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Finances & Money

Book Review: Millionaire by Thirty

According to the Author’s Note in the beginning of the book, Millionaire by Thirty by Douglas, Emron and Aaron Andrew (father/sons):

“contains fresh, new and different approaches to managing debt and using safe, positive leverage to attain a million dollar net worth within 10 years”.

Does the book fulfill this promise?

Cutting to the Chase – What’s the “New Approach”?

Honestly, I hadn’t thought of Douglas’ approach to building net worth, and the book still leaves me wanting more hard data about the feasibility, applicability and safety of the methods prescribed. What are the methods? Well, in a nutshell:

  1. Buy homes with the least amount of equity invested (i.e. interest-only loans, 100% financing, etc.)
  2. Rent out the homes
  3. Refinance when the home values increase and take the extra equity out (via home equity lines of credit, higher mortgage vs amount owed, etc.)
  4. Invest that extra into relatively safe investments that make at least the same or better interest rate than what you’re paying on the mortgage

And what safe investment does he recommend?

Universal Life Insurance policies. Yeah, I didn’t expect that one either. But here’s his reasoning:

Your mortgage interest (remember, it’s an interest-only loan) is tax advantaged during repayment. When you sell the house, if you meet certain requirements, your profit in the home sale is tax advantaged (or tax free even). Under certain IRS tax codes, your premiums or earnings in universal life insurance is tax advantaged, as is the final payout at the time of death.

Even more, Douglas illustrates that after just a few years of paying premiums, as well as acquiring more universal life insurance in a ladder-like approach, you can begin earning more through the returns on the life insurance investments. You see, universal life insurance (ULI) is managed like a fund. Some managers take more risk than others, but ULI is one of the more conservative investments. ULI managers generally invest in index funds like the S&P 500, so over the long term, you’re supposed to see returns in the 8-10% range.

My Impression of the Book’s Quality

I’ve just given you the summary on what it took me 220 pages to get through. But honestly I can’t say I came out of reading the book with a clear understanding of the principles of this investment strategy.

Douglas begins the book discussing his two son’s (listed as coauthors) Emron and Aaron. He seemed to write as a proud father discussing how great his sons are, rather than a financial planner illustrating key foundational ideas. Eventually he eased up on the doting and began to actually get into the meat of his financial plan.

Overall, I think there was way too much fluff that tried to prepare the reader with grand visions of financial independence, and not enough detailed explanations of his method. Additionally, he kept repeating how renting is just throwing your money away without actually qualifying and quantifying his reasons.

The difficulties of being a landlord

One big deficiency I found was how the Andrews simply disregards the difficulty that comes along with managing properties. I can only recall once where Douglas mentions using a rental management company, and I would have liked to hear more about how those work. He made it sound like all you do is:

1. Buy a house
2. Refinance
3. Get a wad of cash in your hand
4. Invest that wad of cash

To the non-discerning reader, perhaps someone who easily gets caught up in “fast money schemes” and doesn’t do proper research, I would be worried that they would think it’s that simple and would go start buying properties. Before they knew it, they’d be swimming in debt without knowing how they would pay off those mortgages. There’s way more analysis in buying properties that needs to be done instead of just saying “buy houses”.

Would I recommend this book?

Although I think I gave away a good chunk of the book, I think I had to so at least someone searching for this book online could understand that this investment strategy is not as easy as the book makes it sound. Granted, buying houses and investing in universal life insurance does merit more serious research if you’re interested, dedicated, motivated and careful.

As with the commenters on Amazon for this book, I agree that the strategies of buying homes may not be appropriate for the intended audience. Really, how many high school graduates do you know that are responsible enough to not pick their nose during a job interview much less have a mortgage or multiple properties? YOUR kid is smart enough to do it, I’m sure, but would you trust their friends holding a loan if YOU were the banker?

But depending on the real estate market and specifics about universal life insurance (I need to do some research on it), I would recommend the concept of investing in real estate, with caution, to more mature, experienced and detail-oriented individuals. If your dad isn’t a seasoned financial planner like the author of this book, you probably don’t have the footing yet to understand what you’re really getting into.

So the final recommendation? No for the intended audience (18-25 year-olds) and maybe for more mature adults. The book does have some calculations and some more information than I wrote about here, but I highly recommend performing due diligence on anything as risky as stretching yourself across multiple, interest-only, fully-financed mortgages and betting that you’ll always cover the monthly payment with rent.

About the author

Clever Dude

13 Comments

  • It’s exactly this kind of approach that has lead to the current mortgage crisis. People taking out risky loans for investment purposes.

    He says to leverage equity, but what has happened is that these investors pushed the price of housing to unattainable levels. Now that the bubble has burst, the investors are left with mortgages way higher than the property is actually worth.

    Now what happens? Oh yeah, the American Tax payer is now forced to pay for their mistakes.

  • Note to self, “This is not a book for you”. haha…

    Whether my 28 y/o self is mature enough to handle it, i’m not entirely sure, but it def. seems like it isn’t all that realistic as you mentioned.

