Investing NOW So You Can Have the Lifestyle You Want LATER? You’re Doing it Wrong.

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The majority of individuals on BiggerPockets are investing in real estate because they want to create financial freedom. Blog and forum posts often touch on the fact that building out a real estate portfolio will allow you to achieve financial freedom. And I certainly agree with this notion. But what I’ve come to realize is that financial freedom isn’t what it’s all about.

Few people actively write about building a lifestyle. True, there are many blog posts that touch on lifestyle by roughly saying, “I invest in real estate so that I can eventually do these additional things that I love.” The focus is on building a real estate portfolio with the lifestyle as a result. And that’s the problem.

Today’s article is going to focus on building a lifestyle with the real estate portfolio or business as the result. What will be notably different in my article is that your desired lifestyle is the objective, not a number of units, not a “cash flow per door” number, and not even a “financial freedom” number. I want to turn the formula upside down.

We’re not investing in real estate and as a result, going to live an awesome lifestyle. Instead, we’re going to live an awesome lifestyle and as a result, invest in real estate.

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Lifestyle is Secondary—Or is It?

There can be a high price to pay for financial freedom, especially if your means of getting there is investing in real estate or starting a business. Stress is high, money is tight, and your tenant just didn’t want to pay rent this month.

How many times have you met a business owner or real estate investor who is earning gobs of money yet openly complains about their lifestyle? With further prodding, you learn that these poor souls work insane hours, are always on call, and live in a constant jet stream of stress. But they earn $500k! Surely they are just cynical, as anyone earning that much must be happy.

Trust me, as a CPA who interacts with and provides services to plenty of folks earning much more than $500k, money quickly loses its value in regard to happiness. Money has a diminishing marginal return, meaning that after a certain point, each additional dollar you earn brings less happiness than the dollar before it. Research suggests this “peak” dollar figure is $70,000 annually.


Related: How to Use Lifestyle Design to Create an Ideal Retirement Driven by Passive Income

An example of diminishing marginal return: You order 10 cheeseburgers (you freakin’ love cheeseburgers!), and you eat them all in one sitting. You haven’t eaten in a while, so the first one is delicious. It truly hits the spot. The second one is also delicious. It’s cooked medium rare, nice and juicy, perfectly seasoned. The third one is good, but you are starting to get full so it’s not as good as the first two. By the tenth cheeseburger, you’re so full that the sight of it repulses you. That’s diminishing marginal return in a nutshell. Each cheeseburger is the exact same, but their value steadily reduces as you consume them.

I’m always curious to hear the backstory of these folks who earn plenty of money yet are seemingly unhappy. Unsurprisingly, the stories are all relatively all the same: “I dreamed about living ‘X’ lifestyle in the future, so I started this business/ invested in real estate to hopefully get there.”

On the flip side, I also have clients earning a high amount of money who are perfectly happy. They love what they do, and more importantly, they love their day-to-day. When I ask them about their backstory, their stories generally go like this: “I had a lifestyle that I wanted to live today, and this business was what complimented that lifestyle.”

And that, my dear readers, is the key difference between living a life of full of wealth and happiness and one of just monetary wealth.

Lifestyle Starts Today

I learned this rather quickly in my career so I’m quite grateful: Lifestyle starts today, not tomorrow.

The key point I want to impress upon you throughout this entire article is that you don’t have to wait 15 years to achieve financial freedom and then begin living your desired lifestyle. Instead, I want you to think about the desired lifestyle you want to live right now and figure out what steps you can begin taking to implement said lifestyle immediately.

I’ve never met someone who wanted to be unhappy—yet many people are unhappy. And if you look closely, most of them have a common theme running throughout their life: Their desired future lifestyle dictates how they live today. They are sacrificing their present time for future happiness.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you drop everything and put forth little work or that you don’t think about the future lifestyle you’d like to achieve. What I am suggesting is that you begin implementing the lifestyle you want to live today and build everything else around you to supplement that lifestyle.

