7 Questions to Help Make Your Financial or Real Estate Investing Goals Reality

by | BiggerPockets.com

Real estate investing can take many forms. For some investors, it’s a side project—an investment they participate in while pursuing a career in a different industry.

For others, real estate investing is a business venture—an opportunity to create enough income to leave a day job and invest in real estate full time.

It seems like many BiggerPockets members are in the first camp but want to get to the second one as soon as possible. The key to making that (or anything else in your life) happen is setting clear goals.

When I first got started, my goal was to replace my active income by investing in real estate. At the time, I was a painting contractor. Personally, I just couldn’t see myself working in construction for the rest of my life. Plus, what if I got hurt? What if I was out of work for two months? Or worse, what if I could never work again?

It was around that same time that I began writing down my goals. I didn’t have a vision board, per se, but I would still write down development plans and property blueprints. I’d also post actual pictures of potential possessions where I would see them every day.

Related: Stop Dreaming and Start Doing: How to Turn Big Real Estate Goals into Actionable Steps

That said, it wasn’t until recently that I realized the power of having a vision for my life, or at least for the next few years. At my note company, one of our business coaches encouraged senior leadership to complete five- and 10-year vision plans for our lives inside and outside the business.

It may seem like a daunting task to plan that far ahead—after all, many of us don’t know what we’re doing next weekend, let alone five to 10 years from now. Still, there’s something very liberating about this exercise. And there are no “bad” visions. You can just take a pen to paper and write down whatever you want.

Also, remember that your goals and your vision will change as your priorities shift over time. You can always make revisions. For example, many investors gradually transition from being actively involved in their real estate portfolios in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, and eventually start to hand off active management—or even gradually liquidate and move their capital to more passive vehicles.

I’m definitely a guy who is moving from being more active to being more passive in my investing. My personal vision used to be that I would own and manage 100 houses. However, with all the maintenance and management challenges I’ve experienced as a property manager—especially compared with the ease of lending out private money and managing performing (paying) notes—my vision has changed to owning 100 notes instead.

Related: Too Busy to Start Investing? These 3 Steps Will Help You Reevaluate Your Priorities

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7 Questions to Help You Create Your Vision

What about you? What are your goals? If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few questions to ask yourself to get the ball rolling.

  1. If you had no financial restraints, what would you do?
  2. Years from now, what do you want to be proud of?
  3. Do you want to invest in real estate as a side project or as a business?
  4. What is your “why” for investing in real estate?
  5. What kind of life do you want to design for yourself?
  6. When do you want to retire? What do you want your retirement to look like?
  7. If you want to replace your income, how will you do that?

Goal Setting Based on Your Vision

The further out you can envision, the better your plan will be.

After creating my personal vision, I found it much easier to work backwards and figure out how I was going to get there. My shorter-term goals began to make more sense, and everything had a clear direction.

At my business, we were able to incorporate the the senior leadership team’s vision plans into that of the company.

When it comes to personal goals, don’t just focus on finances or career. I think it’s important to think about the whole picture, including relationships, health, philanthropy, and personal development. And of course, let’s not forget recreation and free time.

Today, as I’m getting older, most of my personal goals focus more on sharing my experiences, serving and educating investors, and just generally helping others by giving back, than they do on monetary and materialistic types of goals.

My advice is to start with your vision. If you do, I bet your shorter-term goals will come to you.

So, what are your goals for this year (or the next five or 10)? Better yet, what is your vision-based plan for real estate investing? Tell me in the comments below!

About Author

Dave Van Horn

Since 2007, Dave Van Horn has served as president and CEO of PPR The Note Co., a holding company that manages several funds that buy, sell, and hold residential mortgages nationwide. Dave’s expertise is derived from over 30 years of residential and commercial real estate experience as a licensed Realtor, a real estate investor, and a fundraiser. As the latter, Dave has raised over $100 million in both notes and commercial real estate. In addition to his investments and role as CEO, Dave’s biggest passion is to teach others how to share, build, and preserve wealth. He authored Real Estate Note Investing, an introduction to the note investing business, helping investors enter the “other side” of the real estate business.


  1. Jerry W.

    I really like your posts and this article is excellent. My first ten years of investing was just to add a house for value down the road. It is only in the last 5 years that I have began to set goals. About 4 years ago I decided I wanted to get to 50 units that year, then the recession hit hard. After leveling things out, now my goal is to create a net increase of $5K per month. I have leaned in a recession that cash is king. One of my problems is while I have made gains, I have much of my property on 5 year ARMs. Interest rates were much lower 5 years ago. I just had a $180K loan renew at 5.25% where it had been at 4% earlier. That more than offsets the increase of $1K per month I created last year. Sometimes your goals seem to move faster than your investments. While I have done some things to prepare for this slump it doesn’t make living through it anymore fun.

    • Dave Van Horn

      Thanks for reading Jerry!

      I went through the same thing recently when I tried to refi on a few places. I’m thinking of shifting strategies and paying off some of my higher rate properties sooner rather than later. Interest rates are only going up, so it’s definitely something to be mindful of.

      Here’s the tough decision: The fixed rate 6.25% to 8% loans I have right now that seem high, might be the norm in a few years so it’s debatable. And then with the variable rate mortgages, it’s really about how much they go up over time.

      In George Antone’s book “The Banker’s Code” he talks about getting rid of the worst loan constants in your portfolio. And he also talks about ways to accelerate the paydown like utilizing sweep accounts (with the same cashflow you currently have). You might want to check it out!


  2. Shauna Righellis

    Great article and just what I needed to hear. My husband and I are just starting to figure out how to purchase our first investment property, and need to have a clear picture of where we want to be in 5 years, 10 years, etc. We just did our first real estate vision boards a few days ago after reading this article. Thanks for the tips!

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