Six benefits to investing in real estate

By Tracy Ma

Over the past three years, the Government of Canada has had to cut $5.2 billion dollars in spending and eliminate 19,200 jobs in the federal public service. If your position had the title ‘scientist’ and you worked in ‘research,’ you were at greater risk of being put on the chopping block. 
My husband was a prime candidate for cutbacks, but he was saved from these rounds of layoffs. As an ex-federal government employee myself (I decided to leave on my own terms rather than waiting for the golden handshake), it has re-emphasized for me how important it is to not have all your eggs in one basket (i.e., your corporate job). 
The time and effort it takes to build up a real estate portfolio can test your will, but when you stick with it, the benefits are worthwhile.  
Here is my list of the six benefits of investing in real estate:
1. The courage to walk away
The headaches of the corporate world: endless meetings, business travel, red tape, bureaucracy at its fullest, reorganization, hiring freezes, more cutbacks, the impact on your health.
Putting up with this for years and years isn’t always worth the upside and perks a job might offer.  Even if you don’t like your job, having real estate investments to fall back on can give you the courage to walk away from it all, like I did.
I decided to walk away from that job and from higher-level positions that would have sucked up more of my time so that I could balance what’s important in my life. I think Frank (played by John Goodman) in The Gambler said it best (although with a few more curse words):
“... You get a house with a 25-year roof... you put the rest into the system at 3-5% to pay your taxes and that’s your base, get me? That’s your fortress of [f---king] solitude. That puts you, for the rest of your life, at a level of f--- you. Somebody wants you to do something, f--- you.  Boss pisses you off, f--- you!”
2. The time to get healthy
You know that getting in shape and eating healthy is very important, but you constantly have other commitments in life that take up all your free time. You know that’s bad for your health in the long term. Even if your life isn’t stressful, you probably could benefit from more free time.  
As you develop an income from real estate, it becomes easier to balance everything in life because it’s possible to be less reliant on a salary, and to be able to afford more time off. Examples include stepping back from your day job, building healthy habits, and placing health as a top priority. I decided to do all that, by taking extended time off to repair my 18-year-old shoulder injury and committing more time to dance and sports, rather than work. 
3. The opportunity to take a sabbatical
Imagine a big dream vacation, one that takes you away for several months. It’s difficult, isn’t it, because you don’t have limited vacation time or the funds to pay for it? Having a real estate portfolio that pays you might be the push you need to take a break from work and go on a sabbatical. You might want to travel for an extended period of time, experience other cultures, and naturally wake up without an alarm clock, an agenda or a plan. 
After enjoying a sabbatical where I was able to recharge, travel and spend more time with family, I decided to permanently leave my engineering career with the government.
4. Time to pursue interest-based work
Maybe you’ve wondered what it would be like to do something different, like going back to school, trying a new career or starting up your own business. It’s very liberating to know that you have options and you can choose work that balances with your values/beliefs, such as family and personal goals, rather than work that is driven by money. 
I left engineering for good more than a year ago and decided to pursue interest-based work.  My motto is to work as long as it is fun, rather than work because of the security, benefits or pension.
5. Early retirement
Dedicating time to building a nice nest egg in real estate can afford you extra time later in life.  The best thing about early retirement is having more time to do what you want to do. You can afford a less structured life, such as waking up without an alarm clock and penciling in more fun activities, like volunteering or staying at home with the kids. 
I haven’t gotten to this point (yet) but I’m actively working towards it. Life is too short to spend 40 years at your peak working so that you can ‘retire’ for the last 30 years. 
6. The ability to pay for your kids’ education
If you are one of those people who hates volatility (as experienced in the stock markets) and likes steady returns and lower levels of risk, then investing a bit of capital to buy a property might be the easiest and most stable solution. It is almost impossible to get significant returns without taking a significant risk in paper assets. However, buying property works best when you have time to wait while a tenant pays down a mortgage.
I bought a few properties before my kids were born and now I’m patiently sitting back so that 20 years later, when there are no more mortgages, the rental income can go towards their education.
I’m happy to say that I’ve personally experienced the first four benefits of owning real estate and am on my way to experiencing the rest. I know that real estate is not for everyone and building a portfolio can be a difficult journey, but I’ve been able to survive the ups and downs, and I can safely say that real estate is my favourite way to create financial security for myself and my family.
Tracy Ma is a mother of twins and a real estate investor in Ottawa, Ontario. Connect with her at Financial Nirvana Mama where she shares free tools, videos and articles on managing your real estate portfolio. Her mission is to empower women about investing and help them to reach their financial nirvana.


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