You Should Take $1 Today, NOT $2 Tomorrow: A Counterpoint

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You hear bells, but you don’t know where they are…

There’s an old Russian proverb that my wise mother used to tell me quite often. What it aims to describe is a feeling of being so close to the truth (hearing the bells), and yet so far away…some finite, yet crucial pieces are missing and preventing you from putting the big picture together!

My good friend Mr. Brandon Turner never ceases to provide us with grandiose, even at times bombastic, thoughts. However, it seems that what is truth to Brandon is often somewhat less to me. Today, I am providing you with a counterpoint to one of his latest articles. Which one of us knows where the sound of those bells is coming from? You be the judge.

You probably will not believe wouldn’t believe this, but in private Brandon tells me that I am one of the smartest dudes he knows. God forbid he should agree with anything I say publicly, though. On the other hand, consider this — Brandon could make me disappear off of this blog with about the same amount of effort that it takes you to sneeze; and yet – I am still here, which likely means that I know something, and some powerful forces are aligned to bring my thoughts before your eyes.

Related: 10 Things Only Personal Finance Nerds Would Understand

Well, today I am here to tell you that yet again I disagree with my friend.


Here’s the Problem

Brandon’s post is a countdown of 10 items he sees as most important truths relative to things that financially sophisticated people understand about money. The article is very well written as usual, and I concur with Brandon on most of his points — but not everything…

Specifically, the first item on Brandon’s list is:

  • I’d rather have $2 tomorrow than $1 today

And a few bullet points down:

  • Forget nuclear…Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe

Do You See a Contradiction Here?

Is it just me, or do these two bullet points negate each other — do you see a problem here?

Never mind; you don’t see the problem. Judging by the fact that Brandon’s article had about 200 Facebook likes in the first day, I know that you completely ate this stuff up… hah!

This one is a bit tricky, actually. Brandon is wrong, but he is not wrong; he was totally right about one side of the truth — but at the end of the day, Real Estate Investing is about seeing that which is not obvious, and while Brandon is right as it relates to the concept of frugality, which is hard to argue, he is wrong about the less obvious concepts.

Given the option, you should absolutely take $1 off the table today in lieu of waiting for $2 tomorrow. There are many less obvious reasons; let’s look at just a few.

Why You Should Take $1 Off the Table Today


The more money you leave on the table, the more money you risk losing — basic concept. I don’t care how you dress it up; investing carries risk, and as such, the ultimate technique for limiting exposure of financial loss is to limit presence of money in the deal.

Therefore, you must put a value on risk in order to properly access whether taking $1 today is better or worse that $2 tomorrow — most of the time it is!


Time Value of Money

Time value of money is another reason to take $1 today verses $2 tomorrow. Interestingly, I think Brandon knows all of this as well as anyone, but was so emotionally wrapped up in his article and making a point, that he allowed himself to lose track of logic…

Not to worry. He has a friend (Me) who possesses an increasingly keen sense of the obvious. Did I mention — Brandon listens to me, the implication of which is that you should listen to me as well?!

Here you go — in a fractional reserve banking system, money (I should say currency) is necessarily worth more today than it will be at any time in the future. Therefore, the sooner money is put to use via compounding, the better, which brings us to my last point…


Brandon made a valid point out of this on his list: compounding is a powerful force, indeed.

Related: The Two Things You Need to Do to Become a One Percenter

He never made the connection, however, that the effectiveness of compounding is a function of TIME, and starting sooner with less money is much more powerful than starting later with more. I don’t have time to do screenshots of Excel to showcase this, but please play with it on your own if you don’t believe me. Bottom line — starting with a dollar today will lead you much farther than starting with $2 tomorrow, providing similar rates of compounding returns.

Final Thoughts

Brandon knows his audience, and he writes that which he reasonably believes will make you nod your head — and you don’t disappoint. However, many issues that we deal with on a daily basis are like the Yin and Yang: there are two sides, and while only one side is typically illuminated in the daylight of conventional wisdom, there’s always the other side.

Believe me, having read this article, Brandon will change his mind on this; and you should as well. 🙂

P.S. One thing to remember — taking money off the table today can come at the price of higher tax exposure, and therefore you have to plan carefully what, when, and how you do it; otherwise, you risk diluting the positive effects of compounding.

