Do you happen to have a high salary package? You can use that to start your path to financial freedom! Coming from a middle-class family, Billy Keels knew nothing about investing. When he became successful in his corporate career, he had no idea how to invest his high salary, yet he was too embarrassed to ask. From then on, he gave himself the challenge of learning everything he could about money and investing. His mission is to turn his high wages into financial freedom. Today, Billy created a monthly passive income that met all his expenses and no longer had to work if he didn’t want to. In this episode, Billy talks about how he invested his salary in real estate and achieved success.
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Turning High Salaries Into Financial Freedom With Billy Keels
What I love about real estate is that it’s about relationships and community. You get to build all this community through networking and the people that you meet along the way. I have said time and time again that real estate is not a solo game. It’s a team sport if you want to scale it up. The idea of networking and community doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go to a local real estate group in your area. We are blessed with the advancement of technology. Now, networking can be done virtually. Along the same lines, investing can be done remotely and pretty much virtually as well if you have the right system.
This leads me to introducing my guest. His name is Billy Keels and he does do long-distance investing, which I’m excited to hear more about. Speaking of community, he was introduced to me by someone else in my network, my colleague, friend, and past episode guest, Todd Sulzinger. Quick shout out to Todd for the intro to Billy.
Here’s a little bit more about Billy. He is a regular guy. Middle-class family from Columbus, Ohio who grew up knowing nothing about investing. When he started to become successful in his career, he had no idea how to invest his high salary. He was too embarrassed to ask because he felt like he should have known already. He remembers hearing colleagues talking about being accredited investors, and giving them fake nods like he knew what they were talking about.
From that point on, he gave himself the challenge of learning everything he could about all things money and investing. His mission was to turn his high wages into financial freedom. Eight years later, he achieved it. He created a passive monthly income that met all of the expenses. He no longer has to work if he doesn’t want to, and now his mission is to guide others to their own freedom. Without further ado, let’s jump into this. Welcome to the show, Billy. How are you?
I am doing awesome. I love your energy. This is going to be an amazing conversation. I love what you are doing. Big shout out to Todd as well for connecting, and it’s amazing. It is one of those things with teams. One of my favorite things that I like to put in is #TeamworkMakestheDreamwork. You see it all the time when I put it on LinkedIn. With the two of us now being nine hours separated and having this conversation, loving your energy and the things that you were talking about before, I’m looking forward to a very positive conversation.
Not everybody in our audience knows you. There’s a nine-hour time difference between us. Where in the world are you based geographically? Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
Carmen Sandiego is in Barcelona, Spain. I’m originally from Columbus, Ohio, that’s the accent. I have been living in Europe for many years. I only planned on being here on a one-year sabbatical. Many years later, I have lived in between France, Italy and Spain, and have enjoyed it. I was even part of the corporate world.
This has nothing to do with real estate investing, but how many languages do you speak now?
I speak five languages. I speak American English. I speak Spanish. I speak Kaplan which is the language that they speak here in this area of Spain where I live. I also speak Italian and French.
Tell me more about your background and how you got into real estate investing. I also know that you came from corporate and you left your corporate life. I love to hear more about how that overall journey has happened.
I will try to give you the reader’s digest because it can be long, but you mentioned some of it already. I come from a very middle-class family. I watched both of my parents work two jobs, and neither two of them have a college education. When I was growing up, I noticed that they had this hate relationship with money because they worked hard. Both of them work two different jobs and they made difficult decisions.
I remember watching my parents make decisions about whether they were going to pay one bill or the other at the end of the month. We always had food. It was never that big of a challenge, but I watched this frustration that happened with them. I was born in Columbus, Ohio. By the time I was twelve, we lived in three different states. My brother and sister were born in Colorado. My dad ended up moving down to Texas. My mom and dad moved down to Texas. We went down there with the oil boom in the late-’70s or early-’80s.Don't wait till you get to such a difficult emotional issue to be able to take action. Click To Tweet
Eventually, my parents also had some marital problems. They separated and got back together. They separated one time and my mom took us back to Ohio. They reconciled and eventually, they ended up divorcing. The thing about that though is while I watched my parents struggle and they had their struggles with money, they always gave us lots of love. There was a prime focus on education in our family. When that education focus happened, they put us in the right public school districts. We had great access to education.
What that did was it gave me good insight into the work ethic of my parents working hard. I took a lot of that to the classroom. I’m a typical A-student. I got good grades and because of that, I got good grades and I got the dopamine hits and the professors said, “You are doing a good job,” and all this stuff. I started thinking that all you needed to do is to work hard, take the exam, get an A, and you were going to get everything that you needed.
