Today is my last Thursday on the planet in my 30s. I jump into 40 on Saturday (See T-shirt below). That, in my mind, means I am about halfway-ish thru my life…or more or less than but let’s just call it halfway for easy math and internally that is what it feels like to me internally for some reason.
I grew up middle class. My mom was a Teacher and my dad was an Engineer (but was out of consistent work for close to a decade). I would say we lived frugally. Never paid retail for anything, always talked and debated over costs of our decisions and desires and I started working when I was 15 and never stopped. We went on a nice vacation every summer and it was what we all talked about all year. But we always skimped on the little things there too (5 people in a small hotel room, no sodas without free refills at dinner, we ate a lot of sandwiches in the room and rented the most economic car). I’m not complaining at all, we were so lucky to go on Vacation and we went to dream locations like Disney World and Hawaii. But ultimately we lived very skinny the entire year and invested all those micro cut backs into this one annual trip.
When I interviewed at The Gap at the Dallas Galleria at 16, I could not afford anything Gap for the interview so I went in and scoured their sale racks and got lucky and found a year old Gap returned dress that the store marked down to $9.99. I wore one of my Grandmothers old scarfs and my Payless clogs and I was ready to sell myself in the interview. My life was filled with stories like that. Very little extra cash to buy the things I wanted. Needs always came before wants and when we got to wants, price was the first question then like was the second. As I started making my first paycheck at my daycare job at 15 and my Gap job at 16, I realized I had the opportunity of 2 mindsets that could change this money conversation for me:
1. I lived in America. I had freedom of choice, freedom of decision and I believed that in country, anything really was possible. (I have to give a huge shout out to my Dad for instilling that trait in me).
2. It was up to me whether or not I would work hard and make a better and more financially flexible life than the one I grew up in (I also believed that was possible…not sure who influenced that, but I’m sure someone did and I am Grateful)
Therefore at 16 decided I would set out to build financial life more generous than the one I had.
Now, how the hell I had that kind of wisdom at 16 is mind boggling to me today but I was always that kind of kid. Challenging and questioning the status quo. Even today I still ask ‘but why…but why…but why….’ when I get answers to questions that I don’t understand like a 5-year-old does when they are learning about the world and how it works. I just honestly didn’t really believe it when my parents said it just is what it is and you are what you are. I thought that is so limiting what’s the point of all this if we can’t drive to be better and build more of a life than the one we were given.
I still think like this today, not every minute of every day and honestly there have been years long periods where I doubted this and found myself in the wrong position and going down wrong pathways in my business but foundationally this has been a general foundation for how I always operated.
So fast forward a few years later when I graduated college with a degree in Finance in Murfreesboro, TN, near Nashville. I got the first professional job I had ever interviewed for helping to gather data at a Hedge Fund company. I was hired in one of the only two positions they were offering to dozens of college kids including more attractive alma mater‘s of Vanderbilt and Belmont University in Nashville Tennessee. I worked there for six months and I knew after just a few months this life wasn’t gonna work for me. Going into a cubicle from 8 to 5 every day with a one hour lunch break that was timed and beaks that were succinct, drew a picture so clearly of the life I absolutely did not want. I remember looking over to Craig who is in the cubicle to my right in around Early November, just 4 months after I had started. He peered into my soul with what felt like dead eyes, a 12 day old beard, pale skin and a certain lackluster-ness about him and mustered ‘get out while you can.’
That just about wrapped up what I already knew and I found a program to move to one of the five British Commonwealth’s for six months and use their blue card program which gave me their version of a work visa. But the caveat was I had to leave by the end of the year I graduated university into the country which put my deadline at December 31, 2002. I was able to pick from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, London, or South Africa. It just so happened that during that time of my life my favorite T-shirt on the planet was the word London and gold letters. I’m not sure if it was life imitating art or art imitating life in this case, but it was a no brainer that London with the answer. So I, gave my 2 week notice, broke up with my boyfriend and moved on New Year’s Eve from to London from Tennessee.
I tell that story to say I was called back to Dallas in June 2003 to come take care of my dad as he found a lump in his throat, his larynx actually. My younger sister was still in high school, my older brother was not the reliable kid so I volunteered to come home and help him through the surgery good through the six months of radiation that would follow. He smoked his last cigarette on the way to the hospital with the a grapefruit size tumor sticking out of his neck. I told him one puff off of one cigarette after the surgery and I would not help him and move on with my life. We agreed. That was the last puff off the cigarette he ever took. He went into surgery and came out with one grapefruit less bodyweight but also down one voicebox; he would never talk again. He stayed in intensive care for 31 days and almost died several times due to the infections that kept creeping in. But nonetheless that experience taught me and him a valuable lesson about life. After radiation & on some of the days when he was feeling up to it we would go on little field trip’s like Whole Foods, or take drives, and one time in October 2003 he wanted to go look at maybe buying some new construction rental property in Frisco, Texas. We walked in and the sales counselor Heidi had lost her assistant the day before and we hit it off and she asked me if I needed a job and I said sure so she hired me on the spot as her assistant and I started the next day. And the almost 16 years later, I am still in Real Estate.
