Everyone loves a success story. Yet, in these uncharted waters, success might seem unlikely. With more and more people drawing parallels between the current pandemic and the last recession, it's no wonder people are worried. To remind us all that we can triumph in the face of adversity, I wanted to share Patrick Aime‘s story.
I sat down with him to learn more about his struggles and his successes. His story actually takes him around the world and back again as he joined the double comma club, becoming a young millionaire less than ten years after filing for bankruptcy during the Great Recession.
Opportunities Realized Moving to the United States
Patrick’s story crisscrosses the globe.
Born in the United States, Patrick grew up in Rwanda. After his father died, his mother did everything she could to provide the best opportunities for him. Bucking the societal expectations of the time, she took a job as a bank teller. This allowed her to send Patrick to school in Belgium when he turned 14.
As a high schooler in Belgium, Patrick found himself daydreaming about another place. He dreamt of moving to the United States.
In Belgium, he went to school from 8 am until 5 pm. Watching movies set in America, he couldn’t believe all the opportunities American teens had to have fun. Patrick realizes extracurricular activities, sports, and part-time jobs all require time and effort. But since so little of that was available to him and his classmates in Belgium, he couldn’t help but be envious of the way Americans lived.
To make his American Dream come true, Patrick used hard work, effort, and sports. While soccer was a much more popular sport, he found himself playing basketball. To him, that seemed to be an opportunity for him to get to the States.
His hard work paid off. He became a collegiate athlete at the University of California Santa Cruz. Like many student-athletes, he had hopes to go pro. He thought he could play basketball in an international league after graduation and then possibly return to the States later. However, a career-ending injury in his sophomore year set him down a different path.
How He Built His Business and Fortune
Patrick may not have continued with his basketball career, but he did not leave sports behind. In fact, staying involved in the sports industry is how he built his business and his fortune.
After college, he moved to San Diego. Once he was there, he started working in the sports industry. He put together travel packages that major corporations used to entertain their top accounts. These packages coordinated all of the logistics for big events, such as the US Open, the Masters Tournament, and more. By taking care of everything from tickets and hotels to VIP parties and transportation, he allowed corporations to focus solely on their clients.
In four years time, Patrick understood the operations side of his industry. He also learned how to manage sales teams. After fine-tuning his understanding of the ins and outs of the industry, he was able to venture out and start his own company.
Patrick admits that the first six months of entrepreneurship were difficult. Because he was so young, he had to build rapport. After the six-month mark, Patrick says he felt the gates open and started connecting with bigger corporations, like IBM and Coca Cola. Within four years of starting his own business, he went from zero dollars in business income to millions and built an entire staff, including sales people, an event planning team, and an on-site accountant.
How He Lost it All During the Great Recession
Patrick’s journey to becoming a young millionaire is not a straight line. In fact, after working hard to become so successful out of college, Patrick says he lost it all.
Money was coming into his business, but money was also going out. After purchasing a townhouse in an affluent part of San Diego, Patrick bought a Mercedes CLS500 in the same month. The car alone set him back over $1,000 a month.
In addition to splurging on housing and transportation for himself, Patrick also got involved in the real estate market. He bought four rental properties within a month and put no money down.
His lavish lifestyle was rounded out with trips to Vegas. Lifestyle inflation was the name of the game. As his expenses ballooned, Patrick says he watched it all unfold. Patrick kept careful spreadsheets. That meant that he was not only good at generating income, he was also meticulous about tracking it. The problem, though, was that Patrick wasn’t saving anything.
In 2008, the recession hit hard. Patrick says he can pinpoint almost the exact moment that things got bad for his business. When the Lehman Brothers went bankrupt, his industry came to a screeching halt. One of his biggest clients went from spending freely on client entertainment to needing a government bailout.
Despite 2008 starting as a record year for his company, he ended the year without making a single sale. With a $50,000 monthly overhead, Patrick says he lost it all in a three month time span. In October, November, and December of that year, he shuttered his company, foreclosed on his rental properties, and filed for bankruptcy.
How He Built It Again and Why He Won't Lose it This Time
When facing bankruptcy, Patrick says he was more committed than ever to recreating his success. The government-mandated bankruptcy class hit him hard. He knew he never wanted to be in this position again.
At that same time, he started discovering finance gurus like Dave Ramsey. Patrick realized that cash is king and committed to staying debt free. With this new philosophy, he started a new company in 2009.
A New Company and a New Plan
Though the recession continued, Patrick was determined to regrow his success. Rather than follow the same path, Patrick committed to growing this company in as fiscally responsible of a way as possible. Having lived through one recession, Patrick knew other financial crises were possible.
That's why from the beginning of founding his second company, he committed to saving. Unlike his first company, he was a one-man team doing everything he could to minimize his overhead. He purposefully only serviced a handful of accounts. Yet, he provided such high-quality service that his rebooking percentage stayed above 80%.
As he started to regain his financial footing, he began listening to more personal finance podcasts. Once he discovered the MadFIentist, he says the financial game changed forever. Once his eyes were opened to the possibilities of financial independence and the FIRE movement, he started to reconsider everything he thought he knew about wealth.
He and his wife reduced their living expenses from $6,000 each month to $2,800 while still enjoying their lifestyle in San Diego. Thanks to his understanding of the FIRE world, he realized that he did not have to become a multimillionaire to live a big life. He decided to save more and invest more, building up passive income streams. This strategy would allow him to rely less on the sports industry and his business.
Real Estate Recession Lessons
He also made another venture in real estate. He bought two different condos in Mexico, one on each coast. Unlike his first foray into rentals, he paid for both properties in cash. He found success renting them on Airbnb, enjoying a 99% occupancy rate for the Cabo San Lucas property. At one point, both properties were bringing in a combined $40,000 a year.
Though he and his wife sold one of the properties, they still have the condo in Cabo. Patrick says they realized that they could maintain a lifestyle nearly identical to the one they love in San Diego, while cutting their expenses almost in half, once they decide it’s time to move to Mexico. It’s easy to recognize geo-arbitrage as another way the FIRE community has influenced Patrick.
Related Interview: How I Bought 20 Rental Properties in Cash
A New Investing Plan
During the recession, Patrick got burned just about every way possible. He lost his business and his rental properties. He also took a big hit in the stock market during the Dot-com bubble. Rather than trying to pick individual stocks or use a fee-heavy investment vehicle, Patrick now uses index funds through Vanguard to invest. He feels confident in his investment strategy even in the midst of another financial crisis.
From Bankrupt to Millionaire & Other Milestones
Patrick hit two milestones recently. In March of 2019, he crested the million-dollar mark in his net worth. Despite the Great Recession and his bankruptcy, Patrick became a young millionaire.
Then, July of that same year, he essentially doubled his credit score. After filing for bankruptcy, he says his credit score was around 415. By July 2019, it sat at 825. For Patrick, that credit score number encapsulates his bankrupt to millionaire journey better than almost any other metric.
Planning Ahead to Survive Any Recession
After enduring a recession and a bankruptcy, Patrick knows that his journey won’t always be smooth sailing. Still, he’s determined to not repeat the past. That means that he is constantly working to build in contingencies to his financial plans. He currently has a two-year emergency fund, plus a one-year emergency fund for his rentals.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, Patrick says it leaves both AirBnB and his sports industry vulnerable. That’s why he’s working hard to prepare for the peaks and valleys along his journey.
How are you preparing for the next recession?
Please let me know in the comments below.
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“Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”Louis Pasteur