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Fueling Early Retirement at 36 with Just 4 Rental Properties

The BiggerPockets Money Podcast
39 min read
Fueling Early Retirement at 36 with Just 4 Rental Properties

Early retirement was a goal for today’s guest, Antoinette Munroe, the moment she started making money. Her money journey started in second grade when she sold her Halloween candy for extra cash. By high school, she graduated to selling a wide variety of different things and even started her own distribution network with her cousins at their respective schools.

By the time she got to college, her main focus was staying out of trouble, avoiding debt and saving. It wasn’t until her last semester of grad school that she had to take out loans. After graduation, her priorities shifted, and she got a job to pay off her debt. Starting with her first check at her new job, she laid out her budget ABCs. Her ABCs follow a simple principle; automation, balance, and consistency. And after two years, she paid off her $27,000 debt!

In 2015 she decided to start looking for a home, and by the end of 2015, she purchased one. She did a complete rehab on the house while also adding an addition in hopes of getting rid of her expenses to achieve her ultimate goal of not having to work. She put the finished addition on Airbnb, and it now cash flows and pays her expenses. After she realizing the power of real estate investing to build net worth and generate wealth, she did this three more times and now owns four cash-flowing properties. She is now retired and lives the free life of leisure she always envisioned for herself.

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Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast, show number 295, where we interview Antoinette Monroe and hear her journey to financial independence through real estate in just five short years.

Antoinette:
I realized that I didn’t want to be a contractor. I was cool with the real estate investing part and so that’s April 29th on my birthday at 36, I said, “That’s it. Not working for anybody else anymore. I’m just going to chart my own path. There’s enough cash flow that if I don’t want to work, I don’t have to, but I like this real estate thing, so I’ll just keep playing with that. Maybe do like two/three flips a year for fun money and that’ll be it.” I may have bought another property.

Mindy:
Hello. Hello. Hello. My name is Mindy Jensen and with me as always is my inspiring co-host, Scott Trench.

Scott:
Thanks, Mindy. You just set me up for life with these types of intros and new adjectives each week. Thank you.

Mindy:
Scott and I are here to make financial independence less scary [inaudible 00:00:55] just for somebody else to introduce you to every money story, because we truly believe financial freedom is attainable for everyone, no matter when or where you are starting.

Scott:
That’s right. Whether you want to retire early and make your neighbors wonder what the heck you’re doing in the middle of the day walking around the block, go on to make big-time investments in assets like real estate, or start your own business, we’ll help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so you can launch yourself towards those dreams.

Mindy:
Scott, I am so excited for today’s guest. Antoinette popped up at a meetup at the HQ a couple of weeks ago, and she is just an absolute fireball. Holy cow. She’s so excited about everything. Her story is so interesting because she has taken a desire to not be in debt and a desire to not work anymore and figured out how to make both of those happen.
She lives on very little money. She makes a big income and just saves it up to buy real estate. Then cash flows that real estate almost from day one.

Scott:
Yeah. I mean, her story is awesome. It’s just a story of working hard, spending as little as possible, building out financial runway and then using that to acquire cash flowing assets that she can actually spend the money that they’re generating and she’s retired. Her day to day is not working and hanging around the block and doing whatever she wants right now at age 36.
It’s phenomenal. It’s just great to see she solved all the challenges that have come up and lives her best life now lives now.

Mindy:
Lives her best life and does not allow somebody to tell her no. She looks for ways to make what she wants to happen, happen. I love, love, love talking to her. Antoinette Monroe, welcome to the BiggerPockets Money podcast. I’m so delighted to talk to you today. I can’t wait to jump into your story because I know it’s going to be fabulous. Welcome to the show.

Antoinette:
Thank you guys. Thank you, Mindy. Thank you, Scott. Very happy to be here.

Mindy:
We had an event at our BiggerPockets headquarters a few weeks ago, and Antoinette came up and said how much she has enjoyed listening to the show and told us her journey. In a nutshell, she’s a rock star. She is absolutely crushing it. She has made some enormous strides in a very short time. Antoinette, let’s jump into it. Where does your journey with money begin?

Antoinette:
Well, I’ll say that my journey with money probably we began in the womb, right? My mom was really smart. Good at math. My dad was entrepreneurial. I think from day one I was probably predisposed to be into money. I think my earliest memory was maybe selling my Halloween candy out on the sidewalk in the second grade.
Anything that I could sell from that point through high school, I would sell cookies, candy, fireworks in the summer. It got to a point where I had a little distribution network in high school with two cousins at their middle school and my God-sister at her high school, all selling candy, just so I could hoard money.
I didn’t really buy much with it. I would save it, pay for field trips, buy Christmas gifts for the cousins, but I’ve always been into making money whenever I could, I guess.

Mindy:
A distribution network in middle school. That’s hilarious.

Antoinette:
Bright ideas. Bright ideas start early.

Mindy:
Okay. Let’s move on to high school. What does high school look like for you?

Antoinette:
High school, still selling candy. I probably graduated to cookies at that point during Christmas. I added seasonal offerings. Basically whatever Sam’s had available, that’s what I bought and sold.

Mindy:
Oh, wait, you weren’t baking these cookies, you were just selling? That’s even better because you’re not spending all of this time baking. You’re just buying goods that are already made and selling those instead? That’s awesome.

Antoinette:
Yes, absolutely. Work smarter, not harder.

Scott:
Were you forecasting your business seasonally as well?

Antoinette:
It would go by … I would go to the store with my mom on Sunday and just look around and what looked good, this price seems like a pretty good deal for these cookie tins at Christmas. I can probably sell these for $3 each. Let’s try it. There one wasn’t much true thought behind it other than if I bought it and sold it for more than what I bought it for, I was winning.

Scott:
I was just kidding on that point, but-

Mindy:
No, you weren’t.

Scott:
What was your position in graduating high school?

