In this episode, Jeff is joined by Chris Larsen, a real estate expert with a unique perspective on financial freedom. Chris shares his inspiring journey from college athlete to successful real estate investor and explains how he achieved his own "Freedom Day." Chris dives into the world of real estate syndications, offering valuable insights into this investment strategy. Learn how syndications work, why they're an attractive option for investors, and how they can help you achieve your financial goals.
Discover the importance of building an abundance mindset and surrounding yourself with the right people on your path to financial freedom. Chris also emphasizes the significance of controlling your calendar to prioritize what truly matters in life. If you're looking to unlock financial freedom and explore the world of real estate syndications, this episode is packed with wisdom and actionable advice. Join us on the journey to your own "Freedom Day"!
Christopher Larsen is the founder and Principal of Next-Level Income. Since “retiring” after 18 years in the medical device industry he dedicates his time to helping others become financially independent through education and investment opportunities. Chris has been investing in and managing real estate for over 20 years. While completing his degree in Biomechanical Engineering and M.B.A. in Finance at Virginia Tech, he bought his first single-family rental at age 21. Chris expanded into development, private-lending, buying distressed debt as well as commercial office, and ultimately syndicating commercial properties. He began syndicating deals in 2016 and has been actively involved in over $1B of real estate acquisitions. In addition to real estate, Chris owns multiple car wash locations across the Southeast. Chris lives with his wife and two boys (and Viszla, Lucy!) in Asheville, NC where he loves spending time with them in the outdoors and enjoying the food and culture that the region has to offer.
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Jeff spent the early part of his career working for others. Jeff had started 5 businesses that failed before he had his first success. Since that time he has learned the principles of a successful business and has been able to build and grow multiple seven-figure businesses. Jeff lives in the Austin area and is actively working in his community and supporting the growth of small businesses. He is a board member of the Incubator.Edu program at Vista Ridge High School and is on the board of directors of the Leander Educational Excellence Foundation
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FN Intro/Outro: Welcome to the Freedom Nation podcast with Jeff Kikel. On this show, Jeff shares his expertise in financial and retirement planning from a different perspective, planning for your Freedom Day, which is the first day that you wake up and have enough income or assets and do not have to go to work that day. Learn how to calculate what you need, how to generate income sources, and listen to interviews from others who've done it themselves. Get ready to experience your own Freedom Day.Jeff Kikel:
Hello, everybody, welcome to the Freedom Nation podcast. And today on the show, I have Chris Larsen. And Chris is a real estate guy. See, you say, Well, geez, you had a bunch of real estate guys on Well, he's very unique in that he does a lot of in the world of syndication. So we're gonna talk a little bit about that today and learn a little bit more about syndications and how they work and what what that might be if you're somebody that's got a little bit of money that wants to invest and not have to do all the work. So Chris, welcome to the show, my friend,Jeff Kikel:
Chris Larsen.: Jeff, thank you. Great to be here.Jeff Kikel:
I'm glad to have you on. I'm really looking forward to our conversation today. So starting off, why don't we get started with the first question, which is, give us your story had to get to where you are today.Jeff Kikel:
Chris Larsen.: Yeah. So as we were chatting before the show, I bought my first property at 21. I was in college, and went to Virginia Tech did a engineering degree actually in biomechanical engineering, but I knew two weeks in that I really didn't want to be an engineer. I actually I wanted to race my bike. So I, I started racing my bike when I was 14 years old, mostly on the road, and continued at a high level into college. I was I was all American, I hit the kind of highest amateur level, but in between my freshman, my sophomore years, my my training partner, my best friend, my roommate, had a massive brain hemorrhage and died well now. And I came back to school. My sophomore year, I pour my heart and soul into writing. It was really, it's really more of a therapy than anything. And I was training 1520, even some weeks, 30 hours. And after success would happen that following year that following summer, I was at my friend's Memorial race, and I'd actually won it the second year in a row. I was in fantastic form. But what I want I didn't, I wasn't sad. I wasn't happy. I was I was kind of indifferent. And yeah, if you if you really think about it, indifference is the opposite of love. And I went back to school, I said, You know what, this is silly. Like, why am I doing this? There's more to life than this. And I quit. I sold all my bikes. And now here's somebody who basically his entire adult life raced bicycles. And that's what my, my mission and my focus was, will really get along between so yeah, I mean, yeah, yeah. But along the way, you know, is anybody that knows the sport of cycling, were really most professional sports, you don't make a lot of money as as a one as an amateur, definitely not. But to as somebody that's not at the absolute highest level. Sure, professional sports. So I've always had kind of side things going on. I was entrepreneurial from a very young age. So wrapping paper at the age of 12, door to door, I had a paper route. I had did odd jobs, I did landscaping, shovel driveways in the winter, and actually won like some weekends, I'd win 500 bucks racing my bike too. So I knew that there were other ways to make money. And after I, after I quit cycling, I got interested in the stock market. And I started day trading. So here I am now a junior in college making $1,000 a week day trading. And you know, now really kind of my eyes are open to all the possibilities that are out there. But I wanted what what you said to be in the show, and really what this podcast is about Jeff, which is true freedom. And I was laying in bed one morning at 3am Haven't slept. And just thinking about the trades and just stressed out and I'm 20 years old, I'm thinking is this where I want to do in 20 years? And the answer was no. So I read over 250 books, I got almost got a PhD in finance, I got an MBA and portfolio management. And along the way bought my first property. I decided that real estate was going to be my path to financial independence.Jeff Kikel:
Nice, very cool. So you bought your first property. What was you know? Explain a little bit about that first property. What was it? Yeah, what was the details on that?Unknown:
Yeah, so you know, as a 20 year old in college, you know, there's there's only so many options that you have out there. You're not going to go out and buy $100 million apartment complex, it 20 years old, necessarily. I had $3,000 that I use for a downpayment. It was a $90,000.03 bedroom townhouse. My mom co signed on the loan with me and today we call it a house hack. I rented out the two bedrooms, and that that one property kind of more have tended to because I was friends with the guy next door. And when he left, because I continued on to grad school when he finished undergrad yet went on to school for chiropractic medicine. Well, I ended up buying that from him. So now I had essentially six units side by side right to three bedroom townhouses side by side and rented out six beds, well, five of the six bedrooms. And that was that was kind of the first step on my journey.Jeff Kikel:
It's genius. Well, I don't know. I mean, but that's something that a college student can do very easily. And I mean, it's absolutely right for doing a house. You know, where you're like, oh, you know, I would have had roommates any out? Might as well. The roommates actually pay all the rents and that exact origin, you are in equity. So that's phenomenal. I love it. Exactly. Yeah. So you went from there you graduated, what was the what was kind of the next step along the journey for you, then,Unknown:
You know, I didn't want to be an engineer continued on to grad school. And I wanted to be an investor. And I thought about going go into Wall Street, but did some introspective kind of like, you know, looking inside myself, and I realized that really, Wall Street wasn't I wasn't suited for Wall Street, not because it didn't interest me. And I didn't like the pace. But because I mentioned I live in Asheville, North Carolina. And one of the reasons I like being here is I can be out in the woods actually live in the woods. I can be in the woods, like, I can walk out my front door, and I can decompress a little bit, I need that I need that nature, energy that's out there. And, you know, so as I looked around, you know, for options from a career perspective, you know, one of the things I realized is that if you want to be an investor, new capital, u capital, so you can either partner with people, or you can look into a career and I said, Well, I could go, you know, go into real estate, do real estate sales, commercial real estate sales, looked into that. And as I was considering the options that were out there and finishing my MBA, I got introduced to somebody who sold medical implants. Well, he worked for Johnson and Johnson, and I called him up, I said, Hey, do you mind if I take you out to lunch and learn a little bit more about what you do? So take him out to lunch. And he explains that he goes into the OR, and he sells these implants, hips, knees, shoulders, trauma, and he gets to be in the surgeries. And so he gets to work with the surgeons kind of communicate the technology to them. And when he told me how much he made, one of my goals was to be an accredited investor make $200,000 or more a year, annual income. And he certainly was there. And I was like, this is really cool. So really fell in love with the industry. I did that for about 18 years, if you count the initial couple of years, I was in actually the pharmaceutical industry kind of getting some sales experience. But along the way, I made it a point to continue to buy and invest in real estate. And that was always my plan was by the time I was, you know, I said by the time I was 40. And really, it was it was much sooner than that. But so by the time I'm 40, I don't want to have to work anymore. I want to have the ability to, you know, maybe take risks, maybe go work for a startup company, and that sort of thing. And my wife and I hit that point in our kind of mid mid late 30s, depending on how youJeff Kikel:
Measured it. Awesome. So then you kind of made a little bit of a switch you were doing mostly single family stuff before that. Yeah, it is switch into the the commercial side. So let's talk about that change for you.Unknown:
Yeah, and I talked, I kind of talk through the, the math in my book. And, you know, I'll be sure I'll tell your audience how they can get a free copy of it if they'd like here, before we wrap up today. But I my wife goes back to work after we had our second son. So I have two boys now. 11 and 13. My wife goes back to work. Now she's an architect. She's gone to school longer than I have. Okay. So she went to school, worked very hard, goes back to work. And we're doing the math at the end of this first year of our boys being in daycare. And I showed my wife a number and that number was $11,000. But the number had a negative sign in front of it. And I showed it to my wife and she said what's that? I said that's how much we made last year you working? And she goes $11,000 And I said no, we lost 11,000 after taxes and daycare. Yeah, I said we would have saved $11,000 If you stayed home with the kids. Yeah. And I said, No, she didn't want to stay home with the kids. I said, Do you want to stay home with the boys? And she goes, No, I like what I do I want to I said great. Well, we need to figure out a different way of doing what we're doing. And I was getting to the point where we'd almost paid these properties off Mike, I'm sorry, just that we don't. And I was I was like, well, we're getting to this point. But I did the math. And I said wait a minute, I'm making 7% My return on equity. So the equity had grown in these single family properties. And I'm realizing 7% And then that nasty tax bill, like I mentioned before, hit us because hey, we're successful financially. And in America, we were quote unquote rich. Yeah. Because we were we were making decent income. But as I mentioned, it actually didn't make sense for my wife to go to work and now you know what people if anybody says Okay, you know, yeah, yeah, you're complaining because you're rich. The thing is when you have negative incentives in this country, for people that are professionals to actually work and be productive and hire other people, that's that's not a good thing, in my opinion. So I said, What are we going to do different so we did a total overhaul, she developed a plan to go out on her own, so she could work for herself and make more per hour, but also have control of her expenses in a tax efficient manner. We also started building spec homes, this was around 2012 2013, when you know, the the real estate cycle had bottomed and start to come back. So we would buy lots and build spec homes as she designed that we'd partner with a local builder, rarely. And then I started to divest of our single family rentals. And I started to move into commercial real estate, as you mentioned. So, you know, I learned about multifamily real estate now. multifamily real estate, for people that haven't heard that term is just apartments. And I invested in a syndication as it's called a limited partner, a passive investor. But what's neat is, you think that single family rental apartment, it's kind of the same thing is you actually get better tax benefits when you're in these larger syndications, these larger investments. So I went from getting about 7%, before tax to getting double, or even triple or quadruple that after tax, it was a much, much better deal, much less work. eautiful.Jeff Kikel:
So then you you went from being that passive investor to now being the active partner in a lot of that stuff. And that's really your business today. So let's talk a little bit about what you do today and the types of properties you're investing.Unknown:
Yeah, thank you, Jeff. So, you know, our our portfolio, and what we do is definitely evolved and morphed over the years into some different areas. But what happened was, you know, it's interesting, and you've been through this, Jeff, and, you know, if you're listening, you're either either really close to that point where you don't have to go to work again, or where you're, you've already passed that point. To me the biggest challenges in financial, but it's, it's from like, what, where, what are you going to do that's meaningful to you, and allow you to continue to be productive. I've always been a teacher, I've coached I started coaching, cyclists. When I was in college, I ran a training site for one of the medical device companies that I worked for. So I started letting people know through a blog, I wrote a book, you know, different things in what we did. But what happened was people when they heard my story, they're like, Well, how did you do it? What do you do, and then they wanted to invest with us. So my, my first partner came to me in 2017, and he had quote, unquote, retired, he hit that Freedom Day. And he said, Hey, I want you to be my partner, I want to buy an apartment building. And I want to bring some investors along with us. Because, you know, we knew a lot of people that wanted to invest, and we'd referred to the group that we're investing with. So what we did, and this is a great lesson for anybody that wants to scale or get into a new area. We actually partnered with the group we invested with, so we did a JV partnership. We brought those investors along with us that were investing with that group. And we bought our first apartment building, which was 100 unit building in Atlanta, Georgia.Jeff Kikel:
