Personal Finance

How I Learned to “Have It All” as a Working Mom (Hint: I Ditched My 9-5)

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This is the first post in the series “Real Estate Investing for Women.” This series is dedicated to providing inspiration for women, especially 9 to 5-ers, to move toward passive real estate investing—a considerably lower-risk investment than other strategies.

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After my father passed away when I was very young, my mother—a teacher—dreamed to see me in a steady full-time job. I graduated with a master’s degree in engineering, built a 17-year career, and was recognized as an industry expert in my field. Climbing the corporate ladder was the gold standard. So, when I made it to a managerial position, she was thrilled! And I was, too—for having made her proud.

For us 9-to-5 folks, this dream—the gold standard—trains us to be risk-averse. It makes us comfortable in the cycle of steady paychecks, despite marginal yearly wage growth, mortgage payments, and retirement accounts. Saving for a few weeks of vacation, cars, or some other indulgence reinforces our feeling of security—even though it rarely satisfies our desires.

This tentativeness is generally even more pronounced in women, who are conditioned to keep their head down and be grateful for what they have. A risk-averse, 9-to-5 job further closes women off in a society that has already put them into a box.

This brings me to a very important issue that faces women today. We’ve all heard about the gender wage gap. Women earn only 79 cents on the dollar compared to men.

However, the more troubling and lesser-known statistic is that of the wealth gap. According to WomensWealthGap.org, women own only 32 cents on the dollar compared to men. [1] The caregiving burden is one of the key drivers of wealth inequality.

Related: Women Influence 91% of Home-Buying Purchases. So Why Aren’t More Investing?

Working Moms: This Is Why You Should Invest in Real Estate

Motherhood is what made me start my real estate investing journey. Here's my story.

My husband and I decided to have kids in our late 30s. When I got pregnant, I thought I had it all. And then, when the baby came, everything changed!

My maternity leave was short, childcare was expensive and subpar, and my health was suffering because I had no time for myself. I pumped breastmilk during conference calls in a tiny office, using newspapers so nothing would be visible to the outside world (lest I offend a male coworker).

I felt like a lie had been sold to me for decades. I thought that I was doing the right thing by waiting to be in a good financial position, working hard to build a career, and then having kids once all the stars aligned. What I didn’t realize was that a thriving corporate career involves a lot of sacrifices that I was not willing to make. I wanted more…

I wanted to make an impact in the world but still be able to spend time with my kids—and not kill myself trying to do all of this.

The Moment I Decided to Take the Leap Into Real Estate

After much internal turmoil, I decided it was time to take control of my destiny! I took a big risk by quitting my job to pursue my passion in real estate. But I promised myself one thing: This time, it was going to be on my terms.

My goals were to achieve financial independence, to become my own boss, and to grow to reach my fullest potential. Real estate investing and entrepreneurship gave me the freedom to get out of the cycle—to make my own rules.

Have you heard a business owner complaining about the glass ceiling? No? That’s because there isn’t one!

Entrepreneurship is limited only by the entrepreneur’s vision and drive. Sure, society’s prejudices will still be there. You may need to navigate those challenges, but you’ll have more control in how you do so. In my real estate investing and entrepreneurial journey, I’ve found that integrity is respected, hard work pays off, and your good ideas, well, they’re benefiting the business owner—you.

Pensive young woman looking through the window

Related: 4 Differences Between the Way Women & Men Invest in Real Estate  

Foregoing Comfort & Tradition for Greater Benefits

So, why do smart people choose to make money for others by working for them? Because the liberty of entrepreneurship comes at a price. To get that liberty—setting your own goals, making your own decisions to benefit your own ideas—means giving up the ease provided by the low-risk cycle of traditional career paths.

Living passionately and giving something your all means getting out of your comfort zone—steady paychecks and all. For me, the biggest challenge was being OK with being different, because becoming an entrepreneur really gets you out of the box.

