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A 25-year-old who earns $4,700 a month in passive income from real estate says he took 5 steps to buy his first property

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Cody Berman owns a total of 11 rental units.

  • Cody Berman learned about real estate investing at 19. After college, he bought his first property.
  • He saved and invested in index funds to grow his money, and lived frugally to keep expenses down.
  • He also picked up many side hustles, and bought his properties strategically.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

When Cody Berman was a college senior, he got the idea that he wouldn't have to work for anyone if he could find a passive income stream. His golden ticket to financial freedom came by way of real estate investing.

Berman, who is now 25, brings in $4,700 a month in passive income from his four rental properties. He took six steps to reach financial independence.

1. He learned what he could about real estate investing

When Berman was 19, he was introduced to real estate investing through the corporate world. He took an internship with a private equity company that specialized in buy-and-hold commercial real estate investing. The year after, he interned at a bank doing commercial real estate lending.

While these two internships weren't directly related to residential real estate investing, they helped build a foundation of financial and investing basics. "At that point, real estate was more of an abstraction than something I could actually use in my own personal finance journey," says Berman, who is based in Massachusetts and is the co-host of The FI Show.

It wasn't until his senior year of college that Berman dove headfirst into learning about financial independence; after that, the idea that he too could become a real estate investor seemed feasible. He consumed everything he could on creating passive income – podcasts, personal blogs, YouTube videos – and investing in rental properties kept coming up again and again.

2. He spent a lot of time researching properties

When Berman started looking at rental properties, the first thing he did was work with his real estate agent to set up auto alerts. To narrow his search, he set specific criteria. For instance, the properties had to have at least two units, be under $300,00, and be located in certain counties. Berman would get email notifications every time new properties popped up that met his criteria.

Berman spent dozens of hours analyzing different towns, looking at the price versus rent ratios, and doing a bunch of number-crunching and analysis to pin down exactly where he wanted to start investing. "Rather than randomly scouring Zillow or Realtor.com, it was a fantastic way of finding new potential properties," says Berman.

3. He saved aggressively

Berman saved as much as he could for a down payment on his four rental properties. Within three years, he saved and invested the majority of what he needed – a grand sum of $170,000. He invested the majority in Vanguard index funds, and tucked away about $10,000 in an Ally high-yield savings account. As he was investing primarily in index funds, he benefited from market appreciation, and the money he saved grew.

During those three years, Berman worked in commercial real estate lending, which earned him an average of $80,000 to $85,000 a year. Seven months into his first job, though, he quit to go full throttle with his entrepreneurial pursuits. The first year on his own, Berman raked in $70,000, and eventually got his yearly earnings up to $130,000.



Berman didn't set specific savings goals. He just shoveled away as much money as he possibly could in case an opportunity presented itself. "I honestly didn't have real estate in mind specifically when I was saving all that money," says Berman. "It just seemed like a fantastic vehicle for passive income, so I capitalized on the opportunity."

4. He side hustled

Besides saving his earnings from his day job, Berman did everything he could to make an extra dollar. He started side hustling during college and continued about a year after graduation. He averaged about $1,200 a month in side-hustle income.

He built websites, did some freelance writing, podcast and video editing, organized a book tour, and tried his hand at affiliate marketing. During the summer, he worked odd jobs, like buffing boats, sampling alcohol, and some yard work.

Now, as a serial entrepreneur, Berman has dipped his toes in everything from helping found a platform that teaches others to successfully side hustle, selling his own designs and templates on Etsy, and co-founding a disc golf manufacturing company, all of which bring in additional passive income.

5. He cut back on expenses

To save for his rental properties, he made the gap between his income and expenses as wide a possible. "This gap is everything," says Berman. "It will allow you to invest in assets that will pay you without having to trade your time for money."

To save for his four rental properties, which add up to 11 rental units total (not including the one he currently lives in), he lived modestly and didn't care for a flashy new car. He cooked at home most of the time, and was extremely careful about his spending.

This helped him free up more cash to put toward his savings. In turn, he bought all four properties, which are located in Massachusetts and Connecticut, within a year. "Although I bought them all within the same year, those savings had been accruing since college," says Berman.

