THE MIRROR OF MEDIA

Turning 31 Years of Financial Disaster into Ultimate Freedom


There are few people on this earth that can make Mindy laugh as much as Alex Felice. He’s been around the block with BiggerPockets a few times, appearing on episode 301 of the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast. Alex has a growing rental property portfolio, a flipping business, and is a professional photographer/videographer. But, beneath his success, was thirty-one years of financial struggle.

Alex was taught financial skills growing up. The only problem: he didn’t listen to any of the advice he was given. He joined the Army without any skills, and as soon as he got out, he immediately bought a new car with a high monthly payment. He then was hit with a DUI, forcing him to really think what his life would turn out like unless he made a change.

He needed cash flow but didn’t want to go out and get another job, so he settled on investing in real estate. It was important for Alex to have a “get rich slowly” type asset, one with stability that could take care of him well into retirement. Now, he’s amassed an impressive portfolio, with some large commercial deals and flips on the side. Alex spends his days investing, working on his skills, traveling, and really doing whatever he wants!

Mindy:
Welcome to the BiggerPockets Money Podcast show number 247, where we interview Alex Felice and talk about past money mistakes and how you don’t have to let that define or limit you.

Alex:
So I was like, I lose my job, I have no money in the bank to even get me through this first hurdle, never mind how I’m going to get income and all this stuff. And I looked at my life and I was like, “This is 100% my fault,” because I wasn’t taking responsibility certainly during the day of, but I wasn’t taking responsibility for the last 30 years. I wasn’t taking responsibility for my future.

Mindy:
Hello, hello, hello. My name in Mindy Jensen and joining me today as guest host is David Pere from the Military Millionaire Group and podcast. David, thanks for clearing off your schedule to join me in making fun of my best friend Alex Felice. I met Alex in the BiggerPockets forums 100 years ago where he was giving really great advice about real estate investing. So I reached out to [inaudible 00:00:55] and we’ve been besties ever since.

David:
And I met Alex at FinCon in 2018. We’ve been great friends, talk real estate and he even co-hosts the podcast with me, so this is going to be a lot of fun.

Mindy:
I met you at FinCon in 2018.

David:
You did.

Mindy:
That was in Orlando right?

David:
Correct.

Mindy:
We took a picture. So David and Scott and I took a picture with big Brandon beards to send to Brandon Turner.

David:
Because he no-showed the difference.

Mindy:
I remember that. Oh, you know what? We could put a link to that picture in the show notes.

David:
Ooh, all right. All the blackmail photos on me.

Mindy:
Yes. I’m going to have to start getting more blackmail photos for you.

David:
I’m not going to-

Mindy:
Okay. David and I are here to make financial independence less scary, less just for somebody else. To introduce you to every money story, because we truly believe financial freedom is obtainable for everyone no matter when or where you’re starting. And today’s guest is the epitome of making a bunch of financial mistakes and still coming out on top.

David:
… Whether you want to retire early and travel the world, go on to make big time investments in assets like real estate, graduate college debt free, or start your own business, we will help you reach your financial goals and get money out of the way so that you can launch yourself towards your dreams.

Mindy:
Okay. Like I said before, Alex Felice is joining us today on this show, and Alex is one of my favorite people on the planet, despite all the ribbing that I give him during the show today, he is incredibly smart. He has a great outlook at the world in general and American Life in particular. And he has made some pretty big money mistakes in his past, but they didn’t define him. He was able to first take ownership of the fact that he was making mistakes and then changed the way that his mind felt about money and the way that he focused on money, and has changed his financial outlook from what are we calling this? From financial disaster to financial master. And he is really truly living life the way that he chooses. He spends time doing things he wants. If he doesn’t want to do them, he doesn’t do them. He no longer has to trade his time for money.

David:
Yep, absolutely. Alex is completely cracked the nut on financial independence. And it’s just really cool to see because he did it in such a simple and replicable way. And he makes it look easy and now he’s able to just enjoy life.

Mindy:
Exactly. We don’t have lottery winners on this show because that’s not repeatable. But Alex’s message and method is absolutely repeatable, which is why he’s going to join us. Alex Felice, my best friend in the whole world, welcome to the Bigger Pockets Money Podcast. I’m so excited that you’re on today.

Alex:
I am so excited to be here. You’ve been asking me to come on here for a while, so I’m glad we finally made it happen.

Mindy:
I really am too. I think you have a fabulous money story, and I think all of our listeners are going to get a lot out of it because you were kind of a financial mess, right?

Alex:
A complete financial disaster for 31 years. Yep.

Mindy:
31 years of financial disaster. This is going to be an awesome show. So where does your financial disaster story begin?

Alex:
Oh, well I started the disaster. It was a disaster of ignorance actually. My parents taught me the right things, save money, spend less than you earn, but it didn’t stick. And so I just spent all my money. I just, we lived week to week, had no plan, got a good chunk of debt. Is that how we’re really starting, just like that? You really want to go right to the-

Mindy:
Yes. I’m really starting just like that. Tell me what happened. Where were you growing up, in high school, did you have a ton of debt when you graduated high school? When you graduated college. Did you even go to college. I know you were in the military. Tell me all the things.

Alex:
… Okay. Okay. I had no money-

Mindy:
Pretend that people who are listening have never heard your money story before and they want to.

Alex:
… Ah, okay. No, it’s hard usually I assume everybody is paying attention to everything I do.

Mindy:
But they aren’t.

Alex:
So joined the Army basically broke with no skills and no real goal. I joined out of apathy, which is how a lot of people, especially enlisted join. I had nothing better going on. So this is not a good way to start a career, just to be clear. So you join the Army, and they kind of turned me around a little bit and taught me some competence and gave me some skills, but they don’t teach you money skills. In fact, they want you to stay in. So they don’t have to teach you that stuff. You get out and I was in debt. I had a car payment, which is what all soldiers do, and I had a little bit of credit card debt. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t good. But most importantly I had no plan and I had this very common, I don’t know how … This very common theme in American culture where I just assumed that because I’m awesome it was going to all work out. This is not a good strategy for success in anything. But this is very common.
I know it’s funny to hear, and it’s funny to say, but this is how a lot of people, they just think, “Oh well, the next paycheck I’m going to get promoted. The next job, they’ll value me more. My thing will work out. I’ll get the inheritance, I’ll get this check.” Whatever the case, it’s just going to work out for some reason, because apparently the universe is just going to work out for you. And so that’s what I thought and I ended up selling cars, which is a tough business, but it’s good to learn sales. So I was making good money, probably 80 grand a year or so. But I was spending more of that then I earned. And I was always like, “Well, I’ll save next paycheck. I’ll save next month. I’ll save when I get a promotion.” Whatever the case.
And then, around 2010 I made probably the biggest mistake of my life to date. I got a DUI. Alleged, an alleged DUI, a non-convicted alleged DUI, and I remember getting out and I had just made a good chunk of money that year and I remember I didn’t have enough money in the bank to pay a lawyer and the lawyer was three grand. Not big, big money. And I was broke, and I lost my job because I was selling cars. You needed a license. So your license gets revoked. So I was like, I lose my job. I have no money in the bank to even get me through this first hurdle never mind, how I’m going to get income and all this stuff. And I looked at my life and I was like, “This is a 100% my fault.” Because I wasn’t taking responsibility, certainly during the day of, but I wasn’t taking responsibility for the last 30 years. I wasn’t set. I wasn’t taking responsibility for my future.
And so I had a real phoenix moment and everything’s changed since then. And I was like, “Okay, I don’t know what’s going to happen in my future, and this is going to be a tough hurdle to go through, but there’s another 60 years to live, so this is not an interim thing. This is going to change everything. And forever and ever and ever, this is never going to happen to me again.” I will never let my poor decisions make such an impasse, because of certainly three grand. I had to call my parents and ask for money. And me and my parents are not on that good of terms. That was a really humbling moment.
So after that happened, I just said, “Whatever.” Everything else in life becomes second and freedom, financial … More than just financial freedom, because I didn’t really like my job. But I wanted self sustainability. I wanted to know that my life and the way I live it is on my terms and it’s because I created it, not just because, oh, I just want to hang on the beach, or I just want to tell my boss to screw off. It’s like, “No, dude. I want to protect myself against the inevitable flood of life that’s going to come and wreak havoc on unexpectedly. And I want to be prepared.” Deadly, deadly, deadly, seriously prepared.

