Road Map to Success – A Personal Story

by Krantcents · 41 comments

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Writing about success reminds me of the interview question tell me about yourself?  If you are not familiar with this question, it is an interviewer’s question to get the candidate to start talking.  Some call it a 60 second commercial!  It is supposed to focus on the skills you bring to the job.  I thought I would describe myself through my journey to success.  


It all started a long time ago!  I was thirty-one (31) years old and thinking corporate finance and accounting was my passion in a corporate setting.   I was just thinking about investing and it grew from there.  Seven (7) years later, I had a business that allowed me to quit my day job.  If it were really that simple everyone would do it!  There is a great deal more and it started close to three decades earlier.  I grew up poor in an affluent family.  My parents were rich and successful, but lived as though they were poor.  We lived in a ten (10) room house in the City (New York) next to my doctor and dentist and we had a country place in New Jersey.  They also owned two (2) cars and two (2) businesses.  When I say owned, there was no debt.

My parents were very busy and I do not remember seeing them much as a child except at work.  I think this had a strong influence on me as I grew up.  I remember staying very busy taking piano lessons, practicing, playing with friends, playing games (cards and board games) and working with my parents.  I think I learned a great deal from being around my parents, but I did not know how much until much later.  I was always fascinated with money and business, so it was not a surprise that I would pick a career in finance and accounting.  It made sense to me to take my math skills into business.  It allowed me to combine my interests with my skills.  The best part was I was paid to do what I loved to do!

What influenced me?  I think I was always trying to get my parent’s attention.  It was routine for me to work with my parents every weekend from a very early age.  I think I started going to my mother’s store as early as four years old.  I would work for a couple of hours and have lunch.  Just being around them in business taught me a lot. I never thought it was unusual except that I did not see them much.  My earliest memory of getting their attention was when I earned a little money.  I was seven (7) years old and rented parking spaces on my parent’s land for an afternoon.  This became an annual event and I saw my income grow for just working a few hours.  I made just a few dollars, but my parents were thrilled.  Next I sold candy for the 4-H Club door to door.  I wasn’t the best, but I learned to overcome my fears and build confidence.

My parents influenced me in many different ways.  It was never the things they said, instead it was the things they did. As far as I know, my parents never had any debt except their first home.  Their first mortgage was tiny compared to today’s numbers, but significant for 1929.  They built a custom home as the country slipped into The Great Depression!  The mortgage was approximately $9,000 with an $85 monthly payment.  I remember my parents were big savers.  They influenced me to be a saver too.  They lived well, but did not waste money on frivolous things.  They bought bonds, real estate and started businesses.  One other thing influenced me although I did not realize it at the time.  I do not remember ever seeing my parents go to the store to shop.  I am sure it was because they did not have the time.  I do remember that they bought everything wholesale.  My mother had a children clothing store and she would just add to her orders for me.  They always had connections which influenced my purchasing habits.

School was a huge influence!  I always attended private school, but I went to a prep school in the seventh grade.  Living away from home was a huge change!  Living and going to school with children of successful people influences you in ways you don’t realize.  Children of successful people have traits and characteristics that can motivate you to do better.  I was always competitive, but it raises your game!  Classes were small and you could not hide.  There were plenty of opportunities to get help from teachers and other students.  Besides all the support, I developed lifelong relationships.  I still talk to my ex roommate from nearly fifty (50) years ago.  Watching and learning from other successful people helps you succeed too.

When I finished college, it was the height of the Vietnam War!  My student deferment turned into a draft notice!  It came shortly after getting married and starting my first career job.  I was drafted and inducted into the army, but never made it overseas.  Instead, I taught business subjects to inmates at the USDB (armed forces prison).  My wife even joined me in Kansas.  This experience matured me fast and taught me how to get things done in a difficult environment.  I made my own opportunities.  I was attending grad school at night and networked to get this assignment.  My short military experience motivated me to try different things which helped me throughout my life.

Was it a lucky break?

One of my first career jobs was with a Fortune 100 company when I met a colleague who invested in income property.  I think I asked him thousands of questions and took my first step into investing.  My first step was finding a real estate broker who would school me in rental property.  I must have interviewed twenty-five (25) to thirty-five (35) real estate brokers before I found a “good” one.  My first investment was a nine (9) unit and I was on my way.  It was all about the numbers which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I was looking for growth not cash flow!  I did not need the income although I wanted it to break even.  Income property is sold based on a multiple of income or cap rate.  My goal was to raise the income so the property would increase in value so I could either sell it and have capital gains or do a 1031 exchange for a larger property.  A 1031 exchange is a tax provision that allows an investor to defer taxes.

When I bought the twenty-four (24) unit, I had an opportunity to fill eight (8) units.  Although rent control limited the increases, you could raise the rent to market when it was vacant.  I decided to approach marketing of these units to maximize value.  This was a working class apartment building where the rents were modest.   Normally, I asked for first and last months rent and a cleaning deposit security.  I decided to lower the move-in costs and raise the rent by twenty-five (25) dollars.  My theory was that coming up with $1,000-1.200 upfront was a stumbling block for many credit worthy people.  I lowered the deposits by $300, but raised the rent by $25 per month.  I screened the perspective tenant more and basically broke even in twelve (12) months.  The bonus was every unit rented at the higher rent generated an approximately additional two thousand dollars in value.  Most of the tenants stayed longer than a year and each (percentage) increase was based on the higher rent.  It is all about the numbers!

Over time, I successfully traded (1031 exchange) my rental properties for larger  buildings or added new properties.  One of the properties I bought were ten (10) townhouses, I was thinking of converting the townhouses into condominiums, instead I kept them as rentals. My last investment was a shopping center (11,500 sq. ft.).  My income property provided a steady income to live reasonably without a day job.  I was thirty-eight years old and took the leap of leaving the corporate world!  What was I going to do?  These properties did not take forty (40) hours to run it.  I started to add businesses not just to fill my time, but to balance the lack of liquidity of real estate.  I added a fast food restaurant, studio catering company and consulting followed.  I never earned so much money, but it was a lot of work.  About twenty (20) years ago, I started to sell it all off and concentrate on consulting.  I started to change directions because it was no longer fun!  Turning all my investments into cash did not hurt either.

I thought I would try out teaching by becoming a substitute teacher.  I thought if I liked it, I might teach until I was ready to retire.  I have been a teacher for twelve (12) years and thoroughly enjoy it!  I like influencing young people and sharing what I have learned.  I teach business and computer applications.  About five (5) years ago, I created a number of classes such as personal finance, careers and virtual business.  I get to use my business and personal skills to influence young people.  Teaching is a very fulfilling profession for me.  Along with a career I enjoy, I get great benefits and a pension too.  Is it a lucky break or good planning?  “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” (Edison).  Doing something you enjoy provides immense benefits, you are happy and other opportunities occur.  Two (2) years ago, I started a blog and this year I started volunteering.  I volunteered to put together some workshops for the Boys and Girls clubs for spring.

Final Thoughts

I managed to do everything I wanted to.  Since I am just past middle age (66 years old), I still have a lot to do.  I have a plan and I am constantly adding to or changing it.  Success is not automatic!  I learned a great deal from my parents, but that was just the start.  I attribute my success to savings and investing.  For me, my decision process is examined and thought through in a planning process.  I start my process with questions!  Questions that range from what is the outcome to what I want to achieve?  I always try to think long term.  What do I want my retirement to look like?  Not just financially, but what will I do?  I have really become pretty good at asking questions of myself and others.  Little did I know that is the basis for search engines!  I use questions as a method for negotiation as well as learning.  I started this off with focusing on my skills and strengths.  Although my experience may be unique, I believe everyone can achieve success.  I hope my success will encourage your best effort.

Photo by:   thinboyfatter

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Financial Samurai March 5, 2013 at 9:13 am

Larry, a 10 room house in NYC is huge! Does your family still own it? That place must cost at least $5 million no? Is that bedrooms, or just rooms? Either way, that’s large.

Do you think you would have turned out differently growing up in a poor household which was also frugal?


Krantcents March 5, 2013 at 10:22 am

They sold the house along with their businesses in the 1950s. It was just 10 rooms.

Very interesting question! I can only guess that I would be different because I would have missed out on certain experiences.

Martin March 5, 2013 at 7:50 pm

That 10 room statement and being poor actually made me laugh. Did you have just one bathroom? I only could afford 2BD 1BA apartment in our place (Vail, CO).

Anyway, what was inspiring and impressed me was that Larry could quit his job in just 7 years. That is an excellent achievement.

Krantcents March 5, 2013 at 9:02 pm

The point that I was trying to make was I lived so frugally as a child it felt as though I was poor. I am a little embarrassed to say it had 3 bathrooms and maid’s quarters. Investing in income property was presented a lot of opportunity. It helped that I enjoyed what I was doing and I became good at it.

Tim Huntley March 5, 2013 at 10:42 am

Your story is quite inspirational, so thank you for sharing it.

You said that you have “managed to do everything I wanted to,” and “What do I want my retirement to look like.”

Do you anticipate having the type of retirement that many envision, the type where you spend your time in leisure? Or do you use the word retirement in a broader sense and mean that you aren’t worried about pursuing interests for the sake of income?

