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- Julien and Kiersten Saunders owned two rental properties, which they sold in 2019 and 2020.
- After watching landlords and tenants struggle during the pandemic, the Saunders are “relieved” to have sold their properties.
- They left the real estate business after realizing how much more they could earn as content creators.
Earning passive income from two rental properties helped Georgia-based Kiersten and Julien Saunders retire in their 40s. But rental real estate is not part of their long-term plan.
Julien bought his first house in 2007, before he and Kiersten got married. They later remodeled the house together, paid off the mortgage in 2017, bought a new primary residence in 2018, and rented out their first home to a tenant. The couple also purchased a move-in ready condo in Marietta, Georgia in 2014 for additional rental income.
In November 2019, however, for half a dozen reasons, they sold the condo. A few months later, in March 2020, they also sold their other property and they used the funds to strengthen their stock portfolio. They also saved money for emergencies in the first year of the pandemic and to fund their content creation business, rich®ULAR.
When the pandemic began in March 2020, the Saunders watched both landlords and tenants in their community struggle. Kiersten told Insider, “Our friends had a hard time firing a mom who was behind on rent, but actively looking for work. I’m relieved not to go through these moral decision points when there are other ways to make money.
Below are the six reasons the Saunders sold their properties and why they are relieved to not own at the height of the pandemic.
1. They didn’t want to deal with “outdated” processes
Kiersten and Julien found the bureaucratic tasks of being landlords time-consuming and old-fashioned.
Julien says, “It was finicky stuff, like a change of direction at the HOA, and now you have a new point of contact. Or there’s a new platform you have to use for mortgage payments. All of that was very outdated.”
Of other homeowners’ struggles during the pandemic, Kiersten says, “Many of them had to apply for government programs with long lines, no callbacks, faxes, trying to prove that this person owes you rent. Watching our friends leave because of that, we know we did the right thing.”
2. The Saunders didn’t want to keep any cash for future vacations or repairs.
To plan for vacations, repairs or renovations, landlords need to keep cash on hand for emergencies related to their rental properties.
As a landlord, Julien says, “I have to put money aside just for future renovations, and I have to keep adjusting to future vacancies. I have to make sure to watch my insurance on these properties, because they’re steadily increasing every year. . So for me, I felt like I was clinging to a very outdated, albeit proven, approach to wealth building.”
3. The Creator Economy was an easier and more satisfying way to earn money
The Saunders launched their award-winning rich®ULAR blog in 2017 to document their journey to financial independence. The couple quickly noticed that their creator income exceeded their rental income. They quickly realized that if they freed up their time and energy from managing their rental properties, they could earn even more as content creators.
Julien says: “The more we started to grow as creators and realized how lucrative it could be, we just acquired a preference for it to be our main source of income. Our rental property created a very good rent without mortgage for us. , but it was really small compared to what we could get by doing a freelance article. It was like, my God, a day or two of work compared to a month of work to make $1,200 .
Seeing how much they could earn as creators, it made no sense to keep pouring their energy into managing rental properties.
4. The Saunders had more to learn from the content creator community than the owner community
Julien says, “I just couldn’t see myself on weekends wanting to sit in an old room with a bunch of people learning about tax hacking. That’s what the blue-collar real estate investor community looks like. .”
Kiersten adds, “We’re not do-it-yourself people, as if we’d much rather pay to make the problem go away. So the margins have shrunk as well.” The couple said they prefer to surround themselves with tech-savvy, digital-focused creators who can teach them about SEO or new ways to reach an audience.
5. Instead of rental properties, the Saunders chose a source of income that added to their skills
Kiersten and Julien both come from the marketing industry, where they learned just how lucrative the content creator economy is.
In their book, “Cash Out: Winning the Wealth Game by Walking Away,” the Saunders discuss the psychological shift required to quit a full-time job. Their first question is: Who is this job teaching you to be? If your source of income is asking you to do things outside of your values, it’s time to come up with an exit plan.
Kiersten says, “When we figured out who our properties were teaching us to be, we knew it wasn’t a skill set or character that would be very lucrative 20 years from now.”
6. They prefer to invest in the stock market
In total, the Saunders owned for about 11 years. But with hindsight, they would rather invest their fortune in the stock market.
“When I looked at all this capital, at the time, it would have represented approximately $250,000 of real estate,” explains Julien. “I would really like to have this in stock, actually, not a condo in Marietta, Georgia. That’s not to say we’ll never be real estate investors again, but I’m more inclined to just buy an index fund than to going through the process of owning it seems to me like a very old way of building wealth.
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