Mindy:
Good. Good. That’s the whole thing. That’s the whole reason we do this show is so people can be prepared for the curve balls that life throws at them. And one of the best easiest ways to be prepared is to have your financial house in order so you don’t have to always be worrying about money or thinking about money, or trading the time that you have. The very precious time you have on this earth for money, instead of doing what you want. So Alex, do you have a job now?

Alex:
I don’t really have a job. I don’t have an employer.

Mindy:
You don’t have an employer. Okay. So you are unemployed?

Alex:
Yeah. When people ask me at parties what I do, I tell them I’m unemployed. But that’s mostly just because it makes people uncomfortable, and I love it. But I do real estate kind of full time and I’m sort of a photographer now, but that happened.

Mindy:
Sort of a photographer. Okay, I’m going to jump in here as your best friend, I’m going to, does he need any help David to toot his own horn? No. Alex has the most confidence of anybody I’ve ever met in my whole life. However, Alex is an unbelievable photographer. He is an absolutely stunning photographer. If you went to the BiggerPockets conference, you saw him with his camera around his neck. He’s got 20,000 pictures that you took of the conference and they’re all absolutely perfect. He is a wonderful photographer. He is also a real estate investor, but there is quite a bit of time that we have jumped ahead to, so we need to go back in time to 2010, the site of your alleged DUI, and see what happened between 2010 and the end of 2021, which we are at right now.

David:
Can I jump in for two seconds and just throw out … I think we skimmed over this really important what I view as the mindset shift here. So Viktor Frankl talks about in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, that the people who passed away in the concentration camp were the optimists. The people who just assumed good things were going to happen. What you mentioned at the beginning was you got out of the military and you were like, “I’m awesome, things will be great.” And I think a lot of people think and assume like, “Oh, great things are going to come to me because I’m a decent person or because I whatever.”
But it’s the catalyst, that painful alleged DUI, that change, what I noticed in your tonality there was what shifted was the fact that you went from, “Hey, awesome things are going to happen because I’m a good dude,” to, “Holy crap, I need to take ownership or responsibility of this, and I need to put some effort in to fix this.” And I think that shift of realizing, oh man, this is on me. I don’t know, I see it in a lot of trajectories, in a lot of stories. And that seems to be a pivotal moment. So usually, unfortunately after a painful experience, myself included, but I just want to point that out so maybe someone listening realizes, hey, I should probably look at this more objectively than just assuming good things are going to come your way.

Mindy:
I’m glad you brought that up. I did highlight that part when I’m taking notes for the quotes we’re going to use. That’s a really great quote. You said, “I thought because I was awesome, everything would work out.” And like David just said, you’re not the only person who thinks that. I mean, you’re the only person who thinks you’re awesome, but you’re not the only person who thinks that because I’m awesome everything’s just going to happen. And I love that you took ownership of that.

Alex:
Money is a mental game 99.9%. It really is. So once my mentality shift from entitlement, which is oh, it’s going to work out because I showed up, to more hey, life is unbearably hard and unfair. And the best you can do is take radical responsibility for your … Stop making it worse for yourself and maybe it’ll get better. But yeah, I definitely don’t expect the future to be better. I am now more radically paranoid about the future, and then if it works out. Good. Then that’s great. But I don’t assume that the future is going to be better and then I just have to sit around and wait for it. I assume the future’s going to be bad and that’s why I work so hard to prevent and prepare for chaos.

David:
So once you had this catalyst, what were some of the first steps that you took to correcting that trajectory?

Alex:
Okay. So I sat down and I said, “Here’s what I have to do. I’ve got to fix this money problem.” And I signed up and I went to college. I had the GI Bill so I said, “I’m going to get a degree in finance.” Because I figured if I learn about money then I’ll be able to manage my money. And that didn’t work out exactly right, but in a round about way, that worked. If you understand and learn about money, you get control of money, and that’s a big portion of your money situation is control. More than amount. You can live on a lot of freedom with not that much money, but you can have a lot of money, you can have a high income and not control, and you’re screwed.
So I sat down and I said, “I don’t want” … I needed cash flow income. I needed something that kicked off cash. Not equity. So the stock market wasn’t right for me. I didn’t have anything to sell. I didn’t have any skills, talents. I didn’t really want employees. I didn’t want to go to work every day. I’m kind of lazy. And I didn’t have any money. And so I’m like, “What works, if you put all those together?” I’m broke, lazy, wanted cash, and so real estate. Went to real estate. Turns out in 2014, we’re at the bottom of this foreclosure boom, you can go into MLS and pick up properties left and right. I didn’t have any money, but that idea sat in my head. But I had no money to my name still.
So then I go on the internet and I search. I want to get rich, but I don’t want a get rich scheme. And what’s the first thing that pops up? Get Rich Slowly, a guy who is now a friend of mine, J.D. Roth. And just that idea that if you follow key principles, again, it’s a money thing. It’s a value system. It’s a value hierarchy. It’s a way you live your life. If you follow these rules, you’re going to create wealth. It’s almost predetermined. It’s inevitable. And so I just started saying, “Okay, I’m going to play the long game on this and I’m going to get ahead.” And it’s real simple stuff that you guys talk about all the time. Pay yourself first.
I pay myself first no matter what. I don’t care who’s not getting paid, as long as I get paid first. That’s first and most important. Save 20% of your income. Some people I know save 30, 40, 50, 60%. I was like, “Dude, I’m just trying to get this thing to work in a way that I know that it will always work.” And so I just started employing these … Never spend money on things that don’t make you money. And then ideas like sacrifice. I sold my car. I bought a beater. I stopped buying clothes. I was a drinker, I stopped doing all that stuff. And so really, there’s nothing special. It was value the future ahead of the present. Take radical responsibility and make whatever sacrifice to attain the higher good.
So I saved a little bit of money and then in 2000 … it was three years. I went and got my degree, and it wouldn’t be for three years, 2014, that I ended up buying a foreclosure that I moved in. I think I put three grand down, and I paid $55,000 for that house. You really can’t do that anymore. We moved in. It was an FHA loan. And 18 months later, I went and got a refinance, then it was worth 120.

Mindy:
Did you cash that refi?

Alex:
And that’s when I was like, “Yo, real estate is easy. I’m going to do this forever.” But it was very interesting because I had been broke for 31 years and then I tried for three years, and I had made more money than I ever made in my life. Now it was just equity, but still, I was like, “This trajectory is a whole different than the entire first portion of my life had been.” So that’s when I knew. I was like, “A lot of responsibility, here are the results. It works, now let’s go run with it.”

Mindy:
Okay. So you bought the first house. You lived in there for 18 months. You refinanced it for a ridiculous amount of money. Did you pull the money out of the house to go buy another house?

Alex:
I am a very risk averse investor. I go slow. I tell people all the time. I’m not trying to get rich in two years. I’m trying to get rich in 40. So I don’t need to … Yeah, you like that one?

Mindy:
I do like that one.

Alex:
I don’t need to take risks that other people are willing to take because they get starry eyed about some theoretical profit, because we’d just gone through 08, and I had had my negative incident. No matter what you think the world is going to become with rosy-eyed glasses, it can and will fall and you will be hurting. So I was like, “Dude, I don’t need to put myself in a position to lose again, especially so soon.” So all that said, I think I ended up when I refinanced, I lowered the rate and I dropped the PMI, so I actually kept my payment the same. And I took out whatever the difference was in the loan, which is about 19,000. So I still left the vast majority of the equity in the deal.

Mindy:
Okay. And then what did you do after you bought that first house?

Alex:
Just lived in it. I had a condo, a little condo that I had bought in 2010 just as a primary. And it was basically breaking even as a rental. And it wouldn’t be until 2016 that I would buy another place. I had saved up enough cash. I had $71,000 in cash over the last five years. If you save $500 a month, for five years now, and plus tax returns and that 20 grand, you get 70,000. So I had $71,000 in my bank account. It was all the money in my name. And I went off and I bought a foreclosure and I think I put 68 into it. I was all in.
And so then that made me 900, 950 a month. I ended up six months later I did a BRRRR. I ended up refinancing it, pulled 100% of my money back out because it had been where I created that 25% equity. And so then I was like, “Dude, not only now I know this works” … I knew, but now I can do it without even living in the houses. So I ended up over the next, until 2019, I would buy six more.

