HELEN COLLIER-KOGTEVS: How I turned my ordinary life into something extraordinary

05/11/2015
Have you ever had the feeling that life was going OK but thenthere came a defiing momentve you ever had the feeling when you realised “Houston, we have a problem!”?

This happened to me not so long ago. Life was going OK, or so I thought. I was working 60–70 hours a week in the corporate world, but it felt like Groundhog Day: every day was the same. It was just ‘ordinary’, and I really was not enjoying the grind. In fact, I was spending all my income and basically living from week to week.

If we rewind back to the time just before I started investing in 2000, I realise that there were a lot of things I didn’t know back then. A lot of things were just hiding in my blind spots. I remember having the epiphany of wanting wealth and wanting an alternative to the life I was living. But I realised that our finances were not going to deliver the lifestyle that my husband Ed and I desired.

Getting out of the vicious cycle of debt and punishment

My ’20s were actually a bit of a ‘suck it and see’ experience. As soon as someone said, “Here, have a credit card; sign on the dotted line”, off I went! It felt like free money. You just hand over plastic and sign on the line and get to take the goods home. Forget layby! Why would you do that when you can whip out a bit of plastic and off you go?

As a result, I spent my ’20s working to pay debt, paying off stuff I really didn’t need. I would stock up on things that I thought I wanted, like shoes and bags and clothes, because I was miserable with my life. That shopping experience made me feel good … momentarily. Then I got the bill and I felt guilty. It was a vicious cycle. It wasn’t an enjoyable time in my life.

That way of living was exhausting. I would never want to go back to that. For me, it’s just not an option. But I guess those experiences in my younger days also put the file in my belly to learn how to create my own wealth – and to keep creating wealth, so I never have to go back to that.

Another major motivation for me to create financial freedom was that Ed and I were talking about starting a family. Working in the corporate world, I had a lot of friends who were married and having babies, and I seriously found it heartbreaking that they were back in the office three to six months after giving birth – usually due to financial pressure.

I truly didn’t want that for myself. Ed and I now have a beautiful six-year-old daughter. Wealth gives you choices, and for us that means our daughter has never been in daycare. It means that our girl gets the benefit of having us both around and available when she needs us, and that’s something we both always wanted.

EARLY WINS AND FALSE STARTS

When we were just starting out and Ed and I began looking at our options, we realised that our passion for property investing offered the best shot at creating wealth. Unfortunately, we only had about $12,500 to our name and a lot of bad debt; that alone took about 12 months to clear, just to be in a position to consider investing in property.

Even though there was a determination and passion to invest, boy, there was so much that I just didn’t know. This kindled our desire to learn and develop our mindset around debt, money and wealth.

For example, after buying six properties we had hit the financial brick wall. This meant the banks would not lend us any more money, which in turn meant our investing career was over. However, my determination to not give up, and our acceptance of the principle of ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’, led me to connect with a mentor who gave me the golden nugget that unlocked our financial stalemate.

As a result, Ed and I invested in several self-educational programs, including some mindset courses we did in 2004 that I really believe changed our lives.

THE POWER OF MINDSET

Yes, there are other elements involved the finance, the bricks and mortar, the strategy; however, it’s your underlying mindset behind all this that ultimately makes or breaks you.

Many people believe they don’t deserve to have wealth, and they therefore self-sabotage. Or they can’t cope with the concept of debt, and so they don’t sleep at night, knowing they’ve got debt – even though it’s good investment debt – as it freaks them out. It can cause issues and break up relationships; it can be hugely challenging.

Or they view wealth in a negative way – and if you view wealth negatively, how are you ever going to keep it? Even though people have the desire to have wealth, they don’t always have the mindset for it. They don’t believe they can truly achieve it, and so when they start their property investing journey and step outside the box, they panic at every different situation that they’re not accustomed to.

My mindset has grown and developed a lot since those early days. When we first started enjoying some success through property and I retired from the workforce to live off our property rental returns, I thought, “I don’t have to work all day; this is great! I can do coffee, and I can do lunches with friends…”

PAYING IT FORWARD

Having retired left me asking myself, “Now what? What will I do with the rest of my life? How am I going to spend my days?”

I love property investing and I have a passion for teaching. It was easy to work out how to combine my passion with paying it forward and sharing it with others.

I believe the best way to make a difference to the world is by helping one person at a time. When one more person becomes financially free, that’s one less person who is reliant on the government in retirement. I see that as a very good thing.

That’s where it all started, and I’ve never looked back.

GROWING UP AND OUT

When I started Real Wealth Australia, it was important to me to make sure that, no matter how big we grew, there was always a bit of a family culture within it.

I really believe it’s that family culture that contributes to the success of the business. We work hard, we play hard, we have fun, we laugh all day, and we rag each other. We’re sometimes politically incorrect, and the people that fit into that family culture, they stay with me for a really long time – and I really love that.

Our intention when launching Real Wealth Australia was to demystify property investing and make it easy for any average Australian to be able to do it. You don’t need to be a brain surgeon to be able to learn property investing – it is literally really simple.

People often ask what it’s like for my husband and I to work together. Well, there are no drawbacks! I love working with him. We are one of those couples that can happily spend 24/7 together. I love bouncing ideas off him, I love his energy, and we just work hand in hand. Part of the success is down to the fact that we don’t compete with each other; instead, we work collaboratively for a common goal.

I also have this philosophy that people who eat together stay together, and I wanted to cultivate this within the company. Having come from a corporate background where it was very political, and very dog eat dog … It was the kind of environment where if you weren’t politically savvy you just got swallowed up and spat out. I’m not built that way. I’m not in the business of treating people like dirt to get ahead, as it just doesn’t resonate with me at all.

When I first started the business I only had one employee and we were working out of the back room of my house. It’s obviously grown a lot from there, but we used to sit and have lunch together every day. I really enjoyed it, because it meant we would spend the time getting to know each other, what our kids were up to, what we did on the weekends, and sometimes work topics popped up.

I’ve continued this routine as our business grew. We have a kitchen and I like to cook a fresh meal for the team every day. When you’re not sitting in front of your computer trying to do a zillion things at once, sitting together creates space for ideas to pop up.

Before you know it, we’ve created a whole new process or a new product or something else of value, and it’s all come about from just sitting around having lunch together, and if we happen to have visitors over the lunch period, they’re invited to dig in as well!

We have a lot of fun because even though we’re in the business of doing something serious – property investing and wealth creation – we have a real care and real joy with what we do.

I love that the Real Wealth Australia ‘Family’ has become an extension of my actual family. I feel like, if I’m going to follow my passion in life, I’m going to do it with a bunch of people I have fun with!

SHARING MY GOOD FORTUNE WITH THE LESS FORTUNATE

I feel very fortunate and grateful that I’m now in the position to spend quality time with the people I love, and I get to pay it forward on many levels. This is not just by educating people to create wealth for themselves, but also through the SHaRM Pikinini Ecole Foundation, which I co-founded to help the people of Vanuatu rebuild after the devastation of Cyclone Pam in March 2015. I couldn’t have done any of this without having created wealth for myself first.

The lifestyle I have today is extraordinary and far above and beyond anything I ever imagined I would have. My favourite pastime is being with friends and family, including the people who work with me. It’s that inner circle of people that I love and cherish and enjoy spending time with.

Too many people travel through this life feeling unfulfilled and unsatisfied, and that to me is a travesty.

I think that a life is wasted being ‘ordinary’. I would much rather see people lead an extraordinary life, which is why I decided to pursue a career as an educator.

 

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