At Age 26, I’m on the Brink of Financial Freedom: Here’s How I Did It

by | BiggerPockets.com

A year and a half ago, I told the following story. I had so many people contact me and thank me for writing it over the past year or so that I wanted to go back through, update it and republish it to share, help, and inspire more people.

In this post, I will tell you how the long struggle of choosing to stay broke has left me with a foundation strong enough to now begin the pursuit towards wealth.

For some reason, real estate has been labeled a get-rich-quick joy ride for entrepreneurs. This is funny because in my experience, it has been more like a be-broke-for-a-long-time uphill climb. Can you get rich quickly and easily from real estate? Definitely — and you can also do that with the lottery. Unfortunately, both of those results are unlikely to repeat, and neither are anything close to sustainable. Getting rich quickly requires the use of self discipline in order to utilize the power of exponential growth AFTER you put in the long grind of foundation building. Whether that foundation is in knowledge, money, or connections, it must be built!

How I Bought, Rehabbed, Rented, Refinanced, and Repeated for 14 Rental Properties

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Exponential Growth is a Powerful Thing

I was never a good student in school. I would daydream, not care, and halfway pay attention to lessons. However, I do distinctly remember being taught about exponential growth. I have no clue what grade that was, but I remember typing 2^2 = 4 in my calculator, and then tapping the “=” button over and over to watch the numbers climb higher and higher.

The math behind exponential growth forever stuck with me. I always related it back to money. As a middle schooler, I would run scenarios, such as what if had one dollar and it doubled every day for a month? BUT WAIT — what if I started with 100 dollars and it doubled every day for a month? Boom. An investor was born.

Related: How Much Money Do You Need to be “Rich” and Is It Worth It?

My brother (my 50/50 business partner) and I share views on finance and wealth building. We have worked together since I was 18 years old. We began by opening a handyman business back in 2008 while living in a “house hack” with six guys. Through word of mouth, trial and error, and a ton of effort, we grew that company into a successful home renovation business, rehabbing kitchens, bathrooms, and additions for homeowners. It was pretty cool being 19 and making good money off these projects.

However, unlike the majority of our peers, we didn’t blow it at bars or on clothes. We saved it because we were never going to be the smartest by a long shot or have the most connections. What we did know was that we could out-work others, and if we had the capital to work with, we could build the foundation necessary to do so.

 

Take the Classic Investing Approach and Flip It on Its Head

The classic real estate investor newbie says, “I want to wholesale so I can make enough money to put a down payment on a house to flip.” After they profit from several flips, they can have enough money saved up to put a nice down payment on a buy and hold property so that one day they can pay it off and have a nice passive, cash flowing rental. Great. But where is the foundation to exponentially grow on? My partner and I are working the inverse of that equation (with some variation). I’ll explain how later in this post.

Related: Financial Freedom: 14 Steps to Stop Relying on Your 9-5 Job’s Income

Have you ever heard “live below your means”? We took it one step further and lived at our lowest means — and did so for a long time. While running the home renovation company, we paid ourselves very little — some months nothing, some months $500. Remember, we were in college living in a house hack with six people, renting each room out. It’s funny; everyone is poor during college living off practically nothing, but as soon as they get some income, it’s impossible for them to continue living at such low means.

We got paid well, lived at the bottom of our means, and saved in order to prepare to enter into real estate investing. By 2012, we began buying highly distressed SFRs, rehabbing them all cash. We then rented these newly renovated properties out and took NO money for ourselves. We looked at it as if it wasn’t ours to have. We would have 3, 4, then 5 debt-free houses renting for $800-$1000 a month, but my partner and I would be doing quick rehab jobs for others and picking up scrap metal on trash night to pay for our personal needs (groceries, cell phone).

Sacrificing to Build a Foundation of Wealth

Sounds like it sucks, right? It did, but the foundation was being built. We were living like most wouldn’t so that one day we could live like most can’t. We knew the faster the foundation was built well, the more we could utilize exponential growth. After we had 7 houses under our belt, we finally leveraged some of them to continue the growth into another 4 SFRs, 3 more duplexes, and a 5-unit apartment building. Not until two and half years after we bought our first rental did we decide to pay ourselves a whopping 6% of gross rents. I will admit some where in this mix, we were lucky enough to find great wives to help support us through this financially draining journey.

As I mentioned before, we are running the inverse of the classic path of entering REI. We started by owning buy and hold properties free and clear. We then used debt from those properties to acquire more buy and hold properties.

We then pulled the remaining chunk of equity out of the rental portfolio (to a safe 70-80% LTV) and ventured into flipping houses. Because of our track record and newly liquid capital, banks and private investors were now willing to lend to our company on multiple flips at once. Even with the option to borrow money, we found most of the time we had enough to do the whole flip with our own funds. This only further accelerated profits and growth.

In 2015, we did 17 flips for just under $3 million in gross sales. Because of our background in contracting, a hot market, and our hustle, each flip produced very good profits. However, flipping is risky and didn’t meet our long-term goals, so by the end of 2015, we wrapped up most of the flipping. We had made a chunk of change and were ready to move onto the next step in our journey.

 

Setting the Framework to Scale

By the start of 2016, we had, for the most part, exited the flipping strategy. We added on our CPA asset manager as a partner to our rental company and formed a management company to consolidate operations between holding companies. At this time, we were ready to scale. We had all the systems in place and the right people. We were ready to jump in with the big boys buying apartment buildings.

After struggling to find a deal that met our needs, we eventually closed a multi-million dollar apartment complex without raising any money from outside investors. All of this was possible and will continue to be possible because of the foundation that was laid years ago when we were handymen cleaning out dirty houses, not taking money out of the company to accelerate growth.

After all these hard years, I am proud to say at the young age of 26, I am very close to my personal financial freedom number. That doesn’t mean we will stop there. As I said before, I work for the good money can do, and I believe that good can be endless. This is why moving forward, our journey will continue by venturing into larger apartment deals through syndication in Ohio and Georgia. I know this will continue our exponential growth and will only allow us to do great things in the many years to come.

“But That is Way Too Hard!”

My partners and I are willing to make the sacrifices now in order to reap the benefits later. This sounds great, but when it comes down to actually putting this to action, it is beyond hard. By no means is this lifestyle choice for most. People claiming that sacrificing your spending money in order to build wealth is nothing new. The reality you don’t hear about is all the other things that also get sacrificed. We realized that working 12-15 hour days rehabbing houses 6-7 days a week left very little room for other things. We willingly let go of much of our social lives in order to build this foundation.

Related: The Unspoken Problem With Financial Freedom Few People Acknowledge (& How to Avoid It!)

Along with social life is the toll this can have on your health. The sacrifices go far beyond money. I know these years of buying my t-shirts out of the nine-cent box at the thrift store (yes, this does exist) will one day have a positive ripple effect on everyone important to me. We do not work for money, but rather the good money can do. We paid ourselves nothing and worked 80-hour weeks of hard labor in order to know that when the day comes when we have children, we can give them and our wives all they need and more while only working as much as we want to.

Some may say we could have leveraged sooner — even at the beginning. They will say in the formula of exponential growth, the exponent is more powerful than the base number. They are right, but the real world isn’t a formula, and having money makes it so much easier to make money. That’s the foundation I talked about. If you try to grow too fast without enough money, experience or connections, your foundation will crack, and you wont have any money to repair it. The next thing you know, you will be looking around saying, what the hell happened? You must take the time to build the foundation of knowledge, money, and connections.

great-property-manager

 

Advice to the Beginner

Plain and simple, there are thousands of ways easier than the approach my partner and I took to build a foundation for growth. It worked really well, but there are better ways. You may be asking, “Then why didn’t you use the better ways?” The truth is, it’s because we didn’t know how — or even know they existed. We entered our investing career full blast, we hit the ground running. We didn’t take the time to educate ourselves well. We didn’t network with anyone for the longest time.

I did whatever I knew how in order to build my foundation stronger. We just were go go go, and when a roadblock came along, we just pounded away until it broke. Little did we know, with knowledge and the right connections, you can avoid half of the roadblocks we ran into. Along with our all-out approach, we were fortunate to enter REI in one of best markets to buy into. Because of this, our mistakes didn’t hurt us as badly. Had it been 2006, our growth would have been much different.

My advice is simple to beginners: You don’t have to be a pro, you don’t need a team of 10 people. Just understand what REI is, and get a grasp on the basics of it. Find a couple people who you can call when you get stumped. Then hit the ground running with this amazing website (BiggerPockets), and you can accomplish all that relatively quickly. The rest you can sort out along the way, as long as you continue to learn from your mistakes and educate yourself as you progress. You don’t need a degree or anything special.

When you make things happen, things happen! Just don’t ever plan for it to be easy or that you will get rich quickly. Once you get rolling, continue the sacrifices to build your foundation. Once your foundation is strong, let ‘er rip and watch the hard work pay off. If you aren’t able to have the self-discipline to sacrifice either time, money, or both, then entrepreneurship isn’t for you.

The only sustainable way to get rich quickly in real estate is to use self-discipline and sacrifice up front, building the foundation. So one day with the power of exponential growth, you will be able to get rich quickly!

[Editor’s Note: We are republishing this article to help out our newer members.]

Where are YOU on your journey to financial freedom?

Share your story below!

About Author

Jered Sturm

Jered Sturm is co-founder and director of sales and marketing at SNS Capital Group. Jered began in the real estate industry in 2006, working for a successful real estate investment company as a handyman. From 2009-2012, Jered co-founded the construction company Sturm Properties. Using his background in contracting and construction, he began investing in “Value Add” real estate. Now, after co-founding SNS Capital Group, Jered has conducted over 10 million dollars in real estate transactions. He currently co-owns and operates a portfolio worth over 3.7 million dollars in investment real estate.

118 Comments

  1. Mark Douglas

    That’s awesome man! I’m very early on in my RE endeavors, but I know where I want to go, and I’m going to get there. It isn’t comfortable now, and the sacrifices certainly don’t make sense to a lot of people, but I see the finished product in my mind.

    Happy for you and yours!

    Thanks for the encouragement.

    -Mark

    • Jered Sturm

      Once you can truly see it in your mind, you’re already half way there!

      Thank you for leaving a comment, I am not a skilled writer so these blogs take me quite a while to write. positive feed back like yours helps me find motivation to continue writing. Good luck on your journey. Let me know if I can ever be of help!

        • Jered Sturm

          Thanks Dareo. Yeah I saw 345 people have shared the article thats awesome! I hope it hits home with at least a few and inspires someone to do great things.

      • Jacqueline Gray

        Well this is my very first post and I ran across this blog, I really appreciate you sharing your start into the business. I know absolutely nothing at this point but its something that’s driving me to learn. I have a co-worker which I just made him my mentor because he is so smart he reminds me of my grandson one day. Well I remember when he started and now he is becoming quite good at it and then Sunday while I watch tv I see a inivite to PB investment seminar so I and my son are going but no we are not going to do the camp or the 35k training but while reading the fine print i found this website. Hello everyone and great story Jered! By the way my son’s name is Jerrad!

  2. Tyler Herman

    I appreciate your hustle.

    Could you explain some of your early stage math? How did your first 5 houses become debt free. It sounds like you would have needed to make six figures each to pull that off. I get that you paid yourself nothing but you made a big leap from $0 to paid off property.

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks Tyler Herman!

      Our first 7 were debt free. We bought all of them cash, we did not take debt to purchase or rehab them. Mostly because no one would give us any! Lenders don’t like 21 self employed people who have zero track record. We did this two ways. 1) We bought extremely distressed properties. At the time we didn’t have a bunch of money but we had time and and effort. With our background in contracting we were able to trade our time rehabbing for our lack of capital. For example our first house ever we bought for $14.5k put $11k in materials into it( does not include our months of labor) and then once we did the cash out refi it appraised for $85k. So we kept our cash outlay low by buying highly distressed. Our average single family appraised for $90k after our extensive rehabs, but was bought for under $30k

      2) We continued to run our construction company through out our first two years of investing. I specifically remember rehabbing a high end kitchen for a home owner and just the profits from that job bought and rehabbed one of our properties.

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks buddy! Couldn’t have done 3-4 of those flips with out your help. I’m sure none of the flips would have gone so well with out the wisdom you are always kind enough to share.
      I very much look forward to updating this in 5-10 years!

  3. Tim Puffer

    Dude – one of the best articles on BP – EVERYONE needs to read this. This is the core of what will make a great RE investor – the willingness to work your tail off and make sacrifices. Hard work and sacrifices are hard things to do for most people because they want Easy Street. I hope to join you on Financial Freedom Boulevard in the near future Jered – Keep killing it!

    • Jered Sturm

      Wow Tim that’s a bold statement, that I love to hear :). As I said above, I am by no means a strong writer so these posts take me longer than most. Endorsements like yours only fuel my fire to continue sharing my own experiences for others to find education and inspiration through.

      Thank you for your comment.

  4. kian golchin

    Hi Jered,

    Great article and I am very impressed by your success. I was wondering how long do you have to hold the properties before the banks allow you to refi cash out please?

    Also, would the waiting period be the same if it was my primary that I decided to live in and renovate and than keep as a rental?

    I have always liked this strategy that you did starting out I just heard some long wait times from the banks before they let you cash out. I am in Los Angeles. Would be interested for both investment and primary please.

    Thank you Jered!

    • Jered Sturm

      Hey Kian,

      Thank you for the complement!

      I think the answer to your question is: It depends. But Ill try to give you my own experience so you can build on it. on the majority of our cash out refinances we used a small portfolio lender local in our market. They were able to do a 70% LTV 4.75% 20 year fixed cash out refi. The catch like you mentioned was the seasoning period. They require 12 months of ownership before you can get this loan.

      I was told by many investors and banks that no bank lends based off appraised value with out a seasoning period. Based on why they want a seasoning period I was convinced there must be a bank that doesn’t need a seasoning period. So we finally found this tiny local bank about an hour out of our market that was willing to do the 70% LTV loan with no seasoning but we had to pay 1 point at closing to get this. I was happy to do so, and our last two were done this way. We purchased cash rehabbed cash refinanced after the roughly 2 month process was complete and got 100% of our cash out lay back out of the investment.

      Im not sure on the primary residence and how that would vary. I am also only familiar working with small portfolio lenders because the big banks lacked the flexibility needed to work with us.

  5. Jacob Murphy

    Jered – great seeing you post here on BP. You always show the real life side of real estate investing. I think if I had one word to describe it, it would be “grit”. Huge motivation reading this! I had to read it twice.

    I’m still in the early phase here, moved back in with the parents (bottom bunk), bought a used car in all cash, student loans paid off, rehabbed two properties myself and have 2 more in the pipeline. Great to hear that it all pays off in the end, because those 2 am nights painting houses by yourself can eat at your inner drive. Thanks for the inspiring post! See you at the mastermind

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks Jacob! Yeah its not an easy road! The trick for us was being extremely frugal in our personal lives but once the times came to be aggressive and push all in for our business we did so.

      To this day its odd I will debate with myself on a $10 purchase for something in my personal life, but will pull the trigger with out hesitation on purchases 100 times that in our business. Its a strange balance that I am sure you experience as well.

      Another thing to look out for is getting stuck in the frugality. For us it was essential for building our foundation, Its all we knew, but once you have momentum we are able to shift from a scarcity mindset to production mindset. Also not an easy transition and one i’m currently trying to sort through myself.

  6. Scott Beyea

    Inspiring! I’m a newbie and loved reading your article! I definitely relate to your hustle mentality because if you desire and envision something bad enough one must take massive consistent action through the good and the bad! I appreciate you taking the time to write and share your story. It makes me wish I only had discovered my passion in real estate earlier as we are same age! I like how you bought debt free slowly and steadily, and think it’s great advice for us new guys to either do the same or at least be sure to leverage other people’s money very carefully!

    • Jered Sturm

      Yep, I cant agree more. Thank you for the kind words. 26 years old, you have more than enough time to easily take advantage of the long life ahead of you. Nothing is more powerful in investing than time. You have a lot of it relative to most and therefore you are already at an advantage. Good luck on your journey!

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks for taking the time to write a comment! I am not the strongest writer so these blogs take me some time to put together. I do it to help inspire and educate others, so I really enjoy reading these comments.

  7. Chris Harjes

    Ditto all of the above- I’m in the same mode now that you were in a few years ago, working my ass off at an unusually profitable contract job, being broke as hell all the time while managing my “real job” and two to four rehabs at any given moment.

    However I’m watching the rental income slowly start to add up, and should be in good shape within 18 months or so to focus entirely on enjoying the awesome life I’ve put on hold to take advantage of this opportunity for financial growth. Unlike you guys, I’ve leveraged every last penny I can get my hands on, but mostly through traditional mortgages at today’s absurdly low rates.

    I was buying diapers on a credit card two years ago, and plan to be two million dollars in debt and retired entirely on rental income by Via’s fourth birthday. 🙂 I won’t actually retire though- I’ll start a non-profit, keep investing and pass the future growth on to those in true need. I’ve been amazingly lucky so far in life, and I’m stoked on the opportunity to start paying it back. 🙂

    • Jered Sturm

      Sounds like you are doing great Chris. Keep up the hard work. To your point on leverage, I think leverage is vital to success in REI, It was just that no one would give it to us for the first few years. Now we utilize it to a safe but useful level. For example we took an very attractive 80% LTV loan on our recent apartment complex purchase. Thank you for your post!

  8. Rich E.

    Great article! One of the best I have read on BP. The blue print for success you laid out is straightforward and something everyone can follow….1) work you @ss off and 2) live well below your means.

    • Jered Sturm

      Rich, thank you. All the comments, people sharing this article on social media and writing me messages means a great deal to me and I hope it can help several people find a career path they enjoy as much as I do mine.

  9. Matt McCourry

    Great article Jared! I can defiantly say I wish I would have started sooner, being only 26 myself many people ask me how I am so motivated at such a young age, and I just started a few years ago! however I always tell them that if they think I am motivated, they need to connect with some of these people on BP, your on another level brother!

  10. Victor Alvarado

    Good for you. Im glad to hear at least you will never have to worry about money ever again. I work extremely hard and still have incredible financial pain. I’m glad you and your future family will never have to face financial pain.

    • Jered Sturm

      Thank you Victor. I think everyone will face financial pain regardless of their past success life and business are not easy and we all take our punches it’s how you react to them. I read your profile and it seems you are taking the write steps, add true belief in yourself and I know you can reach your goal of $60k passivly.

      One of my favorite quotes:
      “Wether you think you can, or you think you can’t– you’re right”. Henry Ford.

      The mind is a powerful thing don’t let the hard times bring it down my friend!

  11. Bryan Drury

    Jerad, Congratulations on your past and future projects.You and your brother took advantage of your competitive strengths. 1)Your willingness to work hard and long 2)Your willingness to live beneath your means 3)Your willingness to sacrifice the present for future gains. Almost every young person has those options available to them, but very few take advantage.It’s refreshing to see some that do.Again congrats!!!

  12. David Zheng

    awesome article!!! Really appreciate someone writing about the nitty gritty of becoming wealthy. Not the glamorous 0% down, easy way to own properties crap I keep reading.

    I started investing this year and am at my 5th rental property and I’m also living the hard life, but I know I will reap my fruit later which keeps me going.

    Thanks for being another inspiration!

  13. Margaret J.

    Jared, I really enjoyed your article. It gave me a little more inspiration to keep moving forward. Lots of people think I’m nuts working a full time job and then doing this real estate thing on the side. Sometimes it wears me out and I give up lots of free time, too. I was becoming discouraged because I thought that by now I should be so much further along,… and yet… it isn’t get rich quick and I never thought it was so I need to just dig in my heels and keep going. I have a vision and I need to keep a hold of it. I really enjoyed the real life commentary. You tell it like it is.

  14. Hello Jered,
    THANK YOU! Your article came at a very opportune time as I just talked to my niece yesterday about our success story and how she and her husband can do the same. I will share your very concise, well written and packed-with -a ton-of-valuable-experience-and-advice article with her and her still under 18 children. WELL DONE, my fellow investor! You are truly an inspiration to many generations.

    My husband and I will close on our 16th and 17th units next Wednesday – it’s a duplex that we will house hack after exclusively living off rental income for the last 6 years. Our story is this: I bought my first property when I was 23 not knowing what I was doing, not having a clear plan (like YOU, congrats!!) but willing to learn along the way. By the time I was 37 (and still single), I owned that first house in FL free and clear, a high cash flowing duplex in New Orleans, a condo in Denver and a (now) self managed vacation rental in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. During those early years, I lived frugally and paid a minimum of double payments on each mortgage. My goal seemed to be getting out of the only debt I had – mortgage debt – as soon as possible. Still, though, I had no clear plan.

    In my 30’s, I sought the advice of two financial planners, both of whom told me to leverage my position by cashing out the enviable equity I had built over 15ish years. Intuitively, I did not listen to them and instead sold the FL and LA properties then met my husband. Together, we bought a townhouse in Denver and decided to slam as much money as we could our three properties. Although, we owned a highly profitable business together, it entailed us working massive hours and sacrificing, at times, way, way too much. We lived far below our means and were able to save, save, save. Much to the chagrin of a third financial planner, most months, we paid $8900 towards mortgages. By 2007 we were mortgage free with rental income from 2 of our 3 properties. Still, though, we did not have a clear plan and were still working massive hours in our business.

    In November of 2010, we transitioned out of our business and bought a second house in the Rocky Mountains and 10 condos within 2.5 years – all with cash and rehabbed them, mostly ourselves, also with cash. The 11 units plus the Denver condo became our base foundation that we easily live off of and will not mortgage – EVER. These units, as you so aptly called it, are our solid foundation. During this “foundation accumulation” phase, we learned cash is king as well as many other valuable, self taught lessons that you so eloquently highlight in your rocking article, Jered.

    In 2015, we sold the free and clear townhouse in the crazy high Denver market, used the money to leverage our position on a 75% mortgaged duplex in FL that nets $27 a month more than the townhouse did. Since we’re still sitting on a pile of money from the townhouse sale, I house shop constantly and planned to grab a mortgage with 25% down on our next property. NOT! Even though we made higher offers than other buyers, we lost 2 multiple offer duplexes because someone else had cash.

    Re-enter your philosophy, Jared, and ours of 4 years ago – cash is king. This newest multiple offer duplex we buy next week will be paid for and rehabbed with cash. We intend to mortgage it after the required 6 month holding period with my husband’s VA certificate – hopefully at the current 3%. With that future mortgage, we will pay a mere $14 per month for housing and will have another pot of cash in hand to shop with. If we decide to house hack our anticipated 2017 purchased 18th & 19th properties (hopefully a duplex or higher), we will rent our side of next week’s purchased duplex. At that point, we will cash flow it $775-$800/month.

    Our current position of paying cash next week for the duplex will be a COC ROI (with 10% reserves built-in) of 3.4%. While not stellar, it’s short term and is three times better than the 1.05% we’re getting from the bank. For 6 months to a year, we’ll happily take it because once we cash it out in 6 months, the COC ROI will be 11.4%.

    My husband and I are at a point we can pretty much do what we want. We frequently talk about the sacrifices we’ve made over 20ish years, our journey along the way and how it was worth the intense and constant effort. Friends, family and random strangers hear our story and think we got to this enviable place in life overnight or say, “I want to be where you are” but do nothing despite coaching from us. You all have choices in life. Some are hard, some are easy, some work out, others don’t. The point is, utilize your choices and join us on this marvelous endeavor of property investing. When done right, it’s a fabulous place to be.

    Over the last 2 years, I have been reading Bigger Pockets daily. Brandon and this wonderful team of investor contributors like you, Jered, have reinforced our own personal journey, have helped fine tune our thinking and have helped us develop a clearer path. The information put out by BP and it’s followers is immense, relevant and self explanatory. With the right grit, determination, sacrifice and mentors, EVERYONE can do this. YOU ARE SOLID PROOF, Jered. Thank you for sharing your journey with such a well laid out and easily understood article. Best wishes for continued success, my new friend.

  15. John Rodriguez

    Jered,

    Guys basically my story but I did it all by myself, not saying this to brag but to actually point out one AMAZING BLESSING, your partner. I remember being 8 yrs old expecting a little brother, and I was sooo thrill. He died at 7 months, I was to say the least devastated. After my high school graduation ( where I met my Georgia peach) I focus on real estate, got my license, save enough commissions to buy my first multi family at 19yrs, after working as a slave on a few of my flips, and i again save enough to buy commercial real estate cash in Norther NJ. I’m 28 and I have 13 performing properties in my portfolio, currently building 2 brand new, and in the middle of 4 flips . I have leveraged out my invested time on flips with joint ventures, I focus on connecting and growing with the right people to get to the next level which is commercial development 60 units+. As you mentioned its all about scarifies, and knowing where you actually want to be, anything in between its just wasting its time, nothing and no1 can get in between our goals ! NOT DREAMS, DREAMS ARE GOALS ***WITHOUT A PLAN **** Goals are dreams with a plan. I’m in fact heading to Georgia this Friday checking out some land out there with my wife and kids, and visiting my wife’s family. Hey by the way dont feel bad about my brother, I have been blessed with two amazing little boys, and a princess ! All the very best fellas, and try to get into this market up here ! NY and NJ its HOT !

    • Jered Sturm

      Albert,
      65 years young, that’s it?? You have plenty of time.
      What I find so powerful about entrepreneurship is not the destination but the journey. I enjoy each and everyday of work. I enjoy talking about work, and I have fun being around the people I work with.
      Whether you feel you have enough time to reach the destination or not, I can promise starting will be the best choice ever because you will at the least get to experience the journey.

      All the best to you and the many more years on your journey.

  16. Jacob Calbillo

    Thank you for this article. It is incredibly inspiring! It’s funny how the theory of success is so simple but difficult to execute. I like how you built debt-free and mentioned that trying to grow too quickly is a lot of times the death penalty for entrepreneurs. Thanks for these reminders!

  17. Tristan C.

    Wow! Your story is just amazing! As a 15 year old aspiring investor I can attest that sacrificing is hard. I have to continually tell myself “do I really need this” usually I determine that I don’t. What keeps me going is that I know that if I stay disciplined on saving all the money I can, is that I know that by the time I’m around 18 or so, I’ll be able to purchase a little cashflowing property.

    Thanks for your inspirational article and keep up the hustle!

  18. Jered Sturm

    15!! You’re stealing my thunder kid haha, Joking. Amazing that you even care/understand those concepts at 15. You will do just big things because with investing time is the most powerful component.

    I had an potential investor tell me the other day “you know why I would love to work with you? Because I can count on you producing returns for another 30-40 years where these old guys are on the edge of retirement.” The benefits to starting early are endless.

    Keep up the great work Tristan. one last piece of advice. People will congratulate you just as I did for your drive/success while being so young. One thing I always reminded my self was ” I don’t want to be successful for an 15,18,25,or what ever year old I want to be successful period.” None the less Im proud of you for taking the first steps.

  19. Louis Hiza

    Well done! I appreciate the hustle and living well below your means. Too many times people my age (22), fresh out of college, feel they need to be living large. Pay yourself first (or your REI company) and keep your eyes on the future. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Mindy Zimmerman

    Jered, thanks for sharing your story. Loved reading all the comments, too! RE is such an amazing tool that can be used in so many different ways to help us achieve goals.

    My brother and I always make a joke about being a “10-year overnight success”. Most people don’t see the hard work and sacrifice behind the success and give up when it doesn’t come easily to them.

  21. Adrian Stamer

    Congrats on the success, though personally I’d rather not work as hard and make less and enjoy life more. All about finding that balance… With $3.7 mil in co-owned real estate plus your other businesses, you’ll have more then enough semi passive income at age 26 which will continue to compound then realistically you’ll ever need…. Sit back and drink a beer (in a bottle) and enjoy a nice tshirt (well at least one from the dollar rack)

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks, Adrian, I agree I will have more than I need but for me, the reason to push on and grow is much bigger than myself.

      I have continued to help others who like me came to BP looking for some direction and validity to what they were trying to achieve. But beyond that, I am seeing that the opportunities I am fortunate to have now thanks to your help is going to give me the chance to actually change the world. With our successes, we now raise money from investors. During my meetings, I like to ask investors “If we are able to deliver these projected returns what will you spend the money on?” I get some answers like “retirement” or “a boat” But the other day I had two meetings the first person told me he wanted to use us as the investment vehicle to fund his daughter’s college, another told me he was starting an orphanage in his hometown in India and the returns would go straight to that. When I left the second meeting I had to take a moment to sit in my car and reflect on the impact that could be made from my own efforts in this business. That is why I push on.

  22. Corwin Hernandez

    I absolutely love this! I am 20 years old and have been on Bigger Pockets listening to the podcast and learning since December 15′ and fell in love with the community. I have always known I would build great wealth and would be very succesful but was never sure what avenue that would be. After finding this site, there is no doubt in my mind that real estate is what will builld my long term wealth. I recently moved to work a job that would pay a lot by working really hard physically so that way I can pay off all my existing debt, work on improving my credit, and work on myself and continue to learn and to save up enough money to get started in the world of real estate. This blog post get sme fired up and helps motivate me to keep doing what I am doing because I know it will pay off. I also loved your episode on the podcast Jered! Keep on kicking butt and I hope to get to where you are someday!

  23. Tim Kunz

    Congratulations Jered! awesome story. Being your age I look back and wish I would have both known about the world of real estate investing and had the fortitude to live below my means back when I was 18, but I didn’t. The past is the past so I just turn my attention to doing all that I can to create everything I want in life going forward, I continue to use stories like these as fuel for the fire. Thanks for sharing, best of luck to your future endeavors.

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks Steve.

      Yes, there is a very clear distinction of why I own not lend. It is three massive reasons 1) taxes 2) leverage 3) deterioration of purchasing power through inflation. The benefits are huge to own so I stick to that.

  24. Brandon H.

    Hi Jered
    I’ve listen to both of your podcasts and read your blogs. Your story is an inspiration for me and others in BiggerPockets forum. Kept me motivating every single day finding the way in REI.
    Thanks for blogs & podcasts, and best of luck in Atlanta market and beyond in your journey.

  25. Kevin Olson

    Great article Jered! Impressive and defintely inspiring story to see how you can improve and grow in this industry.

    Exponential growth is a beautiful thing! Good luck with future endeavors and I hope I can share a smiling story sooner than later here on BP.

    Best.

  26. Gilbert Lugo

    Im 26 now and man do I feel awake after this article! Thanks Jared! These kind of articles give you a sense of doing more. I’m brand new to REI so I’m trying to soak in as much knowledge as I can while trying to save funds for when the time comes to make a CALCULATED investment!

  27. Abigail H.

    Love the article! I’m so glad to hear you share how you started out. I’d like to follow your example, by starting with distressed SFRs. Can you give a bit more detail about what you mean when you say “highly distressed?” For example, were you taking homes that needed rewiring/re-plumbing? Were there any “no-go” or automatic reject fixes? And about what quality and price point were the neighborhoods? Did you focus on houses of a certain construction period or style?

    • Jered Sturm

      Thanks for your question Abigail. In the beginning, we were taking on projects that no one else wanted. This would include full rewires and re-plumb jobs all new w HVAC and even foundation issues. in 2012 we were buying these homes for 20-30k fixing them and having them appraised in the 80-100k range and cash out refi the equity. Back then we took on projects of all ages and styles. Now we look for the 1970s or newer.

  28. Todd Miller

    Hate to say it but there sure is a lot of “luck” tied into your story. 1. Your Brother. 2. Starting in RE young. 3. Being naturally business savoy. 4. Finding a partner, who most likely supported you a lot more than less. Im not hating, but the truth is you need to have all the ingredients together for this to work. Sacrifices are not nearly enough to pull this off. i think the most important thing is what you had from the beginning and that is someone who shared your same interests and goals. Would you be where you are today without your brother? Today, the only way people want to help you is if you are paying them. So your story pretty much conforms to my vision where you need to connect with the right people first which is nearly impossible. Otherwise and even so I find that in the end you still need to have money to make money in REI.

    • Jered Sturm

      Todd, I agree with only one part of your comment. I would not be where I was without the people in my life and for sure without my brother, I may have never even started this journey and I am 100% sure I would have never enjoyed it or been half of what we are if we didn’t do it together. I can only take sole credit for maybe 1% of the success I had the rest was a team activity. With that said I believe the mindset you illustrate in your comment will prevent you from ever letting luck find you.

