My Investing Success Story

Mar 02, 2020

What got you into REI?

As a young boy, I was very independent because my family didn’t have much. I grew up on a small island in the Philippines called Cebu. We were nowhere near the “well off” category. In fact, I remember walking most of the time or taking the cheapest form of public transportation (we call them “Jeepneys”) because I could barely afford a taxi. These were all contributing factors to the beginnings of my ambitions. During those long walks and traffic jams, I always wondered how I could better my life. I realized that it was not money I wanted, but the ability to make a choice and not have to worry about the financial consequences. I wanted a lifestyle that was financially free. Most of the time, I’ve let my wallet dictate my choices--where I want to eat, what food to order, transportation, the clothes I wear, etc. But I believe life is meant to be an exciting journey. I am the only one setting my own limitations and I am capable of much more. I made a conscious decision to change my scarcity mentality to one of abundance: I can’t blame my parents for my current financial position, but I can blame myself for not taking the helm and changing the course of my own life.

Like many others on their journey to financial freedom, I came across the book Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki in 2009. It’s been more than a decade, but I still remember the day I bought that book. I had the exact amount of money in my wallet to buy it. After giving the cashier the money, I was flat broke. It was the best decision I ever made! That book set the course for the journey I’ll probably take for the rest of my life. Surprisingly, what I got out of that book is not real estate related. What stayed with me was the idea that working as an employee will never lead me to my goal of financial freedom. I didn’t get into real estate until after I joined the army in 2016.

 How did you learn?

I enlisted in the US Army on January 10, 2016, as a 15Y--which is an AH-64 “Apache” Avionic, Armament and Electrical systems repairer. My first duty station was Fort Wainwright, Alaska. I was so eager to start investing that I started looking for properties to buy and almost closed on one. Fortunately for me, the seller did not accept my offer. I said “fortunately” because back then, I was only getting an E4 paycheck with no BAH. You can imagine the tight budgeting I would need to do every month to make the mortgage payment--even if it was a duplex. I realized investing in Fairbanks for the long term wasn't a realistic plan to meet my goals. First, the high maintenance cost alone was going to wipe out all the potential cashflow. Second, I couldn't find a lender that would give me a decent rate without BAH. I decided to use the next three years to learn as much as I could about real estate until I PCSed. I also decided to become an officer in the US Army.

I began by reading as many books as I could about real estate investing. That’s when I came across BiggerPockets. There, I read blogs, listened to podcasts, and watched webinars. I also used it to network and learn from those who were more experienced than I was. The more people I met, the more I realized that I wasn't the only one investing while serving in the military. Then I found the book "Military House Hacking", which led me to the group Active Duty Passive Income. The army saying of “we train as we fight” can also be applied to real estate: I learned as if I was going to purchase the property.

What would you tell someone just starting out?

I definitely fell into the “analysis paralysis” trap. I analyzed close to 100 properties before buying my first one. Looking back, I don’t blame myself for doing it because most of the books I’ve read enumerated about a dozen steps before buying. That led me to believe I needed to do a lot of research before buying--that and I was looking for an amazing deal. Not just a "good" deal but an "amazing deal" for my first property. This is equivalent to trying to get a hole-in-one for your first swing in golf. I realized that it is only through experience and connecting myself to fellow investors that I find those amazing deals.

My advice for someone just starting out is to first define your goal. Ask yourself “What do I want to accomplish with real estate in the next 30 years?”. As I explained earlier, real estate is only a means to an end for me. I would have stopped and quit after the first major hurdle if I did not have a deep enough “Why”. Second, do enough research to be able to evaluate a property and learn your market. Third, once you've found a property that matches your criteria and cash flow, go for it! Obviously, do not buy a property that will put you in a hole where you can't recover. In the grand scheme of things, this will only be one of many properties that you will acquire in the following years. Your next few properties will be those amazing deals because your skill will grow as well as your network. What you should look for is not monetary gain, but the lessons you will learn from buying your first property. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase. Just take the first step”

 How close are you to your financial goals with real estate?

I am very ambitious, but I have a simple taste. My goal is to have enough rental properties that will produce $100,000 net in monthly income. Based on that, I have a long way to go. As I’ve said, I’m not doing this for the money. Money is more like a scoreboard for me; it is a unit of measurement for me to indicate how well I’m doing and how close I am to my goal. I am testing my potential and need to set goals that are well beyond my comfort zone. By now, you can probably tell that I like looking at things from a bird’s-eye view. I am analytical when it comes to evaluating properties, but that is only the “how”. Don’t let your financial goals in real estate be your core purpose--because if it is--that is the reason why most newbies fail.

We all have our own reasons for doing real estate. I love real estate because there are so many ways to do it and it can be done at any pace. No goal is too high or too low. What matters is a goal that is meaningful to you! Once you figure that out, the "how" will take care of itself. You’ll find that the right people are appearing in your circle, you’re avoiding bad deals, and you’re seeing an increase in your bank account. All of these are not by accident. You found the right people because you had the urge to pick up the phone or networked through social platforms. This is what your "why" can do for you if it is meaningful enough.

I hope I was able to provide you with some guidance. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I wish you the kind of success that you deserve.

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