It all started in 1999….
Mike and I have been married since May 1997. During the early years, I worked my “college degree” job during the day and a part time job at night. Mike worked all day and then went to night school to finish up his degree.
But even with both of us working full time (and then some!), we were still struggling to get by. We kept wondering what more we needed to do to achieve that elusive dream of financial freedom.
In those early days, our favorite (inexpensive) way to unwind was to go to Barnes & Noble on the weekends to grab a coffee and read the magazines and books for free. It was during one of those weekend B&N trips that something happened that would change our lives forever: I stumbled across a copy of Robert Kiyosaki’s book Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
Simply put, this book changed our lives.
If you haven’t read it, the premise is that you’ll never be rich if you keep working for money. In order to be rich, you need to find ways to make your money work for you, such as real estate investing and starting your own business. I was really drawn to this concept and to real estate investing in particular.
No one in my family had ever thought like this! No one was an entrepreneur… everyone went to college, got a degree, worked somewhere for 40 years, and then retired to a life of worrying whether the money they’d saved would last until they died.
This whole concept of having your money make money was foreign to me. And the idea of doing this at a young age and taking control of our future was so appealing. Almost immediately, I signed us up for a real estate seminar.
After the seminar, we jumped right into purchasing three seemingly-safe investment properties. And since this was 1999, we funded our down payments with credit card advances.
What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out, there’s much more to real estate investing than just finding what you think is a great deal. As we learned, you need to have an understanding of your local market, you need to know how to analyze the numbers to determine if the opportunity is the right fit, you need criteria about locations and types of homes and… you should know how to manage tenants.
We had none of those skills or knowledge.
About 3 months in, it was clear that we were in a bad situation. The properties were losing money, we were now deeply in debt and Mike was spending all his time trying to make things work.
After many sleepless nights, we realized 3 things:
We had no idea how to make these properties make money.
We needed to dig out of debt.
If we wanted to be in this business, we needed to learn the business.
We gave back the properties, moved in with my parents, and Mike went to work for a property management company.
Armed with real knowledge and experience, we now knew how to run real estate investing as a successful business. We knew how to manage risk and how to conservatively assess each property and opportunity.
Our experience the second time around?
Our real estate investments generated 4X the annual return that my 401K did during the same time-frame. We also benefited from capital growth which increased our initial investment by 400% and enabled us to add apartment complexes, several homes and a hotel.
We’re continuing to look at new acquisitions and opportunities as we grow our business. The reality is that our business is a lot of work and frustrating at times but it’s definitely worth it.