I thought that was the way that life was supposed to happen. When I went to college, I continued to do that. I worked through college. I cleaned wrestling mats in college. I got some grants and some scholarships. I eventually came out of college with about $60,000 worth of debt, but I learned how to work hard and do the things that I was supposed to do.
Along the way, I also had my eyes and my heart set on a dream job and I was supposed to work for my big dream job. I wanted to work for Procter & Gamble because I went to school at Miami University in Southwest Ohio, and that was the pinnacle of success. Every person that was in marketing, that was the job that you wanted to get.
Not only did I get rejected from that job in my first senior year. Afterwards, I decided that I wanted to go back and I did an overseas study. I got a second degree, which was in Spanish. In that second degree, I was coming back from an overseas experience. I was learning the language and I was having a second degree. I thought, “I’m going to get back in and I’m going to get that dream job.” Not only did I get into the process again, which was fantastic, but I got rejected again. I got rejected twice. I didn’t know how to handle that rejection because I was someone who had gotten used to getting good grades and all that stuff.
What that did and the reason I’m sharing that story is after being rejected twice, I thought that my world was like coming to an end. I didn’t know what else I was going to do, but I had a good friend of mine who was one of my best friends that I was with as a member of a student government organization. He was like, “There’s this organization of these people that you get to work with. Fortune 500 CEO. You get to travel the world, and you get a chance to be in contact with them.”
This was in 1996. I went through there. There were probably about 6,000 CVs or resumes, and I was one of 26 people that was selected for a role, which gave me the opportunity between ages 21 to 26 to travel to 58 different countries with Fortune 500 CEOs. It opened my mind to the world and the possibilities of what was out there.
After I had that role from 21 to 26, working and seeing 58 different countries, challenging the way that I viewed the world, and seeing what I thought was the way to do things from being from Columbus, Ohio. I didn’t see myself doing a normal 9:00 to 5:00 role. I applied for an opportunity to live overseas. I moved to Paris, France. I was accepted at a university called The Sorbonne in Paris, where I wanted to learn the French language and culture. I wanted to learn how to salsa dance, and I wanted to learn more about wine.
That was supposed to be a one-year sabbatical back in September 2001. Since then, because I was very fortunate and worked with a lot of high-level CEOs, I ended up getting into the IT space. That took me from Paris to Montpellier, which is a town down in the south. More importantly, I have been in Europe for many years. I have lived in three different countries. I have learned four additional languages, got married and have two children.
I jokingly tell people, “Be careful when you ask for that one-year sabbatical because you have no idea how that can turn out.” The only thing that I would add is after 26 years of working in the corporate world, which I liked a lot, in December of 2021, I’m no longer part of the corporate organization, but it’s something that has brought me a lot of growth perspective. It gave me lots of opportunities to travel and see the world.
I’m a big fan of corporate life and being able to understand how that role in corporate life can allow you to live your best life and prepare you for whatever your next level of life is. That’s maybe a long-winded answer but hopefully, that gives you a little bit more perspective on how we got started. I’m sure we’ll talk about real estate and how that played a role as well.
Something that resonates with me is everything happens for a reason. You were thrown in there being able to have that opportunity, to rub elbows with CEOs and whatnot. That was a big turning point in your life. I call it the power of proximity. Right before this, I was mentioning to you that I’m part of GoBundance and my audience does know that.
It’s amazing how you only know what you know until you are exposed to something different or different perspectives like, “I didn’t know you could do that,” or “I thought I was doing it the right way, but there’s another way that’s better.” I have been pulled into new things in a good way, and expanding my life in many different ways. It’s that experience with all those CEOs that open your mind. You would be a completely different person if you don’t meet those people and have that experience. That’s amazing. When did you first start investing in real estate? What was your first investment?
I don’t come from a household that had a lot of money. We didn’t talk about money. I had this misperception. When I was growing up, I thought that if you had money left over at the end of the month, that was investing. The way that I grew up, that was considered investing. You weren’t struggling to get to the end of the month. Once I was in college and I realized that I have a surplus of money in my bank account, the person had already come in and told me about investing in my 401(k) and I was doing that. I kept doing more of that because I’m an A-student and that’s what I was supposed to do and that’s what everybody else was doing.
As I did that, I understood the difference between going from savings to investing, and I was investing. What I realized was that the year 2000 was coming up shortly after I had been working for about four years. The dot-com bubble had an effect on me because the money that I had in my portfolio had taken a hit. I remember talking to my financial advisor. He said, “Don’t worry. We are going to do some DCA. Eventually, it’s going to come back.” I was like, “What is DCA? I don’t understand that.” He said, “Dollar Cost Averaging. It’s like putting in the same amount of money every two weeks. When it’s low, you buy more. When it’s high, you buy less. Eventually, it works out.”
