How nice it is to have a community of people with similar interests and life goals! I'd like to introduce myself and give you a little back story, so feel free to read as much or as little as you'd like.
When I was 25 years old (I'm 29 now), I was a highly skilled photographer working as an analyst at a major bank. Shortly after being laid off from my third corporate gig in as many years, I decided that I would never be content slaving away in a gray cubicle, regardless of my salary. It became apparent to me that there were only two options: Keep grinding away in various button-down positions while trying to take photos on the side and begging for an annual cost-of-living increase, or striking out on my own. I had no idea what the hell I was going to do, as my Ivy-League undergrad education had prepared me for NOTHING practical. However, I did know that I had to figure out a different path as early as possible.
The two-week "severance" pay that I received as a "thank-you" for not shooting the place up upon termination brought the balance of my savings account to just under $20,000. Hardly a fortune, and certainly not enough to live on for the rest of my life. Foolish as it may sound, I decided to buy a house. I'm fortunate enough to live in one of the rust-belt cities that, despite it's dreary past, has begun an impressive renaissance. I picked up a dilapidated hovel for $19,900.00 on the cusp of a really cool neighborhood, fixed it up myself, and promptly pulled $50k out of it for the purchase of two more similar homes.
Yes, I know debt is bad, but this is the only debt I can think of that immediately starts paying me more than I need to pay it back. I currently owe $98,000 and have a total of five properties which generate rental income of approximately $60,000 annually. Borrowing 98k to produce 60k per year is smart, no matter how you feel about debt. I have no other debt besides what I owe on these properties. I WILL BE PAYING CASH FOR PROPERTIES FROM HERE ON IN. The debt was just to get the business off the ground. I work about five hours a week managing the properties, and continue to operate a specialized photography practice. Still, this only ends up occupying 15 hours of my week MAX. I've begun to feel restless.
As far as the real estate development goes, I intend to keep buying properties until I reach one of two goals: $100k in rental income OR ten properties, whichever comes first. I should be able to reach this goal within 3-5 years (age 32-34). I intend to keep shooting photographs as long as I can bear the weight of the camera.
I'm unmarried, have no children, and have a reasonably healthy relationship with my live-in girlfriend. In spite of all this seemingly good fortune, I'm wondering what the next step is. Should I be satisfied with what I have? Keep buying properties (with cash, of course)? Focus completely on photography? I'm hoping that the people on this forum can offer me some wisdom and advice. I'm open to all suggestions, however foolish or far-fetched. Indeed, buying a house a week after you've lost your job is about as foolish as it gets, so I won't judge.
Many thanks for your input!