He was drafted out of high school and soon found himself on a flight to Vietnam. He was full of life and optimism when he left his home in southern Ohio. But he came back a broken man. Like so many others.
And like so many others, he turned to the bottle to ease his pain. He wasn’t alone. The local VFW was full of young men… turned shattered men… turned alcoholics and addicts.
I’m talking about my wife’s Uncle Jimmy. He worked long hours in the oilfields and spent little time at home. And he had little use for doctors or plumbers. Jimmy unclogged his own drains and had his own ways of dealing with his constant pain.
So, when Jimmy had a persistent toothache, a dentist appointment wasn’t in the cards for him—despite his wife’s protests.
“Why should I waste money and time off work to go to a dentist when I can take care of this myself?”
Famous (almost) last words.
After a few too many drinks at the local saloon one evening, Jimmy’s friend convinced him that he could take care of the tooth. I never heard just how he did it… with a string tied to a door handle or a pair of pliers, perhaps. But his friend pulled his tooth in the bar that night. And Jimmy stumbled home to sleep it off.
But Jimmy never woke up.
He bled to death in his sleep that night. It upsets me to think how hard this was on his wife and children. His widow is very old now, and she never quite recovered from it all.
So, why am I telling you this gruesome story?
Some Things Are Best Left to Pros
Here’s the lesson: There are certain things that you shouldn’t do on your own. Some activities take a professional.
Other low stakes/low skill activities can be undertaken by amateurs. Think:
- Changing your oil
- Painting that closet door your puppy scratched up
- Snaking the drain in your bathroom sink
- Installing that fence for your pastured chickens
- Baking a semi-boneless ham for Christmas
But we all know that there are times when, due to the complexity of the project or the high cost of a failure, we are compelled to outsource the activity to a professional.
I mean, would you try these activities at home?
- Brain surgery
- Build a laptop from scratch
- Start your own search engine to compete with Google
Even if you could do this (many can build a laptop), would this be a good use of your time? Probably not.
Does this make sense?
The jury is in. From Gary Keller to Tim Ferriss to Warren Buffett and a thousand others, it is clear that the most efficient path to wealth is to focus on what you’re best at and outsource everything else.
Gary Keller: “Saying yes to your one thing means saying no to a thousand potential distractions.”
Tim Ferriss: “By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.”
Warren Buffett: “Loss of focus is what most worries Charlie and me when we contemplate investing in businesses that in general look outstanding. All too often, we’ve seen value stagnate in the presence of hubris or of boredom that caused the attention of managers to wander.”
How does this all apply to real estate?
What Are Your Intentions With Real Estate Investing?
Many BiggerPockets readers are investing in real estate to prepare for retirement and/or to generate additional passive income streams to supplement current income. Or to replace a current high-stress job. Or to get the amazing growth and tax benefits.
Most likely all of the above.
So, is real estate investing a side hustle-type occupation? One where you can afford trial and error? Perhaps…
It is if:
- If you’re playing with fun money and don’t really care about the outcome.
- If you’re doing it as a hobby or as a non-profit project, say, to help someone in need.
- If your job is tedious, part-time, or unusually non-demanding… and your real estate investments are likewise low risk and low demand.
Like the overcooked semi-boneless ham or the drain you can’t get unclogged, if the risk and stakes are low and the skillset less than professional-level, by all means go for the side hustle.
But many of the real estate investors I speak to weekly have gone down this path—and found that it produced less than satisfying results.
When you’re playing with real money—like your self-directed IRA funds or a significant portion of your savings—doing real estate as a side gig is a bad idea. And if you hope to harness real estate to fund your retirement (or to achieve a lifestyle upgrade or to generate funds to impact society for good), then I hope you’ll take my advice.
Note: I’m not speaking to you real estate investors who are currently or are soon to be making this your full-time gig.
I’m talking to those who either:
- Make great money in your current job and are trying to do this on the side, or
- Are enjoying retirement and trying to amp up your income by dabbling in real estate.
Late Uncle Jimmy should have sought a dentist, and I hope you’ll consider outsourcing the hard work to professionals, too. He lost his life. Though I’m being dramatic here, I don’t think your retirement funds are any light matter.
Focus on What You Know
Ten thousand Americans turn 65 every day, and about 6 in 10 have less than $10,000 saved for retirement! How can this be possible in the most prosperous civilization in the history of the planet?
I don’t want this to be your lot in life. And it doesn’t have to be.
And I’m practicing what I preach. I’ve invested in real estate for almost two decades, and I have done a lot of this on my own. I could continue to manage a team to manage real estate.
But I choose to outsource most of the critical real estate functions to experts. This gives me and our team access to outsized income and growth, all the same tax benefits, and the opportunity to focus on what we do best.
Even Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor, follows these principles. Berkshire Hathaway is one of America’s largest corporations. But they only have 26 people in their home office!
Warren doesn’t make ice cream… or build mobile homes… or design insurance policies… or create furniture or jewelry or candy or chemicals. He relies on the experts to handle this stuff.
Are your retirement and your future—and the chance to create multi-generational wealth—any less important?
Tell us what you outsource and what you do yourself. And feel free to argue! I know that many of you vehemently disagree, and that’s OK.
Join the discussion in the comment section below.