You’re still going to sacrifice plenty. You’re still going to stress and wonder if you’re doing the right thing. But the key difference is that we are focusing on crafting your lifestyle today, rather than setting a target number in our minds and saying, “Once I hit that, I’ll begin to live the lifestyle of my dreams.”


Where Do We Start?

Frankly, I don’t really know. I’m a CPA, not a guru trying to sell you my coaching program for $20,000 (I take check or credit—just kidding, of course).

What I do know is that crafting a lifestyle that I’ll enjoy on a day-to-day basis has been my goal from the get-go. I don’t want to wait 20 years to “retire” and live the lifestyle of my dreams. I want to do that today.

So I’m going to walk you through my logic of how I built assets around me to supplement the lifestyle I wanted to live. Hopefully you’ll be able to take something away from this and implement it in your own life.

The first step is to define the lifestyle you want. After my first few months working for a Big 4 accounting firm, I decided that the corporate lifestyle was not for me. I didn’t understand why one must commute to an office for work that could easily be done in the comfort of my own home. I thought the whole “dressing up” thing just got in the way of providing high quality work. The last time I checked, a suit and tie, while studies suggest makes you more confident, don’t improve your intellect nor work product.

Worst of all, I didn’t understand why people of high integrity and character were required to show up a 9:00 a.m. every day. If the deadlines are met, the quality of work is high, and the client is happy (the most important thing), then why does it matter when someone walks into the office? It seemed the performance measurements were backwards.

I disagreed with the values of the corporate lifestyle, how they held individuals accountable, and how they measured performance.

So I began to sketch out what my ideal lifestyle looked like. I knew that I wanted the flexibility to work in my pajamas at home. I knew I wanted to be able to work anywhere in the world seamlessly while traveling. And I knew that I wanted my performance to be measured by something other than whether or not I billed 1,800 hours out of the 2,080-hour work year (that’s called “utilization” in the accounting world).

I determined the best thing to do was to build assets around me that allows me to accomplish these things. The two asset classes I chose were real estate and a professional services business. But the key for living my lifestyle would be a laser focus on implementing systems that complimented my lifestyle.


Building Assets and Focusing on the Systems

When people focus on a number to achieve their desired lifestyle, the business systems get put on the back burner. Instead, you should be focusing on the systems you must implement in order to live the lifestyle you want today.

As I mentioned, I decided that investing in real estate and running a business would both complement the lifestyle I desired to live. The problem was that real estate typically requires a hands-on approach, and professional services firms usually have offices that clients can walk into—both of which go against my desired lifestyle of working anywhere in the world.

The real estate solution was rather simple to figure out. I knew I needed properties that cash flowed quite well, as I needed all of my expenses to be covered. The cash flow would allow me to “buy” teammates on the ground and put the asset in auto-pilot mode, allowing me to be 100 percent virtual. I could invest in areas I visited frequently or wanted to travel to once a year, and I’d require that my property manager send me a video walkthrough of my units quarterly.

Related: How I Saved $20,000 in 2014 and Used it to Invest in Lifestyle Design

On the buy side, I’d research the city’s economics like crazy to make sure the local economy was growing and not subject to undue risk. I’d use Google street view to explore neighborhoods. I’d place offers sight unseen and only travel to the property post-inspection.

Using these “desktop” methods, I’ve picked up two 3-unit properties. These two properties cash flow well and cover most of my monthly living expenses, though I don’t actually use the cash flow for my monthly living expenses. The point is, if the going gets tough, I can rely for a short amount of time on these properties.

The business solution was a bit tougher. When I hammered out what I wanted my lifestyle to look like, I knew there were very few corporate jobs that would support it. The next step was to start a business, and since I had a CPA, I naturally started a CPA firm.

