By the time I was 28, I achieved a huge personal goal: I owned more than $500,000 in income producing real estate— and it was all paid for.
Reaching that level of success while still in my twenties had not been easy, but I was fortunate to have a hard-working husband, who knew how to fix just about everything, and championed me forward on every deal I wanted to make.
He had the energy, not as much time, to help propel my business to all it could be. Most people must pay for outside maintenance, which can cut deeply into their bottom line.
I had been a ward of the state in my teens, and it had been a life lesson that I hope no one else must go through. It did, however, make me challenge myself to be independent and not rely on anyone ever again. My husband was just a bonus.
I educated myself through books, mentors, and finance courses. I’d like to share with you some of the things I learned.
- Save 50% of your income
Most people live paycheck to paycheck. They adjust their environment according to their salary. Here’s what you need to do: adjust it to half of that.
When I was 18, I couldn’t afford college and support myself, so college never happened. I accepted a job at a manufacturing company that cranked out undershirts. The pay was good for my first job, so I adjusted my budget to live off half my income.
I found an apartment, paid my car note, and ate frugally. People in college were also surviving off noodles and sandwiches so my lifestyle wasn’t much different. If I wanted to eat something nice, I bought myself a steak and cooked it at home.
My company also offered matching 401k and stock purchases. I enrolled myself in the maximum amount allowed. After 7 years with the company, I had contributed about $12,000 to both the 401k and stock purchases. Thanks to a strong capital gain, it was worth over $50,000 when I parted ways with the company.
If your company doesn’t offer a 401k, you can invest in either a Roth or traditional IRA. If you are under the age of 50, the maximum amount you can contribute is $6,000 a year. It’s a great way to sock away money for the future and have it grow into a nice nest egg for retirement.
- Minimize expenses
Spending money will never make you rich. Minimizing your expenses will help clear up your finances so you can make wise investments.
I got my own apartment at the age of 18, but couch surfed a few times between apartments. This move helped me to pay off my car with the money I was able to save from renting.
With my car paid off, I was able to put that money toward small investments, but I continued to cut expenses using these methods:
- Stop eating out: Invest in a crock pot if time is an issue for you. Throw everything in the pot in the morning and come home to a hot meal for a fraction of the cost of eating out. Bring leftovers to work.
- Goodbye cable: There was a time when cable ruled, but not anymore. You can save a lot of money using an online streaming service.
- Save on entertainment: Invest in some popular games and set a weekly night to play games with friends. Have everyone bring a snack. With the right people, this can be some of the best entertainment you will ever have without the cost of entrance fees, tips, or drinks.
- Pay with cash: Once you start paying with cash and reducing your credit card usage, you will get a better handle on your spending. A credit card feels like unlimited money when all you can feel is plastic. When you feel real dollars slipping from your fingers, it makes a difference in your financial mindset.
- Lower your housing expenses: If you are still single, it is the perfect opportunity to get a roommate. It’s a hard decision but saving 50% or more on renting will make a huge difference in your budget. Married or not, if you have any skills, offer the landlord some work in exchange for the rent. Every single person I have ever evicted had the option to work for me if they got behind on the rent. In 30 years of renting out properties, not one person took the opportunity.
- Bundle your insurance: If you have home and auto insurance with separate carriers, you can probably save a substantial amount of money by bundling them together. Call around for quotes.
- Buy property
When I was 25, I began scouting for acreage. One day I saw a sign that said “for sale” in front of 3 acres. I closed on the property within two weeks. A little over a year later, I sold it for double.
A lightbulb went off inside my head. Property values go up, which means my account goes up if I buy and sell.
As a result, I became obsessed with real estate. I was constantly searching for deals online or through word of mouth. You don’t have to go to Arkansas and sift for diamonds. Almost any acreage is a diamond field. The better the location, the more it will be worth.
For a few years, I flipped properties. The payoff was huge on most of the homes. Those cash injections gave me a huge financial buffer for future investments.
I don’t sell all my properties. Some I keep, and they generate me a steady stream of income through leasing. Rental demands are so strong in some areas, people are willing to rent rooms the size of closets. My units are large, but the demand for rentals increases every year.
Not only do I make money through leasing, but the properties appreciate on average 8% a year, while the tenants pay the note. When the time is right, I sell the property for a hefty profit.
- Don’t make excuses
During my early twenties, it was easy to find an excuse not to save money. I went out with friends to the local burger joint, but I didn’t buy the big meals with fries and drinks. To be honest, I was there for the company, but I opted for the burger and a water (free).
I stuck to my plan. Being financially independent was my goal. My time in foster care had been like a prison sentence. I was scared to death of being in that position again, where I had to rely on others for food and shelter.
When I first started, I thought maybe I wouldn’t have enough money. I socked away $5 here and there and over time that amount grew until I had enough to start making small investments.
Some people are concerned about how much time side hustles and investments will take, but there are plenty of side hustles that take up only about an hour a day.
There is plenty of information (free and paid) on the internet or in books, yet people still make an excuse that they don’t know how to get rich. Education is key to turning your life around. Don’t stop at reading just one article or book. Read everything you can. Eventually, something will stick, and you won’t be able to use the excuse that you don’t know how to create wealth.
- Have different streams of income
The average person has one stream of income, their job. They use this job to fund their lifetime of car notes, mortgages and schooling for their children. At the beginning of retirement, few are fortunate enough to have their home and cars paid off, if anything.
The wealthiest people have multiple streams of income. Streams can include selling products on ebay, real estate transactions, or writing ebooks. Focusing on more than one income stream can help you to retire early, travel, and enjoy life without the stress of financial worry.
My book, The 5-Step Millionaire, will be released in June, 2022. It goes into detail about different income streams you can try at home right now. Most side hustles you can try with little to no money out of pocket. Even small cash injections from your income streams can help set you up to be a future millionaire.
Make a list of side hustles you might be interested in and narrow it down from there. Life is too short to do the things you don’t love and still have no wealth. Why not do what you love and create your financial future?
For me, creating wealth wasn’t about having nice things. I wanted to be able to support myself and never have to rely on anyone ever again. If you have multiple incomes and manage your expenses, you are well on your way to creating financial independence.
Tracie Breaux is an author of Refined and The 5-Step Millionaire, as well as contributor and money expert for The Cash Queen.