Insider Secrets Podcast Episode #62
Featuring Guest: Jennifer Grimson
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Jennifer was a single mother who lost everything twice. The second time, she rebuilt by creating small “empires” for financial independence. She created over $1.4m in income producing investments with nothing more than a W2 and grit. In 2020, Jennifer created the Micro Empires Podcast to share her story and to pull back the curtain on the path to financial independence.
[00:00:03] Mike: Hey everybody. Good afternoon. It’s Mike with Insider Secrets. It’s Tuesday and I am joined today by my guest, Jennifer Grimson. Hey Jennifer, would you tell the listeners today? What they’re going to hear on today’s episode?
[00:00:17] Jennifer: They’re going to hear my story about how I lost everything twice, and no job, no car, no place to live and two kids to raise.
[00:00:24] And the second time how I rebuilt using real estate, and the tools that were available to me that are available to most people and to create. $1.4 million in income producing assets in just four years.
[00:00:37] Mike: That’s incredible. And it’s an incredible story, and I’m just going to encourage everybody to listen in to Insider Secrets and hear the rest of this story. Glad you’re here today. Thank you.
[00:00:47] Jennifer: Thank you for having me.
[00:00:49] Kristen: Welcome to this week’s edition of Insider Secrets. The show that turns multifamily investing into reality. Each show we interview guests who are [00:01:00] seasoned professionals, actively closing and managing real estate deals. Your host Mike Morawski has more than 30 years of multifamily, real estate investing and property management experience.
[00:01:12] Mike is the founder of My Core Intentions. And he’s been involved in over $285 million of transactions. Focuses on helping you create short term cashflow and long-term wealth. Here’s your host, Mike.
[00:01:29] Mike: Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Insider Secrets and I’m your host and Mike Morawski, and Insider Secrets is brought to you by My Core Intentions. Hey, let me just tell you a little bit about today. My guest today is going to be a little bit different than our normal multifamily investor or professional from the real estate industry.
[00:01:51] We’re going to talk to Jennifer Grimson, who is become a friend of mine over the last few weeks. And I’m real excited about the message today. [00:02:00] We’re going to talk about some things that I think everybody needs to hear. Before I get into her bio though, please do me a favor, make sure that you’ve subscribed on YouTube to Insider Secrets.
[00:02:11] Make sure please that you are following me on Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn, so that you get notified when our Podcast go live. And when we’re having an event, know that the information that we’re bringing, especially lately has just been really valuable information. Almost to say it’s priceless, right?
[00:02:31] So I’m glad that you’re here today. And let me introduce Jennifer to you. Jennifer was a single mom who lost everything, not once but twice. And this is why her story is so compelling to me is that she didn’t just lose everything once, but she lost everything twice. And the second time she rebuilt by creating small empires for financial independence. She created over 1.4 million in income producing investments with nothing more [00:03:00] than a W2 and her own grit. In 2020, Jennifer created “Micro Empires Podcast” to share her story and to pull back the curtain on the path to financial independence. Hey Jennifer, welcome today.
[00:03:14] Jennifer: Thank you. I’m so glad to be here. Thanks for that introduction.
[00:03:17] Mike: I’m glad that you’re here. A week or so ago, I was on your Podcast. And we talked about the loss and the changes in my life over the last few years. And I want to really dive in, and talk about you and the things that have happened in your life.
[00:03:36] Because I think that your message, my message, they’re messages that people can relate to, that people can really grab onto and say, man, this is happening around me to somebody I know to myself.
[00:03:50] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:03:51] Mike: And that they can learn from and grow from. Also, I think our stories are so important, right?
[00:03:57] Jennifer: Yes.
[00:03:58] Mike: Here’s one question I always [00:04:00] ask all my guests, Jennifer, and in one word, describe to the listeners, what describes you personally and professionally?
[00:04:09] Jennifer: Oh gosh, resilient.
[00:04:13] Mike: Okay, good. That’s funny because in my bio I say that I’m resilient.
[00:04:20] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:04:20] Mike: You’re the only one, I’m probably 50 some episodes deep in this one. And you’re the only one that’s ever said that word.
[00:04:27] Jennifer: Okay, good.
[00:04:29] Mike: Sparks, right?
[00:04:30] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:04:30] Mike: So it’s kind of interesting. So let’s see where this goes, guys. Hey, let’s start with your backstory. Why don’t just fill us in and what’s happened, where you were? Who you were? Where you’ve come from? The whole deal.
[00:04:45] Jennifer: Yeah. So I lost everything twice, as you said. And one of the things about starting my show was I wanted to make sure that I was completely transparent when I decided to share my story, because I also kept it a [00:05:00] secret for a long time, which I have learned is very common. Because I had so much shame around what had happened and what I felt I had done.
[00:05:10] My money story and the reasons that I ended up like that doesn’t have anything to do with that I made a bad deal, that I bought expensive cars, that I had a shopping or a gambling issue, it was my relationships. So I call those relational money mistakes. So first I was in a marriage, my first marriage, and I was married to somebody who I lived in financial chaos with.
[00:05:35] That’s how I described that relationship. And when I left, he sued me 25 times in 10 years. And that amassed over $500,000 in attorney’s fees. Filing chapter 13 bankruptcy the first time was a strategic move that saved my house. This is when I was living in new England.