Mindy:
So what sort of income were those six houses kicking off? Or eight.

Alex:
They’re a couple hundred bucks a month. Two, 300, it depends.

Mindy:
Each?

Alex:
Everybody in the internet lies. So when they say it’s 400 bucks a month, I know that that’s on their good month. But I also know that every couple of years you’ve got to do paint and floors at five or six grand. That’s a year’s worth of income knocked out. So I think on tax returns I’ll probably clear 250, $300 a door, but I know that in the real world, it’s not enough to go get spendy, so I save all of it.

David:
I like the fact that you pointed out, I like your trajectory here, because what people see when they look at you or me or real estate investors in general is they see how many doors you have and they see how long ago somebody started and they’re like, “Oh my goodness. It’s so easy.” And they often seem to miss the fact that both you and I have very similar trajectories where we bought a house and then it was two years before we bought the next property. And we both have decent sized portfolios now, but it’s because there’s this exponential curve where what a lot of people don’t do it seems like people will buy a house and then they’re like, “Ooh, I’m making $200 a month in cash flow, now I can spend whatever.” No, you reinvested that money and kept saving to buy the next one. And then that timeline between houses just gets shorter as your capital grows and you’re cash flow grows.
And so it really is like a buy one, buy another one, and then eventually buy two. It’s a scalable thing. It’s not an instant, “Hey, I bought a house, now I can keep just dumping into properties.” So I think it’s just important to annotate that because sometimes people see, “Oh, he’s got eight doors in five years.” And they’re like, “He must have just but bought them all really quick.” Well, it sounds like the last six were bought in half the time as your first one.

Alex:
Yeah. And I was doing BRRRR with delayed finance, and I had talked about that on episode 301 of the real estate BiggerPockets Podcast. I did delay finance and BRRRR. So I was doing three in a year and actually I didn’t use any of my original capital. I was able to pull 100% of my funds back. So while I’m adding these properties, I’m not actually spending any liquidity. I’m just, the cash is still increasing.
So the thing that I think people have a problem with rentals is they see the cash flow and they’re like, “Oh, now I can spend more money.” But the reality is, this is a equity play, this is a wealth play, and this is a retirement account. I treat it more like a retirement account, so I mean, think about it dude, at $200 a door, eight doors is $1,600 a month. That’s not any real money. You can’t live on that. Not really. And if you’re wrong and that 200 goes to 100 a door, now you’re living on eight grand a year.
So this is a retirement play and having that retirement does allow you to think in a more … It does let you take more risk and act out your life in way that aligns itself more with the freedoms that you want to have. But it’s not that a cash … I’m not making it rain every month. It’s a couple hundred bucks. It almost all goes back into the business. You are definitely going to have stuff where it’s like, hey, that tenant tore that place up. You need to paint, floors. This happened. Stuff happens. It’s a capital intensive business in many ways.

Mindy:
I’m really glad you brought this up and David, I’m really glad you said that what you said too, because I’m in the BiggerPockets forums and Facebook groups and I see this all the time. “Hey, I bought my first house. When can I buy my second one?” Well first, hold on. Let’s figure out if you like this. You don’t want to jump in and have 57 doors and be like, “Wow, I really hate being a landlord.” Figure out the first one. And Alex, you said everybody lies on the internet, I thought you couldn’t say it on the internet if it wasn’t true. So that’s shocking to me that you would burst my bubble like that. But, you’re right. There is a lot of inflating and, “Oh, I’m only making $200 a door, but when I ran the numbers it was going to be $500 a door. Why is that?” Well, most frankly because you didn’t run the numbers properly. You didn’t account for vacancy, you didn’t account for CapEx, and you didn’t account for the things that you need to account for. Not every property make a good rental property.
If you haven’t yet listened to episode 301 of the BiggerPockets real estate podcast, Alex does do a really great deep dive into several of these things that he’s just been discussing. Delayed financing. He actually has a really great take on delayed financing that was able to clear it up for a lot of people when they listened to Alex explain it. He also goes into the deep dive with the BRRRR. And let me see if I can remember that. Buy, rehab, rent, refinance, repeat, where you buy a property, you rehab it so people want to live there. You rent it out to a tenant. Many banks want to see a seasoning period of six to 12 months of rental before they will refinance the property from the time that you purchased it. And let’s see, buy, rehab, rent, refinance, and then repeat means just do it all over again. Take the money out, take that whole money or most of that money and put it in the next property and do it again. Is that good?

Alex:
Nailed it.

Mindy:
Okay. Also we’ve got to figure out a way to say suck it up buttercup, at some point during this episode, David.

David:
Done.

Mindy:
Because that was his catch phrase on that episode. But it was really good. It was really helpful. I got a lot of great feedback from that episode. So, if that is something that you haven’t listened to yet, you really should. Especially if you’re interested in investing in real estate itself. But yeah, like Alex said not everybody is going to be super honest with their numbers, and here’s the thing that I think a lot of people see as they start comparing themselves to other investors. “Oh, Alex has eight properties. I only have two.” It doesn’t make you a bad person because you only have two. There’s a lot of people who only have zero.

David:
Yes, it does.

Mindy:
It’s what you are comfortable with and what I would say to anybody who is considering investing in real estate is invest for you, not for Alex, not for David Pere, because those guys aren’t going to pay your mortgage if your tenant doesn’t. So, what are you guys saying yes, you will pay the mortgage?

David:
Oh, no. I was just going to talk smack. But I will point out that the reason Alex was able to use delayed financing which is a great strategy, and I have never been able to use delayed financing is because Alex did the save a ton of money while you’re learning strategy much better then I did. I bootstrapped and over leveraged and did things the complicated way in the beginning with seller financing and low down payment loans, whereas Alex was able to … He was a little bit, not even a little bit, a lot more diligent about saving that capital so that he was able to pay cash for properties where I didn’t have that kind of capital. And so, I mean, that was what allowed him to do the delayed financing which is phenomenal. And yeah, you should definitely listen to that episode, it’s good. I learned a lot from it and then had to pick his brain later and was like, “Yep, I don’t have enough cash to do this, so sounds cool.”

Mindy:
Okay, so Alex-

Alex:
Liquidity creates a lot of freedom. A lot of opportunity. A lot of options.

Mindy:
… I love that. Okay. So you started buying properties, did you have a job at that time?

Alex:
Yeah. So buying lines real estate is really a lot easier if you have a W-2, and I was a consistent W-2. So I was working selling cars, hated it. I learned a lot from selling car, but it’s a terrible career choice. So I went into banking and my idea was I had gotten my degree, I went into banking and my thought was, “Hey look, I want to fix this money problem, I’ll go learn about money.” Remember? And so I’m like, “Who knows more about money than the bankers?” That actually is not correct. That’s not correct at all. There’s a bunch of people probably listening to this podcast that are in retail banking and they’re broke and they’re trying to fix it. It’s a job like any other. People who go under retail banking, generally they do customer service. It’s a little bit of sales. It’s a nice comfy place. It’s a refined, it’s a mature industry. It’s a great place to work, but it’s not like everybody that works there is rich. A lot of them are living week to week like everybody else.
But again, working at the bank really afforded me a lot of insight because I got to see what people’s bank accounts look like. And you know what hit me real hard was everybody else is broke just like me. That’s why it feels so okay. And I’m serious. That’s why the American culture, that’s why people are broke and they’re looking at everybody else and they’re like, “Well, I only make 30 grand a year, and my co-worker only makes 30 grand a year, but he drives a BMW so I could probably afford a BMW.” It makes it all seem okay. And it turns out it’s the blind leading the blind. So that really helped me.
It really opened my eyes to be like, “Oh okay, I have to” … Attaining financial freedom, I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. Even though I’ve done okay in real estate, I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur at all. I just really enjoy my freedom. I’ll tell you what, it’s a lonely-ish road, because you really have to go against the social grain to do it. You really do. And so it probably means a lot of the people in my social circle that were not willing to make the sacrifices that I was willing to make, I now couldn’t go hang out with them as much. I couldn’t do things with them because I was like, “Dude, I have to solve this. I have to solve this big problem rather than just indulging into the weekly pleasures.”

David:
It’s that piece that happens when they haven’t had the mindset shift of things happen to me instead of I take action.

Alex:
Right.

David:
And you go to hang out and you’re like you want to play Mr. Fixit. It’s like what happens with me and my wife. When I try to play Mr. Fixit, and that’s not what they want.

Alex:
Yeah, so some people you can take on the journey, and some people … and this is a tough part … some people you have to abandon because they’re not going to come with you and they’re going to slow you down.
So I had a job. I work at the bank. I’m learning a lot about how people treat money. I’m learning a lot about real estate and that helped me get these loans. But I was only making 45 grand a year or something. It wasn’t a lot of money. But that’s the thing. You don’t need a lot of money. I know plenty of people. I know people that make $350,000 a year and are flat broke, and they are stressed and they lose sleep, and they look like hell, because their lives have been misery for a decade while making half a million or $350,000 a year. And it’s like, you can play that game if you want to, but if you make $45,000 a year … Well, I was single, but that’s a disclaimer. I’m single no kids. So if you’re single or if you have no kids and you’re making $45,000 a year, you can build immense wealth. You don’t need to make more than that. So that’s it. It’s just a time game after that.

Mindy:
I love that. So yeah, think about it. When you make $45,000 a year, you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, I’m not that rich.” When Carl and I first started dating I happened to see a paycheck stub on his kitchen table and I was like, “He makes $40,000 a year. Wow. I didn’t know he was so rich.”

Alex:
[crosstalk 00:30:37].

Mindy:
Because I was not making that much and that’s not why I dated him, Alex. I know you’re going to say something snarky. But when you’re making $350,000 a year you’re thinking to yourself, “I’m rich. I’m making a ton of money.” Rich people have their stuff all figured out. You know what you’re doing when you make $350,000 a year. So for you to be broke, I would think it would be even more stressful because you’re like, “Well, I’ve got money, so why isn’t it working for me? Why can’t I figure this out?”
At the same time, when you make $350,000 a year you’re like, “I don’t need a budget. I make a lot of money. I don’t need to look where my money’s going. I make a lot of money.” I’ve actually been in that position. Not the $350,000 part, but the I’m making a lot of money, I don’t have to budget. And guess what, all of a sudden you’re spending creeps up. I talk about money all day every day, and my spending was creeping up, because it’s so easy to be like, Uh, it’s okay to spend this extra little bit. It’s not big deal.” And it can be a big deal. And you need to, if you want your money to go in a certain place, but you’re not consciously thinking of where your money’s going to go, it’s going to be really difficult to get it to go there.

Alex:
Money is about mindset and control. Not about volume. It really isn’t. And so you can have $350,000 a year, but if you don’t track your net worth diligently and know where all your funds are going, pay yourself first, and then invest in some fashion. I’m a very risk averse investor. I mostly do ETFs in the stock market. I mostly do ETFs. And I probably own more gold than a lot of people who are listening do. I’m very risk averse, but it doesn’t matter because it works over time. And the byproduct of this is excess freedom, not excess stress. So it really is about control, which is understanding and having a plan and having a really good insight into where you’re at and then mindset, which those are the two really. I mean money doesn’t matter what you make. It matters what you do with it.

David:
Throw out real quickly though that there’s probably someone who’s listening to this and started to tune out the moment you said 45,000 was enough, and their thought is, I live in Seattle, or I live in San Diego, or I live in New York, or I live in Hawaii, or I live in … So I get those comments or hear that excuse all the time and I’m just going to challenge it and say, you can move. So Alex didn’t live in the most expensive market in the country, but he definitely didn’t live in the most affordable market in the country either. He was in the middle ground.
And so I just want to throw that out because somebody’s probably going to say, “Oh, 45,000.” Well hey look, nobody said that it was you could live like exactly what you wanted to live in life while you were going through this journey. If your cost of living is more expensive, then yeah, you’re either going need to make a little bit more money or you’re going to have to move or look at some other options. So just you can absolutely do that on $45,000 a year. It just depends on how you chose to live your life.

Alex:
Yeah. So I do get that a ton. Yeah. I live in a little town in North Carolina. It’s not expensive to live here. Guess what, I hate it here. I’m actually back here again. I moved twice since. I hate it here, but that’s the sacrifice that I make to create stability and a foundational future. And so people that live in San Diego that are like, “Oh, I can’t do that because I don’t make that much money.” I’m like, “Yeah, but the weather’s great.” That’s what you’re spending all your money on. You’re spending all your money on living in a place with … That’s the trade you make.
And so people in this, they always want to tell you what they can’t do, but they ever want to tell you what they’re willing to sacrifice to get what they actually want. So I tell people, don’t tell me what you’re willing to do to get ahead. Tell me what you’re not willing to do. And then we can move around that list, because if that list is long, if all the things you’re unwilling to do to get ahead, if that list is long, then maybe I can’t help you. Maybe you can’t help yourself. So maybe sometimes you’re in a high cost of living area and you can’t move or you’re unwilling to move.
But again, it’s the same thing with there’s no cap on income. You can go off and make more money too. I’m talking about how to make it through a method of sacrifice. We haven’t talked about ambition. What if you actually try to make more money and try to invest aggressively and try to be an entrepreneur? Those things all have no cap. So the naysayers, I doubt you, but also I understand that there are expensive places to live and that not everybody … People have a wide variety of life experiences and they come into this … You come into the world where you’ve figured out wherever you’re at, at the time, you don’t really get to chose. You just like, “Oh, this is where I started,” And it’s different for everybody and it’s brutally unfair. Also, as I said from the beginning, the two things that will get you no mater what your situation, are the only two things you can control are responsibility and sacrifice.

Mindy:
I love that.

Alex:
So complaining-

David:
Yeah, totally.

Alex:
… I hear you, but-

David:
I was about to say it. I was going to sneak it in right there.

Mindy:
Okay. So let’s get back to your story. You lived in which Carolina? North Carolina. I’m not from the Carolinas, so they’re always confusing and I never get them right.

David:
North Cackalacky.

Alex:
North.

Mindy:
Okay. So you lived in North Carolina and then you decided I don’t want to live here anymore.

Alex:
I moved around a bunch. So I lived in Arizona for a while. I moved back to North Carolina, hated it. But I was stationed here, so I have a good social … A have a base of social structure here. That helps. Then in 2017 I moved to Las Vegas. I love Las Vegas so much. I moved to Las Vegas and I bought all my properties long distance. And then in 2019 I had personal stuff going on. I was like, “This is not going to work out. I need to move back to North Carolina temporarily,” was the plan. And so in 2000 and late, late, late 2019, I moved back to here and now I’m hoping that in February I will live in Charlotte, which is a much nicer city. Much bigger city.

Mindy:
And still close to where your real estate is, right?

Alex:
Yeah. I gave myself golden handcuffs. I mean, everybody that things that they’re going to buy properties across the country and then just hire one property manager and then they’re going to run it for 30 years without hiccup and it will be fine and you can just set it and forget, you are out of your mind. They are somewhat passive. If you get somebody really good, they will take the vast majority of your burden away from you. But it is very valuable to be nearby or within a day’s driving distance or something like that. Or you can afford to fly a lot. I mean, I don’t have to go to my properties a lot, but to be fair there are some that I’ve never seen, but I have a very and exceedingly good property manager. But I don’t want to go somewhere that then I can’t get here because thing changes. The world will change. The people that you rely on will change. The world’s going to change. You have to be prepared for a different paradigm. It’s not always going to go the way it is now.

David:
I have an exceedingly talented property manager as well, and I’ve had to come to terms lately with the fact that she might be retiring in the next few years. And so she’s amazing and she has a team, whether or not they’re amazing when she leaves who knows.

Mindy:
I think that’s one of the hardest things about the long distance investing. Yeah, you can live in Seattle and you can live in San Francisco and New York and invest in North Carolina or Indianapolis, or Kansas City. But if your property manager isn’t good, you’re going to have just a lot of mental space being consumed by the hassles of the real estate, the hassles. They’re really hassles when you are just trying to get your tenants to pay their rent and there’s a problem, and your property management company isn’t taking care of it. Or you property management company is being proactive and spending way more money than they should. Or just not even answering tenant calls. Or if they don’t know how to screen tenants they’re not worth anything. “Oh, I put this person in place, they said that they’ll have the security deposit next week.” No they won’t. There’s a lot of things that you shouldn’t do. And for more information about that go to BiggerPockets.com because we’ll teach you everything about real estate investing. But-

Alex:
I’m not selling single family long distance real estate right now by any means. I got into real estate single family because we were going through a foreclosure boom from 2012 to 2017 and that’s about when it dried up, to be honest. And then since 2017, basically as far as I can tell, the vast majority of people are paying retail prices with the hopes that the market is going to continue to go up. And I do not participate in that behavior. I only buy things that are undervalued. And currently to me that looks like larger asset classes. But I’m not sitting here trying to tell you real estate’s the way to go. What I’m telling you is, be dynamic because the market changes. So you need to go where the opportunity is. The world’s going to fluctuate and change.

