Our Story: How to Avoid the Pitfalls of Financial Ruin and live Happily Ever After!

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[This post is brought to you by David Pere of the site “From Money To Millionaire”, and he’s another enthusiastic surfer!  We’ve paddled out at Oahu’s White Plains Beach a few times.
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The Beginning (Bio)

I grew up in the Midwest, the son of an accountant, gone missionary. My mother homeschooled me and my two siblings throughout high school. In March of 2008 I enlisted in the Marine Corps, and in August I was off to recruit training. In the last decade I have served in Japan, Afghanistan, California, Missouri (recruiting), and Hawaii. I specialize in motor transportation/logistics and serve in the safety community as an additional billet.

As you can see below this has involved something of a transformation, haha!

Images of David Pere USMC, author of the blog post "How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of Financial Ruin And Live Happily Ever After!" | The-Military-Guide.com

The Pitfalls

The next 7.5 years were a wash financially. While living in Japan I spent my cost of living allowance on beer, supplements, and a tattoo. After deploying to Afghanistan, I spent tax-free Combat pay on an old truck, rifle, and a (now totaled) Harley. I moved to California and proceeded to buy two other project cars. These rust-buckets spent more time in the shop, than they did on the road. Finally, I moved to Missouri for recruiting duty and, you guessed it, bought another project car (finally completed one).

Although I thoroughly enjoyed building, and driving, this car it seriously depleted my bank account. To make matters worse this car has been sitting in a barn for two years because I couldn’t take it to Hawaii as my family car. I am finally going to sell it and buy a rental property with the profits (keep an eye out for that post in the future).

Image of hot sports car from David Pere USMC, author of the blog post "How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of Financial Ruin And Live Happily Ever After!" | The-Military-Guide.com

The Enlightenment (The Adventure Begins)

Finally, in the summer of 2015, somebody suggested I read the book “Rich Dad Poor Dad” by Robert Kiyosaki. I tried to avoid financial independence by claiming that there weren’t enough hours in the day, and that is when he said “You’re in the car all day, listen to it on Audible!” This advice changed my life completely, and I hope to be able to thank him someday.

Within three months of finishing this book my wife (then fiancée) and I had looked at around 15 duplexes. Finally, on December 28, 2015 we closed on this Duplex!

Image of investment rental property duplex from David Pere USMC, author of the blog post "How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of Financial Ruin And Live Happily Ever After!" | The-Military-Guide.com

We used an FHA loan (3.5% down payment) to purchase this property. I lived in one unit and rented the other unit until after our wedding day. Brandon Turner of the Bigger Pockets forum coined this strategy as “house-hacking.”

Currently, we own this duplex, a single-family home, 5-acre plot of raw land, and a recently purchased 10-plex! In 26 months we went from owning two rental units to thirteen. Most of these units were purchased in Missouri, despite being stationed in Hawaii and both working full time jobs. I am still active duty, and we will continue long-distance real estate investing until retired.

The Future

The future for our family is looking brighter every day, and we are excited about where our goals will take us. We recently contracted a wholesale deal that will allow us to learn from a professional fix/flip operation. Currently we are searching for homes to fix/flip or buy, rehab, rent, refinance, and repeat (BRRRR) in Missouri. We are also searching for a larger apartment complex, and our goal at the end of this year is to own 33 rental units. Reaching this goal should replace the salary that my wife earns and allow her to stay home or shorten the time until we reach financial freedom.

These goals and numbers sound great, but the real goal is to retire in 2028 and never be required to work again! Real estate investing is our primary means for accomplishing this, but there are a myriad of other strategies being utilized.

Throughout high school, and my first enlistment, I was constantly told how little the military gets paid. Not one person throughout this time sat down and discussed investments, and financial independence with me. The goal of our blog is to help service-members young, and old, understand that the military does pay well, and with a little discipline it is possible to retire young, and retire forever.

Help us, help you

Going forward I would love our blog to become a resource for service members interested in financial freedom and real estate investing. We would love to hear what other service members are doing to create financial independence! If you have questions or suggestions please don’t hesitate to contact us!

“From Military To Millionaire” blog



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WHAT I DO: I help you reach financial independence. For free. I retired in 2002 after 20 years in the Navy's submarine force. I wrote "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" to share the stories of over 50 other financially independent servicemembers, veterans, and families. All of my writing revenue is donated to military-friendly charities.

  1. Reply
    george@dontpayfull.com October 3, 2018 at 11:20 PM

    You seem to be on the right track towards your goal of financial independence. It feels good to know that you can decide to never work again and afford to live a decent life. All the best.

    • George,
      I’m not quite at that point yet, but I am getting there…it is a great feeling, and I look forward to achieving the rest of my goals for sure!

  2. Dave – the thing that motivates me most here is that you have a plan, you’re executing that plan, and I wish you the best in completing that plan!
    You mentioned joining in March 2008…..what a great time to join the team with steady paychecks and job security as the larger economy and employment was melting down, mostly because of the housing market, something that “couldn’t” fail. This was driven by many aspects, one of which was people getting in over their heads. I’m not trying to poo-poo your plan, but please be aware of getting in over your head. I’d be interested to see your numbers, how leveraged are you, if 20% of your units go empty for 2-3 months, can you cover it? I assume you have a property manager handling all these units, that takes lots of stress of you for managing the units, but it sucks when those monthly rent checks start getting cut by 10-50% for AC fixes, roof leaks, etc. Be prepared, that’s why having “money in the bank,” aka an emergency fund, is important.
    I also plan to retire and never work again, but have diversified my risk across investments, real estate, and my future pension. I have one paid for rental house and another is on a schedule to be paid off in 8 years (my anticipated retirement date), and my wife and I have healthy investment accounts in a 75/25 equity to bond allocation in TSP and IRAs. We got here by plugging and chugging over the past 16 years, using that deployment money for down payments, living below our means, buying houses in stable areas next to big bases where an E7 or higher could afford, but also want to live in and send their kids to good schools.
    High risk can equal high reward….I hope you are handsomely rewarded in the future….but start that “what if” plan. Lots of macroeconomic indicators point to higher interest rates in the future, have a plan to hedge against that.

    Just some thoughts…..best of luck!

    • Stephen, I apologize for the delayed response…I actually tried to respond once or twice and accidentally deleted my long response, so I put it off (too long).

      I appreciate your input for sure! We have an emergency fund, and a Home equity line of credit (HELOC) for worst case scenarios if I need to bridge expenses. I have a wonderful property manager, that will handle any/all of my issues and won’t even bother me with an email unless It is over a specific dollar amount (which I set). She has truly saved my rear a couple of times, most recently with a swift and painless eviction!

      I actually budget 7% for repairs, 7% for capital expenditures, and 7% for vacancies out of the rental income every month, and I factor that into my cash-flow when analyzing properties. For example, I receive $1015 in rent on my duplex, and principle, interest, taxes, and insurance costs me $615…but I only count $150+- as my cashflow, the rest gets set aside to budget for “unplanned” (they are actually planned for) expenses!

      I agree completely that having a “what if” plan is crucial for survivability, and I really appreciate your feedback, Shoots!

    • Wow! I’ve read so much about house-hacking and you’ve put my excuses to the test. I can’t believe you did all that while not even being in the same state. I can’t even wrap my head around owning one home. Good luck on your early retirement journey!

      • To be fair, I bought the Duplex house-hack while in the same state (it must be your primary residence to utilize the FHA loan) but we moved away within 6 months of purchase due to military orders!

        Thank you very much, I would be happy to answer any questions that you have!

  3. Reply
    Troy @ Bull Markets April 10, 2018 at 5:56 PM

    Wow that is one sweet ass car! How much did it cost you to complete it?

    • I probably have around $4500-6k into the car in total (minus purchase price) and I do love the car.

      I’ve realized that I could sell it and buy another rental property with the money. Long term that makes more sense and will eventually allow me to build an even more awesome car!

  4. One recurring theme on the many postings on this website does echo in certain degrees the mantra, “retire young and retire forever”, as applied to a military and veteran population. With various takes on both web design/development, and or real estate as the primary means to that goal post any military time. And yes real estate investments and or computer related skills or entrepreneurships can be a means to that end. And I am happy that this site does not go too heavy into franchising or owning such as means to FI.

    As to house “flipping”, rental unit acquisitions I think for every success you see on those HGTV shows there are likely 10 who fail or lose their shirt in the process. Buyer beware. I come back to the three basic rules that I have applied to FI over the years. 1. Spend less than you earn 2. A house is place to live, not an ATM with a mortgage 3. Never apologize for money in the bank. If flipping homes is a way to go, God bless you, but those cases end in tears more often than not in my experience.

    • I agree about the flippers Peter that is why I’m learning by tagging along with guys that run very successful operations first!

      I think money in the bank is okay, but understand that you’re losing money to inflation so depending on gold, certificates of deposit, and index funds have their benefits.

      I personally prefer the (buy, rehab, rent, and refinance) BRRR strategy which is a variation of the flip that involves keeping and renting the property for building wealth. We are investing primarily for cashflow.

    • I agree, Peter, flipping is a tough way to make money.

      Franchising probably works a lot better for most people… and that’s pretty challenging too.

    Comment? Question? What's on your mind?