JF2587: Transitioning from W-2 Employee to FT Real Estate Investor with Steeve Breton #SituationSaturday
On today’s #SituationSaturday, we’re talking to Steeve Breton about how to make your transition from a W-2 employee to full-time in real estate as smooth as possible. Steeve is sharing some actions he took right out of the gate, what he took into account when he planned his timeline for leaving his W-2 job, and how he juggled work, his side hustle, and most importantly, family, to bring his vision to life.
Steeve Breton Real Estate Background:
- Full-time real estate investor
- 10 years of real estate investing experience
- Syndicated 1,300 units in five states
- Based in Boston, MA
- Say hi to him at: www.velocitycap.com
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Joe Fairless: Best Ever listeners, how are you doing? Welcome to the Best Real Estate Investing Advice Ever Show. I’m Joe Fairless. This is the world’s longest-running daily real estate investing podcast, where we only talk about the best advice ever, we don’t get into any of the fluffy stuff. And first off, hope you’re having the best ever weekend. Because today is Saturday, we’ve got a special segment for you called Situation Saturday, where today’s guest is going to talk about a challenging situation that he was in, and how he overcame it and worked through it, so that if you happen to come across this situation, you will have a playbook for what works, and perhaps what doesn’t work too. I’m sure there were some things that didn’t work, and we’ll talk about that.
So with us today, I’ll stop talking about him like he’s not here – Steeve Breton. How are you doing, Steeve?
Steeve Breton: Doing great. Pleasure to be back on the show.
Joe Fairless: Well, a pleasure to have you back. A little bit about Steeve—he has real estate experience of 10 years now, he’s syndicated 1300 units in five states, based in Boston, and you can check out his website, velocitycap.com.
So do you want to first—actually, you know what? Let’s just jump into the situation. So with Situation Saturday, we always want to hear about a challenging situation you were in and how you overcame it, so that we can then apply those lessons if we come across it. So what’s the situation you want to talk about?
Steeve Breton: The situation is, you know, having worked a corporate life, the 9-5 W-2 job for a long time, looking for financial freedom, I’ve found that through real estate; I became a full-time real estate investor, which — it’s part-time, it’s not full time. And then I was like, “Okay, now what do I do?” You can only play so much golf or whatever your other hobbies are. My friends were all working, and it’s like, “What’s my purpose? Why am I here? Why do I have all this freedom?” And along with the financial rewards that come with investing. And so figuring that out has been a challenge and it’s an ongoing process.
Joe Fairless: So what are some questions that you were asking yourself?
Steeve Breton: Just the overall purpose – why am I one of the lucky people that gets to be in the position that I’m in right now? That one is a big one; it’s almost like I felt guilty at first about being able to work 20 hours a week, when I used to work 60 hours, and I used to have this commute into town and all the craziness that went with that, not seeing my kids… And then it’s like, all that went away, and I feel like I ought to be doing more to help others, either to achieve what I’ve achieved or help in some other way.
Joe Fairless: So you decided, “Okay, time to leave.” What are some practical things that you did right out of the gate that helped put the wheels in motion?
Steeve Breton: So the first thing was kind of the easiest – there was a local food pantry here. So I just went over and asked them how I could help. And so I started to volunteer there. Some of that was food deliveries, then there was stocking shelves and doing that sort of thing. I realized that organization was actually much larger; they do job training and help with resumes and help keep people in their homes, especially with COVID now, that’s been a big one… So the organization as a whole was pretty interesting. And after a bit of volunteer work, I was like, “Okay, I could still do a lot more. I’ve got all this corporate experience and investing experience.” So I joined the board of directors, ended up on the Finance Committee, the Investment Committee… So that filled a bit of that void for me and helped me feel like I’m really giving back and doing a lot more. But again, like I said, it’s still a journey. There’s certainly more to do.
Joe Fairless: How much real estate experience did you have when you left?
Steeve Breton: I had a couple of years of initially starting off with just buying two family, three family properties in my local area. And then—
Joe Fairless: In Boston?
Steeve Breton: In Boston, yep. Around Boston. I got tired of that. And also having the big job that I had and three kids and I was coaching soccer and hockey… I realized that I should probably look at some more passive investment. I can’t continue to grow my active investments where I’m actually the landlord. So I started to invest passively in some private placements or syndications. And as I learned how that worked, I invested more and more, and I became very interested in putting all of my money in syndications to grow that passive income. And it went from a goal of initially being able to eventually retire someday to “I want to become financially free” to the point where I had so much passive income coming in that I was like, “Okay, I think I’m there. I can actually leave my job if I wanted to.” And then that turned into a bit of passion in 2017, where I said, “Okay, when I leave my job, I need to have something else” and that turned into being a syndication sponsor. So actually being the general partner on some of these investments. I did about 10 of those in about 2.5 years’ time.