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article for our newer members!]

Brandon — any thoughts that you can share publicly…? Everyone else — where do you stand after having read both articles?

Leave a comment below!

About Author

Ben Leybovich

Ben has been investing in multifamily residential real estate for over a decade. An expert in creative financing, he has been a guest on numerous real estate-related podcasts, including the BiggerPockets Podcast. He was also featured on the cover of REI Wealth Monthly and is a public speaker at events across the country. Most recently, he invested $20 million along with a partner into 215 units spread over two apartment communities in Phoenix. Ben is the creator of Cash Flow Freedom University and the author of House Hacking. Learn more about him at


  1. Nice article Ben. I just had a similar discussion with Jeff Brown regarding taking more cash flow from an investment or paying off the asset that is generating that cash flow more rapidly. Both have obvious merits and both have weaknesses but generally I would be more inclined as this stage in life to re-purpose that cash flow into new investments that can themselves generate additional streams of passive income.

    Now I just have to get that first one done so I can start working on utilizing that cash flow for more opportunities. Lather, rinse, repeat.

    • Ben Leybovich

      Hi, Scott!

      I know Jeff likes free and clear, or almost free and clear late or new construction small multi stuff. I understand why…

      Here’s the thing. One of the reasons we buy RE is to protect buying power; the other reason is to create CF; and the third reason is to create wealth.

      With respect to all 3 of the bullet points above, I like large footprint via a diversified asset base, within each vehicle and across multiple vehicles. Relative to RE, the easiest and accessible way to achieve this end result is with leverage – done.

      I’ll alert Jeff to this conversation to see if we can get his perspective – one of the smartest guys I know. I’ve sent many people to him, because what I do is not for everyone – for some Jeff is the answer. not for me, and apparently not for you, Scott.

      Thanks so much, Scott!

      • Ben — What happens to me a lot is that folks read a particular post of mine and think that’s what I recommend all the time. It’s not, and by a long shot. “Jeff likes free ‘n clear” — NOT nearly all the time. When I’m in the process of generating maximum CF for a client, their plan may call for up to 3 refis of many, if not all their real state. Debt free only makes sense when CF is the IMMEDIATE goal.

        I like smaller (1-4) properties for a few reasons.

        1. They’re easy to finance, and usually at slightly lower rates than apartment buildings. Fixed rate for 30 years is safe, and I like safe.

        2. For every buyer of an apartment complex there are 5-10 for a home, duplex, or fourplex. I like those odds. Easier financing and the ability to amass the down payment are key factors. Duh.

        3. Owning a herd of 2-4 unit props gives the investor incredible flexibility simply not available to those favoring complexes. Need a cash infusion for whatever reason? What’s easier, refinancing a duplex or two, or going through all that with a 20 unit complex? When pullin’ cash from just 10-30% of your portfolio you haven’t disturbed the performance of 20-50 doors.

        4. If I own many 1-4 unit props I can cull 1 or 2 from the herd, sell ’em/trade ’em, sometimes with a super small cap gains tax bill, sometimes NO tax bill. Try that with an apartment complex. Not . . . gonna . . . happen. With that tax free (or nearly so) cash I can go into other vehicles producing superior retirement cash flow, often times completely tax free by IRC definition. Yeah, you can pull that off with complexes. But you’re often having to sacrifice a painful percentage of your RE portfolio.

        5. Generally speaking the more bedrooms/baths in a rental unit, the longer the tenants stay. This is especially true when it’s not only a family sized unit, but has an attached family sized garage.

        6. Although apartment complex owners rightly boast about their expenses benefitting from the mere numbers of units. There’s only one way to defeat that argument. Don’t have the expense, period. 🙂 Modern duplexes are very often designed to have separate meters for both water and gas/elec. Though the gas/elec is virtually always separately metered at complexes, the water bill is on the landlord. Then there’s the outside light bill, also on the landlord. Maintenance of large parking areas is another expense small unit owners simply don’t have most of the time.

        7. A decent sized percentage of duplexes are bought by owner users, something unknown with complexes. When this happens it allows the investor to buy the duplex based upon the income, but sell to the ‘user’ at owner occupied prices, which are virtually always higher.

