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Achieving Financial Freedom with Real Estate

I spoke with Jesse DilLillo, founder of JSJ Sustainable Investment. He began investing in Real Estate at the age of 16 after starting J&S Beachcombers, LLC with his Mother, Jane, and late Father, Sal. Jesse was also recently featured in Yahoo Finance as One of The Top 20 Entrepreneurs You Need To Pay Attention To in 2020.

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How did you and your family get into the real estate investment business?

Around 13 years back, I was up in a hotel room watching television when an infomercial on tax lien investing popped up. I had seen this commercial on several occasions. Intrigued, I began to research about tax lien investing. Despite being just 16, I managed to convince my parents to start a real estate investment business. In the beginning, it was more of a side hustle for us, where we invested passively. A few years later, we took the plunge and joined a real estate coaching program that helped us understand how to wholesale and flip houses. We began as wholesalers in Central California and then moved into flipping after seeing the incredible opportunities in the midwest. The profit margins were much higher, and we were able to scale up rapidly.

What inspired you to get into the real estate business?

In short, financial freedom. My family and I love the freedom that comes with remote investing, and we have become full-time investors for nearly 3 years now. We now pay higher than average returns to our investors, owing to our business model and business philosophy. Financial freedom gives us the ability to experiment and adapt to the changes in the market, and ensure that we keep growing and succeeding on all fronts.

What do you think keeps most people from achieving financial freedom?

I think fear is what holds most people back from seeking financial freedom. The fear of failure, of losing, and of the unknown. Once we can change our mindset to learn to accept failure as part of the learning process, everything changes. 

Another challenge is finding the right team of trustworthy individuals. Working with numerous teams on several investments can help zero in on the perfect team. After that, it’s all about moving forward and working towards the goal.

How important do you think financial education is in achieving financial freedom?

Oh, financially educating yourself is fundamental in achieving financial freedom. Continuously educating yourself is incredibly important, and something I think every one must do. Read books and listen to podcasts rather than wasting your time watching television or mindless radio. Try to change your mindset to think positively and be someone who seeks solutions rather than complaining. 

Have sports influenced the way you look at the real estate business?

Oh, yes, absolutely it has. I was a goalkeeper in 3 different sports. From an early age, I learned to let things go and focus on what is ahead rather than dwelling on the past. We lost games and sometimes the opposition got the better of me, but I learned to look at the positive side of things even if things didn’t go my way.

What were the three most important lessons about money that everyone should know, but aren’t taught in schools?

The first lesson is that you must save money to invest, and not to spend. Don’t buy a $100,000 Mercedes that only loses value in your driveway. Instead, using the money to buy a rental property that gives you a passive source of income, appreciates in value, while also giving you tax deductions is the way to go.

The second lesson is to look at money as a tool and not a goal. Use money as a tool to buy back time. The more money you have, the greater the freedom you have with your time. Remember to trade money for time, and not the other way around. 

The third lesson is to stop buying things you don’t really need. Instead of buying an item to impress other people, use it on something that can return 5x its amount over time. Compound interest can be your best friend as well as your worst enemy. Refrain from going into debt to buy unnecessary things.

What was one moment where you did something against the trend?

Our remote business certainly qualifies as something that we did against the trend and out of our comfort zone. In the real estate business, the business owners are often expected to physically be present at the projects and monitor them on a daily basis. When we went remote, we realised that we had much greater freedom of time, and no longer had to unnecessarily watch people work for 6 hours a day. Our friends, family, and other investors thought we were crazy and told us that this would never work out. We went on to prove that they were wrong.

What we realized was that most people are stuck in their own ways and they aren’t able to think outside their bubble. Most people just want to do the same thing over and over again without really trying to push the boundaries and actively grow their business. From a young age, we are taught that we must get a job, work for 50 years, and then lead a so-called ‘comfortable’ life for the last 10 or 15 years. This system is broken, and we must all aim to free ourselves from the rat race to achieve great things in our life. I’ve always thought trading our time to build someone else’s dream in return for some money is a tragedy.

What is the most important investment you’ve made?

Continuous education is undoubtedly the most worthwhile investment I have made to date. Business partners, properties, and deals come and go, but education is something that stays with you forever. It helps you constantly improve and grow. It doesn’t have to be formal education. Spend money on books, courses, events, seminars, mentors, mentoring groups and so on. Investing in education is the simplest way to reach the next tier in your life and move towards financial freedom.

What was some of the best advice you have received on real estate investing?

One of our mentors liked to say ‘done is better than perfect’. Although perfection is always something we must strive for, we must avoid overanalyzing things and just begin doing them. This doesn’t mean that you must cut corners to achieve something, Instead, the goal is to ensure that we are always moving forward without losing momentum.

You can contact Jesse on Instagram at investwithjsj and on his website at JSJsustainableinvestments.

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