Think back, for a moment, to your childhood.
Did you have parents who made you eat your vegetables? Did they make you do your school homework? Did they give you chores?
If you’re of a certain age, you probably can relate. In simpler times, before bike helmets and screen time dominated the parent-child conversation, there were other, pressing things that your parents seemed to want you to do for whatever reason. Like vegetables.
The “whatever” reason is likely an evolutionary instinct. Since the beginning of recorded human history, it’s been a general human tendency for parents to want their kids to have it better than they did.
European emigrants to the United States made their kids learn English even if they, themselves, never did. At the dawn of the industrial revolution, blue-collar workers in factories and coal mines saved their hard-earned money in order to send their kids to colleges, so that they’d never have to work in those same factories or dirty coal mines.
Descendants of emancipated slaves wanted their kids to have rights they never knew, and schoolteachers pushed their kids to be doctors. The idea of the next generation being better off is sort of ingrained in the development of the human species.
And, at least in the United States, it seems to have come to a grounding halt.
WARNING: If you’re a parent, there are some things in this report that might make you want to turn away. The forecast for future generations has not likely ever been so grim. This is your disclaimer. Read on at your own peril.
The United States is at a point in its history at which it’s never been. It’s the first point in time when the prognosis – at least financially – for future generations is actually poorer than it is for the current working class. In other words, your children are statistically likely to be WORSE off than you are right now. You might be rich now, and your kids are likely to be poorer at the same point in their lives. You could be poor today, and your kids are likely to be even poorer still.
In late 2019, the financial website Business Insider published results of a study done by think tank New America, a non-profit funded in part by Citibank, one of the largest financial institutions in the world. Business Insider’s summation of the report’s findings are as follows:
- Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, earn about 20 percent less income than Baby Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) did at the same age, adjusted for inflation.
- The wealth gap between Boomers and Millennials, according to a MagnifyMoney study of assets by generation, has doubled in the past 20 years.
- Millennials, according to data, have experienced a DECREASE in their lifetime net worth compared to their age just group a generation ago.
- The financial crash of 2008, plus student loan debt and lack of housing opportunities have led to an “affordability crisis” for millennials, the numerically largest of working generations.
Some of the reasons for the large gap between generations are time and timing. The older you are, the longer you have to grow your money and the more time you’ve had to pay down debt. Also, The oldest millennial's were presumably early in their work careers when the financial crisis of 2008 hit. Salaries and retirement accounts were not in great shape.
In the last six or seven years, housing costs have skyrocketed. If you owned a house before the recession, it’s gone up in value. If you were in your mid-to-late 20's during that time and didn’t own a home, you might have been priced out of the home ownership experience, which can be a hit to net worth.
Maybe it’s no wonder that while previous generations’ net worth has grown rapidly and that Millennial net worth has been flat. Here’s what the average net worth by generation was in 1998 and in 2019:
In 1998, the average net worth of an American age 52 to 70 was $747,600, and a 20-to-35-year-old had a net worth of $103,400. So an older household had a net worth of about seven times the younger household.
That figure has exploded to 12 times greater in just 19 years. The average net worth of the older household has gone up almost a half a million dollars, while the average net worth of younger households has actually DECREASED by more than $3,000. Why is this the case?
Keep in mind that net worth is calculated by adding up your assets and subtracting your liabilities. If you have a $300,000 home and owe $100,000 on it, its contribution to your net worth is $200,000 ($300,000 minus $100,000).
In 2019, the average graduating college senior finished school with student loan debt of $29,900. In 1998, the average student loan debt was just $14,855. In 20 years, the average debt has doubled. That means, right out of school, 20-somethings have double the liabilities of those who went 20 years before them.
In addition to the greater liabilities, millennial have been hit hard by the aforementioned rising costs of home ownership. According to a study by the website Student Loan Hero, first-time home buyers today are paying 39 percent more than baby boomers buying their first homes in the 1980's.
Home ownership is down among those among those 35 and under, which means that not only do younger people tend to have more liabilities in the form of student loan debt, many of them also don’t have a major asset: a home.
Why is this important? For starters, it’s alarming that this is literally the first generation in America that isn’t better off than their parents. If you have young children or are planning to have children soon, it should worry you that the trend could continue, or even worsen.
What happens when Millennial's, many of whom went to college, can’t afford college for their own children? The average lifetime earnings of a college graduate are almost a million dollars more than high school graduates, so education influences income. That means the children of millennial's who don’t go to college will earn even less than their parents did. It could become a pretty ugly cycle.
