Why Many Wildly Successful Flippers and Wholesalers Will Face Bleak Retirements

by | BiggerPockets.com

It’s always been true, but since the correction the calls I get from those specializing in ‘quick turn’ projects, whether flipping or wholesaling, have more than doubled. The calls are predictable, usually coming within a few days after publishing a post about what their retirement will look like, given their long term M.O. — and that retirement ain’t part of a pretty picture. After their first reaction, usually anywhere from mild irritation to big time anger, denial often sets in. It’s after a few days of pondering the substance of the post that they settle down and call.

First, let’s define who they are, and the M.O. in question.

  • They’re full time turn and burn types — and they’re good at it.
  • They use profits to grow the business — now doing many homes at once.
  • Their lifestyle has risen appreciably in response to their rising income.
  • They’ve systematized their operation — boosting income yet again.
  • Long term is defined as holding for a year so as to pay cap gains rates.
  • They’ve earned their reputation as real pros, experts in what they do.

The age range of those calling is roughly 45-60. The older they are, the more you can hear the rising fear in their voice. Take a 53 year old guy who’s simply gettin’ tired of the toll it takes from him both physically and emotionally. Sure, he’s not doin’ much of the physically demanding labor now, but he’s still pitchin’ in almost daily. Combine this with all the day-to-day tasks a very successful rehabber/flipper/wholesaler must do, and you can easily understand why a 50-something guy/gal would begin to resemble the horse who’s been ridden hard and put away wet.

The #1 source of the rising bile in their throats is the realization that their acquired lifestyle is now their biggest problem. Their home really is their castle. They travel a lot, go on pricey weekend getaways, drive expensive debt laden cars/trucks, and maybe even have a nice boat or RV or both. Life is good.

‘Till it’s not.

The problem, of course, is a sorta good news/bad news joke. The good news? They’re rockin’ at what they do. The bad news? They MUST continue doin’ it ’till they drop, cuz they have zero, zilch, zip, nada that will do anything for them in terms of even a semi-viable retirement income.

In essence, as one of them put it so well, “I’ve become a very highly paid slave who must work or be financially ruined. I’m on a treadmill to the emergency room.” He was 52 when he said that, and a year later was diagnosed with very high blood pressure.

Sometimes I can help, sometimes I can’t. It depends upon how leveraged their lifestyle really is. I’ve concluded these guys aren’t exceptions, but the rule. I have no idea if that’s correct or not. I do know this though — their number is legion.

So, what to do?

If you’re under 45 or so, you should be able to add another basket to your portfolio — long term investment properties. Whether these props are local rehabs you’ve done personally, or you just found solid deals elsewhere, it’s imperative you start — now. In 15-20 years you’ll be able to retire with an enviable income. If you execute strategies I’ve outlined in previous posts, it’ll be even better.

If you’re in your late 50’s or over 60, you may or may not have a real problem. Last year two such men had to tell their wives that going back to work for a few years was the only way they’d be able to create a more or less job free retirement. Women who’ve been enjoying life without having to go to work, generally don’t receive this news, um, well.

Some of the turn ‘n burn contributors on this site have addressed this topic with sage advice. They set the example by having a stand-alone portfolio of ‘keepers’ — properties which will provide for them in retirement. You should listen to them carefully. They have seen the future without long term investments, and discovered the light at the end of the tunnel was a freight train comin’ their way.

Secure a long term real estate investment expert. It’s far to late to be gettin’ advice from those who’re merely a few chapters ahead of you in the book. Think you can do it yourself? Really? Maybe — but ask yourself THE question.

How much is a solid, reliable income worth to you in retirement?

Go ahead, take your time, no pressure.

About Author

Jeff Brown

Licensed since 1969, broker/owner since 1977. Extensively trained and experienced in tax deferred exchanges, and long term retirement planning.


  1. Jeff, great article.

    It is great to reap the immediate profits, often times in amounts just from one deal higher than many people earn working 1000 hours. It is a heady experience!

    And, as you point out… the gravy train stops as soon as the deals stop.

    Keep up the theme that you have been on, as the next 2 – 3 year window will offer income producing opportunities like never before.


  2. Not only does having a portfolio of rental properties provide an income stream into perpetuity but it also turns inflation to your benefit by having it pay down your mortgage through debt deflation. A good way to build net worth.

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