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PFB Spotlight: Sitting Pretty Financially

Welcome to the fourth edition of the Personal Finance Blogger Spotlight [3] series and this week I’m proud to introduce you all to Nina from Sitting Pretty Financially [4]. She’s been writing for five months now and she is a great example of someone who has a day job but supplements her lifestyle with extensive real estate investments, motivated by the writings of Robert Kiyosaki. Nina’s a treat to read and I’m a huge fan of the quotes she uses to start every post. Without further delay, here’s a little about Nina.

If you are a personal finance blogger and would like to be interviewed for the Personal Finance Blogger Spotlight series, send me an email with your contact info [5] and we can set something up. See this page for details on this series and to read past interviews [3].

jim: Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Nina: By day, I sell mobile infrastructure software but my real estate investments have grown to become a significant part of my financial plan and also a great passion. I am 38 years old and live in Newport Beach, but grew up in Toledo, Ohio. Since moving 7 years ago to California, I have owned and lived in four homes from varied eras (three of which I upgraded and sold for tidy profits, one I occupy now with my partner). I also own four investment properties: three rental residences in Phoenix and Las Vegas and a fixer in Palm Springs that I just renovated and put back on the market last weekend.
jim: How did you get into real estate investing? And what would you say to people talking about the bubble bursting soon?
Nina: I had three good role models for real estate investing… two sisters and a brother and the healthy fear that I was going to be the one in the litter that retired poor. Each of them owned their own home and multiple rental properties. Because they all lived in Ohio, I decided that I needed to educate myself on how to buy a rental property. I went to a seminar and it gave me the confidence and all the rah-rah empowerment that I needed to make my first investment purchase. What is my view on the housing bubble? Real estate is cyclical and a correction is coming. I’m a real estate investor and not a real estate speculator. This is an important distinction as interest rates rise and demand/appreciation tapers off.
jim: What kind of car do you drive and would tell us a little about it?
Nina: I drive a pre-owned Volvo S80 (year 2000). I bought it 3 years ago and it is now paid in full. This is the first time I’ve had the luxury of living without a car payment. I love this feeling and plan to drive it into the ground. The Volvo doesn’t quite create the same stir at the valet stand as a Mercedes or BMW, but it is helping me transport myself down to the road to financial independence. It’s all the little steps that add up.
jim: When and why did you start a blog?
Nina: I have been blogging for five months and started because I desired a creative outlet. In my twenties, I was an avid journal keeper – musing about coming to terms with my sexuality. Once I came out of the closet and settled into a healthy relationship there was less conflict to work out on paper. I found over the years that I missed writing and decided that blogging might be a good alternative. Personal finance and real estate investing seemed like a relevant topic based on my current interests.
jim: Is there anything that makes your perspective unique?
Nina: As a gay woman, there was never the expectation that I would benefit from any economic uplift through marriage. Often times, straight women are conditioned (by society and well-intentioned mothers) that a man is a financial plan. I knew early on that there was never going to be a knight in shining armor to take care of me. If anything, I hope my blog encourages women (straight or gay) to be self-sufficient.
jim: I read your Knight in Shining Armor Post [6] and how you thought most straight women are conditioned to believe they’ll get a financial uplift through marriage. What would you say to them to convince them otherwise?
Nina: To clarify, there is nothing wrong with marriage and the economic uplift that it provides. I’m in a long-term partnership and there certainly are benefits. We are able to afford a home based on two incomes rather than one. In general, living expenses are reduced when the burden can be shared. These economies of scale apply to any partnership – gay or straight. The point of the Knight post is to encourage women to create a financial plan for themselves and not delay until Mr. Right shows up.
jim: What’s your favorite personal finance book and why?
Nina: Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki — It changed my perspective on money. It taught me to buy assets with my disposable income. I put an end to the $3,000 vacations (liability), no more $600/month car-lease payment (liability), and I got a lot more conservative with the affordable luxuries (saying no to the $3 lattes… liability). Instead, I saved my money and started buying assets. Specifically, houses.
jim: What would you say to people who think Kiyosaki is a shuckster? John T. Reed for example: http://www.johntreed.com/Kiyosaki.html [7]?
Nina: In my opinion, Kiyosaki wrote a book about the fundamentals of accounting – income/expenses and assets/liabilities. It was the first time that I really understood the impact of a personal financial statement. He preaches about value of passive income. All this is really sound advice.

He used the story of a Rich Dad and Poor Dad to explain these principles. Did Rich Dad exist? Does it matter? I haven’t met Kiyosaki personally or attended any of his seminars. I can’t speak for the guy’s character. What I can say, is that I did spend $16.95 for a book with some worthwhile advice and I have seen a good return on this investment.

jim: Which of your posts do you think are must-reads?
Nina: I do not have favorites per se, but this is a good sampling of my posting style:

[Incidentally, though she didn’t point it out, I liked this post about her seeing Ben Stein on a plane [13]. The picture’s pretty funny too.]

jim: What financial “mistake” bothers you the most?
Nina: Throwing away money on rent throughout my twenties. I wish I had the insight and knowledge about real estate back then. I could have figured out some way to buy my first home much earlier.
jim: What was your best financial decision to date?
Nina: Buying my first home and my first rental property. These two decisions changed my life and gave me the leverage and ability to buy others.
jim: What is your favorite personal finance blog and why?
Nina: The two that I read on a regular basis are My Open Wallet [14] and Clutter2Cash [15]. I find both writers have a good sense of humor and I can identify with their struggle of living in an expensive city and trying to do it within their means. Since I follow real estate, I am also a bit of a bubble junkie. The Housing Bubble 2 [16] and Patrick.net (Reality Parser) [17] are two of my favorites.
jim: If your blog ended today, how would you like people to remember it?
Nina: I would wish that somewhere, someway, my journey inspired others.
jim: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nina: With all this talk about money, maybe we should end with a favorite proverb, “If you want to feel rich, just count the things you have that money can’t buy.”