“No man e’er was glorious, who was not laborious.” — Benjamin Franklin; Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1734
“The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.” — Isak Dinesen
“I am positive that one of the great curatives of our evils, our maladies, social, moral, and intellectual, would be a return to the soil, a rehabilitation of the work of the fields.” — Charles Wagner
“Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice.” — Old New England saying
Years ago, I experienced a different kind of vacation. I typically like to travel to a beach, a mountain, or an adventure through an exotic foreign country that looks alien to my own.
This particular vacation was quite a departure…
I took off of work to spend five days toiling in hard labor in 100-plus-degree heat.
It had been a while since I spent more than a long weekend in the hot sun, tending the fields, chopping trees, clearing brush, and hauling heavy objects. I’m always down for a day or two of yard work on my own sizable lawn. But this experience was far more grueling, yet far more rewarding.
My friends and I had bought a plot of land through a tax lien. The property itself is 25 acres of beautiful forest — hidden away, miles from the nearest neighbors. It has a pond, trails snaking through the woods, and a large clearing that we had planned to put a couple of cabins on.
In theory, it sounds like a bucolic paradise. However, are a few things I haven't told you…
One was that the land we purchased was so affordable because it was essentially a glorified landfill. The previous owner had allowed his once beautiful property to become a dumping ground for tires, rusted-out trailers, stained mattresses, and straight-up garbage. It wasn't a surprise that he had not paid his taxes in years.
Here’s a picture of the land when we bought it:
“Horror show” comes to mind. The day we showed up after securing the deed, we arrived at the house you can see in the picture above. It was literally on fire; smoke and flames when we arrived. We never got any clarity on who started it, but it's pretty clear that the previous owner wasn't too happy about our purchase. In short, a not-so-great start to this whimsical journey.
You can imagine my wife’s reaction when she saw pictures of our new “vacation hideaway.” Suffice it to say, she wasn’t quite as enthusiastic as my friends and I. But I convinced her that, with the right amount of elbow grease, we could return the property to its natural beauty and land ourselves an impressive compound for a tiny sliver of what it was worth.
I’d be lying if I told you it was an easy cleanup. We knew we had work to do but weren’t quite prepared for the Sisyphean task of cleaning up a disaster area like this.
Our first order of business was to rent a Bobcat Skid Steer to lift heaven and earth (and rusted appliances, tires, and other debris):
Our second order was to have two four-ton dumpsters delivered:
We filled them both to capacity. That’s 16,000 lb. of trash, which, if you are keeping track at home, is heavier than the EchoStar XXI communications satellite sent into space that year.
Our group also had the ignoble task of clearing out several sheds and trailers with decades’ worth of ephemera, including bedpans, rancid clothing, old cassettes, and several tubs of what I’ll call “goop” that might or might not have been medical or biological waste.
It was disgusting. It was odorous. It was heavy and wet. We also were stung by hornets, preyed on by ticks, and threatened by snakes. Several men almost passed out from heat exhaustion, others had their skin burned by the sun’s rays, and one man about killed himself from trying to load a rusted oven into the dumpster with the Bobcat.
But in the end, it was all worth it.
It was thrilling to see the place after we were done:
The takeaway here is that the work you do yourself, the time you put into your own investments, and the pride you receive from challenging yourself are all worth it.
Of course, we could have shelled out tens of thousands of dollars to hire a crew for this backbreaking labor. But we decided to do it ourselves — not only to save money but also to prove to ourselves that we were worthy of such a project.
All those years ago, we had called our endeavor “suffer camp” because of the grueling labor. But they were some of the best days of my life. Now I'll have the spoils to show for the toils.
At the time, our families all thought we were a bit crazy. “What in the hell are you going to do with an empty property in the middle of nowhere?” they laughed.
We’re going to sell it for a boatload more than we spent on it. The property is listed for close to $200,000 after buying it on a tax lien of $4,000. While we put in the blood, sweat, and extra cash needed to get it up to speed, it is still an astronomical return.
The last time I visited, my lifelong friend (and fellow land investor) greeted me upon my arrival at our wholly renovated compound.
“Who’s laughing now!” he cackled as we gave each other high-fives.
We take the same do-it-yourself process here at The Profit Sector with our finances and investing advice.
If you put in the time and effort, you can save yourself tens of thousands of dollars (sometimes hundreds) in financial fees over your lifetime. Plus, you get the satisfaction of doing it yourself. I don’t hear many people bragging about how their money managers beat the market by a percentage point or two.
But when you take the time to identify a great stock, buy it yourself, and reap the rewards later. It not only not only more advantageous, it just feels better.
And I guarantee, it’s much easier than having your own annual “suffer camp.”
You can easily double your investments with a few simple moves:
These are easy ways for DIY investors to profit from their self-reliance. It only requires the will to manage yourself and make wise decisions but doesn’t require the blood, sweat, and tears of manual labor and unpredictable investments. If you’re asking me, you can do both.
So go forth, make your own fortune. Put in the work to make yourself wealthy and comfortable. You’ll be happy you did. And there’s no better bet than the one you make on yourself.
The Profit Sector
Follow me on Twitter @mengeled