Baazov pleads not guilty in insider trading charges

David Baazov presumably has a decent lawyer working on his behalf and so they must have done some informed calculations about what his chances would be at trial, and so since Baazov is pleading not guilty leads me to believe that the government’s case against him must be pretty weak.  This trial should be interesting.  It took regulators a long time to search for information and make charges.  I think this plea should be bullish for Amaya’s share price.

Ex-CEO of gaming company Amaya pleads not guilty to securities charges | Toronto Star

MONTREAL-The former head of online gaming company Amaya, two associates and three companies have pleaded not guilty to several securities-related charges following an investigation into allegations of insider trading, Quebec’s securities regulator said Monday.

How to Become a Millionaire

Bloomberg recently published some statistics on the odds of becoming a millionaire. They compared the rates of millionaires between different levels of education, race, etc. They identified the unfortunate truth about how you are more likely to be a millionaire if you are white, less likely if you are Asian, Hispanic, or Black. They show how increasing levels of education are directly related to levels of wealth.

This type of analysis really gets on my nerves. Just because statistics are correlated, it doesn’t prove they are causal. Maybe the wealthier and more educated your parents are means you have more freedom and resources to spend education? This doesn’t prove that education is causing the wealth, these two outcomes may be co-incidental. Educated people live in a culture that values education. But a graduate degree may not be the source of wealth itself.

The relationship between education and wealth needs to be thought of in terms of the source of wealth.  When writing about the “odds of becoming a millionaire” as Bloomberg has done, we need to consider the ways people become a millionaires. What Bloomberg hasn’t done in their analysis is strip out everyone who is already a millionaire.  If your parents are millionaires, its a lot easier for you to become a millionaire. Children of millionaires have an easy path to riches, their parents eventually die and leave them an inheritance.  Also, if your parnets are millionaires, its much easier to pursue education and business interests.  Its easier to start and grow a new business with the support of a rich family.  Bloomberg did not talk at all about what role your starting point of wealth contributes to the likelihood you will become a millionaire.  My guess is where you start (or where your family is) makes a huge difference to your odds of becoming a millionaire.

The best way to consider the question of the odds of becoming a millionaire is to isolate those who start with zero wealth. We need to consider the “self made” millionaires. How likely is it that someone can start with zero wealth and become a millionaire? This question is beyond the realm of journalism.  Isolating self made millionaires and determining their likelihood is a problem for economists and social scientists.

What are the odds of becoming a millionaire if your goal is to become a millionaire? Off hand, I would say the odds are very high.  In North America, there are many straight-forward paths to becoming a millionaire. The “mass affluent” is a large and growing segment of the population. Becoming a millionaire isn’t a secret formula, there are many well knows paths to becoming rich. Let’s outline some straight-forward strategies to becoming a millionaire.

Let’s also keep in mind that if you start with nothing and your goal is NOT to become a millionaire, the odds of you becoming a millionaire are very low.  The odds of picking the next Microsoft in your retirement account or winning the lottery, without making any other effort to become a millionaire means the likelihood of becoming a millionaire is slim.

But if your goal is to become a millionaire and you make this a major life goal, I estimate the likelihood of becoming a millionaire is very high. There are many ways to become a millionaire and they mostly involve hard work and diligence, but not much luck.

Becoming a millionaire may involve some sacrifice.  You might not be able to have everything in life. You can increase the likelihood of becoming a millionaire by foregoing certain things and focusing your time, energy, and resources on things that contribute to your economic success. Having kids and being responsible for a family will likely decrease your chances of becoming a millionaire. Remember, we are discussing ways to become a millionaire, we are not discussing ways to lead a “good life”.  While being responsible for a family and raising kids might be worthwhile for non-monetary reasons, they will certainly take away from your economic success.  Kids take time and resources which can otherwise be invested in your economic success.  You may also want to forgo luxury spending.  All these resources can be contributed to your economic success.

So the first place to start if you want a low risk way to become a millionaire is to pick a profession.  You can become a millionaire in a variety of professions such as medicine, dentistry, finance, law, engineering, etc. If you choose one of these professions, focus on an area with the most lucrative economic benefits.  If you become a doctor, don’t go overseas and volunteer. Instead, build your practice in a wealthy community and provide a specialized service where you own your own practice. Become a surgeon, radiologist, create a hip and knee replacement service, or a pain clinic, or cater to geriatrics.

Within your profession, get good at the business side. Most of the professionals in your field will have got into it because they are passionate about their profession, not because their goal is to become a millionaire. If you become good at the business side (marketing, practice management, finances, administration) you can scale your practice. Other professionals will want to team up with you because you can provide them with scale and allow them to focus on providing services to clients.  Being good at the business time will also allow you to have more billable hours and make best use of your administration staff.