Mindy:
… I think that’s a great point. Okay, so let’s get back to your story. You were in North Carolina and then you moved to Las Vegas and then you moved back to North Carolina, and now you’re moving to Charlotte. What are you doing for money?

Alex:
I don’t know, I’m winging it. Okay, so-

Mindy:
Great. Super helpful.

Alex:
… So I have a little bit of money. In January 2020 I said, “Okay, I have a really good infrastructure of people here in North Carolina. And I want to take the time to see if maybe I could get good a videography.” That’s been a building passion of mine for a while. So I said, maybe I can practice doing some video content. I can basically, I had the opportunity to say, I’m going to live in on my terms, I’m not going to get a job. I’ll take a year and dabble and just live. What the heck is the point of reaching all this financial freedom if I can’t spend a little of it? And so I said, I’m going to try this videography thing.”
I’m not a hyper entrepreneur guy whose got to make money at all costs. I want to enjoy my life. And that does mean always chasing difficult challenges, but not always business challenges. Okay, so I said, I’m going to do some videography and what am I going to film? Well, I have this real estate infrastructure here so I’ll flip some houses. Turns out, I don’t much care for it and I’m not that good at it, and it’s hard. But, it pays well. So one of the blessings that I’ve had is that I’ve always had jobs that pay me like … the bank job paid 50, 60 grand a year.
So I only have to flip two houses a year to make my same income, which is actually kind of easy given my history. So last year, I flipped two houses and I don’t know, I made 80 or 90 grand. I also bought a multi-family. I bought a big 30 … No, I bought a 52 unit multi-family. That was my second one. So those come with paychecks. And then this year I flipped two houses and I think I made another 20 grand with my camera, which is pretty fun.

Mindy:
Okay. So you’re generating income in different ways. So, what do you do with your days? What are doing all day long?

Alex:
Ah, well, I went on six trips the last six weeks. Travel. I’m going to Belize next week.

Mindy:
Oh, nice.

Alex:
I don’t understand, what’s the point of this show? Isn’t the point of this show to get people to get their money right, so they can live on their terms?

Mindy:
Yes. But you haven’t shared with us what your day to day looks like.

Alex:
Well, it looks different every day. I do whatever I feel like doing. Okay, this morning I sat and I edited photos because my good friend Jeremy, I flew down to Pensacola and I did some promo videos for his fabulous real estate investment syndicating company, Kline Capital, and did some promo videos for him. And then I’m going to go and do some editing for I shot Flip Hacking Live, an event that Bill Allen puts on for flippers. I did photograph that event, so I’m going to finish editing and deliver those photos today. And then I’m going to start packing because I’m going to Belize in a week. I got some meetings. I mean, I’m going to go check on one of my flips, because I still, I don’t want to do any work. Remember we talked about rule one, I don’t want to do any actual work. So I got to go check on a flip to get the rest of the contractors out there to turn that baby and get it on the market.

Mindy:
I love it.

Alex:
What else?

Mindy:
I love that your days are … And you enjoy all of this, right? The whole not working thing. The whole taking pictures all the time. Traveling all the time.

Alex:
It’s so funny, I spend an immense amount of time … If you saw me at BPCON, you probably saw me as working my tail off. I was lugging two cameras around, two big cameras. I was shooting every room, I was shooting the whole thing. I delivered, I think, five or 600 photos edited. I took 9,000.

Mindy:
Oh my.

Alex:
It wasn’t-

Mindy:
Over three days.

Alex:
… Yes. Scott kept seeing me, he was like, “Dude, I see you everywhere. You’re working your booty off.” And I’m like, “Actually, I haven’t worked a day. I haven’t worked a lick. I haven’t worked for a second.” And so I really think that one of the traps that, one of the quagmires that I got myself into when I started getting good a real estate, I was like, “I’m going to lean into this thing. I’m going to make a little real estate business.” Because that’s what my peer group was doing. If you want to be successful at something, just make your social circle all of that thing and you will become it.
So all my social circle is real estate people, so then I started doing this real estate thing and I got consumed by it. And then I was like, “I don’t actually find this to be enjoyable, it just makes money.” And I can find my opportunities. But I really enjoy cameras. So it’s not work for me to spend an entire day shooting, lugging around cameras, the stress of trying to get interesting shots. And then my favorite part is delivering photos to people that they love. And they’re like, “Wow, now” … I posted a picture of BPCON of my good friend Shelby meeting Hal Elrod. And for Hal, he’s just Hal. But for Shelby, he changed her life.
So now I have that magic moment. I have it. She remembers it, but I have it forever. And I have it and I can give it to her and I can post it on the internet and I can share it with her. And that right there, that’s a feeling that no amount of … How do I say it? I couldn’t have delved so hard into photography if I hadn’t created enough freedom through real estate or through financial education, so it’s now bringing me a different portion of my life where I get … How do I say? I’m reward for a very different type of action. It’s not financial. It’s not of value, it’s meaningful.

David:
So Alex mentioned earlier in the show that he’s not an entrepreneur. He’s not big into the entrepreneurship thing. And I think the reason for that is that what Alex did was he created this skill for himself and I will toot his horn too that he’s amazing at photography and videography. Just phenomenal. If you look at my head shots online, they’re mostly Alex’s. And so increasingly becoming a higher percentage of Alex. So he’s phenomenal. And it’s a skillset that’s a passion for him, that he loves, which is why he’s so good at it, because he spent all the time and effort into it.
But he wouldn’t consider himself an entrepreneur with that because he doesn’t have to, in my … What I see, what I think, is because he’s not forced into creating some crazy business that takes time and effort. He’s has the freedom to say yes whenever he wants to use this skill, and it does make … I mean, it’s a high paying skillset. He makes good money doing it. I would be willing to bet that he’d be able to make more money this year filming than he did his last year as a banker. But he only has to do it however much he wants. And so he’s built himself this spot where it’s like, “Yep, I’ll do that. And you can pay me because I’m really good at it and I’ll make it worth your time. But I don’t have to do that.” So it will never become a job for him. It will always just be a passion project, which means he’ll be that much better at it. So yeah, it’s pretty cool to see, but I think you’re right, you would have never done it had you not had the time to devote to it.

Alex:
One of the things that I learned early on about … One of the best pieces of advice, and I think I said this in another podcast, I say it to people all the time. One of the best pieces of advice I got in life and I don’t even remember where it came from was, to be at peace in life, you need these three hobbies. One hobby that makes you money. One hobby that keeps you healthy. And one hobby that keeps you creative. And I literally just designed my entire life around those three aspects, and I am at peace.
And I don’t take jobs. It’s so funny about photography. I don’t take jobs unless I would do them for free. In fact, when I sat down with Mindy and Alexandra in Denver in 2020 and she’s like, “I want you to be the photographer for the event.” I’m like, “No, you can’t afford me.” Turns out the can afford me. But, I would have done it anyways. And if it was a job that I didn’t want to do, then there’s no price that you can afford that’s going to buy my freedom.
And so I say all that to say, the people who are either buying real estate or they’re buying equities, and if you’re trying to look at passive ways to invest or you look at investing as a passive retirement account builder or wealth builder, then you need something to do so that you don’t fiddle with the money. Or spend the money. What happens is, I see a lot of people that they actually in real life, what they really want to do is they don’t want to make money, they want to spend it. And that’s a problem, because when you start investing and making a little money, especially right now while there’s purge through the market cycle, and everybody winning easily, it’s easy to get lifestyle inflation. Like you alluded to earlier, Mindy. Or get spendy.
And you need something, in my opinion, you need a hobby, that is not a money maker. Specifically a money maker and is not expensive, that you can really invest yourself into. Something creative, so that you can get a meaningful reward out of it without having to affect your retirement building or the stress that comes along with building a business. And so that, photography allowed me to for five years, I just did it for funsies. Never took any money. I just love it. And then now, because like David said, because I think I have that paradigm with it, now people are like, “Hey, I want you to come shoot this.” And I only say yes if I actually feel like it. From an economic standpoint, I super undervalue my talent. But, I don’t care.