        I could go on, but you get the point. In the end, though, it’s all about personal preference and the investor’s perceived need. the 1-4 unit approach isn’t always the best way to go. Still, for the vast majority of investors it’s vastly superior.

        Flexibility, CF, financing, and the rest are what has resonated with investor clients for nearly all of my almost 40 year practice.

        • Jeff,

          You took that whole thing right out of my CFFU – flat out! There’s like an inch of daylight between you and me, and it’s called nothing down RE 🙂

          You rationale is solid, of course. I agree entirely. I do not buy into large down-payments, not long distance investing in small multi. But the rest of it is rather self-explanatory…

          Thank you indeed for a very complete comment, Jeff!

        • Frankie Woods

          Wow, great article Ben, and great response Jeff! I haven’t been sold on the note investing yet because I don’t quite fully understand it, but both of you provide such amazing content! Thanks from a newbie!

  2. I feel like his point was more about making sacrifices and being patient (delayed gratification) as opposed to literally “not doing anything with the dollar”. At least thats how I understood it. Maybe he should have said “I’d rather 2 slices of pie tomorrow, instead of 1 today”.

  3. I have struggled with this myself. Is it better to have a paid off apartment complex that generates $5000 per month net income or better to have sold it for $500,000? It would seem that you would be better off with the income due to possible appreciation and the difficulty of finding another investment yielding the same %. That is, until you consider risk. What is the risk of a tenant suing and taking your asset from you? What is the risk of the government doing something like giving people loans they cannot repay and then messing with interest rates so as to warp real estate values? What is the risk of property taxes skyrocketing until your income is half or less of what it was? (All of these “hypothetical” situations have actually happened to me)
    I compromise by taking some money off the table, but keeping some invested also. However, sometimes I think I would be better off selling anything that gets too much equity. Problem: Where do you put it?

  4. Well…I read both articles, And both of you have good points. But Brandon’s “$2 tomorrow vs $1 today” was portrayed in a very different light than you describe. I read his as saying save a $1 today to have $2 tomorrow?

  5. From a broader view I can see both points, however, I live my life more like Brandon describes. Not sure if that’s good or bad over the long term but so far it’s suited me well!

  6. In my view, the better option would depend on what opportunities are available today. In order for the 1$ option to be better than the 2$ option, one would have to do better than double their money in a single day. If having a dollar today allows you to buy an asset that is currently actually worth $3, and you can sell the asset tomorrow for $3, then it would make more sense to have the $1 in order to take advantage of that opportunity. In general, one would be hard-pressed to find any investment that would double overnight.

    • Haha – well, I suppose I expect people to extrapolate that when I say 1 day, what I really mean is 10-20 years. We are real estate connoisseur – nothing happens fast in our lives. This article is meant as a “global” conversation 🙂

      Thanks so much for reading, Wilson!

    • Brandon is my best friend. He gets me in ways few people ever will. He was sitting on the couch in my living room, reading this article 8 hours before it went public. I am not worried, Mark 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting!

  7. Like it was previously said, I think Brandon is saying it is better to invest $1 dollar today in order to earn $2 later than to take the dollar and spend it now. I believe his thinking is not hat the dollar will produce $2 in 10 or 20 years, but $2 in one or two years with good investments in real estate. As you know the investments in real estate far out pace inflation.

    Everything involves risk and I don’t see that a s a valid argument. The only way to avoid risk is to put your money in a safety deposit box and hope the bank never blows up or goes under, because there is even risk there. To avoid all risk, means you avoid all possible returns.

    his argument about compound interest supports his point about $1 now to $2 later. Saving and investing that $1 now with compound interest will create $2 later, which can then be compounded into $4 and so on.

    • I have exactly the same thoughts as Mark. As a reader, I see the two arguments in Brandon’s article as not conflicting but aligned.: the $2 tomorrow as well as the Compounding interest. As an investor, I would happily take $2 in a year instead of $1 today, and this is no different than my desire to compound my investments aggressively. Of course, if that $2 comes after 30 years – I am not interested (only because the internal rate of compounded return is too low)

      • Sandeep,

        What you are missing is that we don’t care so much about dollars; what we care about is the buying power of those dollars…ponder this. We live in very strange times. Fractional Reserve banking system is under pressure and will crack – the only question is how bad…

        Thank you indeed for commenting!

    • Hey, Mark.

      There is a difference between frugality, meaning forego $1 today for the benefit of tomorrow, and the point I am making. You know better than most how I feel about unnecessary exuberance. This is not what I meant here…

      As to risk – you can defend against that which you know about and can see. Most of the time, the things that bring us down are not anything we’ve forecast, and that is the essence of the beast.

      Thanks a lot for reading, man!

  8. Ben,

    Much like Michelle I have a condo that’s worth 185k easily I own it free and clear. It’s ready to rent and the other units rent for $1800.00 a month. It’s in an ok neighborhood and would probably stay occupied. I only paid 47k for it and put about 10k in renovation( California baby).
    Iike many on this blog I flip as we as own some rental most gave loans except this one and another worth maybe 200k. I’ve been doing this full time since 1996 and this condo has me stumped! $21,600 before repairs, taxes etc is hard to turn away from especially when it will
    help me live for free. On the other hand 185k is a nice chunk of change that I can you at some point for my flips. Right now deals are hard to come buy and I have enough funds to handle my flips.. Everyone please chime in!!


    • Hi, Ange.

      You’ve won the game if that $21,600 sticks. If CF is your goal, than you’ve achieved it. If equity is your goal, then there are big question marks. Would you still have the CF if you lost all of the value? If yes, and CF is your goal, then why do you care about how much equity you have… If, however, you are concerned about the CF stability over time, then you would diversify the CF by bridging the equity into additional assets… Such is my thinking.

      Thanks indeed for reading!

      • Thanks Ben,

        The rents will stay stable and after accounting for taxes, repairs, and vacancy the final number will be at least 15k. Thanks for mentioning if I care about the equity or not. I do not since I know the rents will stay pretty stable. Also if the equity did go down it would return at some point and probably just as likely to go up that’s just the nature of the beast in Oakland,Ca!


  9. William Barnard on

    So I just got a call from Brandon who used a prepaid cell phone (through away) asking me to put a contract out on Ben, you know, have him sleep with the fish in retaliation for this blog post. Anyways, I told him to take 3 days as a cooling off period and get back to me.

    In the meantime, I think that some people misconstrue the application if the math in these posts. Bens point is that due to our monetary system (which is set to fail) the dollar will lose value over time and as more time goes by, the faster and greater the decline of that value due to the way tibia set up (the fractionalized banking system). With national debt at historic proportions and global debts and economies in huge trouble, Bennis saying that taking that dollar today because of its greater value today, is better than waiting for tomorrow (not literally tomorrow as another took this) when that $2 is really worth on .20 cents. So one must find a means to place that dollar into a vehicle that returns the dollar quickly (taking it off the table and back in the pocket to use) and let the gain (interest for lack of a better explanation) grow as quickly as possible, rinse and repeat. In other words, you must grow the money faster than the decline of the value of the dollar and believe me, in the coming 10 years, this will not be as easy or simply as it was in the previous 10 years. God help us all.

    • Hahah – Mr. Bernard,

      So many things are funny here:

      1. There is no way Brandon called you today – he is sitting at home counting all of the cash he’s made in the first day with that new book of his; he is not to be bothered today 🙂
      2. He was in Lima last week – visiting, and he read this article before it went live while laying on my couch bed. He loves me too much to wish me sleeping with the fish…

      As to the rest of your comment – right on. Fractional reserve is going to be a huge problem sooner rather than later. Did you hear – 2 of the FED governors came out and hinted that it’s time to resume quantitative easing no that S&P lost 10%? Freaking nuts!

      You are exactly right, Will!

  10. I didn’t read either article in it’s entirety, so take these words for what their worth. BTW, I didn’t coin the term (no pun intended).

    A fast nickle is better than a slow dime.

  11. I don’t usually comment but I disagree with Ben’s arguments so strongly on this I am compelled to write. In fact, I find it dangerous to espouse some of Ben’s argument on BP, a forum filled with impressionable young investors, for fear that some will take these arguments (possibly intended as whimsical arguments) as fact.