That was true and things were working out well, but 2008 came around. In 2008, there was this whole great financial crisis that happened. My portfolio lost 33% of its value. One of the things that I learned from my parents is if something happens once, shame on them, but if the exact same thing happens twice, shame on you. This was the second time that I had no control over what I was doing in terms of my investment. I decided I needed to do something different.
I had been back in the States and I remember picking up this little purple book called Rich Dad Poor Dad, which probably no one has ever heard of. I picked it up and I started reading it. I was like, “This is interesting.” I didn’t finish the book. It took me a couple of years later and we were back in the States. I remember picking the book up because it was on the bookshelf. I met my dad at my stepmom’s house. I ended up picking it up. I read it and took it back to Spain with me.
I was like, “This is amazing. This is unbelievable.” I can buy these properties. The business model seems very simple. You put people in the property and there’s rent. You have to pay taxes, insurance, and all kinds of stuff, maybe maintenance repairs. When you back those costs out, you get the net operating income. If you put a mortgage on it, you have to pay the mortgage and the note, and then everything else you get to keep. I was like, “This is cool.”
I started reading the whole Rich Dad series. I started watching videos. I started listening to podcasts. The thing is I was a theoretical mastermind. I knew every single thing that needed to be done. I remember talking to people and they are like, “You are talking about this stuff. What’s your portfolio look like?” I would go, “You take more income and you minus the expenses.” “What about your portfolio?” “I’m still thinking about it. I’m still working on it.”
I realized that I hadn’t been taking action. Unfortunately, the thing that happened to me to get me to go from theory to action was something I have been ashamed of up until recently. I was a young father at the time. I was in my corporate role. I was moving up the ladder and I told myself that I always wanted to be a very present father. I wanted to be a good father.
The night before my oldest son’s third birthday, I didn’t sleep very well. I wasn’t feeling very good about it at all because I knew that the next morning, I was getting up and I was leaving for a business meeting. I was pretty ashamed of even telling the story because it was like I wasn’t being congruent. That morning. I woke my wife up. I woke our one-year-old up because I knew that I wanted to at least wake my son up and give him a hug and kiss before I left for this business meeting.
I left for the business meeting and that afternoon, I don’t remember what the business meeting was but I can tell you, that night when I was at this dinner, my wife, our youngest son, and our in-laws were all together singing happy birthday to our son. That was something that tore me up. My heart was sinking because I was not being congruent with the person that I wanted to be.
I realized at that point that I literally needed to start taking real action, not the theory stuff and not just knowing the numbers. When I got back, I wrote down my goals. It was a five-year goal. I wanted to buy property here in Spain because that’s what I thought the books were telling me. I realized that the numbers weren’t working because all the numbers in the books were positive cashflow. I was doing it here and it was minus €50, minus €200 or minus €150 a month, but I didn’t have the education and network. I didn’t understand that I was in a location that was not based on cashflow. It’s more of an appreciation market. I figured that out years later.
That whole experience and the reason I’m telling you that is some friends here in Spain were like, “You are from the United States. Why don’t you buy in the US?” I thought, “Hang on a second. I live in Barcelona.” The closest property that I could possibly buy would be 8,000 miles away. The Atlantic Ocean is between where I am and where I could possibly even manage it. It’s that whole mindset shift. This took me back to having this traveling around the world and maybe seeing and doing things differently. It made me feel comfortable with starting to make my very first rental property purchase.When you use the right vehicles that kick-off and produce cash flow for you, as well as the appropriate tax benefits, you can get to your destination much faster. Click To Tweet
That may be a long-winded answer to your question, but I wanted to help you understand what needed to happen for me in order to make the very first rental property purchase. I share that story because I hope that someone that’s reading this doesn’t wait until you get to such a difficult emotional topic or issue to be able to take action. That’s what it took for me to go from the theory to taking action. I bought a number of properties. I was able to accomplish that five-year goal in eighteen months.
I realized that by being able to purchase these assets, they are creating true cashflow. It’s not what was on a portfolio report but what was going into my bank account that I could spend, use and invest in other things. I realized I liked my corporate role and at the same time, if I can continue to invest this way, it’s going to create a path to freedom that I had never even thought of before.
That’s a little bit of the story about how I started getting into investing in real estate. I initially started in real estate. I have been investing in a number of different real assets that kickoff real cash flow, and are also tax-efficient which allowed me to keep more of my money because that’s what’s creating the lifestyle that my family and I are now afforded and other people that we’re now helping.
I want to pack a few things. I love the fact that you took action. The fact that you got over the fear and that it’s okay to invest remotely. It does make sense. I could relate to a lot of what you are saying. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the heart of Silicon Valley. The numbers don’t make sense here. It’s not cashflow positive. Even if you put 40% or 50% down, it’s still not cashflow positive. A lot of times, people have that mindset that you should only be investing in your own backyard.