It was tough to figure out how to build a CPA firm that would support my lifestyle. My biggest obstacle was the preconceived notion that clients would want to walk into a CPA’s office and shake his/her hand. But I knew the lifestyle I was crafting so I laid out the ground rules for my CPA firm:

  1. I will not meet clients face-to-face. Instead, we’ll hold meetings over the phone or video calls. This goes for local clients as much as non-local.
  2. My marketing will be content rich. I will develop awesome content that people derive massive value from. A potential client will read my articles and “test me out” prior to ever scheduling their first consultation.
  3. I will develop business systems that will support a virtual practice. Document sharing must only be done in the cloud. I will not accept paper documents.
  4. I will hire employees and not require them to be local to me nor come into an office. They will enjoy the same lifestyle I do. This means they have to want to live the lifestyle I’m living. I will also need to develop metrics that focus on results, not the amount of time an employee works.

With that, I was off to the races. I started making massive strides to get content out there, and I used BiggerPockets as my growth platform. It was tough and took a lot of sacrificing, but two years later, I have a firm that supports my desired lifestyle.



My point in telling you this is that I didn’t say, “I want my lifestyle to be ‘X’ in the future, so I must build a business to reach ‘$Y’ in annual revenue. At that time, I’ll be able to live the lifestyle I want to live.” Instead, my method of thinking is, “I want to live ‘X’ lifestyle and I’m going to build ‘Y’ assets and systems that complement the lifestyle I want to live.”

With my way of thinking, you won’t be putting your desired lifestyle off into some distant future point. Instead, you’ll start thinking of ways you can move toward living your desired lifestyle today. Sure, it takes sacrifice and hard work. It took me two years to get my business to a point where I could actually live the lifestyle I was actively trying to build. But in those two years, I had a laser focus on building a business that complemented the lifestyle I wanted to live. My virtual lifestyle was the objective; the real estate and the business were the results.

Many people make the mistake of letting their lifestyle be the result and their investing or their businesses the objective. Don’t do that. Focus on building a lifestyle portfolio and business. You’ll be much happier in the end.

We’re republishing this article to help out our newer readers.

How are you designing a lifestyle that works for you? Do you agree with the above philosophy?

Let me know your thoughts with a comment!

About Author

Brandon Hall

Brandon Hall is a CPA and owner of The Real Estate CPA. Brandon assists investors with Tax Strategy through customized planning and Virtual Workshops. Brandon is an active real estate investor and a Principal at Naked Capital, a capital group investing in large multi-family projects and manufactured housing. Brandon's Big 4 and personal investing experiences allow him to provide unique advice to each of his clients.


  1. Carol Register

    Dear Brandon, I love your post! I am a fan of Robert Kiyosaki and your approach reminds me of his teaching. To determine your lifestyle first and then build your profession to make it happen, brings immediate benefits. In our rush-rush world, it is easy to put off living the way we want until tomorrow. Sometimes tomorrow doesn’t come. I appreciate your encouragement to turn around the idea of putting money first. Giving specific examples of what you have done is especially helpful. I am encouraged to continue setting up systems in order to live the lifestyle that I want to live today.

  2. Tricia O'Brien on

    Great article ! When you were researching areas remotely by using
    google street views, etc did you use a “desktop appraisal service” to get comps on your triplex? I’ve heard there is one that allows you to purchase comps on a property for as little as $2 to $5 per property without a monthly subscription fee. Or did you purchase triplexes through a realtor? Anysuggestions would be appreciated!

    • Brandon Hall

      Tricia – thanks for reading and commenting. I would first try to comp the property based on income and other 3-units in the area. I then put in an offer with a realtor. We appraised it during due diligence with a qualified appraiser.

  3. Tom Mole

    Thank you, Brandon. I’ve been sharing a similar concept at my events for years through a series of vignettes based on my personal experiences. Your post pulls it all together into one elegant piece. Very nice! I trust you won’t mind that I share your post liberally and quote you often.

    Thank you again for your terrific article.


