My Journey into a Million Dollars of Rental Home Debt

rental home

My Journey into a Million Dollars of Rental Home Debt

Part 1 of Series

Here I was, 13 – 14 years into a good job, making good money and I realized I had a passion for real estate. Afterall, I had moved several times with my company, bought a few houses and read / studied quite a bit about rental homes.  So why not become a landlord?

At the time, most of the books on real estate (even today) talk about leveraging other people’s money (OPP). Put as little down as you can and use the bank’s money to grow your investments.  After much investigating, it made sense. My 5k to their 70k and I make money on the full 75k. Sign me up!

I was smart (so I thought). I drove many neighborhoods and finally picked the perfect place. Homes were a little older but good deals and a quiet, safe environment. By leveraging money I had in my stock plans, I was able to pick up 9 houses in this neighborhood in 4 years. BAMM! I was set for my future.

real estate up

If only I would have stopped. Real Estate was going up, I convinced myself I needed more. If mistake#1 was borrowing money from a bank, then mistake #2 was venturing to new areas of the state (and out of state). I picked up 5 more properties outside of my “sweet spot”.  At the height of my stupidness I owned 3 out of state properties, my personal residence and 14 in my state. Debt out my eyeballs.

You see, contrary to what people think, rentals cost a lot more to maintain than you think. What little profit you might make goes toward other vacant homes or repairs. The more was not better. It actually made it worse as now I was always fighting repairs or vacancy.  Money was sinking fast. But darn I was having fun and being stupid and it was costing me.

I woke up with way over a million dollars in debt on homes I was losing money on and the market was about to tank. Hold on everyone, the ride was just beginning…..




Yahoo! – Knocked Out Another One


Celebrate the wins!

Yahoo! I knocked out one of my bills.  Part of my debt snowball has been about $13,000 in medical bills. I just paid off one of them finally. Granted he was a little guy but he counts! Even better… after all these months, the total medical is finally under the $10,000 mark. Yep, $9.980.  LOL.   But hey, it all counts!

Now I snowball to the next next guy. He was bigger but he is slowly getting down as well. One day, I’ll tackle that big sucker lurkering around the corner. For now though, he can just eat a cookie and wait his turn.

Snoopy Dance for now…. Tomorrow we start more digging….. Out of Debt that is!


Hanging in There…. Debt will NOT Win!

Hang in there

Whatever you do… Don’t Let Go!

Well I’ve been telling my story and before I get into the next phase of it, I thought I’d update those cool little graphs I put in my widgets. This way you (and I) can be reminded of how far I have come. The way I see it, if I can hang in there, so can you.

I’ve noticed when we focus on where we are, we forget where we started. Kind of like climbing a mountain and seeing the peek so far off you get discouraged until you look down and see how far you have come… (not that I’ve climbed any mountains lately but I’m gonna assume it might be the same)   🙂

Or maybe when you are so full and realize you can’t possibly eat that last piece of pizza until you realize you already at 7 slices. (Hmm, maybe that doesn’t work either….) Anyways, you get the point.

You see, as crazy as my $1.5 million of debt looks to me, I am amazed that I’m down $300,000 in the past year and half. Granted, I’ve sold some things and plan on selling more things. But hey, it all counts. It leaves my debt column and that is what counts. Now that I’ve got an a small income coming in, I can pay what I can which will keep helping too.

The hard part is to not get discouraged. I know it will take me years to get out of this mess but I am determined. I hope you are determined too. Don’t worry, I’ll make sure there is plenty of room on my rope for both of us to hang on too. We can do it! We will do it!


Bowing Down to the Almighty FICO Score

Falsely Believing in the Almighty FICO Score

Credit Cards

When I was 16, all I wanted was a car. New, old, didn’t matter. As long as it got me to school. I was tired of that walk. Plus I felt like I was the only high schooler over 16 who didn’t have one. (how typical even today).

Most of my life, my mom was a single mom barely making ends meet. No matter how intellectually I knew that the day of my 16th birthday there would be no new car with a big red bow on top sitting in the driveway, I still dreamed it would. Then the big day arrived, butterflies in my stomach, I peeked outside and yep… no car.   😦

I was working at the time so I saved up my money and asked if my mom could at least co-sign for a car. She told me she didn’t think she could but she would try. After a trip to the dealer, I learned my first lesson on the Almighty FICO score. My mom’s credit wasn’t good enough. I had no credit and she had terrible credit. Therefore… no car for me once again.

no car

I was so sad, so dejected that day that I swore from that day forward I would always have perfect credit. I was never going to be turned down again – at least not due to my FICO score.

Flash forward 30 years. I purchased many things. Many homes on and off and many cars. Like most people,  I love a new car and every year traded it in. But that is another post for a different day on my “stupid” tax I kept paying through the years.

Even with all my purchases, I only had one late (30 days) payment in all those years. Yep just one. Even with piles of bills, I only had one ding to my credit and I still blame that on the company that sold the loan and didn’t get me the information.

