A Life Pursuing Real Estate

After being laid off from his job, John Young is shifting to a career managing properties

When John Young was downsized from his job last year, he didn’t throw a pity party. He seized the opportunity to pursue his passion, and it could very well lead to his prosperity. In May 2003, Young was let go from his position as assistant to the president of the American Medical Association, a job he had held for nearly a decade. Initially, the single 34-year-old, who has no children, didn’t even look for a job because, quite frankly, he was tired. Not only had Young been working his 9-to-5, but when he purchased an apartment building five years ago, he became a landlord. And, in his “spare time” he worked as a disc jockey at parties, weddings, and nightclubs. The layoff left him with a severance package worth two months of his $48,000 salary, and plenty of time to think.

“I took a minute to catch my breath,” says Young. He had the luxury of taking a break before beginning his job search, since his eight-unit Chicago apartment building was bringing in $4,000 in monthly rental income. He also began collecting unemployment, and his DJ business chipped in about $3,000 a year. The slower pace, and the peace and quiet, agreed with him. So he decided to pursue purchasing more rental properties as his primary source of income.

Young’s practical side has moved him to look, at least casually, for another full-time administrative position. But since the end of last year, most of his enthusiasm has been channeled into hunting for another building. “I’ll definitely have another building before the year is out,” Young says with optimism.

Such spirit shows that Young is determined and disciplined — and so does the way he manages his money. He has $40,000 in a savings account waiting to be used as a down payment on a new building. He also has $12,000 in a checking account; $40,000 in a 401(k) account from his previous employer; $21,000 in a mutual fund; $2,000 in an IRA; and $23,000 in an emergency fund, should something unexpected crop up with his property. In just five years’ time, he’s whittled down the amount he owes on a $150,000 loan, taken out to rehabilitate his first building, to $58,000. And he has no debt outside of his mortgage.

What’s his secret? “I don’t spend frivolously. I don’t buy the latest gadgets, or $500 suits, or go out to dinner five times a week,” says Young, who adds with a laugh, “I was born this way.” It helps too, he says, that he was too busy working his full-time job, handling much of the maintenance at his apartment building, and landing gigs to have the time to spend his money.

Peering some five years into the future, Young sees himself married with children and the owner of five buildings. As for a full-time position in corporate America, says Young: “I’m not saying never, but if I do go back, I want it to be by choice rather than by necessity.”

The Advice
To assess Young’s financial

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