Author Archives:

Would You Invest in a Movie?

photographed by Carol M. Highsmith

photographed by Carol M. Highsmith

Years ago when I had just finished college, a childhood friend of mine, who had studied film, told me about his dream of directing his own film and a possible storyline he was working on. Of course, he would need some to raise some money to produce this movie. I didn’t have much money at the time, but I promised to help financially support his life long dream and he offered a cameo role and my name in the credits. He also pointed out that if his film made a lot of money, I’d also get to reap the benefits of my investment.

My friend mentioned the independent film, The Blairwitch Project, which had a budget of about $22,500 and made $248 million. That is a return on investment of 4,344.4%! Basically, for every dollar the original producers put in, they made $43.4 bucks. Other low budget independent films that made amazing returns include Napoleon Dynamite ($400,000 budget, $46 million gross), Slumdog Millionaire ($30 million budget, $611 million gross), and My Big Fat Greek Wedding ($5 million budget, $368 million gross). My friend still works in the movie business, but he hasn’t yet gotten the chance to produce his own film. When I promised that I would invest money in his dream, I had no illusions that I’d strike it rich being a film investor, I was just supporting a friend. It was pretty cool to hear about the amazing returns of independent films that made it big though.

Recently, an associate producer reached out to me to tell me about an opportunity to invest in an upcoming Christmas movie she was working on. Obviously, she contacted me because I have this blog as a platform and she figured I could spread the word. She probably doesn’t know that this blog has a very very very small audience. Sorry! Nevertheless, I found the concept of investing in a film fascinating and decided to check it out.

Crowdfunding a Movie?

A few years ago, diehard fans of Veronica Mars raised $5.7 million dollars through a Kickstarter campaign to help get that movie made. In return, some received T-shirts and tickets to the red carpet premier. Donate $10,000, and you might get a speaking role in the movie! At the time, the platform was not allowed to have those fans share in the potential profits of the movie. They were donors, not investors. Non-accredited investors were not allowed to invest in startups and to be an accredited investor, a person must demonstrate an annual income of $200,000, or $300,000 for joint income, for the last two years with expectation of earning the same or higher income, or had a net worth of over a million dollars. Apparently, the government assumes that if you make that income or have that net worth, you must be a sophisticated investor. However, in May 2016, Title III of JOBS Act was enacted, allowing ordinary folks to invest in startups via crowdfunding.

The Christmas Movie

Okay, back to the Christmas movie which is looking to raise money for the film via equity crowdfunding. They claim that their movie is the first feature length narrative film to give the public an opportunity under the new rules to invest in it. Here’s a brief synopsis from the Start Engine crowdfunding site about the movie with the title “I’ll Be Next Door For Christmas”:

I’ll Be Next Door For Christmas is a warmhearted, upbeat comedy about a family that’s crazy for Christmas. Except for the 16-year-old daughter — her family’s over-the-top Christmas celebrations have made her life miserable. When her out-of-state boyfriend decides to visit for the holidays, she’s determined to spare him her family’s Christmas obsession, so she hires actors to play her parents and stages a fake Christmas dinner in the empty house next door. What could go wrong?

Will the movie be profitable?

I have absolutely no idea. I don’t know the first thing about the movie industry. The storyline sounds like it’ll be a fun movie, and maybe it’ll replace Elf as the go to comedy on Christmas day? The team that is working on the film isn’t filled with unknowns and amateurs, actually, they are pretty distinguished. David Willis, the director, was a writer for network TV shows like “Cybil” and “Caroline in the City,” and between the entire team, they have an Oscar and 4 Emmys. Christmas movies are an interesting niche and I guess if it catches on, it’s possible that it can continue to generate revenue every Christmas. Also, crowdfunding investors want to see it succeed and will probably help spread the word which might increase the popularity of the film

The Investment

With a minimum investment of $100, you’ll own a share of the revenue participation rights. According to the sharing agreement, investors will receive 100% of the company’s adjusted gross proceeds up to the repayment amount of 100% of their investment, and 50% of the adjusted gross proceeds thereafter.

