The term “investing” can be enough to send chills down your spine. When done right, it’s obviously a great way to grow the money that otherwise would have just been sitting in the bank — but where do you possibly begin?
It’s a common misconception that in order to invest, you have to be a financial wizard — but that is no longer the case, especially with Fundrise.
Fundrise is a simple, low-cost investing platform that allows you to carefully invest in real estate. You invest your money according to your goals in a portfolio filled with real estate projects — all of which have been developed to help you grow your net worth.
We spoke with Kendall Davis, the SVP of Investments at Fundrise, about how the process works, who should consider investing in Fundrise, and why women need to be more proactive in investing (we live longer than men, after all!).
How would you define passive income?
Passive income, in the most basic sense, is money that you don’t have to actively work for.
Here’s a really powerful way to think about it: it’s money you’re constantly earning, even while you’re sleeping, even while you’re earning your primary income from your active job. Passive income is often generated from cash flow distributed by stocks, bonds, or REITs. Or imagine you have an Airbnb property, and you’ve hired a property manager to take care of the active work of managing the property and finding a tenant, so once you’ve established the rental situation, your involvement is minimal. All the money you make in these situations — that’s passive income.
So, why is passive income important? Does it really matter for most investors?
It’s crucial. I like to think about it like this: I only have twenty-four hours in my day. You only have twenty-four hours in your day. Beyoncé only has twenty-four hours in her day, the same as the rest of us. But one major reason why she’s killing it financially is that she’s established these incredibly powerful streams of passive income generation.
For example, she’s earning royalties on her music every time you hear it out in the world, no matter what else she’s doing. Meanwhile, the average person is only making money when they’re actively at their job. Passive income simultaneously gives you more flexibility — at the beach? at the movies? No problem, cash is still flowing — and it enhances existing, primary income streams you already have.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a globally influential celebrity to generate passive income — a lot of highly accessible investments can provide it too, albeit in amounts that are proportional to your principal investment. But with the epic power of compounded interest, even a little bit can get the ball rolling, with a few dollars here and there.
However — and this is tragic — I think our culture around money has trained a lot of women to shy away from more sophisticated financial conversations and strategies. So women are typically not aware of some of the more effective ways that you can earn passive income. For example, we all know that owning and managing a rental property can potentially give your finances a nice boost on a monthly basis, but it’s a lot of work. What you might not realize is that investing in certain kinds of stocks or real estate funds can generate bonafide income too, even while the investment appreciates in the manner you’re more familiar with, and the price of entry is way lower, as is the required level of expertise.
Do you think establishing passive income is a significant step for people’s finances?
Absolutely. In fact, if you look at millionaires, developing multiple passive income streams is one of the primary strategies they’ve used to make their money. It’s rare to see significant wealth earned without any sort of passive income playing a role. They have stakes in businesses, in real estate, in side hustles and side projects, that really let them amplify their earning power — and the amount of time that earning power can be at work. When you have passive income, there’s no such thing as downtime — even when you’re relaxing, your finances can be growing.
Passive income, in the most basic sense, is money that you don’t have to actively work for. Here’s a really powerful way to think about it: it’s money you’re constantly earning, even while you’re sleeping, even while you’re earning your primary income from your active job.
Can you tell us who would be in a good position to invest with Fundrise?
Well, to start off, Fundrise is an online real estate investment platform. A significant part of my job is helping our investors understand how our investment products work. One thing that makes Fundrise special is the way we’ve used modern tech to give people access to really sophisticated private market real estate portfolios — which are designed to generate passive income with absolutely no work required from you beyond the initial investment.
Now, in terms of who’s in a good position to invest, the answer really depends on your current financial situation, your existing investing portfolio, and whether you’re in a position to benefit from putting money to work in the real estate market. In reality, that’s a lot of people: we think if you’re interested in building a strong investment portfolio, there’s a pretty good chance private real estate can give it a significant boost. That’s especially true if you’re only invested in public assets like stocks and bonds and haven’t yet diversified into a less common asset type.
So, because that answer is so broad, if you’re considering investing with Fundrise, it can be easier to talk about some of the situations that might make Fundrise a less-than-perfect idea. Our type of real estate is an alternative investment class, and that means that it’s not a plain vanilla bond or typically publicly traded investment, and it shouldn’t make up the vast majority of your portfolio.