Fortunately, there are ways to break that cycle or – if your kids are young enough – even reverse it. With enough time and a solid strategy, parents can help turn their children millionaires.
A personal finance article published in early 2020 suggested that investing a mere dollar per day for a child from the day they are born could help them get a financial head start in life by the time they reach adulthood. It’s an interesting concept.
If you took one dollar per day from the day your child is born and invested it for them at, say, an 8-percent actual return, your child will have about $13,670 when they turn 18. You’d invest $6,570 over the years and would more than double your money.
Doubling your money sounds great, but $13,700 is going to pay for, what, one year of college (maybe) when your child is 18? It’s $13,700 less they might owe in student loans when they graduate, but a dollar a day for 18 years isn’t going to make anyone a millionaire. To accomplish that, you’d have to either contribute more money and/or earn a better rate of return.
So let’s say you bump that dollar-a-day investment for your child to five dollars a day. And instead of 8 percent, you earn 10 percent on your invested cash.
That looks like this:
Obviously, $83,000 is a lot better than $13,700, but it’s still a far cry from millionaire status. The good news is that an 18-year-old who has $83,000 can just let it sit where it is, and as long as it keeps earning 10 percent a year, that investment will eventually get to a million dollars. It will take 26 years, so your “child” will be 44 by the time it happens, but it’s do-able. You’ll have made your kid a millionaire by age 44 by simply investing $5 per day on their behalf for the first 18 years of their life.
Maybe that sounds all well and good to you. But if you’d want the process to be more efficient – either your child becomes a millionaire sooner or you invest less money on their behalf – you’ll have to have a different approach.
Keep in mind, the two factors that determine net worth are:
Right now, what’s keeping the Millennial generation from achieving higher net worth is a combination of not having enough of A and having too much of B. To reverse the cycle for your own children, therefore, the goal should be to simply increase A and decrease B, through some combination of investing.
Five bucks a day in a 10-percent mutual fund or something similar from their day of birth until they’re 18 might get it done. The $83,000 investment account you’d bestow upon them at high school graduation would be an asset. If they were to choose to use that money to pay for college, they could reduce their liabilities by having less student loan debt.
That $83,000 could also be a 20-percent down payment on a $400,000 home, which – remember – is an asset. A $400,000 home that appreciates at a rate of 3 percent a year would be worth a million dollars in about 31-and-a-half years. That’s a little longer than it would take by just sitting on the original $83,000 in an investment account, but you’d be helping provide your child with a place to live by eliminating what is currently a major barrier to home ownership: the down payment.
If you’d rather your child reach millionaire status BEFORE they’re in their 40's or 50's, you’d have to invest more money in their future and/or invest in something with a higher rate of return. If the idea of buying them a home appeals to you, you’re in luck. You can tweak the home-buying strategy a bit and achieve the objectives of investing more money for them at a higher rate of return.
Instead of contributing $5 a day to an investment fund for the first 18 years of your child’s life, you could use the same $32,850 as a down payment on a rental home now. Call it an even $30,000, and you’d have enough down payment for a $150,000 property.
At the end of February 2020, there was one American city out of the top 100 metropolitan statistical areas in the country where the median home sales price was exactly $150,000. That was Buffalo, New York, which is why it will be used for the following example.
Here's a home for sale in Buffalo, listed on Zillow:
The estimated payment on this listing is incorrect because, for some reason, Zillow has calculated property taxes at $332 per month. A visit to the Erie County auditor’s website, however, shows that, historically, property taxes have amounted to less than that PER YEAR on average. Maybe Zillow’s error is the reason this home has been on the market for 35 days!
Even if property taxes were, say $100 per month, the monthly mortgage payment on this property with a 30-year mortgage at 3.25 percent and $30,000 down would be $693. Zillow estimates that the market rent for this home is $1,100 per month.
That means that this property, when rented, generates $407 of positive cash flow per month. Even if you set aside $100 each month to build a reserve for maintenance and repairs, you’d be collecting $307 per month.
That’s $3,684 per year of net rental income. With your original investment of $30,000, that amounts to an annual rate of return of 12.3 percent, which is obviously higher than the 10 percent you might earn in a “safe,” low-cost mutual fund.
Speaking of mutual funds, what would happen if you used that $3,684 per year of rental income to invest in a low-cost index fund that netted that 10-percent rate in the earlier example? That would look like this:
You’d have almost $168,000 saved for your child, more than double the $83,000 you’d have if you put away $5 a day into the same mutual fund. By using the same $30,000 up front and investing in an asset that produces income on its own, you significantly increase your child’s wealth.