Mindy:
Well you should care. You should provide value. You should value yourself at market rate. But I hear what you’re saying. So I’ve seen a lot of photographers who aren’t as good. And the passion, when you show off photography, you took what? What did you say? 9,000 pictures at BPCON. I of course did not see there, because I was home sick. But, you took 9,000 pictures. Not all 9,000 pictures are good. You go through and you pull the ones that you love. And I’m not being mean. I’m being-

Alex:
No, of course.

Mindy:
… serious. I’ve seen photographers where they take 1,000 pictures at the three day event and here you go all 1,000 pictures, and you’re like, “Wow. Seven are great.” And then the rest of them are mediocre or terrible. And you have, because you’re so in love with photography, because you’re so proud of the job that you’re doing, you take 9,000 photos and give us … What did you give us, 500 photos did you say?

Alex:
Something like that. Yeah.

Mindy:
Yeah. But they are 500 really fabulous photos. Because you went through all 9,000 and you’re like, “No. No. No. Yes. No. No. No. Yes.” Because it’s the passion that comes through and that makes people want to hire you as well.

Alex:
They can’t afford me.

Mindy:
They can’t afford you, yes. If you need Alex’s contact information contact me. It’s $10,000 an hour. And then Alex, I’ll pay you $1,000 an hour. Works out great.

Alex:
Lifeandlens.media. That’s [inaudible 00:50:38].

Mindy:
Hey, this isn’t a self promotion show.

Alex:
Well, you guys are talking about my … What are you talking about man?

Mindy:
We’re not here just to promote you. But no, I really like your story. I love the thing that you said right at the beginning. “I thought I was awesome, so everything would just work out.” And it didn’t and that’s such a powerful thing to share because I know a lot of people are in that same position. Why? Why isn’t everything working out? Well, you have to put effort into it. And here Alex put effort into it and he’s finally a good person.

Alex:
Well, thank goodness.

David:
So I want to throw this out there though, real quick. Alex said for 31 years he was terrible with finances. I’m not going to date Alex, but I will say that if you were to know what and do the math, it’s in less than a decade Alex has changed from, “Well, I screwed that up.” To literally, “I only have to work if I want to. And I’m not going to work on something that I don’t believe in.” Which is a pretty powerful spot to be in life. And obviously Alex isn’t rolling around in $2 million Bugattis saying like, “Woo hoo. This is a dynamite course.” But what he’s done is he’s created a spot where he can work on what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, and never have to work on anything that he doesn’t, in less than a decade.
So if you put that into perspective … And he did it through simple things. A little bit of sacrifice. He didn’t do the crazy leverage get rich quick. He did the boring tried and true, save some money, make a good investment, use your capital wisely. Don’t buy crap you don’t need. The typical fire method of investing, only he chose real estate over index funds and he was smart and frugal and did all the right things. And in a matter of a couple of years, I mean, if you count when you left your job, I mean, I’d say a half a decade, completely changed. Turned that around. I mean, it’s amazing. So if you put that in perspective, if you’re 22, 23, 25. I mean, early retirement is totally doable if you just play your cards right. Sacrifice a little up front and enjoy the longterm game.

Alex:
It’s so easy.

Mindy:
Or not even early retirement. I saw somebody posting today in the Facebook groups, “Oh, I don’t know that I’m doing all that well. Here’s what I’ve got.” And don’t compare yourself. I love this quote so much, don’t compare your beginning to Alex’s end or David’s middle, or my end. Compare your beginning to where you were last week. You’re doing better just because you’re thinking about it. But something that we have seen over and over in these shows these money stories that release on Mondays, is that about 10 years you can go from nothing to financially free or real close to it just by being cognizant of where your money is going, saving aggressively. Not even saving aggressively, saving at all.
We frequently say there are four levers to pull when you are working towards financial independence. Spend less than you earn. As soon as Alex stopped spending more than he earned, he was able to save. Earn more income. That’s not really something that Alex apparently has ever pulled that lever, but that’s okay. Start a business. Alex, you don’t think you’re an entrepreneur, but if you are investing in real estate, real estate is a business. You are a real estate entrepreneur. You have a photography business, whether you like it or not, that is an entrepreneurial endeavor. So you are an entrepreneur. And also invest intelligently. So you’re investing in cash flowing assets or equity plays. You are forcing appreciation. You are investing in low cost markets where you are getting more than 1%, right, on your rent?

Alex:
Oh, yeah.

Mindy:
Okay. And you’re investing in ETFs. You’re investing in the stock market. Probably investing a lot in hair products. But you’re investing intelligently, in-

Alex:
Yeah. The hawk is looking good right now.

Mindy:
… Yeah. Yeah. Well, okay. Alex is very proud of his hair. But you’re making all of these intelligent decisions and you went from financial disaster to financial master in ten-ish years. The reason that we share these stories is so people see you can turn it around. Your finances and your financial mistakes don’t have to define you. Yes, they happened, acknowledge it and move on. Accept the fact that you need to change your finances and then make steps to change your finances. And you’re the epitome of financial disaster to financial hero.

Alex:
Any idiot can achieve financial freedom in a few years if they pay attention. I am proof.

Mindy:
I’ll say any person, not any idiot. We like to be nice and uplifting on this show, Alex. Any person.

David:
Okay. The irony is that you labeled my BP Money podcast, The Guy Who Did Everything Wrong and Still Figured It Out. So between Alex and I-

Alex:
I think it’s an American-

David:
… with some simple steps, you got this.

Alex:
… I think financial irresponsibility is deeply, deeply ingrained into American culture. So the fact that you and I have the same story is actually, it’s probably that the vast majority of people who turn their financial situation around … I mean, it’s everybody. It’s not you and me, it’s everybody. The only difference is most people never … It’s a humbling endeavor to say, “I’m messing this up. I’m doing it because I’m too weak willed to stop buying stuff or stop spending money on frivolous pleasantries. And do the hard but responsible thing for my future.” It’s just easier to be entitled and we live in a culture that the highest value is consumerism. And they have spent decades really understanding how to ping people’s dopamine and really get them to feed into this consumerist addiction. So it’s very common and it’s not super easy mentally to break out, but on the spreadsheet, how to make wealth, it’s incredibly mundane, easy. It’s so easy. It’s the mindset. It’s mindset and control.

David:
If you’re sitting at home right now thinking man, I can’t do this or this isn’t me, or whatever that reason is that you can’t do this, and you’re listening to this on a brand new iPhone 13, well, he’s talking to you.

Alex:
I’ll add some other insight. A lot of it is who you spend time with. Like broke people can’t teach you how to make money. It’s not that they don’t want to. They don’t know how. My parents actually did a better job. I messed up good advice. They used to tell me like, “Dude” … My parents are conservative. I don’t mean politically, I mean in behavior. They don’t spend frivolously. They buy old cars, they don’t have debt. They’re like, “Look Alex, just save money. Invest” … They didn’t teach me how to invest. They’re like, “Just save it.” Just save money and spend less than you earn and don’t buy stuff you can’t afford. And you don’t buy in debt. And then I went into the Army and I got the American, the entitlement machine got in my brain I was like, “What do my parents know? Knuckleheads, they don’t know anything. I’m so smart.” Debt. Bought a Honda Civic on 18%, like ever freaking entitled, enlisted-

Mindy:
18%.

Alex:
… Like every enlisted troop that has ever come to Fort Bragg. I’m just saying. I mean, these are the things-

David:
No, that’s a very common story.

Alex:
… Yeah. These are mistakes that I’ve made. I’m okay with them. I’m at peace with them. And so when you say, “Oh I can’t do what Alex has done. I’m going to do that.” I’m sure I’ve done things that are dumber than a lot of people. I bet you I’m above average on dumb in my previous life.

David:
Is that how that works? Is that above average or would that be lower than average?

Alex:
I’m all about the extremes.

