By Marylyn B. Schwartz
RISMEDIA, Oct. 13, 2008-Eric Tyson has every right to be opinionated about the media’s treatment of the current market conditions both on Main and Wall Streets. Tyson is a former management consultant to Fortune 500 financial service firms and has successfully invested in real estate for more than two decades. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale and his MBA at Stanford Graduate School of Business.
He might be more recognizable to the real estate community through his authorship and co-authorships of the very successful Real Estate Investing for Dummies, Home Buying for Dummies, Taxes for Dummies and Personal Finance for Dummies. With his insight and candor relative to what we should, and perhaps should never, be doing, we had quite a lively conversation.
Marylyn B. Schwartz: Eric, it’s tough to turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper without feeling like we are all lemmings ready to plunge into the abyss. To hearken to the pundits, this Wall Street mess is going to be the undoing of America as we know it.
Eric Tyson: I could not agree more. Listening to all the hype would lead people to believe that it was nearly impossible to get a home loan. It is harder to get a loan, but hardly impossible. There is a great deal of misinformation. The fact is, real estate is ‘on sale’ now as is stock. While I have no crystal ball about whether we have hit bottom, we are close. It is my contention that this is an excellent time to invest. We all know that buying low and waiting for things to return to more ‘normal’ circumstances is an excellent way to make money. Consumers with good credit will have little trouble finding lenders to write a mortgage. It is a fact that the volume of foreclosures and short-sales are slowing things down, and the fear of the credit crunch has added to the malaise. What we are seeing is a market correction, plain and simple. After the orgy of irresponsible lending by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, this was inevitable.
MBS: People are scared that their investments are at risk. When house values have declined significantly in many markets and nest eggs, if small, have all but disappeared, how can we assure people that they need to hang in, not panic and not act without careful guidance and counseling?
ET: We all need to avoid hasty decisions. We cannot afford a 9/11 type mentality. That is, experiencing a crisis and reacting in the short term rather than sitting tight and letting the dust settle. After the tragedy of 9/11, we had economic woes that lasted many years. However, people who invested in real estate then made back their initial investments many times over. Selling a depressed investment is never wise. Fifteen years from now, we will be looking at this time and shaking our heads. However, this economy is a great deal tougher if you are close to retirement. You need to be sure that you are not invested in high-risk markets. One way to measure your portfolio for its level of risk is to take 110 and deduct your age. The result is the percentage of your portfolio that should be in long-term growth assets …stocks, real estate, bonds, etc. These may or may not fit the cautious-investment criteria dependent upon the history of their performance.
MBS: What do you think the biggest misconception is relative to the spin the media places on the financial mess?
ET: This is not the Great Depression. We have to stop comparing the two times in our history. If facts are compared, it is not difficult to determine that where we are today is not where we were in 1929. The stock market decline of 700 points was a result of people listening to the media, panicking and selling off assets or liabilities as they saw them. The next day, the market rebounded significantly, and these same people are wondering if what they did was right or wrong. During the great depression, we had 50% foreclosures as compared with 2.5% or so today. We are suffering with 6% unemployment, yet back eighty years ago unemployment hit 25%. The bailout bill was grossly misrepresented by the media. They failed to liken present-day challenges to other times in recent history when we were in economic crisis. The Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) that was formed by the US Government in 1989 to liquidate primarily real estate-related assets (including mortgage loans) belonging to savings and loan associations. These assets were declared insolvent by the Office of Thrift Supervision as a consequence of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. Between 1989 and mid-1995, the RTC closed or otherwise resolved 747 thrifts with total assets of $394 billion. Many who invested wisely in the consolidation and distribution of these assets realized profits down the road. Instead of it costing the taxpayer 450 billion as initially proffered, it ultimately cost closer to 75 billion. The key point is that we successfully weathered a seemingly insurmountable crisis with far less pain than the media would have had us believe.
MBS: Tough logic to swallow for people who are now having trouble buying food and providing shelter. While in the long run things will right themselves, it is the dark span between crises and leveling that scares most of us. We’re uncertain that we will come out the other end remotely whole…
ET: I understand that. It is in the ‘trenches’ where the pain is most palatable. However, as an economist, it is incumbent upon me to look at every aspect of our economy and determine where, and if, there are reasons to be optimistic. We do have a few strong economic indicators. Exports are up. The weakening of the US dollar aided that segment of our economy. As a result, our GDP grew. We are a resilient economy. We were entering a recession in 2001, and then we saw economic growth bolstered by the strong real estate market. Now we are seeing an adjustment for reasons mentioned earlier. I liken these adjustments to sausage making. While it is an ugly process to watch, the end product is quite palatable. There is far too much ‘daily noise’ that we have no control over. Research shows that the more negativity a person exposes himself/herself to, the more upset and out of control he/she feels. We must do our homework, balance the hyperbole with the facts and hunker down. There is simply no effective way to speed up the pains of an overdue economic correction.
MBS: There are many who are watching this correction with a high level of anxiety. There is ‘skin in the game’ all the way around, and no one wants another misstep no matter how slight. The American public is already reeling from the magnitude of this correction. Let’s hope that the bright spots you have identified continue to grow into a new day.
Marylyn B. Schwartz, CSP, is an expert in real estate and corporate sales training/management and team development. She is president of Teamweavers and a trainer for Leader’s Choice.