While some large endowments and institutional investors can take on more risk and have alternative investments make up a significant chunk of their portfolios, the average individual really can’t withstand putting that amount at risk — you know, “All eggs, one basket,” etc. You should view any investment in an alternative asset class as something that you could stand to lose. Fundrise is typically not the first and only investment our investors place.
Essentially, anybody in the US who’s 18 years old or over can invest with Fundrise with as little as $500 — but if you are 18 years old and only had $500 available to you, it’s unlikely our investments are a good fit. That’s because There’s a pretty good chance you’ll need access to that money before the Fundrise investment is liquid (i.e. when you can get your money out), and our goal is to help people improve their financial situations, which means smart diversification, not putting it entirely with us.
How can you add to your initial investment amount?
You can add as much as you want manually, whenever you want. We also have an auto-invest option, which you can set up in whatever cadence you decide is best for you. Typically we see people set up auto-invest to add to their funds on a monthly basis or bi-weekly, depending on when they get their paychecks.
We also have a feature that lets you automatically reinvest your dividends (which is the cash distributed from our investments). Most of our investments have distributed dividends on a quarterly basis (although future distributions are not guaranteed) and this is where the potential power of compounded interest can come into play.
What is Fundrise’s main mission and what makes it unique to the investing world?
Our mission is to make private real estate investing available to everyone. Private real estate was previously an elusive asset class. As I’ve mentioned, most people didn’t have the experience or means to access it. Not to mention the encouragement, or even sense that they could access it, as might be the case with many women.
Fundrise is unique in that we’ve found a solution to that problem, at least as far as real estate is concerned. We’ve made private market real estate investing a smooth experience that fits your personal situation and needs, even if you weren’t able to invest in real estate in the past.
Investors used to have to deploy considerable sums of money if they wanted to buy a building, or even part of one. They needed to be members of a boys club network to find deal flow. They had to do a lot of the management themselves, or they had to have a lot of money, so they could hire people to handle that work on their behalf.
With Fundrise, even if you want to invest a million dollars with us (and you can!), it’s also possible to have a Fundrise account with as little as $500, and you don’t need to be an accredited investor. Just that fact alone tells you we’re a different kind of investment product — we’re here to serve all kinds of investors, because private market real estate is something we know investors at every level want.
Fundrise investments aren’t traded on the public exchange, which means they’re illiquid. What benefits and consequences does this have to a potential investor?
So, this question refers back to our earlier discussion, about what kind of person should invest with Fundrise. The consequences of illiquidity are pretty straightforward, and it’s important to understand that these are factors of private market real estate in general, baked into the asset class itself, not idiosyncrasies of Fundrise specifically.
Basically, what our investors understand is that they may not be able to access their funds for several years, and before investing we always encourage investors to think about Fundrise as a long-term investment — we typically say five to seven years, if not more. That’s similar to the timeline you’d need when you’re buying a new home — you can’t expect that it’ll appreciate overnight. And even if it does, just imagine actually selling it. Sometimes that takes some time. The stock market has a constantly active public market, just thrumming everyday. Real estate is more specific.
That said — and I think this is something else that makes us unique — Fundrise does have a redemption plan in place. Should an emergency come up, you can request to redeem your shares at anytime, but there are always limitations on whether or not we can fulfill those requests — and I always tell people that our ability to liquidate shares depends on where we are in the market cycle and our perception of what’s in the best interest of all investors and the overall fund — not just a handful of individual investors.
On the other hand, there are some considerable benefits of illiquidity, mainly rooted in the fact that a private, illiquid investment often has the potential to actually generate higher returns. That’s because an alternative investment is usually less correlated with the broader, public markets. When they zig, we can often zag. And that’s really important when something like the stock market is having a rocky period… like what we saw at the end of 2018, where the Vanguard Public Stock ETF finished the year at a loss of more than -5%, while Fundrise‘s overall performance finished with a gain of over 9%. (See here for more detailed information on this comparison)
How do you help investors decide which investment plan is best for them?
One of the things that we think makes Fundrise special is the platform itself. The whole experience is designed to be accessible and informative for everyone. We want you to choose what’s best for you, and our automated portfolios make it simple for you to understand the investment strategy you’re selecting.
Exactly what that looks like depends on the financial goal you’re ultimately hoping to achieve. If you’re just interested in testing out the platform, we have an opportunity for you to do that for as little as $500. If you’re ripe to dive into our Core plans, the one you choose is really up to your risk tolerance and how much cash flow you’d like, versus long-term appreciation. If you know that you would like to maximize your quarterly dividends, we have a plan that’s focused on maximizing that current stream of passive income. Similarly, we have plans for investors who prefer that kind of higher potential but longer timeline growth, and we have a plan that balances both options.
