BiggerPockets Money Podcast

BiggerPockets Money Podcast 132: Financial Independence Without a College Degree With Marquez Griffin

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Marquez Griffin graduated from high school but did not feel that college was his path. His uncle worked in a sheet metal shop and was able to get him a job there.

He quickly learned that taking a bit of action with regards to his sheet metal training would catapult him higher in his earnings, so he enrolled in trade school and alternated between work and school to learn the trade faster.

His earnings rose as he completed coursework, but Marquez found himself unexcited about his path and started looking for more. Moving in with a friend and his dad turned out to be a real-life “rich dad” event, with his friend’s father introducing him to the concept of saving and investing.

Marquez started listening to audiobooks and podcasts while working in the shop, looking for information about a better life. This self-education led him to Scott’s book Set for Life and then to BiggerPockets, where he discovered house hacking and real estate investing. He decided he could marry real estate with a career and go from salaried trade work to commission-based agent work, where the sky was the limit with regard to earnings.

He further discovered the job of signing agent and has now incorporated that into his work schedule, as well. (For more information about signing agent, check out episode 74.)

Marquez knew college was not his path, so he followed the path he was meant for and is reaching for financial independence on his terms.

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Read the Transcript Here

Mindy:
Welcome to The BiggerPockets Money Podcast, show number 132, where we interview Marquez Griffin and hear his story of his journey to financial independence.

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Marquez:
I save first, and I aim for 25% savings right off the bat, and part of that 25% also goes to investing. So I’d say cash is 12%, is how much I save for myself if there’s any emergency expenses that come up or anything.

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello, my name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always, is my metal cohost Scott Trench.

Scott:
Well, thank you for always helping me illuminate the path to financial freedom each and every week, Mindy.

Mindy:
It is my pleasure. Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less, just for somebody else, and show you that by following the proven steps, you can put yourself on the road to early financial freedom and get money out of the way so you can lead your best life.

Scott:
That's right, whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate, start your own business, or even if you're just getting started on the aggressive, all-out approach to financial independence like Marquez today, we'll help you build a position capable of launching yourself towards those dreams.

Mindy:
Scott, I am super excited to bring Marquez on the show today. Not only does he represent the trades, people who have forgone college and gone directly into the building and trades, but he also is a shining example and illumination, if you will, of what you can do-

Scott:
Illuminate with an A. Sorry, doubling down on my pun earlier.

Mindy:
Oh, my goodness, all day, every day, if you're listening to this, this is Scott, all day, every day that. He doesn't just bring it for the show, he brings it in every other aspect of his life too. Okay, anyway, this isn't about Scott, this is about Marquez, and Marquez kills it. He decided that he did not want to be poor. He grew up poor, he didn't want to be poor, so he's not poor. He has a job as a sheet metal worker, he has a job as a real estate agent, he has a job as a notary signing agent. And it's this last one that I really want to shine a spotlight on, I don't have any fun metal puns for that. So, this is a minimal investment career. What did he say it cost? $1000.

Scott:
Yeah, $300 plus the printer.

Mindy:
Yeah, this is a minimal investment to get started in this career. We also talked about this in episode 74 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast. But when you are in this position right now where perhaps you’ve lost your job or perhaps somebody that you know has lost their job, they can get involved in this really quickly and right away start generating some pretty serious money. I mean, Marquez is basically living off of that job, right?

Scott:
Yeah, Marquez is an example of a hustler who is trying out and experimenting with lots of things, absorbing lots of information, and then just seeing what works best for him. And he’s 25 years old currently, didn’t go to college, went through this trade school route and is now applying these different items like notary, real estate agent to start his own business and make his own way with a strong financial foundation. So, I think it’s just a great episode and a great guy exemplifying somebody who’s in the middle of the journey right now.

Mindy:
Yes, and a nontraditional source of income or several sources of income are helping him propel himself in a way that he wasn’t going to get having a traditional job.

Scott:
That’s right.

Mindy:
Marquez Griffin, welcome to the BiggerPockets of Money Podcast. I’m super pumped to have you on the show because you, unrepresented group here on the show so far, and that is people who are in the trades. We had one other person Tinian Crawford on episode 44, where he talked about being an electrician and how college wasn’t for him. And the American dream in the ’80s and ’90s was you have to go to college, that’s what you do after high school and that’s not always everybody’s path. So I’m super excited to share your story today. Why don’t you tell me where you think your journey with money begins?

Marquez:
Well, I’m super excited to be here, so thank you guys for having me. And I’ll say, my money journey began… I’ll just start from the very beginning. So I’m from Iowa. I grew up single mom, it was just me and my mom growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money. And for the first few years is pretty tough, is a struggle.
But eventually, my mom met someone, they got married and then we actually ended up moving to Colorado when I was 12, my stepdad got a job here. And then from there, I saw my parents, they had money, but I just saw them spend it a lot. They always talked about saving, but they never like really went too in-depth on saving. So from there I just went through school, and then I ended up finishing high school, and I had no idea what I wanted to do, I was dumbfounded.

Scott:
What was your kind of position with money at that point? Had you worked through high school, had you accumulated some savings or were you kind of just basically starting from zero?

Marquez:
So I started working when I was 16. I was a busser for two years. So I kind of knew about money and I had to save up to get a car, and I would pay for the car and that was pretty much it. So I didn’t really ever say I just spent money.

Scott:
Got it. Okay, what happened? What was the first thing you did out of high school?

Marquez:
So I see a bunch of my friends they’re going to college and they’re trying to figure out what they want to do. And they’re like, “We’ll just do the first year.” Or whatever. And for me, I was like, that doesn’t resonate with me because I don’t want to go into something that I don’t fully understand right away with college. So thankfully, I have an uncle that was like, “Hey, Kez, I work at the sheet metal shop, do you want to come check it out and see what it’s like?” I was like, “Oh yeah, sure, why not?”

