To Thine Own Self Be True

Know your limits as an investor

It was Polonius in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet who spoke the words, “To thine own self be true.”

There has been some scholarly debate about the meaning of the phrase.  Polonius’ children spoof him in pantomime as he speaks the words. Was it meant to be a joke?

Some people tattoo the words on their arms. It seems to have become a credo for people who feel they need to take care of themselves first.

For me, the line means, know yourself. That includes faults as well as strengths.

Self-Awareness Is Vital to Financial Success

I am the best example of not being true to myself and failing financially.

In the early 2000s, I got the real estate bug. I knew several people who had made good money owning rental properties. I was sure I could do the same,

Some properties I bought all cash, some I financed. I reviewed the books on each property and talked with the city about plans for the neighborhoods they were in. Everything on paper was good.

I recognized home improvement was not my long suit. So, I hired a handyman.

Oh, the People You’ll Meet

The one thing I did not consider was tenant relations.

You must always keep investment risk in mind as a landlord. Tenants who can not or will not pay their rent are bad risks. Someone has to pay the mortgage, taxes, etc. If your renters do not do that – you will.

I had one great fault as a landlord. I was a soft touch. To make things worse, I was not ashamed of it. I like helping people more than making money.

Word got around that I let some tenants pay their security deposits in installments. One woman showed up on the doorstep of a fourplex in tears. She and her daughter had no place to go. She had enough money for rent, but not for a security deposit. I let them have an upstairs apartment.

A Story of Woe

Four days after the woman moved in, her boyfriend was released from prison. From prison!

He moved into the apartment in violation of the lease. He then called a cab, robbed the driver, and walked back into the apartment. I do not know why he was surprised when the police showed up almost immediately afterward and arrested him. They also arrested my tenant. She lied to them about the boyfriend being there.

I could share other stories, but I do have some dignity.

The moral of the story is: take an honest look at yourself before you invest.

If you can afford a loss and like thrill rides, put some of your money in riskier ventures.

If uncertainty keeps you up at night, play it safe.

Remember: to thine own self be true.

Read More 

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Posted in: Business, General, Home, Money, Personal Finance, Real Estate

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