  4. Patsy Waldron

    YES, YES, YES!!! You have articulated exactly what I have been thinking and what has driven my choices the past several months. I, too, am building my professional profile and making real estate decisions around the lifestyle I desire- not in some distant future, but right now! Very well put. I do wish we could have connected last month, since you get what I am doing, but it sounds like you were busy. Best of luck building both sides of your lifestyle-supporting ventures!

  5. Jerry W.

    Excellent article. I need to chew on this for awhile. I appreciate the time and effort that went into sharing this story. I was the investor who had a dollar amount picked out. I also had a number picked out of rental units I needed to own.

  6. Camilla Sauder

    Thanks for the article, Brandon! I passed it onto one of my husband’s cousins who just experienced his first year at Ernst and Young. Definitely NOT the kind of lifestyle anyone wants to live working all of those hours.

    Our lifestyle decisions for the past five years have been based on two of our best friends dying at 48 and 54. That really smacks you upside the head that life is short, and we don’t want to spend all of our good years working for a retirement that may never come to pass. My husband drops to part time at his day job in three months so that we have more time to pursue other things thanks to real estate!

    • Brandon Hall

      Camilla – I actually designed my firm based on my experiences at both PwC and EY. I know exactly how your husband’s cousin feels. Feel free to pass along my information if they want to talk to someone who’s on the other side!

      And yes I agree with your mantra. Life is indeed short.

  7. David Thompson

    Nice post. It’s tempting once you start seeing success and the lifestyle you want to create is taking shape to want to do more and more. I find that when I focus on the 80/20 rule and balance my life schedule to include other things besides growing my RE business like family, friends, exercise, learning new things, enjoying new experiences, etc there is a natural set point that feels right. To do what you want, with whom you want, when you want, etc. is the ultimate goal of many. It’s not a destination but a journey and lifestyle that can take shape now in small ways. Easy to forget that, keep setting new business goals, etc whilst the true aim is to create and live the lifestyle of your dreams and the sooner the better right. Take baby steps if you must, but create the lifestyle and get excited that daily you are creating that time of enjoyment where you can. It will motivate you to stay the course as you seeing appreciating and enjoying more each day.

  8. From my ppoint of view really a very Nice post. It’s tempting once you start seeing success and the lifestyle you want to create is taking shape to want to do more and more. I find that when I focus on the 80/20 rule and balance my life schedule to include other things besides growing my RE business like family, friends, exercise, learning new things, enjoying new experiences, etc there is a natural set point that feels right. To do what you want, with whom you want, when you want, etc

  9. Deanna Opgenort

    Being a tad realistic on your expectations helps too. If you have no particular skills but your “ideal lifestyle” is a new Lamborgini for every day of the week, several pounds of gold chains around your neck and a gorgeous model on each arm you’re probably not going to achieve the lifestyle you desire…

    • Brandon Hall

      Kevin – I definitely don’t provide a scanner. That would get expensive fast and the whole point of running a virtual practice is to keep overhead low.

      Clients have to figure out a way to scan documents to me. There are plenty of great iPhone/Android apps out there. I also use a document sharing software that has an app making it convenient to share documents.

  10. Gianni Laverde

    Excellent article Brandon, you bring a new perspective to where I want to get. You’re right, why waiting to have the lifestyle I want? I need to create the lifestyle I want and build the systems and businesses around it.
    Thanks again!!

  11. Lindsay McLaughlin

    Great article! I quit my job 2 years ago to go after my desired lifestyle while working on my own terms and striving to make more than I ever could have at my j-o-b. Your concept is great and truly motivating! I definitely get caught up doing and doing and often forget why! Thanks!

  12. Dmitriy Fomichenko

    Excellent post, Brandon!
    It’s good to take a pause and take a look at the path you’re moving towards. We often put numbers and figures ahead of happiness, which makes it frustrating, at least sometimes, and have you question that whether it’s worth it. I really liked your perspective of building it all around the lifestyle you want today and great personal examples.

