Honor and Equity 2020 Year in Review

What a year! I started 2020 in Iraq – halfway through a 6-month deployment. Neighboring Iran attacked our base with ballistic missiles, which was a significant moment in U.S./Middle East relations. The COVID pandemic soon overshadowed the attack. Thankfully the pandemic didn’t delay our return from deployment in late March, but we came back to a very different America. 

I was excited about not having to go to work for the first month or so after returning. This freedom meant more time to read, relax, and spend time with my soon-to-be-wife, Caitlin. I enjoy reading, but I was voraciously consuming books, sometimes reading over 100 pages per day with all that downtime. We had planned to be married on May 9th in Miami (we live in San Diego), but like many people in 2020, we had to adjust our life plans. We were married here in San Diego, with only a few family members in attendance. It wasn’t the wedding we expected, but it was pretty fantastic, to be honest. Getting married to Caitlin was, without a doubt, the happiest and most significant moment of the year for me. 

Joining A Mastermind Group

The second most significant moment was when I decided to join a real estate mastermind group for military members and veterans. A friend and mentor named Stuart Grazier (of Storehouse 3:10 Ventures) co-founded the War Room mastermind with David Pere (From Military to Millionaire). I was inspired to join a mastermind group after reading “Tribe of Millionaires,” an allegorical book produced by the founders of Gobundance outlining the benefits of joining a mastermind. (Check out my article about mastermind groups here). Being surrounded by motivated individuals with goals that align with yours is critical for personal growth. I started virtually meeting active duty service members who own multiple properties – and not just single-family homes; I’m talking apartment complexes, RV parks, and mobile home parks. I thought, “Wow, I need to up my game!” So I did

I distinctly remember a post that Stuart Grazier made in our War Room Facebook group in which he challenged everyone to create a ‘thought leadership platform.’ This platform could be a blog, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account – basically any medium through which you can talk about your journey and experiences in real estate. I knew this was something I had to do, so I took action and created Honor and Equity, a personal finance and real estate blog for military members, veterans, and their families. I didn’t know how to design a logo, start a website, create content, or dance in TikTok videos, but I figured it out (minus the TikTok vids!) with the help of family, friends, and fellow War Room members. I’ve always enjoyed talking with anyone who will listen about personal finance, investing, and real estate. The platform would help me share what I have learned with others and document my journey. 

Investing in Oklahoma City

Photo credit Gerson Repreza via unsplash.com

I try to connect with a different War Room member every week because each person has a unique military and investing background. I enjoy hearing about what everyone is working on and what they have done in the past. One of these conversations inspired me in a significant way. Michael Barnhart is an active duty Navy officer like myself currently stationed in England. He told me about how he and his wife were aggressively pursuing real estate in the Midwest utilizing the BRRRR strategy (Buy, Rehab, Rent, Refinance, Repeat – a must-read book by David Greene, by the way). This conversation was my lightbulb moment: if this guy is doing the BRRRR method from England, why am I not doing something similar from San Diego? Almost immediately, I started researching markets and eventually decided on Oklahoma City (check out my article about why I decided on OKC). I re-read Long-Distance Real Estate Investing by David Greene and read his BRRRR book while carefully putting together a team of real estate professionals in OKC to help me achieve my goals. 

Progress has been slow, but I write down my goals every day to stay focused and stay in the right mindset. We finally closed on the first property – a duplex – on December 11th, and everything is going smoothly so far. The home is already rented and needs mostly exterior cosmetic work. We are going to do all the rehab work with the tenants in place and the work should be complete in January/February after which we will do a cash-out refinance. My goal is to acquire two OKC properties per quarter, so if you know of anyone involved in real estate in Oklahoma City, send me a message! I post updates occasionally via the @honorandequity Instagram page, so make sure you’re following to get the most up to date information.

Beyond OKC, we also own a single-family home (SFH) in Pensacola, and we just closed on our third SFH in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We closed on this home in Milwaukee and the duplex in OKC within about 4 days of each other, which doubled the total number of doors we own (3 doors to 6 doors)! Back in April of this year, we invested in a mobile home park (MHP) syndication in Cañon City, Colorado (check out the article here). My favorite part about that MHP investment is I know about half of the other investors (who are also on active duty). The team who put the deal together is led by a husband and wife team (both Army veterans). You may have noticed a theme with my network: I like to work with fellow military folks! I think that someone with 10+ years of service in the military tends also to be someone you can trust that communicates well and has grit and integrity – the same type of person with which you want to invest.

