How do you become financially independent through real estate? Craig Curelop and Zeona McIntyre sit with Antoinette Munroe, who developed Budget ABC’s, House Hacking, and Travel Hacking strategies that accelerated her path to financial independence. The first thing you need to do is to invest in yourself. Listen to podcasts and go to your local real estate investors association meetings to research. Then act on what you’ve learned. The best teacher is watching other people fail or do some things wrong. The best advice? Trust yourself. Tune in for more!
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How To Be Financially Independent Faster Through Real Estate With Antoinette Munroe
How are you doing, Z?
I’m doing great. How about you?
I am doing fantastic. Antoinette Munroe is our guest. She has got such an amazing story. I met her at a BiggerPockets event. I was talking to her and I was like, “We need to get you on the show. It’s cool.”
This is fun. She’s like our love child. She got into house hacking but then she supercharged it with Airbnb. It’s like the perfect match. I love just having people show how Airbnb is incredibly powerful as a cashflow generator. Read her whole story because she’s got a lot of great properties and she has done many different strategies. It’s exciting.
I feel like she’s an authentic good person. You know how some people you talk to, you feel like they are all business and stuff. For some reason, when I talk to Antoinette, I’m like, “I want to hang out with you. I feel like you’re a fun person to hang out with.” Do you get those feelings?
Totally. Sometimes real estate brings out the worst in people when they’re just about bragging. I’ve always said that I like Fi people more than real estate people generally because it’s not really about that. It’s more about creating freedom and having a good lifestyle, which she talks a lot about. I feel her on that Fi side a little bit more.
You guys can read her authenticity for herself when we bring her on the show.
Big news. Invest2Fi has now partnered with RentRedi because that is the software system that both I and Zeona use to do property management for our rental properties. It makes things super easy. We can send applications and get background and credit checks. When tenants come in, they can pay rent automatically through there. They can submit maintenance requests for everything you need to do for property management, all in one place. That is why RentRedi is the thing that we have done.
I have been using them for years now. That is why we reached out to them to partner on the show. We are excited to have them on board. If you go to RentRedi.com and use the code INVEST2FI, you’ll get 50% off for your first six months. Sign up and use the coupon code INVEST2FI. We can’t wait to see you there. Hit us up on Instagram or whatever and let us know what you think of RentRedi. It is an amazing software. I use it all the time. You can access it from your phone. Thanks so much. Let us get back to the episode.
Antoinette Munroe, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
I am great. Thank you guys for having me.
It’s good to have you on. We chatted for a little while at the BiggerPockets Meetup and look at us now. We’re back on the show. You had such a cool story. We want to share your story with everybody. Why don’t you kick it off for us and tell us where you first heard about financial independence?
I’ve been trying to figure that out. I wish I could pinpoint it and know, but when I graduated from college in 2008, I never intended to build out a corporate career. I wanted to be an entrepreneur but I had student loans so I couldn’t do that right away. I had to figure out how to get rid of that. After I started my job in 2009, probably shortly thereafter, I spent lots of time googling. I hate my job. I want to quit my job. I’m like, “What can I do to not work?” I stumbled upon the BiggerPockets Money Podcast and a couple of other podcasts that I started listening to and following at that time. It was one inkling of Financial Independence Retire Early or the whole FIRE movement. I stumbled upon that in some articles. From there, I was able to craft a plan to ultimately leave my job.
What were you doing in 2009?
I had just started my corporate career. My first job out of college started in June 2009.
What was that? What was your corporate career? Was it finance marketing?
It was sales. I was a sales manager for a CPG company.
Right off the bat, you didn’t like it?
I never intend it. Before taking that role, I took the job with the intention of paying off student loans so that I wouldn’t have to work. It wasn’t them. It was me. I knew I would never want that path, but it would be a means to an end at the time.
I graduated from college at the same time. I remember that was a scary time. It was the financial big collapse and the drama in the housing market. then there were no jobs for a while. I don’t know if you were experiencing that and going, “At least I have a job. I should be happy about that and stick with this one.”
While I was in college, I had the bright idea to purchase a home. I ended up purchasing my first property at nineteen but it was without awareness. I still wasn’t thinking about being a real estate investor but it was also purchased in 2006. I purchased my first property and then I watched the ruin of the real estate market. It never set in that it was a viable path or something that I should consider or be pursuing. The safety of a guaranteed paycheck every two weeks was like, “Let me lock this down right now so that I can pay the bills that I have coming up.”