Would you invest in a movie? What do you think about the story line of this Christmas Movie?

Disclosure: Since the minimum investment is $100, I will likely invest in the film. I am not saying it’s a good investment, but it would be cool to say that I invested in the making of this movie. This is a pretty risky investment and I don’t plan on earning a large return, and I’m fine with losing my initial investment. It would also be fun to see how the investment goes and I can keep everyone updated after the movie comes out (if it actually does come out).

Disclaimer: Nothing in this post should be construed as investment advice. You should always do your due diligence when making an investment, as all investments come with risks. This post is only for informational and entertainment purposes

Guest Post on The Frugal Farmer

credit: by Stuart Miles

credit: by Stuart Miles

I have a guest post featured on The Frugal Farmer today which talks about how to invest in real estate. Here is an excerpt of the post, please click on over to read the full post!

There is an allure to making it rich investing in real estate. There are late night infomercials telling you they can teach you to build a real estate empire. There are shows about making big bucks flipping houses. Real estate investing is NOT a get rich quick scheme, but it is a great way to build wealth. If done right, investing in real estate has many benefits including having monthly cash flow, tax benefits, having your tenants’ rent check pay the mortgage, leverage and appreciation. There are many ways to invest in real estate but for purposes of this post, I am going to focus on buy and hold real estate investing.

Click over to read the rest!

10 Years in a Life

Bronx River
10 years ago today, I turned 27 years old. I was working full time while attending law school part time. It was my fourth and final year of school and I was getting a little nervous. I would have about $90,000 of student loan debt, which included some loans from my undergrad, when all was said and done. Fortunately, I did have some money saved in retirement accounts and savings account since I had been working and saving. That amount, however, was dwarfed by the student loan debt. Life was a little stressful, but life was also very good. I was going out with a girl who would soon be my wife. I was preparing to go on a Rotary Group Study Exchange to Mexico for a month, while also preparing for the Bar Exam.

10 years before 10 years ago, I turned 17 years old. I had just gotten my learners permit and was hoping to learn to drive. Exciting times! I was in my junior year of high school and preparing to take my SATs soon. I was browsing through college catalogs wondering what school I’d end up going to. I wasn’t sure what I was going to study but the world was my oyster. I was optimistic about my future and thought that I had all the potential in the world. I also worked on the weekends and had some spending money. I dutifully saved some of that in savings accounts that my parents had opened for me. I had my eye on the future. Although my definition of future was my college years. I was looking forward to leaving high school and going to college.

And 10 years before that, I turned 7 years old. That was thirty years go and my memory is kind of foggy as to what was going on in my life. Luckily, I was frugal even back then, eschewing toys and saving my money and stickers for the future. I was 7 years old. Everything was possible. I could be President of the United States, but my dream was really to be the starting point guard of the New York Knicks. I dreamed of building a futuristic car since Knight Rider was one of my favorite shows and even made notes about what features it would have. I could have been a young Elon Musk!

Today, I have been working as an attorney for almost 10 years for the same employer. I work in the public sector so the pay isn’t the greatest but I do have really good benefits and the hours aren’t too bad. My wife and I have been married for about nine years and we have two wonderful boys ages 3 1/2 and 9 months. I have paid off over half of my student loans but there’s still a chunk left to pay. They are all ultra low interest rates so I’m not in a rush to pay them off, but I’ll try to throw some extra money at it when I can. Life is good, but pretty hectic with two little ones.

10 Years from now, I don’t know where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing. I don’t have a crystal ball to tell the future. I hope to have reached financial freedom by that point, but I don’t know if I will, being that I don’t plan on leaving this high cost of living city called New York City. If I am still working, I’ll probably be with the same employer. The benefits and pension are golden handcuffs! My kids will be entering the teen/pre-teen years…that might be a rough phase! I don’t foresee being in the co-op that we bought as we will probably have outgrown it. What neighborhood will we move to? Will we opt to rent versus buy? I don’t know.

