August 6, 2020

JF2165: Tips for Navigating 2020 | Actively Passive Investing Show With Theo Hicks & Travis Watts

Today Theo and Travis will be diving deeper into one of Travis’s blog posts called “Tips for Navigating 2020”. Theo will be asking Travis questions to dive deeper into this topic to help you become better investors.

We also have a Syndication School series about the “How To’s” of apartment syndications and be sure to download your FREE document by visiting Thank you for listening and I will talk to you tomorrow.

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Theo Hicks: Hello, Best Ever listeners and welcome to the best real estate investing advice ever show. I’m Theo Hicks and I’m back today with Travis Watts. Travis, how are you doing today?

Travis Watts: Theo, doing great man. Excited.

Theo Hicks: Yep, me too. So this is Travis and I, the second time together on this show. We’re going to talk about mostly passive investing, but also a little bit about Travis as well. So as a reminder, Travis is a full-time passive investor, he’s been investing in real estate since 2009 in multifamily, single-family and vacation rentals; he’s also the director of Investor Relations at Ashcroft Capital, and he dedicates his time to educating others who are looking to be more hands-off in real estate, which is again, the purpose of this.

So today we’re gonna talk about tips for navigating 2020. We’re going to expand upon a blog post that Travis wrote, called The Five Tips For Navigating 2020. So we’re gonna go over five particular tips; we’re gonna go one at a time, then we’re gonna probe Travis a little bit more to get some more information out of him.

Theo Hicks: So the first tip for better navigating 2020 is to educate, educate, educate. So since we are working from home, can’t really travel, we should be focusing on educating ourselves, and Travis gave us some examples; obviously, once we are able to work not at home again and travel, we should still be focusing on educating, but since this is focusing on 2020, the whole point is that we have a lot of extra time. Let’s say it takes you half an hour to get to work, ten minutes getting to work, so 40 minutes total commutes, you have an extra hour and 20 minutes of time every single day to spend doing something else. So if you add in, let’s say, 20 minutes extra per day of educating multiplied over every single day for all 2020, imagine how much further towards your goals you’re going to be.

So the question that I had for Travis here, to get more personal, is what is your go-to form education? On the blog, you gave a couple of examples – online events, webinars, books, podcasts, how-to videos, BiggerPockets, blogs; there’s really an unlimited amount of ways you can educate yourself, so what are some of the go-to things that you like to do to stay up to date on your industry, as well as progress towards your goals?

Travis Watts: Sure, Theo. I guess just to back up real quick, just for a minute, so the reason that I really wrote this particular blog – for those that don’t know, I spend my weeks on the phone with investors nationwide, just talking about COVID and passive investing, and through this process, having hundreds– well, I’m sure thousands at this point over time of these calls, what I’ve noticed as a trend since March is so much fear and uncertainty. So a lot of these questions are – are you investing right now? Or I think I might sit on the sidelines for the year, or whatever… So I’ve always been a huge advocate for self-education. I mean, my whole life, more so when I got into the real estate space post-2009, so I guess I’m an eternal optimist to an extent, but I was just thinking the other day, there’s got to be a handful of things that I could put together here for people to help them through a crazy year like this one, which of course, we’ve never seen before, but also reminds me a lot of when I got started in real estate in 2009. There was a ton of fear, a lot of people – I think we talked about on our last show – just saying, “Do I invest right now? Is it the bottom? Everything looks horrible. The news is putting fear in everybody.” So these are just some helpful tips for 2020 that anybody can do just to keep propelling yourself forward and to take advantage of what we can take advantage of. Obviously, we can’t do a lot of things that we were doing pre-March. So anyway, that’s a little backstory behind the blog. You asked me what my favorite source of staying educated is. Is that the question?

Theo Hicks: Yep.

Travis Watts: Cool. Boy, I don’t know if I have a favorite, but I really like just having conversations with people. So I do have some mentors in my network, and even if they’re not a mentor, if they’re just a peer or anybody, I like just conversing. So what I was doing before COVID was going around to conferences and just meeting people and just picking their brain and trying to add value to them as much as I’m getting in the conversation. So I would resort back to that. Now, if you don’t have a big network or you’re just getting started in the space, you mentioned BiggerPockets… Just online forums, not to drop a name brand, but just anywhere that you could go online and just have a conversation or post a topic like the ones that we just talked about, like “Who’s investing right now in July 2020? What are your thoughts?” and just to get 40 different answers to that is probably my favorite. I think I get the most benefit out of that, but I do them all, just to be clear. I’ve got four books on my audible right now, I listen to podcasts every week, I’m reading two books, so I just — whatever. There are different courses for different horses, or however that goes.

But anyhow, everybody’s different, but I just want to point out that there’s a lot of ways to self-educate. I know some people are visual learners, some people are audio, some people like to connect face to face. Take advantage of these Zoom calls; they’re incredible. Seriously, they’re incredible. I’d say about 20% of the calls I have, people ask if I’m willing to do a Zoom call with them. Sure, absolutely. It’s free, it’s convenient. Why not? So anyway, long-winded answer, but those are some ideas.

Theo Hicks: Yeah, I was just gonna say that you would go to these conferences and have one on one conversations with people to educate people. Another really good strategy that I implemented was to reach out to people on BiggerPockets, or in your local market, targeting them with your keywords in your local market they’re in, if you’re just getting started in real estate in general or if you’re further along, and you know what specific type of niche you should be involved in. You can reach out to them, see them in person for  coffee.

Now, since you necessarily might not be able to do that, depending on where you live, don’t use that as an excuse to just not do it. Travis gave you a perfect example, as opposed to saying, “Hey, do you mind grabbing coffee?” Say, “Hey, do you mind hopping on Skype or Zoom or FaceTime, whatever type of video conferencing software?” and if you don’t want to do that, you can even just do audio on the phone. So don’t attempt to use that as a reason to not educate yourself.

Obviously, this question is not going to make sense for going to conferences, but for the other types of education that you do – you mentioned podcasts, audiobooks, reading – do you have a block of time, set off a new calendar every day to spend on education? Do you do every single day or every other day? Is it something that you just do whenever you have time? What’s the best approach to make sure you’re actually doing this?

Travis Watts: That’s a great question. I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years. 2015 was my most disciplined year. Again, on the last episode, I think we touched on reading 52 books a year. So I had a very structured schedule day-to-day for that. Anymore, I really don’t, but I want to throw this out there just as a caveat – if you can be disciplined enough to just tell yourself “I will educate myself for 30 minutes today or 60 minutes today, I will do that”, and if you’re the type of person that can make that happen without a schedule – that’s me in a sense, but I know a lot of folks can’t. So I would recommend that you try to break it up into smaller chunks. Instead of just trying to say, “I’m going to do two hours of reading every single morning,” because there’s going to come a morning that you don’t, or you can’t… And here’s why I don’t keep a schedule. Especially before COVID, my wife and I, we travel a ton, so we’re always on the go. So I can’t say, “At [8:15], I’m going to read for 60 minutes.” Sometimes I can’t do that. I’m in transit or I’m driving, so I have to switch up to an audible or a podcast, and then that’s gonna depend on how much time I have; like you mentioned, the 30-minute commute to work; I used to when I worked a W-2 gig. I had about a 45-minute commute, so I would find podcasts that were between 30 minutes and 40 minutes, and I would structure it to that. So I had more of a routine and more of a schedule, but it’s chaos anymore, but I get it in. Even if it’s the last thing, if it’s 11 o’clock at night, I haven’t done it, I jump on YouTube and it’s like how to blah, blah, blah, or somebody’s thoughts on yadda, yadda. I don’t get on YouTube to waste time, I get on there as an education tool 90% of the time, I do watch some travel documentary stuff and whatnot. But anyhow, it’s different for everyone, but I think breaking it up could be easy. Just say, “I’m going to read for 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes after lunch, and maybe 15 minutes before bed.” That makes it for some folks. A lot more achievable than just saying, “I’m going to cut out 45 minutes right before bed every night.” You and I know there’s going to be nights where you’re just too tired and it just doesn’t happen. So at least you got two of three.

Theo Hicks: Exactly. I like how you mentioned that. It’s a lot easier to listen or to just watch that it’s to like actively read. So if you are able to get that reading aspect in earlier in the day and you are too tired, just put on a ten-minute YouTube video and just sit there, even if you’re not paying attention for most of it; at least you’ll get something.

Alright, so that’s number one – educate, educate, educate. The second tip for navigating 2020 is to redefine your goals and investing criteria, and you mentioned in this piece that the goal isn’t necessarily a dollar amount that you want to make or, “I want to make $100 in cash flow every single month” or “I want to increase my equity by whatever, 12% over five years.” Obviously, that’s important, but what’s more important you say is what’s the underlying reason why you want to make that money in the first place. So my question to you — and you mentioned, what is it that you really want to achieve in life? So you can either answer both of these questions or just one, but either for you or for all of the investors you speak with, what are these types of things that they really want to achieve through this passive income source?

Travis Watts: It’s funny… I made this mistake in 2009, I guess. If you and I were having this conversation and you asked me, “What are your goals?” it would have most definitely been a number; this much cash flow, this much equity this much — it’s all numbers. I was not going deep enough… And here’s the importance. Let me just paint this picture. I ask people all the time about their goals and their objectives, their five-year plan, ten-year plan, what’s the ultimate goal, and here’s what I hear all the time, “$10,000 a month cash flow.” But what I rarely hear is “be more charitable, spend this much time with my family, plan the specific trip that we’ve always wanted to do, but never had the chance to,” that’s your real why, that’s the actual goal that’s digging beneath the surface. Maybe the $10,000 a month cash flow makes that happen for you, but you’ve got to understand and have clarity around the actual goal itself. So I, to myself anyway, I discredit all my number goals; they mean nothing to me. It’s not about numbers at all.

Something I speak a lot about is time freedom – freeing up your actual time through passive income. The reason that’s so important is to discover the world, to discover yourself, to have the time and the flexibility to do what you want with your time. So that’s the ultimate objective. So that’s how I approach goal setting. So whether we’re talking about a small goal like “I want to work out for 30 minutes a day” or you’re talking a big goal like “I want to retire in five years, specifically for these reasons”, it’s important to not just write down a goal or think about it – that’s even worse – and then just forget about it and go, “Oh, well, that’s five years out”, and the next year “Well, it’s still four years out,” because you’re not really making progress towards those in most cases, you’re just letting them fly by the wayside. So I come back to them at minimum, quarterly, most often, monthly. That’s my frequency and that’s where I check in with myself.

And I do the vision boarding stuff and different things, and it changes, and it’s okay. There’s plenty of goals I set out to achieve in a particular timeframe and then realize halfway in either A, I don’t really want that goal after all, or B, what if I did this instead? You don’t have to stay locked into one black and white thinking and that’s the only way. So be adaptable, but the point is that you’re consistently pushing yourself to grow and to expand and to learn, and I think that’s the most important part, is you’re holding yourself accountable. That’s the monthly check-in, that’s the quarterly check-in on your longer-term goals.

Not to get all crazy and weird, but there’s so much, I believe, power to envisioning, like “This is what my life is potentially going to look like, these are the things I could do”, the vision board, whatever. I think if any of the listeners have read Think and Grow Rich and stuff like that – and that’s just one example, it’s a widely known book, but there’s a lot to the power of visualizing your future. So I’m a big believer in it. So I would recommend that people at least try that for a certain amount of time. Try it for six months and see what happens and check in at least monthly.

Theo Hicks: Perfect. Okay, so that was number two. Number three is to volunteer your time and seek mentors. So I really like this point, because you’ve written a blog post before about the knowledge hack, and I talked about this on Syndication School. Essentially, the knowledge hack is you’re able to save a year, two years, a decade, however much time by simply having a mentor. I went into specifics on exactly what you should want out of a mentor; because if you want to have that knowledge and you want to reduce that time, then you need to be doing what you want to do, and you need to be successful in it, because the entire purpose is that they are there to help you navigate any trouble areas, the common mistakes people make, so that you’re not spending ten years making mistakes that you could have easily avoided by having someone who has already made those mistakes or knows not to do something that is going to ultimately lead to a mistake.

So here you mentioned that you can consider either hiring a coach, spending money, but obviously mentorships can be pretty expensive, and if you’re just starting out, you might not have money. Again, don’t use that as an excuse not to have a mentor whatsoever, because you gave a second option, which was to consider volunteering your time to add values to other in exchange for mentorship. So this is essentially how I started working for Joe. So I wanted to ask where that idea come from. Is that something that you did, or did you see someone else do this that made you realize the power of getting a mentor through that particular strategy?

Travis Watts: I don’t know, to be honest with you where this initially came from. What I can tell you is I’ve done both. So I’ve paid for mentorship and coaches. I’ve also volunteered my time as well, and I think that’s the most widely missed aspect of it, is everybody’s out there looking for the knowledge, and what you run into when you Google is mentorship and coaching and these programs and these seminars, and you’re thinking, “Ah, this is thousands of dollars. I don’t have thousands of dollars. I guess I just can’t do it,” and that’s what a lot of people think… But it’s just false, because – I’ll give you an example. About two, maybe three months back, a guy reached out to me through– I don’t know if it’s BiggerPockets or somewhere online, and he says, “Hey, I noticed that you’ve launched this Instagram and that you’re gaining followers and whatever,” and he said, “That’s my specialty, that’s what I do,” and so I say, “Oh, here comes the sales pitch. How much do you want?” and he goes, “Listen,” he said, “I’m also a real estate investor out here in California,” and he said, “I’m doing this four-plex and I have an out of state property, and I just have some questions.” He said, “I like some of the blogs you’ve written and whatever.” He said, “So here’s the deal. I would run your Instagram and help you gain followers, since I know how to do that, if you’ll mentor me once per week for an hour.” So we did this for, I don’t know, two months or something; it didn’t last forever, but a classic example. So I could give him in a very focused, structured way, in enough, time instead of doing the 15-minute calls that I traditionally do with folks. I could really dedicate to what specifically he was trying to achieve.

