Husband-and-wife team Wendy and Jay Papasan believe periods of crises can be a chance to refocus your financial journey and adopt wealth-building habits. They shared their strategies at Inman Connect Now.

Like all crises, the pandemic and current period of economic uncertainty can also be an opportunity — a chance to refocus, take stock of where you are in your financial journey and build habits that can help build wealth in the future, Jay and Wendy Papasan said during a panel at Inman Connect Now on Tuesday.

Jay Papasan

The key, the husband-and-wife founders of Keller Williams’ Papasan Properties say, is to think long-term. While many across the country struggle with unemployment and significant cuts to income, those who are working and thinking about real estate investment should still take a hard look at their financial habits.

“COVID broke all of our old routines,” says Jay, who is executive director at Keller Williams Realty and co-authored “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent” with Gary Keller and Dave Jenks. “We have an opportunity to form fresh habits and come out of this more purposeful than we went in and change that trajectory just by changing the habits that drive our lives.”

Here are their six tips for coming out of the current difficult moment stronger and wealthier:

1. Say no to say yes

At its core, wealth building requires a level of discipline and forward-thinking. One way to make it easier, Jay advises, is to periodically remind yourself that you are doing it to generate passive income and have financial freedom to do the kind of work you like as you age. If you do, putting off a car upgrade or new wardrobe now will feel less like a sacrifice.

“The key is understanding what you’re saying yes to,” Jay Papasan said. “What would happen if the income that you worked for today showed up automatically and work became a choice? That freedom is what you’re saying yes to.”

2. Pay your investment fund first

“Pay yourself first” is every financial adviser’s motto for a reason. When you make a habit of transferring a certain amount of money into a savings account or a mortgage on a property, it becomes much more difficult to whittle it away on smaller things. While this may not apply to those who are truly need every dollar they have amid the pandemic, the strategy of putting money aside before you set your monthly budget is a sound one to follow.

“When you take the money off the top, you automatically learn to live with what’s left,” Jay Papasan said.

3. Focus on net worth rather than income

As agents, it can be easy to get caught up in what you earn in a given month or even a given year. But as the Papasans point out, true wealth comes from what you have when you are not working — and that is why investing is key getting there. One piece of advice is to track your financial outlook just like you would if you needed to fill out a mortgage application — take some time each month to go over your assets, businesses and real estate holdings.

Wendy Papasan

“Net worth is really the true measure of wealth,” Wendy said. “If you look at that Forbes richest 500 people list, it’s not the doctor making the most income. It’s not the lawyer making the most income. It’s usually the people who have the most assets.”

4. Learn the rules of money

Like any discipline, the art of real estate investment needs to be learned and studied. If you found yourself having more free time, use it to learn everything from the basics of investing to the types of neighborhoods most likely to see home value growth in the coming years.

“What are you putting into your brain?” Wendy Papasan asked. “Are you listening to podcasts? Are you listening to Audible books on investing? When you get home at night, are oyu watching Netflix or are you reading up on wealth building?”

5. Learn to leverage your time and your money

Find out where you spend your time and money, and then adjust accordingly. Do you find yourself spending too much time with the minutiae of running your real estate business? Enlist someone to help. Are you bringing in profit but finding it whittled away on small things every month? Force yourself to make monthly payments toward an investment property instead.

“Do you know what your dollars-per-hour is?” Jay said. “When you have the ability to dedicate for lead generating for more listings and buyers, you realize that it doesn’t pay for you to be running signs out to your listings.”

6. Surround yourself with success

With many people still stuck at home, this is also an opportunity to build a group of those who want to learn about investing and exchange ideas. One possibility is to host regular Zoom get-togethers with people who are interested in investing — the number of people who are looking for that kind of community is, according to the Papasans, much higher than people think.

“Who you surround yourself defines your sense of normal,” Jay said. “If you surround yourself with people who spend more than they earn, that’s going to feel normal to you.”

Email Veronika Bondarenko

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