Antoinette:
Graduating high school. When you say what was my position?

Scott:
Did you have a lot saved up? Were you feeling like you’re a competent entrepreneur and ready to rock and roll or what was that-

Antoinette:
No, no, not at all. All of my sellings, every Christmas, by the end of the year, I would wipe out because I would use the money to buy Christmas gifts for my cousins. There was nothing like carrying into high school with me. I’ll say the only thing that I did that set me up well for college was I was basically sold to the highest bidder.
I applied to schools and whatever school offered me the most money, that’s where I went because I didn’t want to pay or have student loans. That’s how I prepared going into college. None of that money through high school carried over.

Scott:
I love that. Well, walk us through the college years and where the next steps in the money journey begin.

Antoinette:
Okay. In college, I did go to Florida A&M University. I’m a very proud Rattler. I was able to go on scholarship from the university as well as Florida Bright Futures. It was really important to me to not accrue a lot of debt just to go to school. I really wanted to try to graduate for as close to no dollar spent as possible.
Throughout college, I would get net checks every semester and hoard those and save them. I always had a stash or had money available to me, even though I wasn’t working, because I would save everything I would get. I think I’ve been a saver always. That’s probably the number one saving grace, knowing not to just blow my money. I think I was also very mindful about not signing up for credit cards.
They’d offer you the free pizza and all those things. I had a fake name and social that I would use for those because I still wanted the free pizza, but I didn’t want the hit on my credit report.
College years were more so just staying out of trouble, trying not to take out any student loans until my very last semester of grad school when I had to and avoiding any credit issues or those normal pitfalls you would expect college students to fall into. That was more of just playing it safe, staying careful and still saving everything I had access to.

Scott:
You went to grad school. Did you do that all in a row? What year did you graduate and begin working?

Antoinette:
Yes. I did a five-year MBA program. I graduated in 2008 and started my first job summer 2009.

Scott:
Awesome. Well, let’s keep going. What happens next in the money story?

Antoinette:
That was the biggest shift. I knew it was going to be make it or break it. Thought I was going to be an entrepreneur. That was something I always wanted. I never really wanted to take a job, but that last semester I did rack up a couple of student loans so I took a job and the intent was, I’ll take this job. I’ll do this two-year program, pay off my student loans and I’m out.
I’m not going to be working. I’m going to go chase a dream or something. With that very first paycheck, I sat down and created, I guess what I call it now is my budget ABCs. I made an Excel spreadsheet, plugged in the info from the first paycheck and just laid out a plan for how I was going to get rid of those student loans in those first two years. I think those initial steps were the foundation for everything else after that.
Like being really tight on how I manage my money, knowing every dime that came in, those ABCs, I automated everything. I balanced each paycheck so I never had like a week where I felt like I didn’t have any money and would be thinking about just putting it on a card temporarily. Then I tried to stay as consistent as possible with it. I still follow this system to this day.

Scott:
That’s awesome. I never heard that framework. Automate, balance consistency.

Antoinette:
Yes.

Scott:
Right? Automation, balance, consistency. That’s awesome. ABCs. You said you put those together day one right out of the gate?

Antoinette:
With my very first paycheck. Yes. I’ve been tracking this spreadsheet from June 2009. In preparing for this call I went back and looked at it, till 2021, I had a tab there. Every change in pay or job change, I created a new tab. I’ve been tracking my money story the entire time.

Mindy:
I love it. Listen to that. She has tracked her spending, her money, her jobs, all of this since … I’m sorry, what did you say? 2009?

Antoinette:
2009, first paycheck out of college. Yes.

Mindy:
That’s awesome. That’s why I said she’s a rock star.

Scott:
Do you have any money today?

Antoinette:
I got a little bit.

Scott:
No. I-

Mindy:
Don’t spoil it, Scott.

Scott:
That’s the foundation of everything else. I think you can stop listening now and you know that that is a successful money story, but you should not because we’re going to have a great story that we’re about to go through. Okay. You graduate college, how much debt do you have this first paycheck? What does your calculation tell you how long it’s going to take you?

Antoinette:
Right out of college and you can see on that first tab, I write, “27,000 in total debt.” That was one credit card I had because I did an internship at a record label in New York. It was unpaid. Then the student loans that I had for that last semester and then I borrowed money to buy a car from my sister. 27,000 total was everything that I started with and that’s what’s on that first spreadsheet.
I think it took about 18 months or two full years to pay that off. I remember March 2011, everything was paid and I was completely debt-free at that point.

Scott:
Awesome. How much were you making and how much were you spending during that period?

Antoinette:
Oh, yeah, my starting salary was 50,000. I think my budget … My goal was to keep all of my bills under $2,000 a month, so 50,000 didn’t go that far. I kept all of my bills under 2,000 a month and I would get mileage checks for when I had to drive, it was a sale job. I would get sales bonuses each year.
I could see on the tabs where I’ve either made a lump sum using my bonus to pay something down or using my tax return to pay something down. Every mileage check, I would always volunteer to take the furthest route or to take furthest sales call so that I can get a bigger mileage check because all of that was going towards paying off the debt.

Scott:
Awesome. What kind of car was it?

Antoinette:
This was probably the first money mistake I made. It was a 10-year-old Mercedes, like one of those two-door coupes. I bought it from my brother-in-law. It was his old car and they thought it was better than the little Nissan that I had. They were like, “You should get this instead. It’ll be a more reliable car.”
From the moment I hit Memphis, that thing started tearing apart every year, the 10-year-old car, everything that could go wrong, went wrong, had to change the transmission on it. It was a money pit actually. I don’t recommend it.

Scott:
Well, just as an observation here, when you have those jobs that reimburse you for miles with your personal car, right? There’s an arbitrage opportunity there where, hey, if I’m driving a Corolla or something really reliable, it’s great gas mileage and doesn’t break down, my cost of driving is probably 25 cents.