Was your paycheck guaranteed in a sales role?Go figure out what you want to do that would make you happy. Click To Tweet
It wasn’t commission-based. I started with a $50,000 salary. In the first two years, it’s a management trainee program. Even after that, the proceeding sales roles were still salary based and then you receive bonuses.
In 2009, where were you living for this whole time?
I was living in Memphis, Tennessee.
You’re not like in New York on a $50,000 salary. Maybe Memphis has a decent salary.
There’s a low-cost market.
When that happens, you hustle your job and you mentioned you got sick of it. Was that in 2017 or 2018?
It was the whole time. I never wanted to work for someone. I always felt like I was an entrepreneur at heart. When I took that role, it was with the expectation that I’m going to do this two-year program, pay off all of my debts, and then I’m out. I’m going to go chase a dream or go figure out what I want to do or what would make me happy. It wasn’t them. It was me. I never intended that path, but it was also tough. It was the hardest two years of my life. It’s my first time. It’s the furthest away I’ve ever been from any friends or family. I know no one there. The culture shock coming from Miami to Memphis is vast. It was a character-defining experience for sure.
I want to ask you this question because it’s not common for people to buy a house at nineteen. Where was that? Do you have a person in your life that said, “You should try to do this,” or was it something that excited you? That seems unusual.
I’ve always been very money-focused, on savings and money management. Maybe that comes from growing up without. You get very strategic about how you approach money or view money so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes you may have seen that the people around you are making while growing up. I don’t know. I was riding around. I’m tired of wasting money on rent. It’s smarter to do this. I have no idea where I got that from. I do know that the phone call I made to one property led me to that owner hiring me to then work with him, building new construction. It then helped me be able to buy a property ultimately with what I had been learning working with him.
This sounds like a Rich Dad Poor Dad thing. You got scooped up in a mentorship.
My business acumen probably got honed there because he was a local entrepreneur with a couple of different businesses. At that time, he was doing some new construction builds and I stumbled into his life and he changed mine.
How did you get introduced to him?
I had decided I was going to purchase a property and was riding around. I’m looking at things. I called one of the properties that were listed for sale. I asked the price and he’s like, “How old are you?” I’m like, “I’m nineteen.” He was like, “What makes you think you’re going to buy a house?” I explained my reasoning, “I feel like I’m throwing away money on rent. At least this way, I will sell it later. I could keep some of the money that I put into the house.” He asked me to come into his office. We had a conversation. He asked me if I wanted a job. The job that I took with him was being the project manager to work through the new construction properties he had.
This was back in 2006.
Probably, the end of 2005 and early 2016.
You’re In college and working for this builder. You graduated and then you get your sales role. You don’t love the sales role. Maybe you were a bit inspired by your rich dad with the real estate stuff. Tell us the story after your sales role. What’s the next big thing that happens?
I’m in the sales role. From day one, my focus is to save all the money I can so I can pay off the debt and move out. I made a budget framework or my budget ABCs that I worked through to save as much as I could. I had $27,000 in debt at the time. The goal was to have it paid at the end of the two-year program so that I could quit then. After I achieved that goal and all debts were paid, I needed to get back home.
I’m in Memphis. I’m too far away. I still don’t know what I want to do. I got another job that relocated me to Miami. I had to stay for a year so that I don’t have to pay back the relocation. The two-year plan turned into a three-year plan. I’m like, “I’m going to save absolutely every dime that I can. At the end of this year, I’ll have one year’s salary in the bank, and then I can pursue a dream and figure out what I want to do.” I spit that first year back in Miami. I was saving everything. I gave myself $400 a month. By the end of that year, I had $50,000 in the bank.
That’s impressive for a younger person and if you’re making about $50,000 to save almost all of that. What happened to the house that you had?
It was there. It was rented out. The entire time through Memphis, the property was rented out. Even when I moved back to Miami, I would keep it rented to someone locally there. Right after we bought it, the market crash was in full force. For the entire time, it was underwater. We had to pay more to maintain it, then we received their rents. When I say we, it was my sister because it was her whose name had to go in. I had to convince her to purchase it for me like, “I’ll pay for it. I just need you to get the loan, buy it and I will take care of the rest.”
How did you manage it remotely when you knew nothing about real estate at the time? Did you just do it and you didn’t know how not to?
I didn’t know that not knowing was a hurdle. You just figure it out. I posted it on Craigslist at the time. That was the spot where you put rentals or throw a sign out in the yard, and that was it.
What told you to keep hanging onto this thing even though it was losing you money every month? Why not just sell it and cut your losses?
I don’t know. I didn’t think about it at all. It was like someone was in it. It’s just a little bit. I can probably get more rent later or fix it up. For me, ownership was important and once you owned it, it was yours to work through. It was a bad vibe but it was only a matter of time before the market got better and the value would go back up. When we initially bought it, it was a solid investment. It just so happened that six months later, everything hits the fan.
You’re basically like a fortune teller, you’re telling me.
I am very positive. I assume the best will work out.The best teacher is watching other people fail or do some things wrong. Click To Tweet
In 2011, you moved back to Miami and paid off all your debts. What’s going on in 2012 or 2013?
In 2011 or 2012, I stashed away everything I could. I have $50,000 in the bank. In 2013, I got a promotion and relocated from Miami to Orlando. It’s the first place they have moved me that I’m happy. I’m enjoying my job. I still don’t know what I want to do entrepreneurially. I’m like, “Let’s see where the job takes me.” Once I got to Orlando and made friends, I met my boyfriend and wanted to put down roots here. Knowing that I was potentially going to get relocated again in two years, but I had this boyfriend that may or may not move, I was like, “Let me purchase something in Orlando so I have a base here. In case I have to start traveling or I have to move, I have something to come back to.”
In 2015, I started shopping for a home that I found and bought in November of 2015. It was intentionally. We do a 1-mile radius around one of the best neighborhoods in Orlando. I was like, “I’ll fix it up. I don’t care what condition it’s in. I don’t care what size it is. I want to be in this area and I want it to be under $200,000.”
Let’s dig into that deal. What did you find?
It was a two-bedroom, one-bath, 1,000 square feet. It was a walking distance from Baldwin Park. It’s a nice neighborhood. That’s where I was renting. It had been empty for about five years. The owner in it was an older lady who was moved into assisted living. The family was getting rid of this home, but it would need a full gut. I was like, “I’m familiar. I’ve done a little bit of new construction. I watch a lot of HGTV. I can do this.”
We purchased that. We were initially supposed to close on it in June 2015, but then the seller died the day before closing. We had to go through two rounds of probate. Finally, in November 2015, we purchased it. That gap was when I got the idea to convert the existing carport and screen and porch on the right side of the house and expand the home. We’ve added a family room master suite, but more like an apartment of sorts so that I could get roommates, house hack, live for free, and then I would be able to save up aggressively, and pay off the house in five years and quit my job. That was always the why. The underlying factor was to not work.
This was your first real intentional house hack. This was the early days of house hacking. I don’t even know if there was a term for it at this time. You bought this property. How much did you say it was for?
I bought it for $169,000.
It’s a two-bed, one-bath, 1,000 square feet. You said you added to it.
I added another 725 square feet. It’s like a family room and master bedroom suite.
Is that like an additional dwelling unit or are you just adding?
It’s an addition to the property. It’s all one single-family home now. The previous exterior side door still remains, but now with that door opening, you’re flowing into the family room. Over into the master suite with the door closed, it’s an apartment.
What did this cost at 725 square feet?
For the initial rehab of 1,000 square feet, I probably spent about $40,000 to $50,000 in gutting that and bringing it up to date. The addition was between $85,000 and $95,000 to complete that. It’s not like I had that money sitting around because everything I had saved went into purchasing the house in the first round of renovations. To start the addition, I took out a loan from my 401(k). The max I could take out was $24,000. I was like, “We’ll see where we’ll go as far as this can take me and we’ll figure out the rest when we got there.”
That $24,000 took me to the shell of the house. The exterior was there. At that point, I had always been really good with my credit. I am very strict with money management. I leveraged my credit. I maxed out all of my credit cards to complete the rest. I don’t recommend that for anyone, but I knew I would pay it back. After having experienced paying off my student loans quickly, I knew that I could pay that off immediately.
