Escape the Rat Race! – Invest Your Way Out of Your Job with Real Estate Syndications

Do you ever ponder how you could replace your salary from your day job, or become less reliant on it, so you could focus more on the things that matter to you?  One of the biggest mistakes people make is being dependent on only one source of income – their job. 

Similar to how insurance protects you from losing everything in the event of an unlikely loss, having multiple sources of income protects you from the risk of corporate lay-offs, restructures, or any number of other scenarios that are out of your control.  Unfortunately, many people found out the hard way in 2020 how a black swan event like COVID-19 could hit their finances.  Unemployment in the U.S. spiked at 14.8% percent in April of 2020.

Aside from providing downside protection from unexpected events, having multiple sources of income allows you to escape a job you don’t enjoy to pursue your passion.  The fact is that many people aren’t happy with their jobs, but feel trapped.  A Gallup poll conducted in 2019 revealed that of the world’s one billion full-time workers, only 15% were engaged in their work.  Are you part of the other 85%? 

A lot of people relate, but feel helpless to do anything about it.  After all, who wants to work a second job when they’re already hammering back long commutes and late hours at the office to get ahead.  That’s exhausting enough.  Many simply stash money into their 401K (maybe) and continue the slog, spending on material items to compensate for their lack of fulfillment, hoping the stock market will continue to rise so they can retire someday.  Sure, taking the conventional path of investing in stocks and bonds will get you to the finish line.  You may just be running a marathon, when instead you could bang out a 5K and get to the fun stuff.

There’s no short-cuts to working hard and aggressively saving.  That’s a start.  But many don’t realize there are ways to earn while asleep, slowly replacing the reliance on their employer.  The right passive income investments can give you the flexibility to take on work that’s meaningful to you.  Instead of working for money, it works for you.  Thereby, freeing your time to work when, and on what, you choose. 

The good news is there are a lot of ways to earn passive income, or get paid with little to no effort.  The problem is many of the options require high output initially before they become passive.  This requires a lot of time.  Time that most don’t have or are unwilling to invest.  However, you don’t have to become a landlord, start a side-hustle that eats up your weekends, or take on the night shift at a second job.  This is where real estate syndications, in my opinion the best passive investment, provide a solution- a way to invest in real estate, get paid regularly, and have little to no involvement in the day-to-day.  No tenants.  No toilets.  All the upside without drawbacks.

Through speaking with my network, friends, and family, I’ve realized that many people don’t know what a real estate syndication is or how it can change their lives for the better.  Let’s break it down into layman’s terms. 

What is it?

Crowdfunding, or real estate syndication, is simply described as a group of investors pooling together their funds to buy an asset that is larger than they otherwise could afford to buy alone.  Syndications have been around for decades, but access was much more limited prior to the passage of the JOBS Act in 2012.  Now anyone can own a piece of an apartment building or other type of commercial real estate.

How Does It Work?

A real estate operator or “sponsor” will find profitable properties to invest in, like an apartment building for example.  They will work with a lender to secure the debt needed to acquire the property.  They also must find capital for the equity to fund the downpayment, any improvements they intend to make to the property, and any operating costs or fees that will be incurred.  This can be roughly 20-35% of the purchase price.  This is where the individual investor contributes as a “limited partner” in the syndication.  This differs from a REIT (real estate investment trust) in that the limited partner actually owns a piece of the physical real estate, as opposed to stock in a company that invests in real estate.  Once the property is acquired, the sponsor will manage the asset and the day-to-day operations.

What’s the Entity Structure?

Most all real estate syndications are structured as a limited liability company (LLC) or Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).  This means the extent of the limited partner’s liability is the amount invested in the deal. 

The terms of the LLC or LLP are laid out clearly in an “operating agreement.”  This document spells out how distributions will be paid to the limited partners and sponsor, how profit splits will be handled when the asset is sold, fees paid to the sponsor to manage the asset, and voting rights.

Investors will review and sign the offering documents, including a “subscription agreement” and “private placement memorandum” (PPM) to become a part of the company as a limited partner.

How Do You Make Money?

Profits from operation come in the form of rental income.  After expenses are accounted for, distributions to limited partners can be paid.  This is typically done either monthly or quarterly and comes in the form of a “preferred return.”  Preferred returns are typically around 7-8% annualized. 

