Rich on Money

Financial Freedom in the Military through Real Estate

Seven Steps to Being a Military Millionaire

It is possible to retire from the military a millionaire.  I know a few people who have done it.

I hit the mark before retirement.  No rich parents, no help, wife didn’t work.

Can the average military member go from being in debt to military millionaire?

We all see websites and books from people who were deep in debt and somehow quickly made millions.

Maybe we should read their books or infomercials and try their methods…

I believe it is hard to duplicate their success.

These gurus get rich off people looking for shortcuts.  Most that try the guru route fail miserably.

It often involves going into lots of debt or paying a lot upfront for a product or a course.

It also requires no common sense

So how can you get out of debt and make a million or so when the average military member has a low-income and some debt.

Maybe a lot of debt!

Try these seven steps to making a million before retirement.

1.  Cut your expenses

You have to learn to live frugally.  This doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s crucial to your success.  Ditch the big house, new cars, iPhones, Harleys, boats, timeshares, expensive vacations and hobbies, and exotic travel.

I’m losing some of you already!  If you need those things above, I suggest trying a no-money-down infomercial course.  They won’t tell you to live frugally.

Here’s the two choices you have.

  • Look rich now, be poor later
  • Look poor now, be rich later

2.  Increase income

Next, find ways to increase your income.  Start a home business, send  ask your spouse to work, take on a part-time job if possible.  Consider a different career if that will work for your situation.  My side hustle was flipping houses.  That’s a story for another day.

3.  Eliminate debt

The most important step of all.

I’m pretty logical about this.  I pay off debt largest interest rate first.

Everybody has their strengths and weaknesses.  Dave Ramsey is great on debt.

That’s his strength.

His advice from the book “The Total Money Makeover” is solid.

If you want a in depth guide to getting out of debt, read it.

4.  Maximize retirement accounts

You fully fund IRAs and TSPs/401ks to take advantage of legal tax breaks for retirement.

How to invest?  This is easy.  Invest in a low-fee index fund like the S&P 500.  Nothing else.   This is all you need.

5.  Pay off mortgages

IF you buy a house (you only buy a house if it will make money as a rental), you pay off your mortgage quickly.

WHAT!!

Now I’m losing the rest of you.

This is controversial and most people would deem it impossible, but I did it on a single military income, and it was key to my success.

6.  Traditional investing

You fund a traditional brokerage account.  Same S&P 500 index fund.  Nothing else.

These six steps are enough to make that million.  If your spouse works, shoot for a million each.

The seventh step is a bonus step.  I’m a BIG believer in real estate.  The passive income from it will continue to flow to me for years to come with almost no work on my part.

Now you are out of debt, properly invested, and have enough money for at least a 20% downpayment on something.

7.  Buy rental properties

This needs to be done wisely.  You don’t buy a house at every assignment.  Buying a house when you are stationed in Hawaii or Monterey, CA will probably not make a good rental.

You do the math and make sure the house will make money as a rental property.

In one city, I rented a house that would not have done well as an investment property, but my wife liked it.  I then bought real estate in a different part of the same city that would work financially as a rental.

The rental numbers looked great, so I kept buying rental properties there after I PCSed.  I haven’t bought anywhere else yet.

I might, if the numbers work!

Avoid mortgages whenever possible.  My rental properties were purchased for prices ranging from $30k-$60k each.  I paid cash.

I recommend not have more than one mortgage at a time.  If you use a mortgage, pay it off before getting a second mortgage for your next rental property.

Rule of thumb:  If you or your spouse want to live in a big, new house, don’t buy it.  Rent it.  It’s almost impossible for these to make good rentals.  (Living in a big new house also contradicts the first rule of cut your expenses)

THE MAGIC OF LEVERAGE

I know you all think I’m crazy.  If I use leverage, I could have five properties for every one I paid cash for.

That’s true, but benefiting from leverage is more rare than you think, and luck has to go your way.

If house values go down or stay stagnant, you are worse off being highly leveraged.  If value dives enough, you might even lose the homes and your credit.

If house values raise slowly, the merit is still debatable.  Interest and other fees eat into profits.  High interest from hard money loans really eats into the bottom line.

In the rare circumstance that house prices raise significantly, your highly leveraged portfolio of homes makes you rich.

This is the magic of leverage.

It’s also rare and impossible to predict.  It happens in a random way.  If you think you can predict it, I bet you also think you would be a good day trader.

Go for it!

I know many of you want to buy a house while you are still in debt.  You are eager to make money in real estate NOW.  This is how you will pay off that debt and retire wealthy.

In most cases, it won’t work.

I highly recommend the slow and conservative approach of paying off your debt first.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Yeah, I know it’s boring.

But it’s the surest way I know to a cool mil.

Rich on Money

Do you agree with my steps?  How about my approach to mortgages.  Email or comment with your thoughts.

Read my post on calculating what you’ll make on a rental property.

Previous

Debt Pitfalls for Military Members

Next

My Secret Weapon for Real Estate

4 Comments

  1. Brew

    Rich,
    I’m an E-8 with 6 years to go until I’m retirement eligible. I currently max my TSP and my wife contributes 6% to her crappy 401k, but she is down to working 6 hours per week so the contribution is minimal. We have a mortgage on our primary residence which I bought at foreclosure auction. I instantly gained about 50k in equity doing that- and it’s a nice place to live. Probably wouldn’t make a good rental so I’m viewing it as a long term flip. I’m not sure if we’ll stay in the same town once I retire, so I do struggle with the idea of trying to pay off the mortgage early or not. We have 3 kids under 6 so I am stuck with trying to pay the mortgage early or save for college, or both. I also own a condo in the town where we live that was my bachelor pad and I now rent out and break even with (it technically cash flows but that’s only when comparing rent to PITI and HOA, not expenses for maintenance and vacancy). I could sell it and finally get as much as I paid for it 13 years ago, or keep it and let the renters pay down the mortgage and use it as my college savings plan. I also hear the siren song of investing in rentals and have quite a bit of cash saved that could go toward a down payment or two. I’ve been kind of stuck as far as developing a strategy goes. I’ll be 48 at retirement and hopefully will only work part time from 48 to 60 at which point my TSP should be able to cover any difference. So my questions for you and other readers:
    1. Pay off house earlyish?
    2. Start 529s for the kids?
    3. Attempt both at the same time?
    4. Sell the condo or keep it as a college savings plan?
    5. Look to buy a duplex or some other rental property as a way to help fund expenses between military retirement and full retirement age?

    Thoughts?

    • You want to be LEAN and MEAN for retirement.

      -Pay off the mortgage as fast as you can

      -Get rid of the rental property if it’s not making good money.

      You said you have some cash right now. Contribute the max towards each kids 529 this year, then put the rest on the mortgage.

      There is a guaranteed savings in paying off a mortgage early. Their is also a huge psychological benefit. There is no guarantee that your investments will make money over the next 3-5 years. Paying off early is the way to go. It makes retirement much easier. No mortgage payment.

      Based on the limited info I have, I would sell your other rental property. You are maybe breaking even to slowly pay down a mortgage. Very slowly. You’re losing money on not having that loan invested in a rental property that is paying a better ROI

      Don’t have a rental property unless it is making at least 6% cap rate. Less than that, you are better off selling.

      Make sure you crunch all the numbers and see what you are really making on your rental. It’s usually much less than people think.

      In the future, do not buy the house you are living in unless it would be a good rental.

      If you like the house, but it’s not a good rental, the just rent it instead of buying it.

      Rent the house you want to live in, and buy houses that will make good money.

      Start your criteria for looking for a rental property by applying the 1% rule. A house that costs $100,000 rents for $1000 a month or higher. If not, it’s not worth considering.

      If you can’t find a good rental, invest your surplus money is low fee s&p 500 index fund or something equivalent.

      Remember, never more than one mortgage at a time. I have 0 and I love it!

  2. This is a great, common sense list Rich! And that’s why it’s not so common.

    I’ve used leverage in my own investments, but people don’t realize how perilous the debt journey can be. The market and the timing of your successes in real estate are very unpredictable. And losing control of your debt is one of the easiest ways to lose control. I’ve seen MANY people go out of business because of their debt. For other reasons? Not so much.

    With that said, I think there are some strategies that can be a happy medium – like using leverage and then debt snowballing it quickly (7-8 years). This allows you to buy intensely in one phase (perhaps when the deals are available), and then focus on management and debt pay down in the next phase. Then repeat if you want.

    Fun debates, but the bottom line is your proof is in the pudding. It’s worked! So, if people resonate with that strategy, it’s worth emulating.

    • Chad, thanks for commenting over here. i definitely recommend your blog to anyone who wants to figure out real estate. You do it right. Debt can accelerate your profits. The opposite is also true. Your point is well taken. It can be done smartly. That being said, I do caution beginners against too much borrowing.

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén