My Favorite Books of 2020

Reading is one of my all-time favorite activities. In 2020 I read a total of 44 books, and I thought I would share my favorite non-fiction books from last year, in no particular order. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books and your recommendations for new books I should read. Please send me a message on Instagram (@honorandequity) or send me an email at doug@honorandequity.com!

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Phil Knight, Nike’s founder, goes back to Nike’s beginnings in Oregon before Nike was the world’s leading fitness apparel company. Autobiographies are one of my favorite book genres. Especially about successful entrepreneurs, and this one delivers. It’s comforting to hear about how difficult his journey was and how many obstacles he overcame to find success. The book focuses on his upbringing, ups and downs as a collegiate athlete, and Nike’s early years. I would love for Mr. Knight to write a second installment covering Nike from the 1990s to the present day. This book is a must-read for any entrepreneur. 

Atomic Habits by James Clear

I’ve read many books in the ‘personal development’ genre, and I’ve found that most of them are just two or three concepts spread out over 300 pages. Atomic Habits is not one of those books. James Clear provides some excellent insight into how habits work and he provides actionable steps you can implement immediately to get more done and improve your life. If you have big goals for 2021, start with this one so you can implement some healthy habits right off the bat. 

Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Did you know that Arnold was a millionaire from real estate investing before he became a famous actor? Did you know that he was a tank operator for the Austrian Army before moving to America? I didn’t either! Total Recall is one of the best autobiographies I’ve ever read, mostly because Arnold has lived an extraordinary life thanks to his super-human ambition and persistence. This book is a case study in setting enormous, crazy goals and working extremely hard to achieve them.

Wealth Can’t Wait by David Osborn

David Osborn is a badass. He’s made a gazillion dollars from real estate, and he’s a co-founder of Gobundance – an organization of dudes who “grab life big” and are obsessed with improving all aspects of their lives. David does a great job of stressing the importance of getting your personal finances squared away, putting your money in places that will make you more money, and focusing on passive investments so you can live your life. He spoke to our mastermind group via Zoom earlier this year. When he dialed into the call, he was playing golf in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with his wife, just dropping insightful pearls of wisdom on life and business while teeing off and driving around in a golf cart. It was inspiring! He wasn’t sitting at his desk grinding out 80 hour work weeks – his life is set up to make a ton of money passively so he could do whatever the hell he wanted. Wealth Can’t Wait is a must-read book for anyone who doesn’t want to be an employee their entire life. 

Open by Andre Agassi

I’m not a big tennis guy at all, but when I researched “best autobiographies,” this one was on nearly every list – and for a good reason! Andre Agassi is an extremely accomplished professional tennis player who retired only a few years ago. Open is the story of how a regular kid from middle-class Las Vegas became one of the world’s best players. It goes into great detail about growing up on the junior tennis tournament circuit and all the struggles of being a professional athlete. If you’re a tennis fan, you’ll especially love it, because he describes many of his tennis matches in great detail, how he prepared for them, his emotions during the game, and how he dealt with both success and failure afterward.

Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat by David Greene

I have recommended David Greene’s first book Long-Distance Real Estate Investing, more often than any other real estate book, and his second book blew me away even more than the first. Multiple times during the book, I thought to myself, “why isn’t everyone doing this strategy?!” If you have spent any time in the Bigger Pockets universe, you will probably be familiar with this real estate strategy. If you’re not familiar with it, and you have any interest at all in real estate, you must pick up this book today. It’s a phenomenal strategy for long-term wealth generation that I am currently using to grow my portfolio. Here’s the gist: buy a property that needs some work for well below market value, fix it up, rent it out, do a cash-out refinance to a long-term mortgage, repeat!

The Millionaire Real Estate Investor by Gary Keller

“Anyone can do it. Not everyone will.” If I could only recommend a single real estate book, it would be this one. Gary Keller (founder of Keller Williams Realty) has had enormous success in real estate, so he has a lot of wisdom to impart to the reader. In this book, he hits many important macro concepts and addresses many different strategies people have used to become wealthy. He also talks about how crucial it is to have a great team, build systems, continually strive to improve yourself, always do the right thing and many other vital concepts for wealth creation via real estate. One of my favorite takeaways from this book is from the section on building your network. He recommends asking two questions when you chat with real estate professionals: “Who do you know that I should know?” and “What would you do if you were me?” I try to ask these questions whenever I’m chatting with someone who knows more than I do about real estate – which is almost all the time!

