10 years ago we put an ad on Craigslist for a receptionist. It was 2009, smack dab in the middle of the Global Financial Crisis. Not too many real estate companies were hiring at that time, but RealWealth was booming. Investors worldwide were flooding our office and inboxes in search of foreclosures. And since we have a network of investors nationwide who help people find great rental properties, we were busy.
The unemployment rate was massive, so we had thousands of applicants for the receptionist position. I was so overwhelmed, I just asked people to show up at our next event to meet in person. Only 3 people showed up, and Maggie Pike was one of them. She has been with us ever since in many roles, from receptionist, to event planner, to my assistant, to Director of our Real Wealth Academy, and now as our Director of Syndications.
And as of Saturday, she is now Mrs. McKinnie. Maggie and her new husband Marc are building a real estate portfolio while living their dream of traveling the world. They are such an inspiration, I decided to interview them for this week’s Real Wealth Show. Enjoy!
Podcast Transcript: The Beginnings of a Lifestyle Revolution
Kathy: Maggie and Mark, welcome to the Real Wealth Show.
Maggie: Hey, thanks for having us.
Mark: Happy to be here.
Kathy: You guys tied the knot this weekend in a pretty epic wedding, congratulations.
Maggie: Thanks. I think it was a pretty good party.
Kathy: It was a very good party and there was one guy on the dance floor, he kept battling for a dance-off and nobody could even come close, so you know it’s a good wedding. [laughs]
Maggie: That was definitely Jimmy.
Kathy: That was great. Where does somebody like you guys– where would you two go on a honeymoon when you’ve been everywhere already?
Mark: Somewhere where there isn’t cell signal or internet. [laughter]
Maggie: That’s definitely a question that we’ve gotten a lot recently of like, “Where do you guys go? Your life is like a honeymoon, where are you going to go?” I’d like to do something where I can just completely check out. I’m working while we travel so it’d be nice to just take something super remote. We really like scooters, so we’re talking about going back to sleep Southeast Asia, maybe in the spring and doing another little motorbike scooter trip. We’ll see.
Kathy: And actually not be working.
Kathy: It would be good.
Maggie: I could balance it but it’d be fun.
Kathy: You guys are truly an inspiration to me and I think everyone at RealWealth and now definitely Real Wealth Show listeners as they hear your story. For those of you who don’t know, Maggie really created a lot of what we offer today. She’s great at setting up systems, that was one of the things she discovered and we discovered is that, “Wow, she’s really good at jumping into chaos and organizing it.” Oftentimes, when you have a company that’s growing quickly, there’s lots of chaos. In the beginning, I think you organized the events and now we’ve got great events, webinars, the PowerPoints for those. You’ve helped with the Academy that was a big deal that came out and just gave really substantial education for just $10 a month that you were very committed to. Now we grew so quickly, the syndications, you’ve really dialed that into, hopefully, a friendly experience for investors new to PPMs and that whole process.
Maggie: Definitely taking that same kind of approach to,” Okay, let me put myself in that position, what would I want to know? What would help me navigate this?” Coming from a newbie perspective. There’s always room for improvement, I think we’re getting better every day but I feel really good about the subscription process of just walking people through what it takes to get involved in some of these projects.
Kathy: Definitely. About six years ago, you met someone who has really changed your life. His name is Mark McKinney. [laughs]
Maggie: I did.
Kathy: He is now your husband. Tell us about your first date because it’s pretty cool.
The Launch of a Match Made for Adventure
Mark: Our first date, we met on OkCupid which is, as most people know, a free online dating site. We got to chatting almost six months to the date today, August 29. We planned to go on our first date which was just meeting up at a local taproom nearby where we lived in North Oakland, California. We hit it off and we planned on a second date a few weeks later. There’s something that they do in Oakland once a month called the East Bay bike party. It’s something I really enjoy doing, 200 people get together on their bikes, they’re all decorated, everybody’s pretty lubed up and we travel around the streets of the East Bay, California, it’s kind of a big party. I invited Maggie along and that started things off. We had a lot of the same interest and the rest is history.
Maggie: Definitely impressed me, it wasn’t the typical “just go get dinner and a movie,” kind of date, I was like: “That’s fun. You like to do interesting things.”