I was an assistant for about a year and a half and then worked my way up into my own community at Stonebridge Ranch in Mckinney, Texas. I had 15 homes to sell and I sold them all in the first few months and my income went from $22,000 a year total as a new home assistant and odd jobs like selling all my friends things that they weren’t using on eBay, to making over $100,000 in 2005. Even the government thought it was abnormal and they audited me. But don’t worry, I kept great records and my Auditor said I was the more organized audit they had every done. Every year after that was successful for me and I knew it was time for me to start investing so I bought my first property a year later in 2006.
I have already laid out my 2 Mindshet Shifts I had when I was 16, but when I got in Real Estate I had two fundamental Ideologies that I developed to develop the Mindset Shifts.
Always always save for a rainy day because in real estate there are plenty of them. Donna Fitzgerald is the one who blessed me with that incredible mindset, a fellow sales counselor that I worked with at the builder in 2005. And trust me if I didn’t listen to that I would’ve went out of business during the recession like half the people I knew in this business did. But I had a savings to fall back on. My future self of 2009 could survive b/c my self of 2005-2009 thought about her and protected her.
I built a 30 year exit strategy 2005. I had absolutely no idea what that meant at the time honestly I just knew I had to make the money I made today last me for the rest of my life. Because I was in sales and 100% commission based, there would be no pension or retirement plan there to protect me when I got older. Remember, my degree was in finance so I had a very base understanding of retirement planning. Here is how my 30 year plan looked:
If you’re reading this and you think you’ve missed the boat because you aren’t 26, that’s irrelevant. The point is it’s just never ever ever too late to live for your future self. NEVER. I like sharing some of the stories from my past so you can pull stories from your own past and use those as leverage to grow. We all 100% without a doubt have stories that shaped us and molded the best parts of us to pull from and build a foundation for your what future self will need. I encourage everybody to do this very simple exercise where you physically look into the eyes of your future self and here’s how you do it.
Download the app Oldify. Take a picture of yourself with your phone and in that app add the 20 year, 40 year or 60 year filters to it. Here is what my future self looks like. Today me on the left, Then 20 years at top right and 40 years at bottom right.
There was a case study done on this with an HR company that I read about years ago I thought it was brilliant and I played with the ideology with my company training and Rental Property Investor planning sessions that I do for our clients. Basically the HR company ran an experiment where they put a picture of the employees future self on the top corner of their 401(k) enrollment applications. In the sample group that had to look in the eyes of their future self, a large majority invested in their 401(k)s versus the group that did not have to look in the eyes of your future self. Makes sense though doesn’t it? When it becomes tangible, visual and real it doesn’t seem so distant.
I’m about halfway through my 30 year plan and I literally just this week transitioned from working IN my business 100% and working ON my business 100% to just now only working 100% ON my business. Oh by the way I went on to build my first company, Janus Real Estate Group, with my business partner Sarah after the recession put the builder I worked for out of business in January 2009, I grew that company up and eventually took full ownership of it in 2012 and sold our Property Management Division in 2014 to get ready to launch my second company with my partner Jay, called Real Estate Concierges, which we re-branded in 2018 to Mile27 Realty. And since I bought my first house in 2006 (which I still own as a rental property) I have gone on to buy several rental properties and make investments in my companies which I have operated both of them with zero debt and paid cash is I went.
The decision I made this week work 100% On Mile27 Realty instead of In it as a working broker was a long, soul-searching, confusing and arduous one with lots of casualties, fears and worries. But as I lean more into my faith and less into the fear that was holding me back I was finally able to jump. I spent 6 solid months digging and being honest about my finances, my budget, going through worst case scenario‘s, having battles with my ego and pride, and spent a lot of time seeking trusted counsel and praying. When I finally made the decision I had an overwhelming sensation of peace and calmness with absolute tranquility when it finally hit me on a drive back home from camping two days later. I say this with full integrity, that feeling felt like a little slice of what I think heaven will feel like and it was the purest, most honest, moment of my life.
I was able to do this, b/c I lived for my future self and had a plan. If you are not doing either, I can help you. I understand money and know how to teach it. I believe Real Estate (Rental property or just transitional old Vanilla buyers/sellers) is the right pathway. But before you get in the driver seat to build peace for your future self, you have to have a plan to know where you are going and how to get there. Lean on us or someone who has the road map.
Cheers to your best year yet friends.