Scott:
So this was right after graduation, it sounds like, that you went and started this?

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
So can you walk through what that experience was like and what that profession looks like? And was it really circumstantial or was there an intent there? Did you see something very promising in that?

Mindy:
Yeah, and did you have to have any special skills to get in there?

Marquez:
So I didn’t have to have any special skills. Whenever I grew up in Iowa, my grandpa did have a woodworking shop, so I always saw him working with wood and stuff. So whenever I saw sheet metal, I was like, okay, it’s pretty similar, cutting, similar tools, PPE, all that kind of stuff, so I just thought it wasn’t too bad.

Scott:
It sounds like you had a choice between whether really investing yourself in the chosen career field, which has a lot of complications. Imagine this was 10 years ago and you can kind of skim over the details like that, or kind of going this hourly route where you just kind of work your way up and then what you chose and why.

Marquez:
Yeah, so for me, I chose to go through the trade school because it made more sense, I didn’t want to wait. There’s some people that have been doing the trade for 10 years that are classified, that still don’t make as much as a journeyman. And the journeyman is someone that completes the schooling and they get sworn in as a journeyman. And it comes with experience, if you’re a classified worker or if you just go through the school, you learn everything in a shorter amount of time, so.

Scott:
It sounds like, for folks listening, the generalities of the metalworking trade are kind of like, “Hey, you can go through this rigid structural format, that’s backed by a union or you can just kind of show up and develop skills on the job.” And to you, it sounded like the show up and learn the skills on the job was a more practical approach to making more money in the short and medium-term at least, is that right?

Marquez:
Yeah, exactly, for me, I think it was best to have the trade school because… And I liked the way that ours was set up because I would go to school every other week, instead of work for one day, but they would still pay me as if I was at work, to go learn this trade, how to draft things, and cut things out of metal, or how to braze and do other things with metal, which I thought was pretty cool.

Mindy:
So who pays for the trade school, is that something that you pay for, or does the union put you through the school?

Marquez:
Yeah, so it’s something that the union pays for, but each week we have dues and assessments, which they have us pay a certain amount and some of it goes towards the pension, some of it goes towards funding the people that are at the sheet metal school or some goes to the school itself, so.

Scott:
What kind of income are we talking about here from a starter level job? What’s the annualized income for someone to learn this profession the way you did?

Marquez:
So I think someone just starting out, I think it’s about 30-35,000 a year, just starting out. So I feel like that’s a pretty good start, especially right out of high school. Before I was a busser so, it was making tips, hoping that you get 20, 30 bucks a night compared to this where you’re making a decent amount starting off. But then from there every year as I went through the trade school, I would get a 10% raise until I made what a journeyman was at the end.

Scott:
What does a journeyman make?

Marquez:
A journeyman makes about $60-$70,000 a year, and that’s without overtime, it depends, sometimes we’re busier so you get to work overtime, they pay you time in half, and then sometimes you just get less. And that’s another thing with the trades too though, is whenever it’s really slow, they may tend to lay you off if there’s no work.

Scott:
Fair enough, that’s an obvious drawback of this profession, it sounds like, but in terms of what you just described, instead of going to college, for example, and contrasting that model, you were-

Mindy:
And paying for college [crosstalk 00:09:41].

Scott:
You were getting paid $35,000 a year at the very beginning. And then gradually increasing that up to an immediate income by years three and four, it sounds like. And then ending that period with the $60-70,000 plus potential skillset. And by the way, you can still get laid off from a job that you go through college to get in the workforce. So it sounds like this is a very, very smart financial move. Now, let me ask you this, was all of this something that you were aware of when you started or did you kind of figure this out in the weeks, and months and years following joining the company?

Marquez:
This is something that I discovered over several weeks of, me, just going through the school and just figuring out, asking people. Because some people, they don’t really tell you too much about it, so.

Scott:
Okay, so walk us through, what was the next step in your financial journey from here? Has this just been a long-term thing or have there been other things that have been influencing your journey towards financial freedom?

Marquez:
So right after I started the trade school and the trades, I was as a first-year apprentice. And my parents actually ended up moving farther into the mountains and I didn’t want to drive so far to work. So I actually ended up moving into my friend’s dad’s house. And he had a very substantial impact on my life where he’s financially free, he owns lots of real estate in full. And just seeing what he had kind of inspired me and showed me if I really work on myself and really try to figure out how to save and invest, I can have what he has. So it’s definitely an inspiration.

Scott:
And for context, this is at 19 years old, is when you make this move?

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
Okay and you’re in your first year or second-ish year of your apprenticeship?

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
Got it, okay. And so, what had you been doing with money up to that point and what begins to change for you once you’re exposed to this concept?

Marquez:
Up until then, I still wasn’t really saving much. I was making more money, but I just kept spending the same amount of money because I didn’t really know how to save until I saw what he had. And then he started talking about saving and investing and he recommended some books like The Richest Man in Babylon. And I was like, “This book is amazing,” that’s crazy how small it is, but just packed full of resources. So up until then, I wasn’t really saving at all. But then once I moved in with him and saw what he had, I started saving about 25-50% of what I was making, because living with him, I guess he was kind of house hacking, I didn’t have to pay as much as if I were renting my own home.

Scott:
Got it, so what do you begin to do with this money? What’s your approach for building out an emergency reserve or beginning to invest?

Marquez:
Yeah, so I started saving for a few years, I didn’t save a ton. And then I actually ended up saving up and actually just bought a car, you know what I mean? So it’s like, “Yeah, I’m saving all this money.” And then it’s like, “Oh yeah, let’s down payment on a car right.” It just makes sense got to look cool.

Scott:
What was the car and what year was this.

Marquez:
It’s a Subaru WRX 2011. Yeah, got to go fast.

Mindy:
A WRX, those are just septic cars, they’re super-fast.

Marquez:
Yeah, exactly.

Scott:
And how old were you at the time when you buy this car?

Marquez:
I was 20, so I bought the car when I was 20.

Mindy:
Okay, your insurance must have gone through the roof with that car, 20-year-old man driving a Subaru WRX.

Marquez:
Yeah, it was a few hundred dollars, and then, of course, the car payment itself so I had that on top of everything, so insurance, the car, the gas.

Mindy:
What did your friend’s dad say about that purchase?

Marquez:
I feel like he wasn’t very judgmental. He just kind of saw it how it is. He’s like, “Okay, their kids are going to do whatever.” So he didn’t say too much on it.

Mindy:
Okay, so now you’re going to save up more money?

Marquez:
Yes, so I got the car, and I’m going through school, and I get some pay raises so then I started saving money. And then, the funny thing is, so while I was working, I actually ended up getting these headphones that looked just like earplugs. And I got it, I think it was my second year in the apprenticeship school. And seeing what my friend’s dad had, it just made me wonder what other information do I need, what resources, what books?
So I started listening to books, podcasts, all kinds of stuff while as I work. I know I’m not supposed to, but I would listen to it 40 hours a week. And I actually ended up sampling across the Scott’s book, Set for Life. And I was like, “Huh.” It’s like hearing the stuff he talked about in the book. I was like, “Wow, I don’t have to spend all my money, I can save.”
And then the other thing that kind of was brought to my attention is, hey, working with the sheet metal trade it’s really awesome and very amazing benefits and I think it’s good for a lot of people. But for me, I feel like commission-based work just kind of seemed like it resonated a little more with me. Because no matter how hard I was working at the trade, or at this school or at my job, I got paid the same, compared to commission-based, it makes more sense; I can make more money.

Scott:
Well, thank you, first of all, for very nice plug of Set for Life, I appreciate that. So what year was this when you kind of began discovering these concepts and making these kind of philosophical decisions, if not acting against them?

Marquez:
So it was 2016, sorry, I got that mixed. I graduated high school from 2013, so that’s why I was [crosstalk 00:15:09]. So it’s 2016, yes.

Scott:
All right, so in 2016 you began starting to read this stuff and you find Set for Life in 2017. What are some things that begin to change for you about your approach to all of the quadrants of finance, including how you generate income? It sounds like there’s some thoughts there, you’re spending, you’re investing, those types of things.

Marquez:
Yeah, and around that time, I actually ended up leaving my friend’s dad’s house and moved into an apartment with his son, actually. So we were living together, but we were still renting together so it was less rent than if I were renting a place myself.
So I was listening to all the books and stuff, and I started saving about 50% of what I earned for several years, like for two, three years because I was planning on getting a house because he talks about house hacking. And I was like, "Oh, that just makes so much sense, have other people pay for my mortgage." So I started saving up so I can have a down payment on a home.

Mindy:
And when did you buy your first house?

Marquez:
I closed on it, February 2019. Yes, so last year.

Mindy:
Okay, and are you house hacking it?

Marquez:
Yes, I’m still house hacking it, so.

Mindy:
Okay so let’s talk about your house, what did you pay for it, how many beds and baths, how many people are renting it, where’s it located?

Marquez:
So it’s $350,000, what I got it, there’s three bedrooms, two baths, and an unfinished basement, which I still house hack, which I think is funny. And it’s in Denver, it’s in Green Valley Ranch.

Mindy:
So you have three bedrooms to rent out and you live in the basement or you rent out the basement as well?

Marquez:
I rent out the basement as well. So I live in the master bedroom with my fiancé, and yeah, we have the other two bedrooms upstairs rented out and the basement.

Mindy:
Oh, that’s interesting. And so, with regards to your mortgage, how much do all of your tenants pay you per month?

Marquez:
So I get about $2,600 a month, yes.

Mindy:
And what is your mortgage payment?

Marquez:
It’s about $2,400 a month.

Mindy:
Okay, so now you are getting paid $200 a month to have roommates instead of paying however much you were paying when you were just sharing an apartment with one guy.

Marquez:
Yes, exactly.

Mindy:
So that’s better.

Scott:
Well, so for years it sounds like you lived with your friend’s dad and then you bought this house hack. And as you’re discovering this, this is a very aggressive move toward financial freedom. So I’m interested to hear if any changes happened on the vehicle front, over this same kind of several year front?

Marquez:
No, I still got it.

Scott:
All right, fair enough.

Marquez:
It’s almost paid off too, it’s like right there.

Scott:
Okay, and then what about the rest of your spending, how do you approach kind of your day to day expenses, food, entertainment, those types of things and did that change at all over the last couple of years?

Marquez:
Yeah, definitely. I save first, and I aim for 25% savings right off the bat. And part of that 25% also goes to investing so I’d say like cash is like 12%, is how much I save for myself for if there’s any emergency expenses that come up or anything.

Scott:
Okay, got it. And when did you begin implementing that policy?

Marquez:
I’d say about a year ago, so yeah.

Scott:
Wonderful, okay. So you’ve mentioned as well that in the 2017-ish timeframe, you began to really, interested in the idea of commission-based income and those types of things. Can you walk us through what your thought process there was and what steps you’ve taken to go after that?

