My Journey to a Becoming a Full-Time Passive Investor

Prior to discovering real estate syndications, like many, my idea of passive investing was mutual funds and looking at my statement a few times per year. For most of my professional career, I was a business owner in the IT industry. Working 80-hour weeks left no time for anything other than setting up a monthly auto-transfer into my brokerage account and 401k. My first investing mindset change happened around 2013 when I looked up from my keyboard and realized that 100% of my livelihood and nearly all of my net worth were wrapped up inside of my business. While the business was doing well and continuing to grow, I felt I needed more diversification for cash flow. If the business hit a rough patch, how would I provide for my family? I realized the diversification I needed was multiple streams of cash flow!

Options trading?

My first path, interestingly enough, was deeper into the stock market in the form of active options trading. I figured out ways to carve out 15 minutes here and there throughout the day/evening to actively trade options and futures. I had some initial success and from that point was hooked – not on the trading part, but on the cash flow. I could earn money while I slept! However, I quickly realized this would be difficult to scale, and there was a large amount of risk and leverage being taken to accomplish these returns – not to mention the volatility of my profits. So while I continued to remain active in the public markets, I started searching for other cash flow ideas – preferably more steady forms of cash flow. 

Real estate crowdfunds?

The first time I discovered real estate syndications was in 2014, which, at the time, I knew as “crowdfunding” via sites like Real Crowd and Crowdstreet. I jumped right in and made two investments in commercial and multifamily deals. I thought it was cool to own a piece of an apartment community or a building in New York City. At the same time, peer-to-peer lending was a popular thing so I waded into that pool as well. Satisfied that I had some diversified income streams in place, I shifted my focus back to my business and, to some degree, forgot about real estate in general. 

A few years later around 2017, the business was continuing to do well, but I was hitting burn-out. I knew I needed to start planning for an exit. Again, I looked up from my keyboard to realize that one of the multifamily deals had gone full cycle and the commercial NYC property was underperforming. By this time, my active options trading was still successful, but I had traded through a great deal of volatility. While I thought I could trade full time, it didn’t provide the steady cash flow that I desired. 

Turnkey rentals?

My next stop on the passive cash flow train was discovering the Bigger Pockets podcasts. That was it! Single-family rentals (SFR) was where it was at. It sounded perfect, except for the facts that I had only bought two houses in my entire life, was not handy with tools, and was living in a very expensive housing market. But turnkey rentals were the fix for all that! Still feeling the pressure to get moving, I was off to the races. I started dialing up turnkey providers and learning how to analyze SFR deals. Over the course of more than a year, I purchased ten single-family rentals and duplexes in areas of the country that I had never been to, nor ever wanted to visit. I never laid eyes on a single SFR that I purchased. While the process to build this rental portfolio was time-consuming and painful, it got off to a good start. I was generating 8-10% cash flow with no debt. I felt good, but it wasn’t enough cash flow that I needed to step away from the business. I also realized rentals were not easily scalable and not 100% passive.  


Taking a deep dive into syndications

I then remembered syndications and specifically, my previous success with multifamily. However, this time around, I had some hindsight to realize that with the previous investment, I had no clue what I was doing. I liked the pretty pictures in the brochure, wired my money, and got lucky. Beyond diversification, there was no other thesis for investing in multifamily. I began studying this asset class by looking at every deal I could get my eyes on – not investing in any, but learning. How is this deal structured?  Why might it work? Where could it break? I purchased some books and attended a lot of webinars to the point where I felt educated and ready to make an investment. Only now do I realize that I was still focused on the wrong thing. I was focused solely on the deal. 

Luckily, I stumbled upon some solid multifamily operators and began making investments with them. Around this time (2018), I also discovered notes and note funds. This spoke to me because of the steady cash flow so I deployed some capital into this asset class too.  This was also the time that I was in the process of selling the business. Satisfied with my passive cash flow, I focused most of my attention on this process (which is a bit stressful if you have never experienced it). 


Passive cash flow

In late 2019, the business sold, passive cash flow was in place, and I was free! My plan now was to sit by the pool with margaritas in hand, and occasionally, stumble out to the mailbox to watch for passive income checks. Mind you, I am in my mid-forties! However, it sounded great and it was…for about 2 weeks. I knew this could not be it. So I threw myself back into searching for more passive cash flow, as it had now become somewhat of a passion. About this time, COVID hit. That somewhat paused things for a while and created some distractions. I also realized how inconsistent the single-family rental cash flow could be even before the pandemic took hold. I was now laser-focused on syndications and continued to invest in that space with an emphasis on further diversifying. I had also come to the realization that the operator/sponsor is the most important piece of success. I began vetting operators in new asset classes such as self-storage and mobile home parks. I also started the process of selling the single-family rentals. While I did end up making money on them (mostly from inflation), I already knew that they were not for me.  

Today, I am a full-time passive investor with a focus on private syndications.  I have not had a W-2 job in almost 3 years! So far, everything is working out as planned. While I have a nice stream of passive income, the power of depreciation allows my tax returns to tell a different story. This also has brought on other benefits such as affordable healthcare. In my first year without a W-2, I purchased private health insurance to keep the costs down. However, by year two, most of my profits from passive investing were shielded by the depreciation. This allowed me to go back to the Healthcare Exchange ( and get a good plan for an affordable price due to my tax returns showing low adjusted gross income. This will vary year to year pending profits and level of activity. I have recently taken on some IT consulting projects to keep the lunchtime tequila to a minimum.  However, I do spend a considerable amount of time on my passive portfolio. I consider myself a very “active” passive investor. 


Lessons Learned

Along the way, I have learned a lot of lessons – some of which I mentioned, like sponsor first, and know what you are investing in. My “SFR phase” taught me to have patience. I was too pressured to generate income that I was willing to go deep into something that I really had no experience with. However, one of the more important lessons that I have learned in my journey is the power of networking. I have always been a DIY person with my investments, but with real estate and syndications, you have to get out there, get to know people, and build trust. This is where a group like Left Field Investors is so valuable. Finally, the most interesting thing that I learned is that the “financial freedom” that I was chasing is not what I thought it was. I have learned that financial freedom is not about losing the stress of the job or even about the time freedom. Being relatively young, financial freedom to me is simply a mindset that I can choose to do anything I want to do with the safety net of the diversified income streams. I have even had crazy thoughts of starting another business…but that could just be the margaritas talking! 


Tyson Miller is a recovering IT professional with 25 years of experience in the IT industry, 18 of those owning an IT Managed Services firm. Tyson currently lives in South Carolina with his wife and two daughters (13 & 9). When he is not staring at a financial spreadsheet, Tyson enjoys running, music, podcasts, Mexican food, driving his kids to events, and traveling.  

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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