, but it would have made it less profitable initially.

However, the property appreciated quickly and we gave up more than $100,000 by not closing on the deal. In these situations it is best to re-examine your numbers based on the change in circumstances. If the deal still makes financial sense, then proceed. Doing so may lead to more profits in the long run.

In the end, these mistakes were only minor setbacks in our long term financial goals. When mistakes inevitable occur do not let them discourage you, look for ways to learn from them and move forward. As you look to create your own path to financial freedom consider the book Become Loaded for Life and the corresponding 10 Stages workbook.

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