Antoinette:
Absolutely.

Scott:
I’m going to be reimbursed at 55 cents. Sounds like that may not have been the case in your scenario with the Mercedes.

Antoinette:
Not all the way.

Scott:
[crosstalk 00:12:44] maybe-

Antoinette:
I didn’t get that full 55, but enough to be impactful.

Scott:
Yep. Well, great. Awesome. You’re keeping tight control of your spending and for the first two years, it sounds like it’s just a grind where you’re being consistent about tracking your spending, taking advantage of opportunities and then just putting every additional surplus dollar towards the debt?

Antoinette:
Yes. I mean, the way you say it, it sounds like it wasn’t too much fun. I still had a little fun in there. I had what I called therapy where I’d go shopping and fill up my cart with all the things that I wanted and feed the impulse. Then after that passed, I would go and put each one back where I got it from, unless there was something I felt like my life couldn’t-

Scott:
Yeah. That sounds really fun.

Antoinette:
… I couldn’t live without it and then I would buy that one, but I would also leave my wallet in the car. It had to be important enough that I was willing to walk back out the mall to go get my wallet, to come back in and pay for it. I still got to shop and have my retail therapy.

Scott:
I like that.

Antoinette:
I went on a lot of dates because I like eating out, but that was not in my budget. I would say yes to the date. If you asked me, I was going because I wanted the free food. Sorry. I still lived a little bit.

Mindy:
I don’t recommend that path, but-

Antoinette:
I don’t either.

Scott:
That tip would’ve been hard for me to implement.

Mindy:
Yeah. Scott, that’s tough for you.

Scott:
All right. Well, so we have a good two years here. We have a fun two years, but in the financial sense it’s a grind. It’s slow going of just paying off this $27,000 in debt, fast going and paying off this $27,000 in debt in the first two years. Do you have an emergency reserve that you build up at that point? How do you think about your cash position?

Antoinette:
I did. I think the first year I just saved it and was holding it. Then that last year started paying. I had like a six-month buffer before I was due to start paying off the loans. I had at least like a month to two worth of emergency reserves, but it wasn’t the primary focus at the time.
But I know I had enough that when the transmission went out, I was able to pull that $3,000 to replace it. There was some reserves there, but the majority of everything just went to clearing the debt.

Scott:
Sounds good.

Mindy:
Nice.

Scott:
Are you doing any investing or 401(k) contributions at that time as well?

Antoinette:
Yes. At least meeting my company match for those first two years.

Scott:
Awesome. What happens next now that you paid off the debt?

Antoinette:
I paid off the debt. It’s time for me to quit, right? Because that was the point, but I couldn’t quit living in Tennessee. I needed to get closer to family. I got a job to get relocated back to Miami where my family is. Negotiated with my parents, asked them if I could live for a year for free and then after that start contributing.
I got relocated. I had to stay a year to not have to pay back the relo. My two-year plan turned into three and I spent that third year saving every single dime because I needed to have a stash to live off of once I quit. I think at that point I whittled the budget all the way down. I gave myself about 400 bucks a month for spending and everything else went into savings.

Scott:
When you say went into savings, just like into your bank account?

Antoinette:
Into the savings bank account. I was still just meeting the company match with 401(k) savings and all other dollars went into the bank account. My goal was to have $50,000 saved by the end of the year. That way I knew I had like a year’s worth of living. If I wanted to run off to California and chase a dream or something after I quit my job.

Scott:
Let me comment on this because I completely agree with that mentality, right? A lot of people wouldn’t. They’re like, “Why would you do that? You could have been investing that 50K.” No, no, no. You have $50,000 liquid at the end of that year. You have every option. You can start a business. You can go into real estate investing. You can take a job that pays no salary and only has commissions.
You can become a real estate agent. The world is your oyster at that point. How old were you at that point?

Antoinette:
I was 24 at that point. That’s what I wanted. I wanted the option to not need the job so that I could choose my path, whether it was start a business or pursue a dream or just something else. If I had sinked it all into the 401(k), I couldn’t access the money and so now I’m trapped. I have to stay at the job for money versus having the source of money in my savings account that I have immediate access to.

Scott:
Great. A lot of people are going to shake their heads and disagree with that.

Antoinette:
I know.

Scott:
I’m nodding my head and aggressively agreeing with that. That’s exactly how I viewed the situation when I was getting started as well. $50,000 in the hands of an ambitious 24-year-old is way better than $50,000 in the 401(k) of an ambitious 24-year-old. $50,000 in a 401(k) of a 24-year-old who would blow the money is way better than $50,000 in the bank account of that same 24-year-old. That’s a big nuance I think is really important.

Antoinette:
Yeah. You definitely have to know who you are.

Mindy:
What’s important is this was a choice that you made consciously. This isn’t something that somebody else forced you to do. Antoinette said, “I want to have $50,000 saved up. I make $50,000 a year. Therefore, I’m going to have to save almost everything. I’m choosing to do this because my goal is this.”
Now, if you decided that there was this really awesome vacation you wanted to take for a thousand dollars, you could have done that. Nobody was saying, “This is not your money to spend.” You were choosing to spend your money the way you wanted to, which was to spend it in a savings account. Here you go.
I’m just putting it there. That’s a choice. Not everybody’s going to make that choice and not everybody’s going to be retired at age 31? 39? I can’t remember how old you were when you-

Antoinette:
36.

Mindy:
36. Okay. You know who doesn’t retire at 36? People who say, “Oh, I would never only spend $400 a month.”

Antoinette:
Oh yeah. I got told I was crazy a lot of times by my friends and my family. I watched my friends enjoy their life very much in their condos on the beach or taking cruises and trips. I was just like, “I mean, do you guys not have student loans? Did you do that first?” Just trying to figure out how they were able to do it while I was like not, but it just wasn’t a priority for them.
They still had those debts and student loans, but they prioritized the immediate enjoyment of the income. It was more long game for me. I think once I understood that it was long game and that these first five years were going to be critical and I could literally set the foundation for the rest of my life if I got that right, it was easy to block out the noise.