I hope you enjoyed this article. Make sure you follow me on Instagram @honorandequity, and if you would like to connect, you can email me at doug@honorandequity.com!

7 Lessons I Learned in 2020

The author and his wife earlier this year in Idyllwild, CA

It’s important to reflect on your life regularly. I try to do this daily to maintain perspective and focus on the bigger picture rather than get bogged down in life’s daily minutiae. It’s also valuable to reflect on self-improvement. As the curtain falls on 2020, I thought I would share some things I learned throughout the year. 

Your Network is Critical

I like reading autobiographical books by successful people. Within these books, I have never once read something resembling “I did it all by myself. No one helped me get here”. Rather, the opposite is true. No successful person got to that position by themselves: it takes mentors, coaches, employees, family members, friends, and even enemies to encourage and inspire that individual to achieve their big goals. I’ve noticed this is especially true in real estate. If you are finding the deals, financing the projects, doing the rehab yourself, and managing tenants, you’re doing it wrong, and you will likely fail or burn out unless you build a team of experts around you. 

Always Provide Value to Others

I read an insightful book this year titled “The Go-Giver,” which extolls the idea that you must focus on empowering others to achieve their goals to be successful yourself. No one likes being in a partnership or relationship of any kind that is one-sided. We must consider what the people in our network are trying to accomplish and do everything we can to assist them, whether we get anything in return or not. Give without the expectation of receiving anything in return. 

Photo credit @elcarito via unsplash.com

Don’t Set a Reading Goal Based on Total Number of Books Read

There are very few activities I enjoy more than reading. Just give me a good book, a comfortable chair next to a window, and a cup of coffee, and I’m a happy guy. At the beginning of the year, I set a goal to read 50 books. This number was double my goal for 2019, which I exceeded by 1 or 2 books. That sounds like a substantial goal, right? The problem was, I noticed that when deciding on what book to read next, I tended to pick shorter books so I could hit my monthly quota of 4 – 5 books—erring towards shorter books resulted in some more enormous tomes feeling lonely on my bookshelf. In 2021, I will adjust my goal to focus on the number of pages read per day. When I sit down to do my weekly goals every Sunday, I will look at my schedule for the week and decide a daily page number that is attainable. This way, I won’t be discouraged from reading the larger books. 

Plan Long Term, but Take Action every day

Consistent, daily action is a cornerstone of success. But so is making significant long-term goals, right? “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan taught me that you have to take that big goal you want to hit ten years from now and break it down into progressively smaller chunks to the point that you ask yourself, “What can I do today to make progress toward that goal?” Incremental progress every day eventually results in the achievement of massive goals. This concept applies to business development, fitness, nutrition, relationships – anything you can want to improve in your life. 

Daily Planners Work

When I signed up for a Bigger Pockets Pro account earlier this year, they sent me a free Intention Journal as well. I had heard Brandon Turner (the ‘author’ of the journal) talk about daily planners and their value but never started doing it until they sent me the free 90-day Intention Journal. Wow! I love using it. You write down your goals for the 90 days, then create a plan for the upcoming week for the steps you will take to get you closer to those goals. I use the journal to track my real estate progress, personal fitness, daily reading, and more. As I came closer to filling up the pages of my Intention Journal, I researched different kinds of planners. I decided on the Panda Planner: Venture edition, which is designed for entrepreneurs. There are many kinds of daily planners and journals out there, but I highly recommend you pick one up and start writing down your goals and planning out your days. If you do this, I’m 100% confident you will see more progress towards your goals! Do you have a planner you like a lot? Send me a message on Instagram or an email to doug@honorandequity.com. I’d love to hear about it.

Work on Your Business, Not in Your Business 

Entrepreneurs feel like they have to do everything. “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.” This mindset is common at the beginning of any business venture, but if you ever want the business to scale or succeed on its own, you have to delegate and outsource tasks. When I started the Honor and Equity Instagram page, I made the content for the first few months. It was very time consuming: I had to come up with ideas, find images that worked, design the post using social media software (I use Canva), pick what I hoped would be the best hashtags, and come up with a witty caption. I realized I was spending too much time on social media and not having enough time to connect with military members, write helpful articles, and learn more about real estate and investing. This realization led me to hire a virtual assistant to create content for me, so I have more time to work on my business. 

I can’t outsource everything, but I try to regularly assess what I’m doing that feels light and what feels heavy, and I outsource those things that feel heavy. I will likely hire a virtual assistant bookkeeper in 2021 to manage the month-to-month income and expenses for our real estate portfolio. When you hire people, you are creating jobs and enabling them to do more of what they are good at. The owner of a company should be working on the business, not in the business. 

Photo credit @clemono via unsplash.com

Hire Slowly, Fire Quickly

Back in May, I had to fire the property management company that manages our Milwaukee properties. They had become progressively worse with no sign of improvement, so I switched to a fantastic company that performs better and charges less. I knew it would take time and would be inconvenient to change, but I also knew the old company wasn’t performing at the level I expect, so I pulled the trigger and never looked back. It was the right decision. I also had to fire the first social media virtual assistant I hired only a few months ago. He did not communicate well, couldn’t follow basic instructions, and was even dishonest a couple of times. I hired a different company that does much better work and is more professional overall. They are double the price of the previous guy, but it’s worth it. 

In both of these situations, there came the point that I knew it wasn’t the right fit. Once you feel that, you have to end the partnership quickly. Prolonging the relationship will only make things worse for yourself and your business. However, hiring the replacement should be a slow, deliberate decision based on past performance, references, and the degree to which you think they will be compatible with you and your business. I can only work with people who are exceptional communicators. If they take days to respond to a question, they’re out. If they can’t get to the point quickly and tend to dance around the topic at hand, they’re out. You probably have different priorities, so you should communicate those priorities and expectations upfront with a potential hire and ensure they can meet those expectations. 

I hope you gained insight from this article. Please send me a message on Instagram @honorandequity or send me an email at doug@honorandequity.com and share your thoughts!

My Favorite Real Estate Books

Reading is my favorite way to learn about anything, especially real estate. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of real estate books out there, so deciding on which books are worth your time can be difficult. All three of these books have made a significant impact in my real estate journey, and I hope they do the same for you.

Photo courtesy of coachcarson.com

“Retire Early with Real Estate” by Chad Carson

This is the first book I recommend to friends who want to learn more about real estate. Chad clearly put a lot of time and thought into this book and it shows – it’s fantastic for beginners! Like most real estate books, this one starts with a “Why Real Estate” chapter, then describes different strategies new investors can use to get started.

One unique aspect of this book I really enjoy are the “Profiles of a Real Estate Early Retiree” in which Chad provides examples of people that have retired early with real estate and how they did it. These are interspersed throughout the book and are relevant to the chapter in which they are included.

Since its designed for novices, this book doesn’t go super into depth on the “how” and it doesn’t get into the weeds with financial numbers, which I think is actually ideal for a beginner book. Chad Carson’s podcast is fantastic as well – definitely check it out.

Photo courtesy of biggerpockets.com

Long-Distance Real Estate Investing” by David Greene

David Greene was working as a police officer in San Francisco, and realized he couldn’t afford to invest in the bay area. So he figured out how to invest in more affordable markets with better cash flow, and in his book, he shares everything he learned from that process.

“Long-Distance Real Estate Investing” created an enormous “lightbulb” moment for me: you don’t have to live where you invest. It stressed the importance of having a great team, especially when you are investing long-distance. It was soon after reading this book that I heard about turnkey investing and within a year I had bought two single family rentals in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, without ever setting foot in the state. I still own those properties and they continue to perform well.

David co-hosts the Bigger Pockets podcast with Brandon Turner. He is extremely knowledgeable about real estate and I highly recommend listening to that podcast as well as reading his book.