Joe Fairless: After you left or while you still had your job?
Steeve Breton: Oh, yeah, so two years into that is when I left the job.
Joe Fairless: Two years into having already syndicated deals?
Steeve Breton: Right. I was kind of building that business and working the job at the same time. So my life went from crazy to extra crazy for a couple of years while I did the two. And then it all came to just like, “Oh my God, I have so much time on my hands”, once I left the job.
Joe Fairless: Right. It’s interesting, because you decided to have — as you said, it went from crazy to extra crazy, because you had a full-time job, and then you have even two full-time jobs, basically. So how were you able to manage having basically two full-time jobs?
Steeve Breton: It was nutty. The biggest thing that I struggled with there, which I guess could be another situation, is feeling like I’m putting in the effort at work and earning that paycheck that the company was paying me; having the integrity of “Okay, I’m here. I need to be working” and then knowing that during lunch breaks, before work, after work, after dinner, whatever it is, I was putting in all the time I needed to build the business and trying to keep some boundaries… Which wasn’t always easy, especially if I was right in the middle of getting a deal done or an investor needed to have a quick call. I’d be ducking into conference rooms; it never really felt right, but I did my best to kind of manage those two things and really earn my keep at work. And truly, at the time I needed that job, too. I couldn’t afford to lose it.
So the best part about that is what I did leave, people were shocked. They had absolutely no idea that I had this side hustle going, which just means I did a good job of trying to do the right thing there.
Joe Fairless: Is that what you would suggest to others who are in a position where they’re wanting to get out of the full-time job eventually, to start the business now and do it in the background and basically test drive it?
Steeve Breton: I think so. Again, I can only speak to my own experience, but I think if you go and leave your job, particularly if you have a wife and kids and a mortgage and all the things that we have these days, it’s taking a big risk that “What if it doesn’t work out?” or what if it doesn’t take off quite as quickly as you thought it might? So being able to do that test drive, literally having a side hustle which you can ramp up or down as you need to, depending on what else is going on in life or in your regular job…
So that first year, that’s what I was doing, I was kind of ramping up and down. If I had a big project at work, I would have to kind of slow things down in the real estate side. But then in the second year, it was full guns blazing real estate, because I had proven it to myself; I felt super confident, did a couple of deals, had investors lined up… And at the end of that second year was when I knew, if I keep this up, I will not be able to put in the time that I need to or the focus at work, which isn’t fair to them, and that’s when I gave notice.
Joe Fairless: What are some other tips you have for people who are thinking about making the transition from W-2 to full-time real estate investor?
Steeve Breton: The first thing that comes to mind when you say that is being certain that your spouse or significant other, if you have one, is 100% on board with what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. So at first, my wife was like, “Oh, that’s cute; you’re going to buy a two-family and have a little extra income.” And then I had three or four of them, which was okay. And then it was, “Okay, I’m plowing a bunch of money into these passive investments. I’m going to stop putting money into my 401(k).” So it kind of grew more and more, focused on the real estate side.
But when I started to talk about leaving my job, going full-time real estate – that was a little bit nerve-racking, because that represents some level of risk. What we had was a pretty comfortable lifestyle, and you know, things were pretty good with a 9-5, even though I didn’t love it.
So making sure that your significant other is 100% on board, because when you’re working late nights and weekends and putting in all this time, they should know why. So sharing that vision of, “Here’s what I think life is going to look like in two years, three years, five years, if we continue down this track”, versus if I can build this different business.
Joe Fairless: It’s interesting, sharing the vision of, “Here’s what I think life would look like.”
Steeve Breton: Yeah, that was huge. Even for me. If I didn’t have that vision, which took a while for me to even kind of develop that… What does it look like to be financially free? How much more travel can we do once our kids are off to college? How much can we give back to the community? And that sort of thing. And even that vision continues to evolve. But knowing what’s possible out there just makes all that extra effort, that extra 20 hours a week I was working or 30 hours – all of it was worthwhile, knowing what life was going to be like.
Joe Fairless: What are some components of a vision like that? For someone who thinks “Oh, Steeve, I love that idea. Now, what should I include in that vision?”
