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Occupation

Landlord and renovator

City

Thunder Bay, Ontario

Age

57

I’ve been in property:

Since my late 20s

I plan to retire:

Never. I love the discipline and the satisfaction of working. If I’m learning new things and it’s financially beneficial, I’m happy.

Investable assets:

Four properties in Thunder Bay, with a total value of approximately $1.4 million; about $100,000 in an RRSP; $200,000 in mortgages

I’ve had an advisor for:

About 20 years


Investing in real estate

I trained as a chef, and owned a restaurant and catering company for about 20 years. At the same time, I was buying investment properties. I bought the first in my late 20s. I went to an estate yard sale and ended up buying the house.

A real estate agent here in Thunder Bay taught me a lot. She was the one who said, “There’s no reason you can’t succeed in real estate.”

I used proceeds from my divorce settlement to buy other buildings, and when I sold my restaurant in 2011, I immediately bought a house that I renovated completely over the next year and then sold. In the last 10 years, I’ve bought seven properties. Several have been my primary residences, so the profits were tax-free.

Always learning

Design and building are my passion. I do almost all the renovation work myself, and I maintain my rental properties. As a landlord, if you outsource that work to someone else, your margins are too tight. I’m always learning new construction skills—that’s where the intrigue
is for me.

Staying out of the markets

I have a lacklustre RRSP with flat growth. My financial advisor phones me about once every eight months, tells me what he’s doing with the money, and charges me $150 for the privilege.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t made those investments. To earn even 10% a year, when I could make triple that, tax-free, flipping a house, makes no sense to me—especially when buying and renovating properties gives me so much more satisfaction. It’s interesting and fun. It may be unorthodox, but I just can’t imagine handing over control of my finances and my livelihood to somebody else.

Susan Goldberg is a financial journalist based in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Originally published in Advisor's Edge

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