If you work all the time you will burn out. So as a successful professional you will also benefit from a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating well, exercise, friendships, hobby’s, romance, and charitable service. Under the umbrella of “charity”, focus on ways that you can contribute your time and expertise. This might involve volunteering on the fundraising committee of a local charity you are passionate about. These types of activities are also great for networking and meeting new clients.

As a successful professional, you need to save and invest in order to become a millionaire. Complementary to the business skills you are developing in your practice, use these skills to manage your personal finances.  Put together a team that will help you such as a your accountant and your investment adviser. You’ll need to cultivate relationships with other professionals in order to leverage your time and their expertise. Diversify your holdings.  Take the profits that otherwise don’t need to be invested in your practice and invest in other non-correlated investments. Buy stocks, bonds, and real estate.

Over time, as a successful professional, it is almost certain you will become a millionaire. You don’t need any capital to get started.  In Ontario for example, it doesn’t matter what your economic background is, you will have access to any profession.  Banks are happy to lend money to anyone pursuing a profession because banks know that those future professionals are their best future clients.

Ontario Securities Commission investigating Titan Equity

There were so many red flags for investors in Titan Equity, I don’t really feel sorry for them.  Here are some tips for investors in private equity, especially private placement real estate and hedge funds.

Pay attention to the promoter’s lifestyle.  What kind of car does the promoter drive? If they are driving Aston Martins and Bentley’s then beware. Why would they be asking you for an investment when they are already wasting funds on luxury items? Also, if someone is spending their personal money on luxury items, how careful would they be with investor’s resources? Is the promoter going on fancy vacations and living in a fancy house?  What does the promoter’s spouse do?  If they are a trophy wife who goes shopping all day, this may put pressure on the promoter to maintain a lifestyle for her and this might cloud his judgement. If you are investing in someone, make sure that person is living an average lifestyle and pouring all his time and money into the project as well.

Make sure you are being provided with adequate financial reports. Especially for private equity investments that involve more than just family and close friends, financial statements should be audited and provided on a regular basis. There is a significant cost to providing audited financial statements, but this cost goes along with a large project with numerous unrelated investors. The other benefit to audited financial statements is that in order for an accountant to sign off, an internal accounting process must meet certain standards. Its not easy to provide audited financial statements and requires a advanced level of management.  Smaller projects with a few related investors can get by without audited financials, but other checks and balances should be in place such as providing all investors with access to bank statements in order to keep everyone better informed.

Keep management on track. Sometimes privately funded investments get off track as the founders constantly pivot to new ideas.  These founders can’t stay focused long enough on one project and so they spread resources too thin and end up accomplishing nothing. In the case of Titan Equity, they had investments in a retirement home, but also in a townhouse development. These are different types of real estate and management should have been focused on a specific type of real estate such as just retirement homes or just townhouse developments, but not both.

Make sure management is communicating. Sometimes a business project does not always go as planned. There will be times when projects fail and its important that management is transparent and honest to investors. It can embarrassing for founders to admit they have failed, especially to close friends who have invested in their project. But hiding the truth is what ponzi schemes and fraud are made of.

Ontario Securities Commission investigating York Region real estate firm with ties to Toronto FC | Toronto Star

A real estate investment company that once ran a $1-Million Dream Home contest for Toronto FC is facing allegations that its chief executive officer misused investors’ money to buy luxury cars, an expensive home and pay himself “excessive” management fees. Titan Equity Group Ltd.

 

The Best Route to Business Success

I’m trying to decide the best way to proceed with my various businesses, so I decided to write a blog post about the choices. Ultimately, I’m trying to decide how to allocate my time. I think time is the most valuable resources and I use portfolio theory to help me allocate it. If I focus my time exclusively on one activity, I might accomplish something, but there are diminishing returns.  Spending 24 hours per day playing golf might improve my game, but I’ll get pretty tired by the second day and need to sleep. Its possible to spend too much time on any particular activity while spending some of my time on various activities which may yield a better overall result.  A bit of sleep, a bit of exercise/physical activity, some leisure, some time spent eating meals. I feel like spending some time on “non-productive” things will help me become more productive in accomplishing business goals.

So what are my goals? Sustain my current economic lifestyle which requires a few thousand dollars per month of income. I’ve accomplished this from my portfolio and real estate investments. What else can I accomplish with my life?  I should spend some time doing charitable activities and other activities that help other people. I make regular current charitable donations and I’ve made a charitable trust the beneficiary of my estate. I regularly engage in charitable activities, much more than my peer group, so I feel I’m accomplishing this altruistic goal.  My health?  I am excising almost everyday and pushing myself to new health and physical goals.  I am trying to reach a balance between enjoying food/alcohol with my health, this is something I’m working on, but based on my body weight and physical capacity, I’m better than average.