Steeve Breton: So I always try to break that out into personal, and then my family life. So what does my marriage look like? What sort of a father am I? That sort of thing. And then the third one is around financial aspects of work, and that kind of thing. And the fourth is always around giving back and helping community, and that sort of thing. So I’ll literally break out individual goals in each one of those things. While the financial peace is a huge driver of it, I try not to let that be the number one. Number one to me is always going to be family.
Joe Fairless: How does that play into, “Hey, I should leave my W-2 job and do syndication full-time, and here’s the benefit for the family”? Because I would think — and I understand where you could go with it, but I’d love to hear you talk about it… Because the contrarian perspective is — so the family is, “We’re going to be on an uncertain ground, because you’re leaving, and it’s not a consistent reliable income right now, and we’re all going to be stressed out. So we could then get foreclosed on and live on the streets and be – not volunteering at the food pantry, but be in line for the food.”
Steeve Breton: Exactly. We’re going to lose our health insurance and—
Joe Fairless: Exactly.
Steeve Breton: Right.
Joe Fairless: So can you talk about that?
Steeve Breton: Yeah. So I heard on a podcast once, it was a story about somebody who’s parents were sick, and they lived across the country… And the person couldn’t get the time off of work to go be with them. And eventually, I think was the mom – she died of cancer. And while they had siblings that were closer to mom at the time, this particular person felt horrible, and it was like one of the biggest regrets in life that they couldn’t be there. And the only thing that stopped them was their job. They just couldn’t afford to take the time off unpaid.
So that really resonated with me, as I have aging parents, and my wife’s parents are aging as well… But heaven forbid anything happened to any of us, my kids, my siblings… Who’s going to be there? And I want to be the one who could say, “Literally, I can drop everything at the drop of a hat and be there.” And not only from a flexibility and freedom perspective, from a time freedom, but also financially. There’s really no one in our family that had very much money, and in times of crisis, money doesn’t fix everything, but it certainly helps. So I want to be also the person who can step up and do what I can, with a dollar, or many of them, if needed.
Joe Fairless: Anything else that we should talk about as it relates to transitioning from W-2 to a full-time in real estate that we haven’t talked about already?
Steeve Breton: Yeah… Not acting out of desperation. Because I think once people get this idea in their heads, that they’re going to change into real estate or into some other business or something… Being very clear about what good looks like, not settling for less. So coming to real estate, specifically, I was underwriting a lot of deals… I desperately wanted to get into a deal with someone. I knew that was going to be the best way for me to learn, to be a general partner in a deal with somebody who has been doing this for a long time. And I looked at a lot of things that didn’t really look great, but I was very tempted to do them anyway. Fortunately, I didn’t; something really good came along early on enough that I never succumbed to that temptation. But I can see definitely how people can do it. So I’d say just be super careful about that, stick to your guns, take your time. Again, it’s well worth it, it just — you’ve got to put in the time and wait for the right thing.
Joe Fairless: How can the Best Ever listeners learn more about what you’re doing?
Steeve Breton: The easiest thing to do is to go to my website, which is velocitycap.com, that’s short for Velocity Capital. You can see all about me, connect with me there, learn about some real estate things while you’re at it…
Joe Fairless: Steeve, thanks for being on the show, talking about your transition, the lessons learned, what worked, some things that didn’t work and—well, did we talk about anything that didn’t work? What didn’t work on your transition?
Steeve Breton: On the transition – well, the bit of advice I gave about keeping your spouse on board, and making sure they understand you. I pushed it really hard before I learned that lesson.
Joe Fairless: Ah…! [laughs]
Steeve Breton: Yeah. At some point, she was like, “Who are you?” Because I had changed a lot. I had visions and goals, and I was a hard driver. Not that I wasn’t some of those things earlier, but it was like times 10. It was like I was going to a Tony Robbins’ session every week, which you can do with podcasts and things. So I was on fire.
Joe Fairless: Yep.
Steeve Breton: But if she doesn’t understand that fire or why you have it or where you’re going with it, it could be a little scary.
Joe Fairless: Thank you for sharing that. And yeah, it’s like someone does 30 jumping jacks and then the other person has been sitting in a room with no stimulation, and they meet… It’s just not going to be an alignment of energy, and you’re going to have to somehow come away with some common ground and figure that out. So it makes sense.
Well, thanks for being on the show and sharing this advice for Best Ever listeners who are thinking of transitioning from a W-2 to full-time in real estate. Hope you have a best ever weekend and talk to you again soon.
Steeve Breton: Thanks, Joe.
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