Consumers are out in full force today, on ‘Black Friday’, looking for great deals at retail stores. Stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy – all opening at the earliest hours of the morning to get accommodate us eager shoppers. Driving routes and schedules are planned out, hitting all the stores with deals and stocking up for the holidays. Electronics, toys, trinkets, and other consumer items will be purchased in huge quantities. Headlines will show that retailers have had either a great day (On target for the year! It’s going to be a GREAT holiday season! Recession officially over!), or a bad day (Spending is down this year! Recession is not over!).The question for me today was – could the money I might spend today on Black Friday be put to a better use for me and my family’s future by investing in something of real intrinsic value, instead of just another consumer item? I’ve had this question after the barrage of television commercials, print ads, and countless retailer catalogs shipped to my home, begging me to be a consumer today. Last year, I definitely went out and shopped on Black Friday – deals everywhere. At a minimum, I bought a DVD player that had a six-slot platter so I wouldn’t have to get up and change the DVD’s all the time. Now over the last year without even realizing it, the conditioning of my mind has changed. I’ve spent a lot of time getting more educated about money and accumulating wealth. I’ve learned so much about the intrinsic value of money, how our dollar is different than real money, and how much more important it is for me to invest in my own future than in frivolous items such as a six-slot DVD player. Education has come from reading, listening, and watching varied resources about money, our economy, the value of our dollar, and investing in precious metals such as gold and silver.I sought out education because I was feeling more and more caught up in the ‘work hard earn more spend more’ cycle of life. You always hear the expression ‘I got a raise but it’s gone already’ and I have proven over 25+ years of working that it is true – the more you earn, the more you spend. So I’ve learned that in order to earn more, it’s can’t be the mindset of ‘work harder and earn more’, but the mindset of how much of what you earn that you keep, and ultimately what you do with it to help you earn more through investing. And I’m seeing more and more that the ‘what I do with it’ is what keeps evolving.A great example of this evolution is buying retail coffee every day. For several years, I have left the house each morning, work or not, and purchased a coffee and a food item. We’ve all heard of the supposed ‘latte factor’ – where you take all your latte money and save it instead – but honestly that never changed or inspired me to do anything about retail coffee. I’ve wanted to stop, tried to stop, but it was part of my daily routine that I have enjoyed for years.Recently as an experiment to try and change the way I look at money, I started putting away money every day – 2 dollars each to mason jars marked for Savings, Investing, and Tithing. Over the period of a month or so without even realizing it, my mind has changed how it thinks about money. Suddenly, finding 6 dollars to put into my jars first thing every morning became a habit – and fun. But I’ve also evolved in how I looked at buying coffee. I’ve slowly gone from driving 10 minutes to Pete’s (because they have better coffee and scones) and spending 6.60 each day, to going closer to home at Starbucks and spending 6.45 each day, to just the Starbucks coffee for 4.35 each day and eat something at home, to finally making my own coffee and eating at home for a fraction of the cost. Consequently, I’ve increased the amount I put away to savings, investing, and tithing, up to 4 dollars each day for each jar – up from 6 to 12 dollars a day! And I am happy about it – It has been a great evolution of my mindset AND I’m no longer making Peet’s or Starbucks rich! I’m investing in myself, my family, and for the future!So getting back to Black Friday, the buzz around shopping today made me realize how much my thinking has evolved for the better. For weeks the price of gold has been rising. It’s been all over the news and blogs and pundits. Today it took a fall and it was 30.00 dollars cheaper than it was yesterday. Taking notice (those are the prices I now check first thing in the morning), I shopped online for a good investment, found it, and used my money to acquire an asset that will only increase in its intrinsic value. I approached spending money today completely differently from last year. I bought something of real value to support my future and something I can feel good about – something I cannot say purchasing the six-slot DVD player from last year’s Black Friday shopping experience.
As you know, the day after Thanksgiving is a short trading day in the market. For retailers all over the United States today is one of the longest days of the year. This day is affectionately known as “Black Friday.” It received this name because it represented the kick-off of the holiday shopping season, a time in which most retailers generated a significant portion of their profits.Other real estate statistics support these thoughts as well. Foreclosures are at multi-year highs, prices are falling, inventory is rising, and permits for new home construction are reaching new lows. Clearly the real estate market is suffering. Just take a look at the Dow Jones REIT index which is down almost 25% from its high earlier this year.This holiday season Americans are expected to spend upwards of $475 billion according to The National Retail Federation (NRF). More than $24.6 billion will be spent on-line with another $25 billion spent in the form of gift cards. With that much money trading hands in such a short period of time the importance of today and the rest of the holiday season becomes quite obvious.If retailers post poor results for Black Friday it signals a start of a weak holiday shopping season. The strength of the holiday shopping season is closely tied to the success of retail companies in the stock market. We need to watch the results for these retailers very closely.Wal-Mart (WMT), and J.C. Penny (JCP) have already warned about slowing sales growth this holiday season. Other retailers have followed suit. Terry Lundgren, Macy’s chairman, president and CEO, said they were in a “challenging economic environment.” He also suggested that their fourth quarter same store sales might show as much as a 2% negative growth rate.Obviously there is some fear in today’s retail market already. Look at the Retail HOLDRs ETF (RTH) which tracks the top 20 leading retail companies. In the last 6 months alone, the index has fallen almost 12% and is now near a new 52-week low.We will get confirmation of the success or failure of Black Friday in a few weeks. This will come when the large retailers start announcing same store sales for the month of November.Now here is what the newspapers and the press are glossing over.Within the retail group, there are a few who are bucking the general downtrend in the market. Retailers who focus on consumer electronics might have a more positive outlook. According to The National Retail Federation (NRF) more than 50% of consumers are asking for electronics related items like CDs, DVDs, videos, and video games. More than 36% are looking for consumer electronics or computer-related items under the Christmas tree.It is hard to argue with the success that some consumer electronics products are having. It seems like everyone wants the new iPhone, iPod, big screen HD-TV, HD-DVD player, or even game counsels like the Wii or the X-Box. I know I have almost all of those items on my own wish list.Healthcare REITs are more closely tied to the state of the healthcare industry than the real estate industry. They have very stable operations and a good long term outlook- yet have been rejected by the investing community.Here is a perfect example:In my opinion, the most likely retailer success story will be Best Buy (BBY). Their combination of leading edge consumer electronics, competitive prices, and strong customer service will no doubt pack the stores today and beyond.