Initially, before I got educated and listened to podcasts, I had that same mindset. It took me a while to be okay with out-of-state investing and realizing to live where you want to live, but invest where it makes sense and where the numbers make sense. It’s all about the numbers. I feel that once you get exposed to people that are doing it, you realize that this is a viable thing. The sky is not falling. You are making money. You can scale this up.
I love hearing about that because you are doing it. You are the only person I know that’s doing this from overseas for that matter. People who are here in the United States sometimes are getting over the fear of investing in another state. You are doing it from Spain. What are your favorite types of investments nowadays that you are focusing on and why?
I like hard assets that are tangible, which is ironic because I used to work in software sales. I was working in enterprise software. Everything that I was selling was intangible. It’s ironic that I now gravitate more towards tangible assets. Initially, it was very much real estate. I was buying smaller multi-family properties that were based back in the United States. I then found out that I could buy a mobile home park. I bought a mobile home park that was back in the United States. I started managing these actively from here, and so I learned a lot. I made a lot of mistakes and I gained a lot of experience.
I found out along the way that I was something called an accredited investor. I didn’t even know what that was. I was talking to somebody one day and they are like, “You are an accredited investor. You have access to some pretty exclusive types of opportunity.” I was like, “What? Hang on a second.” This comes back to your point of it depends on what you are exposed to because if you are not exposed to anything, then you are doing what you think you know.
When I found out that I was an accredited investor, what started making sense for me was, “Do you mean I can give somebody else $200,000 to $300,000. They do the investing and I get a return?” It’s the same concept where the money goes into my bank account and it was tax-efficient. I then found out about the passive investing world. I invested passively in a couple of development projects with the big major chain hotels. I invested in large multifamily like the 250-plus type of apartments. I invested in ATM machines and all of these things, passively.
What I started recognizing was these are different vehicles, and there are different ways of using these different vehicles to get me to my retirement destination or creating that path to freedom destination so I wouldn’t be worried about my job. It also opened my mind to new streams of income and being able to generate them and meet other people. All of these things were very positive for me.
After probably about 5 or 6 years, I started noticing this thing on my tax returns. I was like, “What in the world is this?” It was these returns that were negative, but the numbers started getting big like multiple six figures in something that was called passive losses, and I didn’t understand it. I called my CPA and paid him to explain my tax returns because I wasn’t understanding them. That’s when he helped me to understand the difference between the way that you generate your income and the different types of income.
That helped me on an education path because I started thinking to myself, “This is great but how can I get this money or what they called passive losses? If I could use this, then I could go out and invest in more real estate.” He was like, “You can’t do that because you don’t have the IRS designation that would allow you to do that. You have a big-time job. You are working a lot of hours in your day job.”
Not to get in too much into the weeds, but what real estate helped me to do was think about things in a different way. I started to ask different questions. I was getting these passive losses and I kept still paying 40% plus in income tax because I was working in an enterprise software space and I was a top achiever. I was in the top talent. I was going to Hawaii every other couple of years so I kept paying 40% plus in income tax. I thought, “I thought this was supposed to help me not pay tax,” but I wasn’t asking the right questions.
Once I started saying, “How can I potentially keep more of the money that I was paying an income tax? If I could keep some of that 40%, then that would allow me to go out and buy more real estate.” The more real estate that I was buying, I realized that it was creating a better runway for me, and it was making me a better employee in my corporate job.
I started looking for ways to be able to knock down the income tax that I was paying. I started getting into another area, which is in the energy space and finding ways as an accredited investor to be able to invest in the energy space so that it will allow me to keep more of my income tax being able to then invest more of that into passive streams of income.
Hopefully, it wasn’t a too long-winded answer, but real estate helped me to open my eyes to recognize that there are so many different vehicles. When you use the right vehicles that kick-off and produce cashflow for you, as well as the appropriate tax benefits, then you can continue to utilize the vehicles to get to your destination much faster
I’m glad we are talking about the topic of tax benefits. I don’t talk about that often. You bring up an interesting point. You are a high W-2 income earner. You are looking for a way to shelter that big tax liability you had. That was huge, about 40% or so. What I find interesting is it’s more about what you keep versus what you earn. It sounds like you bridge that gap.
Tax laws are out there. I feel like it’s more so there for you to understand that as a guideline of things that you need to do. You need to understand those guidelines because they are basically telling you, “If you do this, we’ll incentivize you and you don’t need to pay taxes.” You did the right questioning to figure out what can I do to lessen that burden and whatnot.