Kathy: That’s cool. I remember at the time, Maggie, you’re a very complete person, you’re not one of those girls that has to have a guy, has to have a boyfriend. When you were ready to find that special person and started looking, man, it’s tough to find somebody who’s going to keep your interest, right? [laughs]
Maggie: It’s true, definitely went on more than my fair share of dates on OkCupid.
Kathy: You weren’t going to settle, and then I remember you came back, you were like, “Wow, I just went on a really cool date riding bikes around Oakland bar hopping.” [laughs] “I love this guy already.” You guys settled down and do what people do and ended up renting a house in the suburbs. Mark, how was that for you? Didn’t last long.
Mark: No, it didn’t last long. It was something we wanted to try out, I was working out towards that way and I guess Maggie was too at the time. It made sense for our commute and everything. It was fun, we enjoyed it, doing yard work and doing all those homey things, but then we got to talking and we formulated this idea that, “Hey, maybe we could someday go travel the world together.” That got the ball rolling to where we are today to make it all happen.
Hitting the Road with Maggie & Mark
Kathy: Whose idea was it to just sell everything and take off and see the world?
Maggie: I remember actually the specific moment. We had just finished our trip to Morocco and we were sitting in a bar actually in Sevilla in Spain on our way back. We had just taken a vacation together. I just remember sitting there and talking with Mark about my position and work and life. We both had this idea at the same time of, “Hey, my work–” I don’t know. I couldn’t speak for his work at the time but I was just like, “Everything that I do is online.” As you know, Kathy, our entire office is all over the place, we’re not really centralized. We used to be mainly in Walnut Creek but now Tim’s in Ohio, Nick’s in Utah, Ben’s over in Florida. People are all over the place, Northern California, Southern California. We’re all pretty used to just collaborating online except for once a quarter in-person meetings. I just remember thinking to myself, being like, “We all collaborate online anyway. Why couldn’t I do this internationally?”
Just a little spark of an idea of, “I don’t know, I feel like maybe they would go for letting me try, I don’t know.” It’s just this moment of just maybe that’s a possibility and that just snowballed into just seeing that yes, a lot of people work remotely. Obviously, our company’s already set up for it, I just broadened the borders of where people were.
Kathy: I remember you coming to me saying, “Mark and I want to travel.” I think you wanted to hit every country, not every country, every continent.
Maggie: I was trying to hit one country on every continent besides Antarctica before I was 30, that’s what I was trying to do,
Kathy: I think you did but then that was like, “I need more.”
Maggie: Yes. Just the appetite I think.
Turning Your Office Job into a World Tour
Kathy: Already, that was a great goal. You’re somebody who achieves goals, you get really clear about what you want and you make it happen. When you came to us, you had already proven that you can get work done wherever you are. You’d go on trips sometimes with Mark and you wouldn’t miss a beat. Rich and I talked about it, he was like, “Yes, she’s totally earned the right to be wherever she wants to be.”
Maggie: [laughs] Exactly. I feel like once you guys moved down from Northern California to Southern California, that was pretty early on in my employment, probably a year, maybe a year and a half into it. I feel like that just taught me to work independently. I was just like, “Okay, my boss is no longer here in the office with me. Let’s still get some stuff done.” I’ve always felt very independent in my working with RealWealth. I’m just like, “What are the priorities what do you guys want to get done? What can I do to get things done?” Rather than waiting for direction or, “Hey, go do X, Y, Z,” it’s like, “Okay, here’s what we want to accomplish, help us co-create and brainstorm how to get there.” I think that working dynamic that I feel like I have with you and Rich and everyone else on the team just set the stage for being able to do something like this, of being like, “Okay, that was our mode of operation anyway.” It’s just kind of, “Okay, here’s the objective. How do we get there?” Not so much on, “Hey, go do this.”
Downsizing to Live Your Dream & Save Money
Kathy: Get it done, however many hours it takes you. If it’s done quickly, that’s fine. I know you guys sold a lot of stuff, you put maybe just a little bit of stuff in storage, you sold your cars. How has it worked out financially for you? Is it more expensive to travel the world, or more expensive to live and conquer? [laughs]
Mark: So far, we found for the most part, outside of a few countries that it is considerably cheaper to travel. Of course, Maggie’s situation is a little bit different. She’s working pretty much full-time while we’ve been traveling. For myself, I had about two years since we came up with the idea until we began traveling to, like you said, sell all of our stuff, we downsized. We’ve moved back to Oakland, got some roommates, lived frugally for a couple of years so that I had enough money that I could take a bit of a sabbatical from my job and travel around the world. I had saved or budgeted anyway for two years of travel. We’re going on three years this November. Obviously, it’s worked out even better than planned. We found out ways to save, ways to do things more cheaply. It has just been working out really well budget-wise.
