My Story

Hi I’m Dennis Fassett.

I got started in real estate investing out of necessity and fear more than anything else.

I’ve been a corporate guy now for almost 25 years. I earned a BS in Economics and I followed that up with an MBA in finance. After I earned my MBA I went straight into investment banking at a boutique investment bank in San Francisco. I thought that I was on my way to the stratosphere. After all, a large number of the 200+ people in my MBA program wanted to land a job in Investment Banking. And I was one of only two that did. So with my huge new-MBA-ego I was feeling pretty good about my prospects.

But that experiment lasted under two years because I soon discovered that “boutique” meant that the firm was too small to survive in an environment of ever increasing competition. So they folded. Closed up shop. And I was out on the street. MBA and everything.

I wandered around aimlessly with respect to work for several years after that, and I never really found a company where I was much of a fit. During that time I worked for Wells Fargo Bank, US Leasing, and Hewlett Packard. My career at HP was cut short when we decided to move to Michigan so we could afford to have my wife stay home with the kids. It all seemed perfect too (or maybe too perfect in retrospect), as I flew back here for several interviews during the spring and summer, and landed what I thought was a spectacular job at an automotive supplier here in the area. They were going to pack us up, move us and our two cars across the country, and put us up in corporate housing for three months all expenses paid, give me a signing bonus and a nice check for “incidentals”.

Coming from high-tech at HP I was a bit worried about the transition to automotive. After all this though I thought that I was going to like the automotive industry. A lot.

But my hopes were dashed against the rocks literally the day we arrived in Michigan.

After taking the red-eye in from San Francisco and landing at 6am with a three year old, an 18 month old, and my wife 8 months pregnant with our son, we went to breakfast with my Mother, and then went to check into our corporate apartment. Except there was a problem. A significant problem. They weren’t expecting us, and had never heard of us. And it went downhill from there. When I arrived the next Monday for my first day at work at my new job, they weren’t expecting me nor were they ready for me. In fact I found out that in the short five weeks between the day I accepted my job there and the day I started, the job I had accepted had been eliminated.

Welcome to automotive.

So I wandered around at that company in four different jobs until my relocation commitment was up, then jumped to a small consulting company. Good thing I jumped when I did, as that company ended up laying off nearly 40% of its employees and it ended up in bankruptcy a short time later.

The consulting company was a good fit, but it turned out to be managed poorly. They put all of their eggs in one basket with one client (at that time a giant auto manufacturer) and paid the price when that client cut our business down to nothing after a little over three years. Are you seeing a pattern here? I did. I was beginning to think that I had the reverse Midas touch. I jumped again before that company closed it’s doors for good.

But when I signed on to another automotive company, this time a manufacturer of automotive interiors, I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. It was a great fit for me, and I was incredibly successful to the extent that I rose to Director in two years, and was on track to make Vice President in another two, which was like traveling at light speed at an automotive company.

I had my director chair, I had my director computer, and I had my director share of an admin assistant. Things were going spectacularly well, and I had the full support of the CFO in what I was doing.

Life was grand. We bought a big house and enrolled the kids in private school.

Then the you-know-what hit the fan.

It started on January 7, 2004. I remember the day like it was yesterday. GM stock hit $55 a share, it’s all-time high, ever, on some great news coming out of the Detroit Auto Show. I bought GM stock on that day. A lot of stock.

Then shortly after that the other shoe dropped. We started to see cracks in automotive industry, and little did I or anyone else know at the time, it marked the beginning of the end of the automotive industry as we knew it. Starting literally the day after I bought that stock, GM, the other manufacturers, the automotive suppliers, and everything and everyone else in the industry started it’s slow and deliberate death spiral. GM went from $55 a share that day to bankruptcy. Thankfully I got out well before zero, but I still lost a ton of money.

At that time, over half of my company’s business came from GM, and over half of our GM business came from their line of big trucks and SUVs. And of course those were the models that were taking the biggest hits.

My department was eliminated, my staff mostly let go, and I was reassigned to another part of the organization. Not only had my Vice President dream come to a screeching halt, but my career there did too, as they started a massive downsizing and restructuring that would end up shrinking the company by over 30%.

My focus went from a VP title and a corner office to self-preservation and building a safety net for my family, because by that time I was at a point in my career where I couldn’t just go to Starbucks and get a part-time job that would even pay my mortgage payment if I lost my job. To add to that, my mother was terminally ill, and the year before we had put an addition on our house for her and took her in to live with us. So there I was – four kids, a stay at home wife, a sick mother, and an ever riskier situation at work. Just about the worst situation that you could imagine.

So I got busy looking for something that I could do in my “spare” time that would begin to create some sort of safety net for my family. But what happens when your company isn’t doing well? You don’t work less, you work more. So the problem that I faced was that had to find something that I could fit in to the shrinking amount of time that I had available. I looked at all different kinds of businesses. Franchises, buying an existing business, MLM, you name it. I even looked at taking on a part-time job. And when it was all said and done, the only thing that I could find that had both the potential that I needed to create a safety net, and that would at the same time fit into my schedule, was rental real estate.

I started buying single family houses, and quickly built a very nice portfolio of cash flowing rentals. When the credit markets started to dry up and I couldn’t get any additional single family mortgages I shifted my focus to apartment buildings. I now have over $3 million in rental real estate. I manage most of it myself, and I still have a day job. I’ve even created my own Private Equity fund to buy apartment buildings.

The bottom line is that rental real estate has exceeded my expectations in terms of building that safety net that I was looking for. And guess what? My work 401k was decimated like everyone else’s when the stock market crashed. So the cash flow safety net that I was building for a cushion now will also end up being my retirement plan later. Talk about a very cool unintended benefit!

The reason I started this site is to help others that find themselves in the same situation. My entire business was built to be managed while you have a full time job, and having done that myself I can teach you to do the same thing.

By being here you’ve started on a path of discovery that, if you follow it through, can both meet your cash flow goals and reduce your stress level. Does it require work? Of course it does. But by being here I hope you realize that anything worthwhile does. But it’s manageable work that will pay long term dividends.

If you’ve made it this far I want to thank you sincerely for taking the time out of your crammed schedule to visit. Your time is beyond valuable and I will never waste it

So please take a look around. Check out he forum and ask questions. I promise it will be worth it.

Take care, and let me know what you think.

 

Dennis Fassett