It sounds like you did your own self-education. You asked the right questions and you network with the right people, and here you are now, and you’ve solved that problem. I think that was brilliant. It’s like you don’t do these things by doing your regular day-to-day job. It’s not going to come to you through osmosis. You went out and sought these answers.
It comes back to what you said in the very beginning, which was it’s about teamwork. This is where the power of being exposed to new ideas and new concepts, and having a very strong team around you that can help to guide you. At the end of the day, if you are not exposed, you don’t know what you don’t know. Once you start to learn something new, it’s important to have the right team of people around you so that they can explain the concepts and the way that are going to help you to understand. Based on the data and then the information that you are taking in, then you can make the best decision for yourself. You hit on such a point early on and you are coming back to it again, which is the whole importance of exposure, and also being able to have a strong team around you.
Speaking of a team, because you are doing stuff remotely, what does it take for long-distance investing? Who is a part of your team? How do you make this all happen pretty seamlessly?
A couple of things happen. A lot of times we make things more difficult than they need to be. As someone who was a long-distance investor, one of the things that I have realized is it’s like everything else. I did things very wrong in the beginning because I knew that I wanted to start to have more control. I had money in the bank and I wanted to buy property.
I did everything I needed to do to buy a property. I didn’t know much. I started calling family and friends, “Do you know anybody that’s a banker because I heard about loans.” That was one of the big things that I liked. If I had put down a certain portion, I could control 100% of the asset. I did it very traditional. I have put 25% down on an investment property. I was able to control 100% of the property because I met a banker and things like that.
Afterwards, what I didn’t realize is that once I bought the property, things started happening wrong for the tenants and residents, and I didn’t have any systems in place. I had to build systems to get things done, and I had to build a team. Afterwards, when I started realizing that I wasn’t in the location that was the most friendly toward someone who owns the property, I realized that I hadn’t done any due diligence on the area that I was living in. The only thing that I did know is that I wanted to receive cashflow as a benefit.Things are going to get challenging as an investor. Unless you're very crystal clear on why you're doing this, you will stop doing it. And once you're clear on why you're doing it, you'll cling to that why, which will help get you through the… Click To Tweet
What I did is exactly the wrong thing to do, and is exactly what I try to teach people or I do teach people to do is the opposite. Number one is getting clear on the benefit that you are looking for like cashflow, and understanding why you want that cashflow because things are going to get challenging as an investor. Unless you are very crystal clear on why you are doing this, you will stop doing it. Once you are clear on why you are doing it, you’ll cling to that why. That’s going to help get you through the difficult times.
Once you understand personally what it is that you want to achieve, then go to the location that’s going to give you the highest probability of being able to achieve that cashflow, for instance. Once you know the cashflow or that is what you are looking for, and you are in the location that is going to allow you to do it, sometimes people will say a market, then you build your team. Build your team with local experts. At the end of the day, especially when you are a long-distance investor, your team is the absolute most critical element of all the four elements that I talk about, in my opinion. Your team is the face that your clients or your residential tenants see every single day.
They need to understand the location. They need to have a strong network and team of people that can serve your client, and they also need to understand what you are looking for as an investor. Once you have those first three elements in place, what you are looking for personally, you are in the right location and you have the right team, then you can buy any asset.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a piece of energy equipment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 50-unit apartment building or a 200-unit apartment building because you have the elements in place. From there, it’s very much like any other type of relationship. If you are interested in and you are looking for someone to invest in a location because it’s the right thing for you, you want to be in the Bay Area. What would you do? You are going to start looking for those people that are most active in the Bay Area.
You are going to look and see who understands the location. It means getting on an email list and reaching out to someone. Dale said he’s making himself available. We get on the phone and we have a conversation. If we feel that we are aligned in our mission and our values, and you understand the market and who I am as an investor, then you want to continue to develop that relationship.
As you develop that relationship, the onus is on the two of us to make sure that we are aligned. I should know more about your operations and how you do things. How are you from a compliance standpoint? If as the investor, I want to continue to build relationships and make purchases in a specific location, then I have to take the due diligence and the right steps to develop the relationship just like what you would do with anybody else.
We started by an email or got on a Zoom session but ultimately, I’m a big believer in when it makes sense, you need to put your money where your mouth is. That means getting on a plane or on a train or driving across the country to meet the team that you want to build your relationship with and go deeper into a specific location to make those purchases. I see it on those two different axes. It’s making sure that you have the right process in place. Also, you are taking the appropriate steps to build a strong relationship, starting from the foundation, leveraging technology, and ultimately being able to meet one another face to face at least once.
You’ve done a lot. You’ve got a lot of mistakes which is part of the growing process. Are there any specific stories or horror stories of lessons learned from past experiences that jump out at you that you could share with the audience and whatnot?
This one is painful because what happens is when you have successes early on, you can fall victim to your own success. I mentioned those first properties that I purchased. I did the things that the books told me. I got the home inspection. I read the home inspection in the first one, and I read the home inspection and the second one. I saw what was going on. I got invested in the home inspection on the third property. On the third property, things were going well. I bought all these units quickly.
Maybe nine months or a year later, the last property that I purchased, we ended up getting an inspection from the city. We had some pretty significant roof damage. I thought, “This is not cool. I should have known this.” The city came in and we had issues with the roof. We had a family that was living in the unit. We had to pay for that family to live in a hotel. They were displaced and then the cost to fix the roof. That situation costs me about $25,000.
I was upset. I was like, “This was never in the home inspection report. This wasn’t there. This is not cool.” The thing about it that hurts the worst is it was in the home inspection report that there were issues with the roof. I didn’t take the time to read the home inspection report that I had paid for because the first couple of times, I read them and nothing happened. Had I taken the time to read the report that I paid for, that would have allowed me as an investor to go back, recognize this, renegotiate and potentially, have a way to fix it upfront before there was a resident in that particular property or unit. It also would have kept me in a much stronger position financially.
I realized that it was about reading reports. Don’t get complacent, and also make sure that you have adequate reserves at all times. I share that because I’m obsessed with that. Even now, when you are looking at the due diligence on the property, especially when you are investing in inspections, make sure that you or your team are looking at and reading the inspections so that if you need to go back to the seller and renegotiate the terms, you do that so that you can start off in the very best possible position when you take on a brand-new asset.
That’s one of the things that comes to mind. I think about not being able to have the situations handled properly with our tenants in the very beginning because when I bought the property, there was no system in place. When our tenants were trying to contact me and they had issues with the property, I was living in Spain. We didn’t have a property manager. I didn’t have a person they could call. We very quickly got a 24-hour, 7-day a week service, and started to build things. It wasn’t the right experience for our tenants, but I did learn a lot and we got a lot better. Those are the two things that come to the top of my mind.
Thank you for sharing all that stuff. Now that you don’t have that W-2 job anymore. Are you more of an active investor now or a passive investor? Are you doing both? What are you doing now?
I have a business that is focused on bringing accredited investors together that have that specific issue with their income tax. That’s the one issue that we are working on and trying to help them solve so that they can generate more passive income. I continue to be an active investor. I also believe in the power of teamwork and I enjoy being a passive investor as well because being an active investor makes me a better passive investor, and being a passive investor helps to make me a better active investor.
I like the tax efficiencies of being able to invest and generate passive income, and not having that tied to my work. I love being able to serve people and seeing them get the benefits that I have received. I like continuing to do both of them. I have a company that specifically serves accredited investors that have challenges with paying high-income taxes.
I want to dissect that a little bit. In what ways are you able to teach folks with high W-2 income to lessen their tax burden? What overall strategies do you employ with them?
We are specifically focusing on helping them in investing in solutions in the energy space. I myself had that problem with paying high taxes while I was also generating passive income through my passive investments and active investments through real estate. That is the IRS definition of passive income. When I place my own capital and I saw the results that it was providing me, once I had the opportunity, then I recognized and was asked if I wanted to bring my investor pool together to see if this would be something that they were interested in.
When I brought that to my very close group of investors, I had been able to talk about the results that it was providing me. This is an area that we are specifically focusing on. For someone who is a busy professional that does not have the possibility to qualify for IRS-specific definitions that would allow you to have active and passive income and use them together, this is a very specific niche.
What I found working in the IT space and the enterprise software space was there were a lot of high-paid professionals like me that were tired of getting crushed by the taxes. We are focusing on helping them with that very specific problem, and that is investing in projects that are in the energy space specifically.
What you bring to the marketplace and whatnot can help a lot of my audience. A lot of my folks are in high-paying tech jobs and paying that high incoming tax. We are all figuring out how do we minimize this burden. I love that you are helping people with that. Speaking of your corporate life, what skillsets or whatnot from your corporate life and the tech side of things have translated well into what you are doing right now with your real estate investing?
There are a couple of things. One is having the opportunity to manage a business and lead people across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Understanding that there are very different ways to get to an outcome, and having to have that ability to listen and be able to set the tone and say, “This is where we want to go.” Also, being able to listen to your team to understand what are the things that they like to be able to do. Allow them to do more of that. What are the things that they are concerned about? Being able to recognize when there are challenges or problems, how do we work together to solve that problem?
Having done that for many years in the IT space and the enterprise software space allowed me to become a better active listener. It allowed me to become a better leader and lead by influence. Not just with a title because you are the senior director of such and such or whatever, but being able to have leadership through influence. Those are some of the things that I learned in the corporate world.
