Foreign Service Officers are well positions for retirement with the 3-Legged Stool – “FERS + Social Security + TSP.” The question is do you want to wait till retirement to start earning passive income. There are so many options out there to invest so what’s better the Stock Market or Real Estate?

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What if I told you there is a way you can take total responsibility for your financial outcomes NOW, and can keep those fees that Wall Street & the IRS would of taken year after year from stock market investing. This Blog will provide an alternative that you may have never considered that provides immediate cash flow, higher returns with less headaches. Also very easy to manage especially while serving overseas. And NO the Stock Market isn’t going to get you there. 

But what about your other investments in the stock market? Are you concerned about the future of the stock market? If so, you’re not alone. How can you possible plan for your financial future with the uncertainty and volatility of the stock market. After exploring the Pros and Cons in investing in the stock market, I’ll suggest an alternative for you to consider and NO its not Single Family Homes (SFH) either.

I know many Foreign Service Officers are purchasing SFH rentals using their disposable income while stationed overseas or turning their primary house into a rental properties to earn passive income.    This is a great introduction into real estate but have you ever considered Multifamily Real Estate Investment?

Before getting in Multifamily, let’s review my I no longer invest in the Stock Market nor Single Family homes.

Stock Market returns will surprise you. The average stock market return over the last 20 years from the S&P 500 was 6.41% (from 2000 to 2020) and 9.65% over the last 30 years (from 1990 to 2020) [1] That means that if you invested $100,000 in 2000 it would be worth $346,456 in the end of 2020 – not bad right? But wait…not so fast.

Market volatility can crush your returns. What most investors don’t realize is that the same $100,000 isn’t actually worth $346,456 twenty years later – that’s because of the volatility of the stock market from year to year. In fact, that same $100,000 was actually worth $255,891 – which is only 4.81% return compounded every year. Not nearly as good but still not bad … until we realize these returns are BEFORE brokerage fees.

Fees stealing you blind?

The average expense ratio for actively managed mutual funds is between 0.5% and 1.0% and can go as high as 2.5% or even more. For passive index funds (ETFs), the typical ratio is approximately 0.2%[2]. Most investors have a blended portfolio of ETFs and mutual funds, so let’s assume the average fee is 1.0% per year.

After taking out a 1% fee each year, instead of being worth $346,456, your $100K invested twenty years ago is now only worth $209,066 – a mere 3.77% compounded return!

What makes it even worse is you still have to pay fees even if you lost money that year.

Let’s not forget taxes!

If you’re filing jointly and making more than $77,201, your long term capital gains rate is 15%. If you sold your entire portfolio, the taxes you’d have to pay would push your average annual return from 3.77% to 3.34%.  Reducing the worth to $192,707. ($100K Initial investment + $92,707 Net Gain after 15% taxes)

Inflation – The Silent Killer

The dollar had an average inflation rate of 1.99% per year between 2000 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 51.12%. This means that today’s prices are 1.51 times higher than average prices since 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics consumer price index. Of course, inflation silently erodes the buying power of your portfolio. So your initial investment of $100K now only has a buying power of $67,297 in today’s dollars. Compounded over twenty years, an inflation rate of 1.6% reduces your after tax return from 3.34% to 1.62% and investment worth to $150,925. Wow!!!

What does this all mean?

This means that if you invested $100,000 in 2000, your ACTUAL return, i.e. the kind of return you can actual BUY something with in 2020 dollars AFTER you pay brokerage fees and taxes is a mere 1.62% compounded per year. More specifically, after getting your initial investment back, you have $50,925 in net gains after twenty years.

I had no idea that even when losing money in the stock market I was still on the hook to pay broker fees,  after pulling profits out (if any) I had to pay 15% capital gains tax while also losing value through inflation. I remember when I use to investment with Amerprise, I could never get a clear answer from them on what my real returns where and now understand why. They didn’t want me to know that the average person like you and I aren’t making money in the stock market. This is a big reason I no longer invest in the stock market and started to look for other ways to earn passive income.

What’s the Alternative?  – “Real Estate”

You might be saying “That’s great, I appreciate you breaking this down for me. But what else is there? I’m so glad you asked, because some Foreign Service Officer believe that Single family Homes (SFH) is your only alternative in Real Estate. Even SFH rentals have their limits too.  I’m going to show you a viable alternative to both SFH and the stock market with less risk and volatility, above average returns, lower taxes and a hedge against inflation.

Why not single family homes (SFH)?

Yes I agree there are Pros to SFH investing but it took me 15 years to realize that with my large SFH Rentals portfolio that I was limited on how big I could, that cash flow is not substantial, vacancies are costly and a hassle to manage while overseas. Ask me how I know.


Most Foreign Service Officers, who are considering investing in real estate consider investing in single family rentals (SFH) first. What most FSO do is buy one or more SFH’s and either hire a property manager or become a landlord managing themselves. The challenge with this option is that it’s not very passive or cuts into your cash flow. Actively managing as a landlord, you’re responsible for finding the tenant, taking calls when something breaks, making repairs, dealing with bad tenants, etc. This is even more difficult while serving overseas. On the other hand, if you hire a property manager you are charged leasing fees and a monthly management fee anywhere from 8% to 10% monthly. Also, finding good property manager for single family rentals can be a challenge in itself. It is hard to get out of a contract with a bad property manager without having to pay for future earnings per the contract. That sure does eat into your cash flow and your time.

I also thought turnkey rentals would be a better option since most turnkeys are either new construction or fully remodeled properties that should have less repairs for the first few years of ownership. Also these turnkeys usually have a property manager that as already leased out the property with immediate cash flow. I think for FSO that are serving overseas, this is a good option but you are usually paying a higher price to purchase this property. Also, some of the turn keys that I’ve purchased did not provide the returns that the turnkey provided advertised.

Finally, SFH is very expensive when it goes vacancy. Not only do you lose each month’s rent payment when vacant but also there are leasing fees, utilities to pay to get a new tenant placed. This is a  real problem with SFHs that might be in area with a  market downturn. Look at what happened during the great recession of 2008: SFHs suddenly had higher vacancies as tenants fled into cheaper apartments and property values plummeted, resulting in a massive loss of capital.

The Alternative is Multifamily Investing or called Multifamily Syndication

What is a Multifamily Syndication? A multifamily syndication is where a group of people pool their resources to purchase an apartment building which would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve on their own. This typically involves the “general partners” who organize the syndication, including finding the property, securing financing and managing the property; the general partners are sometimes referred to as the “sponsors” or “operators”.

The group of people who are providing the cash investment are often referred to as “passive investors” or “limited partners”. In return for their investment, the limited partners receive an equity share in the syndication along with cash flow distributions and profits.

Benefits of Multifamily Syndication

There are 5 main advantages of passively investing in multifamily syndications over any other investments:

  1. Below-Average Risk
  2. Above Average Returns
  3. Passive Income
  4. Extraordinary Tax Benefits
  5. Inflation Hedge

1. Below –Average Risk Perhaps the greatest advantage of investing in apartment buildings lies in its extremely low risk profile. For decades, the multifamily market has proven much less volatile than residential real estate, the stock market and cryptocurrency. When the housing bubble popped in 2008, the delinquency rates on Freddie Mac single-family loans soared, hitting 4% in 2010. By contrast, delinquency on multifamily loans peaked at 0.4%. The same can be said for 2020 and how multifamily has continued to be strong through the entire Pandemic. So, if you’re looking for a recession-proof way to invest your money, there is no better option than apartment building investing.

2. Above Average Returns As we’ve seen, the average stock market return over the last 20 years was 6.41% but after fees, inflation, and taxes that return becomes a paltry 1.6%. On the other hand, multifamily syndications routinely return average annual returns of 10% and above. That’s compounded (i.e. without volatility) and after fees, inflation, and yes, even taxes.