A decade. 10 years. 120 months. 3650 days. You can do a lot in that time span. It is a long enough time to accomplish pretty much any of your goals if you put your mind to it. If you are in debt, it is plenty of time to get out of the red and into the black. It is enough time to reach financial independence, according to the Groovies. Ten years is a long time, but 10 years goes by in a blink of an eye. Time flies. If you want to accomplish your goals, whatever they may be, you need to start now to work towards it. Where do you want to be in 10 years? What are you doing today to get there?

How Much Have You Spent On Buying Cars?

I was never a car enthusiast like many of my friends, but I’d be lying if I said that I never cared about what car I drove and that a car is just a tool to get from point A to point B. Back in the Fall of 2000, I was very fortunate that my parents offered to help me purchase my first car when I was in my junior year of college. I checked out a couple of used car lots and set my eye on a burgundy 1997 Acura Integra. It was listed at $8500, which was a little above budget, but I was hoping I could negotiate the price down. When I told my dad about the car, he said that he wasn’t going to help me buy that car. He said that the repairs would be expensive with an Acura and also, he didn’t want me to have the “need for speed” driving a sporty little car.


So instead of the 1997 Acura Integra, I got a 1997 Nissan Altima. The Altima had about 55,000 miles on it when it was bought used in 2000. I drove the Altima in college and continued driving it after I started working while many of my friends purchased nicer cars. Once when I visited an old college friend who I hadn’t seen awhile, he was shocked to see that I was still driving the same car, 8 years after graduating. I was a little envious of my friends with nicer cars, but I was going to law school part-time in the evenings and working full-time during the days. I was not earning all that much while racking up a lot of student loan debt. Using all my savings to buy a car or racking up more debt to buy a nicer car wasn’t a priority for me. I think I might have kept the car a little bit longer, but repair issues started popping up. It also left me stranded a week before my wedding, so I wasn’t too sure about it’s reliability. When I finally traded it in after driving it for 10 years, it had about 168,000 miles on it.

Not my car but looks just like it.

Not my car but looks just like it.

In 2010, I purchased a used 2009 Hyundai Sonata with 38,000 miles on it for $13,300. I paid cash for this car and the salesman said, “it must be nice to have that much in cash!” I felt a little awkward and told him I took a loan from my 401k even though I didn’t. Then he started lecturing me about how taking a loan from your 401k was a bad financial move!

As part of a promotion at Enterprise Car Sales where I purchased the car, they gave me $500 on top of the KBB value of my trade-in, so I got $1000. I purchased the Sonata because it had the latest safety features which was important because my wife and I were planning on starting a family. Hyundais had also gone a long way in reliability but prices were still pretty affordable because it wasn’t a brand that many car buyers coveted. By this time, I had turned 30 and was a personal finance reading addict. I no longer cared about using my car as a status symbol.


I drove my Sonata for a little over 6 years and replaced it in late 2016. Unfortunately, I have a long commute to work and had about 190,000 miles on it by the time I bought another car. The car was a road warrior and had been good to me. It was reliable and I probably could have kept it for a little while longer, but since I had two kids and often transport another adult or two in addition to my wife, I wanted a bigger vehicle. At this point in my life, I was definitely not defined by the car I was driving. Even with all the ridicule that I heard relating to dads driving minivans, I bought one and am happy with its practicality.

I bought a used 2015 Toyota Sienna in the Fall of 2016 for $18,500 from Hertz Car Sales. They gave me $500 for my Sonata. I plan on driving my Sienna until the wheels fall off, or actually until I feel it is reliable and won’t leave me and my family stranded on the road. I financed this car purchase as the interest rate was relatively low and I’d rather use my cash to invest, however I plan on making extra payments to it and paying it off quickly.


So adding all three cars up, including the Altima even though I didn’t pay for it, the total amount spent for the purchase of these vehicles is $39,400. I could also subtract the $1500 that I received on the trade-ins, but that doesn’t really change the number all that much. So it’s just a shade under $40,000 for about 17 years and counting of driving, which I would like to think is a reasonable number since I know many who spend that much on just one vehicle purchase. However, this number might be high for many people who live in NYC since they can cut out cars completely as public transportation is easily accessible for most and there are Zip Cars as well as ride-sharing options available to others.