How did you learn this good money management? It sounds like you came from a history of either not having much or just poor money management in your family. Where did you get those good insights and tips?
Sometimes the best teacher is watching other people fail or do some things wrong. Immediately, there was an avoidance. Growing up in that environment and watching things go wrong, it was like, “I’m not doing any of that.” I know what to do but I knew not to do that. Once I graduated college, I started listening to Suze Orman, Clark Howard and a little bit of Dave Ramsey. From there, I pulled the pieces that I felt like it worked and made sense for me. I created my budget ABC plan with things that I felt I could achieve using the tips and some key points from each of those people. It was a hybrid.
I love hearing that because that was similar to me. Both of my parents were not very good at money. It wasn’t that they didn’t mean well or they didn’t try. They just didn’t have a good example. It showed me what not to do, but I don’t always know the best things that I can do. It’s great that you took that extra initiative to find those ways and to show people that it doesn’t matter where you come from, as long as you have the mindset or the drive to find out where you want to go. Thanks for that inspiration.
One thing I do want to mention that you said that might have been a little bit overlooked is that you felt comfortable maxing out your credit card, which was a card you had to be able to play because you knew that you could pay it off very quickly. You proved that to yourself by paying off your student loans a few years before. It’s $27,000 in two years. You knew that you had that discipline. It wasn’t like, “I hope I can pay this off.” It was like, “I’m confident I can pay this off because I’ve already done it before.” In life and in anything like that, when you want to take on larger endeavors, think about a smaller step that you could take to give yourself that confidence so that when you take on that bigger endeavor, it becomes easier and less uncomfortable.
I definitely don’t recommend maxing out your credit cards to do a real estate deal unless you know who you are, you are very disciplined with your finances and strategic, and the amount of research that I ended up doing, and you’re prepared to take that risk. I also was employed at the time. I knew how much I made a year. I knew how to estimate how much in savings or how much of that income I could throw towards that debt. It was $65,000 by the time the construction was completed. It only took me eighteen months to pay that off.
Tell us a little bit about the numbers there. What was your mortgage? As you were paying things down and then got roommates, what were you earning?
When I purchased that home, I was still coming from a finance mindset. I was not a real estate investor by any means. I took out a fifteen-year mortgage. The intent was to be able to pay it off in five years. The mortgage was about $1,500 a month for that. Once I completed the addition, rather than living in the larger home, I moved into the one-bedroom side and decided to rent out the other. I thought I was going to be a roommate at the time, but then I found out about Airbnb and tried that instead.
That was the a-ha moment. The light bulb went off, “I can throw this thing on Airbnb.” In our first month on Airbnb, I made $3,500. That’s twice as much as my mortgage. Now I’m living for free and I have nearly $1,500 in cashflow. Now I need to figure out how to become a real estate investor because I think I’ve cracked the code to something special, and there’s no going back from that point.
That’s $3,500 on a $1,500 mortgage, and that was just a 15-year mortgage. That’s nuts. The big thing about what you did here is you bought the place for $169,00 and put another $120,000 into it. Did you ever get this thing refinanced or anything like that?
I just refinanced it and it appraised at $550,000. Over the last few years, the market has been good to me. I definitely got all of the money back that I put into it, but it’s still a very high cashflow property with Airbnb as well.
That’s the power of real estate right there. You did a house hack or Airbnb. You did all the things to this house. It’s increased more than triple. What’s your new cashflow now with the refinance?Listen to podcasts and go to your local real estate investors association meetings to research. Click To Tweet
That house was the beginning and it made me realize what else I could do. That is the first property. That one cashflows about 6,000 a month. That’s after the mortgage. From what I learned about that house after it was updated, I put a home equity line on it and use that to become a cash buyer and purchased another property in 2019.
That purchase in 2019 was also a BRRRR strategy. That also cashflow is about $1,200 a month. In 2021 May, I bought a third property. That one cashflows about $3,500 a month. The cashflow is so high because I don’t do twelve months or traditional leasing. It’s always a short-term rental, flexible lease model where everything is fully furnished and all-inclusive so I can charge above the market rent.
This is your strategy. You’re like, “I don’t want a lot of the houses. I just want to get every piece of juice or every drop of juice from every house that I got.” It sounds like you got three houses that are making you almost $10,000 a month of passive income.
