“Retired: Withdrawn from one’s position or occupation: having concluded one’s working or professional career.” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Hi, my name is Eric Bowlin. I’m 31, I’m retired, and I love it. Alright, I’m not really retired, retired. I’m just retired. I love working on new projects and finding new ways to make money and improve my life. What I am is actually Financially Independent. I’m free from the necessity to work. I still work, but I don’t need to. So, I think being financially free is retired. Just not all retired people sit around or play golf all day.
The Financially Independent Life
I sometimes will work for two weeks straight, wake up early, and work tirelessly. Other times I take trips for no reason other than to have a new experience. That’s the great part about independence, we are free to do what we want.
I’m free to travel anywhere I want to travel or live anywhere I choose to live. In 2015 we decided to go on a trip across the country. We literally left the following day. That trip was my first time going to Texas, and my wife and I fell in love with it, so we decided to stay. Three weeks after getting back to Massachusetts, I was already back in the car headed to Texas.
How did I get here? I worked really hard, sacrificed a lot, and never stopped planning, preparing, and learning.
The problem is – working hard does not mean you will be successful. I was smart; I made good decisions and investments to get to where I am. I essentially make all my money in real estate. I have some other investments and now I’m trying some new things, but the core of my wealth is in good old fashioned real estate.
Real Estate was the Key to Financial Independence
It was an accident that I even got into real estate. I met my wife while attending Clark University in Worcester, MA. While attending school, we decided that we wanted to buy a house. We almost made the classic blunder of people when they have a little money – they buy a big liability such as a home. Fortunately for us, our list of criteria required us to stay very close to Clark. The only properties near Clark are all multifamily rentals. Because of that, we purchased a 3 unit building known locally as a three-decker or triple-decker.
Passive income Changed My Life
I have one memory seared into my brain. A few months after buying the property I was sitting and watching a movie with my wife. It was around 8pm and I heard a knock at my door. Who could possibly be bothering me so late? I opened the door and it was a tenant there to pay rent.
I wrote the receipt, took the cash, and sat down to finish watching the movie. I don’t remember what I was watching, but I remember very specifically that something in my mind happened that was like flipping a switch. Honestly, my entire life changed.
That was the easiest money I had ever earned in my entire life! I didn’t have to do very much to earn it. In fact, the money literally knocked on my door. I decided at that moment that I would become a real estate investor and continue to buy rental property.
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Earning My Seed Money For Real Estate Investing
You always need some money to start in real estate. We already had one property, but you still need some cash to buy the second one. Fortunately, I was scheduled to deploy to Afghanistan.
Of course, the deployment is always good and bad. One full year away from your new wife is very difficult for both people and difficult on the relationship. Fortunately, we toughed through it and saved a ton of money by saving nearly every dollar I earned overseas while she finished up her degree from Clark. The rental property also put a few dollars in our pockets as well.
For an entire year I learned about business, real estate investing, and anything else I could read. It is agonizing to think incessantly about a topic but having no ability to pursue it. Looking back, I realized that this year forced me to study and learn instead of diving in and potentially losing money.
Real Estate Made Me Quit Grad School
After a year of planning and preparing for my real estate business, I wasn’t about to delay it further to go sit in a classroom. Of course, some part of me just couldn’t handle the laid back civilian life yet. I was definitely still seeking some adrenaline and the clarity you have while deployed, but while others who come back often fall into destructive behaviors like drugs, alcohol, gambling, or extreme risk taking, I was able to channel that energy into real estate.
After I returned from Afghanistan, I decided to pursue real estate instead of going back and finishing my degree at Clark University. It really wasn’t an easy decision and I thought about it for months. I was half way through the program and I could leave with a nice title and backup job to set me up for life. Dr. Bowlin does have a nice ring to it after all. I was so passionate about my dreams that they were like a drug and nothing was going to get between real estate and me.
I took some huge risks financial risks at the beginning and wasn’t always smart along the way. I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a real estate investor but I’ve been so fortunate to never have lost money in any of my ventures. Really, though, I think every passionate entrepreneur takes the same risks and has the same drive. I just had that year of planning to help me out, as well as the advice from other investors that I knew who could answer questions.
I became licensed as a real estate salesperson in 2011 and bought my first flip in early 2012. At one point just a few weeks before we sold the flip, we only had a couple hundred dollars in the bank account. We maxed every credit card, spent over $100k cash (thank you Afghanistan), and borrowed another $50k from a friend. My wife was crying every day because we couldn’t even afford groceries, and of course, I was nervous about it too. But the numbers worked and I trusted in my plan.
To make things worse, I scheduled the sale and the next purchase too close together – only 2 or 3 days apart. I didn’t even think that perhaps the money wouldn’t clear before I had to withdraw it again.
The house sold on schedule, the money cleared, and I closed on the 4 unit property that is still a core piece of our portfolio to this day. Today, I wouldn’t take such a risk scheduling closings like that, and I would have done things a lot differently. Either way, I was in business now!
Over Time I Began to Understand the Difference Between Speculation and Investing
I actually wrote a really interesting article about the difference between Flipping and Buy and Hold investing. In a nutshell, I realized that flipping is a project management job using your own money for speculative investing. Though you can make a ton of money doing it, I realized that it just wasn’t my style.
Over time I realized that I truly preferred buy and hold rentals as it’s a true asset class. Buying rental property is no different than buying a stock or buying into a REIT or mutual fund. I began to develop my deal finding system as my wife began to create a tenant screening system. We were now systematizing our business and was on track to become true investors.
Investing in 2016 and Beyond
Fast Forward a bit. By the end of 2015, we had accumulated over 20 rental units which are far more than enough to replace two incomes. We will continue to accumulate rental properties moving forward, but our strategies are changing.
After we relocated near Dallas Texas, all of our properties were still in Massachusetts. Over the course of the year, we realized that we can actually manage those buildings anywhere in the world. So, moving forward our goal is to purchase properties that allow us to be more passive. With less effort of our own, we can spend more time traveling, vacation, and raising the children.
I’ve also branched out into teaching via my internet blog here at EricBowlin.com. I hope it will open up opportunities for networking and maybe some day earn a few dollars for me.
Eric Bowlin and his wife Jun enjoy a trip to a mountain top in China Eric Bowlin, his wife Jun, and daughter Lily enjoy a trip to see Kinmen, Taiwan
Between November 2015 and May 2016 we were able to take three trips that were each for one month. I realize that this is the life we want to live. I want to vacation and travel while I’m young and can enjoy it. I don’t want to grind my life away working for someone else, just to hopefully eke out a retirement in my 60’s.
I hope my story will inspire more people to get into real estate and earn solid returns so they can also retire young and spend their lives doing what they truly enjoy.
Please enjoy reading and don’t forget to send me feedback.
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