It starts with why

As all great stories start, we need to start at the beginning. Not when whomever was born, but when the path really started to take hold. Everything before that, while important in some context, is not as relevant as what comes next.

The first spark happened on my 30th birthday. I had a head cold and still was bartending (as was typical for my birthday) and took a few minutes to realize that most likely, I was at the half way point for the most healthy and fun years of my life. Sure many people do all sorts of awesome things past 60 but that wasn’t important for the mindset or thinking. I knew that I was half way there, and the “standard retirement age” would be beyond the best years of my physical life.

That just didn’t seem right to me.

I spent the next few years not really doing much to help that situation out. I had some personal life changes going on and it took a few years for the dust to settle. Somewhere around 33 or 34, I started paying much more attention to money. Not that I was doing anything great, but I knew I was missing something, and I had already subconsciously started to be a bit more frugal and was ditching my only debt (car) at a rapid pace. I had some idea that I was doing good, but had no real direction other than common sense. Not bad, but not going to get me to early retirement. I went back into the IT field and started to increase my income.

My 35th birthday hit me like a truck. Fortunately it was a money truck and a reality check…

I still have no idea what happened, but that day, a switch flipped. I wanted to figure out how to be retired and DONE by my 45th birthday. I knew what I didn’t know, and it was a lot. Full disclosure for the rest of your reading on this site, but I love me some spreadsheets. I did some basic math, and with my current savings rate, taking into account expected raises, retirement might have been well past when I was dead. And being as cancer runs in the family, that might not have been far off. I knew I need to plan, and figure something out. Time to learn!

I got interested in investing in rentals as a friend of mine and his family owned all sorts of random stuff. Somehow the Google Gods were with me one day and it showed me the Bigger Pockets YouTube on how to figure out the profit from a rental property. This was a HUGE mental shift for me.

I credit BP (Bigger Pockets) with a large part of the next phase of my life. I started to realize I was on to something here. I plan on making an article later on my start with BP, so we will gloss over a few things for now and circle back to it. For now, lets stick to the highlight reel of the past 6.5 years.

My then girlfriend of 5 years (now wife) was not exactly on the same path. We will have to expand upon that in yet another later article, but I will summarize it here. It was a good learning experience in trying to figure out how to CAREFULLY get my g/f on board with this life change of spending less and investing hard. In the end, I realized that for her, my planning wasn’t what she needed. For her, and MOST other people, you have to start at the end, and work backwards. Shit, that is yet another article I need to write…. Anyway, the way to make this work is to make the goals tangible and not something soft and ethereal and start working backwards, showing how each step from the end getting closer to today is achievable. The goal shouldn’t be a set dollar/Euro/Yen/ounces of gold figure, but what I have found works best is what that will buy…. freedom.

Back to to the real estate. She was on board with my crazy ideas and helped me do some repairs when I bought my first rental in Memphis TN. She didn’t want to be left behind, so she joined me and bought her first rental property about 6 months later. Some simple spreadsheet math showed I could retire in 15 years without having to work overly hard at it. At the time, it would have put about $80k in our pockets each year if we stayed in the US and kept on that path.

Yeah, life changes and we didn’t do any of that. We moved to Asia for my wife’s career and I started to broaden my thinking beyond US based real estate and the FIRE movement. We moved again and again and again ending in Europe. Thankfully by then I had discovered a whole new level of FI on the international stage. We started realizing the US wasn’t as great as it thought it was and wanted the protection of other residencies. Why just invest in the US when you can do it all over the world. We bought 3 properties over the next year internationally. This is while I was working sometimes VERY long hours as an IT contractor so I could maximize my income.

When COVID hit, we realized how bad it could be to have (what many people thought was or is) the best passport in the world, the US one. In 2020, the virus was making its round and for whatever reason, MANY countries decided that if you had a passport with the stars and stripes on it, then you must be super infected and should not be allowed in. Didn’t matter if you were living in Thailand for the past 20 years, you must be prevented from going anywhere. This was a big wake up call for us!

We started buying rentals in countries that offered citizenship or residency if you invested money. If you do this correctly (many take the easy way and don’t) you can actually get paid to get another passport or residency.

In the past few years we have been asked by MANY people the normal how questions. Some people just give the standard “Must be nice” remark (you know who you are) when we try to explain to them our life and how we got here. We know we started from a good place, but I still firmly believe anyone can eventually achieve what we did. We got “lucky” a few times, but I feel most of luck is just being prepared when opportunities arise. Going to note that down as another post topic…. Anyway…. We wanted a place to send people who wanted to know more. Out of every 100 people we tell that we retired early through real estate investments, 10 may want to know more. And of those, maybe 2 or 3 will actually do something about it. If this collection of our knowledge helps even a few people, then it was time well spent. And maybe I can tell some people just to read here instead of going into an hour long discussion at the coffee shop counter.

Anyway, we will end our first post at the end. We are now both retired and slowly traveling around the world. We have property in 3 countries and our residual income from rentals and other investments meet our modest spending needs. I managed to beat out the target I set for myself on my 35th birthday of “45 and done”.

Done before my 42nd birthday.



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