While some parts of the residential housing market are struggling to regain their pre-Great Recession levels — and a few are barely registering a pulse on the ECG — the commercial real estate market isn’t just humming along nicely, it’s flat-out booming. And according to forecasts from the Urban Land Institute, the uptick should continue at least through 2019.

As such, if you’re been thinking of launching a career as a commercial real estate professional, there has arguably never been a better time to get in the game and hit the ground running. To help you soar in the air vs. stumble on the ground, here are seven tips to keep in mind:

  1. One of the key abilities that will set you apart — and elevate your earnings — is the ability to understand what differentiates a hot commercial property from a lukewarm or cold one. And one of the best ways to develop this competency is by visiting in-demand properties. Photos and descriptions won’t tell you the full story.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of outstanding signage. While commercial buyers obviously don’t look at real estate signs the way that residential home buyers do, they certainly notice them — and often make a snap, subconscious judgement of whether a commercial realtor is professional or amateur. For some examples of excellent commercial real estate signs check out the online gallery of Landmark Signs, a leading St Louis sign company.
  • Master the art of the cold call. Until you establish a referral network, you’ll need to populate your pipeline by picking up the phone and speaking to property managers and owners. If this is something you dread doing, then the world of being a commercial real estate professional might not be for you.
  • Roll up your (virtual) sleeves and dive deep into insightful analytics and data. For example, you want to stay on top of local market data published by the Chamber of Commerce, demographic data published by the Department of Labor, and so on.
  • Prepare to play the long game. Remember, this isn’t the residential real estate market. Even in a sizzling commercial real estate market like San Francisco and Austin it can take several months for a deal to close. And for large, complex deals it could take years to go from initial engagement to signed, sealed and delivered (and paid!). 
  • When you start out, you’ll typically need to have a few prospective deals going at the same time — or else you might not be earning enough income to make things viable.
  • Always carefully calculate your expected revenue from any deal. Don’t assume anything or make guestimates, because you may find yourself disappointed — or shocked — by your compensation.

The Bottom Line

Being a commercial real estate professional is interesting, challenging, and potentially very financially rewarding. The key to your success is doing your homework, strengthening your weaknesses (hey, we all have them!), building beneficial relationships, and keeping your eye on the prize.

Trouble is out there. When it comes to personal finance, all sorts of factors and unforeseeable events can spoil years of hard work and cost diligent individuals huge sums of money. Some issues are obvious, but others are more clandestine. After all, it’s the problem you never notice that will cause you the most agitation. And while it’s impossible to prepare for every possibility that could affect your finances, taking some time out now to study these four under-the-radar pitfalls will help you protect your financial standing under the worst of circumstances:

Impulse Buys

Unless you keep a detailed ledger of your spending habits and review them often, it’s easy to overlook impulsive purchase decisions. Indeed, impulse buys are done without much forethought (or reflection) and if you don’t build out and stick to a budget from month to month, you can easily forget how much you’ve spent on frivolous items. What’s more, impulse purchases will slowly eat away at your savings and other accounts. Though most people won’t miss $50 here or there, the accumulation of such spending over a long time will have a big impact.

Lack of Insurance

Far too many people go through life without any form of insurance whatsoever. However, even those with insurance coverage might not have the right plan for their situation. Accidents happen, and unless your insurance plan has your back when it matters most, you could end up paying huge medical bills out of pocket. Always remember to review insurance documents carefully and read the fine print!

Divorce

No one gets married thinking that one day they’ll have to worry about a divorce. Yet the numbers don’t lie; couples file for divorce all the time. Unfortunately, if you haven’t signed the proper prenuptial forms beforehand, you’ll struggle to safeguard the assets you’ve accumulated once divorce proceedings begin. Talking about a prenuptial agreement with a partner is an awkward conversation for sure, but it’s one that needs to happen all the same.

Overconfidence

Successful financial management requires a degree of caution. In the end, it’s impossible to predict how the stock market will fluctuate, if you’ll get that big promotion, or if your home will always retain its original value. Hubris, though, prevents people from considering the risks of their actions. Don’t let a few encouraging financial decisions go to your head. No investment is bulletproof, and it’s never a wise idea to leave yourself exposed without a backup plan. Hiring a professional to manage your money, speaking about your investments with trusted family members or friends, and setting aside a rainy-day fund will all help mitigate against a financial doomsday scenario.

Freelancing has never been more prevalent –– or profitable –– than it is right now. In addition, most prognosticators forecast that freelance work will only become more common in the coming years. Though thousands of new professionals are taking up the mantle of the “side hustle,” there are some major drawbacks to freelance work that few seem to consider. Indeed, while freelancing can certainly prove lucrative, it can also present financial pitfalls to inexperienced pros. With that in mind, today we’ll take an in-depth look at the fiscal side of freelancing and answer the question: is it really a good idea?

