Retire Early with Real Estate & Real Estate Start School

Today, I’m excited to share with you two great resources from one sharp guy who attained early financial independence via real estate investing.

Chad “Coach” Carson is a family man in his late thirties who has figured out what matters most in his life. It’s not having the most “doors” in his real estate profile or continually trading up to bigger and better properties with an insatiable appetite.

low cost 401k
Given his experience and business acumen, I imagine Chad could scale up to owning hundreds of properties if that’s what he wanted. Instead, he’s found a comfortable spot where his properties (currently about 90 “doors” co-owned with a business partner) more than cover his family of four’s relatively modest expenses without taking up much of his time.

He focuses less on growing a large empire and more on what he describes as “doing what matters.” To him, that included recently spending a year and a half living in Cuenca, Ecuador with his family, the longest of several “mini-retirements” that he has taken over the 15 years or so that he’s had in his real estate investing career.

I like to feature Mr. Carson’s work not because he’s a genuinely friendly guy, or because I’m in awe of his athletic prowess, but because he’s such a good teacher. If there’s a real estate concept that I don’t fully understand, he’s probably got a 2,500-word blog post full of tables and diagrams to explain it in simple terms.

Now, in addition to his blog posts, he’s also got a new book out titled Retire Early with Real Estate, and his master course, Real Estate Start School, is now open for enrollment. Unlike some courses which remain available year-round, this one is updated and released just twice per year. Let’s dive into these resources one at a time.


Retire Early with Real Estate & Real Estate Start School



Real Estate Start School


Retire Early with Real Estate


Chad was kind enough to share an advanced digital copy of his first book with me, and it’s available from Amazon on September 13th, 2018 (two days from this publication) starting at a penny under $10 for the Kindle version. It’s also available from Bigger Pockets with some video extras, but the digital version will cost you double Amazon’s price, and the print version is showing a 1-2 week shipping date.

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Personally, I haven’t been much of a real estate investor. I’ve been a reluctant landlord in a couple different situations after moving out, but when I analyze the returns compared to what I put in, those were certainly suboptimal investments. Reading the 300-page book confirmed those suspicions for me.

Mr. Carson does a number of things very well in this book, and I’ve got a few minor critiques, but altogether I found the book to be a great introduction to what it means to be financially independent and how real estate investing can be used in a wide variety of ways to help achieve that goal.


Do What Matters


This mantra is a consistent theme across his website and throughout the book. He recognizes that what matters to him may be different than what matters to you or me, but it’s important to understand what that is. Retiring early should not put an individual into a state of perpetual idle leisure, but rather in a better position to spend more time doing things that matter to them.


“Sleep more. Relax in the morning. Sit on a rocking chair.
Learn something new. Be impractical. Explore.
Visit amazing places. Go on adventures. Hike trails. Ride a bike again.
Unplug from the matrix. Do work you love. Buck the system. Say “shove it” to the man.
Raise your own kids. Play silly games. Help with homework. Spoil your grandchildren.
Plant a garden. Grow your own food. Eat healthy. Exercise.
Slow Down.
Pursue your passions. Volunteer. Listen to people. Make an impact.
Advance your cause. Create your art. Write your story.
Get OFF the 9-5 treadmill.
STOP selling out!
DO what matters!”



-Chad Carson


He also acknowledges that, as The White Coat Investor would say, “retirement is squishy,” and it can mean different things to different people. There may still be some work, there will definitely be some income, but once you reach financial independence, you have the ability to choose how you spend your time without the need to focus on making more money.


Real Estate versus Investing in Stocks and Bonds


The author invests in both property and index funds, and he discusses the ways in which one can reach a state of financial independence via one or the other or both.

You’re probably familiar with the 4% rule of thumb which suggests a retiree can withdraw 4% of his or her initial nest egg, increase withdrawals with inflation, and have a very low likelihood of running out of money.

lucidity locums
In Retire Early with Real Estate, Coach Carson shows how a successful real estate investor can expect better cash flow and may be able to spend a larger amount in retirement than the investor relying on the 4% rule.

