I’ve been unconsciously immersed in real estate most of my life. I remember as a child being on construction sites where my father was building new homes on Long Island, New York. During elementary school when I wasn’t in summer camp, I’d spend hours at his real estate brokerage office playing under the conference table during meetings or just waiting to go home like every kid wants to do. In middle school, I acted as a personal assistant for him and helped prepare him for business trips and multi family auctions out-of-state, printing bid kits and flight info.
I thought my millionaire dad was a bum: a personal story
I come from a family of Haitian immigrants, who did their best to provide better opportunities for my siblings and I. Every since I could remember, I could pretty much have anything I could think of. I tend to believe I was always the true favorite as I was bestowed the title “JR.”
Another part of these better opportunities included growing up and living in Roslyn, New York. This is your typical affluent community of scandals, elite families, and highly ranked school systems. My family was wealthy however not flashy or pretentious. We had a big family so we needed a big house. We shopped at Kohl’s each year before school. I still remember the year I rebelled against wearing the Shaq brand shoes that would surly prove I was poor. Strange, I never grew up learning about money, my father “job,” social status, etc. I was always a pretty sheltered kid who honestly could be called bubble boy! (Not anymore)
Real estate buys your freedom
Every time I came home, he was there. I don’t mean in the “meet me at the school bus stop” always there, I mean always, always there. My father was around so much so that you could call him a stay at home dad. He would drop my siblings and I off to school and be there to pick us up and transport us to sports, practices and events. He would cook breakfast and cook dinner at night (I was always ashamed of the smell of Haitian food) and was also always around on weekends.
Don’t get me wrong, it was great to have a role model whom I could always depend on. I got a lot of attention as a child, even with 6 siblings. As a high schooler, I would walk home praying that I beat my father to the mailbox to grab report cards. The Almighty failed me because he would already be home on the couch, at home watching a television show waiting for our arrival. I would think didn’t he have anything better to be doing?
The key factor in all this was time. My father had the time to be available and focus on raising and caring for our family. We had pretty modest cars, so when peers would get picked up the latest BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Bentley, I would be ashamed heading to the minivan, how basic… I mean, being a soccer dad wasn’t cool!
I don’t remember when it started but I was always called “White John.” My peers knew something I didn’t, I was different. We lived in the Country Estates. Our house was just as big and expensive as theirs. I would only temporarily be the awesome new black kid who would be picked for their basketball team during lunch. My fraudulent basketball skills would be quickly discovered the first week of middle school. I also didn’t get the free lunch in high school. I would pay daily with my father’s cash of course.
All that matters is how much money you have in the bank
Most people do not have this “luxury.” As a real estate developer and investor my father had the ability to create his life around want mattered most. With this sort of slacker on the outside/awesome on the inside role model, it’s no wonder that I fell in love with real estate also. I grew up seeing the flexibility being a real estate developer + investor can afford you. The most important of which is control of your time. Having income independence. This means owning or creating valuable assets that produce independent cash flow. In the words of my father, “at the end of the day, all that matters is how much money you have in the bank!” This can definitely be considered BORING on the outside. Be it was and is an important lesson that has lasted with me.
It wasn’t until I was nearly 18 before I woke up or became conscious. What I mean by this is that it all finally clicked for me. I’ll spare the details but I knew one thing: I wanted to learn how to make money! What mattered most really was how much money you had in the bank, not so much the cars, or luxury brands.
The Black Fred Trump
Before getting into the family business I knew I wanted to have the best lifestyle money could buy. I needed to learn how my father did it! To be honest it still seems unreal and mystical. I did recognize the power of real estate. I learned, real estate buys your freedom and gives you time. How would you like control of your daily schedule, control of your environment and location (with sizable portfolio) and best of all control of your focus and daily efforts (eliminate day job). Some questions I asked myself was how did real estate affect our housing and lifestyle? What kind of community did we live in and schooling system? Simply put it was a high-end community, the best schools, no wants anything. Real estate allows the ability to dictate your income (more hustle, more money). Passive income is important because income generating business such as real estate supports your lifestyle so independent of another entity (like a day job).