Everyone grows up with some kind of belief system that is an amalgam of religion, culture, and life circumstances. These beliefs influence how we see the world and how we behave within it. Make no mistake, belief systems have a lot to do with how successful or not successful you are in life.
I am the child of Indian American immigrants. My dad, like many men who immigrated to the United States from India in the 1960s, was educated as an engineer. He came to this country on a scholarship to the University of Minnesota.
But unlike most of his cohort, he quickly recognized the opportunity in this great country of ours. Instead of buying a house to live in, my parents bought a duplex. My dad realized that if he bought a duplex instead of a house, the tenants would pay his mortgage for him. Seemed like a no-brainer for this young immigrant couple. That was an inflection point for him. He saw opportunity in owning rental properties for cash flow instead of trading time for money and he was off to the races. He never asked the question, “shouldn’t I be investing for the long run in a portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds for the long run?”. Why? Because that was not part of his experience. He came from a place where people were just hustling to put food on the table. He was poor in India–that’s really poor. He had no preconceived idea about what to do with his money so he did what he thought made sense–he bought cash flowing assets. Almost 50 years later, he’s still at it. My dad did have a lapse of judgement during the tech bubble which you can read about in my book, but he’s been a real estate guy for my entire life.
So far, you can already get a sense of my influences growing up. First of all, I looked different. I was the only child with melanin in a sea of Scandinavian grade school children. My mom packed me chicken curry sandwiches for lunch instead of peanut butter and jelly, and my dad was a thriving slum lord–I mean scrappy real estate entrepreneur. Unlike other Indian kids, my dad didn’t seem to care about how I did in school. In fact, neither of my parents payed much attention. It was rare that they ever saw my report card. The only thing that drove me to do well in school was the fact that everyone told me my big brother was really smart and I wanted to be like him.
Most Indian parents want there kids to be a doctor–in Indian culture, the pecking of order of families has more to do with the number of doctors in your family than anything else. My mom really wanted my brother to be a doctor–she just liked doctors and wished that she had married one. When my brother decided not to go that way, she was crushed as she certainly did not expect for me to head in that direction. I fancied myself a man of letters and when I was leaving for my Ivy league college my mom asked me what I was going to study. I told her. I don’t know mom but I guarantee you I won’t be a doctor. She was overjoyed, of course, when 2 years later I declared my own intent to apply to medical school.
But not my dad. He couldn’t figure out why I wanted to be a doctor. “A lot of work. A lot of time. You know I make more money then all of those doctors don’t you?” he asked. Of course, I blew him off. He just didn’t get it. I was following a mission–to help people. It wasn’t about making money.
You see, he grew up dirt poor and fed his family since grade school tutoring rich kids in mathematics. That was his perspective. He had raised an affluent private school kid who had the luxury of being an idealist.
Eventually, I went on to become an entrepreneur just like him (the apple does not fall from the tree) and when I started making money, I had to figure out what to do with it. Most of my colleagues ended up handing their money over to a financial planner. But that was not part of my experience so it seemed risky. So, I started investing in real estate? Why? My experience told me that if I invested in real estate, it would make me wealthy like my dad. I also saw that his only venture into the stock market during the dotcom bubble almost destroyed him. And finally, it was 2009 and I had the perspective of making money for the first time while witnessing the carnage of the equity markets.
In sum, I got lucky. I had a different perspective from the rest of the highly educated herd and I was able to see a better way and that has made me wealthy.
Today’s guest on Wealth Formula podcast, MC Laubscher, grew up in South Africa during apartheid. Do you think that might affect his view of the world?!!! Make sure to tune in.