I made the jump to full time investor just over a dozen years ago. I can tell you that it was perhaps one of the most exciting and scariest things I have ever done. Once I got the real estate bug, I could not wait to get into it on a full time basis and get more control over my life and time. That was the exciting part. But that little voice inside of my head was always in the background asking if I was making the right move. Was I sure I wanted to leave the steady income, health insurance, and security? That was the scary part.
I guess that I can say that after a dozen years or so, things have worked out and that I made the right decision. Still, I can remember that I was actually shaking a bit when I handed my boss my resignation letter. It is a big decision, and quitting a full-time job requires a lot of forethought and planning.
I know that some of you out there are perhaps thinking of taking that same plunge now. Many more of you are still in the dreaming stages, wondering what it will take to quit and not knowing even where to start. This post is for those of you who are thinking or dreaming about taking the leap to a full time investing career. I am going to assume that you have already learned about real estate investing and have determined what it is you wish to do. Perhaps you have even done a deal or two. So I will leave the real estate stuff alone and lay out some steps for you to follow if you want to quit a 9 to 5 job and get into real estate investing full time.
4 Steps for Getting Your Finances in Order BEFORE You Quit Your 9-5 to Invest
1. Create a (Realistic) Budget
Quitting your 9 to 5 job basically means losing your regular income. So in order to leave that behind and transition to full time investor, you have to know how much money was coming in and where it was going. Thus, the first thing you need to do is sit down and calculate a monthly budget. What is coming in and what is it costing you to live? If you have never done this, you may be in for a rude awakening. Hopefully you are living below your means, but if you are not, you need to start. Preparing a budget is likely going to take you several months because of monthly differences in expenses, so get started on that budget now.
2. Cut Out the Fat
Secondly you need to take a hard look at your budget. Where is your income going? Do you really need some of those items on your budget, or would it be better to cut and save? Do you have larger expenses like a car, student loans, or credit card debt? Perhaps it is best to clean those things up while you have a steady income. If you need help with a budget, Dave Ramsey’s books are simple to understand and cannot be beat.
3. Figure Out What You Can Live On
Third you need to figure out what you can live on. After a few months of budgeting and examination of your expenses, you should have a pretty good idea of what you will need to live on. Understand that this number may need to be a bare bones budget in order to get you out of your job and get your new business up and running. You also need to understand that after you leave your 9 to 5 job, your budget may change significantly. For example, you may need to pay for health insurance out of pocket. Gas and dry cleaning bills might be significantly reduced. So you may need to estimate a bit. Estimate high because it is better to be safe. This number may be three, four, five or more thousands of dollars per month. Whatever it is, be sure it is something you can live with because it is very important for the next step.
4. Replace Your Income With Real Estate
Next you need to figure out how you are going to replace your current income to cover your monthly expenses. I decided to go the landlord route so I calculated it as follows. I figured out that I could buy rental properties, manage them, and make a positive cash flow of approximately $150 per month per unit. So if I needed to make $3,000/month to cover my basic expenses, I divided that by $150 and figured I needed 20 rental units. There was my goal. If I could acquire 20 rental units that cash flow over $150 per month, I should be able to leave my 9 to 5 job. And that’s what I did. You will of course have to acquire them while still on the job, but that will allow you to get loans more easily, while you have W-2 income, and will give you some on-the-job training. Realize that this process may not be quick. My own process took over four years.
That is basically it. Remember that getting out of the job is usually the first goal. Once you get out, you can then begin to set goals for increasing your income. And meeting those income goals will be much easier now that you are out, as you will be able to focus much more on growing and expanding your business.
Here are some closing thoughts for you as you finally do quit that job: Never burn any bridges as you leave your job. You really never know what the future holds, and you may need those folks again someday. Also, please make sure your significant other is on board. If you do not have their support, you are doomed to failure. Plus, a support network can be really helpful and comforting. That is why communities like BiggerPockets and your local real estate club can be so important. Use them.
Fellow full time investors, how did you manage to leave the “working world” behind? Those of you still with 9 to 5 jobs and looking to move on, what steps are you taking?
Please share with your comments.