  29. Arlind Mucaj

    Wow this is an amazing article, thanks for sharing your story with the rest of us at BiggerPockets. As a new investor in REI its a great feeling knowing the experience that folks have had. I still have not made my first investment but am learning as much as i can to make sure i make the first right one… Thanks a lot

  30. Michael Lee

    Hello and congradulations of your career! Yeah, I was able to pay myself nothing when I started my own business for about 5 years. Unfortunately, ate age 54 I was turned down by the SocialAdministration and local Attornies to get any government help and was turned down eventhough I was filing my tax returns but they turned me down because I chose not to pay myself and kept that money in my business. Eventhough I was employed since my graduations rom college (in 1980) did not matter. The fact that I was not on the payroll for my own business for about 5 years and chose not to pay myself I was turned down by the government to receive any bebefits from them. I was never told that by anybody but that did not matter to them and because I almost died when I was 54 years old I had a brain annuerism and a stroke and I still cannot walk 6 years later. I was lucky that my wife has helped to take care of me and she has been a good computer programmer and saving money for about 25 years and still doing what she has to like feeding me through a tube and changing my diaper because I cannot go to the bathroom. Now you cannot say that nobody ever told you that and I am just lucky that I am still alive but I had that brain annuerism just 2 days before I was scheduled for preventive surgery for my brain annuerism. I was turned down by the Texas Real Estate Association to get my Broker license for which I had for about 30 years and had paid about $30,000 to keep it active for all of that time and was told I had to start all over. Do not tell me that I am not very frustrated about them. I hope everything for you goes well and you are not punished the way I have been and was lucky to be married to a gal that continues to support me and our daughter who is in college.

  31. Xavier Martinez

    I remember reading this original article, still stalling on entering the business. Now about a year on and I’m happy to say I’ve taken the first steps to work with some partners, research markets, view houses, and tie up financing. To any newbies who feel apathetic or that this is too difficult – I think you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can build MOMENTUM, especially with the help of a resource like BP.

    When you start taking actual steps towards your goal and see things happen, your energy and motivation will rise. Avoid analysis paralysis at all costs and make your move.

  32. Michael Lee

    I congratulate you for being so positive on your dealings, one of the things I wanted to warn you about our government and quasi-government issues with your payroll and that you mght have to show that you are on a recent payroll. I use to own my own company and I, unfortunately, had a brain annuerism and a stroke after about 5 years from starting that and I chose not to pay myself and, because of that, I was turned down for any benefits from the Social Security system because I could not show them any qui recent payroll payments that were also reducing my payments by Social Security payments of tax. Eventhough I had been filing tax returns which I thought were correct since 1980 they did not help me at all. I was turned down by them twice and by an Attorney. I also had an active Texas real estate broker license for about 30 years paying in about $30,000 I was told by them that I had to start all over when my renewal notice got sent and my wife chose not to tell me about it. Now for a sixty year old man I felt pretty bad that I could be turned down by them and, hopefully you will not experience that. I am lucky to be alive today and was home with my wife when the brain annuerism happened and called an ambulance. I spent about 30 days in the hospital after that happened and when I had that brain surgery. I do not remember any of that but my wife stuck by my side then and for now a little over 6 years. I am also lucky that my wife has a great boss and only expects her to come to the office for a 1/2 day and does the rest at home. She somehow takes care of both of us and or daughter who is now in college at the University of Arkansas. My wife even bought her a new car before her college started the first year. Since we live in Dallas County and are about 6 hours away we only see her when school is vacationing. She is now in her 3rd year at college and I am so proud of her. I still cannot walk but I have not given up on that. I just wanted to tell you about my problems with the government and thought you needed to be warned about that but since I was never told about that problem I hope will will never happen to you. Good luck to you!

  33. James Maradits

    Great story! I really appreciated your podcast as well.

    My current situation is extremely similar to the early years of your investing. Super motivating to hear your successful story. Huge kudos to the simple living. I see so many people getting caught up with their “status” and having fancy cars and unnecessary expenses to worry about. Can’t wait to have more rental income coming in so I can have more free time to do the things I love rather than working my life away to pay for stuff I don’t need!

  34. Rachel Luoto

    WOW, so inspiring! I get tired of everyone telling newbies to go drive for dollars or wholesale – hard work and patience are the name of the game 🙂
    Everyone’s path is a little different, glad you shared so we can have another perspective!

  35. Mathieu Bellail

    This is the type of article that gives me total faith and confidence in what I am doing right now!
    I am actually sacrificing a lot of time and money now to achieve my goals this year.

    Thank you Jered for sharing your story!

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