When I was growing up, I was taught what most people are: go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a good job, retire when you are 65 years old and then start living and seeing the world. I was always on the honor roll in high school. I had amazing grades and was bound for college. When I was 16, I got pregnant and despite having good grades, my high school actually asked me to leave school because I would be a bad influence on other girls who then may also get pregnant. (In case you didn’t know- pregnant girls make other girls pregnant;) *sarcasm). My mom helped me finish my junior year of high school from home.
When my son was born 4 days before I turned 17 years old, lots of people told me this would be my life now. I was destined to be on welfare and raise my son and he would likely have kids as a teenager as well because that’s “the cycle I was creating.” I vividly remember sitting in the welfare office after my son was born. I remember paying for food at the grocery store with paper food stamps while everyone stared at me, judging me. But mostly, I remember my mom telling me how smart I was and that I had to finish school. Every day of my senior year I would drive my son to daycare and then drive to school. I would finish my day, drive back to pick him up, and drive home. I had no time for friends or normal high school things. I stopped playing sports, stopped “hanging out”, stopped being a kid because I was a mom now. A mom determined to prove everyone wrong. A mom determined to give her son the best life she could.
After high school, I went to college at Millersville University and got my bachelor’s degree in biology. I was only sleeping 4 hours a night at this time in my life, but it was a treat. My life consisted of school, work, and taking care of my son. And honestly, I didn’t care about anything else. I graduated and became a respiratory therapist. I then started my master’s degree because my dream was to become the CEO of a hospital. This dream changed when I met my now-husband.
I picked up a book he was reading on vacation called: The One Minute Millionaire. At the time, my husband had two rental properties in the city of Reading and was always reading about real estate. I was never financially educated. Book smart, yes. Financially educated, no. I started reading all these stories about people buying houses and renovating them and then re-selling. Or they would buy houses, fix them up, rent them out and other people would pay off the mortgages while they kept the equity. I couldn’t believe someone would pay off a house for you by renting it! I thought it had to be a lie. Then my husband quickly brought to my attention that I made good money as a respiratory therapist, but I was still renting a house from my landlord. It was eye-opening. After reading this book I bought my first house and with the help of my husband educating me I began hooked on real estate. I started taking classes, hiring mentors, and learning more and more.
In 2004 we completed our first flip project with the help of a highly respected real estate investor in our area on a joint venture. I had no money to buy the deal and although I took classes I needed help on our first project. After our first flip, we started buying rentals and flipping houses more and more. After 13 years of working in healthcare, I was making more money flipping houses on the side than I was working in the hospital. I would work on houses during the day and go then go to work in the hospital from 3-11 pm at night. At 35 years old I retired from healthcare and decided I would run a real estate investing business full time. When I retired from my healthcare career everyone told me I would be back and that I was crazy. They reminded me that I had a secure job with great benefits, and I should stick with it. So, I, of course, had to prove them wrong and show them I would make it ;). I quickly realized when I left my full-time health care career that I had just created another full-time job for myself flipping houses. In the beginning, we ripped out the carpet, painted, and did lots of hands-on work as we could. Over time I started having contractors do everything because they were faster, more efficient, and frankly did a way better job. I quickly learned that running your own business was WAY harder than working for someone else but also much more fulfilling as I was on a path of growing wealth for my family.
When I was 39 my husband and I decided we were going to snowbird out west in Arizona for the winter. We bought an RV and headed west for 3 months. This experience was crucial to where my business is at today. I quickly realized that I was working IN my business and not ON my business. I was in warm weather in the winter, but I was working constantly and struggling to stay on top of things. This was not the “freedom” I had hoped for when starting my own business. It showed me all the holes in my business. Where I was weak. And what I had to do to improve. I had a brutally honest conversation with a business friend of mine about being tied to my business and how I hated all the stress of what I was doing. She pointed out to me that I needed a coach to teach me how to work ON my business and not in it. So, I hired that coach and started to set up my business so that I could be more hands-off.
Today I am 42 years old, I sold my house, and I am traveling the USA full time in my RV with my husband while running my businesses from the road. The journey to this type of freedom has been long and sometimes frustrating enough to make me want to quit. But on the other side of the struggle is where I have always found the rewards in life.
It didn’t take me fifty flips a year to get here. It didn’t take owning hundreds of apartment units. It took grit, financial education, following my heart, and trusting God instead of what people told me about who they wanted me to be.
I look back and think- I have co-authored 3 books, flipped houses, purchased rentals, taught others how to grow their wealth, traveled the US, and I have SO much more I want to do. The more people that grow wealth, the more we can change the lives of others. I am fiercely passionate about helping others rise. I want to look back at my life and know that I helped as many people as I possibly could to get to a better place.
My Favorite Quote: No one is going to stand up at your funeral and say: “She had a really expensive couch and great shoes.” Don’t make life about stuff. ~ Bernadette Leite