Also, being able to sit down with a client that’s having a major problem with their business. Being able to solve that with things that they can’t even touch or see is something that working in the software space allowed me to do. Asking better questions. When you ask better questions, you are able to draw out the pains or the challenges that your clients are having, or even the team members, or the people that we report to or didn’t report to. Being able to work together to come up with a solution that makes sense, especially for the client, and also for the businesses that I was representing.Get to a point where you're also taking action because that's when you'll get the real-world experience. Take the steps that make you feel more comfortable, but make sure that there are steps that you're taking forward. Click To Tweet
It doesn’t do you much good when you are solving a problem, but as a company, you are not able to continue to be profitable, or your clients are investing in things that they can’t afford. These are a couple of the different things that I learned from corporate life that gave me a lot. I gave a lot to corporate life as well. These types of skills are also serving me now in a much better way. It’s helping me and my team to serve our clients.
For newer investors out there, any advice that you would give to new investors starting their investing journey?
There are a couple of things. The first thing that comes to mind is for those of you that are new investors and you are already following Dale, continue doing what you are doing. You are already setting yourself apart because you are here. You are reading and you are learning. Most importantly, Dale, you are about taking action. You are already in the right place as a new investor. You are here and you are dedicating your time and energy. I know that you also make yourself available to talk to people.
If you are already here and you are part of Dale’s tribe. You are passively listening. It’s time to move to active listening. Take the conversations. Talk about them with family and friends. Test what you are doing. Don’t be like me when I was like this theoretical mastermind. Get to a point where you are also taking action because that’s when you are going to get the real-world experience. Take the steps that make you feel more comfortable, but make sure that they are steps that you are taking forward.
Don’t just stand there and become the most knowledgeable person in the room. Don’t be the person that’s waiting to leave your house when all of the lights are green in order to start to get to wherever you want to go. You are going to have to take or make decisions based on imperfect information and be okay with that. Take the steps that are small, continue to be here, continue to come back and continue to listen to the guest that Dale is inviting. Most importantly, take action and take action moving forward.
Once you take action, that’s going to propel success. Take that book world into the real world.
It can be intimidating. I’m a recovering perfectionist. Don’t get me wrong. It has not always been easy. The thing that I would also say to those of you that are A-students, are perfectionists and want to get things all the time, is one of two things will happen when you start taking real action. It’s either you will confirm the fact that you are a perfectionist and you are continuing to move forward, and you’ll continue to move on that path, but at least you are moving, or you are going to get it wrong quickly.
For those of you that are perfectionists or A-students, when you get it wrong, you will course correct. You will bring it back to where it needs to be because that’s the way that you’ve always done things. That’s the way that you’ve been able to accomplish the things that you have accomplished to date. Don’t worry about it being right on the first step. As soon as you notice that it’s off course, you are going to course correct. Either way, you win because you are taking action. You are moving forward and you are moving towards your goal so that 1 year, 6 months or 1 week later, you are going to recognize how much space or how much you move towards your goal, and how much you’ve left that old way of thinking or doing behind you.
That makes sense. Thank you for sharing all of that. I have some final questions for you. The first question is, what are you excited about in your business?
In my business, I’m excited to serve more accredited investors. We have done a lot of work on our website. For many years, I had a mentor. He said, “Build a website and stuff like that,” but I didn’t have any strategy for the website. I would get on these calls with people sometimes and they would say, “I’m glad that I spoke to you because I had no idea what you did or how you serve people or anything.” Once I left the corporate world, a lot of the focus and energy was on how we make sure that we are helping people when they figure out where we are. When they go to our website and they are on FirstGenCP.com, how they can be helped? How can we help them?
Some of the feedback that we have received in the very early days is that it is much clear. Those accredited investors that are having specific challenges, when they go to our website, they know how we can help them, or that we can’t help them. Getting that feedback and being able to work with a team of very competent professionals on the marketing side is something that I feel very happy about because both prospective clients, as well as our existing clients, are proud of the way we are serving people at least to our public website is something that is making a positive impact. I’m excited about that.
What has real estate investing done for your life?
It has provided me with the opportunity to retire from the corporate world in my 40s. It has provided me with the opportunity to think about accomplishing life goals. Not just by working a 9:00 to 5:00 and waiting until I’m in my 60s to start to live life. It has been a key for me to open up new relationships that I never thought that I would make, and being able to do that in a way that is also helping people to realize that you can live wherever you want, and you invest where it makes the most sense. Had I just been in the stock market, I highly doubt that I would have had this type of mindset. I attribute a lot of that to the early successes, as well as challenges that real estate has provided me.
What does success mean to you?
