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Written By Jennifer Reinhardt, associate broker at Atlas Real Estate Group
Philippians 4:12-13 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
It all began with my little house in Centennial, CO. With my son Jack on the way, my family quickly began to outgrow our small home. In 2008 when the economy and housing market was low, I made the decision to keep our Centennial house as a rental instead of selling it for the down payment on the next house because the house was underwater in value and we’d lose money if I sold it.
Our family purchased a larger home, and soon after, my son Jack was born. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was forced to leave Clarke. No one wants to be a single mom, especially with a newborn baby, but I decided to leave to protect my children.
Taking On Two Roles
In the divorce settlement, I traded the big house in exchange for full, physical custody and parental decision-making rights. Along with my newborn baby Jack, I was also caring for my older daughter Maya. She is a brave girl who is battling cystic fibrosis, a lung disease that makes her prone to lung infections and shortens her lifespan. The doctors predict her life expectancy is in the low 30s.
Still grieving over my failed relationship, I was staying with my parents. When my renters moved out of my little house, I moved back in. Living in my little Centennial house with two young children was very difficult. I didn’t sleep much and had no help caring for the baby or assistance with Maya’s cystic fibrosis breathing treatments.
Our bills piled up with the expense of daycare, and working as a real estate agent part time no longer paid my bills. My parents bought our groceries, we ate at church potlucks, and then my ex stopped paying for the other bigger house. Faced with all of the credit card debt from my ex, daycare fees for two children and two mortgages, I was quickly sinking.
With $4,000 left to my name, I found a home next door to my best friends. Jen and her husband Aaron lived in Denver, CO. Jen is Harvard-educated and trained as a dietitian, and she also runs medical schools. Her husband, Aaron, is also super smart and a writer. Their daughters are close in age to my kids. Living next door to my best friends, I had a lot of support.
With my credit problems holding me back from purchasing a home, I did a “rent-to-own” and locked in the Green Valley Ranch home at $155,000. I could not sell the little Centennial house because it was still underwater, so I became an accidental landlord once more. My family lives near the Centennial house and told me it was unwise to move. I was miserable and wanted a different life, and moved anyway. It’s important to note that to get off the path I was on, I had to trust my own decisions, which was hard with so much going wrong.
It Takes a Village
It was a scary time. I had already moved out of the little house and rented it out, consequently, I could not go back. The new neighborhood school was very low in ratings, so I chose to drive my daughter 30 minutes each way to the Centennial Elementary School. Maya eventually won a lottery system to get into a good Denver charter school.
I did not have all the steps planned out before I made a leap and moved. The new house was a fixer upper. I learned to sheet rock the walls with Jen, because the walls were damaged from cutting out mold. The backyard was covered with goat head thorns. My parents came around and turned the back yard into a corn field to get rid of the weeds; they were raised on a farm and this is normal for my family.
Things began to settle down, as the kids and I settled in next to our friends. The kids didn’t seem to mind that we didn’t have a lot of money, and the peace in our home made them happy. Jen and I took the fence down between our homes, and the children would play together in the back yard. Although it was not ideal, being single with children, Jen and her husband helped to fill in the gaps.
Just as things were starting to settle, Maya became very ill. Cystic fibrosis is like that. Maya looks completely normal, but lung infections can quickly cause her health to tank. Maya was hospitalized for a month with IV antibiotics, yet she still came home with the lung infection. The bacteria in cystic fibrosis lungs becomes resistant to antibiotics, and we were told by the doctors that this is the natural progression of cystic fibrosis. Eventually she would need new lungs or die.
But, would you believe that the doctors advocated for a high sugar diet, one with lots of calories, to help Maya gain weight? The side effect was more infections, and diabetes. Unsure of what to do, I turned to Jen who suggested an anti-inflammatory, low sugar diet. We cooked Maya’s meals together. Thankfully, Maya’s health quickly improved and over time, her diabetes subsided. Had I not made the leap to move, Maya would have remained sick.
Jen helped care for Maya, and I am forever grateful to her and her family. It is very difficult to be a sole caregiver for a chronically ill child, with a toddler son as well. Jen’s help was a poignant reminder that I had surrounded myself with a support system that allowed me to focus on, and have hope for, our future.
Empowerment Through A New Career
As Maya’s health stabilized, I started my new endeavor at a commercial real estate firm, The Space Agency. It was there where I met Matt Vos of Atlas Real Estate Group (Atlas), who purchased one of my residential listings. He invited me to come work for Atlas, which I took him up on. Atlas teaches people, including myself, how to transform their lives through passive income, using rental homes as the vehicle.
Time had passed and the economy began to slowly recover. I was finally financially back on my feet. I was able to purchase my Green Valley home next to Jen and continued to keep my Centennial house, which had also increased in value. These homes provided, and still do provide, financial stability for my family, something many single moms and many caregivers of disabled loved ones, are in search of. Time and money are essential to self-sufficiency and well-being. For the first time in a long time, I finally felt like I could make it on my own.
Stay tuned for Part II of my story.