Additionally, limited partners have the potential for a larger payout when the property is sold.  Most sponsors target properties with potential to “force appreciation” through increasing rents and net operating income through updates and operational efficiencies, while also buying in areas where jobs and people are moving.  Typically they will aim to sell within 4-7 years, but the operating documents usually allow the sponsor’s discretion to maximize returns for investors.  The operating agreement will outline a voting process if there isn’t a clear answer to sell or not to sell.  Based on market conditions, it may be beneficial to sell sooner than planned or hold for longer than anticipated.

An “internal rate of return” (IRR) is a financial metric that takes into account the time-value of money, distributions paid out, capital gains earned from the sale, and a number of other factors to calculate the investment’s comprehensive rate-of-return.  After the sale, the limited partner will get a large payout of their original principal, plus any capital gains.  A typical investment in a real estate syndication has resulted in IRRs between 15-20% or higher.

Who Can Invest?

These days, anyone can invest, with a few caveats.  I’m not going to get too deep in the weeds on federal legislation regulating securities offerings in the context of this article.  That’s a whole other post.  What is important for the individual investor is whether the investment opportunity falls under Rule 506(b) or Rule 506(c) of the JOBS Act and how an “accredited investor” is defined. 

An “accredited investor” is one who either individually, or combined with their spouse, has a net worth over $1M, excluding their primary residence.  Additionally, accredited status can be attained by earning $200,000 for the last two years consecutively, or $300,000 combined for spouses. 

Under Rule 506(b), accredited investors can self-verify their status.  Additionally, up to 35 “un-accredited investors” are allowed to participate.  The sponsor may not advertise these offerings to individuals who they don’t have an existing “relationship.”  A relationship is easily attainable, in this context.  If you’ve connected with the sponsor over the phone and have had a discussion about investing in general, you’ve now met that hurdle.  A 506(c) offering is available only to accredited investors.  Sponsors using this regulatory structure are allowed to advertise their offerings to anyone and aren’t required to have the pre-existing relationship like they do with a 506(b) offering. 

The Math Doesn’t Lie

When comparing the 7-8% preferred returns real estate syndications offer, its not hard to see how attractive yields are compared to traditional investments like stocks and bonds.  Currently the 10-year treasury note is paying a measly 1.7%, offering a close to negative real rate-rate of return, after accounting for inflation.  The average dividend yield of the S&P500 over the last decade, the index representing the overall stock market best, is about 2%. 

Let’s take a look at an individual who’s looking to replace a $75,000 salary with passive income.  How much would a person have to save and invest in each of these investment options to hit that target?

Bonds @ 1.7% –  $4,411,764

Stocks @ 2.0% – $3,750,000

RE Syndication @ 8% – $937,500

It’s a bit more achievable to save $937,500 than over $4M in bonds!  

It’s important to note, this example doesn’t take into account appreciation, on purpose.  It only accounts for income the asset pays via bond yield, dividend, or preferred return, respectively.  However, as mentioned prior, the IRR of real estate syndications is often in the 15-20% range, which also compares favorably to historical stock and bond returns, allowing for much higher upside. 

Someone looking to supplement the income from their job with stocks and bonds is likely going to draw down their principal.  As shown, unless you have a high net worth, the income those assets produce is unlikely to replace a meaningful amount of anyone’s salary.  Drawing down principal may be acceptable for someone over 60, but if you are middle-aged, you are rolling the dice on running out of money before you die and exposing yourself to “sequence of returns” risk.  Do a quick Google search or “sequence of returns risk and the 4% rule” and you’ll see what I mean.

Wrap-up

By providing steady, high income, real estate syndications allow you to own a piece of commercial property with all the benefits real estate offers – a hard asset that’s much less volatile than the ups and downs of the stock market.  An assets that pays high-income.  An asset that has massive tax benefits.  An asset that builds equity while renters pay down the mortgage.  An asset that appreciates over time and protects against inflation.  Finally, an asset that takes advantage of the power of leverage. 

You don’t have to follow the crowd.  You don’t need to work forever and let your best years pass you by in a job you don’t enjoy. If you’re looking to replace or supplement the income from your job before the traditional retirement age of 65, forging a different path in life, take a hard look at real estate syndications as a way to reach your goals.  

 

Paul Shannon is a full-time active real estate investor, as well as a limited partner in a number of syndications.  Prior to leaving the corporate world, Paul worked for a medical device company, selling capital equipment to surgeons in the operating room.  After completing a few rehabs employing the “BRRRR method”, he saw scalability and more control over how he spent his time, and left to pursue real estate in 2019.  Since then, Paul has completed over a dozen rehabs on both single-family and multifamily properties.  He currently owns over 50 units in Indianapolis and Evansville, IN and is a limited partner in larger apartments and industrial properties across the US. You can connect with him at www.redhawkinvesting.com

Nothing on this website should be considered financial advice. Investing involves risks which you assume. It is your duty to do your own due diligence. Read all documents and agreements before signing or investing in anything. It is your duty to consult with your own legal, financial and tax advisors regarding any investment.

Chris Franckhauser

Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner

Chris Franckhauser, Vice President of Strategy & Growth, Advisory Partner for Left Field Investors, has been involved in real estate since 2008. He started with one single-family fix and flip, and he was hooked. He then scaled, completing five more over a brief period. While he enjoyed the journey and the financial tailwinds that came with each completed project, being an active investor with a W2 at the time, became too much to manage with a young and growing family. Seeing this was not easily scalable or sustainable long term, he searched for alternative ideas on where to invest. He explored other passive income streams but kept coming back to his two passions; real estate and time with his family. He discovered syndications after reconnecting with a former colleague and LFI Founder. He joined Left Field Investors in 2023 and has quickly immersed himself into the community and as a key member of our team.  

Chris earned a B.S. from The Ohio State University. After years in healthcare technology and medical devices, from startups to Fortune 15 companies, Chris shifted his efforts to consulting and owning a small apparel business when he is not working with LFI (Left Field Investors) or on his personal passive investments. A few years ago, Chris and his family left the cold life in Ohio for lake life in the Carolinas. Chris lives in Tega Cay, South Carolina with his wife and two kids. In his free time, he enjoys exploring all the things the Carolinas offer, from the beaches to the mountains and everywhere in between, volunteering at the school, coaching his kids’ sports teams and cheering on the Buckeyes from afar.  

Chris knows investing is a team sport. Being a strategic thinker and analytical by nature, the ability to collaborate with like-minded individuals in the Left Field Community and other communities is invaluable.  

Jim Pfeifer

President, Chief Executive Officer, Founder

Jim Pfeifer is one of the founders of Left Field Investors and the host of the Passive Investing from Left Field podcast. Left Field Investors is a group dedicated to educating and assisting like-minded investors negotiate the nuances of the passive investing landscape and world of syndications. Jim is a former financial advisor who became frustrated with the one-path-fits-all approach of the standard financial services industry. Jim now concentrates on investing in real assets that produce cash flow and is committed to sharing his knowledge with others who are interested in learning a different way to grow wealth.

Jim not only advises and helps people get started in passive real estate syndications, he also invests alongside them in small groups to allow for diversification among multiple investments and syndication sponsors. Jim believes the most important factor in a successful syndication is finding a sponsor that he knows, likes and trusts.

He has invested in over 100 passive syndications including apartments, mobile homes, self-storage, private lending and notes, ATM’s, commercial and industrial triple net leases, assisted living facilities and international coffee farms and cacao producers. Jim is constantly looking for new investment ideas that match his philosophy of real assets producing cash flow as well as looking for new sponsors with whom he can build quality, long-term relationships. Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Jim earned a degree in Finance & Marketing from the University of Oregon and a Master’s in Business Education from The Ohio State University. He has worked as a reinsurance underwriter, high school finance teacher, financial advisor and now works exclusively as a full-time passive investor. Jim lives in Dublin, Ohio with his wife, three kids and two dogs. In his free time, he loves to ski, play Ultimate frisbee and cheer on the Buckeyes.

Chad Ackerman

Chief Operating Officer, Founder

Chad is the Founder & Chief Operating Officer of Left Field Investors and the host of the LFI Spotlight podcast. Chad was in banking most of his career with a focus on data analytics, but in March of 2023 he left his W2 to become LFI’s second full time employee.

Chad always had a passion for real estate, so his analytics skills translated well into the deal analyzer side of the business. Through his training, education and networking Chad was able to align his passive investing to compliment his involvement with LFI while allowing him to grow his wealth and take steps towards financial freedom. He has appreciated the help he’s received from others along his journey which is why he is excited to host the LFI Spotlight podcast and share the experience of other investors and industry experts to assist those that are looking for education for their own journey.

Chad has a Bachelor’s Degree in Business with a Minor in Real Estate from the University of Cincinnati. He is working to educate his two teenagers in the passive investing world. In his spare time he likes to golf, kayak, and check out the local brewery scene.

Ryan Steig

Chief Financial Officer, Founder

Ryan Stieg started down the path of passive investing like many of us did, after he picked up a little purple book called Rich Dad, Poor Dad. The problem was that he did that in college and didn’t take action to start investing passively until many years later when that itch to invest passively crept back up.

Ryan became an accidental landlord after moving from Phoenix back to Montana in 2007, a rental he kept until 2016 when he started investing more intentionally. Since 2016, Ryan has focused (or should we say lack thereof) on all different kinds of investing, always returning to real estate and business as his mainstay. Ryan has a small portfolio of one-to-three-unit rentals across four different markets in the US. He has also invested in over fifty real estate syndication investments individually or with an investment group or tribe. Working to diversify in multiple asset classes, Ryan invests in multi-family, note funds, NNN industrial, retail, office, self-storage, online businesses, start-ups, and several other asset classes that further cement his self-diagnosis of “shiny object syndrome”.

However, with all of those reaches over the years, Ryan still believes in the long-term success and tenets of passive, cash-flow-focused investing with proven syndicators and shared knowledge in investing.

When he’s not working with LFI or on his personal passive investments, he recently opened a new Club Pilates franchise studio after an insurance career. Outside of that, he can be found with his wife watching whatever sport one of their two boys is involved in during that particular season.

Steve Suh

Chief Content Officer, Founder

Steve Suh, one of the founders of Left Field Investors and its Chief Content Officer, has been involved with real estate and alternative assets since 2005. Like many, he saw his net worth plummet during the two major stock market crashes in the early 2000s. Since then, he vowed to find other ways to invest his money. Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad gave Steve the impetus to learn about real estate investing. He first became a landlord after purchasing his office condo. He then invested passively as a limited partner in oil and gas drilling syndications but quickly learned the importance of scrutinizing sponsors when he stopped getting returns after only a few months. Steve came back to real estate by buying a few small residential rentals. Seeing that this was not easily scalable, he searched for alternative ideas. After listening to hundreds of podcasts and attending numerous real estate investing meetings, he determined that passively investing in real estate syndications was the best avenue to get great, risk-adjusted returns. He has invested in dozens of syndications involving apartment buildings, self-storage facilities, resort properties, ATMs, Bitcoin mining funds, car washes, a coffee farm, and even a Broadway show.

When Steve is not vetting commercial real estate syndications in the evenings, he is stomping out eye diseases and improving vision during the day as an ophthalmologist. He enjoys playing in his tennis and pickleball leagues and rooting for his Buckeyes and Steelers football teams. In the past several years, he took up running and has completed three full marathons, including the New York City Marathon. He is always on a quest to find great pizza, BBQ brisket, and bourbon. He enjoys traveling with his wife and their three adult kids. They usually go on a medical mission trip once a year to southern Mexico to provide eye surgeries and glasses to the residents. Steve has enjoyed being a part of Left Field Investors to help others learn about the merits of passive, real asset investments.

Sean Donnelly

Chief Culture Officer, Founder

Sean holds a W2 job in the finance sector and began his real estate investing journey shortly after earning his MBA. Unfortunately, it could not have begun at a worse time … anyone remember 2007 … but even the recession provided worthy lessons. Sean stayed in the game continuing to find his place, progressing from flipping to owning single and multi-family rentals to now funding opportunities through syndications. While Sean is still heavily invested in the equities market and holds a small portfolio of rentals, he strongly believes passive investing is the best way to offset the cyclical nature of traditional investment vehicles as well as avoid the headaches of direct property ownership. Through consistent cash flow, long term yield and available tax benefits, the diversification offered with passive investing brings a welcomed balance to an otherwise turbulent investing scheme. What Sean likes most about the syndication space is that the investment opportunities are not “one size fits all” and the community of investors genuinely want to help.

He earned a B.S. in Finance from Iowa State University in 1995 and a MBA from Otterbein University in 2007. Sean has lived in eight states but has called Ohio home for the last 20+.  When not attending his children’s various school/sporting events, Sean can be found running, golfing, shooting or fly-fishing.

Patrick Wills

Chief Information Officer, Advisory Partner

An active real estate investor since 2017, Patrick Wills’ investing journey began like many others – after reading the “purple book” by Robert Kiyosaki. Patrick started with single family rentals, and while they performed well, he quickly realized their inability to scale efficiently while remaining passive. He discovered syndications via podcasts and local meetups and never looked back. He joined Left Field Investors in 2022 as a member and has quickly become an integral part of the team as Vice President of Technology.

An I.T. Systems Engineer by trade, he experienced the limitations of traditional Wall Street investing firsthand in his career and knew there had to be a better way to truly have financial freedom.

Unfortunately, that better way is inaccessible to those who need it most. His mission is to make alternative investments accessible to everyone who seeks to take control of their financial future and to pursue their passions in life.

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