Marquez:
Yeah, for sure. So right after I finished the trade school, I became a journeyman and that was about 2018. And at that time, I actually just became a safety manager at the shop I was working at as well. So I was doing my regular job duties, fabricating, duct work out of sheet metal and everything, but I was also doing the safety stuff where you have to keep track of the PPE or that someone gets injured, I have to do all the paperwork and take care of them, everything else like that.
So I was doing that, but in the back of my mind, I kept just thinking about your book like, "I'm getting paid the same for doing the safety stuff." They didn't want to pay me more for it. So I was like, "I think I want to try to make some more money to save up to really get this home that I want to get for the house hack." So I ended up getting my real estate license in April of last year and I did it on the side. So while I was working at the sheet metal shop, I'd wake up early in the morning before work and I would do this online school to become a real estate agent. And then after work, I'd also work on it.

Scott:
Awesome, so that sounds like a tremendous amount of hustle there. When did you complete your agent training and how has that worked out for you so far?

Marquez:
It’s worked out really good. It took me one month, but that was really-

Mindy:
Are you kidding?

Scott:
It took me like three months.

Mindy:
It took me like six months.

Marquez:
Yeah, it was literally that I was waking up at like four in the morning, doing it before work and then all after work and then like 10, 12 hours on the weekend. So it was definitely a lot of work and I wouldn’t recommend it.

Mindy:
Okay, so I’m going to jump in here really quick and say that Colorado has some of the longest real estate agents coursework hours required. We have 168 hours, I think Texas is 180, there are some states that are like 40 hours. So I just want somebody from the 40 hour state not to be like, “Why did it take him so long? Did he do it like seven times?” No, we have so much work. It’s 168 hours just of the coursework. And then you have to do all that other monkey business too.

Scott:
For context, that’s two 40 hour work weeks in a month that you’re completing in order to do your full time job and get this license, right?

Marquez:
Yeah, so it was a lot of work.

Mindy:
That is a lot of work. Well, good for you.

Scott:
That’s impressive.

Marquez:
Thank you.

Scott:
Yeah, so what happens next? How does that translate to… It’s a couple thousand dollars in addition to all that study to your license. Does that pay off for you and how does that work out?

Marquez:
Yeah, definitely. So I actually ended up talking to a bunch of friends during that same time and I was like, "Hey, I'm getting my real estate license." And then I got pretty lucky. I had some friends and family and the same guy I used to live with before. I kind of call him my mentor, he's my secret mentor, he doesn't know yet. But he was even telling me about someone he knows the needed a real estate agent. So that kind of motivated me to get my license so I could help them right away before they were to go to someone else.

Scott:
So you had some business right away, so how did that translate to income for you?

Marquez:
It definitely helped out a lot. So, I sold two homes within two months of me getting my license. So it’s a lot work trying to learn all that. And I couldn’t do it myself though, it was a lot of help from other people as well, so I’m very grateful.

Scott:
But that’s in the ballpark of 15, 20 grand, right? I don’t know the specifics of that for commissions, for two homes in the Denver area.

Marquez:
Yeah, I got like $15,000 between the two.

Scott:
Yes, that’s an immediate payback that probably went a long way towards advancing some of your stuff. Have you continued to sell? And this is when, this is 2018?

Marquez:
Yes, 2018.

Scott:
Great, so in 2018, you start doing that. What does that translate to on a regular basis for you? Do you keep that up and sustain that, or is there kind of a steady trickle for you to this day, or what does that agent business look like?

Marquez:
Yes, so every few months I go out and I still try to meet people and I primarily try to work with investors because I feel like they're the ones kind of that have money to spend, especially right now with the coronavirus stuff going on. But I did kind of tone it down during this coronavirus stuff because it kind of got really crazy with all the rules and regulations and the lenders being a little more strict and stuff. So it kind of threw some people off. And I was working with several buyers and now they can't apply for loans or just kind of crazy. So I took a little step back.

Scott:
Okay, so it sounds like this agent license is more of a nice to have bonus income rather than your bread and butter on your overall approach to earning income, is that correct?

Marquez:
Yeah, but I also am planning on investing in buying real estate in the future as well. So I know really we’re talking about, I save about 25% in cash and that’s 12%, I’m trying to save to put another down payment on a home here in the near future.

Scott:
Fantastic, so in 2018, it sounds like your financial position was accelerating. You were earning kind of more of that normalized income from the sheet metal work. You’re hustling and getting that agent income as well. And was there anything else that you’ve done in 2018, 2019 to this day or whatever around the income generation front?

Marquez:
Yeah, so while I'm doing all those, there's actually one other thing I ended up doing and I actually ended up becoming a notary, a notary signing agent actually, is the title. And the funny story about how I got into that. So it starts off about 12 years ago, there's this girl in middle school that hated me because someone said that she said, or someone said that I said that she said that she looked like a boy. Someone said that I said she looked like a boy.

Scott:
This sounds very, very middle school.

Marquez:
Yeah, and I was like, “What?” So about 10 years later, I actually started dating her best friend. And now I’m engaged to her best friend. And she’s going to be the maid of honor now for our wedding that we have coming up next year. So we started talking and stuff and I’m like, “Hey, why do you not like me? I’m not a bad guy, I don’t drink.” And she’s like, “All right, maybe he’s not as bad as I think he is or whatever.”
So she actually ends up inviting us over for dinner and her parents, actually, are title officers, they're title and escrow officers. So I started talking to them about what I'm doing and how I'm exploring different options. And her father was like, "Hey, so if you want to get your notary license I'll teach you how to notarize and do these loan closings because you can make a decent income from that as well." I'm like, "All right, sure. Why not?" So I've been doing that ever since.

Scott:
So when did this happen? When did you kind of make that pivot and then go about getting your notary license?

Marquez:
That was July of last year.

Scott:
Okay, so July of 2019?

Marquez:
Yes, 2019.