3. Passive Income Unlike stocks and bonds, multifamily syndications generate cashflow for its investors from the income generated by the property. This cashflow afforded by multifamily investing generates the kind of passive income that leads to financial freedom. (Can you say early retirement?) The brilliant part is that the multifamily asset itself is appreciating in value over time and can usually be sold for a significant profit. The combination of passive income and appreciation lends itself to the kind of generational wealth you can pass on to your children.

4. Extraordinary Tax Benefits Real estate has advantages over nearly every other investment, from stocks and bonds to business investments to precious metals. In Multifamily Syndication as a Limited Partner, you invest directly in the real estate and become a fractional owner of the property. This is important, because it positions you to take advantage of the other tax benefits of this profitable asset class. The biggest tax benefit to Multifamily investors is Cost Segregation.

What is Cost Segregation? In general, residential properties can be depreciated over a 27.5 year period based on their classification as Section 1250 property, but certain categories of assets within a building can be depreciated more quickly, over five, seven, or 15 years due to their reclassification as Section 1245 property. These include non-structural personal assets, land improvements, leasehold improvements and indirect construction costs, when applicable. Separating these faster depreciating assets into their proper categories allows for the frontloading of the appropriate tax deductions, lowering upfront payments and increasing cash flow. Which means you shouldn’t have to wait all those years to get a tax deduction for them.

The IRS allows multifamily investors to write off each year as an expense through something called “depreciation”. This is only a “phantom” expense, meaning it doesn’t actually cost you anything but it does reduce your taxable income. The reason for this is simple: the U.S. government wants people to invest in real estate; it’s actually a tax incentive, and it’s required by law. To illustrate the magic of depreciation, let’s look at this example.

The main thing to note here is that the $10,000 you put into your pocket is entirely tax free.  Instead of showing a taxable income, your tax return shows a taxable loss. Amazing, isn’t it? You can even “carry forward” your “loss” to future years or you can use it to offset gains from other passive income – further reducing (or even eliminating) taxes in the future, too.

WOW! Do your stocks do this for you?

Depreciation is a benefit of ALL real estate investments, but multifamily gives you an additional tax bonus – called “bonus depreciation”. Recently Pass into law, bonus depreciation allows us to deduct the entire value of the investment from our taxable income in the first year. This produces a GIANT tax loss that we can carry forward and apply to other passive income – reducing our even eliminating taxes paid on any gain. And if we sell for a big profit at the end, we can do something called a “1031 Exchange” that allows us to defer taxes – indefinitely. No other investment on the planet offers such incredible tax benefits.

5. Inflation Hedge Multifamily investments are a fantastic hedge against  inflation. If you recall, the Federal’s Reserve’s inflation target is 2% each year, which means everything goes up in costs, including rents. And as income goes up, so does the value of the property. I hear you saying “Yes, but no so fast. It’s true that rents are going up by 2% but so are expenses! And that  keeps the net income of the property the same and with that the value of the property, isn’t that right?” Actually no … take a look at the following table that shows both the rents and expenses going up 2% each year, look at what happens to the Net Operating Income:

The Net Operating Income (or “NOI” for short) is going up!  And the higher the NOI, the higher the value of the property. In fact that small 2% inflation rate results in a 10% average annual return on the cash invested in a typical real estate syndication. It’s like magic: the more inflation goes up, the more the apartment building appreciates – the perfect hedge against inflation!

The best investment no matter where you are overseas – by far – is passively investing in “multifamily syndications”.

Most investors invest their hard-earned money in the stock market. It’s not their fault, really, because that’s what 99% of financial advisors advise their clients to do! But as we’ve seen, the average annual returns of the stock market (after fees, inflation and taxes) are a mere 1.62% over the last 20 years. Coupled with the uncertainty of a market crash makes this investment class questionable at best. After studying every other possible alternative, I’ve come to the definitive conclusion that investing in multifamily syndications is the best investment on the planet. No other investment performed so well in the last recession and offers above average returns (including cashflow), extraordinary (and legal) tax advantages and a built-in hedge against inflation.

If you have any additional questions, please email me directly at

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