To see what cars other bloggers drive, check out The Cars of Personal Finance Bloggers at Mustachian Post.

Another interesting one is the Car Timeline on Money Watch 101, which is what inspired me to post my own car timeline.

How much have you spent purchasing your car(s)? Do you buy new or used cars? Do you think of your car as a status symbol?

Good Thing I’m a Bad Stock Picker!

Andrew Hallam, author of the book Millionaire Teacher, “crushed the market indexes” investing in individual stocks, but decided to sell all of those stocks, worth over $700,000, and put all that money into a total stock market index. He explained that he came to the realization that a big part of his success was due to luck even though he said that he researched companies more than anyone he knew, ordering five to 10 years worth of annual reports, and scrutinizing them from back to front. He pointed to Bill Miller, who ran a mutual fund which beat the S&P 500 for 15 straight years until the Great Recession at which time, the fund lost dramatically compared to the S&P 500. Hallam reasoned that if someone as smart as Miller, with the access to research and information that he had, could fail, then who was he to think that he could continue beating the market.

I’m not sure most people would have the self-awareness and humility to realize their limitations when they’ve been so successful. We’re humans and sometimes facts don’t matter. We often suffer from recency bias. “I’m beating the market, I must know what I’m doing when it comes to picking stocks!” It doesn’t matter that the facts and data show index investing consistently beats active investing. Sometimes investing in a bull market is dangerous because everyone thinks they’re smarter than they really are.

Back in the spring of 2000 when I was still in college, everyone and their mother was investing and making money in tech stocks. Everyone thought they were expert stock pickers and everyone was glued to CNBC. I opened a stock trading account so that I wouldn’t miss out on this money making opportunity. It was not a lot of money, but it was a lot of money to me at the time. I bought some internet stocks that were recommended by analysts which I had never heard of. I also bought well known stocks like AT&T (they were soon offering a wireless IPO and IPOs were hot!). Yes this is AT&T wireless. To you youngsters who don’t know a time without cellphones, wireless phones were a big deal back then and this stock would no doubt be a big deal (so I thought). About one month after I opened my stock trading account, the internet bubble burst and my stocks came crashing down. I lost 50% of the value in the account.

After the internet stock bubble bust, I was a little weary but I didn’t totally give up on stocks. Fortunately, when I started working, I kept most of my investments in mutual funds, and most of them were in low cost index funds. The lure of investing in individual stocks kept calling me though, because hitting a homerun with an individual stock was much more exciting than the slow gradual returns of index funds. However, I was always a little risk averse. Probably because of what I experienced during the internet stock bubble bust. That’s probably a good thing.

I invested in some winners. I purchased Nokia stock at $14. It made the most popular cellphones at the time and I loved my Nokia phones. The stock price went up to the $40 range and I held on to it…even as it went all the way down to the single digits. Around the time before the Great Recession, I held stocks in Starbucks. They were rapidly expanding and everyone had to have their daily grande non-fat caramel machiatto frappucino. However, I sold my shares in Starbucks for a small loss after the Great Recession hit, thinking the stock price would drop. Who’s going to pay $5 for coffee when the economy was in the tank and we’re in a recession? The price of Starbucks stock would eventually double and then triple from the price I sold it.

“Don’t forget that your incredible success in consistently making each move at the right time in the market is but my pathetic failure in making each move at the wrong time. … … I don’t know anyone who can do it successfully, nor anyone who has done so in the past. Heck, I don’t even know anyone who knows anyone who has timed the market with consistent, successful, replicable results” – John Bogle

I was having a conversation with a friend who thinks that he’s pretty knowledgeable when it comes to investing in the stock market. He has made some profitable investments. However, he has also often kept a lot of money in cash because he didn’t have the time to do the necessary research. He currently is staying out of the stock market because he believes that there is too much uncertainty, especially in the political arena. He said this months ago, but the stock market has still be roaring upwards. He might ultimately b e correct in his prediction, but his timing is off. You not only need to know what company to invest in. You also have to have the timing right as well when it comes to buying and selling. You have to be right about all three, which is why being a great stock picker is difficult. Do you think you can do that?