How I Got Out of Debt & You Can Too

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and admit to mistakes you've made, especially in a public format, is really intimidating. As honest as I am on social media (and in life), I don't share everything. I cultivate the image of myself that I want to project. It's essential to my business that I'm careful and circumspect about what I say, but it's also about walking that tricky line that's become an issue with the advent of blogs and Facebook and Twitter. Balancing my own inclination toward privacy with the internet's invitation/temptation to share it all. Everything. All the time. With everyone. I think I've spoken here before about money, which is definitely a loaded topic. And I may even have mentioned debt before. But I don't think I've shared the specifics of my story and how I climbed clawed my way out of it.

So that's what I want to do today.

Several years ago, when I was relatively new to real estate, I was also drowning in debt.   Over 50K in debt, to be exact. And it was diverse--student loans, credit card balances, a car loan, medical bills… you name it, I owed money for, on, or to it. Maybe you have similar debt, or more, or less. Whatever the amount, it can feel crippling. It can suck the life right out of you. Sometimes it's a gradual, creeping realization that we may have borrowed ourselves right into a life we can't afford. Other times it's a bright, flashing, blaring siren of dread the instant we signed our name on the dotted line.

This is how I felt: I was in a tunnel with no light at the end of it. The number was so huge to me that I literally couldn't imagine a scenario in which it wouldn't exist anymore. I was working so hard and none of what I was earning felt like it belonged to me.

The light appears...

I was with a small group of friends one night and a gal said there was a book about how to pay off debt for pennies on the dollar. That seemed way to good to be true. But I bought the book and read it front to back and then over again. I read it until I got the courage to start calling my creditors to settle the accounts. (Looking back, I learned some crazy amazing negotiating skills through that experience!) The thing I hadn't realized was that companies will settle with you for less than you owe for a couple of reasons. One is that sometimes the original creditor sold the debt to a company that just goes around buying existing debts for much less than what's owed on them. They then set about trying to collect. So, you can negotiate with them for pennies on the dollar because they only paid a fraction of what you owed in the first place.

Secondly, sometimes a company has essentially given-up on collecting anything on the debt. So, if you call and make them an offer of something, they'll take it.

Still, it is not a fun experience to make those calls. It's the opposite of fun, actually. And the good news for you is that you don't have to do it yourself. Our trusted team has a credit repair expert who does the negotiating for you and, together we can help you create a plan that leads not just to freedom from debt but to home ownership too. For some it’s a 6-month plan, for others it’s 18-months.

Just know I’ve been there. I personally short sale my property and contemplated bankruptcy a couple of times... so I'm not asking you to consider something I haven't already myself. There’s no shame. I know the struggle and I’m happy to help encourage you out of it. We should talk! Call us to schedule a confidential consultation.

I did a short video about my fun real estate math equation, where 1+1=4. Whether you're trying to get out of debt or avoid it, more and diverse income streams are a necessity. Check that video out below!

 

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You Might be Surprised...

 
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Did you know that you could be a really successful Realtor and never represent a buyer or seller in a transaction? Or that you could build a real estate business for yourself that includes four distinct sources of revenue? Or mix and match those four elements to create something that's the perfect match for your interests, strengths, goals, etc.? People often think of being a real estate agent as only representing clients in the purchase or sale of a property. That's how I started my career, and may be how you start yours too. But it doesn't have to be the only way you put your skills to work.

I'm a big fan of variety and of diversifying sources of income, including building in some passive income where I can. I thought I'd share with you today some of the ways you can do that as a real estate agent. Keep in mind that my experience has been with Keller Williams exclusively, so the opportunities I discuss below are the ones available with this brokerage. I don't know for sure what other brokerages offer. Okay, caveat out of the way, so here we go.

Option 1: Representing Buyers and Sellers. This is pretty straightforward. As a real estate agent, clients will hire you to represent them in the purchase or sale of a property.

Option 2: "Flipping" Properties. This is where you buy a property, invest in renovating it, and then sell it for a profit (hopefully!). There are several shows on HGTV profiling people who do this. As a licensed real estate agent you can represent yourself as buyer and seller and you'll have access to new properties as they come on the market. Keller Williams has a book to help agents learn how to do this successfully. It's called, appropriately enough, "Flip."

Option 3: Investment Properties. This is where you purchase a property and then rent it out to a third party. Again, Keller Williams has educational materials to help agents do this successfully, maximize their earning potential, and avoid some of the mistakes people commonly make when starting out as landlords. It's called, "Hold."