Scott:
And what’s that income progression look like for you? Has that been successful so far?

Marquez:
Yeah, it’s been very successful and I make about $100, $150 each one that I do for refinances or purchases, it depends on a few different factors. But yeah, making $100, even up to $200 per signing I do, it takes about an hour to do, so.

Scott:
So what’s the volume on this look like? So it’s July of 2019, how many per day or per week are you able to get going?

Marquez:
So in 2019, I was only able to do a couple per week, I would say, because I was so focused on the sheet metal stuff and my real estate that just in between there, I would just throw a couple in. They’d reach out to me and say, “Hey, can you do this signing or not?” I just tell them yes or no. And then just go from there, so I was doing a couple.

Mindy:
Who’s they?

Marquez:
The title company or the different title officers.

Mindy:
So how do they know that you do it? Do you tell them, do you sign up with them, or do they just have a list of all the notaries?

Marquez:
So there are so online things you can set up or where they can come view on the website to see if you’re a notary or not. But for me, I actively went out and introduced myself to different title companies, being like, “Hey, then I’m a notary signing agent. Here’s my experience I have, if you’re looking for a mobile notary is what I do.” So I actually drive to other people’s homes or I go to different title offices.

Mindy:
Okay, that sounds a lot like our episode 74, where we interviewed Mark Wills to talk about the notary signing. And the thing that always made me wonder was how do you get these jobs?

Marquez:
Yeah, it’s actively just going out there and telling them, “Hey, this is what I do.” Or I’d literally would just pull up Google and just be like, title companies near me and I’d call a bunch and just ask them like, “Hey, are you looking for certified mobile notary?” Because some title companies were freaking out, especially during this, I know it’s a little into the future now, but right now with the coronavirus stuff, they have half their workforce there so they need help with notaries, I can notarize stuff.

Mindy:
So how long did it take you to become a notary?

Marquez:
It’s super basic. It was maybe a week or two max, for everything, so it’s very basic.

Scott:
Is this a Marquez week or two, in the context of what you did to become an agent or is this a little bit more muted than that?”

Mindy:
Good question, Scott.

Marquez:
Yeah, it varies by state. Some states require you to have several hours of training. Some don’t have any requirements at all really to become a notary. I think it was like six hours of schooling. And just kind of tell it tells you what a notary is. You take a couple of tests and then you’re pretty much off to the races.

Scott:
There you go.

Mindy:
Making $100 an hour.

Scott:
Yeah, [inaudible 00:28:35]. So in end of 2019, you’ve got your notary license, your real estate license and you are a journeyman at the sheet metal shop, right?

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
So given all these options, is there anything else you’re doing on the income front or how does your income profile begin to change in the second half of 2019?

Marquez:
I would just say 2019 is whenever I got my home and I purchased this home knowing that I was going to house hack it. So having the house hacking and all these other things just helped me to save because I wanted to propel myself into commission-based full time. I love sheet metal and stuff, but as I mentioned before, it’s a really good start, but for me, I just felt like it’d be best to go into commission-based work. So I was saving money, getting myself prepared to make that transition.

Scott:
So have you made that transition?

Marquez:
Yes, yes I did, so-

Scott:
When did that happen?

Marquez:
I made that I made the transition March. I think it was March 5th, 2020. So this year. My goal was April 1st, 2020. And it’s kind of funny it all happened like right around the coronavirus stuff. But come March, I kind of got sick and the sheet metal office was like, or the shop, they were like, “Hey, don’t come to work because you might be sick and you might get other people sick, go to the doctor.” And I was like, “Okay.”
I couldn’t even get into a doctor for two weeks so I really dug into my finances and what I wanted to do in those two weeks while waiting to go to the doctor. I went to the doctor and they said I’m not sick and I was okay. And I actually ended up just calling my boss and I was like, “Hey, can you just lay me off because I don’t really want to come back.” And he’s like, “Yeah, that’s fine.” I didn’t specify exactly why, he’s probably thinking that the coronavirus stuff just to leave because of that. But for me, I wanted to leave and really dig deep into this real estate notary stuff.

Scott:
Well, let’s dive into this. So what was your position? We know you’ve developed multiple skillsets, it sounds like you have strong command of your expenses, and you’ve got a stabilized house hack going on. Can you describe your position in a little bit more detail and why you felt so comfortable leaving such a good job, it sounds like at the time and how that’s played out, and whether you had any reservations around coronavirus and those types of things with the specifics of that timing?

Marquez:
I just felt comfortable because I saved about, I'd say about $20,000. So not a ton, but enough for me to feel comfortable with the amount of work I was getting with notary stuff because it's picking up, especially because interest rates are really low right now; everyone's trying to refinance. And real estate is actually doing pretty good still despite the coronavirus. So I just felt comfortable because I had that $20,000 in savings and I have the house hacks, so they're paying for my mortgage. I just have my regular expenses kind of going on that I could pay for with the notary and real estate. I realized that I was getting kind of burnt out after doing the sheet metal, and the safety, and the real estate and notary. I was doing so much that I could feel myself really tired and really needing a break. And for me, it just seemed like the right time to just kind of settle into just doing a little less than before.

Scott:
Fair enough. So what do you think the rest of 2020 is going to look like for you from an income perspective? Do you feel like there’s bigger upside in the notary work and the agent business? Do you have any additional investments or lines of income geared up for the rest of the year? How’s that shaping up for you?

Marquez:
Yeah, so I can definitely see the notary stuff’s still picking up. Just like anything, it kind of goes down a little bit towards winter and stuff, but that’s where I’m going to be really focusing a lot on real estate towards the end of this year, where before for me, my main way of doing real estate is going out and actually meeting people. It’s kind of hard to do with the coronavirus stuff, everyone’s locked inside their house. But yeah, I’m going to really focus on real estate, but the notary stuff is really strong right now so I’m going to keep focusing on that probably until fall.

