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After seeing some of the potential shakiness of the Baltimore City Fire Department’s retirement fund, Ian Horowitz and his business partner Dan Mathe, knew they needed a backup plan. Grab a cup of coffee and watch this full interview of how Horowitz and Mathe took a conversation at the kitchen table of their firehouse and turned it into a plan that would protect their future.

They decided to learn real estate investing since it was something they could do on their days off and could provide a second source of income.  Horowitz got involved in the local real estate groups and met some of the big players in local investing.  He dabbled in wholesaling and flips of single-family properties before deciding that the buy-and-hold rental property strategy was the way to go.

They used money from all kinds of sources — friends and family, hard money lenders, banks, whatever the situation called for. They grew a team slowly over time and started looking at larger projects and acquired a 75-unit apartment building, which they learned how to underwrite from podcasts and YouTube videos.

Around this time, Horowitz also started learning a ton about and really focusing in on the niche of self-storage properties. Acquiring several storage properties in the Southeast with strong cash flow and also closing a large refinance of the apartment building allowed Horowitz and Mathe to retire from the fire department before the age of 40 and focus 100 percent of their time and energy on improving and growing their real estate portfolio.

Many people are considering using real estate for retirement planning in unconventional ways. Building a portfolio of diverse assets will take time, but with planning and hard work you can make it happen and build a safety net for your future.

Chris Haddon is an entrepreneur based in Washington, D.C., a partner at Hard Money Bankers and a co-founder of

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