For example, it’s not unusual to see 6% to 8% cash-on-cash returns for a fully paid-off property in the right market. Ten homes purchased for $100,000 each could generate $60,000 to $80,000 per year after all expenses are covered.

That same $1,000,000 invested in stocks and bonds may only afford you a $40,000 annual budget if you’re abiding by the 4% rule.

The real estate investor also has the advantage of retaining ownership of the asset, whereas the stock and bond investor may have to sell assets in a down market. The owner of mutual funds also may end up with a lot more money than he or she started with if not met with lousy initial returns.

There’s a lot more to this comparison, and that’s why the book is 300 pages long. The real estate path requires more work up front to find the right properties and tenants, and requires more paperwork and ongoing management, although much of this can be outsourced, of course.


Putting Money in its Place


I really like the perspective that Chad takes when discussing the role of money in his life and where he wants it to be in yours.

It’s not front and center.


“So, my goal with the book is to help you put money back in its place. And its place is not at the center of all your decisions. Instead, I would love your values, your friends and family, your personal goals, and your life aspirations to guide all of your decisions.” -Chad Carson


While this may seem counterintuitive for a book discussing investing, analysis of real estate strategies, the careful use of debt as leverage, and how much money you need to retire, it’s a great reminder that money is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less.

Figure out the money piece, and you can spend time on things that matter more than money. I have been known to say that money is everything, but it’s certainly not the only thing. Lose sight of that fact and you may never feel you have Enough.

While the author is admittedly rather frugal, he has the means to spend more, and he recognizes that people will make different choices. He does make it clear that our spending tends to highlight what we value, and that choices to have to be made.


“You can’t have it all right now. You have to choose. If you choose to spend 100% of your income on stuff, you are prioritizing that stuff over everything else. If you choose to save a large portion of that income and invest it, you’re choosing to move towards freedom and

flexibility as quickly as possible. There is no right or wrong, here. There are only choices that either connect with your deeply-held values or they don’t.” -Chad Carson

Real Estate Investing Strategies


Yes, the book does go into detail with a wide variety of actual ways an investor can use real estate to generate the income needed to retire decades earlier than is typical. The author has done nothing but invest in real estate until his more recent entrepreneurial activities that include this book, his website, and his course.

Open the book up and you’ll learn beginning techniques that include the House Hacking Plan, the Live-in-Then-Rent Plan, the Live-In-Flip Plan, and the Buy-Remodel-Refinance-Rent-Repeat (BRRRR) Plan.

For those further along in their wealth-building stages, he describes the Rental Debt Snowball Plan, the Buy and Hold Plan, and the Trade-Up Plan.

Each plan is described in detail and easy-to-follow hypotheticals are outlined with numbers in paragraph, table, and sometimes chart diagrams.

Sprinkled throughout the text are the real-life stories of successful real estate investors who have used any or all of the above plans to reach or approach financial independence, and most of them quite early in life. Altogether, there are 20 of these investor profiles with a number of them coming from names you might recognize in the personal finance blogging community.

Chad doesn’t ignore the downsides of real estate investing. He struggled through the housing crisis ten years ago, and profiled a real estate investor who struggled mightily at the time, going through a divorce and a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the midst of the Great Recession.


No Book is Perfect


For one thing, he talks about the fact that he wrote most of this book in Ecuador, but I don’t think I saw a single picture from the beautiful country. Fortunately, he’s got a website and a Twitter account where he shares some splendid photography.


A Two-Year Residency?


Forgive the football pun, but the All-American dropped the ball a bit when discussing physicians. He says “Most doctors study for at least 10 years before beginning to receive large incomes. They spend four years at a university, four years in medical school, and two years at a residency.”

This is more of a critique on me, since I’ve had my copy since June, and if I hadn’t procrastinated so long on finishing it, I may have been able to tell him to change that to “three or more years in residency” and maybe mentioned tacking on an optional fellowship, but it’s far too late for the publisher to make that correction in the first edition.

My bad.


Income Versus Total Return


At one point, a 7% return from real estate investing is compared to a 1.82% dividend from the S&P 500. When looking solely at income and ignoring total return, this makes real estate seem like the much better deal.