Mindy:
Okay. I’m really glad you said that, Alex. It is all about the people that you surround yourself with. And if you are in a group of friends where everybody has a brand new car, you start to think about, “Well, why don’t I have a brand new car? Maybe I should go out and get a brand new car.” And everybody has the latest iPhone. “Oh, I’m stuck on this garbage iPhone IV, or whatever, maybe I should go and get the latest iPhone.” You’re friends, if they all have iPhone … What is it 13? If they all have iPhone 13’s and you’ve got your little bitty one, they’re going to be making fun of you. And so what, who cares. But it’s so easy to fall into that American consumerist trap where spending more money than you make is totally the norm. You just put it on a credit card and make the minimum payment and eventually you’ll pay it off. No, eventually you will not pay it off because you’ll just keep adding to it.
So if you find yourself sucked into these friendships … Sucked in isn’t the right word. But getting sucked into purchases because all of your friends are making these same purchases, maybe you should start spending time with different people. I live in Longmont, Colorado, it’s kind of this fi-bubble and I have to keep reminding myself over and over again, not everybody has the same support system that I have. And there are people out there who want to help you, want to encourage you, and they don’t even know you, but they know the power of having your finances in order will … What that can get you in your life. So they want to encourage you.
A great place to start is the BiggerPockets Facebook groups. BiggerPockets Money. Facebook.com/group/BPMoney. We’re all sitting around talking about money and questions about finances. And it’s a very welcoming group. It’s my group. If somebody gives you a snotty answer, tell me or report it and I will kick them out, because I make this group a place to ask question. A safe place to have a conversation. You guys are both laughing at me, but you know what, I just kicked out some people the other day for being awful.

David:
No. I’m laughing because I feel that pain.

Alex:
I’ve known Mindy for a long time and everybody, you guys think she’s real nice, but I’ll tell you what, underneath, she’s a tyrant. She is aN iron fisted tyrant-

Mindy:
Yes.

Alex:
… deep down in side.

David:
So this is why we hit it. We just hit the nail on the head for why high income earners struggle so much. It’s because people like lawyers or doctors, or in these professions, they get their social circle is the exact same thing. And so they feel like they get sucked into hosting parties and they have to have a nice house. Or driving a nice car because doctors don’t drive a Geo Metro or whatever. If you’ve ever played the Cashflow board game, if you ever mess around with that game, the hardest characters to get out the rat race with are the ones who make the most money, because they have the most liability, debt, whatever. And the debt and expenses is harder to overcome than the income.
It’s easier to make more money than it is to slash … I hate to say this, because somebody’s going to be upset. But if you have three kids by the time you’re 12, or 17 or 18 or whatever, whether you plan the age, so like Alex mentioned it earlier, he didn’t have kids. He was single. So $45,000, that would have been a lot harder if he had kids when I was young, which made things easier for me. And not to say that having kids is bad by any means, but planning those decisions out or having expensive cars or going into bankruptcy, or houses you can’t get out from under, any of those recurring expenses can set you back a lot farther than not having a massive income will set you forward.

Alex:
Well, David, you are walking quite the tightrope there by the way. I love that.

David:
Yeah.

Alex:
But the problem with culture and the problem with social circles is deeply, deeply and subtly ingrained into the American way of life. So finding people that really do align with what you want your life to be like, and having a little bit of rebellion to say, “Look, I’m probably not going to agree with the vast majority of people and how they live. And I have to go against the grain.” It’s definitely something you do and the internet makes it … The internet may help tremendously. The internet is a double sided sword because you’re going to go on Instagram and you’re going to see people flexing all sort of nonsense all the time. And they lie. Ooh, let me tell you something Instagram, you’re a liar. People’s lives, they only show you the highlights.
And then in real estate, it’s always closing deals and the funnel into FOMO is very strong. You want to avoid all that stuff. And you want to find people that share the same values as you. And generally money is not a value system. In fact, if money is a value system, it leads to consumerism. Money is a tool, a resource and it should fund your freedom. It should not be a mechanism to buy your every gratifying pleasure that you can think of. So most things in the world that you can really cheat … Most really amazing things on the planet have been going on for 12,000 years and you don’t need to go … It’s not in Las Vegas and it’s not a tourist attraction. It’s like, “Dude you can travel cheap and free in most places in the world.” Relationship are going to be worth a lot more, and you can’t buy them.
I find a lot of pleasure in books. Books are the thing that gives me the most value in the world and they’re dirt cheap, which I think is astounding actually, because they’re the highest return on investment. But point is, money, my relationship with money is one where it works for me. It’s not something like, “Hey, I want all these things in the world. And I need to make money to go get them.” It’s more, all the things that I want in the world are actually pretty cheap. I’m just trying to find a way to do it responsibly in an amount of time. I can’t just pick up all my life and go travel permanently.

David:
Yeah, that’s-

Alex:
I could afford to. But, I have things that … I have social responsibilities and people that I want to help and take care of and do things, and houses. But who you hang out with and the values that you set up are going to absolve you from a lot of the mistakes that you make with money. If you don’t have values and a good social circle, then you’re going to result to buying and consumerism.

David:
He said social responsibilities, like people want him around.

Alex:
They don’t like me around, but it’s always something exciting happening when I’m around.

Mindy:
Boy, that is true. It is always a party with Alex around.

Alex:
Oh, man.

Mindy:
Okay, Alex, this has been a lot of fun and I really am glad that you were able to share your story with our listeners, because I know that you’re not special. There are lots of people who are listening to this show who are like, “Yep, that’s me. That’s me. That’s me.” And your story isn’t unique, which is why it makes it so important to share. But we’re not done with you yet. We still have our famous four questions which we ask of all of our guests. Alex, are you ready?

Alex:
Probably not.

Mindy:
Okay, great. That will be awesome. That will be just like the rest of the show. Okay. Alex, what is your favorite finance book? Didn’t he just say he reads books all the time, and it’s the best investment in the world?

David:
And you ask him narrow it down to one.

Alex:
Yeah. I would. I read Nietzsche.

David:
I read dead Western philosophy. Yeah.

Alex:
I mean, he is a German, but yeah. Pretty much, yep. I read Rich Dad, Poor Dad in 2005. It didn’t stick. I didn’t do anything with it for another six years. But it implanted something in my head that I didn’t realize how important it would be. It planted a seed and so when I stared wanting to get my money right, I had that one little basis, which was you want passive income, not active income, and that really set me off foundationally. Ooh, no. Scratch all that. Scratch all that. Scratch all that.

Mindy:
No, we’re going to keep it in. Continue.

Alex:
The Richest Man In Babylon.

Mindy:
Oh, I love that book.

David:
I love that one.

Alex:
Those two books. I love that now, because I’m much smarter now after six years of books. But I love that now. I’m like, that’s a rudimentary book. But that book, actually because it’s so rudimentary is what hit me so hard. It said things that they now seem obvious, but sometimes when you understand something it’s just knowledge. But when you can combine it with experience, it becomes wisdom. And they say things like, “Spend less than you earn.” It was like it hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m like, “Oh. Who would have thought of that.” Always pay yourself first. These are simple, simple … Do not invest in things that you don’t know or would get you out sized returns. I don’t know what’s going to happen with bitcoin, but I know people are really excited about it, and I don’t know enough about it. And so I just, you know what, I’m going to take a big pass on the bulk of bitcoin. Because I-

Mindy:
Same.

Alex:
… I just don’t know it. And I don’t have to know it in order to … And I know that … So those rules in Richest Man In Babylon, dude, I read a lot of books, but I don’t read a lot of finance or business books. The rules for finance are really simple. You don’t need to spend a lifetime learning them. You just need to spend a lifetime employing them.

David:
I like that.

Mindy:
Richest Man In Babylon is my favorite book-

Alex:
Mindy, I know it is.

Mindy:
… because it was written 100 years ago.

David:
Well, it-

Mindy:
And it still holds true. It’s like money isn’t-

David:
… I was going to say, which for Alex, means that’s almost a new book.

Alex:
True that.

Mindy:
… That is true. But it was written 100 years ago. It still holds true. Spend less than you earn. Don’t invest in things you don’t understand. Don’t invest with people who don’t know what they’re doing. Take the money, the difference between what you’re spending and what you’re earning and invest it wisely. And it’s so good and it’s so true to this day. I love that.

Alex:
And it represents people’s continuous failure in the money mindset problem, which is they go to our [inaudible 01:09:08] and they’re like, “Hey, you make what I make. But we’re always broke and you’re building wealth. What’s the problem?” And that’s really the problem of most … I don’t want to say most humans, but most Americans. Where they’re like, “I’m making enough money, in theory, but I don’t have enough. What the heck’s the problem?” It’s sad to say, but you’re the problem. Most likely.

David:
I just reread that book three months ago. Love it.

