As Red said (in Shawshank Redemption) to the review board at his parole hearing, “I look back on the way I was then, a young, stupid kid . . . I wanna talk to him. I wanna try to talk some sense to him—tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone and this old man is all that's left. I gotta live with that.” I wish I could go back in time and talk to my younger self and convince the twenty-something me to invest in real estate. I’ve always owned a home, but instead of buying investment properties I bought a boat, traveled the world, and quite frankly, as Jimmy Buffett famously sang, “I made enough money to buy Miami, but I pissed it away so fast.” I’ve watched so many others around me become quite wealthy with buying and renting out real estate. It’s the not-so-secret way to financial freedom. I’m working on a book with a friend who immigrated to the United States with next to nothing, worked hard cleaning houses, saved up and began built her impressive wealth with real estate. Like my co-author, in most cases those with significant wealth started with a first step—purchasing their first property. It could have been a starter home or an investment, but it was the beginning of building a life of prosperity.
The key for the first-time home buyer is to see their first real estate purchase as more than a place to live, but as a pathway to wealth. No matter how much money you have (or don’t have) there are ways to get into the market. I can’t go back and advise myself to buy investment properties, but hopefully someone reading this will seriously think about it and act on the idea that true wealth (just like in the game Monopoly) comes from owning property—and it doesn’t have to be Park Place, either.