[00:05:52] Mike: Can I stop you for a minute?
[00:05:53] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:05:54] Mike: I’m probably going to do this a couple of times throughout, so let me apologize once and get that out [00:06:00] here.
[00:06:01] Jennifer: No.
[00:06:02] Mike: So here’s what I want to know. You got divorced and your ex-husband sued you 25 times for what?
[00:06:11] Jennifer: Good question. He also sued my mother, my brother and my sister. And the truth is that he lives in California. So it also depends on where you are and what the ports allow. He will tell you that he got a raw deal and felt like he should have custody.
[00:06:30] He should not pay as much. He should be whatever. And I would say that none of those lawsuits were necessary at all, but I also didn’t have a choice, but to fight them. My children were at the center of them, so there was no choice. I had one custody and I was able to leave the state and move across the country to new England where I was from.
[00:06:50] And that left him very angry and feeling not whole about that. And one way to punish somebody is through the legal system. The truth is [00:07:00] that tomorrow I could say that your dog bit me in my front lawn, and I’m going to Sue you. And you don’t even have a dog, but it may take us going to court and $30,000 in attorney fees for you to prove that.
[00:07:16] And in family law, typically they don’t really award attorney’s fees. So even if I was right or I had been wronged in any way, there was never going to be like some massive settlement. And I want to underscore, we had nothing. And I also left with nothing. In order to be able to have my children and to go to a place that was safe, I agreed to nothing.
[00:07:38] I left a car, I left the house, I left the business. I left everything and walked away. And was willing to just start over for my sanity and my peace of mind. But he continued to brutalize through the legal system. It’s the one thing I don’t really go into a lot of detail for cause a lot of people will say maybe you deserved it, well, and that’s okay, you can feel that way.
[00:07:59] And I’m just like it’s [00:08:00] case number 981064 in Sonoma County, California. If you want to go out there and read it all, feel free. But that’s a reality and it can happen. Anybody who’s been caught up in the legal system realized that you can use it just to punish people.
[00:08:14] If you have the time and the energy and the desire and the money to do, and so that’s what happened. So that landed me the first time, that was when I left my marriage. I ended up at 29 years old moving into my mom’s house with two suitcases and two kids, and I rebuilt. The second time I had relocated to Nashville between these times I had always had a corporate job, so I was making good money.
[00:08:40] I was usually making the six figure salary. But it wasn’t enough because I was averaging 17,000 to $20,000 a month in attorney’s fees. And you just can’t keep up with that. So filing bankruptcy the first time was a strategic move to save that house. As the battle went on, I moved down to Tennessee. [00:09:00] I had met someone here.
[00:09:01] I had a job here. And that my partner really wanted me to leave my job. I was in a very stressful job. And he had the means to do that for me, wanted me to stay home with the kids, which I’d never had the opportunity to do so I took it and I stayed home. This also was a strategic move because instead of one thing I learned, the light bulb went off.
[00:09:24] Like, all this person wants is money. If I stop earning money, you can’t get blood from a turnip. So I filed chapter 13 bankruptcy again. And I left my very stressful high-end job. I still worked as a consultant and other things you must under chapter 13 bankruptcy. I paid back all of my creditors, of he was one of those as well.
[00:09:50] If anybody knows anything about bankruptcy, you’re not paying the full amount, you’re paying a negotiated amount. And that’s how it happened. So that’s was the lawsuits. Then [00:10:00] when my relationship ended, that had been a seven year relationship.
[00:10:04] I found myself again with no car, no job, no place to live. Another bankruptcy and two kids to take care of because I was their sole financial and physical support. So once again, I had done it and I had done it by turning my wellbeing over to someone else. And that’s a big mistake and no one should ever do that.
[00:10:25] Mike: Okay after that happened, then where did you go from there?
[00:10:30] Jennifer: Immediately I went to, I have two sisters, they both happen to live in Tennessee and my middle sister said, I’ll back up a bit. I was in that moment of crisis. I think we all tend to think right away. How do I hang on to what I have?
[00:10:45] We’re in a moment of crisis and we’re looking around going, how do I keep this house? How do I stay in this neighborhood? How do I keep my kids in private school? How do I keep my marriage? Whatever it is that you’re trying to claim to. And I teach this now to my listeners and folks who download my book [00:11:00] on my website, is the first thing you have to do is assess and assess at a very objective level.
[00:11:07] And my sister really helped me do that. Cause I was clinging. My kids were in private school. I was living in a nice neighborhood. I was trying to figure out all that and I didn’t have a dime to my name. And she said, or, you could move in with us. And that is exactly what I had to do and I needed to do it.
[00:11:22] So I moved in with my sister for four months while I found a job. And that once I got a job, I was able to land a condo that we moved into and I started rebuilding again for the second time.
[00:11:38] Mike: Isn’t it amazing when we find ourselves in those places where we’re lost, where we’ve lost everything.
[00:11:46] Where we find people in our lives that are supportive enough of us to let us lean on them, to help us out, to help us through. And that kind of happened for you twice, which is interesting. We [00:12:00] don’t wind up in most cases under living in the backseat of our car or under a bridge.