Advantages of Freelancing

Perhaps the most attractive element to freelance work is the autonomy it offers. Freelancers only work as much as they want to, they can turn down any job that doesn’t suit them, and they never have to answer to a boss breathing down their neck. What’s more, they can set their own schedule and complete tasks at their own pace. On the financial side, veteran freelancers can also charge a premium rate for their services. When taken on a piece-by-piece basis, freelancers can make more money per project than their counterparts in nine-to-five positions.

Drawbacks of Freelancing

Freelancers enjoy the freedom of working on their own, but they also have to reckon with the uncertainty that comes with that luxury. First-time freelancers may struggle to build up a reputation within their industry and could find opportunities sparse. Additionally, since freelancers operate independently they often lack the resources and support regular employees enjoy. Considering that one day freelancers may have to design a web page about monster trucks and the next write a detailed analysis on a new type of streptavidin plate, not having a team to fall back on can be a major hindrance.

In terms of dollars and cents, though freelancers can certainly carve out a living for themselves, they also incur a variety of expenses that nine-to-fivers don’t have to worry about. Most freelancers have to pay higher rates for insurance, since they can’t opt into a group-work plan. They also have to pay higher taxes (normally) since they function as independent contractors.

The Bottom Line

As you may have already surmised, whether or not freelancing is a good decision depends on your individual preferences and personal situation. If you can comfortably manage the trickier aspects of forging your own path in business, then freelancing can help you achieve a better financial status. However, professionals should think long and hard before ditching their “day job” in order to freelance full time, because it’s not as simple –– or as remunerative –– as it may appear at first blush.

For most people, debt is a necessary evil part of life — with an emphasis on the “evil” part. This is because it doesn’t take long for manageable debt to spiral out of control.

And contrary to popular belief, according to experienced bankruptcy attorney Charles Huber, who is the Principal of the Law Office of Charles Huber, the majority of people with serious debt problems aren’t people who are taking exotic vacations or buying luxury cars, when they should be paying their bills and living within their means. On the contrary, in most cases people with serious debt problems are honest, hard-working individuals sincerely trying to regain control of their finances. Unfortunately, because of punitive interest rates and aggressive creditors, escaping the debt hole is an exercise in frustration and futility. They take one step forward, and their debt pulls them two steps back.

The good news is that living a debt-free life is not an elusive ideal. It is a practical reality — but only if you keep these three essential tips in mind:

  1. Monitor All Spending

Many people — including those who aren’t (yet) dealing with major debt problems — don’t know how much they spend. At most, they have a hazy, fuzzy “guestimate”; one that almost always vastly underestimates the gap between their income and expenses. Monitoring all spending, from car payments to Starbucks’ lattes, is the fundamental first step in escaping debt and avoiding recapture in the future.

  1. Cut Down on Discretionary Spending

Speaking of Starbucks’ lattes: yes, they’re good. Actually, they’re delicious. But people in debt shouldn’t be spending $5-$10 dollars a day (or more!) on upscale beverages. Cutting down on discretionary spending is easier than most people realize (or dread), and the rewards are immediate. And of course, it’s still fine to enjoy a latte every now and then!

  1. Renegotiate Debt

Here is a secret that creditors don’t want debtors to find out: in most cases they will renegotiate debt and settle for a lesser amount. Here is why: if creditors don’t get paid, then unless they have an in-house collection department, in most cases they will eventually sell the debt to a third-party. If that third-party ends up collecting the debt, the original creditor will receive a partial payment depending on various factors (the amount of the debt, the age of the debt, etc.). As such, some creditors will simply accept a lower amount now vs. run the risk and incur the cost of selling the account to a third party.

If These Tips Don’t Work…

Hopefully, the above tips will help you escape unsustainable debt now, and avoid it in the future (of course, manageable and reasonable debt is fine and in most cases like buying your first house, it’s necessary).

However, if your major debt problems can’t or won’t be solved, then seriously consider filing for bankruptcy. The moment you do, all collection activity — including interest, wage garnishments, communications, lawsuits, and so on — must cease. Your creditors will then get paid according to the court-appointed trustee, and you’ll typically be able to keep your house and other exempt assets, like retirement savings.

At the very least, speaking with an experienced bankruptcy attorney is a smart move, so that you can understand all of your options, and see what makes the most sense for your current and long-term financial health.

Determining your income sources is an important way to find out exactly how much money you have coming in. You may not realize how much money actually comes in and leaves your house in a month. To make an effective budget, you must know exactly what you are dealing with.

To determine your income sources, make a table, like the one below, and record all of the money coming into your home. If you have quarterly income, multiply the amount by 4 and then divide by 12 to find the monthly income. For semi-annual income, multiply by 2 and then divide by 12.

Income Sources Bi-Weekly Weekly Monthly
Your Wages
(Take Home)
Your Spouses Wages
(Take Home)
Part-time Job
Rental Income
Alimony
Child Support
Social Security
Benefits
Veteran’s Benefits
Workman’s
Compensation
Income Tax Refund
Other
Other
Other
Other
TOTAL: