BiggerPockets Podcast 238: Becoming a Real Estate Millionaire on a Teacher’s Salary with Michael “Swanny” Swan

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Is it possible to invest in real estate if you live in an expensive market—and earn a teacher’s salary? According to today’s guest, it’s not only possible, but it can be incredibly profitable! Today’s guest, Michael Swan, is a P.E. teacher who lives in San Diego but has used the valuable real estate concept known as “trading up” to acquire millions of dollars in real estate. You’ll learn why Michael liquidated his entire retirement plan to buy his first few deals, the truth about “luck” and real estate, and some fantastic tips for buying and managing properties—even from a distance. (And if you work a full-time job or make less than $100,000 per year, this show might just change your life!)

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In This Episode We Cover:

  • Why Michael’s nickname is Swanny
  • How he realized his financial ladder was leaning on the wrong building
  • Tips for utilizing IRAs and penalties
  • Whether purchasing 11 condos is a good idea or not
  • The story of the 15-unit apartment complex
  • How he went from $5k in cash flow to $24k
  • Whether luck had to do with his great deals
  • Tips for buying areas in with both cash flow and appreciation
  • His formula for financial freedom (using multifamilies)
  • A discussion on single families versus multifamilies
  • How to find deals in your market
  • Tips for seeking out the perfect property manager
  • How many units he has now
  • How to tackle big projects
  • How he manages his work with his time as a teacher
  • And SO much more!

Links from the Show

Books Mentioned in this Show

Fire Round Questions

Tweetable Topics:

  • “Living in San Diego, if I am able to do it, anybody can do it.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” (Tweet This!)
  • “Make sure you make connections with everybody.” (Tweet This!)
  • “I don’t take advice from someone that has less than me.” (Tweet This!)

Connect with Michael

About Author

Thanks for checking out the BiggerPockets Real Estate Investing & Wealth Building Podcast. Hosts Joshua Dorkin & Brandon Turner strive to bring top-notch educational content and interviews to our listeners — without the non-stop pitch prevalent around the industry.

With over 1500,000 listeners per show, the BiggerPockets Podcast has become the biggest real estate podcast in the world. But don’t take our word for it. We’re the top-rated and reviewed real estate show on iTunes — check it out, read the reviews on iTunes, and get busy listening and learning!


  1. Zach Lemaster


    Wow, one of the best shows I’ve listened to in a while! I absolutely love the straightforward way you outlined why it doesn’t make sense to take advice from your financial advisors, and “HOPE” for some sort of mediocre financial freedom in the future investing in the stock market!

    Also, the simple equation of “emerging market + 1031 + multiunit investing = great financial freedom” is exactly how I try to explain to friends & family the enormous potential RE investing has vs any other path!

  2. Michael Swan

    Thank you everyone!! Don’t be afraid to go to my profile and reach out to me. I am only a phone call away.

    Changing Paradigms One Person At A Time!!! If you change the way you look at things, things change right before your eyes!!!

  3. Hi Swanny, I’m curious about your thoughts on using a self-directed IRA to invest in real estate. Why did you choose to liquidate your IRAs rather than just converting to self-directed? Thanks for a great podcast episode!

    • Jon Wahlmann

      I’m also considering the same thing. Given my current tax bracket, it would be way too costly for me to liquidate my IRAs. My understanding is with self-directed you need to keep everything flowing through the IRA and you can’t take any income out of it until you are of the appropriate age just like a normal IRA. However, I’ve heard rumors of some self-directed IRAs being setup in a way that still allow a more immediate use of rental income. I’m trying to find something more concrete though to point the way.

  4. Harris L.

    I enjoyed this interview very much so I reached out to Swanny.

    Just had a call with him few minutes ago… I’m in a very similar boat.. in terms of buying condos during the down times here in Northern California(30 minutes out of SF) and I want to move into cashflow multifamilies but I have no idea about multi family investing and business and where to start..

    he has a set of advice for me to study… the two books he recommended in the interview.. that’s what I’ll be soaking up in next 2/3 weeks…

    • Brad Kaellner

      Hi Harris, Let me know what you discover! I’m working my way through “Multi-Family Millions” as well and I’m eager to explore MF properties outside of CA for cashflow. Neal Bawa is a great local resource for MF as well… he’s developing a big student housing complex in Buffalo, NY at the moment.

  5. Bob Koby

    This was a fantastic episode. Another great story of a normal person starting from the ground up. Great examples and real scenarios and experiences the whole way through. Really motivating if you are good at making excuses, as Michael had most of the major excuses people have when getting started – no money, no time, not knowing where to start.

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