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. Peter Mckernan

    Good Job Brandon,

    This was a great article with great perspective on where people have their focus and where to set that focus, so that the end goal is not too far away that it is never enjoyed. This shares what investors/business owners should do to meet those goals.

    Thank you!

  14. David White

    I enjoyed reading your article. I too recently quit my job of 8 years because it made me miserable. It wasn’t what I wanted to do nor was I living the lifestyle I wanted. Now I’m not saying my new job allows me to do so. But instead of working 5 days a week I now work 3.5 days a week. So the extra 1.5 days off allows me to have extra time to myself. I’m using that time to build my wholesaling business and studying to pass my exams in IT. Most importantly the ot allows me extra money to use towards my debt. Slowly but surely I plan on living the lifestyle I want to live.

  15. Siobhan Louis

    Great article on building the lifestyle you want now instead of waiting for it to happen the (disappearing) traditional way. It’s great to have flexibility when crafting a lifestyle that can work for you. Thanks again for the article, definitely gives you things to think about!

  16. Dave Van Horn

    Hey Brandon,

    Great article! Just stumbled upon this. Love your four ground rules. So glad you’ve discovered what took me decades to realize – to build your business around your life, and not your life around your business.


  17. Tiara Stewart-Cannon

    Incredible article with impeccable timing for me personally, as I’ve been grappling with how I want to structure my life. I’ve tried the whole “Work hard now to live the life you want later” approach, with much day-to-day dissatisfaction. I was about to begin the journey of focusing on an “exit number” when I stumbled upon this article! Much better advice in my opinion and I intend to be more proactive in designing my lifestyle, focusing on the Now.

    Thanks Brandon!

  18. Dani Sung

    Great article! I like the general idea of individual lifestyle vs. Tim Ferris 4 hour week. I’ve met many people in real estate who are absolutely happy with working many hours in the week because they are passionate about what they do. I think you are more about finding the “flexibility” of time instead of “less” of time, which I completely agree with. Kudos!

  19. Jeremy M.

    Fantastic post…just read it for the first time!
    One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t have this sort of knowledge 20 yrs ago. It’s taken me that long to process/assimilate the idea of building a life and valuing time properly.
    Out of all the quality content on BP, yours rises to the top – keep writing!

  20. Rob Cook

    Interesting perspective Brandon. I see this is a re-issue, from Oct. But guess the thread is still active.
    I have a side business related to just your topic, living life now, trading a bucket list in for a Liv. List as we call it. Anyway, don’t want to pimp that here, but here is a link to my new, fledgling Blog about that.

    Here is it, Saturday, 5:33 am in Wyoming, and I have been awake for 3 hours working on my real estate business! Why? I had the weekend planned to be completely off. I can do ANYTHING I want to do, including nothing. Yet, here I am. The reason is simple. I “retired” 19 years ago and went to law school, a lifelong dream. Graduated, never practiced or even took the bar. The played exploring the mountainous NorthWest of the USA for 5 years as a wildlife photographer. Settled again and built a cattle ranch in Wyoming. Then in 2012 started buying more rental units, because I wanted to. Have over 50 now, and enjoy every day working on them with my wife, Ande, of 37 years.

    So, again, here I sit, at dark thirty in the morning, LOVING what I am doing, obviously, and deciding to go work on a unit today, not because I have to, but because I WANT to! That is my lifestyle choice – and it is no accident that I am doing what I enjoy most, working with my hands and brain, fixing things, and that coinciding with making money in my rental business. I am not a typical “workaholic” although it can appear that way. Rather, my hobby just happens to also be my “job.” Again, no accident, that. We own more than half our units outright, so “mo money” is not my motivation. I guess I have just figured out (and this process is an ongoing self-realization, to be sure) that running a residential rental business is my purpose in life. We enjoy engaging directly with our tenants, even on units we pay professional property managers to handle.