[00:12:08] I think it comes down to personal choices too at times for some of that. But would you do this, so does that bring us to today? Is that where we are today?
[00:12:17] Jennifer: No.
[00:12:18] Mike: Bring us from there to today.
[00:12:20] Jennifer: Yeah, that was 2009. At the end of 2009, I moved in with my sister, I landed a job, got a condo. And my first goal was to fix my credit, because I knew what I believed was that I would not have a path to any security if I didn’t buy a piece of property that I could live in and build equity.
[00:12:41] Mike: So what you’re saying is, your first goal after losing everything the second time was to repair your credit.
[00:12:48] Jennifer: Yes.
[00:12:48] Mike: It says wide because you thought that if your credit was better, that was going to give you the ability to..
[00:12:57] Jennifer: Buy a piece of property but, [00:13:00] it also chapter 13 bankruptcy is on your record for 10 years. Not all bankruptcies are the same, right? It’s on your record for 10 years. And you’re not allowed to have a credit card or I should say no credit card company would give me one.
[00:13:12] I landed a job as a sales executive, which is what I’d always done. So I was traveling all the time and remember I had no credit card. I had a debit card and I had a $500 secured credit card. You can’t rent a car with that. You can’t get a hotel with that. You can’t buy a client dinner with that. So you really are this second class citizen if you’re trying to survive.
[00:13:34] Meanwhile, I’m keeping it all a secret. So it’s you’re juggling all these balls trying to act like everything’s fine when it’s not fine. And getting that credit back up with me and I could get a credit card. And that meant that I could build credit and buy home, which at the time, I didn’t know anything about real estate investing. I’d always been interested in it. I just really wanted a place to land and not be [00:14:00] instead of paying $1,500 a month of rent, I just wanted to be paying it in the mortgage.
[00:14:04] Mike: So how long did it take you to fix your credit? And can you give a couple of things that you did to work on that?
[00:14:11] Jennifer: Yeah, it took me three years. I would argue that it’s easier to do it now. I help people, people that are close to me, I helped them walk through the process now. And fortunately there are tools that make it a lot easier, back then you had to call the credit companies.
[00:14:26] You had to write letters in order to get things off of your credit record? What it took for me was just consistently paying on things, doing anything, secured credit card was one thing that I did to prove I would max the $500 out every month and pay it just to show that I was capable of a payment.
[00:14:47] I didn’t have a car payment because I had gotten a car in trade, which actually probably worked against me. I probably could have built some more credit had I had a car payment. But it took me a full three years [00:15:00] to get to a place where I thought I might be able to buy a house. And honestly, I had a friend at the time who was a real estate broker, who said, there’s no way you’re going to be able to buy a house based on your credit.
[00:15:11] And obviously I didn’t use her. And I detail the entire credit story, I think in episode two. So if you want the minutia, it certainly is there for anybody who wants it. But I talk a lot about building the team around you that I call it now look like you finger quoting.
[00:15:29] So that doesn’t mean that they’re all redheads from Boston. It means, that they’re scrappy, they’ve survived something, they understand, or they’re an investor. I don’t work well with people who just tell me no. So getting a mortgage, I just started calling in the yellow pages calling and this back when you used yellow pages. I’m calling and calling and finally I realized I’m going to call into someone with their advertisement, said Sabal Espanol. And the neighborhood was [00:16:00] a rougher neighborhood. And I knew that whoever worked that office probably had to work really hard to get mortgages. So I called this gentlemen and I think his name was gosh, I think it’s Antonio.
[00:16:12] And he answered the phone. It was 06:30 on a Friday night. So I already knew that he was working hard. And I said, you’re the one who going to get me the mortgage. And he said, I sure am, and he did. And that the lesson in that is I found an individual who was willing to take the ball and run.
[00:16:25] Mike: Yeah.
[00:16:26] Jennifer: Because half of it, if you’ve, in this underwriting I mean you have to follow everything they do.
[00:16:33] And it’s very different pre 2008, post 2008. But half of it is the person you partner with. Because it’s easier to get someone else a loan than it was to get my loan. But he worked on it and he made it happen for me. And it was a miracle to be honest.
[00:16:50] Mike: You bring up a couple of really important things and a couple of things that I really like to coach my people on is that team building is really [00:17:00] important and you said it.
[00:17:01] And what you did was you went and sought out the right team members. The people that could be in your inner circle, that made sense, that buy into your dream, your vision, and help you accomplish your goals. That’s who we want on our team.
[00:17:16] Jennifer: Right.
[00:17:16] Mike: Those are the people that help us accelerate. And then the other thing about the credit. I want the listeners today to really take heed to this because I think it’s important. A lot of people say, Oh, I don’t have good enough credit, or my credit is bad. Your credit can always be fixed, there’s things that you can do. Find out what needs to be done. I have to laugh. I went away, we know I was gone for a while.
[00:17:40] Jennifer: You’re on vacation.
[00:17:41] Mike: We call it..
[00:17:43] Jennifer: Summer camp, Yeah.
[00:17:46] Mike: My credit when I left was 440, because everything was lost, right?
[00:17:50] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:17:51] Mike: When I came home, it cannot organic growth, my credit was 770.
[00:17:57] Jennifer: Oh my gosh.