I’d send him resources, I’d send them books, trying to go above and beyond, because I thought it was so cool. Just because that’s such a thing that I am an advocate for. I just wanted to go above and beyond with it, but that’s a classic example. Not that I’m anybody special or famous, but it’s like, I knew more than he knew in certain areas, and those certain areas is where he was trying to go. And he could have equally gone and paid whatever five grand or something to get some program, but he leveraged me instead. So he could have charged me five grand and then he could have turned around and then bought a mentor or something. But the point is two groups of people like you mentioned, – those that have the money to hire coaches and mentors, that’s perfectly fine and very efficient and effective in most cases, and then volunteering your time if you don’t; or maybe a combination of both.

Some of my mentors, by the way, or the way I add value is we’re just swapping experience in the investing space. I’m saying, “Hey, I’ve invested with these groups over here and this has been my experience,” and they’re saying, “Well, I’m invested with these groups, and here’s my experience.” So we’re both being a mentor to each other and it’s free, but it’s adding value on both sides.

One last thought on that, one of my nephews – I have four – is about to go into college. So this last 12 months, as he’s deciding what to go to college for, I’ve been telling him to add value to folks in the industry that he thinks he wants to work in… Because he’s changed his mind. He wants to be an optometrist, and then a this and then a dentist etc. I’m like, “Just go volunteer your time, even if it’s pushing paperwork or something. Just do something that you can do legally. Be a janitor, and just pick their brain, just be immersed in the environment. See if that’s really what you want to do,” and I think he did that to an extent, but not as much as I would have wanted him to do it. So anyway, that’s my thoughts on that.

Theo Hicks: So for that example, the approach that he used was he had a goal, and then he wanted to invest in this deal, and he, again, knew the power of mentorship and knew exactly what he needed, and so he sought out someone who could give that to him, who could be that mentor. And rather than just emailing Travis and saying, “Hey, I listened to you on a podcast. Here’s all my questions that I want answered.” He instead thought, “Okay, well, what can I do –rather than just pay Travis, what can I do in exchange for that help?” and in this case, he offered to help you with your Instagram account, because [unintelligible [00:21:44].16] you had started– maybe you didn’t specifically say, “Hey, if anyone wants to help me with the Instagram account, please email me.” So it’s not going to be that obvious, is the point. So if you have a mentor, the way you can add value might not be super obvious.

For me, Joe actually asked for help, but sometimes, they might not necessarily be asking for help. You can just listen to them and be creative and attempt to figure out what it is you could help them with. And then one thing if you really want to get someone’s attention is following Travis’ example, and you’re gonna let me know if this is true or false… But obviously, it’s good to offer to do something for them in exchange for something else. What would have been even better in my opinion is if he would have proactively had a plan for you ready.

So like, “Hey, Travis, I did this for Instagram. Here’s my five-step plan in order to get you to go from this many followers to 1000 followers”, and then not even asking for anything in return whatsoever, and so you see this guy like, “Oh my God, this guy just gave me this information for free,” and then once you’ve actually addressed the needs of that individual, then you can say, “Hey, by the way, do you mind helping me out with XYZ?” Again, not necessary, but maybe if you want to get some massive, big-time 20,000 unit apartment investor to be your mentor, that’s probably the approach you’re gonna have to use. You’re gonna have to put all your cards on the table first, and then ask for help afterward. So be more proactive in your value-adding, as opposed to it being an exchange type of deal.

Travis Watts: Excellent. Yeah, totally agree. For those listening that are thinking about this concept, think about this. It’s a super, super-competitive world out there. There are lots of people right now, especially on the online stuff, since we’re all at home and a lot of folks are out of work, a lot of people out there looking to work for free. So if you’re thinking, “Well, I’m worth this much money or this much per hour,” or you’re letting your ego get in the way, there’s a lot of missed opportunities with that. And you don’t always have to start working for free, but to your point, the more detailed, the more precise, the more you can stand out and add value, the better off you’re going to be; just food for thought to wrap that up.

Theo Hicks: Alright. Well, I think, what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna stop at those three and create a little bit of anticipation and maybe make people go to the blog to get the last two, number four and number five. So if you want tips number four and number five, go to the blog,, and then it’s “Five tips for navigating 2020.” The blog post goes live the 29th of July. So check that out for those last two tips. The first tip was to educate yourself. Number two was to redefine your goals, making sure you’re focusing on the underlying the why behind that dollar amount, and then number three is to seek out a mentor, either financially paying them or by adding value. And for all those, we gave countless examples of what Travis does, what people he talks to do, and then just overall advice on that. So anything else you want to say before we wrap up?

Travis Watts: We saved the best two for last. Go check it out.

Theo Hicks: There you go. Well, Best Ever listeners, thank you as always for listening. Have a best ever day and we’ll talk to you tomorrow.

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