Option 4: Referrals. I know agents whose entire business is built on Keller Williams' Referral Program. Keller Williams has agents licensed to sell homes anywhere in the world. If someone approaches you wanting to purchase or sell a home outside of the area in which you work, you can refer them to a Keller Williams agent in that region. If that client hires that Keller Williams agent and they purchase or sell a property, you could receive 25% of the commission on that sale. Just for referring that client. Pretty great, right? I've done it several times and it's a win-win-win experience. I know I'm referring someone to an agent who is going to provide them with excellent service; a great KW agent gets to serve someone that may not have otherwise found them; and I get a nice financial thank-you.

Option 5: Profit Sharing. Okay, this one is a unique option within the world of real estate. When you close a transaction, you pay a percentage of your commission to Keller Williams, until you've paid the company dollar CAP in commission in a calendar year. After that commitment is met, then you keep 100% of the commissions you make. Here's where the profit-sharing comes in. The person who "referred" you to Keller Williams gets a thank you for sending you to KW. So, if you go into business with Keller Williams and then you recommend it to a friend or acquaintance and they join as an agent too anywhere in the world), you could get a portion of the commission. You're fully vested after 3 years and the benefit can outlive you and be passed along to your heirs.

Option 6: Salaried Positions. For whatever reason, maybe you want a more predictable 9-5, salaried job. Keller Williams hires licensed real estate agents to provide administrative and transaction support to our Realtors. So, you could use your knowledge and skills in this way as opposed to representing buyers and sellers.  Or maybe you're a great leader and want to take on additional responsibilities on top of your work as an agent. KW has formal curriculum for people who want to pursue a leadership role, and there is additional income associated with those opportunities.

Was any of this news to you? Did one or more of these options make you think about a real estate career in a different way? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below or contact me here if you want to talk more about real estate or Keller Williams.

Thanks for reading and I'll see you here again soon!

Are You Stuck in This Vicious Cycle?

 
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(This post contains affiliate links.)

What percentage of people in the United States would you guess are living paycheck to paycheck? Are you one of them?  If I told you that 50-percent of us fall into that category, would you believe me?

If you think that's a high estimate, hold on to your hats because the actual number is worse.  

More than three-quarters of workers (78%) who earn less than $100,000 per year, are one unexpected expense away from a big financial mess. I don't know about you, but that number is scary to me. (You can check out the full story here.)

Additionally, and very much relatedly, 71-percent of full-time workers say they have some kind of debt. Of those, 56-percent of them say they don't believe they will ever get out of it. Think about it--if you're living paycheck to paycheck because of debt, and something unexpected comes up, you go into more debt to pay that expense. So, it's kind of a vicious cycle, right?

Consider the emotional toll that belief takes on a person. Working full-time, unable to get ahead financially, operating under the anchor of debt, and believing things will never be any better. What does that do to our collective mental, emotional and spiritual health? The cost of our debt-culture goes beyond a financial one.

Let's talk about the culture of debt while we're at it. It's become more than just acceptable--it's marketed as desirable. Many people get their first credit card offer at 18--I've heard stories of credit card applications being included in freshman move-in packets at colleges! College itself has become synonymous with debt too. Can't afford tuition? Here's a student loan you can spend the rest of your adult life paying off. Want something now, but can't afford it? Why wait? Just fill out this credit application and walk out of the store with it. You deserve it.

We think it's an unavoidable part of adult life, but it doesn't have to be and it really shouldn't be. It is crippling. If you're struggling with debt or just want to learn how to create a budget and make a financial plan you can live with, I cannot recommend Dave Ramsey's books enough. The Total Money Makeover: Classic Edition: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness is one of my favorites and a good place to start.

 
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In contrast to that 78-percent number, only nine-percent of full-time workers earning more than $100,000 per year reported that they struggled to make ends meet.

What does that tell us? Well, it tells me we need an increase in income and a shift to a debt-is-not-okay mindset. And it reinforces for me one of the big reasons why I'm such and advocate for real estate and Keller Williams in particular.

 
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I’m a self-help junkie and every book I read about entrepreneurship or financial freedom says we should have multiple income streams. That we should be diversifying where our money comes from so that our financial futures are not subject to the whims of one bad boss or the ups and downs of one market. 

If I told you that as a Realtor I have four businesses functioning simultaneously and generating four income streams for me, would that pique your curiosity? The first is the most obvious--I represent buyers and sellers and earn commissions on each transaction I close. Income stream number one.

You might be surprised how many agents don't leverage the other three opportunities: referrals, profit-sharing and investing in real estate. Please don't be one of them! I love talking about possibilities and coaching other agents, so click here and let's schedule a time to meet!

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