All the best,


Krantcents March 5, 2013 at 11:39 am

I have been in semi retirement for the last 28 years in some form or another. I will retire from my teaching position in less than 5 years. I recently wrote an article describing my retirement plans called “I Will Never Retire” (it is on page 2). For the last 28 years, I have pursued many careers and things I enjoy. Retirement will be similar as I outlined it in the article. I gave myself a lot of room to take my pursuits in many directions. I plan on keep writing so I will probably report what I am doing.

Tim Huntley March 5, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Thank you – I circled back and read the post you referenced.

I semi-retired at 35 after selling my software company eleven years ago, and since then have had a mix of projects. While I doubt I will go back and do another startup, like you, I hope to never retire.

Krantcents March 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm

As they say, now the adventure really begins! Make every day count because before you know it you will be my age (66 y.o.).

Darwin's Money March 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Awesome story; I think so much of where someone ends up financially has to do with their upbringing. The apples don’t fall far from the tree – I see this with many friends and family. Spendthrift and foolish parents end up with the same types as kids. Frugal/hardworking parents often end up with financially successful kids.

Krantcents March 5, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I agree although modeling the responsible behavior is a very important part of it. It is such a kick when you see your kid do the right thing! It makes you realize they were listening or something.

CashRebel March 5, 2013 at 7:06 pm

It’s always interesting to hear how people who grow to be rich were brought up. I’m learning more an more that it’s about frugality, hard work, and starting businesses. Thanks for sharing your story.

Krantcents March 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm

All true and more! Perhaps even a little genetic too.

Squirrelers March 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Thanks for sharing your story. Inspriational, and a great example of how one can see successful behavior modeled at a young age and be positively influenced by it.

Krantcents March 5, 2013 at 8:45 pm

I think I learned a lot when I was young although I did not know it at the time.

Buck Inspire March 5, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Is this Donald Trump in disguise? You worked real estate like a grand master. Great to learn more about you KC. That is quite an inspirational journey you had and sounds like you still have so much more to achieve. Way to make a difference and thanks for sharing!

Krantcents March 6, 2013 at 6:55 am

Thanks, I really liked income property. It fit my skills and I learned the rest.

Jason Clayton March 6, 2013 at 5:46 am

Great Read. I really enjoyed your story and its very inspirational, especially for someone who is interested in pursuing commercial real-estate.

As CashRebel says above, it really is about frugality, hardwork, and starting a business.

Krantcents March 6, 2013 at 6:57 am

Very true, although I always felt determination plays a role too.

Holly@ClubThrifty March 6, 2013 at 9:57 am

Awesome story. Thanks for sharing! I feel like I know you a little better now =)

Krantcents March 6, 2013 at 10:46 am

Thanks, it was one of the reasons I decided to share my story periodically.

Jules@Fat Guy,Skinny Wallet March 6, 2013 at 5:01 pm

What a great story! Congrats on all of your success. I really appreciate what you said about always having more to do. Always striving will make us even more successful.

Krantcents March 6, 2013 at 5:05 pm

Thanks, I think all we can ever do is try to do better and learn from our mistakes! Even the most ordinary people can succeed if they just do that.

Kim@Eyesonthedollar March 6, 2013 at 7:00 pm

Thanks for sharing. I think I knew bits and pieces, but it’s nice to see how the whole thing played out. While some might call you “lucky”, I think we make our own luck, and you certainly took advantage of opportunities as they came along. I might have to pick your brain about 1031 exchanges with a property we are working with right now. I haven’t posted about it because it’s a novel, but I will at some point.

Krantcents March 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm

No problem. Wait a minute, a 1031 exchange must be like properties. I’ll wait and see your article.

Untemplater March 7, 2013 at 12:10 am

Thanks for sharing many insights into your background. I find it inspiring that you found your way to teaching well into your career. Teaching is something I’ve thought about in the back of my mind, and maybe I’ll look into doing substitute teaching on the side after I quit my office job in a few years. I think it’s awesome you’re so active and are teaching young kids valuable skills!

Krantcents March 7, 2013 at 6:49 am

I think it keeps me young, but I never could relate to people my own age. I had good role models for keeping active too.

Alexis Marlons March 9, 2013 at 8:22 am

This is such an inspiring story to share. Thanks a lot for taking time to impart to everyone the lessons you’ve learned in life.

Krantcents March 9, 2013 at 9:40 am

I can only hope to inspire more people to achieve success.

Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter March 10, 2013 at 10:49 am

Wow, What a story. I think it is amazing that you have done all you have wanted to do. So few people can say that which is unfortunate because that is how we should be spending our lives – doing things we want to do. I am getting there but I still have some tweaking to do.

Krantcents March 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Thanks although I am not done! There is so many more things I want to do.

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