For those who would like to achieve financial independence, Berman recommends saving aggressively so that you can keep the "income-expenses gap" wide. "While you're young and flexible, do everything you can possibly do to keep this gap as wide as possible. By no means am I saying lock yourself in a room, never go on vacation, and never see your friends, but there's always a craftier and cheaper option," he says.

The more of a gap that you can create, the more money you'll have to invest, and the earlier you'll have the option to "retire" on your passive income. Or at least just do whatever you want to do with your life.

Related Content Module: More Investing Coverage

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A 29-year-old turned her quarantine hobby into a jewelry business beloved by models and a 'Bachelor' star. Here's how she spends her day.

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Charlotte Alden
Charlotte Alden

  • Charlotte Alden is the founder of jewelry company lottie, which she started after losing her job last year.
  • Models and celebrities are already sporting her handmade designs.
  • To Insider, Alden gives a behind-the-scenes look at running a jewelry brand as the category heats up.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Charlotte Alden was working as an art specialist at an auction house when COVID-19 reached the US and shuttered roughly 200,000 businesses. She lost her job and struggled to find another, so she bought a bead kit on Amazon and launched her own jewelry company in October.

"It's never been more feasible to start an e-commerce company," said Alden, founder of fine jewelry startup lottie, which already counts model Nina Agdal and "The Bachelor's" Hannah Goodwin as fans. Alden crafts all the jewelry, including $150 body chains and $70 bracelets.

Alden is one of 4 million people who started businesses in 2020, a 24% increase from the year prior. What's more, she entered a thriving market: The global jewelry market is growing and expected to reach a value of $292 billion by 2025. Despite just getting started, lottie is on track to book nearly six figures in revenue within the next year and Alden said average monthly revenue has risen 50% year-to-date, according to documents viewed by Insider.

Alden said practicing discipline was vital when turning her hobby into a thriving business. This includes running every morning and going to bed at the same time every night. For Insider, Alden breaks down how she structures her day so she can execute on her ideas and find balance in her life.

She wakes up at 7:30 p.m.

Lottie jewelry
Lottie

After waking up, Alden immediately checks her phone. She responds to unanswered text messages, skims through her email, and checks lottie’s Instagram, which already has 16,000 followers.

“It’s a bad habit, I know,” said Alden, who shuffles between her parents’ house on Martha’s Vineyard, where she keeps her inventory, and her boyfriend’s apartment in Manhattan to save money.

Phone still in hand, she makes herself a double espresso and checks Shopify to see if the company made any new sales since the day before. That wouldn’t be unrealistic for lottie: In the past 90 days, lottie’s web traffic increased by 129%.

Alden is lottie’s sole employee but she’s still able to plan a new collection and collaborations, including ones with significant properties like Palm Beach Historic Inn and Hudson Chatham Winery. 

“lottie’s success and failure is my responsibility,” she said. “But another aspect of maintaining balance is never getting too high, and never getting too low.”

At 9 a.m., she prepares for the workday

Lottie jewelry swimwear collection
Swimsuit collaboration lottie just finished with sustainable swimwear brand Ricki Rum.

Alden puts her phone down to exercise, which helps her maintain a healthy mindset and balanced routine. Then she’ll shower, have breakfast, and ship prepackaged lottie orders from USPS. 

“If I don’t get out the orders first thing, I never end up making it to the post office that day,” she said, noting that she’ll get consumed by her inbox. 

Once she’s home, she begins working on lottie’s social media strategy, using Instagram management app UNUM to plan posts weeks in advance. Around 10 a.m., she’ll start taking phone calls and chatting with suppliers, customers, and potential brand collaborators.

Sourcing materials and planning collaborations take up her afternoon

Lottie collaboration with Break the Love
Lottie collaboration with Break the Love

Alden officially starts her workday around 11 a.m. when she speaks with her manufacturers about sourcing elements for her jewelry. Finding the necessary raw materials is one of Alden’s biggest challenges and she often has to purchase goods from multiple suppliers in order to make one necklace. 

