“The following conversation was conducted over email and edited for flow and clarity.”
Acquania Escarne of Wealth Noir: Reshawn it’s so good to finally catch up. We haven’t talked since we both attended FinCon. I have to admit I have been following you and your husband’s global adventures on Instagram and always look forward to learning where you’re going next. It’s not often 40 something empty nesters pack up their things in two suitcases and start traveling the world.
But before we get into that can you tell our readers a little more about yourself?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: In 2009, Rob and I joined our lives and our money! We started with a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover. While paying off debt we still wanted to do what it took to become a real estate investor.
Today, we own two single family homes in Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas, and a six-unit apartment complex in Norfolk, Virginia. In late 2018, we left our corporate jobs!
Now we are pursuing our entrepreneurial passions: Rob is a Licensed Texas Realtor and I am the proud owner of Learn Hustle Grow Travel. We specialize in group and international travel. As debt free empty nesters, we are spending [this year] traveling the world and building our travel business.
WN: Before you were traveling the world, what did you do?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: Prior to our decision to take a sabbatical, we had a good life. We both spent 20+ years as corporate professionals. I worked for some great companies as a technology sales professional. While professional sales pays well, the work is extremely demanding. In order to exceed your sales goals you work nights, weekends and holidays. Although I received generous vacation benefits, I could never completely disconnect. The stress takes a toll on your body after a while.
Rob worked as an IT professional across various industries. Unfortunately, there was little opportunity for advancement. He was also limited to two to three weeks time off, which included both vacation and sick days. We wanted to see the world, but there was never enough time to travel further than Hawaii or the beaches of Central America.
WN: I understand what you mean. Sometimes our jobs can get in the way of us living our best life. So I guess that’s why you started looking into other opportunities. What initially attracted you to become a real estate investor?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: Prior to Rob and I meeting, he researched wealth accumulation and discovered that a number of billionaires held real estate investments. In his 20s, he hoped real estate would make him rich. When we decided to invest as a couple, we saw real estate as an opportunity to create retirement income. Reading the book Millionaire Real Estate Investor made it all seem possible.
WN: Thanks for the book recommendation. What’s your current real estate portfolio?
Reshawn Lee: In 2013, we turned our “starter home” into our first investment property. We then set a goal to purchase a new property every year for 15 years.
At the start of 2018, we owned four single-family homes and participated in a multifamily syndication deal in the state of Texas. This was in addition to our primary residence. We sold two single family homes in order to pay off our home and invested in a small multifamily apartment building in Virginia. Today, we maintain our position within the Waco syndication and we own two single-family homes in Texas and a six-unit apartment building in Virginia.
WN: That’s a great story. I also started real estate investing by renting out my starter home. What is your current investment strategy?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: We hold our properties for at least one year in order to achieve long term capital gains. Our current strategy is to continue to 1031 exchange our single-family homes into small multifamily properties when the opportunity makes sense. We factor in the amount of appreciation within our existing properties, the condition of the market and interest rates before considering any 1031 opportunity. We also use an investment property calculator to determine whether or not the deal makes sense apart from the use of a 1031 Exchange.
WN: How did you find and purchase your first home?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: Our first home purchase served as my primary residence for five years prior to getting married. When searching for the property, it was all about finding a family-friendly neighborhood with good schools. As it turns out, most people who rent a house want the same thing. As a U.S. military veteran, I was able to take advantage of veteran financing through a big bank. We’ve now owned that property for 15 years.
WN: So after getting your first home, what was the hardest part of doing your first investment property?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: When the time came to purchase our [first investment] property, investors were buying up everything in our desired neighborhood. Word was out, and out-of-state investors discovered that they could purchase two homes for the price of one in their home state of California.
Homes were moving so fast that we made an offer sight unseen. The house was not nearly as nice as our first home. It was hard to look past the fact that we would not have chosen this as our primary residence. This can be a roadblock for many investors. We made the decision to purchase based upon the numbers and the economic development plans for the city.
WN: I bet that experience taught you sometimes you have to act fast, but I am glad you emphasized that you used the numbers to help you make an informed decision. What was the greatest lesson you learned while investing in real estate?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: It’s always hard to answer the ‘one thing’ question. [To new investors I say]: The numbers are a key source of information, but you also have to feel good about the deal you are making. Flipping a home is not as easy as it looks on television. Build your DIY skill set.