It was our first $15,000 month off of those three. The first house was the Airbnb. That was doing well. It pushed me out of it. I moved into a new house hack for myself, which I view as more of a luxury house hack. I moved into a new construction property that has a garage apartment on it. The garage apartment pays half the mortgage, and the other half of the mortgage comes from one unit at any of the other properties.
Where do you live now? Are you still house hacking?
I’m still house hacking. I’m never paying my own mortgage. That makes no sense to me. I live in a home that has a garage apartment on the top.
I want to know about how you go from house 1 to house 2 because that’s a hard jump for a lot of people. Sometimes they get into this place where they go, “I just got lucky.” I’m under contract for a new house in a new market and I realized, “Even though I’ve done this 12 or 13 times, I’m still nervous.” There is something about buying a home and hoping that all of your research pans out the way that you hoped it would.
From experience with the first house, that’s where I’ve transitioned from BiggerPockets Money to the BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast. I’m learning everything I can. I’m going to my local real estate investors association meetings and researching. Throughout that entire edition, I’m in super research mode and learning everything I could. Once the addition was completed, I knew how to tap into the equity on that house. I did a home equity line for that. That was the money I was able to use.
There was $180,000 equity. I was able to use that to purchase something else in cash. I found something else for $192,000. It was in the neighborhood I was growing up in. She was moving and didn’t want to list it on the market. I was able to get a good deal on it without competing with other buyers. That was the second purchase. Now I’m purchasing in a market I’m familiar with because I grew up across the street from this house. I know everything about it. That takes the edge off. It was less scary because I had familiarity with the market and a direct connection to the owner.
Was that in Miami or Orlando still?
That was in Miami. I’m living in Orlando. I then purchased the second property in Miami.
For people to have a reference, Orlando and Miami are about four hours apart. It’s not like you’re driving over there to fix any little thing. You had to build a team and figure out how to do this whole project from afar.
I found a contractor through a referral. I went down when I closed on it. I stayed for a week to get it started and layout what I wanted to be done in the house. We check back every two weeks and come down on the weekend. It was a quick trip and rehab. It was mostly cosmetic. It only took about 45 days to get the property, do the rehab, and ultimately BRRRR out of it.
It sounds like the way you’re leveraging property to properties is through HELOC, Home Equity Lines Of Credit. I know it’s been difficult for a lot of people to get these HELOCs on investment properties. Are you getting the HELOC before you move out so it’s considered your primary home?
I can get the HELOC on the primary. The first house was the only HELOC I was able to get. I was able to use that to get the second house. Once I purchased that second investment property, I moved into a new primary residence. At that point, I didn’t have a HELOC opportunity anymore. My BRRRR strategy switched from being able to do that in my personal name to now BRRRRing into my LLC. That’s how I have the refinance now using a DSCR loan.
There are lots of things to unpack. I want to talk about the DSCR loan because that’s been a big keyword, but let’s have a timeline check here. You moved down to Orlando in 2013. You had this house, and then you had to pay off all the credit cards. You’re probably 2014 or 2015 before you get the next place.
2015 was when I purchased the first one. That was the beginning.
Is that the one that was with the addition or was that the one down in Miami?
That’s the one.When did you get the one in Miami?
In November of 2019, I purchased that one. From 2015 to 2017, I was transforming that first house. 2018 was the full year of Airbnb and learning everything I could about real estate investing. It was at somebody’s wedding in February 2019 that I said for the first time, “I’m a real estate investor. I’m going to be a real estate investor.” In April of 2019, I put a contract on the new construction home. That would be my new primary. It was going to be one year before that it was completed.
Halfway through that, in November 2019, I purchased the second property and completed that. Once we hit 2020, I close on the new primary residence, and then COVID takes over the world. I’m like, “What do I do now?” I’m sitting frozen, not knowing what to do next because I’m a baby real estate investor. I just started. I sat out that year and lost my job in August of 2020. I wasn’t actively in the market or looking for anything. I was maintaining what I had. It wasn’t until January of 2021 that I got active again and partnered on a flip with someone.
Did you get a new job in January 2021 or did you say, “I think I’m good. I’m financially free in the baseline way. Now I want to scale up and do full-time real estate?”
