We had the good fortune of connecting with Sammy Lyon and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sammy, we’d love to hear more about your end-goal, professionally.
The end goal is freedom over my time! Professionally I want to be at a place where I choose what I do each day, and how I spend my life hours. Money can come and go but I can never get my time back. Once I had this realization, I chose to transition into real estate investing so I could focus on building “passive income” (aka income that is not a direct trade of time for dollars). Let me tell you, it is NOT passive when starting out, but it is bringing me closer to my goals of financial freedom — where I can still WORK, it just won’t be to LIVE. Ultimately, the goal is to spend my time working with integrity, and sharing with my clients the tools to own real estate and build generational wealth.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Real estate was an accident. I started out in education — this, too, was an accident. I had studied political science and urban agriculture, and right after graduation my friend Lauren asked if I wanted this job teaching after-school gardening. I said yes and instantly fell in love with ecological education, watching students touch with their hands in the garden what they may never grasp in a classroom. I went on to pursue a Masters in Education, Leadership & Change and was running innovative environmental & social justice education programs across several schools. I got to expand an incredibly inspiring program with high school students called Green Ambassadors at Environmental Charter Schools, which is a highlight of my education career.
After “climbing the ladder” in education, so to speak, I found myself looking up the rungs and realizing what lay above me was not where I wanted to be in 30 years. Offhand one day, my co-worker Lissette advised I buy a duplex, live in one and rent out the other, and listen to this podcast called Bigger Pockets. I was instantly hooked. I checked out every book on real estate at the library, listened to hours and hours of podcasts, and dove headlong into a brand new field that I knew nothing about. I had a crisis of identity and guilt — I had never worked anywhere but in schools and non-profits, and now I was into real estate?! Of all things… who was I becoming??
It didn’t take long to realize I could bring the same ethic of transforming institutional inequities in education to the real estate field. What’s cool about real estate is that it’s not actually all that complicated. I learned the strategies and basically just had to copy and implement them. The hardest part for most people seems to be taking action and executing. I definitely had some setbacks, including a shady property manager who stole my rents, but truly these are no different than any business mistakes we make as entrepreneurs. I just needed to realize it was time to take action, correct the problem and implement another plan to move forward.
Now I run a social impact real estate project across my rental portfolio, giving 5% of rents as down payment assistance to my tenants through rent-to-own agreements. I also got a certificate in construction management, because I figured the only way to address housing affordability in LA was to actually build more units. And I became a licensed realtor in CA to help more people become homeowners and build generational wealth.
I still consider myself an educator at heart — I just happen to be bringing people along on the journey of financial independence and ethical stewardship of land. I do think it is possible to work for social change through real estate and hope to continue to expand those boundaries.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Places I take my out of town friends when they are visiting LA: – All you can eat Korean BBQ
– The beach, obviously
– Joshua Tree, the park, not just the overpriced AirBNBs
– Leo’s Taco Truck
– Neighborhood walks
– Camping, anywhere
– My climbing gym
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
One. My mom taught me to always spend less than you make and over time that’s the simple formula for saving money. That immigrant ethic saved me from a lot of debt-inducing choices that American society normalizes. Two. My partner Sofia is this incredible, wise, transcendent soul of a human and when I was a wee 18 year old at a summer internship I followed her around and have pretty much been smitten by her ever since. I do literally thank my luck every night that I get to move through life with her on this journey. Three. Two books: ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kiyosaki and ‘Your Money Or Your Life’ by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez. I checked out every book in the library on real estate but these two transformed my thinking and got me motivated to be on this financial freedom journey.
Other: How I Invested in Real Estate with Only $10K – https://lyonideas.com/my-first-real-estate-investment
(c) Elisa Leonelli