GARY & SHERREE SPARKS
- Occupation: Custodian Sales Manager
- Age: 45 Family: 2 Daughters, Tomiika 7 and Kiana 5
- Began investing in residential property (year): 2002
- Property portfolio value (including principal place of residence): Approx $4.5 million
- Number of houses you own (including principal place of residence): 8
Gary and Sherree Sparks own their own home and have built up a portfolio of seven investment properties over eight years. They aim to have net assets of $5 million by 2020.
When Gary Sparks started work, he looked for ways to make his money work harder. He invested in shares, managed funds, stocks, and once, he even bought some gold. All of those investments had mixed results. “Nothing too bad but nothing too good either,” explains Gary. At 32, Gary was living in Melbourne and he bought a home to live in. He paid $136,500 and sold it eight years later for $370,000. “I remember looking at my bank statement and having a $250,000 balance. This is when the switch was flicked. At the time I was trying to save $5,000 per year which was 10 per cent of my income. In one transaction I managed to obtain 20 years worth of savings. I was hooked,” says Gary.
What Gary likes most about property as an asset class is the history of property. “The median house price has doubled every 10 years for the last 100 years. It’s a slow but steady performer. The other thing is regardless of who you are, where you’re from and what you do, every person in Australia needs a property to live in. Not everyone needs shares or stocks or managed funds so there will always be a strong demand.”
In 2004, Gary and Sherree embarked on a very aggressive wealth building strategy once they decided property investment was the way they wanted to build wealth. They bought a property every year and in one year they bought three. They used every bit of equity they could find including Gary asking his mother for his inheritance so he could use it now. “She is one of my greatest inspirations,” says Gary.
The Sparks have diversified their portfolio with properties in Brisbane and Melbourne. “When I started investing I was told back in 2003 to have a look at Perth. I could buy new houses over there for around $230,000. I spoke with my mentor and told him that I preferred Brisbane. He asked me why Brisbane and I told him it was an emotional decision because it was close to home. He warned me that the heart will cost me money. I decided to go with my heart and not my head and bought in Brisbane. In 2003–07, the median house price of Perth grew by 95 per cent. Brisbane, on the other hand grew around 40 per cent. Still a good return but it was a valuable lesson learned. Take the emotion out of the decision making,” he concedes.
Gary considers the best moments of their wealth building journey to be two-fold: buying their dream home in Samford, Brisbane for $1.75 million and meeting the people he deals with everyday. Gary explains, “I’ve met people who are mentors, who’ve given me great inspiration and I’ve also met people who give me all the reasons why they will never be wealthy. Both people inspire me and motivate me.” As for his worst moment, he doesn’t think he has one, “I’m glad for every bad decision I’ve made as I’ve learnt more from bad decisions than good ones.”
The best decision Gary made was how to learn to set goals and break them down into manageable chunks.Goal setting made him realise that every year he had to focus on and work towards achieving his set goal. Regardless of any obstacles, he was driven to make it happen. “It’s a journey of many steps and each day I want to take another step. Whether it is investing, educating, reading, or meeting people along the journey, every day another step.”
Since 2002, Gary has had the following four goals
- $5 million in net worth by the time he is 55 years old (in 10 years’ time)
- Dream home for family (achieved in December 2009)
- Give his daughters a property each on their 21st birthday (along with education and mentorship)
- Be the inspiration. Gary aims to be the example in everything he says, acts, and does.
MANAGING CASH FLOW AND INVESTMENT ADVICE
From personal experience, Gary is familiar with the saying, Cash flow is like oxygen. Without it you die. “One of my biggest lessons has been in the last six months since purchasing our dream home. Cash flow has been incredibly tight and we had the indignity of being at the supermarket and not being able to pay for groceries. The supermarket staff watched as I left the groceries behind, walked over to my Mercedes and drove away. How very ironic! Cash flow is king and we must always be playing the game 6–12 months in advance.”
“The best way for me to manage our cash flow is to have two separate accounts. One is the day-to-day account and one is the investment account. The investment account has all our rents going in and our interest payments going out. Each month I can see our exact shortfall of cash flow in and cash flow out. I make sure that I have at least six months worth of shortfall in the investment account at all times. This is extremely important because if a problem arises, I have a six month window of payments to solve the problem – or should I say opportunity,” says Gary.
Gary advises for investors to set your goal. No matter how audacious it is, set your goal. Think of what your life would be like if you had whatever you wanted. Once you have your goal, find someone who has achieved what it is you are trying to achieve. “It seems to be a very Australian thing, believing we can do it all ourselves but every person who has success at any level, in any field will tell you they have had a mentor giving them advice and inspiration,” says Gary.
And don’t let anything stop you.
Don’t give up. No matter how big the problem, you can get over it, around it or under it. Improvise, adapt, overcome, do whatever it takes. If it seems too big, ask for help.
Gary believes property investing is a wonderful learning experience because there is no such thing as an expert. The playing field changes every day. “If we look at the GFC, the banks at one stage were changing lending criteria and policy every week. For me this is what makes property so exciting. Every day is a new challenge and a new learning experience. Luckily my mentors are always challenging me, not just in wealth building but in all areas of life. With every challenge comes opportunity and with every opportunity comes education.”
It is vital to be positive, proactive, and responsible. “One of the greatest things I’ve learnt is about mind set.You control how you feel. You control how you act and react to situations. Having that positive, proactive, and responsible mindset keeps you on track and also motivates those around you,” says Gary.
Gary and Sherree have used the skills they learnt through wealth building throughout all other facets of their lives which helps them remain positive, responsible, and proactive.
Gary recalls a funny story, “My daughter Tomiika who is in grade one wanted to perform well at her sports day. I told her that if she tried her hardest and she had fun that was all that mattered. She smiled and walked away to get ready for her day. Later I went into her room to see if she was dressed and I heard her mumbling. As I got closer I heard her saying to herself, ‘I can do it, I can do it, I can do it.’ I asked her what she was doing and she said, ‘I’m being like you Daddy. I’m being positive.’ Sometimes we are inspiring others and we don’t even know where doing it.”
Gary also reflects on the lessons he and Sherree have learnt so far, “I think one of the lessons in life we’ve learnt is if you look deep inside, one of your strongest core values is giving – making a contribution in some way, making a difference. When I leave this earth I want to be remembered not for the money, but the difference I made to others. I now have my family and my closest group of friends investing in property. Why are they doing it? Well if you ask them they will tell you if Gary can do it, it can’t be that hard! But I know that I have paved the way for those that are closest to me. I have shown them that it’s possible and they’ve been inspired by my actions and my success. That is the greatest reward of all.”
The best decision Gary made was how to learn to set goals and break them down into manageable chunks. Goal setting made him realise that every year he had to focus on and work towards achieving his set goal.
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