It was the year 2000. We had made it through Y2K! The world would continue as it had for many centuries before. Want more articles like this? Create an account today to get BiggerPocket's best blog articles delivered to your inbox Sign up for free One thing would change though. I was now in my freshman year of high school, and I started getting asked something more and more consistently. No, I am not talking about your mom or dad embarrassingly asking you if there were any new love interests in your life. The question was, “So, Ryan, what do you want to do for a job when you’re done with school?” I had already given this thought. I wanted to work for ING. Yes, the large banking and financial services company. Why? Well, if you drove through my state capital (Hartford, Conn., at the time), they had a really tall and cool looking office building with their giant orange ING tiger logo affixed on top. Additionally, I, in fact, wanted to work at a desk, in a cube, or in an office. I would have a nice, little sporty car that I drove to this office, and I would wear a well-fitted suit, too. I also imagined having a well organized leather briefcase. This was my dream. I wanted it bad. Fast forward to 2008, and I got a job in banking making $12.10 per hour. Fast forward to 2011, and I got a job in insurance and some financial services-related work. In 2011, I also got a cubicle! It was great for about six months, until I got tired of hearing my fellow cubemates talk about their weekends on the town or their fights with significant others. How I Got Into Real Estate Skip to 2012. I was making $28,000 a year and the newness of the “cube life” was wearing off. Luckily, I had been a saver for most of my life, so when the opportunity came to buy a house, I jumped. My friends and I were leaving our rental of three years and some of us were parting ways. Others were looking for something else in the same area. I decided, heck, if my last landlord could manage us all in one house, so could I. I bought a duplex for $140,000 via FHA loan and rented bedrooms out to my friends. Related: 5 Business Books That Changed My Real Estate Investing Life There were six bedrooms total between two units, and I lived in one of the bedrooms on the first floor. I charged $475 per month per bedroom, not including utilities. Since I took up one bedroom, I was bringing in $475 x 5 which is $2,375 per month. The house was rent ready and to this day, I have done very little maintenance on it. It has been an incredible property. My mortgage payment was $1,261 (PITI), if I remember correctly. I was clearing over $1,100, not counting reserves or maintenance—none of which I considered saving for until many years later. When I Recognized the Power of Real Estate Investing Needless to say, I was RICH and living for free. Needless to say, I was hooked on real estate. Something else happened, too, though. That now-somewhat-distant aspiration for suits and cubes and office buildings was starting to fade. I longed for it much less—and eventually not at all. This real estate thing had given me a whole new outlook on life. Did I need a desk job, like I had always wanted, to feel “successful,” or could I do it through new means? I quickly realized that real estate investing was one of the most tried and true wealth-building strategies in the history of this planet—if not THE best strategy of all time. I decided, if it was good enough for all of those before me, it was good enough for me, too. Real estate had effectively shifted my focus from working until you’re 65 years old and retiring to possibly retiring much earlier—and really being able to enjoy the ride while you’re at it. The old adage of just grinding away at a 9 to 5 whether you enjoyed it or not was fading away. Contributing to my company’s 401(k) in hopes to escape the rat race was an eventuality no longer. What My Life Has Been Like Ever Since Now, it’s 2019 and I work a 9 to 5 job from home. I own several rental properties all rented out by the room and am doing quite well from a cash flow perspective on those. The light at the end of the tunnel has continued to glow more brightly, year after year. I will retire from my 9 to 5 before I am 40 and am 33 now. I actually think I can do it earlier, too. Either way, real estate opened up my eyes to this great, new world of possibly securing the chance to live the majority of your life on your own terms and not someone else’s. I think most everyone reading this understands it’s the definition of financially free. Another Way Real Estate Has Changed My Life I just watched a few documentaries on Warren Buffett. Wow, what an incredible person—truly someone who will go down in the history books. He is giving away 99 percent of his wealth. I believe the majority will be going to the foundation run by his good friend Bill Gates. Unfortunately, I am not there yet; I am not .01 percent as philanthropic as he is. However, I have really likened to giving back as much as I can. When I was getting started in real estate, I leaned on several local investors and was just floored that they gave me even 30 minutes of their time. It was quintessential to my success, this knowledge they shared. Related: Becoming a Real Estate Mentor Changed My Business (& Personal) Life: Here’s How I now try to do the same as much as I possibly can. I write these blogs every week. I reach out on the forums and offer help every chance I get. I consistently have around five people or so who I message back and forth with on BiggerPockets who are looking for advice. I love it. If real estate was not already incredible, this new part of it has made it even better for me! That being said, I want to help. If there are any questions that you may want to ask me, just let me know. If I am not well qualified to answer it, I probably know someone that is. Questions? Ask me in the comment section below!