Both things happen. By August 2020, when I lost my job, because everything I had been doing the years previous was setting the stage, I didn’t have any bills and I had cashflow coming in from Airbnb rentals. There wasn’t a negative impact. It was more of a thank you because I was there longer than I was supposed to be. A two-year career turned into ten years. It was like, “Okay, fine.” Instead, I chose to take a job with a contractor that I knew as a project manager. I was like, “Maybe if I better align with things that I’m interested in, that might be a job that I enjoy more.” I went to work for a contractor as a project manager. Pretty quickly I realized that wasn’t what I was after. I didn’t want to be a contractor. I left that job in April of 2021. I have been out on my own ever since.
Did you take a pay cut when you went from your sales job, just to get into something that you liked more?
Yes, but by house hacking and eliminating my expenses by creating other sources of income, I now had the flexibility to choose what I wanted to do. It didn’t have to be dependent on money. I didn’t need to make a certain amount. Now the career opportunities I could look at were like, “Does it resonate with me? Do I like it? Is this something I could see myself doing?” It wasn’t about the income anymore. That’s the point of financial freedom. You can retire early or you can just use that freedom to choose.
I love the idea of taking a step back and getting less pay to move your career forward. You got to cut the lawn to make it grow. It’s one of those things where you have to take a step back sometimes to move a few steps forward. I love that you did that. Now, it sounds like you’re partnering with real estate and you’ve made a whole bunch of connections through that in that way.If you align yourself with things you’re interested in, you’ll have a job you enjoy more. Click To Tweet
It has been a learning experience through all of those. As a result of getting closer lines to what I was interested in and taking that contracting job, now I have a partner that I’ve been doing flips with. I’m getting deeper into real estate investing because I was able to give myself the flexibility of choice and not be dependent on making a certain salary.
How does that partnership work?
It’s a 50/50 partnership. We split things straight down the middle. It’s 50% to purchase it and 50% on all expenses throughout and on the management. He’s a contractor so he’s handling the majority of that, but I have project management skills. I can manage the project. I have my realtor’s license. I’m also going to be able to offload the property. I also fancy myself as a designer so I get to make them look good.
It’s great that you’ve discovered a split that works. Do you guys have an LLC together? How do you go about the legal side of things?
We don’t have an LLC. We talk about making joint venture agreements but quite honestly, it’s just friendship and trust. At some point, when we get more serious, a joint venture agreement will be in place. We previously drafted one but never executed it. That would be the route that we would take, just do a JV.
Can you describe why a JV over an LLC? What’s the difference?
It was easier and less paperwork than creating an LLC. If we knew that for a number of years or long-term, we were going to build a business together and work together, we would probably go the LLC route because it would be more of a permanent long-term thing. Because it’s case by case, a deal here and there, maybe one deal a year even, it’s easier to do the JV for us than to go through the hoops of having an accountant or attorney create the LLC for something that will ultimately be going to dissolve shortly after.
It’s also more complicated.
This could totally be wrong but what I always think of is that a JV is typically when you and someone else are both active in the venture, whereas, in an LLC, you could have a silent partner. It’s a little bit more loosey-goosey in terms of there are more detailed and defined roles. In my head, that’s how it is. I’m not a lawyer, so I could tell you you’re wrong. Definitely talk to your legal attorney when talking about what structure to open. Maybe you could shed some light on that.
I have a ton of partnerships, but I own three houses with three people. We’ve done joint ventures. We started with LLCs and found that it was a lot more to file taxes and more complicated. You have to re-up every year about filing certain paperwork. A joint venture is great and you should have a joint venture agreement if you’re going to have an LLC because it details whose role is what and what happens if one of you dies. There are many little details in there that are important to have. Antoinette, get your paperwork done. It will be worth it.
For us, we’re both active in it daily. The JV fits us. In the next project, we’ll definitely get our paperwork together. So far, we’re on our second one and it’s been good.
What’s the vision? It sounds like, between the properties you own, you have enough cashflow that you could probably just stop. I know that’s hard for a lot of people when they’re entrepreneurial. When you’re motivated, you want to keep learning and growing. It’s hard to stop fully. Where do you see yourself going?