Fico score parts

That was until last year….

When faced with growing debt, no income coming in and draining my safety net at an alarmingly quick rate, I still paid my bills and paid them on time. I sank fast. Worshiping that FICO score was costing me everything.

Several months ago I had to make the tough decision to purposely not pay on time. For months I agonized. I was sick to my stomach. I wanted to puke.

For the first time, I realized I was putting at risk any chance I had to buy whatever I wanted as long as I had the money for the payments. I could always get a car, a house, furniture, tools, etc. Now I was risking all of that.


You see, after listening to Dave Ramsey everyday for my inspiration and my motivation, I realized I was so focused on that FICO score, I had woken up and lost all my life savings. And for what? A credit score I was barely holding onto? A Credit score that would not pay my bills once that money ran out officially? I was so stupid.

Through hours of listening to Dave and his callers I realized that an amazing thing can happen. You can buy a house, car, furniture, tools, toys etc with…… wait for it…


Oh my. My life wasn’t over, I would purchase again. Just not today with instant gratification. I would have to plan out my purchases and make sure I had the money. An amazing thing happens when you pay cash. That $100 item costs $100 (sometimes even $95) and not $120 by the time you pay it off.

While I do not advocate not paying your bills. Far from it. I do advocate stop worshiping a score that will not love you back. 

I will pay off everything I owe one way or another. I still have the same values I held so dear since I was younger. I just realize now that my goal is to focus on paying what I owe, buying what I can afford and reaching out to others to share the lessons I’ve learned.

We are not defined by this….

fico score

No, we are defined by doing the right thing.  Doing right by our family. This mess I got into wasn’t FICO’s fault. I do not blame it. I blame me for the choice I made to think that being in debt up to my eyeballs was a smart thing to do.

So my question to you is… What silly or stupid things have you done in an effort to keep that high score that everyone tells you is so important in your life? Have you done stupid with zero’s on it like me? 


Ironic..I did finally get a car at 16. A beater that barely moved for $800. It lasted a couple of years with a lot of TLC. Turns out the universe was trying to teach me this lesson years ago, I just didn’t listen.



How Did I Get Into This Debt Mess?


I guess you are wondering how I got myself into this mess?

 broke the bank

I might as well start way back when. This isn’t some movie that starts at the end and messes with your mind when you blink and you are back 30 years ago. Then again….

I should warn you, I can be a smart ass. Humor is what keeps me sane. You see, I refuse to let my situation define my attitude. I have no doubt that having a positive attitude can help you out of anything.

I’ll give the short version of my mess, then we can explore in more detail as we go.

I had a great job. I made great money. Nothing crazy great but money people would go oh yea. But it wasn’t always that way. I worked my way up in my company, got stock options, let them grow and eventually I bought some rental properties in 2005 thru 2008. I can hear the gasp in audience now.


So yes, most of my 1.8 million of debt is houses. However, I wish that was my only foolishness. No, like many folks, I still have over $200,000 in other debt.   :-O    Yes, OH MY!  Probably even more but we will get to that later.

My point is… my story isn’t much different from yours. Maybe you didn’t buy a bunch of rental homes, but I bet you racked up credit cards, bought a “toy” or two you really didn’t need and maybe even made foolish career choices.

Unlike many folks, I didn’t have school loans. The couple of years I went to school I actually paid for it…. on my credit card, but I paid. LOL.  Seems funny typing that. It would have been cheaper to get a school loan.

But no matter how we got there. We got there. The important point is now I’m trying to get out of it. I try and find inspiration from those winning this war on debt. I quote Dave Ramsey due to the fact that many times over the past year, his radio show has been the sole piece of “hope” I held onto at times. Yes, I was better than I deserved. But, like many things, more on that later.

So the answer to the question – How did I end up in this mess?  Easy, one loan at a time. One stupid decision at a time. And I’m pretty sure there were times when I did them all at the same time.

debt weight

Tomorrow, I’ll take you back to the memories that started this silly ride….The memories I thought I was using to make smart decisions. Turns out, maybe, just maybe…. I over thought it.


Working My Way Out of Debt – Why I’m Doing This Blog

Why am I doing this blog?

Like many of you, I fell into the trap of taking on debt to not only get the things I wanted but to invest in my future. Sounds funny to say that I went into debt to make money, yet that is what I did.

I even did something more odd, I left a well paying job with lots of financial potential for a life that became 7 days a week of working for nothing and losing it all. I didn’t lose it traveling, buying things or even enjoying it. Quite the opposite.

I’m writing this blog to share my journey. How I ended up where I am and how I plan to get out of my $1.8 million in debt.  Yes, you read that right. I woke up one day in some serious debt with no income.  But I am crawling my way out. One dollar at a time.

Feel free to follow along and share your journey.  Maybe we can help inspire others by letting them know…

They are NOT Alone!  ~ You are NOT Alone!