What Chad knows but didn’t really hash out in the book is the fact that U.S. stocks have seen capital appreciation at a higher rate than real estate, which, over the long run, rarely does much better than keeping up with inflation.


Massive Tax Drag?


In a section that actually has little or nothing to do with real estate, Chad compares investing in a tax-deferred IRA to investing in a non-qualified, a.k.a. taxable brokerage account.

While I agree that tax-advantaged accounts should be maxed out, the taxable account gets really short-changed here. In his example, a $10,000 a year investment in a tax-deferred retirement account returning a generous 10% per year results in $1,644,940, whereas a taxable account’s returns are subject to a combined state and federal tax rate of 30% and only grows to $944,608, or about 43% less.

That’s a huge difference if true, but to quote the lady in the Geico commercials, “That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works!”

Invested in a tax-efficient manner, for example in the S&P 500 fund with the 1.82% dividend, the only portion potentially subject to tax would be that dividend as long as the investor isn’t selling shares.

If the investor has taxable income that pushes him or her out of the lower tax brackets where that dividend would be in the 0% qualified dividend bracket, the dividend could be taxed at a rate of about 15% to 35% depending on state and total income, but more commonly on the lower end of that spectrum.

The tax drag would be about 20 to 25% or 1.82%, or 0.4% per year. Using my compound interest calculator, using monthly investments and compounding (which is more typical of real-life investment behavior), I get $1,975,423 for the tax-deferred account after 30 years, and $1,813,962 for the taxable account, a difference of 8%. But that difference could be zero if the investor has taxable income of a median American household.

The tax-deferred investment did benefit from an initial tax-deferral, but a significant chunk of that benefit will likely be recaptured via income taxes upon withdrawal. The taxable account, conversely, consists of post-tax money, and it’s certainly possible that an early retiree could draw upon that account for decades without incurring any additional taxes.


Related: Tax Drag: What a Drag it is Getting Taxed




While no book is perfect, this book serves as an excellent introduction to the myriad ways real estate can be used to help achieve the goal of early financial independence or early retirement.

In addition to the strategies mentioned above, the book also touches on note investing, crowdfunding and other syndicated investments, what to look for in investment properties, and much more.

Furthermore, Chad Carson takes a holistic approach to life and money, making this more than just a real estate textbook, but rather a book with both practical advice and philosophies that should be guiding an investor’s behavior.

I refer to the author by first name throughout most of my review because I consider Chad to be a friend. We’ve been in communication throughout the time in which he’s written this book, and we recently shared some quality craft beers well into the evening around a Minnesota campfire. I may or may not have been tossing pallets on that FIRE to keep the flames going strong and my buddy around a bit longer.

Chad is accomplished but modest, authoritative yet soft-spoken, and I highly recommend Retire Early with Real Estate to anyone considering using real estate investing as a part of their financial independence plan.

For those who are looking for a more thorough personal, interactive, multimedia approach to learning more about real estate investing and financial independence, he’s built a course for you.


Real Estate Start School


If you’re familiar with The White Coat Investor’s Fire Your Financial Advisor course, this course was created on the same format and is similar in size and scope to the good doctor’s signature course.

Comprised of six modules, 17 videos, and over 10 hours of total presentation video at normal speed (I prefer 1.25x or 1.5x speed) along with numerous action items and thought exercises, there is plenty of material here. There is some overlap with the book and website, much like the WCI course, book and website, but with Real Estate Start School, you get a lot more than simple course access.



Coach Carson opens this course to new enrollees twice per year for about 10 days. He leads weekly group sessions with fellow students for 8 weeks. He also does a half-dozen live group coaching calls with his students over a similar timeframe.

There’s a Facebook group open exclusively to current and past students, and he also does monthly Alumni group coaching calls throughout the year. Past calls are archived and available to new enrollees in the course.

You can tell that he really wants people to follow through by not only finishing the course, but also remaining active in the community he’s building and taking the first steps towards building a real estate portfolio to help achieve their financial and life goals.

For a 32-minute preview and overview, full course syllabus, testimonials and more, head on over to Coach Chad Carson’s Course (say that ten times fast!) page to check it all out. You will find his laid-back, genuine approach refreshing. The course is open now through 9/18/2018, and I’m told the price will be increasing in 2019, likely by 50% or more.


Check Out Real Estate Start School


If you do purchase his course (and do not take advantage of the 30-day money back guarantee) via a link on this page, this site will be credited and compensated and you will be supporting our charitable mission


Coach Carson’s 7-Day Free Course


If you’re not ready to commit to purchasing either a book or a course, but would like to get a feel for how online courses work while learning how to get started (or restarted) investing in real estate, here is your opportunity.

It won’t cost you a penny and the course includes a discussion forum in which Chad will answer your real estate questions.



Track your investments for free with Personal Capital. That's how I track the PoF portfolio.  


Is Real Estate Investing a part of your approach to achieving financial independence? Do you invest in single family homes, multi-unit properties, REITs, crowdfunded real estate, notes, or use other methods? What percentage of your portfolio is devoted to real estate?

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  • Real estate has been my primary focus for investing for a little over a year now. Besides maxing out all my retirement vehicles with index funds, I have solely thrown the extra money into real estate (which since I am an accredited investor I have been doing private syndicated deals in the commercial multifamily apartment sector (Class B).

    The main draw for me is that there is a relatively nice cash flow that has been slowly increasing my passive income stream. The fact that I can continue this without having to sell the original capital (ie I don’t have to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs) is why this has such a big appeal for me.

    There is a lot of potential in real estate but due diligence is a must as there are even more ways where you can find yourself in trouble. Like you, I don’t want to be an accidental landlord/active real estate owner, so syndicated deals are perfect for me as it is really, “mailbox money” for me (of course the tradeoff is that I do lose some money for the middle man but to me it is worth it to not have to deal with active management).

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. I think you hit the nail on the head about due diligence. I find that to be the most challenging part of crowdfunding real estate deals. I love their increased access to deals and their potential diversification, but I do worry that many of us (myself) will short-change due diligence because it’s so darn easy to press a button and invest!

      Real estate as you presented is a nice hedge to other strategies and a solid source of retirement income.

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  • PoF – Thank you for the review and kind words!

    And your criticisms are also appreciated. That’s why I like reading the blog of a smart guy like you!

    On the taxable vs tax-free growth, your point is well taken. The assumption that formed the basis for my example (which was not stated and should have been) was similar to my own IRA investing experience, which was investing in private notes. These do behave in a similar manner to my example because the total interest returns are completely exposed to tax liability (thus their preferred vehicle of retirement accounts).

    But I presented it as too clear cut in favor of the tax-free account. In reality, because taxable accounts are exposed to taxes you invest in things with less tax exposure as you stated (i.e. low dividend stocks and/or depreciation sheltered real estate!). I should know because that’s what I have done with my real estate! Depreciation sheltered most of my rental income returns, and appreciation wasn’t taxed until I sold (unless I did a 1031 tax free exchange).

    And on the length of medical education, I guess that’s what they were selling me when I applied to medical schools 16 years ago (and subsequently withdrew my application):) Obviously I missed that and should have asked friends who know better!

    I hope your readers find the book and course helpful!

    • Thanks for stopping by!

      I get what you’re saying regarding the taxable account. The take-home message should not be to avoid one (although I do believe in masing out tax-deferred accounts first), but to invest as tax-efficiently as possible in a non-qualified, taxable account.

      I thought 98% of the book was spot on, and would absolutely be beneficial to my readership. Same goes for the course, and I’ll update the text to include a link to your free course, as well.


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  • Britt

    I can confirm that pallets were indeed burned whole 🙂

    Adam and I are doing RESS this fall and really looking forward to it.

  • Dave

    I’m very disappointed in this comment :
    “For example, it’s not unusual to see 6% to 8% cash-on-cash returns for a fully paid-off property in the right market. Ten homes purchased for $100,000 each could generate $60,000 to $80,000 per year after all expenses are covered.”
    I’m halfway through your book and I cannot find anything remotely close to this scenario. Please explain how the numbers work because I simple don’t see it.

    • The second page in Chapter 1 has a table (page 31) has a table demonstrating this. “A $1 Million portfolio invested in 100% in real estate at those numbers [7% yield] would receive $70,000 per year before tax.”

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