So now I have about 10 hours per day after sleep, health, and charitable goals are met to engage in other business activities. There are so many business opportunities I’m finding it hard to choose to focus on specific ones. Currently, I’m engaging in three main business activities which I’ll call family office, property management, and Bitcoin DFS.

My family office business is one that I mostly run alone. I provide bookkeeping, tax, and investment advisory services to a small number of high net worth families. Its pretty easy for me to offer these services profitably because I already have the systems in place and knowledge that I’ve gained from doing these things for myself. It also helps that I’m a former investment advisor, a licensed CFP, and I hold a number of financial designations. This business has the same economics as an accountant or a lawyer. It doesn’t require much capital, but the only way to earn fees is to do the work, so this business is not very scale-able. The most you can make as a financial advisor is a few hundred thousand dollars per year.  If I were to sell investment products on a mainstream platform and build a team of associates, I could make up to a million dollars of income each year, but in order to do that, I would have to dedicate my entire life to the task. Reaching a very high income would mean sacrificing my health (both mental and physical) and leaves little time for alternative pursuits. I’ve decided to only spend part of my time providing family office services.

My property management business is one that I run with a small team of friends on contract where we provide leasing services to landlords. We rent out residential real estate to tenants. Some of our tenants are long term tenants in unfurnished suites and other tenants are monthly tenants in furnished suites. The nice thing about this business is that is only takes a small amount of capital investment. Other than some furnishings, its mostly a business that requires some business process and time to do the work. The business process isn’t that hard to create and mostly involves standard practices to market vacancies, process leases, and respond to tenants. This business is moderately scale-able, but to make it grow I have to invest a lot of time finding new clients (landlords) who will allow me to manage their property.  The short term furnished rentals are the best area for growth. This is an emerging market for leasing managers that involves a higher capacity for guest service and greater management capability.

My Bitcoin DFS business is the one with the biggest capacity for scale, but also the one with the greatest risk. Its the biggest long-shot. Along with a friend, we are developing an account management and marketing system that will allow us to run daily fantasy sports games. What makes our concept unique is that our platform will be denominated in bitcoins. Currently, there are no competing bitcoin daily fantasy sports sites. We also plan on investing the float of bitcoin deposits in other bitcoin investments. We are not sure how aggressive we’ll be with our investing strategy, but at first we will hold more than 100 percent player deposits in reserve. This business has many challenges including technical, legal, and managerial. But so far we’ve been having fun developing the concept.

I’ve decided to spend my day to day on providing family office services and property management to current clients, and to spend my spare time developing the bitcoin fantasy sports business. It would be nice to have something easy to accomplish that provided some spare income that I could dump into some fliers, but I think the family office service is as close as I’ll get to a safe stream of small business income.

Being in Debt

It’s common wisdom in North America that debt is bad. Most of us think its best to avoid debt and save rather than borrow. But if you’re a part of the working class, saving the old fashioned way will simply handcuff you to your job. Working and saving is what those in power want you to do. They want you to compliantly sell your labour and slowly save for your retirement. Its a low risk strategy that keeps you in your place.

When you work and save, you’ll never be rich and you’ll always be forced to sell your labour.  The only hope you have of a materially better life is when the the standard of living generally rises. When you work and save, your station in society will always be the same. When you work and save, your life will go by, and you will always be stuck in the working class. Sure, you will retire, and pay for your kids education, and consume all the products being offered by the capitalists. Common wisdom tells us that those who work hard and save their money are admirable. But when you borrow to invest, you give yourself the potential of lifting yourself out of your class and making yourself a capitalist too.

When I talk of debtors, I’m not referring to those who borrow to consume. I’m referring to those who borrow to invest, whether its in real estate, the stock market, or their own business.

What’s the risk of debt?  If you are born rich, getting into debt risks your capital. A rich person who borrows could slide down the ladder of society back into the working class. Rich people would rather lend their capital to others, rather than borrow to gain more if they already have enough capital to provide for their lifestyle. The working class should do the opposite. We should borrow as much as we can for the lowest rates possible and find good ways to profit from this borrowed capital.

For someone who starts with nothing, what’s the worst that can happen after they are highly indebted? Bankruptcy? So now the poor person who started at zero is bankrupt and they are right back to zero; right back to where they started. Nothing lost, nothing gained. Doesn’t sound so bad. At least they tried. At least they didn’t just follow instructions. At least those who borrow to invest tried to claw their way out of their station.

 

I can see why the rich are so worried about debt. All those working class people who are in debt might one day default, and this hurts the capitalists. At the same time, the working class have promoted government policies that benefit themselves. A generous social safety net helps the poor who lack their own resources. If you borrow to invest and it all goes wrong, the government will still provide you with a basic pension and health care. The welfare state helps debtors.

Artificially low interest rates also benefit the working class at the expense of the capitalists. Low interest rates benefits borrowers, while lenders receive less interest income from the capital they lend out.