    Real estate investing is ALL ABOUT deferring the $1 for the $2 to come. Ben’s arguments about inflation and time value of money fall flat because they are not based in mathematics. $2 tomorrow is WAY (WAY WAY!) better than $1 today. You have heard of a google, right? Not the search engine. The math tells me that if I could double my money in one day (and continue to double it for 365 periods) I would have over a google dollars. I don’t have the time to type out all the zeros but here is the scientific notation $7.5×10^109. More dollars than there are atoms in the universe, from one dollar invested. THAT is the most powerful force on the planet (and universe) in action.

    I did read in one of your replies to another comment that you did not take the one day period literally but rather took it to mean 10 to 20 years. This revision to the parameters obviously changes everything and in this case, we are looking at a compounded annual return (IRR) ranging from 7.2% to 3.5% respectively. Many on Wall Street would love to take even this return right now. However, a real estate investor would not be compensated for their risk in this case (unless the investment is a Class A+ multifamily deal with no value-add or a triple net commercial deal with a credit tenant). So after the dramatic revision to the original parameters (1 day => 20 years) in a reply to a comment, I do agree with Ben.

    One more comment on risk. Real estate investors should NOT be afraid of RISK. RISK is what allows higher returns to be generated. If there were no risk in real estate, institutional investor money would pour in, driving up prices and thus reducing returns until they approached the US treasury rate (known as the “risk-free” rate by economists and finance professionals).

    Managing the risk to return ratio is what successful real estate investors do – whether they think about it in these terms or not. Refusing to invest because of risk makes no sense – taking calculated risks is what all business people do every day. Without risk there is no entrepreneur or innovation or progress.

    Real estate investors: Ignore what Ben said, invest the $1 today and take the $2 tomorrow.

    • Hey, Brian!

      Thank you indeed for a thoughtful comment. You are mistaken in several respects:

      1. If investors were to do what I do, they would be specialists in No Money Down – because that’s what I do; I finance deals 100% and generate infinity return therefore. I think it’s a mistake to advise folks to specifically not do what I do…

      2. Investing is not about deferring $1 today to create $2 tomorrow. Investing is about:

      a. Protecting buying power of currency
      b. Increasing buying power of currency
      Sometimes, deferring $1 today for the benefit of tomorrow does that, but many times it does not. A more sophisticated perspective is needed…

      3. IRR of 3.5% percent is not enough to cover the cost of taxes and inflation in most years. IRR of 7% is barely enough. As a syndicator, unless I can offer people 15% IRR, I pass. I wonder if you realize that velocity of money drives IRR as much as anything else…

      4. Risk – is not what you can see and what you know, but what you can not see and do not know. We can defend and manage what we know, but not the latter…

      5.Investing is about seeing that which is not obvious. New investors usually do not, and my responsibility on BiggerPockets is to allow them the benefit of my perspective. I think I did that well in this piece. They do not need to read Brandon’s article to agree with him – everyone agrees with his point – including me. but, I do so with eyes wide open to the reality that there is the other side to this argument…

      Any further thoughts you may have would be welcome. In the mean time, thank you indeed for reading and leaving a detailed response, Brian!

    • Couple of things, Brian:

      1. If all investors did what I do, they’d be doing deals with nothing down and generating infinity return – this is what I do. Ignoring what I say may be a bit harsh – no?!

      2. Real estate is about:
      a: protecting buying power
      b: increasing buying power

      Buying power is not the same thing as amount of currency, and while some times foregoing $1 today for benefit of $2 tomorrow gets it done, most times it does not…

      3. 3.5%IRR isn’t enough to cover income tax and inflation. 7% is barely better. As syndicators, we look for 15%. And the thing about IRR – velocity of money drives it as much as anything…

      4. Risk is not about what you know – you can mitigate that. Risk is about what you don’t know. What the dollar will do is something you can’t know…you can’t manage that which you don’t know, aside for taking money off the table, of course 🙂

      Your thoughts are welcome. Thank you indeed for a thoughtful and complete post, Brian!

      • Ben – a few thoughts on your numbered comments.
        1. Buying with no money (or OPM) is a great method but simply not available to many in reality (despite what many gurus will tell you). I applaud you for your infinite returns on investment but, if a deal goes bad are you generating an infinitely NEGATIVE return? (I bet it is hard to demonstrate average returns using non Real Numbers.)
        2. People invest in real estate for different reasons but the first reason would probably be to build wealth. This certainly assumes the expected returns will be better than inflation, but I doubt you can show me an investment class that is predicted to do WORSE than inflation, so your ‘buying power’ argument is not compelling. Real estate is a great hedge against inflation – another reason many WEALTHY people invest in real estate as part of a larger portfolio – a valid reason for the top 1%-ers but a lesser consideration for most investors.
        3. Covering income tax is not how I assess a real estate investment since one big advantage to real estate are the tax benefits. After-tax returns are often HIGHER than the before-tax returns due to depreciation. Pretty sure no economists are predicting inflation to hit 7% (possibly 3.5% in the next few years). Nonetheless, I agreed with you before that the 3.5% and even the 7.2% are too low of a return for MOST types of real estate deals.
        4. Institutional investors manage all kinds of risk by performing quantitative analyses of identifiable risks. Good syndicators can piggy-back off of these risk analyses (when publicly available) and perform their own research to bolster their risk assessment of a deal so they can communicate these risks to their investors. Mom & Pop investors often use their prior experience and their ‘gut’.

        If a deal has a high degree of risk, it must generate a return to compensate for that risk. A 15% IRR multifamily deal would necessarily have a fair amount of risk (unless you uncover a rare gem), involving one or more of the following:
        1. Rehab (construction/contractor/maintenance risks)
        2. Leverage (interest/underwriting/guaranty risks – you may not use your own money but I bet it is your name on the guaranty for $000,000’s)
        3. Low Credit Tenants (tenant risk)
        4. Non-appreciating Submarket (asset price risk)

        If I had time I would write a complete a Counterpoint to your Counterpoint. But alas, I have already spent too much time away from my business.

    • William Barnard on

      Brian, you and a few others have taken the “$1 today over $2 tomorrow” comment WAY TOO literally. As I stated in my first comment, Ben did not mean to say that doubling your money in literally one day is worse than just keeping the dollar. The “tomorrow” is a day into the future. Not exactly defined but certainly not the very next day. Therefore, all of your arguments based on taking this phrase so literally are null and void in my book.
      Certainly any person with half a brain would take doubling their money every day!!! – over any other option.

  12. I also think that Ben got it completely wrong! The “intent” of Brandon’s point is the very basis of all investments, i.e. you invest “X today” and get “X + Y tomorrow”. And it is not even specific to Real Estate investments. The actual values of “X”, “Y” and “tomorrow” may vary between every investment but the premise is same.

    I hope readers don’t take Ben seriously and start taking their $1 off the table today and start spending it (thinking that world and the dollar is coming to an end tomorrow so might as well enjoy the $1 today!).

  13. Ben Great article. Makes me think everytime i try to use any funds i get to build an asset or to pay off some balance current ones. This gives good perspective its a constant battle of scare of the debt vs. growth for bigger gain in the future. To williams point i think that the inflation will have to increase in the future as it has in the past and that 10-20k you spend now for down payment for rental will seem like very little in 15 years and at that point it will seem like you got the properties for nothing even though in present time that 20k could do a lots of different things. Thanks to all you guys and BP this is great learning time makes me think why did i go to college for maybe more finance majors should keep up with BP. Thanks again for writing great article.

    • Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah…!!!!!!!!!

      Fell off my chair, Brian. You don’t say much, but damn! This is so funny on so many levels; the good folks on this forum have NO idea…

      You know how I see you? You are like that baron in his bi-plane, (what’s his name) with your scarf dangling in the wind, big goggles, leather gloves, and a smirk of satisfaction on your face – flying over Brandon and I mud-wrestling, shaking your head, and going – SUCKAAAAAS…

      And once you land, calling Josh Dorkin to tell him – I just saw those two punks swinging mud…in your house…again. Do something cause it’s embarrassing 🙂

      You will take $16 just to prove a point and cause you can 🙂

      Wow – this made my morning. Now I got to go start cracking on underwriting 620 units. Got a couple hours alone in the morning, then my life belongs to kids. Wish me luck.

      P.S. I take solace in the fact that in your remarks you did not disagree with me. Take that Brandon!

  14. Hi Ben, I believe he is The Red Baron, something to do with pizzas. Unless it’s Snoopy from Charlie Brown. Anyway I enjoy your debates with Brandon. Keep posting and produce more videos.

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