Near Zero Expenses

How to avoid signing your life over to a mortgage
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Ego
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Post by Ego »

A few years back we stumbled on a position that has permitted us to live at almost zero expenses per month. While I would like to pat myself on the back and boast about how smart I am - truth be told - is was just dumb luck.
That said, the knowledge may help others.
While looking at a vacant apartment with my wife the leasing agent mentioned offhandedly that if we were to take it we would be living next door to the new manager when the company got around to hiring one. I asked her what was involved in the position. We got the job.
Turns out technology has caused an upheaval in the apartment management industry. Where once managers were old guys who could fix toilets, today managers are tech savvy people who can call the plumber and process the purchase order.
As Resident Managers we pay zero for rent, internet, heat, water and telephone. We get a tiny salary each month. Only a portion of the rent is taxable income.
I "work" on average about 45 minutes a day during the week dealing with scheduling issues. I put a key in a lock-box on the door of the apartment in need of work and the vendor or roving maintenance staff actually completes the repair. My job is to punch the right buttons on the computer.
We did this for three years at one property, then left to travel for a year, and have been hired back at an even better property. In those three years I had been woken only once in the middle of the night.
Our largest expense the last time we were here was groceries. That is, until my wife found another gold-mine. She worked at a social service agency that hosted the local food-bank once a week. At the end of the day the perishable/frozen foods would inevitably be left and the workers would be sad about the fact that it would go into the trash. Every week my wife would return with a cooler full of frozen fruit and fresh vegetables.
While we never actually had a zero-expense month we came awfully close a few times.


ExpatERE
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Post by ExpatERE »

Thanks for sharing. That is useful information...


LiquidSapphire
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Post by LiquidSapphire »

That was helpful. How would you recommend going about getting one of these property management jobs now with no experience? I have previously tried looking in the paper, searching online, etc, but there just weren't any opportunities that I saw.
I have heard of people trying to make donations to the food bank but the food bank was unable to take them because it didn't meet food safety regulations... silly things like containers had been opened, but not fully used, etc... Is this urban legend or was your wife able to take advantage of these types of situations? Seems win win to me - volunteer at a good place 1x per week, get free food that no one else can have, but you personally have knowledge that it's good... is my evil plan any good? :)


secretwealth
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Post by secretwealth »

Do you need a real estate license to be a property manager? I looked into this over a decade ago, and I seem to remember that it was required then. Also, are any other certifications or licenses involved? I imagine this must vary between jurisdictions.


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Ego
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Post by Ego »

Here in California there is no requirement for a license or certification. It may be different elsewhere.
Most local Apartment Owners Associations have continuing education classes and certifications that may be helpful in obtaining a position, but we have none of those.
Knowing what I now know, here's what I would do to get a position.
1. Make a resume emphasizing your administrative experience and attention to detail.
2. Walk around the area in which you are interest in living. Look for small and mediums sized apartment complexes. Keep in mind that a large property will require more work - typically at a low hourly rate - so try to look for the smallest complexes with an onsite manager. The management company will have a sign posted on the building.
3. Visit the management company during their slow time (12th - 25th of the month) and introduce yourself to the receptionist. Ask if they have any positions available and ask what they are looking for in a manager. Leave your resume in case of a future opening. Let them know that you would be willing to participate in their staff training at no pay in anticipation of a future opening.
Most large companies have several borderline managers who they want to replace but they have nobody trained and ready to step in.
As far as the food bank... each morning they receive massive donations of nearly-expired food from large chain grocery stores. The non-perishable stuff that was not distributed to the needy was taken back to to the warehouse for distribution the next day. The perishable stuff (veggies, fruits, and frozen foods) that they could not keep for tomorrow was given away to anyone who wanted it. They also had lots of dairy.


M
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Post by M »

Thanks for sharing Ego - this is very useful information and gives me a new way to think about reducing my expenses.


palmera
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Post by palmera »

yup a very useful and viable option for me in the future.


akratic
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Post by akratic »

Wow!
I would be terrible at this job, but it'd be perfect for my girlfriend.
Are you able to travel with this job, or do you need to stay onsite? For example, could you spend four days in another state for Thanksgiving, provided you still checked email and phone?
Would you be allowed to do other side jobs during the day like tutoring?


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Ego
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Post by Ego »

Most resident managers who work for our company have a full-time job. I have an online store which I manage using the free internet and warehouse most of my stock in the property storeroom.
It is possible to travel. We leave a key with the manager of a neighboring property. If there is an emergency they can access the key box to let service people into a unit and they can cover in case of a disaster like a water leak.
One of the side benefits that I like most is the fact that I have a measure of control over my environment. If I own a home/condo I am at the mercy of my neighbors. If they are loud, obnoxious, rude... there is little I can do short of calling the police. In this position I have tools to get them to be good neighbors. That said, I rarely had to do more than ask politely. Once or twice I sent warning notices.


