My name is Victoria--and I am a military spouse real estate investor.
Most days, I am in awe of how I came to do what I do. I love it. I have found a career and a passion that I only dreamed existed a few years ago. As an Active Duty Military Spouse, for the last decade, I have mostly been unemployed - and I only say mostly because now I technically work for myself. In ten years, I have not worked for another person. I have volunteered; I have parented, but I haven’t brought in a paycheck.
And that is so hard.
I always envisioned myself working--even with children. So when I married into the military, moved several states away to start our life together, and had my first child within a year--I found myself in a perplexing and frustrating situation. My husband and I knew that I wanted to actively participate in our future by contributing to our financial plan in ways other than couponing. But that has been harder to do than either of us expected.
To make a long story short--after years of discontent, failed efforts at “taking my job with me”, and what I like to call being “extreme nomads”; I was done. I knew that I didn’t want to ask my husband to get out of the service. He has found his calling and his purpose; he loves what he does. But, I also knew that I was incredibly unfulfilled and disappointed. I had spent the previous years doing a very common practice among military spouses - creating my own small business. I sold bakery items, bath bombs, started an online store wholesaling and manufacturing custom children's clothing, learned to code, made furniture, and more!
I tried it all--but during this time, the Army blessed us with a particularly difficult PCS schedule of four December moves in a row. Yes--FOUR. IN. A. ROW. Honestly, I was lucky to maintain my sanity. I don't know how I would have made any of my many business ventures last long-term with that kind of churn. My issue wasn't that I couldn't take any of my businesses with me--as much as it was how quickly I would have to pack things up and start over. Starting and stopping require extra time, effort, and energy - and I was exhausted.
Sure, if you're in one place for 4 years, you can establish yourself and create a workable business model. But when you're packing, hauling, unpacking, evaluating inventory, and restarting sales over thousands of miles every single year--at some point, it becomes untenable, and the income becomes sporadic. I needed to find something that would allow me the flexibility to move with my husband and maintain my family, but that was consistent enough that it provided a steady income.
I like working, but I also wanted something more consistent, and my businesses required either moving large amounts of physical products around with us or required me to actively work inside the business--regardless of if it was convenient for my family.
Trade show this weekend? Sorry, hon - I’ll be out in the field!
Are you building up your client base to put on an event at the end of the season? Looks like we are PCSing. AGAIN.
Inevitably, my work was always disrupted. Sure, I could pick it back up once I got settled, but the business didn't run unless I was actively involved in it. So, with every PCS, there was inevitably a loss of income and momentum.
Initially, I proposed to my husband purchasing a franchise. I knew that there were veteran discounts for coffee shops, pizza chains, and gas station franchises, and I thought if I could get it up and running, then I could hire managers. The main problem was that franchises themselves take time to set up, and they are a huge upfront investment in both time and money - sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In my search for information about passive income streams and setting up businesses that run without you, I came across several books and podcasts relating to owning rental properties. We had long foregone the idea of purchasing a home-- because when you're not even at a duty station for 12 months, even the VA isn’t excited about you using their loans!
I knew right away that real estate had serious potential. I got to choose when to pursue deals--which means I can choose to work more or less based on what season of military life my family is in. If we're PCSing one year, I can choose not to acquire new properties.
In years where we're going to be settled and more stable, I can go full force into market research, property analysis, and the pursuit of my next deal. I will still have passive income coming in on years that our military life is hectic. I'm also still involved in the management of my properties, but I'm not stressing myself out and I don’t have to “leave my job” because we PCS. Instead, I use those years for education, personal growth, and networking.
My portfolio of rentals is in one city, so I don't have to learn a new market every time we PCS. I just have to maintain oversight and connection with the market that my rentals are in. To this day, we still have not been at a duty station for longer than 2 years and 3 months. So while our pace has improved, it’s still faster than average. But, PCS season no longer looms as a stressful interruption. My business transitions to our new duty station with an email to our property managers updating where to send the checks!
For me, this is perfect. I get to take my passion with me everywhere, but my business stays put. Real Estate Investing gives me the stability that our Active Duty lifestyle can’t, and I’ll forever be grateful to have found a career as personally and professionally fulfilling as this one!