My Financial Journey: Peter Romano

My name is Peter, and this is my financial journey.

There are many things I can reflect on when it comes to the things my parents did well while raising us. Yet, what sticks out the most was their never-ending commitment to making sure we understood the value of money.

From a young age, every time I asked my mother for something, whether it was a pack of baseball cards, the coolest new album ( Fugees ‘The Score’ for this 80’s kid), or a snowboard, she would ask, “do you know how much that costs?”

Trying to show how responsible I was, I’d immediately respond by saying, “Yes! The price is X dollars.” What I realize now is that my mom wasn’t asking because she wanted actually to know the price, she was asking so I could understand the real price of what would go into getting that baseball card, snowboard, or CD.

“No. The price tag says $10, but I must make $14 before taxes to pay for that. Your Fugees album costs me two hours of work.” Fast forward through high school, college, and multiple different jobs, I now see how impactful that guidance was on me. I calculate the total cost of everything I buy and relate it back to the number of hours I must work to afford it. As you can imagine, this can be a little overbearing for my wife when it comes to shopping since I act like a human calculator, but she has taught me you can’t put a price tag on love 😊

Yet, as life has shown us, being fiscally responsible can only protect us so much. There are things in life that happen that we frankly cannot control. Family members get sick, and people get laid off, families separate, children are born – the list goes on.

These unexpected expenses cannot always be covered by a single stream of income from one job, no matter how much that job pays. Sometimes, it means a family must take money from their savings and find themselves with nothing left but their weekly incomes. This is one of my greatest fears for my own family, and why I helped launch HappyNest.

By using HappyNest, I’ve learned that investing doesn’t have to be large chunks of money; it can be a steady stream that is as little as $10. In the end, life is really a marathon, not a sprint. By dedicating more of my income to investing in real estate, I am diversifying my income stream and preparing myself and my family for a financially stable life – something I hope HappyNest can help you do as well.

My name is Peter Romano, and that is my financial journey.

My Financial Journey: Jesse Prince, Founder

My name is Jesse Prince, and this is my financial journey.

I often think about the series of events that led me where I am today. 

A vibrant childhood (I am the third of four boys), years of playing team sports, a 6-year-long military career – all formative experiences of being part of something bigger than myself. 

It might sound cliché, but bear with me. I think many of you reading this will be able to relate.

The Prince Family principles

You see, growing up, my parents impressed two things upon us:

  1. Never live outside of your means, and
  2. Do good things. 

When the time came for me to fly the nest, so to speak, I enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point, in accordance with these principles. (Go Army!) 

Head shot of HappyNest Founder and CEO, Jesse Prince
My in my Army days

By serving my country, I could sidestep burdening my family (or my future self, for that matter) with the crushing student debt that burdens so many young Americans today. It was a win-win.

After six years of active duty – including two tours in Iraq – my worldview had fundamentally shifted, to say the least.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of assimilating back into civilian life was that what had once satisfied my desire to “do good” just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

Frankly, I had to do something bigger. Something great. I wanted to have a meaningful impact.

But how?

Lost in combat 

Three things serving in the military will give you: Thick skin, lasting life skills, and a deep love for learning. 

That, and a paycheck every first and fifteenth of the month.

What the military doesn’t give you are the skills needed to manage that paycheck effectively. As far as I can tell, schools aren’t acing the subject either

Growing wealth, saving for retirement, building rainy day funds – these might not be the skills you need to survive combat. But you sure as hell need them for a fighting chance at the American Dream

When my time in the service was over, I found myself in a position I never thought I’d be in – aimless, unemployed, and defeated. 

Overnight, I went from a Captain in the Army with command over 120 soldiers, to reading rejection letters from employers due to “lack of work experience” in my parents’ basement where I was living.  

The transition was jarring and brutal. 

I had neither income nor resources. The only thing lower than my self esteem at the time was my bank account balance. It was humbling. It was terrifying.

A lot of grit and a little luck

Fast forward a few months (and a handful of rejection letters).

There I was, standing in my parents’ kitchen (staring into my mother’s freshly packed refrigerator, oddly enough), when it struck me: “Speak the language of your profession.” 

Of course. Classic Occam’s razor: The simplest answer is usually the best one. And as expected, something I had learned in the service would indeed guide my life outside of it.

I started with a list of all the things I find joy in. I’ve always had a natural interest in real estate – it seemed like now was as good a time as any to explore that further. 

Step one, of course, would be to learn the language of the real estate industry. I was essentially starting my career anew. There was going to be a learning curve.

I didn’t just want to learn it – I wanted to master it.

I enrolled into graduate school with a Real Estate Finance degree fixed in my crosshairs.

At the same time, I looked for employment in the industry. Every soldier knows you never truly master your craft until you’ve had real combat experience. After what felt like a lifetime in the reserves, I was more than eager to get my boots on the ground. 

Luckily, I stumbled upon a handful of amazing people who helped me do just that.

Building the nest

I’d always known real estate investing was an incredible way to build wealth. However, like most Americans, I didn’t exactly have mountains of cash at the ready to drop on investment properties. 

So I turned where many of us do when we need answers to life’s pressing questions: Google. 

A quick search for how to invest in commercial real estate without having to front large sums of money for a downpayment only brought up a GIF with a menacing Jack-in-the-box popping out holding a sign that said “better luck next time.”

Okay, okay…that didn’t really happen. 

But it may as well have, because all I found were real estate investing platforms with high minimum investment requirements ($1,000 or more) and confusing, technical language. 

Without access to wealth building investment opportunities, how could everyday people build their financial future? 

I thought to myself, “If I, as a professional, am turned off by these platforms, I can only imagine what others are feeling.” 

And then it hit me. I could satisfy my “do-something-great” drive by helping others live within their means while building wealth.

In other words, I could feed two birds with one scone. That’s how HappyNest was born. 

My vision was to create a place where everyone – regardless of the financial hand they’re playing – can access an opportunity to build their wealth and improve their financial literacy.

HappyNest takes flight

I gathered the information and resources needed to help HappyNest take flight. 

My first order of business was lowering the barrier of entry. A thousand dollars is a lot of money for most people – prohibitive even. It certainly was for me at one time. 

Real estate was an investment asset class once reserved for the wealthy. We may not serve caviar or champagne here, but $10 will get you a seat at the table. 

I made $10 the entry point because, at one point in my life, that’s all I had in my bank account. I like to think that if I could afford it on my worst day, others could also buy into the chance to change their financial futures. 

My path hasn’t been the easiest, but I’m confident that I am not alone. I hope HappyNest can help you achieve whatever goals you may have.

And that is my most important mission to date. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my story.

My name is Jesse Prince, and that is my financial journey.