There are few aspects of modern life more nebulous and intimidating to average Americans than how to make smart investment decisions. Nevertheless, investing money is something we’re encouraged to think about constantly. All kinds of publications and media properties offer financial advice to would-be investors. The problem is that these recommendations can occasionally seem contradictory—and it doesn’t always work.
Of course, the reality is that investing is always at least a bit of a gamble, because it relies on predicting the future value of certain assets. In the stock market, investors essentially bet on how well they expect companies to perform in future. Sometimes this investment pays off, but sometimes there are consequences. Investing in the wrong stocks at the wrong time can result in losing massive amounts of money.
Mitch Yellen knows the potential benefits and hazards of investing better than most. He is a former Securities Representative of Park Avenue Securities, and one of the most dynamic figures in the Colorado Springs business world. A highly sought-after financial advisor for high net worth individuals in the region, Yellen advocates a less traditional approach to investing—one that he believes is more secure and potentially more lucrative than conventional methods.
Yellen recalls the previous decade and its ruinous financial consequences for many American investors. He makes specific mention of cases such as Enron, which was the largest bankruptcy reorganization in recorded history when it occurred at the start of the new millennium. However, even while Enron leadership was in the process of liquidating its assets, investors were told to hold onto their shares and to continue buying more. Many people lost vast amounts of money as a result.
Yellen doesn’t believe that Wall Street always acts in the best interests of investors, so he thinks investors should look elsewhere for safe and profitable opportunities. In his hometown of Colorado Springs, he’s made it his mission to create some of those opportunities himself. Yellen is responsible for developing numerous businesses throughout the region, many of which have prospered. His business ventures add approximately 230 jobs to the area, support local food vendors, and promote tourism.
Instead of playing the stock market, Yellen encourages investors to do what he is doing: find local businesses and put your money somewhere you can see it grow. He laments the idea of putting one’s life savings into a 401k or IRA based on stocks and mutual funds, which he says exert pressure on people to “lock up their money until age 65.” In Yellen’s experience, that strategy has been far less successful than most people are led to believe.
Instead, Yellen supports the idea of using self-directed IRAs. While regular IRAs offer a range of investment choices in stocks or mutual funds, self-directed IRAs open a range of other options. In fact, self-directed IRAs can allow for investment in practically anything, with a few exceptions. For example, one cannot invest in life insurance, stamps or coins, gems, alcoholic beverages, or collectibles such as antiques or carpets.
However, self-directed IRAs do allow for investment in real estate and partnerships, which makes them ideal for the types of ventures Yellen promotes. He says that his projects offer people the ability to consolidate their resources, effectively becoming their own bank. By advising his clients to put their money into ventures that produce income, Yellen hopes to give them more control over their money.
The philosophy is this: when your money goes into a local business, the money it makes for you is tangible instead of conceptual. You end up with greater security and more financial freedom. You may even experience larger returns on your investment.
One example is the Pinery at the Hill, which Yellen began planning in 2006. The late 2000s were a particularly challenging time for many Americans, as the fiscal crisis devastated Wall Street investors. Those who followed Yellen into the Pinery project were pleasantly surprised, though. The luxury special events facility and destination wedding venue was estimated to generate between $6 and $8 million per year once it opened.
The Pinery project is just one example. Yellen’s business savvy has provided various valuable investment opportunities for his clients over the years. His success has inspired him to start giving back to the community as well. Yellen supports more than 80 different charities and nonprofit organizations every year. He also hosts large-scale fundraising events for several of the city’s most prestigious and important groups, including several hospitals, the Colorado Springs Dental Society, and Children’s Hope Chest.
Yellen has also turned his attention to making his financial advice available beyond Colorado Springs and is the author of Reunion. The book focuses on the principles of self-empowerment and illustrates how they can bring about greater success as an entrepreneur. Yellen believes that fostering a decisive and independent attitude can help investors provide for themselves and the people they love while protecting them from some of the common risks associated with investing.
Finally, Yellen focuses on the quality of the goods and services provided by his businesses. He correctly reasons that no venture can provide value to investors unless it also provides value to its customers. He has spared no expense making sure his restaurants and cafes provide exceptional food and service. His Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe was recently named the best gourmet market in Colorado Springs by the Gazette. Locally sourced farm to table food and guest-friendly policies have ensured that the establishment brings in substantial amounts of money each year—more than enough to satisfy Yellen’s partners.
In a world of complicated financial advice, it may be refreshing to remember that effective investing can be simple. Yellen wants people to realize that they have more financial autonomy than they may think and that attractive opportunities exist beyond the stock market. “What I advocate today is not what Wall Street tells people to do,” Yellen says. “I knew there was a better way.”