Mindy:
How many closings are you doing a week on average?

Marquez:
So it depends, but I’d say about 20-25 a week, just the notary closings themselves.

Scott:
How many of these were you doing before you left the sheet metal shop?

Marquez:
I was doing about 10. Yeah, so I do a few after work, about two per day.

Scott:
What you just described at $100 or $150 a clip is between two and $3,000 a week in income from these notary close, is that correct?

Marquez:
Yes, that’s correct.

Scott:
That’s amazing amount of income generation for 20-25 hours a week of work.

Marquez:
Yeah, so it’s very rewarding. But again, it’s really how much work you put into it. You need to be very flexible, sometimes things will cancel or they need you to go way far away and you’re like, “Okay,” You just got to just find what’s right for you.

Mindy:
Let’s look again at this notary closing thing really quick. How much did it cost you to get your notary license? And I’m a real estate agent so I know that there’s continuing education for real estate agents, is there continuing education for notary signers or is it just a one and done thing?

Marquez:
Yeah, they usually have continuing education. I think it’s every four years. And the cost for me to get my [inaudible 00:34:03]license was very minimal. I think it was like less than $300 for all the courses, and my notary stamp and book. So 300 bucks for that, but then after that you have to get a printer. So I’d say all in all, it’s like around $1000 to get started.

Mindy:
So you could do this for 10 signings, make all your money back that you’ve spent out on it and then everything else is profit?

Marquez:
Yeah.

Mindy:
How is this not everybody doing this?

Marquez:
Well, I don’t know, I guess some people just don’t know about it. But I also do know with the notary stuff some people might be afraid because if you make a mistake as a notary, you could have to go to court and some people might not want to go to court. If someone wasn’t who they said they were or something happened, you might have to go testify in court.

Scott:
Do they have insurance for this to cover that?

Marquez:
Yes, they have E&O insurance and they also have bonds.

Scott:
Do you have both of those?

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
So if you make a mistake then the idea is that, one, you try to correct that over the future, but you’re can have an insurance party defending you?

Marquez:
Yes, exactly.

Scott:
Love it. Okay, so let me ask you this, Marquez, you said you’re going to be focusing on real estate towards the second half of this year. Do you have any reservations or thoughts about the ability to get a loan towards the end of this year, given the changing nature of your pay and profession?

Marquez:
I don’t, at the end of this year. I’m going to be saving the rest of this year. I’m going to be preparing, just keeping an eye on the market because I know vendors kind of tend to look at the last two years of your employment history. So I haven’t made that much with everything that’s going on, but I know in the past, you’ve mentioned before, Scott, how not disclosing everything sometimes may have hurt you a little bit with trying to get real estate or whatnot. So I know that this next year, whenever I file my taxes and stuff, I want to also disclose my house hacking income, so.

Scott:
To clarify for those listening, one of the things that people try to play games with when it comes to real estate is whether I categorize an expense as a capital expenditure or as an operating expense on a rental property. So let's say I put a couple thousand dollars into painting a unit, well, if I don't talk to an accountant and I'm a do-it-yourselfer, I might not be sure whether I should classify that correctly as a capital expenditure or maybe as an operating expense. And if I'm not careful about this, it may appear that I'm going to save money right now, which by the way, could be illegal, you need to be in clear understanding of the law.
But more importantly, if you're not talking to your lender as well about these things, you can run into trouble. Because what if, for example, you show a very, very low amount of real estate rental income or other types of income that you're not disclosing on your tax chart, tips, those types of things. Well, those types of things can all come back to haunt you downstream if you're not doing everything by the book when it comes time to talk to your lender. You're 100% right, if you're running any type of cash business, those types of things, sometimes you can get away with not disclosing all the cash that's illegal. But in addition to the illegal nature of that, you're also potentially shooting yourself in the foot when it comes time to invest in real estate and get access to loans. Is that kind of what you're discussing?

Marquez:
Yeah, that’s exactly it. So that’s kind of my plan early next year is, have that tax return showing my income being higher even though I left my sheet metal job so then hopefully that’ll help me whenever I go to a lender. And obviously, I know I will have more savings so I can put a bigger down payment on a rental property that I find.

Scott:
Let me ask you this, this is kind of fun stuff here, on your 2019 tax return, last year, will you have income from both your notary business and your real estate agent commission basis?

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
Great, and then you’ll also have that same income in 2020 on your tax return, is that correct?

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
So this year is a great time to have a dialogue with a couple of lenders and ask them how that’s going to shape up for you in terms of your ability to get access to financing in 2021 because that’s going to be two years of tax return history that shows that type of income, which may be a good start in demonstrating that stability of income for them to lend on.

Marquez:
Yeah, that’s a really good thought there.

Scott:
Yeah, just kind of thinking through your approach to real estate in a year or so.

Marquez:
Yeah, definitely.

Mindy:
Oh, good point, Scott.

Scott:
Okay, so we’ve talked now about your approach to saving money and it seems like your frugal nature and the way you’ve set up your life allows you to feel very confident about the commission-based types of income and really begin aggressively pursuing that upside. You’ve taken an extraordinary amount of steps, it sounds like, with a great amount of work ethic put into it, including that absurd one month where you got your agent license and did a full-time job. And now it sounds like you’re on your own with the income, which is awesome. So any other things besides the real estate that you’re doing with your investing or the creation of other assets or side hustles that we haven’t covered yet before we begin moving onto the famous four?

Marquez:
Yeah, just for me, I do invest in a mutual fund. I have life insurance in case I were to pass away my fiance and everyone else to be taken care of, but I also have a mutual fund through them.

Mindy:
We want to know what you're investing in, where are you planting your money so that it grows for your retirement? There's no one right answer but we all know that it will take forever to become a millionaire based solely on your W2 job. So to improve our chances of success, we invest, in stocks, in bonds, in real estate or in other opportunities, Marquez let's pick into your portfolio, where are you investing?

Marquez:
Yes, so I’m investing in a mutual fund. I just invest $200 a month and I kind of just let them take care of it. I do know that it’s very similar to index funds just slightly higher fees than an index fund. But for me, I feel like that’s what’s best because I’m so focused on my businesses and everything else right now. I’d kind of prefer just to have someone else kind of take care of my investing when it comes to the stock market.

Scott:
What mutual fund company do you go with, do you know?

Marquez:
I go with Northwestern Mutual, that’s the company that I go through.

Scott:
Great, so you just put $200 away every single month to longterm investment in a mutual fund, wonderful. And then you also have the house hack, obviously.

Marquez:
Yes.

Scott:
What are kind of your future plans with regards to investing outside of the real estate stuff that we discussed earlier in the show?

Marquez:
I definitely do want to get more into index funds because I just love having that broad base where some might go higher, some might be lower but as the market kind of goes, it kind of just pulls everything up, for me, I think that’s what resonates best. I don’t know if I’d ever really get into individual stocks too much personally because I know I’m going to be focused more on getting my own rental properties in the future.

Scott:
Great, when you accumulate cash, you mentioned you’d focus on savings this year, are you just kind of putting that into a savings account for the most part then?

Marquez:
Yeah, I put it into a high-interest savings accounts so it’s 2%, and that’s the rent.

Mindy:
Oh, where are you getting 2%?

Marquez:
I guess it’s just went down a little bit but it was Ally Bank that’s where I was going through before. So I guess it’s about 1.5-1.6 right now, but still better than, I think, most banks.

Scott:
I actually use Ally Bank as well for my savings. So anyone who knows anybody at Ally Bank they want to sponsor BiggerPockets Money, we’re giving them free advertising right now.

Marquez:
They are awesome.

Scott:
Yeah, I like them. It seems like they’ve got a really competitive interest rate product there, so. Okay, good, so you mentioned you want to get into index fund investing. Do you have plans over time, what’s enough in your savings account to cover your emergency fund and what you’re trying to accumulate to get into real estate next year? And then what do you plan to do with the surplus? Is the plan with the surplus after that to get into index fund investing?

Marquez:
Yeah, exactly. So, I’ve different buckets like everyone. And I’m trying to put buckets in for, one, I’m going to be investing into the index funds, and then certain buckets for the real estate, and then also my business stuff as well with the notary stuff.

Scott:
Wonderful.

Mindy:
So when you say your business, are you reinvesting back into the business?

Marquez:
Yeah, so I did just create my own notary business and I’m actually planning on making a kind of signing service where it’s kind of like Uber and Lyft for notaries. I know there’s some that already exists out there, but I want to make my own, and I feel like I could compete against the other ones that are out there, so.

Mindy:
Oh, awesome.

Scott:
Very cool.

Mindy:
Okay, is there any other part of your financial journey that you want to share with us before we move on to our famous four questions?

Marquez:
No, I think that’s it.

Mindy:
Awesome, this time for the famous four, these are the same four questions that we ask of all of our guests. Marquez, what is your favorite finance book?

Marquez:
Well, I got to give it to Scott, definitely the one that really shook me up. Yes, that’s a really awesome one.

Scott:
Well, thank you very much for the plug.

Mindy:
So that’s Set for Life by Scott Trench, available where all books are sold.

Scott:
Maybe we can get them to sponsor the show too. All right, what was your biggest money mistake?

Marquez:
Probably my car that I still have because it’s beautiful. But yeah, I’d say that’s it because if I wasn’t investing in that car, I just think about how… I’ve looked at the money I would have saved from all the insurance and everything else and it’s like $30-35,000, I probably would have been able to keep or investor what else or whatnot. But instead, I decided to get a car.

Scott:
This is the thing is that everybody’s got that thing that they like to spend money on, as Mindy always says personal finances is personal. And for me, I think that my equivalent of your car is I like to go out to dinner with my fiance on a regular basis and spend a little too much. And I do not worry about whether I’m what I’m ordering when I go to the restaurant that’s just my thing. And you have to accept that about your personal financial situation and make the trade-offs elsewhere. You are house hacking and it sounds like you’re extremely disciplined on the rest of the spending front and you love your car, great. So you call it a mistake but it sounds like you really loved that car and that’s something that you are willing to spend on.

Marquez:
Yeah, for sure.

Scott:
Great.

Mindy:
Okay, what is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Marquez:
Take action, effort elevates, that’s something I always tell myself. So just get out there and try different things experiment. I didn’t know what I was doing when it came to real estate or notary stuff. I just keep going, I make mistakes but just keep going. I would say that, and then one other thing I’ve learned is stress plus rest equals growth. So just stressing yourself, really pushing yourself but also taking time to rejuvenate and relax and take care of yourself.

Scott:
All right, what is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Marquez:
Well, I guess I got one from when I was a kid. So knock, knock.

Scott:
Who’s there?

Marquez:
Boo.

Scott:
Boo who?

Marquez:
Don’t cry, I’m a friendly ghost.

Scott:
All right, well, Marquez where can people find out more about you?

Marquez:
So you can find me. I have a website, it’s griffinmobilenotary.com. I’m on Facebook, Kez Griffin, K-E-Z Kez Griffin or I’m also starting some stuff on YouTube for personal development. So Kez Griffin as well on there.

