What 20-Somethings Can Teach Us About Real Estate Investing

by | BiggerPockets.com

Grandpa was the first one I heard say it out loud — “This new generation is goin’ to the dogs!” Of course he was far from the first to give voice to that thought. Plato attributed the following quote to Socrates, though there is no conclusive evidence he ever actually said it.

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and lvoe chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” 

I’m happy to report that hasn’t been my experience when it comes to those who’ve come my way as the youngest of real estate investors. The last year or so has brought me more 20-something investors than I’ve worked with in the previous 40 years.  To abuse understatement, it’s been an eye opener. They’ve come from the west coast, east coast, and smack dab in the epicenter of middle America.

How they earn their daily bread is also broad based. A sampling would include, pharmacist, the nuclear industry, corporate law, and technology sales, among others. Can’t tell ya how much I love workin’ with ’em. They’re very different from each other, yet share some common character traits as well.

  • They wish at all costs to avoid making the mistakes so many have made in real estate investing lately. When asked to specify, they almost universally point to those who put the pedal to the metal without much if any qualified, professional advice. They refuse to wonder into the mistakes about which they hear and read almost daily.
  • They often refer to the timing, in their lives, of the current economic downturn. Most were just outa high school or in the middle of college when everything hit the fan. They saw, in real time, often to real folks they knew, what happened to those who only thought they knew exactly what they were doin’.
  • Almost without exception, they’ve disciplined themselves to live far below their means. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not suffering, but they’re freakin’ saving machines. For example, one client making just a bit under $100,000/yr, manages to save about $4,000 monthly! Ya wanna just grab ’em and hug the stuffin’ outa ’em. 🙂
  • They ask hard questions, that demand thoughtful, detailed, no BS answers. When they hear solid answers backed by empirical evidence and clearly delineated logic, they come on board. They understand rational thought, lucidly explained concepts — and plans that purposefully make use of them, especially when combined synergistically.
  • The best part? There’s very little they must consciously ‘unlearn’. They wish to retire very well as the direct result of a well conceived plan, executed with unwavering purpose. And boy do they do that in spades.

Many of them have accumulated enough capital to initially acquire more than one property. They also understand how important it is to have skin in the game, leaving the high-wire-without-a-net approach of little or no down payment to braver souls. They worked hard for their money, and understand long term gains and benefits come through the use of proven OldSchool principles. Their preference when it comes to high risk is a weekend in Vegas or Atlantic City. 🙂

I’ll tell you what I tell them.

Their future is incredible, given their prudent approach to retirement planning. Using real estate as the cornerstone allows them to exert more control — their words. What appeals to them is knowing values and net operating incomes can remain unchanged from now till they’re in their 50’s and their plan will still produce a magnificently abundant retirement. They also realize that for most of ’em, their retirement income is just as likely to exceed their job income as not — a very sobering thought — especially when they’re not yet 30 and making near or more than $100,000 a year.

Don’t know about you, but lookin’ back, I wish I was as wise as these youngsters when I was their age.

About Author

Jeff Brown

Licensed since 1969, broker/owner since 1977. Extensively trained and experienced in tax deferred exchanges, and long term retirement planning.


  1. I totally agree with your blog. Many young people these days have seen what happens with excess and a poor investment strategy. I see young people asking questions and making decisions based on good common sense. So baby boomers may have provided a great education to our young people by showing what ‘Not’ to do. At least we can give them that.

  2. As a 23 yr old. I would like to thank any(and bigger pockets in general)mentor that is willing to give professional advice.Its greatly appreciated and your goodwill of giving back to the world in the form of helping the future generation will only allow a brighter future for you and your descendants.

  3. I agree with Bob. In this day and age young people have seen what happens in time of boom and a with no clue about investing. Common sense goes a long way – or is that stating the obvious? At least the younger generations can learn from their peers about what not to do. Indeed.

  4. Sherita Cotten on

    I totally agree and wish them well in all their success. I am 53 yrs. young and starting a second career in real estate and financial serives. However, this population must not forget about their elders, related or not. They must remember that it is important to have a spiritual life because without God, their success and fortunes is short-lived.

  5. I am very proud to be a part of today’s 20-somethings’ generation. People of my age just learned to the mistakes made by the older ones. We are not stubborn, we just don’t confine ourselves to the traditional things that has failed for several time.

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