Maggie: It’s definitely been probably the best financial decision I made so far. Just not paying rent in the Bay Area is just a massive, just helpful financially. Still working full-time, basically at a California income, but then we’re living someplace like Vietnam or Mexico City, we’re just saving a lot of money that way. I paid off all my student loan debt and any credit card debt I had, saved up money to be able to buy a rental property out in Ohio. It’s just been an amazing financial decision because most people are just going to like, “How can you afford to travel?” I’m like, “I can’t afford to move back to the Bay Area. You’re asking the wrong questions.”
Mark: I was just going to say, with technology too, it’s made it a lot easier. I don’t think maybe even 10 years ago, we would be able to do what we’re doing now. One, just from the perspective of Maggie being able to work remotely, cell service, Wi-Fi, computers, but also things like the sharing economy like Airbnb has opened up a lot of opportunities, using Uber instead of taxis. I’m really into playing the credit card turning game where we’re able to rack up a bunch of airline miles. I think in the two and a half years, our most expensive plane ticket we’ve had to purchase is around $300. The rest is all been getting around using our points and miles. Things like that really made it a lot easier.
Traveling the World on a Discount
Kathy: Oh, my gosh, tell me more. What other tips do you have that save money for travel?
Mark: Besides, the credit card point things, obviously, being able to plan things out in advance, especially in places that are more expensive, like Western Europe. Obviously, they have a great transportation network. Buying a train ticket, however last minute, can cost almost three times as much as if you know what you’re going to do three months in advance. That really helps. Same thing with Airbnb. If you want to get something for a good rate, be able to do it in advance. Anything over a week stay, you get a discount, and anything over a month’s stay, you get an even bigger discount up to 40% sometimes. We always travel with our backpacks carry on. We’re not paying additional airline fees. Just things like that have been working out really well for us.
Maggie: Just shout out to Mark because like I said, I’m basically working full-time, so he plans everything. I literally just tell him, anywhere with Wi-Fi and a bed and I’ll just follow you. I’m good. He’s definitely the one to ask all these travel questions, too.
The Digital Nomad’s Work-Life Balance
Kathy: How is that for you, Maggie, if you have to work when you’re in some exotic new place?
Maggie: It actually works out really well. I enjoy going to coffee shops and figuring out what my routine, if I lived in a different country, would be. Like I said, we’re not going someplace for just a couple days. We’ll be there for a while. I still have the evenings and the weekends, or if I need to take some time off to experience the place. I just actually like it. I’ll just find my local coffee shop in a new town or something like that and then I’ll start making friends with the wait staff. It just becomes what would my normal here be. It’s just a different way to travel that I really enjoy. Mark just walks around and gets to see his stuff. It’s cool.
Mark: One thing we found that works out really well, of course, because I have a lot more time to explore the places we’re in, is during the week I like to walk around. Photography is a big hobby of mine. Taking pictures, finding all the neat things in the area. When it’s the weekend, I’m able to take Maggie straight to those places, and she’s able to see all the highlights of the areas that we’re in. It’s a nice medium. We don’t travel too fast for that reason. We’re never in a place for less than a week so that we always have time to have Maggie and myself see what we want to see in that area.
Maggie: Mark does a lot of research to about just kind of cool places and restaurants and off the beaten path stuff. I feel like I just have a personalized travel concierge. He’s just like, “Okay, follow me. Here’s the cool stuff.”
Work-Travel as a Fountain of Youth
Kathy: It’s amazing. So many people get old in their 20s. It’s a very interesting thing. It’s like, they go to college, they get a job, and they’re just acting like old people. It’s like, you started to do that.
Maggie: I definitely started to do that.
Kathy: There were days that you were in the office till midnight, you were so committed, you’d have your little bowl of candy, and you’re just in the office. It wasn’t a healthy lifestyle, and you were not happy. Just even looking at your pictures, even the one on our website versus how you look at your wedding you’re like–
Maggie: Oh, my God.
Kathy: You look 10 years older just a couple of years ago.