Mindy:
Awesome, and we will link to all of these in our show notes which can be found at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow132. Okay, Marquez, this was super awesome. I love how your story shows that you don’t have to go to college. It isn’t in everybody’s path and you can still make quite the living without first settling yourself with massive debt from a college degree that you didn’t really want anyway.

Marquez:
Yeah, I know, I’m very grateful. And I’m grateful for you guys because without the show, I wouldn’t have known about a lot of that stuff either, so you guys are awesome.

Mindy:
Oh, go on.

Scott:
Marquez, how old are you right now?

Marquez:
I’m 25, so I just turned 25, June 3rd. And last year, about a year ago, is when I met Scott in person.

Mindy:
Wow, that’s awesome. I can’t even imagine where I would be now if I had figured this all out at 25.

Scott:
And you have no debt?

Marquez:
Yeah.

Scott:
So besides your home mortgage, so it’s awesome to see.

Mindy:
That’s fantastic. Okay, Marquez thank you so much for your time today. This was super awesome, it was great talking to you.

Marquez:
Yes, thank you, guys. You guys are awesome, take care.

Mindy:
Thanks, we’ll talk to you soon. Okay, that was Marquez Griffin. Scott, what did you think of that story?

Scott:
I love Marquez’s story. So a little disclaimer, I met Marquez about a year ago for, I think, a coffee around his birthday actually. And we just chatted about his journey, his success to that point, all the things he was doing. And I would just remember being super impressed with him in terms of how hard a worker he is and I love how he self describes himself which he didn’t talk about in the show today as an autodidact, which is someone who is self-taught and likes to self-educate. And so I think that probably started on the job, it sounds like, maybe slightly inappropriately. But it’s something, a passion that really comes through from him to this day, which I think is a huge part of the success that he’s had to this point is his ability to absorb tons of information and his just natural curiosity as well.

Mindy:
Yes, and his ability to take action. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out? Take action, that is so true. You can read everything you want, you can listen to all the podcasts in the world but if you just sit there and do nothing with it, that’s what you’re going to get, nothing.

Scott:
Yeah, a couple of years ago I was reading 30, 50 books a year. I’m probably more down to like 12, 15 a year at this point. But at a certain point, I realized that I was reading all this stuff and some of it was just not of any ability for me to apply usefully in the near term. So I encourage you to really think about that self-education component and to hammer that in the context of what is just-in-time learning that I can apply right now. What is those aspects? I still do that to this day, it’s what aspects of my job as CEO and my week on, or need to get to above pass line-level or need to get to a mastery level on. And I try to read just enough or learn just enough to get to that level then move on to the next thing. And I find that that’s much more practical way to approach self-education than maybe just saying for, I’m going to start absorbing a hundred hours of content a month or something like that and figuring out what to do with it from there.

Mindy:
No, you can’t have all this information. You start to get overloaded. So that’s a good piece of advice, Scott, focus on what you need, the one thing, focus on what you need to learn now. And then once you have learned that or mastered it, whatever amount of knowledge you need for that, then find another one thing that you need to master. That’s a really good piece of advice, we should have you on the show.

Scott:
That’s right, and another piece of advice in a seamless transition here, is to surround yourself with people who are on the same journey and trying to get to the same goals that you are. Mindy, do you know of a good way to do that?

Mindy:
Oh, I came across this Facebook group the other day called BP Money. If you go to facebook.com/groups/bpmoney, and you answer the questions, and agree to follow the rules, you can come join us and talk to your other fellow frugal weirdos and ask the questions that your friends don’t know how to answer.

Scott:
That’s right and tell us in that group as well about your story and your situation. And as we look at those, and review those, and comment and chime in, and Mindy and I personally, being involved with these conversations that helps us pick which next guest we’re going to have on the show. And the direction that we’re going to have to help as we try to solve those types of problems.

Mindy:
Yeah, what stories have we not covered that you want to hear? Today, we talked to only our second guest in the trades pursuing financial independence. I didn’t even realize that we hadn’t covered that until somebody asked in the group and I’m like, “Oh, well you talked to Tinian Crawford.” And I guess that’s it, that’s the end of the list. So is there another story that you want to hear that you haven’t heard yet? We’d love to tell that for you.

Scott:
That’s right.

Mindy:
And you can send me a note, [email protected], anytime you have a guest suggestion or if you would like to apply to be a guest on the show, go to biggerpockets.com/guest. Okay, Scott, should we get out of here?

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From episode 132 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, he is Scott Trench, I am Mindy Jensen and I hope you have a golden day.

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Marquez’s journey with money
  • His experience working in a sheet metal shop
  • Practical approach to make more money while in school
  • Things that influenced him to seek financial freedom
  • His approach to building emergency funds and investments
  • House hacking and his everyday expenses
  • How he became a Notary Signing Agent
  • Marquez’s portfolio and thoughts on index fund investing
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books:

Connect with Marquez:

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast is for anyone who has money… or want to have more! Join BiggerPockets Community Manager and Podcast Director Mindy Jensen and CEO Scott Trench weekly for the BiggerP...
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    Zachary Paschke from Scranton, Pennsylvania
    Replied 28 days ago
    So good. Invest, but get insurance to make sure you protect your investment. People don’t realize how quickly death or disability can derail your investing.
    Katie Rogers from Santa Barbara, California
    Replied 26 days ago
    Your lender will not care about your two years of tax returns showing the sheet metal job if you do not have the sheet metal job when you apply for a loan.The lender will call your sheet metal boss to find out if you are still working there Since you are not , the tax returns are worth zero. Lenders will discount your house hacking income just as they do with other rental income. For example, if you were buying a multi-family thinking that the rent will pay the mortgage, you should realize that lenders will allow only 70-75% of the rent to count toward the mortgage.