Physician and author Spencer Johnson asked, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

This question points to the core of what stops us—fear. I propose a different way to mitigate that fear: a combination of the liberty of entrepreneurship and the low-risk of passive income. Investing in passive real estate is a low-risk business strategy that lets you pivot from the traditional path and into the liberty of spending more time on family, hobbies, or whatever makes your soul sing.

Sources:

[1] https://womenswealthgap.org/

Are you considering real estate in lieu of a traditional 9 to 5? What’s holding you back? How can I help? 

Let’s discuss in the comment section below. 

Palak Shah (BiggerPockets Podcast episode guest #368) is the founder and owner of Open Spaces Capital and
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    Wenda Kennedy JD from Nikiski, Alaska
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I started my real estate career in 1976 due to the same kind of issues. My exhusband made more money as a common laborer than I made with my college degree. In real estate, they had to pay me my commision based up my transactions. Not only that, my Godmother, Alice, told that trying the real estate business was a good idea. I started out with a very low split in terrible, little, ugly RE office. I had no training and no real help to get started. I ended up as a top producer, renting a desk in a beautiful office, and keeping all of my commission. And I did investments on the side along with some appraisals. When they got around to licensing appraisers, I qualified for a Certified General license. So, I appraised for many years. Now, I'm retired and I'm a professional investor. Over the years, I've cried a lot of tears over my real estate deals. I still have those moments from time to time. But, after being self-employed for 43 years, I know it was one of the best decisions of my life. Bless you, Alice, for telling me to try it!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Wenda Kennedy - What a great story and so happy to know that in the end you feel that it was the best decision you made!
    Kathryn Rose
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thanks so much for speaking about this topic Palak! It’s very near and dear to my heart as well, trying to manage working in my career and raising my children. Even though I feel I’m a little late to the party, discovering real estate investing has already changed my life! Thank you again for your encouraging words!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Kathryn Rose - Kudos to you for taking the step and good luck with the future. I am so glad the post was encouraging!
    Denise Frazier from Alcoa, Tennessee
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great post. Really needed it. The company raise this year was 2.5%. Time for a change.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Denise Frazier - Thank you for your comment!
    Elizabeth W Radigan
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thank-You for your post. This is what I am very interested in doing for my daughter and I but I keep getting strangled by the analysis paralysis. I'm reading and listening to everything but just don't feel like I am ready to pull the trigger. Your article has inspired me to work harder towards my goals and keep my head up ! It is time for a change!!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Elizabeth W Radigan - It most certainly is and I have full confidence you will do it! Good luck!
    Daren Hashimoto from Honolulu, Hawaii
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great article Palak. Slowly getting there soon and hopefully will be able to pull the trigger soon. Do not have any capital at the moment and looking at other ways to finance the deals. Any suggestions would be great. :)
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Daren Hashimoto - Check out my earlier article, perhaps that would be of some help. https://www.biggerpockets.com/blog/home-equity-loan-grow-real-estate-portfolio
    Jeffrey Bower
    Replied about 1 year ago
    "To get that liberty—setting your own goals, making your own decisions to benefit your own ideas—means giving up the ease provided by the low-risk cycle of traditional career paths." Brilliant!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Jeffrey Bower, thank you for your kind words!
    Kate Murphy
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thanks for this article! Spot on. Finding real estate has been exciting and scary! In the middle of my first flip and learned a ton about real estate and myself. Looking forward to growing and making significant life changes.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Kate Murphy - Thanks for your comment and good luck to you! Sounds like you are doing great!!
    Eddy Ogbekhilu
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Women helping women and in general making a greater impact in the world.Palak thanks a gr8 deal for this article.Not a lady but I benefitted from the knowledge you shared and the encouragement. For everyone on this thread big up and remain blessed.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Hi Eddy Ogbekhilu - Thanks for your comment. We all need to work together to ensure the success of women in Real Estate and I appreciate comments from men on this thread.
    Tiffany Johnson Investor from Olympia, Washington
