Before You Invest Using Other People’s Money, Know the REAL Costs
Recently, I spoke on a panel at a real estate conference. I was selected to be one of three experts on the topic of capital raising. Before I spoke on stage, the moderator of the panel asked the crowd of 300 people, “Who here would like to use other people’s money to invest in their projects?” Almost all 300 hands went up.
Everyone with their hand up would argue, “Why wouldn’t you want to use other people’s money to invest in deals? It makes it easier to scale, reduces your risk, and boosts your returns.” The surprising thing is that if the moderator would have asked me that very same question two years prior, I would not have raised my hand. Now, minutes from being one of the three on stage speaking about how to raise capital, I realized I was going to change my topic to what it really means to raise capital and the major responsibility it carries rather than how to do it.
Fortunately, during the panel discussion, the moderator asked me a question that allowed me to elaborate on my view of raising capital. When I finished talking, the crowd was silent for a moment as if they were still absorbing my response. The silence gave way to applause, and after leaving the stage, I had countless people thank me for my unique perspective. In this article, I will share and expand on what I said, why two years prior I would not have raised my hand, and what happened to change my mind.
Where Borrowed Capital Really Comes From
Before we jump into capital raising, let’s talk about where that capital comes from. Where would you go if you needed to raise money? Like most, you would likely reach out to individuals in your social circle with sizable enough savings they may want to invest. People that have sizable savings usually have it because they worked hard, earned more money than they spent, and put some away for retirement/investing. The typical person does this by getting up every day, putting on their work clothes, and going to work for 8-12 hours a day, 5-7 days a week, for 30-50 years. They then take a small portion of that income and place it aside for the day they are able to retire. That is the norm and the reality of how the average person saves for retirement. And that is exactly the money that most people raising money will be asking for.
We trade our time for the capital we have, and then we stash away a little bit of it in hopes the pot will be big enough the day we get to retirement. It can’t be said better than in this excerpt from The Real Book of Real Estate: “In the end, the time we spent on this planet equals life. Most people would agree that a human life is sacred and carries a higher value than almost anything else on earth. Since every day working we trade our time our very lives for money or capital, I conclude that capital equals life. If that is the case, then capital, like life, should be treated as such.”
So why does all this matter? Because when I saw 300 hands raise, I knew not everyone understood the magnitude of the responsibility that raising capital carries.
Why I Changed My Mind About Using Other People’s Money
Two years prior to speaking at this event, I had a successful real estate investing business where I had not raised money from private investors. I understood the process and benefits, but I simply did not want the responsibility. If I borrow $100k from someone or several someones, what am I really taking? How much time did that person trade to earn that $100k? Maybe they worked 5 years to save that much, maybe 10, or maybe that is their full life’s savings. This person has not entrusted me with dollars in an account; they have entrusted me with a piece of their life and usually a large one.
A good friend of mine, Joe, lives in Ohio, and his parents live in Texas. Like many, he works very hard on his career and rarely has time to make the trip back to Texas to visit parents. He told me, “I go back home about once a year.” Joe’s parents are in their late 60s. If they are fortunate, they will have another 15 or so years to be on this earth. This means Joe will only see his parents roughly 15 more times in his life. He will only have those very limited experiences with them because he is trading the potential for more time with his parents in order to be at work most of the day and further his career and earn his capital. Let me clarify. I am not saying my friend is doing the wrong thing; everyone has a limited amount of time, and we all have the right to allocate it as we all wish. My point is that like Joe, most people make those sacrifices every single day when they go to work to trade their time to earn money.
This example of Joe is exactly why two years ago, I would have told you I didn’t want to raise money. The way I view capital—and I hope others will after reading this article—is what was given up for that capital rather than just numbers on a bank statement. If I were to borrow money from Joe, how many experiences with his parents did he sacrifice to make sure he had that? If I were to lose it, how much more would he have to give up to make up for the loss? When you take someone’s money, you are taking the portion of their life they traded to earn that capital.
Something changed from two years ago to now. Now my entire business model is focused on raising capital from private investors and deploying it into real estate investments that our team manages. So what changed? How did I go from wanting no part in raising money to building an entire business model around it?
The reason for now raising money is actually the same reason I did not want to. At the age of 26, I had just about reached financial freedom. I looked around and saw millions of others having their dream retirement ripped away from them even though they did everything right to get there. I am not talking about poor people, but the middle and upper class as well. After inflation, fees, and bad advice, they did everything they were told, and the reality is, they fell short of the dreams they sought. This is happening by the tens of thousands per day as the Baby Boomers reach retirement. So now despite doing everything right, they are not getting the life they imagined. They are having to work long and miss more experiences. That is when I realized how selfish I would be to not put my skill set to use. I realized how different financial success and self-fulfillment are. To me, self-fulfillment is how I can be the best I can be while also helping others do the same. In my case, I believe that is being able to deploy capital and make it grow in order to help others do good with money.
The Real Meaning of Money
I have frequent meetings with potential investors, and one of the questions I ask is, “If we are able to deliver these projected returns, what will you spend the money on?” I get some answers like “retirement” or “a boat,” but the other day, I had two meetings. The first person told me he wanted to use us as the investment vehicle to fund his daughter’s college, and another told me he was starting an orphanage in his home town in India, and the returns would go straight to that. When I left the second meeting, I had to take a moment to sit in my car and reflect on the impact that could be made from my own efforts in this business.
I now raise money because of the responsibility it carries and the good I can spread by turning money into more money. However, I write this article to make people realize the money they are borrowing carries significant meaning. It is not numbers in a bank statement; it is pieces of that person’s life—experiences they traded to earn that capital and also opportunity to give them the chance to have more of them, the opportunity to help others. I have never been driven by money, but I’ve always have been driven by the good money can do, and it took me a while, but I realize now the good is exponential when capital is viewed and handled correctly.