Before breaking for lunch, she meets with a consultant to plan other brand collaborations. In addition to the partnerships with physical properties, Alden is making a tennis bracelet for the Adidas-backed sports company Break the Love. 

Alden is also planning to open lottie pop-up locations this summer. Previous versions were in Brooklyn, Miami, and East Hampton; future ones will be in Manhattan, Palm Beach, and on Martha’s Vineyard.

The remainder of the day is reserved for making jewelry

Jewelry by lottie
Jewelry handmade by Charlotte Alden for lottie

After scarfing down lunch, Alden spends the rest of her day making jewelry. It can take her between five minutes and one hour to make a piece, but the key is keeping her materials neat, she said. 

“Every little bead or crimp can get so expensive,” she said. “It’s important to stay organized and not lose anything.” 

Alden taught herself how to make jewelry through trial and error, learning about semi-precious gemstones and the difference between gold-plated and gold-filled, she said. “There’s a lot more that goes into it besides stringing beads,” she added. 

When she completes a piece, she photographs it for Instagram. She’ll also send press boxes to celebrities, like Charli D’Amelio and Emma Chamberlain, in the hopes that they will share them with their followers.

Getting enough sleep sets the tone for tomorrow

Charlotte Alden
Charlotte Alden

Around 7 p.m., Alden showers, dons her pajamas, and takes her work to the couch. 

Despite the change in scenery, she’ll continue crafting jewelry, making social content, and packaging the orders she’ll send the following morning. 

Even if she’s not tired, she’ll stop working at 10 p.m. and tuck herself into bed. “Getting a good night’s sleep can determine my entire day,” she said.

Then she wakes up and does it all again tomorrow.

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9 Reasons Why You Should Consider an Entrepreneurial Career

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If you are looking for a change of career, becoming an entrepreneur and running your own business could be a great option. 

There are so many reasons to start your own business and before you sign on for the next predictable 9-to-5 job, consider what you could do for yourself to improve your career prospects and your financial prospects by running your own business instead. 

An Exciting Career

Running your own business could be an exciting career choice that leaves you feeling fulfilled with the satisfaction of seeing that your hard work has paid off with success and profit. 

Whether you are into social enterprise, home services, or manufacturing and selling your own products, there are plenty of opportunities to choose from and to be creative in how you build your business. 

Being your own boss offers you the opportunity to work the way you want to work and allows you to take an individual approach to projects and tasks that are important to your business. 

Whether you are a budding engineer eager to start your own business or just looking to make money on the side, this list will help you make your mind up.

You Are Your Own Boss

One of the biggest reasons for becoming self-employed is to be your own boss and thankfully there are lots of options for people who want to be their own boss; being an entrepreneur nowadays is easier than ever. 

There are a lot of options available for people who want to be their own boss, such as running a simple blog, start-up, or even service business such as coaching or becoming a lawyer and running your own practice. 

No matter what you do, the opportunity is yours to grab and to make a success of. 

With the right amount of determination and enthusiasm coupled with a decent idea, almost anyone can find success in being their own boss.

Time Freedom

Having the option of working from home and having some time freedom is another plus side to being your own boss – whether you work all week or not at all, the choice is yours. 

Running your own business can also allow you to take time off for holidays, short breaks, or even time out to rest and recuperate from the hectic lifestyle of modern-day life.

Work-Life Balance

By choosing to become self-employed, you can establish a much better work-life balance. 

By being your own boss, you can allocate time for yourself when you want to spend time with friends and family or take part in hobbies or interests that you would not have had the chance to do if working for someone else.

Multiple Income Streams

As an entrepreneur, you have the opportunity of having multiple different income streams that can create a healthy balance in your bank account. 

Multitasking is encouraged as a self-employed business owner; you have multiple ways of earning money from your business according to what works for you and your business. 

This helps to create a much healthier lifestyle and a more comfortable financial situation.

Being your own boss offers you the freedom to dedicate time to what really matters to you such as professional development, education, hobbies and family. 

You Could Have A Flexible Schedule

If you are a busy person, running your own business could be the answer to having a flexible schedule. With offices or workstations being less visible than before, there is now more flexibility. 

