Myra Oliver went from an in-debt hairstylist, giving $5 haircuts, to owning 30+ rental real estate properties and achieving financial freedom by age 33. In this episode of The Agent of Wealth Podcast, Marc Bautis is joined by Oliver, a real estate broker/investor, entrepreneur and financial freedom expert. As she explains her journey to early retirement – and the career changes that came along the way – Oliver shares her tips for anyone listening whose goal is to stop working and live on passive income.
In this episode, you will learn:
- The importance of making sacrifices in order to achieve financial freedom.
- The difference between an abundance and scarcity mindset.
- How to avoid unnecessary debt.
- How to differentiate between wants and needs.
- Other inspiration for those who seek to live financially free lives.
- And more!
downhomemoney.com | Down Home Money: A Simple Approach to Financial Freedom | YouTube Channel: Down Home Money | The Millionaire Next Door | Your Money or Your Life | Bautis Financial: 7 N Mountain Ave Montclair, New Jersey 07042 (862) 205-5000
Disclosure: The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and content. It is not a direct transcription of the full conversation, which can be listened to above.
Welcome back to the Agent of Wealth Podcast, this is your host Marc Bautis. On today’s show, I brought on a special guest, Myra Oliver. Myra is the author of Down Home Money: A Simple Approach to Financial Freedom, and has a remarkable story of transforming from a hair stylist in rural Kentucky, to achieving financial freedom. Myra, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Marc. I’m excited to be here with you.
So, I love an inspirational story, and a lot of the podcast listeners are interested in financial freedom, and just generally improving their financial situation. So let’s get into it. I read your book, but let’s give the listeners a bit of a background on you. You started off as a hairstylist, correct?
From $5 Haircuts to Owning 38 Rental Real Estate Properties
Yes. I’m from rural Kentucky, and my grandmother was a hairstylist, so I spent a lot of time in her hair salon as I was growing up. My mom and dad were both school teachers, and their dream was for me to go to college. But that wasn’t my dream. My dream was to be a hairstylist.
Is there any school required to become a hairstylist?
Yes, but much less than the eight to nine years I’d have to go to school to become a veterinarian, which was the other career path I was considering. About nine months of schooling is required to be a hairstylist. So, I went for the nine months.
Once you finished school, did you go straight into working at a hair salon?
Yes. I actually moved to Texas… At the time, Dallas was on TV, and so was big hair. I decided to move to Texas after I graduated high school. There, I put myself through school.
At what point did you get that financial freedom bug? Was there something that spurred it on?
You want to know what spurred it? Debt. I got myself in a mess of debt. My father was really sick at the time – he eventually passed away from cancer at age 52 – so I spent a lot of time in my early twenties going back and forth to Kentucky to see and take care of him. I would cut hair during the week, and on the weekends I would go to Kentucky.
Eventually, I got myself in a mess of debt. Quite honestly, I just decided I had to stop spending so much. In my early twenties, I decided I wanted financial freedom. When I asked myself what I needed to do to achieve that, I realized it’s a pretty simple formula of money in, money out – I needed to keep more money in, than I was putting out.
So that’s when I put myself on a budget, and I started saving the money that I didn’t spend. Eventually, I realized I needed to buy assets. Remember, at this time I’m cutting hair. Because of my job, I had people sitting in front of me all day long, essentially giving me free advice.
Several of my clients were real estate agents, and they kept telling me, “You need to buy a house. You need to buy a house.” So I decided that was going to be my first step: To buy a home.
When you took that step, did you own the home, or were you renting?
We were renting the place we lived. My husband was a policeman, and he got free rent if he lived at an apartment complex. So we took advantage of that and saved our money in order to buy that first house, which we were planning on renting out.
So the intention of that first house was to be an investment property?
Yes. When we bought it, we were going to live in it first. We bought that house for $35,000. It’s crazy to think about it, but I still own that house – it has paid me over $300,000 over the course of 30 years, and it’s probably worth $250,000 in today’s market.
Real estate is really through the roof right now. We’ve had about a 15-20% appreciation in the last year on all of our properties. That house was a great investment.
One day, I was sitting on the floor of our first place, reading the Dallas Morning News, and I saw an ad in the paper for a house that was listed at $18,000.
I showed my husband, who said the house was in a terrible area. I told him, “Everybody has to live somewhere, and this is what we can afford.” Within two hours, I convinced him it was a smart idea, we met the realtor at the house and we wrote a contract up. That’s how we started building our rental property business. It took us 13 years. And I want people to understand that – financial freedom doesn’t happen overnight.
You have to plan, and you have to work toward that plan. It’s really easy to create a plan, right? But the key is we worked toward a plan. At the time, our goal was to own 10 rental properties, which would net us $5,000 a month. Once we achieved that goal, I sold my hair salon and my husband was able to quit his job.
Yeah, I think that’s the key. Nowadays, everyone wants instant gratification. They want to double their money next month, not next year. Like everything in life, it takes time and discipline. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. But that first property you acquired, you said it was $35,000. Did you buy that with a loan?
The previous owner financed us interest free, which was remarkable. This was back in 1989. My husband and his brother had rented the house next door to him over the years, and at the time my brother-in-law was renting the house. The homeowner wanted to do something nice for them, because they had been really good to him. Once he (the homeowner) had gotten married, he was moving to his wife’s house, so he offered the house to my husband and his brother. My husband’s brother didn’t take it, Rick did – we did. The previous owner financed us for five years, interest free. We paid him off in three years, I believe.
That’s great. Earlier, you mentioned you were in debt, and how you went through that budgeting process. Was that difficult to do? In my work, I find people have trouble cutting back on their spending when it’s related to the lifestyle they’re accustomed to. How did you get through that?
Well, Marc, it’s about sacrifice. I was willing to make sacrifices so that I could live like I do now. You have to decide, is it worth it? For me it was. I was always working towards my future self.
For example, I drove one of the worst cars ever. I had a Honda Civic that my husband bought at auction. It had no seats in it, besides the driver’s. I would pull up to the hair salon, as the owner, in the worst car. The girls that worked for me at the time drove a Lexus and a SUV – both were new.
I had to have some fierce conversations with myself, but my goal wasn’t to look good or impress others. My goal was to retire as a millionaire by the age of 30. I had it written on my mirror. I did affirmations every morning. Even when I didn’t have any money, at the end of the month, I reminded myself why I was making sacrifices. I reminded myself of my goal daily, because mindset is so important. I truly believe you have to get your mind right around financial freedom.
I was okay with being the owner of the company and driving the worst car. I was okay with making my lunch every day when my employees were ordering out. I had to become okay with that. I believe that where you are today is a result of the decisions you made 5-10 years ago, and where you’re going to be is the result of the decisions you make today. Your future depends on today’s decisions.
There’s a quote in your book about sacrifice. You said, “You have to be willing to do what others won’t do to get what others don’t have.” I think that’s so true.
Yeah. I will tell you, money gives you options for your lifestyle – like where you want to live, and how you want to live. But unfortunately, a lot of people choose the wrong options.
A lot of people are focused on how much money they make. Well, what I’ve learned is that it’s not how much money you make, it’s how much money you keep and what you do with it. Are you buying assets? Are you creating passive income? That’s what my husband and I did.
My husband and I saved money by driving not so great cars and living in a home that was below our means. But those decisions got us to where we are today. We sacrificed in our twenties and early thirties in order to live our life later.
Abundance vs. Scarcity Mindset
In your book, you talk a lot about the importance of mindset, and having an abundance mindset versus a scarcity mindset. What’s the difference between the two?
This is especially important in our world today, with Instagram, Facebook and other social media. When I started my financial freedom journey, I bought books to educate myself. I believe that you have to feed your mind with what you want. I loved The Millionaire Next Door. It was one of the first books I read that made me feel it was okay to live a blue collar life. I also read Your Money or Your Life, which really made me think about money differently.
I’m a firm believer that you have to set yourself up for success through listening to positive feedback.
Here’s the thing: You’re the sum of the five people you spend the most time with, so choose wisely. If you hang around big spenders, or people who brag about what they bought and how they spent their money, you’re probably with the wrong crowd. Instead, get some frugal friends. And surround yourself with media that aligns with your goals – listen to The Agent of Wealth, read Down Home Money, watch my YouTube channel. Being fed in the direction you want to go is crucial. That’s living in abundance.
I also live in abundance by not focusing on negativity. I focus on what I want out of life, and I don’t compare myself to others. On social media, there’s so much comparison. People are flashing their Lamborghinis on Instagram… all that. I’d rather flash my bank account.
Rental Property Managing & Investing
Going back to that second property you bought for $18,000… How did you go from owning two to 10?
There were a few variables.
- I’m a big saver. I saved my tip money from cutting hair. All of that money went toward a down payment on the next one.
- We also saved by not hiring work out – just doing it all ourselves, including the managing which can save anywhere from 8-10%.
- At the time we started investing in that neighborhood, there were many foreclosures. So we were about to buy low.
We focused on one specific area, which made it easier for us to work on the properties and collect rent. And, at the time, the rental market was really good. Our properties were renting from anywhere from $350-500 a month, and for the properties themselves we paid anywhere from $16,500-25,000.
For about 13-15 years, our real estate portfolio was all in that one neighborhood. We later decided to sell the package of the properties off, and with the profits we bought newer properties, closer to where we lived. We ended up with the same amount of units and the same amount of profitability, just closer.
And are you still managing those properties yourself?
Yes, we do. At one point, we had up to 38 properties. Today, we have 28. After that initial package of properties we sold off in the further neighborhood, we didn’t sell again until 2020. With the market, we felt like that now’s the time. I mean, when you can triple your money on a sale, it’s hard to get excited about rental income.
Yeah, I totally get that.
Investing in Dividends
I started building a dividend portfolio in March of 2020. It was something I wanted to learn, and I liked that it’s more passive than rental property managing and investing. I’ve learned so much since I started. My goal was to reach $10,000 a month in passive income through dividend investing, which I just hit.