Maggie: Definitely living a more healthy lifestyle. We don’t have cars. We use public transportation and walk around wherever we are, definitely just for health-wise. Traveling is better for me than being in one place. I tend to be kind of sedentary when I am either back in the States or back at home or back in California. Whereas when we’re abroad, I just definitely walk more or hike more, I lose a lot of weight when I’m outside of California.
Kathy: That’s amazing.
Maggie: Just different habits. I don’t think I necessarily change my diet or anything like that. I just walk a lot more. California has a big car culture. You have to drive everywhere to get anywhere in a lot of places, especially where I’m from in rural California, there’s not really a– just walk into town or walk to a coffee shop. It’s like that’s 15-miles into a small town, kind of thing. It’s just a different lifestyle. The one abroad, I prefer just more active, more healthy. It feels good.
Kathy: It’s interesting, you said that 10 years ago, it might not have been possible. I hadn’t really thought about that till now because back when I was out of college, everyone just went to Europe. That’s just where you went. There were no cell phones, you had to still go to a street phone or send a letter that would take three weeks to get there. People went where they were more familiar. Now, it seems like the whole world has opened up. How do you view the world differently now than you did before you took this journey?
Maggie: How do I view the world differently? I wouldn’t say I view it differently but it’s been very confirming that anywhere that we’ve been, most people are motivated by the same things. Most people are friendly, most people are willing to help.
The World as a Safe Place for Nomads
Kathy: It’s interesting that you would say that, because that’s my biggest fear is how do you go to a country where you don’t speak the language? I’ve always worried about you guys, you go into these areas you don’t know anything about, you don’t know where the crime is. You just keep doing it, and you keep being safe. That’s amazing to me.
Mark: Luckily, the world actually is a very safe place we found. You might hear things in the media or read about in the news that comes off as maybe alarmist or a bit paranoid but when you go to other places, you see that people are the same. You learn really that families are even maybe much closer overseas because that’s– a lot the developing countries have is each other. There’s more community in that sense. That makes it much safer.
Obviously, coming from an English-speaking country, we’re fortunate because that is the dominant language around the world. Pretty much any country will have some education for their youths to learn English and also again, getting back to technology, Google Translate is a great thing. You can have entire conversations just through your phone now, whether it’s in China or someplace like Germany.
Maggie: Yes, the language barrier has definitely not been a problem at all. We probably don’t use Google Translate as much as you would think even. Context and just hand gestures get you there. We always try to learn a couple of phrases for different countries that we go to. I feel like it’s the same thing in the U.S., like Oakland has a stigma, but there’s good pockets and there’s bad pockets. I think as long as you’re aware of your surroundings and you’re just– I won’t even say we’re vigilant or anything that.
It’s just that be aware of your surroundings, don’t leave any opportunity for something bad to happen. We’ve been very fortunate, but I think most places aren’t as scary as a lot of media portrayals like to sensationalize, but we’ve also been lucky and just trust our gut. Just seeing where we are. If something feels shady, we go somewhere else. If something doesn’t feel shady– But for the most part, most places, there hasn’t been anything that you should fear. The only time I’ve had anything stolen from me, it was actually back in California. [laughs]
Kathy: What about food and water? [crosstalk]
Maggie: There are good people everywhere, there are these bad people everywhere. That’s just what it is.
Kathy: That’s true. What about food and water? Do you eat everything and drink anything or are you careful that way?
Mark: I feel like, we’ve built up an immunity to a lot of it. I’d drink tap water wherever I go.
Mark: I’ll start drinking, take a few sips. If my stomach feels fine in a few hours and nothing weird is happening, it’s really hasn’t been an issue for us.
Maggie: He’s my guinea pig. I let him drink first and how he is, but yes, we eat everything.
Kathy: That’s amazing.
Mark: Everyone says not to eat vegetables if they have been washed in the local water, but I think people aren’t going to–
Maggie: Some people have weaker stomachs, some people have stronger stomachs. It’s not to say that we haven’t– everyone gets a stomach bug every once in a while. I think Mark’s last one was when we’re back in California.
Maggie: I don’t know. It just hasn’t been an issue at all.
Mark: One good rule is if you’re out eating somewhere like a street market or something, go to the stand that’s popular with lots of people in line and you know that’s going to be a good, safe, healthy one versus one that has no line. The food might be sitting out a little bit longer or something’s happened in the past that people are shying away from it.