[00:17:58] Mike: I couldn’t get a credit card. [00:18:00] And so I called my banker and I want people to listen because there are steps you take. I called my banker and I asked my banker, I said, can you tell me why this is? And she said, listen, the only problem is that you have good credit and you don’t have really anything derogatory on your report.
[00:18:20] But you don’t have any trade lines, you have to get some trade lines. So what she did was she gave me a secured credit card and a secured loan. She said, I’ll report you every month. And now I’ve watched, she gave me that loan and credit card, and my credit immediately dropped a hundred points.
[00:18:37] But I’ve watched it over the last year now, and it’s gone back up over a hundred points. So it’s interesting how you can manipulate things, and I’ve since been able to go get a credit card and which has been interesting. But I want the listeners to really clue into that because a lot of times people don’t take action and we have to be patient in some of this stuff.
[00:18:59] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:19:00] Mike: So go ahead now. Where are we at today now?
[00:19:04] Jennifer: Yeah, just to touch on that a little bit. I do want to say, cause I have helped several people just in recent months with this. And there are some great tools, like get credit karma, download the app, see where you are.
[00:19:17] It will tell you exactly why you’ve dropped off or what’s causing a problem, address those issues. If you can be added as an additional signer onto someone else’s cards, this is a trick that I’ve done with kids that are getting out of college and they don’t have credit because they haven’t paid their own bills yet, is you can add them as an additional signer.
[00:19:39] You don’t even have to give them a card. They don’t even have to know you added them, but their credit becomes attached to yours. And so within a couple of reporting cycling cycles, their credit can go up 60 points or whatever. So there’s lots of ways, but I agree with you too, is that remember? Sometimes we feel like, Oh, there’s a big wall.
[00:19:58] There’s this bank or [00:20:00] whatever. There’s no wall, you can go, you can call up. You can talk to a vice president of the bank or whomever and ask them they are the experts and ask them to do the work for you. And that’s what they’re there for.
[00:20:14] Mike: They will help, that’s building your team.
[00:20:16] Jennifer: Yeah, it is. So where we are today? After I rebuilt the credit, I purchased a home, purchased it in we’ll call it an up and coming neighborhood here in Nashville, Tennessee, I bought it in 2013. And I was just happy being there. I was happy being there, I had a job, but I knew I had to figure out something else.
[00:20:35] I had joined an investor group. I was figuring out like, what am I going to do? Am I going to buy and hold, am I going to flip? How am I going to get this money? And I was learning all behind the scenes things in real estate. And at the end of 2014, I learned about Airbnb. And friends who heard me talk when I heard about it, I’m like, what’s that?
[00:20:52] And I still have the card that I made the note on, like Airbnb sleep on couch or something like that. Once I came home and [00:21:00] read about it, I was like, if I rent my house out for six nights a month, I can pay the entire mortgage. So I had a roommate at the time, a woman who was living with me and renting from me.
[00:21:13] And then that was just a way for me to make a little money. And I had to get really comfortable with being uncomfortable. She’s a good friend and I had to ask her to leave, and I did. And I put my house on Airbnb, I immediately booked up every weekend for three months and I realized I’m onto something.
[00:21:31] And of course I was sleeping on my mom’s couch and going to France, which is not fun. But I realized I was onto something and I really started to double down using that asset as a working asset instead of just where I lived. And then I had learned, cause I didn’t know this when I bought the first house and I’d probably didn’t qualify, but I could buy another house for 3% down if it became my primary residence.
[00:21:56] So I borrowed from a 401k, also something I didn’t know [00:22:00] that I could do. So borrowing is not liquidating, it’s using your employer and borrowing a certain percentage of your 401k. And I used that to buy a second home, moved into it with nothing but a suitcase and an air mattress and my dog, and spent six months furnishing it, put it on Airbnb and did it again, and bought a third house same way.
[00:22:26] Meanwhile, so I borrowed $22,000 from my 401k. The first time I borrowed it, I paid off a credit card debt and my car. The second time I bought a house, I paid it back. The third time I bought another house and paid it back and it was just rinse, repeat, rinse, repeat, over and over again.
[00:22:42] And here in Nashville the short-term rental market exploded. So that’s where I landed. The assets were worth $1.4 million, including my home that I live in now. They were worth $1.4 million, but they were generating huge amounts [00:23:00] of gross income. That’s not net cause short-term rental is a very high touch and high overhead business.
[00:23:09] But I make sure to clarify that it’s income producing assets because I carried $800,000 in mortgages. So it’s not like I had $1.4 million. And that was going great and then honestly, the competition came in and Nashville and I started to watch, I watched for about a year and the earnings weren’t as good as they had been.
[00:23:30] And I decided to liquidate and I liquidated all of them 30 days before COVID hit last year.
[00:23:36] Mike: Wow.
[00:23:37] Jennifer: And yeah, so that was fortuitous for me. And in between then we had investments in multifamily and I moved to there.
[00:23:49] Mike: Wow. Good for you. So you’re still in real estate, you just changed asset classes. Okay.
[00:23:56] Jennifer: Yes.
[00:23:57] Mike: So here’s what I want my listeners to hear is that [00:24:00] you came back from this loss in your life, through real estate. You used real estate to rebuild this small micro empire for yourself. And then you changed asset classes. You went from the Airbnb short-term rental into multifamily. So what a great transition, and what a great story for people to understand, Hey, listen, we can make money in real estate. We can grow our assets in real estate, even if we’ve lost everything, we can bounce back. So even after all those lawsuits in that you still had your 401ks and you were able to leverage on there?
[00:24:41] Jennifer: So the second time that I had nothing, I was leaving a seven-year relationship and I had an old 401k from a previous employer, it was $47,000. And I had just always known in the back of my head, no matter what, [00:25:00] I can always cash that out. It wasn’t very sophisticated.
[00:25:03] And I thought I can always cash that out and I can put a down payment on a house or I could pay rent for a while. My partner at the time had a business, and he said why don’t you roll the 401k to me in my business, I’m setting up a 401k, I’ll roll it in. And I agreed to do that.
[00:25:21] What I didn’t know was that he took it and cashed it out. So he never rolled it over. So at the end, when I’m living with my sister, and I realized that there is no money for me. And I went back to him and of course, asked him for the money, which he didn’t really want to give to me, but what he had done was illegal.
[00:25:37] I may have been naive in a lot of things, but one thing I’ve always done is keep a paper trail. And so I demanded that he gives me back the money and he did, however, I had an $18,000 tax hit that I shouldn’t have had because it had been cashed out. So I really only ended up with 29,000.
[00:25:53] But from that point on once I got a W2 job, I started doubling down on a 401k. [00:26:00] I didn’t know much about how I could use that asset, but I did know that it would lower my adjusted gross income. And as a mother at the time of two kids that were heading off to college, I was always trying to watch that number and keep it low enough that my kids would qualify for the most scholarships.
[00:26:17] So that was my belief there with the 401k. And that’s why I was doubling down at the time.
[00:26:23] Mike: So, what’s really interesting here is you’ve really been able to just move forward and figure out the next right thing to do, I like that. And you took not a lot of money, a little bit of money, and you made over a million dollars with it.
[00:26:42] So I want people will listen in and understand. And what’s interesting is I’m going to have a woman on my Saturday morning podcast in the next couple of weeks who in a similar situation lost everything, had a [00:27:00] small IRA that she put into a self-directed IRA and grew it from 19,000 to 68,000 in a year.
[00:27:08] What’s possible, right? People do this, so good for you. Did you in, let’s just talk structurally for a minute. So how did you take that money? Did you put it into a self-directed IRA and do the investment or did you pull the capital out and borrow it against your IRA. How did you structurally set that up?
[00:27:28] Jennifer: The original one that I was talking about that got cashed out, I just took that cash and I needed it to live on. Then when I landed another job, I just started maxing out my 401k, not really knowing what I was going to do, but $20,000 a year. It was probably in late 2017, it wasn’t that I learned about a self-directed IRA until late 2017, but it took me that long to understand it.
[00:27:53] I think that’s important as well. So I interview the gentleman who manages that for me on my show, his name is Mike [00:28:00] Todd. And one of the things I say is, Mike met with me no less than three times. And they were long meetings. And I would ask him every question and I repeat my questions.
[00:28:10] Cause I was like, how is this possible? How is it that you can take your 401k and buy real estate or invest in other things? And I never knew about it and why doesn’t everybody know about this? So it was hard for me to grasp. Once I truly understood it. I had $150,000 in the 401k at the job I was working at the time and I literally why I wanted to quit the job anyway.
[00:28:33] So I found another job, but part of my reason for leaving was to get that money and to put it into a self-directed, so I did. So I moved all that money into a self-directed IRA. Which I have now invested in land and in just cashed out of that and brought it back in. So I’ll be doing more investments and I’ve also invested in a stock for a private company.
[00:28:56] Mike: Okay, good.
[00:28:57] Jennifer: It’s actually, I talk about third home. It’s [00:29:00] how I invested in the company called third home.
[00:29:02] Mike: Okay. Interesting. So let’s talk about this. Explain what micro empires is?
[00:29:08] Jennifer: So the reason micro empires is because I just believe that this probably has to do with money culture. I believe that we need to respect everything that we have.
[00:29:20] So when I first left my ex-husband, I moved into a little bitty apartment that I couldn’t even pay for. My mother had to pay the rent for me with my two children. And that apartment was heaven for me because it was away from the chaos. It was mine and therefore it was my empire. And that’s just my belief.
[00:29:42] We tend downplay. We’ll be like, Oh, I just have a little house., It doesn’t matter. I have a beat up car, I have whatever. If it’s yours, it should be your empire. So that’s part that’s where the empire comes from, that everything is important and is due its respect. And the micro was, I knew that I could get a [00:30:00] job and that it would be a well-paying job and not many people, not all people can do that, but I also knew that it could be taken away at any time.
[00:30:08] So I needed other small pockets. So I always have three streams of income and they’ve been art, they’ve been consulting, they’ve been doing high-level CVS for executives. They’re anything and everything. And I always keep them up and running, even if I’m only earning a tiny amount because it’s important.
[00:30:27] And that was where the micro empires came from. I had a full-time job. Then I found Airbnb, that was great. Then I found another tool, self-directed IRA. That was great. Then I started learning about multifamily. Then I started learning about self storage and there’s a never ending list. So I think that not only did I rebuild through real estate, but I also rebuilt through learning the tools of the wealthy, which are really kept they’re not kept a secret, but it’s hard for the average person to just find them all. And [00:31:00] there’s always a solution.
[00:31:01] Mike: That’s a great segue because this show’s called insider secrets.
[00:31:05] Jennifer: Right.
[00:31:06]Mike: And I always talk about that. I say, so what’s a secret and you’re talking about it right there. I think a big piece of it is education.
[00:31:14] What do we learn and how do we learn? There’s those four quadrants that we can spend or where we spend our time. Which is know what you don’t know, you don’t know what you know, and you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s where I think that we tap into our biggest source of energy is in that last one.
[00:31:34] Because until you figure out what you need to know, you don’t grow. And in order for us to grow, we have to do exactly what you’ve done and that is go get the education and then walk through it. Because the education is only a small part, then you had to go execute. So how did you and I need to ask this question, where did you come up with the courage?
[00:31:58] Because I know it’s [00:32:00] not, it can’t be easy. You’re a single mom, two kids. You got an ex-husband that’s little off the chains and.
[00:32:09] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:32:09] Mike: How did you, where did the courage come from? How did you do this?
[00:32:13] Jennifer: Sometimes I think courage is when you don’t have another choice. So I often say when someone hands you your ass, when you’re working at a job that you think is okay, I’ve got the income and the benefits, and I’m going to be good.
[00:32:25] I’m going to be good for a couple of years. I can breathe and they fire you. So there’s that. The other thing I say to folks a lot, if you don’t have the courage, just borrow it. So sometimes I don’t like to say fake it till you make it. But honestly, a lot of it was, I just forced myself to walk in the door.
[00:32:42] My first real estate investor meeting I went to and on the way there, I was saying out loud to myself in the car, you are a real estate investor. You are real estate investor. You own a home and therefore you are. And therefore I am. And so I just went in like that. I think also I have a long [00:33:00] background, 25 years in sales.
[00:33:02] And so there’s a level of confidence that I exude, even if I don’t feel confident in that moment. But then on top of it, I am perfectly comfortable being completely transparent. So I don’t mind saying to somebody, Hey, I’m here, I’m a real estate investor, but I’m just learning. I don’t know anything about what does this all mean?
[00:33:23] And can you explain it to me? Like you’re starting all over and we struggle with that. I think the folks who won’t succeed in a situation like this are the people who want to be the smartest person in the room. You should strive to be the dumbest person in the room, I do. I love to learn and I think it’s what keeps you young.
[00:33:41] There’s so much I have to learn from people who are much younger from me, who have a lot more, a lot less experienced than me. But I talk to people every day now about their money. And I get a lot of calls and emails from listeners now. When you and I talk about these tools, we are speaking the same language, but I didn’t [00:34:00] speak this language seven years ago.
[00:34:02] And it is like learning a new language. So I just had lunch with a friend today, before I came here, he’s just building himself out of some financial struggle over the last several years and he’s killing it. He’s just absolutely killing it. And he’s got this asset that he’s sitting on that has a bunch of equity in it.
[00:34:19] And so we started talking about different things, tools that he could do, and I could see his eyes glaze over. And that’s usually when I stop and I say, listen, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed. It’s normal to feel like it’s so much to learn. I just will stay with what I’m doing. Just trust that you can eat the elephant one bite at a time.
[00:34:39] You could take one small step at a time. That was another thing about micro empires. I am not a big risk taker. I couldn’t be, I had to keep insurance for the kids. I had to make sure that they were taken care of. So people think that I made this huge leap. That’s not at all what I did. So when people are looking at well $150,000 in my [00:35:00] 401k, I don’t want to, what if I put that all into a real estate deal that goes bad.
[00:35:05] Well then just put 25,000 in. Pick a number that doesn’t make you sick. Pick a number that doesn’t make you want to puke and use that number. And that’s where it comes in. Like my friend, we were talking about numbers that were the 300 and 400,000. I’m like, okay, great you have that.
[00:35:22] Don’t have to start with that, start small. And that’s how you figure out your team too. Who can you trust, who works with you? Who do you know? And build a foundation there.
[00:35:33] Mike: So you have a quote and your Facebook page that says money doesn’t change people, it unmasks them.
[00:35:39] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:35:40] Mike: Talk about that.
[00:35:42] Jennifer: I think, we are who we are. So if you’re a generous person, when you don’t have money, you’re going to be a generous person when you have money. Generosity comes in lots of different forms, financial, emotional, physical, spiritual, generosity. I would argue that financial is not the most [00:36:00] important of those. But I do think that if you are the person with money, your true self will come through whether you have it or you don’t have it like who you really are, will come through.
[00:36:14] But also the unmasking often happens with the folks around you. So I spoke with a gentleman the other day who works with NFL players, and we talked a lot about what it’s to be an NFL player. And I said, I’m not a famous person. I’m not somebody whose income salary is public or in the millions of dollars.
[00:36:34] And as soon as I started to have success, people came out of the woodwork who wanted to tell me how to spend my money. And that really showed me who people were. So I guess that’s really what I meant by that.
