Does anyone else remember the game M.U.L.E.? The term was an acronym for Multiple Use Labor Unit in an Atari game from 1983. In the game you would deploy your MULEs, which were robots that would work for you to produce some sort of resource for you – things like food, oil, gold, what have you. You would then use those resources to build and expand your empire.
Really becoming financially independent is a little like the game of M.U.L.E., where you deploy your money to buy different assets. A mutual fund here, a money market account there. A rental property. A bond fund. An individual growth stock.
Each of these assets then produces resources for you to use to build and expand. You may take the revenues from your first rental property and use it to buy a second one. You then take the rents from the two properties and are able to buy the third property in half the time. In addition to the rents you’re collecting, the land value under your rental units is going up, so eventually you’ll be able to sell them and use them to pay for your living expenses for several years.
In the game, sometimes you’d have a runaway MULE. One of the robots that you deployed to do your bidding just goes haywire. In that case you may lose that production, plus you lose the money you put into buying the MULE. The same thing happens with assets sometimes. The individual stock that you bought and that was doing great suddenly tanks because the company expands to fast or misses a turn in the markets. The rental property you have is washed away by a hurricane.
You need to therefore plan for runaway MULEs sometimes, by not putting everything into just one investment. Just buying things like mutual funds helps, since there are dozens or even hundreds of assets inside each mutual fund, so you won’t see the value go to zero. There are funds that are cut in half, however, and then perhaps dissolve, locking in your loss. There are also times when a portion of the market stagnates for a period of time, so your fund doesn’t provide a return for a few years. You need to have different assets that do different things so that at least one of your assets will be doing well at any given time.
In the game of M.U.L.E., you don’t start out with fifty different MULEs. You start with one or two and need to build and expand to add more and get all of the resources you need. Buying assets is the same way where you will only be able to buy one stock, or one mutual fund, or one bond at the start. You might just buy one rental property – often your starter home when you move to a larger one. You just keep adding as you have the resources, adding different types of assets as you can. You also add whatever type of asset is most needed at the time – growth stocks for future income, rental properties for diversification, and bonds or income.
And like buying the MULE, once you have it, you keep it working for you. If you ever needed to start selling off your MULEs, your empire would quickly crumble. Likewise, if you start selling off your assets and just spending the money, your portfolio will quickly disappear. Even children of millionaires will see their fortunes quickly disappear if they spend rather than invest. You need to live on the money generated by your assets – not sell the assets themselves.
So take on the asset of buying MULEs. Gather up enough money, then buy an asset that will start to generate resources for you. Pick one that delivers whatever you need now — appreciation, a source of income, or what have you. Then, gather more money and buy a second asset. The buy a third, each time adding whatever is needed to your portfolio. As you get enough assets working for you, you can start using resources produced by them to acquire more assets, and the cycle continues. If you get a runaway MULE, just dust yourself off, recover whatever you can, and replace it. Before you know it, you’ll rule the planet of Irata.
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Disclaimer: This blog is not meant to give financial planning or tax advice. It gives general information on investment strategy, picking stocks, and generally managing money to build wealth. It is not a solicitation to buy or sell stocks or any security. Financial planning advice should be sought from a certified financial planner, which the author is not. Tax advice should be sought from a CPA. All investments involve risk and the reader as urged to consider risks carefully and seek the advice of experts if needed before investing.