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great post! Like you, I quit my job after returning to work after a baby. I was working too many hours and couldn't do it all. Fortunately my early career funded my current real estate portfolio. I had been saving for years, but didn't know what for. You're lucky you knew what you wanted to do when you quit. It took me a while to figure it out, but now I could never go back to work on someone else's terms. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to reading more.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thanks for your kind words Tiffany Johnson! Thanks for also sharing your lovely story.
    Dave Rav from Summerville, SC
    Replied about 1 year ago
    What a great article. As a male, I wasn't fully aware of all the striving a woman in corporate America endures. Especially when it comes to being a new mother. My wife is in education, and thankfully 1 of 2 childbirths occurred during Summer (3 months off work). Additionally, I am alarmed by the work and wealth gap for women. I've always been a fan of equality, since my first years entering the workforce. This needs to change..
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Dave Rav - I was also alarmed to see the wealth gap. And it definitely needs to change! Thanks for your comment.
    Mohammad (Asad) Asaduddin Wholesaler from Houston, TX
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Very inspiring post Palak. I agree with you 100%.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thank you Mohammad Asaduddin!
    Katelyn Ball Rental Property Investor from Rogers, AR
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thank you for this article! As a new mom investing in real estate I am inspired by your words. I can very much relate to the desire to make an "impact in the world but still be able to spend time with my kids—and not kill myself trying to do all of this." Excited to create a new path for myself and my family and to encourage others to do the same.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Katelyn Ball - good luck to you and thank you for your comment!
    Haley Thayer
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I absolutely loved this article. Thank you so much for sharing. As a woman looking to have a family soon and finding ways to still work but be present, this is very inspiring. I've been looking to get into real estate investing and taking that leap is all I need to do. Keep up the hustle!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Haley Thayer - Taking the leap -- you already know what you need to do! Thanks for your comment.
    Arya Jackson from San Francisco, Bay Area
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Awesome article, thanks for sharing!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Thanks for your comment Arya Jackson!
    Brandon Moore from Central Arkanas
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great post! I constantly encourage my wife to find ways to maximize her passions and not just settle for what her 9-5 offers.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Brandon Moore - thank you for your comment.
    Darra Rensing from Denver, CO
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Vert great article. Finally good to hear about women real estate investors, as it seems to be another male dominated industry. As a part time teacher, I’m in the middle of my research, analysis paralysis, and finding money (and building connections) to create a future beyond a pension that may not even be there. I’ve been wanting to invest in real estate since I was 21 and broke...and now, finally after having a career and children, I think I’m ready. Inspired by your leap and thank you for sharing.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Darra Rensing - Thank you for your comment! I am so glad it was inspiring. To your success...
    Christine McCord
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Love this. How do I stay working (need income) and get started. I am in healthcare, full time management, three boys and a traveling husband. Do I get real estate license? Advice ?
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Christine McCord - If you are already short on time with a full time job and motherhood, I think getting a Real Estate license for investing would be a time consuming step without significant returns IMHO. Could buying one or two properties while you have a job to slowly start replacing your income be an option?
    Amy Canfield Investor from Madison, WI
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Love this article - I feel like it's talking about my future self. I'm also a late 30-something female engineering manager with a great job, but also with two young kids and a passion for real estate investing. I spent my last maternity leave reading real estate books and running numbers and ended up buying my first rental property right before I went back to work. It was a great decision. Now I think daily about what it would take for me to give up my six-figure income and take a leap of faith and follow my passion - with the goal of developing a much bigger real estate portfolio and having more time to spend with my kids and on hobbies I enjoy. The quote at the end about living in fear is right on...I never want to live, or work, in fear. Thanks for the motivation.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Hi Amy Canfield - You're on your path to success! Keep moving forward and don't give up on the dream. It is totally doable - trust the process.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Amy Canfield - I love that you are dreaming big and talking about taking a leap of faith!