Scott:
Yes. Love it. All right. What do you do with the $50,000 now you’ve got it?

Antoinette:
Well, now it’s just sitting there, right? Because I’ve been working for the three years now. All the dreams that I had prior, they had started to fade. I didn’t know what business I would start or what I wanted to do anymore. The career, I was getting promoted every two years. I was like, “I’ll just ride this out and see what happens.” I left the 50 where it was, started maxing out a Roth each year.
For the next two years, the 50, it was just there. I did splurge. In celebration of meeting, paying off the debt and making that savings, I did purchase a car. I didn’t skimp on it. I purchased the car that I wanted, but I made sure to purchase the car where if I chose to, I could have bought it out.
I was able to get less than 2% interest, leverage my good credit and I went that at route instead. The 50 stayed there, rewarded myself for my hard work and just went along with the career, just trying to see where that took me.

Scott:
Awesome. Can you walk us through the next couple of years and then into the next inflection point in the journey?

Antoinette:
Yeah. I think that next year I ended up moving away from Miami to Orlando. I didn’t intend to stay there. It was supposed to be just like a two-year stint and move on to the next state with the next job. But I liked it there so I ended up starting to put roots. By about 2015, I started looking for property to buy.
It took like nine months to finally find one, mostly because I was very strict on the budget. I didn’t want to spend over 200,000. I still wanted to keep all of my total bills under $2,000 a month and now I had this car note so I had to pull down my home shopping budget for that. By end of 2015, I’d found and purchased a house. I was able to just do conventional. I had my down payment money on hand.
It was a house that needed a full gut. I had that money on hand to be able to do the renovation. That’s what was next. Then maybe after nine months of living in that house, after we’ve done the rehab and everything, I added on an addition, like a one-bedroom apartment of sorts because through the first iteration of the house, I realized if I made it a little bit bigger, I could get roommates.
That’s what I thought I was going to do. Like I’m going to get roommates. I’m not going to have any bills. They’re going to pay my bills. Then in five years I’m going to have this house paid off and then I won’t have to work. That’s always the underlying theme. Get rid of the expenses. Then I don’t need money and I won’t have to work. We built the addition. That turned out to work really well.
In exploring my roommate options, I stumbled upon Airbnb. Rather than a roommate, I rented it out on Airbnb. That was the game-changer. Game over. We’re done here. Accelerating, lighter fuel, everything. It changed the whole trajectory.

Scott:
You save up 50K. You sit on it for a little bit. You buy a house and turn it into an Airbnb using the $50,000. Do you think that investment worked out better for you than if you’d put it into the 401(k)?

Antoinette:
Oh, absolutely. If it was in a 401(k), I would still be working, but I think taking that money and creating a cash flowing asset that I could control and that was more tangible, but the biggest thing is it was an asset that eliminated my expenses. Now my entire paycheck, I’m not paying rent or my mortgage. My asset is performing. It’s paying for itself.
Now every dollar I earn is either going back into my pockets for savings or I’m saving it up to invest it into another property. That’s really what led to becoming a real estate investor. Initially, I just wanted to pay it off so that I didn’t have bills and I wouldn’t have to work.
After going through that process and seeing what the power of real estate could do in terms of building net worth or generating income, the focus started to shift.

Mindy:
Let’s look at numbers on this Airbnb property really quickly. You bought it for how much? How much did you put into it?

Antoinette:
Back in the beautiful days of 2015, I purchased this house for $169,000.

Mindy:
Oh, okay. Even better.

Antoinette:
Yeah. 2015 was nice. The first round of renovations were about $50,000 and that stuff I had on hand and was able to complete that. The addition, which started a year later, the total cost of that was like $95,000. At this point, I had no more cash savings. I took a 401(k) loan for $24,000 just to get started and went as far as I could go.
Of course, I’m still working so basically every paycheck is still funding this rehab and it took a full year. Then when I ran out of the 401(k) loan, I don’t advise this or recommend it for anybody, but I leveraged my credit yet again. I had very high limits on my credit cards and I’m pretty sure I maxed all of them out, but again, everything is always on automation so I’ve never missed a payment.
They were getting paid automated and at the end of the project, I rolled the lump sum over to a zero-interest credit card to buy myself 18 months to pay that down without it growing.

Scott:
Love it. At some point, if you want to get into the real estate game in a meaningful way, you have to lever up, which is really unfortunate. It’s just part of the reality of it. It’s scary. It’s terrifying to lever up to that degree on a real estate investment. It can go down that next year with it and leave you in a tough spot. But it was a calculated decision.
You obviously ran your numbers ahead of time, or I hope you did, had an idea of the numbers and it seems to have worked out really well. What did you end up getting from a cash flow perspective after all this?

Antoinette:
Yeah. By the time the renovation was done, the house was probably worth at that time, like about 400,000 now from the 169 that I got it for. I moved into the smaller one-bedroom side and lived there and then the original two-bedroom, one-bath house, that’s what I put on Airbnb. I think my very first month it was like $3,500 made.
Then the next month it was $4,500. Then every time it would go up, I was like, “Oh my God.” My mortgage was only 1,500 bucks a month so the cash flow just from doing that alone was twice the amount.

Scott:
What’d you do with the financing? You had all these credit cards, you had the 401(k) loan. How’d you pay that all back? Did you refinance or did you pay it back bit by bit with cash flow?

Antoinette:
I paid it back with cash flow. Every dime that I made from Airbnb for that first 12 to 18 months went back to the debt. That 65,000, that was racked up in the end, by March of that next year … We started Airbnb full-time in February, by April of that next year, I had paid off all of it.