Dezdura
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Post by Dezdura »

I would have done that in a heartbeat if I did not have 2 dogs and 2 cats. They kind of force me to live in a house, not an apartment. I also make so little money that I am allowed to go to the food bank to get food. I found a food give out at a local church that I qualified for. It is within walking distance.


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Ego
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by Ego »

A new twist on near-zero living. Most of the backpacker lodging in South Africa is run by volunteers/travelers in exchange for lodging, food/drink and plenty of fun. There is very little work to be done as the places all employ cleaners and maintenance staff. You just need to be there to greet new guests and check them in. Most places have a volunteer button on their website. DW is teaching yoga in exchange for free lodging for the next month.

SimpleLife
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by SimpleLife »

Not a bad idea. How many units would you say the max apartment complex size should be to make this a 45 minute a day job give or take? I'm an IT professional but also operate my own rental properties (single family homes) so I am familiar with the general duties and issues; I wouldn't mind this as a retirement gig if that little time is spent actually working daily. Wouldn't be a bad gig for free roof over your head and no cost to you utilities. Some of these places even have a gym and pool.

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Ego
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by Ego »

SimpleLife wrote:Not a bad idea. How many units would you say the max apartment complex size should be to make this a 45 minute a day job give or take? I'm an IT professional but also operate my own rental properties (single family homes) so I am familiar with the general duties and issues; I wouldn't mind this as a retirement gig if that little time is spent actually working daily. Wouldn't be a bad gig for free roof over your head and no cost to you utilities. Some of these places even have a gym and pool.
It depends. For a complex with families it might be fifteen units. For seniors maybe forty. It also depends on the efficiency of the systems set up by the property management company. The company we've worked for is very good.

theanimal
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by theanimal »

My upcoming job as a guide will have 0 expenses. Housing, food, and everything else is provided. Transportation is also available to the major town and elsewhere without charge, if there's room available. I'll be working 30-40 hours a week with every third week composed of only 4 working days, but you could do it part time. Many outdoor related jobs are quite similar.

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Ego
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by Ego »

@theanimal, a job you enjoy in a place you love with zero living expenses.... it doesn't got much better than that.

OldPro
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by OldPro »

'Payment in kind' jobs are not new and there are countless other examples.

When I was living on a Greek island, I spent a couple of hours a day helping my landlord maintain the property in exchange for free rent & utilities. I had a girlfriend 19 years my junior who paid for the groceries and I spent my evenings in tourist season at a friend's bar playing pool and socializing with the tourists, in return for which I got free drinks and pocket money. That was in fact actual 'zero expenses' out of pocket but you are forgetting to count time spent instead of money.

Finding zero expenses AND zero time spent is the impossible dream.

Theanimal, how does that job contribute to you retiring early? I don't see any connection.

theanimal
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by theanimal »

Oldpro- Same as any other job. I work, they pay me money. And as I said above, they cover all my expenses.

OldPro
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by OldPro »

Ah, you didn't mention you were being paid theanimal. I guess I somehow took it as a 'payment in kind' type of job with no actual pay involved. Like when I have crewed on sailboats sometimes and had all my expenses paid. Sometimes crewing is paid and sometimes it is not.

Where and what kind of guiding will you be doing?

theanimal
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by theanimal »

Oldpro- Ah yes, I guess I did leave that out. I'll be in northern Alaska. The guide work covers a pretty wide spectrum but it's centered around outdoor, day-trip type stuff. Things like- van tour, river float, hiking, northern lights etc.

OldPro
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Re: Near Zero Expenses

Post by OldPro »

Now that's where I get confused by some things I read in some threads on this forum.

How do you reconcile what I would call a low paid job with a wish to retire early? On another thread I mentioned that learning to spend less is fine but it doesn't get someone to ER unless they earn enough to be able to save signifigant amounts per year.

I can appreciate you will probably love the job but I am back to my question, "how does that job contribute to you retiring early?" Even someone planning on ERE with an income of only say $6k per year needs to build a nest-egg of $200k with a 3% return rate. Given this forum is about early as in younger than 50 at least, I would expect people in this forum to be looking at plans that will take them 10 years or less to achieve their financial independence.

I guess I am confused because I see a lot of threads on how to spend less but haven't really seen any discussion on how much do I need and how long will it take me to get it. Maybe I'll start a new thread on that.

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