7 Unexpected Ways to Improve Your Wealth
My Experience With MLM & Real Estate Investing
Last Thursday was a day of change. A 23 month long chapter now closed. The month is 5, the day was 23, which is also 5. That day was a day of change. Let me share with you why.
Younger me was a risk taker, a daredevil, a hungry, naive wannabe entrepreneur . I joined an MLM in my twenties, and again in my thirties. First it was WorldVentures, because who can’t sell travel? It’s what everyone wants, especially with the bubble of baby boomers soon to be retiring. Then in my early 30s, I joined Powur, a solar company, because who can’t sell solar power? I couldn’t/didn’t. One of the lines said at MLM meetings that has stuck as a threaded motivating factor: If you don’t have an extra $300 to join right now, that’s more reason for you to join this right now. The meaning of this is, most people go to those meetings to improve their life get out of their financial pickle of being broke all the dang time. As an aside, most Americans can’t access an extra $500 in an emergency situation, like a flat tire or other life surprise.
“If you don’t have an extra $300 right now … if you can’t make a $300 decision without your spouse …”
How often have you been in that position? Recently? Not so recently? These are common lines used to make the awareness more prevalent around the fact that you’re there to join something to improve your financial life, if you simply follow the steps of the program you’re being sold and hustle your booty off starting with selling it to everyone you know when you leave that meeting.
I took a 3 day real estate investor training seminar in December 2016, and you know what’s coming next. I signed up for the $20,000 inner circle membership level networking and education group thingy ma-bobber. Please note: I did not have a free floating $20,000 to throw down. I declined the heave pressured invitation with the response “The gentleman conducting the training just said “there’s no barrier to entry” into this program, and now you’re showing me 3 options, the least costly of which is twenty grand.” I was then hurriedly persuaded to take out a 401(k) loan because lots of others do it, and we’d completed an application with all our assets and previous accomplishments, and it seemed like a program in which I could navigate to be successful. I signed up, nervous, with excitement mixed with buyer’s remorse like oil and vinegar.
At first, it was great. I was meeting new people, learning new strategies in an industry I had essentially zero experience in, aside from renting my personal residences as an adult. My justification for this was - it would pay for itself with the completion of my first deal, and it was more exciting - and more lucrative - than going for my MBA.
In the MLMs, I didn’t lose much, overall. It was a couple thousand dollars all said and done, and over the span of several years. However, in real estate, in one of the best markets in the country, I’ve lost, and this is what I can account for out of pocket: ~$40,000. I’m including half of that as the $20k to join the group and the other $20k is lost flipping two properties, and some educational expenses (read: trips). These figures exclude opportunity costs, interests and stock market gains that would have happened had that money been left alone to start with.
I don’t know about you, but forty thousand dollars is a material impact to my overall life’s state of wealth, and one that will make an impact on my mind and heart for years, if not decades to come. Much can be said for taking risks, for learning, for diving in without knowing everything but knowing people that do, networking into an environment where I had no previous connections, and trying something new. At the end of the day, it simply sucks.
I’m not here to discount what MLMs can do for people - they are positively and genuinely life changing for some. I’m also not writing this to discount or bash real estate investor groups that charge thousands to join their version of an inner circle, with exclusive content and events to members. For many, these pay off infinitely in friendships, business partnerships and investments. There are profitable deals made, networks expanded and as we all know, your network is your net worth.
For me, I signed up, I joined, I went to the meetings, I gave it a good enough try, and it will take a helluva lot of work to bring my financial status back to the pre-hard-lessons-learned decisions status, but as with all other hard lessons learned, it will be worth it, in some way or another. I’ve learned so much, from the 2 and a half years of this most recent journey and want to share these lessons with you:
Never submit to sales pressure, no matter how “good” of a deal they’re pushing. I say this, as a previous, and technically current since I have my own business, sales person. If it’s the right time, the right price and the right place, with the right people, and the right company, then go for it. If you can afford to spend the money and it’s something you want, do it. If you can’t and you don’t, don’t. This goes for houses, cars, shoes, meals, gambling, purses, jewelry, you name it. Don’t succumb to the faux-sense of urgency salespeople are paid to create, if it’s not right for you. The short term good deal could very well be a long term wealth depreciator.
Don’t take money from your retirement account, before you retire. Just don’t. The stock market has been trending upwards, with its ups and downs of course, since it was started. There’s nothing worth the hundreds of thousands, or better yet - millions, your future balances will have, if you take that out now. Find another way to solve the problem at hand. I cashed out two smallish ones in my twenties, and shouldn’t have. I’ve also taken out two 401(k) loans, and again - should not have done that. Unless you’ve hit the lottery, or have a guaranteed much better retirement plan for yourself, leave the money in the safer place and move along.
If you don’t have money to lose, you don’t have money to invest. There is risk in everything, and the upside of that risk is sometimes quite provocative and lucrative. The downside is you could lose what you’ve put in, in time and money, plus more, depending on the situation and circumstances.
Know your responsibilities. No matter the relationship with the other party you’re entering a deal or contract with, put everything in writing, so both parties know responsibilities, duties and benefits of the outcome. Whether it’s monetary, action, material or another medium, define the major points, and account for what happens if it goes awry.
What’s in it for you? Be sure you can answer this before proceeding. And: What’s the worst case scenario, and are you prepared for it? We often chase through life to better our situations, whether it’s financial, emotional, relationshipal, geographical, or otherwise. For me, joining MLMs and a real estate investor group was a path to wealth, with the network and education as the foundation of support that was bought into. While these are tremendously valuable, my dedication and perhaps lack of follow through and consistency on the uncomfortable actions of asking people to come to a meeting, or the 60+ marketing strategies were certainly my ultimate demise in these paths. I also always had the thought “is this where I’ll meet my one true love?” Spoiler alert: it wasn’t. We met on OKCupid.
Trust your intuition. You know better than anyone what is right for you, your life, your health and your wealth. We all have a deep connection, a gut connection, to the higher powers of God, the Universe, Allah, infinite wisdom, whatever you refer to our creator as. Get still, listen to your inner voice and go with what feels good.
Work with who makes you feel good. When’s the last time you took time to get to know someone? Really get to know them, ask about their children, their family, their dreams, their passions, their challenges, not just a surfaced “how are you, we’re so glad you’re here” sort of interaction. I can tell you the people that have done this in my life are the ones I am fiercely loyal to, and could also call if ever in a pinch.
My goals, plans, hopes, dreams and intentions with my life coaching business are to help others improve their states of health and wealth. I believe all roads in life flow into one or both of these buckets, and my boiled down advice to improve your state of wealth when it comes to things that seem too good to be true: they are. Don’t put yourself into a pickle hoping to get a feast later on, when you need that pickle for your burger on your plate.
Book recommendation: I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi