This is a long read. I typed this summary as a post on a financial business forum. I thought I would repost it on my blog as an introduction for new readers. Many of the occurrences below are written about in detail throughout this blog. (Eventually, I will go through and link relevant blog posts to each event)
I had a normal education at the University of Illinois which ultimately ended with a Master’s in Engineering. I knew that I was in college to get the degree only because it meant getting a higher paying job. I got my first job out of college with a hefty $35k salary. After two years of measly raises, I jumped jobs and got paid about $42k. I was in the wireless industry building cell sites. I was there for one year when they were bought out by Alltel. The company was shutting down the Chicago office and moving everyone to Little Rock, AR.
This was my first realization that you can’t control your destiny in the corporate world. Luckily I got 6 months severance and landed a job the next day. I took my 6 months severance money and bought my first home in 1999. I started remodelling my home from day 1 and found out that I was really good at it. I knew nothing about real estate investing at this time.
During this dot com era, I changed jobs every year. Every company I went to went under, usually due to crazy overspending on lavish things, but I wasn’t going to complain about free health club memberships that cost $100/mo. Although I was changing jobs constantly and I knew that they were through no fault of mine I was having fun living the crazy dot com life, parties, cruises, beer trolleys…
I finally landed a job that felt like a lifer. It’s one of those jobs where you retire. I worked with a lady who had been there 35 years!
In 2001, my friends and I took a mountain biking trip to Crested Butte, CO. We camped for one week at Lake Irwin. No electric, cell phones, running water, etc… The town had a speed limit of 15mph. I remember cruising into town and slamming the brakes like WTF? However, at the end of 7 days, 15mph actually felt fast in town.
There was a point during the trip that I looked at my watch and calculated that it was 5:30pm in Chicago. At the time I was sitting on a rock on top of mountain at about 11,000ft having a PBJ sandwich with my buddies just chilling and looking at the clouds. If I were at work this week, I would be running down the street trying to catch my train at this time. What a contrast in speeds. It was at this moment that I knew something was wrong with my direction.
Coming back to work the next week I had lost all motivation. I had a great week in Crested Butte and we were all talking about going back the next year. I remember thinking, just another 51 weeks? I work 50 weeks a year to enjoy 2 weeks. Thinking deeper I also realized that I only enjoy Friday and Saturday out of the 7 days of the week. Doing the math, something wasn’t right. Why do we enjoy only 2/7 of our lives?
With this realization, my next thought was how do I enjoy life more. First answer, move to Crested Butte, CO. But homes there cost twice what mine does and salaries are 1/3.
I did a quick calculation on my finances at the time. Jeez, I had a huge house, 2 cars and all the materialistic things I could have ever wanted. I remember seeing on Oprah that families survive on $50k a year. Here I was single, making almost twice as much as that and I couldn’t save a penny. Somehow, one day I picked up Rich Dad Poor Dad. Reading that changed my life. I realized that I was tied to my job. I also realized that it was completely my fault.
I started looking into shifting my income from active to passive. This meant real estate, CDs, money market accounts and high dividend stocks. Anything that put $1 into my account at the end of the month with me doing anything, I was reading about.
I had goals in 2002 to lower my expenses and to buy a rental property. I was following the Rich Dad passive income = expenses means you are out of the rat race. Living in Chicago, I quickly realized that there weren’t that many positive cashflow properties out there. In addition, my mortgage on my huge house hindered my capabilities to get a loan on a rental property. I could not qualify for a investment loan so I failed my goals in 2002.
I knew I had to sell my primary residence to free up my cash. I completely remodeled the house in the fall of 2002. I also had to sell my Acura NSX. I loved this car so much, but I knew that selling was for a better future. I bought a pre-construction condo in Chicago that I calculated to have positive cashflow. It wouldn’t be completed for 2 years. I sold my NSX and put the money down on that condo.
I sold my car and home and all my furniture in 2003 and moved back in with my parents. I came home with a hefty check for over $100,000. Added my to savings, I had a significant wad of money.
I had read almost every single Kiyosaki book and every real estate rental book out there the past two years. It was 2004 and now that my expenses were nil, I was really getting sick of my job. I obviously didn’t want to stay at my parents house forever so I looked for a change.