Nice, very cool. And then it's just gone from there. So you're, you're not just doing apartment complexes now, though, you're doing other things along that as well. Correct?Unknown:
Correct. Yes. So we, you know, apartments multifamily is still the core of our portfolio, we have over 3000 units that we own with our partners today. But we've also acquired self storage facilities, with mobile home parks, which is which is a great area, especially, you know, when the economy starts to pull back a little bit mobile home parks are surprisingly resilient in that area. And then also, we now own 30 Express tunnel carwashes, as well. So I'm a big fan of having businesses that have multiple levers that you can increase the revenue, you can increase the income coming in, but also have great tax benefits like real estate, and that's what car washes do they have a lot of income coming in. But then they also have great tax benefits. The real estate has two. Interesting,Jeff Kikel:
interesting. Well, I love it. Yeah. You know, if somebody is sitting out there today listening to us, and they're trying to figure out where do I get started? What Yeah, what would be your best advice today? So assuming they've got a little bit of money to work? Yeah. What's your best advice to them?Unknown:
Yeah, that's a great question. And I think, you know, it's, I would say, you can kind of break that down into three different categories. So look, if you're, if you're out there, and you're not yet accredited, for making 50 $100,000 a year, figure out a way to make more money. Okay? Find a higher income, earning career or profession, start a side business and that could even be a real estate, like an active real estate business that you can start on the side. You need to make more money if you're not yet accredited, that's going to make things A lot easier, I usually say the rule should be, say 50%. That's our that's our rule, say 50% of your of your income after tax, it's a lot easier if you're making two or three or $500,000. If you're making $50,000, right? So that's step one, if you're not there yet, step two, let's say you're at that level, you're you're right, at the accredited level, you're at $200,000, are you getting to that point, what you need to start thinking about is, is your income tax efficient. And you have other ways I mentioned with my wife, her income was not tax efficient, we had to pay, we had to pay all these taxes, then we had to pay our expenses, and we're losing money with her working. So then you flip it around, she goes out on her own, she makes more money per hour. Now, certainly, she has to, you know, pay for her own benefits and certain things like that. But we had control of our tax of the tax side of the equation with that, and that that allowed us to take more money home. Also, if you start to own assets, this is a good time to start looking into the proper legal structures, make sure you have a trust set up, for instance, LLCs around your real estate business, because this is where you can have death. You know, I mentioned the death of my friend, my father also died when I was five, it's very real to me, you know, the risks that we face in life, whether from death or a major illness, also any any frivolous lawsuits that might come up, you know, you want to, you want to be aware of that. And of course, you know, the most insidious, which is taxes, which you know, is always, always whether you're at the gas pump, you're at the grocery store, you know, we're or you're just working and paying that tax off the top. So step one, make more money. Step two, make sure it's efficient, it's well protected. And step three, learn how to scale your investments. Now, this may be in your own portfolio, if you'd like being active and you'd like doing things, figure out how to build your team. You know, Jeff, you and I were talking about how you know having a business is a lot of times just having a job, figure out how to scale your business, so that you can walk away from it. Like that's a great strategy to basically turn your active or business income into more of a passive income strategy. And then how can you create passive income streams that can become, you know, they can scale indefinitely and this is where I'm a big fan of syndications. We're, we're invested in Oh geez. I think 40 syndications now ourselves, as well as being general partners and syndications as well in these in these larger deals. And the thing is, if somebody else is doing the hard work, and you're just writing the checks, you certainly need to understand what's going on. But you can do things like raft down the current Grand Canyon for three weeks where I have this picture behind me to remind me of that trip, you could sail around the world, you could do a lot of stuff, if somebody's kind of manning the ship, as it works, you do that. So number one, make more money. Number two, learn how to keep more money, protect your money. Number three, learn how to properly invest in scale your investment strategy.Jeff Kikel:
That's brilliant. Thank you for that. That's like I said, I mean, it's, it's simple, but it's, it's not as simple as it seems. But it is very simple. It's a very simple process. It goes step by step. And I think that's, you're probably the first person I've had that is said, you know, hey, you got to work your butt off to get to be accredited. Yeah, we'll get make more money, figure out how you're gonna make more money so that you can get yourself to that point. Yeah, you can do that by starting off in small sides on the real estate side. To get yourselfUnknown:
Yeah, you know, what's, what's cool about real estate is, it can be very predictable to get rich, slow game, but I don't think I'd be a good politician because I tell people how it is. It's like, hey, you know, like you want to people say like, Chris, how do you lose weight? When when when I was racing bicycles, I'm like, I just, I just don't eat, like, high. And I'm like, Well, no, that's like, you just eat less. You know? It's like, it's not. It's simple. As you said, Jeff, it's maybe not easy. But it's simple. And I think, you know, if you are at the point where you're where you're accredited, you can hit your freedom day within about seven years. I found.Jeff Kikel:
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And I think you could even do it faster. In a lot of cases. Absolutely. A little bit more active income. You could do it a little bit faster. But Oh, way faster with Yeah, easily within 10 years. You can get yourself there, your your dot F Absolutely. You know, you get to enjoy life. All right, let's switch gears here a little bit and talk about effect five questions, and let's do it. I never want you wake up in the morning business is completely gone. Yep. 500 bucks in your pocket laptop computer place to live. What are you going to do?Unknown:
Yeah, so you know, we almost hit that point a few years ago and COVID hit, which is kind of crazy. You know, here, I was still running a medical device. distributorship. Surgeries ended. And then the other thing that happened was we heard that there was this moratorium on rent. So it's like, how crazy is this, you know, medical device, you know, medical healthcare, and you can't collect money from real estate. So I kind of got I kind of got a taste of this a while back here, Jeff. But listen, I think, you know, it's it's important to learn all these things that we talk about, but you've heard the Express Shouldn't your your network is your net worth. And the first thing I would do is I would, I would kind of regroup, I would look at my, I have a three year life life vision that I have out there, I would probably sit down and rewrite that and make sure hey, like, what went wrong here? What's going on? Where do I want to be? Do I want to be in the same spot? Because who knows, if you're, if you're trapped in a way that might be a blessing for some people, to have everything wiped away, but then I would start reaching out to my network people like yourself, you know, my business partners, and say, hey, look, what can I do? Can I, how can I bring value? I'd like I'd say, this is the value that I could bring. And look, if you're looking to get on board with somebody, this is great advice. Decide what can you do to provide value for somebody that is in a position that you want to be in? And say, hey, how, Jeff, how can I help your business out? While do it for free to help grow? That? That's a really great way to learn to do that. And I'm confident that, you know, we'd be able to get back to a comfortable position a lot quicker than before, that's for sure.Jeff Kikel:
Yeah, you have all the knowledge and all the mistakes that you made before. Yeah, absolutely. So let's go to the next question, which is, well, what is the biggest business mistake you've ever made?Unknown:
Yeah, so I'm, I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna go into exact specifics, but it was partnering with the wrong person. And this is a rule that you can apply. So I think the number one thing you know, I just mentioned, your net work is your net worth. If you want to be successful, especially if you're working towards your freedom day, you must, you must surround yourself with people that have an abundance mindset. People that have a scarcity mindset, and this was what was going on with that partner, they had a scarcity mindset that's toxic, that's cancerous, that will erode not only your energy, but it will also destroy slowly, everything around that person that has a scarcity mindset. These are people that don't think there's enough of the pie to go around. They're afraid, you know, to share opportunities with other people, right? They think that they have to keep everything themselves and they can't, can't share that. Whereas people with an abundance mindset know that if you share knowledge, if you share deals, if you share opportunities that are out there, then not only does that person you share it with become richer, in some way, shape, or form. But so do youJeff Kikel:
really love that answer? It's fantastic. That's a good book that you'd recommend for our audience.Unknown:
Oh, I got so many. But you know, I was, I was on a call earlier today. And the gentleman I was talking to is, he was a medical professional, you know, very intelligent. And he was kind of kind of dabbling, if you will, in the residential, real estate space. And look, that's how I got started. I think it's fantastic. But we also have to be conscious of the way the real estate cycle moves. And in this country, we can trace this all the way back to the 1850s. There's a new book that came out and talks about this. The author Akil Patel, is a partner with Joe Anderson. And that book is called The Secret wealth advantage. It's called The Secret wealth advantage by Keo Patel. It's been out about for a month or two now. And I think Akil does a terrific job of summarizing the 18.6 year real estate cycle, and really talking about what you can do, and how you can take advantage and prepare for the certain portions of the cycle.Jeff Kikel:
That is awesome. I haven't heard on that one. So I have to put that on the reading list here. What's the tool easy your business everyday that you might recommend to our audience?Unknown:
Yeah. So you know that the first thing that comes to mind is like a high powered system like CRM system like HubSpot. But, you know, then I was reminded as I was kind of thinking through this, of, you know, race bicycles and love them or hate them, Lance Armstrong was asked, What is your most important piece of technology? And he answered the scale, because your your power to rate ratio is so important in cycling. And I have I have you on my monitor here, Jeff. And I have my calendar over here. And I would say it's my calendar. It's my most important thing. And the reason I say that is if you can control your calendar and your time, you can basically do whatever you want. And that's what we talked about, like your freedom day, like what is freedom, it's time freedom. So, look, the most important thing I do is I block out time for sleep time for for my workouts, time for my family. That all comes before doing great things like this being on this podcast, or you know business calls or talking to investors or doing presentations. You have to take care of yourself you have to take care of your health. And of course you know things that are most important I would consider that my family before you you focus on your business and your calendar can help you do all those things.Jeff Kikel:
Love it. Love it. Last question. What is your definition In a freedom.Unknown:
Yeah. So it's living life on your own terms and like freedom is very important to me. But it's Yeah, and I think we, there's, there's so much politicize these days, right? But freedom is the ability to not only do what you want to do every day, but also say what you want, you should be able to have the freedom to act the freedom to say things, and live, you know, live life, you know, the way you're meant to. And, you know, if you're in if you're in an environment where you're not free to speak, you know, freely, or whether that's online, or whether that's, you know, verbally to other people, it kind of goes back to that scarcity, mindset, if if you have people that aren't open to hearing your point of view. And I really hope that if you're listening to this, you have people in your life that have opposing points of view, because my opinion is that if you have people and friends that test your framework, it becomes stronger. And the stronger your frameworks are easier life is to maneuver through, because you have a more robust structure. As you look at things, you know, whether it's an investment, whether it's health advice, you know, whether it's, you know, a business partner, as we talked about before, so I really, really value not only time freedom, but also the freedom to say and hear opposing opinions. Really. Well. Thank youJeff Kikel:
Chris. I appreciate you being on. If somebody's interested. Yeah. I'm, you mentioned your book, somebody's Oh, yeah. Thank you and your copy of that? How did they get it?Unknown:
Yeah, thanks for the reminder. So next level income, you can get a free copy at our website. NextLevelincome.com. I talk a little bit more about my story, you know, the loss of my friend and you know, kind of how I put together my investment thesis, specifically, the value add strategy in the multifamily space. Well, if you want to learn more, you can also check out our blog on our website or podcast on our website. And if you want to learn about our investments, you can click on the InVEST leg and schedule a call with our team as well. ReallyJeff Kikel:
Well, thank you, Chris, I appreciate you coming on today. And sharing all your expertise, sharing your story as well. And we appreciate you being out there and helping people out as they need. So thank you for being on today.Unknown:
Jeff, thank you. Thanks for giving me the forum here. And if you're listening today, all the best on your journey towards your freedom toJeff Kikel:
Excellent. Well, folks, we do these twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So make sure that you subscribe to the channel wherever you're listening, as well as give us a little thumbs up if you liked what you heard today. Let us know that you're out there. And if you want to comment, certainly share your comments with so thanks a lot and we will see you guys back here the very next time.Jeff Kikel:
FN Intro/Outro: Thank you for listening to the Freedom Nation podcast. You can find this on Apple podcasts and all the major channels wherever you're listening. Please subscribe to the channel and leave a rating and review. If you have friends and family that could benefit from their own Freedom Day. Please share with them. Finally, join freedom nation by following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.