Why Myra Oliver Chose to “Unretire”
That’s great. And are you still working as a hairstylist?
No, I sold my hair salon when I was 33. After I sold it, my husband and I retired and didn’t work for three years. We just managed our rental property. Then I got my real estate license, and got back on that road to success. I became the top real estate salesperson for my area, and ended up owning real estate franchises. I still own those franchises, but other people manage them – I’m just a driver. My problem was: I got bored. I love setting goals and reaching them.
What was your thought process when you sold the hair salon? Because I think a lot of business owners struggle with letting go. How did you decide that the time was right to make such a big change?
Great question. I stuck with my goal, which was to sell my hair salon once my husband and I netted $5,000 a month from our rental properties. Again, it didn’t happen overnight, but I programmed my mind to be read to move on once that day came.
I’ll never forget it, it was December 1, 1999. I woke up that morning and went through all of my affirmations. I said, “Good morning” to my husband, and said, “Today’s the day.” I decided to sell the salon to one of my daughters, and I did it that day. I was out of the business within 30 days of selling it.
We truly started living financially free in 2000. I was ready, I was programmed.
How does someone just starting out approach the idea of financial freedom? Do you recommend that they put together goals in terms of saving and building up an asset? Is that how you recommend approaching it?
Yes, that’s a great way to start. I think you need to know where you are in order to determine where you’re going. Many people don’t even have a clue what their net worth is – which is step one to getting started.
Still, at the end of every year, my husband and I calculate our net worth. Assets minus liabilities is your net worth. We do this every year, to make sure our value is growing.
Quite honestly, a lot of people I coach have a negative net worth, because of debt. I can be really hard to climb out of that. But you have to have an understanding of your net worth in order to move forward and improve your finances.
“To achieve financial freedom, it’s crucial you get out of debt.”Myra Oliver
Why do we all go to work? To pay our mortgage, car, insurance, food and living expenses. If you’re able to get rid of some big debt – like a car payment – the closer you are to financial freedom.
Not a lot of people agree with me on this, but paying off my mortgage was one of my best achievements. That decision was crucial for my journey. Now that homes are so much more expensive, it’s harder. But not having those mortgage payments means you don’t have to stay at a job you don’t like. Debt will keep you as an employee.
Yeah. As you mentioned, I think it’s important to baseline or benchmark where you are with a net worth statement. I think many people also need more transparency on where their money is going. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve asked, “What are you spending per month?” And they just don’t know.
I always carried around a little black book – this was before smartphones – where I recorded everything I purchased. If I put a quarter in a gumball machine, I wrote it down. I’m a firm believer that documentation beats conversation all day long, so I documented every penny I spent, and every penny I made.
Then, at the end of the day, I made sure there was a positive number (money left over) so that I could pay some of my debt off.
My dad had 10 brothers and sisters, and they were farmers in Kentucky. I was raised in a family that believed that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t need it. I’m not saying this is the right or wrong way of thinking, okay? Because I know that there’s good debt and bad debt… but financial freedom comes from being debt free. Because once you’re debt free, you have the ability to say yes or no.
Yeah, you hit the nail right on the head. There is good debt, like a mortgage, but there’s a lot of debt that will prevent you from reaching your goal of financial freedom. I think a lot of people are nervous to look at where their money’s going, because they just don’t want to face the truth.
But if your goal is to get financial freedom, or to build passive income, you have to prioritize where your money goes. No one has an endless supply of money, so like you said, there’s sacrifice involved.
How to Differentiate Between Wants and Needs
I think clarity gives power. Once you get clarity on what you want, you’ll be able to determine the steps to achieve it. Everybody is different in what their passion is, or what they feel is a need rather than a want.
Some people feel like they need a new car. For me, a new car used to be a want, but it’s not anymore. What I found is once you have financial freedom, you don’t want all of the “stuff” anymore.
It’s fascinating, really. When I couldn’t afford something, it became a want. But once I got clarity around what my goals were, financial freedom became a need.. So what I wanted didn’t matter as much.
It all comes down to priorities and what’s important to you.
So, what’s next? I know you mentioned you sold a couple of your rental properties recently and that you’re building up a dividend portfolio. Are you shying away from any future real estate purchases?
Well, I think the market is shifting.. And I’m watching it. I will never pass up a great deal, because in real estate you make your money on the buy, not on the sale. Because the market is inflated right now, I’m selling.
Cool. Well, we’re just about out of time. Myra, I’d like to thank you for being on the show. Your stories are an inspiration for anyone trying to achieve financial freedom. How best can someone reach out to you and find more information about what you do?
Absolutely. You can get my book, Down Home Money: A Simple Approach to Financial Freedom, on Amazon – it’s also on Audible. I also post on my YouTube Channel, Down Home Money, every Tuesday. And downhomemoney.com is my website.
Perfect. We’ll link to that in the show notes. And thank you to everyone who tuned into today’s episode. Don’t forget to follow The Agent of Wealth on the platform you listen from and leave us a review of the show. We are currently accepting new clients, if you’d like to schedule a 1-on-1 consultation with our advisors, please do so below.