I remember seeing on Loopnet that there were 4-plexes in Phoenix asking $150,000! I didn’t know anything about Phoenix. I thought it was all brown and desert. I had a friend living in LA. He said that I could live with him. So I quit my job and moved to LA. On the way to LA, I stopped by Phoenix and bought 2 condos in Scottsdale and a preconstruction house. Talk about impulse shopping! I had 4 properties and no job!
These buys were all based on cashflow. I was a cashflow guy. If COCR was above 10%, I was buying. The condos had Section 8 tenants and would cashflow $183/mo at the price I paid with 20% down. One day from moving out of Chicago and I was cashflowing $366/mo! This was easy. LOL
I didn’t really like living in LA. I was 30 minutes from the beach and real estate was crazy expensive. 4-flats were $1,000,000 and massively negative cashflow. I couldn’t stay with my friend forever and the LA RE market was booming. Then one of my Section 8 tenants got kicked off of Section 8. It was reported that she was a prostitute and on drugs. I got her evicted and went to view the condo, which was of course, trashed. I had to fix it back up to get it re-rented. In the process, it occurred to me that I should just move into it. That’s how I ended up in Phoenix.
The market in Phoenix went crazy during 2005. I literally hit the lottery. Homes were appreciating $10k per month. I made another preconstruction purchase based on the comps I felt I had $100k in equity at the purchase. My Chicago condo also closed with about $60k in equity.
In 2005 I had literally turned my networth into around $600k. However, I totally understood that this was pretaxed, pre-realtor commissioned money. Getting $600k cash in the bank was another story.
One day I was surfing craigslist when I came across an ad about preconstruction, cashflowing, mountain view townhomes in Salt Lake City. I made a call to the realtor, did some research online and decided that he wasn’t bullshiting. I booked a flight the new morning to SLC, rented a car and met the realtor. I drove the areas, looked at the rents and bought 2 townhomes at $140k. I found a property manager and hired them and my first PM’d rental was born. My calculations didn’t quite work out. My proforma rents were too high and I had accept lower rent. Turned out that both townhomes had break even cashflow. Well, one was -$7/mo. These townhomes have appreciated to $195k each, adding another $100k to my networth.
I also picked up a couple 1 acre lots in St. George, Utah. This was my first foray into land. In hindsight, I broke my cardinal positive cashflow rule. Buying land you are 99% assured negative cashflow.
2006 saw the downturn of the real estate market. This is where having positive cashflow or at least breakeven cashflow helps alot. I sold my lots in St. George at a loss of around $35k. I sold my condos in Scottsdale at the peak of the market. I sold one preconstruction house at about $65k below peak prices. My SLC and Chicago properties have held in value. My Phoenix properties have dropped huge. I’ve learned alot about value of geographic diversification.
My story doesn’t have many ups and downs like the other ones. However, some months are bad and some are very good. During the bad months you wonder if you should have stayed in the comfortable cubicle and lived the easy predefined life. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you should take risks in life.
I do sometimes wonder what my life and networth would be if I stayed at my job in 2004. I think about what I’ve experiences in the past 3 years since quitting. I’m not talking about the money. I’m talking about living in LA, PHX, traveling to SLC, St. George and dozens of other cities that I ended up not buying anything in. My ex-co-workers used to call me and the first thing they said was, “Hey, what city are you in today?”
When I moved into my condo in Scottsdale, I experienced something for the first time in my life. I had lost the ambition for money. What I mean is the pursuit of making lots of money just to make money. I had a monthly payment of $600/mo which included all utilities. For all intensive purposes, I did not have to work for 10 years at my current burn rate. The need for money to pay bills was gone.
So now you wake up and what do you do? The answer is… anything you want! This is what many retirees face after 55 years. I faced it at 33. I had a new outlook on life. My main priority now was living life, I figure I have at least 50 years. Where does all the time go? LOL Money is important, but money is a means to live life. You shouldn’t live your life to get the money. If I want to travel the world, I find out what it costs and then go make that money. I look at money with a purpose. It’s purpose isn’t to sit in a bank. It’s purpose is for you to spend it on things that you enjoy.
Here are some posts of main milestones.
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