Your company could be located in a different part of the country than where you live, and you could still have the opportunity to work from home as long as your Internet connectivity is sufficient.

Thanks to the global health pandemic, working remotely is becoming a more regular option with companies becoming used to staff working from home or anywhere else they have an Internet connection.

Flexible working hours are becoming the norm and flexibility is prized above all else when it comes to employees who want a successful career, and there is no reason why you should not take advantage of that mindset change as an entrepreneur.

Working With Like-Minded People

Working from home can sometimes feel isolating, and it is great to be able to work with like-minded people when you are self-employed. 

Even if you hire employees to work for you, a workplace of like-minded entrepreneurs and self-starters is always a positive experience. Working with like-minded people will always inspire you to new heights and encourage your creativity.

If you are running solo in your career, collaborating with others or joining a coworking environment is a great way to improve your work productivity while meeting others who have a similar situation to you.

You Are Your Own Supervisor

Being your own boss means that no one else can tell you what to do or when to do it. You are your own supervisor and have complete control over how your business works, what direction it takes, and when things get done.

Running your own business means that you are in charge. No one else is in charge of telling you how to do things and how long things need to take.

One of the most rewarding careers is one that gives you the opportunity to take control of your own destiny and work in a position where you are able to work for yourself, set your own hours, and have the flexibility to work.

You Have More Freedom to be Creative

In a corporate job, it can sometimes feel like you are just a small cog in the machinery that is your company. 

Creative freedom is something that is not really present in many corporate jobs, but being able to decide how you run your business is a massive opportunity for an entrepreneur who wants creative freedom.

With the freedom to be creative and make yourself stand out from the crowd, being self-employed can open up a huge number of doors for you.

Having A Job That Fits With Your Values

Many people are choosing to go into business for themselves because they want the freedom to do what they love and make a difference in the world. Many want to have a job that reflects their values and being self-employed means you are not limited to one company or job description.

Being able to reflect your values into your work is a great way of making sure that you never have a boring day at work, it is something that will pay you back ten times over in terms of satisfaction.

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Starting Your Own Business After Military Service

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The average age that American military personnel retire is 46.8 years old. After a full career of service, for many veterans the question is – what’s next? This is the ideal time to think about starting your own business and pursuing your passions in life. You can be your own boss, set your own hours and kickstart a new future for you and your family.

When you are starting your own business however, it is important to find your own niche market and develop your ideas. It is virtually impossible to compete with the conglomerate giants, but if you have a great idea that is realistic and manageable, you can build a successful business after military service. 

Funding your business

To get your business up and running, you are going to need startup funds. It may be that you have accumulated savings during your years of service, but if you haven’t, there are still ways to get your business off the ground. A Hero Loan is a VA loan program that is designed specifically for veterans and military families.

This type of home loan could give you the capital that you need to fund your business. Kickstarter is another popular option for raising business capital, but you will need to have a clear vision that you can market to the masses, showing that you have an investable product or service. Successful companies that were built using Kickstarter include Oculus, Pebble and M3D. 

Get some great advice

If you are new to the business world, it is a good idea to get some advice and mentorship to help develop your business plans. There are many free programs for veterans that can help you to succeed and thrive. In fact research done by Experian has found that businesses that are owned by veterans have greater sustainability and longevity than non-veteran-owned businesses. The Reboot program is open to all veterans and their spouses and can help you get to grips with entrepreneurial business concepts and fundamentals. VETRN helps to train new small business owners, completely free of charge, so if you’re on a tight budget, this is a great program to get involved in. 

Developing your ideas

Even if you are completely new to the world of business, the average veteran has a wealth of life experience and an understanding of the community that you can build on. Look around your local community and see what they need – it’s a simple concept – find a need and then fill it. You can then start creating a business plan to incorporate your goals, service or product development and financial projections. It will help to develop market surveys and take part in competitive analysis to help bring your niche business ideas into fruition. 

After military service, there can be a great career ahead of you, developing your own business. With some startup funding and a mentorship program, you can work towards turning your business into a thriving, successful enterprise.  

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