Mindy:
Nice.

Scott:
Awesome.

Antoinette:
All using the income from my job and the Airbnb money.

Scott:
You’re saving $5,000 a month at that point, a little over that.

Antoinette:
I don’t need much to live off of at all either. I’m living for free and my biggest bill is gone. Every single dime went to the debt again.

Mindy:
With one property.

Antoinette:
It was easy. I’ve done that before. Yeah. With one property that I’m living in. Really is was two bedrooms and one bath out of my single-family home.

Scott:
We’re in 2016 now and your debt is all paid off except for the mortgage. You’ve got a little bit in your 401(k). You’ve got this property and some cash, I imagine. What’s next?

Antoinette:
Well, and let’s speed up. We’re actually at 2019 at this point. From ’15, we got at ’16, first rehab, ’17 that full year was the addition. By 2019, okay, we’re caught up. Debt’s paid. What’s next? Immediately I hit payoff on the last debt and I went and put a down payment on another property. I don’t recommend this either, but the space was small. Airbnb was-

Scott:
How did you get the down payment?

Antoinette:
I borrowed it from my brother-in-law. I never had the cash on hand. After that first 50, with every investment after that, I just got more and more creative. This down payment, it was for a new construction property. It was still going to be a house hack, right? It’ll be a house with a garage apartment. Airbnb was kicking me out of my house. I knew this whole thing would become an Airbnb. I would still have a good bit of cash flow coming from that home.
Then with the garage apartment on the new home, that would pay half the mortgage. I could essentially move into a new construction property in one of the best neighborhoods in Orlando and live there for free from day one. Borrowed the 25,000 for the down payment from my brother-in-law and I knew I had a year to come up with the rest of it before we had to close on it. Borrowed. Spent that next year saving, saving, saving, saving until we closed in 2020.

Scott:
Awesome. In 2020, we now have two properties. You have mortgages on both and you owe 25,000 to the brother-in-law.

Antoinette:
Yes. Well, no.

Scott:
Go ahead, Mindy.

Antoinette:
I paid the brother-in-law back immediately. I borrowed that from him in April, by July he had his money back. Then in November, I bought another property.

Mindy:
November of ’19?

Scott:
In 2020.

Antoinette:
Of 2019. Yes. In the middle of that, I grabbed one more.

Mindy:
Okay. You own a property. You put a down payment on a new construction, and before the new construction is purchased, you buy another property?

Antoinette:
Yes.

Mindy:
Okay.

Antoinette:
This one was my neighbor that I grew up with. She lived across the street from my mom, decided that she was moving. I’m hearing it through the grapevine. I’ve been doing my research and studying this. I know in BiggerPockets that off-market deals are hot. Immediately I call her like, “Hey, I want to buy it. I’ll buy this house. Just let me know whatever you want for it. It’s fine.”
I ended up purchasing that from her for 192,000. I put 40,000 in rehab on it. That same money that I had sent back to my brother-in-law, I called him back for it. Then when it was done, that one appraised for 300,000 and so I immediately refinanced it so every dime I had in there came back out before December was out.

Scott:
Awesome. That’s an easy BRRRR.

Antoinette:
Yes, very easy BRRRR.

Mindy:
You still own the property.

Scott:
Love it.

Mindy:
Not everybody who listens to this show-

Antoinette:
I still own the property.

Mindy:
… knows what BRRRR means. Antoinette, do you want to enlighten them on BRRRR?

Antoinette:
All right. Yes. A BRRRR is when you buy a house, then you renovate the house, you rent the house out, you refinance the house to get your dollars back, and then you repeat.

Mindy:
Okay. When you say you refied everything out, you bought the house for 192.

Antoinette:
Everything out.

Mindy:
You put $40,000 into it. That’s what? $232,000 that you have into the house. It appraised for 300,000, which means typically, were you going to live in that house or were you going to buy it as an investment?

Antoinette:
No.

Mindy:
Okay. You can-

Antoinette:
I bought it as a second home and I was able to refinance it for like 75% of the value. The total mortgage on the end was 225. What I left out was after the complete renovation of the first house with the addition, the value was so much higher. I put a home equity line on that house so I would have a source of cash to tap into, to get into other real estate projects.

Mindy:
Nice.

Scott:
Awesome.

Mindy:
You pulled all the money that you had into this property, this November property, you pulled that money out so you can use that money on something else while still owning this property as a rental?

Antoinette:
Yes. It took 45 days to buy the house, rehab it and have every single dime I spent back in my pocket.

Mindy:
45 days. Okay. That is-

Antoinette:
45 days.

Mindy:
That’s fabulous.

Antoinette:
Best BRRRR I ever did.

Mindy:
What’d you do with that money?

Antoinette:
I made the home equity line whole. Of course always pay my debts back off. Now the home equity line is whole and I’m two or three months off from closing on my new primary home. I move forward with that into the new primary home. Immediately rent out the garage apartment so that from the first mortgage payment that’s due, I’m not responsible.
The property in Miami made enough rent to cover its mortgage and half of the mortgage of my new house. Then the garage apartment paid the other half. Just in the second home and the primary home alone, I still wasn’t touching any of the cash flow from the Airbnb house.

Scott:
Awesome. We have three properties and what’s the net cash flow total for all this?

Antoinette:
At that time, let’s say the Airbnb property was probably cash flowing about 3,000 and I’m just going to rough number it. The property in Miami was cash flowing 1,200. Then the garage apartment made 1,250 and the mortgage of the primary home was 2,600. Within the cash flow from all those, my bills were completely covered and I still had some cash flow left over.

Scott:
Okay. What happens next? You have three properties at the end of 2019. Keep the story going?