Can you tell us the different benefits between your plans?
At a high level, investors can choose to focus on maximizing potential current income, long-term growth, or balanced diversification when selecting a personal investment plan at Fundrise. Our technology-enabled management service will then allocate each investor’s funds across our various private investment products in a manner designed to help them achieve their indicated goal over time.
The Supplemental Income plan allocates more of your portfolio to debt and fixed income investments in real estate assets, which aim to maximize quarterly cash distributions to investors. The Long-Term Growth plan allocates more of your portfolio toward opportunistic equity investments in real estate assets, which aim to maximize long-term appreciation potential rather than current income. The Balanced Investing plan intends to provide a more even mix of equity and debt investments in real estate assets, which aim to both maximize quarterly distributions and long-term appreciation potential.
I do think, you know, women tend to be more risk-averse investors — for better or for worse. It is often for the better, by the way: There have been some recent studies that show we’re better investors, and I think that’s crucial information for women to share and celebrate amongst ourselves. We’re not at a disadvantage, even if that’s what the echo chamber around us always tells us. Ellevest recently published some statistics: “Women are half the workforce, we direct 85% of consumer spending, we control $7 trillion of investable assets.” That’s the narrative we need to tell ourselves about our money. Not because it’s a motivational sound byte or a clickable stat to put on social media… but because it’s true.
How long after initial investment can you expect to see growth and returns?
That really depends on the investments you select, but in many cases you can log onto your dashboard and may see the benefits begin to accrue within weeks or, in some cases, even days. It can also depend on the phase of growth of the funds in which you’ve invested. If they’re still ramping up, it may take longer to see returns (if any) — acquiring quality real estate isn’t exactly a lightning-fast proposition. However, whenever your returns do start to accrue, our platform makes it simple to track all of your real-time returns across both dividends and appreciation. And as long as your timeline fits our five to seven year timeframe, those down periods are designed to be balanced out by the growth of the funds later on.
Now, actually accessing those returns as in-hand, liquid funds is a different question. You’ll be able to see that you’ve earned dividends and share appreciation before you’ve actually liquidated your shares. Of course, as we’ve said, we typically distribute dividend earnings once per quarter, and those go straight back to your bank account. Appreciation is trickier, and you only realize it when you actually redeem your shares or when each fund winds down.
It’s common that women don’t consider themselves candidates for investing as frequently as men do. What would you say to them?
Listen: To put it bluntly, women live longer than men, the divorce rate is 50%, and, frankly, if you look at the numbers, we run the world. We’re independent, and we’re good at being independent! You know, I would say that the sentiment you’ve mentioned is already dying, thankfully. I think the hardest aspect of getting started as an investor is that it can just seem intimidating when you’re living in a historically male-dominated system, designed to give you the (wrong) impression that there are certain gender roles.
To put it bluntly, women live longer than men, the divorce rate is 50%, and, frankly, if you look at the numbers, we run the world.
We’ve all been there. I was personally lucky enough to end up in a Wall Street job shortly after college, where I was taught everything I know — but you absolutely do not have to work on Wall Street to learn about building a solid financial foundation. There are really basic steps that any woman can pursue to put herself in a situation where she’s able to start earning passive income, while she’s still able to also do whatever work it is that she enjoys.
Maybe investing isn’t fun or exciting to you — that’s no big deal. Financial growth is still totally in reach. Oftentimes, the best investment strategy is one that you don’t have to tinker with all the time — it’s set it and forget it. And lastly, at Fundrise, we try to be one of the leaders in this space, in terms of educating investors about investing outside of the stock market, outside of the systems of the establishment, so you can really take control of your own financial life. Don’t underestimate how powerful it can be to get started early. It’s critical that women take the opportunity to put themselves in a position of control for their own financial futures, because we’re doing great things, and we have a lot at stake. Learning how to invest is, in itself, an act of investment, and one with returns that go way beyond your bank account.
This post was in partnership with Fundrise, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.
Disclaimer: Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Any historical returns, expected returns, or probability projections may not reflect actual future performance. All securities involve risk and may result in partial or total loss. Additional details regarding historical returns may be found at https://fundrise.com/historical-performance.
The publicly filed offering circulars of the issuers sponsored by Rise Companies Corp. (parent company of Fundrise), not all of which may be currently qualified by the Securities and Exchange Commission, may be found at fundrise.com/oc.