    Mary White Rental Property Investor from Klamath Falls, OR
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I love seeing women move away from worrying about wage gaps/gender equality towards self-reliance. I left work just two years out of college to pursue online sales and later real estate. My international business degree served me well and I was able to use EBay money for my first rental. My son just turned 15 and I’ve spent those years with him (and my daughters). I homeschool them, Coach, manage real estate purchases, renovations and rentals and love my life. I encourage other women to trust in their abilities and create their own wealth ceilings. Cheers!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Wow! What a great story! Congrats on building a life you love and thanks for sharing.
    Meghan McShan
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I love this! I hold the same perspective as a mother of two who spent over a decade climbing the corporate ladder only to realize that I want is up there. I am now focused on building a life that gives me the time and financial freedom to be there for my children how and when I want. I love seeing other women doing the same!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Meghan McShan - Love it! Keep shining and thanks for your comment.
    Alicia Collins from New York City, New York
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I’m very appreciative for this discussion Palak. I’m 30 and so ready to dust her my 9-5. My partner and I have been saving to purchase our first investment property. We want do purchase distressed property, rehab them and rent them out. Together we live in tough market area (DMV). We are really torn on what area would be best. He and I would do this together and I would be the one to ditch my 9-5 and go in it full time. Any advice? We’ve been reading and listening to so many stories ...
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Alicia Collins - My advice would be to look on the peripheries of larger cities near you. It is important to remember -- and you probably already thought about this, but in case you didn't -- keep in mind that rentals don't need to fit your own needs but the needs of the population renting in the target neighborhood (for example, I have kids... however some of my rentals are near a university and my customer's needs are different than mine in terms of housing). Hope that helps. Good luck to you!
    Sri Ram Rental Property Investor from West Palm Beach, FL
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great article Palak. Well My wife and I planned it pretty much the similarly after our twins were born. She left her lucrative job to stay at home mom for the twins and has been doing this for 17 years and 155 properties later still going strong.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Wow! Great story and so inspiring! Thanks for sharing Sri Ram!
    Bryan Konopacki
    Replied about 1 year ago
    How exactly did you make the switch? What was your process, what did your journey map look like? What were the details of your first deal and how long after leaving your job did you get in? Did you go for your RE license?
    Margaret L DeLuca
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great thread. I am at the other end of the age group (59), caring for an elderly parent. I also want to empower my daughters with articles like this - they do not have to be stuck making less than the men. While we have four rentals, we want to leverage up. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going.
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Margaret L DeLuca - You're spot on with your comment. I wanted to suggest my other post where I discuss leveraging. Hope that helps. https://www.biggerpockets.com/blog/home-equity-loan-grow-real-estate-portfolio
    Sherry Houston from Milton, Ga
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Great article Palak & thanks for sharing your story! I have always had an interest in real estate & I recently decided to transfer my traditional IRA to a self directed IRA. This will allow me to diversify my retirement portfolio by allowing me to invest in real estate. I have been researching so much on real estate investing so that I can begin to make decisions that will provide the IRA with the best ROI. Any advice you could provide me would be greatly appreciated! Good luck & I will continue to follow you....
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Sherry Houston - Thank you for your comment. Great step moving towards SDIRA. Sounds like you're already on your way. Hope your first RE Investment happens soon!
    Kim Damrow
    Replied about 1 year ago
    I left my corporate job two years ago to focus on my ecomm business. I would now like to add another revenue stream. I have been saving a portion of my profits to invest in a two family property. I’m reading lots of books and trying to educate myself on this new venture. Purchasing correctly is my “hold back” - any advice, I’m always happy to listen and learn. I’m glad I found your articles!
    Palak Shah Developer from Philadelphia, PA
    Replied about 1 year ago
    Kim Damrow - You would probably find the next article in this series helpful if "purchasing correctly" is your hold back. Here is a link. https://www.biggerpockets.com/blog/real-estate-start-investing-now-stop-excuses Thanks!