[00:36:48] Mike: And were those people like your friends or people you knew, or you didn’t know.
[00:36:53] Jennifer: It depends. There were people that were maybe friends, but whatever it [00:37:00] is that they’re working on, I once had a somebody who I met through a mastermind who had an opportunity to invest in something I was very naive. And at the time I was cash rolling off of one house. Cash flowing $3,000 a month in addition to my income.
[00:37:19] So she looked at that and was like let’s take all of that money and put it into this investment opportunity, and I didn’t do it. And I’m glad I didn’t do it because I have a money culture of fear. And there was a piece of me that was like, I don’t really understand how this works, so I’m not going to do it.
[00:37:34] Many years later, I showed it to somebody who I really trust. And they were like, Oh yeah, you never would’ve gotten any of that money back. And you would have been tied to that forever. It could have bankrupted me again.
[00:37:48] Mike: Isn’t it interesting how you begin to listen to your gut instincts? So that’s one of the things that I talk a lot about is I didn’t pay attention to the red flags.
[00:37:59] And I think today I [00:38:00] would a lot more, but I think you’re in a place to today where now things happen, things come up and you pay attention to that stuff now, where you might not have done that when you were married or the first time that you lost everything. Good. Where are you at today? Tell us about where you’re at in your life today?
[00:38:21] Jennifer: Yeah. I’m a newlywed, I got married. It’ll be three years in may and I was single for 20 years. Mostly my personality based on those traits and I talk about a lot about this too, you have to talk about money inside your relationship.
[00:38:38] We were both the providers for our families. We were both the heads of our family were both very hard workers and that’s great, except you’ve got two people who are used to being in charge. So that’s a constant dance. He’s also a former athlete. So there’s all of that tied into it.
[00:38:57] But fortunately he is also a lifelong [00:39:00] learner. And he in 2017 unexpectedly got let go from a job that he absolutely loved. And on that day, when it happened, I remember saying to him, this is the best day ever. Which wasn’t a popular statement, but I knew that he had so much talent and so much opportunity and that we could, I knew the life I wanted to build, which was to invest, have my money, make money, and have more time.
[00:39:28] And that’s what we’re doing. So we have invested in multifamily. We have invested in land. We are always looking for the next deal. Like I have something right now, I’m considering I haven’t done it before. If they want a threshold of a higher amount than I’m comfortable with, I go ahead and ask I’m willing to do it, I want to do it for less.
[00:39:47] Because we got to pick a number that doesn’t make me want to puke, like I said. And between us, we have six adult children and two grand babies. We’re really happy and I can’t believe it. I really can’t believe it. I can’t believe [00:40:00] that I’m here. I’m free from all of those things that happen.
[00:40:05] There were many times that I thought it would never end and I would never get out from under it, but I did. And now that it’s over, I look back at that was a solid, let me think about this. That was a solid 16 years because 16, 17 years to my daughter was one when I left of just pure hell.
[00:40:28] And I just can’t believe it that I’m here. And I think more than anything happiness is a choice, right? Loneliness isn’t a choice. So I was always lonely. I always knew I wanted to find somebody. You can’t choose not to be lonely. You can surround yourself with friends and family. You can surround yourself with people who you can give love to, but if you want a partner, you can’t really magically change that.
[00:40:51] But happiness is a choice. And even in those terrible times, I decided to be happy. This does not mean I wasn’t depressed. This [00:41:00] does not mean I wasn’t very sad and dark for a long time, but I knew that there was joy in the world. And I’m just so grateful to be on the other side of that.
[00:41:12] And honestly, I, maybe this is like what it was for you getting out of prison. But for me, I feel like, I’m 20 years old. You know what I mean? I feel like I’m just getting started. Cause I am starting a new career at the second half of my life.
[00:41:26] Mike: It’s interesting. Because first of all, I can relate to everything you just said. And I like being alone right now. I’ve been gone for a number of years. But there is under you said something really clear, which is there’s joy out there. And there is, and happiness is a choice. Joy comes from inside, happiness is external and it is a choice.
[00:41:49] And I have those days, you had those days where we go, God, what the hell happened? And you know what, Hey, I miss my family, I miss my kids, but I came home from prison in [00:42:00] better shape, physically, financially, spiritually, and emotionally. Not financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.
[00:42:09] And I just came home healthier. So now we’re rebuilding a life and it’s interesting. I’m thinking about people we’re having this conversation, I’m thinking about people in my life that could use a conversation with you just because of your struggle and where you’ve come from and who I know that you would be able to help them.
[00:42:30] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:42:31] Mike: And I think that’s a place we get to in our lives too, is how do we give back and how do we help others?
[00:42:36] Jennifer: Yeah.
[00:42:37] Mike: I need to ask this question though. How do you make high decisions today? Obviously over the years, you’ve had these situations where you’ve had to make these decisions and now decisions don’t go away.
[00:42:51] There’s always a higher stake decision that we have to make somewhere, but how do you do that today?
[00:42:59] Jennifer: I think for [00:43:00] me, it starts understanding my money culture, which is why I talk about it all the time on the show. So I understand where I came from. I understand what lives in my belly as it pertains to money.
[00:43:09] And that is it’s based in fear. I don’t lead with fear anymore. So high stake decisions when we’re looking at something. And we’re talking, I assume about money at this moment versus personal. For me, I have to look at the whole picture. I have to look at the things like, am I putting everything into this basket?
[00:43:29] Cause that breaks a rule that I don’t do. I never do that. That’s why they call micro empires. My husband and I nearly did that recently and I had to stop us and go wait a minute, we’re breaking rule number one, that’s we are not doing this. So it has to be a level of commitment that I don’t feel sick about.
[00:43:45] That if something happens to that asset or that plan or that program or that business, it will not financially bankrupt me and put me out on the street.
[00:43:53] Mike: And he was okay with that? With that comment.
[00:43:57] Jennifer: Oh yeah. He has bent in my [00:44:00] direction more than I’ve bent in his direction.
[00:44:02] He has less fear, but he hasn’t had the experiences that I’ve had. So he’s fine with that. And there hasn’t been anything. So that’s number one, is it a level of risk that I can live with? And that can be small and nobody should be made to feel bad about that. The second is the team. And I’m not going to say that the team is second important, I think the team comes first. Who are the people who are involved as much as you can figure out who they are, what they’ve done.
[00:44:29] I’m talking to someone today who has worked with the investor that I’m considering doing an investment with. And I’ve talked to other people who know him on a personal level.
[00:44:39] And if someone isn’t willing to give you those names and numbers, don’t do business with them. And whether this is fair or not, I gravitate towards people who have struggled because there’s nothing like losing everything. There’s nothing like being brought to your knees by something and you suddenly realize what’s important [00:45:00] and what’s not important.
[00:45:01] And when you are literally like, I don’t know where we’re going to sleep tonight, or I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep my children and keep them safe. That changes things, that changes everything. You give everything. I’d give every penny, every thing I had to make sure those things would happen.
[00:45:19] I don’t know that those are the most tactical choices, but that’s how I do it because I have to be comfortable. If the risk was too big, I wouldn’t sleep and I’d make my husband miserable and that’s probably why he goes along with it.
[00:45:34] Mike: Yeah. It’s good. A happy wife is a happy life. Hey, a couple of interesting things is I think that when you have those losses in your life, it makes you respect things a lot more. Now, I I might’ve made millions, but I never changed my lifestyle. So I didn’t drive big fancy cars and we didn’t buy bigger [00:46:00] houses.
[00:46:00] I didn’t fly private, I didn’t have boats. But we could have, we didn’t, right? We had all the money parked back in the business and when we lost everything, that loss was devastating, but even the bigger loss was when going to prison and going from that lifestyle to now all of a sudden living in a cell with three other men in a two by five locker with three green outfits, like pairs of underpants. That’s how I always like to describe it.
[00:46:36] Jennifer: Five pairs of government issued underpants. Yeah.
[00:46:41] Mike: Cardboard boxes. You and I could probably talk for a long time about that. So it’s probably due for another show because of what you’ve done in your work, in the prison systems in that.
[00:46:52] Hey, I appreciate you being here today. Do our listeners a favor, please tell them how they would get ahold of you if they want to talk to you about [00:47:00] micro empires or just get to know you. Cause you’re unbelievable, great person to get to.
[00:47:05] Jennifer: Thank you. Probably my website’s the easiest.
[00:47:08] So it’s micro-empires.com. You can book a time to speak with me there as well. There’s a link to a calendar. Certainly all my podcasts tell my story in great detail. One of my commitments is that I always share the numbers and I always share the details because that was also watching other people succeed.
[00:47:31] And they’re very vague about I’m 10 X I’m this, I’m that. And you’re like, but what does that mean? Are you 10 X, 10 bucks or what? And so I try to and I require that of my guests as well, that they will speak the numbers and be real so that, and of course all the socials. I’m out there either by Jennifer Grimson or micro empires.
[00:47:54] Mike: Thanks for being here today. And I just want to make a couple of comments to my listeners. If [00:48:00] you get a chance to go back and listen to this episode again, I think there’s so much information here so much that you can get just from a practical standpoint of money investing as well as for your heart. There’s some things, and I really want to clue in on a couple of things that we said, the difference between happiness and joy, happiness is that external thing.
[00:48:24] And we can choose to be happy or not, but joy comes from inside. It’s where’s your identity? Who are you? And what makes you joyful? You know what, one big thing I always say is gratitude. Be grateful, but what’s your belief system today and what are you thinking about? So be intentional, think things through.
[00:48:43] I think that we wind up in situations of loss and times in our life like this, when we don’t take the time to think things through. And I just encourage you to spend time doing that. I’m glad that you are all here today and listening in, we’ll be here next Tuesday.
[00:49:00] Jennifer, thanks again. It’s been an honor and I look forward to catching up soon.
[00:49:04] Jennifer: Okay, thank you.
[00:49:04] Kristen: Thank you, Mike, and thank you for joining us for another great episode of Insider Secrets. As always, Insider Secrets is brought to you by My Core Intensions. Join us on social media and visit mycoreintentions.com where you can get expert coaching on all things, multifamily investing in property management.
[00:49:23] We’re looking forward to having you back again next week for more Insider Secrets.