The goal for me was always freedom. Real estate investment became a vehicle that accelerated the path. I’m not necessarily looking to scale and have this huge portfolio. I want max usage out of every property that I have. I’m also looking at a couple of them to switch that model into a group home because that would be the next best cashflow opportunity outside of short-term rental. Also, I’m trying to live and enjoy life. I point hack so I get to travel the world for free. I’m spending a lot of money on these rehabs so I’m leveraging credit and rewards points programs to finance my galavants around the world. My next goal is always, “How do I maximize my life with what I have versus being consumed with chasing more?”
What are your top three credit cards?
They change all the time.
I always focus on rewards points first because you can always catch a flight deal somewhere. I’ll make sure to get all of my branded Marriott Cards across Chase and Amex. I’ll get my brand at Hiltons, each version that I can get. I can do that for personal and business. My everyday spending is my Chase Sapphire Reserve. That’s my trifecta. I have tons more cards but that’s enough to get started.
Is it Chase Reserve, Hilton card and Marriott card?
Yes. You can have a Marriott with Chase and with Amex. I have both of those plus the business versions. With Hilton, it’s just Amex. I have the personal and the business.
I’m curious because I do this a little bit. Do you keep your cards open? I’m the type that I open a card, then I close it after one year, and then I opened a card because I’m hustling the bonuses. The real big players will have 20 to 40 cards open. They know which ones to use when, and they’re super into it. Where do you fall on that?
It depends on them. I keep the majority of them open. For Amex cards, you only get the bonus once so I opened and keep it. If it’s a Chase I’m going and it’s an airline card, I can only get that once. I’ll open it, get my bonus and close it. For Chase cards, you usually can recycle those every two years. I’ll keep it open and then close it. In two years, I’m eligible to re-up for another bonus.
I booked like business class flights and a bunch of travel in Europe. I’m like, “Points are amazing,” plus lounges are everything.
We spent eight days in the Maldives in an over the water bungalow, and I didn’t pay for this room. I found a cheap flight and my accommodation was free. We were able to do this with two rooms. Points hacking and rewards points add to the Fi life. People think Fi is all about sacrificing sadness. It’s not. If you’re strategic with all of the different techniques you can use and levers you can pull, points hacking is definitely one where you can make your daily sacrifices but still have these bonuses or experiences in life.
If you’re using this Hilton or the Marriott card, that’s not just for that hotel. You can also use flights and a bunch of other things too.
You can use it for whatever. For each of those cards, I will use it up to the minimum spin to get my bonus. Once I have my bonus, I don’t touch any of the branded cards unless I’m at that establishment. My everyday spin card is going to be that Chase Sapphire Reserve because I’m going to earn access to flights, hotels and everything through the Chase portal. If it’s a branded card, I’m going to get the sign-on bonus and then only use it when I’m at the hotel, but Chase is every day.
Is your accountant at a nightmare if you’ve got all these credit cards funneling into your QuickBooks system and all that?
No, I try to make it easy for them. Each card has a particular property or use that it’s for. That way, when it goes into QuickBooks, he knows this card is this house. It doesn’t get too complicated for them.
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It is about time that we have our final four. Do you have any words of wisdom before we head there?
Yes, house hack. Your first real estate purchase should be something that makes you money, not makes you have to go to work every day.
Put money in your pocket. Don’t take it out.Question number one, what are you reading?
It’s The House Hacking Strategy by Craig Curelop. It’s amazing. The author was awesome. He signed it for me. It’s been life-changing.
I hear it’s a good book. It’s one of the best.The whole time you are reading it, are you like, “I already knew all of this?”
No. I feel like, “How do I make friends with him? We are thinking the same things. We should be working together. How do we stay connected?” That’s what I think when I read the book.
The second question, what is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received would have been from my mom. Anytime I called to ask her for advice, her response was always, “You seem to be doing a pretty good job. Trust yourself. You know what you’re doing.” Trust myself is the best piece of advice because there’s so much noise, so many other opinions and varying opportunities that it can get confusing. Sometimes your own voice can be overshadowed. The more that you can be aligned with what you want for yourself and what your values and beliefs are, that’s more fuel that can propel you with whatever your goals or whatever path you’re taking.
Question number three, what is your why?
My why initially was to have the freedom of choice primarily. To not need money or have to do anything. The why was always freedom like, “How do I be free, have free time, free choices, and free money to use?” Now that I’ve achieved those preliminary goals, my why is starting to redefine itself and turning more into, “Who can I bring with me because this is cool, but it’s better with friends?” The why is influx and going from my own personal freedom to how do I bring other people along?