In this scenario, your child could turn 18 and you could stop contributing to this fund. If they just let it sit and grow at the same rate, it would be worth a million dollars by the time they’re 38. That’s six years sooner than in the $5-a-day scenario.
But actually, they’d be millionaires even sooner than that. Possibly much sooner.
How is that possible? It’s possible because the value of your original investment is not just pegged to what’s in the mutual fund account. The asset you bought to fund that account, the rental property, has value, too. Remember, net worth is calculated by adding up all your assets and subtracting any liabilities.
According the to the amortization table on the mortgage for the home in the example above, the balance due would be $62,074 when your child turns 18. Your tenants would not have only funded your child’s investment account, but they also will have significantly paid down the mortgage on the home.
If you factor in a 3-percent-per-year rate of price appreciation, which is conservative now but realistic as an annual average over the next 18 years, the $150,000 home would be worth $255,365. With a mortgage balance of $62,074, your child would have equity in the home worth $193,291.
That equity counts toward net worth. So when your child turns 18 in this scenario, they’d have:
$193,291 in home equity
$167,987 in a mutual fund
If they sold the house and invested the proceeds into the mutual fund with the same 10-percent return, and NEVER TOUCHED THAT FUND (money in or out), it would grow to $1,030,768 in 10 years. Your child would have a net worth of over a million dollars at age 28.
And it would have cost you just $30,000 at birth to turn your child into a millionaire before they’re 30. In short, you could invest $5 per day from the birth of your child until they’re 18, and they very well could be millionaires at age 44. Or you could invest $30,000 into an income-producing asset (one single-family rental property), and they can be a millionaire at 28.
This sounds like a no-brainer, but there are some caveats.
- The biggest one is that $30,000 today is worth $30,000. Investing $5 a day over 18 years ends up being the same net amount, but because of inflation, the real dollar amount you’d invest will cost you less over time. In 10 years, for example, the $5 you invest per day might only cost you $4 in today’s money. It’s what’s known as the principle of Time Value of Money. This principle dictates that $30,000 today is more expensive than the same $30,000 paid out in daily increments of $5 over 18 years. It’s part of why the lump sum invested earlier speeds up the process.
- Investing in a rental property for your child will also mean that you’ll have to manage a rental property for at least 18 years. It’s lucrative, as the numbers prove, but it’s not a job everyone is up for. Investing in real estate is mostly passive but not entirely.
- There’s also a non-zero chance that the property will not appreciate as the model above projects. Were there to be another crisis like in 2008 (not likely), for example, you could wind up with a property that’s worth less than what you paid for it. This would obviously affect the property owner’s (you or your child) net worth, but a rental property still can be relied upon to produce consistent, predictable income regardless of its market value. You could argue that a stock market crash could destroy your all-passive investment, too, and you’d lack the loss-mitigating benefit of rental income in that case.
If those caveats are “cons” in the argument for investing in a rental property for your child, then it’s only fair to mention the “pros.” The biggest one is flexibility. If you invest in a rental property when your child is born and commit to keeping it through the age of 18, you have a lot of options. Here are some possible tweaks to the strategy that are easily employed:
- You could invest in a rental property on or near a college campus your child might attend. Until they’re of college age, you could rent it out (college rentals often generate more income than straight rental properties), and then when they’re of college age, they have housing that’s free, significantly reducing their college costs. Of course, when your child is born, you don’t know where they might go to college. But if you, your spouse, both your parents and all your siblings went to one school, it’s a at least a valid bet your kid might go there, too. If you bet wrong, the worst-case scenario is that you have a property in a college town that’s paid you above-market rent for 18 years and which you probably have a couple hundred thousand dollars’ worth of equity in. You could sell it and pay for your child’s college education and/or housing at whatever school they choose to attend.
- Even if it’s not in a college town, your child could also move into the property when they turn 18 or at any point after. If you rent it for 18 years, the income – if diligently re-invested – will have generated $167,000, AND, when they turn 18, the property will give your child a place to live. You can’t live in even the greatest mutual funds in the world!
- They could simply take over the mortgage payments and would only have 12 years on the mortgage left before owning the home free and clear. By then, it would be worth over a quarter of a million dollars. They could sell it and invest the proceeds for additional gains or keep it and pass it on to their children. One property can provide for multiple generations of your family.If your child can’t or won’t move into the home, you can sell it, providing your child with $193,000. They could use that to pay for college – eliminating the weight of student loan debt – and/or use it to buy a property somewhere they DO want to live.
- The example of your child becoming a millionaire by age 28 involves only the market value of the property they own plus the accrued value of investments funded by rental income up until age 18.Obviously, you child could turn 18, decide to keep as a rental the property you’ve bought for them, and continue to collect rent, which they could use for living expenses or continue investing in that 10-percent investment account.
- If you wanted to accelerate the whole strategy, you could use the net rental income to purchase a second, similar property. If after eight or nine years you were to buy a second investment property with the same details, you could double your positive cashflow (net rental income), and you’d have a second asset with some equity to pass to your child or children. Of course, investing in multiple properties is also important if you have multiple children.
- There are also some tax-advantaged Health Savings Account options that you could set up for your child, helping to ensure that they always have some savings put aside from any unplanned medical emergencies that might come up. Unplanned medical emergencies are one type of life events that can spell financial disasters for families, even those who have decent incomes. As with all of these possibilities, it’s advisable to consult with a financial-planning professional.
Simply put, investing in real estate on behalf of your child upon birth could easily set them up for the rest of their life – perhaps more than just putting five bucks a day into the stock market or contributing to a 529 college savings plan. Both of those can be sound strategies, but neither is likely to make your kid a millionaire very early in life.
On top of that reality are a couple of other things. One, investing in a rental property for your child can provide some tax benefits for you along the way. Mortgage interest and property tax are deductions you can take. Owning investment property can come with some tax advantages.
Secondly, the examples provided above assume static rental income. In reality, your rental rates will rise over the years. You have to keep up with inflation, after all, and in some areas, market rental rates rise each year at a rate much higher than overall inflation. Also keep an eye on things like insurance and property taxes, costs that can change over the years and eat into your net income.
You might be thinking to yourself, “If it were this easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?”
You could argue that, in fact, a lot of people ARE doing it. You might even know someone who rents residential or commercial space, or maybe a vacation home somewhere when they’re not using it. There are plenty of individual real estate investors out there, including those who employ the strategy of investing in property that they can turn over to their children at some point in the future.
But one of the reasons not EVERYBODY is doing it is because most people are not trained to operate entrepreneurial. Most people are conditioned to work for their money rather than putting their money to work for them. That’s what real estate does.
But most people are expected to toil away at a job for 40 years and save as much as they can in their 401k plan. In a lot of cases, that will eventually get you to millionaire status. You’ll be older and will have worked at a job for 40 years, but you’ll be a millionaire.
Investing outside of your own retirement account is a way to help ensure your children don’t have to go down the same road. Doing something for them financially from they day they’re born might give them a chance to break the sudden, alarming trend of younger generations being worse off financially than their predecessors.
Here's the lead paragraph from an article on Grow.Acorns.com about how important investing even a little at a time starting when your child is young can help you break the generational financial regression:
“If you could go back in time, you might do a few things differently — like most investors, for example, maybe you’d start saving and investing money earlier. If you’re a parent or plan on becoming one soon, you can set a good example and do your children a favor by getting the financial ball rolling for them as soon as they’re born.”
You CAN’T go back in time. If you’re not happy with the shape of your household’s finances, chances are you regret some of the decisions you’ve made about money in your life. Hopefully, you have enough time left to reverse course.
Your children DO have enough time. Because of the power of compounding, time is so very valuable when it comes to growing wealth. The sooner you start, the better off you’ll be. Plus, investing for your children’s future could help teach them lessons about money you might never have learned yourself. They can teach those lessons to their own children, too, and you’ll have helped multiple generations of your family to be better off than the one before.
Even if it’s not in real estate – maybe you’re risk-averse or just don’t know the first thing about being a landlord – it makes sense to invest something on behalf of your children, even if it’s just that $1 per day in a mutual fund.
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I'm a real estate professional who specializes in helping real estate investors create new income streams. I've also been studying the wealthiest investors in the world and have detailed their strategies in my book “Real Estate Billionaires.” Throughout my journey in real estate I've learned many valuable lessons. I can help you save time, make more money faster and sidestep costly mistakes.
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P.S. Real estate really is one of the most common and simpler ways to get a long-term investment strategy started. Although being a real estate investor involves some work, it’s a more passive way of earning income than a job is. Real estate is also durable, which also adds to its attractiveness as a long-term, multi-generation approach to wealth-building
P.P.S.Real estate is not a risk-free investment. You can lose money investing in real estate just as you can lose money in any investment. Your ability to be successful depends on many factors, including the systems you use, your experience and your support system. You can minimize risk by building a solid team of experienced professional advisers, including a real estate professional, real estate attorney, and real estate tax adviser and through appropriate insurance protection. This report and the sample investment ideas within are for informational purposes only.