Stephanie Brennan spent her 22nd birthday signing the contract for her first investment property. Less than four years later, she has seven properties in her portfolio and no intention of slowing down any time soon.
“On my 22nd birthday, I signed the contract for my first investment property – which was a pretty nice present to myself.
I made a lot of sacrifices to get to that point – even down to cutting my own hair.
I learnt to save from a young age. When I was five, I earned my first 50 cents of pocket money.
Soon after, my mum and I went to the grocery store where I wanted to buy a chocolate bar. I was a massive chocoholic – nothing’s changed!
My mum said, ‘Why don’t you use your first 50 cents?’ And I thought, ‘If I could make another 50 cents, I could have both the money and the chocolate bar’.
My mum was very grateful that I was happy to work, so she payed me little bits of money and I did odd chores.
I was always really hungry to go out and work, so I quite often did cleaning jobs, cleaning my neighbours’ houses, doing painting jobs, things like that.
I got my first job at 15 and worked multiple jobs at a time. I just saved everything I possibly could.
I put a lot of my savings into my first business, and obviously lost some money trying to gain traction with the business, but then I got some clients and made some money there and then I started to invest it. And it just sort of spiralled from there.
When I was really young, my parents quite often went to open houses. I tagged along and I absolutely loved looking through people’s homes.
My first business was in consulting to small and start-up businesses, and one of my clients was a property investment company. And when I first saw the returns that property could bring and the amount of capital growth and rental return that was possible, I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I want to invest in’.
My parents were very into investing in shares and I very much wanted to invest in shares before that, and I just thought ‘This is something I really want to do’.
Property is something that you can touch and feel, and I thought ‘Why don’t I go and get the experience?’
I moved into property management so that I could understand all the ins and outs of managing a property and how to make the most out of it.
And then I just kind of fell in love.
I didn’t invest in a million-dollar property straight off. My first property was $386,000, and my second was $346,000.
I have seven properties now, all units. Some un-renovated, some a little bit newer, some renovated. I like to keep a little bit of a balance.
Three of them are in Sydney, two are in Brisbane, one is in Canberra and one is in Scotland.
All of them, aside from one, I bought under $400,000 – usually around the mid-$300,000 mark.
The total value of my portfolio is $2.7 million now, with about $800,000 of equity – which is a reasonable LVR, so I don’t feel like I’m stretched to breaking point.
I try not to think about the level of debt I have. Every time I log onto my NetBank, I sort of go, ‘Oh my gosh, $2 million in debt’. But I think with investment, you’ve always got to spend money to make money.
I think of it as a long-term investment. One day it will be paid down. Sometimes it’s nice to see it incrementally going down, and it makes me feel a little bit better about it.
Although I do make a lot of sacrifices, my friends are really proud of me and they see the hard work that goes into it. They see how much I’ve put into growing my portfolio.
My view has always been ‘Work hard in the short term and benefit in the long term’. I’ve never wanted to be someone that had to work until they were 60, and my goal is to have the financial means to retire by the time I’m 30, so that working becomes a choice, not an obligation.
And I think that really came out of my time working as a relief policy adviser and going around and meeting with a lot of the older constituents and seeing how a lot of people do struggle.
I thought, ‘How can I set myself up now, and take some short-term pain, for a very long-term gain?’”