    I like your advice, that one’s focus should be on the lifestyle desired, and everything else should be supportive of that, not the other way around. Making money doing something you hate, is not good, for long.

  21. Kat Horn

    This is awesome! And what I think you are trying to tell me boils down to this: hire some property managers, no seriously, I mean it, just hire some property managers now…come on, would just hire some freaking property managers already?? Haha, I’m trying to let go of all the landlording action as the money is rolling in, but it’s hard! You have inspired me though to shift more of my focus to lifestyle I want today, thanks. 🙂

  22. karen rittenhouse

    The lifestyle I wanted definitely came after my real estate investing grew to a point where it could sustain it.

    My son, on the other hand, wanted a lifestyle of self-employment and unlimited international travel, so he created an online business to accommodate that.

    What I know for sure is that either/both methods will work if you know what you want and determine to make it happen.

    Thanks for the post.

  23. Dillon Dale

    Great article! This is my exact reasoning for getting started in real estate. I want to live a certain lifestyle that will not be satisfied by working a 9-5 until I’m 65. Life is too short to be unhappy. Congrats on your success!

  24. John Murray

    Brandon, a man after my own heart. Here are the cold hard facts. About 4% of us will become multimillionaires. Our we any smarter than the average person in the US? No, we are not. We are risk takers that acquire the skills that we need to propel us to the top. The problem with the other 96% is their skills do not match with how to propel therm to the top 4%. The middle class have a very narrow skill set, and the accumulation of purchases that depreciate. This doctrine of depreciation and lack of broad skill sets trap the middle class into working hard, paying high taxes and stress. The other 4% of us leverage, work smart and are comfortable being uncomfortable. We prize freedom over money, time over money and most of all accomplishment.

  25. Great article!!! This is exactly the way I feel right now!!! I want live the lifestyle I want right because in 10 or 15 years I may not be able to travel or do whatever it is I want to do. My priority is the lifestyle and I want the business to complement it. Once again great article. Look forward to more from you on this topic!!!

  26. I LOVED this article and you hit the nail on the head about the corporate world and how they run. My question to you or anyone… if a person doesn’t have enough funds yet to do a deal, do you suggest investing with a syndicator?

  27. Tara Kaufman

    Great article but it didn’t mention (or maybe I missed it) when you started real estate investing? Was it while you were working at a corporate firm or after you quit or once your CPA biz got going?… I’m curious how you managed the financing aspect of RE investing if you did it once you quit to start your own firm?… Thanks!

  28. Diana Duncan

    Really really nice article Brandon. I have to admit your intro had me stumped and as I continued to read ‘Boom’ the penny dropped. Thanks so much for creating a powerful paradigm shift in the way I approach my lifestyle goals and real estate business.

  29. Stone Pinckney

    this article is absolute fire! Just curious, how much cash did you have saved up when you started investing in real estate and building your business? Thanks for the unique perspective to see here on BP. I appreciate how you combined the laptop lifestyle of entrepreneurship with real estate AND focused on building assets to get the lifestyle you want. I feel challenged & inspired to not wait until I hit “my number” to really start living.

  30. Jack Vo

    Hi Brandon, thank you for such a terrific article. I am a new Real Estate investor and your article has helped me to realize that I have been purchasing my dream wrongly. I kept thinking I needed to have a working, stable RE business forst before I can start living my dream life. But that’s not right. I need to start living that life today and use RE as a tool to maintain that lifestyle. Again, thank you.

  31. Kyle Bender

    I see this was written a few years ago, but wow it’s so relevant. This has been one of my favorite articles written on BP thus far. I’ve been studying real estate for 2 years now. First year I was working a lot to save money for the second year, which is a year long trip. It’s almost over here in Thailand now. I’ll go home soon and start investing, but I will do as you say and keep traveling off and on. Keep that flow of travel and real estate. Thanks for this man. It’s in my business plan lol

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