It’s interesting because this is a fluctuating thing. This is after corporate life. I have realized that being able to invest my time with the people that I love the most, and having the feedback that they appreciate not just the quantity but more importantly, the quality of time that we are spending together, that to me is success. I realized that the most important thing in life are the relationships that we create and the real true relationships that we have.
Success at this point to me is about quality relationships. It starts with my spouse and also with our kids and in my family. I have a very different way to look at success than I did many years ago. Before, I was focused on the financial aspect. I realized that can come and go. At the end of the day, it’s being able to spend quality time with the people that you love. That to me is what success is all about.
What do you think is your superpower that has gotten you to everything you have in life so far?
A lot of it is my curiosity. At this point, even though I’m a recovering perfectionist, you have to be humble enough to recognize that you don’t know everything. I didn’t learn four additional languages because I was already fluent. I learned them because I had a curiosity. I wanted to learn. I recognize that I helped to create a communication connection. Going beyond language and also learning about culture has also helped to create a bond that is something that has been absolutely amazing. I would say it’s a combination of curiosity and humility. That would be the superpower that I would recognize.
How can somebody get ahold of you?
We are doing a lot to help accredited investors that feel like they are getting crushed on the income tax side of things. They can find more information at FirstGenCP.com/paylesstax. We have done a little write-up there and you can find out more about specifically how we are helping people. Our website is First Gen CP. I also have a podcast which is Going Long Podcasts with Billy Keels, which talks about being able to live wherever you want and invest where it makes the most sense for you and your family.
If people like social media, I’m becoming more and more active on LinkedIn. I think I’m the only Billy Keels in Barcelona, Spain. It should be pretty easy to find. Make sure when you send a personalized invitation that you already tuned in to Dale and me having a conversation here. Those are the best ways and especially for those highway joiners, you want to find out more in FirstGenCP.com/paylesstax.
Thank you so much. That’s a wrap, folks. Billy, I appreciate our time together here on this episode. It was very enlightening and inspiring. You are the first person that is a self-proclaimed recovering perfectionist. I will always remember that. You are my very first guest that’s out of the country. Let alone, you’ve successfully figured out a way how to invest in the United States from Europe. That’s amazing and very inspiring.
I wish you all the success as you build your business and your portfolio. I’m looking forward to meeting you in the future sometime. Feel free to reach out to Billy directly with any questions for him. Also, thanks for checking out this episode. Remember to leave me a review on iTunes as it helps me attract even more great guests like Billy. Until next time, live life abundantly.
- Billy Keels – LinkedIn
- Todd Sulzinger – Past episode – Taking Advantage Of Mobile Home Park Investing With Todd Sulzinger
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- Going Long Podcasts with Billy Keels
- iTunes – The School of Cash Flow
About Billy Keels
In October 2014, I missed my son’s 3rd birthday and that changed everything for me. I was traveling to Frankfurt to yet another full of executive business meetings followed by a dinner. I realized then I had gotten lost in the hype of being a high-performing corporate executive.
For years, I was consistently overachieving my sales targets. I was getting the promotions. I was traveling and staying in nice hotels. I was a platinum member of all the frequent flyer and hotel programs. I was buying nice clothes, expensive shoes, luxurious timepieces (aka watches). I was receiving positive recognition. To be honest, I actually was having fun!
Business hours slipped into late nights and weekends: I was constantly checking my iPhone to see what emails I had to action. I had calls from morning to night. I traveled non-stop three to four days a week. There was a constant internal pressure to close more business.
But, I was good at my job and it felt good to succeed.
With this dedication and commitment I became part of the Top Talent program. I qualified for multiple trips to Hawaii for sales performance excellence. I even was recognized in the Top 1% of the sales force one year. I was growing and excelling at my job.
But, at the same time, I knew that this would be a never ending cycle.
I wanted a different outcome for my life.
So for 9 years, I burnt the candle at both ends. I worked in the early mornings and late evenings on building my own dream: financial freedom. This meant finding in pockets of time around my already long workday; usually before 5am and then again after the kids were asleep.
After a few real life events, I realized it was finally time for my corporate career to come to an end…
But I wasn’t worried. And I didn’t start looking for a new job. Because I already had a plan in place.
Today I share this plan and opportunities with other extremely busy, high-paid professionals. I know what you’re going through. You’re so busy and stressed achieving your KPIs/MBOs for your career, that you’re not taking care of your own investment numbers!
Doesn’t seem right, does it?
Don’t wait for nine years to get control over the outcomes of your life. Start your plan NOW to be living the life they want sooner rather than later.
Start gaining the freedom to choose what you want to do, with whom you want to do and when you want to do it!
You’re not alone.
Send me a DM and we can connect…
Make it a great day!
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