The following conversation was conducted over email and edited for flow and clarity.
William S. Matthews is an accomplished businessman, author, and community advocate, or, as many often call him, a modern-day Renaissance man. He sits down with Wealth Noir to talk about how he finds purpose in educating young people on topics like financial literacy, leadership and navigating corporate America. When he’s not giving back to his community, he’s building an impressive real estate portfolio.
Asha Atkins of Wealth Noir (WN): Thank you, William, for taking time to talk with Wealth Noir today. You have an incredible career and you do so many different things. Your versatile background is proof of the value of having multiple streams of income. Tell us about yourself and why do you consider yourself a Renaissance man?
William S. Matthews, Entrepreneur: First, thanks to Wealth Noir for having me. My areas of expertise are real estate development, authoring three books and keynote speaking, and fundraising millions. Since so much of what I do can’t be checked by a box, I’m labeled as a modern-day Renaissance man with big dreams and even bigger ambitions.
WN: As a modern-day Renaissance man, what inspired you to have such a multi-faceted career?
William S. Matthews: My detail-oriented and energetic personality allowed me to lead and take part in multiple projects for both nonprofit and corporate entities. I was also raised to have multiple streams of income coming into the home. The 2020 pandemic showed the importance of that mindset more than ever.
WN: While one could make a case that the different roles you have are high-income yielding, many of our readers are thinking beyond their 9-5 or as you call it “health insurance” job. How did you start creating different streams of income and what advice do you have for our readers who are trying to do the same?
William S. Matthews: There was so much more that I wanted to do professionally, and I’m a bit of an overachiever. Ever since I was a young boy growing up in Houston, I had two dreams: to be successful and enjoy life to the fullest. Even if it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and going the extra mile. I started a corporate event planning company, RSVP With Will, while working a 9-5 or “health insurance” job. I purchased my first few properties from that same job. I did the research, saved, put in a lot of sweat equity, removed any labels and blocked all negative people from my life, and stepped into the unknown. The best piece of advice I would give your readers is to remember, you can’t have a million-dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic.
WN: Wow, that is a very interesting perspective. I love “you can’t have a million dollar dream with a minimum wage work ethic.” You mentioned that you are an author. You’ve written three books, your last two focused on financial literacy and navigating the corporate world. Can you share what inspired you to write about those two topics?
William S. Matthews: High schools and universities would invite me as a guest speaker on various subjects and I was always surprised and saddened by a lot of the questions I would be asked. Information I thought was discussed at the dinner table or taught in school. I knew I wouldn’t be invited to every high school or university auditorium, so I decided to take the most common questions I was asked and develop a book around those subjects in a way to reach more millennial African-American and Latinx audiences.
WN: It’s great that you understood there was a need to get the information out on a larger scale and did that through literature. When you think about the people you have supported and educated around real estate investing and financial literacy, what are some of the alarming truths you’ve realized are holding back the Black community from accessing wealth?
William S. Matthews: Not having generational wealth and breaking the cycle of poor financial responsibility. Look, I get it, the Black communities were fighting for equality while people were building equity. Metaphorically, we are late to the party or started the game in the negative, but we have to share the importance of generational wealth, savings, credit and living within your means. So many people want to keep up with the Joneses, but the Joneses can barely pay their bills.
WN: You make a great point. The wealth gap is real and not closing anytime soon, but there are ways for us to improve and start to narrow the gap, especially for future generations. I want to switch gears and talk a little bit about your career in real estate investing. You attribute your start and success to your parents. I love that you are giving them their flowers now! How old were you when you embarked on your real estate career? What was the first property you bought?
William S. Matthews: At 26, I purchased a house that was built 60 years ago and I was the youngest person on my street. My neighborhood was not fancy by any means and far from the pretty manicured lawns and a fancy zip code so many of my friends have flocked to live. I’ll let you in on a secret: my mortgage was $445/month while my friends were paying $1,445/month to have that fancy zip code. We all have the same square footage and are homeowners, but who’s pocketing the rest in savings and flying out of the country on exotic vacations? ME!
When I was 33, I purchased another property, this time an investment property that already had a tenant. I wanted to learn about the world of residual income and property management. I started small, took my time, and didn’t bite off more than I could chew. I’ve now turned a few investment properties into a real estate portfolio under my LLC.
WN: Do you mind sharing what your current portfolio looks like now? How many properties/units do you own?
William S. Matthews: I’ve been blessed to own a few single-family homes, one multi-family, and a few acres of land near Dallas.
WN: That’s impressive, the rental properties but the land as well. You don’t hear about people going out and buying land. What are some of the challenges you experienced as a real estate investor? What are the benefits?
William S. Matthews: In 2017, one of my properties flooded after Hurricane Harvey and I did not have flood insurance on the property. Not only was the family living in the home uprooted, but I had to pay for all the renovations out of my pocket. Watching someone destroy your property over time hurts, too. It’s the equivalent of letting someone borrow something and they don’t take care of it, that stings! The benefit would be the assets, building generational wealth, securing a retirement plan, and owning something they are not making anymore: land.
WN: Can you share some learning lessons with our readers interested in becoming a real estate investor? And specifically how to quell the feeling of intimidation around investing/owning property?
William S. Matthews: Do your homework! There are a plethora of workshops, books, and YouTube videos at your disposal. Talk to other investors to learn their challenges and strengths. You may want to do your first investment property with a dear friend or family member you trust, keyword, trust! It can be scary but rewarding at the same time.
WN: You are juggling so many different projects, jobs, etc. How do you make sure to maintain your health (physical, mental, spiritual)?
William S. Matthews: I have an amazing therapist and I know when to disconnect from anyone and everything to recharge my batteries. I call my mentors and closest friends my Board of Directors. They hold me accountable and help me step into my greatness daily. This consists of a Board Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary, comical titles, but each one has a role and a purpose. Surround yourself with people you want to be like.
WN: What are some useful tips on how you manage all the work you do without becoming overwhelmed, for example, what tools do you use to keep organized?
William S. Matthews: I travel a lot. Most trips are leisure and extremely therapeutic. While visiting different cities, countries and cultures, I always come back home with an appreciation for what I do have and how much more I want to achieve. Also, I don’t compromise sleep and physical fitness.
WN: I’ve noticed a pattern with successful people. They read A LOT, and you mentioned that learning doesn’t stop, that it’s necessary for more development. What are some of the books and/or podcasts that you read/listen to, to stay motivated and knowledgeable?
William S. Matthews: Too many to name, but I read a lot of biographies on successful business people and entertainers. Reading their struggles and all the ‘no’s they had to endure helps me to remember they experienced some of the same issues I’m dealing with.
WN: Thank you again William for taking the time to share your journey with us. You truly are a modern-day Renaissance man and it’s been a pleasure learning about your interests, multi-faceted career, and how you maintain your health with all you do. You can find William on Instagram at @williamsmatthews and check out his website to learn more about what he’s doing at williamsmatthews.com
I’m a Caribbean – American writer and Army brat who calls New York home. After graduating from the University of Maryland with an English Literature degree, I worked as a counselor and educator for inner-city youth in D.C. and New York. My experience with young BIPOC’s helped me be a better listener, more empathetic, and attentive, and strengthened my storytelling abilities.
Currently, I work in media and advertising for an ad tech company and am a freelance copywriter and creator/host of the Truthis podcast. I love film, television, and am a Toni Morrison stan. My ultimate goal is to tell honest stories of marginalized people.