Interview of Sorts Coach Carson

Even Steven Money real estate houses

It’s time for another fun-filled adventure in our Interview of Sorts series and today we have real estate investor and financial independence early retiree (FIRE) Chad from Coach Carson.  These interviews are a great look at how others have succeeded in their financial lives and a way to learn and grow your knowledge with money.  Let’s get started with this FIRE Interview Coach Carson.

Ok, let me get this out of the way.  Did you play college football at Clemson? Like National Champion Clemson Tigers?  When I met you I’m pretty sure you were about 6’3” and 180 pounds, so did you play punter or just kick field goals?

Punter?! What? As a former linebacker, I will be giving you a smackdown the next time we meet in person. I may have lost some weight, but I still know how to throw down. Lol.

All joking aside, yes, I did start at middle linebacker for three years for the Clemson Tiger football team. But we were NOT the national champions when I played in 1998 – 2001. We were getting better, but we still had a long way to go.

And getting voted the defensive captain for two years by my teammates is still one of the things I’m most proud of out of all of my professional pursuits.

What happened after you came out of college?   A college scholarship paid for tuition did you immediately go into real estate or did you have any plans to include football in your life after graduation?

After college and my football career, I briefly tried out with NFL teams. That didn’t go so well!

Coach Carson football player FIRE Interview Coach Carson

I also applied for the Rhodes Scholarship and made it to the finals. That also didn’t go how I hoped!

Finally, I considered going to medical school since I graduated in Biological Sciences and took the MCAT admissions tests. But I decided to delay that for a couple of years and try to be an real estate entrepreneur instead.

Once I went down that freedom rabbit hole, I never wanted to get back out! I often think about that choice as my own “red pill vs green pill” choice like Nemo in the Matrix.

So you were all in on real estate pretty early out of college.  Anything you did better than everyone else or something that today you laugh at how bad you did things back when you first started?

Right out of college in 2003, the only thing I could do better than most was hustle (aka the entrepreneur’s superpower). I had a lot of time, self-discipline, and I worked my butt off. That plus a little humility allowed me to connect with more experienced investors and find a way to make money in my first years.

I was not good at real estate early on. I had never even owned my own home! Plus I was not handy AT ALL, and I’d never been in business or studied business.

So, personal development, reading, and attending classes became like my full-time job. It’s amazing how fast you can improve at something if you put 100% of your energy and focus into it.

Many people were crushed by real estate during The Great Recession, starting in 2008.  How did you manage not to declare bankruptcy or lose your business?  Do you still practice these same principles today? Did you have any money in the stock market at this point? If so how did you handle your stock portfolio?  I’ve reached the legal question limit on this one.

My business partner and I certainly felt the effects of the Great Recession. We bought WAY too many properties in 2007 – right before the bottom fell out.  And we got sloppy in our analysis of some of those deals, so not all of them were financially positive.

But we did enough things right to survive. First, we were frugal. So almost all of the money we made from flipping properties was still in the bank. And we needed it to bail ourselves out from our mistakes!

Second, we used safe debt, mostly from private lenders. This means we didn’t have a lot of commercial mortgages where the bank could pull the rug out from under us (aka balloon payments) during the crisis. This allowed us to hold on, change strategies, and still ride through the storm.

Third, we built trust (aka the ultimate bank account) with our inner circle of relationships. We put the interest of our money partners and private lenders first and didn’t get greedy. Because we earned their trust, these lenders had funds available for us to buy more properties in the aftermath of the recession. That period between 2010 – 2016 will probably turn out to be one of the BEST buying markets for investors in our lifetime.

My wife and I had some stock investments in our retirement accounts during this time. We pretty much indexed and didn’t look at anything before or after. But equities are less than 15% of our net worth because we are very heavy in real estate and cash. I plan for that percentage in stocks to go up over time.

{Steven:  Chad talks about keeping track of his cash, investments, and net worth, which is so important to know when assessing your finances during good times like the recession and great times like a buying market.  We purchased our house hack real estate investment in 2012 and my wife bought her investment home in 2009 as a foreclosure.  We were truly fortunate to invest during this time frame.}

Papers with financial software

For our investments, we track everything through the free website and app Personal Capital. It allows us to see everything in one place including our investment holdings, balances, performance, allocation, and sectors. Personal Capital also allows us to see the big picture with our overall net worth and even do an investment checkup with a retirement planner and fee analyzer. If you sign up I may earn a commission from Personal Capital, that’s my transparency guarantee.

When my wife met you at FinCon a couple of years back she was very impressed with your Spanish skills from your time in Ecuador.  Hablo un poco de espanol. Can you tell me more about your time there and what made you take a sabbatical and move there?  How much work was needed for your real estate business and blog during this time?

I like to practice my Spanish skills anytime I can, mostly because I need it badly! So, your wife was very kind to compliment me on my ability to speak.