The Milwaukee turnkey properties we own are performing better than expected (thanks Storehouse 3:10 Ventures!), and I hired a new property management company back in May, which was a fantastic decision. The Pensacola property is the star-performer, though: of the properties we own, it has the highest cash-on-cash return and has appreciated the most since it was purchased in 2016. 

Honor and Equity in 2021

Photo credit Immo Wegmann via unsplash.com

H&E has grown a lot since its inception in the summer of 2020, and we will experience substantial growth in 2021. This growth is driven by a desire to help fellow military members and veterans in their personal finance and investing journey. One of my favorite parts about doing this is connecting with people, so if you want to connect or know someone who might want to, please reach out!

Priorities

  • Grow Honor and Equity via the creation of content designed to inspire and educate others within the scope of personal finance, real estate, and investing. 
  • Grow our portfolio in OKC via flips and BRRRR’s. Partner with others to scale and expand with the long-term goal of providing investment opportunities to other military members and veterans.

Thanks for reading this article! Please send me a message on Instagram @honorandequity or send me an email at doug@honorandequity.com!

How to Earn More and Save More While Active Duty

Photo credit: Diego Gonzalez via Unsplash.com

Military members have unique opportunities to both earn and save more money while still active duty or in the reserves. You might be familiar with some of these, but it’s easy to forget about them if it’s not built into your habit pattern. Let’s get after it!

Travel and Per Diem

I travel a lot for in my current billet (1-2 weeks per month) and I get per diem for every day I’m away from home. The amount varies depending on location and whether there is a base galley nearby or not, but you’re going to get some money no matter where you go. So travel on as many work trips as you can, be frugal while on those trips, and you’ll have extra cash hitting your bank account a week after you get back.

Shop at the Commissary

This is a no-brainer. Food is the third highest expense for most households (after housing and vehicles) so you can save a ton of money by shopping at the commissary. I do most of my shopping there and the prices simply can’t be beat by local grocery stores, especially here in San Diego. The U.S. government spends an enormous amount of money subsidizing commissaries for military members, so take advantage of this one. Also, make sure you make a list and don’t go hungry!

Bonus Tip: Always refuel your vehicles on base. It’s cheaper.

Ask for Military Discounts

You already know about this one, but how often do you take advantage of it? Most companies have military discounts, but they don’t advertise it, so make sure you ask whenever you’re shopping. Retailers with military discounts include Lululemon, Lowe’s, Patagonia, North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and many many more. Also, if your credit card has an annual fee, give them a call and they will likely remove it.

Don’t Buy that New Car

This isn’t unique to military but it’s so important and service members make this mistake all the time! Don’t buy new cars and don’t buy cars you can’t afford! Vehicles are depreciating asset, which means their value tends to decrease with time. So that sick $45,000 Mustang GT you bought two years ago with a 18% interest rate is probably worth $25,000 today. Wouldn’t you rather spend $45,000 on something that will increase in value – or even better – pay you every month! This is why you need to put money into passive income streams. (Check out my article about Turnkey Real Estate Properties to learn more)

Deployments

You can make a LOT of money while deployed. Obviously this one depends on your branch of service, your military occupation, and many other factors, but it’s worth thinking about. Extra pay while deployed can include: imminent danger pay, combat pay, hazardous duty pay, sea pay, and Family Separation Allowance. These, like your BAH and BAS, are not subject to federal or state taxes as well – that’s a big win! And if you deploy to a combat zone like Iraq or Afghanistan, your base pay will not be taxed either! This can be substantial depending on your pay grade and time in service. Also, if you’re in a combat zone you can participate in the Savings Deposit Program which enables you to earn 10% interest on up to $10,000.

Additionally, your expenses generally decrease significantly while deployed. You’re probably not going out to eat or traveling while deployed, so you can cut expenses while increasing your income.

Most civilians don’t think of military service as the type of occupation that leads to wealth building. This is an over-generalization. Remember, wealth is not determined by how much money you make, its determined by how much money you save and what you do with that excess. It’s very possible to build wealth while in the military, you just have to create the right habits and plan ahead for many years from now. If you only plan two weeks ahead to your next paycheck (like most Americans do), you will never become wealthy.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please share with a friend and follow Honor and Equity on Instagram @honorandequity.

