Sweet 16 and Investing in Real Estate

By Heather Taylor2 Comments

It’s common for parents to say they don’t want their children to make the same mistakes they did. It’s safe to say 16-year-old Equity Trust client Brittany is learning from that lesson. Unsatisfied with some of her past retirement saving strategies, Brittany’s mother, Jan, has been helping her daughter take control of her own financial situation for years now. So far, so good: Jan predicts that if Brittany stays on pace, she will retire a multimillionnaire.

Jan has had success buying, fixing up and selling high-end real estate in the suburbs of St. Louis and Los Angeles for decades, but she admitted that she made some bad choices when it came to her retirement savings strategy. She had heard about self-directed IRAs decades ago, but it wasn’t until 2008 – when she lost an unsettling amount of money in the stock market – that she decided to seriously research them.

“I decided it was time to take control of my IRA…I converted everything (in my retirement account) to a Roth IRA when the account balance was at its lowest.” With Roth IRAs, the accountholder pays taxes when the account is opened, as opposed to the Traditional IRA, which is taxed when distributions are taken.

Jan focused her investments in the area in which she has more than 25 years of experience. “My business is real estate, so I understand it very well,” she says. “My expertise is in renovating houses — finding properties, hiring contractors, making decisions and selling properties.”

Investing as a family affair
Ever since she can remember, Brittany has enjoyed helping her mom out with the business. That interest only grew when she was 13 and Jan and Brittany’s dad, Gary, gave her a check to reimburse her for the work she’d done for her mom.

Her first thought was, “this is a lot of money…I’m going to go shopping!” That’s probably what a lot of teens would have done. But when her parents introduced her to another option, Brittany realized a new level of excitement. With the help of her parents, Brittany opened a Roth IRA and partnered the money in it with her parents’ accounts to buy two houses.

“I enjoy being able to go see homes, help out with contractors and give opinions on things; it’s a great learning experience…it’s what I want to do when I’m older.”
Family Project: Self-Directed Real Estate Investing
Illustrating that you’re never too young to begin self-directing, Jan and Gary have been involving their 16-year-old daughter, Brittany, in their self-directed real estate deals for a few years. Here’s one example of the effect her small role in an investment can have on her financial future.

The family used their Roth IRAs to buy and renovate a single-family home in St. Louis County.
  • IRA funding source: Gary: 65 percent, Jan: 30 percent, and Brittany: 5 percent.
  • Purchase price:  $132,500
  • Sale price in July 2013:  $349,000
  • Profit after all expenses (renovation, commission, property taxes, utility and other expenses): $80,000 tax-free profit back into the IRAs
  • Bottom line for Brittanys account: Her contribution was $9,800 or 5 percent. A 5 percent portion of the total $80,000 profit was $4,000. Her IRA increased in value by 40 percent from February to July, taking her balance from $9,800 to $13,800.
Bonus Download: 10 Ways to Partner on a Deal with Your IRA
Brittany admits that she was apprehensive about self-directed investing at first because, as a budding entrepreneur, she was used to receiving quicker returns from her business ventures. Her other businesses include dog walking, babysitting and teaching retirees in her grandparents’ community how to use technology. Unlike the pay from those jobs, the profits from self-directed investing aren’t available to Brittany right away.

“I can’t access that money for several decades,” Brittany says, acknowledging that she has come to terms with the idea. “I’m absolutely interested in reaching financial security so I don’t have to work as long and so I can help others.” She explains that during a recent service trip to Haiti, she realized she needs to be financially successful if she is going to be able to give back in a big way.

(It's possible to partner your IRA with other IRAs - from your family or other investors. Discover this and other partnering methods in the 10 Ways to Partner on a Deal with Your IRA checklist.)

Never too early…or late
Jan says some of their investments (see gray box for an example) achieve returns as high as 40 percent. Jan knows that with the power of compound interest, Brittany’s early start will have a huge impact on her financial future. 

“Even if she only makes half that (40 percent), a 20 percent return, she’ll have oodles of millions of dollars by the time she is able to start withdrawing funds at age 59 1/2,” Jan says. “It’s fun to run the numbers with her and inspire her in that way.”

Jan also hopes that with this early start, Brittany will be able to teach others these financial lessons, and they will carry on to the next generation.

“You can do this with your kids and grandkids,” Jan says, adding it’s easy – and can even be beneficial – to get children involved in the work involved in the investments. “Brittany sends mailings, meets with contractors, and helps me buy properties I wouldn’t have been able to purchase otherwise. “Plus, people trust me more when they see her involved.”

Increasing childrens financial literacy
Brittany began learning to budget her money when she was in fifth grade.  “Before the budget, my mom and I would go into a store and it was a game to see if I could get her to buy things for me,” she says. This helped Brittany develop her negotiation skills, but little else. Now her mom works as her consultant and Brittany makes all the decisions and enters her transactions in a phone app to track her income and expenses.

Whether children are in fifth grade or in college, investing isn’t out of the question, Jan says.

People think later in life, ‘it’s too late for me.’ If they have teenage kids or a one-year-old, you could get them into IRA investing,” Jan says, adding, “ It makes perfect sense to get them started early.”

Bonus Resource: If you're looking for additional investment capital or want to get your children involved with your investments, download the free 10 Ways to Partner Your IRA on a Deal checklist today.