Living My Rock Star Life

Being a rock star is the intersection of who you are and
who you want to be. – Slash

Last Saturday I got up while the rest of the house was sleeping to head to Mississauga for a five-hour “Your Life. Your Terms. Event”. It’s a trip I’ve made 3 times per year for the last several years. But why does this event get me out of bed early on the weekend? What does “Your Life. Your Terms.” even mean? And who is Rock Star Real Estate, the organizer of this event?

I came across Rock Star Real Estate over 5 years ago while searching online for information about real estate investing. They offered a free book, Income for Life For Canadians, and a free training class. I found both very interesting. The owners, Tom and Nick Karadza, seemed knowledgeable and straightforward, offering membership in their “Inner Circle” investors group without pressure. So I signed up. Immediately I was connected with my lovely coach and realtor, Leslie Kitchen, and provided with training and resources. She helped me to purchase my first investment property, a student rental where my son lives (see Turning Houses into Degrees) as well as a second single-family rental. I’ve met some fantastic people through Rock Star Real Estate and attended a broad selection of classes as part of my membership – including the Your Life. Your Terms. Event.

You might expect hours of presentations on real estate to be deadly dull, but not at all! As you walk into the conference room, you see over 700 attendees sitting at round tables trading stories and tips. Most are active property investors rather than those sitting on the sidelines. People are friendly and willing to share. AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” booms on the speakers to call people back after breaks. There are tables in the lobby offering advice and services relevant to real estate investors. And the quality of presenters is high. Here are some of my takeaways from this weekend.

Housing Market – Higher cost, smaller size, more people, more transit: As anyone who lives in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) realizes, real estate here is expensive. The stress test means it takes higher income to qualify for a mortgage. Condos are our new apartments, average square footage is falling and rents are rising. We have high international immigration and most of these newcomers are heading to the GTA. Canadians are also migrating towards the concentration of jobs in downtown Toronto. Regional rail (GO Transit) is adding trains to accommodate people who are living further away for more affordable property prices.

Personal Development – We can be superheroes: Giovanni Marsico explained that everyone has a gift – something that makes you stand out. This is your “superpower”. Each person has to leverage this personal strength to build a tribe of people who are their ideal customers. Aim for key milestones in numbers of people in your community: at 150 you have a social group (or Dunbar’s number); at 1,000 you have true fans; and at 100,000 people you have the ability to transform!

Housing Development – Infill housing can be rewarding: Infill development, filling in gaps in urban communities, has rewards that are asymmetrically higher than the risks. It provides entrepreneurs the flexibility to fill in the missing middle housing options. Look for corner, oversize, extra deep or double lots, and focus on the “ugly” properties. Make sure you’ve done your due diligence with zoning bylaws and official planning designation. Consider building in a second suite by constructing a basement with higher basement ceilings, larger windows, a separate entrance, proper fire separation, and separate utilities.

Economic update – Increasing debt and decreasing labour supply: This presentation is always the highlight for me. Tom Karadza does a rapid-fire update on the state of the economy. Since 2009, GDP growth has been about 1% lower than the longer-term average. We are in the midst of one of the longest economic recoveries on record but there is also increasing debt. Growth and inflation come from both psychology and demographics. We need capital and labor to grow, but the labor supply is decreasing as baby boomers leave the workforce but are not being replaced because of decreasing birth rates in subsequent generations. As the central banks inject more capital into the system, they are no longer getting as much growth in productivity. Personal consumption accounts for 68% of GDP growth, but as baby boomers move into retirement, they spend less, which can cause GDP to shrink.

Canada is in a better position than the US in terms of labor force growth due to the higher immigration, which helps to offset our lower birth rates. Due to our points-based system, many immigrants are economic immigrants that bring much needed skills and training. International students are also encouraged to come for their studies and to stay afterwards to work. The majority of immigrants come to Ontario. All this makes the GO transit corridor the ultimate treasure map for real estate. Invest in positive cash flowing real estate or businesses to profit from this trend.

Megatrends – How you can be prepared: Tom and Nick Karadza outlined five big trends that are impacting our lives and businesses.

  1. Expertise is becoming a commodity through social media. Being something to everyone is a losing strategy. We need to narrowly focus on a market niche to gain a quality audience.
  2. Amazon is leading the destruction of price. In order to compete with the free, cheap & fast trend, we need to focus on building brand loyalty and powerful moments.
  3. Emergence of voice. With voice interfaces like Google Home or Siri, you get a single answer. Businesses need to consider direct personal relevance to each client rather than mass marketing.
  4. Old media dies slowly. People dismiss old media (printed newsletters, television and radio advertisements) too early. Move online customers offline by getting their addresses. Move offline customers online. In this way you can maximize the tools available.
  5. Shiny objects syndrome. People are overwhelmed and confused by the access to so much information. The ability to focus is gone. You need to go back to basic marketing principles rather than just tactics.

So after all this, what does “Your Life. Your Terms.” even mean? To me it means gaining the education and financial means to determine the direction of my own life. Starting my own business and purchasing real estate that provides a positive cash flow each month gives me more freedom. I can build wealth outside of the swings of the stock market. I am learning lessons in entrepreneurship and resilience while charting my own course. I can build in opportunities to travel, spend time with my family and pursue my interests. That’s my Rock Star life. That’s life on MY terms. What does your life on YOUR terms look like? What do you need to do next to create new possibilities in your life?


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