3 Reasons Turnkey Properties are Great for Military Investors

It was only a few years ago that I started to learn about real estate. I listened to the Bigger Pockets podcast regularly (I still do), and I still reference Bigger Pockets books when I have questions about real estate fundamentals such as managing properties or finding tenants. One of these books in particular was integral in my “lightbulb” moment: “Long Distance Real Estate Investing” by David Greene. The most significant takeaway for me was that I don’t have to live in the same place I purchase real estate. Around the time I finished this book, I listened to a Bigger Pockets episode featuring a guy named Stu that also worked in Naval Aviation who was the co-owner of a turnkey real estate company called Storehouse 3:10 Ventures. I didn’t know much about turnkey, but Stu certainly did and he seemed like a good dude so I reached out to him. Fast forward three years, and I own two properties purchased through Stu’s company, and I’m an investor in a mobile home park syndication partially sponsored by Stu and David his business partner.

Many service members recognize the value in real estate as a wealth-building tool, but don’t have the experience or knowledge to get started. The turnkey real estate investing model is perfect for these individuals. I have purchased two homes using this model, and I’m on a waiting list to buy a third in a few months.

You may not always decide where you live, but you can decide where you invest!

What is Turnkey?

Turnkey real estate providers purchase homes, rehabilitate them, and sell the homes to investors. Sometimes these companies also provide property management – these are usually called full-service turnkey providers. When done correctly, this is a win for all involved: it provides a cash-flowing property from day one to the investor, it puts money in the pocket of the turnkey provider, and it provides a newly rehabilitated home to the tenant.

Let’s take a look at 3 reasons why turnkey is a great option for military investors.

  1. Location – Invest Where the Numbers Make Sense

Military folks move a lot – usually every 2-3 years – to locations that aren’t always conducive to long-term real estate purchases. Sometimes the numbers just don’t make sense! When I moved to San Diego in 2018, the type of home I wanted to buy would have rented for less than the mortgage payment, so I didn’t buy a home and chose to rent instead. This is common in high cost of living markets (HCOL) with military bases like Hawaii, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. However, you can purchase turnkey rental properties from anywhere in the world. I purchased two rental properties in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from San Diego – having never set foot in the state of Wisconsin. A friend of mine is on a waiting list to buy a turnkey property, and he and his family are about to move to Japan! Not everyone will be comfortable doing this, but it just shows what is possible if you have a team with people you trust.

2. Price – Turnkey Properties Typically Cost Less than the Average Home

The average home price in the U.S. is typically around $200,000. You can buy a turnkey property for as low as $75,000 depending on factors like location, size, number of bedrooms, etc. You can also obtain a conventional, 30-year fixed rate home loan with 20% down (plus closing costs). That means you can acquire a cash-flowing real estate asset for around $15,000. This makes it a (relatively) affordable real estate investment, which most money-conscious military members should be more than capable of saving towards. It may take some time, but it will be money well spent, and you have much more control over this asset than money in your TSP or IRA. Also, many service members go on deployments to combat zones. This is a fantastic way to save a large amount of money since your expenses will likely be very low, and there’s the added benefit of combat pay, hazardous duty pay, imminent danger pay, sea pay, etc.

3. Simplicity – Turnkey is a Simple, Low-Stress Way to Get Started in Real Estate

When you mention ‘real estate investing’ most people think about home flipping because of all the HGTV shows. Flipping homes for profit is a lot of work, even if you aren’t performing the improvements yourself. You have to identify properties with numbers that make sense, then you have to build a team! You need to find a reliable general contractor, a proactive real estate agent, and money lenders that believe you will provide them a return while also making the project worth your own time and money. Turnkey providers have this system in place already so you can continue your day job in the military weaving that red, white, and blue blanket of freedom for Americans and others around the world. Also, you will learn a great deal about real estate investing by owning a turnkey property, including due diligence when purchasing a property, basic bookkeeping, and interacting with your property manager about tenants, property repairs, and more! Most real estate investors start out in the ‘single family home’ asset class because it is relatively simple and easy to grasp for beginners. Turnkey can be a fantastic gateway to the highly lucrative world of real estate.

Trust is the Key

A crucial element in investing in turnkey properties is ensuring that you completely trust the team you send your hard-earned money to. There are many sub-par turnkey providers out there just looking to make a quick buck. Many investors have lost a lot of money to unethical or incompetent turnkey companies, so make sure you research the company, get references, thoroughly read the purchase agreement, inspections, and appraisals, and do not hesitate to back out of the deal if something doesn’t seem right.

BONUS – You Can’t Use your VA Loan to Purchase a Turnkey Property

Since the Veterans Administration requires you to live in a home you purchase using the VA home loan, you can’t use your VA home loan to purchase a turnkey property. This means you need some cash saved up for a down payment, and you need pretty good credit. But don’t worry if you don’t have either of those yet, just continue to spend less than you earn, pay your bills on time, and your personal balance sheet will quickly start to improve!