Honestly, most investors are all in or on their way out depending upon their experience. We don’t run into many existing investors seeking information from us. It can be hard for people to see you as a successful investor if you are not flipping or don’t own 100 units. More times than not we have been asked for the contact information for our realtor.
It’s hard for people to believe that we acquired our knowledge listening to books and podcasts. There is an assumption that our realtors were mentors. This has never been the case.
WN: What advice do you have for someone trying to decide if they should become a real estate investor?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: There is no path to wealth without self-education. There’s an incredible amount of information available via books, blogs, and podcasts. You can do this. Ask yourself, “what do I have to offer when pursuing a partnership or mentor?”
WN: Ok, so let’s change gears a bit. Everyone is all about financial independence and retiring early–or the FIRE movement as it’s called. Are you a follower of the FIRE movement? Would you call yourselves financially independent and retired early?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: We are familiar with the FIRE movement and great admirers of those younger than us who have been able to achieve so much! Yes, we would call ourselves financially independent. We are enjoying our travels, but we are not ready to retire. We simply want the time and space to pursue our entrepreneurial passions while sharing our experiences with others.
WN: So, tell our readers what they really want to know? How did you quit your 9 to 5 jobs to become full-time globetrotters? What steps did you take?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: There was no magic bullet or fast path for us. We spent 9 years paying off debt, saving and investing before leaving our corporate jobs. Our first stop was joining our finances and learning how to manage money together. We learned early in our marriage that working together would be crucial to our success.
We created a budget and tracked our expenses. Rather than purchasing a new home after the wedding, we spent another four years in my first home and made upgrades. This provided an opportunity to pay down debt and save money for a down payment on our next home. We turned our first home into our first rental property and created a plan to purchase a new single-family home every year.
Our kids attended public schools and we haven’t had a car note for 10 years. We also benefit from a lower cost of living and no state tax in the state of Texas. We automated our savings and charitable giving. As high-income earners, we were able to continue investing in our 401Ks and college savings accounts for our sons while paying off debt and investing in real estate.
WN: How do you decide where you travel to next? Are you following flight deals or a bucket list?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: Rob and I have a world map with the places we would like to visit. I guess you could call it a bucket list. Weather and price are big factors in determining when we arrive at a specific destination. Our goal for this year is to visit each continent with the exception of Antarctica.
We focus on the major destinations and add stops along the way. As a travel agent, I have access to booking tools that help identify packages, flights and hotels within our budget. We also take advantage of airline miles and hotel points when it makes sense.
WN: Are you investing while overseas? How are you managing your properties from afar?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: Due to the demands of our jobs, Rob and I have always used property managers. Many of the horror stories you hear about investing in real estate are about tenant challenges. When we run the numbers for an investment property, management fees are always included. We prefer property managers who are also real estate investors. Our experience managing property managers locally also gave us the courage to purchase out of state.
WN: Besides real estate and your previous income, are there any other tools you used to build wealth?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: Yes, investing in the stock market was always part of the plan. When Rob and I met, I was a licensed financial advisor. At the time. I didn’t have anything to invest, but investing for others was certainly a confidence builder.
We used the research available from our online brokerage firm to begin purchasing 100 shares of various individual stocks in a trading account outside of our 401Ks. Whenever possible we grew our portfolio. Later, we capitalized on the appreciation of the stock market and the real estate market. When it made sense to sell, we did.
WN: Tell us more about your website. How do you engage with followers? Do you have any programs or products coming out soon? Any items you want to promote?
Reshawn Lee of Learn Hustle Grow: We are debt free empty nesters in our 40s who love to travel. The decision to work as a team in order to invest in real estate and the stock market has changed our lives.
We created a website and YouTube channel to answer the questions others have asked about how we did it. We are forever grateful to those who helped us by sharing their experiences and we’re hoping that our experience helps others to join the debt-free movement and follow their dreams. If the information in this article interests you, check out our blog for detailed articles on the topic of real estate investing. You can also book travel by emailing us.
Acquania Escarne is the creator of The Purpose of Money, a community of women building generational wealth for their families one dollar at a time. As an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and licensed insurance agent, Acquania has always been passionate about financial literacy. On her website, Acquania blogs about ways to help you improve your money habits, create wealth, and invest in real estate. Follow Acquania on social media for daily tips.