When my wife and I first met, we dreamed of traveling abroad together. She is a Spanish teacher, and we both love to travel and explore different cultures and languages. So, both before kids and after kids we’ve made a point to build mini-retirements (aka long-term sabbaticals) into our lives.

In 2017 and 2018, we spent 17 months in beautiful Cuenca, Ecuador. Our two daughters (age 3 and 5 at the time) enrolled in local schools and became very good Spanish speakers. They even came home and began correcting my pronunciation! I loved it!

I like working on projects, so I didn’t sit completely still while in Ecuador. Every Thursday I paid bills and did some bookkeeping for our rental properties (usually 1-2 hours). And I checked in here and there by messenger with our property managers on the ground.

FIRE Interview Coach Carson Book

But I spent a lot more time (and still do) on my blog and online world. It’s my passion because I love to teach and help other people apply knowledge to improve their lives. By the time I came home, I had also written Retire Early With Real Estate which was published in 2018 by Bigger Pockets.

picture of Coach Carson FIRE Interview Coach Carson

Chad learning Spanish in Ecuador

By definition, you are currently financially independent where your income meets or exceeds your expenses.  So what do you do all day since you are not spending 40 hours a week at a 9-5 job?

TIME is the most amazing and precious commodity in the world. Life is measured in ticks of the clock. So more than anything, I see financial independence as time freedom.

But like investing, once you gain an abundance of time the question is where you spend it?

For me and many others I know who are financially independent, they still choose to work. But I work on projects I love. And as an entrepreneur during my entire adult life, there’s never been a clear black line between work-passion-play anyway.

Some work projects, like the Green Crescent Trail in my local community, earns me ZERO money. I’ve helped to build a local movement to improve the walking/biking infrastructure in our local towns.

Other projects like my blog made little money for a long time. But it’s evolving into something that does earn some money through online classes. And I’m excited about using that additional financial resource to do some cool social entrepreneurship projects – like the Green Crescent Trail and others that may not earn money on their own.

And I still actively buy properties from time to time. My business partner and I aren’t gunning for growth like we did in the beginning. But we see slowly and continuously growing while also reducing risk over time.

{Steven:  This is one of the main reasons my wife and I are in the pursuit of financial independence and this year we are getting just a taste of spending more time doing what we love.}

National park with family FIRE Interview Coach Carson

Chad doing what matters most and spending time with his family.

Do you ever think you will retire and completely give up real estate?  Sometimes I see investor’s sell off their entire portfolios, is this something you could see yourself doing?

I don’t see us giving up on real estate completely. But we are transitioning to a much more passive role than we played in the past. We’re not actively managing our properties or remodel projects.  

Instead, we hire others to do more of the day to day work. We also are moving more towards lending or partnering with others where we provide the money and experience and our active partner provides the hustle (like I used to do!).

So far in my Interview of Sorts, I have had the Frugalwoods (Frugal Weirdos), Our Next Life (Work Optional or Non-Penny Pinching Feminist), 1500 Days (Quirky Dinosaur and Beer Enthusiast) and now Coach Carson.  If I gave you the honor of describing yourself in a couple of words or a short phrase like I just did for my honored guests what would yours be?

Oh man, those are tough acts to follow! Especially that Quirky Dinosaur Weirdo (I just added to his nickname).

Maybe Globetrotting, Basketball Playing Real Estate Entrepreneur? That’s not catchy enough, but maybe you can help me with that!

Chad you are always surprising me with books, cool investor profiles, Facebook Live, and you even recently came out with a podcast.  Are you a classic overachiever? Any plans to become mayor of Clemson, South Carolina?  Governor? I mean Arnold Schwarzenegger did it why not Coach Carson?

You’ve got the best interview questions! Lol.

And I think you caught me. As my wife would tell you, I like to take on long-term, challenging, but exciting projects.

Getting a college football scholarship was my childhood dream. Financial independence was the project after college. Teaching online has become a really fun long-term outlet for me. Mayor? If it didn’t cramp my time as a daddy of young girls or my travel plans, I’d be interested believe it or not. So, maybe someday.

I guess I just have so many interests that once again time has become the biggest limiting factor!!

While I’m familiar with you, please tell everyone where they can find you and if you have any projects or anything fun coming up that you want to share.

First I want to say thank you for the opportunity to do this interview! I have crazy respect for what you’re building here at, so it’s an honor.

People can find all of my articles, podcast, courses, and more at I focus on real estate investing and financial independence, but I’ve been known to stray often into travel, stoic philosophy, social entrepreneurship, and anything else under the umbrella of “doing what matters.”




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(2) comments

So I got pretty into real estate as well because I think it’s amazing.
Managing a lot of properties can get pretty hard (some people get up to over 100 properties!!!) and you can’t put a house in a 401K 🙁

How do you keep up with so many houses Chad? I’ve found ways to keep the effort down but you own A LOT of houses I think and travelled far away. Or have you transitioned to having managers for all your houses?


    Make sure to head over to Coach Carson’s Facebook page and/or website as I know he is doing some Q and A to answer your questions.

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