The Book on Rental Property Investing” by Brandon Turner

This is a modern classic that is a must-read for anyone interested in real estate investing. I have referenced this book multiple times since reading it because it has so much fantastic information.

This is a dense book that covers a wide range of information, but it’s also highly readable and beginner-friendly. Brandon covers the “why” of rental property investing, as well as how to find a great team, different types of properties, what to think about when deciding on a location, how to make offers, how to close, how to manage tenants, and how to handle selling a rental property.

Thanks for reading! Please comment below with your favorite real estate books. Also, I encourage you to send me an email at doug@honorandequity.com if you want to discuss more books. Connect with me on Instagram @honorandequity as well!

Are You Financially Ready for Your First Investment Property?

There are countless stories of individuals buying multiple homes they could not afford in the buildup to the 2008 housing market collapse. Many of these individuals had to file for bankruptcy as a result of their financial decisions. Every day, people buy homes they shouldn’t buy, and this is true for investment properties as well. Just because the bank will give you a loan for a property, doesn’t mean you are financially ready to buy that property. The banks are looking out for their bottom line – not yours.

So what are some things you should think about before you get that first investment property? Let’s dig in.

Get Your Personal Finances in Order

Ideally, you should have no consumer debt with the exception of a mortgage on a primary residence. Consumer debt usually comes with higher-interest rates and includes ‘bad debt’ like car payments, credit card debt, and pay-day loans. Before you buy investment properties, you should aggressively pay down these loans and free yourself from them. Dave Ramsey has a great strategy for helping people become debt-free. Paying these loans off ties into the next step: raise your credit score! Lenders need to see that you are a ‘good borrower’ which means you have steady income and you pay all your bills on time. You should target at least a 700 credit score.

You will also need cash reserves to cover surprise capital expenditures, vacancy costs, and repairs. I set aside $5,000 in a high-yield savings account per property. There are different ideas and techniques for addressing cash reserves, and I’ll admit mine is more conservative than most but it makes me sleep better at night. For example, if Stephen owns three properties, he would need to have $15,000 set aside for cash reserves, and get that number to $20,000 before he buys a fourth. Important disclaimer: These real estate cash reserves are different from your personal ‘emergency fund’ for unexpected personal expenses.  

Ok let’s sum up these up:

  1. No consumer debt.
  2. Raise your credit score to at least 700.
  3. Have sufficient real estate cash reserves.

Make Sure Your Spouse/Partner is 100% on Board

People love surprises – but surprising your husband or wife with an investment property is a terrible idea. It’s a big financial decision, so you should make sure you and your spouse are in agreement. Many times, an individual will have a much higher risk tolerance than their spouse – and this is totally normal. You should sit down and have a serious conversation to determine your shared risk-tolerance, long-term goals, and strategies you are comfortable using to achieve those goals. Maybe your spouse isn’t ok with you doing a long-distance fix-and-flip with someone you met on the Bigger Pockets forum, but they would be ok with investing in an apartment syndication with someone you both know and trust. The bottom line is: you have to communicate with your spouse/partner and ensure you’re both on the same page before you commit to investing in anything – especially real estate.

Educate Yourself about Real Estate

This one may seem obvious, and if you’re reading this article you’re already doing it! You must educate yourself about the type of real estate in which you want to invest. There are so many fantastic and free resources out there. I’ve learned most of my real estate knowledge through podcasts and there are hundreds of different shows to choose from. The Bigger Pockets podcast is a great place to start, and I will probably do another article soon about my favorite real estate and personal finance podcasts so make sure you check back often and follow @honorandequity on Instagram for the latest updates.

My second favorite way to learn about real estate is through books. The real estate book I recommend the most is Chad Carson’s “Retire Early with Real Estate” which is designed for a beginner real estate investor. Chad – who has an excellent podcast as well – does a great job of explaining the basics of real estate investing.

Real estate is a powerful way to build long-term passive income, but it’s a big commitment. You and your family must be financially and mentally prepared before you begin the process. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a terrible financial position.

As Warren Buffett wisely said: “It’s good to learn from your mistakes. It’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes”.

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