    Careful, and thorough, analysis goes a loooong way in the real estate world…and i’m DEF. in no place to be conjuring up ways to take advantage of it these days.

  • I’ve read Douglas Andrews books Missed Fortune and Last Chance Millionaire, and am having trouble believing his theories really work. The concept of overfunding life insurance policies and then borrowing from them to fund your living expenses seems as way too much overhead on costs.

    I’m considering his concept of the 401 condo where you use your 401k contributions to make mortgage payments on a second home. You have the same tax breaks, and your money is investing in real estate rather than the stock market. Just to diversify a bit. Course I’m waiting to be able to afford something in California just now. Any suggestions?

  • Thanks for providing your honest assessment. I’ve been wanting to read this for some time after seeing it advertised on several blogs, but held off on a purchase. I think I’ll grab a library copy and read it for a couple real estate nuggets, but that’s about it.

  • I’m reading this book as well. Your review is more positive than mine is going to be… This guy wants you to believe that these life insurance plans are better than unmatched 401ks and Roth IRAs.

    Getting the same returns as stocks with no risk of principal loss, and better tax deferrals? Wow, I’m almost as excited about this as the $10 million dollars I’m getting from Nigeria next week. I gotta send off my $10,000 cashier’s check right away!

  • When I think this might be a good idea, I remind myself that insurance companies have those big tall buildings because they turn a profit. They are not in business to loose money, they are not a charity. Using life insurance policies that you can borrow from AND have a death benefit seems like the way to go. But there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

  • Buying investment properties with 0% down will only work if you are able to rent them out EVERY SINGLE MONTH. If you can’t afford to cover the payment on your own, the likelihood of foreclosure is extremely high.

  • I have a better way to make a million. Write a book that makes it look supper easy to make a million in ten years, and then let all the people that love the idea of making a quick buck buy this book, and you are well on your way to making a million dollars.
    I bet this Douglas guy has made much more money swindling books to the gullible people in our get rich quick desiring society than he ever made buying property or anything else. And yet people will always buy these books, read them, be disappointed and go out and buy the next book that comes along.
    Wise up people. Stop funding these authors and making them rich, and start using the money to line your own pockets.

  • I have met the authors and studied their methods in depth. As a Financial Strategist, I can see how these methods work for the disciplined person. Douglas Andrew’s fist book, “Missed Fortune”, is a much more comprehensive piece that explains the investment concepts. However, very few insurance professionals have the knowledge to implement the concepts. I am pleased that Doug taught them to me.

  • I agree with most of the above reviews, but I do like the idea of funding an alternate retirement vehicle AS WELL as my 401k. In addition, I was wondering why Douglas never mentioned how someone was to make the extra mortgage payments upon squeezing the equity out and allocating that to the insurance fund…can anyone shed some light on that?

  • jonathan, you should look into indexed universal life. then you should see about editing your comments above. i have an indexed universal life policy with pacific life. and they guarantee 1% minimum returns with no cap on the upside. so i get to participate in the in the market with as much upside potential as you do with your index fund, but when the market goes south, i preserve my capital. whereas you lose on the down side. remember that if you have a dollar and you lose 25 cents(25%), it takes 33 cents(or 33%) to make it back to square one. capital preservation is key. that is where you put your equity from your house. because nobody but the banks make money on home equity. your returns are zero leaving it in the house. not too mention, assume you have 50000 in home equity and i have 50000 in the bank.. if i went to the bank to get my money out and the banker said ok, but you have to have a steady, verified income and pay him (the banker) 6% on it, i would tell him he’s crazy. but that is exactly what a heloc is.

  • I love it when people comment on how bad a financial strategy book may or may not be when they can’t spell simple words to carry on a conversation to save their life. I mean WOW!!
    First of all, this book has some really good ideas. Investing in real estate is almost always a “safer” investment no matter how bad the U.S. housing market may be. However, most people don’t get the fact that real estate has its own risks just like a mutual fund or stock.
    Follow my words closely, if you are about to purchase a second home as an investment, research the market first like you would a stock, ETF, or mutual fund. If everyone says “Buy,” you’re too late, you missed out on profit. It’s like buying stock in a company when it’s reaching the end of a bullish blow-off top. Just because profit increases are going through the roof, doesn’t mean that it will continue to do so forever.
    Lastly, don’t slam a book because you don’t agree with what it’s teaching you. These strategies made one man and his family successful, therefore, the same thing can happen to you as well. Be eager to learn, not to criticize something that didn’t work for you.

    And Shawn (Guy right below me), the reason for the housing bubble burst was due to the fact that investors in the late 90’s and early 2000’s were investing in real estate to hedge against the rapid fall of the once booming stock market, driving home prices sky high to its peak in 2005. Now that the bubble popped, investors are looking to ETFs, which again will eventually pop. Investors were smart to sell their overpriced homes to dumb tax paying americans that didn’t do their research expecting to make big bucks on an already drying market. So don’t get bent out of shape because you were one of the ones that got screwed.

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