From the time I was very young I had an entrepreneurial mindset. I did everything I could think of to make money, from selling Kool Aid in front of my house when I was very little to selling soda to thirsty golfers on the course at the age of ten. It was also at the age of ten that I started working for my brother in his construction company (so much for child labor laws). My job at that time was to hold things while he nailed them or to help with the clean up when a job was done. I wound up working for him during my summer vacations and occasional weekends throughout the year all the way through school. He taught me an incredible amount about working on houses, but more importantly, he taught me to be independent and not rely on a 9-5 job.
I went on to college after high school and tried my hand at engineering. That wasn’t what I wanted and I left school for a while but later returned to study investments and finance. I took a position in the financial services industry and eventually became a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) owning my own firm. I did this for better than 15 years but it was not as glamorous as movies like Wall Street made it seem. I grew tired of the constant struggle to make a living and I was looking for something more.
In my financial planning practice I worked with a lot of wealthy people and came to learn that many of them didn’t find their fortune by investing in stocks, bonds and mutual funds. These investment vehicles were what they were using to diversify their assets after they became rich. Most of those that didn’t get rich through an inheritance had accumulated their assets through a business that they had started or by investing in real estate. It was definitely an “ah ha” moment when I realized that.
As fate would have it I was in search of a home at this time and I thought that I could buy a house in a better neighborhood if I bought a “fixer” and used my construction experience to rehab the house. The movie The Money Pit could have been made about this rehab, if it could go wrong it did. Nightmare on Elm Street had nothing on this house! Somehow I got through it and the house slowly evolved into a nice piece of real estate. I had acquired the “rehabbing itch” and decided that I needed to do it again. The next time was a much better experience and I made a tremendous profit. I remember people telling me that I was out of my mind and that I should buy a house that didn’t need so much work. When my project was finished they were amazed at the result.
Now it is 15 years after that first disaster of a house and I haven’t looked back. I could have gone the traditional route and stayed in the corporate world and spent my life enduring the rat race like so many others. Was it easy? Absolutely not, it was a lot of work and I took a lot of risks that others wouldn’t. I have had several people look at my lifestyle and say to me “you’re so lucky!” to them I say that luck had nothing to do with it. I am where I am because of the choices that I made along the way, some were good choices and some were bad but I learned from them all. Most of all I had a plan and I followed it, I succeeded because I kept going when others would have quit. I remember when I first started as a stock broker an industry veteran told me that if I would spend ten years working harder than other people were willing to work I could spend the rest of my life living like other people were unable to live. No where is that more true than in real estate investing.
I wanted to use this column as a way for you to get to know me a little. In future columns I will share different experiences I have had and things that I’ve learned along the way. If you have specific questions or topics that you would like me to cover please let me know and I will attempt to answer them.
In closing I would like to share some words that have inspired me. They are from the poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.