Alex:
If you make $31,000 a year, you are in the top 1% global richest earners. You ain’t got money problems bro, you got entitlement problems.

David:
On that note, Alex, what was your biggest money mistake?

Alex:
I don’t know how to word it. I guess apathy. I didn’t do anything with money. I didn’t believe in my abilities enough or … How do I say it? I didn’t believe that I could do anything with money until I made more. And so I did nothing with money and then it actually caused me to make less. Once I figured out money, I haven’t made that many mistakes. Everything I make returns a healthy profit.

Mindy:
Okay. I like that. I like that answer a lot.

Alex:
Apathy.

Mindy:
Apathy. That’s not something that we have had anybody actually say on this show. But that is again, like I said before, you’re not special, that is something that has happened with a lot of people. You’ve just got to keep telling him he’s not special. It’s not ever going to sink in though.

Alex:
I believe it deeply. You can’t hurt my feelings.

David:
I’m mean it’s ever truer with you-

Alex:
I’m the only one with this shirt though.

David:
… It’s even truer when you think it through-

Mindy:
Alex has the only pink BiggerPockets t-shirt in the world. You’re so great Alex. What is your best piece of advice for people who are just starting out?

Alex:
I have so much good advice.

David:
… There’s the Alex we know and love.

Alex:
Take radical responsibility and make any sacrifice that you need to attain the highest good.

David:
I like it.

Mindy:
I like that too.

Alex:
Not much else to add.

David:
All right, well then, I’m going to move onto the really hard question. Alex, what’s your favorite joke to tell at parties?

Alex:
Uh, I don’t tell jokes. I’m not a jokester.

David:
You are the joke.

Alex:
Uh yeah. Yeah. Right, yeah.

Mindy:
Okay. I’ve got one for you.

Alex:
Yeah, I don’t know. I usually make fun of people. If I had somebody there like, “Look at David’s mustache.” We don’t need jokes. I can’t stop laughing just looking at him.

Mindy:
He’s got a beard too.

David:
The beard is coming in.

Alex:
Yeah, he’s growing a beard. Me and the boys had to have a … Yeah see, he’s embarrassed … we had to have an intervention about that mustache at Flip Hacking Live. Like, “Dude, you’re out of the military. Time to shave it. There’s no more excuses. We got to grow the beard out, and shave the stash.”

Mindy:
This isn’t a bad David. This isn’t a bad David.

David:
It definitely didn’t start because I said I was growing a beard now that I was out. That’s definitely not how this conversation started.

Mindy:
Definitely not. What was the answer to when we asked you about the mustache on your episode 179. I’m bring sexy back.

David:
Right.

Mindy:
Okay. So that’s not the focus of this. We’re getting the joke. All the people who listen to this show really love the jokes, except me, but-

Alex:
I don’t have any jokes. I don’t tell jokes.

Mindy:
… I’ve got some for you. Alex, I just said that-

Alex:
Oh, okay. Yeah.

Mindy:
… if you would just stop talking, then I could share the joke.

Alex:
Not my strong suit.

Mindy:
I saw two men walk into a photography shop yesterday. You would have think at least one of them would have spotted it.

Alex:
Did Scott write these?

David:
I didn’t. No ownership.

Mindy:
Yeah, these are Scott’s.

Alex:
They’re terrible jokes.

Mindy:
They’re terrible. Ruining a photo is the easiest thing, I can do it with my eyes closed. I know they’re awful. Oh, a squid with a camera is called a squid GoPro.

Alex:
Oh my God.

Mindy:
Okay, I’m done with them.

Alex:
Oh, so survive. This is terrible.

David:
People drop off before this.

Mindy:
Okay. Alex, now is the time for you to promote the heck out of yourself. Where can people find out more about you, your photography, your real estateing, all the things? Hit us.

Alex:
I don’t sell anything.

Mindy:
Oh my God.

Alex:
I’m so sorry, I don’t seel anything. In 2017, I started a blog to document my financial journey, it’s called Broke Is a Choice. I don’t have any click funnels. I don’t sell you anything. Everything that I’ve ever done in finance and real estate is there if you want to see it. But I don’t benefit from it in any way, other than I get to hopefully help some people along the way. There’s no financial incentive for me. But that’s it. Or you can find me on Instagram and you can see pictures.

Mindy:
But what is you Instagram?

Alex:
My name, Alex Scott Felice.

Mindy:
Alex Scott Felice. You say that like people just know how to spell Felice. Okay. We will include the links to all of these things. Both of those things, in our show notes.

Alex:
I think everybody just follows me already. I don’t [crosstalk 01:14:06].

David:
[crosstalk 01:14:06].

Mindy:
Well, they don’t. So we will include these links in our show notes, which can be found at biggerpockets.com/moneyshow247. And despite all of my ribbing of you, Alex, I am really very delighted that you joined us today, because I think that your story has a lot of people … I think your story has a lot to teach people and I think that there are a lot of people who are where you were just a few years ago.

Alex:
I think that’s probably true. I think that like I said a few times in the show, the situation in American culture is, financially is dire, and people just need to take that red pill, wake you a little bit. Take control of it and they can fix it pretty easy.

Mindy:
Okay. Awesome. Well, Alex, I really appreciate your time today and we’ll talk to you soon. Okay. That was Alex Felice. David, what did you think of Alex’s story?

David:
I’ve known Alex for a long time, but I don’t know that I’d ever heard his story in one setting before from the mistakes through, and he gets real. He even talks about a mistake that he made, that I mean, the DUI, that a lot of people don’t even want to bring that up publicly, and yet it was a catalyst for him changing his life. And I think Alex has a very good story. A very relatable story. But certainly not a unique one in the fact that it’s something that a lot of us go through similar stories and it’s just taking … He took ownership of his situation and he fixed it. He did so very quickly and I think that there’s a lot of great advice in here. I love messing with Alex and talking to Alex, it’s always a good time.

Mindy:
Yeah. I completely agree with you. The DUI, yeah, nobody’s proud of having a DUI, but it happened in his past and taking ownership of that, not blaming somebody else for his problems. Hey, I was a mess, I did the wrong thing. I couldn’t even pay that bill, and I lost my job so I super couldn’t pay that bill. I knew I had to figure this out. It was humbling to have to call my parents, it was embarrassing to me that I didn’t have my stuff together. So now I’m going to make sure that I’m never in this situation again. And when life throws you a curve ball, you can take the hit and be like, “Huh, I guess, that just happened.” Or you can say, “Oh, I should learn how to duck. Let me figure out how I can position myself so I’m never in this position again.” And sorry for using the word position twice in a sentence, that doesn’t sound good, but it is what it is. Long time listeners of this show know that sometimes I just word vomit.

David:
No.

Mindy:
Okay. But you know what I really liked about Alex is towards the end of his story he epitomizes the quote, “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” He did the slog, he started investing. He made intelligent decisions. And now he gets to chose how he’s going to spend his day. And if he decides that if he doesn’t want to do something, he doesn’t have to do it. And I love that. That’s the whole catalyst for this show in general is that once you get your money out of the way, you can choose to spend your life how you choose. How you want. You get to live the life that you want to live because now you no longer are worried about the money. And he said that money is a tool, and I just love that. “It’s not a value system, it’s a tool.” That’s a really great quote.

David:
Yep. And when he says, you heard him in the podcast, say that you can’t afford me, and people take that I think at face value of like, “I’m so valuable, I’m so expensive.” I think what he means is in the back end is genuinely, it’s not a price tag that’s going to convince me to do this. It’s whether or not I actually enjoy doing it. And he’s yeah, he’s in a good spot. That’s awesome to watch.

Mindy:
Yeah. I really do enjoy Alex, and my conversations with him are always fun.

David:
Yep.

Mindy:
So thank you for joining us today. Again, Alex was talking about surrounding yourself with people who are like minded. If you need a place to go to talk about money in a safe place, go to our Facebook group, Facebook.com/groups/bpmoney and we will welcome you with open arms, and have all the money conversations you want. Encouragement abounds. David, should we get out of here?

David:
Absolutely.

Mindy:
From episode number 247 of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast, he is David Pere from the Military Millionaire Group. Where is your group located?

David:
Facebook.com/groups/militarymillionaire.

Mindy:
Oh, fantastic. That’s easy to remember.

David:
I try.

Mindy:
I am Mindy Jensen saying, so long. See you later. Good-bye.

 

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