Antoinette:
Well, now I’m a real estate investor now. Now I’m saying it, right? Like everything else I have been stumbling into. It wasn’t really intentional. It was just things that had happened. Now I’m a real estate investor. This is what I’m going to do. I’m telling everybody about it and looking for things to buy. I close on the primary home, April of 2020. COVID is in full form.
Then August of 2020, I get fired from my job. By this point it didn’t matter because everything that I was doing was so that I didn’t need the job. They fired me and I was like, “Thanks. All right.” I didn’t look for a job immediately. My bills were covered. I didn’t really need to work, but I did go and work for a contractor for about nine months because I’m getting into real estate.
I want to understand this stuff. I figured just having a job that better aligned with what I was trying to learn and do would be extremely beneficial. He happened to be an investor as well. By January 2021, he offered me an opportunity to participate in a flip with him. That was my first flip. We went in on that deal 50/50. Purchased that property in January and were able to sell it or have it under contract by the end of March.
I got a flip in that year. Then April, I realized that I didn’t want to be a contractor. I was cool with the real estate investing part. That’s April 29th on my birthday at 36 I said, “That’s it. Not working for anybody else anymore. I’m just going to chart my own path.
There’s enough cash flow that if I don’t want to work, I don’t have to, but I like this real estate thing so I’ll just keep playing with that. Maybe do like two/three flips a year for fun money and that’ll be it.” In May, I bought another property.

Mindy:
Okay. May of 2021 we’re up to, and you bought another property.

Antoinette:
Yes.

Mindy:
You own the original that was the Airbnb. You own the second house that you bought in November of 2019 that you BRRRRed all your money out. You own the third property that was the new construction that was your primary residence.

Antoinette:
Yes.

Mindy:
Now you’ve bought a fourth property for your third investment and fourth total property.

Antoinette:
Yes.

Mindy:
I guess your primary is an investment too, because it’s a rental. Okay. What does this property look like?

Antoinette:
This property was a six-bedroom, three and a half bath, maybe two blocks away from the first Airbnb property. Whenever I look at a single-family property at this point after the experience with the first one, knowing that if you put a door in strategic places, you can have something like separate units, so I did the same with this one. This six-bedroom house got chopped into three units.
Now that first house, the Airbnb house operates as two units. The second house purchased in November, same thing, split it with a strategic door that operates as two units. My personal home operates as two units. Now this new house I was able to get three units out of it. I’m not changing the use of the property with zoning or anything like that.
I’m just putting doors and exterior entrances in strategic places so it can still flow as a single-family home that it is and maintain its current zoning. But the use it’s like a roommate situation with a lot more privacy, right? Like everything is separate. It’s still one house, but when you close your door, that’s your entire private space with your own kitchenette and everything that you need access to.
This last property is three units. I rent two of the units kind of long-term-ish. I try to stay away from 12 months because short-term is just so much better. I offer everything furnished with flexible lease terms and then the largest unit in the front, that’s on Airbnb as well.

Mindy:
Okay. What does flexible lease terms mean? Let’s talk about that.

Antoinette:
It means I won’t give you a 12-month lease. The most you can get out of me is maybe three months, but there are people in transition all the time. They just got divorced or they’re a travel nurse here temporarily, and they need to be able to come and go within a month’s time. I’ll rent it out, furnished, all-inclusive and you can get one to three months.
If you need to extend, you need to add a couple of days, you have that flexibility. They are not the rigid standards of it’s a 12-month lease or nothing. It’s, what do you need? Is it available? Yes, we can make this work.

Scott:
What’s the cash flow in this one?

Antoinette:
This one, that was purchased with cash, so recycling those same dollars that the other properties got bought with. It was cash flow unlimited at the beginning, right? The back two units combined, they make about 2,400. In the first two weeks that I put the front on Airbnb, we got a reservation for, what was it? 3,500 bucks.

Scott:
Wow.

Antoinette:
Now that that has been refinanced and has a mortgage of 2,500, I know that the front at minimum makes 3,000. The cash flow on that property baseline is 3,000.

Scott:
All right. Keep going. What happens next after this property?

Antoinette:
Well, so that’s where we are now. That property, I just finished the rehab and got everything rented up and we just closed on the refi a couple of weeks ago. Now I’m looking for the next thing. There are a couple of things on the table. The original use for that house would be for a group home.
That’s a model we’re trying into, and I’m in the licensing phase of being able to offer that property as a group home for persons with disabilities. I’m also in the market for an apartment complex. I think I’m done I’m with single family.
I don’t really want a large portfolio, a large number of things to be responsible for because my goal with all of this is really just to maintain my freedom and to not need money. I don’t necessarily want to create a business or basically a new full-time job. I’m going after big ticket things.
Apartment complex so I can have my base level. I know right now as is, I can live off of what I have and not work. I’m just going to top it off with another large asset to at least double the cash flow that I have now for a little more comfort.

Mindy:
I love that. I love that you’re not looking for another full-time job. I think that some other podcast, the Real Estate podcast, the Rookie podcast, don’t do a good enough job of embracing the fact that you don’t have to own 500,000 units.
If you want to own four units and they cash flow and they serve the purpose that you need them to serve, it is perfectly acceptable to own four units and be done, or have a few more. As you start getting into 50 and a hundred and all of these units, it’s a job. Even if you’re outsourcing property management, you still have to manage your property manager. If you don’t want to work, don’t go buying yourself a job.

Antoinette:
Yeah. That was a lesson I had to learn. There was a time where I was consuming so many podcasts and just feeling overwhelmed like, “Oh my God, these people are scaling so much faster. I have three properties and I think I’m doing something, but I’m not because they have 50. They did that in one year.” I would feel so overwhelmed.
Finally, I was just like, “But I really just want freedom. I want to not need money, but have money if I need it. I don’t want the added responsibility. I don’t want to be an entrepreneur.” That was another thing to reckon with. I’d always viewed myself as an entrepreneur, but it was just like, “No, I don’t want to be an entrepreneur. I just want to be a freedompreneur and do what I want when I want and not have things that are tying me down.”
It took a moment to recognize that and make peace with that and be okay with just keeping it small, keeping it simple and not trying to scale and grow and all these things that I was hearing that I should be doing if I’m a real real estate investor. It takes a lot to just quiet the noise and know what you want and follow that plan despite-

Mindy:
What does your day to day look like?

Antoinette:
Well, now I get up. I’m usually at the gym by 8:00 AM. I have a personal trainer that I see three times a week. Usually after an hour with the personal trainer, I probably take a walk for an hour with my dog, my boyfriend and his dog. We walk around our neighborhood. By about 10:00 AM, we’re probably just getting back into the house after being out, walking around waving at all our other retired neighbors, looking at us like, why are we out here? Not at work.
Then after that we’ll probably have lunch. Josh usually likes to take a nap by this time. Yeah. Just wing it. If something happens, sometimes I go over and check on the properties. But mostly that runs by itself with the cleaning crew. Yeah. Just whatever I decide to do when I wake up that day it’s-

Mindy:
Well, that’s unacceptable.

Scott:
I think you’ve won.

Mindy:
No, that’s unacceptable. You need to go own 57 more units and then you can call yourself a real estate investor. I have issue with that comment because you’re not the only person that I’ve heard say that, “Oh, I don’t feel like I’m a real real estate investor because I only have X number of properties.” If you invest in real estate and investing in real estate is one property, one deal, one syndication, one whatever, you are a real estate investor.
I am a stock investor. I have index funds. I have individual stocks. It doesn’t matter what you hold, as long as you hold one of something, you are that type of investor. Yes, you are a real investor. I can give you a list of people that you’re doing better than. If you’re not watching the video, I’m doing little air quotes. I can give you a list of people that you’re doing better than who look up to you and say, “Oh, if only I could be like Antoinette.”
I can give you a list of people that you’re doing worse than, and I’m air quoting again. I can … “Oh, wow. They have more than me.” You have what you want. When you want another one, I, in my crystal ball, can see that you’re going to go find a way to get the next one that you want. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else because you are kicking butt and taking names.
I have to be family friendly because I want people to listen to the show with their kids anytime. But you’re a rock star. You have four properties that generate more income than you need. You can live off the properties you have, you never have to buy another property again. You can … Rents are going to go up. Airbnb people are still going to rent from you.
They’re still going to generate more and more. Your rates are going to go up every single year, I would guess. You’re going to continue to make more money while your fixed rate mortgages are not going to continue to cost you anymore. Yeah, taxes are going to go up and whatever, but you’re going to have basically the same amount of expenses while your income continues to increase.
If you want an apartment building and I hope it’s like a 10-unit, not a 200-unit that you’re thinking of, because that’s buying yourself a job, you’re going to go out and get it. You’re going to be like, “Okay. This is good for a while.” Or maybe not because you have that ambition.

Scott:
What do you do for healthcare right now?

Antoinette:
I have a healthcare policy. I found a … I don’t know what he’s called, but there’s a guy that sells health insurance-

Mindy:
Oh, broker.

Antoinette:
… and they have policies that are better for self-employed people. It’s better than what was available on Obamacare. I pay 400 bucks roughly a month for two adults on the health insurance policy. Yeah. That was something that was able to be taken care of and included in there. I also have a life insurance policy in case anything happens that the properties can be paid off or secured. Just outsource those things separately.

Scott:
Great. That’s always a question mark with like, “Hey, I’m going to leave my job and I have to deal with that.” It sounds like you pay for a plan.

Antoinette:
Yeah.

Scott:
It’s expensive, but it’s not something that’s outside of the ballpark of your ability to pay for with the property.

Antoinette:
Right. Right. For sure.

Scott:
Easy-peasy.

Mindy:
Okay. What kind of apartment building do you want?

Antoinette:
Initially I was thinking around 30 units, but I also want to be able to have it under institutional management. The advice I’m getting is that it needs to be at least 60 units to be able to have a property management company run it full time. Now that’s the target. Of course with this, I want to mix the model. I want to peel off some units for Airbnb because that … or flexible lease offerings because that exes up the cash flow and then have the rest for stability.

Mindy:
30 to 60 units is a lot. Is that a common thing in your area? Would you stay in your area? Would you go outside of your area?

Antoinette:
I’d have to come outside. I’ve been looking, I’m not really finding that here or in a price point that I want to pay, because it’s not going to be a syndication. It’s going to be with the money that I’ve cobbled up together between me and my family and a few close friends. We’re probably going to have to step outside of Florida for that. I’m open to other areas.

Mindy:
Okay. Interesting.

Scott:
We’ve got we’ve won. We’re retired. We’re thinking about building the portfolio with another apartment complex, day to day is-

Mindy:
Whatever I want.

Scott:
… do whatever I want. Walk the dog, wave at the other retired neighbors and all that kind of stuff. I love it. I mean, you’ve got the goal posts to stop moving from an expense profile very early and were able to parlay that into the first property and then accelerate from there using BRRRR. I think it’s phenomenal and it’s just a huge success story. Thank you so much for sharing it with us today.

Antoinette:
No, thank you guys for having me. I think when I first started all of this, I would listen to BiggerPockets Money like, “Man, I want to be on the show one day. I’m busting my ass to save and do all this stuff.” This really is like a full circle moment for me to be able to share a lot of the things that I may have been influenced by from listening to your podcast. Definitely thank you.

Mindy:
Okay. Antoinette, we have our famous four questions, which as you have listened to the show, you know are the same four questions that we ask of all of our guests. Are you ready?

Antoinette:
I am.

Mindy:
What is your favorite finance book?

Antoinette:
All right. Don’t crucify me for this, but I haven’t read any.

Mindy:
Oh, okay.

Scott:
Oh, that’s awesome.

Antoinette:
No finance books. No real estate books.

Scott:
I don’t know that was a possible answer.

Antoinette:
Yeah. No. Lots of Google. I listen to a lot of podcasts, so I’m still consuming educational information. It’s just not coming from a book.

Mindy:
That’s fine. That’s fine. What is your favorite podcast?

Antoinette:
Of course, BiggerPockets. The Real Estate Show, BiggerPockets Money. I think also when it came to financial freedom, I was listening to Afford Anything. Just that trifecta. Then when I want to be motivated, I’m listening to Tom Bilyeu or Lewis Howes.

Scott:
Awesome. Reading is converted into listening.

Antoinette:
Yes. I read fiction, right? I’m going to read for fun. If I’m going to educate, I want to hear it. Let me do a podcast. Let me get it in that way.

Mindy:
Okay. That’s fair.

Scott:
What was your biggest money mistake?

Antoinette:
Buying the two Mercedes that I bought. Those were the biggest mistakes. Loved both cars, but the first car I shouldn’t have bought it. What I had would’ve done just fine. Then by the time I bought the second car, I knew that my next role with my company was going to come with a company car. I got that next role three months after I bought this brand new car.
Definitely my car purchases were my money mistakes. I probably would be further along if I had not done them. However, they were done so strategically that it didn’t prevent me from achieving the other goals I had.

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

Antoinette:
Hands down, house hack, right? Everybody will tell you purchasing a home is going to be your biggest investment. It’s not. It’s your biggest debt. It’s the biggest bill you’re going to have to pay. It’s the reason you go to work every day. If you can eliminate that expense, game-changer. House hack. Hands down. Don’t buy your dream house, buy a house that pays for itself.

Scott:
I think it’s the biggest tactic you can do to skip the middle class in this country.

Antoinette:
Yeah.

Mindy:
I was going to say that sounds like a tactic that has been floated in a finance book called Set for Life. Maybe we can get Antoinette a copy of that.

Antoinette:
I probably should read that. Yes, absolutely.

Scott:
Big fan of that book. Yeah. Great book. [crosstalk 00:49:43].

Antoinette:
I heard great things about it.

Scott:
Well, we’ll send you a copy following the show here if you’d like to read it, or listen to it.

Antoinette:
Awesome.

Scott:
What is your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Antoinette:
Oh, I have a good one. Okay. I prepared for this. My boyfriend came last night and he was telling me a story of this guy he sat on the plane next to and that told him a corny joke. I’ll just tell it and then I’ll explain later. How do you find Will Smith in the snow?

Mindy:
How-

Antoinette:
You look for fresh prints. I know it’s awesome, right?

Scott:
Yes. Love it.

Antoinette:
I love it. Will Smith is like my favorite everything of all time so when he told me the joke, I was like, “Oh my God, I have to use that one tomorrow.

Scott:
That’s awesome. Love that. I’m going to steal that.

Mindy:
Okay. Antoinette, where can people find out more about you?

Antoinette:
I am trying to do a better job at sharing more about this journey. I can be found on social media under fearlessandfreefi.

Mindy:
Fearlessandfreefi.

Antoinette:
That’s Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, but there are no videos yet.

Mindy:
Awesome. We will include links to all of those in our show notes, which can be found at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow295. Antoinette, I am so glad you came up to me at that meetup that we had at our office. I am so glad you told your story because it is fantastic. You have four properties, you have no job.
You’re 36 years old living your best life, and it is very inspiring what you are doing. I’m so glad you had the time in your day to share with us your fantastic story. Thank you.

Antoinette:
Thank you guys so much for having me again, full circle moment. Biggest fan of everything BiggerPockets, literally. You know I’m not reading books. I learned everything from your podcast and websites. Thank you guys for having me.

Scott:
Thank you for coming on and sharing your story and congrats on the incredible success so far.

Antoinette:
Okay. Thank you.

Mindy:
Okay, Antoinette, we’ll talk to you soon. That was Antoinette. That fireball of a woman was Antoinette. She is going to continue to do massive, amazing things because she is so amazing. Scott, what’d you think of her story?

Scott:
I mean, it was a great story. I mean, it’s perfect. She’s done the fundamentals correctly from day one, literally paycheck one. Because of that discipline and because of the fact that she followed that path and managed her money intentionally, house hacked and built this real estate portfolio, she’s done. Game over. She can do whatever she wants with her day. She can travel. She can hang out at her house.
She gets to decide what that is. Check on her business occasionally. She directs the course of her life and her day. It’s just so wonderful to see. It’s what this is all about. I expect big things to come from her in future years because she will decide to pursue whatever passion she has or she will just live an awesome, happy wonder full life with that. I’m a little jealous and I’m excited and happy for her.

Mindy:
Yeah. At the end she said, she’s not sure what’s next. Maybe a 30 or 60-unit apartment building, which is not something that I want to take on, but if she wants it, she’s going to go get it. She’s going to find a way to do it. She’s going to crush it, just like she’s crushed everything else.
I am excited to bring her back in a few years and hear the story of the acquisition of her 30-unit apartment building and how she’s managing it and all the giant cash flow she’s making from it just by thinking outside the box. Okay, Scott, should we get out of here?

Scott:
Let’s do it.

Mindy:
From episode 295 of the BiggerPockets Money podcast, he is Scott Trench and I am Mindy Jensen, on behalf of Antoinette Monroe saying, go fill out those spreadsheets.

 

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In This Episode We Cover

  • The importance of saving money and the freedom that comes with it
  • How to make an efficient and realistic budget & how to stick with it
  • The Budgeting ABCs & how to simplify your budget (and your life!)
  • Creative financing and using it to buy deals when you don’t have the cash
  • How to create and maintain a cash-flowing asset
  • And So Much More!

Links from the Show

Book Mentioned in the Show:

Connect with Antoinette:

Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.