Maggie: Or you just know that that’s the most delicious one. There’s a long line, just go to that one. It’s turning over quickly. It’s fresh. It’s popular. Give it a try.
Savings, Retirement, & a Growing Real Estate Portfolio
Kathy: Amazing. All right. You are in your early thirties. Some of our listeners might be thinking, “Well yes, they don’t have kids yet and eventually they’re going to have to settle down and be responsible and start thinking about savings and retirement.” What are your thoughts on that? Do you think you’re going to ever live a normal life or do you think you’ll just redefine living from here on out? [chuckles]
Maggie: I think that I’m living a totally normal life. I have a nine-to-five job. What are you talking about? Yes, it’s really hard for me to think about settling in the sense of just staying in one place forever. You hit a little bit on like, “Hey, you need a plan for retirement and savings,” and I am doing that. This is actually a better lifestyle to help facilitate that than the one that I was living prior, just by how much money I’m saving, by basically just changing where I live. I think I’m very conscious of savings and retirement and thinking long term in that way, it’s definitely not just like– Hey, I may look like a backpacker or a dirty hippie, but I’m also working in real estate and definitely in this sphere of planning and trying to build wealth.
As far as just settling down, I like the idea of having several places that we settle down more like we’ll be somewhere for a few months rather than a couple of weeks, but the idea of just being somewhere and that’s our one place just really makes me anxious and isn’t appealing at this stage in my life. What do you think, Mark?
Mark: No, I agree. Our quest is to find our favorite places around the world and carve out a little home in each of those places. Like Maggie said, two or three places that we can rotate around through, maybe even purchase property, purchase an apartment or something and have some of our belongings there, and then move between those and just use those as our base to travel from.
Buying Property in Other Countries
Kathy: I imagine you’ve looked at prices. What are we talking about? It seems there’re some areas where it’s really cheap.
Maggie: Yes, lots of places are very cheap. I haven’t looked at as many places as you would think. Just mainly because I don’t– I haven’t dug into the nuance of owning property outside of the U.S. There’s a couple of places that I looked at, like Bogota, Colombia was one place I was looking at apartments and Medellin, of just really what the nuance of owning property in different countries is going to be.
Obviously, you can’t get the same kind of loans, so you’d have to come in either with cash or you’d have to find a lender and see how that works for non-U.S. citizens. There’s a whole different level of nuance that I just didn’t really dig into because I feel like I’m focused on U.S. rental property right now, as I’m sure you could imagine given what we do. I’m like, “Oh, max out loans in the States first and get rental property that way, and then I’ll look abroad once I–” Because I think anything abroad is going to take substantially more cash to do rather than loans. It hasn’t really been too much of my focus yet.
Kathy: Right. Max out those loans. You have a duplex in Cleveland?
Kathy: Has that been cash flowing for you?
Maggie: It has been. Yes. It’s been pretty good.
Kathy: What would be your next purchase or investment?
Maggie: I am not sure. That is a good question. Like you said, I just had a big wedding, so I need to save up some money again. [chuckles] I’ve got to been like, just get through the wedding, save up some money again and then see what’s good at that time.
Mark: I’m from the Midwest, so I’m always pushing her to get more properties there. Of course, we’ve talked about Middletown, Hamilton area. We’d love a place in or just outside of Chicago, I think is a really cool area.
Maggie: More for him personally because Chicago is his favorite city, but yes, probably looking around the Midwest. We’ve got a lot of family and ties there. Also, I’m in a position where I like the places that we actually do rental properties. I’m like, “Oh, I could see us living in Detroit. Literally, our duplex in Cleveland is in a neighborhood that I would live in, so that’s always been my like, “Hey, maybe if this travel thing doesn’t work out, I’ve got a backup. I’ve got a house that’s just slowly paid itself off in the background.” I think for me, I need to just save up money again and then see what the best market is at the time.
Kathy: Awesome. Well, like I said, you guys are a major inspiration to me, to everyone in our company for sure and now I think a whole lot more people listening. Thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on your marriage. It’s going to be a great life.
Maggie: Thank you.
Mark: Thank you.
Kathy: Thank you for joining me here on the Real Wealth Show. I hope this opens up some ideas for you on how you can live your best life and save money while doing it. You can get great tips on how to build your cash flowing real estate portfolio at realwealthshow.com.