Professional Tennis Player Turned Real Estate Addict | Sunitha Rao

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In today’s episode, Cody and Justin are joined by Suni.  Suni lives in the Boston area and has an amazing story.

She became a professional tennis player at age 14 after coming from some very humble beginnings with immigrant parents. That career lasted nine years with some very interesting financial and personal implications. Then she found herself 23 with no real savings and way behind on the educational curve.

Don’t worry this story has a happy ending and a surprise twist that lands us in the remote real estate discussion.

Now it’s time to go take a listen and see what you think for yourself.

Episode Summary

  • Her parents came over from India in the 80s and were very poor
  • They started to work their way out of it over time and her parents instilled savings in her
  • When she was 14 she started playing tennis professionally
  • She was using a lot of those winnings to pay for travel, PR, training, etc.
  • In the sport, you’re really just breaking even at that level even though it’s professional
  • She was able to get a lot of training provided through scholarships in return for advertising
  • The income that she would make was extremely variable.
  • Some weeks she might make $20k and some she might make $100
  • While that could seem like a lot of money at times she also had extremely high expenses because she had to hire full-time coach along with their travel
  • Suni actually dropped out of school in the 6th grade and was supposed to be teaching herself but that wasn’t really feasible with 8 hour training days
  • After 9 years of playing professionally, she retired at age 23 in 2009 to return to school
  • At 23 she only had a couple of thousand dollars to show for her career
  • She then walks us through the struggles of professional athletes being able to handle money and look out for their future
  • The recession actually played a part in when she retired because many businesses didn’t have extra money to sponsor an athlete
  • After retiring she spent some time taking remedial classes to get her up to speed at a local community college
  • After that, she was able to attend a prestigious private school through scholarships and need-based grants
  • Now she’s 27 and looking for a job
  • She landed a job in a large firm in their management training program
  • She stayed there 2.5 years before coming to her current job in corporate financial planning
  • Feeling compelled to get her finances in order she felt like going after a career that really made a difference wasn’t reasonable
  • She then came across the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad which really changed her outlook
  • Then she gets into real estate as a path towards passive income
  • She closed her first property in April of 2018 and was up to 5 units before 2019
  • While she lives in the Boston area, these homes were purchased around Indianapolis and never even saw them before purchasing
  • She decided on Indianapolis based on a ton of technical statistics such as population growth, income growth, diversity of employment, and price to rent ratio.
  • Networking was the key to actually finding the team to help her manage these properties
  • She doesn’t see herself walking away from work altogether but her goal is to replace her current income with real estate so she has the flexibility
  • Then we discuss finding people to surround yourself with who understand the journey to FI and some of the difficulties that come with that
  • We also spend a lot of time throughout the episode covering the psychological impact of growing up poor and then becoming a professional athlete and how that just impacts her outlook and drive
  • Her closing advice is for those looking to get into real estate which revolves around building your network and understanding the technical drivers that make or break a market and understand your cash position so you know if you’re prepared for an investment

Key Takeaways

  1. Don’t envy: It would be easy to feel jealous of a teenager traveling around getting paid to play a game. What you might not see though is all the struggle and the end result of being behind your peers. Just a friendly reminder that the grass isn’t always greener.
  2. Start Late? Start fast: No one is ever going to stop preaching the importance of getting a solid financial base early. Time will always be the most powerful variable, but it’s not insurmountable. Suni had a late start, but when she started, it was a dead sprint and that has made all the difference.
  3. Invest in the process: Lots of side hustles are tempting. Lots are profitable. However, they can all be a money pit if you don’t spend some time in analysis. Suni knew real estate was a great option, but she didn’t just assume it would work out. She put in countless hours breaking down the variables and optimizing her chance of success.

Call to Action

Whether it’s real estate or not, you probably have something in your life you’re trying to succeed at. Whatever it may be, go out and do some critical thinking. Develop a list of the most powerful variables and study them to see how or where you should focus your energy for maximum gain.

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Links from the Show:

Bigger Pockets

Contact Suni:

LinkedIn: Suni Rao

Learn More About Your Hosts:

Fly to FI (Cody’s Blog)

Saving-Sherpa (Justin’s blog)