This journey is no fun by yourself. Number four, what kind of secret society would you like to start?
If I made up a secret society, it would be like the Secret Society Of The Cheapies. My friends and family refer to me as the cheapest person they know. I feel like my cheapness is the best thing about me. I’m so cool that I can travel for free and I live in this house hack. I would create a secret society of others like money nerds and cheapskates where we’re out here living our best lives despite what people think about our extremes.
Staying in the Maldives in a bungalow for free, that’s hell yeah. I hope you do some YouTube videos or blog posts on that.
I need to. I’m bad at social media and starting all of that. I’m struggling through it. I’ve created a website and a new Instagram. When you see it, it’s a baby but it’s growing. I’ll share some pictures from that trip. That leads to our final question, where can people find out more about you?
Check out Antoinette and her story. Anything else we want to add before we conclude this show?
I’m working on sharing more, which is why I created the website and Instagram. I’m putting together a course detailing how I was able to pursue financial freedom through real estate investing. If you want to learn more about that, check out the website and Instagram.
If you’re in Orlando, hit her up. Who knows? Maybe she’ll grab a drink with you if you’re so lucky. Until then, Antoinette, we’ll see you later.
That was Antoinette Munroe. What did you think of her?
She’s great. I love her story. I also love that she said that she listens to all of our episodes because she couldn’t predict that question. I was like, “Somebody is listening to our show?” I like that. It makes me excited.
I also love that she was reading my book. I don’t know if she’s doing that just because she’s on the show. She has taken a lot of valuable lessons. It also seems that she hasn’t made many mistakes. I’m sure she has, but she has done her research and knows how to navigate her way through them. I love that she took the step of paying off the debt. She felt comfortable and confident to go ahead and put rehab on her credit card, which is an extremely risky thing to do for most people. We would not recommend you do it, but she did it because she knew she could pay it off. The house tripled or quadrupled in value since she bought it. I’m super impressed with her story. I love what she’s doing and where she’s going. Spending a week in the Maldives is like, “What?”
It sounds dope. That’s a dream of mine but I’ve always felt like I’m too cheap to spend that much money on a bungalow. Now I’m like, “I need to get my points game up.”
One of our dreams is to go to the Maldives. We were thinking about doing our honeymoon there and I’m like, “I don’t know. Maybe we’d go to Florida instead. Close your eyes, so you’re in the same place.” Guys, if you liked this show and this episode, please leave us a rating and review on iTunes. We appreciate it so much. Let us know when you leave a review. Hit us up on Instagram. I’m @TheFIGuy and Zeona is @ZeonaMcIntyre. We will see you all in the next episode.
- Antoinette Munroe
- BiggerPockets Money Podcast
- Rich Dad Poor Dad
- BiggerPockets Real Estate Podcast
- The House Hacking Strategy
- @FearlessAndFreeFI – Instagram
- iTunes – Invest2Fi
- @TheFIGuy – Instagram
- @ZeonaMcIntyre – Instagram
About Antoinette Munroe
Antoinette Munroe is a serial entrepreneur with a broad spectrum of business experience in industries ranging from music entertainment to construction. After eight years of accelerated advancement at a global CPG company, Antoinette shifted her focus from climbing the corporate ladder to pursuing FIRE(Financial Independence Retire Early) by 40. She achieved that goal at 36!
To achieve this goal, Antoinette developed Budget ABC’s, House Hacking, and Travel Hacking strategies that accelerated her path to financial independence. Along the way she’s repaid over 100K debt, eliminated all her living expenses and traveled around the world visiting exotic locations like Bora Bora and Maldives for little to no cost.
Currently, Antoinette primarily focuses on scaling her real estate investment portfolio using various strategies like short-term rentals, flipping, group homes, and multifamily. With her hyper focus on creating innovative ways to minimize expenses, maximize savings, and monetize opportunities, it’s no surprise that she’s the first self-made millionaire in her family. When she’s not “Building to Billions.” Antoinette enjoys salsa dancing, fine dining, and having fun with friends and family. Living by the personal mantra “I will find a way or make one”, Antoinette is continuously working towards achieving her wildest dreams and brings and helping others define and achieve theirs.